Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand

Simon Annand’s Time To Act is a beautiful book of photos capturing actors in the minutes before they go on stage

Tackling the constraints of the pandemic in its own way, Simon Annand’s fantastic new book of photos Time To Act has launched a virtual exhibition of some of the photographs which has now been extended to until Christmas. It’s an ingenious way of sharing some of the hundreds of images from the book and should surely whet the appetite for either just buying it now or putting on your list for Santa to collect soon.

Continue reading “Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand”

Happy 50th Birthday to the Young Vic

Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director of the Young Vic, has announced the start of the Young Vic’s 50th birthday with a year-long programme of work entitled We are the New Tide, dedicated to the theatre’s milestone birthday.

The 50th birthday year of work begins with three major commissions:

  • YV 50thProjection Project – a projection celebrating the people and productions from across five extraordinary decades, illuminating the front of the Young Vic building each evening, with video design by Duncan McLean – check out just some of those productions in the gallery above.

    From 11 Sept – 4 October, 7.30pm – 10.30pm daily except Sundays, free.

  • The Unforgotten an interactive outdoor art installation commemorating trailblazers Mary Seacole, Marsha P. Johnson and Ulric Cross. Furthering the conversation within the Black Lives Matter movement, the Young Vic community will be invited to contribute to the installation by submitting their own nominations in writing on the side of the building and online, asking us all to (re)consider who we celebrate as our heroes. Created by artists Sadeysa Greenaway-Bailey and Anna Fleischle.
    From 11 September, free.
  • The New Tomorrow– for the first piece of live theatre since the pandemic closed UK theatres, this weekend festival of speeches and monologues asks what the next fifty years hold. Writers and artists Jade Anouka, Marina Carr, Jasmine Lee-Jones, Ruth Madeley, Amy Ng, Stef Smith, Jack Thorne, Isobel Waller-Bridge and Steve Waters will explore the change that has come and is coming. Cast to be announced.
    3 & 4 October, 4pm, Main House, free

Film review: Downton Abbey (2019)

Baron Fellowes of West Stafford stretches not a single muscle in pumping out more of the same in the tiresomely dull Downton Abbey the movie

“I want everything to stop being a struggle”

To crib the tagline of a certain jukebox musical (here we go again…) you already know whether you’re a fan of Downton Abbey the movie. By any stretch of the imagination, it is just an extension of the TV series and so is guaranteed to maintain that same level of comfort that you have always got from the Granthams et al, whether that’s good or bad.

For me, it means a thoroughly unchallenging film and one which proves increasingly dull. (For reference, I’ve only ever seen (some of) the Christmas Day episodes as my parents are fans.) The hook of the film is that it is now 1927 and King George V and Queen Mary are coming to stay for the evening and heavens to Betsy, we’re all of a dither. Continue reading “Film review: Downton Abbey (2019)”

Book review: The Half – Simon Annand

The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand

Just a quickie for this book as The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand was released in 2008. But with an imminent new exhibition of these photos and a bargainous copy of the book popping up on Ebay, I thought I’d take the plunge.

And I’m glad I did as it is a proper work of art in its own right. Annand has been photographing actors for over 25 years and as such, has a veritable treasure trove of shots to share with us, resulting from the trusting relationships he has built up with so many, from the new kids on the block to veritable dames. Continue reading “Book review: The Half – Simon Annand”

Review: The Starry Messenger, Wyndham’s Theatre

Middle-aged white male wish fulfilment writ large, The Starry Messenger is a dull, disappointing and delusional three hours at the Wyndham’s Theatre

“Ian, back up”

Don’t you hate it when your nag of a wife won’t let you tell a story about the family of the nurse you’re secretly having an affair with – women amiright! A significant degree of middle-aged white male wish fulfilment permeates The Starry Messenger to the point where the play is left fatally unbalanced unless, you know, you actually agree with the opening sentiment.

Kenneth Lonergan has written what he clearly believes is an epic role for Matthew Broderick and it certainly fits the brief in terms of it being the major part in a three hour running time. Broderick plays Mark, a 50-something lecturer at Hayden Planetarium in New York, whose dreams of becoming an astronomer seem to have turned to stardust, along with any spark of joie de vivre he might ever have had. Continue reading “Review: The Starry Messenger, Wyndham’s Theatre”

Review: God of Carnage, Theatre Royal Bath

Too short a run and too short a play? I just about make it to God of Carnage at the Theatre Royal Bath

“Are we ever interested in anything but ourselves?” 

A criminally short run for Theatre Royal Bath’s production of God of Carnage, especially since it has er’ from Downton and ‘im from The Royle Family and ‘her from Sherlock and *swoon* Nigel Lindsay in it. I was barely able to fit it into the diary but a sweeping trip to the West Country at the weekend meant I got in just before the final show.

Yasmine Reza’s ferociously savage take on middle class mores was seen in the West End a decade ago and appears to have lost none of its bite. As two well-to-do families come together to discuss a playground incident between their children, the thin veneer of respectability as they tiptoe around the delicacy of the situation is soon ripped away and a real ugliness revealed. Continue reading “Review: God of Carnage, Theatre Royal Bath”

Review: Sunset at the Villa Thalia, National

“Something Greek sounds good”

It’s the ideal isn’t it, shipping off to a Greek island to escape grey clouds in June and point-settling about plus ones, and its what Charlotte and Theo have done in Alexi Kaye Campbell’s new play Sunset at the Villa Thalia. He’s a playwright seeking inspiration, she’s an actress who loves him very much, and so they’re renting a cottage on the idyllic isle of Skiathos. But the year is 1967, a momentous year in Greece’s political history, and the American couple they’ve bumped into at the port aren’t quite as benign as they might seem.

Harvey and June are swiftly invited over for drinks on the terrace and as tongues are loosened on the ouzo, we discover that he works for the US government in a shadowy role. With these heavy hints of the CIA, we discover what Kaye Campbell is up to as it was American intervention – in aid of stifling the threat of Soviet expansion – that arguably partly facilitated the military coup that’s about to happen. And it’s not just nations he’s manipulating but the people around him, as he convinces Charlotte and Theo to buy the cottage from its desperate owners who are emigrating to Australia. Continue reading “Review: Sunset at the Villa Thalia, National”

CD Review: Christmas at Downton Abbey

“The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing”

Where there’s success in today’s world, there’s often merchandising to go with it and so it should be of little surprise that the folks behind TV behemoth Downton Abbey have released a Christmas album which is enterprisingly called Christmas at Downton Abbey. The double CD sprawls over 45 tracks in a determined bid to cover every single possible festive base (and a few more besides) in a rather generic manner, though where it offers the opportunity for cast members to contribute, it has its moments of interest.

The gravelly warmth of Jim Carter’s voice reciting ‘‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ is wonderfully atmospheric, Elizabeth McGovern brings a music-box-like charm to ‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’ and Julian Ovenden brings his customary leading man vocal confidence to classics like ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘Silent Night’ . And though their voices might not instinctively fit together, something rather beautiful happens on ‘The First Noel’ where they duet gorgeously, harmony lines dipping in and out with a delicate grace that is most beguiling.

Elsewhere, all the traditional carols are present and correct sung mostly by Kings College’s Choir, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa lends her crystalline soprano to a few numbers, and classical Christmas treats from Vivaldi and Corelli appear alongside excerpts from the The Nutcracker. This all-encompassing nature leads to a couple of baffling inclusions – Libera’s ‘Panis Angelicus’ sounds gorgeous but has little Christmas spirit and Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ even less so, presumably there for its recognition factor. Still, it’s a good value, varied collection if you’re looking for a stocking filler this year.

Review: Gilead, Radio 3

“A man’s behaviour is usually consistent with his nature”

A 2004 novel by Marilynne Robinson, Gilead was adapted for radio by Mike Kenny in 2010 and it was purely by chance that I stumbled across it on the radio section of the BBC iPlayer before it dropped off – it was on on a Sunday rather bizarrely – but it was most serendipitous that I did as it had a lovely cast including Roger Allam, Elizabeth McGovern and *chorus of angels* Elliot Cowan.

The play recounts memories from Reverend John Ames and his early family life as he is aware he may not have much time left due to a dodgy heart. Having remarried and had a son late in life who is still only seven, Ames decides that the best (and only) legacy he can leave his child is this touchingly honest account of his life and in particular, his troubled relationship with his best friend’s son, Jack Boughton. Continue reading “Review: Gilead, Radio 3”

Review: The Shawl, Arcola

With the lure of an Oscar-nominated actress and within walking distance of my flat, it did not take much to convince me to go and see The Shawl, a short but punchy play by American playwright David Mamet. The venue was the Arcola Theatre, the innovative Hackney venue which is pioneering a wide range of sustainable activities including the attempt to become the world’s first carbon neutral theatre.

The play is about a conman-like psychic John, played by Matthew Marsh, who is attempting to fleece Miss A out of a large inheritance, whilst teaching his young protégé Charles the tricks of his trade. Miss A has her own agenda in visiting the psychic though and Charles is less interested in real learning than just making a quick buck. Over four short acts, the issues of trust and betrayal in the shadow of greed are examined and the question is asked “is there such thing as an honest charlatan?” Continue reading “Review: The Shawl, Arcola”