Wednesday, June 24, 2009


The National Theatre is another example of a government subsidized theater creating an atmosphere where everyone just wants to be. I am happy to say I will be returning a few times to this theater during my stay here, and when I do I will be sure to take some photos of the giant (and I do mean giant) grass-covered lawn furniture out front where people happily sip drinks and wait for their show to begin.

Phedre. I had really high expectations of this show. Academy Award-winning Helen Mirren in the title role. A new adaptation -from the 1677 French play (of course taken from the Greek myth) by Racine- by Ted Hughes (husband of Sylvia Plath). As the safety curtain rose, a gorgeous set appeared in shades of beige against a bright blue wall.

I'm not sure what happened. Maybe I just don't like Greek tragedies. Maybe I missed the more flowery words of the older translation compared to the sparse (although still beautiful) translation by Hughes. Maybe I just wanted Helen Mirren to be a little less reserved and a little more like the crazed, sexually depraved and eventually mad woman I imagined reading the text. Each actor had moments of brilliance, and my attention certainly never wavered, but it somehow did not match up with my hopes that I had had for this show.

My mediocre review aside, if you would like to see the show wherever you are, it is being broadcast tomorrow around the world on the BBC and in movie theaters as a special event (apparently the National Theatre is taking a page out of the Metropolitan Opera's book).

UNRELATED SIDE NOTE: The other day I wrote about Aunt Dan and Lemon. The author's name, Wallace Shawn, was unfamiliar to me. It was just today when I saw his picture that I realized that I am quite familiar with this author as an actor: aside from his obscure role in Melinda and Melinda (one of my favorite movies) he is Vizzini The Princess Bride. Inconceivable!

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