January 6th, 2013

Me with Red Ribbon

Bert and Dickie, BBC1 (1948 London Olympics)

Photo credit: http://www.radiotimes.com/episode/rjbpz/bert-and-dickie

Cut and pasted from the Radio Times:

Writer William Ivory’s unabashedly sentimental fact-based drama about plucky rowers Bert Bushnell and Dickie Burnell, who won gold in the double sculls rowing at the 1948 London Olympics.

Bert (Matt Smith) is a working-class young man who’s chippy and rude when he first meets his sculling partner, Dickie Burnell (Sam Hoare). Dickie is Eton and Oxford educated and a member of the Leander Club (the rowing equivalent of the MCC). But they soon bury their differences as they power through exhaustion to find glory.

Follow the link for the full feature:

There was a great feature on Bert and Dickie in the Radio Times, with an in-depth interview with Matt Smith, which can be found here:

You can read all about the programme here on the BBC One Website:

Raks's Reaction

I finally got around to watching this very belatedly over the Christmas and New Year break - I had Skyplussed it eons ago (way back in the Summer).

As most people know, I have zero interest in Sports of any kind, and I am not a Sports fan. Competitive sport really is NOT my thing at all. However, I wanted to see this because 2012 was London Olympics year and it starred Matt Smith who is always worth watching. So, a bit like Chariots of Fire, I thought that this would be a better way of commemorating the 2012 London Olympics Year than watching any real Olympics action!

Anyway, to cut to the chase, I LOVED this to pieces and I thought that it was outstanding. Matt Smith was excellent as Bert and he caught my interest right from the off. I was very interested in Bert the person and I wanted to hear his story.

The blurb about the show makes a big play on the class differences between the two main protagonists - Bert being working-class and Dickie being upper-class. For me personally, there were other themes in the piece which spoke to me more powerfully.

The first was the whole father-son dynamic and relationship. Both fathers were first-rate sportsmen and so there was a huge weight of expectation on the shoulders of both sons to perform to the best of their ability. In Bert's case, his father had sacrificed his own sporting career to provide for his family, and so his father wanted Bert to live out his own dream. In Dickie's case, his father was an Olympic gold medallist himself, and so his father wanted Dickie to follow in his footsteps and match his own achievements. Both fathers took a great interest in their sons' rowing, and acted as mentors and coaches, providing plenty of advice, whether the sons asked for it or not! I thought the father-son relationships were beautifully brought out and played by both sets of actors.

The second theme that spoke to me was teamwork. Bert and Dickie were from different social classes, different backgrounds, and had totally different personalities. What they learned, and what they proved, was that by working together, and pooling their knowledge and experience, they could win. I am a great believer in collaboration and so this spoke to me!

I was very interested in the whole concept of "fair play", and where the boundaries are between being competitive enough to ensure that you win and yet not over-stepping the boundaries of what is deemed fair play. The English, as epitomised by Dickie's upper-class father, were very big on "fair play"! Particularly in this day and age, I think this concept of Playing Fair against Playing to Win is worth exploring.

Finally, I really liked the whole backdrop of the "Austerity" Olympics and how Britain was determined to put on a good show, come what may, because they had given their word re hosting the Olympics. More so than other dramas focused on War, this drama actually brought home to me what food rationing meant for ordinary British people.

To sum up, a drama ostensibly about Sport, that I loved to pieces because it was actually about human beings and what makes them tick. Highly highly highly recommended.
Me with Red Ribbon

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, Complicite/Simon McBurney, Barbican

Photo credit: http://www.thinglink.com/scene/327845773007912962

Cut and pasted from the Barbican Website:

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Complicite/Simon McBurney

14 December 2012 - 19 January 2013

Complicite returns to the Barbican following the sell-out success of its acclaimed show in Spring 2012.

A woman goes to hell and back to save her lover. Pontius Pilate argues with Christ about the nature of human worth. And the Devil pays a visit to Stalinist Moscow, exposing the hypocrisy, greed and corruption of its citizens.

Moving between the fervently atheistic Moscow of the 1930s and Jerusalem during the last days of Jesus’s life, Bulgakov’s violent, poetic maelstrom of a novel comes to life through performance, video, puppetry and music in Simon McBurney’s breathtaking adaptation.

Follow the link for all the details:

The Devil
Photo credit: http://www.facebook.com/BarbicanCentre

Raks's Reaction

I was given "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov to read by my ex-husband many moons ago. I didn't know anything about the novel but my ex told me I just had to read it. I did. It was amazing! I had never read anything like it. It was a flight of fantasy and I just adored it. My favourite parts of the novel are those set in 1930s Moscow, when the Devil comes to town and causes sheer havoc! I just loved the Devil, his Cat, and the tricks they play on the unsuspecting Moscow citizens.

I was of the firm conviction that such a novel could never be adapted for film, let alone for the stage. It was such a work of the imagination. But I saw Complicite's The Master and Margarita at the Barbican on Friday 4 January and YES Complicite had adapted it for the stage AND pulled it off - I was gobsmacked! I thought it was a phenomenal achievement to adapt this novel for the stage. Well done Complicite!

It is hard to single out any particular aspects of the production, but I am going to give a special shout out to the Devil, his Cat and Jesus - all of whom were spot on!

This is the first Complicite piece I have seen in a long time and they have a completely different style of playing. It is hard to describe, but it relies much less on acting and emoting, and much more on the ensemble, the interaction, physical movement, and staging. I thought that some of the stagecraft in the production was astounding - it really was quite something!

To summarise, I read this novel many years ago and fell in love with it. I didn't think it was possible to adapt this novel for the stage. Complicite, to their absolute 100% credit, proved me wrong - good for them!

The Book: Source Material

If you are not able to see the production, I strongly recommend you read the book. It is a phenomenal piece of writing, which is quite unique.

You can buy it on Amazon here for £2 (there are many other versions and editions, this is simply the cheapest):


Book synopsis taken from Amazon:

Moscow, 1929: a city that has lost its way amid corruption and fear, inhabited by people who have abandoned their morals and forsaken spirituality. But when a mysterious stranger arrives in town with a bizarre entourage that includes a giant talking cat and a fanged assassin, all hell breaks loose. Among those caught up in the strange and inexplicable events that transpire in the capital are the Master, a writer whose life has been destroyed by Soviet repression, and his beloved Margarita. Their adventures reveal a story that began two thousand years ago in ancient Jerusalem - and its resolution will decide their fate.

Considered one of the finest creations of Russian literature in the 20th century, The Master and Margarita is an amazing work of fantasy, a love story, a biting satire on Soviet life, and a lot more. Mikhail Bulgakov's last book and crowning achievement, it has been written in secrecy, burned and restored, and banned for decades. Its author, who worked on it until his final days, never saw it in print.


Whilst I am on, I am going to whinge about one of my least favourite theatres in London - the Barbican. I used to go there regularly when it used to be the London base for the RSC. I have not been in a while. But I have never liked the theatre or the venue.

The show is three hours long. The first half is two hours long. You get a 20 minute interval. On Friday when I was there, the queue for the loos, drinks and food at the Barbican were at least 30 minutes each. So basically you are lucky to go to the loo during the interval. Without a doubt, I think they have the worst access to interval facilities of any London theatre that I have been to and they really need to sort it out!