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January 18, 2006 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-01-18

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Wednesday
January 18, 2006
arts. michigandaily. com
artspage@michigandaily. com

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. . .... .. .. . . ... . . . ........... .......

'TIL DEATH .
DO US
PART r

RSC in A2

:

Make it so

RETELLING OF CLASSIC
TALE COMPETENT FOR
MTV CROWD
By Mary Kate Varnau
Daily Arts Writer

When Peter Jackson took on the task of condens-
ing J.R.R. Tolkien's epic "Lord of the Rings" into
three feature-length films, fans sat biting their nails,
waiting for the inevitable dis- _
appointment of cut scenes and
curtailed character develop- Tristan and
ment. But Jackson was careful. Isolde
In the end, it wasn't the absence At the Showcase
of Tom Bombadil that set the and Quality 16
book apart from the films. Even 20th Century Fox
though all the main events were
accurately and thoughtfully
captured, one of the most fundamental, charming
qualities of the original was missing: the old-fash-
ioned sensibility of time in Middle Earth and the
huge, sprawling scope that lent to the story.
Now take that problem and magnify it by ten.
Not as many people know the story of Tristan
and Isolde, but it's a true love story - a tragic myth
that's inspired poems, operas, books and bedtime
stories for more than 1,000 years. The film's tag-
line, "Before Romeo and Juliet ... " is misleading.
Shakespeare's famous tragedy is a far more recent,
completely fictionalized version of essentially the
same conflict. But compared to Tristan and Isolde,
those star-crossed lovers had it easy.
When a mission goes awry, Tristan (James Fran-
co, "Spiderman"), the highest-ranking knight and
right-hand man to the King of Cornwall, is poi-
soned and almost dies. Isolde (Sophia Myles, "From
Hell"), the princess of Ireland, finds him washed up
on the shore and the two fall in love while she nurses
him through a very sexy fever. He is forced to leave
Ireland, but later returns, hoping to see Isolde, who
he believes to be a lady-in-waiting in the Irish court.
But when he wins the tournament his king sent him
there to fight, he unknowingly wins Isolde as a bride
for his master.
It's almost pointless to debate the film's inaccu-
racies when it comes to plot and character relation-

Before he was the bald-headed
captain of the U.S.S. Enter-
prise and the bald-headed
leader of the X-Men, Patrick Stew-
art did Shakespeare. By the time
he was 26, Stewart worked at one
of the most world-renowned Shake-
speare troupes in the world, the
Royal Shakespeare Com-
pany. This year, exactly
40 years later, Stewart
returns to the RSC to
perform even more of
the Bard.
But that's not even the
best part. TV Guide's
"Sexiest Man on Televi-4
sion" (according to a '92
reader poll) is touring
with the RSC - a tour AL
that includes humble
Ann Arbor as its lone
U.S. destination. For Stewart-philes
who are neither old nor British
enough to have caught him in the
endless Shakespeare productions
he did in his youth, his turn at the
Power Center - playing Antony in
"Antony and Cleopatra" and Pros-
pero in "The Tempest" - should be
a revelation. The RSC and Stewart
come in fall 2006, completing seven
performances of each play, and in
addition the RSC will also put on
"Julius Caesar."
Back in 2003, the RSC made its
second visit to the University, per-
forming "The Merry Wives of Wind-
sor," a stage adaptation of Salman
Rushdie's "Midnight's Children"
and a samurai-inspired rendition of
"Coriolanus." I didn't see "Wives"
or "Children," but "Coriolanus" was
perhaps the most innovative Shake-
speare I've seen on stage. Quasi-styl-
ized (they used real fake-blood here,
no red scarves or handkerchiefs) and
with the look of Kurasawa's "King
Lear" film adaptation ("Ran"), the
Roman-soldier saga found new life
through the RSC.
Since then, I've been awaiting the
RSC's return. All reports pointed
to a 2005 return, but as the fall
semester wound down, there was
no Shakespeare to be found. I made
due with the Guthrie Theater's wilt-
ing take on "Othello" and dabbled
in student productions on campus
and even in East Lansing, but noth-
ing is quite like the real thing.
Why the delay? Apparently, a

LIS
Gc

little shake-up within the RSC post-
poned their tour and the prospect
of snagging Stewart as a headliner
significantly increased the patience
of the University Musical Society.
UMS got their headliner and, as
for me, I'll have to travel post-grad
to see the troupe and the man in
action. Obviously, it
would have been nice to
see the RSC while I was
still a student here, but
the company sans Stew-
art greatly loses its sex
appeal.
Stewart will bring
to the stage years of
classical training and
the bravado of leading
SON a Federation starship
O through the final fron-
tier. He will bring the
intensity wrought in his one-man-
play adaptation of Charles Dickens's
"A Christmas Carol," where he
played all the 40-plus roles starting
in 1992. To top off the momentum
leading up to his return to the RSC,
Stewart also played Prospero on
Broadway not long ago.
Perhaps the most exciting part of
Stewart's visit to Ann Arbor will be
the new experiences to be had by all
- namely, the Bardheads who only
know Stewart through the block-
buster "X-Men" movies or even
(egads) "Conspiracy Theory," and
the Trekkies and comic-book fans
who think Henry V is just another
English king. And for three weeks
in October and November, fanatics
who revel in both high culture and
low culture will unite.
Of course, love for Stewart's work
on television and film and love for
Shakespeare aren't mutually exclu-
sive - my Riverside Shakespeare
sits in close proximity to my "X2:
X-men United" DVD - but get-
ting so close to the stage version
of Stewart will be a one-of-a-kind
experience. Stewart once echoed
the sentiments of Ingmar Bergman
by saying, "I love making movies,
but the theater is my life." With
the RSC in tow, it'll be nice to see
Stewart away from the stars and
back at home.
- Go'sfavorite performance is Leo
DiCaprio's turn in "Romeo + Juliet."
Scold her at aligo@umich.edu.

0

0

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

"I ate a Greek salad ... It's OK, I just had an Orbit."

ships because there are so many different versions
of the original story. But "Tristan and Isolde" does
leave out some vital elements of the love affair,
including its connection to the Arthurian legend, a
potion binding the lovers in enduring love through
life and death, Tristan's marriage to another woman,
the public accusation of lechery, the subsequent
trial and Isolde's sentence to life as a prostitute in
a leper colony.
There's so much more to the story than is depicted
- years of suffering and betrayallonging and desper-
ation. The film wraps it all into a nice, two-hour-long
MTV rendering where all of the honorable characters

have the svelte bodies and glowing skin of runway
models, and the bad guys look more like Grima Wor-
mtongue. It's entertaining, sure - but the reshaping
of the story makes it tragically insubstantial.
The tale's real power is in the epic quality of the
love story. The film has been stripped of its historical
significance, mystery and all the qualities that have
made the legend so enduring in our culture. By cater-
ing to adolescent girls' infatuation with stories of
forbidden love, "Tristan and Isolde" loses its poten-
tial to become anything more than a sexier version of
"A Knight's Tale," and settles for an easy spot in the
middle of the bell curve.

Hip-hop great comes to the Pig

By Kimberly Chou
Daily Arts Writer

I CONCERT IIE

For those fortunate enough to catch
Kool Herc enjoying a pre-performance
blunt, here's some advice: Watch your
words. Don't ask about his status as the
so-called godfather of hip hop. Herc -
built like a Mack truck with an equally
imposing persona - will be quick to
correct you.

hip-hop legend DJ
DJ Kool Herc
Saturday
At the Blind Pig

"Do you know of a kind of music created in America
whose creator is still living?" Herc said, while fend-
ing off two drunken college girls after he smoked. He
pointed to himself.
"I am the father," he bellowed. "I am the inventor of
hip hop."
For the majority of his set Saturday night at the Blind
Pig, Herc carried himself as Kool Herc the legend, the
father, the holy one. Herc took the stage with a diatribe on
world events, then introduced himself as one "on a hip-hop
passport." He was constantly moving, doing faintly aero-
bic Herculoid dance moves and joking with his sidekick,
emcee Whippy Whip.
While Herc recognizes that being the first to use break-
beats certainly counts for something, the problem with
wanting to flaunt his importance is the considerable amount

of kids (including some in the audience) who don't neces-
sarily know enough about him to acknowledge his apparent
preeminence.
Influenced by Jamaican reggae and dub plate (bass-heavy
B-sides), Here was the first to recycle the percussive, instru-
mental breaks of two identical records. As Herc played block
parties in his West Bronx neighborhood in the 1970s, people
started dancing to the breaks, then rapping over them.
The crowd at the Blind Pig could not have been more than
250, a number surely surprising to those in the audience
aware of the rarity of such a performance. Most of the action
during Herc's set centered on b-boy crews that opened ear-
lier in the night with Ypsilanti rapper One.Be.Lo. Dancers
egged each other on with friendly competition and a streak
of outr6, drawing in from the rumbly crowd others who were
brave enough to battle.
For the first half of his set, Herc played several old-school
hip-hop records; they were what the crowd expected, so
it was during this time that they seemed most alive. Fans
anticipated tracks such as Eric B. and Rakim's "Pump Up
the Volume," but Herc's switch to radio-friendly Fat Joe and
Sean Paul cuts killed the crowd. It was almost 2 a.m. when
"Lean Back" boomed through Herc's sound system, and by
that time, the crowd had dwindled considerably- though
Herc's gravitation toward typical club tracks is only natural,
as he started his career as a party DJ.
Despite the tepidity of Herc's foray into Top 40 radio ter-
ritory, some of his experimentation paid off. After a mid-
tempo, quasi-vaudevillian number that left the breakers

DJ Kool Herc, the self-proclaimed "inventor of hip hop," spins at the Blind Pig on Saturday night.

perplexed and unmoving, Here's choice of Edgar Winter's
"Frankenstein" - with its rattling saxophone and guitar
- was strikingly successful.
"This is hip hop!" Herc declared of the classic rock instru-
mental. Believing his many proclamations became difficult
later on in the performance when Herc played air guitar as

the audience danced to "Frankenstein."
Three decades after he started breaking up James Brown
records at massive Bronx block parties, Kool Herc is still a DJ.
For his efforts, he certainly deserves to keep his title. But for
someone who has the cojones to call himself the inventor of hip
hop, a little innovation shouldn't be too much to expect.

tion

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