Sam Mendes’ 1917 is undoubtedly an technically excellent film but the focus on format ends up detracting from the depth of the storytelling
“You’ll be wanking again in no time!
There’s no doubting the technical audacity of Sam Mendes’ 1917. With its ostensibly one-shot, real-time structure (with necessary caveats that it is neither), it is a bravura piece of film-making that elevates this movie from just your average Oscar-baity war flick (cf Dunkirk).
It is clearly a labour of love for Mendes, who directed, co-wrote (with Krysty Wilson-Cairns) and produced 1917, and whose grandfather’s own war experiences inspired the film. And its driving force, following 2 British soldiers tasked with delivering a vital message beyond enemy lines. Continue reading “Film Review: 1917 (2019)”
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 Love; Anonymous; 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)”
Some great winners here, particularly gratifying to see recognition for The Revlon Girl and Contractions on the play side, and Superhero and The Life for the musicals. And An Octoroon looks set to beat down all before it when it transfers to the Dorfman (I’d get booking your tickets now!)
The finalists of the The Offies 2018 have been announced and as ever, there’s much of interest there, in the choices made and the breadth of Off West End theatre celebrated. Play-wise, I’m delighted at the love for The Revlon Girl and An Octoroon here, nice to see the Bunker’s Eyes Closed Ears Covered rewarded too, plus Will Pinchin’s work in Frankenstein.
With the musicals, I’m not down with the love for Promises Promises, an ill-judged revival that added nothing to the conversation (and even less in these #MeToo times) and I’m disappointed that none of the boys of Yank! were recognised. The rest of the Southwark Playhouse’s spectacular year does get the appropriate plaudits though, with Superhero, The Life and Working all getting multiple nominations.
And lastly, at times it can seem like all you have to do is sing in your bathroom and you get an Offie nomination ? so it is interesting to see how the numbers break down, albeit somewhat vaguely. These 80 or so finalists have apparently been whittled down from over 350 nominations from over 190 shows – there’s clearly just a lot of Offies love to share. Should you wish to join in said sharing at the IRL award ceremony on Sunday 4th March at The Albany, Deptford, you can buy tickets here.
|Best Actress in a Play||Hattie Morahan/|
Anatomy of a Suicide
|Victoria Hamilton, Albion||Shirley Henderson, Girl From the North Country
Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie
Justine Mitchell, Beginning
Mimi Ndiweni, The Convert
Connie Walker, Trestle
|Best Actor in a Play||Ken Nwosu, An Octoroon||Andrew Scott, Hamlet||Andrew Garfield, Angels in America
Gary Lilburn, Trestle
Ian McKellen, King Lear
Cyril Nri, Barber Shop Chronicles
Sam Troughton, Beginning
|Best Supporting Actress in a Play||Bríd Brennan, The Ferryman||Kate Kennedy, Twelfth Night (Royal Exchange)||Sheila Atim, Girl From the North Country
Laura Carmichael, Apologia
Romola Garai, Queen Anne
Lashana Lynch, a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun)
Kate O'Flynn, The Glass Menagerie
|Best Supporting Actor in a Play||Fisayo Akinade, |
Barber Shop Chronicles
|Brian J Smith, The Glass Menagerie||Philip Arditti, Oslo
Gershwn Eustache Jnr, a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun)
Fra Fee, The Ferryman
Patrice Naiambana, Barber Shop Chronicles
Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Angels in America
|Best Actress in a Musical||Janie Dee, Follies AND |
Josefina Gabrielle, A Little Night Music
AND Josie Walker,
Everybody's Talking About Jamie
|Amie Giselle-Ward, Little Women||Sharon D Clarke, Caroline or Change
Kelly Price, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾
T'Shan Williams, The Life
|Best Actor in a Musical||Giles Terera, Hamilton||Scott Hunter/Andy Coxon, Yank! A WWII Love Story||John McCrea, Everybody's Talking About Jamie
Philip Quast, Follies
Michael Rouse, Superhero
Jamael Westman, Hamilton
|Best Supporting Actress in a Musical||Tracie Bennett, |
|Rachel John, Hamilton||Christine Allado, Hamilton
Julie Atherton, The Grinning Man
Sharon D Clarke, The Life
Joanna Riding, Romantics Anonymous
Lucie Shorthouse, Everybody's Talking About Jamie
|Best Supporting Actor in a Musical||Jason |
|Mark Anderson, The Grinning Man||Fred Haig, Follies
Cornell S John, The Life
Chris Kiely, Yank! A WWII Love Story
Gareth Snook, Romantics Anonymous
Obioma Ugoala, Hamilton
Best Actor in a Play
Ken Nwosu, An Octoroon
It is great news indeed that this Orange Tree production will be gaining further life in 2018 with a transfer to the National Theatre in the summer. I really hope that as much of the original cast comes with it, especially Nwosu who anchored the complex ideas of the show with confidence and clear-sighted integrity.
Honourable mention: Andrew Scott, Hamlet
In the parlance de nos jours, Scott managed that most difficult of things to really make this most-well-known of roles his own, his collaboration with Rob Icke breathing a conversationally, contemporary life into the part that was utterly mesmerising.
Best Actor in a Musical
In the midst of all the hype and expectation that was the first preview, and in a production that had no right to be that polished and on-point, there was no doubt in my mind about who the star of the evening was. Terera’s Burr feels very much his own creation and delivers a well-deserved push into the limelight for this most charismatic of performers – I suspect this won’t be his first award.
Honourable mention: Scott Hunter/Andy Coxon, Yank! A WWII Love Story
Hitting the right time and place, I first saw Yank! in the afternoon of London Pride and a happier, gayer Clowns I could not have been. And at its heart is the epic, tragic romance of Stu and Mitch, brought to beautiful life by Scott Hunter and Andy Coxon respectively.
“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)”
“Whatever you do, don’t tell the judge you love your daughter”
The solo musical is a rather under-used genre, perhaps a sign of how difficult it is to construct a musical monologue. But between them, lyricist Richy Hughes, composer Joseph Finlay and book writer Michael Conley have done a fine job in showing just how revelatory a form it can be with their new musical Superhero, receiving its world premiere in the ever-welcoming arms of the Southwark Playhouse.
Our Clark Kent is Colin Bradley, a stay-at-home father to daughter Emily and a doting husband to Christine. Apart from one drunken night which (rather hilariously) is all the fault of the musical Carousel and it is a night with consequences which prove to be beyond the rescue of mere men, as infidelity leads to separation and worse as Christine decides to move to the USA and Colin realises that only a superhero can save his relationship with his daughter now.
Continue reading “Review: Superhero, Southwark Playhouse”
“Eä, Arda, Ainulindalë.
Aratar, Maiar, Rána, Nénar”
Believe it or not, there was a time when I lived in London and I only saw a handful of shows a month, actually making considered decisions about what I wanted to see. And I have to say the musical of Lord of the Rings did not make the cut (obvs I wasn’t aware of who Rosalie Craig was at that point, or else I would have gone!). The show lasted just over a year at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and probably lost a shit-ton of money (it allegedly cost £12 million to make) but we do have a cast recording to remember it by.
And what a rather odd-sounding show it is, little surprise really when you consider that producer Kevin Wallace brought on three different composers to complement the book and lyrics by Matthew Warchus and Shaun McKenna. So Bollywood supremo A. R. Rahman, Finnish folk group Värttinä and Lloyd Webber-wannabe Christopher Nightingale all contributed to an altogether epic score, but one which sprawls in an unwieldly manner as these three strands struggle to cohere into an effective whole. Continue reading “Album Review: Lord of the Rings (2008 Original London Production)”