Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Departure From Theatre

The Fringe is great and all. You’ve got so many shows that it would take over six years to see them all (statistic courtesy of a mate in the pub), partying and socialising both all night and every night, and more opportunities to better your cultural know-how than you could shake a stick at*, but sometimes you can’t beat a night in with a good smoke and a top class movie.

Take a moment there to get over your inevitable guffawing. And guffaw you should, for it’s a ridiculous thing to say. I should be out there seizing every day and night of the Fringe, wrangling every last drop of shock and awe out of it I can, as a serial masturbator wrangles every last… well, you can fill in the rest as you see fit. But fuck it, after standing on the Mile flyering folk who don’t give a fuck and blowing pound after pound on hookers and blow (tickets and beer) I felt I needed a quiet night in. And that’s after three days. By the end of Fringe I’ll no doubt don a pipe and flat cap and end it all.

I hate doing this because it disrupts the flow of the note, adds onto what will no doubt be a gargantuan word count and makes me seem like a rambling tosser, but I’m listening to Icky Thump, the new White Stripes album, whilst writing this and the song Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn just came on. It’s a ridiculous song involving bagpipes and other such over the top nonsense, but it’s a song about Scotland and it makes me chuckle every time I hear it. The whole album has a groovetastic, varied sound to it. The title track, Icky Thump, is the most accurate song title I’ve ever seen. Don’t take my word for it; check out the album now, available at all good P2P services.

Regardless, stay in and watch The Departed I did. The guilt from not having seen this film already was getting too much to bear*, but I’m crap at getting round to watching films anyway. My movie watching process goes something like this: see movie trailer and get interested in movie, find out that said movie is meant to be good, continually walk past the cinema directly opposite my flat thinking to myself, ‘I should go see that’, get distracted/forget, tell myself I’ll watch it on DVD, hear other people say how good it is, get distracted/forget, rinse and repeat. Not a great mentality for the Fringe I’ll admit.

It does mean that there’s a whole backlog of films I’ve yet to see. It’s always dangerous seeing a film that you’ve been told is brilliant though. Expectations can put you off in the first place (Schindler’s List which I’ve yet to see) or just let you down (Apocalypse Now. Although that was a while ago and I should probably give it another try). Thankfully The Departed was as good as I’d hoped it would be. If only for Jack Nicholson’s performance. He’s a crazy man streaked with brilliance. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is the most misunderstood documentary of the 20th Century.

Watching it also made me realise how unique the gangster world is to film. The most well known stage plays about gangs are West Side Story, Bugsy Malone and Guys and Dolls, none of which are on at the Fringe. They’re not exactly the most harrowing of gang pieces either. Characters that are more buoyant than shit-your-pants scary. What self-respect gangster breaks out into song? There’s no one in any of these plays who Tony Soprano couldn’t crack apart with a pair of tweezers, painfully extracting their extremities as he works. Having a flick through the Fringe Programme reveals one play, The Cross And The Switchblade which is about ‘1950s New York, a city of gangs and violence’. You would have thought with the themes of tragedy, violence, betrayal and yes, even darkly comic elements, that people would be falling over themselves to make plays based on this material. Especially given the pedigree of such films as the Godfather and Goodfellas.

It’s not like drama about gang life isn’t easily doable either. Reservoir Dogs is a piece of theatre that’s easily transferable to stage. I’m shooting from the hip here and I’m more than happy to be corrected on this but as far as I know there are very few Scorsese style gangland pieces in existence. Of course there are some film elements that are difficult to recreate. The big street gun battle in Heat for example, the epitome of adrenaline pumped gun blazing action, would lose that certain I don’t know what if transferred on to stage. But they’ve done stage productions of other impossible to stage films, Top Gun, Lord of the Rings and The Matrix: The Pantomime, which my unlucky eyes just fell upon in the programme. How can that show not be bad?

It’s one of those things that is probably a lot more prevalent in America where they actually have gangs and gang problems. I’m not saying we don’t here in the UK, but it seems to lack that recognisable, well-known face that it does in the US. Or maybe it’s just one of those styles that film will always have over theatre because of the very nature of what the director is trying to convey. Whatever the wanky explanation, I’ll just be slightly disappointed if I don’t see a montage of gangland executions, violent threatening masculine characters with gruff voices talking about the family, and a car bomb on stage this Fringe.

Some of you may be thinking that I should be writing about shows and what I’ve actually been doing at the Fringe. Well give me some time and a chance not to be a sad lonely git and I’ll try. I am actually going to see stuff this week. Including Daniel Kitson on Tuesday night. So very very excited…

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