It happened in Denmark…

Benedict Cumberbatch, Hamlet, photo Johan Persson

Let’s get some things out of the way first. I am not sure the Barbican has handled this whole customer relationships thing well. In fact, as far as i am concerned they couldn’t have alienated and annoyed me more. And i’ve been visiting it for a good few years. But they have never before treated me like a 3 year old! Ever since i purchased Hamlet tickets they have been bombarding me with emails about how to behave, what to do and not to do, what would happen and what wouldn’t. And as the day came it only got worse. In total i got 5! warnings yesterday about turning all my equipment off: one via email, three via building communications and 1 from an usher face to face. (I never think such insistent warnings are of any use, a reminder before the start is good and people who pay attention will then turn phones off and that is that. The ones who don’t care or set out to capture images/sounds will not be deterred, no matter how many warnings are issued. My point was only proven by what my friend told me she observed, ie someone recording one of the soliloquies on her mobile phone with the closest usher not noticing/not doing anything about it). The another usher  sat less than 2 meters away, facing me and the people around me and stared at us during the entire show. That is when she didn’t go in and out(several times) or maneuvered her water bottle, in fact disturbing much more than anyone of the audience. Announcements were repeated, several times after the interval. And to top it all off this morning i got another email, this time to shift product on me, with the promise they could send it anywhere in the world. This in addition to the program i bought by mistake last night, thinking it was the usual £4, when in fact it turned out it was £8.50! By the time they told me i had already handed my card over and didn’t have the chutzpah to demand it back.

So i saw the play and managed to enjoy the evening in spite of all this harassment and the general circus going on around it. It is a real pity both venue and press are creating such an unpleasant atmosphere around the play. It’s contrary to a relaxed, warm, welcoming and excited atmosphere which would ‘prime’ the audience to be receptive to the play. You have to work away the annoyance and force yourself to relax and be positive. Thankfully for once i arrived with plenty of time to spare and had managed to bag a cheap but decent seat on a side of the upper circle and was hovering above the audience with almost only the stage in front of me. Just the way i like it 🙂

And enjoy it i did. It was a bit similar to watching a decent movie at the cinema, a good couple of hours capturing your full attention and telling you an interesting story. After all this is one of the best story tellers in history 😉 I can’t imagine a scenario where Hamlet could ever be really boring. And this was also pleasant to look at.

The staging seems to have been the subject of much debate and some controversy. I can’t quite follow why. Nothing i saw was in any way controversial, totally out of place or offensive to the eye. Es Devlin is known for the big sets and this was a very realistic interpretation of a stately mansion or palace. It was pretty lavish, with walls in tones of blue/green, decorated with armoury and big chandeliers and the dark wood stage boards worked well with it. It had big doors through which chairs or tables, pianos could be moved changing the scenes seamlessly and without need for pause. In the second part rubble invaded the place  in an effective and clear symbol for the crumbling rein in Denmark. It is a world headed to its demise.

Nothing unique, nothing particularly original, but functional. Time and place where somewhat indeterminate, which again wasn’t something that deterred for me from the story.

If this had been an opera production (and there certainly is an opera of Hamlet ;-)) i’d say this was pretty traditional, standard fare, made in good state and with pleasing and elegant aesthetics. It was very straight forward, totally uncontroversial for me. In fact this is probably of all Es Devlin’s sets i’ve seen the least complex, least imaginative. I’ve come to like her usual puzzle-piece, layered work and frankly i was surprised how simple this was. I guess the money went more towards fittings and decoration than structure. Personally, i would have preferred her to go for one of the peel-back ideas where the world literally falls apart in front of our eyes rather than just the mounds of rubble and debris.

I just missed some of her amazing ingenuity here.But what was on stage did its job and didn’t get in the way of the action. Nothing much wrong with that at the end of the day. Also, it was a good set acoustically. Again, if this had been an opera i would have applauded the build, with big strong walls creating hard resonance surfaces. As you can see below it effectively creates a corner and a box which is great for resonance and projection.

But, it turns out the voices were all amplified. I’m not a fan at all of amplification in theatre, but there are some mitigating factors here: the theatre is covered in velvet material, the floors too and it makes it absorb sound very badly, so in spite of the good set it may have created some problems with acoustics. But.. i have seen theatre in this place before, including Shakespeare and it was unamplified and there was no problem hearing the actors. The amplification was done very well i have to say, there was no disturbance to the sound at all and volume of individual actors remained consistent throughout which means they have a very good sound engineer. Well done. It is still not my preferred way of hearing theatre because it almost inevitably creates some unnatural effects: like people being equally as loud when their backs are turned, like loosing some of the impact of sound when people move through the set, again because the quality of sound remains consistent. Consistence is a positive but to me the voice moves within the space adds to the acting and the feel of things. I am not generalising and i do recognise i am talking from the pov of someone very sensitive to sound and very fond of all its details. Also, amplification invariably impacts volume, essentially you almost always loose the ability for those barely heard whispers. The ones where you have to literally strain to hear, the ones which draw you in, which make you mentally almost crawl on stage. Asides of characters also become more complicated when you hear everyone almost equally loud.  Also some characters will be more amplified than others and this is audible to me. I thought BC was done extremely well, i’m tempted to say there was probably very little of it, as there was no reverb to his voice at all and it didn’t loose its natural tone, he was never too loud which made it feel very natural. However others were clearly too loud for nature, like Ophelia, whose probably naturally soft voice was amplified beyond my liking. I thought it would have actually suited the character to be less loud than anyone else. Laertes who sounded like he naturally had quite a bit of projection sounded way too loud also.

Ciaran Hinds, Claudius – Photo Johan Persson

I remain unconvinced there was a good reason for the amplification other than it allowed the production to put through a lot of sounds of wind, rumbles, gusts and general noise. I also wasn’t convinced this extended soundtrack was necessary or added much. I thought Ophelia’s piano playing was a lovely addition and a beautiful way to point to her sensible soul, in addition to her photographic hobby. Here’s one character i never thought good Will has done justice to in the play. She doesn’t get many words so a lot has to be implied. I liked the fact that they showed us she has a gentle, introspective, somewhat observing soul. Not a go-getter 🙂 And therefore a match for Hamlet in life. So we got to see a bit more than the few words allowed her to tell us. Which was good, as i didn’t get much sense of Ophelia herself before her end in the 2nd part…

Sian Brooke, Ophelia, photos Johan Persson

Speaking of the 2 parts of the show, i thought it become a much more interesting play in the 2nd half. The first felt to me incredibly fast-paced, almost rushed. It’s a platitude, but silences are just as important as words in a play and this has many words. And they came as an unbroken, constant flow. All were very clear, well articulated, by everyone. There was no instance of garbled lines, no word which lost its meaning in the process. But gosh, we only ever got time to ingest, not digest. The set meant scene changes were seamless and the action just moved on but this left us with no breathing space at all, since even when there were props being moved about there was either some sound or music or the words continued. Hamlet is in many ways a thriller, but even suspense needs time to build! And stuff happened so fast no emotion really got a chance to develop, you didn’t have time as an audience to be shocked, to feel fear, to feel sad or appalled. You just watched the action.

And there was a lot of laughing and giggling. The text is often ironic and Hamlet’s double meaning words often trigger giggles as it is a spontaneous reaction that happens immediately, no need to think about it. But we, or at least i, never got to wonder or fear what would happen next as before i got a chance to consider it had already happened.

Thankfully things slowed down a bit in the second part, particularly in the graveyard scene, and an atmosphere finally built and we got a bit more feeling with a bit less action. But it was really too late to develop any rapport with some of the characters who we lost before we even really got to know them properly.

The whole thing felt very often like watching history unfold, fall towards a devastating end. Hamlet can certainly be seen that way, history happening and one bad decision bringing on another and another until the whole construction crumbles and nothing is left. History is full of the rapid demises of families and whole lines being wiped out in one go. Fortinbras and his ascent in his own house and country is a brief but stark contrast to what is happening in Denmark.

This is the story that i felt was effectively, speedily and clearly told. Nobody left the theatre not knowing what happened in Denmark. But the question for me is: did history just happen to people in Shakespeare’s Hamlet? They seem to be unable to stop it and it drags them to the grave and renders them all… just skulls. You could say this happens no matter who the people are, what they feel, what moves them and none of that matters once they are all dust.

Anastasia Hille, Gertrude,photo Johan Persson

Except, aren’t we there to get to know the people it happens to? What is the point of making these people speak to us and each other? We could read what happened to them in a history book (well, some of it ;-)), but i never felt with Shakespeare that things just happen. It is always people who make them happen, their flaws, their virtues, their emotions. There is always feeling behind the words or driving the words, it is not just action.

But i felt most of the time all i heard and saw was what was happening not what was being felt. There were a few moments of emotion, like Hamlet hesitating to stab Claudius while he is praying, there is a real moment of torment and doubt there and there is some emotion in his confrontation with his mother, where he breaks down for an instant and you think the shell finally cracked. But none of it really gets a chance to gain momentum.

Neither gestures nor words explain what connects Claudius to Gertrude. They feel more like a couple who has been together for years and years, there is a feeling of familiarity about them but no passion or connection other than the functionality of the royal house. It comes almost as a surprise when Claudius in a longer speech reveals the sun goes up and sets for him with Gertrude. And even then you wonder if it is just some sort of politics he is playing trying to be even more convincing.

You don’t get a sense if Ophelia was ever touched by Hamlet’s letters and if she feels any regret in returning them or if Hamlet has any hesitation in seeing them again before pushing her away. Hamlet seems driven by action in an almost relentless way, as if almost to stop himself from thinking. The madness is more rational irrationality but never infused with uncontrollable emotion. But it makes sense for him to not know what to do but try and do something so actions may seem erratic. But his mother does not seem overly distressed by either his actions or his demeanour, neither was i, to be honest.

It was as if Hamlet himself never got to take a breath and ponder what he was really feeling as he had to constantly deal with something, talk to somebody, do something, respond to something. So we don’t see or know: is he afraid, is he grieving, is he tormented? The words sometimes indicated it but neither we nor he gets a chance to explore and show any of it much. He certainly looks lonely, almost isolated, apart from it all and yet hooked by the throat and dragged along, like in an avalanche. Horatio running around, constantly wearing a backpack, doesn’t seem to be able to try and stop him or slow down the slide. He seems pretty frantic himself, rather than attempting to be a grounding influence on Hamlet.

Claudius is best described as regal, he certainly is in charge of it all, to the point where he never really seems to loose control. The big speech reveals his actions but we also feel he has accepted the consequences and is prepared to carry on to the end. There is no doubt or remorse or fear that i got at any point, the public face of the king had very much become also his private one. Matters were not helped by the theatre scene being played with the court audience  kept almost in the dark on the stage. We never got to see the character’s most hidden thoughts and feelings, we never saw them faltering, hesitating. He also recovers very quickly in the face of Laertes’ anger and public support and the political solution comes easy and convincing.You never feel that he would have really been in danger there. Laertes is never more than an impulsive, anger and grief filled youth, the only one who seems truly driven by uncontrollable emotions in the play.

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Laertes) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Hamlet) in Hamlet, photo Johan Persson

Then there was Karl Johnson playing both the ghost and the gravedigger. Strange as it may be, the most ‘normal’ character in the whole play 🙂 Shakespeare is great at giving us some moments of relief from the tension and the amazing thing was that, as both characters, in few words he managed to give us a sense of exactly who he is and what kind of person we are listening to. It also helped that his delivery was unrushed, natural but filled with emotion, even if just dark irony about human fate and death.

Karl Johnson, king’s ghost/gravedigger, photo Johan Persson

Some humanity came across also with Polonius. Here he never gets to be more than a fussy, almost pompous character and we only get a chance to understand his true connection to his children through their grief about his death, which is palpable. If you think about it though – there is no time to do so during the play – you realise what a contrast this is between the impersonal relationship Hamlet has with his family. Polonius fusses over and constantly throws advice at his two children. While Gertrude and Claudius get other people to ‘deal’ with Hamlet. This should be both irritating (which you get slight sense of) but also saddening, and it never quite reaches us all the way.

I am sure a lot of thought was given to the relationships and meanings and feelings. As was to the production. I think in their determination to not overcomplicate, over-emphasise the story they strove for clarity, in text delivery, in visuals, in all messages on stage. They tried to lift the dust and some weight of Shakespeare making it feel very natural and straight-forward, which i think they achieved. But i think in the process they forgot that some of the weight is emotional and we shouldn’t just get to know a story but be filled with sorrow for what happens to these people. It is the only way we will remember it, the only way it will be a truly meaningful experience. I think they told the story of Hamlet but never gave the audience a chance to feel for Hamlet, to be filled with his anger, to feel his doubt, to be touched by his loneliness and ultimately to cry for his untimely death and short, unfulfilled life.

I don’t fully understand why they made the choices they made, but i’m saddened by the emotional restraint they chose to impose on the actors and none more than Hamlet himself. In his many roles, both on stage and on screen he’s never failed to touch me and i was looking forward to tapping into that wealth of emotions he carries. And to the end it felt out of reach, Hamlet remained sadly guarded and introverted when all we want as an audience is to share in his loneliness, to be his sole confessor if you will.

I’ll return on the last day and who knows, maybe in the meantime something will unlock, the run is still in its early stage. One can but hope, because the potential i know is there and frankly i expect much more of an evening with Shakespeare than just action.

Cast

Soldier:Barry Aird
Danish Captain / Servant:Eddie Arnold
Horatio:Leo Bill
Ophelia:Sian Brooke
Servant / Cornelius:Nigel Carrington
Player King:Ruairi Conaghan
Hamlet:Benedict Cumberbatch
Guildenstern:Rudi Dharmalingam
Priest / Messenger:Colin Haigh
Official:Paul Ham
Player Queen / Messenger:Diveen Henry
Gertrude:Anastasia Hille
Claudius:Ciarán Hinds
Laertes:Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
Ghost of Hamlet’s Father:Karl Johnson
Polonius:Jim Norton
Official:Amaka Okafor
Barnardo:Dan Parr
Courtier:Jan Sheperd
Voltemand:Morag Siller
Rosencrantz:Matthew Steer
Fortinbras:Sergo Vares
Marcellus:Dwane Walcott

Creative

DirectorLyndsey Turner
Set DesignEs Devlin
Costume DesignKatrina Lindsay
Video DesignLuke Halls
Lighting DesignJane Cox
MusicJon Hopkins
Sound DesignChristopher Shutt
MovementSidi Larbi Cherkaoui

Bendict Cumberbatch, Hamlet, photo Johan Persson

PS One of the things we talked about with my friend was what a pity it is Benedict has gotten so big he probably can’t do things at the Globe just because of the sheer amount of people who want to see it, as he would probably be great at it and it can be a very rewarding experience to be able to see and feel the audience’s immediate reactions.

Speaking of the Globe and productions in London, there is actually 2! Oresteia going on, one in Trafalgar Studios, which transferred from the Almeida and the other at the Globe. And in case you thought London is the place for mostly traditional productions…

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Armando Iannucci – on British Television

“We’re all in this together!”

This is a clear, concise, punchy and incredibly well articulated lecture on what British Television is like today and why we should be proud of it 🙂

If you have 1h to spare do watch as it is highly entertaining!

I’ll keep this here to remind me of some things that are important to me whenever stuff feels like it is weighing down. I could say a million words, but he says it so much better and shorter than i would.

Distracted or applying evasive maneuvres

Warning, spoilers ahead for Hannibal s3 ep 12  and talk about icky stuff, so if you have a sensitive stomach best to skip this 😉

Francis? (or is it the dragon at this point? ) carrying Reba .. bound :-(

Francis? (or is it the dragon at this point? ) carrying Reba .. bound 😦 My cap… easy to guess why.

I’m ready for this to end. I’m getting tired of all the cat and mouse games and i am starting to feel with the ongoing series characters that we are running in a bit of a circle. At times during this episode i asked myself why i did like it enough to watch 3 series of it or rather what was it about similar scenes for nearly 3 years that i found interesting and now seems to grate on my nerves? When did i fall out of love with the slow, chatty, spiralling dialogue?

I think it was Reba’s normality and very human aspirations that put the whole bunch of nutters into perspective… Her and Francis, or at least his attempts at humanity. For a short amount of time we were given the hope that the gravitational pull of her love could put him on a different path as well and disrupt his own cyclical spin around a dark center. Maybe one could consider Hannibal to be the dark star pulling them all towards hell and that his force is strong enough that nobody can escape his orbit…But it is hard to lay the blame solely at his feet. In addition to his pulling force they each spin in their own dark little circles around their own axis. It’s like a mysterious constellation of poisonous  planets within a universe governed by its own twisted, crazy but inescapable laws of physics. And while at the beginning this was fun to explore for the novelty and the strange, alien quality of it all it has now become familiar and the discomfort far outweighs curiosity.

While Bedelia’s cleverness and slippery elegance  used to be fascinating now she’s revealed herself to be like a female Hannibal, minus the cannibalistic appetite. But she does for and to Will what Hannibal used to do and now does to the dragon because Will is somewhat out of reach. We see and hear the exact same questions bounced back, reinforcing Will’s confused feelings and general fuzziness of comprehension and moral balance. And she’s made the point about Hannibal only killing her if he could eat her one too many times. That particular conversation has come up again and again and again during this series and it makes you want to say:’oh, serve her up already!’.

I’m tired of Jack’s chase as i don’t feel a sound reason behind it, he wants the killer eliminated, stopped but you feel little concern or consideration for potential victims (or for the actual ones as a matter of fact), no strong sense of justice.

I never liked Alana much but she’s a real pain lately. I don’t like her fancy hairdo and her deep red pouty lips. I’ll give her points for survival, but i’d give Margot many more. And i just don’t see any purpose to her. Yes, she is holding H in his cell, but it hasn’t really stopped his actions or his influence. She doesn’t protect people from him or care about the greater good, she’s only concerned with keeping him physically away from her. And it is a cause i care little for.

But mostly, who the h**l is Will???? i felt sympathetic towards him, well, i even routed for him in series 1 when he was poor, sick, abused Will. I wondered what that kind of psychological abuse had done to him when he aimed to kill H in season 2 and then managed to get out of prison. There was a certain evolution and a dark kind of resilience of fighting back and he kept being knocked down. There was a sense of purpose to what he was doing. But this series he seems to have lost a couple of points off his IQ…. he doesn’t seem to get hints from H that are obvious to us, he seems to forgive the unforgivable and chase H around Europe with a sick kind of addiction. He tells Bedelia what she is but then keeps going back to her.. for what????? And then acts shocked when Bedelia implies Hannibal feels some kind of jealous love for him.(This was definitely also on my most-funny list of the episode as well 🙂 BF finally got that one in, ok it didn’t come from Hannibal’s own mouth, but nearly as good as, surely that must count? And there was a dizzying collective fan eye-rolling at Will’s reaction – you know like the moon rolling in the last ep? Just as spectacular 😀 ) I thought that reaction was too out of character for its own good. Nobody expected Will to get all starry eyed or something (only in fanfics 😉 ), but a little bit of empathy or some other reaction than uncomfortable surprise would have been a welcome signal that Will still had brains.

(Aside – did anyone else think the wall above in Bedelia’s office looked quite a bit like dragon wings in a cubist sort of interpretation? )

This dumbed down version of Will does not make much sense. He also seems to have taken on a very drifting kind of personality: he seems almost normal and domestic around Molly, he fights Jack but then acts without any restraint even more callously than him, he seems to fall for the webs Bedelia is spinning at each encounter, he neither listens carefully to what Hannibal says, nor does he seem to take the time and really understand his reactions. He seems to want to catch Dolarhyde and try and save him but then descends onto a path of revenge when his anger is really directed at Hannibal. Does he lash out around him because he can’t really reach Hannibal? Will seems to have become a strange sort of creature which does no longer have a strong sense of self but instead seems to take on traits from everyone who surrounds him, and not the good ones. There is a brief flash of conscience once he’s set the wheels in motion and there is again talk of the Dragon maybe being able to stop, but it is all too late (maybe it is an attempt to explain his other behaviours as impulses in range and confusion?).

It is an interesting contrast between the dragon who knows itself and has a firm purpose and sense of self and Will, who seems to be loosing himself or getting ever more confused.

The problem is i am not really buying this confused back and forth with Will and the lack of direction and conviction after season 1 and season2. Why would the Will who fought back his mind to sanity and himself out of the asylum in season 2 crumble like this now? The new family bonds just weren’t told strongly enough to explain this.

Like everyone else he seems to just be repeating a pattern of movement that is circular and has no firm purpose. And everyone just seems to indulge in ever more far fetched considerations and explanations of why this world is a confusing place where we have all sorts of instincts to which we fall prey, acting like the animals within. And there seems to be only one type of instinct with this bunch, sorry 2: kill and eat.

Or get famous, in the case of Freddie and Chilton 😉 Her t-shirts are a hoot (‘The tooth fairy is a one night stand’) as is the way she measures Will up to ‘small’. Nasty, nasty and a way too obvious pun. No need to get that bitchy dahhhlings, Hannibal is the only one who seems to be able to pull off bitchy with some class 😉

bitchyFreddie

Some things just made little practical sense and i had to shake my head at them. Hannibal and those darned articles! In which universe would that ever happen? And when Chilton turned up to rant about them i just rolled my eyes. It turns out of course it is repetitive for a purpose, we need to be reminded of his infinite vanity, thirst of fame and of the fact that Hannibal can best him, even from behind a glass wall. But it was still illogical and all to predictable. As soon as one saw Chilton ranting and furious for the lack of attention it was clear who would be the psychiatrist who would be dangled as bait in front of the Red Dragon. Oh Chilton, Chilton, how silly you are. I thought his survival instinct was better than that. Considering his biggest sin is vanity – compared to the rest of the lot –  i felt really sorry for him and his suffering, he didn’t deserve it. Which makes me despise Alana even more. And Will has sunk even further in my sympathy because of the way he used Chilton.

The whole talk about protection and the reminder the Dragon shoots first was again just an announcement in big bold letters of what would happen next, which is why i didn’t even flinch when Chilton’s ‘protection’ was gunned down in a splatter of blood (again, silly silly Chilton! you frustrate me!).

But of course it had to be him, since he is the only other male shrink in the series and one could hardly have a naked female glued to that chair… predictable much? Also, of the two who made it into the article Will would never have been the first victim as no series would eat up its main character an episode before the last one! That surely will be left for the end.

It is only one of the reasons why what happened to Chilton didn’t feel as scary to me as it seems to have been for many.

Then there were those chomped off lips! And lookie here, when they come via mail to Hannibal they are pristine.. come on! Really?   The Dragon is certainly dexterous but not even he would be able to do that… It just didn’t look believable and for a show that does human bits so well, it wasn’t good enough, it didn’t make my stomach flinch one bit. Speaking of that mail!! What possible reason can anyone give me for the fact that the packag made it to Hannibal unopened???? You telling me the scan did not show biological material? That Alana thought Hannibal deserved a prize of some sort? Why would she enjoy letting him open his own mail? No reason whatsoever other than it was the only way we could indulge (yum, eh?) in a last bit of cannibalism in this series. Fair enough, but it still doesn’t make it a sound story device.

I was glad poor Chilton survived the ordeal in some way, but that is more like sci-fi than any real possibility. Somebody with 3rd degree burns all over his body + the rest wouldn’t have survived it, and even if, in the extremely unlikely event, would never be conscious enough to say anything to anyone. Or is that supposed to be another sign of both Will and Jack’s cruelty in having the doctors keep him conscious so they could have a chat? Too much of a stretch for me to take any of it seriously.

However, there was one thing which was cleverly done. Since they already burned a body in a wheelchair they had to have a good reason to be able to do it again. And it actually made sense for the Dragon to be inspired by the fake burning of Freddie Lounds in his own actions. Ties in well with his scrapbooking hobby (he would have known about Will and Freedie’s ploy to trip Hannibal with this trick) and it is sort of homage to Hannibal again. It gave them the perfect excuse to play it out exactly like in the book. That was an instance of well done continuity.

All the incongruous bits kept switching me out of the gloom and doom atmosphere, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The scare wasn’t nearly as bad as it otherwise might have been and the gore was less stomach churning than i expected it to be. Though this episode certainly was ‘gore galore’! Some it of was more horrifying than revolting, like Dolarhyde clawing his back to bone and flesh (spine-tingly shudders) and covering that painting with his own blood.

images NBC

images NBC

Some was definitely up there with the worst of the worst in the series; of course i mean the lip smacking, er.. ripping? Triple ewwww!  But ever since that moment when Verger ate his own face i’ve gotten a sense of when the worst is coming and since i never want to have such an imagine in my mind again my head turned quicker than that flesh flew…. evidently not quite fast enough though since i still caught some of it from the corner of my eye. Still wonder how both Armitage and Esperanza managed to have their eyes open while acting it.. but maybe the flying-flesh was CGIed after? That is a comforting thought.

But the worst yuck moment came from where i least expected it… food. Reba brought Francis some soup for his flu and it was easily the most disgusting soup i’ve ever seen: greyish, murky liquid with white and pink looking bits floating at the bottom. Just remembering it is making me gag! Whoever came up with that dish really did a number on the classic chicken soup. Looked more like scrapings from the bottom of a dirty aquarium or something. Shudders! And of course it was intentional, as it came in a nice big transparent tank like container! And Francis was wobbling it about to make sure we notice the content, which i did; it certainly distracted me from looking at his masked face.

see, told you! would you eat that??? yeah, i know, guy in mask big -distraction

see, told you! would you eat that??? yeah, i know, guy in mask big -distraction

But there were gory instances which were also funny at the same time. Like Hannibal almost aspiring a piece of his meaty gift from Dolarhyde, together with his explanation that one piece would do the job just as well as two. LOL and yuck at the same time! Same with poor barbecued dr Chilton and his white teeth, which were pretty awful to look at and yet he was having a rant at Will for basically handing him over to Dolarhyde. The way Will was translating the conversation to Jack was horrendously funny. I almost felt bad for laughing at it. But as i’ve said above it was too surreal and unrealistic anyway so i guess it is ok.

Dolarhyde’s props and get ups are so unusual and surprising they also end up having at least an ironic element to them. I mean how about a panty liner as a means to cover the kidnapped doctor’s eyes?? Very…effective? LOL Makes one wonder where he got it from and what else he’s got in his home stash.. if it was from his gran, boy the quality today certainly isn’t what it used to be! Wish stuff we buy in the shop would stick like that. And i am still wondering in this context what it was that he used to gag him… but maybe better not to know? 😉 I also have to give the guy/girl who came up with that idea for the series brownie points, it is usually bind the eyes and gag the mouth with yer usual kidnappers. Not with Dolarhyde though, original to the end this one… it was stick the eyes and bind the mouth 😉 No wonder the guy gets irritated when the media does not recognise his ‘special’ talents.

I am also not entirely sure going by the book with Dolarhyde’s home dress code was the best idea for the scary impact. The silk flowing kimono and the loosely knitted cap used as a balaclava paired together were a bit strange and the contrasting effect also made me giggle quite a few times. Don’t get me wrong, Dolly in undies exudes a sheer physical force that is truly menacing and the balaclava should be frightening. And it was when he was dressed all in black in the last episode. But hiding Dolarhyde’s breath-taking and chilling facial expressions is not the best option. Behind the knit the face softens, you end up admiring the prominent shape of the nose behind it and because they have to shed more light to show some features his eyes appeared for the first time what they are, a light shade of blue’grey rather than the deep dark pits they have been under less light so far. And hiding the muscle behind the silk took some of the apparent bulk away and showed how tall and lithe he actually is. Instead of ripples of muscle you were drawn to the elegance of the movement in the arms and hands, especially when he extended them and they made the fabric flow so elegantly. Sorry, made me think of a poised geisha 🙂 I can’t help it if the man moves like a flowing elegant feline and not a stompy ape 🙂 It turned into a sort of kinky peek-a-boo get up which made you wonder what was beneath it and distracted me out of context. It just seemed as if he’d dressed for a completely different activity, if you know what i mean 😉 (Even if i wondered when that mustardy-yellow kimono had last seen a wash….).

The dragon showing off his 'art' .. i'm not showing you those shots though :-) Focus on the essentials, arms+Kimono

The dragon showing off his ‘art’ .. i’m not showing you those shots though 🙂 Focus on the essentials, arms+Kimono

But once the silky sheets and knits were off the skin tight beast was back and the face told a very scary horror story indeed, as did the few firm words in no uncertain terms. I just wasn’t scared out of my mind because once Chilton started whining in his chair that he was stuck it was clear what would happen next as they were back with the book. And everything is less scary when you know about it beforehand. Even with the insidious music doing its job of trying to get even further under your skin.

It being Chilton in the chair helped to lighten up the mood. I feel sorry for Chilton, he’s far from an exemplary human being himself, but he was likeable 🙂 Too bad his own vanity ended up being his downfall. His ebullient way makes him entertaining even in this situation, the way he tries to talk himself out of a ..erm.. sticky situation is frightening but also a bit ironic. Poor sod even brings the idea of his final punishment to the Dragon’s mind, Chilton talks of ‘burned’ and the Dragon just laps it up… eeeeeek! (flexing his fingers pleasurably while sitting in his armchair..). And when he saw himself in the pictures he was shown he was so utterly terrified (by the way, Dolarhyde’s repeated ‘lies’ ‘lies’ that were a bit Proctor-ish ).

out of sequence, he's just listening to some music, fret not ;-) (yeah, right!)

out of sequence, he’s just listening to some music, fret not 😉 (yeah, right!)

And there are other light touches even in this chilling scene, like Dolarhyde covering Chilton up with a towel and patting him reassuringly on his shoulder. These things ran chills down my back (as the book did exactly that, gave a false sense of security and maybe hope when in fact you knew Dolarhyde was going to punish him) but also made me smile. The things Dolarhyde says and the way he questions Chilton are aggressive and you can just feel we are headed for trouble, but the voice saying them is close to the deep theatre voice RA used for Proctor and partially also in his reading of Hamlet. So my brain instantly triggers flashbacks at the audio stimuli. Can’t say these mental evasive maneuvers were unwelcome 😉

Look, he's brought some ice.. it was getting hot in here

Look, he’s brought some ice.. it was getting hot in here

And although i knew what he would do next, when he dropped the kimono and the mask i just engaged in visual feasting and the fear was just something in the background. As soon as he turned the camera on the good doctor i thought: ‘ poor bugger, he’s done with and he knows it :-(‘ But it didn’t really stop me from admiring the way he slithered and crawled, like a tiger smelling his prey, over the furniture towards him. At the same time i was trying to gage the exact moment the beast would leap to look away from the bite itself, yikes!  (however mesmerising the movements, believe me , you do not want to see any caps of that and i don’t want to have anything here that would prevent me from looking at my own posts!).

my cap.. wish we could see on his face what he is thinking.. probably the point of no turning back

my cap.. wish we could see on his face what he is thinking.. probably the point of no turning back

The one i really do fear for is Reba. While all the rest have it coming for more than one reason each, she is the innocent and generous one. Unfortunately for her, there is very little left of Francis inside the Dragon… The last battle is probably done behind the mask and behind the glass in the intricate ironwork which unfortunately does not really let us see what is going on with Dolarhyde at that moment. We are left to imagine it in those instances of uncertainty and then the door is opened and the sinking feeling in your stomach tells you there will be no going back from this.

It felt strange when Dolarhyde warns Chilton to stay silent lest he kill the woman… I didn’t think that argument would really be convincing enough for Chilton, but maybe he was hoping if he showed obedience there was still hope to survive?

Maybe there would have been a chance for Reba to get away had she not sensed another presence in the room… but her repeated turning around in that direction just sealed her fate i think. And Dolarhyde was sadly not really listening to her kind words, he was too focused on the task at hand 😦

The similarities between how he brings in Reba and how he brought Chilton in i found much much scarier than everything he did to Chilton. Maybe because one couldn’t help thinking with every similar gesture that a similar fate awaited her 😦 My heart nearly stopped in pain when we saw Reba bound and gagged in his van and he patted her… reassuringly.. chills… on her head. There is maybe a flash of Francis in the way he carries her in and looks at her (which is why the cap above), at least i’d like to think/hope so… but his actions are those of the Dragon. The Dragon clearly thinks he is much more worthy of her admiration than the man and tries to hammer that point home with her. He expects awe from her too at his revelation…. And all i want is to magically get her away so she would never hear what he has to say and leave at least her illusion intact. I fear for her physical safety but at this point i can’t imagine what kind of devastation she would feel realising who/what he is. At least she can’t see the look of madness and anger on his face, though the cold and precise control certainly fills his voice and his strong grip of her chin.

I fear for what he will do to her next but this moment in itself was a moment of death already, the death of any illusion she might have had, of any positive experience she was holding on to in spite of the break up and ultimately it is the death of Francis too. His actions and his revelations have finally killed and buried his human side. Yes, hope was but a glimmer, but it is still sad when it is lost.

The split

Back on Hannibal, spoilers for ep 11 ahead for the many who haven’t seen it yet. Try to stay away from reading or seeing anything if you can, it works so much better if you come to it fresh 🙂

Image Sophie Giraud/NBC

By now i am completely out of the loop, but i’ve been out of it pretty much from the beginning. I personally prefer not to see or read anything about each episode before i see it, so don’t watch trailers and don’t look at pictures. I usually get round to it somewhere at the start of the weekend for a run through in peace and then get on with stuff that happens over the weekend. I’m currently on a business trip so even less time than usual and even longer hours in front of my PC during the day. It’s not completely out of my mind but i find it extremely hard to sit back down in front of the computer screen after being at it for 9-10h a day.

I’m finding this one quite hard to write about, for several reasons. One, because the relative emotional high point of ep10 is a single blink in the series and i know it is all back to bad and worse, confirmed of course by ep11. So there are increasing depths of emotional low to come, which – while interesting to experience – are much harder to write about.

The other reason is that i am finding amongst the excitement about it all that i am having a quite solitary experience in the end. While i experience pretty much the same rush of following something ‘as it happens on TV’, trying not to be spoiled before means i don’t get to look at anything and stuff is everywhere. So anticipation is somewhat solitary and it sort of becomes even more isolated after that. While i am usually trying to find the time to watch in peace reviews are already out and i’ve barely had time to sit down with it. Because i still have problems understanding some actors and their lines i tend to like watching twice before i make up my mind about things, but i don’t really have the time to do it 2x back to back. In last weeks the weekend went by without getting the chance to do so and, by that time, i have to duck everyone and everything again because it has all been written about, gifed, talked about and dissected 100-fold and i wouldn’t get a chance to actually think about how i feel about the show, what it made me think about, what i found interesting or not.

I know Tv is being consumed fast and en-masse, i do that with some stuff too, but the things i am really interested in i want to spend time with. Excitement about it for me means i want to see the new ep but it doesn’t translate into rush to put it behind me or chew my way through it; quite the contrary, i enjoy taking my time, especially because i’ve not had the chance before to see anything R has done as it was first broadcast.

It is a bit sad though not to be able to engage with the discussion. By the time i’ve half made up my mind about the episode everyone has already moved on to trailers for the next… while i am left to read back and see what people thought about the last. However, i am sure there are plenty others out there feeling the same way.

But – even though solitary – i am enjoying the experience and it is certainly made more interesting by the structure of the show itself, the fact that it has a non-linear narrative, that it is layered and does assume some prior knowledge of material,. etc. It is a bit like a puzzle as well as just a story on TV. You can play with it and engage with it on any level you want. You can follow the action, you can dissect the dialogue and find the clues, you can just laugh at it when it gets too strange, you can revel in camera angles, like/dislike wardrobe choices, you can compare accents, you can block the images out and focus on the sound, etc. Which is why repeat viewing can be very interesting 🙂

For me this episode was one of breakups and breakdowns. Let’s face it, no relationships in this show are quite ‘normal’ and none were intact to start with. There were little cracks here and there, but you could hope that at least some could be healed. (Hope… not a word i should be associating with this show! LOL) However this last episode went a bit like the wave of an earthquake through the ranks and almost nobody was left undamaged.

image NBC .. now they’re truly done

Hannibal and Will’s ‘relationship’ was never what it used to be from the start of the series but in his attempt to lure Will back in Hannibal has for the first time really lost the plot and failed to judge things in the right balance. Is being locked up starting to affect the good doctor’s finesse? Trying to take Will’s family away from him and confirming it with such unconcerned glee is surely the beginning of the end for those two. Maybe it is good for Will to be reminded of what H really is, in case he harboured any nostalgia. But that is one breakup that cannot be repaired.

Any ties Alana might have felt to H have been severed too and it is not just that she took the loo away 😉 I don’t think H will be able to forgive that lack of courtesy 😉 She does enjoy having the upper hand in this power play for now, we’ll see how it works out, but i would say again trust has been broken both ways and negative consequences are to be expected.

Aside – not that i would expect anyone to trust Hannibal. I don’t know why they didn’t figure out earlier he had been talking to Dolarhyde or why they thought he would just meekly keep him on the line for the police to catch! The naivety..

Then there is Jack – if Will had any doubts left as to where Jack’s priorities lie he’s been set straight at the hospital. Not much remorse then, Jack? It’s become obvious that he probably even considered Will’s family could be victimised in the pursuit of Dolarhyde but pushed Will in that direction nevertheless. I don’t think trust can be recovered in this relationship either.

Sadly, even Will’s family seems to be falling apart. Getting chased by a serial killer could do that i guess, but something was not quite whole there either. I had the feeling that although he might have told them about his past neither Molly nor Will himself ever dealt with the consequences of it. She seemed to have ignored it as best she could and he’s kept it locked up, not really finding in her an open ear for what he went through. It’s now dawned on Molly the past is not really forgiven and forgotten and i wonder if their relationship was ever on sound enough ground to survive such stress…

Molly’s son on the other hand also feels betrayed. He’s not had all that much time with Will as a father figure and the straightforward child’s mind immediately detects the possible similarities between both Will and potentially Dolarhyde being locked up in a mental hospital for murder. And Will can’t really explain the difference either…(Which also clearly points the finger to the similarities of Will and Hannibal also being locked up in the same mental institution. While Will was not guilty at the time he was put there, by the time he left he had made an attempt on H’s life via proxy) This very difficult conversation between Will and the boy was one of the most distressing scenes in the episode, particularly the instance when the boy insists Will should kill the man who made an attempt on their life (Dolarhyde) and not just lock him up to be treated…. It’s a chilling instance and much more frightening than any murder in the show: is it just the child’s anger at his mother’s injuries? is the desire to murder in everyone, even so small, if given the right circumstances?

I fear the bonds that held Will’s family together have been broken.

And then of course there is Reba and Francis. And Francis and the dragon… 3 is definitely too many in this relationship and for her own safety Francis decides to remove Reba from it.

Some of this breakdown of a barely sprouting connection between Reba and Francis is Hannibal’s doing. This particular scene is a mockery of the comfort and safety a psychiatrist consultation room normally provides and H does everything in his power to give the dragon wings and stamp Francis’ fragile humanity into the ground. He suggests he only has Reba because of the power of the dragon when Francis speaks in awe of his recent experience (some of the best lines in the episode): “I put my hand on her beating heart. Heard the sound of her living voice. A living woman… how bizarre.”  I really liked the use of the word ‘bizzare’. A striking reminder of the fact that Francis’ human side  is ‘bizzare’ to him, it’s new and fresh, inexperienced and vulnerable. And H prays on this vulnerability, suggesting he would never have had Reba had it not been for the dragon, thus accentuating Francis’ fears that the dragon will take her away from him and he will not be able to stop him. Deviously, H suggest he give the dragon Will’s family instead, thereby effectively pulling the 2 sides of Dolarhyde apart and completing the rupturing of his personality.

Image NBC .. the devil whispers..

The split is complete and we are treated with the spectacular visuals of the hatching of the dragon accompanied by the growth of the dragon’s tail and unfolding of its wings. The creature beastly howls at a rolling full moon.

Set on this path of what he believes to be Reba’s salvation Francis enjoys a last moment of ‘domestic bliss’ wearing a lighter coloured and neatly tucked t-shirt and enjoying a martini with Reba leaning against him… while watching his secret surveillance videos of the dragon’s next victims… Molly and her son. The whole scene is sad and creepy on so many levels… He is just going through the motions, but his focus is on the film far more than the women snuggled up against him. His warm, almost reassuringly whispering voice talks about ‘animals at night at the zoo’. And while Reba leans comfortably in we suddenly see Molly on the screen and the whole horror of the situation hits home.

Image NBC

The actual night attack scene was extremely well done, pure thriller material and enjoyable in a sick-ish way 😉 I’d have enjoyed it more if it was part of a normal action move because then i would have known mother and son would very likely get away. But with them mixing up the book material you never know which way things will go. The semi transparent cap Dolarhyde wore and the black leathers were a good choice, if only he wasn’t the bad guy! But out of context i very much enjoyed the view of black leather jacket, jeans and big leather boots 🙂 Not so much those horrible dentures! (howling at the moon again in frustration and all that)

Image NBC

When he fails to capture Molly his fate is sealed as he believes it to be the confirmation of his weakness in front of the dragon. Insert the other horrible scene in this episode, much worse than the chase that preceded it. Dolarhyde being punished by the dragon (in his mind) and in reality, punishing himself. It’s a visually stunning execution of the dragon’s force, including the dragon holding Dolarhyde up by his neck and choking him. And then there are the flashes of Francis actually hitting himself. It was excruciating to watch and it is painful to write about. Never mind if R actually did the handstands unassisted or not, or how they lifted him by a harness to simulate the dragon manhandling him. The images that made my stomach clench were of R gripping his own throat and then hitting himself quite obviously for real and quite viscously too and then collapsing convincingly into a heap, all streaked with fake blood. I really wasn’t prepared for that.

Image NBC

Following this defeat, a bruised and battered Francis goes to Reba and finally decides to break up with her ‘because he doesn’t want to hurt her’. It’s a disturbing scene as Dolarhyde shifts between the dragon and the human persona from one minute to the next confusing Reba even more. His voice goes from very deep and aggressive (asking Reba how it feels to not see the light) to collapsing tearfully against her and then dragging himself away, having resolved to leave her. The question about the light is however not necessarily meant to hurt her, but to understand ‘ is to worse to have seen it and lost it?’ Is it worse to have experienced love, even briefly and loose it than to never have felt it at all?She replies initially there is always something to enjoy but he feels threatened by the intensity of his feelings for her (and the perceived danger from the dragon). She tries to reassure him that the feeling of confusion is normal and tries to soothe him by caressing his face. I love Reba’s lines here, there are wise in some way, or at least borne out of experience but not resentment, in spite of everything she has such a positive view of life. What a contrast to poor Dolarhyde… as soon as she touches his scar he seems to be instantly reminded that (in his mind) he can never have her if he can’t protect her so it almost bursts out of him: “i can’t be with you”.

Image NBC

She is understandably confused and hurt and thinks he is just looking for excuses to break up with her. He however feels almost relieved he’s managed to make that decision and sad and frightened at the same time.He tries to reassure her that he is only afraid he will hurt her, which she doesn’t believe (how could she imagine what is really going on with him?). I am glad they let the music be sad and soft in this scene to give us a last glimpse of what we hoped for in the last episode and what could have been but now can’t.

It’s clear how much he hurts for loosing her and you have to wonder what will happen next since he’s now lost his fragile link to humanity…The fear is justified as he unravels further when he turns to H  for advice over the phone, only to be fed more b******t about his becoming and is split again between dragon (‘do you know how easily she would tear?’) and Francis (‘she called me a man, a sweet sweet man..’).

It is fascinating to watch R’s acting in this downward spiral. From buttoned up, tightly controlled murderer to gradually opening up to some human feelings, the amazement of the world that seems to be out there, almost in his grasp, to the way H uses this vulnerability and the world of hurt he plunges in. And then also listen to the unique voice he gives Francis, with all its quirks and slippages and hurdles, its almost hushed tone. And at the same time act the emergence of the dragon, with the other-worldly viciousness about it, with its completely different voice, its coldness of tone. And the world of sound between the two: the rumble of the dragon in the background,Dolarhyde’s grunts and mumbles, the desperate tearful breaths, the animalistic howls of the dragon. He may not speak very many words, but between the looks and sounds two very different and completely distinct personalities emerge. And the fine tuning is so precise that across 3 episodes we’ve come to instantly know if we’re looking at the dragon or Francis.

We’ve all been struck initially by the physicality of the portrayal, but although it still is a significant component of the character it has certainly taken a secondary place to the subtleties of his emotions and conflicts. And in somebody with such a striking physique it is impressive when it gets outweighed so quickly and decisively by the strength of artistic personality and creativity.

It has all been quite a tormenting and dark episode, but i still laughed out loud in one instance: Hannibal blaming the choice of murdered families on…. social media! ‘Can’t be too careful with those privacy settings!’ The show likes to tip its hat to the fans and this was a simply hilarious waving of hands in a gesture of hello 🙂 It did frustrate me that Will did not catch H’s innuendo about seeing his own family in his dreams… about the targets not being Hannibal’s family and Will being the one to let them die… come on!! How many more clues do you need Will???? It’s season 3 ep 11 not s1e1!

Image NBC

The famous H mask finally makes an appearance but for me it is too late to make a true impact, i still think D’s crooked teeth are far scarier!

I also giggled at the poke at the original book material in terms of ways of communication between H and Dolaryde (personal adds, toilet paper ;-)) and at Will saying with emphasis ‘i’m just about worn out with you crazy son’s of bi***es’. Yes, me too 🙂

I guess in the end they were right, everything and everyone changed in this episode.

Crucible anniversary gift

My preciousssssss

My preciousssssss

On a beautiful green island lives a shrine fairy with a really big heart. Her name is Guylty and she has a special gift of magic: she wriggles her delicate fingers in the air and pufff!!! little magic tins appear. They are full of jewels, toys, memories and love and no matter how often you open the tin the love inside always seems to grow and the jewels always sparkle.

Somehow the fairy knew exactly who this little RAPS was for and because she could also look into the souls of the intended owners and guess all their secret wishes she knew exactly what spells to put inside:

across the Thames from each other, 2 places i love :) Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, there is sparkle in all the right places

across the Thames from each other, 2 places i love 🙂 Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, there is sparkle in all the right places

She knew the places H loved most in the big city on the big river and she felt it was exactly one year ago that H discovered she had room for more in her <3. H had discovered theatre could really be just as exciting as opera courtesy of one tall bearded actor in a ratty shirt. The fairy knew she just had to point to the signs and H would remember that she liked the actor because he could be very serious and passionate about his art but he also had a big heart 🙂

That smile outshines even the glitter-ball

That smile outshines even the glitter-ball

Both H and the fairy had a weakness for black leather so she giggled to herself when she chose the right photo for the shrine. And later, while looking at the RAPS H wiped a secret tear at the memory of tortured Proctor but she suddenly also remembered the warm and calm smile and gentle words the actor responded with when she told him how touched she had been by the play.

The fairy even knew exactly which poster H liked most and magically let it appear on the Old Vic wall which she had shrunk with her potion into the little silver tin. She said to herself: ‘must have lashes, H really likes the lashes!’.

And with a last look at the little treasure chest (‘ggg’):

From the tears on stage to the smiles outside :-) (more sparkle in the right places)

From the tears on stage to the smiles outside 🙂 (more sparkle in the right places)

she thought:’ i think she will have that anniversary celebration after all! ‘

And so she did!!!  When H discovered the magic tin she did a happy dance and thought to herself:’That fairy is really cool, she can guess all your secret wishes better than the genie in a bottle! And i can probably rub the tin just like i would the magic bottle, can’t i?’  😀