Recently TCM (Turner Classic Movies) showed the Spanish film from 1973, El espíritu de la colmena (The Spirit of the Beehive). The plot of this strange and beautiful film revolves around Ana, a little girl living in the Spanish countryside in 1940s Spain. A travelling cinema arrives in her village and holds a screening in the village hall of Frankenstein (1931). This film has a strong effect on the little girl. Her sister tells her the monster is alive, and Ana starts roaming the open, windswept land around her village in search of him. She ventures deeper into a fantasy world, but I won't say more than that.
A tragic aside: cinematographer Luis Cuadrado was already going blind when making this film (what vicious irony). He finally lost his sight entirely and committed suicide in 1980.
The little sweetheart who plays Ana is Ana Torrent, all grown up now and a successful actress maybe best known to English-speaking viewers as Katherine of Aragon in The Other Boleyn Girl (2008).
Well, that got me flicking through Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and wondering, not for the first time, how such dark and awesome genius could be present and so well expressed in such a young person, for she was only 19 at the time she wrote it. I *did* return for the National Theatre's second HD transmission of Frankenstein, this time with Jonny Lee Miller as the monster and Benedict Cumberbatch as Frankenstein. As expected, the change in roles changed the experience somewhat, and I feel so grateful to have been able to see both. Thank you NT Live!
NT Live's The Cherry Orchard was one of those productions that I couldn't imagine being performed better: set, performances (Kenneth Cranham - one of my all-time favourites - and Zoë Wanamaker as Ranyevskaya), lighting, all magnificent. But I didn't have a good time: I don't know much about Chekhov translations, but I found the modern references jarring with the very traditional look of the piece; if they'd updated it to a more modern time, it wouldn't have bothered me so much. I'm not sure who's in complete control of the sound quality in these NT Live broadcasts, but we complained twice to the Scotiabank Theatre management part way through the performance, that it was wayyyyy too loud; my ears were ringing. Even when I blocked my ears the sound was overwhelming. I was also coming off a long, intense period at work with many long hours and - to be honest, I was not in the mood to hear a bunch of whiny, once-rich, now poverty-stricken aristocrats going on about their lot in life. My Italian communist grandfather's blood runs through my veins, and I just wanted to get up and shout, "Oh shut up, and go out and get a job, you twits!" And they wonder why the serfs rose up. Blimey! I know in another mind set I would have been moved by their plight, but my mind was not open to it that evening.
For some reason I omitted to blog about an earlier offering in the NT Live season: Dion Boucicault's London Assurance. Pure delight, although not surprising with Nicholas Hytner directing Simon Russell Beale and a host of great actors, including Mark Addy, Richard Briers and Fiona Shaw as Lady Gay Spanker (what a great character, and what a name).
There's nothing like seeing it live, but - as I've said before - if you can't, this Live HD gets a big BPG two thumbs up!