Review: Promises Promises, Southwark Playhouse

“That’s what you get for all your trouble”

On the face of it, you could see why reviving Promises Promises would be an appealing prospect – written by Neil Simon from a Billy Wilder film and featuring a score by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. But digging even just a little deeper – a running time of nearly 3 hours and an antiquated set of gender politics made it a tough one to watch, and an even tougher one to excuse in today’s society.

If you were so inclined, you could argue that Billy Wilder and I.A.L Diamond’s original screenplay for the 1960 film The Apartment is “a triumph of 1960s sexual work-place politics” but quite what that has to say to audiences today is very unclear, (apart from gentlemen d’un certain âge craving the good old days natch). I have liked much of director Bronagh Lagan’s previous work but I can’t help pondering the choice here. Continue reading “Review: Promises Promises, Southwark Playhouse”

DVD Review: Cinderella

“Perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take is to be seen as we really are”

Who knew what the world needed was a live-action version of Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh. It oughtn’t be as good as it is but somehow the fusion of Disney magic and folktale wonder comes together most effectively, thoroughly traditional in its outlook yet somehow still feeling fresh. Chris Weitz’s screenplay is based on Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon but both he and Branagh take lots of inspiration from the Disney version of the story too and the resulting confection is really rather bibbity-bobbity-beguiling.

There’s a cleverness too about what it does in spinning new details like giving us a reason that her step-family don’t recognise her at the ball and weaving much humour into the magic spells that get her to said ball. Ella herself is well pitched by Lily James, not quite too perfect to be true but still hugely appealing. It’s no wonder Richard Madden’s Prince Charming tumbles instantly for her (and she for him, those breeches…those boots!) and their chemistry is palpable, one can see why Branagh has cast them as Juliet and Romeo in his upcoming theatre residency in London.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Cinderella”

Review: Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Lowry

“Just like the ones I used to know”

My last show before Christmas was a festive trip to the Lowry which maintained a long-running family tradition of being treated to a show by Aunty Jean just before the big day. This year saw us take in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas which has returned to the Lowry after a highly successful run a couple of years ago. I would have loved to have seen original stars Aled Jones and Adam Cooper return too, but this still made an engaging, if undemanding, frolic through the snow.

Based on the 1954 film starring Bing Crosby, it has one of those plots it is best not to think about too much. Its premise is quite a sweet one: two ex-servicemen form a musical double act and as they find themselves chasing romance with a pair of singing sisters, end up in the Vermont hotel that belongs to their former Commanding Officer and whose future is in doubt due to a lack of snow. The only way to save the day is to…you’ve guessed it, put on a show! Continue reading “Review: Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Lowry”