DVD Review: These Foolish Things

“You always do the decent thing”

Noel Langley might be best known for being one of the screenwriters for The Wizard of Oz but his work as an author and playwright stretched over several decades and in 2006, an adaptation of his novel There’s A Porpoise Close Behind Us was released with the title These Foolish Things, both adapted and directed by Julia Taylor-Stanley. It’s a perfectly passable 1930s romp, set in the world of the theatre as the dark shadows of war gather (but not too closely) and a struggling young playwright goes about trying to get his play and his girlfriend on the London stage. What is oddly notable about it is the heavyweight Hollywood legends that have somehow gotten roped into the whole shebang – Anjelica Huston, Lauren Bacall, Terence Stamp…none of whom are in a major role.

Instead it proves to be something of a Brit flick. Floppily handsome David Leon plays playwright Robin who offers Diana a place in his lodgings as she moves to London to follow in her actress mother’s footsteps but finds herself overwhelmed by the demands of the theatre world. As she steadies herself, she finds both allies – Julia McKenzie’s compassionate landlady, Andrew Lincoln’s helpful Christopher – and enemies – her own nefarious cousin Garstin, Leo Bill in full-on sneering mode, and Mark Umbers’ sexually voracious and unfussy Douglas. With Huston’s glamorous patron of the arts Lottie Osgood in the middle of them all, the play edges ever closer to production, but at no small cost to everyone concerned. Continue reading “DVD Review: These Foolish Things”

Review: Sunday in the Park with George, Théâtre du Châtelet

“Well there are worse things…on a Sunday”

As a rule, I have generally resisted the urge to go to the theatre whilst on holiday, preferring to actually take a proper break from it all, but with free Eurostar tickets to take care of and the promise of a cast that included Julian Ovenden, Beverley Klein and Sophie-Louise Dann, I could not resist the lure of making a trip to Paris to see the Théâtre du Châtelet’s production of Sunday in the Park with George. It is a Sondheim that I hadn’t seen before and the Châtelet’s reputation for producing his work with Lee Blakeley at the helm (previous years have seen them put on A Little Night Music and Sweeney Todd and next year is Into the Woods) meant that building a weekend away around it was an irresistible choice.

The show uses Georges Seurat’s painting A Sunday afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte as a starting point explore the relationship between artists and the art they create, and also the impact that pursuing the creative impulse has on those close to them. Ovenden fits the role of Georges perfectly, the grandeur of his virile voice a good match both for the compulsive obsession of the artist and the demands of leading such a show as this – if he wanted to (and I’m not so sure that he does), he really could become one of the premier leading men de nos jours. As his long-suffering mistress Dot, Dann is highly appealing and sounds wonderful and there’s lovely work from supporting players like Francesca Jackson and Rebecca Bottone as a pair of flirty shopgirls and Klein’s Yvonne, negotiating the bumps of her own marriage to an artist. Continue reading “Review: Sunday in the Park with George, Théâtre du Châtelet”

Review: Chariots of Fire, Gielgud Theatre

“100 metres can feel like a marathon”

For the longest time, I was sure that I didn’t want to see Chariots of Fire, not least because the hoarding for this Hampstead Theatre transfer into the Gielgud finds it necessary to call it Chariots of Fire on stage, as if it could be anything else in a theatre. But Mike Bartlett, who adapted the film, is a writer I like and a change of cast meant Gabriel Vick, an actor whose charms I, erm, appreciate, was able to tempt me there on the final day of the (curtailed) run. The most arresting aspect of Edward Hall’s production is Miriam Buether’s design which snakes a running track around the front stalls and puts audience members on the stage – it makes for constant visual interest and not just for the men in shorts.

As a story set around the Olympics (Paris 1924), when the production was first announced it felt like a bit of a cash-in to the upcoming Games (London 2012) and sure enough, a West End transfer was announced even before it began. And to be honest, I’m not sure that it really stood up as a piece of effective theatre when separated from all the 2012 buzz. I’ve never seen the film so I wonder if this had an impact, but essentially the thrill of having athletically performed athletic races aside, it was rather dull. Continue reading “Review: Chariots of Fire, Gielgud Theatre”

DVD Review: An Ideal Husband

“Sooner or later, we shall all have to pay for what we do”

Oliver Parker’s first Wilde adaptation was this 1999 film of An Ideal Husband, with Rupert Everett leading the cast as Lord Goring. What is remarkable now though is the casting of both Cate Blanchett and Julianne Moore who now boast nearly 10 Academy Award nominations (and 1 win) between them so this proves a great opportunity to catch them both just at the point where their careers were going stratospheric.

Sir Robert Chiltern’s security as a politician and respected gentleman comes under threat when the devilish Mrs Cheveley, a school-time enemy of his wife Lady Gertrude, attempts to blackmail him into voting a particular way in Parliament as she has evidence of past misdoings. He turns to his friend and eternal bachelor Lord Goring for assistance, who is currently avoiding the keen attentions of Robert’s sister Mabel, as he was previously engaged to Mrs Cheveley but the plot to extricate him has unintended consequences. Continue reading “DVD Review: An Ideal Husband”

Review: The Drowsy Chaperone, Novello

Direct from Broadway and originally written as a skit for a stag party, The Drowsy Chaperone (a musical within a comedy it claims) comes to London delivering 90 minutes of huge amounts of fun, though not quite the Elaine Paige star vehicle one might have imagined.

The show itself has a relatively simple plot, following the wedding day of pampered starlet Janet Van De Graaff who is about to give up show business to marry the dashing Robert Martin on the estate of ditzy Mrs Tottendale. Making life a little difficult for them is an array of odds and sods each with their own agendas, Janet’s producer who wants to stop the wedding, the outrageous Adolpho, Janet’s gin-drinking titular chaperone and a whole load of others beside. But where the show stands out is having it all narrated by Man in Chair. Continue reading “Review: The Drowsy Chaperone, Novello”