Film Review: Swallows and Amazons (2016)

This adaptation of Swallows and Amazons ends up being a rather flat affair despite the presence of Andrew Scott and Rafe Spall

“They’ll be back before tea”

I was hoping for a little bit of old-school tea-time entertainment with this 2016 adaptation of Swallows and Amazons but it ends up being a rather flat affair. Arthur Ransome’s 1930 novel is the epitome of the idyllic childhood adventures, the notion of which the Tories are a little too enamoured, and Philippa Lowthorpe’s film certainly evokes that long-lost feel. 

We follow the Walker family as Kelly Macdonald’s Mrs Walker takes her 4 kids on holiday to the Lake District as their father is at sea with the Navy. The young whippersnappers spot an island in the lake next to their cottage and since it is 1935, Mrs Walker packs them a basket of food and two tents and lets them go camping there, sailing in the boat Swallow. Continue reading “Film Review: Swallows and Amazons (2016)”

#AdventwithClowns Day 7 – Oslo

Ruth Wilson and Andrew Scott head up an effective adaptation of JT Rogers’ play Oslo, which sacrifices wordiness for cinematic verve

“Now we are approaching the hour of the waffles”

JT Rogers’ Tony-winning play Oslo was a hit at the National and in the West End but it was still a little bit of a surprise to see it receiving the televisual treatment, not least with Steven Spielberg named among its executive producers. Fortunately though, Rogers remained fully involved in writing  the adapted screenplay and the play’s director Bartlett Sher has kept his hand on the directorial tiller, going for some luxe casting with Ruth Wilson and Andrew Scott and broadening the canvas to include flashback scenes and some gorgeous Scandinavian location work.

Oslo recounts a dramatised version of the true-life, secret back-channel negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization which led to the then-pivotal 1990s Oslo Peace Accords. Wilson plays junior minister Mona Juul and Scott her husband Terje Rød-Larsen, a Norwegian couple who find themselves in the position to bring the two opposing sides to the same table on neutral territory, reinvigorating a non-existent peace process but under absolute secrecy. They’re both terrific, fighting the need to be non-interventionalist until there’s nothing to do but close your eyes and jump in. Continue reading “#AdventwithClowns Day 7 – Oslo”

News: One year of National Theatre at Home – New titles added

Ahead of National Theatre at Home’s one year anniversary on 1 December, the National Theatre has today announced the next filmed productions to be added to the streaming service, which is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Joining the platform today is Simon Godwin’s critically acclaimed 2018 production of Antony & Cleopatra in the Olivier theatre, with Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo playing Shakespeare’s famous fated couple. Then the iconic and multi-award-winning production of War Horsebased on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, will be available from 1 December until 31 January 2022 on demand internationally for the first time since its premiere 14 years ago. It will be available with British Sign Language, audio description and captions. Continue reading “News: One year of National Theatre at Home – New titles added”

Film Review: Spectre (2015)

After the emotional triumph of Skyfall, the lethargic pacing of Spectre can’t help but feel a letdown

“Why, given every other possible option, does a man choose the life of a paid assassin?”

After the rip-roaring success of Skyfall, it seems little surprise that director Sam Mendes and lead scribe John Logan would return for the next instalment of the Bond series. But Spectre ends up as part of the yoyo-ing trend of Daniel Craig’s tenure which had previously seen the excellence of Casino Royale followed up by the not-excellence of Quantum of Solace. Delving deep back in Bond folklore, its overlong running time and stultifying pace sadly makes it a bit of a challenge.

This time round, surveillance networks are the villain as Bond investigates global conglomerate Spectre and their nefarious plans under Blofeld, whilst M and co do battle with the enemy within in the form of Andrew Scott’s smarmy C. Despite his class, Ralph Fiennes is a much less impactful M than Dame Judi but Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris and Rory Kinnear are all settling well into their MI6 roles, popping in and out as needed. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld is vividly effective but the problem lies in an ineffectual plot that doesn’t grip anywhere near as much as Skyfall did. Continue reading “Film Review: Spectre (2015)”

News: Mike Bartlett’s C O C K re-emerges in the West End

Taron Egerton, Jonathan BaileyJade Anouka and Phil Daniels have been announced as the cast of C O C K, the first West End production of Mike Bartlett’s Olivier award winning play about love and identity which opened at the Royal Court upstairs in 2009 with Ben Whishaw and Andrew Scott and has also played Chichester and Washington DC.

Directed by Tony and Olivier award winning Marianne Elliott, it will have a limited run at the intimate-for-the-West-End Ambassadors Theatre. Given the intensity and intimacy of the play itself, it will fascinating to see how it fares in a bigger space. Audiences will be able to find out for themselves from Saturday 5 March 2022 to Saturday 4 June 2022,

Tickets are on sale now here. Continue reading “News: Mike Bartlett’s C O C K re-emerges in the West End”

Review: Cock, Studio Theatre online

Streaming allows to me take in a transatlantic version of Mike Bartlett’s Cock, starring Queer as Folk’s Randy Harrison

“You want your boyfriend’s help with the woman you’re sleeping with?”

The subject matter of Mike Bartlett’s Cock is one which has proved satisfyingly timeless, at least over the last decade but in a socially distanced age, it turns out that its form has also future-proofed it. Though it has four characters that interact, its focus on verbal interplay rather than physical shenanigans allies itself with the manipulations needed for COVID-19 protocols much more than other plays.  

And having mounted an award-winning production of the play for Washington DC’s Studio Theatre in 2014, director David Muse has returned to it to launch the theatre’s debut online season. The result is a finely tuned hybrid of film and theatre that slots well into the now-global pandemic programming and as mentioned, Bartlett’s exploration of sexual fluidity remains as pointedly pertinent as ever, particularly in how it refracts through our relationships. Continue reading “Review: Cock, Studio Theatre online”

The finalists of The ONCOMMs 2021

The OnComm is the new award for online shows from across the UK (and beyond) and was introduced in
May 2020. 

1. Recording pre-lockdown (direct)
(i.e. with little or no editing)
Going Viral / Daniel Bye
Hysteria / Spymonkey
Jane Clegg / Finborough Theatre
The House Of Bernarda Alba / Graeae

2. Recording pre-lockdown (edited)
(i.e. with significant editing)
Bubble / Theatre Uncut
Cyprus Avenue / Royal Court & Abbey Theatre
SeaWall / Simon Stephens
The Encounter / Complicité Continue reading “The finalists of The ONCOMMs 2021”

TV Review: His Dark Materials, Series 2

No spoilers, but the second series of His Dark Materials is a continued absolute triumph

“Your duty is to protect the girl…and the boy”

We may have lost an episode of the second series of His Dark Materials to the pandemic but you really couldn’t tell, its atmospheric and elegiac storytelling feeling like some of the most mature work on screen right now. Jack Thorne’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s novel(s) manages a brilliant balance between faithfulness and invention, an added scene between Mrs Coulter and Lee Scoresby is a sensational addition. And the direction from Leanne Welham and Jamie Childs keeps the show looking amazing.

From Lyra’s enduring guilt over Roger’s demise in the Series 1 finale, to climactic struggles that lead to some truly traumatising conclusions, the odyssey that Lyra and Will take from their Oxfords to Cittàgazze and beyond is nothing short of stunning. Dafne Keen’s Lyra remains as intellectually curious as ever but Amir Wilson’s Will takes the spotlight as he’s forced to reckon with the weight of responsibility forced onto his shoulders. And he is achingly good, a new maturity coming forth episode by episode. Continue reading “TV Review: His Dark Materials, Series 2”

News: Old Vic announces new streaming dates for Lungs, Three Kings and Faith Healer

Stephen Beresford’s Three Kings with Andrew ScottBrian Friel’s Faith Healer with Michael SheenDavid Threlfall and Indira Varma and Duncan Macmillan’s LUNGS with Claire Foy and Matt Smith are back by popular demand with the recorded versions of the live shows available to watch across nine new streaming dates to see us out of 2020 and into 2021.  

News: Tristram Kenton’s stage archive – the before-they-were-famous edition

One of the joys of seeing so much theatre in London is that sense of seeing any number of actors at the beginning of their careers and Tristram Kenton has been doing that for years now. Here’s just some of those big names as whippersnappers on the British stage:
https://www.theguardian.com/stage/gallery/2020/nov/11/before-they-were-famous-stars-tristram-kenton-at-the-guardian-in-pictures

Photos: Tristram Kenton