Friday, October 17, 2014

Notes From Underground Review

Good Morning, Lloydalists. We have a treat for you. Neither K or C were able to make a trip to see "Notes From Underground", however Cyrielle has been gracious enough to share her experience with everyone. Enjoy!


Hi there! If you follow me on Twitter and Facebook, you already know that I was at the late performance (9:15 PM) of Notes From Underground on October 10th at the Print Room (London). If not, well, you know now. So, here’s my review. That’s the first one I write (and English is not my mother-tongue), so please be clement. 


My sister and I arrived at 8:30PM something in front of the Coronet, Notting Hill Gate. We hesitated to come inside, a bit afraid to disturb I don’t know who, but someone then get out of the old cinema. Few seconds later, we decided to come inside, and there, in my pretty dress, I felt like Rose Dewitt-Bukater when the doorman opened the door to her. Yeah, yeah. You come inside and you are in a little foyer. It’s circular, with a high ceiling. The decor is really pretty and you feel a bit like decades ago. Employees are smiling at you and there’s a little bar with drinks you can buy in an alcove. The lady at the desk took our reservations. A bit of anxiety when she seemed not to find our names on her paper (yep, not computer, but it’s charming like that), but, well, we had booked and paid two tickets so she just added a line at the end of her list and gave us our tickets. The tickets were really nice, there, I show you a pic:



Nice, isn’t it? Then, we climbed few stairs and we arrived in a circular corridor. We didn’t even see the entrance or something for the Print Room, the room where we’ll see the show. One way, you’re going to the ladies, the other, to the gents, back where we just came from, the foyer, but no indication for the stage. So we just sat on one of these pretty benches, the back of it was pieces of several chair. The guys there knew how to plant a decor, that’s certain!! The wait seemed so long and so short at the same time. You know, I was a bit nervous to see the play, to see Harry Lloyd for the first time. He is surely my favorite actor and well, you know. I already saw Tom Hiddleston with my sister in December for Coriolanus at the Donmar, but it didn’t feel the same as for Notes From Underground and Harry Lloyd. 

Few minutes later, maybe fifteen minutes later, people were suddenly coming en masse from with end of the hallway to the gents, but, like me, you guess that all these persons were not at the bathroom, surely not the ladies. We waited again few minutes. 9:15 PM was coming little by little and then, we just stood with the others waiting. And it was it. The queue moved forward and followed. We went downstairs. Like in… the Underground. Yep. Nice, right ? Stairs and stairs and here we are. To the left, you’re going to the gents. To the right, just a door without a door (you know what I mean) with, above, few words : The Print Room - Notes From Underground. The walls were black. A narrow corridor. I felt a bit like in the Ghost Bus at Dublin or in the Dungeon at London, not knowing what was waiting for me at the end. But it was just a few stairs to climb. A lady at the top gathering the tickets (too bad, I wanted to keep mine!). I caught a glimpse of Harry not far. My sister and I gave our tickets to the lady and there. You could see Harry in front of you. Just few feet away. He was sat on an old armchair, looking at people with bright eyes, gesturing at them, inviting them to take place. There was less seats that in the Donmar. A hundred I’d say. My sister and I chose to sit in the front row but at the right (when you’re facing the stage, at Harry’s left then). The stage is made of books, lots of them. And there’s just the books, the chair, a lamp, a wall of sheets of paper and Harry. Nothing else. Few minutes went away. People quietened and Harry, with piercing eyes, waited again few seconds and started to speak: “I’m spiteful! I’m ill.” His voice high and clear in the small room. Powerful. Vibrant. Even for a French girl like me (even if I have to say that I understand pretty well spoken english), it was so simple to understand. Not because the word were simple, but because Harry articulate and speak very well. And then the play was starting. 

A bit like the book, you can separate it in two parts: when the Underground Man is alone, and when he is with others. Except Harry is always alone on stage. Not to write here again all the story and all the play, but the Man was in his underground for years now, thinking about himself, about society. This spiteful society. This spiteful self. He is a kind of masochist, but so proud of himself, so sure of his own intelligence, placing him above all the others but at the same time so far from them. I can sometimes relate with him you know. When all the others around you don’t have the same level of education or culture, you feel so alone. You want to befriend with them nonetheless but they seem to perceive you as less than them because you don’t have a exuberant life, because you prefer spending your week-ends in book than outside partying hard. You want to go outside with people like them. Oh you dearly want it. But you end just in your chair, reading a book or writing. The Underground Man is like that. He wants to socialize and not to. He wants a lot of things but moves backward each time and each time. He plans so much things, dreaming of them continuously. But the world is not like he’s imaging it, not like in the books. “This is no time for thinking, this is reality!” And Harry plays it so well. It was such a powerful performance. You can’t help wanting to answer his questions. It’s so unsettling to watch him in the eyes, his finger pointing right at you for long long seconds and not be able to tell him “No. No, you’re not wrong”. He has such a powerful glance, it shakes you right into your bones and your core. His despair and him always moving backward makes you laugh often. It makes you hurt sometimes. The play unfolds bits by bits and you don’t see the time pass. And then, Harry takes place again on his chair. He drapes himself again with this black clothing and salutes people, invites them to take place. He bends and says again “I’m spiteful ! I’m ill.” and the light goes off. Everyone applauded. 


This play was so powerful. Harry Lloyd was just perfect for this role you know. Spiteful man. Hopeful man. Insect. Mouse. He was all of that and so much more. It was incredible. So… mesmerizing. I read the book few months ago, in English, and I have to say that this performance, this amazing performance, helped me to better understand it. To better feel it. Everyone applauded. A thunderous applause. He saluted the public, went out of the room, came back again, and went again. People stood and went out too, talking about this spectacular play. My sister and I waited a bit in the foyer, talking with other audience members, with employees. I asked one of them if Harry will be doing some signing later, or something. The employee just told me with a smile that he would be there in a few minutes. We were just a few to wait him : a lady (Harry went away with her after seeing us, so I guess it was a friend or a family member), a young man and just my sister and me. Indeed, he came to the foyer just fifteen minutes later. My sister and I were ready to wait so much more than that. We had, in front of the Donmar, to wait for Tom Hiddleston (who just stayed 20 minutes and didn’t even see a quarter of all the people there that night) and the others. But Harry was there so soon. My legs were shaking a bit (xD). He was just so kind and so sweet. He signed my program and spoke few words in French when he heard my name (Cyrielle, typically French, right?) and asked how it was spelled. And he was so surprised and so happy when my sister gave him a drawing that she made of him (his Underground Man self). His face enlightened when he saw it and showed it to the lady. And he took few pictures with me and my sister. And then he thanked us once more and get out with the lady, back home I guess. And I now have dreams in my head for a long time, thanks to that awesome yet so humble man. 

So, even if you don’t know the man, didn’t read the book, just go and see Notes From Underground. It’s such a powerful play. You just can’t get out and not think about you, the society around you. It is mind-blowing. 




Thank you Cyrielle for sharing this with all of us! From those of us who were unable to attend, we appreciate that you were kind enough to let us in on your experience. On her tumblr this review is also available in French. All pictures belong to Cyrielle Bandura. Feel free to leave her a comment here, on twitter @Alandrel or on her personal tumblr http://daylightress.tumblr.com/post/99801932231. 

Edited to add some links to other reviews. 

http://www.theweek.co.uk/theatre/60825/notes-from-underground-reviews-of-dazzling-solo-show#ixzz3G2EpCzdX

http://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/reviews/notes-from-underground-print-room_36053.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_name=09oct2014

http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/theatre/notes-from-underground-print-room--theatre-review-9784629.html

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/arts/stage/theatre/article4231734.ece

http://www.offwestend.com/index.php/plays/view/12189

http://trendfem.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/harry-lloyd-notes-from-underground.html

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Birthday Fun!

Hi, Everyone!

As many of you are undoubtedly aware, Harry’s birthday is coming up on November 17th. In the fall of 2012, we decided we wanted to send a special card from Lloydalists - a card reflective and representative of what we stand for as supporters and admirers of his work, as well as him!  It's about time we did it again!

We are therefore opening up to anyone interested this opportunity to send your well-wishes, greetings, thoughtful encouragements, and similar kinds of messages.

We do ask that you please keep your messages brief and tasteful. (Our goal is to appear at least semi-sane!) The last day for submissions will be October 21th. This date gives any procrastinators about a month to decide what they’d like to say; “C” enough time to make sure all things are shaped up in terms of spelling, grammar, and mechanics; and “K” enough time to make it all come together and look beautiful.

Please send any submissions to Lloydalists@gmail.com.

Also, we think it would be neat to include on your submission the country you’re from, so please list this after your name/username. We’re sure Harry knows he has admirers all over the world, but it could still be fun for him to see just how far his support extends.

We hope you will all participate! Also, feel free to shoot us an email at the address above if you have a question about anything!

Until next time,
K & C

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Peevish Attitudes and Pinched Primers: WGN America’s Manhattan Drama Continues to Intrigue...

...with its Twists and Slow-but-Steady Surprises


Lloydalists has previously written about Manhattan, WGN America’s new 13 episode drama starring Harry Lloyd as scientist Paul Crosley, among other talented actors.  The blog entry about the 13-episode first season, as well as the premiere episode, can be found here: http://lloydalists.blogspot.com/2014/07/a-strange-world-with-its-secrets-harry.html

Below is a response to the subsequent episodes—episodes 2, 3, and 4—as we’ve just about made it to the quarter-mark of the series so far.

Lloydalists welcomes your remarks in the comments: what are your thoughts about Manhattan and/or Harry’s job so far?  Let us know!

~C~


Above: Harry Lloyd’s Paul Crosley puts on the fa├žade of cool. (Image © WGN America, 2014)


Reduction: Manhattan Episodes 1.2 – 1.4

In a group of five young intellectuals, it seems likely that at least one of them emerges as the peevish, cocky, pompous, flippant, and/or “insensitive jerk” stereotype.  Indeed, it would make sense that a television show like Manhattan, which is, in many ways, an ensemble cast that, in particular, relies on five young scientists working collaboratively and collectively to craft the imploding bomb at the center of the eponymous project would dare to even caricaturize each figure as to separate one from the other.  There’s the Ph. D-wielding woman; the Chinese-American family man with something to prove (and hide); the more stout-and-hardy scientist; his antithesis, the thin and bespectacled “nerdy” type with a lot more pugilistic power than meets the eye brewing beneath the surface; and, last but not least, the irreverent British scientist whose accent and character further separates him from the pack.  Yet, what has been most enjoyable and intriguing about Manhattan thus far is just how unpredictable is each character, plot, and twist of even small events.  Like the contorted remains of the test bombs, the story-lines and the actors within Manhattan keep morphing, snaking, and meandering down various paths that are not always so predictable.

From here on out, attempts have been made to steer clear of major plot points or developments; “Mild Spoilers” may be ahead.

After watching episode 1.2 (premiere date: August 3, 2013) of Manhattan, it seems established that Harry’s character, at least so far, is one of an ensemble in the group of six scientists (now down to five: four “wunderkinds” and their seemingly solipsistic but really withering leader, Frank Winter, played notably by John Benjamin Hickey).  Harry does seems to offer the most comically-naughty relief, and perhaps his British humor is a bit more sexualized than that of some of the Americans, although they seem to be able to sling it back at him when necessary.  In episodes two and three of the first season, his character is at the fringes of the main action, and while, as an audience, we are more invested in events than in characters, I wouldn’t simply pass over Harry’s character yet because, as episode 2 proves (I won’t give anything away), anything could happen to any character at any time.  Episode 4—the newest at this time—offers more than a merely promising glimpse of Harry’s increasing role (and screen time) in Manhattan, as Paul becomes a polarizing and catalyzing figure thrown into the midst of the Manhattan Project’s trial experiments simultaneously amidst drama from within the scientific cohort community.   

Episode 1.3 (premiere date: August 10, 2014) of Manhattan builds seamlessly from the previous episode.  The death of one of the scientists (watch the show to find out who, what, when, where, why, and how) reverberates not only through Winter’s underdog group, nor merely among the men and women who work under the cover of secrecy.  The entire town in the middle of the dessert seems reeling beneath the weight of the surprising homicide.  Between the celebration (a spy was killed!) and anger (this was an unjust crime!) falls the suspicious attitudes of already apprehensive people, not to mention the remorse of the murderer, whose fate takes a surprising turn—surprising most for him.

Probably with great expectation, Harry’s response to the death of his colleague is not in-line with the reactions of his peers.  Clearly, all four of the remaining young people wear masks of humor to hide the humorlessness, but Paul’s attempts to conceal his growing tensions convey irreverent mockery that puts his “friends” on his bad side.  Nothing he says, nor the way he says it, seems to come out right.  But with Harry Lloyd’s translucent-eyed look and slightly-crumpled brow, it becomes clear that Paul Crosley is more than a misanthropic and cynical Mr. Nasty who cares only about his work.  Indeed, he is worried about his work and what it may mean for him—and his own life.  Only, this humorless chatter and seemingly indifferent remarks in the dead man’s wake make Paul out to be inhumane.  In reality, he fears for his life, his job, and even his intelligence.  By episode four, we find a scientist who may be weasel-like and weak at times but who also has a brilliant mind (the no-nonsense Winter would not have selected him otherwise for part of his team) and a certain, regulated set of personal conduct codes.  Despite his rules-of-etiquette breaking manner, in other words, Paul Crosley seems most attentive to regulations when lives are on the line and following protocol may mean job (and life) security.


Above: Secret "gadget" testing in the desert.  Note: 1940s goggles may appear larger than actual size. (Image © WGN America, 2014)


The Voice of Consciousness: Episode 1.3

Harry has a turning point moment in episode three of Manhattan’s freshman season, his character contributing a telling, heartfelt, and surprising voice-over narration as he writes a letter to the wife of his deceased colleague.  At this moment in the last five minutes of the episode, Harry’s character—so far in the show a bit of a snake with rude and abrasive commentary, as noted above—deepens.  Suddenly, his cocky and irreverent remarks appear a cover for a deep-feeling soul who uses grim and inappropriate comments to mask his true self.  His “rudeness” is a coping mechanism, in short.  But, the saddest reality is that even his outlet for his true feelings—letter-writing—can offer no immediate relief or remediation for its recipient.  Although his act of penning a letter in private is a personal act of reconciliation with what has happened, and while he may consider his deed done so that he can move on, in fact, Manhattan reveals in the final few moments of episode 1.3 that one man’s death is nothing more but the cause of a perpetual haunting of all whose lives are even briefly touched by him and his misguided actions. 

The voice-over of Paul Crosley “reading” his letter aloud allows Harry’s figure to be more than just the “annoying scientist in the group.”  The sequence redeems his character somewhat not just because this man is performing a kind, selfless action (yet still following protocol in not using his own name, not mentioning the dead man’s name, and mentioning nothing “illegal”), but even more, because in comparison to what is going on around Paul, the man of questionable remarks is far from a villain.  The bomb itself—the looming presence of the show—is the worst, most physical form of danger lurking in every corner of Manhattan.  But it is the entire system in place in this scientific community of wood houses, narrow offices, and desert floors.  It is a system of stymying secret actions that occur behind the scenes that is the true danger.  Suddenly, viewers recognize that Harry’s Paul is more than the “insensitive jerk” and, even if he was, he would be a mere annoying gnat in comparison to the growling beast of the Manhattan Project community.  The underbelly of this world is a system of covert operations, of secret file cabinets, of surveillance, and of the stripping of emotion—symbolized when Paul’s letter to the deceased’s wife gets butchered and bowdlerized before shoved into the appropriate drawer by some unknown worker.  A drone.


Above: Paul and boss Frank Winter (John Benjamin Hickey) react to the...reaction. (Image © WGN America, 2014)

Catalyzing Reactor

With his good deed done at the end of episode three, Paul seems poised to cleanse himself further from what seems a plagued and punished group of misfit scientists who can’t seem to get the help from superiors they require to finish their work.  That a friend in his midst has been “bumped off,” too, has Paul rattled: it seems best to move on and be moved to Reed Akley’s more posh (and connected) department. Akley, played stonily and well by David Harbour, meanwhile butts heads with Winter, who resorts, in episode four, to surprising antics in order to go where he needs to go to get what he needs to get (again—watch episode four to see what this means).

While Paul is anxious to extricate himself from the doomed Winter group and move to the next level, a series of events thrusts him and Winter himself together.  Episode four is the strongest episode of Manhattan so far, with themes of fortitude, post-traumatic stress, and the way in which men (and women) war within themselves in ways that no one can see or predict.  A notable series of flashbacks in which the young Frank Winter is shown in the midst of World War I offers insight as to why the man is as cutthroat, cynical, and anxious—not to mention insomnia-stricken—as he is. It soon becomes clear that Frank’s role as a scientist is only an extension of his younger days in the previous war: “scientists are soldiers,” he exclaims at one juncture.  The repeated phrase, “no one is coming to save us,” too, also serves as a symbolic and eerie omen.  While Frank, Paul, and a young officer are stuck in the middle of the desert, it seems the three are on their own—and on the path to a long walk back to town.  But when Frank insists “no one is coming to save us,” he intimates that no one can save a man from himself.  Memories still haunt.  Decisions still haunt.  Mistakes, regrets, indecisive moments, past deaths—everything still scratches and scars.

As Paul reluctantly becomes roped into aiding Winter carry out an unscheduled bomb test—and then becomes videographer and camera-carrier, not to mention field-nurse for feet on the long walk back home—Harry’s character gets significant screen time and is able to bond better with his boss.  Paul still has his whiny moments—wonderfully punctuated with the supercilious air of naughty and nasty that Harry, rather humorously, has a habit of getting just right. But the snipping and sniping personality cracks and softens as he grows physically weary, ragged, and dehydrated.  When he witnesses the much-older Winter continue to trudge through dust and darkness all the while with shrapnel tearing his foot to little more than skin and blood, it seems a moment in which Harry’s tender side emerges.

Later, we recognize that this “rejects” group of scientists is probably the area of the Manhattan Project with the most heart and soul because they have little to lose.  They give all of themselves, body and mind, and without the fine suits (or even working cars, apparently), that make them part of the upper-echelons of the desert hierarchy.

Without giving much more away, there is a splendid and delightful moment at the conclusion of episode four in which a set of pinched primers serves as a re-bonding moment for Frank and Paul. 


Above: Is Harry channeling cameraman Virgil, his character from Closer to the Moon?  Watch Manhattan episode 1.4 to find out! (Image © WGN America, 2014)

Reflecting Upon Manhattan So Far: The First Four Episodes

Surprisingly, and as suggested slightly above, the real villain of Manhattan is not the historical threat of the atom bomb, nor is it even the Axis Powers of World War II.  In truth, it is the isolation, the secrecy, the frequent monitoring, and the lack of privacy (ironic, considering all the secrecy) that exists within the “non-existent town” where the Manhattan Project is underway.  The series, thus, derives an element of oppression, menace, and entrapment in placing each of its figures in a sort of zoo in which animals are trapped, studied, and forced and behave in certain ways.  Manipulations run rampant; power-hunger egotists further complicate the matter, and that there are so many intellectuals cohabitating and working with one another six days a week means the battle of wits, mental power, and success are part of the implosions on screen. 

What strikes me about Manhattan, too, is how smoky it looks—how a small scene featuring Harry Lloyd’s Paul Crosley sitting while pensively listening to orders on an intercom carries an aura of mysterious contemplation; how John Benjamin Hickey’s Frank Winter can appear such a magnanimous mind and man when asserting himself into places he dare not go, yet appear such a fraught, broken man when sitting in a reminiscently animalistic fashion and squat in his yard under cover of night; or how Katja Herbers’ Helen transforms from jubilant to horrified while reminiscing about her deceased colleague when, suddenly, she is confronted with the baby shoe of the dead man’s now-fatherless daughter.  Even Olivia Williams’ Liza Winter at her table, returning to the scientific life as she fusses over plants—yet another form of observed life in this glass-box environment; or Charlie Isaacs’ (Ashley Zukerman) moist-eyed ruminations into stale-lit corners of his office, his home, his “prison” are surprising signs of what lurks beneath the surface of this lifestyle.  What are all these people thinking?  What truly brews in the human heart?  These aforementioned scenes are minor moments that build, the accretion of which is felt at the end of each episode when something truly dynamic happen.  In the end, viewers are returned to the reality: that the real issue at heart here, the one catalyzing all of the personal and social, internal and external issues, is that destructive, life-altering, and history-making device everyone is scrambling to build—even those who are kept in the dark about the true reality of their new home town (typically, the women).

So far, Manhattan has offered plenty of slow-burning, tense moments, largely driven by characters battling their various psychomachiac moments, rather than giving audiences explosive drama via nuclear weapons.  If the show continues to immerse its characters in more shocking plots (and does not stoop to overt sexuality in order to meet its “shock and entertain” factor, which is highly overdone in film on small and large screens these days), the series will be worthy of a second (or more) season.

Already, despite rather low ratings and some mixed reviews—not helped by this limited-cable show’s visibility and view-ability—Manhattan is being called by some critics “honestly one of the more interesting dramatizations currently on television, especially basic cable” (Spivey).  As New York Observer writer Molly Mulshine admits, despite her preliminary low-expectations for the show, she was sucked in: “Manhattan succeeds in creating a stressful, secretive atmosphere that pulls you in rather than repels you.”

Indeed, I find myself more and more attracted to Manhattan with each passing episode.  In particular, I look forward to witnessing how Harry’s character transforms along with the events of Manhattan, how he is impacted by future episodes, and how his interactions with his colleagues (to say “friends” almost seems an exaggeration, but if his budding relationship with Frank is an indication of what’s to come, we can be hopeful) continue to shock and surprise in small yet meaningful ways.  Just as the series appears to be simultaneously building a bomb and rising towards the capstone blast of this bomb (literally and symbolically), the characters and the actors who play them are getting a chance to test themselves, as well as test the extent of their nerves, intelligence, and humanity—the latter being the most significant feature of Manhattan and the talented cast at its helm.


Works Cited

Mulshine, Molly. “WGN’s New Manhattan Project Drama Is Pure Brannan-Filtered Intrigue.” Observer.com. New York Observer. 30 July 2014. Web. 20 Aug. 2014. <http://observer.com/2014/07/wgns-new-manhattan-project-drama-is-pure-brannan-filtered-intrigue/>
Spivey, Julian. “WGN America Captures Summer's Best New Drama with ‘Manhattan.’” Examiner.com. 19 Aug. 2014. Web. 20 Aug. 2014. <http://www.examiner.com/review/wgn-america-captures-summer-s-best-new-drama-with-manhattan>.

 Above: Paul looks questionably serious and nervous all at once--will you be watching the latest episode on Sunday evening? (Image © WGN America, 2014)


~Written & Posted by C~