Friday, 15 June 2012

Nick is a photography student...

'Nick is a photography student', so begins the advert for the HTC One X smartphone currently showing at a cinema or TV near you. In the ad Nick Jojola is on an assignment. It's his first fashion shoot and he has to free fall from a plane and take a photo of a model all at the same time. What's more, he's only got a smartphone to do it on. 

Good grief, what kind of course is Nick on if they give him this for an assignment. Maybe his lecturer just doesn't like him. I can see why he might not do. What's worse for poor Nick is that he's got this incredibly hard assignment where a good photo is going to be almost impossible to get, and all they've given him to do it is a phone. Talk about making life difficult for the guy. Still, he's accepted the assignment, probably figuring the money he'll get from it will either help to clear his student loan or make it something he doesn't have to care about anymore, and he's now in a plane and about to jump.

What happens next? He jumps and not only a model, but a whole camera crew, follow him out of the plane, filming them from every different angle. Just what equipment are they using, and how much more of a challenge are they facing compared to Nick? All he's got to worry about is his phone.

Luckily for Nick he gets his photo, unluckily for Nick the picture he gets is of a model who looks like a Lady Gaga tribute act wearing a large puffa jacket and goggles. What kind of fashion shoot is this, and just who was it who ever thought that at that sort of height and with that sort of wind behind her, the finer details of her clothing would not get lost. I don't know much about photography or fashion shoots, but I guess that if you want to show off an item of clothing at its best, then taking a picture of it when you and the person wearing it are falling at a rate of knots from a height of God knows how high, is not going to be the way to do it. Get the model in the studio, and if you want a wind effect get a fan behind her, it's far easier and far safer.

But of course, Nick and the makers of the phone aren't doing this to show off the clothing, they're doing this to show you the potential of the phone and the fact that you can take a good picture with it while free falling from a plane. That's good to know, because there is no other way most of us will ever find out this information. I mean, how many of us will ever say to the wife or girlfriend 'I know what we'll do this weekend, we'll get in a plane, jump out of it, and take a photo'? And if we do ask that, what are the odds on the answer being 'okay, I'll get my coat'?  I'm guessing they'll be as high as Nick's plane is.

It's for this reason that the fact that the phone can do what it does is completely irrelevant. No one will want to do it. I'd be more likely to buy the phone if the advert showed Nick Jojola going to Brixton Academy on a Saturday night and getting a decent photo of whoever's on the stage without the head of a very large man appearing sometime between him pressing the button and the shot being captured. That would make me want to part with my money.

Whoever came up with the idea for this advert is a person who symbolises everything that is wrong with advertising. It's style over substance, very flashy, very clever, very annoying and totally useless. Congratulations Mr Jojola on getting a photo of a woman hurtling to the ground in some very expensive clothes that might as well be bin liners for all we can make out of them, but if you want to do it again please don't feel the need to get someone to film it and make an advert out of it.  And good luck with your course!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Infinite Riches review - Old Red Lion Theatre

The Faustus story gets updated for the easy credit eeasy fame generation in Catherine Harvey's first full length play, currently showing at the Old Red Lion Theatre. Phil (Daniel Simpson), a man facing debt to begin with, is seduced by the charms of Julie (Zazie Smuts), who he meets at a park bench while feeding the ducks, to kickstart a life where not only are his immediate debts wiped out but he can also have anything else he or his wife desires. The cost is high, as you would expect, but it is only when Phil is asked to pay the money back that he realises just how high, and how impossible his situation has become.

Whilst it could be seen as a fairly obvious analogy for the lure of easy money, Harvey and director Shani Erez deserve credit for avoiding cliches and the temptation to make money and fame seem sexy and powerful. Julie is not a femme fatale who can seduce a man just by looking at him, Smuts plays her as a streetwise urchin who would be more than at home in an updated Oliver Twist, and this gives her a more seedy allure that supports the Faustus story. Likewise the life of Phil and his wife Linda (Charlotte McKinney) barely changes as Phil acquires more wealth. Linda still obsesses over her plants, and they still stay in the same house with the same life except for a fake promotion and displays of disposable income. There is no magnificent transformation, and they don't gain that much for what they stand to lose, again supporting the theme of the play and the reality of what can be achieved with easy credit.

The play keeps you entertained even as the inevitable conclusion approaches, and the heat in the theatre does its best to destroy your interest in what is happening on stage, but there is nothing that comes as too much of a surprise. An opening reference to the story of Icarus re-emerges at the end and is suitably underplayed to reflect the gap between the illusion and the reality of Phil and Linda's situation, but it would have been good to see this story linked in elsewhere in the play. The cause of Phil's financial problems at the start of the play are never explained either. By having him already in trouble rather than just thwarted by ambition, his decision to succumb to Julie is less of a surprise, and the first part of the events that lead to his demise have been played out before we even see him.

Also as I write this review, I'm aware that I've got this far without even mentioning the character of Nan (Lesley Stone). Stone gives a good performance as Julie's rich nan who bankrolls Phil, but while she provides a narrative role, she doesn't add anything to the story, which questions the need for the part. A monologue scene where Simpson breaks the fourth wall addressing the audience after realising his dilemma and the unfair terms of the pact, could have been played out between Stone and Simpson and would have had a greater effect if it had been, but with this opportunity passed up on, the role feels more like a supporting device than something that is essential to the story.

That said, the play does succeed in re-setting the Faustus story as a tale for our times, and in showing the pact with the devil that was the national obsession with consumerism and feeding the desire to have all the latest must have items.  The play runs to 9th June.