Yikes, in the past couple of weeks I've been to see a few 'cultural' things that I meant to write about, and haven't until now gotten around to.
First up, I went to see the 'British-Iranian' comedian Omid Djalili perform his stand-up show 'No Agenda' at the Bloomsbury Theatre. Omid is known to British audiences for his appearances on the TV shows 'Jack Dee at the Apollo' (as a support act) and in 'Black Books' (where he's very funny as a man-with-bierd pimp). The show was very good, mixing the slightly absurd with jokes about Iranian people and some mild political stuff. Interesting, a lot of the show takes the form of an introspective, with Omid talking about his experiences as a comic and as an Iranian living in London. There's even some well-judged funny comments about the London terrorist attack.
I've also been to see the Shakespeare play Pericles performed at the Globe Theatre. Done using 'modern practises', the show was a real spectacle, with the chorus using physical theatre and circus techniques to help tell the story. This means that at points the whole theatre is turned into a boat, with sails hoisted up from the stage and actors hanging from ropes performing aerial gymnastics. On top of this, the narrator frequently stepped outside of the narrative, sometimes for as long as ten minutes, to interpret the action and address the audience directly. 'You thought you were coming to see Shakespeare, to see art,' he says at one point, 'if you want to see art - go to the museum. Here what you see is life.' Coupled with topical asides and some great contemporary-style characters, it all added up to a fantastic play which was something you almost took part in, rather than just watched. Shakespeare purists might have had a fit, but this is what Shakespeare should be and perhaps once was: relevant, topical, and entertaining.
Finally, I've also been to see the new Pride and Prejudice movie. The Pride and Prejudice story seems to have been everywhere recently, popping up on TV in various forms. I hear reference to 'Mr Darcy' so often that he had begun to take on this mythical god-of-love type status - although I can never quite tell whether people are referring to the Jane Austen character, the Bridget Jones character or Colin Firth. Yet, despite all this, I still knew nothing of the story, and had managed to avoid both the book and any adaptations.
So, it was with this fresh eye that I came out of the cinema from seeing Pride and Prejudice in a state of bemusement more than anything else. With the story being 'a classic', I had expected it to be fairly dull, serious, and full of references to old things. In fact, the film was lighthearted to the extreme, amusing, and often just plain silly. The Mr Darcy-Elizabeth Bennet relationship played out like some highschool fling, employing every cliche in the book, including the nervous talking-over-each-other routine. By the end, I wasn't sure whether the whole thing was a bit of a send up, with the cast (who was full of well-known and respected faces), just having a bit of a laugh, playing about in costume.
This isn't to say that the film is terrible. I did enjoy it, for all its lighthearted and nonfussy simplicity. What confused me was whether this attitude was one the film had invented, or had been translated directly from the style of the novel.
So there we are - three reviews of comedy, theatre and film performances I've seen over the past couple of weeks. Now perhaps I can get back to watching crap telly.