'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

28 April 2013

Rothko RED

'RED' at The Queensland Theatre Company.
27th April at The Playhouse.
Last night I attended a tour de force of great power and breadth.  At its first Brisbane performance, the QTC production of John Logans’ “Red” culminated in a well-deserved standing ovation.  Multi-award winning writer John Logan won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Play for “Red”, which won a total of 6 Tony Awards that year, Film buffs may know Logan for his work on major releases including Gladiator, The Aviator, The Last Samurai and Star Trek Nemesis (which starred my favourite actor, Tom Hardy and of course Patrick Stewart who I have seen live on stage).
This interpretation was directed by Alkinos Tsilmidos who directed the MTC production.
 The brilliant, intense, intellectually deep and wide-ranging script was realised magnificently by veteran actor Colin Friels, reprising the role of painter Mark Rothko that he created for last year’s MTC season, and very beautiful and talented young Tom Barton as Rothko’s (fictional) assistant Ken. This two-man show is an intense, in-depth dialogue and even argument about painting, philosophy, theology and the history of ideas and how art clashes with commercial considerations.  It is set in Rothko’s New York studio over the course of two years during which he was working on a major commission, which he eventually reclaimed.
The play examines influences on Rothko’s art and ideas, motivation and colours of Michaelangelo, Matisse, van Gogh and Picasso. He talks about the sublime effect of the inner light glowing from a Caravaggio painting secluded in the dim light of an ancient church, and the “murder” of cubism by Rothko and Jackson Pollock, and argues about the way their abstract expressionism is being replaced by the pop art of Liechtenstein and Warhol and others younger but contemporary to the time.  In one of many memorable moments in the play, Rothko and Ken compete with each other to catalogue and shout as many different shades of red as possible.  They clash over the horror of white and the fear of black and whether the viewer’s emotional response to a colour, or its absence, is personal or universal.  We tramp through the philosophy and theology of ideas and wander through the essential Nietzsche.  At another point we are treated to an intense, but thoughtful argument on the tension or interplay between Apollonian and Dionysian elements (the formal as opposed to the unbridled joy) and as it applied to the style and merits of Rothko and say, Pollock.
An enthusiastic audience stopped the play with huge applause a couple of times.  One was when the two actors in tandem covered a large canvas in red paint to a loud musical accompaniment and the second was in the middle of a screaming lengthy verbal attack by Ken undermining the current relevance of Rothko in an ever modern developing world (1950's). These were true show-off moments of great theatre. Colin Friels is a veteran of Australian theatre and film (I have several of his films on DVD) and as mentioned by QTC Artistic Director Wesley Enoch "is at the height of his powers as an actor". His performance intensely moved from introspection to outbursts of ego, frustration and anger with power and sincerity seldom experienced on stage. We see his young assistant played magnificently by Tom Barton from Melbourne growing from the young painter in awe of his boss to the confident man standing up for himself and moving on to create himself.
New Award
Colin Friels won the best male actor award for his portrayal of Mark Rothko at the Victorian Green Room Awards on Monday 6th May 2013
 I have been reminded that I saw a very much younger and extremely handsome Colin Friels co-starring in  Tennessee Williams' 'Sweet Bird of Youth' back in 1986 in a production on stage here starring the legendary Lauren Bacall. (Photo from my programme.)

25 April 2013

Anzac Day and War Requiem

Today is Anzac Day in Australia. A day when the country remembers the fallen in the dreadful wars in which we have invested our beautiful youth. Unlike most patriotic military memorials this date marks the first great military action taken by Australian and New Zealand troops in the First World War in which we suffered badly. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) continues to be the name given to our forces 'The Anzacs'. They landed on the beach at Gallipoli in Turkey at dawn on the 25th April 1915 and there were huge losses and it is at Dawn that each city and town marks this anniversary. We are not celebrating a great victory but remembering the loss of life. 1.38% of the Australian population died in WWI which is 10 times the proportion of deaths of United States troops, just to put it in perspective. Someone today remarked that as the last of the original Anzacs have passed and others now join the increasingly popular city march perhaps it will eventually be the biggest peace march in the country.
This is Anzac Cove in Turkey to where tens of thousands of Australians make pilgrimage and today the ceremonies include official representatives from our friends the Turkish Government and Military who also remember their dead and ours.
Then above and now below
The War Requiem
Today I attended a brilliant and huge performance of Benjamin Britten's epic WAR REQUIEM. Set to the Latin text of the mass for the dead it incorporates telling and harrowing excerpts of the poems of Wilfred Owen the great War Poet who was killed 7 days before the Armistice and whose evocative poems have been adopted by the Anti War Movement. Britten and his life long love and partner Peter Pears were both pacifists.
Above is Britten Conducting the War Requiem in Germany with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Peter Pears.
Todays performance bought both stunning local and international super talents together.
Conducted by Nicholas Braithwaite 
Soprano -  Rebecca Cassidy
Tenor - Gregory Massingham
Baritone - Shaun Brown
Brisbane Chorale
Queensland Conservatorium Chorus
Young Conservatorium Children's Chorus
War Requiem Chamber Orchestra
Queensland Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra
Wilfred Owen
above is the first poem sung in the Requiem.
Goose bumps ran up and down my body so often throughout the performance today and at one astounding and overwhelming crescendo I burst into tears. My life is so much better for having been to there. I have adored the work for decades but this was the first time I had seen and heard it live.
The powerful and shattering Sanctus from a live performance of The War Requiem in the Albert Hall 1993.

A clip for the almighty 1988 film by Derek Jarman of the War Requiem with the divine Tilda Swinton and Sean Bean.
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