Rossum’s Universal Robots

Rossum’s Universal Robots turned rossums.gifout to be a quite different production—four physical actresses, playing about 13 different parts: all were narrators, who juggled the narration between them, all played humans, with great physical characters, all played robots in a good stylised way. The dialogue was robotic, minimal and repeated and there was a great score, quite repetitive and minimal, which changed with the stage of the play, reflecting the tension. The narrators stopped form time to time to explain what was going on (delivered with somewhat lunatic smiling expressions and small, bird-like movements) and to comment on the ’emotional arc’ that the characters were going through. So a good sense of humour! The play was written by Karel Čapek and I have no idea of how this production by the CU Amateur Dramatic Club compares with the original!

From the ADC web site:

In a dark future, Old Rossum has discovered the secret of life. Now his factory manufactures artificial people. Known as ‘robots’, they toil to ensure that humans live a life of luxury. Once, Helena Glory sought revolution among the robots; now, married to the factory manager, she is complicit in their servitude. But she still dreams of a world where robots are no longer enslaved. And now, as discontent stirs afresh among the robot masses, there is the danger that such a dream will be realised, with devastating consequences for mankind.

First performed in 1921, R.U.R. is the play that invented the word robot. An enduring cautionary tale, it deals with the human desire to dominate and the costs of domination. This dynamic production will find innovative ways to re-tell this classic story, in order to create a new vision of a bleak alternative future.

Tweets this Week (2009-10-25)

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Madness of George III


Saw a good performance tonight of The Madness of George III by Alan Bennett, produced by Cambridge University Players. Ben Kavanagh was a huge hit as the king—he was confident and accomplished. Toby Jones made a good Pitt. There is a Facebook Group for the production.

Some impressive staging: in a scene where the physician was blistering the king with candles, with the Prince Regent standing over. The stage lighting faded, and left the group of actors lit only by the three candles, which were blow out one by one, as the dialogue continued.

From the ADC web site:

George is King of England.

George is sovereign of the world’s greatest commonwealth.

George is also going mad.

So when the King’s illness takes hold, the impatient Prince of Wales – his “fat turd” of a son – begins to scheme for sovereignty. A greasy tangle of ignorant doctors, corrupt politicos, and self-seeking royalty all vie for power. It is left to the unconventional Dr Willis to restore the King to his senses before it is too late.

Witty, poignant, and terrifying by turns, this is one of Alan Bennett’s greatest plays, later an Oscar-winning film. From insightful humour to George’s heart-wrenching relationship with his beloved “Mrs King”, this is a moving and powerful portrayal of a king’s descent into madness. Lavish costumes, the glorious music of Handel, and Cambridge’s finest acting talent come together in this extravagant landmark production.

Tweets this Week (2009-10-18)

  • Waiting for a pot of chai masala, watching the monkeys play in the tree outside our window and on our roof. #
  • Waiting for Michael to have his cough medicine checked by Dr Chowhan #
  • Monkeys are on the opposite side of the hotel this morning, so no monkey alarm call at 5am #
  • Hot day visiting the Dilwara temples: 11th C white marble, amazingly detailed, deep, carving #
  • At Abu Rd train station waiting for (2nd class) sleeper to Delhi. Bought lock & chain for bags. #
  • Safely on board the Ashram Express for Delhi, the 2nd class a/c is great, newer train than the previous. #
  • Uncomfortable night on Ashram Express: hard bed & too short. Up at 7:30, Michael already had breakfast bought 🙂 #
  • – #LocationClip Coordinate: 28.556420,77.215209, Address: Khel Gaon Marg, Gautam Nagar, New Delhi, Delhi, India #
  • Having a beer before we head out for a Chinese meal (popular in India) #
  • Wondering whether the pall of smoke over Delhi all day is from Diwali fireworks? #
  • Bought some Indian music to take home: Punjabi MC; Swami; Urban Grooves Project—Rajasthan. Worth a punt for £6. #
  • Excellent Guardian comment about Jan Moir's spiteful article in the Daily Mail.;c,3&cat=Most_Read #
  • wali #
  • At Dilli Haat craft Market in South Delhi. It's very quiet—Happy Di #
  • Just had a mouth-searing chilli pakora at Dilli Haat. Wow!!!! #
  • stic snack, ouch, ouch, ouch! #
  • That chilli pakora came as a "Mirchi Vada" when the bill came—fanta #
  • Fantastic Diwali Pudjah tonight, and loads of fireworks. Great atmosphere and good party ar Thikana. #
  • Home after two weeks in north India. The weather's great in England. #

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Back home safely

image1999472167.jpgPleased to have come back to decent weather. We’ve lugged warm tops round India for our home coming and don’t really need them. It’s a lovely autumn day here.

The trip back was restful and smooth, door to door. We were on the Piccadily Line by the time our flight was due to land, which was a lovely bonus.

I had my garlic masala confiscated before boarding during a bag search—no spices allowed in hand luggage. Unfortunately I had shoved the spices in my camera bag to use up volume, so it must have looked a bit dodgy when the guy discovered it.

All my clothes, my ‘manbag’ and particularly my shoes are in a right state: dusty, dirty and scuffed. Looking forward to a good scrub.

Diwali at Thikana

Lots of exchanging “Happy Diwali” greetings today and a calm, holiday atmopshere. The guest house gave us a lovely lotus candle each to light for Diwali, which we’ll take home and light in Cambridge. All 18 or so guests at Thikana were invited for a Diwali party and puja ceremony. The house was wonderfully decorated with candles, small oil lamps, rose and marigold petals and long marigold garlands—it looked stunning. Sheetal’s mother gave us a third eye mark on our forehead and a Diwali bracelet that said Ganesh, to bring us good luck. The puja was to bring success and wealth but to balance this with the wisdom not to misuse it. We held oil lamps and circled them around before the shrine, throwing handfuls of petals.

The party then moved outdoors for fireworks—big bomb bangers and sparklers. We were quite early with the fireworks, and the kids, Taahira and Tia, had a great time. Moved into the smart ground floor garden for drinks and chat until about 9:30. Good punch, beer, pakora, sweets and hot paneer snacks. Atul was very generous with the whisky and we took a glass upstairs for later. Had a 15 min walk around Gulmohar Park—it’s a rather smart area and a lot of money was spent on Diwali, with the houses brightly lit up and lots of firworks. The sky was cloudy with smoke, bangs and fizzles! We got invited into another families house to see their Puja, but headed back to Thikana to spend 30 mins on the rooftop with some Dutch guests, watching the fireworks and finishing our whisky. What a great end to our trip.

Dilli Haat and Lodi Gardens

image402471027.jpgWhen we’re on holiday we’re keen to go at a relaxed pace and take in as much local atmosphere as possible. Today we spent the late morning at Dilli Haat craft market, in South Delhi close to our hotel. Lots of silk, paintings, pashminas, carved/inlaid marble. We spend a good couple of hours looking though the stalls. Our main buying constraint was the space in our hand luggage. We were tempted by silk bedspreads and found a design we liked, but in the end decided against it. For many of the stalls we were the “first customers of the day” and one wanted us to bring him Diwali luck by buying a bedspread from him. We came away on the end with some charity bookmarks and cards from the “Trash for Cash” stall, supporting Prabhat a charity for child development. They made amazing boxes and folders from woven recycled video tape.

Had a Rajastan chilli pakora for a snack at the market, so spicy! My tongue felt burnt by the massive green chilli in the middle of a potato and vegetable curry. Moved on to a different stall for lunch: masala dosa for Michael and onion dosa for me. Had a fruit beer—syrup and soda water, not very good.

Took a rickshaw to the lush Lodi Gardens. Old mosques, mausoleum, bridges in a lovely park setting. Had a lichee mivey to top of lunch! This is the best maintained park we’ve visited in India.

Red Fort (Lal Qila)

image1122889111.jpgWe shared a rickshaw with the Dutch couple (a bit of a squeeze) from our bike tour to go to the Red Fort. This is an impressively opulent building, which was clearly a marvel before it was sacked by invaders, then occupied by British and then Indian armies. The wonderful peacock throne of gold, containing the Kohinoor diamond was ransacked from the palace and must have been stupendous. The guy who had this built, also built the Taj Mahal, and the same opulence, inlaid marble, and use of water are evident. Also evident was where semi-precious inlaid stones were prised from the marble, possibly as soldiers keepsakes.

Visited a couple of dusty museums at the fort, overall the exhibits were not as good as at Merangarh in Jodphur.

Walked back to the Chandni Chowk metro line and got a train as far south as we could (Central Secretariat) before getting a rickshaw the rest of the way back to Thikana through the congested roads. We started off at 100 rupees, amended it to 130 to shut the driver up, then gave him 150 because of the awful traffic, and the sad look on his face.

Lounged in the lovely lounge at Thikana, having a chai masala, then a rest before walking out to dinner at the up-market Ansal Plaza. Spent an hour looking at the shops there (there was a clothing branch of Marks & Spencers) and bought a few CDs: Swami are good, not so sure about Punjabi MC, Urban Goove Project—Rajastan was probably a mistake. Also got a couple of DVDs for 99 rupees. We were too early for the Oriental Bloom resturant so we found a pizza restaurant and bar and had a couple of beers while we waited.

The Oriental Bloom was a good Chinese restaurant—although it’s a surprise that our most expensive meal of the trip, and the only one we had wine at, was Chinese. Chilli chicken was very good, the Szechuan stir fried duck was pretty tough and chewey, we had the crispy fried spinach and the Grove Santé chenin blanc from India. It was a bit of a blow out and a whopping 3115 rupees, 1/3 of which was wine.

Walked back from the plaza, getting nibbled by a mosquito along the route!

Old Delhi by bicycle

image1083275012.jpgYesterday Sheetal looked out a newspaper article about touring Old Delhi by bicycle. We booked up with Delhi By Bicycle and left at 6am to get to the meet up point outside the DeLite cinema, near Turkman Gate. Our guides were Aline (Swiss), Remco (Dutch) and Kailash (from somewhere near Delhi). There were four tourists on the tour, two of us and two Dutch people. It was great fun cycling through the old twisty streets and alleys, relatively quiet at 7am and it was so cool (our rickshaw driver had a blanket this morning to keep off the ‘chill’). We were a bit of a spectacle for the locals. We cycled through streets where sweets were being made and into the huge spice market where most of India’s spices go through. The smell was increadible, as was the sneezing from our group. We walked to the top of the Spice Market Building—apparently only 80 years old but looked much older it was so tatty. After seeing the view from there we went to the Civil Lines, to look at the up-market bungalows and have a cup of chai from a street vendor. Traffic was getting heavier and scarier by now and we cycled past some temples and the Red Fort, also taking a leisurely cycle past the Jama Masjid and down Chandni Chowk, retacing some of our explorations of last week. We finally stopped for breakfast at Karim’s famous restaurant near the Jama Masjid. It would have been a struggle to find the place without the guides.

The tour finished at 10am, and we were really pleased with the duration, lack of hassle travelling by bike and the ground we covered. We used our bells a lot (essential!) and I didn’t get used to the lack of gears on the bike and found that I rang the bell instead of changing down the gear by trigger! The guides were very relaxed and Remco was very knowledgable given he’d only been in India two weeks (oh, the same time as us!).