Sunday, 28 September 2014

Billy Elliot The Musical Live (But Not Live)…

This afternoon, streamed from London’s West End to cinemas around the world, including my little local one, was Billy Elliot The Musical Live, which I had agreed to go and watch with a friend although it wouldn’t have been my top choice of Sunday afternoon entertainment. Straight after the show I found myself writing this blog.

Billy Elliot The Musical Live (But Not Live) – I’ll give it points for being a new experience but this one really wasn’t for me. I had my doubts before I went (too much real world, and all that) and it just did not work, in my opinion, for so many reasons.

First of all, and most intrusively, the camera. In the theatre itself I would have been seated in one position, as I was in the cinema, and at all times throughout the performance would have seen as much of the action as my position allowed, which is usually most if not all of the key moments.

But this was edited/displayed in a contrived manner like a film or television programme. I had not expected there to be multiple camera angles, nor for someone else to be dictating to me which parts of the action I could focus on at any given time.

I did not want to stare at a close up of the side of someone’s head while there was dancing happening stage left. I did not want to solely focus on Michael-on-a-bicycle at the end of the show while Billy was evidently doing something worthy of applause in the centre aisle. I did not need cheesy, ill-executed panning during a highly charged emotional moment, nor did I need confusing cross fades of action that was happening simultaneously on the stage, or images that were out of focus. Bad form.

Secondly, the cinema itself. If you are going to put on a show that is mirroring a theatre performance and thus relies on someone else’s timing for the start and for the interval, then for the gods’ sakes pay someone to stand by the house light switch to make sure it goes on and off at the right time!

I did not want to miss the beginning of the show and the start of the second half because of glare all over the screen, and I did not want to uncomfortably witness unsteady and unhappy pensioners struggling to get up and down stairs in the dark. Bad form.

So even before I get to the show itself you can see things weren’t going great. Am I being too picky? I’m not sure, but I figure if these things were hindering my concentration on, and enjoyment of, the show, then I must have some valid points.

The show itself had moments of genius, I won’t deny that, and I can see why people like it. That said, I cannot help but think its impact and messages were lost behind weak ‘humour’ and a narrative that moves far too quickly from full on homophobic attitude to what ends up as frankly a bizarre and uncharacteristic support of Billy’s dream (a dream which, I might add, he doesn’t seem too bothered about achieving for most of the second half).

The show had humour and it had sadness (though not nearly enough sadness and impact as the real story justifies). It exhibited extreme talent, threw in some good tunes, some very strong scenes (and a few scenes which I will never understand the point of) and overall, as expected, had some great things to say about society that it managed in a partially effective way.

Yet as I sit here reflecting on the last few hours I can’t help but feel that this show delivers sensation over content and for that reason I doubt will ever win me over. The incredible power of the story and the themes it covers, for me, were totally belittled by dancing dresses and fickle characterisation.

I sound like a total misery; a total, ΓΌber-critical, misery, I know, but I expected more from such a renowned performance. I expected to be moved and exhilarated. Shocked and made to think. Left with an emotional connection. 

I expected… something more than… this.

Elloise Hopkins.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

100 Happy Days… Done…

Even though I doubted I would be able to stick to this, I managed to post my #100happydays posts on Facebook and reached the end of the project. 

If you read my blog at the start of the 100 happy days you’ll know why I decided to try it – essentially to make me focus each day on something positive, because this year has been less than enjoyable for the most part.

Before I started the happy days I knew it would be challenging to find something different each day that made me happy, if just for a short moment, and to be able to portray it in a way that others could understand. After all, if I see a pair of red, shiny shoes it makes me happy, putting me in mind of The Wizard of Oz, which I love, but not everyone would know that and might wonder why a pair of shiny, red shoes made me happy.

What I didn’t appreciate was how much the requirement for a photograph to accompany/illustrate the happy moment was actually going to be a hindrance.

To fulfil the challenge completely you’d need to have a video camera to hand, switched on, and ready to record at any given moment of the day, because trust me, these ‘happy’ moments can occur at any time, and can be made up of anything – a sight, a smell, a memory, a movement, something someone says, or does, a taste, a sound, a combination of any or all of these, or more; any sensory moment could, in fact, be the day’s happy moment.  And how do you capture that in a photograph?

The short answer is that a lot of the time, you can’t. So the happy moment posted that day wasn’t in fact the happiest moment, but the closest second-best you could think of before midnight to fill the space.

Throughout the challenge I repeatedly felt like I was undergoing inherent failure to complete it due to the very nature of the challenge – what was a happy moment for me, in that moment, was often totally unintelligible as such to someone else, or was utterly impossible to photograph and communicate. I was also very aware that I was dumping a daily dose of random ‘happiness’ onto my feed and forcing my peers to endure 100 days of this assault. I was getting bored of it by the end, so I dread to think how they felt and am grateful to them for putting up with it.

This is not to say that nothing good came out of the 100 happy days. Each day I did – for the time it took to find something happy and remember to photograph it, write the post, and upload it – focus on something positive, which was the whole reason I decided to try this in the first place. So despite feeling every day like I was failing, I did what I set out to. I spent 100 days with something enjoyable in each, even if it was as simple as having a nice cup of tea next to me while I worked, or taking a stroll somewhere outdoors in the fresh air after hearing some sad news.

So whilst I am relieved to have reached the end of the 100 days and can now shift my concentration and focus back to where it should be – on the rest of my social media and, of course, my writing – I did take something good away from it each day, and I learned something too: you have to make the most of those happy fragments of life, because it is those that help to make the rest of it bearable.

Elloise Hopkins.