Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Today has been biblical. I went through a flood, encountered a man memorising Ecclesiasticus and then met God! And the day wasn't even over!

One thing I have regretted over the last few days has been the lack of theatre I have attended. i tried to redress the balance today by going to "The Unsinkable Clerk". Dreadful title, but in the "Skinnyfest", a free review guide, it was highly recommended. Rightfully so. Mr Plumbly wakes up one morning to find his orderly existence thrown out of kilter by an unexpected flood. He encounters Poseidon, then Jonah (who sticks around), is 'saved' by a ghost ship, escapes sirens before finding his Paradise island. The cast of hundreds is actually comprised of only two and in a very pantomimic way, they do an excellent job. you have to feel for poor old Plumbly who really does like the mundane life (or thinks he does). The play ends on as strange a note as the play demands. Strange, but very entertaining.

Looking through the daily guide published by The Guardian, I saw that I could make "Fahrenheit 451", an adaptation by Ray Bradbury of his own novel. I loved the film, and the play had been reviewed favourably, so I gave it a shot. Unfortunately there was much shouting masquerading as emotion and given the simplicity of Truffaut's film version, I found this a little cluttered. For those of you unfamiliar with this great story, it tells of a (near) future time where books are banned and Firemen, rather than put out fires, set books alight. One fireman gets curious.... It is a great story, but I wasn't jumping up and down about the performance. Anyhow without giving too much away (except the ending), he takes a bit of a shine to the Book of Ecclesiasticus. Interesting.

Now we come to the event of the whole festival, well almost. First I managed to get a ticket for "Dr Ledbetter's Experiment". One left. As it happens I already had a film ticket for the same time slot, but I wasn't looking forward to the film ('The Treatment') and as a horror buff, I was curious about the play and the venue (the location of all those body autopsies that kept Burke and Hare in business). So sorry, but that took priority. Nevertheless I still had to go to the cinema to attend a discussion by two game developers (Velvetelvis) about digital convergence, particularly with respect to movies and games. I was running a little late, but managed to get out there with ten minutes to spare. As i walked to the entrance a woman got out of a black taxi saying, "We're rushing for a film". She was followed by a tall, balding man with a moustache and white hair. I guess I was in a dream world, because I managed to stand on my feet as I realised it was Sean Connery.

Now let me give you a little history. A long, long time ago I attended a script writing summer school whose patron was Gregory Peck. Gregory Peck, very old, but upright and still with that voice, came to visit us and give us a "conversation". He showed us clips from "Moby Dick" etc. and related anecdotes form Hollywood. Afterwards many got up and shook his hand. I was too shy. I felt he didn't deserve to be bothered by us, that it was enough to have been in his presence. Nevertheless it has bothered me ever since that I never got to shake the hand of the star of "The Omen" and "Spellbound".

That's Sean Connery, honest!
Now I felt thoroughly ashamed of bothering Mr Connery, but the memory of Gregory Peck haunted me. Naturally my phone wouldn't switch to camera quick enough to catch a proper shot of him; he was storming through the foyer. He was obviously trying to get into the cinema before anyone noticed who he was. Nevertheless, I ran up and got right beside him as he strode (me running still). He looked very stressed, well okay, annoyed and he is very intimidating (I am short, but he is TALL). Nevertheless I had to say the corniest, stupidest thing I could honestly say; "Mr Connery, I just wanted to thank you for all those films over the years". He gave me a slight side glance. I didn't know if he was going to ignore me or flatten me. He gave a gruff, under the breath, "Thank you" and strode on. I didn't have the heart to bother the man any more, but I found myself shaking like a leaf. I have met celebrities in the past and really they don't faze me one bit; they're just people. Some of them (like Terry Gilliam) I knew I'd like to chat to some more, but as a comrade in arms. Meeting Connery was like meeting God, and not the New Testament version either. No, he was definitely of the Old Testament variety, the smiting Sodom and Gomorrah and deadly plagues and stuff variety. Yet that was definitely a moment I will never forget. I thank God (the other One) that all my ticket buying etc. conspired to get me there at just the right moment.

After that of course everything was a let down. The Digital discussion, full of references to "The Matrix" etc., was interesting without being mindblowing. Only one of the two expected turned up, but Rosanna Sun was more than equal to the task. Her big bit of news was that she had just had a meeting with Steven Spielberg. I wanted to shout out, "So what! I just met Connery!" I didn't. I got my head back together. They raised the topic of 'machinemas', films made within game environments by game players, the most famous being ones using "Halo" and "Blues against Reds". A guy in work had told me about these months ago. You're on the ball, Niall! (That Niall, not me.)

Then I went to "Dr Ledbetter", and, yes, he could have done better! Everyone must wear a set of headphones as they are led around the Medical Faculty of Edinburgh University. The actor's words and thoughts comes straight to your ears. The venue is good (particularly the lecture hall), the acting is fine, but the story is very basic and the ending very tame. I kept on being put in mind of an old unscary, but interesting horror with Robert Stephens called "The Asphyx". That had a similar ending and was far more intelligent. Despite everything I found myself agreeing with The Guardian's review of the piece, a play without much point with only value as a ghost tour (and not too creepy at that). A shame.

All things considered though this festival city has been a real revelation and I'll miss it when I leave tomorrow.

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