Monthly Archives: September 2010
Shocking seems to be the adjective of choice for John Ford’s 1633 tale of sibling incest, jealousy, and murder, “‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore”, and it’s one the producers themselves choose, describing the play as “…one of the most shocking and powerful theatre stories of all time.“
I’m not sure that shocking still holds, not anymore. It’s interesting to observe that the play was originally written nearly 400 years ago, but the subject matter no longer has the visceral power to shock it might once have had.
What Ford delivers, however, is a fix to the problems of the classic plot that Shakespeare delivered as Romeo and Juliet. This is Romeo and Juliet with teeth, the protagonists rendered as flawed adults, not simpering children.
It is, then, a play which has the power to affect – using its central theme of taboo-transgression as an emotional emphasiser for a story which is ultimately about desire, envy, and weakness.
When I saw director Chris Meade’s production at the Liverpool Everyman last Friday, it was the first time I’ve seen the play on stage, having read the text and seen some of the film adaptations. I don’t think I could have asked for a better first experience.
The production design takes a gently dated, modern look, leaving the action almost anywhere during the 20th Century. The text is the original, edited to streamline Ford’s convoluted story. Several characters disappear entirely, but the effect is quicken the pace, and simplify the plot – both welcome changes. Much of the broad humour – notably Putana’s comments about the ability of various suitors to “stand up” – may be largely lost on a modern audience, but much still works (the Cardinal’s closing lines about confiscating goods according to the canons of the Church got a good laugh!).
The set design itself is wonderfully effective – a multi-levelled installation, with an enclosed pit installed in the centre of the Everyman’s thrust stage, a more conventional performance area behind, and a raised platform atop the stage wall behind this. The “pit”, which serves finally as an arena for Giovanni’s attack on Soranzo, begins as Annabella’s bedroom, and the emotional significance of the various levels is well deployed. The stage wall, meanwhile, provides alcoves which can be opened to denote various locations. Most effective is the candle lit shrine to Giovanni and Annabella’s mother, which gives the deceased matriarch a visible presence on the stage, looking down upon her children.
If the stage design is effective, the music and sound design are exquisite. This is not incidental music; it is a soundtrack worthy of cinema. Alongside the composer, Heather Fenoughty, special mention must be made of Emily Pithon, who plays Hippolita. One of the production’s most haunting sequences is Hippolita signing at Annabella and Soranzo’s wedding, descending from the back of the audience to the thrust stage like a literal ghost at the feast.
Other performances stand out, notably Ken Bradshaw, who as Vasquez delivers a finely nuanced portrait of a driven, but ultimately loyal man playing his advantages; in the context of the character, (a Spaniard amongst Italians) the decision to play Vasquez with the company’s only Irish accent is inspired. Kevin Harvey gives a similarly strong performance as Giovanni’s conflicted tutor, Friar Bonaventura.
If there is a weakness in this production, it is Hugh Skinner as Giovanni, who frequently seemed to be doing Matt Smith doing the Doctor: a gangly, manically energetic figure all but bouncing around the stage. It was a performance which might, on its own terms, be impressive, but which did not fit with those around it. The final descent of the character did not seem a natural progression, and I couldn’t help but feel that a quieter, less physical, but equally intense approach would have been better.
The play’s emotional core is provided by Matti Houghton, as Annabella, and it is her performance, more than any other, that carries the production. If her reading of the part had been misjudged, the play as a whole would not work. It is not, and so it does. (In passing, it’s that change in the status of this central female character that really captures the change between the Jacobean theatre and the modern day.)
After the fact, I discovered that the Guardian’s Lyn Gardner was also in last Friday’s audience. I’ll be interested to see what she made of it – previous reviews have been glowing. UPDATED 201009281300: You can now read Gardner’s review here
I can’t give a better recommendation than to say that I would like to see this again – and buy the soundtrack.
The conventional “legitimacy” criticism of Ed Miliband’s election of Labour leader runs something like this: David Miliband won both the MP/MEPs and members sections of the electoral college, but his brother Ed was elected because the union vote carried it for him. This is wrong, because it means the popular will of Labour members was overrided by the will of the unions.
One small problem; this argument is nonsense.
Each of the three sections of the electoral college had equal weight (1/3), yet compare the size of their constituencies.
- There were 266 MPs and MEPs balloted.
- There were 177,558 CLP ballots distributed, and 127,330 cast.
- There were 2,747,030 union ballots distributed and 494,678.
Check the numbers for yourself on Labour’s website.
Members of unions and affiliates made up over 93% of the electorate, yet wielded just one third of the power. CLPs made up just over 6%, but had the same share. And MPs and MEPs – having already acted as the gatekeepers to determine who would even contest the election, got the same share with just 0.009% of the electorate.
[And I'm not even touching on the fact that many, many CLP and MP/MEP voters were entitled to cast two or more ballots in different sections!]
Look at the first preferences of the two run-off candidates: Ed Miliband had 125,565 votes (87,585 union/affiliate; 37,980 CLP). David Miliband had just 114,093 (58,189 union/affiliate; 55,904 CLP).
Interestingly, in the CLP section the order of elimination was that followed in the contest as a whole – Abbott, Burnham, Balls. But not so in the Unions/Affiliates section, where Balls and Burnham both significantly trailed Abbott on first preferences. Combine the two sections, and Abbott is still marginally above Balls on first preferences, and well ahead of Burnham.
Say it loud: in an OMOV election, Andy Burnham, not Diane Abbott would have been first to be eliminated, and Ed Balls could well have been second.
Affiliated union members – people who are paying into the political fund, which their union is using to support the Labour Party – have as much right to a say in the election of the party’s leader as any other Labour member. From a libertarian/AC perspective, I think they probably have more right, given they, not the CLPs or the MP/MEPs are paying for the party’s very survival.
Is it any wonder that turnout in the union/affiliates section of the electoral college was just 18%, when 1 CLP vote is worth 15 union ones? Or one MP or MEP’s vote is worth over 10,000 union votes?
There is certainly an anti-union bias here, but it’s not in the “right wing press” that Polly Toynbee was gibbering about on Today, or in the Mili-D supporters criticising Unite’s decision to endorse Mili-E on the envelope containing the ballot papers. It’s in the unfair and undemocratic system used to select the Labour leader.
And those people complaining? They’re angry that this time, against the odds, it managed to produce a genuinely democratic result.
“And so it’s very important you don’t say that, your Holiness.” Father Lombardi looks up. “Is there anything else that you want to try and fit in?”
The Pope thinks for a moment, then says, “I am keen to speak face to face with the leaders of the aggressive atheism Cardinal Kasper has told me so much about.”
Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week. Tip your waitresses.
Anyone remember Tory Stories? It was a bright shiny project from Jon Cruddas (now reinvented as a Milibandieite) which was going to catalogue the nasty things that Tories had done. You got the impression they thought it was going to make a difference at the election. Hmmm…
I pretty much lost interest in them after this fisking. Most of their articles – like, to be fair, a more creditable minority of Left Foot Forward‘s – eschewed “evidence based blogging” for spin and transparent misrepresentation.
By the end it was essentially a one man band, with Jeremy Cliffe taking a leaf from John Le Carré and writing the same blog post over and over again:
Tories, eh? They say one thing in public, and another in private. Oooo…Evil. Look at this shiny new building that got put up by Labour! (Don’t ask where the funding came from.) Look, I’ve found a typo/wry coincidence/minor politico with unpleasant views! This means all Tory poster/candidates/events are dodgy! It does, honest. Here, look at this photo of Dave and have a two minute hate.
Sadly – unlike Le Carré – he’d not quite figured out how to manage to say something contemporary and relevant.
Tory Stories is far from the only remmnant. There’s Labour’s petition to save the ban on fox hunting (blogged about here). It seemed bizarre at the time for a senior Labour politician to be launching such a petition while his party was still in government, rather smacking of resignation to defeat. In retrospect, that’s exactly what it was.
History is kinder to the remnants which were on the right side of the election result. A Future Fair For All spent the run up to the Election drawing attention to anti-Labour stories, before signing off on May 12th. At the very least, its legacy is reminding Labour’s web muppets to buy all the relevant domains next time!
If, like me, you’re a fan of the US comedy-drama Burn Notice, you’ll appreciate this one:
MI5 spy sues bosses for blowing cover with Real IRA
The “spy” – a freelance intelligence contractor code-named Amir – was apparently engaged by the Secruity Service to infiltrate a Real IRA cell which was planning a series of high profile attacks. Amir posed as a smuggler to win the confidence of Paul McCaugherty and Desmond Kearns (both suspected of being members of the Real IRA), and introduced them to undercover officers “Ejaz” and “Ali”, who could supposedly sell them weapons smuggled from Pakistan.
Like his fictional counterpart, Michael Westen, Amir was less than happy when he was subsequently “burned”, although having your identity exposed by being compelled to give evidence in a Belfast Crown Court rather lacks the glamour of a “Burn Notice”, and Amir’s response was to reach for the lawyers – human rights and public law specialists Bindmans – rather than wage a clandestine campaign to get his job back.
Quite what the basis for a claim would be – I’d love to see a services contract for this kind of thing! – is unclear and it’s difficult to see a court holding the Security Service civilly liable because a judge in a criminal trial compelled testimony. Doing so would undermine the administration of justice, and create a worrying double standard between agents of the state (freelance or otherwise) and ordinary people who are drawn into criminal cases. Even if they did, assessing future loss of earnings for someone in this line of work would be a tall order.
(Relatedly, the police marksmen who shot Mark Saunders have been granted anonymity by the coroner hearing the case - their names will be concealed, but they will be visible to the jury and the victim’s family.)
That intelligence services use freelancers is hardly news, but the choice of codenames by the Security Service is interesting – presumably far from accidental, given the source of the weapons that “Ali” claimed he could supply. Was this exploiting existing connections between dissident republican groups and the Indian sub-continent, or playing on beliefs – or prejudices – of the operation’s targets? “Terrorism” is frequently held up as a monolithic bogeyman, glossing over the “Judean People’s Front” style schisms even between groups sharing the same overall objective – let alone between Irish Republicans and tribal or religious groups from Pakistan. That said, as the IRA’s support of Columbian marxist guerillas, groups with common ideologies do cooperate, and Libya’s support of the IRA demonstrates that common enemies can lead to cooperation.
No word as to whether Amir is now in hiding from a trigger happy female assassin…
There’s a t-shirt in my wardrobe which bears the slogan: “Homeopathy: Improving the gene pool since 1796″.
It was prompted by the discovery – more than 25 years after the fact – that
distilled water a homeopathic version had been substituted for one of my childhood vaccinations. Horror and disbelief was only compounded by the motivation: concern about the side effects of the vaccine in question. Risking a serious childhood illness to avoid the health risks of a vaccine; but for the presence of my grandparents, I would have drawn a comparison with “fucking for virginity”.
Relatively quickly, however, I came to find the whole thing amusing – hardcore Dennetite/Dawkinist comes face-to-face with the reality of memetic pressures. If my beliefs about evolution and natural selection are correct, the memeplex of homeopathy has indeed been “improving” the gene pool since 1796.
[On balance, I'm glad I come from a middle-class, Anglo-Irish Catholic background: occasional flirtations with homeopathy, liberal use of holy water, and periodic dietary penances are undoubtedly preferable to the principal alternatives. To date, no part of my anatomy has been cut off in the name of God.]
All of which puts me a little ahead of the BBC and the BMA, who have just “discovered” the practice and are, inevitably, outraged.
Calling this a “discovery” isn’t so much stretching the truth, as killing, skinning and tanning the truth, before making a little truth-skin sofa for the production office at the BBC. Like the idiotic Panorama investigation of anti-diabetes drug Avandia, which “discovered” things that were, er, openly published by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, BBC Scotland’s “investigation” of homeopathic vaccines is curiously light on actual investigation.
Exhibit A: homeopath Katie Jarvis, who was so ashamed of this underground practice that she…talked openly, on camera, to a BBC reporter about which homeopathic vaccines she could prescribe. Her website is well worth a look; three words: homeopathy gift vouchers.
The BMA have only themselves to blame; specifically, those BMA members who persist in prescribing
sugar pills and distilled water homeopathic remedies on the NHS. When many GPs are happy to endorse homeopathy as a treatment, it’s simply hypocritical for the BMA to criticise patients who follow suit.
What makes the whole thing even sillier is the opposition of some homeopathic bodies to homeopathic vaccinations. The Faculty of Homeopathy apparently condemned the practice to the BBC:
It said there was no evidence for homeopathic treatments being able to protect against diseases, and said patients should stick to conventional medicines.
Doctors warn over homeopathic ‘vaccines’
When even a trade body for homeopaths thinks the practice may be a bad idea, that’s a bad sign, but there is (if homeopathy’s central tenet, the law of similars, is anything more than a eighteenth century folly) no good reason why a homeopathic vaccine shouldn’t work. This makes the Faculty of Homeopathy’s position a little odd.
Logical consistency of beliefs in homeopathy, versus incurring the wrath of the Department of Health and mainstream medicine when NHS funding for homeopathy is under fire…hmmm.
When challenged to explain why the faithful need medicines, religions can at least reasonably deploy the hoary old line that “God helps those who help themselves”. Homeopathy has no such fall back, and the Faculty of Homeopathy telling people to “stick to conventional medicines” is tantamount to Pope Benedict XVI saying “Sex outside marriage is a sin, and so is barrier contraception – but if you really have to do it, use a condom” (like Peter Tatchell, I wish he would, but – unlike Tatchell – I appreciate why he can’t).
If the BMA want to be taken seriously on this issue, they’ve to decide whether people who prescribe homeopathic medicines have any place in their organisation. Isn’t a doctor necessarily guilty of professional misconduct if they prescribe a treatment which is known to be ineffective? So long as the BMA continues to allow people to remain members, yet endorse homeopathy, its credibility on this issue is fatally undermined.
Perhaps strangely, I’m not in favour of banning the practice of homeopathic vaccinations (or indeed homeopathy). I may not want my taxes to pay for it (cf. quite a few things done by government) but if individuals are stupid enough to pay for sugar pills instead of pharmaceuticals, it’s up to them.
Over the Long Now, natural selection will take care of the problem.
A little video from Proper Discord, explaining why people don’t always ask their lawyers for advice:
Had me in stitches; if you’re an inhouse lawyer, and you don’t at least crack a smile, congratulations – this video is about you!
Original post here.
In the comments, In The Know says the set design images which George Avory was referring to were copied from the Royal Opera House’s “Friends” magazine (i.e. he’s not talking about images taken by Intermezzo).
If that’s the case, copying them was straight infringement of the ROH’s copyright (or the copyright of their photographer) in the images themselves; Avory’s reference to the set designs is a red herring, since it was the copying from the Friend’s magazine, not the fact the copied images were of set designs, that was relevant.
The organisation – and I’m guessing in particular its Comms Team – deserve full credit for having recognised how badly this had been handled, and appreciating the value of a swift and public apology. And notice – no compromise of their position on enforcing their copyrights. Even as they announce their apology, they reiterate their commitment to defending artist rights.
Reading the comments on Intermezzo’s blog, it’s interesting to note how many “Friends” of the Royal Opera House – subscription paying supporters – apparently took the time to contact the organisation direct to express their disapproval of its actions. It’s a reminder that in a social media age, a reasoned customer complaint still goes a long way.
We can now add the Royal Opera House’s Head of Business and Legal Affairs, and his attempts to get the Intermezzo blog to remove photographs he claimed infringed the copyright of the Royal Opera House.
For some of the images, this appears likely to be true – Intermezzo admits that they were images taken for the ROH, apparently to be used for press. But other images were apparently taken by Intermezzo at curtain calls, and George Avory’s e-mails (as published by Intermezzo) do not make any distinction between them:
In reply, remove the three images of the set designs of ADRIANA LECOUVREUR and TANNHAUSER.
Remove all images referenced to performances at the Royal Opera House. An indicative but not exhaustive list of Royal Opera Hose (sic) images are located on your website at:
May I remind you that you do not the right to reproduce or distribute any Royal Opera House copyrighted work including any images taken within the Royal Opera House.
Legalities aside – we’ll return to them in a moment – Mr. Avory has clearly not learned from the selfless example set by Tangent Labs. Actually, Avory’s behaviour is even stupider: where Tangent was lashing out at a critic of their work, Intermezzo is a vocal supporter of the ROH.
How difficult would it have been to send a polite e-mail to Intermezzo, pointing out that the ROH had or asserted copyright in the photographs, and asking that no more be posted? Or to ask that future posts be illustrated using approved press imagery?
But back to legalities. There a limited number of ways that the ROH could claim that Intermezzo’s own photographs infringed their copyright.
One obvious way is to assert that the copyright in those photographs belongs to (had been assigned to) the ROH. You might put a provision to that effect in the terms and conditions on which tickets are sold, to add teeth to a provision which prohibited photography. The ROH didn’t; their terms simply say:
9. The use of cameras and recording equipment is strictly forbidden.
On the face of it, Intermezzo does seem to have breached this term by taking photographs, but that doesn’t automatically mean that the images belong to the ROH (such that posting them would infringe ROH’s copyright). ROH would have to sue Intermezzo for breach of contract, which is not what George Avory is suggesting.
It’s difficult to see how else to take his claim “…any images taken within the Royal Opera House…” are “Royal Opera House copyrighted work[s]”. You certainly don’t get copyright just because you happen to own the land on which photographs are taken, and although there can be copyright on building (more on that shortly) it doesn’t mean any photograph taken inside a building becomes the property of the architect – much less the owner of the building.
Another possibility is that the photographs are said to infringe some performance right. Performers have the exclusive right to permit the recording of their performances, and their contracts with production companies normally assign those rights. If Intermezzo had been taking photographs of a performance at the ROH, you can see a clear argument that ROH had a case. But can ROH really argue that the curtain call constituted a performance, such that taking photographs was an infringement? It’s a novel argument, but I can’t see how it would stand up.
Avory himself makes reference to “..three images of the set designs of ADRIANA LECOUVREUR and TANNHAUSER.” These are only a sub-set of the images he demands be removed, but they do present a distinct issue: photographic reproduction of copyright works (and sets could be artistic copyright works in their own right) can constitute infringement.
If these were ROH’s own images (which Intermezzo was using without permission) this would be an entirely secondary issue and hardly worth considering. If these are Intemezzo’s photographs, however, it might be one way in which you can assert copyright infringement, even though you don’t own the images. I’m not sure incidental inclusion of bits of the set design in a photograph of people is going to amount to infringement of the copyright in the set design. If it did, you couldn’t photograph people in the street – the incidental inclusion of street signs would be a copyright infringement.
There can be copyright in buildings (well, in their design). The article in The Lawyer referred to photographs of the buildings, and in the comments there was some discussion of whether Avory could be seeking to rely on building copyright. From his e-mails, it does seem he’s acting in the belief that the fact the photographs were taken inside the building gives the ROH rights, rather than asserting copyright based on the fact the building may feature in them.
As one commenter noted at The Lawyer, The Lawyer is illustrating its article with a picture of the ROH’s building; presumably, if my reading of his e-mails is wrong, George Avory will be in touch with them shortly.
All told, I struggle to see how anybody would think there was an arguable case of copyright infringement here. Breach of contract – as noted above – is a possibility, but there’s nothing in the published correspondence to support such a broad ranging assertion of copyright, and claim of infringement.
Against that backdrop, perhaps it’s not surprising that I can find no trace of George Avory in the Law Society’s solicitor search or the Bar Directory.
And then there’s this. (ht Samuel) It seems that the people operating the ROH’s Twitter account are quite keen to receive photographs visitors have taken inside the ROH; presumably so they can demand the copyright, Mr. Avory?
So, to sum up: executive at large organisation takes umbrance at blogger; launches ill-advised and poorly thought out legal threat; inevitable happens.
In concluding an earlier post, I said:
Legal threats: leave them to the lawyers. We’ll tell you when they’re a bad idea.
It’s still the best free legal advice you’ll get.