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The Blue Angel

Open Space Theatre at the Seagull Theatre, Lowestoft Review published in the Eastern Daily Press and East Anglian Daily Times, 28th November 2011 It’s always good to see a company taking on new challenges and pushing boundaries. To take Pam Gems’ stage version of what was a successful film, does Open Space credit. Set in decadent Weimar Germany the plot centres on an esteemed, but pompous, ageing professor who falls for a cabaret performer and seeks to give her respectability by marrying her. He is ostracised by his social circle and does whatever degrading or criminal things it takes to restore his good name. Emma Martin plays the brazen but vulnerable, ageless Lola, first played in the film by Marlene Dietrich. She makes an excellent, convincing job of it, as does Paul Baker, her infatuated, … Read entire article »

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Loyalty, An Old Fashioned Virtue Still Prized in Some Quarters

Has loyalty declined to merely a commercial exercise in customer building, or are some elements of fidelity still worth preserving today? The Free Dictionary offers definitions of loyalty as ‘The state or quality of being loyal. A feeling or attitude of devoted attachment and affection. Often used in the plural: My loyalties lie with my family. A feeling of allegiance’. However, there is little agreement on what one can or cannot be loyal to. Other people, institutions, places of work, belief systems, the personal family, the extended family, the criminal family, sports teams, the government, the country: all engage philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, psychiatrists, marketing/media gurus, political theorists in debate. At one end of the scale loyalty is patriotism; it’s antithesis is betrayal/treachery. It encompasses regimes regarded as odious (like Nazism, the wilder … Read entire article »

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Male Baldness Need Be No Barrier to Success in Life

In an age of image obsession, technology to change appearances and to fight aging, strangely, baldness can be an asset, inspiring confidence and authority. There is an entire website devoted to famous baldies, or follicularly-challenged/hair disadvantaged as political correctness would have it, which lists, among many, bald actors (John Malkovich, Yul Bryner, Patrick Stewart, Telly Savalas); African Americans (Samuel L Jackson); musicians (Sinead O’Connor, Moby, Elton John); politicians (Winston Churchill, Gorbachev); and sportspeople (Duncan Mayhew, Michael Jordan). Clearly, in no way can their lack of hair have meant any shortfall in success during their careers. Bald Men Facing Fashion Issues In the article Embrace Your Baldness in 5 Steps, AskMen UK advised fashion conscious worried balding men to “embrace their baldness.” It said that “Michael Jordan made it cool for black men and … Read entire article »

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My Brother’s Keeper: The Reality of Filial Affection

Brotherly love is often used as justification for all sorts of loyalties, sacrifices, pressures and decisions, but is blood thicker than water in the end? Ed Miliband grabbed the leadership of the British Labour Party in September 2010 from under the nose of his older brother, David. He was not predicted to win, but did by a wafer-thin margin. It excited the media, made people wonder about ambition and brothers and exposed family divisions to public gaze. Trades Union members traditionally call each other ‘brothers’, as an equalizing, left-wing address, so no one is of higher importance than another. A joke runs that they hug and pat each others’ backs only to find the best spot to put the dagger in. In Christianity, ‘brothers and sisters in Christ’ speaks to the belief that … Read entire article »

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If UK Politics are Pure Theatre, Politicians are the Performers

  There are political performances, theatre as politics and the politics of theatre. But there is also politics as pure theatre, good value entertainment. Roll up, roll up for the greatest piece of taxpayer-funded performance theatre outside the West End or the three-ring circus. It’s the arena, the bear-pit that is the British House of Commons and other small stages in and without the village of Westminster, so beloved of politicos through the ages. Usually without the singing and dancing, such performance leads some people to wonder about the wisdom of both allowing and paying for public ‘torture’. In 1978 British parliamentary sketch writer Norman Shrapnel published The Performers: Politics as Theatre, in which he said: ‘Parliament as theatre is a conception some find distasteful …. even the most histrionic of our politicians … Read entire article »

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Universities of Tomorrow May be Entirely in Cyberspace

As higher education costs rocket, technology advances apace, everybody could soon get a degree online from home. But it would mean a major cultural shift. All economies under stress, as most of the world’s are in 2010, look to reduce expenditure and raise revenue. Universities have long ceased to be ivory towers, above such grubby concerns. As debate polarises around student fees/debt, quality and range of degree curricula, and young adults decide for financial/debt reasons, not to go away for 3 or so years, it’s time to wonder if future universities are almost entirely on-line, but harnessing an old idea. Correspondence Courses: An Idea That Worked Correspondence courses are old fashioned. They have been around, in Britain certainly, for over 200 years and were a means for people to improve their minds, gain … Read entire article »

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Shakespeare’s Ideas: What Have They Done to the Bard?

Long regarded as an icon of English cultural history, Shakespeare’s works have been subjected to more adaptation on stage and film than almost anybody else. In January 2010 Chicago news reporter, Karen Meyer, wrote about disability issues in some of Shakespeare’s plays: not a topic much thought about by Shakespearean purists. Books, articles, theses, even cartoons and manga-style comics about Shakespeare and his folklore, magic, feminism, history-apology and patriotism abound, sitting alongside studies of his language, poetry, vocabulary, foreign words, invented terms and phrases that have become international quotations. However, it’s how his work has been interpreted and adapted that causes people to restate that ‘in their view Shakespeare can only be done in Elizabethan costume,’ with the same lyrical poetry as the original, not, for example modernised (like putting Titus Andronicus … Read entire article »

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Movies and Pop Songs Draw Deep from the Wells of Classical Music

Far from being an exclusive, elitist world, classical music is a rich source of inspiration for movie soundtracks, TV commercials and popular songs. A broad definition of classical music is: ‘Western and European art music created 1600-1900, and music created after 1900 that follows the style and tradition and is created for the sake of music itself – not as song melody nor movie score’. Reusing old tunes is widespread; nothing is sacred in pop music or Hollywood. 1965’s Seekers’ hit The Carnival Is Over by Tom Springfield, used the melody of a Russian folk song Stenka Razin, though some hear Berlioz too. O solo mio, an 1898 Napolitan tune, found its way into opera, TV commercials and films and is in It’s Now or Never, Elvis Presley’s 1960’s hit. Classical Music Feeds … Read entire article »

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Past History is Key to the Present; Present is Key to the Future

The historical/heritage nostalgia industry is growing, yet history teaching is becoming a thing of the past. Should history be given new-found importance?   Politically, the need for people to know and learn from the past (their own and others’) is crucial. Whether it’s conflicts in the Middle East, India/Pakistan or Northern Ireland, without an understanding of local history, nobody progresses improvements. Culturally, in religions/faiths, why/how/what people behave, wear, think is vital knowledge. Where grievances go back centuries, understanding causes of events is essential. It’s not easy to predict the future accurately, nor understand the present without a grasp of the past, nor see how movements flow in evolution, such as modernism to postmodernism. Economically, cultural/historical tourism is part of a growth global industry. Even movie tourism has some element of historical enjoyment and re-enactment … Read entire article »

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When All Else Fails, Start Again

  When something goes wrong people can do one or more of a number of things about it: they can walk away; live with it; buy a new one; read the manual or start all over again, reboot it. In both the political and the real worlds, it should be possible to do the equivalent, without losing sight of history, tradition and the baggage we all carry.  Some things are worth persevering with; some not. It just becomes necessary, when things seem so unsolvable, to start again. When the nightmare is so bad it overwhelms your sanity, wake up. European Ship Is All But Lost At Sea As quite clearly nobody in charge has any real idea what to do to get us all out of the mess we’re in globally, it may just be … Read entire article »

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