December 25th, 2011

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Stones in His Pockets, Tricycle Theatre

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Cut and pasted from the Tricycle website:

The multi-award winning play returns in a new production.

County Kerry, Ireland. A rural community is turned upside down by the arrival of an American film crew on location to capture ‘real’ Ireland for their latest Hollywood blockbuster. When locals Charlie Conlon and Jake Quinn are employed as extras for the film, they, like the rest of the village, struggle to present the Americans’ romanticised Ireland, a stark contrast to the reality of daily life.

From the local lads intent on being stars, to the film’s American lead actress, whose Irish accent leaves a lot to be desired; two actors portray a multitude of characters in this hilarious yet poignant updated production of Marie Jones’ multi-award winning play.

Raks's Review

This play is a huge ask and a big challenge for any actor. There are only two actors in the play and they have to play a whole multitude of characters, Irish and American, men and women, young and old, the full gamut of classes. They have to switch between characters in the blink of an eye, without any help from costume or make-up. Just by their facial expressions, their body movements, their voice and their accent, you as the audience should be in no doubt what character they are playing at any given moment in time.

I thought that this production was excellent, and that both the actors in it were brilliant. They both managed to pull off the full range of characters that they were portraying to a tee.

One of the funniest lines in the play for me is when one of the characters (I think the film's Director) says that people do not go to the cinema to get depressed; for that they go to the theatre! There is quite a bit of truth in this statement! It is actually why I love the theatre - because it tackles life's rich tapestry, often focusing on the downside and individual tragedy.

The play is about many diverse things. For me, it is ultimately about following your heart and trying to live the dream. This is, at least, what the uplifting and rousing ending is about.

But is is also about the need to, and longing for, escape, and what that does to you if you cannot; the sense of belonging to a community and a place, and how it feels to be an outcast; the destruction of the countryside and its attendant livelihoods; despair and suicide; rural Ireland and its close-knit communities; the merchandising and selling of Ireland; Hollywood and Americans; the clash between town and country; rich and poor - I could go on and on!

When you find out what "stones in his pockets" refers to, it is heart-breaking. The reference comes right at the end of the first half, and changes what is a jolly comedy into a heart-rending tragedy. The tone of the piece changes in a split-second.

The play is definitely worth seeing, even if you have seen it before (as I have). Highly recommended.

For more information and to book tickets follow the link:
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Happy Christmas to all Readers of The Umbrella Organisation

Painting by Franz von Rohden, German artist, 1817-1903
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Once In Royal David's City

Once in royal David's city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor and meek and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

And through all
His wondrous childhood,
He would honour and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay.
Christian children all must be,
Mild, obedient, good as He.

For He is our childhood's pattern,
Day by day like us He grew,
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew,
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above,
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him, but in heaven,
Set at God's right hand on high;
When like stars
His children crowned,
All in white shall wait around.

- Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895)

Cut and pasted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Once in Royal David's City

Once In Royal David's City is a Christmas carol originally written as a poem by Cecil Frances Alexander. The carol was first published in 1848 in Miss Cecil Humphreys' hymnbook Hymns for little Children. A year later, the English organist Henry John Gauntlett discovered the poem and set it to music.
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Christmas 2011: Image of the Year and Thought for the Day

My Image of the Year is the one below, taken from the film Third Star. When I first saw this, it quite literally took my breath away and my heart stopped dead.

Photographer: Jamie Stoker
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The reason I have decided to post this image, on this day of all days, is that I recently found out that a member of my extended family has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He only found out a couple of months ago, and I only heard the news this month, with Christmas approaching.

Prior to hearing the news, I was far too wrapped up in my own (very minor by comparison) worries and concerns. After hearing the news, I decided to start to truly value and appreciate the many good things that I have in my life - some very special people, friends and family - and to try and think more about those less fortunate than me, in a myriad of ways, and to try and help those people.

The still image above speaks a million words. It is dedicated to all those whose own lives, or those of their friends and family, have been touched by cancer ...
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Sherlock Holmes has a heart!

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There is a great interview with Benedict Cumberbatch talking about Sherlock in What's On TV.

Benedict Cumberbatch reveals what's in store for Sherlock in the new series, which starts on BBC One on New Year's Day...

Follow the link to read the article:

My two personal highlights from the piece:

Is Sherlock better behaved and more considerate of people's feelings as a result of John's influence?
"Without giving too much away, I think there's definitely a level of humanisation to him, but we're still remaining true to this incredible man. He is a calculating, logic machine who finds solutions in the everyday by not being involved in the everyday. There are still many moments where he's being a complete sociopath and low spectrum autistic, in the sense of not understanding or having any idea what empathy is."

Sherlock's only intellectual equal is Jim Moriarty; will there be more scenes with Andrew Scott, who plays him, this series?
"Yes! It's nice for Sherlock to have an equal in the room. Sherlock and Moriarty are definitely on a more even playing field - it's a nice game of tennis! Andrew and I are great friends, I've always admired his talent, he's a phenomenal actor, and it's a joy to those scenes with him."
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Sherlock returns to the BBC - 'He's definitely devilish'

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This feature in the Guardian is, without a doubt, the best article I have read on the new series of Sherlock by a long long long way.

Cut and pasted from the Guardian website:
With three more cases for BBC1's Sherlock to crack, we speak to the series' co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

Follow the link to the article:

My personal selected highlights:

Gatiss: "Everything is canonical."

Sherlock's second series features reworkings of three of Conan Doyle's most recognised tales. "Our motto is, 'To hell with deferred pleasure'," says Moffat.

Benedict Cumberbatch: "Very beautiful, incredibly smart, quick thinking and resourceful," is his description of Adler.

Both Freeman and Cumberbatch feel that Sherlock and John's relationship is progressing nicely. Those scenes of Watson picking his jaw up from the floor after another amazing Sherlockian deduction are less frequent in series two. Similarly, Holmes is far less dismissive towards his assistant. "There's a bit more of a united front," says Cumberbatch. "It's not just him going, 'Oh, Sherlock's amazing', and me [Sherlock] going 'Catch up!'" Holmes even lets Watson play detective in the second episode, The Hounds Of Baskerville, their take on Conan Doyle's most famous tale.

Though Sherlock's second series contains what might be the show's most excruciating moment, Cumberbatch maintains the character is "slowly gaining a humanity … He's on the side of the angels. His methods are definitely devilish, but he's got good at the core." Moffat agrees with this assessment: "On the journey that Holmes is on, he's sort of realising that he's not completely amoral … By meeting Moriarty he realises that he's not [evil]."

Andrew Scott as Jim Moriarty
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Ah, Moriarty. Should Holmes successfully negotiate "the Woman" and "the Hound", another face-off against his arch nemesis awaits. Andrew Scott has been handed an expanded role as Moriarty after an electrifying cameo at the close of the first series. Ten minutes were all that Scott required to make an impression, though the viewer response wasn't universally positive. Some thought Scott's frenzied, camp Moriarty a betrayal of Conan Doyle's original – "They were imagining a twirling moustache guy," is Scott's assessment of the reaction – while others grumbled about Moriarty's Irish brogue. Moffat is unrepentant. "I asked him to do an Irish accent because Moriarty's an Irish name and there's never been an Irish Moriarty," he says, describing Scott's portrayal as "terrifying … He has this amazing ability to conjure up this sort of blank-eyed desolation of a man too clever, too clever to exist almost." Scott, meanwhile, seems keen for the mixed reaction to Moriarty to continue. "I hope you do get that sense in series two he continues to be somebody that makes the audience think, 'Oh god, I don't really know what to make of him,'" he says.

Sherlock: A Scandal In Belgravia, New Year's Day, 8.10pm, BBC1