Monday, March 26, 2007

Viacom vs YouTube: Stupidity Rules

NOTE: It seems that comedy central have now pulled their own serve of the clip. so its gone for good. Now i dont think there being stupid at all. No, siree, bob. I'll leave their nice blue square in place to remind us how cleverly everybody is playing this...

I dont usually do this sort of thing (bishop), but this just has to be done. Demetri Martin (the coolest dog on the planet) did a very funny bit on The Daily Show (which is on Comedy Central, which is owned by Viacom) about the Viacom v. Youtube lawsuit. Which was damn funny in a pop-will-eat-itself kinda way.

But that wasn't twisted enough for some people. Somebody (as Demetri predicted, or should i say instructed) put it up on youtube, and somebody -- let's call them Mr. V -- had the clip removed again. But the clip is available (to be embedded, ad-free) from the Comedy Central site, which means that instead of having the clip where people want it to be, viacom has insisted that they stream it (not so well) from their own servers, rather than let Youtube serve it for free. Are these people all nuts? Does anyone give a hoot about where the video is served from? Thought not, anyways...

More here:
The Daily Show On Parent Company Viacom's Lawsuit Against YouTube... [NOW NOT]On YouTube


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Annie Ryan's Games

Irish 'indie' theatre companies who learnt during the 1990s that running a theatre company was a lot like running a business, only got half the point. Running a theatre company is running a business, something that was never lost on Corn Exchange, one of the most durable companies to emerge from the once burgeoning independent theatre sector.

As the company sets off on its first large-venue national tour of Britain (after a quick stop in Tasmania, for performances at the 10 Days on the Island Festival) with their Edinburgh hit, Dublin by Lamplight, Corn Exchange, in the form of its Artistic Director, Annie Ryan, still has a hunger for expansion that would make the board of Starbucks proud.

"I suppose it is because we came up in the era of Patricia Quinn, of "innovation and excellence," says Ryan. "That whole approach really caught on with us, and we got ourselves professional administration and a board, and all those things you were supposed to do. The funny thing is, before that I used to think about administration the way I used to think about set designers: "you mean we get somebody to make something to distract you from watching what the actors are doing on stage? Why would we do that?"

But "the board" – and indeed set designers – came to be increasingly important to the company as it aimed its sites not simply for longevity, but to internationalise its activities. Broaden the definition of what the company does has lead, on occasion, beyond the theatre. When former city type, Kay Scorah, suggested that theatre education for business people might be an avenue worth exploring for the company, it set off a brand new branch of the business, and saw Ryan jetting off to (among other locations) Geneva, to introduce the top brass at Procter and Gamble into the dark art of theatre games.

"We've always used theatre games in our rehearsals, the sort of games that are in my bones, that I've been doing since I was 12," says Chicago-born Ryan, who has long had a reputation among Dublin actors for holding formidable workshops. "But it only recently occurred to me how good those games could be for all sorts of people…with Corn Exchange, we work in an ensemble fashion, which makes you look again at how leadership works in a group. Turns out, the ways we do can be applied to all sorts of things."

Ryan who trained in her hometown using the improvisational theatre games synonymous with Chicago, found one particularly game, called "Give and Take" worked particularly well with the executives. "In that game, one person has the stage at a time and the idea is to give it over to the next person as cleanly as possible. It's an abstract game – no words, no sounds – it's all about transforming a group, helping it really take off."

Even though Ryan admits that yes, this did involve top talent from companies like Procter and Gamble and Sisk running around in their bare feet, the rewards for all concerned were clear.

"I was really surprised how useful these games turned out for people. I was surprised exactly how much value what we had been doing all along had for people outside theatre. Because working in the theatre is so kind of not cool. Theatre is so old-fashioned, really. And nerdy. It was a big surprise that we had something that had great value in the real world."

PHOTO of (L-R) Karen Egan, Paul Reid, Louis Lovett, Janet Moran, Tom Murphy and Tadhg Murphy by Paul McCarthy.

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REVIEW: Kicking a Dead Horse (The Peacock, Dublin)

Cowboys have often been recruited to help American look at itself, its dreams, drives and desires. Even when cooked up by writers with no experience of the Wild West – such as Zane Grey, the New York orthodontist turned author of Western stories – the cowboys provide a powerful image of a restless, brave, manly nation, ready to make the wilderness safe for industrial meat production.

That little gap between the cowboy myth and those who foster it crops up again in Sam Shepard's latest, an uncanny, one-handed, modern-day Western, having its world premier here, in a production directed by the playwright-actor-director.

Hobart Struther (Stephen Rea) finds himself alone in the desert with no way out but to walk. His horse has up and died, and Hobart feels honour bound to bury it. As he digs the pit, he raves at his misfortune and describes – addressing the audience directly – how manifest destiny brought him here.

And while the short terms causes of his predicament relate to an accidentally-snorted muzzle-full of oats, that is really only part of a grander crisis of in American self-love, for which Struther is just a symbol.

But no matter how keenly Shepherd is feeling the decline and fall of the US of A (hints about Iraq and Bushism abound) it isn't easy to have much sympathy. Struther, who turns out to be a New York art dealer specialising in Western Art, has plundered everything he touched, until you can't help feeling that it is not the workings of existential absurdity that has left him lost, friendless and isolated; he's simply getting his just desserts.

More than usual here, Shepard seems to be writing in the shadow of Samuel Beckett, whose surreal stages the set here (designed by Brien Vahey and lit by John Comiskey) recall. Even the play's title, acted out with gusto by Rea repeatedly, has a Beckettian futility to it. Rea's performance – irascible, raggedy, with a fine dust of humour, but undeniably un-cowboyish – adds a final twist to this knotty exploration of inauthenticity, even if the actor's North of Ireland accent is expertly buried beneath a soft Western drone.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

REVIEW: Living With Johnny Depp (Bewley's Café Theatre, Dublin)

As an unabashed product of L'Ecole Jacques Lecoq, the mime and movement cult initiated by the eponymous French guru (now deceased) it's no surprise that Living With Johnny Depp requires an actor with zero interest in hiding behind the script.

True to type, Joanne Mitchell (who created the piece along with two other Lecoq alums) approaches her performance in a manner that can best be described as "giving it some welly".

Playing all three characters in an unholy co-dependent trinity of Head teacher, English teacher and naughty schoolgirl, Mitchell scarcely comes up for air as she reveals the comic desperation of all involved in the education of Shania Sweeney, a Sligo motormouth who makes Vicky Pollard look like AS Byatt.

Shania knows what love is, and she knows that she really, really, really loves Johnny Depp. She knows that they are destined to spend their lives together, to form an alliance against everything rotten the Irish school system has to throw at her. And she knows that one day, very soon now, Johnny will come through the school gates to rescue her from demotion to Foundation English, and save her from the McJob that looms in her future.

But before any of that can happen, she may just have to win Johnny over from the teaching staff, who are just as likely to loose themselves in toe-sucking fantasies "and his brown face, and his brown eyes and his brown hair".

Under Micaela Miranda's direction, Mitchell accomplishes the transitions energetically, differentiating between Shania and her tormentors with broad, comic strokes. Sometimes, however, the pace is so unstinting that it all becomes a tad exhausting – did M. Lecoq never lecture on the joys of rests, of silences? More shaping of the material is also required if some very funny writing isn't to get lost in the mists of weaker stuff. Report Card: could do better -- though it's hard to imagine anyone trying harder.

Scenes from Kicking A Dead Horse "First Night"

Who's that fella sitting alone there with the scifi specs that wrap all the way around the back of his head like a red plastic hair band? Oh, he's got a friend now:

"Oh, hello Colm!"
"Oh, hello Sebastian!"

The pair hug and mutter for a bit. An elder yank behind breaks cover.

"I didnt know you were in town!" says Colm Toibin (for it is he)
"Oh, we just came for the play."
"Oh sorry," says Colm, noticing his own acquaintance.
"Richard Ford and Kristina Ford," (For it is them) "Sebastian Barry." (For that's him,there)
"Are you around?"
"Eh, just until tomorrow"
"Well, Im in the phone book."
"So are we if you're ever looking for us."
"In the dublin phone book?"

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bairbre Ni Chaoimh's (and Robin Soan's) Talking To Terrorists

What do Norman Tebbit, A Uzbek belly dancer and a former member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades have in common? Quite a lot, it turns out. But mainly, they have all taken part in interviews with Robin Soans, the English actor and playwright behind the surge in "verbatim" theatre.

"Verbatim" or documentary theatre, is as the label suggests, a brand of performance in which the words spoken are exactly those used by the real people represented in the drama. Obviously, the words (often culled from interviews) are selected, ordered and juxtaposed by an author, but the words remain only those spoken by the real people involved.

Perhaps the best example of the genre seen so far in Ireland was Bloody Sunday: Scenes from the Saville Enquiry, Richard Norton-Taylor's brilliant rifle through the mountains of evidence presented to the latest enquiry into the events of that day. More recently, Aidan Quinn and a host of other stars performed in Dublin in The Exonerated, speaking the words of victims of miscarriages of justice in the USA.

According to Bairbre Ni Chaoimh, the director its Irish premier, Soans' latest show, Talking to Terrorists, is not quite like either of these previous productions.

"When people think of verbatim or documentary theatre, they think of people sitting in a row reading. Well, I just don't find that sort of thing interesting theatrically at all. This show is much more about trying to bring the audience into the world of the people we are listening to…"

Talking to Terrorists deals with the contentious words "terrorist," bringing in as "witnesses" those who have been labelled terrorists, those who have been victims of terrorism, those who try to explain it, to deal with it, and draw attention to its roots.

"If sit and watch the news all the way through it's like my head is going to explode," says Ni Chaoimh. "Well, what Robin does it sit down and sift through all that material so that it isn't just overwhelming. He sits down and works out which interviews relate to each other, which comments can be juxtaposed to show the common denominator…"

One of the witnesses who testimony turns up is Jihad Jara, a Palestinian who was involved in the siege at the long-running occupation of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, but who now lives in exile in Dublin, followed the EU-sponsored deal that ended the siege.

"It is strange to think that the interview that appears in the play took place in a coffee shop in the Stephen's Green centre," says Ni Chaoimh. "We are hoping that he will get to see the Irish production, because he hasn't seen the play yet. He wasn't able to see the British production because he is not allowed to go there…"

According to Ni Chaoimh, Soans' next project will be of particular interest to those working in the media: "His next one is called Scandal. And it's about how politicians and newspaper proprietors are happy to put scandal on the front page, because it helps to keep attention away from the real news that is happening elsewhere…."

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Joanne Mitchell's date with Johnny Depp

You may have seen Joanne Mitchell in a play, but there's every chance
that you've never heard her. The actor-writer's biggest on stage role
so far was in British playwright and actor, Mark Ravenhill's Dublin
Theatre Festival offering last year, Product.

Well, starring alongside one of Britain's most successful contemporary
playwrights in a two-handed play, that sounds like a great role,
right? But…Product calls for a young actress -- playing the part of a
young actress -- to sit listening attentively while Ravenhill himself
fumes, rants and raves at her in the persona of a slightly psychotic
movie producer. (There's another sort?)

"Mark told me he kind of improvised, working off whoever was playing
the part that night, and that it was a difficult role, because you
can't speak, but you need to be acting like crazy," says Mitchell.
"Which was true."

As a matter of record, Mitchell was quite good within the limits of a
non-speaking role in an thoroughly verbal piece of theatre – even if
it's hard to know how many of the audience will have noticed.

Ravenhill ("a dote…we're both very into Betwitched. I found him a DVD
of it he was looking for…") has promised make it to the Dublin run of
Mitchell's first solo show, Living with Johnny Depp. Which, in the way
of these things, does not star Johnny Depp.

In fact, Mitchell herself plays all the roles in Living with Johnny
Depp, which included a slightly loopy Junior cert student from the
West of Ireland, whose Walter Mittyesque relationship with Depp fans
the secret desires of two members of the school teaching staff, until
they too are lost in Deppy fantasies.

The play, originally produced in Galway early this year is very much
the product of the Jacques Lecoq school (who needs an acting course in
Dublin, when everyone goes to Paris anyway?) Eilis Nic Dhonncha, who
co-creator the show met Mitchell at Lecoq, where Portuguese-born,
Micaela Miranda, the director of the Dublin run, also studied.

"We use the clowning style that you might know from Barabbas [the
Dublin troupe was also set up by former Lecoq students) and the
commedia del'art style that corn Exchange do," says Mitchell, who has
also worked with Blue Raincoat, to complete a holy trinity of Irish
experimental theatre companies.

"It was sort of based on all the things you'd hear in a staff room and
you really shouldn't," says Mitchell, who spent some time as a
teacher. "I remember hearing one teacher in a staff room one day say
about a girl who was coming to the school 'Her mother was a bitch, her
sister was a bitch, and I'll bet you she will be a bitch too'. And I
just thought, the girl doesn't have a hope!"

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REVIEW: Trousers (Andrews Lane Theatre, Dublin)

I wonder if you called a play Skirts, would you have the theatre stuffed with men? (Evidence from The Vagina Monologues would suggest to the contrary.) But giving tonight's show the title Trousers has certainly had the effect of filling the house with (at a rough calculation) an 85% female audience. Was there a ticket giveaway on the Orla Barry show? Or are these women really that curious about Paul Meade and David Parnell's latest meditation on the inner workings of male relationships?

Because it is not a pretty picture, in any sense of the phrase. Portly Mick (Gerry McCann) has turned up on the doorstep of his old mucker, long-steak of misery, Dermot (Tom Murphy (2)). Back in their college days, the two shared an exuberant summer of waitering, dishwashing and drinking in Manhattan, but ever since, it seems, their friendship has been in decline.

Mick's waistline has expaneded in indirect proportion to his self-confidence, while Dermot has lately come to the startling realisation that he feels lonely, and probably clinically depressed. He's started taking the pills his doctor gave him, drinking herbal tea and attempting to move his empty mug by sheer positive thinking. The last thing he needs right now is exactly what life has to offer: Mick, an abusive houseguest with history and his own crisis to mange.

Trousers may have a poster than screams knock-about comedy, but the slapstick ends there. Meade and Parnell's play is a sincere, frequently glum and pessimistic look at friendship between two men, with all its co-dependency, subterfuge, face-saving and good old-fashioned lying. Moments of levity exist, but they serve mostly to remind us what a minute role laughter has in these two messy lives, each of which has attained sadness through its own, distinctive route. But then, the ladies already knew that all men aren't the same, didn't they?

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Monday, March 05, 2007

REVIEW: Danny and Chantelle (Still Here) (Project Cube, Dublin)

There's a blizzard of 'yolks' in actor, Phillip McMahon's first show as a playwright, a sweetly, scurrilously-told two-hander about sex, friendship, dancing and Bird's Eye potato waffle.

For mates Danny (McMahon) and Chantelle (Georgina McKennit) Friday night just wouldn't be Friday night without a pocketful of pills from party queen, Swiss Toni. But equipped with ingredient X, the kids are ready for anything. Or at least anything that starts with a GHD, involves a few WKDs, and, with a bit of luck, ends up with a BJ.

Anyone who has seen Enda Walsh's Disco Pigs, Mark O'Rowe's Howie the Rookie, or Garry Duggan's Monged will be familiar with the style. But anyone who can imagine what might happen if all three plays were genetically spliced together will pretty much have the whole picture.

McMahon's is not a hugely innovative piece, but the writer handles the material with plenty of finesse and humour, even when generating his laughs through some extremely frank coverage of human bodily functions. You'll never see blue WKD and plaster of paris in quite the same way again.

What is very fetching about the whole thing is how gently the realism is played. Where Mark O'Rowe, for example, is burstin' to expose his streety credentials, Danny and Chantelle's Ballymun roots are conjured more carefully, in gentle and intriguing asides, rather than stagey confrontation. Life "after the weekend" may indeed be hard for the pair, but McMahon doesn't convince us of the authenticity of what we are watching by making a fetish of it.

Best of all are the performances, aided by Deirdre Molloy's precise, energetic and sure-footed direction. McMahon and McKennit, as the central pair, move lithely between monologues, conversations and quickfire physical caricatures, like exemplary tour guides to a city of fleeting pleasures.

All of that in less than an hour? What are you on?

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