Category Archives: BLOG

Red at Wyndham’s Theatre

I didn’t see the original production of Red at the Donmar in 2009 and I never went for Rothko’s art before I saw Red, but now I can’t wait to see Rothko’s art again.  In John Logan’s play, directed by Michael Grandage, we get a flow of speech and action between Rothko, played by Alfred Molina and his assistant Ken played by Alfred Enoch, which is a work of art in itself, creating a rhythmic expression of the thoughts and painting of Rothko.  There is a whole world within the studio which is the set of the play.  The action, which runs over 2 years is centred around the commission Rothko has accepted to create a series of pictures, the Seagram Murals, for the walls of the new Four Season’s restaurant.  I think the part I loved the most was Rothko saying how a painting needs to be looked at – that contemplation was of equal importance to the deed of putting on the paint.  He hopes that people will be kind to his paintings once they’re hung.  Ken offers the energy of the young of the new and of change.  While Rothko accepts and encourages this, he is at pains to guide his young assistant into an appreciation of what makes art truly great.  He gives Rembrandt as an example and he describes the glowing light of a Caravaggio painting that he saw in a dark corner of a chapel.  He finds his art in light and dark – in the spirit of the picture and he cannot come to terms with the concept of pop art and the everyday images of Warhol’s work.  The writing is strong and Molina embodies the life in Rothko.  From the outside we see his struggle and all human struggle to be receptive and alive and creative when all the time we are aware of inevitable death.

Alfred Molina and Alfred Enoch as Rothko and Ken

 

The Father and other Theatre Translation

The Father is to be made into a film starring Anthony Hopkins with the writer Florian Zeller as director.  Anyone who saw the original stage play would celebrate that it’s being made into a film.  How much of the success of the play was down to the translation by playwright Christopher Hampton and his working relationship with Florian Zeller, is unknown, but I would think it’s 80%.  Any actor who’s laboured under the words of a bad translation knows the value of a clean well transposed/translated & adapted script.   Scripts that are translated, to sound stilted and remote  – giving signals of “look how intellectual we are” to a puzzled audience were blown away  all those years ago by Dorothy Parker in the New Yorker.
Richard Eyre’s adaptation of a translation of Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen was in the bone, crystal clear.  Ibsen, perhaps because there weren’t many translators into English from his Norwegian influenced  Danish, in the mid 1800s, was uneasily translated right up until the1970s.
In a letter written in 1872, Henrik Ibsen said that the translation of his plays was:  “not simply a matter of translating the meaning but also, to a certain extent, of re-creating the style and the images and ultimately adapting the entire form of expression to the structure and demands of the language into which one is translating.”
For a long time I’ve been interested in the adaptation of a couple of plays of Camus and was fortunate enough to meet an expert in Theatre Translation – Dr John Whittaker at a CIOL event, who sent me information on the background to Cross Purpose (The Misunderstanding) and a link to La Société pour l’étude de Camusienne, which gives a background to the impetus behind Camus’ plays.

It is quite rare for a living playright to offer their work to a translator without first knowing them.  It happened to a student of mine a few years back, who was asked by the literary department of the National Theatre to translate a play from the original French.  It was a success and a good experience for her, – she is a very good in-depth listener and would always read her work out loud.  She also works in voice-overs in Spain where she now lives.

Looking  forward to seeing  Anthony Hopkins star as Andre in the film adaptation  of Florian Zeller’s  The Father.

Florian Zeller with Christopher Hampton

Paloma Picasso by Frances Parkes

There is heightened interest in Pablo Picasso and his work with the Genius series on National Geographic and the exhibition of Picasso’s prolific 1932 work at Tate Modern. His daughter Paloma was born 17 years later in 1949, when Picasso was in a relationship with a young, talented artist called Francoise Gilot. A few years back I wrote this article for Marbella Life from an interview with Paloma Picasso – Published by International Publications of Spain.

Paloma Picasso – Talks to Frances Parkes

Paloma Picasso is one of the fashion icons of our time. Her name is synonymous with bold and exciting designs – china, jewelry, table ware, bed linen, accessories, make-up and wall-coverings are some of the fields in which she works. As one of the two designers at Tiffany &Co, Paloma could devote all her time to jewelry designing, but, she says, “I like doing different things in other directions. I think that’s healthy. One finds new ways of doing things and it prevents one getting bored.”

Photographs of Paloma Picasso portray the image of a strong and dynamic person, signaling both danger and allure. Such photographs invariably appear alongside one of her products and go hand-in-glove with her success. It is certainly to her credit that she has achieved this commercial success without compromising her art or relying on her famous name.   No one could have survived the jungle of international design without talent, inner strength and a streak of steel.

The Hidden Side

However, her public image belies another deeper, softer self. On her own admission, she is incredibly shy and self-protective. To see her in left profile is to see the austere and beautiful; whereas the right side displays a sensitive femininity. She talks of her childhood with great affection. Born in Paris on 19th April 1949 to Francoise Gilot and Pablo Picasso, she was named after the dove (Paloma in Spanish) that her father designed as a symbol for the World Peace Congress, which opened on that day. As a baby Paloma endeared herself to her parents by sleeping for long hours and eating everything that was put before her. Picasso painted and sketched her frequently while she slept and so did her mother Francoise. Together with her older brother, Claude (born in 1947), the family lived either in Paris or at the Galloise, with its metal furniture and huge red and black carpet, and she acknowledges with amusement the formative effect this carpet had on her work. “I guess my whole career as a designer has been based on this carpet.” Paloma Picasso recalls many happy occasions with her father – how he painted a face on her wooden doll, and the painting he did of her and her brother, dominated in her memory by the toy train in the picture. “We never posed for my father (we were in any case too young to sit still), but he did everything from memory and imagination. Because I was such a quiet child, my father would let me spend many hours at his studio while he worked.”
Conflict Between Picasso and Francoise

The relationship between Picasso and Paloma’s mother began to disintegrate. There was an age difference of 41 years between her parents, and Picasso demanded that Francoise devote her time to him rather than her own artistic ambitions. Picasso believed that Francoise should be content with his art alone, but Francoise was already an established artist in her own right when she met Picasso.  “My mother was a highly intelligent woman and although she loved Picasso she would not sacrifice her own independence to him.”  Francoise eventually took the children and went to live in Paris where Paloma and her brother went to the École Alsacienne; from then on they were to spend only holidays, with their father. Meanwhile Picasso had acquired a new wife, Jacqueline Roque, who was the young niece of Madame Ramie, who owned the pottery where Picasso created his ceramic pieces. Initially Jacqueline welcomed Paloma and Claude, but she became increasingly jealous of their relationship with their father. Paloma explains: “Jacqueline started to feel threatened by our presence, which was, of course, quite ridiculous, but this attitude, I have now discovered, is often the reaction of a new wife.” In 1964, when Paloma was 15, her mother published her book Life with Picasso (on which the film Surviving Picasso, starring Anthony Hopkins is based). Jacqueline used this book and its revelations of Picasso’s private life, to persuade Picasso to sever relations with his 2 children by Francoise. Sadly, Picasso, who was by then 83, complied with her wishes. Paloma saw her father for the last time, purely by chance in 1967. She was walking down a street in Cannes when a car pulled up and Picasso and Jacqueline got out. Paloma, of course, immediately greeted her father. “He was obviously pleased to see me, but Jacqueline was there, pulling him by the arm and saying, “Pablo we have to go, we have to go!” She managed to talk to him for a few minutes, but that was all. Paloma, Claude and Picasso’s eldest daughter Maya (by his model Marie-Thérèse) all had to fight their way through the French courts after Picasso’s death in 1973, because they were born out of wedlock. The court finally ruled in their favour, and brother Claude now handles all of Pablo Picasso’s exhibitions and marketing.
New York Years

Paloma spent much of the 1970s and 80s in New York City, where she was interviewed by Andy Warhol for his famous “Factory Diaries”; she was also photographed by Helmut Newton in a provocative pose, with one breast peeping out of a cocktail dress. Although the demands on her time are great, Paloma always finds time to support the charities she holds dear to her heart. Tragically several people in her life have committed suicide – Marie-Thérèse, her nephew and her step-mother Jacqueline – all died by their own hand. Paloma is a member of the American Suicide (Help) Foundation, whose aim is to take the veil off this taboo subject, to ring comfort to the bereaved and, in particular, to deter those who may be suicidal. The separation from her father did ensure Paloma’s developing her own style and her own life. The deep red lipstick that has become her trademark was first worn by her in the 1970s, against fashion trends of the time. It matched the 1940s style of clothes that she liked to wear. Having her own style is important to her and she encourages all women to find their own style. “What a woman should strive for is maximising who she is. I dress for me, to make myself look better in my own eyes. But what is good for me is not necessarily good for you. Adapt a style to suit you”. Today she has a home in London and commutes to Florence, Paris and New York. Her vibrant style has influenced many. The fluid lines of her work, her sensuality and strong colours are clearly linked to her parentage and the art of her mother Francoise Gilot and her father Pablo Picasso – a son of Malaga.   Click on the photo for the Genius trailer.

Paloma Picasso

 

 

 

Stephen Hawking Inspired Voice Technology & Predicted AI Challenge

Stephen Hawkins voice was his trademark and he comments on his accent below.   His driving intellect was given a voice and in his comments at the Reddit Forum in 2015 he said “Please encourage your students to think not only about how to create AI, but also about how to ensure its beneficial use.”  It’s a wonderful thought that in the future our Magna Alexas will advise us on which spaceship to get on.  RIP Dr Hawking, have a good flight, you wonderful man.
Stephen Hawking
“Since 1997, my computer-based communication system has been sponsored and provided by Intel® Corporation. A tablet computer mounted on the arm of my wheelchair is powered by my wheelchair batteries, although the tablets internal battery will keep the computer running if necessary.

My main interface to the computer is through a program called EZ Keys, written by Words Plus Inc. This provides a software keyboard on the screen. A cursor automatically scans across this keyboard by row or by column. I can select a character by moving my cheek to stop the cursor. My cheek movement is detected by an infrared switch that is mounted on my spectacles. This switch is my only interface with the computer. EZ Keys includes a word prediction algorithm, so I usually only have to type the first couple of characters before I can select the whole word. When I have built up a sentence, I can send it to my speech synthesizer. I use a separate hardware synthesizer, made by Speech+. It is the best I have heard, although it gives me an  accent that has been described variously as Scandinavian, American or Scottish.

Through EZ Keys I can also control the mouse in Windows. This allows me to operate my whole computer. I can check my email using the Eudora email client, surf the internet using Firefox, or write lectures using Notepad. My latest computer from Intel, based on an Intel® Core™ i7 Processor and Intel® Solid-State Drive 520 Series, also contains a webcam which I use with Skype to keep in touch with my friends. I can express a lot through my facial expressions to those who know me well.

I can also give lectures. I write the lecture beforehand and save it on disk. I can then send it to the speech synthesizer a sentence at a time using the Equalizer software written by Words Plus. It works quite well and I can try out the lecture and polish it before I give it.”

The Late Stephen Hawking

The Conspiracy to Delude Ourselves

The World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away and yet women have come so far in the UK in the last 25 years.   I laughed when I read Lesley Bruce’s play Keyboard Skills last week.  It was first staged at The Bush in 1993.    Here is a speech made by
Miss Gainborough
“May I have your attention for a moment ladies.  This morning I came across this volume (The Female Eunuch) in Room 4.  It is fashionable now, I know for a certain type of young woman, to want to focus on the shortcomings of men.  I advise all of you against this.  It’s not that I doubt their case.  Oh, certainly not.  I have served countless managing directors in my time whose tasks I could have carried out appreciably better myself.  Indeed I declined the proposal of a weekend in Venice from one of them. …..Our claim to civilization remains fragile.  Women know this.  And they also know men.  They know that men feel strong if they think themselves revered but that a weak man will soon turn brutish.  Ideals of excellence and leadership can have a value, even when they are illusory, as long as we maintain the consensus not to tell.  This is a foolish and irresponsible book.  Not because it isn’t true but because it is and the truth deserves to be handled with more care…… It undermines the necessary conspiracy of our species to delude itself.”
We are in the middle of big changes  where we want to adjust men’s behaviour and attitudes to women and question how much we women have been responsible for our attitudes and our desires to be desired.

Secretaries

 

 

Vocal Presence

Presence, including vocal presence, has a lot to do with posture.  When you enter a room with a relaxed open posture, neck in alignment supporting your head – you feel free, relaxed and open.  Real presence happens when it’s your everyday posture and you don’t need to change it.  Dancers have great posture – their muscles and spine support each other, a lot of actors have great posture.  If you’re in a cafe on the Tottenham Court Road you can spot the RADA students with their straight and lifted backs – as they’ve done Alexander (a lot).  Osteopaths are great for realigning you.   If you do 8 hours at your desk with a computer everyday and haven’t got time to do yoga or pilates, osteopaths can release vertebrae that have become compressed.
Alexander is a great technique and can be readily incorporated into your daily life, as once you know the technique you can use it all the time.  You can use Alexander mindfulness to pay attention to your body, especially when you’re tired and stressed or both.
Frederick Alexander, an Australian actor introduced the technique to the UK in 1904.  He had problems with a hoarse voice, which he understood to be caused by nervous tension in his body. He felt that “we translate everything, whether physical, mental or spiritual into muscular tension”.  When our muscles aren’t relaxed we compress the neck and spine and our voice struggles.

Good posture – healthier voice

 

 

Long Day’s Journey into Night

This classic  by Eugene O’ Neill is not for the faint hearted.  If you want a good night out but can’t get into Hamilton, this play will disappoint you.  It’s three and a half hours long and most of human weakness is laid bare.  Focussed around the dominant figure of the father played brilliantly by Jeremy Irons, with his wife and two sons all tainted by his desire for success.   He chose to marry for love, a sweet innocent girl unsuited to the rigours of the life of a touring acting company.  She does not have the inner strength or resources to pull the family together but instead falls apart.  The dream is still there for the others that she (wife and mother) will come together and kick the habit that she acquired from being given morphine after her youngest son was born.  She blames her husband, she wants a home, she wants her previous life.   At times it becomes oppressive and you want a break – like to hear a song you don’t particularly like in a musical so you can turn off – but the acting is so good it compels you to stay in there.  The set by Rob Howell  –  a room opening on to the seafront – is full of atmosphere and lighting (often referred to in the play) changes with the mood of the action. Eugene O’ Neill could have been on the set with them.  When it finished, I was left with a feeling of depression.  Yesterday, this was replaced by relief,  happiness and gratefulness that I’d seen the play, so I guess seeing this play was cathartic for me.  The performances are flawless.  Jessica Reegan as Cathleen, Matthew Beard as Edmund Tyrone, Rory Keenan as James Tyrone Jr and Leslie Manville as Mary Tyrone.  My friend said that Jeremy Irons was not clear sometimes in his speech – but that didn’t seem to matter.   The rhythm of the writing at that depth of emotion means that sometimes the speaking is the emotion.  The voice and dialect coach is the wonderful Penny Dyer.  This Long Day’s Journey into Night is a production to remember.  Certainly the best production that I’ve seen of the play and I’ve see it a few times.

Jeremy Irons as James Tyrone and Lesley Manville as Mary Tyrone

The Right to Say No

The real issue behind the furore around the debate on sexual harassment (the open letter sent to Le Monde by Catherine Deneuve and 99 other prominent Frenchwomen) is that the people who are or have been the victims of sexual harassment have not been listened to.  They have not been listened to by their perpetrators   and they have not been listened to by the people to whom they complained.  It is the right of every human being to make their own decisions and it is also the right of every human being to change their minds.  We have a right to have an opinion, feelings and emotions and a right to express them.   When “no” is not listened to and accepted in a situation where 2 people are alone together and there is a danger of physical and mental aggression you are into a sexual harassment situation.  No one wants to douse sexual desire – definitely not – but sexual harassment is as far from sexual desire as winter is from summer.

The real issue behind the furore around the debate on sexual harassment (the open letter sent to Le Monde by Catherine Deneuve and 99 other prominent Frenchwomen) is that the people who are or have been the victims of sexual harassment have not been listened to.  They have not been listened to by their perpetrators   and they have not been listened to by the people to whom they complained.  It is the right of every human being to make their own decisions and it is also the right of every human being to change their minds.  We have a right to have an opinion, feelings and emotions and a right to express them.   When “no” is not listened to and accepted in a situation where 2 people are alone together and there is a danger of physical and mental aggression you are into a sexual harassment situation.  No one wants to douse sexual desire – definitely not – but sexual harassment is as far from sexual desire as winter is from summer.

Catherine Deneuve

All The Money in The World but Less For Women

When it emerged that Michelle Williams was paid $80 a day to do the re-shoots on All the Money in the World and Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million it was astounding.  Even more so because they both share the same agent William Morris Endeavor – what were they thinking?  Is it acceptable that women will take less than their male counterparts?  Last year research done on women’s salaries revealed that women are less willing to ask for a pay rise and are less willing  to negotiate on salary than men.   There used to be a tradition that  women were the chief carers in the family and therefore many women thought they would jeopardise their position at work by asking for more money, given that they had paid leave with a new baby.  It left a residue of perhaps acceptance, perhaps fear that they would not be looked upon as worthy for larger salaries.  During the past few years,  I’ve carried in my work case, The Amazing Secrets of How to Negotiate Your Salary by Derek Arden, who (I’m so grateful) gave me a signed copy when we worked together.   It has helped many of my female clients  – and male clients – because the points are easy to make and it’s for everyone, it’s generic.
The good news from All The Money in the World is that Mark Wahlberg gave his $1.5 million to the charity Time’s Up and that William Morris Endeavor gave $500,00 on behalf of Michelle Williams – $1 million short of Mark Wahlberg’s donation but things are moving on….

All The Money in the World with Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg

 

Alleviating Tension in the Voice

All voice coaches seek to alleviate any stress lodged in muscles that can cause tension in the voice.

Simple adjustments to posture brought about by alignment and re-enforced with daily exercises with eyeline markers and pelvis/shoulder blades against the wall – help to release back, knee, calf, ankle, shoulder and hand tension.  Tongue, jaw and neck tension involving flexibility of the tissues and muscles around the larynx, pharynx, oral and nasal cavities need more extended hands on care with individually prescribed exercise.  Key to the relaxation of these areas is the hyoid bone.  Located above the larynx and below the base of tongue, the hyoid bone has muscular and ligament attachments connecting the shoulders, jaw, ribcage, tongue, palate and larynx.  Exercises that involve for instance, lifting the top jaw have an immediate impact on releasing the area between the shoulder blades.  If you’d like to do these exercises – join up for our newsletter and we’ll let you know when we’re putting the exercises online.  http://www.maxyourvoice.com/contact

Hyoid bone