selenak: (Dork)
Last report from the land under the white cloud, as the Maori used to call it. We're leaving for Germany tomorrow, which means another 24 hours in the air, which means you'll hear from me at the weekend at the earliest. Meanwhile, one last installment of my New Zealandian adventures, featuring the Coromandel Peninsula, the Bay of Islands and Auckland.

Von Haiha nach Whittianga photo SAM_2672_zpsx7og6j6t.jpg

E noho ra, New Zealand )
selenak: (Bilbo Baggins)
In a hole in a ground, there lived a hobbit.

Bag End photo SAM_2534_zpsvs8vigbb.jpg

Et in Hobbiton Ego )
selenak: (Thorin by Meathiel)
...however, if one is a German used to a lot of hiking in the Alps, one does the Torangiro Alpine Crossing. As you do.

Crater and Mount Tongariro photo SAM_2308_zps55njmeyd.jpg

Visited Erebor, too, while I was at it )

Now truly, that was a bit like visiting the beginning of the world. Next: Hobbiton!
selenak: (Bilbo Baggins)
In which we travel from the South lIsland to the North Island and visit the capital.

And some movie magic )
selenak: (Ben by Idrilelendil)
The last few days were somewhat more cloudy than our first few in New Zealand, but with treats like this one at Te Anau Lake, who cares?

Regenbogen Řber Te Anau photo IMG_0883_zps1vczszxb.jpg

Though there was that time when a guy named Ben stranded me on an island in the Tasmanian Sea... )
selenak: (Galadriel by Kathyh)
Travelling means not much time online, so I use what I have to share the beauty around me.

Photographing Middle Earth )
selenak: (VanGogh - Lefaym)
New Zealand: a wondrous experience so far.


Lighting the Beacons )
selenak: (VanGogh - Lefaym)
Like (almost) every year, I spent the last week (and half of this one) with my APs in Southern Tyrolia, aka paradise on earth.

I mean:

Unser Tal photo 20160925_130949_zpsd9vosj0q.jpg

More under the cut )
selenak: (City - KathyH)
Flying back to Munich this afternoon, I leave you with some visual impressions of my time in London, with a brief excursion to Winchester, and to Greenwich.

Museum vom Observatory aus photo image_zps906hv2ec.jpeg


More below the cut )
selenak: (Richard III. by Vexana_Sky)
I almost didn't make it to the Almeida on Friday night, which, given that the chance to watch Ralph Fiennes and Vanessa Redgrave in Richard III was one of the reasons why I picked this particular week when my APs gave me a week in London for Christmas, would have been a not so fun irony. The London Underground played one of its tricks, with the Northern Line temporarily breaking down. But thanks to a taxi driver who had a hysterical foreigner in the form of yours truly at hand, I did make it in time. It was an excellent production, with one caveat, and reminded me how much The Hollow Crown version cut. (For example: that terse monologue about Hastings getting framed post-execution which makes it very contemporary indeed.) Contemporary costumes, except for the final battle scenes, for which everyone was in armor and had swords.

The play opened and ended at the car park in Leicester where they found historical Richard III's remains, which I took as an attempt to tie in the revived interest, because otherwise of course the production was firmly Shakespeare, not history, and not just the usual habit of casting middle aged actors as the York brothers but also the women in very different ages to their historical counterparts helps seeing the play as its own 'verse. Fiennes' Richard does the usual "clever mastermind loses it as soon as he actually has power trajectory - come to think of it, I guess the only ursurper whom Shakeskpeare allows to remain subtle instead of ham fisted is Claudius in Hamlet -, with an undercurrent of "both power hunger and misanthropy are the result of being loathed from birth", and he does it well. I've seen a complaint that he doesn't seduce the audience by being charming, complete with trajectory that Fiennes isn't able to. Having recently watched his Monsieur Gustave, I beg to differ: he can be charming, if the role calls for it. His version of Shakespeare's Richard doesn't; he's very compelling, though, more like a clever cobra taking out lots of hapless bunnies before realising he's stuck with lots of dead bodies and no idea what do actually do with them.

I hadn't been sure whether Vanessa Redgrave was playing Queen Margaret or the Duchess of York when [personal profile] londonkds asked me about it; turns out she was Margaret, far less mad than clear-sighted here, though Margaret carrying a baby doll around (which she in her second scene bequeathed to Elizabeth Woodville) was presumably a signal that she's not all there after all. Seriously, though, what I loved about the performance was that this Margaret was both tragic and and vengeful without being over the top about it. There was a stillness in Redgrave when she watched her enemies fall, a slight smile, that reminded even an audience that didn't listen to the textual reminder of her killing of Rutland and York that Margaret is no nice woman wronged, but an aged monster rendered powerless herself. The way she and Richard keep an eye on each other through Margaret's first scene also comes across as two predators knowing each other by instinct, or maybe it's also the star quality both actors have.

Redgrave aside, this was another production making it very clear that Tudor's appearance at the end not withstanding, Richard's true opponents in this play are the women. Hastings - who kept checking his twitter feed - was a bombastic, with non-malignant fool, Clarence naively blind, and Buckingham the not-so-faithful Lieutenant type considering himself somehow excempt from Richard's malignity out of sheer ego. Meanwhile, Joanna Vanderham was a very young (no idea how old the actress is, but she looked at least twenty, if not thirty years younger than Fiennes as Richard) but firm Lady Anne who only just starts to come around at the end of the wooing scene but mostly acts as she does because she doesn't want to become a killer, Susan Engel is the other matriarch, Cecily Nevill, Duchess of York (age wise looks a match with Redgrave, so that bit of internal verse-sense is kept) and her palpable loathing of her son remains, despite all that Richard does, as disturbing as ever. (The production closes with her reappearing on stage, standing at his grave in Leicester and enigmatically staring in it.) Aislin McGuckin was a great Elizabeth Woodville, but alas, her scenes include my one caveat/complaint about this production, though it's no fault of hers or Fiennes' but of the director's decision.

The Richard & Elizabeth scene pre battle of Bosworth goes the traditional way of him by now incapable of swaying his target and her not buying a word of - and then he proceeds to rape her. Now, the way the rape is played makes it clear it's not about hidden sexual attraction but about power and humiliation, and yet another example of Richard resorting to tyrannical power exertion because he can't get what he wants by his wits anymore. It's also in tandem with this Richard projecting his mother issues by misogyny. But still: the rest of the second half of the play makes that point already. And I'm just so tired of rape (the one thing not even Holinshed, More and Shakespeare thought to accuse Richard of, btw) being the default act to signal that a villain is really truly bad. So could have done without that.

Still on a Shakespeare note: the British Library currently has a "Shakespere in Ten Acts" exhibition which I visited with [personal profile] londonkds. Truly full of treasures, starting not just with the expected First Folio but copies of the Robert Greene book containing the "Johannes Factotum" crack about Shakespeare, and the 1602 collection of anecdotes - in hand writing, not in print, which was fascinating to me, since I've rarely seen handwritten bound books in the post Gutenberg era - that contains the "William the Conqueror arrived before Richard III" story about Shakespeare, Burbage and the female fan. There is a rough chronology of the exhibition, but also various of the plays as a central focus in different eras. In the mid 19th century, we get Othello and Ira Aldridge's entire career getting a wall to himself, which I can't help but suspect and hope was influenced by interest in Ira Aldridge being revived through the Adrian Lester starring play I watched the last time I was here. Seeing the posters both British and European was fascinating - and telling, what with the American born Ira billed as "a native of Senegal" in the early English ones. And speaking of black actors playing Othello, I had of course known that Paul Robeson had done so, but not that Laurence Olivier refused to join a Robeson supporting campaign in order to get him to play the role in Britain because, as Olivier openly declared, he wanted to have a go at Othello himself.

There are costumes and stage props of more recent productions, as the 1960s Peter Brook directed Midsummer Night's Dream, and interviews with surviving actors; I was amused to find a recording of the puppet play version of the early German version of Hamlet (hails from ye late 17th and early 19th century days when the Bard was more popular in our part of the world than at home, before Garrick helped him to a comeback). All in all, truly a satisfying anniversary exhibition to visit.
selenak: (Illyria by Kathyh)
Meeting friends is always one of the pleasures of being in London; yesterday I visited the "Sunken Treasures of Egypt" exposition at the British Museum with [personal profile] kathyh and self were amazed at various wooden statues made of Sycamore tree surviving the millennia. (They, btw, looked more Greek than Egyptian and depicted Serapis. This led us to a sidetrack to the Serapeion in Tivoli and Hadrian versus Alexander in who immortalized his grief over his dead boyfriend more efficiently. K and self agreed it was Hadrian but that Alexander would have if he could have; he died too soon after Hephaistos.)

In the evening, after a quick chat with [personal profile] kangeiko, I saw the Kenneth Branagh directed Romeo and Juliet at the Garrick. This one stars Derek Jacobi as Mercutio, Meera Syal at the Nurse and his two leads from the live action Cinderella, Lily James and Richard Madden, as the lovers, only Richard Madden was down and out and thus I saw the understudy, Freddie Fox. Not being a Jon Snow fan, I didn't mind. Mostly I was curious how Derek Jacobi as Mercutio would work, given, well, the age difference between him and the rest of the cast, and was looking foward to Meera Syal.

Now I wasn't surprised Branagh cast Jacobi per se; he's worked with him so often and clearly loves the man, in the introduction printed in the program he credits DJ with inspiring him to act as a teenager, and he's cast Jacobi as Mercutio once already, in the radio production of Romeo and Juliet he directed back in the 90s (that one had Samantha Bond as Juliet if I recall correctly). I strongly suspect the wish of letting Jacobi do the Queen Mab speech on stage might have also featured into the choice. But of course casting a man Jacobi's age in this particular role alters the dynamics; his Mercutio is basically everybody's fabulous gay uncle, with him and Romeo more resembling a non emotionally violent light side Falstaff and Hal than the bffs (with and without strong homoerotic overtones) the same age they usually end up as. Where the casting almost hits a logical snag but is pulled off by the strongness of acting is Mercutio's duel with Tybalt. Because Fabulous Gay Uncle Mercutio should be wiser than and way past minding that Romeo doesn't challenge Tybalt back, or getting into a duel at all.

The way the production pulls it off: by being in the middle between the two interpretations of the Mercutio versus Tybalt duel I've seen; usually it's either that the duel isn't at first meant to be serious and both are still posturing until Romeo tries to intervene, or that they go at it violently straight away. Here, Mercutio revealing that his walking stick on which he sauntered and danced through the play so far has a hidden blade comes as a shock to everyone, including Tybalt, but it's also clear at this point Mercutio doesn't intend a duel, he just wants to humiliate Tybalt with this shock after Tybalt, in M's pov, has scored one off Romeo due to Romeo not answering the challenge. Mercutio then turns to Romeo as if to say "see, that's how it's done", and that's when Tybalt also draws, which again causes shock in the rest of both gangs. They then start to actually fence a bit, but still stylized; there's the danger of blood letting, and you can see why Romeo is worried and tries to separate them, yet at the same time, arguably both Tybalt and Mercutio are still more posturing than meaning it. Mercutio getting lethally hit is a complete accident due to Romeo's well intentioned separation attempt, not a deliberately meant deadly thrust on Tybalt's part, putting the guilt of it completely on Romeo. Mercutio actually follows stage directions and woundedly walks off stage, which I don't think I've seen before - all the productions, both stage and film, that I've encountered let him die on stage instead of Romeo having to wait for Benvolio's report to freak out and go after Tybalt.

Speaking of Tybalt, the production gives him and Juliet some interaction at the Montague ball, letting them goof around and hug, and he introduces her to the crowd, which I thought was a neat touch, though it also included something that annoyed me throughout - the characters sometimes get random lines in Italian. This presumably is meant to fit with everything being supposedly set in 1950s Italy, fashion wise, and taking its aesthetic cue from La Dolce Vita, but instead only helps making the characters feel like movie Italians, and not in a good way. The programm tells me that the 1950s Italy look is meant to evoke glamor on the surface but deep dysfunction underneath, with fascism but barely over and not talked about, but on stage, there's no sense of that, just of random "ciao, bella" type of interjections.

The one point where it really gets disturbingly dysfunctional is, not surprisingly, the Juliet versus her father scene late in the play, where Papa Capulet not just freaks out at his daughter and manhandles her, which I've seen before, but even slaps his wife and the Nurse around, and that feels like a brief excursion into a 'verse where the bonhommie old Capulet has shown before covers the brutal authoritarian, even fascist, underneath. But that's the only point where I felt what the program claimed was the reason for the setting actually was on stage.

In general, this was a fast paced, enjoyable production - Meera Syal wasn't just an earthy but highly attractive Nurse who wasn't too bothered by the young crowd & Mercutio's comments, and Lily James delivered the gallops pace speech in a way that made it clear even to the last row that this was Juliet looking forward to having sex and was a hormonal young teenager in general, with the big shift when the Nurse switches to Team Paris and Juliet realises she's alone and no longer confides in her coming across clear. Freddie Fox was a seasonably good Romeo, which is why I thought it was a shame his scene with the Apothocary was cut - to me, that scene says a lot about Romeo. I did miss some intensity in his relationship with Mercutio - the production does the by now usual thing where Mercutio gets carried away into his own rethoric in the last third of the Queen Mab speech, and Romeo has to talk him down again, but because of the age difference, this came across as a proteg├ę calms suddenly fragile parental figure thing.

In conclusion: not a must, I've seen better, I've seen worse, but I enjoyed seeing this one.
selenak: (Frobisher by Letmypidgeonsgo)
London for a week always means theatre time for me. My main treat will happen on Friday, but in the meantime, here are two I already managed to see.

Hobson's Choice: one of those British comedy classics which for some reason I never managed to catch before, including the David Lean film version starring Charles Laughton. This one has Martin Shaw (of The Professionals fame in his younger days) as the title character, but turns out one of those plays where the title character isn't the main character - that would be, without a question, Maggie, ably played by Naomi Frederick. As a pay, it also strikes me as a bit of a late 19th century middle and working class Lear from the daughters' pov, and done as a comedy. Which is to say: at the start of the pla, shoe shop owner Hobson is a petty tyrant to his three daughters, getting drunk in the pub and indulging in grandiose speeches while they do all the (unpaid) work both in the household and in the shop, above all the oldest, Maggie. Through the play, Maggie not only plots her and her sisters' escape but the complete overthrow of her father, establishes a rival business that soon takes away the trade, and by the end takes over the orginal shop while her father (having nearly drunk himself to death without her) concedes utter defeat and has to give complete power to her. If you think about it, there are any number of points where this could have gone into very dark territory, but the production never does - there is never any sense that Hobson's early insults and ongoing humiliations of his daughters have impaired, let alone destroyed their sense of self worth, and Maggie's triumph at the end comes without cruelty, just very matter-of-factly, and the narrative makes it clear she's saving her father's life while she's at it. Plus Maggie is such a force of nature throughout that one in the play is a match for her; that she enlists shy underpaid bootmaker Will for marriage (you could also say: bullies - he really doesn't want to marry her at the start) is one of those things that would look terribly with reversed genders, but again, the play not only goes for the comedy of shy trembling man versus strong no nonsense woman, but also makes it clear Will benefits from Maggie taking over his life; instead of an underpaid exploited worker, he ends up boss of two shops and with a much stronger sense of self worth, standing up for himself.

Everyone involved had great comic timing, and it's easy to see why this play keeps getting revived. It's also something that, like G.B. Shaw's plays, was written as a contemporary story and is now a costume play because you can't update it when its plot and problems are very much that of a specific setting, so late Victorian/early Edwardian costumes (not too grand, we're in Manchester shops, not in Ascot) are used. All in all, I felt greatly entertained, but don't have the urge to watch it again.

1984: adaption of George Orwell's novel by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan. Adapting a novel (any novel) for the theatre always is tricky, let alone this one, but team Icke and Macmillan for my money did a superb job of it. One key angle for their angle is the appendix Orwell wrote about Newspeak, which implies that the Party fell after all - since it analyzes from a future perspective that's not totalitarian -, another the question of what makes reality and how to maintain a sense of past and present if you're completely taken over. And thus, you have structures within structures - Winston is remembering, or tries to, the events leading up to his arrest and torture even while he's being tortured and his past is being rewritten (O'Brien's "where do you think you are, Winston?" Question keeps returning through the play?), but at the same time, people from a post - Big Brother world are discussing his diary as a text (fictional? Historical?), and yet that reality, too, with the end of the play is called into question.

Orwell's depiction of a totalitarian state remains as disturbing as ever. (Being German, I didn't read it in school as part of the curriculum, I read it while still at school as part of my spare time reading, and was freaked out in a "wow" way.) And absolutely not dated, au contraire, sad to say. The "hate" rallies and the blaming of Goldstein as a traitor figure for all the misery could be Turkey (and G├╝len as Goldstein) now, but you don't have to go East, going West will do, too (see "Lock her up!" Chants at the recent RNC or rallies last autumn in Germany where effigies of Angela Merkel were hanged). The constant recreation of reality to fit the Party's current position, the way blatant lies are accepted no matter or ridiculous they are, and then reversed into new lies again: yes, hello, Brexit campain and aftermath, we don't even have to go to Russia for this.

One element that as a teenager didn't resonate for me the way it does now: when O'Brien, pretending to be a resistance member, gets Winston and Julia to volunteer for any number of criminal acts which sound as if they're taken from the current news but really are in the novel: kill themselves and kill any number of innocent people for the cause, throw acid in a child's face. The recording of this agreement is what O'Brien later uses to demonstrate to Winston that he can't claim moral superiority, and when I read that as a teenager, it didn't seem as effective as later things O'Brien did to me because after all Winston and Julia did none of those things, and it was all a trick. But here, on stage, in an age where people do kill lots of innocents (and themselves) for what they perceive to be a world saving cause against an evil state, it was a devastating moment.

Still not as bad as what followed, though. The way they handle the problem of torture on stage: every time it happens, the white clad goons close in on Winston so the audience can't see him, and when they go back to their position, he's got bloody finger tips, or bleeds out of the mouth etc. And then the rats. Which you don't see at all, but the imagination works overtime at this point and Winston's panicked scream that finally breaks him inwardly as well as outwardly is so harrowing because you couldn't bear it anymore as an audience member as well, even in the tv age of torture torture all the time.

If I have one complaint, than that one of the most disturbing elements of the novel, the strange, perverse intimacy between inquisitor and victim that is there between O'Brien and Winston does not come across. The film version starring Richard Burton (in his last screen role) as O'Brien and John Hurt as Winston Smith managed that, but here between Angus Wright as O'Brien and Andrew Gower as Winston it's not there, and earlier it's also not clear why Winston trusts O'Brien enough to approach him in the first place. Angus Wright is just too obviously chilling a bureaucrat from the start.

The audience isn't left off the hook at any point. One of the most effective uses of modern day technology is that when Winston and Julia are in the room they believe to be without surveillance, cherishing this little bit of privacy, they're not on stage but the audience sees them on screen, being in the position of the surveilling Big Brother in the post Orwell sense themselves. And while the appendix-inspired frame of treating Winston's diary as a historical text (or a historical fiction), complete with debate of mobile phone using contemporaries, could offer some emotional relief (the Party does fall after all, Winston wrote his plea to the future for us), it's called into question again by the end (did the Party fall, or did it just find a different method of controlling and shaping reality?), and the very end isn't the appendix inspired frame but, as in the novel, Winston's last moment of complete emotional capitulation.

I hadn't been sure the dramatic form would be able to get the power of Orwell's fiction across, but did it ever. No intermission, either, it just builds and builds and builds; the emotional effect isn't "now I've seen an adaption of a dystopian classic" but "through a mirror - into the hear and now - darkly".
selenak: (Dork)
Hard to choose, and my choice may vary at different times, but one of the best certainly was certainly about the time I managed to experience the carnival in Rio de Janeiro, in 2004, which included dancing in the Sambadrome in front of thousands of people at 6 am in the morning. Thankfully, I made notes at the time, so you don't have to rely on my memory. Here's what I wrote during my Brazilian journey while recovering/relaxing post carnival in Salvador de Bahia:

Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl... )

The other days
selenak: (VanGogh - Lefaym)
This year, the APs and self won't be able to make our annual late September trip to Southern Tyrolia - I'll be in Los Angeles at a conference -, and thus we moved it to July. One thing I can tell you: it's going to be September again ever after! Because the heatwave currently haunting my part of the world doesn't stop here, oh no. Which means you have to do your hiking above 2000 metres for the temperatures to be remotely bearable. Up the mountains I went these last two days and will for the remaining week. Here's some pictorial plunder:

 photo image.jpg9_zpsco8ftxkf.jpg


The rest is hidden beneath a cut to spare your browsers )
selenak: (Dork)
I maaaaaaayy manage to go to New Zealand next year. Now, given that winter is summer and summer is winter if you're from the opposite part of the planet, what would be the best time to visit? If I can manage, I want to see as much of the country as possible, which is easier when it's neither too hot to travel nor all snowed in.

Advise me, New Zealanders and fellow travellers, pretty please?
selenak: (City - KathyH)
Unexpected Prague was unexpected, and drop-dead gorgeous. Also, considering today will be spent mostly indoors, I dashed about the golden city yesterday like a madwoman, but just look at all there was to see!

 photo image.jpg1_zps5hs7bo1y.jpg

More beneath the cut )
selenak: (VanGogh - Lefaym)
Sunday was a bit gloomy, weather-wise, but Monday was sunny, and thus I did again something I hadn't for two decades and went to Kew Gardens. Then, because it was such a fine day, I added something I hadn't done during previous London trips, full stop, and took the boat on the Thames instead of the train in order to get from Kew Gardens to Hampton Court. (Aka how the the kings and queens and their courts did it.) Of course, by the time I arrived in Hampton Court clouds had gathered and I was a bit frozen, but never mind, it had been worth it. All in all, it was a great way to say goodbye to London for this year, although not quite, because in the evening I went to [personal profile] rozk's book launch, which was fabulous. Now I'm off to the air port, but won't be able to resume my fannish life until next week because tomorrow I'm bound for Prague! (Where I was only once in my life before, and then I was 13, so I hardly remember anything.)


Meanwhile, share the beauty of gardens, mansions and palaces, not to mention the Thames:


 photo image.jpg11_zpsblqpsa6o.jpg


More beneath the cut )
selenak: (Tourists by Kathyh)
Not to go all Robert Browning on you, but I'm off to be in England, now that April's there. Well, London for a week, but it's going to be fabulous, it always is.

Being less online will also mean less of a (mis)chance of getting spoiled for Age of Ultron before I have the chance to watch it, which will be soon, since it will be released in Europe tomorrow. But it does mean that Americans aside, which Itunes has, I won't be able to catch up with my shows untl next week. Will report on London in April instead!
selenak: (Linda by Beatlemaniac90)
Yesterday's hotel was sans internet (yes, that still happens), today's has internet but only in the lobby, which is why you get last week's photos that I've been meaning to share for a while. For verily, in between working I had to chance to walk through the Bavarian Forest near the Czech border (on the other side of the border, it's called the Bohemian Forest), and in this national park era we actually have - well, see for yourselves:

 photo 2014_1113BayerischerWald0008_zps94ae241d.jpg
 photo 2014_1113BayerischerWald0026_zps32e9d8bf.jpg

More below )
selenak: (VanGogh - Lefaym)
It's become a family tradition to spend one week in September in Southern Tyrolia. As it's drawing to a close, here's what's been keeping me from the online world, aka, the place where I've been staying for the last seven days, with more under the cut:

 photo imagejpg1_zps001c9db0.jpg

Mountains, castles, gardens, horses and lamas, oh my! )

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