Friday, 27 March 2015

Review - Tamworth Dramatic Society's "The Lion In Winter" by James Goldman

Tamworth Dramatic Society - The Lion In Winter

Set at a fictitious gathering of the dysfunctional family of Henry II of England, The Lion in Winter I was surprised to learn has some historical accuracy. Henry did have long standing disagreements with his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine including his imprisoning her after she joined her children in rebelling against their father, three of whom are present in this play:
  • Richard, later to become King Richard the Lionheart.
  • Geoffrey, later Duke of Brittany.
  • John, later the Prince John of the Robin Hood legends.
The story line is quite enjoyable and you will probably recognise story lines from your favourite soap opera. Henry and Eleanor have a rather extreme love/hate relationship. Neither can resist plotting against the other and yet here and there affection can still burst forth, yet the audience is left wondering if these declarations of love are all part of their scheming. The relationship is complicated by the presence of the King's latest in a long line of mistresses, Alais, sister of the King of France (who plays a minor role) who is supposed to be married off to one of Henry's sons. Henry is under pressure to nominate his successor from amongst his remaining sons, fully aware that if any are left unsatisfied with the outcome, further rebellions will ensue. We've all probably had a miserable family Christmas or two, but after watching the shifting alliances & plots of the Angevins, most of us will no doubt look on our families more kindly.

The two stand out performers for the Tamworth Dramatic Society are Geoffrey Butler (Henry II) and young Riley Thompson (Geoffrey). Butler pitches his performance just right as a wearied but still wily monarch, determined to leave his mark. He is at times grief stricken by the rebelliousness of his family, but you sense how much he still enjoys the contest. Riley Thompson portrays the most intelligent of the sons with a hint of menace and gives the most subtle performance of the night.

Robyn Edelston as Eleanor has a tough role and needed more variety in her delivery. Aaron Jones as Richard seemed to be more comfortable in the second half, initially appearing to be taking his physical and voice cues from Lieutenant Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation. As probably the youngest actor on stage, I won't blame Jaydon Merrick for his far too camp and distracting performance as John. Director Ben Sutton should have given him more direction to produce a believable performance.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Response to Catholic Bishop of Armidale's "NSW 2015 State Election Guide"

The Catholic Bishop of Armidale, Bishop Michael Kennedy, has released this NSW 2015 State Election Guide

My response to him is posted below:

Dear Bishop Kennedy,
I am writing to you to express my dismay at your decision to publish and have distributed in the diocese your NSW 2015 State Election Guide.
My first objection relates to a fundamental aspect of our Australian democracy, the separation of Church & State. I firmly believe it is inappropriate in 2015 for any member of the clergy to be publicly commenting on the relative merits of various political parties in an official capacity. How the congregation votes is quite frankly none of your business. I can imagine what your entirely valid reaction would be if an elected representative were to attempt to influence you in the matter of clergy appointments to various parishes. Similarly you should not try to influence who those elected representatives are, beyond your own vote on election day.
Secondly I am concerned at the narrow range of issues that you have chosen to include in your election guide. There are so many more issues that a Catholic, or indeed any person of good will should be concerned about. Why is there no discussion of the parties' policies on reducing poverty, equal access to health, protecting the environment for the common good, reducing discrimination, promoting harmony in a diverse society, reforming our justice system so that recidivism is reduced? I would argue that your decision to focus on sex, death and money does an extreme disservice to the broad range of concerns of the modern Catholic.
My third objection is the simplistic treatment of the issues that you have addressed. Rather than reducing the complex issues of abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage to a simple yes/no dichotomy, how about an examination of how the various parties intend to promote positive measures that would support expectant families (especially in situations where a child may be born with a disability), the elderly, those with a terminal or chronic illness and providing support to those in existing marriages so that more marriages are ultimately successful?

In terms of supporting Catholic education, I wonder how important this is when one looks around the pews and sees virtually no students from our schools attending Mass on a regular basis?
Finally, if you must produce such a guide, I strongly object to having it placed on every pew in the church. At this time of Lent, surely our minds should be on Christ's journey to Jerusalem and the Paschal Mystery, rather than being distracted in Mass by such earthly concerns.