Thursday, February 12, 2004

Theatre Thursday: David Mamet

I didn’t see any theatre this week. So in the absence of a review or polemic, here's a scene I really liked from Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago, which I read for the first time on Tuesday:

JOAN and DEB at the apartment that they share. JOAN is getting ready to go out.

JOAN: Men.

DEBORAH: Yup.

JOAN: They're all after only one thing.

DEBORAH: Yes. I know. (Pause.)

JOAN: But it's never the same thing.

What a brilliant piece of dialogue. I love it. [Bonus: Here's Michael Billington's Guardian review of a recent revival of this 1974 play in London.]

Theatre Thursday: Ian Capstick and Harold Pinter

Ian Who? Why, Ian Capstick, Sheila Copps’ former “right-hand man,” of course. The news this evening is that Capstick has just defected to the NDP.

Every time I read Ian’s name in the news of late, it gives me a bit of a kick. I know him from his not-so-long-ago student journalism days, when he was an editor at The Fulcrum at the University of Ottawa.

The last time I saw him in person, I think, was a little over a year ago, when he helped me organize the 2003 Canadian University Press conference in Montreal. Ian was our diligent Security Coordinator and was instrumental in bringing in then-Minister of Canadian Heritage Copps as one of our keynote speakers.

Before leaving Montreal, Ian gave me a rather enigmatic gift, a copy of a short political sketch called Press Conference (2002) by British playwright Harold Pinter. It begins like this:

PRESS: Sir, before you became Minister of Culture I believe you were the head of the Secret Police.

MINISTER: That is correct.

PRESS: Do you find any contradiction between those two roles?

MINISTER: None whatsoever. As head of the Secret Police it was my responsibility, specifically, to protect and to safeguard our cultural inheritance against forces which were intent upon subverting it. We were defending outselves against the worm. And we still are.

PRESS: The worm?

MINISTER: The worm....


And so on. Not exactly Pinter’s subtlest work, but it’s a clever little satire of the relationship between the press and our political leaders.

Anyway, I can see why Ian likes it. Listen to him. He already does political theatre like a pro:

PRESS: Why are you defecting to the NDP?

IAN CAPSTICK: I know Liberals from coast to coast to coast, and they're unhappy with the way the government has moved into things such as national missile defence… They're unhappy with the way the government has moved into the further corporatizing of government through their public-private partnerships. They're dissatisfied with the intolerance that Mr. Martin and his — there's no other word for them — henchmen have decided to take over the Liberal Party, to hold it hostage, and to force this right-wing agenda down our throats.

Looking forward to the next act, Ian.

Theatre Thursday: Missive from across the pond

Not every one is of my opinion on The Hollow Crown, currently playing at The Princess of Wales theatre in Toronto. Jan Pick from Birmingham, England writes:

I have seen The Hollow Crown quite a few times - so obviously I like it, 'horses for courses! I can't imagine it in such a big auditorium though! Still, I have to say I laughed at your comments. Revenge really - I once had to sit through hours of what passed for A Midsummer Night's Dream in a mudbath directed by Robert Lepage!!!!! AWFUL. Though some of our critics bowed down and grovelled.

How could she say that about Lepage! Blasphemy!

I wrote and told Ms. Pick that. To which she replied:

I too like Robert Lepage - usually... so A Midsummer Night's Dream was a real disappointment. Your auditorium [The Princess of Wales] is way too big for Hollow Crown, which is an intimate, friendly evening of conversational bits! Alan [Richardson] was dropped on at the last minute to take part as Pat Stewart was going to do it but couldn't. He has done it loads of times before at various points in his career -- usually very successfully -- they sold out at Stratford [upon-Avon, I assume, not Ontario], but then of course, over here most theatre people would pay to listen to any of those four [Donald Sinden, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Howard and Ian Richardson] read the telephone directory!!!

Oh my god. I can't believe we almost had Jean-Luc Picard come to Toronto to do The Hollow Crown. Now there's an actor I'd love to see read the phone book.

Thanks for writing, Jan.

Theatre Thursday: Post-script

Two last things:

1) You know what I'd like to see? The stage adaptation of When Harry Met Sally, with Alyson Hannigan (Buffy, American Pie) as Sally. It opened in previews on Tuesday in London. [Guardian preview.]

I have such a geek crush on Ms. Hannigan.

2) A local Toronto actor, who I'll assume wants to remain anonymous, let me in on an interesting local tidbit: One of the backstage toilets in the St Lawrence Centre is named the Ray Conologue, after The Globe and Mail's former theatre critic.

Ah... Something to aspire to.

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