Review: Brimstone and Treacle, Hope Theatre

“There is no God
There are no miracles”

Dennis Potter’s Brimstone and Treacle marks its 40th anniversary this year and so it’s as good a time as any to revive this dark drama that was so controversial on its release that the BBC banned it from its original Play For Today slot. It eventually played at Sheffield Crucible a year later and though it received a powerfully acted production (Tessa Peake-Jones, Rupert Friend) at the Arcola in 2012, Matthew Parker’s revival for his Hope Theatre feels perfectly poised to capitalise on its relevance to our fractured society.

Though written and set in the late 70s, Potter’s depiction of far-right politics, racism and homophobia, religious intolerance feels horribly recognisable. The way in which one character rationalises his decision to join the National Front has chilling new currency in this post-Brexit world and the supercilious smile that another character occasionally bares to the audience reflects nothing so much as the arrogance of Nigel Farage. Potter’s dramatic form of evil is naturally much more timeless but you can’t help but draw the parallels here.  Continue reading “Review: Brimstone and Treacle, Hope Theatre”

22nd Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees

Film
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Bryan Cranston – Trumbo as Dalton Trumbo
Johnny Depp – Black Mass as James “Whitey” Bulger
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant as Hugh Glass
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs as Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl as Lili Elbe / Einar Wegener

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett – Carol as Carol Aird
Brie Larson – Room as Joy “Ma” Newsome
Helen Mirren – Woman in Gold as Maria Altmann
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn as Eilis Lacey
Sarah Silverman – I Smile Back as Elaine “Laney” Brooks Continue reading “22nd Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees”

21st Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees

Film
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher as John du Pont
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game as Alan Turing
Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler as Louis “Lou” Bloom
Michael Keaton – Birdman as Riggan Thomson
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything as Stephen Hawking

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Jennifer Aniston – Cake as Claire Bennett
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything as Jane Hawking
Julianne Moore – Still Alice as Dr. Alice Howland
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl as Amy Elliott-Dunne
Reese Witherspoon – Wild as Cheryl Strayed Continue reading “21st Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees”

DVD Review: Pride and Prejudice (2005)

 

 “A Mrs Bennett, a Miss Bennett, a Miss Bennett and a Miss Bennett, sir.”

I deliberately chose to rewatch this version of Pride and Prejudice as Joe Wright’s film was the last I saw and I wanted to remind myself of it on its own merits, before returning to the iconic BBC television adaptation. Joe Wright seems to inspire a strength of feeling in some people which is almost akin to that which his frequent collaborator Keira Knightley is (IMHO) unfairly subjected and I don’t imagine his choice to take on Austen’s beloved story in an abridged film format and to cast Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett would have endeared him to anyone new. 

But Wright’s visual eye cannot be doubted as he has a clear gift for condensing and crystallising the key emotional moments of a story. He captures beautifully the informality of a public dance where the people actually talk, contrasted with the private moments of secrets and passions for all concerned; his customary flowing tracking shots are present and correct and there’s a hugely romantic feel. This really comes through in his composition of scenes – the first touch between the pair as Darcy lifts Elizabeth into her carriage is powerfully charged, the sense of emotional freedom that comes for the girls when they are allowed to dance is always convincing and there’s a clever reinterpretation of the wet shirt scene that tips the nod to the original but stands on its own two feet – Macfadyen wins my vote over Firth for those that are interested.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Pride and Prejudice (2005)”

20th Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees

Film
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Bruce Dern – Nebraska as Woody Grant
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave as Solomon Northup
Tom Hanks – Captain Phillips as Captain Richard Phillips
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club as Ron Woodroof
Forest Whitaker – The Butler as Cecil Gaines

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine as Jeanette “Jasmine” Francis
Sandra Bullock – Gravity as Dr. Ryan Stone
Judi Dench – Philomena as Philomena Lee
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County as Violet Weston
Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks as P. L. Travers Continue reading “20th Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees”

Short Film Review #9

It’s been a little while since I’ve watched any short films but I had a few link sent to me last week so I thought I’d cast my ever-beady eye over them to see what treasures might be unearthed. As ever, click on the ‘film’ tag to see more short films.

First up was Babysitting, written by Lucan Toh and Sam Hoare and also directed by the latter, but most attractive for its cast including Romola Garai, Dan Stevens and Imogen Stubbs. And from its opening shots of a bedraggled Garai and a super-glam Stubbs, it is rather a bundle of subversive fun. There’s a bit of a twist to the title that I won’t reveal here but it is one that sends Garai’s Maggie on a bit of a journey, where she bumps into arrogant ex Spencer, Stevens in fine West London toff mode and her priorities are pulled skewiff as old feelings rise to the surface. The pair are well-matched and amusingly styled and if the film as a whole comes across as a little slight, it is highly entertaining.    Continue reading “Short Film Review #9”

19th Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees

Film
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook as Patrizio “Pat” Solitano, Jr.
Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln as Abraham Lincoln
John Hawkes – The Sessions as Mark O’Brien
Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables as Jean Valjean
Denzel Washington – Flight as William “Whip” Whitaker, Sr.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty as Maya
Marion Cotillard – Rust and Bone as Stéphanie
Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook as Tiffany Maxwell
Helen Mirren – Hitchcock as Alma Reville
Naomi Watts – The Impossible as Maria Bennett Continue reading “19th Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees”

Short film reviews #1

This post was originally meant to be the out-of-office message that went on here before I went on holiday, but time ran away from me as I left myself much too much to do and so it was left unfinished. But I liked it too much to abandon it completely, as my entrée into the world of watching short films was far too much fun to go unmarked. So here is a collection of short videos, many of them featuring familiar faces from the theatre, that should hopefully entertain you as much as they did I. Continue reading “Short film reviews #1”

Review: Brimstone and Treacle, Arcola Theatre

“All I want is the England I used to know”

There was something depressingly predictable about the announcement of the Arcola’s new development plans for the summer which will involve moving the one space I think does work in their new premises – Studio 2 – down one level into the basement. So it was with a sad heart that I took my seat for the final production in its current state, a rare revival of Dennis Potter’s Brimstone and Treacle which of course played beautifully to the studio’s strengths.

The intimate space becomes the claustrophobic home of the Bates family with parents Tom and Amy struggling to look after their daughter Pattie who was practically paralysed by a hit-and-run accident two years previously and can’t do anything for herself any more. When a devilishly handsome stranger insinuates his way into their household, claiming to have had a close connection with Pattie before she died, he really puts the cat amongst the pigeons and changes their lives irrevocably. Continue reading “Review: Brimstone and Treacle, Arcola Theatre”

DVD Review: The Young Victoria

“Do you ever feel like a chess piece being moved around in a game against your will”

Much as my favourite genre of theatres is old-school musicals, my favourite type of film is a lavish costume drama, especially and since I’m nicely ensconced at my parents’ house with their flash new television, I’m going to blog a few of them. First up is The Young Victoria, the 2009 film detailing the early years of the reign of Queen Victoria and the beginnings of her grand romance with Albert. I have a serious girl crush on Emily Blunt, she was the highlight of The Devil Wears Prada for me but I really fell in love with her whilst watching the bloopers from the film, she has the kind of irresistible laugh I could listen to all day but I do think she is becoming a really interesting actor (who someone should get on the stage!).

Written by Julian Fellowes, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and including producers like Martin Scorsese and Sarah Ferguson – a major force behind getting it made apparently – the film starts off with Victoria as heir presumptive to her uncle King William IV and trying to fend off the avaricious advances of her mother the Duchess of Kent and the hugely ambitious comptroller of her household Sir John Conroy. Matters are complicated by her other uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, who wants to use his family connections to build a British/Belgian alliance, but his decision to use his nephew to seduce his way into her affections has unexpected repercussions for everyone, as the nephew is Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Continue reading “DVD Review: The Young Victoria”