Last night I went with some old friends for my annual token evening of culture at the Edinburgh Festival. This year's extravaganza was a remarkable Chinese performance of Coriolanus, featuring some of China's greatest actors and two of their top heavy metal bands. Yes - that's right.
It was not one of our great choices. The first half consisted mostly of crowd scenes, with a surprising number of people charging about, banging big sticks on the ground and shouting. Chinese acting seems to involve a lot of shouting. There were English subtitles, but they did not run very evenly, they involved enough typing errors to distract my feeble attention, and the screens were smallish, and deployed far enough from the action to require an uncomfortable amount of head rotation.
About halfway through the first act, I began to wonder whether it would spoil everyone's evening if I committed suicide. However, I stuck with it, and the second act was much better. It was still bloody heavy going, but it was better. I felt somehow stronger and cleaner for the experience when it was all over.
The bands were rubbish, by the way.
We had a very good dinner beforehand, and our conversation involved reference to some great favourites of mine from previous years at the Fringe - the National Theatre of Brent. This splendid company had (has?) a full company of two people, and they used to be noted for spectacular productions - for example "Zulu", with a cast of two. They occasionally performed their works in a taxi, and for a while they experimented with putting on shows in people's homes - you could invite them to your house and they would act out your film of choice, in their trademark style. Legend has it that their repertoire included "Tora Tora Tora" and "Gone with the Wind" - I wish I'd seen some of this.
Anyway, if you are not familiar with the National Theatre of Brent, here is one of their more ambitious projects - The French Revolution - a TV production dating from 1989, for some anniversary or other. I hope you enjoy it, but if you find it too long (at 53 minutes), too British (which can't be helped) or insufficiently funny (which may, in fact, be the whole point), please do feel free to switch it off and spend the time doing something more useful.
If you have never been confident about the true story of the Revolution, this is strongly recommended. This blog must be getting close to being a resource - awesome.