the cambridge collective Issue 1. 2011/12
In this issue: Review: The Tree of Life Peter West The David Hockney Exhibition: A Bigger Picture Katie Rutherford Wasted (Kate Tempest) Roseanna Brear
About the contributors: Peter West is studying for his Masters degree in Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. He is interested in time travel (both philosophically and generally), as well as film, television and football. At the time of writing he was studying for his undergraduate degree at the University of Leeds. Katie Rutherford has recently finished her Masters degree at the University of Cambridge. Her hobbies include rowing, baking, Harry Potter and looking after chickens. At the time of writing she was in her final year reading History at the University of Sussex. Roseanna Brear is an actress and journalist. She recently graduated from the University of York with a degree in Philosophy. She is interested in film, contemporary theatre, music and the Disney channel. At the time of writing she was also studying for her undergraduate degree.
About the Editor: Shoshana Kessler is in her final year at the University of Edinburgh. Having taken an extraordinary amount of time to finish her undergraduate degree she is making up for it with hobbies and outside activities (such as writing for various papers; editing academic articles for publication; and more recently, assistant producing a short film on Vampires and Macbeth.) Her interests include Harry Potter, the Romantics, Philosophy of Mind, and many different television shows.
About TCC: The Cambridge Collective is the fledgling brainchild of a group of aspiring journalists/writers/academics/adults from Cambridge and the surrounding areas.
The Tree Of Life (2011) Directed by: Terrence Malick Staring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain
! In the build-up to Terrence Malick’s fourth film in forty years I was becoming readily convinced that The Tree Of Life had the makings of one of the best films of our lifetime. With shots immediately comparable with Kubrick’s ground-breaking 2001: A Space Odyssey, a cast including a weatheredlooking Sean Penn and a mature Brad Pitt, not to mention the dinosaurs; The Tree Of Life looked truly seminal. ! ! ! Having seen it, I still believe that The Tree Of Life had the potential to be such a film – but sadly it is not. There’s no denying that the visuals are impressive. The cosmic scenes do in fact bring back memories of the final half an hour of Space Odyssey, but the visuals in themselves are not where the problem lies. The missing element lies in tying these scenes of grandeur depicting the creation of the universe to both the adult Sean Penn-character and the family of his childhood. Although the possibility of some truly fascinating ideas lies in such a connection (Is this film a message to God? Is it a comparison between the universe itself and the tiny-in-comparison lives of one very human family? Is it semi-biography of Malick’s own childhood?), what is needed is a little more clarity. This may seem a trivial point, after all this is Terrence Malick and what he does best is films with subtle meanings and hidden agendas. However, in this instance I believe the film would benefit from making it a little more obvious what it is that it is trying to say. After this film’s release, Penn himself made it clear he wasn’t entirely sure how it all added up and even expressed a little doubt as to whether Malick himself knew for sure what his message was. When the cast themselves aren’t sure what’s going on, what hope do we have?! ! ! Yet, having said all of this I cannot deny my own joy at indulging in such a cinematic exhibition. This is a film that is, regardless of its unclear agenda, a stunning display of visual effects - like watching the iTunes visualizer while someone recites poetry in your ear. It is an appropriate display of what contemporary cinema can do. My own interpretation of the film is that it is quite simply a biography of life itself. We are shown how life began, how it progresses and finally what it all leads to; whilst rejoicing in what happens along the way. If nothing else, The Tree Of Life does show how much beauty can be found in not just the far reaches of space but in your own backyard. In every blade of grass, every drop of water and on every individual’s face, Malick finds the spectacular. For that, at least, he deserves to be praised.
The David Hockney exhibition, ‘A Bigger Picture’ The Royal Academy: 21st January to the 9th April 2012. When I think of Hockney’s paintings I imagine the crisp lines of LA architecture, the block colours of swimming pools and the light flooded montages of the Californian desert. The new exhibition at the Royal Academy celebrates Hockney’s return to the landscape of his childhood, the not so sunny and glamorous East Riding of Yorkshire. His seaside home of Bridlington is a far cry from the paintings of the Grand Canyon and Mulholland drive with the weathered beach huts and gaudy arcades replacing the epic scenery and minimalist mansions. The exhibition sweeps from his American landscapes through his large Yorkshire paintings and finally to his ipad images. It gives you a sense of an artist developing in skill and maturing in interests whilst returning to his roots.
His Yorkshire landscapes show an extraordinary eye for detail and a pensive quality, focusing on light moving through the landscape at different times of day and year. By painting the same scene in each season, Hockney illuminates the brilliant changing colours and forms of the land and trees. However, Hockney’s landscapes have not recoiled into the safety of the chocolate box image with pastel colours and feathery skies. The jarring colours and stylistic forms of the furrowed fields and bulbous bushes create a wonderfully original depiction of the countryside. Hockney also toys with the
viewer’s sense of perspective, directing the eye through the painting and cutting his large pictures into a grid of small canvases to suggest how we view a scene in fragments.
One thing I am always interested in when I go to exhibitions is to look for those people discreetly sketching, in the corner, quick caricatures and rough likenesses of paintings. Prying over the shoulder of one particular man I couldn’t help but notice that he was meticulously sketching out the details of a Hockney painting onto his ipad. Looking around the room it struck me that all the Hockney paintings in there had in fact be drawn on the ipad. Although many may be dubious about this medium as new vehicle for art, the pictures were undoubtedly beautiful, detailed and effective. In fact, it was only when seen at close proximity that you could detect the flat colours and pixelated forms. Forget any primary school foray on Paint, these images were mini masterpieces, exquisite little excerpts of the Great British countryside for the Apple generation. The exhibition is a wonderful display of British art at its best. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the British painting tradition died with the rise of Tracey Emin and other YBA’s, it is still alive, evolving and highly relevant to contemporary life. If you can cope with the jostling crowds and the heaving gift shop it really is a wonderful way to brighten up these winter months. Katie Rutherford
Wasted (2012) Playwright: Kate Tempest ! Commissioned for last year’s Latitude Festival, Wasted is the first play written by 20-year-old beat-poet Kate Tempest. It follows the lives of three postadolescents as they stumble their way through a drug-fuelled night out, assessing their lives and dealing with the difficulties that come with growing up and being faced with the real world.! ! For those of you who don’t know what beat-poetry is, I suggest you look up Kate Tempest’s performances on YouTube. The style of speech in these poems is fluid verses of rhyme that are delivered as a spontaneous stream of consciousness. Tempest has written hundreds of poems on various commissions, released two spoken-word records and has just published an anthology of her work. However, Wasted is her first play and I was keen to see the transition from poetry to prose.! ! The play opens with the three friends – Ted, Danny and Charlotte – addressing the audience directly. They each have a microphone, which makes their voices resonate over the loud club music that preceded their entrance onto the stage. They speak in turn, sometimes overlapping, sometimes finishing each other’s sentences, but all the time speaking in the familiar rhythmic poetry that is so archetypal of Tempest’s work.! ! As the play pans out we learn more about the lives of the three. Ted works in an office but isn’t really happy, Charlotte is a teacher who feels like she’s wasting her life teaching kids who don’t want to be taught, and Danny is in a band you’ve never heard of that isn’t going anywhere. All three are drawn together by the death of friend Tony. The scenes are split into three types, individual monologues, scenes that play out the events of the night as they happened and the afore-mentioned three-way addresses. While the monologues are the strongest points – particularly Charlotte’s heartfelt speech where I felt Tempest’s true style came through – the latter three-ways are where the play falls flattest. The idea is promising: splitting a monologue between three people who pick up on each other’s cues with such fluidity that it sounds like one speech. However, some cues were dropped and it was done at such a speed that it came across as if the performers weren’t completely comfortable on stage.! ! The set itself is impressive. Unassuming black walls, floor and ceiling mean that the transitions from park, to café, to nightclub are seamless with no messy set-changes during their infrequent blackouts. The main focus is the enormous screen at the back of the stage, framed by ultra-violet lights and speakers. Onto the screen are projected the various backdrops, instantly transforming the stage for its intended purpose to great effect. I always find the use of media interesting in performance. It’s a thin line to tread between cinema and theatre and shows can often be found guilty of having overly
distracting cinematography, drawing your gaze like moths to the light and making it hard to follow what is happening on-stage. Wasted avoids such a trap by using the screen merely as a moving backdrop during dialogue and saving the most absorbing camera-work for when it was the sole focus of the stage. The lighting too, is colourful and engaging and is as perfectly adapted for the hectic and vibrant nightclub scenes as it is for the stale artificial light of the café the morning-after.! ! The main criticism I gathered from my fellow audience members was that they found the play to be somewhat patronising. The repeated message of ‘you can live your dreams’ and ‘be anything you want to be’ was rather thrusted in the audience’s faces throughout the play. I think this was perhaps something that can be pinned down to problems an inexperienced playwright is always going to encounter. Common themes throughout much of Tempest’s work are the lack of ambition in the youth of society and how to inspire those neglected and with low aspirations. Naturally, this was the focus of Wasted,however I think Tempest could have afforded to allow her audience with a little more intelligence. The message came across most beautifully when it was subtly implied, through the characters internal monologues and the realism of their interactions. The direct addresses of the audience were therefore unnecessarily explicit and came across a little preachy.! ! Having said that, I still think that Tempest shows great promise as a playwright. Her style of writing is unique and I think the transition from beat poetry to theatre is a medium that could be developed further. The interactions between characters were very fluid and immediate which is a real testament to Tempest’s writing. Often, with writing that tries to reflect how young people to speak, it comes across as jarring and insincere. Tempest dealt with that problem with remarkable dexterity, accompanied by the talent of those performing, and delivered scenes that were both entertaining and relatable.! ! Overall, Wasted, though not without its faults, is a good piece of theatre. The performances were strong and the set and soundscapes were inspired. I hope to see more of Tempest’s work take to the stage. Roseanna Brear!