Archive for June, 2012


Monday, June 18th, 2012

I had an unexpected pleasure on Saturday, of going to the Grand Opera House in the afternoon to see Gilbert and Sullivans’ Ruddigore. I know! Opera on a Saturday afternoon! What kind of crazy person does that! Well, me apparently. And maybe a hundred other people – I wasn’t there on my own.

I’d seen a few posters around town for this, and after enjoying a Gilbert and Sullivan opera last year I thought I should look into it. But I am disorganised clown, and I didn’t. Then a friend raved about it in work on Friday after seeing it the previous evening. I assumed I had missed my chance, but he pointed out that there was a Saturday afternoon matinee. So with his glowing recommendation, off I went.

The seats in Opera House remain as uncomfortable as I remember. But I really enjoyed my afternoon nonetheless. The spoiler-light summary of the story would be that Rose and Robin find their romance complicated greatly by the fact that he is the rightful Baron of Ruddigore, a title which comes with a curse that he must commit a crime every day or die horribly, by the fact that his friend Richard must always follow his heart wherever it may lead him, and by the fact that Rose must at all times behave properly according to her book of etiquette.

The play opens in the style of a silent film to provide some background, which is very nicely done. The curtain then opens to Rose being awoken by the local girls, all dressed as bridesmaids. As she is the prettiest girl in town, no-one will propose to them until she marries, and so they are all getting increasingly exasperated by her choosiness, and very keen for her to marry as soon as possible. It’s a lovely opening, well sung, with a large cast of bridesmaids, nicely choreographed, and with all the wit we expect from Gilbert and Sullivan.

Ruddigore is not apparently among the most loved of Gilbert and Sullivan’s works, and I freely admit I had never heard of it and recognised none of the songs. But it was exactly what I had expected and hoped for – the tunes are catchy, the lyrics are witty, and there were plenty of laughs. The staging was very good, with the ghostly Ruddigores emerging from their portraits very well, and generally high production values (as I guess they say in these situations). The little orchestra were very good once the clarinet player had sorted out his squeaky reed in the first couple of numbers, and never overpowered the singers.

One song had a surprising update to include crimes such as phone hacking, expenses fiddling, and Greek debts which was marvellous and completely unexpected. But highlight for me had to be the playing of the baron as the classic pantomime villain, with black moustache, top hat, and black cape which was swished and swirled around at every opportunity.

A great afternoon, and not bad value at £20 for a long and lavish show. I loved it, and will definitely seek out more Gilbert and Sullivan.


Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Managed to catch Prometheus on Saturday night, Ridley Scott’s eagerly awaited prequel to his best film, Alien. Scott had said that he didn’t want to do a traditional prequel that would end at the start of Alien, but wanted to tell a different story that could lead in different directions.

So, how was it? Pretty good I thought. It’s a film that looks beautiful throughout, from sweeping landscape shots to a very nice spaceship, from cool spacesuits to the sort of holographic displays we’d love to have – full marks for design and cinematography. It also has a story, and a compelling one too. Without saying too much, when a couple of archaeologists find the same pattern of stars repeating in ancient paintings from around the Earth, they realise that it points to a destination that may explain the origins of life on our planet. An expedition is mounted on board the space ship Prometheus, with a crew who have various reasons for being there, which takes them to a place that fans of Alien will recognise.

While the cast are all pretty good, the show is predictably stolen by Michael Fassbender, who plays David, the ship’s android. It’s partly his fault, because he is very compelling to watch, but the android is also the most interesting character – he is on a ship with his creators, as they seek their creators. He also gets the most interesting conversation in the film, when he asks:

“Why do you think your people made me”

“Because we could”

“How disappointed will you be if you get the same answer?”

(Not a precise transcription, just how I remember it)

And so we have a film with a bit more of a philosophical edge to it, about the relationship between creators and their creations. It is not an action movie, but it is unpleasant and gory in places, just like Alien was. It’s not by any means the best film I have ever seen, and it will never have the place in sci-fi culture that Alien has, but I liked it and I think it’s worth seeing.

And now the spoilers – if you haven’t seen it, then look away now.


As I’ve said, I rather liked the film, but a few things about it either annoyed me, or intrigued me. The first is in the setup; at the start, we see our archeologists discovering the address of the alien planet, and a big deal is made of how this is a message or an invitation. But then later they conclude that it’s at best a research station, at worst a weapons research station. So why would the aliens have given that invitation in the first place? Surely they would be more likely to have issued any invitation to their home world. Perhaps deliberate misdirection as a security precaution, but it still seems odd.

And then a thing that intrigued me – my initial doubts were confirmed – the planet they visit is designated LV-223. But the planet in Alien and Aliens is LV-426. So they are different planets – it becomes clear at the end of the film that the alien ship they discovered is not the one that they will discover in Alien, but it was only when I checked at home that I realised that it’s not even on the same planet. Interesting.

And then something else that annoyed me – they cast Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland. Weyland is an old man, Guy Pearce is not – he is a much younger man in make-up. From this, I assumed that he would somehow be rejuvenated at some point, but he wasn’t. So why not just cast an old actor? There are plenty of them about! Unless of course I fell exactly into the trap I was meant to. I kind of disliked that on principle – Where it’s not required, I’d rather see an old actor than a made-up one.

Another question for me was whether they were really correct in their conclusions about it all. Clearly the alien substance does horrible things, but was it actually a weapon? Or was it just biology gone mad? I’ll agree that the Engineer didn’t seem pleased to see the humans, but he only got violent when they started asking the cheeky questions. I don’t know that it was very clear that he was heading to earth to destroy it. I’ll agree that their cargo would not have done humanity many favours, but I don’t think it was clear that this was a plan to harm us. Let a child loose in their dad’s garage full of tools and they’ll damage themselves and everything in their path, but neither their dad, nor the tools, nor the child is evil. I have a suspicion that there could be a director’s cut somewhere that might explain this a bit better. Or maybe it’s just me, but I find it vaguely unsatisfying.

We are also meant to see great significance in the cross, and Shaw’s insistence on wearing it. But there must be a problem there – if she has a Christian faith, she doesn’t have to travel across light years to seek her creator. If she doesn’t have that faith, why is the cross so important to her. She’s clearly believing in something, but it’s not very clear that it’s anything other than a non-specific hope for something after death, as opposed to an actual religious faith.

And then the ending. I love the idea of Shaw and David heading off to find the home of the Engineers. I’m not sure it needs a sequel to tell it, but I like the idea of it, and I like the open-endedness of it. And then we have the birth of what is clearly something related to the familar H.R.Giger alien. Again, an odd thing that the offspring off a giant octopus/squid thing and a largely human looking engineer would be that kind of alien. I can see how it’s great to finish like that, but it seems a bit unlikely.

Enough rambling – bottom line – this seems like the longest review I’ve written in a long time, and that’s probaby an indication of how much I liked the film – well worth seeing I reckon.