News: Royal & Derngate announces further productions for its 2021/22 Made in Northampton season

Royal & Derngate has announced four further productions to complete its 2021/22 Made in Northampton season. A new production of Joe Penhall’s biting contemporary satire Blue/Orange is brought to the stage this autumn by the producing team behind Ralph Fiennes’ hugely successful Four Quartets which is soon to transfer to the West End. Giles Terera and Michael Balogun will collaborate with Artistic Director James Dacre with original music by Valgeir Sigurðsson of Bedroom Community. The venue then premieres The Wellspring, an autobiographic work from playwright Barney Norris and his father David Owen Norris, directed by Jude Christian. The venue’s previously announced production of An Improbable Musical will then premiere with a cast including Niall AshdownRuth BrattAdam CourtingJosie Lawrence and Janet Etuk.

This autumn also sees Royal & Derngate’s artist development programme Generate host a festival of new work and present 60 Miles by Road or Rail chronicling the recent history of Northampton Town. Meanwhile, the venue’s charity compilation album Incidental: Music for the Stage, will be released on 24 September on CD and all major streaming platforms. Continue reading “News: Royal & Derngate announces further productions for its 2021/22 Made in Northampton season”

News: Royal & Derngate and Atlantic Screen Music announce new album Incidental: Music For The Stage

Royal & Derngate Theatres and Atlantic Screen Music have announced the release of a contemporary classical and electronic music album INCIDENTAL: Music For The Stage featuring original compositions for theatre inspired by some of the most famous plays and novels in the English Language. The charity compilation album will contain original music from stage productions by composers such as White Lies, Anne Dudley, These New Puritans, Rachel Portman, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Isobel Waller-Bridge, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Renell Shaw alongside spoken performances from actors including Judi Dench, Amanda Seyfried, David Harewood, Felicity Jones, Giles Terera, Patricia Routledge, James Norton, Sharon D Clarke, Iain Glen, Lesley Sharp, Stephen Fry, Indira Varma, Maxine Peake, Roger Allam, Anton Lesser and Simon Russell Beale.


Together they will raise vital funds to support Northampton Royal & Derngate Theatres’ reopening, helping the venue to recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic and to continue to produce their award winning Made in Northampton productions. The album is available to pre-order at incidentalmusicforthestage.com or pre-save on Spotify, Bandcamp, iTunes, Deezer and Tidal here. To launch the project today, two singles from the album are being released: Rachel Portman’s prologue to A Tale of Two Cities featuring Judi Dench and White Lies’ prologue to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof featuring Amanda Seyfried, both of which are available to listen to here and to download here. Continue reading “News: Royal & Derngate and Atlantic Screen Music announce new album Incidental: Music For The Stage”

Film news: trailer for Military Wives released

Ahead of the film’s release on 6th March 2020, a new trailer has been released for Military Wives

“You may not need the choir…but those women do”

From the director of The Full Monty, Military Wives is inspired by the true-life story of the choirmaster Gareth Malone, who took a group of military wives under his wing, when he was working on the hit BBC show The Choir. It looks set to be a proper good Brit-flick, one to weep at at the cinema and being inspired by, at least until you get home (I never have quite managed to get around to joining a choir…). It hits the big screen in March 2020.

Military Wives stars Oscar Nominee Kristin Scott Thomas (Darkest Hour) and BAFTA Nominee Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe) who work with military wives, to form the very first military wives choir, using the camaraderie they find in singing together, to face some of life’s most difficult moments as they attempt to carry on without their loved ones.

 

New cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child announced

(c) Manuel Harlan

The new cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has been announced, showing one of the perils of its enormous sell-out success, that the cast playing when you book might not necessarily be the cast you get when you eventually get into the Palace Theatre. The received wisdom is that you shouldn’t be aggrieved at not seeing a particular performer but such a wholesale cast change in such a beloved and prize-garlanded company, I think people are allowed to feel disappointed, even if momentarily. Continue reading “New cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child announced”

DVD Review: Jane Eyre (2006)

“We’re not the platonic sort Jane”

The 2006 BBC take on Jane Eyre marked Ruth Wilson’s major television debut and in quite some style too. Charlotte Brontë’s eponymous heroine is surely one of literature’s most loved but it is a challenge that Wilson rises to excellently, with the kind of nuanced sensitive portrayal that will ensure that this version will remain near the top of the ever-growing pile of adaptations of this story. Alongside Toby Stephens as Rochester, she drives this clear-sighted, uncomplicated retelling over four hour-long episodes as Jane negotiates the many travails of her life.

From being abandoned as a poor relation with a dour aunt to the unfriendly walls of Lowood School and then on to her first job as governess to a young girl in a household where the promise of love and genuine affection offer a first chance at happiness, but also where secrets abound and threaten to snatch it away before it has even started. Wilson makes Jane a straightforward girl, always pragmatic in the face of adversity and even as she melts in the face of kindness, whether from Lorraine Ashbourne’s kindly Mrs Fairfax or the one that eventually comes from Rochester, she has enough nous to be able to retain her poise. Stephens really is good here too, balancing the macho arrogance of the man with a more romantic sensibility that comes through but always keeping each element in play so we never forget the complexity of the man, yet remaining entirely drawn by his charisma.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Jane Eyre (2006)”

Review: Children of the Sun, National Theatre

“We are tiny, tiny fragments of miniscule cogs in a grand and fabulously random collision”

If it ain’t broke… Adaptor Andrew Upton, director Howard Davies and designer Bunny Christie have had considerable success with previous Russian epics Philistines and The White Guard and so they’ve reunited once again, this time to breathe new life in Maxim Gorky’s Children of the Sun, which has just started its run in the Lyttelton at the National Theatre. Set in a small town in a Russia on the cusp of revolution (1905 rather than 1917), experimental chemist Protasov and his coterie of middle class hangers-on are waltzing through life oblivious to the turmoil outside the gates of their estate, but their tragedy is as much personal as they turn out to be as blind to the needs and desires of each other as well. 

Gorky’s writing is remarkably perceptive throughout the play. Written in 1905 as a direct response to the huge societal changes around him, he skilfully diagnoses the malaise of the self-absorbed bourgeoisie and lays bare the blinkeredness of their cosseted ignorance and the hopelessness of their grandiose idealism. But he does it with a real deftness of touch, creating richly detailed characters who are rarely so insufferable that one’s heart doesn’t ache at the inevitability of the violent collapse of their entire world. Geoffrey Streatfeild’s erudite academic Protasov fully exemplifies this – a man full of an acute sense of the growing importance of science in the world yet an abject failure at maintaining the relationships in his life. Continue reading “Review: Children of the Sun, National Theatre”

DVD Review: All or Nothing

“Love, it’s like a dripping tap”

First up was 2002’s All or Nothing, though it was a little of an inauspicious beginning, as I’m not sure how much I actually liked this film in the end. Set on a modern-day London council estate, it circles the fortunes of three working-class families and their everyday lives, so far so Leigh, but it doesn’t really develop into anything that gripped me. There are several outstandingly strong elements in here, but they never really coalesce into an effective whole but rather remain too separate and thus end up losing some impact.

The focus settles on one of the families: Phil, Timothy Spall, is a taxi driver who has long lost ambition for life and is reduced to scraping pennies from his family in order to pay his retainer for the taxi firm; Penny, Lesley Manville, works the checkout at a supermarket and is struggling to remember what it is she ever loved about Phil. Alison Garland plays their daughter Rachel who works as a cleaner in an old people’s home and is being semi-stalked by Sam Kelly’s much older colleague and James Corden is their unemployed and belligerent son. There’s a whole lot of misery, which is then alleviated by tragedy, which ultimately suggests that life might hold something more. Continue reading “DVD Review: All or Nothing”

Not-a-Review: Villa, Royal Court

“Somebody spoiled their ballot”

Continuing the International Playwrights season at the Royal Court was the first of two readings of Chilean Guillermo Calderón’s plays, Villa. Based around a table discussion between three women, appointed to a committee to make a decision about what to do with a mansion, the villa of the title, in which unspeakable atrocities were carried out by the (now presumably defunct) ruling regime. Tensions are running high in the community about how best to deal with it or what they are actually trying to do here, commemorate the tragedies, secure the legacy, forget it even happened, with public meetings degenerating into violence as the two proposals were debated: raze it to the ground or build a museum in it.

So Macarena, Carla and Francisca are the three representatives have been selected and put into a room to come up with a decision and Calderon lets their debate run in real time with to great effect. There’s a great set-up in which it is made immediately apparent that at least one of the women has a hidden agenda here and from then on, the power games commence as they each circle the others, trying to ascertain if they are friend or foe, whether they can be relied upon for the casting vote for their preferred option. The most beautiful writing came with the scenes where Carla and Francisca each presented the case for one proposal, with achingly painful clarity that packed a hefty emotional punch, then beautifully undercut by the their final assertion that this isn’t necessarily what they believe in themselves. Continue reading “Not-a-Review: Villa, Royal Court”

Review: Thérèse Raquin, National Theatre

Thérèse Raquin was originally a novel by Emile Zola but he adapted it into a play himself, though the version that is being put on here by Marianne Elliott at the National Theatre is one by Nicholas Wright, who worked absolute wonders translating Philip Pullman’s epic His Dark Materials trilogy into one of the best theatrical experiences of my life. The story follows the doomed antics of a couple embroiled in an adulterous affair and the devastating consequences of not being able to live with what they’ve done.

Maybe it was a consequence of not knowing the novel rather than it being a weakness of the play, but I didn’t like the fact that we entered the story at the mid-point, so that the love triangle had already mostly played out with Thérèse already tumbled for Laurent and Grivet cuckolded. I wanted to see more of this build-up to get a better sense of the characters and their motivations: as it was, I didn’t really believe in the erotic drive between the lovers, nor saw the side to the husband that forced such a dark decision as the one they carried out. Having to accept all this as a fait accompli and making the focus of the play the moral reaction to their dastardly deed felt slightly skewiff to me and this I didn’t much care for it, or them. Continue reading “Review: Thérèse Raquin, National Theatre”