Macbeth at the Palm
Kenneth Branagh is one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of our time, yet he took a break from the Bard for more than a decade. He returned this past summer in Macbeth, not (as you might expect) on screen or the London stage, but in a deconsecrated Romanesque church in the City of Manchester.
Branagh’s performance as the tortured Scottish Thane who would be king was a triumph, as was his co-direction of Shakespeare’s great tragedy with American director Rob Ashford. The intermission-less performance hurtles along; critic Dominic Cavendish of The Telegraph called it a “thrilling, cinematically fluid account” that “doesn’t hold back in plunging us into the harrowing grime of battle.” In a reversal of the classic Macbeth, noted Ben Brantley of the New York Times, “this one speaks his early soliloquies less with horrified wonder than with the briskness of a military strategist who can’t afford to consider the emotional toll his actions might take on him. It’s as if he were trying to stay ahead of full consciousness of his bloody deeds. Sometimes his mind catches up with him, and the pauses in Mr. Branagh’s delivery gape like bleeding wounds. His soldier’s mask melts at such moments,” and “you can read the madness in the face beneath with unusual and alarming lucidity.” This Macbeth, Brantley noted, “lends itself naturally to cinematic close-ups,” which is ideal, because Branagh’s performance was taped for a National Theatre Live performance. You can see it at the Palm Theatre for one night only: on Tuesday, November 19 at 7 p.m. National Theatre Live comes to Telluride by way of SPARKy productions, which hosts the Telluride Playwrights Festival each July. SPARKy was founded by Jennie Franks, the artistic director of TPF. She’s a Brit who (as my New York compatriots might put it) knows from theatre. Towards the end, we’ve seen what Macbeth has seen, Brantley writes: “An endless, doomed pageant that keeps marching into the same black hole. But time does not, as Macbeth would have it, creep in a ‘petty pace.’ Fast, furious and unstoppable, time keeps rushing forward in this Macbeth, knocking the breath out of everyone, audience included.”
Tickets are $15 (students, $10). SPARKy members are admitted free. To learn more about SPARKy, visit sparkyproductions.com.
Uranium Drive-In Returns to Telluride
Suzan Beraza premiered Uranium Drive-In, her documentary about the controversy surrounding a proposed uranium mill 50 miles upwind of Telluride, at Mountainfilm last May. You’d think that might be it. The film, you might imagine, would go on to play festivals and pick up speed. Beraza, meanwhile, having established herself with Uranium (and her acclaimed documentary, Bag It, before that) would float off in a different direction, in pursuit of new projects. Instead, her two, finished films are keeping her busier than ever.
Bag It continues to play not only this region, but, to take one recent example, the United Nations Regional Information Center in Brussels. It screens at Ridgway’s Sherbino Theater Saturday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m., and someone from Beraza’s team will be present to discuss the film afterwards.
As for Uranium, “We’re still pretty early in our festival run,” she said. But that is changing: beginning next week, Uranium will play festivals in Denver, New York City, St. Louis and Moab before returning to Telluride Friday, November 22 for a special community showing at the Nugget Theater. It isn’t Uranium’s screenings, per se, that are taking up so much of Beraza’s energy these days, though – it is the “outreach and support” campaign she’s engaged in that turns out to be the real time-suck. Beraza has secured funding for 20 free screenings “for communities facing similar issues” regarding extraction of coal, natural gas or uranium, she said. It’s her job, as a condition of said funding, to help create a well-designed program, perhaps in the form of a panel, to bring people to together to talk about the issues her documentary raises. “More and more granting organizations want to see the after-life of your film,” she said. They want to know, in other words, that your film not only left people scratching their heads, but also helped bring them together afterwards, perhaps (even) to make a difference. This means a lot of extra bother for the filmmaker, though. “At first you’re like, crap. I just wanted to make a film,” Beraza said. But the extra exposure such funding brings turns out to be good for a director as well as a community, she added. “You just have to wrap your mind around the idea that you’ll have to work a lot harder” than simply presenting a movie.
Then too, there’s satisfaction in bringing opposing factions together for a civilized discussion. “There was not a whole heck of a lot of crossover” between residents of Naturita and Telluride in Uranium, Beraza said, “and when there was, it felt a bit antagonistic.” Indeed, the director was quite concerned about what Telluride residents members might think before her film premiered. After all, she’s a resident of this town. In the end, “The audience felt I offered a balanced perspective.” When the film showed in Naturita, “I was almost more nervous about that screening.” There’s a saying in journalism: when it comes to presenting a controversy, if you manage to tick off both sides, you’re probably doing something right. “Well, we did that. But mildly,” Beraza allowed. “No one slashed our tires.” Uranium Drive-In shows at 6 p.m. It plays Naturita in January.