LONDON: Friends shunned, lovers torn apart and emotions exploding: a new play running in London this month tackles the very personal divisions in British society caused by Brexit.
“People Like Us”, a tragi-comedy by the columnist Julie Burchill and novelist Jane Robins, asks whether it is possible to stay friends with people who hold opposing views.
The play was sparked by what the Brexit-backing writers felt was a social outcasting of Leave voters by more vocal, self-righteous Remainers — particularly in the fervently pro-EU London artsy circles.
“It’s what they call projection. Everything they accuse us of, they are: a small, monocultural clique,” Burchill, 59, told AFP.
“They call us bigots — but they won’t listen to us for a second!
“By projecting all their sins onto us, they are cleansed.”
Robins, 60, said she was invited to several Christmas parties in 2016, six months after the Brexit vote — and avoided the lot.
“I knew they would all be so miserable. Christmas wakes,” she told AFP. “Every single one was going to be Remainers moaning in despair — and they would look at me as the one to be blamed.”
Burchill’s stinging columns about Remainers’ “pathetic petulance” and the social backlash aimed at Leavers chimed with Robins. The two met via a mutual friend — and set about penning a drama.
They found rich inspiration in the aftermath of the referendum.
The vote was bitterly contested and led to relationship breakdowns, friends falling out and even inter-generational conflict between Leave-voting children and Remain-voting parents.
“People Like Us” centres on five friends in a book group and takes place around the 2016 Brexit referendum.
It features pompous Ralph, his self-righteous French girlfriend Clemence, fence-sitting eternal optimist Will, judgemental minx Stacey and her no-nonsense, wine-guzzling friend Frances.
Ralph, Stacey and Will are old mates from Oxford University. Ralph, Clemence and Will are Remainers, while Stacey and Frances are Leavers.
The setting is Ralph’s flat in Islington: the north London epicentre of right-on thinking.
The book group’s first monthly meeting takes place just before the Brexit vote and tensions are beginning to stir.
But afterwards, divisions surface and emotions boil over.
Ralph is consumed by “numbing, excruciating grief; with a top note of despair”, while for Stacey, Brexit was “a revolution I could witness” and the first thing that “actually made me feel something”.
The sniping from both sides culminates in a catfight. The book group breaks up, each side unable to bear the other’s attitude.
Though pegged around Brexit, the drawing-room comedy focuses on the boundaries of modern friendship.
“Now it’s like a mob mentality,” said Robins.
“Because we voted for Brexit, they think we’re evil.
“Brexit derangement syndrome is a real thing.
“What the hell’s happened to our society that we can’t be friends with people any more because of this vote? It’s bizarre.”
The play, which runs until October 20 at the 70-seat Union Theatre, sold out before it opened — much to the writers’ surprise.
Given the Remain-dominated atmosphere in the London arts world, they doubted the play would even get put on – and were prepared to stage it in the back room of a pub.
Now the writers hope to transfer to a bigger London theatre and take the play to the Brexit heartlands.
Robins said: “We really hope that people come who don’t generally go to the theatre because it’s alienating for them.”
Credits roll for Moscow’s Soviet-era cinemas
MOSCOW: Scattered throughout the city’s outlying neighbourhoods, Moscow’s Soviet-era cinemas have for decades served as the centre of communities.
With names like “Mars” and “The Diamond”, the cinemas were mostly built in the 1960s and 70s during a Soviet film boom and were popular even after the collapse of the USSR, offering cheaper tickets than their counterparts in shopping centres.
Now – as part of a wider plan changing the face of the Russian capital – almost 40 of them are being turned into modern glass complexes.
Developers say the project will brighten up dreary suburbs and bring more life to dormant residential districts.
But it has faced a backlash from activists and residents, who say it will deprive locals of community focal points and destroy important architectural heritage.
The plan is part of a major city redevelopment programme led by Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin that has included the construction of a multi-billion-dollar park and the demolition of Soviet-era pre-fab apartments.
Real estate company ADG Group bought 39 Soviet-built cinemas from the government and plans to turn them into what it calls “neighbourhood centres”.
Grigory Pechersky, ADG Group’s founder and co-director, said the majority of the cinemas were in “extremely poor” condition when his company bought them in 2014.
“Around half of them were closed since the 1990s,” he told AFP in the group’s central Moscow office.
Pechersky said the project aims to “recreate the historical function of the cinemas, which is for residents to spend their free time comfortably.”
Moscow’s infrastructure in residential areas is limited, he said, and Muscovites tend to travel to the huge city’s centre for quality entertainment and shopping.
“Those areas are very densely populated but in many cases there is nothing there,” he said, adding that around 10 million people live between Moscow’s two main beltways where the cinemas are located.
All but three of the cinemas will be completely torn down and rebuilt.
One of those surviving is the 1938 Rodina (Motherland) cinema, a Stalinist landmark in northeastern Moscow with huge pillars and Soviet mosaics, where ADG Group plans to reopen the building’s original rooftop terrace.
The rest of the cinemas were built in the brutalist style – a utilitarian form of architecture popular in the Soviet Union in the second half of the 20th century.
Built in the shape of simple squares, some are on local high streets such as Almaz (The Diamond), a 1964 cinema painted turquoise in southern Moscow’s leafy Shabolovka district.
Others – like the Angara, which is named after a Siberian river and already under reconstruction — are surrounded by typical late-Soviet housing blocks.
According to ADG Group, they have “little architectural value”.
The company hired the British architectural firm run by Amanda Levete – who has worked on London’s V&A Museum and Lisbon’s MAAT contemporary art centre — to design a concept for the new cinemas.
The group’s main architect Alexei Belyakov said the cinemas will be reconstructed in a similar style, to form a recognisable “network” across the far-flung districts.
In drawings seen by AFP, they will all have a glass front and will be considerably larger, to make room for retail space and cafes.
All they will retain is the logos of their original names – taken from cities and rivers of the Soviet Union, planets, mountains and precious stones.
Belyakov said that while the cinemas “were built in the spirit of the time, they are not practical anymore.”
But many Moscow architects disagree.
Ruben Arakelyan, who runs a Moscow-based architectural bureau, said that while it’s “right” to revive the cinemas, the brutalist buildings could have been preserved.
He said some of the cinemas began “dying out” when people increasingly started to travel to the city centre for work after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Local activists worry the cinemas will be turned into regular shopping malls — of which Moscow already has an abundance.
“They tell us that these are depressing places that need to be torn down,” said Klim Likhachev, the head of a residents’ group to save the Almaz cinema.
“But this is our favourite cinema. Nobody asked the residents,” Likhachev said. “By reconstruction they actually mean demolition. They are calling it a ‘neighbourhood centre’, but it will in fact be another banal shopping centre.”
Activist Pyotr Ivanov said the problem with the plan was that it assumed each neighbourhood where the cinemas are based had the same needs.
“All of them are different. You could only make universal decisions like that in a command economy like the Soviet Union,” he said.
Two Metro stations away from Almaz, residents have also been fighting to preserve the Ulaanbaatar, named after the capital of once Soviet-friendly Mongolia.
Another of the movie theatres, the Baku Cinema in northwestern Moscow, has served as a community centre for the Azerbaijani diaspora since the Soviet era.
ADG Group’s Belyakov brushed aside criticism, saying it was important for the Russian capital to look to the future.
“Moscow is moving forward,” he said.
Danish shows take TV world by storm
COPENHAGEN: With original boundary-breaking content, thrilling plots and charismatic actors, Danish television series have captivated audiences worldwide in recent years.
The latest show to hit the small screen is “Ride Upon the Storm”, which is being distributed in almost 80 countries with a debut late January in Britain.
The new drama was created by Adam Price, the BAFTA winner behind the acclaimed drama “Borgen”, which followed the political and personal tribulations of a Danish woman prime minister.
Danish shows, with both exoticism and gritty realism, have quickly soared in popularity beyond their initial local Scandinavian viewership, Pia Jensen, an Aarhus University communications associate professor specializing in television series, told AFP.
Long known for the Nordic noir crime genre, the big international breakthrough for Danish shows came with “The Killing”, a hard-hitting series following a Copenhagen female cop’s investigations.
Then came crime thriller “The Bridge” in 2011.
The Nordic noir genre has proven so popular that its aesthetic and themes are now being replicated beyond Scandinavia’s borders, with shows such as “Shetland” and “Broadchurch” made in Britain, Jensen said.
For foreign audiences, Denmark, as it is shown on television, is “an exotic society, something to aspire to because of the welfare state and the strong women characters”, she said, referring also to the 2010 hit “Borgen”.
She added, clearly amused, that it’s “as if Denmark is the fantasy land of gender equality”.
Paradoxically, in this almost utopian world, the characters are “normal” people with whom audiences can identify, according to Jensen.
But now Danish TV series has moved beyond Nordic noir.
“Ride Upon the Storm” is a character-led drama about faith and a family of Danish priests, dominated by Johannes Krogh, a tempestuous God-like father battling numerous demons.
Actor Lars Mikkelsen, known from “The Killing” and his role as the Russian president in Netflix’s “House of Cards”, plays Johannes, a role for which he won an International Emmy in November.
Mikkelsen “has set new standards for the portrayal of the main character in a TV series”, the show’s creator Adam Price told AFP.
Johannes “is the 10th generation of priests, it’s a huge burden that haunts him and he lets it haunt his sons too”.
His eldest son Christian is lost and at odds with the family and society, while younger son August is married and following in his father’s priesthood footsteps before becoming a chaplain for troops stationed in Afghanistan.
“In the Bible, you have lots of stories of fathers and sons and brothers. That was the perfect ground to tell (a story) about masculine relationships, the competitive gene between men in a family,” Price said.
Elements from “Borgen” can be seen in Price’s new venture: the efficient prime minister Birgitte Nyborg and Johannes Krogh, who is headed for the top as Bishop of Copenhagen, are both characters passionate about their work.
“But Johannes reacts differently than Birgitte (does) because his ambition is not within the world of politics, but with more supernatural power,” Price said.
Thoughts on faith, religion, and spirituality are mixed with a complex study of the family.
“Religion is sometimes something imposed, as authority can be imposed on our children in a family. And both are dealt with in ‘Ride Upon the Storm’,” he said.
Price is currently working on “Ragnarok” for Netflix, a six-part Norwegian coming-of-age drama based on Norse mythology but set in a modern-day high school.
The second season of “Ride Upon the Storm” just wrapped up on Danish public television DR, which produced the series, and had around 500,000 viewers.
A small country of just 5.8 million people, Denmark is proud of its reputation as an innovator on the small and big screen.
“Danish producers are mainly thinking of a Danish audience. It has to stay relevant to the Danish public and that’s why DR keeps experimenting,” Jensen said.
“Some of the shows will travel and some won’t.”
Lok Virsa screens ‘Saiqa’ 1968, inaugurates ‘Diorama’
ISLAMABAD: National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage (Lok Virsa) Mandwa Film Club has organized a screening of classic Urdu film “Saiqa” (1968) here at its media center.
Film “Saiqa”, directed by Laiq Akhtar, starring Shamim Ara, Mohammad Ali, and Darpan, was a super hit film of the time.
It is most remembered for its outstanding music composed by Nisar Bazmi featuring voices of Mala, Naseem Begum, Runa Laila, Mehdi Hassan, and Ahmad Rushdi. Some memorable classics include “A Baharo, Gawah Rehna, A Nazaro, Gawah Rehna”, “A Meri Zindagi, A Meri Aarzoo”.
The film screening was attended by a large number of people from different walks of life. Incharge Mandwa Film Club Aijaz Gul said that the club welcomes the new year with a screening of classic Urdu film
Lok Virsa Mandwa film club will continue its effort to promote Pakistan film industry and its artists by projecting their work here at Lok Virsa. As well as we are promoting the soft image and projecting the positivity of our country in the world.
Ethnic Wedding Costumes:
Lok Virsa would inaugurate a new Diorama on “Ethnic Wedding Costumes of Pakistan (Women)” depicting wedding, traditional costumes from all provinces including Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu Kashmir on January 10.
Lok Virsa is a specialized institution dealing with research, collection, documentation, preservation, and dissemination of Pakistan’s traditional culture, a senior official told APP.
“Established in the year 1974, the Institute has made notable achievements in the field of culture at home and abroad. These include the establishment of the first ethnological museum in Pakistan, officially named as Pakistan National Museum of Ethnology and popularly known as “Heritage Museum” he said.
He said that the Museum depicts living cultural traditions and lifestyles of the people covering whole Pakistan including remote and far-flung areas, presented through three-dimensional creative manner. The Museum has a covered area of 60,000 square feet which makes it the largest Museum in Pakistan.
Besides documenting the indigenous folk heritage of Pakistan, the Museum also projects cultures of other friendly and brotherly countries that share similarities and influences with the culture of Pakistan including China, Iran, Turkey, and the Central Asian States through various link passages showcasing artifacts contributed by them, he added.
He said that the Museum is an important show-window on Pakistan’s living culture which is frequented by around fifty thousand visitors a month. This includes VIP delegates, dignitaries, state guests, students, researchers, and the general public.
The improvement of the existing displays and the creation of new dioramas is an on-going process at the Museum. In this context, Lok Virsa has created a new Diorama on “Ethnic Wedding Costumes of Pakistan (Women)”.
The inauguration ceremony will feature a specially produced “Traditional/Wedding Costumes Show” presented by male and female models on ramp on the beautiful tunes of the popular folk musical instruments (Rabab, Santoor, Alghoza, Dandung, Saroz, Flute, etc.).
Live folk musical performances by folk artists and folk musicians are also included in the program.