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review 2017-01-21 03:35
Reminiscing on the Past and Reflecting on the Future
The Three Sisters - Anton Chekhov

 

Reading this play I got the impression that it was basically about a group of people sitting in a house talking about philosophy and pining for the good old days. As I have mentioned before, reading plays, especially if I have not seen them performed, can be a difficult task at best, and sometimes I have to read some two of three times to be able to follow them (though some of them I need to read only once – however Chekov does not fall into that category). Anyway, when I read the synopsis and theme on Wikipedia, I discovered that it was about a bunch of people in a house talking philosophy and pining about the good old days – oh and three of those people where sisters, which is why it is call The Three Sister (eh duh).

 

Anyway, I want to focus on three quotes from the play and write about what those quotes mean to me.

 

ANDREI: And you can sit in some huge restaurant in Moscow without knowing anyone, and no one knowing you; yet somehow you don't feel you don't belong there. Whereas here you know everybody, and everybody knows you, and yet you don't feel you belong here; you feel you don't belong at all. You're lonely and feel like a stranger.

 

The sisters actually grew up in Moscow and moved out to the country when they were young and through out the play they are pining for a return to Moscow (which never happens). I can very much relate to them because I personally understand the quote above. I grew up in Adelaide which, with a population of around 1.2 million people, is technically a city, but even then it has the attitude of a small country town. Basically you cannot wonder around Adelaide without running into people that you know.

 

It is okay if you are a friendly, personable person who has not made a huge amount of enemies, but having lived a rather wild life, that was not the case for me. As such in my last few years in Adelaide I found myself forever ducking and weaving, trying to avoid people that I did not want to run into. However, it is also like what Andrei says about – living in Adelaide was like sitting in a restaurant where you know everybody, and everybody knows you, and you feel as if you do not belong.

 

Then I moved to Melbourne. I may not have the best job in Melbourne, but at least it is not Adelaide. In a way, it is better to have a sucky job (at least in my opinion) and live in Melbourne, than to have a sucky job and live in Adelaide. Once again, as Andrei says, living in Melbourne is like sitting in a restaurant where you know nobody and nobody knows you, yet you feel as if you belong. Further, I am not ducking and weaving, hoping that I will not run into somebody that I don't want to run into. Mind you, getting the Adelaide mindset out of my mind still will take time, and I have made a few blunders while I am hear as well, but I still feel as if I can walk down the road with my head held high.

 

TUTZNBACH: All right then. After we're dead, people will fly around in balloons, the cut of their coats will be different, the sixth sense will be discovered and possibly even developed and used for all I know. But, I believe life itself will remain the same; it will still be difficult and full of mystery and full of happiness. And in a thousand years' time people will still be sighing and complaining “how hard this business of living is!” And they'll still be scared of death and unwilling to die just as they are now.

 

Here they are talking about the future and what the future may bring, and their discussion seems to be very insightful, at least what Tutznbach says. I look at the world around me and say that what Chekov said through Tutzenbach is right. Indeed technology has made things easier, and the cultural attitudes may have changed, but people still find life difficult and happiness fleeting. However, the interesting thing about happiness is that economists try to measure it, and they believe that happiness comes through owning stuff.

 

However that is not the case. I have lived in a big house, owned my dream car, and had stuff, but it did not make me happy. I even had a bucket load of friends, yet even with all of these friends I still felt very much alone. It is funny because now I don't own a car, live in a room in a share house (with some pretty good housemates), and don't really own lots of stuff, and while I have friends, I can't say it is the same as it was before, yet I don't feel alone and I can say that I am happy. I don't know what this move to Melbourne has done for me, because I can even walk into a sucky job with a smile on my face, and I am still trying to make my mind up whether I want to shoot for a higher paying, more intellectually stimulating job, or simply use this job as a way to have a steady income while saving my intellectual abilities for my hobbies outside of work.

 

I used to know a thing or two twenty-five years ago, but now I don't remember anything. Not a thing! Perhaps I'm not a man at all, but I just imagine that I've got hands and feet and a head. Perhaps I don't exist at all, and I only imagine that I'm walking around and eating and sleeping.

 

This seems to be the most existantialist statement that I have read so far in one of Chekov's plays. It seems as if the speaker of these words has grown old and lost touch with his identity. In a way it seems to be reflective of our society, as we discard the traditions of the past and move into a post-modern present where traditions are defined by individual preference. It seems as if we, as a people, have lost our identity, and as if our concept of culture is really only imaginary.

 

In fact the whole idea of our culture seems to be imaginary. Music and art seem to only exist for one purpose, and that is for making money. Art these days seems to evolve around advertising and marketing, as does music. Films are produced not on literary merit but on whether the return will outweigh the production costs. Our society, in a sense, is based entirely around consumerism, and any culture that seems to exist is not culture at all, but a farce. Even sport, with athletes earning millions of dollars, have seemed to have lost its cultural significance to simply only exist as a means to keep the population distracted.

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/731991206
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review 2016-12-22 17:44
Donny's Brain - Rona Munro

I downloaded Donny's Brain during the Audiobook Sync promotion and finally got a chance to listen to it! I feel like the LA Theatre Works audiobooks are very much hit-or-miss for me. Obviously, I would prefer to actually watch the play and think that some are more suited than others for audiobooks, but this one worked fairly nicely as an audiobook!

 

Basically, Donny has been in a car accident and has brain damage. His memory has been set back some years, so he remembers loving and being married to a woman who is now his ex-wife, and can't remember his current wife at all. And I thought some past situations I had involving exes were awkward --

 

This play revolves around relationships and basically how hard it is to communicate and be in a relationship. Sometimes, we guess at what people are intending when it's not really what they mean to say or do, and sometimes we completely misremember events to make us out to be better than we actually are/were in the situation. This play goes into all of these things and involves some really interesting aspects of people not really remembering what went wrong, what went right, or what even happened. There's even an ironic aspect of maybe the guy with brain damage remembers the most clearly, after all. It's short, sweet, and drives the point home that when relationships don't work out, it's most likely the fault of both parties in some way or another.

 

Overall, this listening experience was enjoyable. The actors did a lovely job and having it be full cast really helped me follow the story. If you have an hour and a half to spare, I think this is worth your time.

Source: www.purplereaders.com/?p=2812
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review 2016-12-03 03:47
Conned by a Charlatan
Tartuffe - Molière,Martin Sorrell

Isn't it interesting that there are some sectors of society that get really upset if you poke fun at them, or even criticise them in anyway. Normally this happens because these particular people are well aware that what they are doing is wrong and that they are simply playing on people's stupidity to get away with what is little more than fraud. Much of the offence that is generated is not so much offence at the fun, but rather that what the person are doing is ripping the veil off of their fraud and exposing it for the world to see.

 

This is what happened to Moliere when he wrote this play, and the thing was that he was not actually poking fun at the church but rather at certain fraudsters that go around scamming people out of their hard earned savings for their own personal benefit. There have been people like this this throughout the ages and many writers have laid into these types of people particularly hard. However the church itself ended up being quite offended at Moliere's play (which actually says something about the church of the day) and put enormous pressure on the king to pretty much ban it.

 

Tartuffe is about this religious guru who becomes involved with a family and many of the family members see him as this wonderful person who is bringing wisdom and salvation to the house. However, there are some who see right through his lies, though through his silvered tongue Tartuffe is able to alienate these people. However, when pretty much everybody wakes up to the fraudster that Tartuffe is, he pulls another trick, which involves confiscating all of the family's property.

 

As I have mentioned, there have been fraudsters like this throughout the ages, and the church knows very well they exist. However it seems that the church really does not appreciate criticism in any form. In a way it seems to be offensive to turn religion into a joke, even if they joke doesn't actually involve them. The thing is that people like Moliere are not turning religion into a joke but rather exposing how certain people use religion to entrap segments of society and pretty much enslave them. Religion is, and always has been, about control, and the problem is that when certain people get into positions of power, and they do not necessarily need to be single fraudsters like Tartuffe, they could be members of an orthodox Christian denomination, they use this power to feather their own nest. However, the idea of salvation and life after death is something that concerns us all, and due to the veil that has fallen down between God and ourselves, many of us believe that salvation is not certain. It is when we let that belief creep in that certain people are then able to hold our salvation for ransom.

 

The thing about Christianity is that salvation is assured, which means that people cannot actually hold the threat of excommunication over you with regards to your actions. Granted, there is a moral code, but the idea is that genuine Christians will live by that moral code rather than having that code forced upon them. It simply comes down to loving your neighbour as yourself, and loving the Lord your God. However, people don't seem to necessarily understand this, and many people, with good intentions (and we all know where good intentions lead us to) try to pass judgement on other's actions. Okay, there is always accountability, and with us being fallen human beings, we are always going to be led astray (I know I have), however we must always remember that Jesus said that we should look to ourselves and examine our actions before we go off an pass judgement on other people. Further, accountability should always be a two way street. Being accountable to somebody while that person is not being accountable to you is a fast way of becoming enslaved to that person.

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/563019862
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-11-26 02:10
The Rise and Fall of a Conquerer
Tamburlaine - Christopher Marlowe,Stephen Marlowe

I was going to have a look at both of these plays as a whole, but it appears that both of these plays are in fact a ten act play divided into two parts. This seemed to also be something of a debate with some of Shakespeare's plays, however the ones that are in two, or three, parts (actually, there is only Henry IV in two parts, and Henry VI in three parts, and it could be argued that all of these plays form one continuous play from Richard II to Richard III) seem to have their own internal consistency, of which this play seems to lack. In some cases it could be argued that some of the acts are superfluous as it appears that they are simply a bunch of kings making a stand against Tamburlaine, claiming that their army is bigger than his army, and then getting resoundly defeated by Tamburlaine, and thus starting all over again.

 

However, it could be argued that both of these plays do have an internal consistency, with the first play looking at the rise of Tamburlaine's power, which concludes with him standing on top of his conquests claiming to be prepared to move out and conquer the rest of the world, and part two dealing with his demise, as he becomes more and more caught up in his own sense of pride and self worth that he steps over the line by burning a copy of the Alcoran, and making mockery of the Muslim god by claiming that if he existed, why did he allow Tamburlaine so many victories.

 

The play was based on a real person named Timur, and you can read about him here (on Wikipedia). Timur is probably not one of the best known of the conquers (unlike figures such as Napoleon, Hitler, and Genghis Khan) and that is probably because he did not pose mush of a threat to Europe. In fact his war against Bayezid the Turk, who was attacking the Balkans and other parts of Eastern Europe (though Constantinople was still in the hands of the Byzantines at the time), is probably why Timur is considered a popular figure in European History. The other thing about Timur (or Tamurlaine) was that he was from central Asia and was only attempting to follow in the footsteps of Genghis Kahn (of which he failed, when you consider the extent of Genghis Kahn's territory and Timur's territory). He was also seen as being responsible for basically returning Persia, and much of the Middle East, to the stone age, as well as pretty much wiping out most, if not all, of the Nestorian Church (though you must admit that the American adventures in the Middle East in recent times have also assisted in that task).

 

Anyway, this is a map of Timur's empire:

 

http://online.sfsu.edu/mroozbeh/Maps/Map-tamerlane1400.gif

 

and this is a picture of Timur himself:

 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/43/Tamerlan.jpg

 

 

It is interesting though how certain characters are seen differently under a different light. Here Tamurlaine is being painted in a light that is not all that bad, though we must also remember that Marlowe's version does not necessarily have Timur portrayed in the light of a hero, but rather as a conquerer that inevitably overstepped the natural boundaries, in relation to believing he was better than god. Also note that Marlowe uses the Alcoran as the means of his downfall as opposed to the Bible, despite Islam being considered an alien, and in some cases an enemy, culture to that of the Europeans. While this is a broad generalisation, remember that for a period of around four hundred years Europe were sending troops to the Middle East in an attempt to capture Jerusalem, and while the first couple were, to an extent, successful, they began to wane in popularity and effect as time drew on (probably because most of the capable fighting men had been killed off in the first couple of invasions, and also probably because the inhabitants of the Levant had become more prepared in the face of further crusades).

 

As for the play, and this is the case with many of the plays around this time, the story has been borrowed either from legend or history. Marlowe is doing the same thing that Shakespeare would go on to do with his great tragedies: take a little known character and little known story and turn it into a great play. Notice that it is Hamlet and the Scottish Play that are his most famous, and while they are based upon historical characters and events, they are such minor occurrences that most of us would not realise that these plays have actually been inspired by true stories (in the Hollywood sense of the phrase, of course).

 

The Ascension of an Emperor (Part 1)

This first part documents the rise of Tamburlaine from a simple goatherd from the plains of Scythia to becoming the emperor of the Middle East. The play opens with the king of Persia being declared Emperor after his army had just sacked India, however one of the reasons for this is because Tamburlaine was a part of his army. However Tamburlaine, who is a cunning general, ends up turning on the emperor of Persia and defeating him and taking his place. However, he is not satisfied at simply taking Persia and moves west to capture Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, and Arabia. The play then ends with him standing victorious, but looking further West with the dream of conquering and becoming Emperor of Europe.

 

The thing that I remembered about this play is that there are scenes (I think about two acts worth) where the emperor of Turkey is being carted around in a cage, as if he were an animal. However, I suspect that there is some idea behind this in that what Tamburlaine represents is a reversal. He is a goatherd become emperor, and the other kings, the ones that have arrayed against him, as they are defeated the situation is reversed so that they go from being emperors to little more than animals. In fact, in once scene we have the emperor of Turkey bash himself to death against the cage, and another scene has a king commit suicide at the fear of going from a powerful monarch to a prisoner.

 

We see this even in our world as well, such as the suicides that occur when there is a stockmarket crash and a billionaire is turned into a destitute. This is the idea of the bankers throwing themselves out of windows in 1929 because they had lost all of their money, or the German millionaire who threw himself in front of a train because he could not handle the idea of living penniless. In a way it goes to show how much of an idea wealth and power can being when somebody will actually commit suicide when that idol deserts them, and in fact when they realise that all of their hopes and dreams were built on nothing more than shifting sands.

 

The Folly of Pride (Part 2)

I have noticed that there seems to be a lot less reviews of this play than there are of the first one – actually on Goodreads there is only one. Maybe it is because most people either read the two plays as a unity, or maybe they did read both plays, but if they wrote a review, they would have simply written it on the first one. This I can understand because it seems that there is little difference between the two plays with the exception of one act, that being act 1 in the first play (where Tamburlaine first comes onto the scene) and act 5 in the second play (where Tamburlaine finally takes one step two far and ends up dying of a disease).

 

The reason I say that is because the first play seems to, after the first act, simply have another group of kings appear making statements as to how their army is superior to Tamburlaine, and then they go to war with Tamburlaine and end up losing, and the kings are either captured and reduced to animals, or they end up killing themselves so as to retain at least some form of self respect (in the Ancient World, the act of suicide was seen as an honourable action, especially if it was a choice between poverty, imprisonment, or death – which in many cases is probably still the same today), and then it repeats itself in the next act.

 

A part of me was hoping to see that what this play encompassed was Tamburlaine's fall, but instead it seemed to have him becoming more powerful and, to put it bluntly, more cocky. In this play we have a number of kings who are defeated in battle, and by the end of the play are pulling Tamburlaine's carriage as if they were horses. Also it seems that we have Tamburlaine extending his kingdon into Egypt, the Levant, and Turkey, and even crossing into Greece and the Balkans, however, near the end of the play, he suddenly decides to turn around and make a path towards Babylon.

 

This I found rather odd because one would have expected that if he had been conquering the lands off to the west, why would he leave a fortress in the middle of his empire undefeated. Most, if not all, generals worth their salt would at least attempt to make an alliance with them, but would not leave them standing because capturing it would have been a little too hard. This was the case with Tyre and Alexander the Great, and as it turned out, capturing Tyre was not all that difficult anyway, despite the fact that it had been moved onto an island just off shore after Nebucadnezzar had successfully defeated them about three to four hundred years earlier.

 

However, as I have suggested before, and will continue to suggest, and that is that this play is, to an extent, about the fall of Tamburlaine, despite the fact that most of this occurs in the last act. Here he has finally captured Babylon and is in the library ordering the books be burnt and he is brought a copy of the Koran (written in this play as Alcoran). When presented with the book Tamburlaine mocks the religion upon which it is based, claiming that if Allah had any power whatsoever then he would have intervened and prevented Tamburlaine from conquering all of the said territory (despite the fact that the real Tamburlaine was actually a Muslim and this event would probably not have happened).

 

It is interesting that Marlowe takes this approach, namely having Tamburlaine mocking a god and the having the said god step out and demonstrating his power by inflicting Tamburlaine with a disease. It is true that the Bible says 'God shall not be mocked' but we see a lot of Bible burning and god mocking in our society (at least towards Christianity) and I must admit that we do get the same statements directed against Islam, and we do not see hordes of god mockers succumbing to disease, though I must admit that in the end everybody dies.

 

I guess the idea that comes out here is how, in many cases, people like Tamburlaine will, in many cases, end up overreaching and becoming overconfident in their abilities. We see that at the end of the first play where Tamburlaine had already dreamed of taking over the world, and at the end of this play, as he lies on his deathbed, looks at what he hasn't conquered, and then anoints his son to continue where he left off. It is interesting how when we review our lives, many of us look at what we have not accomplished, and actually forget what we have accomplished, and regret what we haven't done rather than look at what we have done.

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/818912908
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review 2016-11-12 03:40
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown - Charles M. Schulz

I love Charlie Brown books.  They are instantly recognizable characters to most students, and the books are easy to read independently.  It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown  would be a good read aloud right before Halloween, or it would be a great center for reader's theatre or student recording.  Both of these centers promote fluency.  This is appropriate for grades 1-3.

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