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Topic: 'THE HARD PROBLEM' REVIEWS - have you seen Damien's new play?

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Marvellous Molonian Moderator
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RE: 'THE HARD PROBLEM' REVIEWS - have you seen Damien's new play?
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I've been trying to post a really long thing about my thoughts about the play for about two hours but it keeps disappearing! It's making me want to cry!

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DMF
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Oh no Rosie, let me know if i can help (maybe write it as a word doc and save first?)

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Marvellous Molonian Moderator
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Thanks domino. I think it's just an issue with trying to write a long post on my phone. I've had some toast and nutella and am feeling a bit calmer now! Think I'm just a little 'tired and emotional' after yesterday! I'll try posting again later (perhaps in two parts) when I have a bit more control and the risk of a Hal-like rampage has diminished! (Anger directed at my phone, don't worry humans are not in danger!)

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Marvellous Molonian Moderator
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Ok feeling calmer now! Going to post in two parts.

Firstly, it was fantastic to meet UJ and I hope to meet lots more forumers in the future. You really are a lovely bunch! I was so happy to have a stage door moment. Damien was just as polite and gentlemanly as everyone says. I only wish I hadn't been so nervous. I hope he didn't mind us waiting at the stage door for him. UJ your photo was perfect, thank you!

Now for the play:

There are a lot of long passages of complex dialogue but i think Stoppard has it pegged at the right level. He doesn't talk down to his audience but doesn't assume that they know anything about the concepts either.

I think Spike and Hilary are two sides of the same coin in a way. They are both very firm in their beliefs. Spike says all human behaviour is hardwired in the brain through evolution. Everything humans do can be explained by science, the need to survive and pass on your genes. He says there is no such thing as altruism. Altruists get something out of it. Being 'good' is a learned behaviour. Hilary believes there are things science can't yet explain like belief in God and how and why we experience abstract concepts like sorrow. Neither of them backs down or accepts the other's view but Spike comes across far less sympathetically. He is rude, arrogant and belittles anyone who disagrees with him.

Hilary is the only character who has any real emotional depth. Spike's bedhopping with students seems cold and detatched. He gets what he wants and doesn't care how the women feel. We discover he hasn't stayed in touch with Hilary but expects her to jump into bed with him when they meet later on. Which she does! I agree with Jozie that there is an element of being flattered by his attention but I think Hilary uses Spike. She sleeps with him and he helps her with her university thesis. She also gets to have sex! Spike does seem to show a little concern when Hilary is upset but not enough to talk to her about it or give her emotional support. Hilary only seems to realise that she doesn't need to put up with him when she gains confidence, particularly when she and Bo publish their paper. She doesn't need his help anymore so she doesn't need him.

Continued in next post

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Marvellous Molonian Moderator
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Continued from post above:

Spike really is obnoxious at the party. I think he feels threatened that his views might be proved wrong. Hilary and Bo's paper seems to show that we are born good but learn to be selfish. Spike believes we are born selfish but learn to be 'good' to get what we want in the long term.

The other characters seem to stand for archetypes, the money man (Jerry), the lay person (Julia). I think the use of these archetypes to posit different points of view was effective. I thought it was interesting that the only person Hilary confides in about her feelings about giving up her daughter is Julia, the only one who isn't a scientist.

I think the public want to think scientific research is used to benefit mankind but science is just as much big business as a financial institution is. Jerry makes his money through hedge funds but he set up the Krohl institute, a seemingly altruistic gesture. But he still wants to make money out of it. He employs Amal to make computer models of the markets to make more money. He employs Spike to research the physiology of traders to make more money. Hilary's department is threatened with losing their funding unless they publish something 'sexy'.

Jerry is kind to give Hilary a picture of Cathy but does he do it to 'reward' Hilary for keeping out of Cathy's life? He doesn't want his family disrupted.

The play doesn't come up with any firm conclusions but I felt the sympathetic way Hilary is portrayed made me feel Stoppard is on the side of science not being able to explain everything. Hilary is rewarded by finding out her daughter is well and happy. She gains the peace and forgiveness for herself that she wanted but Spike is rejected by everyone else at the party.

I hadn't expected the play to be so witty. There really are a lot of funny lines. Spike gets a lot of good lines. As fifi said the semi nudity is not gratuitous in terms of the plot but it is a tad distracting! He is clothed for most of the play though!

I'm sure more thoughts will come to me particularly once I read the play text and watch the NT live performance and have time to have a proper think. These were just some first impressions!

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Damiac
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Rosie, I thought I could keep my "cool" this time when meeting Damien but as soon as he walked out those doors and I said hi I totally lost it. Shaky hands and then I have to think what I was supposed to say, didn't help me him standing close and looking into my eyes, smiling while trying to understand my mumble (it was incredibly hard to look straight in to his eyes)biggrin I guess he's used to nervous fans. But I was more brave, and I'm glad of it! And besides, I don't think he's upset that somebody waits him at the Stage doors, that's why are they forwink

Really enjoyed everyone's insight of this play. I have to agree with many things with you Rosie, but I never thought that Hilary would use Spike, now that you throw that idea on the table I have to rethink their relationship. But I still think there's a element of affection which lies somewhere between respect and flattery, glad I'm not the only one who thinks this! She keeps Spike close but far, she doesn't let him into her heart, which might be the reason she wasn't telling about her daughter at first... And Spike's reaction to those news, when he hears how she was is really, really offending and annoying. Damien did excellent job as an actor there, almost one nanosecond I almost managed to hate him smiling and laughing.

 

 



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Marvellous Molonian Moderator
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There is some level of affection between them, more on her side than his. But i think they both get what they want from the relationship. I didn't get the impression that either of them would be broken hearted if they didn't see each other again. It was quite refreshing in that way, that the female character didn't need the validation of a relationship, particularly as he was such an obnoxious arse most of the time.

I agree Jozie, about his reaction to the news she had a daughter. It was so cruel of him. His first reaction is to worry that she was his, then to laugh at Hilary when she said she was 15 when she had the baby.

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Damiac
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You've got me thinking now as to why Spike laughed when Hilary said she had a child at fifteen. Is it how he sees Hilary, and having a child at fifteen is so her, and he finds that funny? Mind, we don't know anything about Spike's past. That laugh could be loaded with mystery subtext.

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Marvellous Molonian Moderator
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I thought he laughed because she liked to think that she was 'good' and because she believed in God and prayed so he was being judgmental about her past; that the 'good' was a pretence.

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Damiac
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Ha! That made me laugh so you're probably right, Rosie.

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The Hard Problem review from

The Oxford Times

Learn to rejoice in stimulating drama The Hard Problem

First published Thursday 12 March 2015 in Theatre and Danceby Christopher Gray

Christopher Gray has plenty of praise for NT boss Nicholas Hytner’s final gig

Tom Stoppard tackles weighty matters in his new play, The Hard Problem, and they might have been weightier still but for his fear of an intellectual deficiency on the part of his audience.

In truth, Sir Tom’s much publicised admission to having dumbed down the work applies to specific cultural allus-ions in it, which went uncomprehended by people at previews, rather than to the broader themes it covers.

Hilary (Olivia Vinall), the engaging heroine of the play — Stoppard’s first in nine years — inclines to the second view. She even prays to God, to the surprise and dismay of other scientific minds around her at the Krohl Institute for Brain Science.These, in a nutshell, centre on the mystery of consciousness. The “hard problem,” as Stoppard puts it in a programme note, is how to explain the phenomenon that we have subjective first-person experiences. Do these derive simply from the brain or from another entity; call it the mind or soul?

We first meet her as a psychology student at Loughborough University, where she is being coached — in between bouts of athletic love-making — for a job interview at this august establishment. Her mentor is her on-off boyfriend (if the pun can be forgiven). Spike (Damien Molony), who is a mighty clever clogs and proud to be so.

 

Something in his teaching must be right, for Hilary goes on to win the approval of the good -natured department boss Leo (Jonathan Coy) and gain employment.

This comes as a significant shock to her cocksure rival candidate, Amal (Parth Thakerar), who clearly considers the job to be his.

No matter: he is to find employment perhaps better suited to his hard-nosed talents, working for the hedge-fund whose boss is the institute’s philanthropic founder, tough-cookie billionaire Jerry Krohl (Anthony Calf).

The action throughout the 100-minute drama, played without interval, focuses principally on Hilary, who is strongly and sympathetically portrayed by Ms Vinall. Attention is divided between her workplace – where a collaboration with gifted mathematician Bo (Vera Chok) comes to have great importance – and her private life, much affected by her anxiety over the child she bore at 15 and gave up for adoption.

Its heady intellectual content includ-es much to do with human motivation; whether we do good for its own sake, or for purely egotistical reasons. There is talk, too, concerning coincidence, thereby laying the groundwork for a whopping example of it soon to follow.

Nicholas Hytner, in his last gig as the NT boss, directs at a cracking pace, while Bob Crowley supplies a set suited to the action, with its tangle of overhead lights suggestive of the brain and its electrical activity.

Entertaining as well as educative, the play should not be missed.

The Hard Problem
National Theatre, Dorfman Theatre
Until May 27
Tickets: 020 7452 3000 nationaltheatre.org.uk
Also live screening at local cinemas on April 16



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Marvellous Molonian Moderator
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"athletic love making"?! I think that's inferred rather than seen on stage!

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Since re-opening at the NT on Friday, The Hard Problem has received overwhelmingly positive reviews on Twitter!

 



















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Damiac
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I think what i thought has been said already. I did like the play more than i thought i would. It was pegged correctly to the audience, enough not to lose them and not too simple to patronise them, if that makes sense.

The scantily clad scenes are distracting, my sister nudged me after the just the underpants scene and whispered 'did you enjoy that?' and she wasn't talking about the play... ;) (and yes i did, the boy has been working out!!)

I didn't get a stage door this time, he slipped out of the side door (there's the main stage door and a more hidden door to the right, hidden kind of by the structure of the building and i saw him head out of there. He was talking on his phone and looked like he was in a bit of a hurry so i didn't bother him. Sis and I went in the same direction (though not following him) and he was meeting a group of friends so we didn't intrude, so yes i was a little disappointed but I know had he had the time he would've come to say hello. As it was, we had a lovely day in London, the South Bank is incredible all on its own and i hope to be back some day.

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Hi Lisa, great to read your thoughts on the play, thanks for sharing them! Listening to his Q&A. Stoppard struggle with that balance - sounds like he pitched it perfectly.

There is a whole 'just the underpants scene'? Just knowing that is distracting...! is there a purpose to such extreme states of undress (apart from distraction!) to the play? and is it making extra commentary on the themes of the play (subliminally) somehow (like how the audience experience things.. ) Not sure if that makes sense but Stoppard is transcendentally clever in his writing and the music, structure and more than the dialogue would be relevant... and not be coincidental...so I am wondering if there is something in that Spike is undressed so much, not just that it is part of the scene.

Aw... I am disappointed for you that you missed Damien, but I'm sure too that if he had the time he absolutely would have come to the stage door. I hope the gift of seeing him perform live on stage stays with you for a long long time! molonyeffect

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Marvellous Molonian Moderator
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I hadn't thought of there being deeper meaning to the pants! The state of undress is realistic to the situation being portrayed in the scene, that is, in a bedroom getting dressed after a shower. Maybe I'll have to give it some more thought ;)

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Damiac
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We should all meditate on the full implications of the need of no pants.

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Damiac
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UJ wrote:

We should all meditate on the full implications of the need of no pants.


 LMAO

Brilliant idea UJ! biggrin



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Ok I've meditated and:



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UJ
Damiac
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Aw! Ooh la la!

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Seriously though... it is Tom Stoppard.. everything has a reason...

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Marvellous Molonian Moderator
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Looking forward to your thoughts about the pants once you've seen the play on the 16th, domino!

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Damiac
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I've finally got around to reading this.  But I'm not going to say any more until after I - and everybody else - have had a chance to see it via NTlive. 

 



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Have to say, I was pretty unimpressed with the whole thing. I found the script smug and self important which made all the characters smug and self important. The side story was pointless and had no relevance to anything. There was no emotional connection with anyone so I just didn't care for a single character. Sorry to be on a downer!



-- Edited by Hes_A_Bloke on Sunday 3rd of May 2015 11:02:25 PM

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Molonian
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 Guess certain plays talk to some more than others, but all opinions are valid... I like difference and debate.... Is there anything which would've made it more enjoyable for you? Did you know you wouldn't like it but gave it chance (I do that sometimes)? Whats the last play you really enjoyed?



-- Edited by Kallie on Sunday 3rd of May 2015 11:51:49 PM

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