Film Review: Peterloo (2018)

I wanted to like Mike Leigh’s Peterloo, I really did…

“You must be famished coming all the way from Wigan”

I’ve been a big fan of Mike Leigh’s film work, since discovering it in the last decade or so, and loved his last film Mr Turner. So news of his return to period drama, albeit through his idiosyncratic process, in Peterloo was a plus for me. The reality though is an epic that proved a real slog for me, even boring by the end. Continue reading “Film Review: Peterloo (2018)”

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”

Short Film Review #56

 

Almost unbearably sad, Hope Dickson Leach’s Morning Echo captures the suffocating resentment that can build up in families when caring for a loved one who’s terminally ill. Here, Franny Moffat didn’t think she’d live for another Christmas so her family held a Christmas Day for her in October. Fast forward to 25th December and she’s still alive but her family are crumbling around her under the strain and it is agonisingly compelling to watch. Kerry Fox and Peter Sullivan are just fantastic as the embittered parents and an assortment of other children play out their dysfunction in a range of disarming ways. Even as they’re all eventually brought together in the end for Franny, the melancholy note on which it finishes has lingered long in the mind. Hauntingly good.


 

Continue reading “Short Film Review #56”

DVD Review: Wild Target

“I’m Victor Maynard, I’m 54 years old and I work as a professional killer”

Wild Target was a 2010 Brit-flick, adapted by Lucinda Coxon from the French film Cible Émouvante and directed by Jonathan Lynn, that made little real impact despite a rather fabulous cast. Bill Nighy plays Victor Maynard, a middle-aged man who has followed in the footsteps of his father as an assassin, but has no personal or social life to speak of, just regular visits to his mother, Eileen Atkins in fierce form. But when a job goes wrong, he finds himself trying to defend the very person he’s meant to kill, Emily Blunt’s con-artist Rose with the help of a young would-be apprentice in the shape of Rupert Grint’s Tony. 

It’s mainly frothy silliness. Amusing in parts as the threesome try to avoid being killed by the hapless assassins dispatched to finish off the original contract and round up the loose ends, including Martin Freeman with some lovely dental work…, the bond that grows between them is strongest when it is most ambiguous. There’s hints that the hitherto asexual Maynard may be a closet case, though meeting George Rainsford as a waiter in a gay café (that I would so frequent) sadly leads to nothing; Rose and Tony both come unencumbered by any attachments and so it seems it is anyone’s game. Continue reading “DVD Review: Wild Target”

DVD Review: These Foolish Things

“You always do the decent thing”

Noel Langley might be best known for being one of the screenwriters for The Wizard of Oz but his work as an author and playwright stretched over several decades and in 2006, an adaptation of his novel There’s A Porpoise Close Behind Us was released with the title These Foolish Things, both adapted and directed by Julia Taylor-Stanley. It’s a perfectly passable 1930s romp, set in the world of the theatre as the dark shadows of war gather (but not too closely) and a struggling young playwright goes about trying to get his play and his girlfriend on the London stage. What is oddly notable about it is the heavyweight Hollywood legends that have somehow gotten roped into the whole shebang – Anjelica Huston, Lauren Bacall, Terence Stamp…none of whom are in a major role.

Instead it proves to be something of a Brit flick. Floppily handsome David Leon plays playwright Robin who offers Diana a place in his lodgings as she moves to London to follow in her actress mother’s footsteps but finds herself overwhelmed by the demands of the theatre world. As she steadies herself, she finds both allies – Julia McKenzie’s compassionate landlady, Andrew Lincoln’s helpful Christopher – and enemies – her own nefarious cousin Garstin, Leo Bill in full-on sneering mode, and Mark Umbers’ sexually voracious and unfussy Douglas. With Huston’s glamorous patron of the arts Lottie Osgood in the middle of them all, the play edges ever closer to production, but at no small cost to everyone concerned. Continue reading “DVD Review: These Foolish Things”

Review: Accolade, Finborough Theatre

“But what have they knighted you for?”

Accolade, a 1950 play by Emlyn Williams, is receiving its first ever revival here at the Finborough as part of their RediscoveriesUK season. Considered a controversial play at the time due to its unashamedly frank approach to sexuality, it will hardly seem risqué to modern audiences but as it is a rather tightly-constructed drama filled with suspense and given an excellent production here with Blanche McIntyre directing, one can’t help but wonder how on earth it has taken so long to get this back on the stage!

Set in London in 1950, Will Trenting is a novelist who has received notification that he is to be knighted and fully embraced into respectable society. But his scandalous novels have been born out of the double life that he has been leading and the attention that comes with this accolade being awarded to him exposes his predilection for drunken orgies in the East End with partners of all ages. Just before his date with Buckingham Palace though, a shocking charge is made and the fallout threatens his carefully balanced mix of family life and wilful hedonism. Continue reading “Review: Accolade, Finborough Theatre”

Review: Wilton’s Vintage Christmas, Wilton’s Music Hall

“I am sure that I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time”


With its first ever in-house festive production, Wilton’s Music Hall have spent most of the month celebrating Wilton’s Vintage Christmas, a show put together and directed by Nick Hutchinson. To capture the most Christmassy spirit possible at one of my most favourite, truly atmospheric London venues, our trip took place to the last show of the run, as close to the day as we could make it and, as it turned out, on as snowy a day as you’ll ever see in London town!


Taking the form of a Victorian variety show, hosted by John Wilton himself (played by the Archers’ Graham Seed), with poetry and drama recitals alongside carols and music hall songs taking us throughout an authentically old-fashioned Christmas of the past, present and yet-to-come, from the perspective of the Victorians of course, performed by a company of seven in beautiful-looking velvets, tweeds and period-heavy detail. The evening was a nice blend, so bawdy numbers like the saucy reveals in ‘When I Take My Promenade’, deliciously performed by Lottie Latham and Vince Leigh’s sozzled sing-along through Champagne Charlie were counterpointed by a beautifully moving account by Owen Pugh of the Christmas Day Truce on the battlefields of WWI, attributed to Private Frederick Heath, a striking reminder of a bygone time that is sadly gone now.


There was a more reflective note to the contemporary section with a nod to the social history of the time and in particular this specific area of East London, the utter poverty of which was written about and exposed to society at large for the first time by Henry Mayhew, of whom current Director of Wilton’s Frances Mayhew is a direct descendant. So monologues like Water Cress Girl and Crossing Sweeper sat next to some of the bleaker passages from Dickens’ work, rooting the show in the reality of the diversity of society which still persists today: Christmas isn’t always the jolliest time of year for everyone, especially in tight financial times.

But there was also the light-hearted too with excerpts of prose from the likes of Noël Coward, Dylan Thomas and TS Eliot and a comic poem I hadn’t heard of before which was lovely, The Boy Who Laughed At Santa Claus by Ogden Nash. And no matter how many times you hear it, the redemptive power of the Christmas spirit that finally sways Ebenezer Scrooge is a wonderful thing to behold and combined with the gorgeous reveal of a ginormous Christmas tree at the back of the stage, the final sing-along to carols with cups of mulled wine made for a pleasing ending to a mixed evening of mixed entertainment.

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Programme cost: £2
Booking until 18th December