An occasional series looking at people I admire
Tuesday 22 February 2011. Already it’s a whole year since I attended the World Premiere of Frankenstein at the National Theatre.
If you don’t remember this, it was one of the biggest theatre events last year. Benedict Cumberbatch (who had just shot to stardom in Sherlock, see previous blogs for my admiration of his talent!) was playing Victor Frankenstein and The Creature on alternate nights opposite an old Danny Boyle favourite Jonny Lee Millar.
Frankenstein was a new play by Nick Dear, who had previously worked with Jonny Lee Miller in the BBC TV series Bryon, who was famously with Mary Shelley and her husband in Switzerland when the idea of Frankenstein came to Mary in a dream, after a night telling ghost stories.
So tickets to the hottest show in town, time away from the kids, and a trip to the South Bank, somewhere I consider somewhat of a spiritual home, could the day get any better? Well yes, this was a glittering star studded event, we lost count of famous people attending alongside us, in short it appeared to be the cream of British Acting talent there that night, oh and Paul and I. We even ended up having drinks beside a noticeably nervous Danny Boyle (he is much taller in real life) and the extremely apprehensive Nick Dear. We even saw the long time Boyle musical collaborators Underworld. They seemed to taking their premiere much more in their stride.
I was quite dumbstruck to be standing next to Danny Boyle, director of so many of my favourite films. Scenes from Trainspotting, (the only film I have seen at the cinema four times, to say I was obsessed is an understatement) Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later, Shallow Grave and my personal favourite, Millions raced through my head. I wanted to thank him right for every exhilarating adrenaline fueled visual moment. To thank him for all those sublime film soundtracks, for all that music which has become so entwined in my own life. For all those characters he has brought to the screen so clearly and so vividly, and for all that new British acting talent he has brought to us.
His incredible energy was on display, he was chewing gum at a ferocious rate. I couldn’t say anything he was with his family, but it was amazing to overhear the conversations about the Oscars being held that Sunday. They were up for best picture with 127 hours, another film that jumps out of the screen and holds you in a rock hard grip for 2 hours. There was much talk of it being Colin’s year for Best Actor as he was in contention with James Franco. It made you realise just how arbitrary these awards are. How can you really say which performance is better? A very surreal moment.
And wonderful to hear that voice, that Manchester accent that has been softened by years of international film-making but still so distinct. I love that Danny Boyle promotes all his own films. I can listen to his analysis, passion, enthusiasm, creativity and total artistic understanding of his films and their power all day. He makes me feel that anything is possible. That I can achieve anything I want. In short a very inspiring man.
Which makes me so delighted that he is in charge of the Olympics Opening Ceremony. Who ever made that appointment should be given a Knighthood themselves. Danny Boyle understands how to communicate to and also to entertain an audience. He knows exactly what makes something so exciting to watch. How to tell a story clearly but also with impact, imagination and humour. I am sure he is having a few sleepless nights right now, but I know he is the right man for the job. I can’t wait to see what he does, but I know it will be memorable, spectacular and at the heart of it the very essence of what it is to be British. Something we will be proud to show the world.
And the play? well it had all of Danny Boyle’s trademark visual punch and flair (the lighting that stimulating the life-giving lightening seared your eyes it was so bright, it actually hurt). There was a giant bell (cast when Shakespeare was alive), birthing, snow, rain, sun rises, full-size trains, fire, a revolving stage and award-winning, can’t take your eyes of them, central performances. The Creature is birthed at the beginning of the play and then is naked on the stage for 15 minutes as he learns how to move and walk. The script was clunky in places but when you are dealing with all the big questions of life, love, death, parenting, rejection, nature versus nature and that fine line between science and advancement on one hand and morality and religion on the other, well I guess you probably do need a bit of shoe horn.
You did need to see both castings in both roles to get the full impact of the play as well. Thank goodness for the wonderful NT live scheme, where you can see performances streamed direct into the cinemas around the world.
And this year? well it going to be a bit more low-key. Going to work as a Lunchtime Behaviour Supervisor isn’t quite the showy affair last year was, but I shall be chuckling as I keep that pizza queue moving that last year I was stood next to an Oscar-winning director. I like the contrast in that, in fact it could almost be a scene out of a Danny Boyle film.