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 Red Lion, National Theatre

“I was never so loved, nor loved this life so strong”

Patrick Marber’s first new play in over a decade comes after a period of writer’s block, so it is perhaps little surprise that his subject matter in The Red Lion is one that is close to his heart and something with which he is intimately associated. Marber is a director of Lewes FC, currently in the Isthmian League Premier Division, and it is this world of non-league football into which he delves over a considerable 2 hours 20 minutes.

A great play would tease out such sub-themes as the state of modern cross-generational masculinity and what place faith has in such a capitalist world but Marber never really tempers his love for the beautiful game sufficiently to allow this to happen. So instead we get a very good play which lives and breathes football with its nostalgic yearning for the fair play and decency and corruption-free ethos of years gone by (if indeed they ever existed). Continue reading “Review: The Red Lion, National Theatre”

DVD Review: Made In Dagenham

“All over the country, women are getting less because they’re women”

I thought this would make an appropriate film review for International Women’s Day, it being a celebration of the sewing machinists whose ground-breaking 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham plant laid the basis for the Equal Pay Act of 1970, enshrining the right of equal pay for equal work. Nigel Cole’s 2010 film, written by William Ivory around the real life events, has been turned into a musical which will be opening at the end of the year, Gemma Arterton taking the lead role under Rupert Goold’s direction, but she has a lot to live up against the glorious Sally Hawkins and what is a rather lovely film.

Made in Dagenham very much fits into the well-established working class Brit flick template – think The Full Monty, Brassed Off, Calendar Girls… – in that it is never particularly challenging, it revels in period cliché and can definitely be described as heart-warming. But also like those films, it does have a little grit at its base, realism (of sorts) is allowed to temper the optimism that drives this huge moment of social change, the individual struggles of these women co-existing with the collective battle to great effect and backed by a super cast, it is frequently moving. Continue reading “DVD Review: Made In Dagenham”

Theater Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas 2013

It appears to be the year of theatrical covers of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ and this one certainly ramps up the star wattage (and seems weirdly specifically designed for RevStan!) with its cast. Put together by current Les Mis stars Anton Zetterholm and Rob Houchen as part of their Room9 fundraising campaign for WaterAid. They’ve had an Advent calendar of videos (which can be viewed here) and today’s clip pulled together an incredible roster of performers from major theatre shows from across Europe and the USA. Watch the video below to see who you can spot, and then please visit their fundraising page to give what you can for this great cause.

 

2014 What’s On Stage Award nominations

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Helen Mirren – The Audience at the Gielgud 
Anne-Marie Duff – Strange Interlude at the NT Lyttelton 
Hayley Atwell – The Pride at Trafalgar Studios
Suranne Jones – Beautiful Thing at the Arts 
Tanya Moodie – Fences at the Duchess 

BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
Daniel Radcliffe – The Cripple of Inishmaan at the Noël Coward 
Ben Whishaw – Peter and Alice at the Noël Coward and Mojo at the Harold Pinter 
James McAvoy – Macbeth at Trafalgar Studios 
Lenny Henry – Fences at the Duchess 
Rory Kinnear – Othello at the NT Olivier  Continue reading “2014 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

(P)review: Mojo, Harold Pinter

“I promise not to squeeze your nuts”

So I’m trying the preview thing again, talking about a show that has just opened rather than reviewing it per se, offering more of an overview and little tidbits that will hopefully whet the appetite of people keen to know more about the show, without giving too much away. Press night is 13th November.

Much of theatre marketing has long been about putting bums on seats and so posters for shows up and down the land often feature ‘im or ‘er off the telly front and centre, hoping that a bit of canny casting will draw in interested audiences. The West End of course has a little more pulling power and so for this first major revival of Jez Butterworth’s Mojo, the cast of six includes some high-wattage ‘im off that thing, including

 photo output_axNmvQ_zpsac713ed7.gif Continue reading “(P)review: Mojo, Harold Pinter”

Review: The Same Deep Water As Me, Donmar Warehouse

“I’m exhausted, sweating like a fucking dyslexic on Countdown”

The Donmar Warehouse has two levels, stalls and a circle. It’s fairly obvious, you can’t really miss it – about half the audience is upstairs. Yet watching The Same Deep Water As Me, directed by John Crowley and designed by Scott Pask, you’d think they’d forgotten that simple fact, or else considered that those in the ‘cheap’ seats would simply have to make do. Pask’s reconstruction of a non-descript office stops at room height, as does the second half’s courtroom and Crowley has much of the action throughout inward-facing, somehow contriving to make even this intimate studio feel as distant as a West End house. 

Perhaps you just get what you pay for – I opted for a £7.50 standing ticket in the circle and was promoted to front row circle for the second half but the nagging feeling of neglect never left me, as I gazed on the wiring in the ceiling for the lights in the office below and the backs of many peoples’ heads during the courtroom conversations. And as a ticket-payer (even at that price), it’s hard not to feel a little disheartened at what feels perilously close to disregard with a set that simply stops at stalls level. It is somewhat of a shame that this is the primary thought in my head after seeing Nick Payne’s new play but I have to be honest about what my experience was like. Continue reading “Review: The Same Deep Water As Me, Donmar Warehouse”

DVD Review: Half Broken Things

“It seemed to me the only solution…”

Based on the Silver Dagger winning novel by Morag Joss, Half Broken Things was a psychological drama shown on ITV in 2007 and deemed worthy of my attention, as ever, due to the presence of such luminaries as Penelope Wilton and Sinéad Matthews in the cast. And in Alan Whiting’s adaptation, these talents are put to good use in in what is far from a conventional crime drama but rather an intriguingly drawn character study that sits in a grey area of morality and toys most effectively with our preconceptions.

Wilton plays Jean, a professional house-sitter whom life has passed by rather and even this one thing of hers is soon to be gone as enforced retirement looms large on the horizon after one final job looking after an idyllic mansion on the edges of a quiet village. All that changes when she gets an unexpected visit though as heavily pregnant Steph (Matthews) and new boyfriend (and petty criminal on the side) Michael (Mays) rock up on the run from her violent ex. Intending to scam Jean, instead a bond is built between the trio when Steph gives birth and the unlikeliest of surrogate families is born as the older lady insists that they stay in the house with her. Continue reading “DVD Review: Half Broken Things”

Review: Trelawny of the Wells, Donmar Warehouse

“Reserve your tears for the bedroom Madam, this is whist!”

With just a handful of films under his belt, Joe Wright has made quite the name for himself as a director of some theatrical flair – perhaps nodding to childhood time spent at the Little Angel Theatre that his parents founded – but it is only now that he has made his directorial debut in the theatre with Trelawny of the Wells at the Donmar Warehouse. Whether by design or by accident, it marks the third notable recent outing for the otherwise neglected Victorian playwright after the Rose’s The Second Mrs Tanqueray and the National’s The Magistrate but it cleaves closer to the gently farcical nature of the latter than the melodrama of the former. The text here has been ornamented by Patrick Marber, though more learned writers than I will be able to tell you by how much.

The play focuses on Rose Trelawny, a star of the melodramas that filled the Victorian stage, who opts to give up her career in the theatre when she decides to marry her paramour, the aristocrat Arthur Gower. But when the social chasm between her and his family drives them apart, drastic measures on both sides are necessary to try and restore their relationship. But for a play about the theatre, it had little of the breathless joy and theatricality that I had assumed Wright would bring into play and not all of that can be ascribed to the fact that this was a preview. Continue reading “Review: Trelawny of the Wells, Donmar Warehouse”

DVD Review: Tipping the Velvet

“You seem so very gay and bold”

I didn’t watch this 2002 television adaptation of Sarah Waters’ debut novel Tipping the Velvet nor had I read the book so this was all unchartered territory for me. I vaguely remembered a bit of a Daily Mail-style hoohah so I was a little surprised at the relative tameness of the first episode but then after getting through the second, I can see why an eyebrow might have been raised – I doubt I’ll see Anna Chancellor in quite the same light! Andrew Davies’ had the unenviable task of condensing Water’s seven year story of sexual and self-discovery into a three hour television script and manages the job fairly well, though with a rip-roaring pace that doesn’t always quite allow the story enough time to breathe.

The story centres on Nancy Astley, a young woman who works as an oyster-girl in her father’s Whitstable restaurant but who lacks a certain fulfilment in her life as a relationship with a local boy is failing to make her weak at the knees. What does capture her attention though is the arrival of a male impersonator Kitty Butler whose performances leave her transfixed and ultimately open up a whole new world for Nan, but a world that is full of as much heartbreak as love, as much pain as pleasure, as she finds herself on the stage, on the street, on a leash, on her knees, on an incredible journey. Continue reading “DVD Review: Tipping the Velvet”