Film Review: The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021)

Some may enjoy this more than me but I found The Electrical Life of Louis Wain to be almost insufferably twee despite Benedict Cumberbatch working hard

“The more intensely he suffered, the more beautiful his work became”

If you were playing Oscar-bait bingo, then you’d definitely want to draw biopic The Electrical Life of Louis Wain. Central character with vaguely defined mental condition, with a wife who dies young, plus Olivia Colman AND Benedict Cumberbatch in the cast. Maybe we should do shots rather than bingo, it might make the film a touch more bearable… 

Will Sharpe’s film seems likely to divide audiences. Not between dog lovers and cat fanciers as you might expect, but to weed out those who have a high tolerance for the insufferably twee. For in its attempts to depict the unique brain chemistry of artist Louis Wain, it errs towards a sepia-tinged, Colman-narrated vision of whimsy and wonder that belies the essential tragedy here. Continue reading “Film Review: The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021)”

#AdventwithClowns Day 11 – Uncle Vanya (BBC iPlayer)

Just a few days left to capture this recent West End production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya with Toby Jones and Richard Armitage

“You have some kind of sauce all over your trousers”

When its West End run was curtailed by th’pandemic, wheels were put in motion to get a filmed version of this Uncle Vanya produced. Sadly, Ciarán Hinds was unable to reprise his role but Roger Allam is a fine substitute and the rest of this cracking cast were able to return for Ross MacGibbon’s filmic direction of Ian Rickson’s stage work in the emptied surroundings of the Harold Pinter Theatre.

There’s not too much more to say about Conor McPherson’s vibrantly colloquial adaptation that I didn’t already cover in my stage review but as ever, the benefits of the close-up camera work adds a stunning intimacy to an already stellar performance level. Indeed, being swept up even further into the despair of Aimee Lou Wood’s Sonya is almost too much to bear but well worth the exquisite agony.

News: Digital Theatre+ partners with Sonia Friedman Productions to Provide Education Platform for Uncle Vanya

From Thursday 25th November, Schools, universities, and educational institutions all over the world will be able to see Conor McPherson’s stunning adaptation of Chekov’s masterpiece Uncle Vanya thanks to a partnership with producers Sonia Friedman Productions and Digital Theatre+, Digital Theatre’s education platform. 

The original run of Sonia Friedman Production’s sold-out stage production of Uncle Vanya at the Harold Pinter Theatre was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the midst of the first lockdown Sonia Friedman Productions and Angelica Films, in association with BBC Arts, commissioned a film of the stage production, which received critical acclaim and went onto win the Theatre Award at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards 2021. Continue reading “News: Digital Theatre+ partners with Sonia Friedman Productions to Provide Education Platform for Uncle Vanya”

Review: Angela, Sound Stage

Launching new audio drama platform Sound Stage, Mark Ravenhill’s Angela is a profoundly moving account of his mother’s experience of dementia

“I don’t like it when they change the story, I wish they would stick to the story”

I don’t know why I put myself through dementia dramas. They tap into one of my deepest fears and more often than not leave me terribly distressed but who says art should ever be easy? Mark Ravenhill’s autobiographical Angela launches the Sound Stage platform created by the Royal Lyceum theatre and Pitlochry Festival theatre, adding in virtual theatregoing elements to the audio drama experience and predictably, is gut-wrenchingly yet beautifully felt.

Drawing directly on his mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s and how that impacted the whole family, Ravenhill places her experiences at the heart of his play, a boldly disconcerting move which feels entirely right. As we slip from present to past, as an encounter here triggers a memory there, a portrait is built of the richness of a life lived, even as recollections of it are slipping away from her grasp. Continue reading “Review: Angela, Sound Stage”

News: Cast announced for the premiere of Mark Ravenhill’s first autobiographical play Angela

The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and Pitlochry Festival Theatre, in association with  Naked Productions and BBC Radio 3  are delighted to announce the cast for Sound Stage’s first production; Angela, a brand-new autobiographical play by Mark Ravenhill airing 26 – 28 March.

Angela centres on the playwright’s mother, at the age of 84 and suffering with dementia, as she looks back across her life. Intercutting between Angela in her old age, her memories and mind failing her, and in her youth; growing up, moving away from her roots as the world of drama welcomed her. The Play depicts her struggle with depression and the challenges of her own aspirations, and becoming a mother, poignantly set against Mark’s experience of beginning to learn ballet, his lifelong passion, in his fifties. Continue reading “News: Cast announced for the premiere of Mark Ravenhill’s first autobiographical play Angela”

10 top theatrical moments of 2020

In lieu of trying to make sense of this shitshow of a year through the normal year-end lists, I thought I’d just stick with an unranked list of 10 of my top theatrically based productions of the year

For reference, here’s my 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list2016 list2015 list and 2014 list.

Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre

A rather exhilaratingly good take on the familiar Chekhov classic, a worthy presence in the West End.

The Wicker Husband, Watermill Theatre

One of the last things I saw before lockdown and what a gorgeous lingering memory to have, I pray that this is not the last we hear of this beautiful new musical. Continue reading “10 top theatrical moments of 2020”

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.

Continue reading “Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand”

News: Uncle Vanya to receive broadcast release

Sonia Friedman Productions has announced that Ian Rickson’s highly acclaimed production of Conor McPherson’s new adaptation of Uncle Vanya has been filmed on stage at the Harold Pinter Theatre in partnership with Angelica Films. The new film version of the production will be shown in cinemas ahead of broadcast on the BBC (date tbc) with further distribution details to be announced soon. This makes it the first UK stage production closed by the Coronavirus pandemic to have been filmed and produced for the screen.

Directed for screen by Ross MacGibbon, the film reunites nearly all of the original cast of the production that was in its final weeks (read my review here) when the country went into lockdown in March and theatres were forced to close. Only Ciarán Hinds was unavailable and his role has now been taken by Roger Allam. Continue reading “News: Uncle Vanya to receive broadcast release”