Saturday, 19 July 2008

Jane Eyre

I went to see the Stagecraft production of Jane Eyre at the Gryphon Theatre last week. I was told that purists would hate it. Jane Eyre is my favourite book. I am in awe of Charlotte Bronte and think is she is one of the world's greatest writers, so naturally I went to the theatre with a touch of trepidation.

It was fantastic. I thought it was a great show with a great cast and excellent direction. There were elements of the play that I didn't like, but these are faults of Polly Teale's play itself and certainly not of the acting or direction or staging. I wrote my full review for
Lumiere but didn't want to include too many plot spoilers there, although there are things that still bother me about the play.

For example, if Bertha is Jane's alter-ego, the two times she escapes from the attic take on an extra meaning. In the first instance she attempts to kill Rochester by setting light to his bedroom - although in this version it appears that she would rather possess him first. If she is trying to kill him, does this mean that subconsiously Jane thinks he isn't right for her and wishes him dead? Or is she trying to set him up so that she can save him and appear his protector? Either way, this makes her less modest and humble than she appears throughout the play and so implies that she is devious and prepared to risk anything to get her own way.

In the second instance, she visits Jane's bedchamber and shreds her veil the night before the wedding. Is she trying to warn her subconscious self against marrying Mr Rochester? If she thinks this would be a disaster and Jane turns her back on these feelings, then it makes the supposed happy ending far less happy. Also if Jane's passionate and wilfull side has to die before she becomes Mrs Rochester, then this is a sad indictment on women who sacrifice their inner soul just to get the ring on their finger. I don't think Charlotte's Jane does this. But maybe Polly's Jane does.

Perhaps this is too deep an interpretation and the mad woman who escapes is merely Bertha Mason and not the other Jane. In which case, when does she stop being Jane and become the other woman? I don't think you can have it both ways, and it is this that doesn't make sense to me.

Having said that, I think it is a wonderful play and I really recommend that everyone who can, should go. I'd love to know your thoughts and interpretations of these events, so please let me know!

Friday, 18 July 2008

The Wombles

While watching the Tour de France the other day I was impressed with the beautiful town of Cholet which hosted day four (the individual time trial) and was the start of day five. Apparently the town probably takes its name from the Latin ‘cauletum’, meaning cabbage, and owes the rise of its prosperity to the settlement of weavers; the chief industry is still the manufacture of linen and linen handkerchiefs.

I got to wondering whether this is where Madame Cholet from The Wombles got her name. And then I went into a merry meandering reminiscence about ‘70s children’s TV in general and The Wombles in particular. I used to love these furry little creatures who toddled about Wimbledon Common making good use of the things that they found from the things that the everyday folk left behind.

These days they have been appropriated by the eco-Nazis who like to think that they were the original recyclers, but really they were little scally scavengers. I liked the way Orinoco was a lazy fat womble who was inordinately fond of food and forty winks, always trying to shirk the work in favour of a nap. I felt an affiliation with him. I never really liked Wellington who I thought was a bit pompous and self-important. I’m saying no more.

I read the books too by Elizabeth Beresford and I thought they were great, but it was the TV series that really held my attention. The stop motion animation was very appealing to that age group and I was particularly taken by the way their noses wiggled up and down when they ate – much like Paddington Bear’s (another favourite, but I’ll save him for another day).

Bernard Cribbins' narration was a highlight and made it the great show it was. The song passed into my childhood memory, and I mean the ‘Underground overground wombling free; the wombles of Wimbledon Common are we’ one. We once sang it in a school inter-form choir competition – that line in the middle; ‘Pick up the papers and take them to Tobermory’ was incredibly high, even then. I was never a fan of that other thing – ‘Remember you’re a womble’ – although the video of people old enough to know better (you in the mustard polo neck; have you no shame?) dancing along on Top of the Pops is quite amusing.

There was a new series in the ‘90s which I never watched, being far too grown up – but this was also hijacked by political correctness and there was an annoying girl called Alderney with dungarees and pigtails, and a Rastafarian womble called Stepney with dark fur and short dreadlocks. It’s just not the same.

My favourites though were Tobermory and Tomsk – apparently they all chose their names from Great Uncle Bulgaria’s atlas – which explained their exotic sounds. My great aunt made me a Tobermory who was my very favourite soft toy for a while and I would fall asleep cuddling him. I guess this proves that I always liked the athletic, caring type who was strong and could fix things, even if he was a womble.

So who’s your favourite womble, and why?

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Wellington on a good day

If you live in Wellington (or even if not) you're probably sick of the expression, 'You can't beat Wellington on a good day'. The thing is, it is really nice when the sun shines and the wind drops and the harbour looks like glass - but this is horribly rare. Most of the time there's a raging gale, if you try and cycle you get blown across lanes of traffic and if you walk you have to scurry head-down between buildings, dashing from cover to cover and clutching your jacket to stop it blowing away.

Last week I went to an exhibition of photographs from the Dominion Post at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, which showed Wellington in all its splendour. If these are to be believed, Wellingtonians love sport, festivals, water, animals and children, and there is nary a day of bad weather. The camera never lies, right?

There were a few that surprised me. For one thing, there were more photos of football than there were of rugby. Now I know that football is the beautiful game and the only true sport worth trudging down to that stadium for week-in-week-out, but could it be that Kiwis are finally coming round to that fact too? Or could it be that David Beckham took his shirt off?

The other thing was that there were very few photos of politicains. Okay, so admittedly they don't generally make good photo opportunities, and cats and dogs are cuter (hell, even children have their moments - although not as many as this paper would have you believe).

But this is Wellington, the capital city and surely the reason that people live here is the whole government industry, and the fact that the beehive is here is why the culture, arts and festivals follow. They wouldn't come here otherwise. So why is there only one image of a politician - and a shadowy finance minister at that.

Thing three is that so far as I could see, there was only one photograph of Maori on display. It was taken at the Tuhoe hikoi and the agression is bursting out of the page as a man (I presume) swathed in hoodies and bandanas points a mere at the camera while holding a chain at the end of which is doubtless attached a barely restrained violent dog.

This picture is on sale. For $300 you can display that on on your wall. Why would you want to? And where are the other non-aggressive, non-demanding, non-stereotypical pictures of Maori? Stereotypes make good photos I suppose bacause everything you want to assume is already there before you - encapsulated in celluloid - and it won't answer back to challenge your preconceived typecasts.

So I wonder about the purpose of this exhibition, and photo journalism in the Dominion Post in
general. Is the idea to provide a realistic snapshot of the zeitgist in images, or is to work for the Wellington tourist board and only display the good? Because you know; they're right, but what about the other 360 days of the year?