Wednesday, 8 October 2014

September in film and theatre: Ballyturk, Teh internet + The Riot Club


BALLYTURK 
Lyttelton, London
Tempted towards this production by its cast, I let my ignorance guide my assumptions as to what Ballyturk might be about. I got as far as assuming it had an Irish influence, and vaguely remembering Enda Walsh's name in reference to the musical Once. These superficial judgements got me nowhere. It turns out that Ballturk and Once only have a playwright in common, and it absolutely doesn't pay to be ignorant about Enda Walsh, because you're likely to be unprepared for what you have signed yourself up for. I felt as Michelangelo might feel upon viewing Tracey Emin's 'My bed'- minus the expertise obviously. Whilst I would usually embark on a long rant about what it's about, I haven't quite figured it out yet, so I think it's more apt to just vaguely describe what I saw. Two men without names pass their time in one closed room in a ritual like manner creating people and characters for the imagined town of Ballyturk. However, when three enters their rituals become broken, as he purports that one of them must enter into the outside world, and in turn their impending death.

It wasn't just one and a half  hours of confusion mind you. Many of its successes were spearheaded by electric performances from Cillian Murphy and Mikel Murfi, and a rather haunting Stephen Rea. Murphy's depiction was particularly interesting, because physically he's currently a lot more built than he has been, and yet the vulnerability of his character is unlike what I've seen him play before. In fact, the performances of Murphy and Murfi, accompanied by the sheer physicality of what they have to do, meant you could enjoy Ballyturk without really knowing what's going on. Oh hell, let me have a go at guessing the latter. Here goes nothing. There was one specific portion of Ballyturk which spoke very deeply towards depression. In fact, the chaotic nature of the play seemed to be the perfect way to represent an existential crisis- you can't make sense of either. If the room relates to keeping oneself occupied with entertaining trivialities, then the outside world, which they are so afraid of, is the reality of our existence. That's as much as I can offer in the way of explaining the metaphor succinctly. I remain conflicted simply because I'm torn between believing that Ballyturk is too abstract for its own good and thinking it's actually quite clever the more I think about and recount it.

In an attempt to understand Walsh more I've recently booked tickets for his adaptation of The Twits for the Royal Court. It's supposed to be for a 7+ age range, so I'm assuming it shouldn't confound me as much as Ballyturk. Then again, I might just be a sucker for punishment. Regardless, I say bring on round two.

Until 11 October.

TEH INTERNET IS SERIOUS BUSINESS
Royal Court, London
Venturing to see this play on my own may have been a terrifying prospect, but Teh Internet is Serious Business was well worth it. If there's any confusion, there's only one thing to really say: welcome to the internet. It hits you with the sheer insanity and vulgarity of it all with full force, and without apology. After all: "We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us."

The physicality of the production perfectly encompasses the craziness of a world which is equally imaginative, playful and scary at the same time. In fact, its playfulness loses its charm quickly. The ball pit which covers downstage may originally seem inviting and childish, but it soon garners far more frightening connotations. It encounters a kind of genial to terrifying clown effect. Actors share the stage with dancers, who are particularly memorable for their interpretation of code through dance. It made code seem so lyrical that it wasn't too absurd to see how code might be seen as an art form itself.

There is nothing conclusive about Tim Price's Teh Internet is Serious Business. The stage is so hectic and the identities of the hackers lack definition in ways extending beyond their real life selves. At the same time that they pedantically cause havoc and chaos, they also accomplish some pretty admirable feats. Price's production ultimately questions the connection between morality, legality, censorship and neutrality in the playground that is the internet.

Until 25 October.

THE RIOT CLUB
Laura Wade's Posh was a hit when it premiered at the Royal Court in 2010, and was later revived in the West End in 2012. Having had the privilege to see it before its closing for my friend's birthday, I was interested to see how it would translate onto the screen to become The Riot Club. The classical renditions of pop songs they used as transitions on stage were obviously the first to go. In fact, the film itself seemed a little less self deprecating. Whereas the characters on stage seemed almost fittingly cartoonish in a way you first loved, the characters on the screen were a little more authentically vulgar. That isn't to say I didn't laugh. Oh, I did laugh.

Sam Claflin, Max Irons and Douglas Booth are a casting director's dream come true, in the same way that they are also a teenage girl's dream come true. Claflin is perfectly repulsive, Irons perfectly conflicted and Booth perfectly horny (if I'm going to be blunt). They're all pretty vulgar by the end of it, as their 'us and them' attitude resonates throughout. In fact, if you forget about the addition of Lauren, it never fails to amuse me that one of the scrupulous character is the 'prozzy' they hire. 

It's not a perfect piece by any means, but what I really quite fascinating surrounding the credits of both the play and film is that every time someone points out an inaccuracy it goes more to discredit the character of the person themselves. Their argument usually follows the suit of 'the elite wouldn't do that, wear that or say that specific word' and it only seems to go further in widening the tension between the classes. It might demonise the upper classes, but anyone with half a cent towards their intellect will be able to seperate this group from an entire class, just as the characters Laura Wade so interestingly creates should recognise that people beyond their own class don't just consist of underlings with socialist aspirations or a penchant to be on benefits.

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