Wednesday, 22 February 2012

'An Inspector Calls', Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 22/2/12

After more than a decade has passed I have finally seen the legendary Stephen Daldry production of J.B. Priestley's play. Thrilling, exciting, mesmerising and ultimately theatrical, this is a production that surpasses anything that cinema could never hope to emulate.
The reason I have never seen the production before was that whenever the production toured I would always miss it or it would miss me - I recall that it went to my hometown for the first time in 1999, a week after I moved to London! But such is life and all good things ...

It is, of course, a given that any touring version will be a slightly reduced production where all the elements that make up the design are, usually, on a smaller stage and here that was the case. I recall seeing original production shots many years ago and even the original set model (as part of the touring 'Make Space' exhibition) where the stage (the National Theatre!) seemed vast and the design elements of telephone box, cyclorama etc. were more spread apart than here. Here it appeared that some of these pieces were repositioned although none of this detracted from the production itself which was still dominated by the three story, doll-house-like, Birling family home; a physical manifestation of the wealth and security of the people who reside within. Ian MacNeils' designs and Rick Fisher's lighting compliment each other whilst the music by Stephen Warbeck sets up atmosphere, mood, and tension well (though I felt, at times, it bordered on excessive).

The sheer scope of the concept and design serves the play superbly, pulling it out of the box set of old. Indeed much has been said over the years since the premiere in 1992 of this production about such things that I shan't go on about it. But it is testament that the production still appears fresh, although it is a production that now dwarfs any further productions of the play which, inevitably, seem stale hearkening back to the original proscenium arch, one room production. Daldry creates a never ending feast for the eyes with the stage becoming the metaphoric landscape for the devastation of the Birling family. As the family is torn apart, so does their world crumble where once they sat, content in their doll house shielded from the rain that pours onto the world outside.
From its framing device of the Second World War (a nod to the period in which the play was written) Daldry's conception grips you and the interweaving of the observers of the 1940s with the events of the play which occur in 1912 was such that one never questions the different time periods living side by side. The play is a moral one and here we become part of those who observe and ultimately judge the actions of the people onstage. The 1940s 'supernumeries' (as listed in the programme) invite us to ask of ourselves whether the time period we live in or the class we may consider ourselves to be are reason enough to abandon those who are in need, to be selective in our morality and actions.

The cast were excellent but Tom Mannion as 'Inspector Goole' was a stand out whilst Karen Archer as 'Sybil Birling' perfectly encapsulated the toff attitude of privilege. Geoff Leesley as 'Arthur Birling' and John Sackville as 'Gerald Croft' were also wonderfully cast. Kelly Hotten as 'Sheila Birling' and Henry Gilbert as 'Eric Birling' shone as the siblings who, though spoilt and selfish, ultimately come to realise the truth about themselves and that lessons are for learning. Janie Booth as maid 'Edna' may have had few lines but she was in danger of stealing the spotlight with her wanderings onstage and her simple, uncomplicated facial expressions. Of the 'Supernumeries' Dino Molinari as 'Small Boy' stood out although all served the production well.
I am glad I managed to catch this wonderfully theatrical piece and hope to do so again when next it tours.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Lethargy Is Fun. Really.

One of the major drawbacks in having fibromyalgia is the lethargy that washes over you when you least suspect it.
I have yet to find a way to combat this symptom which comes upon you in a matter of moments leaving you weak, your mind foggy, your vision often blurred and you feeling simply like crap!
It is as if the positive essence of yourself is drained out of you in a few seconds, leaving you empty and hollow and at the mercy of some unknown foe.

I wouldn't wish this on anyone.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Finding the positive ?

It is often said that the challenges one may face in life are, in actuality, life lessons that are placed before us so that we may learn from them, that they can be seen as tests of a person's character. And while it may be true it has to be said that not everyone can face these challenges, that some people simply don't have it in them to deal with such things, especially if challenge follows challenge.
I believe I am one such person: I do my best to cope with obstacles and the things that life thrusts at me but I fear that there is only so much I can take.

This is not to say that such people as myself are weak in character or any such thing but, rather, that due to circumstance we are unable to accommodate such drastic changes or events as easily as another person.

What I am talking about is mental illness - depression and the such - which renders some people unable to cope with such challenges which, to any other person, may be a mere frustration or an annoyance. Indeed people with mental health issues (not to mention any other health problems they may have!) may not be able to see beyond the event that is presented before them, unable to see the positive in the great big negative that rears its ugly head.

I do try to look at things as a lesson and sometimes, usually some time after, I can find a positive but, as each day passes, as I am frustrated at my body letting me down, my mind progressively stalling, at my frustrations with my personal flaws, I find it harder and harder to find any real purpose to these events: I cannot fathom the good that might emerge from these incidents.
And I do not like tests - I often crumble under such situations and my coping mechanism is utterly buggered when I need it the most.

I speak of this because there has been numerous an occasion when such things have happened to me. Yes, I've come out the other side but not necessarily stronger. In fact, I often feel utterly drained and exhausted, as if another piece of me has been chipped away by life and its apparent unfairness. And each time it gets harder.

Oh, boo hoo, I guess. But I do honestly feel that some people are luckier than others and that there are those who cannot get a break in life, despite all their positive actions and thoughts. I realise life isn't fair but it's also true that life is much more of a struggle for some. The smallest thing can be a mountain to face and when one reflects it isn't so easy to be proud of an achievement that would be a mere trifle to another person.