In a Free State, by V S Naipaul

Soon after my return from 5 years in Guyana in the early 1970s, I submitted this piece as part of my bid to review for the TLS or the TES.   In response I was invited to define the areas I would like to specialise in, and foolishly uncertain which to suggest, delayed replying too long, and let the opportunity slip…

In a Free State, by V S Naipaul.  
This novel takes the form of variations on a theme.  It is written in five sections: a prologue, three separate narratives, and an epilogue – and while these sections are unconnected in terms of plot or character, they are all consistent with the theme of the isolation and insularity of expatriates. Continue reading

The Poetry of Alain Grandbois

I wrote this appreciation back in 1967,  in my final year at University, where as part of my degree in French and Drama I studied French Canadian Literature.  Some of Grandbois’ poetry can be found in the collection “Classiques Canadiens”, as chosen and  presented by Jacques Brault.

In much of his poetry, Alain Grandbois appears condemned to a restless journey through night, rain, endless streets marked by the impotent illumination of street lamps, exclusion from the existence of fellow men, and the gradual disintegration of contact with a loved woman – to a “périple”  of perpetual solitude. In this nightmare, place succeeding place in a filmic progression, as he makes a desperate, misunderstood, unanswered cry for contact – with another, or with an ideal that will justify the chaos:
“Une colonne d’allégresse”
– he is obsessed with the evanescence of life, and the ugly manifestations of death among the living, and of decay among the dead:
“…ces trop beaux visages détruits”. Continue reading

Hidden Figures – 10; La La Land – Nil

Apart from a Hollywood mutual congratulation exercise, can anyone explain to me why That Film got so many Oscar nominations – and awards?  OK, it was glitzy and colourful, but what was all the fuss about?

Story?  Uh uh;  Characters?  Uh uh;  Acting?  Uh uh.  Memorable songs? Uh uh

Whereas Hidden Figures was thought-provoking, shocking, gripping, moving, uplifting and life-enhancing – a story that needed to be told, and that was told brilliantly.

I rest my case!

Eurovision Dance Contest, 2008

Xenophobia – BBC’s new Mission Statement?  
       (Some names have been omitted to protect the guilty…)

In last night’s transmission of the Eurovision Dance Contest, the BBC sank to new levels of bad taste.
       Over the years the various TV channels have bludgeoned us into expecting, if not accepting, the manifestation of some bizarre belief that the general public is incapable of enjoying anything that is not formulaic, snappy, glitzy, sexy, jokey and smiley.  I might therefore have been prepared for the inanities of the two presenters.  Even so, could someone (a highly-paid BBC producer, perhaps?) not have explained to the gentleman in question (presumably astronomically paid?) that the time delay in receiving transmissions from elsewhere in Europe means that to follow his scripted opening questions with poorly timed colloquial drivel served no purpose other than to make each of the foreign presenters look congenitally stupid? Continue reading

“Pinter’s People” – Review

This was my response to “Pinter’s People”,
as performed at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, 2007 

What an opportunity…
                                                  ….missed!

As a lifelong fan of Pinter, and about to direct my fourth production of one of his plays – The Dwarfs (after Betrayal, The Caretaker and The Homecoming), I was keen to see Pinter’s People at the Haymarket last Saturday.  Especially as it was reputed to be bringing the humour of Pinter’s brilliant dialogue to life.  So what happened? Continue reading

Long Day’s Journey into Night – Review

Two of the online reviews of the  2012  production of this classic at the Apollo Theatre, London – one on ‘West End Whingers’, and another on ‘What’s on Stage’- were enthusiastic about its pace.  I replied to both of those, and then was delighted to find a less laudatory review on ‘londonist.com’.

This is my reply to them:

How gratifying to read your less than euphoric review! I do so agree with the points you make, and to focus on one more aspect, some of the rave reviews you mention at the end, praise the production, among other things, for its pace..  Ay, ay ay! Continue reading