DVD Review: My House in Umbria

“There are, naturally, laughter lines”

As with Ladies in Lavender (which also starred Dame Maggie Smith), early 2000s film My House in Umbria has the distinct air of talcum powder about it, a fustiness that comes its uninspired and frankly tedious ‘niceness’. Richard Loncraine made this film for US cable channel HBO and so some of its overly manneredness could be forgiven as a sop to that market, but it doesn’t change how terribly dated it feels.

Based on a short story by William Trevor, Hugh Whitemore’s screenplay does little to inject any kind of life into the tale, happy instead to potter around lackadaisically. Smith plays Emily Delahunty, a writer of pulpy romance novels who has decamped to the Italian countryside with faithful pal Quinty (Timothy Spall). La bella vita is interrupted though when a bomb explodes on a train she’s on but after she escapes unscathed, she invites the rest of the survivors to recuperate at her villa.  Continue reading “DVD Review: My House in Umbria”

Review: Stevie, Minerva

“I don’t care what they think”

The quality of theatre that the Chichester Festival Theatre produces on a regular basis can barely be questioned. Big musicals aside, it may rarely be heart-thumpingly exciting or shine with innovative flair, but rather the focus is on meticulously constructed productions of the more traditional side of drama. Which goes to say that CFT couldn’t be more MOR if it tried, at the top end of the middle of the road to be sure, but still lacking something of a cutting edge.

In some ways, it might be an unfair suggestion. Christopher Morahan’s production of Hugh Whitemore’s 1977 play Stevie is impeccably put together and features a fantastic performance from Zoë Wanamaker at its heart but the speed at which that heart races rarely gets above resting pace. The Stevie of the title is Stevie Smith, a poet and author who has been somewhat forgotten, whose work sprang from the minutiae of her daily life and the play goes about realising moments from that life. Continue reading “Review: Stevie, Minerva”