Hollywood love story …

They looked like  an ordinary older couple; were they not just sitting on a stage having just been given Honorary Doctorates by Brunel University or both still so incredibly good-looking. His features only slightly conceal or maybe just soften his former handsomeness  and she is simply a natural goddess.

(January 24, 2008 - Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images Entertainment)

I realise later that the children in the audience are their grandchildren, and listening to the stories that Franco Nero and Vanessa Redgrave entertained us with  (despite the interviewers desperate efforts to bring it back to business ) you could imagine them sitting in their livingroom telling the same story to their family.

They met on the set of Camelot in 1966, he was Lancelot and she played Guinevere.

” I remember the first time I met her. She was wearing jeans, with holes in and glasses. (…) I said to the director “Are you sure? She is so ugly!” Then later I found a note in my dressing room, an invite to a dinner party. So I drive to [ Franco actually remembered the address after 40 years, I don’t even after 24 hrs…]  and this beautiful lady opens the door. So I say: ‘ I am here for dinner, I’m invited by Vanessa Redgrave.’ Says the lady: I am Vanessa Redgrave.”

Vanessa then recalls her side of the story: ” He was a nice man. He had a nice face, [ Generous, given that he initially thought her ugly, I thought ] He didn’t have that much hair on his face in those days. I mean handsome yes, with those blue eyes… But more an honest face.  An honest face.” Well, he certainly was honest about what he thought of you…

He: ” But the story of us getting together…”

She: ” Oh yes, tell that story, that is a nice story.”

He: “The director had to catch a flight and I had a car. He had asked me to drive him to the airport and when we get at the airport Vanessa asks me: ‘ Do you have to work tomorrow?’ and I say: ‘ No.’ So she suggests: ‘ Let’s go somewhere, anywhere.’ We look at the flights,  I am game obviously! The first out is to San Francisco. We book the tickets and take the plane to San Francisco and there we hire a car. We just spend time, drive all day until we get to a motel… And that’s where that story ends!”

Vanessa then recalls how smitten she was, when Franco had to go to shoot a film abroad, she came with him and spent her time fetching water for cast and crew. She sighed: ” Oh to be young and the things you do for love! ”

These two legends sit next to each other, she still looks at him besotted. They met, they had a baby, they split, life happened and then 40 years later they reunite. Here on the stage, they are in tune and very much together: it’s wonderful to see that even real-life has the potential for a Hollywood ending.

The Little Mermaid

by pollsb.com

The story on the grapevine  ( ok, well Hollywood Reporter) is that Sony is jumping on the fairytale bandwagon, PR-ing it as a Dark Re-telling of the Little Mermaid.

Now fair enough, this film will be based on  Carolyn Turgeon’s ” Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale.” a book, which is apparently loosely based on the Christian-Andersen original.

Still, surely the original was pretty dark already?

To those faint-hearted fairytale lovers, please stop reading now… but in my memory the story of the besotted teenage mermaid ended very sad.  As she turns into foam, my five-year old self thought: “Well, that is what you get for giving up your life to follow a boy.”  Only to promptly forget this when I met a boy a decade later.

They try to make it better for Disney:  Ariel is clever and she wants to explore the world, broaden her horizons… She takes a chance, does a bit of gambling and hey-presto it pays off! This I don’t even necessarily disagree with because of the ” Life is an Adventure” aspect. Ok, she then has to kiss the prince but only because she’ll be screwed otherwise. Luckily he is kind of cute, even if a little slow.

The original mermaid is love-sick for this boy and sacrifices her voice and wagers her life to be with him.  That in itself is already dark! Then the ending too, which I just discovered had an even more sinister part to it: the mermaid can save her life and obtain an immortal soul (a necessity for Heaven, kids!) by slaying the prince but she can’t do it and jumps overboard…

Thanks to her good deed, she gets lifted up in the air by the Daughters of the Air (I really hope this is translating issue on the website, otherwise: Hans, you really couldn’t think of anything else?!) They carry her off and she’s been given a second chance to gain an immortal soul as well as a chance to compete for entry to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Hooray! I hear you say. Alas, read the small print… she is only eligible after 300 years… but said her optimistic brainwashed friend: ” We may get there sooner!”

“Unseen we can enter the houses of men, where there are children, and for every day on which we find a good child, who is the joy of his parents and deserves their love, our time of probation is shortened. The child does not know, when we fly through the room, that we smile with joy at his good conduct, for we can count one year less of our three hundred years. But when we see a naughty or a wicked child, we shed tears of sorrow, and for every tear a day is added to our time of trial!”

In other words: Ariel’s still doomed.

Pilates

As most of you know by know: I hate fitness-classes.  In order to convince me to

partake in any kind of group-exercise it would take:

  • a seriously empty diary,
  • a huge lack of exercise in recent memory,
  • giving me shelter and a bed for a few days,
  • feeding me home-cooked meals and
  • sharing a bottle of wine or two.

The first two conditions were caused by the NY-trip and my lovely friend Cat made up for the rest.  Thus last Wednesday I found myself on Islington High Street for a noon-session at Pilates HQ.

from completepilates.com

Had I imagined mats and a mix of yummy-mummies ( it was day-time after all), the small studio contained machines and it would turn out to be a class of three: Cat and I, one regular and instructor Keziah.  She was friendly and welcoming: definitely the non-threatening kind of teacher, which is always a huge comfort in these situations.  I get a little itchy when confronted with the shouting kind of instructor: it makes me want to walk out of the room or shed someone’s blood.

Luckily Keziah provoked none of these feelings. As this was a beginners-class she started by explaining how the Pilates machine worked. You mostly lie or sit on it and work with the resistance of  springs, the number of them determining the effort one has to make. Then there are a few accessories: a circle, a stick and a board that you can attach to the machine.

Pilates concentrates on breathing with the exercises: movements go on an in-and-out breath. Keziah warned us not to get too hung up on this in our first session. How hard could it be? Breathing is something that comes quite naturally to me.

We started simply: some leg stretches on in-and-out- breathes.  The breathing was also to make you aware of your pelvic bone and lower back that had to be anchored to the mattress. This would make your lower abdominal muscles work harder: Pilates is all about core-strength.

Lifting up the legs in table-position, we placed the circle in between our thighs and tried to squeeze it. There is no elegance in this. After the first couple of times, mine stayed very much a circle. Hmm… As the exercises got harder, the more difficult it got to concentrate on breathing.  When Keziah went: ” And in…” I noticed myself exhaling. Key is not to panic and not to try to hyperventilate to get back into her pattern: it will not make anything better.

The stick was used for arm exercises and the board was for ‘jumping’. The latter meaning jump-movements while lying down, stretching the springs and propelling your mattress-board up. That was fun and it felt like flying: it was a nice feeling to end on.

I’ll admit as far as classes go, this was not traumatic – whether it was my idea of fun is another matter… Still should I suddenly have an enormous desire for a super-core to show off this summer, this would probably be the most enjoyable way to do it!

PS: For a less subjective article on this afternoon visit Cat’s blog: applauding bottom.

School for Scandal

Richard Sheridan’s comedy School for Scandal has been revived at the Barbican by Deborah Warner, the Barbican’s artistic associate.

Set in 1777, the play concerns group of well-to-do in society who enjoy getting together and gossiping about their friends who aren’t present. Some just enjoy the telling of the story, others have an ulterior motive: Lady Sneerwell plants gossip about Charles Surface so he will  lose his girl Maria, and his brother Joseph Surface helps Lady Sneerwell to win Maria. When the Surface’s wealthy uncle turns up from the East- Indies, he goes undercover to discover who of the two brother should be his heir. Soon he unravels reputation and exposes genuine character.

The subject of gossip is still relevant, as demonstrated just before the play starts: the audience is watched by the cast, pointed at and at occassions snapped by a camera on mobile phones.

Warner has chosen for modern staging: the set is a variation on a blackbox theatre, mixed with a modern take on the traditional backdrops. The backdrops are black and white drawings, that are pulled up and/or suspended in air when appropriate. The concept is played with: most memorably the entrance of the wealthy uncle that is highlighted by a huge drawn arrow.  Every ” Location, Act and Scene” is also written on posters and displayed to the audience.

Scene-changes are done while loud modern music blasts and words are projected. Unfortunately the music was so thunderingly loud  in comparison to the dialogue, that it made the scene-changes almost an event in itself. Perhaps that was the aim, though it seemed a little distracting.

Some scenes were solely lit by multiple side-lights, that created that open blackbox theatre feel. Yet as not the whole stage is lit, position becomes key and some actors delivered their lines with their face in darkness: this is where the older actors showed their experience and found the light in each scene.

Costume is alternatively in traditional 18th century costume and modern clothing. The opening scene sees Lady Sneerwell getting changed from modern clothing into her gorgeous dress: symbolism of what is behind the facade? Perhaps. Like Charles Surface, a hard-partying socialite who is dressed in jeans, trainers and just a nice 18th Century jacket: he doesn’t seem to care much about appearances.

The only thing that grated a little, is the main reason the play has been troublesome in the past: the character of Moses, the friendly Jew. Jews aren’t portrayed favourably and the difference it makes with say Avenue Q, which is really un-PC, is the fact that this comedy wasn’t written as a (modern) parody. Personally I was also a little disappointed by the lack of racial diversity amongst the main characters in this modern setting, which could have perhaps counterbalanced this issue. This production has tried to solved it by making Moses a very comedic character, so kudos to the actor who gets the laughs of the tentative audience.

Still the company worked with the existing material and bar some staging issues that can be tweaked ( we sat next to a man with a notebook and a pass around his neck, presumably making notes.) have made an entertaining production to watch.

Green Tea @ Covent Garden

“Hmmm, ” she said,” let me see… if I take maybe another five years…say 32. Maybe if I finish my degree at 30 then I’ll surprise myself, but otherwise I will probably finish at 32.”

” Oh but I have a bigger overall plan, I just make little 3 month plans to get there. Sometimes plans change, that’s the best part.”

“Paris is alright for a bit, New York is ok but I love London. Though I’m not sure if I want to settle here. I don’t know where I’ll end up.”

She was right and three months sounded doable. Not as depressing as living day-to-day, not as daunting as a five-year plan. After we said goodbye at Leicester Square station, a busker provided the song to the credits rolling:

How can you tell me you’re lonely, 
and say for you that the sun don’t shine, 
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London 
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind.

Everything was going to be ok. Obviously.

Saudade

Nearly one week later and only slowly the feeling of displacement begins to fade. Immediately after landing on English ground, I dropped my bags, took a two-hour nap in my sister’s bed and took the train to Nottingham to attend a surprise-party for a friend. My friend’s reaction was absolutely worth the crazy ride but my brain was mush.

Back in London and everything felt surreal. I describe  it as having rolled out of the wardrobe, out of Narnia, and finding yourself in the other world once again.  Narnian time runs differently and though you might have lived a life-time there, in this world no one might have even noticed you’ve been gone.

It is a strange feeling but as it starts to fade, I find myself trying to hold onto it almost as if afraid that it will take away all the memories of the last two months too.

So this morning I went to Regents Park to walk the route I used to run before my trip – a compromise between actual running and not getting out of bed. Upon arrival I noticed that time had in fact passed: Mother Nature doesn’t lie. The bare trees and bushes that I used to run past are now in full bloom, the sun was shining and making the colours of the flowers even more vibrant.

Here was my reality and not a shabby one indeed, as I was reminded by reading Peter O’Toole’s autobiography in the cafe.  O’Toole describes a picture of Hitler at 26, ” …taken on the eve of the 19-14-1918 war (…) practically destitute, anxious, fugitive, indolent and desperate.” It was taken just before he had to run messages across the heavily bombarded entrenchments for years. It obviously screwed him up so much that he’d become one of the most disgusting men in history – so in comparison: I am definitely winning!

Still with this perspective, I saw memories everywhere: the most magnificent roses that grabbed my attention were blood-red and named after Ingrid Bergman, the crawling baby behind my chair was called Audrey… It might not mean anything to you, but if you were there the last few months, you’ll understand.

I was thinking of how to describe this feeling to you, when I got a text-message that was signed off with the Portuguese word: saudade.  I assumed it would mean something like ‘I miss you’ but in fact it is so specific there is a website dedicated to it.

It seems to be a mixture of longing, of nostalgia, a wishful notion of wanting to be with someone in another time. A word that described my indescribable feeling, illustrated on the website by Ada Jill Schneider:

“All of us, who search for common roots, 
who are endowed with a primordial 
spirit that harkens back to our lost innocence 
and beckons us to reach out to one another. 
When the spirit calls, we feel saudades. 
Temos saudades. We have saudades.”

Happy Day

The perfect last day. The sun was out and I would meet the girls for breakfast before going on a mission. For the ease of this piece of writing, I have decided to christen them Aphrodite and Athena, after the Greek goddesses.

Athena arrived late because she was cold and decided to buy a coat – damn I like her style. Breakfast was like Christmas where I got loads of presents and sweet notes which I couldn’t read because I refused to cry. ( I found that staring at your coffee or tea intensely, helps for the moment to pass.)

Then it was time to go, as Aphrodite had to go to class, so only two were left to wander the sunny streets of the Lower East. Ok, we got a little lost. Not to fear we found a guy with a map. Swift recovery, we  indeed found what we were looking for.

Once inside, the phone rang, apparently class finished early and Aphrodite was on her way… To the amusement of the shopkeeper who insisted the whole thing really would only take five minutes.

It lasted three. How appropriate. Three minutes for each girl, for the bond they forged and the memories they made.

I realised that this was it, for now: this was New York for me and it had been all I wished for and more.

Guess that is it about the great things in life, sometimes you just need a little…

Don't worry mother, it's tiny!