Wednesday, 30 March 2011

If Only We Could Know!

Well, this post was due to be a travelogue-type deal about my (flying) visit to Moscow, which I'm sure those of you who have read my travel 'writing' before will have anticipated as eagerly as turkeys look forward to December 20th. Unfortunately, the one and only opportunity I had for tourism has just been curtailed by some pretty central-casting Russian weather. I struggled halfway from my hotel to Red Square but eventually had to accept that what I was in was a blizzard, and that I was so covered with snow that I was in danger of Aled Jones or Peter Auty singing about me. Now I've made it back to the hotel, of course, the sky is almost sarcastically clear, but I ain't risking it again.

The hotel has provided one moment of amusement, though. In the information/map magazine provided, there are the usual depressing escort ads (Why do some hotels do this? Why? Actually, the answer to that might be even more depressing). In among them was one agency promising 'friendly, sophisticated girls' alongside a photograph of... Girls Aloud. Davina McCall didn't say anything about *that* on Popstars, did she? 'You could live the dream! Your picture could be misleadingly used on an ad for Russian Hookers...'

But that's all I've got, I'm afraid. Tonight was my only chance of breaking the hotel-training room- airport cycle and the snow wasn't having it, so I am unable to discover the magic that so appealed to Olga, Masha and Irina in the greatest play of the 20th century (you may disagree, but I am factually correct and you are wrong).

Actually, since we're on Chekhov, I have a small recommendation to make. I recently watched the 1975 US TV production of 'The Seagull' and it was a revelation. I've written before about a regrettable tendency in British performances of Chekhov for the sets, costumes and performances to be beige. What this production captures so vividly is that unhappiness can be as ENERGETIC as it is torpid. Nobody languishes in this production, and it's all the better for it. Blythe Danner (yep, Gwyn's mum) is the best Nina I've ever seen, and Frank Langella is just extraordinary as Konstantin. A jolt, too, to see how beautiful he was as a young man, when one is used to seeing him as craggy ol' Dick Nixon. But the whole cast (Lee Grant, a heroine of the McCarthy hearings who refused to testify and was blacklisted is ideally mercurial as Arkadina; Olympia 'Anna Madrigal' Dukakis is a wonderful tragicomic Polina) oozes quality. I can't recommend it highly enough.

So, in summary- I went to Moscow and it made me think about a DVD.


David said...

One American-cast Chekhov I WISH they'd put on to DVD is Louis Malle's Vanya on 42nd Street - Wallace Shawn consummately cast, Julianne Moore being gorgeous and just a bit vacuous, can't remember the name of the excellent actress who does the final speech so movingly. Maybe time won't have been kind to it, but I've not see it done on stage anywhere near as well. Least of all by the Russians, recently (what a myth that only they can 'do' Chekhov).

CruzSF said...

Are you in Moscow to attend opera? I hope you see something good, even if the hookers aren't to your liking.

jondrytay said...

Cruz- alas no, I was there for work. And yes, the whole escort service thing must seem like a strange anecdote to someone in the US. Girls Aloud are basically the biggest pop band in the UK; imagine seeing, say Destiny's Child in a similar ad (not that Ms. Knowles would EVAH allow that to happen...)

David, everyone I've mentioned the Seagull to has come back at me with Vanya on 42nd Street. That's a strong enough message for me to have ordered it from Amazon, although I doubt Shawn will hold a candle to my definitive, 19 year old Vanya in Christ's College Gardens in 1992...

jondrytay said...

Cruz- Thanking you here so as not to fill PB with my marathon, I hope you see this.

You're hugely, hugely generous and I'm hugely, hugely grateful x

CruzSF said...

Jon, you're one of my fave posters at PB. I hope the usual b*stards don't drive you away.

Best of luck to you on race day. I hope the end of training means you'll blog more frequently. (hint)