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WOSSNAME -- February 2010 -- Part 2 of 5

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  • granny_tude
    WOSSNAME -- FEBRUARY 2010 -- PART 2 OF 5 (continued) ... oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo ====Part 2 -- MORE NEWS, REVIEWS AND SUCH 05)
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 25, 2010
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      WOSSNAME -- FEBRUARY 2010 -- PART 2 OF 5 (continued)
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      oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

      ====Part 2 -- MORE NEWS, REVIEWS AND SUCH

      05) NATION AT THE NT NEWS AND REVIEWS, CONTINUED
      06) PTERRY'S DIMBLEBY LECTURE: "SHAKING HANDS WITH DEATH"

      oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

      05) NATION REVIEWS, CONTINUED

      5.1 Review by Annie Mac, continued

      The puppetry didn't completely work for me. The pig was fantastic
      and 'baby Twinkle' was surprisingly lifelike due to the players'
      deft handling of 'him' (I imagine it took a lot of rehearsal, which
      definitely paid off), but I found the grandfather birds distracting
      because their operators were plainly visible (I also disliked the
      look of them. They looked nothing like the way they were described
      in the book! -- far too skeletal and un-bird-like. Several people
      who saw the cinecast with me said the grandfather bird puppets
      reminded them of some creatures from The Dark Crystal, but as my
      interest in Hensonry has never extended beyond the Muppet Show and
      the original '70s Yoda, I've no idea if this is so).

      The ocean scenes were surprisingly less inept than I would have
      expected, though again, I found the plainly visible presence of the
      designated sheet-billowers irritating. But the *underwater* scenes
      -- which, we were told in behind-the-scenes footage during the
      interval, were achieved by cast lookalikes air-swimming behind a
      translucent screen whilst being raised and lowered on ropes -- were
      fabulous and completely believable. Nor was I alone in this opinion,
      because I could hear a round of sharply drawn breaths throughout the
      audience the first time we were shown this effect.

      Also on the subject of set design, I found the sculptures and
      symbols in the ancients' cave a bit too rough and simplistic. When
      reading the novel, I had the strong impression that the contents of
      the cave were very sophisticated indeed - in fact, that they were
      the original artefacts from which that universe's Greco-Roman art
      and statuary descended! - but the stage props looked more to me like
      Easter Island stuff with a bit of gilt on it.

      And then there was the parrot. I did not like the parrot. I did not
      like the parrot *at all*. Oh, sure, the parrot's dialogue was great
      fun and wonderfully timed, but I found Jason Thorpe himself very
      off-putting, and I think director Still and costume designer Dinah
      Collin were way off-track with the look of the character, from the
      typical clueless-git-on-the-twenty-first-century-street hairstyle
      (why not wear a parrot-like crest?) to the bizarre and oh-so-luvvie
      corset and bustle (should have been either far more plumage or none
      at all, I say). After a while I found myself gritting my teeth every
      time parrot-Thorpe muscled in on yet another beautifully delivered
      performance by the rest of the main cast. Minus a lot of points for
      the parrot.

      Those are the cavils; now for the kudos. Starting with OHH EMM GEE
      GARY CARR AS MAU IS AWESOME, NOT TO MENTION HEART-STOPPINGLY
      GORGEOUS IN A LOINCLOTH. I can no longer say how much Carr's Mau was
      like or unlike the Mau I pictured when reading Nation, because the
      sheer strength of his performance, both physical and vocal, rapidly
      became *the* Mau for me, taking over any former images in my mind.
      Even at the start, during the (unavoidable, I suppose) infodump
      monologue on Boys' Island, he conveyed a sincerity and determination
      that matched that of the novel's opening scenes, and as the play
      progressed he showed -- he *lived* -- Mau's personal evolution,
      making me feel the boy's fear and courage and seamlessly portraying
      Mau's transition from beleaguered adolescent to confident chief.
      Suffice it to say he made me cry in all the right places.

      Emily Taaffe as Daphne was similarly excellent. Dare I say it, her
      performance gave me an even stronger impression of how much Daphne
      had 'gone native' during the course of the story, and I see this as
      a plus. The physical chemistry between Daphne and Mau was superb
      (and it seemed obvious in behind-the-scenes footage that the actors
      were very comfortable in each other's company), and their comic
      *and* dramatic timing flawless. I was wondering if the scene in
      Locaha's domain would work on stage, but Taaffe put it across
      superbly.

      The supporting cast, apart from parrot-Thorpe, were all first-rate.
      My favourites were Gaye Brown (Daphne's insufferable grandmother),
      who steamed through her lines in best Patricia Routledge 'Hyacinth'
      mode; Nicholas Rowe, who played Daphne's father effectively as what
      I later described as 'Eric Idle's bemused younger brother'; Ewart
      James Walters, a powerful presence as Ataba the priest; and Lorna
      Gayle, whose character is listed as Marisgala but who I presume was
      Mrs Gurgle. Cox (Paul Chahidi) was a bit of a stock Mummerset
      character, but that was appropriate for the part; Polegrave (Al
      Nedjari) and Foxlip (Michael Mears) owed a lot to the comic-relief
      baddies Pintel and Ragetti from the Pirates of the Caribbean films
      -- in other words, more slapstick than genuinely menacing -- but as
      I adore Pintel and Ragetti, I have no complaints about that!

      Now then, the character and story changes made in the stage
      adaptation. I tend to curl my lip at such practices in film and
      telly adaptations because I find they usually take away from the
      source material without improving the adaptation, but in the case of
      Nation I think the changes worked well to bridge the gap between the
      epic story of the novel and the necessarily truncated stage
      production. Cox was reinvented as Daphne's family butler-cum-
      personal manservant, who had accompanied her on the Sweet Judy as
      protector/chaperone; in the play, Cox had been a loyal and loving
      retainer who had lost his own beloved son to the pandemic and whose
      grief, combined with the horror of the voyage and washing up on a
      beach only to be captured by the cannibal Raiders, unhinged him.
      Where Cox in the novel was simply an evil man, Cox in the play was a
      good man turned by circumstance into a nihilistic madman. I found
      this to be logical and acceptable, and found that stage-Cox's
      connection to Daphne strengthened his presence in the adapted story.

      Another logical change that worked well was in the character of Mrs
      Gurgle, who was portrayed by Gayle as a robust, no-nonsense earth-
      mother priestess at the height of her physical and mental powers -
      far more effective on the stage than the character would have been
      if they'd followed the novel's description. Similarly, reinventing
      Cahle (Sirine Saba) as a chatty survivor, who interacted closely
      with Daphne and helped her to assimilate, was a wise move in the
      context of the adaptation.

      To go back to my claim at the start: no, I don't think Nation-the-
      novel can be truly portrayed on the stage, at least not in the form
      of a two-hour play. To get the full impact across, I believe one
      would have to take the Wagnerian grand opera approach and create a
      production that lasted over the course of a week. But as no-one goes
      in for that sort of thing these days, the National Theatre's
      production of Nation is well worth watching and will send you away
      genuinely moved.


      5.2 THE AUTHOR ON THE PLAY

      Pterry talks to BBC World Service programme The Strand about
      Nation and its adaptation for the stage:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p005x3xf


      5.3 REVIEW IN THE GLOBE AND MAIL (Canada)

      "Do children in this Avatar age expect to be greeted with ever-
      wilder special effects when they visit the cinema? It's worth
      thinking about if you take your kids to see Nation. The play, based
      on a novel by Terry Pratchett and currently playing at the National
      Theatre in London... Some of the effects in Nation are dazzling in
      the confines of a darkened theatre -- a tiny boat tossed on a
      cellophane sea, life-sized vulture puppets that feast on a corpse's
      ropy cloth entrails -- but they may lose their magic when projected
      on the screen in a movie house... If you take your kids and they
      drag their feet, tell them it's live performance -- the original
      3-D."

      http://tinyurl.com/ycs46ms


      5.4 REVIEW IN TONIGHT (South Africa)

      A review by a journalist who knows Nation in its original novel
      form:

      "Milton (Thorpe) the foul-mouthed parrot is such a delightful
      Pratchett conceit, but having read the book I miss the absolute
      nihilism of some of the characters as well as the bitter railing
      against loss and the questioning of the existence of God, which
      formed such as central part of Mau's character..."

      http://tinyurl.com/ydc77sh

      %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

      06) PTERRY'S DIMBLEBY LECTURE: "SHAKING HANDS WITH DEATH"

      Sir Terry Pratchett recently gave the prestigious Dimbleby Lecture
      for 2010, which was broadcast on the BBC. The title was "Shaking
      Hands with Death" and the subject was a plea to change the "assisted
      dying" laws in the UK. The lecture was delivered by the actor Tony
      Robinson after an introduction by the author. Although some British
      institutions and individuals consider this subject controversial, it
      is notable that up to 80% of Britons agree with Sir Terry. The
      author may not have ever imagined he would be the unofficial
      spokesperson for "assisted dying", but none doubt his passion and
      eloquence.

      "Sir Terry wants to see measures put in place to ensure that anyone
      seeking to commit suicide was of sound mind and not being influenced
      by others. 'At the moment if someone assists someone else to commit
      suicide in this country or elsewhere they become suspect to murder
      until the police decide otherwise,' he told the BBC. 'I think it
      would be rather better if a person wishes to die, they could go see
      the tribunal with friends and relatives and present their case - at
      least if it happens, it happens with, as it were, authority... It
      seems sensible to me that we should look to the medical profession,
      that over the centuries has helped us to live longer and healthier
      lives, to help us die peacefully among our loved ones in our own
      home without a long stay in God's waiting room,' Sir Terry said."

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8490062.stm


      Some extracts from the lecture, in The Independent:

      "If we are are to live in a world where a socially acceptable 'early
      death' can be allowed, it must be allowed as a result of careful
      consideration. Let us consider me as a test case. As I have said, I
      would like to die peacefully with Thomas Tallis on my iPod before
      Alzheimer's disease takes me over and I hope that will not be for
      quite some time to come, because if I knew that I could die at any
      time I wanted, then suddenly every day would be as precious as a
      million pounds. If I knew that I could die, I would live. My life,
      my death, my choice... Observation, conversation and some careful
      deduction lead me to believe that the majority of doctors who
      support the right to die are those who are most closely involved
      day-to-day with patients.."

      http://tinyurl.com/y877jep (page includes video)


      More transcripts from the lecture, in The Guardian:

      http://tinyurl.com/yd2mn4g


      The Guardian's leading editorial:

      "A patron of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, and a significant
      donor, Sir Terry has become a formidable champion of the rights of
      fellow sufferers, challenging Nice for the guidance it has issued
      over the drug Aricept. If sufferers from incurable diseases could
      chose the time of their death, then each remaining day of their life
      would be precious to them, he argues. Sir Terry enriches a complex
      debate with a unique brand of honesty, ­bravery and humour..."

      http://tinyurl.com/ylyuq9y


      An article in the Sydney Morning Herald (Australia):

      "Pratchett presented his argument for assisted suicide last week,
      while delivering a lecture for the BBC, saying: 'I would like to die
      peacefully before the disease takes me over. If I knew that I could
      die at any time I wanted then suddenly every day would be as
      precious as a million pounds. If I knew that I could die, I would
      live. My life, my death, my choice.' They were dignified, considered
      words. Even so, Pratchett expected all hell to break loose. To his
      surprise, it didn't. 'Some archbishops have said nasty things but I
      look on that as a plus,' he says, lucidly and softly. 'Apart from
      that, not a single person has thumbed their nose at me. People are
      saying, "How can we join in?" The baby boomers see how their
      grandmothers and grandfathers died, and they're looking after their
      mums and dads, and they think, "Bugger this, who said it has to be
      like this?"'..."

      (includes an excellent photograph)

      http://tinyurl.com/yeze3zh


      A former colleague of Pterry's at the Bucks Free Press applauds his
      stand:

      "If I remember rightly, he came up with his fantasy worlds while
      standing in for the kids' corner editor. It was not something I
      recall discussing, so I don't know whether he came to share my
      disbelief in the world about which the religious believers in the
      supernatural fantasise. However, I share his view that, when life in
      this world becomes intolerable, someone whom I might ask to help me
      quit it should not be penalised for doing so..."

      http://tinyurl.com/ydnrpj9

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