News, such theatre news!

It’s so exciting to have an inbox full of theatre announcements – here’s a recap of some of the ones that are most piquing my interest at the moment

The Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield and The Dukes, Lancaster announce the full cast of their digital co-production of The Importance of Being Earnest by Yasmeen Khan.

The full cast is Gurjeet Singh (Ackley Bridge, Wuthering Heights), Tom Dixon (Twelfth Night, Romeo & Juliet), Mina Anwar (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, The Thin Blue Line), Nikki Patel (Trojan HorseCoronation Street), Zoe Iqbal (Finding Fatimah, Ackley Bridge) and Melanie Marshall (Jane Eyre); with appearances from finalist of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Divina De Campo, star of stage and screen Paul Chahidi, award-winning actor, comedian and writer Hugh Dennis, actress Harriet Thorpe (Absolutely Fabulous) and  comedian Sindhu Vee. Continue reading “News, such theatre news!”

Review: Tonight at 8.30 – Dancing, Richmond Theatre

“But if at last we’re able to smile
We’ll prove it was all worth while”
 
And what would you know, they saved for the best for last. It wasn’t just the end of 10 hours in a theatre that made me happy, I really did prefer this final part of Tonight at 8.30.
 

Dancing
Family Portrait, Hands Across The Sea and Shadow Play

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Booking until 14th June, then touring to Oxford Playhouse, The Lowry, Cambridge Arts, Theatre Royal Brighton and Hall for Cornwall in Truro
Photo: Mark Douet

Review: Tonight at 8.30 – Dinner, Richmond Theatre

“This can’t last. This misery can’t last….Nothing lasts really. Neither happiness or despair”

Seeing the three parts of Tonight at 8.30 on the same day left me shattered so I am ducking out of full reviews for them and just ranking them in order of preference.

Dinner
Ways and Means, Fumed Oak, and Still Life

Silver medal for Dinner – Still Life (better known as the inspiration for Brief Encounter) is among the highlights of the whole thing but Fumed Oak is one of the weakest with its gender politics too much of its time.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Booking until 14th June, then touring to Oxford Playhouse, The Lowry, Cambridge Arts, Theatre Royal Brighton and Hall for Cornwall in Truro
Photo: Mark Douet

Review: Tonight at 8.30 – Cocktails, Richmond Theatre

 “We’re not tight and we’re not too bright “

Boxset viewing in now de rigueur in the Netflix age so it is only natural that theatre should follow suit. The 3 James plays at the National can be (and will be) viewed on the same day and so too can the three parts of Noël Coward’s Tonight at 8.30, touring the UK after a run at the Nuffield. Blanche McIntyre’s production for ETT can also be seen in three separate chunks but the impact of the triple bill really helps the 9 plays feed off of each other and highlight the strength of the ensemble (and also pull you through the dips in quality that inevitably come with so much writing from one author).

Cocktails
We Were Dancing, The Astonished Heart and Red Peppers

Probably gets the bronze medal as my least favourite of the three parts.

Running time: 2 hours
Booking until 14th June, then touring to Oxford Playhouse, The Lowry, Cambridge Arts, Theatre Royal Brighton and Hall for Cornwall in Truro
Photo: Mark Douet

DVD Review: A Rather English Marriage

“We rubbed along alright”

Master of televisual adaptation Andrew Davies turned his hand to Angela Lambert’s novel A Rather English Marriage in 1998 and watching it back now, it seems to harken back to an even earlier age, one of uncomplicated classic quality with a resolutely unfashionable straight-forwardness that we simply don’t see that much at all these days. The tale is a simple one of two retired veterans who, after being widowed on the same day, are placed together by a well-meaning social worker who reckons the companionship will do them both a world of good.

They’re an odd couple though. Albert Finney’s Reggie was an air squadron leader and having married into money, is used to a wealthy life. By comparison, Tom Courtenay’s Roy was a mere NCO and became a milkman after the war so as they move into together, Reggie naturally assumes a dominant position with Roy slipping easily into the habit of calling him Sir as their relationship settles into something imbalanced. Ultimately, both men recognise the private pain they are hiding as long-held secrets come to light but it is the return of women to their lives that proves to be the most significant change. Continue reading “DVD Review: A Rather English Marriage”

Review: The Turn of the Screw, Almeida Theatre

“It’s hard to do things that are interesting and keep your hands clean”

Horror is a notoriously difficult genre to get right in any format, not least because we all have different triggers that give us the heebie-jeebies. So to take on Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw feels like a bit of a brave choice by the Almeida theatre but from the outset, there are mixed signals as to the approach that has been taken. Lindsay Posner has commissioned a new adaptation of the tale from Rebecca Lenkiewicz but this is also a co-production with the Hammer Theatre of Horror, setting the scene for some interesting creative tension.

But that never really materialises as the ambiguity that frames the entirety of James’ tale of a governess appointed to look after a pair of orphans but finds them haunted by spirits past has been dispensed with. There’s much to be played with in the uncertainty as to whether the ghosts of the children’s’ former governess and her lover are really haunting these two moppets or whether it is the fevered imagination of the new woman in post whipping up the drama but Lenkiewicz leaves no such room for any subtleties from the get-go. Continue reading “Review: The Turn of the Screw, Almeida Theatre”

DVD Review: A Very British Sex Scandal

“Do you think that homosexuality between 2 consenting males should be a criminal act”

A Very British Sex Scandal was a docu-drama that aired in 2007 on Channel 4. I watched it at the time and it has stuck with me ever since, a devastatingly powerful piece of film-making and a pertinent reminder of the struggles and battles that others fought in order for gay people to live in a more equal society today. Written and directed by Patrick Reams, it centres on the mid-1950s trial of several well-known men arrested for gross indecency and buggery which proved to be a landmark moment in solidifying public opinion against such legislation, stemming the virulently anti-homosexual political establishment and eventually leading to the decriminalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults in Britain.

The film is a combination of dramatisations of key moments and events from the story interspersed with a set of interviews with gay men who were alive at the time. The mix is a good one: initially it is a roughly even mixture of the two, full of scene-setting shots in the drama but also providing much context of the realities of being a practising homosexual man in this era. These contributions are often eye-openingly frank and disturbingly brutal, it’s hard to think that it really wasn’t so long ago but this was just what life was like.  Continue reading “DVD Review: A Very British Sex Scandal”

DVD Review: Maurice

“England has always been disinclined to accept human nature”

This Merchant Ivory production of EM Forster’s novel of self-discovery Maurice was one of the first gay films I remember watching and it remains a remarkably touching watch now 25 years after it was made. A tale of gay love in the early 20th century, its poignancy is all the more moving for knowing that the novel was never published in Forster’s lifetime, cognisant of society’s (and the law’s) slow changing attitudes towards homosexuality, he withheld it from public consumption.

The story follows Maurice Hall from school to university and then into the real world full of careers, war and marriage as he struggles to come to terms with his sexuality in a world where being gay is illegal. From a typically bashful initiation into the facts of life from a school professor to a Cambridge University full of possibility where the chance of love with a man first rears its head and then on into adult life where the slow acceptance of who he really is and what he really wants comes hand in hand with him falling in love with a man from a lower class, bringing further complications as the vagaries of the English class system are added to his trials. Continue reading “DVD Review: Maurice”

DVD Review: Wilde

“It is monstrous how people say things behind one’s back that are perfectly true”

Based on Richard Ellman’s biography, Brian Gilbert’s 1997 film Wilde saw Stephen Fry take on the eponymous role in a sweeping biopic slash drama which stretches over the last 18 years of his life. Beginning with his return to London from a trip to America and ripping speedily through his marriage to Jennifer Ehle’s kindly Constance and the birth of their two children, it is his relationship with family friend Robbie Ross that leads him into a world of sexual discovery. He finds there Jude Law’s impossibly handsome Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas and falls head over heels into a tempestuous relationship, but in a society where homosexuality is illegal and propriety is everything, a happy ending is far from likely.

Fry makes an appealing Wilde, though one shorn of much of the acerbic nature one might imagine he had, he is a gentle father – telling his own story of The Selfish Giant acts as a clever layer of extra commentary – and he brings an almost avuncular warmth to the part. Jude Law’s Bosie is a revelation though, a serious reminder of his talents as an actor, with a capriciousness that is seductively alluring and yet criminally irresponsible. As Wilde seeks to lay the blame at the door of Bosie’s domineering father the Marquess of Queensbury, he ignores the knife-edge that their relationship is balanced on with devastating consequences. Continue reading “DVD Review: Wilde”

DVD Review: The King’s Speech

“When I see the common man in the street, I’m struck by how little I know of his life and how little he knows of mine”

My abiding memory of going to see The King’s Speech at the cinema was the bizarre round of applause that came at the end from about two thirds of the Hammersmith Cineworld audience, a truly odd moment. I did rather like the film, but couldn’t quite see why it was lauded quite so much: it tells its story extremely well but lacked a certain emotional heart for me, I didn’t end up caring a huge amount for Colin Firth’s George VI if I’m honest. But as the film came on over Christmas, I decided to give it a go again, not least becaus I will be going to see the play of The King’s Speech in Guildford in February, David Seidler having initially written this for the stage.

Again, I did quite enjoy watching the film, but was struck by how emotionally uninvolving it is for large stretches. Normally, I’d be a sucker for this kind of thing but for whatever reason, it never quite hits the mark. Firth is good as the monarch faced with trying to conquer his stammer but his Oscar should really have come the year before for A Single Man and Geoffrey Rush is superb as the anarchic Antipodean speech therapist whose unconventional methods eventually reap rewards. But it is only in Helena Bonham Carter’s excellent Queen Elizabeth (now, she should definitely have won the Oscar for making such a brilliant job out of a role that basically required her to just react) that the movie has any heart, her looks of tender concern and joy full of deep meaning and a wry sense of humour about her position that manifests itself in some great one-liners. Continue reading “DVD Review: The King’s Speech”