Monday, 13 September 2010

Kaleidoscopic 2010 - Sherlock: The Story of a Modern-Day Adaptation: Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue in conversation with Maggie Russell

Kaleidoscopic, in its debut year, is a festival dedicated to adaptations, and what greater adaptation is there at the moment than the massively popular Sherlock? Now, as the many people I’ve ranted too can attest to, I wasn’t the series’ greatest fan, but, I am certainly in a minority, and it made listening to the fascinating production process of the series no less interesting.

Speaking to an understandably full house, Sue Vertue and Steven Moffat shed light on the genesis of what looks set to be yet another dramatic success for the BBC. What became apparent was the great love for the source material on the part of Moffat and fellow series writer Mark Gatiss, and the incredible team-leading skills of Vertue. Although I had the occasional moment of disagreement – girls do read Sherlock Holmes (see The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes) – there was no faulting the direction the team behind Sherlock was coming from in making the series. To hear Moffat talk of his favourite Holmes (Rathbone) and emphasise the stories’ humour was certainly refreshing.

Equally as refreshing was the importance given to the results of a focus group conducted with the un-aired 60-minute pilot episode, which revealed interesting expectations from the audience: Moriarty, and drugs. It’s testament to the power of previous adaptations that what are really minor elements of Conan Doyle’s stories have become so associated with the detective. It’s perhaps a sign of a culture of ‘origin stories’ and reboots (Bond, Batman) that the two most recent adaptations of Conan Doyle’s characters – the BBC series and the Guy Ritchie film – have chosen forego the usual iconography of Sherlock Holmes and to return to the source text. That Moriarty is still so prominent is testament to what a memorable character Conan Doyle created in the first place.

A wonderful understanding of the character dynamics of Holmes and Watson was evident, with Moffat outlining that the audience has to like Watson if they’re to like Holmes – because if Watson likes such a cold, calculating bastard, then surely we can too! The various references in the series to Holmes being a psychopath neatly allow for his growth as a character, wherein, as Moffat puts it, he is humanised by a friend and ennobled by an enemy.

What’s clear is that there is a great team effort behind the series which will undoubtedly continue and improve into series two, which will consist of another three, 90-minute episodes.
Moffat seemed to believe that if you’re a fan of Conan Doyle’s stories then this is the definitive Holmes adaptation for you. I completely disagree, being a fan of the books and not a great fan of this series, but I will certainly keep watching as this series develops, as there are plenty of places this Holmes can go.

Kaleidoscopic was held at Glyndwr University, Wrexham, 9-11 September 2010. For more on Kaleidoscopic, visit Photo shamelessly stolen from Kaleidoscopic, where MORE can be found. Sherlock: The Story of a Modern-Day Adaptation was an event in association with BAFTA Cymru.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Geek and Gamer Girls

Earlier this week a video went online called Geek and Gamer Girls, and is dedicated to all those awesome girls who like to walk on the nerdy side of life. You can see the video HERE.

The video's a cute parody, yes, but more interestingly the video caused an interesting debate (it wasn't quite a flame war, let's be honest) on Twitter and elsewhere. Fundamentally, it seems to be a great big fight between pretty girls and ugly girls.

The ugly girls say 'they're not real nerds!'. The pretty girls say 'yes we are, we just happen to be ~gorgeous!'. There seems to have been a distinct lack of actual discussion of the issue at hand, which lies properly in the middle-ground.

I consider myself a geek, for example, but oh, guess what?! I wear make up and I like clothes. Who really cares? Wearing make-up doesn't make me any less of a geek, and being a geek doesn't make me any less likely to wear make-up.

But that's just it. It's got nothing to do with the make-up, the clothes, the high heels. The real issue at the heart of this, surely, is that these girls are scantily-clad, or naked. They're sexualised. They've produced the video themselves, and there's nothing wrong with that, but given the broader culture of sexualising women, then it's no wonder that certain women might start to get miffed that the best-known, the most widely recognised 'girl geeks' are all just that at some point in their careers.

Geekdom isn't a male-dominated world, if we're thinking about demographics, but frankly as far as the culture of geekdom is concerned, if you want to be a female geek and well-known? Chances are you're going to have to shake your ass for it. And that's what I, and others object to.

Friday, 10 September 2010

True Blood : Season One

I've been wanting to watch True Blood for quite some time, and I've finally been able to, courtesy of my new flatmates who have much of the series on DVD. Having read the first couple of books by Charlaine Harris, on which the series is based, I had a rough idea of what to expect of the series, in terms of basic plot and themes.

What's wonderful about the TV series is how well it's adapted the source material. It takes the plot of the first book, steals elements from others and plays around with the characters in such a way as to make it even more exciting and more entertaining. The characters are all played to perfection, with all the cast well aware of the programme's inherent, off-the-scale melodrama.

My favourite characters so far are easily Sam, Tara and Lafayette, although I'm expecting to completely adore Erik once he comes into his own in season two. Somehow, bafflingly, I'm finding Sookie even more annoying in on television than in the books (and I'm generally not a fan of first-person narration like hers). Nothing to do with the wonderful Anna Paquin, of course, but she seems to behave so damn unreasonably with everyone that it's difficult not to be irritated with her.

I'm already a couple of episodes into season two, and the entertainment is not letting up at all!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Chicago @ Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Every summer the Aberystwyth Arts Centre puts on its own professional production of a musical, and this year's offering, Chicago, stands up as a truly great piece of musical theatre.*

I'm no expert when it comes to musicals, not even on film, nevermind on the stage. However, it's patently obvious from the first note that this production, directed by Anthony Williams, oozes pure talent. I went to see the show twice, and was captivated both times. The leading ladies Shona Lindsay and Carrie Ellis both sizzle as catty, vulnerable jailbirds, with their supporting cast of merry murderesses dangling from their prison cells with sass and strength. My favourite numbers were the Cell Block Tango, The Press Conference Rag and Mr. Cellophane, but these stand out from consistently excellent numbers sung and danced to perfection.

This was my first time seeing one of Aberystwyth Arts Centre's summer productions, and I'm waiting with baited breath to discover what next summer's show will be!

Chicago ran from July 22nd to August 28th at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre.

*Okay, full disclosure. Yes, I work there. Doesn't mean I have to like everything, though!

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Grand Gift of Silence

I've taken the title of this blog from Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, where Holmes suggests attending a performance of Don Giovanni, should Watson have any cultural inclinations that evening. Shortly after, Watson punches Holmes square on the nose.

I've variously blogged about films, and horror, and more films, but I have a tendency to let blogs lay dormant, and this is my attempt at doing a better job this time. Not just films, oh no! Music, this time, maybe even books, maybe even theatre. My hope is that with more to write about, I might actually persist in writing.

My current inclinations include True Blood for the first time, Dario Argento's films for the nth time, the Sherlock Holmes canon and a fantastic production of Chicago. Maybe I'll start with one of those.