Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!
I have a friend who’s face says everything.
I admire that friend and how comfortable she is expressing contempt. However I don’t think I am too low in the contemptuous-glare-pecking-order. I like to believe I’m in the top 15%. So all I’m saying is, as we ascended from a distasterous ballet at the ROH, why did the interviewer with the TV camera choose me to ask what I thought of the ballet?! I mean did she not have enough contempt in her life? Did she need the drama of a woman furious at the experience she had just endured?
Okay, okay, I should be honest. The ballet itself was not a disaster. It was not flawless, as I will explain below, but my fury is for the management of the ROH who ought not to have booked the first 3 rows in the theatre which were about a yard from a 10m wide screen making the first part of the production impossible/painful to see.
Just 2 yards from the stage, and facing… yes facing the nauseating beaming light of the projector for fifteen minutes (of an hour long production)…. the guys in the front row spent the entire time shielding their eyes with their hands, my husband with his eyes closed and me enduring a headache.
I’m sorry, I haven’t finished yet… Prior to arriving we received an email warning us that there would be unexpectedly loud sounds and that earplugs would be provided on the way in. We’d expected pyrotechnics, but no, it was just very loud music. So why the formal email, how about umm…. like… just turn the music down?
So the first 15 minutes kind of ruined things. On to the production. I couldn’t really see what was going on with Aisha and Abhaya (A&A) for the first quarter (see above) but eventually the film gave way to onstage dancers seeming journeying and getting tired journeying through a citadel. The dancers were increibly talented, their movements diverse and subtle and very flexible indeed. The monotonous music seemed to offer no cues in what seemed to be thirty minutes but not a beat was missed, their timing impeccable. Emerging from the citadel they arrived the dance showing their hearts frantically beating at the new and alien visions they encountered. They appeared to give way to sex as a comfort, a diversion or addition before the scene of the past. This was talented and symbolic, but felt like we only saw the supporting cast, where did Aisha and Abhaya fit into this?
Cut back to them, and their past escaping following the violent murder of a parent/guardian/fairy god mother on the screen, before the dancers return… with an uprising? Maybe? Very beautifully portrayed either way.
Eventually we return to A&A asleep on cobbles in an alley way where their deceased guardian awakens them from sleep and they disappear into the stars. AKA join her in death I suppose. Should I be moved? Well I’m sorry anyone’s dead but I’ve just spent an hour watching their journey and I’ve no idea why they’re asleep on the cobbles. I’m figuring they had the sort of life that makes you angry when you watch the news, but I’m somehow void of anger here – nothing has inspired me to empathy: neither in the symbolism or the telling of their story. The protagonists never appeared on stage
This was the flaw of the production (the non technical ROH contempt for the poor seats flaw) the inability to merge the symbolic and the literal… or just choose between them; and the inability to inspire empathy or enlightenment. That said, ignoring my anger at ROH, there was a lot of good going here.
And the dancers were excellent. Overall I appreciated the aspiration of the production.
And a shout out to the charming, really charming service at nearby Cora Pearl, with the exceptionally high quality set menu that we started with. Actually puts
blackheath quality and prices to shame.
Don’t forget to pre-order ‘Helen & The Grandbees’ (which features a different AIsha): https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Alex+morrall&ref=nb_sb_noss_2
Legend Press has bagged a “warm and poignant” debut novel exploring identity, race and mental illness by writer and painter Alex Morrall.
The novel will be published on 1st September 2020.
Helen and the Grandbees begins when Helen’s daughter, Lily, tracks her down twenty years after her adoption, and the story unfolds over the years that follow, as we watch Lily raise her own children; Helen’s ‘grandbees’. But when it’s clear her grandbees are in danger, tangled up in her daughter’s damaging relationship, Helen must find the courage to step in, confronting the fears that haunt her the most.
Alex’s agent Philippa Sitters at David Godwin Associates says: “I fell in love with this engaging and moving novel. The characters Alex has drawn live on the margins, she has given them a dignified voice despite their messy lives. This is exactly the sort of book I think we need to be publishing in order to broaden the range of voices we’re reading.”