Film Review: Murder On The Orient Express (2017)

“I know your moustache…”

What to do when you want your new film to be a new version of one of Agatha Christie’s most famous whodunnits? Well if you’re Kenneth Branagh, you call in some of your mates to play the main characters, friends like Dame Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Colman, Penélope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr., Josh Gad, and Willem Dafoe. Plus you can also get some real talent to fill the minor roles – blink and you might miss the likes of Paapa Essiedu, Miranda Raison, Hadley Fraser, Adam Garcia, even Sergei Polunin.

But if you’re Kenneth Branagh, you also cast yourself as Hercule Poirot and as he’s directing himself, there’s a sense that the sharing of some much-needed constructive feedback didn’t happen. For as his ridiculously huge moustache is placed front and centre in scene after scene, this Murder On The Orient Express feels nothing so much as a vanity project. Which is all well and good if you like that sort of thing, and I quite like Branagh as it happens, but it is absolutely fatal in a story that is intrinsically about the ensemble. Continue reading “Film Review: Murder On The Orient Express (2017)”

Review: The Exorcist, Phoenix

After a premiere in Birmingham last year…

 

Sean Mathias’ production of The Exorcist has resurfaced in the West End just in time for Hallowe’en in the hope of recreating the chills and thrills of the 1973 movie, despite the fact that it is notoriously difficult to get horror right in the theatre.

We saw a preview and there may have been wine involved, hence the gif mood-board presented here rather than your fully-fleshed review. So… Continue reading “Review: The Exorcist, Phoenix”

Review: Twilight Song, Park

 “It’s hard isn’t it”

Completed shortly before his death in 2014, Kevin Elyot’s Twilight Song now belatedly receives its premiere courtesy of the Park Theatre. The play doesn’t emerge as one of his strongest though, the shadow of the excellent My Night With Reg lingers long over the scant 75 minutes here and you’re left wondering just how completed the play was – would it have benefitted from another turn or two in the development mangle after its initial run.

Twilight Song finds itself split between the present day and the 1960s, looking at the relationship between homosexualist Barry, his mother Isabella and his wider family. From his boyhood when decriminalisation was just around the corner but still too late for a closeted uncle, to his present day where sexual liberation hasn’t prevented him from frustrated singledom, we see how individual happiness doesn’t necessarily follow societal change no matter your sexuality or generation. Continue reading “Review: Twilight Song, Park”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

In his first season as artistic director of Theatre N16, Scott Ellis presents a slew of new writing.
 
Olympilads by Andrew Maddock, produced by Lonesome Schoolboy and directed by Niall Phillips, reunites the team that presented He(art) at Theatre N16 earlier this year. Theatre N16 executive director (and former artistic director) Jamie Eastlake will present his new show Deadline Day by John Hickman and Steve Robertson: a bitter sweet tale about football, greed and the North-South divide.
 
Ten emerging artists debut a selection of original and varied works exploring feminism today in Maiden Speech: A festival of fresh feminist voices. Theatre N16 will also produce a new play by Sarah Milton, directed by Scott Ellis.

Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 2

“Some things are worth getting your heart broken for”

David Tennant’s opening season took the template of the opening series and ran with it, Russell T Davies’ vision finding its ideal mate in the Scottish actor. The typically adventurous sweep was tempered with a more tender vision, which considerably upped our emotional investment (previous companions returning, romantic connections whether past or present).

Bringing back the Cybermen was an interesting move, as was the introduction of the notion of parallel worlds (and how important that became…). And if the series-long motif of Torchwood didn’t really pay off, especially not when one considers what Torchwood the show became, the finale to Doomsday is pretty close to perfection. Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 2”

DVD review: Nativity 3 – Dude, Where’s My Donkey

“I said hip, hop, Santa’s gonna stop”

Has ever a movie franchise fallen from grace quite so sadly as Debbie Isitt’s Nativity films? It was made worse for me as I watched them all for the first time this year and so the decline has been compressed into a couple of weeks. The first film utterly enchanted me, the second somewhat disappointed by the third – Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey – thoroughly junked everything that worked about the original.

Once again, a new teacher is introduced to St Bernadette’s (this time, Martin Clunes’ Mr Shepherd) and once again, inimitable (and irritating) teaching assistant Mr Poppy (Marc Wootton) is on hand to cause mayhem with his unruly antics leading his class astray. But where the first film was rooted in the universal appeal of school nativities, this sequel opts for the bandwagon-jumping of focusing on flashmobs, which meant it was probably out-of-date as it arrived in cinemas last winter, never mind now in 2015. Continue reading “DVD review: Nativity 3 – Dude, Where’s My Donkey”

Review: The Winter’s Tale, Garrick

“I do feel it gone, But know not how it went”

Perhaps one of the biggest lures of the newly established Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company and its year-long residency at the Garrick Theatre is the return of Dame Judi Dench to the stage, playing Paulina in their opening production of The Winter’s Tale. One of the pre-eminent Shakespeareans of this or any age, the run largely sold out in advance proving the astute business sense but with Branagh and Rob Ashford co-directing this oft-described problem play, does it make artistic sense?

And I’m not 100% sure that it does, this doesn’t feel like a production that one will remember as a classic of our time. It is undoubtedly a difficult play to mount, the chilly stateliness of the first act’s Sicilia contrasting strongly with the permissive post-interval (and 16 years hence) Bohemia and with a rambling plot full of statuesque tragicomedy, it’s a hard one to love. Branagh and Ashford keep things more or less traditional, and of course excellently spoken, but rarely soul-stirringly good. Continue reading “Review: The Winter’s Tale, Garrick”

DVD Review: Threesome (Series 1)

Do you know what would make me feel less old?” 

Tom MacRae’s 2011 sitcom Threesome was the first original scripted comedy commissioned by British satellite channel Comedy Central. Starting off as a flatshare comedy about 3 college friends making the most of carefree living in their twenties, the big shift comes after a huge night out which ends up with them regretting a drunken threesome. And this being tv-land, it is not Amy’s boyfriend Mitch who impregnates her but rather their friend Richie, who just happens to be gay. And really being tv-land, they opt to have the baby altogether, raising it as a threesome.

Working their way through the tropes of pregnancy-based comedy, this offers a rather neat twist on the standard gags (Sylvestra Le Touzel makes a great ante-natal class leader), allowing for the complementary characteristics of the trio to make up just about enough maturity for one adult – at least at the beginning of the series – as they each come into their own, Stephen Wight’s Mitch doing the most obvious maturing as the father-to-be of a son who isn’t genetically his.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Threesome (Series 1)”

2013 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

Best New Play 
Constellations by Nick Payne – Duke of York’s Theatre
The Audience by Peter Morgan – Gielgud
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Simon Stephens, adapted by Mark Haddon – National Theatre Cottesloe / Apollo
This House by James Graham – National Theatre Cottesloe / Olivier

Best New Musical
Loserville – Garrick
Soul Sister – Savoy
The Bodyguard – Adelphi
Top Hat – Aldwych

Best Revival 
Long Day’s Journey into Night – Apollo
Macbeth – Trafalgar Studios
Old Times – Harold Pinter
Twelfth Night – Globe / Apollo Continue reading “2013 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”