Film Review: The Children Act (2017)

The neglect of Stanley Tucci aside, The Children Act does a decent job of bringing Ian McEwan’s novel to the screen, with Emma Thompson on fine form

“I think it’s my choice
‘I’m afraid the law doesn’t agree'”

The first half of The Children Act is astounding. Family court judge Fiona Maye is utterly devoted to her career, deciding carefully but firmly on the most delicate of ruilngs. But the case of Adam Henry gives her cause, a 17 year old cancer victim whose Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs are leading him to refuse the blood transfusion that could save his life.

As Maye, Emma Thompson makes you feel every inch of the emotional stoicism she has developed in order to rise through the judicial ranks so. There’s admiration sure but also a touch of apprehension – the brittleness with which she interacts with her devoted clerk (Jason Watkins) and the casual callousness with which she takes her long-suffering husband (Stanley Tucci) for granted. Continue reading “Film Review: The Children Act (2017)”

Review: Pretty Woman – the Musical, Piccadilly Theatre

Aiimie Atkinson is good but deserves far better than Pretty Woman: the Musical, the blatant cash grab at the Piccadilly Theatre

“Somebody pinch me, this can’t be true”

The publicity for Pretty Woman – the Musical invites, nay begs, you to invoke one of the movie’s iconic catchphrases so let’s have it. Mounting a show in 2020 in which the only roles for women are prostitutes or bitches? Big mistake. Huge. Charging £175 to sit on your front row? Big mistake. Huge. Encouraging the use of a grand piano for anything besides playing? Big mistake. Huge.  

The 1990 film directed by Garry Marshall from J F Lawton’s screenplay scored massive success for a rom-com but much like Grease, it is hard to view the story with a contemporary lens. Determined to view itself as a fairytale (of sorts), it takes the worlds of asset stripping and sex work and whisks them together without taking anything seriously. And Marshall and Lawton’s book for this musical adaptation does the same except with added songs by Bryan Adams (yes, that one) and Jim Vallance. Continue reading “Review: Pretty Woman – the Musical, Piccadilly Theatre”

TV Review: The Split Series 2

Despite a fabulous returning cast, Series 2 of The Split is classy-looking tosh. Very watchable but tosh all the same.

“The last thing we need is for any more salacious details to come out”

Much like Series 1, the second season of Abi Morgan’s The Split treads a line between legal drama and deluxe soap opera and more often than not, it is less of a balancing act and more of a case of elements of the former sprinkled into a heavy dose of the latter.

Which in many ways in just fine. Getting to see the likes of Nicola Walker, Deborah Findlay and Anna Chancellor strutting in expensive contemporary costumery is a blessing in itself and the production values of this show never dip below the glossy magazine standards it has set itself. Continue reading “TV Review: The Split Series 2”

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 2

“Some things are worth getting your heart broken for”

David Tennant’s opening season took the template of the opening series and ran with it, Russell T Davies’ vision finding its ideal mate in the Scottish actor. The typically adventurous sweep was tempered with a more tender vision, which considerably upped our emotional investment (previous companions returning, romantic connections whether past or present).

Bringing back the Cybermen was an interesting move, as was the introduction of the notion of parallel worlds (and how important that became…). And if the series-long motif of Torchwood didn’t really pay off, especially not when one considers what Torchwood the show became, the finale to Doomsday is pretty close to perfection. Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 2”

Dispatches from the Vaults #1

“Who knew the world needed a two-hander musical about chemsex?”

Keeping on top of reviews is a challenge at the best of times, so throwing in a whole bunch of festival shows from the Vaults makes time management even more challenging. So I’m opting to round up shorter reviews of what I’ve seen in the week into a single post. First up is Thom Sellwood’s Happy, the aforementioned chemsex musical and also a whole lot more. Constructed as something of a meta-theatrical experiment, it takes the form of a pitch for a new show, wrapped around the confessional outpouring of a man struggling to deal with the comedown from his last, successful, show.

Lounging in his East London flat and firing up Grindr on a regular basis, Thom (the character) is battling with ideas of self-worth and whether the notion of just ‘being happy’ is a false construct in a society only interested in selling us things. On top of that, Thom (the pitcher) is dealing with the stress of his creative partner not turning up and though his friend Carrie has stepped in at the last minute to sing the songs, she’s barely up to speed. Thus comes in a second level of interrogation about personal and creative satisfaction as Thom and Carrie spar over his increasingly outrageous behaviour. It’s all perfectly pitched on the teetering edge of collapse, highly convincingly so and definitely one to look out for. Continue reading “Dispatches from the Vaults #1”

Re-review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

“Beyond this door, surprises in store”

Third time lucky for me and the great glass elevator! The first time I saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, the climactic lift effect wasn’t ready, the second time it broke down before it even really started so if nothing else, it was great to finally get to see the sequence as it was intended. My main reason for revisiting the show though was the cast change, with favourites like Josefina Gabrielle and Richard Dempsey joining the company and Alex Jennings stepping into the role of Willy Wonka, replacing Douglas Hodge. 

And rather unexpectedly, I absolutely loved it. It was a show I had previously liked rather than truly enjoyed but it really seems to have settled into its skin now, subtle alterations helping with the pace (although I am sad to see the animated prologue having been removed) and a generally sharper feel to the whole proceeding. For me though, the best aspect was Jennings’ reinterpretation of Wonka, a completely new take on the character that works brilliantly and feeds into the fabric of David Greig’s book, based on Roald Dahl’s writings of course, in a more instinctive and convincing manner. Continue reading “Re-review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Theatre Royal Drury Lane”

Review: Hairspray, Curve

“’Cause just to sit still would be a sin”

For the longest time, I resisted the charms of Hairspray both on screen and on stage. It was only my niece and nephew falling in love with the 2007 film and making me watch it with them and made me realise how much fun it is and just how tuneful Marc Shaiman’s score manages to be. So having missed the boat with the West End version (and resisted the temptation to see its seemingly never-ending touring incarnation), I was most pleased to see that Paul Kerryson was creating his own interpretation for the Curve, especially given how successfully Chicago had been reinvented there over Christmas. 

And it appears that lightning really can strike twice. Kerryson clearly has the knack for reconceiving large scale musicals for this Leicester stage and focusing on the qualities that make them so successful and here, in that respect, there’s an embarrassment of riches. Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan’s book captures a crucial moment in US civil rights history but one with an enduringly powerful message in how societal pressure can result in lasting change when focused through the right media channel. And Lee Proud’s wonderfully expansive choreography educates as well as entertains, speaking volumes about the changing ways in which we interact. Continue reading “Review: Hairspray, Curve”