.... with special thanks to Uli for translation!
Edmond and Brand – a very good combination!We made a great choice! Both plays have a lot in common – more referred to the story they tell: A man systematically destroying his life. David Mamet’s "Edmond", a modern American play of the 21st century and Henrik Ibsens "Brand" – written in Norway during the 19th century – are so congruous although dealing with two different centuries.
Splendidly performed by Kenneth Branagh. One can just feel his enormous acting experience. I have only seen a comparable performance from Ian McKellen.
Until now I have seen (including that one) 3 modern plays and THAT is definitely the most memorable. This is a very good production, despite the modest stage setting, the single scenes were very well captured. The modern National Theatre was absolutely perfect for this play – deterrent from outside with its concrete walls and with a modern and cool interior – normally not my taste ;o)....
As usually I had no chance to read the reviews and because we were late I had no chance either to have a look at the synopsis sigh*. The play was running 75 minutes without a brake – but to be honest, a brake would have been very annoying ;o) not to say disturbing. The organisation was brilliant – Kenneth Branagh was on stage almost all the time of the play – even during changes of the scene. I was enthusiastic and the 75 minutes passed by so quickly. With every new scene the situation was coming to heat more and more until the extreme was reached. I think this is the point of time to make a remark: maybe it is not advisable to see the play with children younger than 18 – it is not just the language ;o)…if you know what I mean? There are some nice scenes even I was surprised to see J .
The atmosphere is dark – with a black stage setting – they start after the "Fortune Teller" with a marital row, when Edmond is telling his wife that he would not love her anymore, everything was boring and he preferred to have his freedom and would like to look for adventures. "I am buying cigarettes and won’t come back." "You are not coming back?" "No" That’s it – there is a row and he is leaving.
I think this was the biggest mistake in his life. In my opinion Edmond is naïve. He is looking for fun and adventure and then he is frightened about the world he is living in – getting trapped over and over again. Every scene ends in a catastrophe. And there are a lot of extreme scenes: sex, molesting, brutality and finally – murder. The scenes seem to pass by in a flash – bar, peep show, brothel, underground, mission and prison.
He is beaten up and is reacting in the same brutal way. Finally he notices that his live is a row of catastrophes and kills his one-night-stand. His explanation to the police: "I had to much coffee." – shows in what kind of world he is living in: cold sex - no love – a cold world. Since he is not understanding what is going on he prays to God begging for help because the end is so clear.
Despite the overall depressing story there were many laughs to hear in the audience, I assume because of the ironic and sarcastic play on word and scenes. One could get the impression the audience did not understand the story but I think they were just trying to find at least some fun watching this sad existence – but in my opinion this was inappropriate and to be honest – I did it as well ;o).
I was always hoping for a happy ending, although I knew how it would end because it is unavoidable.
The cast was / is terrific – very well performed by the actors. Did I mention it already? Kenneth Branagh’s performance was outstanding (cannot tell often enough)… not to mention when he changed the "costume" on stage during the play that was extraordinary – pulled off trousers, shirt and on again very quickly.
I was pretty surprised by some scenes like the brutal murder and the "when-do-I-have-to-cover-the-eyes-of-the-child-next-to-me-without-pants-scene", although I should have known that something like that might happen in a play written by David Mamet, if you compare the play "sexual perversity in chicago" a very modern play ;o)..
This was almost the same story but more moderate. Ah – this time the theatre was the same "old fashioned style" I was used to and again, it suited best to the play. The atmosphere was dark. The stage setting was very good and my praise to the director – the depressing story was perfectly captured. Unlike to Edmond before, I knew what to expect for a play written by Ibsen. "Brand" was his breakthrough in the theatre and it was written in Italy one year before "Peer Gynt". I still cannot believe that Ibsen could write a tragic play like this in sunny and lively Italy.
Brand as well is a man throwing away his life but here it is a priest with a fanatical believe in God. All or nothing – this phrase is accompanying him through the play and finally he destroyed everything he had – his family as well as his ideals.
Ralph Fiennes was playing Brand and Claire Price his wife Agnes. The play was so sad and the actors so brilliant that even I cried once. THAT has never happened to me in the theatre. Not so worse I think – even Ibsen cried when he saw his play the first time on stage.
Because of his stubbornness Brand is loosing his family - first his son then his wife Agnes. Finally the people to whom he gave everything chase him away from town and he dies bleeding through an avalanche in a "church of ice and snow".
The final scene was a bit tricky to show it on stage – but it was amazing and perfectly done and THAT was definitely a challenge. The sound went right to the stomach and was very convincing.
In this play as well the situation of the main character was coming to heat with every new scene and ends in a catastrophe. Of course the scenes were not as extreme as in Edmond, but gripping to the end.
The audience was calmer and there were only a few people laughing. The dark atmosphere was chilling and there were only a few rays of hope. I was watching with a heart filled with grief so to say and the performance of the actors was brilliant. The play was 2 hrs and 20 minutes long – a short time if you consider that the original was written for 6 ½ hrs (6000 lines) – WOW!!!!!
It was definitely worthwhile to see both plays within a short time and that I could compare them. That has been the best trip to London so far.
Theatre and "all the bits and pieces"
Yes – of course there was more than theatre – normally I matter to begin with but this time I decided to finish with the best ;o).
This time our adventure started with a preview performance of Edmond – a performance before the premiere. Our club offered tickets and we decided to go. My friend Bettina (Uli let me down that time so I had to ask someone else who was less busy) had already an eye on the play for quite a time and since she has always wanted to see Kenneth Branagh on stage – there was really no need to talk into her. Before we left the hotel we put on some make-up, but it was definitely too hot for more "colour".
The dresses sticked to our bodies and we did not really want to leave the air conditioned hotel lounge. It was still sunny outside and the sun was shining and we were sweating. Since we paid a lot for the tickets we saved the money for a taxi and had to get on the crowed tube. Anyhow we didn’t really care because it is usually dark in theatres and no-one will see us there ;o). The closer we got to Waterloo Station the train emptied and we could get a seat and the National Theatre was easy to find from Waterloo Station thanks to the signs. It was just a 20 minute walk with high heels and evening dress and we felt like walking through the hottest desert on earth. OK, ok – desert is a bit exaggerated with the river Themse so close – hahaha… We found the theatre right away – without any "detour". The National Theatre is a huge concrete block – so different to the smaller, more comfortable theatres I find so cute. I did not like it at all! We fought our way to the entrance – there were many people and it was so crowded, since a music or pop band was playing – I think.
Just a few words to the National Theater there are three theatres there. The Cottesloe Theatre, the Lyttelton Theatre and the Olivier Theatre. We had to find the Olivier Theatre soon because the play should start at 8:00 pm.
First problem: Where (the hell) is the Olivier Theatre and second problem: were are the other club members, we wanted to meet? The first problem was solved easily by walking through the National Theatre from front to end. Of course the Olivier Theatre was at the back end – so we found the theatre but it still leaves problem two. Were to find the other members? There were so many people, cafes and terraces all over the place with more people. We absolutely doubted whether we would ever find someone we have never met. It was like looking for the needle in a hay stack and therefore Julie (Bettina’s daughter) and I decided to divide up. We started with our search at the bar in the main building and we battled our way through to the last café of the Olivier Theatre – but we could not discover anyone we know. No chance! It was almost 8:00 pm and there was no-one to see from the club and we started to PANIC! We were thinking of a strategy and decided to wait in front of the entrance to the stall area of the Olivier. Whoever wanted to enter had to pass us!
Nervously waiting outside we heard the first gong. Even Bettina was panicking now, but there was nothing else we could do as to stand "firm" and keep our nerves. At least we were lucky and found another member of the club so we were 4 waiting outside.
At that desperate moment Julie called Bettina and me to turn around and we were hoping to see the other members of the club and "the boss". HA – no! It was Alan Rickman. What a coincidence! Smile Children are amazing – they see more than we do. And we were relieved – when Alan Rickman is arriving at last minute there is still hope. Those Brits are unflappable! Then we heard the second gong when Alan Rickman was calmly heading to the bar. Ah, it seems as if there is still some time – so, DO NOT PANIC! After the third gong we saw our "boss" coming down the stairs with a radiant smile. He couldn’t really understand why we were so upset ;o).
of the people were already in the theatre and we could go to our seats together
with Alan Rickman. Aha – this is the way it is done here! You wait outside
until everyone is seated and one has not to fight through the crowd – this is
a very wise tactic Mr. Rickman. Of course we used the opportunity to take a
closer look on him. The panic in his eyes showed us that he noticed. He didn’t
dare to look over – just now and then and very carefully ;o). Maybe he was
thinking about a possibility to run away. "But Mr. Rickman – don’t be
afraid – we do not belong to the "fans" hunting actors."
Although I would have loved to push a little bit, when entering the theatre…
Unfortunately, we did not sit next to each other, but we could see him. I was thrilled to see how actors behave in the theatre – very thrilled ;o). The interior was mainly black – very dark and cold but it was ok for the play as you could read above. The play was sold out and Mr. Rickman sat about two rows in front of us – a very interesting view I have to admit and then they switched off the light damn. Kenneth appeared on stage and "chased" us through the play – there was hardly time to breathe.
The audience was amused about the sarcastic words – some laughed out extremely loud and without end. During the scenes with more light I could throw a glance on Mr. Rickman (I should have taken my opera glasses with me sh…). He was critically viewing the play without any expression on his face. Is he always so stiff or is he behaving that way because he assumes someone could watch him and he has to pretend to be serious?
On stage we could see Edmond fighting through the story. A kiss at the end and applause – END. The audience and I were enthusiastic and Mr. Rickman did not fall asleep and our child Julie was a bit shocked of some scenes but overall it was a terrific play and a wonderful evening :o). Many thanks to the Edmond-Cast – you were perfect!!!!
We had a lively discussion with the club members on the play – partly in English and partly in German – because I could not always remember the words in English and we left the theatre. The others were leaving either for home or met in a bar to talk about the play. Julie asked or she begged us to go to the stage door. OK – were are understanding "mothers" and since Julie as a child is a big Harry Potter Fan we "granted" her the wish. Kenneth was playing Lockhart in part II. Sigh, we were spared nothing. We said to her: "if you can find the stage door, we will come with you." At the point of time we were convinced that the National Theater is a huge building and our "child" would never be able to find the stage door… Well, it took her exactly 5 minutes to find the door. We finished our glass of water very quickly and followed her (the next time we have to find something more difficult. The girl is too smart.)
I took a careful glance around the corner – no crowd, no fanatic girlies – wonderful! That was perfect and not so bad as I thought it would be. I had already some experience at the stage door of Sean Beans "Macbeth" and I did not want to have the same situation again. OK then we were waiting for Kenneth and make a child happy. Yes, ok – I will take some pictures especially when he is leaving the theatre. Oh NO – not again this Mr. Rickman! Who is following whom? I did not really understand – first he seemed to bother that you might address him and then we find him inmost the crowd knowing that some of the Harry Potter fans might wait in front of the door. They would love to get an autograph from Snape. Then I decided to come a bit closer – hmmm – when I am here and he is here… OK … ehmmm Mr. Rickman? Could you please… Autograph… Oh yes?! Thanks.. and excuse me, could we take a photo?
What a shame – how could I? I didn’t even recognise myself again, how could I have been carried away and stumble stupid things in German and English (translator: I dared to translate everything ;o)…) (ps… what a luck that Bettina had her summer programme from the National Theatre with her).
Alan Rickman signed with a serious face and he was even prepared that pictures were taken – so he was signing and so on and it took some time until I fought my way through the crowd. He seemed to be very calm and there was no sign of him leaving. Hehe – and this was the way I got a picture with a star. Many thanks Mr. Rickman, that was very kind. Before I got closer I took a glance on his outfit – ah yes, a new sports jacket would do and pink is not his colour.
Ah and suddenly the crowd moved – THE star had arrived. On the contrary to Alan Rickman Kenneth Branagh was beaming all over his face.
I assume that he was glad that the performance was over, but he was delighted about the applause and he could go home now. He was very patient with his fans and I could take some pictures, what I completely forgot with Alan Rickman… and of course I got an autograph. I thought what works with Alan could work with Kenneth as well ;o). the only problem I had was that I had no programme but since I am always keeping the tickets I gave it to him and he just signed it and gave me his brightest smile. Julie was pushing me from the back – "a photo please!" – OK, but she had to ask him herself (with her 14 years she is a very brave girl) And as I always say: nothing vained – nothing gained! Both were beaming… and after Kenneth had worked out in which of the many cameras he should smile – we got a picture as well ;o).
Even the last fan got his/her autograph and Kenneth Branagh took his beautiful wife and went home. A very nice man. It was past midnight and we went back to the bus stop chatting and giggling. It was really a terrific evening. I like London at night – it is marvellous and I do not want to leave again. It is so wonderful that we will be in the theatre again tomorrow – life can be so beautiful!
The alarm clock was ringing at 7:00 am – and I was a pleasure for me to "throw" Julie out of her bed, because we wanted to run a bit in the Hyde Park – we are so sportive ;o)… and it was a terrific morning and the sun was shining.
I like the area around the Hyde Park and would love to live here. It is a very quiet area, the park is huge and when you like to shop with the Oxford Street in the neighbourhood. Most of the buses drive in direction Piccadilly and West End with the theatres is close as well.
Running is the best occasion to set the circulation in motion and flirt with English men :o))… have I already said that this is a wonderful life?
So Julie and I started the day with running – had a short stop at the Peter Pan statue and run back to the hotel. Shower etc. and breakfast and finally shopping. The Oxford Street must be the paradise for every woman but unfortunately, it was a bit too hot that afternoon and we decided to have some cups of coffee in the Starbucks Coffeeshop. THAT’S LIFE!
AGAIN – evening and another theatre play. This time we had decided to see "Brand" in the Theatre at Haymarket – close to Piccadilly. I like this theatre and it is the most beautiful one I have seen and I have seen a lot. I think one of the club members once mentioned that there are 115 theatres in London, but I am not sure anymore whether I got that right. Unbelievable.
This time it was no preview – I even think that the play is almost over and Bettina wanted to see it as well because Ralph Fiennes plays the lead and he is said to be very good. I have to admit that I did not know him at all. I was glad that I got a programme that evening.
There I could read more about his professional life – wow! I did not remember that it was him playing in "the English Patient" Amazing! It promised to be a very interesting evening.
We were very lucky that we were on time and there was no waiting for other people since we had the tickets already. This evening we went to our seats earlier – about 15 minutes – although we learned from Alan Rickman to do otherwise, but now we had the time to take a closer look a the interior of the theatre without many people. It was wonderful – built in 1720 and very old. Again we had seats in the stall – row J – perfect but very, very expensive.
At first I was a bit hesitant to pay that price because I have not read anything about the play and I did not even know the actor. I was worth it! There are really many brilliant actors in England!
"Brand" was – as I have already mentioned earlier – more moderate than Edmond. The atmosphere was darker and Claire Price and Ralph Fiennes showed a performance that got under my skin. I am still enthusiastic about the play. I had the impression that I was right in the middle of the situation. The play filled the whole theatre – they used the aisles on the right and left side – so to say theatre in stereo. Voices everywhere. Sometimes I was shocked when I suddenly heard a voice in the back. At least once, Ralph Fiennes was running along the left side in the stall, to the back and back on the right side back to the stage. Now I understand why he is so slim ;o).
The play was very sad and as I have already mentioned – I even cried once. A perfect performance of the actors.
I was glad there was a break and I could dry my eyes and could comfort myself with a chocolate ice. I like the end most – the thunder of the avalanche went directly to my stomach. The theatre was trembling and there was even fog – frightening.
Brand collapsed beneath the avalanche and Ralph Fiennes was obviously exhausted. I am sure, he was glad that he could rest there for about 2 minutes. The applause was frenetic and it was a standing ovation. He definitely deserved it!
We were almost the last ones to leave the theatre and of course there was only one way Julie wanted to go: right to the stage door! She had bought an exercise book and she was determined to have everyone she was meeting sign a page and fill it with autographs of the actors. Of course she could not leave without Ralph Fiennes' autograph. I got the offer to wait in a pub nearby but to be honest a lonely beer was not so exciting and so I joined them.
OH NO – the stagedoor was crowded with girlies – compared to yesterday it was awful. We decided to wait out of the way and we were lucky it did not take long. Although absolutely exhausted, he was very patient and every girl got an autograph, plus a friendly glance and a smile. After many of them had left, we tried it and asked for an autograph – he is a very nice man and it was no problem.
When I said thank you, he seemed to be a bit frightened (maybe because I am not a girlie anymore) and there was it again – this nice smile. So Julie had her autograph, the fans laid siege to Ralph Fiennes’ car and we went to Leicester Square to have a bite and I stop now writing because I am exhausted and had a very hard day and it is time to go to bed. (translator: uff – thanks Jana!)
Since 23. Juli 2003