Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Estella's Fire

I went to see Hijinx’s touring production of “Estella’s Fire” by Louise Osborn at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff on Saturday, and I really enjoyed it. It’s spun off from the story of Estella, Pip and Miss Havisham from Dickens’ “Great Expectations”, and transforms what is essentially a tale of neglect, cruelty and stunted hopes into a profoundly moving spectacle with a magical twist and an optimistic ending. I’m afraid I don’t go to see many productions aimed at “family” audiences, but any fears as to a possibly patronising tone were swiftly dispelled. Beautiful, deceptively simple design, and clever direction as well, not to mention a highly effective score and very engaging performances. A lovely night out, etc etc.

I could not help but compare it with Alan Harris’ “Orange”, the last play I saw, especially in terms of social relevance. “Orange” has been sold about a play about Iraq and the War On Terror, but isn’t really about much at all; “Estella” is a child-friendly Victorian musical melodrama (although John Hardy’s music is resolutely modernist), but touches on such universal issues as child abuse (in its broadest sense), the relations between the classes, the relations between the sexes, mental illness, the pain of growing up, and social isolation. One is reminded of a debate on the Theatre In Wales message-board a while back, in which a locally well-known playwright complained that “The Merchant Of Venice”, which was on at the time, was not “relevant” in the contemporary world – a position which was given the shortest of shrift by all who noted it, but which was somewhat worrisome in terms of some dramatists’ perceptions of their role. I guess one is, as always, drawn back to the Mametian position, that theatre “exists to deal with problems of the soul, with the mysteries of human life, not with its quotidian calamities.” Which is why drama is incompatible with propaganda, and why plays about issues never work unless they’re also plays about believable human beings.

Sadly, due to my reliance on the Radio Times, I only caught the final third of David Aaronovitch’s “Don’t Get Me Started” show about the Fake Left/Islamo-fascist nexus on Five last week. Judging by some of the outraged reaction online, however, it seems to have hit the spot. Too much use of grainy close-ups of Galloway’s eyes though – there’s no need to resort to image-manipulation to make him look sinister.


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