Film Review: Belfast (2021)

Kenneth Branagh’s memoir-of-sorts Belfast ends up an insufferably twee film despite the talent involved

“They just kick with the left foot”

There’s a line in the cracking TV show Community that often comes to mind, “just because something is in black and white doesn’t mean it’s good”. There’s no doubting that Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, based in part at least on his own childhood, is entirely heartfelt but the filming style feels entirely like an affectation, bringing nothing to the storytelling itself.

This air of nostalgic indulgence is something that characterises the film as a whole. As it uses a child’s perspective to depict a slice of wholesome working-class family life, the backdrop to which just happens to be the start of the Troubles, there’s a weird sense of aimlessness here, a refusal to be drawn into any kind of meaningful comment on a conflict that must have loomed so large . Continue reading “Film Review: Belfast (2021)”

The finalists of The ONCOMMs 2022

The OnComm is the new award for online shows from across the UK (and beyond) and was introduced in
May 2020. 

LIVE STREAM
GAYATRI The Royal Queen Consort of the Majapahit Kingdom /  7evenotes Production / Alexander Triyono & mhyajo / Available via https://res.cthearts.com/event/34:3465/34:59436/
The Black CatThreedumb Theatre / The Space / Unfortunately this show is no longer available.
TrestleOVO Productions / Maltings Theatre / View until 10 April at https://maltingstheatre.co.uk/whats-on/trestle

RECORDED (DIRECT)
A Brief List of Everyone Who Died / Patch of Blue / Finborough / View at https://www.youtube.com/user/finboroughtheatre
Talking Gods (series of 5 plays) / Arrows & Traps / View at https://www.arrowsandtraps.com/talkinggods
Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me But Banjos Saved My Life / Keith Alessi / View at https://online.thespaceuk.com/show/tomatoes-tried-to-kill-me-but-banjos-saved-my-life
Touchy / 20 Stories High / View via https://www.20storieshigh.org.uk/show/touchy/ Continue reading “The finalists of The ONCOMMs 2022”

Film Review: Dolittle (2020)

Sadly falling short of the ‘so bad it is so very good’ mark, this Robert Downey Jr-led Dolittle is just bafflingly, boringly bad

“That dog is licking the queen”

At that point where I couldn’t quite lift my arm to find the remote, I ended up watching Dolittle through apathy more than anything else, ending up rather transfixed by how bad it was and hoping in vain it would tip over into something camply enjoyable. Reader, it won’t surprise you to learn it did not.

The film’s troubled production history is no secret – substantial reshoots and a ballooning budget ensured it was a commercial failure.  But what is incredible is how obvious, and obviously bad, all the tinkering is. Having lost faith in original director and co-writer Stephen Gaghan – a left-field choice to begin with – the subsequent attempts to rework it are just the worst kind of butchery. Continue reading “Film Review: Dolittle (2020)”

#AdventwithClowns Day 13 – The Invisible Hand (Kiln Theatre via Sky Arts)

Ayad Akhtar’s clever writing in The Invisible Hand almost makes me understand the financial market and confirms what we all know about bankers…

You see we are prisoners of a corrupt country that is our own making. But don’t pretend you don’t participate. You do. Of course you do”

In the way of these things, the Kiln Theatre has pretty much fallen off my radar somehow, I can’t remember the last thing I saw there so I should be grateful that their recent production of The Invisible Hand was captured on film by Sky Arts. Ayad Akhtar’s play was first staged at the Tricycle (as was) in 2016 and Indhu Rubasingham’s return to it earlier this year marks its first revival. 

Basically a locked room play, we follow the trials of US banker Nick Bright who has been kidnapped by a Pakistani militant group. Trouble is, his employers aren’t interested in paying his ransom and so Nick has to barter his way to potential freedom, by offering to tutor one of the group in the ways of the financial markets so that they can earn the equivalent amount. Continue reading “#AdventwithClowns Day 13 – The Invisible Hand (Kiln Theatre via Sky Arts)”

Review: The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage, Bridge Theatre

Nicholas Hytner returns to the world of Philip Pullman with an impressively atmospheric take on The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage at the Bridge Theatre

“I need to know why the baby is so important”

Nicholas Hytner’s stunning reworking of the world of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials for the National Theatre remains one of my all-time top theatrical experiences, so the news that he would be returning to that universe filled me with excitement and trepidation in equal measure. Fortunately, The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage finds its own kind of festive magic to weave over audiences this Christmas.

The Bridge Theatre may not be blessed with the revelatory wonder of the Olivier’s drum revolve but with co-directors Emily Burns and James Cousins, Hytner has conjured something special with Barnaby Dixon’s austerely beautiful puppety, Luke Hall’s highly effective video work and designer Bob Crowley. From genial pubs to haunting convent halls (those illuminated habits!) to raging floodwaters, we’re joyously submerged in the thrills and terrors of this parallel universe once again. Continue reading “Review: The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage, Bridge Theatre”

News: National Theatre Live relaunches with new programme of four productions in cinemas worldwide

The National Theatre today announces the return of National Theatre Live with a new programme of four productions to be broadcast to audiences worldwide in cinemas, starting in the UK and Ireland in January, and with tickets now on sale.

The productions are Tom Stoppard’s Olivier-Award winning play Leopoldstadt from Sonia Friedman Productions in the West End which will be broadcast to cinemas from January; Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage from the Bridge Theatre in February; Tanya Ronder, Jim Fortune and Rufus Norris’ new musical Hex from the NT will be broadcast in March and the Donmar Warehouse’s production of Henry V starring Kit Harington will be in cinemas from April.

Since March 2020, National Theatre Live has broadcast in cinemas with special encore screenings of Follies from 2 September 2021 and the NT’s feature film Romeo & Juliet was also broadcast to cinemas from 28 September 2021.

The NT’s next feature film Death of England: Face to Face will be in Curzon cinemas on Tuesday 2 November. The film will then be broadcast, for free, on Sky Arts at 9pm on Thursday 25 November (Freeview channel 11).

Sky Arts is the Headline Partner of National Theatre Live in the UK. Continue reading “News: National Theatre Live relaunches with new programme of four productions in cinemas worldwide”

TV Review: Trying Series 2 (Apple TV)

Rafe Spall and Esther Smith continue to be charm personified in the second series of Apple TV’s Trying

“No-one’s laminated my life story yet”

As Apple TV continues to try and meaningfully break through, its commitment to its original series is commendable. Ted Lasso is riding the slowburn train to award success and also getting a second series if somewhat more under the radar, sweet comedy Trying has also returned.

The show centres on thirty-something Camdenites Nikki and Jason and their efforts to grow their family. The first series tackled their (lack of) fertility and the start of their journey through the adoption process and this second sees them continuing to navigate this bureaucratic and emotional minefield. Continue reading “TV Review: Trying Series 2 (Apple TV)”

Film Review: Cruella (2021)

Emma Stone and Emma Thompson have lots of fun in the entertaining Cruella, which is only just a little bit too long

“Darling, if I’m going to need to repeat myself a lot, this isn’t going to work out”

There’s something a little curious about a film that simultaneously wants to highlight one of cinema’s most iconic villains yet also neuter her most defining attributes. So we can rest assured that no dalmatians are harmed in the telling of this story (or presumably making of this movie) nor is there a cigarette holder to be seen. So what’s left for Cruella to do?

A fair amount as it turns out. Craig Gillespie’s film finds an origin tale for her in 1970s London (story by Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly Marcel, and Steve Zissis), locating her at the vanguard of the nascent punk movement (or at least a Disneyfied version of it). It’s a nifty move that forefronts her creative endeavours, whilst adding to a notorious canon of fashion geniuses gone ‘woo-hoo’. Continue reading “Film Review: Cruella (2021)”

News: the Mono Box presents Reset the Stage

The Mono Box is delighted to announce RESET THE STAGEa collection of 7 filmed monologues written by 7 emerging, ethnically diverse writers performed by established actors on the empty stages of 7 London theatres in lockdown will stream live online on Thursday 17th June at 7.30pm.

This series of short films featuring actors Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Star Wars: Rogue One, Sex Education), Ken Nwosu (Killing Eve, Sticks & Stones) and Danny Kirrane (Don’t Forget the Driver, Peterloo) The evening will be introduced by Patrons of The Mono Box, Sir Derek Jacobi, Youssef Kerkour, Susan Wokoma and James Norton. All ticket sales will raise money for the continual work of the company nurturing and providing opportunities to emerging theatre talent.  Continue reading “News: the Mono Box presents Reset the Stage”