It’s been really tough to follow the trial in Oslo for the last week. The terrorist has been on the stand for the past week, ending yesterday. I applaud the work of the lawyers involved, this is tough enough to watch from a distance. To deal with this calmly and professionally is something I don’t think I would be able to do.
There is a lot of talk about whether or not the terrorist is sane in the eyes of the law. There are many good arguments for both views, but something that seems clearer to me now is that the terrorist himself desperately wants to be ruled sane. His world view and justification for his actions all rests on the premise that he is a soldier in a war, that his actions were necessary. Deeming him sane and sentenced to a prison sentence for the rest of his life would partially validate it to him. He is fighting hard against being viewed as mentally unstable in any way. If it was up to him, he’d be sentenced to death, and he’d be a martyr like he wanted all along. But we haven’t sentenced anyone to death since the post-WW2 days, and the last person executed in Norway was in 1948. We’re not changing our laws for this case.
I’ve seen a lot of articles and heard a lot of people that argue the point that ruling him to be criminally insane would be letting him off lightly. Firstly, don’t let there be any mistake about this: Breivik is never walking the streets of Norway again as a free man. Regardless of the outcome of the trial, that’s never going to happen. The Norwegian justice system does have a maximum sentence of 21 years, this is true. But that doesn’t mean that someone who is ruled a continued danger to society is automatically let out after 21 years. There are laws in place to prevent that, after 21 years he can be held to another three years at a time for the rest of his life.
Secondly, it’s starting to become really clear that in his eyes, being sent to a mental institution would be the ultimate failure and the worst punishment. If the system deems him to be criminally insane, it means we’re not taking his manifesto, his great plan, his important “work”, seriously. We’re dismissing him entirely. Nothing could be worse for him. As was put very nicely in the Norwegian paper Aftenposten, he sees himself as a knight, and “It simply would not do to send a knight to the nut house”. (Link to Norwegian article)
Is he actually insane? I don’t know. I almost want to see him be ruled insane anyway, if nothing else to wipe that annoying smile off his face. And if he is ruled insane, I want him to have so much therapy that he eventually aren’t able to distance himself from what he did anymore, to fully realise what he’s done. And I want the faces of all those dead teens to haunt him until his dying day.
If you are linked to this post from anywhere and don’t know the context, please google ‘Norway 22 july 2011′.
I am in awe of prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh. I want to send this woman flowers. She is strong and relentless in her questioning of the terrorist, and he is frequently annoyed by her. I have been deeply impressed with her self control in this really difficult job and how she refuses to let him run the show, much to his annoyance. At times, she made him look absolutely ludicrous. It’s beautiful. She is absolutely amazing. I’ve linked to a bio of her below.
I believe he is even more annoyed with having to listen to her questions as she is a woman and he clearly believes a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Yes, you can add misogynist to the list of traits of the terrorist.
It’s tough to read the notes from the trial. Today’s especially bad, as it’s his testimony about what happened at Utøya island. Thankfully, all the gory details aren’t posted where I’m reading, but apparently he’s describing the shootings in details. He seems entirely cold. He is a horrible, horrible person.
Oh yes, there was a quick talk about his gaming habits, like how he played World of Warcraft for about a year after he moved back in with his mother. ABB wants to frame this as a gift he gave himself as a sabbatical before going ahead with the martyrdom, to which I can only say yeah, sure. That’s believable. He is deeply obsessed with how he’s viewed and doesn’t want to be seen as someone who lost all his investments and then got addicted to WoW. This is obviously how it really went down, no matter what he says. It has little relevance to the trial in anything else than a piece of evidence proving how he’s re-imagined his past to fit in with this story of his that he planned the operation for ten years, which from the testimony so far seems completely false. That’s all. Even he says it isn’t relevant. He does say he used another game for “target practice” which seems ridiculous as well.
To be honest, even mentioning this seems like a waste of time because it’s so god damn irrelevant. I know there’s a lot of articles on ye olde internets regarding ABB and WoW, but it’s diverting the attention away from what’s important. This was not a gamer gone mad. This was someone who planned an attack on the Norwegian political system and its people, driven by his political views. Making this a video game discussion is not helping anyone, and it’s not what the trial is about. I’m not going to participate in those discussions.
I still don’t like typing his name. You know who I mean.
The trial in Norway started today. So far, it’s making me physically unwell.
The bbc has the worst part of it described in such simple terms. At one point of the day, surveillance footage from the bombing was shown to the court.
While victims and their families gasped as they saw the blast, followed by scenes of panic as people fled, Breivik smiled on several occasions.
He fucking smiled.
There are no words to fully describe how I feel.
I’ve seen three different productions at the Landor theatre in Clapham this year, three productions that couldn’t be further apart from each other. The Hired Man, a gut-wrenching sad affair that had me crying for five minutes after the applause had ended, Ragtime, a stripped down version of a show set in the early 20th century, and Stand Tall, a contemporary musical with an anti-bullying theme.
Stand Tall started its life at Witchwood School of Rock, a music school for children between 6 and 18. The school was founded by music tutors Lee Wyatt-Buchan and Sandy Chalmers, who wrote Stand Tall along with Aldie Chambers. I was fortunate enough to attend the press night on October 14 in addition to going to a standard open performance the following Sunday with a group of friends, giving me two rather different perspectives of this show.
The story is a re-telling of the classic David and Goliath tale, where David (Ryan O’Donnell) has to overcome not just Goliath (Jack Shalloo), but a blood thirsty King Saul (Martin Pirongs) and the confusing matter of having a girlfriend who happens to be a princess (Natasha J Barnes).
We start with a black sheep (Keisha Amponsa Banson), who finds herself sent to earth to do the will of God. She strides onto the stage in a black outfit complete with high boots and a corset, and turns everyone’s world up side down, with her prophesies, honest talk and the guitar of destiny.
Guitar of destiny, you say? Oh indeed, the weapon David has is not a sling shot, it’s a guitar that only the true King can play. The sheep looks at herself, deduces that a sheep must need a shepherd, and that’s probably who she’s looking for. So she finds her shepherd, hands him the guitar and gets him into trouble by telling the truth about a fair few things that David would like to ignore.
From there to the unsurprising end, David has to face several challenges and grow into a man in order to take his place as the true king. His relationship with Princess Mia, daughter of Saul, suffers from poor communication and the threat of being murdered by King Saul if he ever finds out about the relationship. Goliath, who in this show is a former friend and bandmate of David’s, hears about the prophesy and in a fit of jealous rage confronts David and breaks the Guitar of Destiny. David has to stand up to Goliath, be enough of a man to tell his girlfriend he loves her, and also try to not get himself killed by a king who loves his power. But not all is what it seems with Goliath..
While David, Mia and the Black Sheep played one character each, Martin Pirongs not only played King Saul, who turned out to be less blood thirsty than expected, but also played David’s supportive farther, along with Goliath’s father, the real bully of the piece. Jack Shalloo also switched between the tormented and angry Goliath, and Saul’s comic relief guard. I thought the acting was solid on all of the cast, with Keisha Amponsa Banson lighting up the room as The Black Sheep. I would be very surprised if we don’t see her in a much larger production in the near future. She was by far the strongest member of the ensemble and I could not keep my eyes off her.
Ryan O’Donnell was very believable as the awkward David, although I would’ve liked to see him be a bit more powerful and confident in the final number. Jack Shalloo portrayed the most interesting character, as Goliath was using intimidation and violence to express his frustration and pain, a way of behaviour he’d learnt from home as he was himself bullied by his father. My one criticism is that the character wasn’t given enough space to be really mean and intimidating, and I didn’t really feel like David was all that afraid of him.
I found David’s fear of King Saul to be much more believable, and I thought Martin Pirongs was hilarious as the wanna-be hip King Saul. It was a shame that their conflict was so easily resolved, as it was built up so well and then too easily brushed aside. The fear of Saul was given a lot more time and weight than the fear of Goliath, so it was surprising to see such a quick resolution where Saul gives in straight away with no fight. Sure, that’s completely accurate as far as the Bible goes, but if that’s what we’re going with, Goliath should also have been a threat to Saul, and he’d give up this throne reluctantly because David saves him from Goliath, too. As this is a re-telling I’ll allow for artistic choices on that last one, but hope that this is one part of the show that is given a bit more TLC before the next production.
But I did like how David protects Goliath from his father and the two of them manage to work things out, finding their way back to their friendship. And that’s a more important message, that people can overcome their differences and that you don’t always know why someone becomes a bully in the first place.
Natasha J Barnes had the unfortunate job of playing the least interesting character, Princess Mia was basically a nagging girlfriend who gets upset with David when he can’t put his feelings into words. Hey Mia, I get it. I’ve been there, it sucks. But as a plot point, it’s not all that interesting. That said, I thought Barnes did very well with what she had to work with, and I really liked her singing voice. The chemistry between Barnes and O’Donnell was believable, and their first kiss on stage had a tenderness to it that made me smile. I do wonder though, who is Princess Mia when she isn’t David’s girlfriend? We didn’t really get to know her, and the character suffers from it.
The show started a bit wobbly on Friday, and suffered from some technical difficulties. The sound levels between music and song weren’t always fortunate, and the cast were not all as familiar with mic technique as they could have been. Unusually for a musical, the cast were all using hand-held microphones, which part of the cast seemed comfortable with, and one notable exception looked quite uncomfortable with (I’m looking at you, King). At one point they incorporated the hand held microphone into the choreography with Princess Mia, which was a nice touch.
Musically, I wasn’t that keen on the rap songs as they didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the songs. As individual songs there was a lot I enjoyed, but as a whole I didn’t feel there was a thread running through the songs to bind it all together, which was a shame. And unfortunately, my biggest problem with the show was the lyrics. The rhymes were at times very simplistic and made me cringe a bit (“Why does it have to be this way/I want him night and day”), and that’s probably where I feel the show would benefit from more work.
The Landor Theatre is a very small venue that only seats 60 people, and other productions I’ve seen there have not used microphones or electric instruments at all. It’s not a venue that’s a good fit for a rock musical with regards to sound production. The band were very talented and worked really hard, so it was a shame when I couldn’t hear all the individual instruments. I loved the personal touch that the band were all wearing T-Shirts with the logo of Witchwood School of Rock. The guitarist stood out particularly during the big show down between David and Goliath, which was in the form of a guitar solo battle. Both actors had guitars on them and pretended to play, but you could see that the band guitarist was effectively having a guitar battle with himself – and winning! In a larger venue, perhaps two guitarist would give the music the extra kick it needs.
On the press night, I was seated next to an older couple whose name I sadly cannot recall, who gave me a bit of background to the show as they had seen an earlier production. Originally, the show was performed by kids, and the story was somewhat rewritten from the version that they had previously seen, which did not have a love story element to the plot. I think I would’ve really liked to have seen this show with kids playing the lead roles. Goliath’s songs especially I think would fit better for a younger actor.
It was very interesting to see how the press night audience and the Sunday matinee audience, mostly comprised of kids and parents, responded very differently to the show. To my big surprise, the press night was much more lively and gained a lot more laughter. The kids were a bit more muted as the more raunchy jokes went over their heads, but watched intently. During the latter half of the show, one young man in the front row leaned forward and put his head in his hands, and I had a very hard time holding back giggles.
All in all, I’m not sure Stand Tall quite knows what it wants to be, a show suitable for adults or one more geared towards a younger audience. What I do know is that there’s a lot of interesting things going on here, and that I can absolutely see it being performed by school drama groups. The message is lovely and the show doesn’t hit you over the head with it, which is good. I don’t see it going to a West End audience in its current incarnation, but there is a lot of promise in the show and I hope the creative team keeps building on what they had, which is perfectly charming show right now, into something stronger and more powerful. It misses a few targets at the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes back in a few years, whipped into shape and ready to take on a bigger venue.