Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Out and About – Spring 2017


With summer rapidly approaching it's high time to review the spring just passed with the latest installment of The Wild Reed's "Out and About" series.

Regular readers will be familiar with this series, one that I began in April 2007 as a way of documenting my life as an “out” gay man, seeking to be all “about” the Spirit-inspired work of embodying God’s justice and compassion in the world. I've continued the series in one form or another for the last 10 years – in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 . . . and now into 2017.

So let's get started with this latest installment . . .

Above and right: Joining with close to 200 others in Minneapolis on Saturday, April 8 to speak out against the Trump administration's unilateral and illegal military action against the Syrian government in alleged retaliation for a chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians.

Organized by the Twin Cities-based Minnesota Peace Action Coalition and part of a series of nationwide demonstrations, this event was not only a response to the recent U.S. bombing of Syria, but served as a protest of the U.S. government's seemingly endless series of wars and interventions in Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. As a spokesperson of the Minnesota Peace Action Coalition observed, "This new escalation will only lead to more death, injury and displacement."

For more images and commentary on this action, click here.



Above and left: The People's Climate Solidarity March in downtown Minneapolis, Saturday, April 29, 2017.

My friend Pete and I gathered with close to 1,000 others in solidarity with the People's Climate March (2.0) held that same day in Washington, D.C. According to The Washington Post, "tens of thousands" attended that event.

The aim of all the various People's Climate rallies and marches held across the U.S. on Saturday was twofold: to challenge the anti-environment policies of the Trump administration and the threat that these policies pose to our climate and our communities, and to demand government action on the very real issue of climate change.

For more images and commentary on this event, click here.



Above and below: On the same day as the People's Climate Solidarity March in Minneapolis (Saturday, April 29), my boyfriend Brent celebrated both his birthday and a housewarming party for his new home!



Above: Hello, boys! From left: George, John, me, Keith, Brent, Matt, and Omar – Saturday, April 29, 2017.



Right: Brent with members of his family.



Above: Standing at left with (from left) Brent, John, George, Omar, and Keith.


Left: Friends Matt and Joan – Saturday, April 29, 2017.

You may recall that my dear friend Joan accompanied me on a visit back to Australia in 2015.





Above: Brent on the back deck of his new home – April 2017.



Above and left: The return of spring to Minnesota!




For more images of spring in Minnesota, click here and here. And for spring's April 10 "wintry surprise," click here.



Celebrating the return of spring with (above) friends (from left) Joe, Raul, and Javier . . .

. . . and (right) Stephanie and Pete – Friday, March 31, 2017.

Our gathering took place less than a week after the spring equinox, and so we celebrated by sharing spring-related poetry, prose, and song . . . and a spring quiz!

For more images (along with the quiz!), click here.



Above: The afternoon tea I hosted for my friends Ken, Carol, Sue Ann, Brigid, and Kathleen – Friday, April 14, 2017.



Above: At my friend Zac's April 8 housewarming party in Minneapolis. From left: me, Slade, Zac, Hugh, Jessica, Heather, and Erin.



Above: Celebrating the birthday of my friend Colleen (center) at the house I share with my good friend Tim (Colleen's boyfriend) – Saturday, April 15, 2017.




Left: Colleen and Tim.



Above: Easter Sunday with my friend Pete and members of his family – April 16, 2017.

For The Wild Reed's three-part 2017 Holy Week series, "Jesus: Our Guide to Mystical Love in Action," click here.



Above: Easter Sunday dinner with friends (from left) Ben, Noelle, Phil, John, Dee, and Liana.



Above: Thanks to my friend Brian I got to see and hear the Minnesota Orchestra's performance of Edward Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius, Opus 38 on the evening of Friday, April 21. It featured tenor Peter Auty, mezzo soprano Michelle Breedt, baritone Andrew Foster-Williams, and the Minnesota Chorale. It was a phenomenal performance of a rarely performed 90+ minute piece. How rare? Well, it was last performed by the Minnesota Orchestra in 1907.



Above: The Minnesota Orchestra on stage at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis – April 21, 2017.



Above: My friend Kathleen . . . in her newly renovated kitchen! This photo was taken on the evening of May 1, when we got together and celebrated the ancient Gaelic feast of Beltane.



Above: With my friend Pete – Thursday, May 4, 2017.



Above: With friends Pete and Chris – April 2017.



Above: An Aztec dancer, one of the hundreds of participants in this year's In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre's annual Mayday parade in Minneapolis – Sunday, May 7.

This year's theme, "Imagine, Heal, Resist," was all about coming together to "imagine a just and joyous future for all; heal personal, cultural and historical wounds; and to stand as a circle in resistance to false myths of separateness that perpetuate violence and inequality." Inspiring stuff, to be sure!

For more images and commentary, click here and here.



Above: Dinner with my friend Phil at Stella's Fish Cafe in Uptown, Minneapolis – Monday, May 8, 2017. Phil left the next day for a holiday in Northern Ireland, a place he'd wanted to visit for some time.



Above: With my friend Joan, enjoying dinner before seeing the Guthrie Theater's May 9 production of The Bluest Eye, based on the novel of the same name by Toni Morrison.



Above: With friends and fellow chaplain-interns Dan and Theresa – Monday, Monday, May 15, 2017.

Later that month all three of us completed the first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training, which we'd started part-time last October at St. Francis Medical Center in Shakopee, MN.

In August I'll be starting a year-long full-time chaplain residency at an inner city hospital in Minneapolis. First, though, I'll be returning to Australia in July to visit family and friends. I was last there around this time last year.



Above: Another image from the April 8, 2017 protest against the Trump administration's unilateral and illegal military action in Syria.




Right: A spring portrait!





Spring 2017 Wild Reed posts of note:
"The Turn": A Lenten Meditation by Lionel Basney
Spring: "Truly the Season for Joy and Hope"
The War Racket
Josef Salvat
Progressive Perspectives on U.S. Military Intervention in Syria
Jesus: Our Guide to Mystical Love in Action (Part 1)
Jesus: Our Guide to Mystical Love in Action (Part 2)
Jesus: Our Guide to Mystical Love in Action (Part 3)
Spring's Wintry Surprise
Buffy Sainte-Marie: "I'm Creative Anywhere"
Four Spot-on Responses to the United Airlines Debacle
Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri
Christianity and the Question of God's Presence in the Midst of Hardships and Heartache
Considering Resurrection
Celebrating the Return of Spring
Celebrating Dusty
Happy Birthday, Dad!
Green Destiny
Signs of the Times
Beltane: Celebrating the Sheer Exuberance of May
The People's Climate Solidarity March – Minneapolis, 4/29/17
From Musical Duo Aquilo and Director Davis Silis, a Chilled Electronic Reminder That It "All Begins With You"
"Imagine, Heal, Resist" – Mayday 2017 (Part 1)
"Imagine, Heal, Resist" – Mayday 2017 (Part 2)
On International Day Against Homophobia, Voices from Georgia
In Too Deep
It Is Happening Again: The Return of Twin Peaks
Progressive Perspectives on Memorial Day
"Of Thistledown and Magic": The Artistry of Ben Whishaw
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Out and About – Winter 2016-2017
Out and About – Autumn 2016
Out and About – Summer 2016
Out and About – Spring 2016

Images: Michael J. Bayly.


Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence

.


Perhaps like me you're finding it difficult to fathom the rise in violence against people of color, immigrants, Muslims and those who stand up for them. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit legal advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation, a major motivation for these types of "hate incidents" is white nationalism/supremacy. The Southern Poverty Law Center also documents how the number of groups motivated by this ideology has risen sharply since the presidential candidacy and subsequent election of Donald Trump.



An example of this type of racist violence that has received significant attention is the murder of Ricky Best and Taliesin Namkai-Meche (above) and the wounding of Micah David-Cole Fletcher by known white supremacist Jeremy Joseph Christian. The three men acted selflessly and without concern for their own safety as they came to the aid of two women – one Muslim and the other African-American – who were being verbally assaulted and threatened by Christian last Friday in Portland, Oregon.

Best and Namkai-Meche are not the only people to have been killed or wounded by white supremacists during the first few months of Donald Trump’s presidency, one which critics say has normalized white supremacy and emboldened bigots.

On May 20, Richard Collins III (left), a 23-year-old African-American college student, was stabbed to death on the University of Maryland campus by Sean Urbanski, a white supremacist.

This past Saturday in California, Anthony Hammond, a 34-year-old white man, screamed racial slurs before pulling out a machete and stabbing an African American man, wounding him.

Also this past weekend, police in Washington State report that a white man in a pickup truck intentionally ran over two Native American men, killing one of them, 20-year-old Jimmy Smith-Kramer (right).

I noted at the beginning of this post that I struggle to fathom this type of racist violence. But then perhaps that's because I forget certain truths about U.S. history. Thankfully there are writers like Chauncey Devega who remind us of these truths, who help us understand the social and historical context of recent events in Portland and across the country. This context is crucial to know and accept if we wish to understand and effectively address the rise in white supremacy and racist violence that we're witnessing.

I close with an excerpt from Devega's May 30 Salon commentary, "Martyrs Against Racism in Donald Trump’s America: What Happened in Portland Was Shocking, But Not Surprising."


These murders are part of a larger trend. There has been a record increase in hate crimes and other violence against Muslims, nonwhites, Jews and immigrants that began with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 and continues through to the present. The Anti Defamation League has documented how right-wing domestic terrorists — almost all of them white and Christian — have killed hundreds of Americans since 2007. The number of white supremacist and similar hate groups continues to grow in the United States, largely inspired by Donald Trump’s political message.

After much pressure, President Trump finally offered a comment about the killings of Ricky Best and Taliesin Namkai-Meche. Of course, he did not mention that Christian apparently is a white supremacist. Likewise, Trump has been mute on the killing of Richard Collins III in Maryland. As I observed in a previous essay, Trump’s relative silence about violence by white supremacists and their ilk against people of color, Jews and Muslims is expected and should not be surprising. Trump’s political brand is one of white racism, nativism, bigotry, misogyny and a naked embrace of white identity politics and its Herrenvolk “Make America great again” dream of treating black and brown people (and women) like second-class citizens in their own country. Why would Trump risk alienating his most reliable and enthusiastic supporters?

. . . Many Americans are shocked by the recent acts of racist violence in Portland and Maryland. That shock is perhaps understandable, but we should not be surprised. The country that twice elected a black man to the presidency is also the same nation that was founded on the centuries-long enslavement, rape and murder of African-Americans as well as genocidal violence against First Nations people. These sins are part of America’s national character; they are burned into our civic and cultural DNA. America also elected a plutocratic authoritarian racist as president, in the form of Donald Trump. He reflects the values held by many tens of millions of white Americans.



Related Off-site Links:
"Legitimized In Their Hatred": A Weekend of Violence in Trump's America – Sam Levin (The Guardian, May 31, 2017).
The Numbers Don’t Lie: White Far-Right Terrorists Pose a Clear Danger to Us All – Mehdi Hasan (The Intercept, May 31, 2017).
The Portland Heroes Who Stood Up to Hate – Kim Bellware (The Huffington Post, May 28, 2017).
On a Portland Train, the Battlefield of American Values – Nicholas Kristof (The New York Times, May 30, 2017).
The Tragic Lesson of Portland – Lowen Liu (Slate, May 30, 2017).
Portland Train Stabbing: Witness Recalls Victim's Last WordsCBS News (May 29, 2017).
Micah David-Cole Fletcher, Autistic Hero – Ari Ne'eman (NOS Magazine, May 29, 2017).
Portland Stabbing Victim Micah Fletcher Says City Has "White Savior Complex" – Gillian Flaccus (Time, May 31, 2017).
Donald Trump’s Weak Condemnation of the Portland Attack Speaks Volumes: He Should Have Stayed Silent – Chauncey Devega (Salon, May 31, 2017).
Portland Stabbing Suspect: “You Call It Terrorism. I Call It Patriotism!” – Matthew Rozsa (Salon, May 31, 2017).
Muslim Groups Unite, Raise More Than $500,000 for Families of the 3 Portland, Ore., Heroes – Breanna Edwards (The Root, May 31, 2017).
 Why I Called the Murder of Richard Collins III a Lynching – Dave Zirin (The Nation, May 25, 2017).
White Nationalist Who Shoved a Black Protester Blames Trump – Suzannah Weiss (Teen Vogue, May 28, 2017).
The Specter of Right-wing Nationalism – David Kotz (Jacobin, May 30, 2017).
Homegrown Terrorism and Why the Threat of Right-wing Extremism Is Rising in America – Arie Perliger (The Conversation, May 28, 2017).
America the Hateful: Land of the Free White Supremacist – Amber Amey (Rewire, November 17, 2016).
Donald Trump, the “Gateway Drug” to White Supremacy – James King and Adi Cohen (Vocativ, March 25, 2016).

UPDATES: What We Have Unleashed: This Year’s String of Brutal Hate Crimes Is Intrinsically Connected to the Rise of Trump – Jamelle Bouie (Slate, June 1, 2017).
Hate Is Alive in America – and It’s Tearing Us Apart – D. Watkins (Salon, June 1, 2017).
We Have Entered Trump’s Era of Deep, Racist, American Tribalism – P.L. Thomas (The Huffington Post, June 2, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – April 2, 2017
Quote of the Day – March 26, 2017
A Profoundly Troubling and Tragic Indictment
Historian: Trump's Immigration Ban Is a "Shock Event" Orchestrated by Steve Bannon to Destabilize and Distract
"The Movement of Love and Inclusion Has Just Been Unleashed"
Something to Think About – January 20, 2017
Quote of the Day – January 11, 2017
Quote of the Day – December 25, 2016
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States
Election Eve Thoughts
Carrying It On
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Trump's Playbook

Opening image: Tara Jacoby.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Of Thistledown and Magic": The Artistry of Ben Whishaw

A tidbit of entertainment news recently caught my attention. It's a short piece by Michaela Morgan about an actor I respect and admire, Ben Whishaw (pictured at right), and a TV show I've liked since I was a child, Doctor Who.

Peter Capaldi revealed this week that he would be playing Doctor Who for the last time in the show’s 2017 Christmas Special.

He announced the news on BBC Radio saying, “One of the greatest privileges of being Doctor Who is to see the world at its best. I can't thank everyone enough. It's been cosmic."

The news has sent the rumour mill into overdrive with fans trying to guess who will be selected to play the 13th Doctor next year.

The bookies favourite is currently openly gay actor Ben Whishaw, who is known for his roles in the James Bond franchise, as well as films such as Bright Star and In the Heart of The Sea. He also voices Paddington Bear, FYI.

The odds on Whishaw are currently at 5-1 with actors Richard Ayoade, Rory Kinnear, Miranda Hart and Jason Flemyng also rumoured to be in contention.

If Whishaw is indeed handed down the sonic screwdriver from Capaldi, he would be the first openly gay actor to play Doctor Who.


Since this piece was published, two other actors have been suggested as possible contenders for the role of the Doctor: Tilda Swinton and Sacha Dhawan.

To be honest, I don't really care who plays the Doctor (and, yes, the correct name is "The Doctor," not "Doctor Who," which is the name only of the show, not the character!). My big hope is that whoever lands the role won't play the Doctor as manically as the last three actors have (David Tennant especially).

Also, I must admit that Doctor Who has lost much of is appeal for me since the 2011 death of Elizabeth Sladen who played Sarah Jane Smith, the Doctor's time and space travelling companion from years ago (1973-1976), yet who would later make special appearances on the show and even had her own successful spin-off show, The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007-2011).

Anyway, all that being said, I was happy to hear that the talented Ben Whishaw might be playing the Doctor. Time will tell, I guess!

In the meantime, here are three projects – two films and one TV series – that feature Ben and which I highly recommended.



Bright Star
(2009)


I've noted previously that I could quite happily go through each and every day dressed in the attire of a nineteenth-century gentleman. There's just something about the style and deportment of such a figure that appeals to me – a reserved veneer masking a sea of passion! At least that's what I project onto this particular figure, and it's a projection prompted by a number of characters in various films and TV shows – Dick Dewy (James Murray) in Under the Greenwood Tree, Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) in The Time Machine, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) in Les Misérables, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) in The Woman in Black, John Mornay (Emun Elliott) in The Paradise, Dr. Alexander Sweet (Christian Camargo) in Penny Dreadful, and, of course, Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) in Poldark.

No wonder, then, that I was immediately drawn to Ben Whishaw's portrayal of English Romantic poet John Keats in Jane Campion's 2009 film Bright Star.

In his November 2, 2009 article in The Telegraph, David Gritten wrote the following about this film and its lead actor.

You wouldn’t quite call it a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, but there’s a chill in the air as you approach Keats House in Hampstead, and in its grounds, the leaves on the trees are turning various shades of russet. It’s almost autumnal enough to inspire an ode, and in an upstairs room, Ben Whishaw, who plays John Keats in Bright Star, Jane Campion’s new film about the poet, stares intently from a window, immersing himself in the natural beauty the view affords him.

Whishaw, who rose to fame when he played Hamlet in the West End straight out of drama school, is obvious casting to play Keats. In person, he seems the very stereotype of a Romantic poet. He is slightly built, with a gentle, sincere manner. He looks sensitive, and his default facial expression is faintly melancholic.

He virtually admits that he and Keats were a good fit: “Jane was so keen the film should not be 'acted’. She didn’t want to see any Big Acting, so it never felt like a performance. When it came to shooting, the most important thing seemed to be being honest about what you were feeling.”

Campion’s film, for which she also wrote the script, deals with the last three years of Keats’s short life, and sees him through the eyes of his near neighbour Fanny Brawne (played by Australian actress Abbie Cornish). Her family occupied one half of what is now Keats House, while the poet and his friend Charles Brown (Paul Schneider) took the other.

Keats and Fanny (who was largely despised by his friends) had a brief, doomed, ardent love affair which ended when Keats contracted tuberculosis and moved to the warmer climes of Italy to try and alleviate his condition. But he died there at the age of 25, having written some of the greatest poetry in the English language.


And following is Ben himself talking about John Keats and his life and legacy.

We think because he was a great poet he must have been highly thought of in his lifetime. But the critical establishment were very unimpressed by him as a person and a writer. In fact they were savage: one journal completely destroyed his first epic poem, Endymion.

To me, it seems incredible that he managed to get up every day and carry on. But Keats encountered death a lot in his life. Most of his relatives died. And I think that gives you a different perspective on what things mean. As well as sensitivity, he had real single-mindedness and resilience.


In preparing for his role in Bright Star, Ben said in a interview that the "key" to understanding Keats is the poet's concept of "negative capability," the "ability to be in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact or reason."

Possessing this ability, Keats had the quality, says Ben, of "being very present in the mystery of life and very open to where life might take him or open to inspiration. . . . To me, this seems to be probably his most essential quality, that kind of level of sensitivity."



Lilting
(2014)


In 2014 Ben starred in Hong Khaou's debut film, Lilting, about a gay man struggling to come to terms with the death of his boyfriend Kai (Andrew Leung) and compelled to tell Kai's grieving Cambodian-Chinese mother Junn (Cheng Pei-pei) about his relationship with her son for the first time.

In August of 2014, Ben was interviewed by The Sunday Times Magazine about his experience of coming out and the similarities between the character he plays in Lilting and his own life.

Here's a little of what Ben shared:

My [coming out] experiences were not dramatic. . . . And everyone was surprisingly lovely. I hadn’t anticipated that they would be, but they were.

I identify with the character in Lilting in as much as I had a lot of fear in doing it for a long time. And who can say what? I’m not sure I know. But it takes courage and people have to do it in their own time, which is a negotiation you see happening in the film.

It’s hard to have a conversation with people you’ve known your whole life about a very intimate thing. It’s massively weighted with all sorts of stuff, whatever the wider world is saying. . . . It’s an intimate and private and difficult conversation for most people.




About Lilting Jonathan Romney writes:

Ben Whishaw plays Richard, a young man who hires a translator (Naomi Christie) to oil the wheels of communication between Junn (Cheng Pei-pei), an elderly Cambodian-Chinese woman living in a retirement home, and her English OAP beau (Peter Bowles). In reality, however, Richard is himself aching to connect with Junn, the mother of his recently deceased lover Kai (Andrew Leung). This delicate low-budget British miniature weaves a complex disquisition on mourning, memory, love and language, with a confident avoidance of overt emotional rhetoric. Director-writer Hong Khaou cleverly weaves Chinese and English dialogue, withholding subtitles when we need to be as much out of the loop as Richard. It's finely performed all round: Whishaw is wry, nervy and vulnerable, and veteran Cheng (a wuxia action queen from the 60s onwards) brings a rueful gravity to Junn, a woman deeply unimpressed by the world around her. Fluid, surprising camerawork (Ula Pontikos) and oblique but unfussy play with time frames make for an affecting, intelligent, unapologetically downbeat feature debut.



London Spy
(2015)



London Spy is a five-part British/American TV series created and written by Tom Rob Smith. It first aired on BBC Two in November-December of 2015. My friend Pete and I recently watched it on DVD. We found it to be both a compelling love story and an intriguing drama/thriller.

Writing about the series in The Guardian, Huw Oliver offers the following synopsis.

Subtler and more romantic than your usual spook fare, the plot spirals out of a gay love story – surely the first such intrigue in a mainstream TV spy drama – and is propelled by Whishaw’s perpetually downtrodden Danny. Working in a stock room by day and frequenting Vauxhall’s clubs by night, Danny is, says Whishaw, a bit lost. But everything changes when he bumps into the beneficent, enigmatic Alex[/Alister] (Edward Holcroft) on Lambeth Bridge in the early hours after a night out. The two characters are vastly different: Alex is an awkward and eloquent maths genius; Danny is, despite his circumstances, cheeky, charming and boyish. But they click and a relationship blossoms. All this time, Danny believes Alex to be an investment banker, but he is in fact a gifted MI6 spy. And when the latter suddenly disappears and the police start asking difficult questions, Danny gets sucked into the shadowy, subversive, terrifying world of espionage.


In her review of the series for The Guardian, Lucy Mangan calls London Spy "an unutterably delicious, satisfying dish," with Whishaw "the most powerful actor ever made out of thistledown and magic."




Writing for TV Insider, Matt Roush shares the following about London Spy.

It's a safe bet you've never seen a sex-pionage yarn quite like BBC America's wildly original and deeply moving London Spy, from novelist Tom Rob Smith (Child 44). A tragic love story masquerading as a spy thriller, this five-part drama is a terrific tour de force for Ben Whishaw as Danny, a romantically wishful, wistful and emotionally fragile drifter who falls for the strong and silent investment banker Alex (Edward Holcroft)—which may not be his real name, and almost surely isn't his true profession.

Their eight-month courtship is captured in passionate and moody detail, although Alex's guarded nature makes him an unending enigma to Danny, a puzzle that only deepens when Alex suddenly disappears. Spy quickly becomes a brooding, haunting and surreal mystery of identity as well as a poignant study of lives lived in the shadows: those of spies as well as homosexuals.

"Romantics make unreliable spies," says Danny's protector/mentor Scotty (a moving Jim Broadbent [left]), a former agent who knows only too well the toll of blackmail and self-denial. But Danny is resolute in pursuing the truth surrounding Alex, despite one contact's warning that "You have the very particular stink of a man out of his depth." The further Danny descends into a rabbit hole of secret conspiracy and paranoia, the more he realizes almost no one is who they seem and that his enemies will go to extraordinary lengths to protect their lies. (The tremendous supporting cast includes, in episodes to come, Oscar nominee Charlotte Rampling and Adrian Lester as pivotal figures from Alex's cloudy, troubled past.)

"You're looking for answers, but are you ready for them?" a voice on the phone taunts Danny. A warning viewers might heed as well, because the audacious revelations in the final chapters are shattering and disturbing reminders of the cost of truth in a world built on deception.




In one powerful scene in episode two of London Spy, Alister's/Alex's mother Frances (Charlotte Rampling) takes Danny aside and attempts to explain her deceased son to him.

Alister didn't think like ordinary people. He didn't feel what ordinary people feel. In his eyes everyone was a puzzle. He took immense satisfaction figuring out what a person wanted and then giving it to them, as if we were all computers waiting for the correct code. Alister could be anything a person wanted him to be. In your case, it appears you craved romance, a good old fashioned love story. He gave it to you. Meanwhile, he continued giving other kinds of stimulation to other kinds of people -- men and women. He was involved with someone who hankered after risk. He would have provided it. Danger. Pain. Submission. Domination. Alister was precocious sexually as he was intellectually. To him they were one and the same. Sex was just another form of decryption.


But Danny isn't having any of it. He responds by calming saying:

I haven't read many books. I haven't been to many places. But I have fucked a lot of people. And there's one thing you just can't fake: inexperience – body's tense when it should be relaxed; it hurts when it should be fun; and it's dirty when it should be clean. I don't care how smart you are. Your muscles can't lie. I'm talking about feeling his inexperience as clearly as I can feel this glass [in my hand]. Do you follow me, Frances? I can see you do. So I know for a fact you're lying. I know for a fact that your son, the man I loved, was a virgin. What I don't understand is why you're so keen to convince me otherwise.


And understanding this, of course, is what Danny is determined to do, no matter what it takes.




In a November 2015 article in The Guardian, Ben shared his take on London Spy and on Danny, the character he plays in it.

It doesn’t really feel like a spy thriller to me, although it sort of is. It’s broader than that, because it’s about a character who’s not within that world, about somebody who stumbles into it and to whom it’s alien and mystifying. So it doesn’t feel like a traditional spy drama in that sense. It’s more about his mind.


In the same article, London Spy's screenwriter and director Tom Rob Smith also comments on Ben's character, Danny.

Danny’s journey is essentially one of meeting people who are extraordinary in some particular way. He’s trying to decode what part these people play in the conspiracy, if there is one. People are very ambiguous and Ben as Danny is looking to figure out what roles these people play. It’s basically a thriller that explores the uncertainty of people, not the uncertainty of institutions.


And finally, from the same Guardian piece, here is Ben's London Spy co-star Harriet Walter (pictured with Ben at right) on the artistry of Ben's acting.

He’s totally truthful. You don’t quite know when he’s practising and when he’s just thinking and when he’s acting. And I constantly, still, need to learn from people like that. We always need to do a check on ourselves about truthfulness because every acting generation has a different conception of it.




Related Off-site Links:
A Day With Ben Whishaw, From Diner Coffee to Onstage Scars – Rebecca Milzoff (Vulture, May 17, 2016).
When You Whishaw Pawn a Star – Petra Halbur (Ponderings of a Cinephile, March 1, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Dreaming of Spring
What We Mean by Love