Film Review: Saint Maud (2019)

Intensely disturing and superbly acted, the psychological horror of Saint Maud is a stunning debut film from Rose Glass, 

“To save a soul, that’s quite something”

I don’t often reach for a horror film myself but the critical buzz around Saint Maud proved irresistible, along with the presence of Morfydd Clark and Jennifer Ehle in the lead roles. And I’m glad I did, even if it proves to be a genuinely disturbing and perturbing filmic experience (and bravo to whoever is designing the artwork, the film’s posters are just stunning).

Clark plays Maud, a private agency nurse who has found herself in Scarborough in the midst of some kind of crisis. She believes that God is talking to her and when she takes on the role of caring for the terminally ill Amanda, a gregarious former dancer played with biting relish by a fantastic Ehle, she believes herself to be called to divine action to save a lost cause. Continue reading “Film Review: Saint Maud (2019)”

Review: PLAY, VAULT Festival

“I don’t even know what a colossus of the creative industries is”

 PLAY is a new writing initiative that aims to inspire collaborative working by bringing together writers and directors and giving them two weeks to come up with a short play. And here at the VAULT Festival, there’s two sets of four plays, or PLAYs, bringing together a rather exciting set of creatives to produce some spankingly fresh theatre. The second set takes place mid-February but I’d urge you to book for this one now (you’ve got until Sunday) as I reckon it’s the best tenner you can spend this week, with some seriously impressive work going on here.

Play 9, written by Chloe Todd Fordham and directed by Polina Kalinina, felt like a bit of a riff on Shallow Grave, three university pals skirting around an uncomfortable truth about their (unseen) flatmate. Starting off with a well-choreographed sequence of fighting over a remote, Fordham’s writing quickly slipped into its structure of three differing accounts of what happened, slightly complementary, slightly contradictory, full of detail fleshing out the complex relationships herein, slowly but surely moving the place of real revelation. A couple of right-up-to-the-minute references perhaps overplayed their hand but I did mostly enjoy the shifty evasion of this guilty trio.  Continue reading “Review: PLAY, VAULT Festival”

DVD Review: Scott and Bailey Series 1-3

“You went to live with a fella in Wigan, I assume he had a roof”
 

As with so many television programmes these days, it has taken me an inexplicably long time to get around to watching Scott and Bailey and sure enough once I started, I found myself mainlining all three series in advance of the new series starting on ITV. And sure enough, I loved it. Sally Wainwright is one of our best writers of television without a shadow of a doubt and no matter what she turns her hand to, she barely puts a foot wrong, all the while pushing the boundaries of conventional drama to become infinitely more inclusive, whether through the older characters of Last Tango in Halifax or the fierce and flawed policewomen of Happy Valley and Scott and Bailey.

Scott and Bailey grew out of an original idea by Suranne Jones and Sally Lindsay which Wainwright has written up into three (plus one to come) series of fantastic television. Janet Scott and Rachel Bailey are both DCs in the Manchester Metropolitan Police, part of the MIT team that deals with serious crime. And though it may seem trivial to say it, it is just so brilliantly and so casually feminist. The vast majority of the major roles in the police force just happen to be taken by women – Amelia Bullmore’s DCI Murray heads up the team, Pippa Haywood’s DSI Dodson is the next later up, the main pathologist goes by the name of Scary Mary…and none of it is ever an issue.

Continue reading “DVD Review: Scott and Bailey Series 1-3”

Review: Long Day’s Journey into Night, Apollo

“None of us can help the things life has done to us. They’re done before you realize it, and once they’re done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you’d like to be, and you’ve lost your true self forever.”

In seven days time, I will have seen Cate Blanchett onstage at the Barbican and this is something that I am inordinately excited about and I’ll probably nominate her for a Best Actress fosterIAN for just simply being Cate Blanchett no matter how the show is. But in watching Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, which has arrived at the Apollo theatre after a short UK tour, I was witness to my first cast-iron certainty for a nomination this year. Indeed, I might go as far to say that Laurie Metcalf’s extraordinary performance as Mary Tyrone is one of the greatest feats of acting I think I’ve ever seen.

The play is a portrait of a deeply troubled and traumatised Irish-American family, its four acts taking place over the length of a single day, during which lifetimes of regrets, recriminations and rancour are revealed and rehashed. Mary has just returned from a stay at the sanatorium to deal with her morphine addiction yet remains in a delicate state; her husband James is an actor whose potential has wasted away and who zealously guards the money he has earned. He has placed his hopes and dreams in his two sons but is frustrated by their lack of ambition, something underpinned by a familial tendency to alcohol abuse, and blame swirls increasingly dangerously around the drawing room. Continue reading “Review: Long Day’s Journey into Night, Apollo”

Review: Cymbeline, Arts

“Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust”

One of William Shakespeare’s later, and lesser well-known plays, Cymbeline is presented here at the Arts Theatre by the National Youth Theatre, in a rare sojourn out of their regular summer performances.

 
It is not really hard to see why Cymbeline is one of the lesser known works of the Bard. The story feels like a random selection of typical Shakespearean events, flung together haphazardly, and then tied up with a bow at the end in a rather laboured fashion. There’s cross-dressing princesses, wagers about virtue, long-lost princes, potions that feign death, wicked stepmothers, lifelong betrayals, all things that hark back to previous works and little that felt fresh here, not least because of the confusing tone of the play. Continue reading “Review: Cymbeline, Arts”