Shakespeare Solos – Part 2

“Are you meditating on virginity?”

The Guardian’s Shakespeare Solos series continues apace with its second suite of videos now released on their website and this time they’re much more of a mixed bag. There’s strong work from a duffle coat-clad David Threlfall as The Tempest’s Prospero , mightily bearded and bedraggled but achingly eloquent too with all the heaving sorrow of revels ending. And Samuel West is an excellent Henry V, pacing the South Bank with the Houses of Parliament in full view as he experiences a restless night before launching into war. 

An unexpected delight is Sacha Dhawan taking on the role of a would-be pickup artist in a King’s Cross cocktail bar to deliver Parolles’ speech about virginity from All’s Well That Ends Well. Dhawan is a highly charismatic performer but inhabits this role perfectly, not bad for a Shakespearean screen debut. And there’s striking work from Camille O’Sullivan as King John’s grief-stricken Constance, director Dan Susman capturing much of the intensity that made her Rape of Lucrece so memorable. Continue reading “Shakespeare Solos – Part 2”

Review: The Rape of Lucrece, Southbank Centre

“Do wounds help wounds, or grief help grievous deeds”

Not much to say aside from ‘wow’ at the fiercely committed performance from Camille O’Sullivan who delivers Shakespeare’s epic poem The Rape of Lucrece with musical accompaniment from Feargal Murray at the piano, original music having been composed by the both of them. The story is a tragic tale of lust, rape and politics (that old chestnut…) but it is given visceral life by O’Sullivan who inhabits both sides of the coin – she plays Lucrece, the wife of a Roman officer who boasts of her chastity, and also Tarquin, the arrogant  son of the king who sees a challenge he cannot resist. 

Its an exhilarating experience, the marriage of song and poetry expertly handled by consummate professional O’Sullivan and always interesting, as woman duels man, piano fights voice (there’s a particularly powerful moment when Murray unexpectedly changes what he’s doing), the politics of rape and the subjugation of women’s bodies never hidden as they remain sadly pertinent today. The Queen Elizabeth Hall is perhaps too big a venue for so intimately crushing a piece but its haunting spirit works nevertheless. 

Running time: 80 minutes (without interval) 
Booking until 12th July

DVD Review: Mrs Henderson Presents

 “I’m bored with widowhood”

As the aristocratic Lady Conway, Thelma Barlow’s amusing run through the options open to a rich widow of nearly 70 sets up Mrs Henderson Presents succinctly in its opening moments – Laura Henderson pricks her thumb trying embroidery as a hobby and bristles at the snobbery of the ladies who run charities for the deserving and so is left to spend money as she sees fit, alighting on the derelict Windmill Theatre which she purchases in a moment of inspiration as she passes in her car. Martin Sherman’s script is based on the true story of this woman who became an unlikely theatrical impresario and in director Stephen Frears’ hands, Judi Dench delivers a heart-warmingly cracking performance at the centre of a lovely film.

Set in the late 1930s, the story follows Laura as she and her theatre manager, Bob Hoskins’ cantankerous but inspired Vivian van Damm, set up a continuous variety revue called Revudeville and trying to keep ahead of a market full of copycats, they introduce still tableaux of female nudity into the show which becomes a roaring success. The onset of war casts a heavy shadow though and whilst the show continues, providing much needed entertainment and respite, as the bombs fall on London, the determination that the show must go on puts everyone in serious peril. Continue reading “DVD Review: Mrs Henderson Presents”