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It's a fashion/style publication - part of the same group that owns what used to be Dazed and Confused.

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17 minutes ago, Lindsay said:

What I was criticising in Unknown Soldier was the gratuitous, exploitative showing off of men's bodies in a way which appeared to have no clear artistic purpose beyond looking "beautiful". 

 

That was the whole point! At the very beginning of the ballet the interviewee kept saying 'they were so beautiful', 'they were beautiful young men' - lamenting the loss of all these young men in their physical prime. And the last scene shows them restored to their physical prime after death, with the insistent refrain that death is not the end. There is nothing gratuitous or exploitative about that. 

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I'm not sure that the interviewee had gold speedos in mind........

 

The interesting idea from that interview for me was the sheer weight of the tragedy being so much that people had a desperate psychological need to believe in life after death - there is lots of interesting research and writing about the soaring popularity of mediums, table-tappers and others who exploited grieving families during and after the war. 

 

Simply taking "death is not the end" at face value and making it the "message" for a ballet seems to me trite in the extreme.

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3 minutes ago, Lindsay said:

Simply taking "death is not the end" at face value and making it the "message" for a ballet seems to me trite in the extreme.

 

It doesn't seem in the least bit trite to me. "Messages" don't always have to be complex or nuanced.

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Sure, but they shouldn't be tasteless.  I have never before seen a piece of art about WW1 where the message seemed to be "they died young but at least they left beautiful corpses".  I prefer my art about useless, senseless, destructive wars to come without a pretty 'happy ending'. 

 

There was literally nothing redemptive or hopeful about the first world war and good artists have known that since during the war itself.  It was ugly.  Think about the work of Siegfried Sassoon or Wilfred Owen. Or read All Quite on the Western Front or Pat Barker's trilogy.  Or watch Oh What a Lovely War.  Or Gloria.  

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9 minutes ago, Lindsay said:

I have.  He is a witness.  Not an artist.

 

So that invalidates his testimony? How incredibly patronising.

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27 minutes ago, Lindsay said:

Simply taking "death is not the end" at face value and making it the "message" for a ballet seems to me trite in the extreme.

 

I think the ballet is ultimately about Florence Billington and her thoughts/memories rather than a generic statement of what the public believed back then.

I am still mulling it over but I did find the ballet to be a more simplistic interpretation of the interviewee’s words than I thought it would be. I wasn’t expecting it to be so literal. 

 

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I don’t think this was about leaving beautiful corpses, or even about a literal life after death. It’s about the beauty of the human spirit, which when back to its pure form can rise above any horror we inflict on each other.  And Florence Billington also said “they are always with you.”   I think that is what is being said in the ballet.  And let’s not forget, a belief in everlasting life is what allows many people such as Harry to deal with horrible things here on Earth.  

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31 minutes ago, Lindsay said:

There was literally nothing redemptive or hopeful about the first world war and good artists have known that since during the war itself.  It was ugly.  Think about the work of Siegfried Sassoon or Wilfred Owen. Or read All Quite on the Western Front or Pat Barker's trilogy.  Or watch Oh What a Lovely War.  Or Gloria.  

 

I'd like to add to that list the recent Peter Jackson documentary "They Shall Not Grow Old" 

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13 minutes ago, bridiem said:

 

So that invalidates his testimony? How incredibly patronising.

 

Where did I say that? I absolutely respect his beliefs and can completely understand why his terrible experiences led to that reaction.  But testimony is not the same thing as the making of a piece of art. 

 

I would hope that a maker of art (and expensively commissioned, part-publicly-funded art at that) would think a bit more deeply thatn Marriott seems to have done in this case about how to make the audience think about the reactions of Harry Patch, Florence Billington and others.  For me what great art does is to convey ideas to the reader/viewer/listener in a way that offers them the possibility of a new perspective.  That is why there is a place for history books, documents and memoirs about World War 1 and there is a place for the poetry of Sassoon and Owen.  They serve a different purpose. 

 

 

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4 minutes ago, annamk said:

 

I'd like to add to that list the recent Peter Jackson documentary "They Shall Not Grow Old" 

 

I absolutely agree Anna.  And what I found moving about that documentary is that its maker refrained from an obvious, authorial voice and let the soldiers speak for themselves (expressing a wide range of points of view) so it did not feel manipulative of the viewer.  Also, looking at some of the soldiers portrayed, and the state of their physique and teeth, it is clear that the working class population driven into the trenches were very far from the well-nourished, healthy young dancers on stage last night.  Which was yet another reason why that final scene seemed to me rather disrespectful and inappropriate.  

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But this ballet is based largely on what Florence Billington said, and as Bridie pointed out, she said that they were beautiful boys.  And to her, I am sure they were.  And these aren’t corpses being depicted at the end, they are the ghosts of idealised boys.  Of how their loved ones will remember them.  The dead are often idealised, especially when they die young.  I remember the scene in The Doors when Jim Morrison’s girlfriend finds him dead in the bath.  When she looks down at him, she doesn’t see the fat, bloated, bearded Morrison, she sees the gorgeous young man he had been in 1967.   It’s the same in the ballet....every mum or girlfriend wants to remember the beauty of their lost loved one, whatever that beauty was.  They don’t want to remember them with horrible injuries or horrible teeth.  

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One thing I don't follow us why this piece is called The Unknown Soldier, when we are given the name, and the background, of the soldier concerned.

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Beautifully put, Sim.  I find myself straddling both points of view on this one.  I was disappointed by what to me was a superficial take on WW1, yet I understand the sentiments behind the final Act.  I think a part of my problem stems from the programme notes which went into a lot of detail about authenticity.  Then came the actual ballet and all I saw was froth.  It was redeemed by Yasmine’s exuberant dancing but other parts jarred or simply didn’t register.  As one of the critics noted, the telegraph boy was oddly bouncy whereas in real life these youngsters were the harbingers of doom - and they knew it.  There simply weten’t Enough changes of mood.

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37 minutes ago, Richard LH said:

One thing I don't follow us why this piece is called The Unknown Soldier, when we are given the name, and the background, of the soldier concerned.

 

he represents the unknown soldier - a real face on the masses that went to their graves unidentified. Sort of plucking a story from the hundreds of thousands of untold stories

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3 hours ago, Lindsay said:

Where did I say that? I absolutely respect his beliefs and can completely understand why his terrible experiences led to that reaction.  But testimony is not the same thing as the making of a piece of art. 

 

I would hope that a maker of art (and expensively commissioned, part-publicly-funded art at that) would think a bit more deeply thatn Marriott seems to have done in this case about how to make the audience think about the reactions of Harry Patch, Florence Billington and others.  For me what great art does is to convey ideas to the reader/viewer/listener in a way that offers them the possibility of a new perspective.  That is why there is a place for history books, documents and memoirs about World War 1 and there is a place for the poetry of Sassoon and Owen.  They serve a different purpose. 

 

You seem to be saying that the artist has to re-interpret the beliefs and reactions of witnesses like Harry Patch, rather than to use the medium of art to simply convey them as powerfully as possible in whatever art form they operate in. I don't think that's necessarily the case. If Alistair Marriott wanted to convey Harry Patch's 'message' (so urgently and eloquently delivered) in a very direct way, that is his right. We can (and clearly do!) differ about the quality of what he has thereby produced. (Though I did have reservations about some parts, especially early on.) But I found the directness of the delivery of the message unusual, moving and courageous, and a powerful accompaniment to the directness of Harry Patch's words - it was as if his words were being set to physical music.

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2 hours ago, penelopesimpson said:

Beautifully put, Sim.  I find myself straddling both points of view on this one.  I was disappointed by what to me was a superficial take on WW1, yet I understand the sentiments behind the final Act.  I think a part of my problem stems from the programme notes which went into a lot of detail about authenticity.  Then came the actual ballet and all I saw was froth.  It was redeemed by Yasmine’s exuberant dancing but other parts jarred or simply didn’t register.  As one of the critics noted, the telegraph boy was oddly bouncy whereas in real life these youngsters were the harbingers of doom - and they knew it.  There simply weten’t Enough changes of mood.

 

Perhaps I had the advantage of not having bought a programme!

 

I thought the telegraph boy was conveying the physical and emotional whirlwood that was about to envelop its recipient.

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9 hours ago, bridiem said:

 

Perhaps I had the advantage of not having bought a programme!

 

I thought the telegraph boy was conveying the physical and emotional whirlwood that was about to envelop its recipient.

I never read about a new ballet before seeing it as I like to experience it from a state of ignorance to see what effect it has on me.  I often leave in a state of ignorance, for example after some of McGregor's ballets!

 

I agree with your words about TB, Bridie.

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4 minutes ago, loveclassics said:

Can anyone let me know the timings of this mixed bill?

 

Thanks

 

From the ROH website:  https://www.roh.org.uk/mixed-programmes/the-unknown-soldier-infra-symphony-in-c

Approximate timings

Act I – 30 minutes
Interval – 30 minutes
Act II – 30 minutes
Interval – 25 minutes
Act III – 40 minutes

But it was running late on Tuesday and 'curtain down' was 10.25.

 

 

 

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indeed - the cast sheet said 10.15 end time, but working out the timings, I guestimated more like 10.08pm. The extended intervals (for the benefit of sponsors parties maybe?) meant it was nearly 10.28pm when I checked the time outside ROH. Meant a mad dash for the train rather than a gentle amble! Still, probably nearer 10.10pm tonight I reckon

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Thanks very much for the info.  Since the first 2 pieces include everything I really dislike in ballet (dialogue, lighting that shines in the eyes of the audience, projected images, minimalist sets and dancers writhing in their underwear) I don"t have to be there until 9.00.  Seems a bit of a waste of an evening but I see no point in watching something depressing when I was hoping a night out would cheer me up.  Thank goodness for Symphony in C!

 

Linda

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