Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand

Simon Annand’s Time To Act is a beautiful book of photos capturing actors in the minutes before they go on stage

Tackling the constraints of the pandemic in its own way, Simon Annand’s fantastic new book of photos Time To Act has launched a virtual exhibition of some of the photographs which has now been extended to until Christmas. It’s an ingenious way of sharing some of the hundreds of images from the book and should surely whet the appetite for either just buying it now or putting on your list for Santa to collect soon.

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TV Review: Unprecedented, Episode 3

Episode 3 of Unprecedented proves a bleak and brutal one-two of hard-hitting Covid drama

“I don’t see what good it does to worry, sitting around panicking”

Due to the (presumably intentional) programming, Part 1 and Part 2 of Unprecedented – Headlong and Century Films’ creative response to Coronavirus – found a sense of balance in their collections of short plays, tragicomic probably being the watchword. Episode 3 however goes all in on the tragedy, making it a pretty bleak half hour.

First up is Duncan Macmillan’s Grounded, directed by Jeremy Herrin, which takes aim at the generation gap and how that has dictated people’s response to the crisis. Katherine Parkinson’s event planner is wracked with job worries and concerns over her ability to home-school. But what really drives her over the edge is the casualness with which her retired parents are taking the whole affair, screaming into the ether as they amble on as if life hasn’t changed but at all. Alison Steadman and Michael Elwyn are excellent as the slightly daffy, devoted couple belatedly coming round to the seriousness of it all. Continue reading “TV Review: Unprecedented, Episode 3”

News: Readings from the Rose launched

As a means of bringing joy and creativity into homes during these uncertain times, the Rose is launching the ‘Readings from the Rose’ initiative

Several prominent actors and creatives in the industry have filmed themselves reading their favourite poems and the Rose will be releasing one reading every day at 1pm across 14 days.

These readings can be accessed by anyone completely free of charge on the Rose’s YouTube and Instagram channels, in the hope that they will bring some light entertainment to audiences while theatres are dark. Continue reading “News: Readings from the Rose launched”

Book review: The Half – Simon Annand

The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand

Just a quickie for this book as The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand was released in 2008. But with an imminent new exhibition of these photos and a bargainous copy of the book popping up on Ebay, I thought I’d take the plunge.

And I’m glad I did as it is a proper work of art in its own right. Annand has been photographing actors for over 25 years and as such, has a veritable treasure trove of shots to share with us, resulting from the trusting relationships he has built up with so many, from the new kids on the block to veritable dames. Continue reading “Book review: The Half – Simon Annand”

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 1

“Do not blaspheme! Do not blaspheme!”

To mark Series 10 of Doctor Who starting on BBC1 next week, I’ve been counting down the weeks with a rewatch of all 9 of the previous series of new Who. And now we’re within touching distance, I’m counting down the days talking about each one. For once though, I’m going to keep these posts (relatively) short and sweet, following the below format.

With just the one series to judge him on, and that series being the very first when everyone was still finding their feet, Christopher Eccleston’s Nine often gets a bit of a raw deal. And some of his zany moments are undoubtedly really quite awkward to watch but for me, they’re easily outweighed by the emotional weight of his more serious work, especially when hinting at the considerable darkness of the events of his recent past that had left him so haunted. A solid re-entry back into the televisual world. Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 1”

Shakespeare Solos – Part 3

“Who in the lusty stealth of nature take
More composition and fierce quality”

It might seem curious timing for the Guardian to release the third and final set of their Shakespeare solos a good couple of weeks after the hullabaloo of #Shakespeare400 but if you look at the television schedules, you do see the attempts not to overload people with content. The second iteration of The Hollow Crown only starts this weekend and Russell T Davies’ take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream won’t be with us until the end of the month.

Still, these final five videos feel a little bereft of inspiration for me, featuring as they do two excerpts from the same play (The Merchant of Venice) and two actresses currently starring in the same play (The Maids). One of those, Zawe Ashton, does give us one of the highlights of the entire series with a beautifully mournful take on Jacques’ Seven Ages of Man speech from As You Like It but it’s hard not to wish that some of the casting choices had been equally as inventive. Continue reading “Shakespeare Solos – Part 3”

DVD Review: The Beach

“We all travel thousands of miles just to watch TV and check in to somewhere with all the comforts of home, and you gotta ask yourself, what is the point of that?”

I have great affection for both the book and the film of The Beach. On my year abroad, Alex Garland’s novel was reverently passed between my group of friends as we all tumbled for its charms and then as the film was released with perfect timing, we were able to dissect exactly how it was different from the book and what had been lost in translation over endless nights of drunken debate. The collective decision that it just wasn’t as good means I’d never quite gotten round to ever watching the film again and with a little distance, I have to say I didn’t think it was that bad and that soundtrack, boy it took me back to Forskarbacken 7!

Making the film a Leonardo DiCaprio star vehicle as Danny Boyle did (or as originally planned lead Ewan McGregor would have us believe, was forced to do) clearly had an impact on the direction John Hodge’s screenplay took. Much of the book’s self-aware intelligence, as a twenty-something traveller ventures through Thailand in search of a good time and then ultimately a self-contained community in a secluded paradise, is sacrificed for straight-forward thrill-seeking which ends up telling a less rich story. Making the lead American rather than British may have had something to do with this, who knows… Continue reading “DVD Review: The Beach”

Review: Julius Caesar, Noël Coward Theatre

“Men may construe things after their fashion clean from the purpose of the things themselves”

I hadn’t originally intended to take in Gregory Doran’s all-black version of Julius Caesar for the RSC, not for any particular reason than just that it didn’t really appeal. It seemed that my instincts had paid off when it was announced that, with a rather odd sense of timing, the production would be filmed in Stratford-upon-Avon and shown on television before it made its transfer to London’s Noël Coward Theatre and then on to a UK tour. But upon watching this televised version which mixed location shooting with action filmed on-stage, I was utterly seduced by Doran’s reinterpretation which sees the play relocated into some unspecified modern African dictatorship.

Most of what I said about the production in my review of the film still holds true so I won’t repeat myself too much. Having been spoiled by the intimacy that television cameras provided, it was a little difficult to readjust expectations in light of being seated in the rear stalls. Missing so much of the detailing, and indeed the clarity of much of the text in a couple of heavily-accented places, meant that I never felt quite as connected to the action as I had previously been, an interesting thing to discover given that the live experience is the one that is always trumpeted. Michael Vale’s crumbling set design did look impressive though, with its looming statue an ever-present reminder of the seeming inevitability of oppressive leadership.

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