June 25th, 2012

My Morning Was Better Than Ailz's

Ailz came back from church saying how dreary it had been. She'd been listening to the service and it had hit her as never before how masculinist the whole thing is- with even the Holy Spirit being a "him".  "Goddy" was the word she used.  She'd found herself chanting "Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali" under her breath to restore some sort of balance. Also the organist had been on holiday. I attempted an off-colour joke. "Three Hims and no organ": it needs work, but there's the core of something there.

Meanwhile, out on the street I was having fun. I usually avoid crowds because they can get you to do things you might later regret but once in a while it's nice to be part of a benign one. We cheered everything- including a stray jogger who was proceeding down the road in the wrong direction.  When the police motorcycles came through ahead of the torch the cheering was distinctly ironic. We used to quite like the filth in this country (Dixon of Dock Green and all that) but we don't anymore. I'd positioned myself- by happenstance not forward planning- at a change-over point and the guy with the empty torch was hanging about having his photo taken with members of the crowd.  On the pavement across the way a primary school was out in force with banners. It was heartening to see little kids of all cultures grouped behind a slogan saying they were backing Team GB. There are hard times just around the corner and this spirit of national solidarity is what we're going to need to see us through. 

Julius Caesar on BBC 4

Julius Caesar is a dark and sweaty play, full of ghosts and omens. Is it illuminating to transfer the action to modern Africa, or a little patronizing?

Greg Doran's TV film has a competent, all-black cast, with Paterson Joseph outshining everyone else by several degrees of magnitude.  His Brutus (as good a Brutus as you're ever likely to see) combines effortless charisma with twinkling self-love.  As someone once said of President Wilson, he's "a  great, good man- and he knows it." 

How do you do Shakespeare on film?  Should you open everything out or try to create the cinematic equivalent of the original wooden "O"? This production- which started life on stage in Stratford-  falls somewhere in between, with some scenes shot on what are very obviously stage sets and others in real environments- corridors and rest rooms and cellars.  When filmic is most wanted- as in the crowd scenes and battles- it reverts to its origins.   Act I scene i,  with dancers grooving like they were on Top of the Pops and Flavius and Marullus dispersing them with sjamboks, is so lacking in any sense of danger I almost switched off.