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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Film Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)

Armando Iannucci’s rollicking adaptation of The Personal History of David Copperfield is huge amounts of fun to watch

“You can’t complain about a nice bit of kipper”

You might not have picked a Charles Dickens adaptation for an Armando Iannucci big screen feature but evidenced in The Personal History of David Copperfield, it’s a pretty darn fantastic match. It’s a rollicking romp through the story, absolutely refreshed by this treatment as its warm comedy is sprinkled with notes of ruminative reflection on class and identity and just a touch of satirical bite. And by employing a truly diverse and talented ensemble, there’s something special here. 

For all the magnificence of Tilda Swinton’s Betsey Trotwood (truly exceptional), Peter Capaldi’s Mr Micawber and Ben Whishaw’s malevolent Uriah Heep, the real joy in the casting comes from the opportunities now given. Nikki Amuka-Bird is fantastic as the starched Mrs Steerforth, the kind of role she just hasn’t gotten to play before; so too Benedict Wong as Wickfield, it’s great to see such talent stretch their acting muscle this way, and so well too. Continue reading “Film Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)”

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”

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: Secret Cinema, The Grand Budapest Hotel

“Many of the hotel’s most valued guests came for him”

At a smidge over £50 a head, the latest incarnation of Secret Cinema certainly isn’t cheap. But they are doing things differently this time around – the location is secret as always but the film has been identified in advance as Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and the immersive experience into which they plunge the audience will be running for over a month, to allow many more people than usual through the doors of this plush establishment and into its fabulous world.


For where we end up is The Grand Budapest Hotel itself, an evocation of Mitteleuropäische largesse to which we are guided by purple-suited bellhops. Instructions issued beforehand identify the dress code as evening dress, urge you to practice your waltzing and give a list of props to bring along. It’s all voluntary but as with any immersive experience, one gets so much more from it by diving headfirst into the universe that has been so lovingly created. Continue reading “Review: Secret Cinema, The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Review: Songs of Innocence, South Bank Centre

Part of the Meltdown festival being curated by Patti Smith this year was an evening so perfect it was almost picked from my personal wishlist of people I’d love to see on one stage. The loose theme was William Blake’s Songs of Innocence though it was expanded in reality to include songs from and about childhood and even wider than that, protest songs. But essentially, it was just an excuse to see some seriously amazing female singers (and a couple of men) whom I loved for ages and I never thought I’d see on the same bill.

Tori Amos’ 4 songs were a personal highlight, getting to hear ‘Silent All These Years’ and ‘Winter’ from Little Earthquakes was amazing, plus ‘Pretty Good Year’ and ‘Mother Revolution’ added up to an emotionally wrenching and intense set. Sinéad O’Connor was much more low key than expected,  a gently-strummed guitar backing a murmured, even placid collection of numbers of which only ‘Scarlet Ribbons’ really made the impact I wanted from her. Beth Orton’s endearing goofiness made her brace of songs highly engaging, returning later to deliver ‘Dolphins’ exceptionally well, and Marianne Faithful commanded huge presence especially with a scorching version of ‘Working Class Hero’. Continue reading “Review: Songs of Innocence, South Bank Centre”