News: November news aplenty

An unnecessary amount of theatre news exploded forth today, maybe everyone was just too busy watching CNN all of last week…  I’m just going to rattle through it all quickly to save everyone time.

Jason Robert Brown’s Songs From A New World will play the Vaudeville Theatre for a month from 5th February. David Hunter, Rachel John, Cedric Neal , Rachel Tucker and Shem Omari James, who all reprise their roles from the London Palladium gigs in October.

The previously announced Lynn Ahrens and Mike Ockrent’s A Christmas Carol has revealed its supporting cast around Brian Conley’s Scrooge. Lucie Jones, Sandra Marvin, Martyn Ellis, Cedric Neal, Jeremy Secomb, Matt Jay-Willis and Jacqueline Jossa will join him at the Dominion Theatre from 7th December. Continue reading “News: November news aplenty”

Film Review: All Is True (2018)

Ben Elton and Kenneth Branagh latter-day Shakespeare biography All Is True is at once precious and poignant

“You spent so long putting words into other people’s mouths, you think it only matters what is said”

A most curious one this, continuing our creative obsession with filling in the biographical gaps in the life of William Shakespeare (cf Shakespeare in LoveAnonymous; Dedication; Will). All Is True is written by Ben Elton, who has (comic) form in the shape of Upstart Crow, the TV show soon to make its own theatrical bow and has as its director, producer and star, one Kenneth Branagh.

In some ways, it is a beautiful film. Branagh eschews a lot of artifical lighting and flickers of candlelight illuminates several interior scenes to gorgeous effect. He also takes pains to find interesting angles for his shots and the opening image of his silhouetted figure against the burning Globe is stunning. And being able to call on the likes of Sir Ian McKellen (the Earl of Southampton) and Dame Judi Dench (Anne Hathaway) to toss off some Shakespeare recital is of course an unalloyed pleasure. Continue reading “Film Review: All Is True (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”

Oscar Week Film Review: Dunkirk

Nominated for 8 Oscars, can Chrstopher Nolan’s Dunkirk change my mind about war films…?

“The tide’s turning now.
‘How can you tell?’
The bodies are coming back.”

I’m not really a fan of war films, hence having avoided Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk until now. ‘It’s not a war film’ they said, tempting me to overcome my natural antipathy but they lied. It may not be a conventional war film but it remains a punishing film with a whole lot of war in it and so really not my thing at all.

Nolan is a bravura film-maker, that much is true. And this is an audacious take on a much-filmed, much-explored moment in world history. Free from context, meaningful dialogue, narrative thrust, this becomes a study in the desperate struggle for survival of the Allied forces on that beach in Northern France. And all the waiting they did. Continue reading “Oscar Week Film Review: Dunkirk”

Film Review: Murder On The Orient Express (2017)

“I know your moustache…”

What to do when you want your new film to be a new version of one of Agatha Christie’s most famous whodunnits? Well if you’re Kenneth Branagh, you call in some of your mates to play the main characters, friends like Dame Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Colman, Penélope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr., Josh Gad, and Willem Dafoe. Plus you can also get some real talent to fill the minor roles – blink and you might miss the likes of Paapa Essiedu, Miranda Raison, Hadley Fraser, Adam Garcia, even Sergei Polunin.

But if you’re Kenneth Branagh, you also cast yourself as Hercule Poirot and as he’s directing himself, there’s a sense that the sharing of some much-needed constructive feedback didn’t happen. For as his ridiculously huge moustache is placed front and centre in scene after scene, this Murder On The Orient Express feels nothing so much as a vanity project. Which is all well and good if you like that sort of thing, and I quite like Branagh as it happens, but it is absolutely fatal in a story that is intrinsically about the ensemble. Continue reading “Film Review: Murder On The Orient Express (2017)”

News: RADA President Kenneth Branagh to direct Tom Hiddleston in Hamlet

Kenneth Branagh’s Olivier Award-winning theatre company will join forces with RADA for a co-production of Hamlet, to support the transformation of RADA’s Chenies Street site in London, further developing the Academy as a world-leader in dramatic arts training.

 The production will feature RADA alumnus Tom Hiddleston in the title role and will play a strictly limited three week run at RADA’s 160-seat Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre from 1-23 September 2017.

All funds raised will support the RADA Attenborough Campaign, which aims to raise £20million, enabling the regeneration of the Academy’s Chenies Street premises. Continue reading “News: RADA President Kenneth Branagh to direct Tom Hiddleston in Hamlet”

Winners of the 2017 Olivier Awards

Here are the winners for the 2017 Olivier Awards – it will come as little surprise that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child carried the night, sweeping a record 9 trophies from its record 11 nominations. And on the musical side of things, there was a pleasing spread of awards (although fans of Half A Sixpence will undoubtedly be miffed). There’s a temptation to be slightly cynical (who doesn’t love a bit of a snark…)  in that Cursed Child winning so many was an easy way to grab headlines – spreading the love better reflects the diversity of the industry, insofar as these awards reflect it at all. And  Groundhog Day winning Best New Musical just before it opens in New York and rumoured to return to London in the coming months feels a tad convenient but hey ho, whatcha gonna do.

I didn’t do too badly with my predictions –  I got 6 out of 8 winners right in the acting categories. Full list under the cut.


Best actor in a supporting role in a musical

Ian Bartholomew for Half a Sixpence at Noël Coward theatre
Adam J Bernard for Dreamgirls at Savoy theatre – WINNER
Ben Hunter for The Girls at Phoenix theatre
Andrew Langtree for Groundhog Day at the Old Vic
 
Best actress in a supporting role in a musical
Haydn Gwynne for The Threepenny Opera at National Theatre – Olivier
Victoria Hamilton-Barritt for Murder Ballad at Arts theatre
Rebecca Trehearn for Show Boat at New London theatre – WINNER
Emma Williams for Half a Sixpence at Noël Coward theatre

Continue reading “Winners of the 2017 Olivier Awards”