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The Guardian from London, Greater London, England • 12

Publication:
The Guardiani
Location:
London, Greater London, England
Issue Date:
Page:
12
Extracted Article Text (OCR)

12 Thursday March 26 1970 ARTS GUARDIAN new films by DEREK MALCOLM Alice in blumberland review Itmnttte WAUtms ltanUiter THE GLASS MENAGERIE in- Manchester by Merete Bates tiler N'chdit ShegMJ confidence as the gentleman caller. The direction by Robert Cheesmond had a sapling, fresh feel. The sleazy hopelessness gave way to the definite protest against wasted life the son rotting in a warehouse, the daughter in her fantasies this was wrong and could be otherwise. The music, arranged by Ian Gibson was both eloquent and sad you thought of Schubert's Unfinished." The set, designed by Gillian Edwards was a little bizarre but the marbled torn to the gramophone, the trailing candlestick, the stick of a drainpipe rising quite isolated from any wall were at least imaginative. Altogether this is a fine and vibrant performance that fully justifies 69 Theatre Company's claim to competence in classic as well as new works.

A PLAIN, pale, sober note introduced and steadied the realism of Tennessee Williams's "The Glass Menagerie" performed by the 69 Theatre Company st Manchester University Theatre last night In a play that can so easily veer into the hysterical, the queer, the neurotic every character maintained a firm balance on the side of affection and understanding. Valerie Taylor as the mother may have been worn out and embroidered with faded gentility but she was even more valiant, fighting for the life of those she loved. Jean Robinson oiay have floated and drooped like a plucked snowdrop but she also rose to tender and intelligent passion perhaps even too strongly. David Horoviteh was a knotted but convincing son. Nigel Terry warmed and exuded FOR once the publicity blurb is right Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (Curzon) is about two married couples who are seriously fooling around or fooling around seriously, depending on how you look at them.

They are American, middle-class and more than comfortable by our standards. One has the suspicion that they have nothing better to do. Be that as it may, the sexual games they play make a very funny film. Bob and Carol (Robert Culp and Natalie Wood) go on one those dreadfully American liberation courses where gropes are a cure for the gripes. Bob is inspired to tell Carol that he's had an affair pure sex, you understand.

Whereupon Carol beds the tennis coach in the same spirit. Meanwhile, the squarer Ted and Alice (Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon) watch the proceedings with lugubrious fascination, eventually attempting to climb on the permissive bandwagon via a wife-swapping orgy which doesn't work. Back to square one. Moral leave being hip to hippies. Or is it? Paul Mazursky, the director and writer of the movie, doesn't seem quite clear.

There is a certain lack of sophistication about his attempt to poke fun at the conventionally sophisticated. He hits a fat target fairly regularly but scores outers rather than inners. I'm not sure that he doesn't do as much copping out as the characters in the film. Still, even the cheating is fun. There are some beautifully handled and written scenes Ted randily trying to make his wife after an abortive pot party, Bob pressing Ballan-tines on the terrified tennis coach caught in flagrante, a psychiatrist desperately trying to stop Alice stumbling upon the truth about iher-self before he's got her down forj the full course.

Altogether a formidable competitor to Cactus Flower atj the Columbia as a spicier than usual Easter offering. I If The Bed Sitting Room (Cinecenta) doesn't end Richard Lester's love affair with the Goons once and fori all, nothing will. It is another film tiiat must-have been some bother to make but an appalling struggle to get shown, Gandhi Peace Prize at tile Berlin Festival or no. 1 I There seems to me two reasons why It is an honourable failure. The first is Lester has abandoned his considerable editing ami cutting technique in favour of a plainer, more leisurely approach that doesn't pay the dividends he expects.

The second is that I the inspired zaniness of the Goons, which this movie borrows, simply doesn't bear the weight of commitment Le'ster forces upon it. That said, one has to add quickly that there are some gorgeous moments, and some fairly pertinent ones, in this black comedy of a post-Bomb Britain where a few sad caricatures wander aimlessly, attempting normality in the parched aftermath of the holocaust. And a cast which includes Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, Spike Milligan, Arthur Lowe, Ralph Richardson, Rita Tushingham, Roy Kinnear, Michael Hordern and Marjy.f'eldriisn, produces some marveU6ua. sioteeHects. The film generally looks smashing and frequently sounds good too, thanks to a score which works in admirable harness with the screenplay by John Antrobus and Charles Wood.

Yet the whole just doesn't hang together and frequently seems at odds with its better nature. One is left with the feeling that it could be bent to fit any convenient moral with a little tinkering here and there. Anti-war, anti-bomb, anti-Establishment it may be, but sometimes it just seems anti people. And that Mr Lester is not At Cannes last year, Glauber Rocha's Antonio das Mortes (New Cinema Club) won more awards than any other film. One can quite see why.

Even If," which heat it for the main prize, seems milk and water passion by its side. The real Brazil," Glauber Rocha says, is Indian, black, mystical, violent, barbarous and sentimental." So is his film. If there was such a thing as Jacobean opera, it ought to look like this, a South American Revenger's Tragedy. But passion, though it may count for a lot isn't everything. There's notation to consider too.

And this is all on one note, endlessly repeated However impressed one is, there comes a time when' one longs for something other than vaguely mystical Wood and thunder. Until he supplies it, I refuse to subscribe to the current view that Glauber Rocha is anything like a master of his art. After "Kes," My Side of the Moun tain (Paramount). A long time after, in my opinion. Plot small boy (Teddy Ecoles) decides to emulate Thoreau and live wild in the Canadian woods Development tie trains a falcon called Frightful to hunt for him, meets a ballad -singer -cum -tramp' (Theodore BikelK-and' a kindly- librarian (Tudi Wiggins)," gets snowed up in his tree during the winter and then goes home ennobled.

Director James B. Clark Verdict pretty but leaden. Don't forget the repeat Buster Keaton Season coming up at the Academy, nor the uncut version of Godard's Weekend with Camus's Black Orpheus at the Times, Baker Street. And there's Warhol's Flesh ready and willing to corrupt at the Open Space, Tottenham Court Road, Quite a prospect for Easter. JOE EGG at the Sheffield Playhouse by Robin Thornber PETER NICHOLS'S play "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg" It, as every Hep-goer must know by now, a senu-autobiographical account of the problems of having a spastic child.

It includes, of course, an attack on the doctors and deities that allow such things, and a thoughtful examination of the -alternatives to caring for it at home-euthanasia or State care in an army surplus transit camp "only theyre not going anywhere." Sheila, the mother of the ten-year-old vegetable, cannot bear to part with it, and Brian, the father, cannot bear to nurture it any longer. But "Joe Egg" is more than a dramatised "Nova" documentary. Although it is limited to a specific and rather esoteric area of experience it stands up as a rich and accurate observation of human nature. It survives repeated viewlngs as a work of art which continues to offer fresh insights. And, curiously, as it is played at Sheffield Playhouse under the direction of Paul Hellyer, the play seems less of a tract and more of a simple human drama, an honest and revealing account of the strains imposed on the relationship between the parents.

Perhaps it is because in this performance these two actors dominate the stage even more than is usual in this play. Anne Kristen is Sheila, in every weary movement, every knowing grin, every familiar cry of Bri." And Nigel Hawthorne achieves the right balance of sympathy and alienation as Brian the husband, bravely quipping his way out of facing the truth about his subhuman daughter and his equally smothering mother (neatly played by Dione Ewin). Natalie Wood in Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice." BAREFOOT IN THE PAiRK at the Nottingham Playhouse by Gareth Lloyd-Evans PHILIP HOPE-WALLACE reconsiders below the status of Massenet in the light of the biography by James Harding published today (Dent 65s), and EDWARD GREENFIELD reports on Leonard Bernstein's recording for tomorrow's special 50-minute Verdi edition of Aquarius' lashings of alcohol these were the ingredients of a formula -which always worked and always induced happy laughter. The author of this play, Neil Simon, is an American and his little cracker-jack manages to snap and pop in spite oif some uncertainty in the company about the American accent, and some occasionally over-foroad acting. Yet, in the end, the affair is gay and unin-hibitedly funny.

It is competently played by Barbara Ewing, John Manford, Robert East, Brenda Peters, GeoSrey Cheater. Apart from its own merits, it is a pleasant change to see a play which is unashamedly full of comic illusion, not trying to say anything significant, or deadly absurd. FOR THOSE PEOPLE who are old enough to remember Gary Grant in the days when he really was something -that is, before he became a mere touchstone tfor caSculating the age of the Archbishop of Canterbury, a visit to the Nottingham Playhouse should afford some pleasant nostalgia. "Barefoot in the Park" is from the same staWe as those films of yesteryear, in which Mr Grant, and indeed, Mr Niven, and girds with improbable names like Piper Laurie, enacted the great American illusion of what early married life was like. Tiffs, misunderstanding, wisecracks, crazy 'Mends, understanding but loopy mothers, tradesmen with hearts of gold, and MASTER OF LA BELLE EPOQUE LOOK BACK IN ANGER at the Citizens', Glasgow by Cordelia Oliver Porter doesn't help.

This is not so much a desperat howl of anguish and rage as a perpetual nagging whine, symptomatic of nothing more than congenital discontent. The tragedy of educated, working-class youth caught in the cage of its own background is neither so pointless nor so immediate as in Jimmy Porter's day. But human relationships still tangle and tear and give pain, and youth, however newly and freely articulate, can still find communications difficult when it matters most. You recognise the intention to underline it in the present production to add, as it were, a colourwash of hindsight But the available cast simply fails to grasp its opportunity. AGAIN THAT dismal room, somewhere in the Midlands, displaying all the paraphernalia of living again the perpetual creak of the ironing board, weekly countering the cascade of fertile and bitterly funny invectives the angry voice of Jimmy Porter through which John Osborne released all the pent-up frustration of a generation.

Though "Look Back in Anger" inevitably seems tamer now (having reached the wall it was itself engulfed by the rush to follow it) I doubt if it has lost as many of its claws as Giles Havgal's production at Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, would have us 1 believe. Harry Meacher'6 bltchiness as Jimmy MR HARDING kicks off defiantly with Sir Thomas Beecham's notorious I would give the whole of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos for Massenet's Manon and would think I had vastly profited by the exchange." No doubt this was recognised as a typical' Tommy boutade or shocker. All the same, imagine how it did shock his countrymen who were united many of them, cathedral organists to Wagnerite, to execrate Massenet's music, even more perhaps than that of Saint-Saens, deemed empty though admitted to be beautifully made. But Massenet ugh effeminate, scented, voluptuous, operas about virgins in love with their bodies, nasal, above all flagrantly out to charm (imagine how that vexed the disciples of Vaughan Williams and the new English music). I sometimes think that in no country in the world in the first 'half of this century were 'musical stocks and shares' watched'' with such fanatical and insufferable self-righteousness.

I happened, 'through a mere geographical (French provincial) circumstance to have acquired a real love of Massenefs music but to admit it, at Oxford, where total ignorance of anything but the Meditation from Thais prevailed, was to draw down contempt of a totally unqualified ferocity. And if you persisted and said "You can't she prayed every night that she might' grow up to have arms like Sanderson. And right to the last there was Lucy Arbell, with Calve and many another French charmer en route. It is a very good portrait of a vanished age. But I could have done with more detailed examination of the works themselves, I suppose because I do still greatly aurmre them.

Mr Harding glances at crucial pages but has little to say really on two most interesting aspects of this craft: the know-how of operatic timing (which took Verdi half a lifetime to learn) and Massenet's extraordinary gift of writing for the voice, so that even a short range and limited voice is made to sound as if it were running the full gamut not only of scale but of dynamics (compare Verdi, Wagner, and even Puccini, who are ruthless tyrants when the inspiration is on them). Rising at four, working 14 hours a day totting up a fortune and 30 operas: once household words, now faded I think not It is time to try Daudet's Sappho again and if in the unlikely event of my being reincarnated as a lyric soprano I would clamour to have "Thais" revived for me. And how can. any tenor resist souverain, juge, pere?" I hope this book makes some people think again. rentier paradise and belle epoque art world of Pans.

Massenet, who was so greatly to Influence Debussy and later Poulenc, was the natural heir not only of Gounod but of Tchaikovsky. He and his music were perhaps so much disliked by the English brigade (though not the public of course) because they were so perfectly distilled from those sources. One can place him now so exactly a petit maitre certainly, but like Marivaux or Fragonard, a superb artist in his own way. His character comes over in this splendidly levelheaded study. Horrid but eagle-eyed old Leautard, while admitting to the caressing quality of the Master's music, leaves a jab at his appearance, "well wrapped up in the rue de Vaugirard with a rather common face with a moustache like a wine merchant's." Massenet was deeply susceptible to women.

His wife Nonon was how shall one say? perhaps "watchful" is the word. But they stayed together and attended their daughter's first communion (you can imagine the music for that) but it was the American soprano Sybil Sanderson who became his Muse, he fell instantly in love with her voice and no doubt her person too. I can remember my ancient mother telling me that when she was little say 'La Navarraise is soppy," or "who else could handle the third act of among your heroes," you got the kind of snort or retching sound which I heard a young woman recently use at the name of John Betjeman. To be fair, however, even in his own country where he was adored as cher maitre" to his face there were those who smirked "la fille de Gounod" behind his back. Italy loved him too (Puccini built on him see Manon into Mimi in Mosco earner's Life).

He became very rich, though not very generous we never get the smell of his own home cooking but this Mr Harding explains in terms of his early penury. Fame went on an upward curve but like Pinero he outlived it, knew comparative neglect But his industry and craftsmanship were prodigious and unceasingly painstaking. I like the description he leaves of toiling at the last pages of "Werther" (a superbly accomplished opera but even as little as two years ago at Glyndehourne, execrated by the critic of the "Daily This was in a villa on the cliff at Pourville at a table before a veranda against which the waves built up and were rebuked by the big grey Angora cat with outstretched law. Again and again we see in this book glimpses of the COSI PAN TUTTE at the Coliseum by Philip Hope-Wallace half-time. The sisters were sung with agreeably matching tone by Anne Evans and Katherine Pring, the former, especially in the Come scoglio aria defiance, managing the formidable, difficulties in all reaches except the lowest Both looked delightful and acted in character -down to the last detail.

Margaret Neville's Despina, too, was witty without laying on the archness too coyly, and Noel Easton, though disqualified as I thought by a slight cold, played up well as Don Alfonso. The gallants were John Brecknock, who sang out fully with a useful tenor and a nice sense of style, and JoTin Gibbs, who got the audience smiling in "Non siete ritrose." Mozart in English the old translation by that gloriously named Rev. Marmaduke E. Browne, continues to serve admirably in adverb suiting the whole enterprise! COSI FAN TUTTE In English, which is "Thus Do All Women" or "The School for long been one of Sadler's Wells happiest offerings. The revival, beautifully unexaggerated in Glen Byam Shaw's witty production, and elegant sets by Motley, went fleetly under the baton of W.

James Craig. The orchestral response is often a little ragged these days, but the general feeling for ensemble as the spanking pace of the finale to the first act suggested a useful amount of rehearsal. Fluency was general among the principals, and, at any rate to a listener in Row of the stalls, the words and the vocal-line, fully sung, not pecked at, came over very pleasingly. The Coliseum is a big place for this kind of comedy, but the audience, a little cold at first, was won over by Leonard Bernstein (foreground) THE BEST MICROPHONE FIXER THERE IS TWO EXHIBITIONS in London by Norbert Lynton WHEN a man's time is as -much sought after as Leonard Bernstein's, it is no use anyone organising 'events singly. His recent visit to London was for him, Verdi Requiem time, not just for the single performance at the Royal Albert Hall, which received such enthusiastic notices, but for a complete recording of the work for CBS in the same hall, spread over six sessions, afternoons for the soloists, evenings for the chorus.

Not only that such is the need to justify the Bernstein i capital investment Humphrey Burton's "Aquarius" recording the same work for presentation on ITV as a Good Friday offering with no natural breaks, wonderful to relate. The TV project, fitted Into the middle of the others, presented the keenest problems. The television people wanted a setting more holy than the Royal Albert Hall, and managed to persuade the Dean and Chapter at St Paul's to let them have the cathedral for a night. Not so easy as one might think to uproot players and singers and get them working efficiently under another rotunda. Any number of retakes involved, and we, the strangely assorted invited audience in dome and nave, just hang around for half an hour.

Having with the help of Bernstein paid our heartfelt respects to Verdi's departed, we wait to act as audience for mammon. Nothing illustrates the sheer niceness of Bernstein as a personality so well as the way he handles us all soloists, chorus, orchestra, audience when at last the decisions have been made on what to do again, the time nearly It p.m. I think of Kenneth Home doing a retake after a radio show, somehow getting things airborne again but that he emphatically isn't. When it comes to recording the new tenor, Placido Domingo, in the Ingemisco," most taxing of solos, he says in the tones of an Anglican clergyman We ate gathered together hopefully to make the The word hopefully is inserted with special reference to the singer. Domingo has been rushed in at the last minute, but Bernstein still subjects him to the slowest conceivable speed, making everyone around feel breathless in sympathy.

Still Bernstein insists on retake after retake, with top flats demanded by the half-dozen, and sharply he shouts Quam in Domingo's ear when the tenor sings an instead of an at the end of "tanquam." Any tenor less equable than Domingo as remarkable for niceness among tenors as Bernstein is among conductors would be rampaging in fury, yet by the end Bernstein shows with what concern he has been bringing out Domingo's potential, deliberately challenging on this occasion rather than coaxing. The trio or "Lux aeterna" then presents formidable problems of balance. Domingo is joined by the mezzo, Josephine Veasey, and the bass, Ruggiero Raimondi. "Was Mr Domingo singing at full voice asks the CBS recording manager, and the tenor, sounding a little hurt, responds Yes, but I have three p's." He seems worried, and asks a question which I imagine has never before in the history of music passed the lips of an Italian-style tenor Wasn't I soft enough He certainly was, though Bernstein on the playback in the control room is worried by the relative brilliance of Domingo's timbre in the ensemble. Fortissimo for the rest only mezzo forte for him.

But then back in the hall, when the balance of three voices is still giving trouble, Bernstein takes things into his own hands. He gets off his rostrum, and forgetting union rules, adjusts Domingo's microphone with the dexterity of a mechanic. The balance is perfect. "The best microphone fixer in the 'business," comments the recording engineer with feeling. by sheer personality.

Bernstein in his very different way does the same, coaxing his performers by now thoroughly fed up back to their finest form. Persuasion of such intensity has an almost saintly -quality. Bernstein for all his surface glitter, for all his trappings of showmanship (clutching his baton two-handed in the "Dies Irae h' ike a champion doubles-player), projects feelings of power when you get close to him. Nothing whatever of sham. The figure at first sight looks very like his rival, Herbert von Kara-jan.

The- same trim, small, dapper frame, even -the same consciously conservative double-breasted blazer in blue serge. Their magnetism too. But where Karajan's performers seem to be chilled into action, Bernstein's are won by love. After the first run-through of Libera me one evening during the Albert Hall recording sessions, he looks at the LSO chorus and mutters with heartfelt conviction That was beautiful At such moments he may seem soft WHAT ARE Joe Tilson's 9 Pages" about I don't know. They are newspaper pages, quite pleasant to look at more so, really, than the underground newspapers" he Is paraphrasing.

But then his are bigger than theirs constructed -scale mock-ups involving timber framework and screen printed images and text on the fronts of cloth hags sewn for him by Jos Tilson. He can allow himself to play with his material, taking time and space, repeating things and manipulating them as eye and spirit move him. He always was good with timber, and here in a way he is returning to his carpentered reliefs of the sixties. But now he coats them, so to speak, with words and pictures and we are left wondering how seriously to take them. The Faces of Ho Chi Minh, Frankenstein, Martin Luther King, and Hedy Lamarr text from the Vita Nuova, Marcuse, and Lewis Carroll.

We can play with the stuff, as he seems to have' done, making connections and contrasts, and enjoying semi-sccidental ''consequences." We can also wonder vfeetber Tilson is eommeatlnji on something beyond the surface matter on our greedly little minds, perhaps, and the goat-like way they'll nibble at anything. Without that it all seems terribly run-of-the-mill and coyly swinging. Derek Hirst showing again after some years off the London art stage, has been doing paintings of an exploded armchair. The timber frame, uncoiled springs, the barely indicated interior in the wreck stands, provide him with oddly potent imagery as well as occasion for decorative diversions. He has a good, inventive eye for the pulled and extenuated shapes beloved by Art Nouveau he also has a taste for sharp, expressive silhouettes and tone contrasts.

The total result is thick with overtones and undercurrents suffering, a life spent in battle and nothing left from it but matter for the junk 'heap and for art Tilson: Marlborough New London Gallery, 17-18 Old Bond Street, Wl, until April 18; Birst: Angela Flowers GaUery at the 15 Lisle Street, WC2, untfl A-nril 14.1.

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Pages Available:
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Years Available:
1821-2024