Today is the first performance of our village pantomime. This year it is ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. This is a traditional fairy tale, and most pantomimes use these traditional tales as the basis of the plot. The Pantomime as we know it dates from the early nineteenth century, but has roots in the old Italian Comedia del Arte.
One of the features of these productions is the appearance of stock characters. These include a clown, a two dimensional villain, a man dressed as a woman and a girl/woman dressed as a man. The most iconic of these is the pantomime dame, the man dressed as a woman. This is not a case of using a female impersonator. It should be obvious to even the youngest member of the audience that the character portrayed is a man in a dress.
Please do not ask me to hazard a guess as to the significance of the role in British society. No psycho-babble please! It has just become a tradition. So, not minding making a prat of myself I have shaved off my beard and am donning a dress tonight. Last year it was our village shopkeeper, also bearded, who appeared as the dame. As that pantomime was based around a circus he was offered the job of bearded woman by the ringmaster!
Anyway, enjoy the photos!
Last night we went to watch the first part of Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’. An epic film, no doubt of that. I was wondering how the director would manage to produce three long films from the plot of a children’s book. The answer is that he has invented much bigger storylines and villains than were ever in print. Now, don’t get me wrong on this, this is not one of my favourite children’s books. It meanders too much for my taste and is a bit twee and coy in places. The film is altogether darker and more adult, although there is no place for sex in the story. Martin Freeman is a very passable Bilbo and various actors reappear from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Christopher Lee makes a very welcome return as Saruman. Of the new faces, Sylvester McCoy gives a pantomime turn as an eccentric eco-warrior wizard.
The trouble is that, other than Ken Stott, none of the Dwarves are at all likeable or have any screen presence. There is no believablity or nobility about them. This is the fault of the book. There are simply too many dwarves and their characters are never really drawn. In practice this means a lack of identification in the audience, either in print or on film. Them having silly names does not help much either.
There were some scenes I recognised from the book, notably the initial meeting with the dwarves, the confrontation with some dim trolls and when Bilbo meets Gollum. Most of the rest seems to have been grafted onto the story. The effects were what we would expect, as was the amazing scenery and the quality of the CGI. The trouble is, we have seem it all before, and in what was a true epic with a huge story line. These new villains are half-baked and the story woven around the effects rather than the whizz-bangs around the plot.
Overall, I would have been much happier if the film had just told the story as it appears in the book, in a single film, making improvements where needed and cutting out the twee parts. To make three long films from such flimsy material is just too much for me. It is milking the material dry. I also feel that a child reading the book after seeing the film is in for a great disappointment. I wanted to like the film, but there was just too much puffing up and padding out.