Picture the scene: A man in a cream dress. Think Dervish - fitted through his slim body with flowing skirt in layers to the ground. He walks gracefully down a mound at the back of the stage and stops in the middle. Pauses. Clicks his finger in the direction of the ceiling and he is illuminated.
"Long hair, bedroom eyes, cheeks like wine" is how Anne Carson has Pentheus describe him in this, her adaptation of the ancient Greek tragedy.
He speaks. Tells us the story of his birth. Those eyes. A cheeky half smile. A blink-and-you-miss-it quiver of an almost pout. The quiver of an almost pout. You are seduced. This is Dionysos. This is Ben Whishaw god-like.
Had there been a hill to run to for drinking and carousing as the women of Thebes do to worship him, I would have, and I doubt I would be the only one.
The Bakkhai rehearsal pictures have arrived. I see walking sticks are a theme...
Bit of a recent convert to the church of Bertie Carvel. PolyG has long sung his praises but he hasn't really been on my radar. I thought Bakkhai opposite my fav Ben Whishaw would be my first proper chance to see him in action but the TV adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell came along and suddenly my excitement levels about Bakkhai got ramped up (if that was possible).
Then yesterday I got the press release announcing he's playing Yank in the Old Vic production of Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape. It's a play that was already on my radar without any cast having seen a superb production at the Southwark Playhouse three years ago.
Now Bertie has been cast it suddenly gets really interesting. Yank is very much a manly man, reminds me a little of Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire. He's all muscle and testosterone but it is just a few words that knock him to the ground and challenge him in a way that he never predicted.
From the seating plan on the Old Vic website it looks like they are keeping the round stage format (hurray) which should work really well in making the audience feel like they are in the dark, hot, cramped ship engine room where Yank works.
The Hairy Ape is on from Oct 17 until November 21 and is booking now. Five weeks before the start of the run £10 preview seats will be released for half the auditorium.
Curtain call, the moment when actors float somewhere between their character and themselves; the moment of relief, jubilation, pride and perhaps regret. It is at this brief juncture between performance and dressing room that a myriad of emotions can erupt into something amusing or quite telling.
I love the curtain call moment for the unexpected, the awkwardness (how much should you look at any one actor?) and its simple joy. For those reasons it's become a category in my StOlivier awards in previous years - 2014's are currently being deliberated - but there was such a good measure of memorable moments, I thought they should get their very own blog post.
First up there are the last night antics. When else but on the last night of the RSC's Richard II could the King (David Tennant) and his deposer Bolingbroke (Nigel Lindsay) have a final tussle for the crown. It was 2-0 to Bolingbroke in the end, David Tennant's curtain call lunge to take the golden circlet from Nigel Lindsay was not quite fast enough.
It's the Australia and New Zealand festival of literature and arts here in London and Ben was on a panel this morning discussing art and spirituality among other things. It was led by Australian artist and writer Juliet Darling whose partner, art curator Nick Waterlow, was murdered along with his daughter by his mentally ill son.
Julia is a friend of film director Jane Campion and wrote a book, A Double Spring, about losing Nick.
Nick Waterlow believed you had to be an 'empty vessel' to fully appreciate art which Ben said he found a helpful ideology:
"It was helpful to me not just as a human being but in how you form relationships with others. You have to have an empty space and allow other people to come in and fill it."
Which led him on to talking about love:
"Falling in love is a similar sensation, being in a state of openness and a feeling that you are helpless to resist. It changes the course of your life and you are powerless to resist."
Sam Mendes, in a DVD commentary referred to a scene in the Bond movie Skyfall as the 'Hamlet scene' because it involved three actors who'd all played Shakespeare's Dane: Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear and Ben Whishaw.
I was reminded of this when listening to James McAvoy being interviewed on Radio 4's Front Row about the new X-Men film recently. McAvoy gets screen time with Patrick Stewart and the presenter John Wilson asked if they discussed playing Macbeth to which McAvoy said they did. He then went on to point out that they weren't the only two actors in the film to have played the Scottish King on stage as Ian McKellen has also taken on the part and Michael Fassbender is just about to in a film version.
It is further significant because McAvoy and Stewart plays the younger and older version of the same character in the film as do Fassbender and McKellen.
Now I'd love to know if Fassbender asked for advice and what McAvoy and Stewart discussed. I'd also be curious to know if anyone can beat four actors appearing in a film who've all played the same Shakespeare character?
As to the collective noun I reckon you'd have a worry of Hamlets and an ambition of Macbeths but I'm sure there are far, far better words.
First, much better, suggestion via Kathryn on Twitter is a dither of Hamlets
I've been collating this list in my head for a while but struggling to give it some sort of cohesive title. It started out as stage actors (and some film actors but I might come onto that) who are also musicians. But in compiling two subsequent themes floated to the surface: music videos and Ben Whishaw.
So in the end its a sort of themed brain-dump of a list which one or two of you might appreciate. I certainly enjoyed compiling it, mainly because it's a good excuse to listen to some music and watch some music videos.
It all started with Johnny Flynn whom I first saw on stage in The Heretic in which he played and sang. This led to some googling and the discovery of his band Johnny Flynn and The Sussex Wit whose albums I now own and love.
I've seen him in lots of plays since and he is due to play Roger Taylor in the Freddie Mercury biopic opposite Ben Whishaw as Freddie. The prospect of him acting and singing in a film alongside Mr W brings me untold joy.
Next on my list is Olly Alexander whom I first saw on stage in Mercury Fur (he'd already been on the big screen with Mr W in Bright Star. I've subsequently seen them together in Peter & Alice but prior to that I discovered that he had a band called Years and Years. And lo and behold who should pop up in the bands latest video...
It's rare for me to see a play more than once and even rarer to see the last performance, I'm normally in during preview and then that's it. So it is extremely unusual to have seen not one but two last nights in the space of a fortnight.
If money would allow I'd do it more often because there is always something rather special about the last show. Emotions run high (for cast and audience), tolerance to mishaps is reduced and there is a little less care towards props and sets, all of which was brilliantly demonstrated in the very last performances of the RSC's Richard II and Mojo.
For Richard II it was David Tennant's extra emotional delivery of the "Let us sit upon the ground" speech that sticks firmly in my mind. You could tell that he was really enjoying it in a "this is the last chance I've got to say this" kind of way. His queen played by Emma Hamilton was also more teary than usual when she had to say goodbye to her king.
But it was the cast of Mojo who really made for an eventful last night - the tone and nature of the play does make it somewhat easier than a Shakespeare history.
It's a topic that comes up frequently among us theatre nerds, who we'd like to see play certain characters, so thought I would start an occasional series. Inspired by a report that Nigel Lindsay has said Iago is the next character he'd like to play (he'd be brilliant btw) I thought the Othello villain would be a good place to start.
So this is my list, who is on yours?
Ben Whishaw is my first choice, obviously. Have written before about how I'd love to see him play a real out and out baddie and we've got closer with Baby in Mojo but Iago is still on the to do list I've written for him. I think he could do a wonderful job at Iago's duplicitous persona caring and concerned friend of the butter wouldn't melt sort while gripping the bread knife firmly behind his back.
Someone else I think would be very good is Kyle Soller and probably influenced by his performance in Edward II I could see him being quite an excitable, kinetic and slightly nervous Iago.
I also fancy a charming blond bombshell Iago, someone who is beautiful on the outside but cut through with blackness on the inside in an almost surprising way. And again, because I've just seen him on stage in Ghosts, I think Jack Lowden would be interesting at this.
A curve ball and because I think gender swapping shouldn't just be the preserve of men playing women (so looking forward to Maxine Peake playing Hamlet later this year) I'd like to see Andrea Riseborough as Iago. She doesn't do enough stage work in my book and I think she could play a beautifully bitchy Iago opposite Cush Jumbo as Othello.
My longer list would include: Harry Melling, Sam Troughton, Jamie Parker, Daniel Mays, Mark Gatiss...I could go on but it has to stop somewhere