DVD Review: Before I Go To Sleep

“You have problems remembering things”

I do like a psycho-thriller and Rowan Joffé’s adaptation of SJ Watson’s novel Before I Go To Sleep from 2014 offers up a good example of the genre (with a great poster campaign too), if a little formulaic by the end. Nicole Kidman’s Christine wakes up every morning not knowing who or where she is. The man next to her (an excellently confounding Colin Firth) says he is her husband Ben and explains that she had an accident ten years ago which left her brain-damaged and unable to remember things beyond the day she recalls them. 

Consultant neurologist Dr Nasch (the inscrutable Mark Strong) is helping her though, providing her with a video camera to record her thoughts and mark any progress, with him calling her every morning to remind her to watch the video, and piece by piece, she begins to uncover the truth not just about what happened to her in the past but also what is happening in the future. Joffé does well at showing the claustrophobia of Christine’s existence, unable to really discern between help and hindrance in those who say they are protecting her, and a real sense of menace is present throughout. Continue reading “DVD Review: Before I Go To Sleep”

Album Review: Zorro (Original Cast Recording)

“Djobi djoba
Cada dia te quiero mas”

2008 musical Zorro lasted nine months in the West End, which may not seem a fantastic run but in retrospect, it lasted longer than From Here To Eternity, Stephen Ward, I Can’t Sing…any number of big musicals. Written by Stephen Clark and Helen Edmundson from Isabel Allende’s origin story, the tale positions the pulp legend as a folk hero and romantic lead, and is aided in the task by a highly atmospheric score from the Gipsy Kings and John Cameron.

Recorded live, the score has a slight feel of probably being much more fun to experience live than simply listening to in your living room. the flamenco rumba of the instrumentals impressively played but would be unquestionably improved with its accompanying choreography. So too the set pieces of pre-existing Gipsy Kings tracks Bamboléo and Djobi Djoba – both led by a fiercely charismatic Lesli Magherita – being exhorted to “baila, baila” just doesn’t quite work on record.  Continue reading “Album Review: Zorro (Original Cast Recording)”

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)”

Review: Medea, Watford Palace

“I am a modern woman, exploring my options, making a decision”

Mike Bartlett’s Medea initially seems a world away from Euripides’ original. With a new version written for Headlong and directed by himself, Bartlett transplants Rachael Stirling’s Medea into stultifying Home Counties suburbia, vibrantly captured by Ruari Murchison’s set. In this small town where her husband Jason grew up, she has long been viewed as a too proud outsider and when he leaves her for the much younger daughter of their landlord, she sinks into a deep and angry depression. Her wrath is all-consuming, pushing even her maternal instincts aside as she barely engages with her son Tom, left mute since his father departed, in her relentless pursuit for vengeance.

Even before she arrives onstage, Stirling’s presence dominates proceedings like a threatening storm cloud. Her eyes flashing with coruscating wit and scarcely concealed contempt for those around her, even the making of cups of tea feels like a declaration of war as she seethes with rage at what her life has become. There’s a brutally blunt humour to her, especially in her interactions with those neighbours – Lu Corfield’s compassionate Sarah and Amelia Lowdell’s sharper Pam – but there’s also traumatic emotional damage, eye-wateringly evinced in a highly disturbing kitchen scene. Continue reading “Review: Medea, Watford Palace”

Review: The Sunshine Boys, Savoy

“If I was there to enjoy it, I’d buy a ticket”

This new production of Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys might be considered one of the hottest tickets of the summer, featuring as it does the West End debut of Danny De Vito and the return to the stage of Richard Griffiths. The tale is of Willie Clarke and Al Lewis, a long-suffering former vaudeville comedy act whose relationship over the 40 years of their career deteriorated so badly that they didn’t even to speak to each other off-stage for the final year. But when a television network decides to put on a comedy retrospective more than a decade later and call on Lewis and Clarke to reprise their schtick one more time, it seems that old animosities are still fresh in the mind of some.

I saw the show in preview (and I have to say I find it a little cheeky to have a 3 week preview period for something clearly advertised as a limited 12 week run) and the best thing I could say about it was the amount of room for improvement. Thea Sharrock’s production felt extremely lethargic, especially in the interminable first half, with much more zip and zing needed by all concerned. De Vito’s bitterly retired Clark plods a little too much and needs more connection with his environment, especially with his nephew and hapless agent Ben, a hard-working Adam Levy, who is pushing for the reunion. And when Griffiths finally arrives on the scene, the cantankerousness is palpable but this just isn’t paired with any sense of the history between the characters. Continue reading “Review: The Sunshine Boys, Savoy”