Film Review: Spectre (2015)

After the emotional triumph of Skyfall, the lethargic pacing of Spectre can’t help but feel a letdown

“Why, given every other possible option, does a man choose the life of a paid assassin?”

After the rip-roaring success of Skyfall, it seems little surprise that director Sam Mendes and lead scribe John Logan would return for the next instalment of the Bond series. But Spectre ends up as part of the yoyo-ing trend of Daniel Craig’s tenure which had previously seen the excellence of Casino Royale followed up by the not-excellence of Quantum of Solace. Delving deep back in Bond folklore, its overlong running time and stultifying pace sadly makes it a bit of a challenge.

This time round, surveillance networks are the villain as Bond investigates global conglomerate Spectre and their nefarious plans under Blofeld, whilst M and co do battle with the enemy within in the form of Andrew Scott’s smarmy C. Despite his class, Ralph Fiennes is a much less impactful M than Dame Judi but Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris and Rory Kinnear are all settling well into their MI6 roles, popping in and out as needed. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld is vividly effective but the problem lies in an ineffectual plot that doesn’t grip anywhere near as much as Skyfall did. Continue reading “Film Review: Spectre (2015)”

Film Review: Skyfall (2012)

As much an M movie as a Bond flick, Skyfall benefits from putting Dame Judi Dench front and centre to make this one of the best Bond films of recent times

“Well, I suppose I see a different world than you do and the truth is that what I see frightens me”

One of the best aspects of Bond in the Daniel Craig era has been the introduction of actual consequences for people. We’re not dealing with total realism to be sure, but rather a thoughtfulness that is too rarely seen in the action genre. Written by John Logan and directed by Sam Mendes, Skyfall is a masterful entry in the Bond canon, playing out the complex relationship between Bond and Judi Dench’s steely M right through to its devastating end. 

Delving into both of their pasts and hauling them up to account, the notion of personal vengeance as all-encompassing motive is far more effective than the fate of the Bolivian water supply. And Javier Bardem’s Silva is one of the most genuinely chilling villains for that very reason, his cyberterrorist truly compelling in his psychopathy – that climactic scene in the chapel is simply stunning on all levels.

It’s not perfect: the queer-baiting, sorely underusing Helen McCrory in just one scene, and all the business on the tube is ridiculous (it’s rush hour in the station but the train that crashes is somehow empty? And you can’t slide down the escalators like they do, there’s things in the way. And yes, I know it is a film, hehe). But I’m picking at small things cos I can – the new Q is introduced perfectly (all credit to Ben Whishaw) and ultimately, it’s just a great film, never mind a great Bond film. Continue reading “Film Review: Skyfall (2012)”

TV Review: I May Destroy You

The best TV show of the year? Definitely so far…Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You is just superb

“Just look in the mirror, you know what I mean? It’s really uncomfortable and unnerving for everyone”

Has ‘the grey area’ ever seemed so interesting? Probing into the complexities of real life and fully embracing the fact that there are rarely ever any simple answers, Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You has felt like a real breath of bracingly fresh air.

Sexual consent for straights and gays, dealing with trauma on a personal and institutional level, the perils of buying into social media hype, portraying the scale of casual sex and drug use whilst acknowledging its inherent pitfalls, examining how we bury memories from both the recent and distant past and that’s just scratching the surface. Continue reading “TV Review: I May Destroy You”

10 of my top moments of the decade

Ever behind the curve, I present 10 of my top moments in a theatre over the last ten years (plus a few bonus extra ones because whittling down this list was hard, and it will probably be different tomorrow anyway!)

© James Bellorini

Extraordinary Public Acts for a National Theatre

The establishment of the Public Acts programme at the National Theatre offered up something sensational in Pericles, an initiative designed to connect grassroot community organisations with major theatres, resulting in a production that swept over 200 non-professional performers onto the stage of the Olivier to create something that moved me more than 99% of professional productions.  A truly joyous and momentous occasion. 

Honourable mention: this year’s musical take on As You Like It proved just as heart-swellingly beautiful over at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. Continue reading “10 of my top moments of the decade”

Not-a-re-review: Death of a Salesman, Piccadilly Theatre

This striking reinterpretation of Death of a Salesman raises the roof at the Piccadilly Theatre, it literally brings the house down…

“I don’t say he’s a great man…but he’s a human being”

Gonna be a bit cheeky with this, as I got to go the West End transfer of Death of a Salesman as a guest. And even though I loved it at the Young Vic, I didn’t particularly feel inclined to write about it again, in this slightly recast version co-directed by Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell. So check back for that previous review and rest assured that it is a corking night at the theatre.

Running time: 3 hours (with interval)
Photos: Brinkhoff Mogenburg
Death of a Salesman is booking at the Piccadilly Theatre until 4th January

Review: Death of a Salesman, Young Vic

A brilliant cast shine in this striking revival of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman at the Young Vic

“Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person”

The American dream hasn’t often looked like this. Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell’s re-imagining of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman reaffirms the Young Vic as the place to go to shake up these American classics (qv A View from the Bridge) with a startling revival that seems destined to go far.

Elliott has recent form of course in reinterpretations and Cromwell was the Associate Director on Company too. And if Death… might not go quite as far, it still emerges as a thoughtful reconsideration with a decidedly psychological bent, trapping us as much as Willy in his troubled mind. Continue reading “Review: Death of a Salesman, Young Vic”

fosterIAN awards 2018

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayLeah Harvey, Clare Perkins & Vinette Robinson, EmiliaSarah Gordy, JellyfishPatsy Ferran, Summer and Smoke
Marieke Heebink, Oedipus
Elinor Lawless, To Have To Shoot Irishmen
Carey Mulligan, Girls and Boys
Sarah Niles, Leave Taking
Best Actor in a Play
Kyle Soller, The InheritanceHans Kesting, OedipusBen Batt, The York Realist
Ian Bonar, Jellyfish
Paapa Essiedu, The Convert
Richard Harrington, Home I'm Darling
Shubnam Saraf, An Adventure
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayCecilia Noble, Nine NightMartha Plimpton, SweatAdjoa Andoh, Leave Taking
Eva Feiler, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Watermill)
Penny Layden, Jellyfish
Lashana Lynch, ear for eye
Charity Wakefield, Emilia
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayPaul Hilton, The InheritanceForbes Masson, Summer and SmokeLouis Bernard, Much Ado About Nothing (Antic Disposition)
Demetri Goritsas, ear for eye
Wil Johnson, Leave Taking
Nicky Priest, Jellyfish
Sam Troughton, Stories
Best Actress in a MusicalRosalie Craig, CompanyKaisa Hammarlund, Fun HomeBonnie Langford, 42nd Street
Eva Noblezada, Hadestown
Caroline O'Connor, The Rink
Gemma Sutton, The Rink
Adrienne Warren, Tina the Musical
Best Actor in a MusicalSteven Miller, Sunshine on LeithAndrew Finnigan, DripPaul-James Corrigan, Sunshine on Leith
Arinzé Kene, Misty
Michael Mather, Mythic
Leon Scott, Midnight
Zubin Varla, Fun Home
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Patti LuPone, CompanyAmber Gray, HadestownNaana Agyei-Ampadu, Caroline or Change
Vivien Carter, Sweet Charity (Watermill)
Genevieve McCarthy, Mythic
Hilary McLean, Sunshine on Leith
Seyi Omooba, Christina Modestou & Renée Lamb, Little Shop of Horrors
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalJonathan Bailey, CompanyPatrick Page & André de Shields, HadestownAlex Cardall, Sweet Charity (Watermill)
Alex James Ellison,
The Secret Garden

Richard Fleeshman, Company
Matt Willis, Little Shop of Horrors

2018 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play

Kyle Soller, The Inheritance
As Eric Glass, Soller’s sensitively nuanced performance is one of the most crucial in The Inheritance, the development of his humanity and the lightness of his humour goes a long way to sustaining the considerable heft of this two-part epic. 

Honourable mention: Hans Kesting, Oedipus
A real birthday treat this was, Kesting giving us Sophocles via Icke, effortlessly redefining tragic Greek figures for the contemporary age. Entirely capturing the modern politician’s dilemma about how ‘real’ to be, his dogged pursuit of the truth was as compelling as it has ever been.

Ben Batt, The York Realist
Ian Bonar, Jellyfish
Paapa Essiedu, The Convert
Richard Harrington, Home I’m Darling
Shubnam Saraf, An Adventure

8-10
Edward Hogg, The Wild Duck; Gerard Kearns, To Have To Shoot Irishmen; Richard McCabe, Imperium

 

Best Actor in a Musical

Steven Miller, Sunshine on Leith
Musical theatre is so often derided as frothy flights of fancy that it can be easy to be surprised when a performance of real honesty shines through. Miller’s Davy, a bluff squaddie struggling to readjust to life after a tour in the Middle East, captured so much of that magical ‘extraordinary in the ordinary’ quality from his dancing to his singing, as well as his acting, that I could hardly take my eyes off him. 

Honourable mention: Andrew Finnigan, Drip
I’m not picking Finnigan because he picked me to be his audience hunk (honest) but for the irresistible charm of his effortlessly guileless Liam, the kind of hero you can’t help but root for and exactly the kind of (incidentally) gay characters we need our culture to be suffused with.

Paul-James Corrigan, Sunshine on Leith
Arinzé Kene, Misty
Michael Mathers, Mythic
Leon Scott, Midnight
Zubin Varla, Fun Home

8-10
David Haydn, The Secret Garden; Daniel Healy, Once; Mark Inscoe, Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Review: Jellyfish, Bush Theatre

Almost impossibly tender and true, Ben Weatherill’s Jellyfish is a minor-key masterpiece at the Bush Theatre

“Do you think there will be people like us around for ever?”

I know a little something of what it is to be treated differently in this world. Whenever I took an exam at school, college, even university, I would be given extra time, usually an hour, because that was what disabled students got. Regardless of the fact that my only concern was being able to communicate effectively in big echoey halls – I’m deaf y’see – one category fit us all for the differently-abled… And that does something to you no matter how confident you are, to be shunted off to the special room even by the most well-meaning of souls and God knows I had some amazing teachers who provided invaluable help.

That feeling of being considered ‘different’ came flooding back to me while watching Ben Weatherill’s achingly beautiful play Jellyfish in the studio space at the Bush Theatre. It’s a feeling that dominates Kelly’s life. At 27, she’s convinced of her own independence and a burgeoning relationship with the slightly older Neil promises much. Kelly has Down’s Syndrome and lives with her mother Agnes though, a mother who has provided unerringly constant care for her daughter and can’t conceive that this could ever be a healthy relationship. She means well, so very well, but at what cost? Does the help she offers square with the needs of a young woman yearning for sexual maturity. Continue reading “Review: Jellyfish, Bush Theatre”

Review: Be Prepared, VAULT Festival

“I can’t get on the bus cos I’m waiting for this old man to call”

What is the right way to grieve? Is there even such a thing? Ian Bonar’s Be Prepared throws up such questions as we meet Tom, and by extension Mr Chambers, who are having a tough time of it.  Tom is mourning the death of his father, Mr Chambers the loss of his wife but thing is, they don’t know each other. The only reason they’re in contact is because the elderly Mr Chambers keeps mis-dialling Tom thinking he is a funeral director.

And as writer/performer Bonar takes to the stage in a brilliantly conceived opening, we get to see how this accidental meeting develops into something of a life-raft for the pair of them, a way of starting to process the discombobulation that accompanies the death of a loved one. The shots of weird dark humour that pop up in the most unexpected of places, the strange comfort that comes from unburdening to someone who doesn’t know you, the distressing weight that feels like it will never lift.

Continue reading “Review: Be Prepared, VAULT Festival”