I loved the Guardian’s deep dives into their theatre photo archives, so glad to see one pop up to celebrate the career of Ralph Fiennes, as he prepares to open his UK tour of TS Eliot’s Four Quartets which has started in Bath.
Despite a talented cast including Judi Dench and Dan Stevens, this cinematic version of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit is a big miss
“I’ll have a grilled grapefruit and a strong coffee please”
On the one hand, I knew I wouldn’t enjoy Blithe Spirit, Noël Coward’s enduring play offering increasingly diminishing returns every time it reappears. On the other, I don’t think anyone would have predicted how misjudged this film version would be, directed by Ed Hall and adapted for the screen by Piers Ashworth, Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft.
Coward’s plays do what they do, offering safe options for audiences (and theatre programmers) and usually attracting top actors (Jennifer Saunders and Angela Lansbury are the last two to have starred in the West End in this play). And on the face of it, the same ought to be true of a filmed version, here with Dame Judi Dench stepping into the feathered caftan of Madame Arcati. Continue reading “Film Review: Blithe Spirit (2020)”
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”
“Are you in a relationship now?”
The Secrets now turns to Elinor Cook’s for The Lie as once again marriage falls under the scrutiny of our young writers. Here, Lexie’s domestic bliss is shattered when an inopportune phone call reveals that her husband is hiding something from her, a double life as she quickly finds out. And as with all such things, she visits the other woman’s house, who turns out to be a counsellor, and pretends to be a client in need of help.
Thus Lexie tries to explore what her husband has been up to and why, whilst not letting on to him that she knows, Joanne Froggatt’s brittle intensity perfect for the role as she comes up against the comparative glamour of Emilia Fox’s Zara. Their shared scenes are excellent and the hints of psychodrama that creep in here are amongst the story’s highlights. Ben Chaplin’s Philip isn’t quite the draw he needs to be though, the character never really suggesting adequate appeal.
“Your alliance would be a disgrace”
This six-part adaptation of Pride and Prejudice has gone down in history as one of the most iconic TV programmes ever, its cultural breakthrough into the mainstream taking everyone by surprise and spearheading something of a revival in period dramas. For me though, my abiding memory remains watching a documentary some years later and hearing adaptor Andrew Davies saying that the stage direction he wrote for Colin Firth, for when Darcy meets Elizabeth after she has rushed over to see her ailing sister, was “Darcy is surprised to get an erection”.
Smut aside, it is a strikingly well done piece of work though, Luxuriating over 6 hour-long instalments, it allows for the slow-burn of the central relationship which makes this version of the story really work, Firth and Jennifer Ehle so incredibly well-matched that their every interaction is scintillatingly drawn as mutual antipathy turns to mutual admiration amidst the various family dramas of the Bennetts, Wickhams, Collins et al. His brooding looks and engagingly smooth voice and her keenly intelligent eyes with her delightful pragmatism are utterly engaging. Continue reading “DVD Review: Pride and Prejudice (1995)”
“You either have a career and wind up lonely and sad, or you have a family and wind up lonely and sad?”
US writer Gina Gionfriddo’s play Becky Shaw was a bracingly funny hit at the Almeida back in 2011 and her latest hit to land on these shows is Rapture, Blister, Burn encouraging its own new debates about modern feminism at the Hampstead Theatre. Taking an intellectual look at competing feminist theories, the politics of pornography and examining just what we mean when we say “women can have it all”, she has created another intelligent comedy which given the audible reaction of one audience member at a key moment, seems set to provoke opinions here.
Catherine is a forthright feminist academic who returns to the small New England college town of her past after her mother suffers a heart attack to teach a summer school. There, she encounters her former room-mate Gwen and they soon set about revisiting old memories. For neither is truly happy – Catherine’s career success has come at the expense of a husband and family, whilst Gwen is dissatisfied with the lack of stimulation that being a wife and mum-of-two has brought, supplanting her own aspirations which are renewed as she attends Catherine’s classes. Continue reading “Review: Rapture, Blister, Burn, Hampstead Theatre”
Does God Play Football? is utterly heart-warming – it’s northern, has Helen McCrory, a cute moppet and a sexy ginger priest. What more do you want? Continue reading “Short Film Review #21”
It’s lovely the way things fall together sometimes. Noel Streatfield’s book Ballet Shoes is a huge favourite in the Clowns family household – my mum enjoyed reading it as a girl and it was one of those books I loved to read and re-read in my own childhood. And whilst I was initially filled with trepidation at the prospect of a television adaptation, the cast that was announced was like something out of a fantasy dream team of dames and dames-to-be. From Eileen Atkins to Lucy Cohu, Victoria Wood, Harriet Walter and Gemma Jones, this is the kind of female cast I dream about seeing and for it to be in a story so dear to me felt just right.
That story concerns the three Fossil sisters – all adopted as young girls by Gum, a wealthy palaeontologist and adventurer, but raised by his niece Sylvia and Nana. When he fails to return from an expedition, the family are left to fend for themselves in increasingly straitened circumstances and in his absence, decide to sell off some of his extensive collections of fossils and artefacts and take in a variety of boarders. And this injection of new life into the household offers up a whole new world of opportunity for Pauline, Petrova and Posy who until now had previously been home-schooled as Posy receives the training to become the ballerina she is fated to be, Pauline is able to develop her interest in becoming an actress and Petrova can follow her passions of mechanics and following in aviator Amy Johnson’s footsteps. Continue reading “DVD Review: Ballet Shoes”
“Stop asking silly questions and eat your egg”
If I’d known more about Rebecca before I watched the 1997 television adaptation as part of my Lucy Cohu marathon, I might not have bothered. Not having seen it before or read it, I assumed that her part – the titular role no less – might have had a little more to do in the story but as the story is about the second Mrs De Winter, this wasn’t the case. At all. The first half, 90 minutes in total, featured one brief shot of her eyebrows and one of her hands. The second not much better with tantalising glimpses of parts of her face and a few snatched lines of dialogue (although Wikipedia informs me I’m lucky to even get this!)
Whether intentional or not, this ends up being a rather fabulously camp thing. From Faye Dunaway’s Mrs Van Hopper, hunting for gossip and celebs on the Riviera, to Jonathan Cake’s scene-chewing Jack Favell, to the utter deliciousness of Diana Rigg’s ominously looming Mrs Danvers, it’s all rather gloriously over the top. The May-to-December romance of Charles Dance and Emilia Fox is played very straight and the increasing mystery of exactly what happened to her predecessor does take hold to create a rather compelling latter third which I was entirely gripped by (if not entirely convinced – the new Mrs De Winter is VERY understanding!). Continue reading “DVD: Rebecca (1997)”