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)”

Review: Othello, Sam Wanamaker

“O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains”

In light of Roman Tragedies reminding us of the vast potential of what Shakespeare can be rather than the tendency towards the ‘proper’ readings of his work that we tend to get here in the UK (vast generalisations I know, but can you really argue against it…), it’s gratifying to see directors, and venues, taking the opportunity to stretch those traditional notions. The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, housed within Shakespeare’s Globe, isn’t the first place you’d think of to find such a production but in Ellen MacDougall’s interpretation of Othello, we have just that.

Text updated to the 21st century (dramaturgy by Joel Horwood), key characters regendered (Joanna Horton’s Cassio is an inspired move), a contemporary soundtrack that interpolates Lana Del Rey, it is enough to make any purist shiver and you kinda feel that’s the point. MacDougall refocuses the play on masculinity in crisis but it is also tempting to think that on a larger scale, there’s a smidgen of Emma Rice’s shaking of the branches of theatrical orthodoxy at play here too. With the post of Artistic Director of the Globe being advertised again, we can only hope such invention remains. Continue reading “Review: Othello, Sam Wanamaker”

22nd Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees

Film
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Bryan Cranston – Trumbo as Dalton Trumbo
Johnny Depp – Black Mass as James “Whitey” Bulger
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant as Hugh Glass
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs as Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl as Lili Elbe / Einar Wegener

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett – Carol as Carol Aird
Brie Larson – Room as Joy “Ma” Newsome
Helen Mirren – Woman in Gold as Maria Altmann
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn as Eilis Lacey
Sarah Silverman – I Smile Back as Elaine “Laney” Brooks Continue reading “22nd Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees”

Review: Measure for Measure, Shakespeare’s Globe

“Which is the wiser here, Justice or Iniquity?”

You don’t get many Measure for Measures for the pound, in the grand scheme, so Outgoing Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole probably thought he was onto a winner in choosing it to be part of his final summer season and indeed the last play he’ll direct as AD. But these things come in threes and we’ve been blessed with two other major productions – Cheek by Jowl’s Russian-language version shook the rafters of the Barbican earlier this year and Joe Hill-Gibbons promises to do the same at the Young Vic with Romola Garai in the Autumn.

But no matter, we can be assured of diverse interpretations – for the first two at least – and Dromgoole’s version for the Globe does precisely what he does best, unfussily traditional productions blessed with a striking clarity (best evidenced by his superlative 2013 A Midsummer Night’s Dream). Here, we get to see Mariah Gale, one of our finest young Shakespeareans, deliver a stunning account of one of Shakespeare’s more complex female characters in Isabella and we also bear witness to Dominic Rowan ascending to the leading man status (with which he has arguably merely flirted before) as Vincentio. Continue reading “Review: Measure for Measure, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: A Season in the Congo, Young Vic

“This is our Africa”

The curse of theatre addiction is that even when I know I don’t want to see something, I quite often end up going anyway, especially when it has been well recommended by friends and colleagues. So it was with the Young Vic’s A Season in the Congo, particularly galling as someone very kind indeed offered to queue for dayseats… Joe Wright’s theatrical debut as a director came earlier this year with Trelawny of the Wells at the Donmar, a production I wasn’t much enamoured with, but he kicks into another gear altogether with this 1966 play by Aimé Césaire about the life and death of Patrice Lumumba, one of the men who led the Democratic Republic of Congo to independence.

It’s a vastly collaborative work, pulling together wide-ranging artistic elements into a hugely theatrical experience which is hugely ambitious and was clearly well-received, though I found it to be distracting and distancing. Choreographer (and co-director) Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui intersperses numerous dance sequences, musician Kabongo Tshisensa makes a Brechtian troubadour-like figure who passes comment throughout on the action in tribal dialect, puppets and masks are used to represent the white characters and colonial powers whose influences are very much in decline. They’re undoubtedly impressively done yet for me, all over-used, reducing their impact and padding out an already healthy run-time unnecessarily. Continue reading “Review: A Season in the Congo, Young Vic”

The 2012 Ian Charleson Awards

First prize

Ashley Zhangazha, for Ross in Macbeth (Crucible Theatre, Sheffield)

Second prize

Amy Morgan, for Margery Pinchwife in The Country Wife (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester)

Third prize

Lara Rossi, for Dol Common in The Alchemist (Liverpool Playhouse)

Commendations

Jade Anouka, for Calpurnia, Metellus Cimber, and Pindarus in Julius Caesar (Donmar Warehouse)
Alys Daroy, for Yelena in The Wood Demon (Theatre Collection)
Holly Earl, for Bertha in The Father (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry)
Kurt Egyiawan, for Arsace in Berenice (Donmar Warehouse)
Paapa Essiedu, for Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Johnny Flynn, for Viola in Twelfth Night (Globe Theatre and West End)
Aysha Kala, for Maid in Much Ado About Nothing (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Vanessa Kirby, for Masha in Three Sisters (Young Vic)
Simon Manyonda, for Lucius in Julius Caesar (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Luke Norris, for The Soldier in Antigone (National Theatre)
Ailish Symons, for Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest (Lyric Theatre, Belfast)
Ellie Turner, for Fanny Hawthorn in Hindle Wakes (Finborough Theatre)

Review: Bérénice, Donmar Warehouse

“Like sands through the hourglass…”

The quote above is not actually from Alan Hollinghurst’s new version of Racine’s 1670 play Bérénice, but to be honest, no lines from it stuck in my head long enough over a post-show drink for me to record them and thus we have Days of our Lives… The reason that that came into my mind is because the predominant image of Lucy Osborne’s striking design of Josie Rourke’s production is of streams of sand tumbling from the ceiling even as we enter the auditorium, which has been partially reconfigured into the round, with stalls right being shifted 45 degrees to where the stage usually is but the circle seats remaining where they are.

Bérénice has long been in love with Titus, but as she is a Palestinian queen and he is the new Emperor of Rome, theirs is not an easy romance. He decides to finally take her as his wife now that power is his but when he discovers that the Roman public are not that keen on the prospect of a foreign queen, Titus is forced to weigh his personal feelings against his imperial duties. He sends his best friend Antiochus to comfort Bérénice though it soon becomes apparent that he is also in love with her and so a tangle of pained feelings and unfulfilled passion plays out between the trio. Continue reading “Review: Bérénice, Donmar Warehouse”

Review: Henry V, Shakespeare’s Globe

“Must I bite?”

Marking the final entry in the Globe to Globe festival is the UK with this production of Henry V which reunites Jamie Parker with the role of Prince Hal that he played in 2010’s Henry IV Part I and II. The boy has now become king and the play covers his attempt to reconquer the English gains in France, most notably at the battle of Agincourt, and his growth into a leader who can inspire men to follow their duty to their country. Parker clearly has a close affinity to this character and it was a clever move to wait a couple of years before taking on this particular part as he is able to bring even more clear-spoken gravitas, colour and detail to this very human king.

Around him though, is a production by Dominic Dromgoole which errs very strongly towards the broadest crowd-pleasing comedy it can manage. Bríd Brennan’s beautifully versed Chorus and Olivia Ross’ poised Princess Katherine impressed as did the multi-part antics of Chris Starkie and Beruce Khan (additionally stepping in as understudy for an indisposed Matthew Flynn). But too often, the overreliance on the comic tone just fell flat for me. The Pistol, Bardolph et al antics were as bawdy as they have ever been, which ended up undermining their darker side (is the treatment of the French soldier really a subject of comedy?) and the tragedy of their fates (Boy is particularly hard done by). Continue reading “Review: Henry V, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: Earthquakes in London, Richmond Theatre

“These aren’t the results we were expecting”

Of all the new plays that I saw last year, it would have taken me a long time to arrive at Earthquakes in London as being the one which would receive a national tour. Not because it wasn’t good, in fact I really enjoyed Mike Bartlett’s slightly flawed epic ambition, but because the National Theatre production was intrinsically linked to the way in which Headlong utterly transformed the Cottesloe auditorium with Miriam Beuther’s design with its serpentine catwalk, trapdoors, bar stools and cutaway stages. But never ones to shirk a challenge, Goold and Headlong, along with touring director Caroline Steinbeis, have remounted the show into a tour-able format which I caught at Richmond Theatre.

My original review can be read here and it was actually quite nice to be able to revisit the show a year later in the context of his other 2010 work Love Love Love and especially in a week when I had also caught Bartlett’s latest epic work 13. Knowing what to expect makes a world of difference: I didn’t feel the length of the show – 2 hours 55 minutes here – whereas people new to it all commented on it; one was able to take in more of the detailed work of the company alongside the razzmatazz which was sometimes a little distracting; and even the final sequence, something that I wasn’t hugely keen on last time, made more sense this time round and felt like the necessary balancing of tone to keep the play from being too despondent. The central conceit of the intertwining stories of the three sisters remained strong and the jumps around time were also effective, possibly more so for knowing exactly what was going on in them from the off! The scale of the storytelling is occasionally unwieldy in reaching to be epic , but I don’t think any other writer in the UK is stretching themselves this much and whilst it may not all come off, I thoroughly admire the scope of his ambition. Continue reading “Review: Earthquakes in London, Richmond Theatre”