Wednesday, October 29, 2014

NTL's Frankenstein

I just heard a CBC "As It Happens" interview with a woman who dated Jian briefly. When they were first alone, she says, he pulled her hair back roughly. But when on a later occasion she came back to his place, she says without warning he began to hit her on the head until she cried, in shock and pain, and got out. Tomorrow morning, apparently, there will be another interview, same story.

We in Canada are reeling - not because it's a salacious sex story, so unusual in this country, but because it's incomprehensible. We all knew the public face of this personable, clever, successful, multi-talented man. And now we discover he has another side, vicious, violent - Jekyl and Hyde. I just heard Jamie Lee Curtis in a video about bullying say, "Hurt people hurt people." But everything we know about Jian's childhood is comfort and happiness - loving middle-class parents, stable, warm - yes, an outsider, a Persian princeling in whitebread Thornhill, as he has so often joked. But what would produce a man so full of anger that he would assault a young woman he hardly knew, risking his entire career? It happened ten years ago, she said. It has taken that long for the stories to come out. If this were happening forty years ago, these stories might never have come to light. My British friend Annie just told me about growing up adoring the comedian Jimmy Savile - her horror and revulsion when it was revealed after his death that he had been abusing children - HUNDREDS of children - for SIX decades. Worse, much much worse than what happened here. Savile was a monster.

I think back on Jian's book, 1982, which is a light-hearted take on an 80's adolescence, but has a dark undercurrent about his obsession with a girl who in the end rejected him. Did rage at his outsider status somehow twist his soul? I used to wonder why such an attractive man in his late forties - though looking many years younger - had never had a longterm relationship.

What will happen to him now? 

Well, on a happier note, my head is once again swimming in theatrical bliss - I did go to the National Theatre Live again, to see an adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, with Benedict Cumberbatch as Frankenstein and Jonny Miller as the Monster. There is another version with the roles reversed, and I'm considering going again. Once more, a stunning, powerful piece of theatre, as good as it gets. Once more, $22 for a front row seat. Once more, I left knowing that the British are so far ahead of the rest of us in their writers, actors, directors, producers for the theatre. Yes, we in other countries produce a great show every once in a while, but their theatre is consistently, by far, the best in the world. Brilliant in every way. If you possibly can, go.

PS And now the Star has produced more women ready to talk about Jian, more horrible allegations, punching, choking, beating, tales of verbal and physical abuse going back to 2002. How many people knew about this? How is it possible that such vile behaviour could go on for so long?

From Twitter:
I have never seen or heard, anywhere, of a journey from beloved icon to repulsive outcast so swift or so severe.

National Theatre Live: Skylight

Yesterday I walked into my U of T class and told them this was probably the best day of their lives. "Did you notice as you came here, how beautiful it is? The colours of the trees, the sun - and we're all alive and breathing with a brain. Does it get better than this?"

They laughed. Sometimes maybe my Pollyanna cheer is a little much. But I've decided I never want to be anywhere but Canada in October - it is so gorgeous out there. After class, I went on to an event which I am writing urgently to tell you about, any of you in Toronto, because it's on again tomorrow - a National Theatre Live presentation of a moving, timely David Hare play, "Skylight." I hadn't heard of the play but saw it was going to be shown at the Yonge-Dundas cinemas, Googled it, and couldn't wait to get there.

Just one of the best productions ever - a superb play brilliantly acted by Bill Nighy, Carey Mulligan - both of them, fantastic, and what a team - and Matthew Beard, a young actor I don't know. A torrent of clever, heartfelt words, words, full of passion, pain and truth - afterwards I sighed with pleasure, feeling full to the brim with great art. How fantastic is this new innovation, theatre and opera at the movies, accessible to all. Instead of a flight to London and a theatre ticket, I paid $22 for a great seat which included an interview with David Hare at intermission. Can't beat that.

It's on again tomorrow at 1.10. Don't miss it if you can possibly get there. Today there's another National Theatre Live show - an adaptation of "Frankenstein" starring the heavenly Benedict Cumberpatch as either the doctor or the monster - the casts alternate. I may go. Or maybe it would just be too much great theatre all at once. I might pass out.

One more word re Jian: my friend Margaret was kind enough to write, "Just wanted to say that your blog post about Jian was the first intelligent piece I’ve read on the subject. And exceptionally well-written. I wonder and worry about what long-term impact this all may have on the CBC." 

I do too. Right now, I am thinking about his mother. A few weeks ago she lost her husband, and now her revered son is disgraced, and in such a disturbing and public way. Must be devastating.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

moving right along on all fronts

We awake to a new city. In the words of the inimitable Rosie DiManno, "Crazy Town has finally received its discharge papers."


A writer called Steff, plain-spoken to the point of rudeness, has written a powerful piece that I think says just about all that needs to be said about the Jian Ghomeshi case.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Toronto has a new mayor. Praise be.

Only one thing to say: Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.

In my class at Ryerson tonight, students checked on the election at the break - it was declared pretty quickly. Even so, there was a shocking moment just after the polls closed when it was close. Close! To try to figure out who those people are, voting for Doug Ford - well, it's hard. But then there we were in writing class, we should be able to imagine someone who wants a Ford to be mayor. But it was beyond all of us.

John Tory just made a good speech, touching all the bases, including predicting that Olivia Chow will continue to make a big contribution to this city. A lot of great people have been elected and re-elected. A fresh start for this wonderful city I love so very much.

As Tabatha Southey put it on Twitter:
John Tory has won. A slight improvement for Toronto. The end of a golden age for humour columnists.