Waiting for Gandalf

I’m lucky enough to have already seen the production of Samuel Beckett‘s famous play Waiting For Godot which is showing here in Christchurch next week at the Isaac Theatre Royal. This excellent production has received a lot of attention, mostly due to the presence of Sir Ian McKellen in the role of Estragon (or Go-Go as I now call him). McKellen is a renowned British stage and screen actor, most famous for his role as Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy and as Magneto in the X-Men movies. McKellen has been adopted by New Zealand after spending a year here filming the LOTR movies and saying all sorts of nice things about us ever since. It is his fondness for New Zealand that we have to thank for the presence of this production on our fair shores, as I’m sure it wouldn’t be here otherwise.

Waiting for Godot is famously inaccessible and is known as the play in which nothing happens. It’s punchline, the non-arrival of Godot, is widely known (so I’m not spoiling it for you). Despite the perceived lack of action, it is constantly hilarious and becomes more so as it goes on and becomes increasingly self-aware and self-referential (at one point McKellen’s character Estragon even bemoans – “nothing happens!”). Never has existential angst been so funny. It fits its billing as a ‘tragicomedy’ and is truly a masterwork by famous Irish playwright Beckett. Due to its ‘difficult’ reputation the play is not performed very often, though I suspect this is because it is considerably demanding from an acting point of view, more so than it is difficult for audiences. In this production the acting is first class, McKellen is brilliantly foiled by Roger Rees, while Matthew Kelly (host of tv show ‘Stars in their Eyes’) is unrecognisable as Pozzo. Particularly brilliant is Brendan O’Hea in the absurdly challenging role of Lucky. Waiting for Godot is certainly a play that demands astonishing performances to succeed, but if ever you are going to see a production of it then this is the one to see as both the acting and direction are of the highest order.

  • Christchurch performances are on Tuesday 13th and Wednesday 14th July 2010

Raring to Read

Cover of Mum's Robot Want to help your child with reading but unsure where to start? The library offers a terrific selection of early readers on their Into Reading shelves found in the Children’s area. Much of the reading fare my daughter has brought home from school has been pretty lacklustre and uninspiring  but on the library shelves we have found some gems.

The Wayland Start Reading selection is worth particular mention. The titles are organised into reading level colours and within each level a number of titles are arranged in groups of four. Each group is about a particular character – the books are humorous, engaging and exceptionally clever at creating  real, original stories with vocabulary that can be deciphered by the beginning reader.

My daughter loves them so much that we have taken to placing holds (free for children) on all the books in a particular group so that she can read them on successive nights. These books we use to supplement the homework books, particularly on weekends or holidays.

Other useful series of books we have enjoyed are the Reading Corner and Leapfrog titles.

A little known musical resource: Naxos Video Library

Naxos Video Library contains more than 300 full-length videos of concerts, operas, ballets, and documentaries from prestigious performing arts labels such as Dacapo, Opus Arte, Naxos, and TDK. It features performances from legendary artists including Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Martha Argerich, and Gerald Finley.

Videos are available to stream at 700 kbps (standard quality) and 2 mbps (high quality) and the service is compatible with both PC and Mac computers. Highlights include: Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Carmen, Aida, La Boheme, La Traviata, Cosi Fan Tutte and Handel’s Messiah

Key features include:

  • Create custom clips: edit and add them to individual playlists.
  • Subtitles available in over 5 languages.
  • Search videos by category, role, composer, artist, production personnel, work, venue or festival.
  • Access pre-defined video chapters and other points of interest including individual arias and scene breaks.

This is a great new resource for library users on those cold winter nights! The only downside is that at this time these videos can’t be viewed within library walls, they have to be viewed from home.  You can access this electronic resource and many others from home with your library card number and PIN.