strange_complex: (Lady Penelope)
[personal profile] strange_complex
Woot! I have prepared two classes' worth of stuff for the summer school today. That plus the fact that there isn't a class on Wednesday morning means I now don't need to do any more work on it (other than teach the actual classes, natch) until Wednesday itself, when I shall begin preparing Thursday's class. And there are only three classes this week anyway (four is more normal), so by 9:30am on Thursday morning, I'll be done for the week. Should stand a real chance of getting some of my own stuff done this week, then.

Backtracking a little, after finishing my teaching on Friday morning, I progressed up northwards to drop some books off at Warwick University library, and then spend the rest of that day and the Saturday with my Mum. We wandered around Warwick town in the afternoon, having tea and spending an enjoyable hour or so in the St. John's Museum. There was a smell test to do in their reconstruction of a Victorian pharmacy, where I totally pwned my Mum by correctly identifying two out of tea-tree, lavender and carbolic soap (which, to be fair, I'd never smelt before in my life anyway), while she got none of them!

Next stop was The Bridge House Theatre, for an absolutely gasp-inducing performance of Henry Purcell's The Fairy Queen by the Armonico Consort. The instrumentalists were delightful, really bringing out the full range of Purcell's music - the light, the comical, the fantastical and the plaintive. The singers were excellent overall too - there was a rather weak female alto, but two lovely sopranos, an excellent bass (whose name I sadly don't know), and a countertenor I hadn't heard before called Timothy Travers-Smith, who had a lot of fun playing at being an inmate of a lunatic asylum in drag. I was also interested to note that at least two members of the cast who were singing primarily in a 'natural' register (one baritone, one tenor) also used their falsetto ranges for several numbers, and to very competent effect.

But the musical side was only half of it. The stage production was also astounding: innovative and consistently gripping. The basic premise, though with commendably flexible room for interpretation, was that 'Oberon' was not really king of the fairies at all, but a mild, bemused resident in a mental institution, who saw visions of fairies and spirits at night in the hospital. This fitted very nicely with the loose nature of the work itself - not a story, but a series of mini-masques, which lent themselves very well to a fantastical framework. And add to that dancers, acrobats, excellent costumes and scenery, puppets, laugh-out-loud comedy, interactions with the audience, beautifully choreographed action sequences - in short, everything you could possibly ask for for your money, and all of it adding up to a great job of picking up on the essential nature of the original work, while also making it genuinely modern and exciting. The acrobats were particularly amazing, the two of them performing balancing acts and trapeze gymnastics together as though they were literally one person, constantly making me flinch in fear that they would fall, drop one another or overbalance - but in fact always pulling their tricks off with perfect balance, poise and flair.

Saturday then saw us going to choose frames for my antique prints, and to look at curtains and carpets which might be nice for my new flat in Leeds. Since the original building dates from 1903, I'm looking for Art Nouveau-style decorations as much as possible, and we found some great curtain fabric which fits that bill very nicely. We also indulged in Solihull's branch of Hotel Chocolat, before returning home for dinner and then Dr. Who (which my Mum gave a miss). I thought the final episode did a good job of tying up hanging threads, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried! I'm looking forward to the next series more, now, with a clean slate to develop Tennant's Doctor on.

So, quite busy, and I'm pretty tired (as ever!), but feeling much better about things now. The summer school nearly got on top of me the week before it started, but I've turned things round now, and I'm definitely back on top of it. Now time for an early night, so I'm ready to teach again tomorrow at 8:30(!)...

Date: Monday, 10 July 2006 05:59 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] swisstone.livejournal.com
We saw that production of The Faerie Queen in Brighton, and it was pretty good. I think they rearranged the order of some of the songs.

Date: Monday, 10 July 2006 09:43 (UTC)
ext_550458: (Cities Esteban butterfly)
From: [identity profile] strange-complex.livejournal.com
I don't in all honesty know the work as a whole well enough to spot changes in order, but I suppose that, since there isn't a continuous narrative anyway, that's justifiable if it helps to create a better production. Anyway, I really enjoyed it, and will be looking out for more work by the same group.

Date: Monday, 10 July 2006 07:34 (UTC)
ext_15802: (countertenor)
From: [identity profile] megamole.livejournal.com
a countertenor I hadn't heard before called Timothy Travers-Smith, who had a lot of fun playing at being an inmate of a lunatic asylum in drag

That's actually our default setting... the rest is the artifice.

Date: Monday, 10 July 2006 09:43 (UTC)

Date: Monday, 10 July 2006 07:57 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aletharch.livejournal.com
I thought the final episode did a good job of tying up hanging threads, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried! I'm looking forward to the next series more, now, with a clean slate to develop Tennant's Doctor on.

I had a fairly hefty lump in my throat, too. That was a brilliant, wrenching ending, although it was classically unsubtle Russell T. Davies to suddenly switch to comedy in the closing seconds. As much as I like Catherine Tate as an actress, I feel it's a little bit of a cheat to have a series-ending cliffhanger that says "Oooh look what famous person we're going to have in the next episode!"


Roll on Christmas!

Date: Monday, 10 July 2006 09:46 (UTC)
ext_550458: (Cathica spike)
From: [identity profile] strange-complex.livejournal.com
Ack, but I guess it wouldn't quite feel like Doctor Who if there wasn't a cliff-hanger of some kind. And I think it really would have felt cloying if it had just ended with the Doctor wiping away his tears. Instead, we were left assured that life will go on for him - sad in itself, but not sentimentalising.

Date: Monday, 10 July 2006 11:25 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aletharch.livejournal.com
Oh, I agree with you: it needed to end on a cliffhanger to shift the mood away from overwhelming grief. But a better cliffhanger would have been, in my opinion, the Black Dalek re-appearing in near-future Earth but being found in a dilapidated state by Adam, who's still grousing about the Doctor leaving him behind. "Don't do anything," says Adam. "I know the Doctor, and I know he'll come and fight you just like he did the other Dalek." "DOC-TOR??? THE DOC-TOR????" croaks the Dalek. "Yeah, he abandoned me here, the scumbag." Adam opens his head up, the Dalek scans his brain, and they realise they have a common enemy.

And then Adam starts repairing it, foreshadowing that he'll become Davros just like we all thought he would.

That's my idea of a successful end-of-series cliffhanger. The one we got was good (especially Tennant's reaction), but it's a near-complete non sequitur if the viewer doesn't know who Catherine Tate is, knowledge which cannot be acquired by watching Who. It's an exophoric reference that kind of breaks the fourth wall. I can envisage a flotilla of confused message-board postings when series 2 ends in the States.

Still great, though. And after Tate, Simon Pegg and Tracy-Anne Overmann I guess I'm now waiting for the other half of the cast of Big Train to have roles in Who.

Date: Monday, 10 July 2006 11:26 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aletharch.livejournal.com
It is also miserably apparent that I need to practise my html skills.

Date: Monday, 10 July 2006 11:41 (UTC)
ext_550458: (TARDIS)
From: [identity profile] strange-complex.livejournal.com
Ooh, yes - an Adam / Dalek collaboration would have a lot of mileage in it. Perhaps what you're describing there is a bit too much material to tag on to the end of an episode which was essentially about something else. But as a storyline for the future - yes please!

As for Catherine Tate, I don't see that it would matter if people weren't familiar with her particular career, would it? Surely the 'type' of the aggro Cockney bride carries just as well whether it's her or not?

Date: Monday, 10 July 2006 16:15 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] davesangel.livejournal.com
And after Tate, Simon Pegg and Tracy-Anne Overmann I guess I'm now waiting for the other half of the cast of Big Train to have roles in Who.

YES! Bring in the lovely and talented Mark Heap, RTD, you know it makes sense :D

Date: Monday, 10 July 2006 16:56 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aletharch.livejournal.com
Well, I'm really hoping he will. Mark Heap had a cameo appearance in Casanova, after all, which is promising considering RTD's habit of reusing actors. In fact, a Mark Heap/Kevin Eldon double act would be just too good.

Date: Monday, 10 July 2006 21:42 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] davesangel.livejournal.com
Very true, I'm half expecting Matt Lucas to show up in a future episode after his brief cameo in Casanova.

In fact, a Mark Heap/Kevin Eldon double act would be just too good.

I think that would win the title of best Doctor Who episode/story ever. Apart from Caves of Androzani, of course, which is just THE BEST, no matter what the experts say when they only ever award it third or fifth place in polls...

Date: Monday, 10 July 2006 22:32 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aletharch.livejournal.com
Oh, here here. While I can't justifiably say that it's the best considering the vast amount of Who I haven't seen, Caves of Androzani is devastating. I watched it for the first time a month ago and I was left stunned. I think it's quite a shame that Who is always treated with a bit of condescension due to budget problems and genre snobbery. Caves is one of the best written, acted and directed works I've ever seen on television.

Date: Monday, 10 July 2006 23:00 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] davesangel.livejournal.com
I totally agree - everyone slates Who for its cheesy effects and 'rubbery monsters'. And yes, perhaps there was an element of crappy monster in Caves, but as the story clearly demonstrates, Who doesn't need to rely on outstanding special effects or really convincing monsters (as a lot of people seem to think it does): all that is needed is great scriptwriting, plot and characterisation, which Caves has by the truckload.

And hooray for another Caves fan! :)

Date: Monday, 10 July 2006 11:23 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sashajwolf.livejournal.com
I cried too. I liked the twist at the end with Catherine Tate's character turning up, because it was so entertaining to watch the Doctor miserably failing to get his head round it, and after the preceding melodrama, it was time to lighten things up again. Having said that, it probably helped that I didn't recognise her until I saw her name in the credits.

Date: Monday, 10 July 2006 12:58 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gillywoo.livejournal.com
Doctor Who was good this week.

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