Film Review: Judy (2019)

Renée Zellweger is sensational in Judy, a deeply moving account of Judy Garland’s final months in London directed by Rupert Goold

“I just want what everybody wants. I seem to have a harder time getting it.”

As if there were any doubt, Judy is a phenomenal success, and should see its star Renée Zellweger add to her tally of Academy Award nominations, if not the award itself. Loosely based on Peter Quilter’s play End of the Rainbow, it recalls the final year of Judy Garland’s life as a roll of the dice sees her decamp to London to perform in a series of concerts that she hoped would reignite interest in her career whose light was seriously fading in the US.

But years of substance abuse and the relentless ride of showbusiness have taken a serious toll, even just turning up on time proves a struggle (hard relate!) and that iconic voice can no longer be relied upon. Thus Tom Edge’s screenplay takes a slightly more realism-based approach than the play to show us the riskiness that accompanied Judy’s every step towards a stage and the slow, crushing realisation of what her life has amounted to. Continue reading “Film Review: Judy (2019)”

10 of my top moments of the decade

Ever behind the curve, I present 10 of my top moments in a theatre over the last ten years (plus a few bonus extra ones because whittling down this list was hard, and it will probably be different tomorrow anyway!)

© James Bellorini

Extraordinary Public Acts for a National Theatre

The establishment of the Public Acts programme at the National Theatre offered up something sensational in Pericles, an initiative designed to connect grassroot community organisations with major theatres, resulting in a production that swept over 200 non-professional performers onto the stage of the Olivier to create something that moved me more than 99% of professional productions.  A truly joyous and momentous occasion. 

Honourable mention: this year’s musical take on As You Like It proved just as heart-swellingly beautiful over at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. Continue reading “10 of my top moments of the decade”

Review: Lungs, Old Vic Theatre

Claire Foy and Matt Smith excel in a welcome revival of Duncan Macmillan’s climate change/relationship drama Lungs at the Old Vic Theatre

“Let’s get home and drink some gin and pretend I never said anything'”

Well, who’d’ve thought it? A chance to see the second best play of 2012 once again with some real luxury casting this time around. Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs toured the UK as part of one of Paines Plough’s Roundabout seasons (and marked the moment Kate O’Flynn properly burst into my consciousness) and now it has resurfaced at the Old Vic, starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith, who are obviously at a loose end now that The Crown has forced them to regenerate into Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies. Have a read of my 5 star review for Offical Theatre here.

Running time: 80 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Helen Maybanks
Lungs is booking at the Old Vic Theatre until 9th November

Re-review: People, Places and Things, Wyndham’s

“I want to live vividly”

There’s something rather apposite about the rush to label Denise Gough’s performance in People, Places and Things as the greatest since Mark Rylance’s in Jerusalem, as as heretical as it may be to say it, I was no real fan of the latter. And whilst there is a huge amount to admire in Gough’s epic efforts in a behemoth of a role, my reaction to the play on seeing it a second time was magnify what I felt were its flaws, leaving me bemused at the number of 5 star notices and hyperbole-filled writing.

My original review can be found here and in its new home at the Wyndham’s, I felt much the same. Duncan Macmillan’s writing lapses towards the painfully poetic far too often when trying to engage with the realities of addiction and it still feels baggy, the group scenes linger past their welcome and the repetitiveness goes too far, a fair bit could be cut and nothing lost. But what do I do know? It fascinates me endlessly when I end up outside the zeitgeist this way and interestingly for me, no-one else’s reviews have convinced me of what I’m apparently missing. Still, I’d recommend you go along to make up your mind and to see what should be, by any rights, the ascendance of Denise Gough to a well-deserved star status. 

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 18th June

Review: People, Places and Things, National Theatre

“You can’t do karaoke unless you’re part of the group”

Oh expectation, you fickle thing – so easily built up and yet so easily dashed. Headlong’s last visit to the National Theatre saw Lucy Prebble’s The Effect brought to powerfully moving life and recently revived so devastatingly effectively in Sheffield, it was still fresh in my mind. So perhaps foolishly, Duncan MacMillan’s People, Places and Things had a lot to live up in my mind but sometimes that’s what happens when you’re a theatre addict – you just have admit that you’re powerless over theatre and that your life has become unmanageable.

Entering a 12-step program is all well and good but how to identify the exact nature of the wrongs, defects of character and shortcomings that help on the way to recovery? How to make amends to the people who have been harmed? Here’s where this tortured analogy will die a death as I can’t make it work, and it is turning out a little harsh against this production. That said, I really wasn’t a fan despite some sterling work from Denise Gough and spotted at least three people making a run for it before we broke for the interval.  Continue reading “Review: People, Places and Things, National Theatre”

Review: The Sound of Heavy Rain, Roundabout season at Shoreditch Town Hall

“You can’t always plan for the route ahead”

Technical problems meant that my original trip to see The Sound of Heavy Rain at Shoreditch Town Hall as part of a three show day, encompassing the whole Roundabout season of new writing engineered by Paines Plough, was scuppered. Fortunately the other two plays – Lungs and One Day When We Were Young – more than made up for the disappointment and I was able to squeeze in Penelope Skinner’s play later in the run to make up the full set.

In some ways, it seems a curious addition to the programme in that both stylistically and thematically, it felt quite distinct from the yearning, emotional intimacy of the other two plays. The Sound of Heavy Rain is a world apart with its film noir pastiche and cabaret leanings as grizzled private detective Dabrowski is approached by Maggie Brown to find her bar-room singer friend Foxy O’Hara who has gone missing. But instead of the boulevards of LA, we’re in the dark streets of Soho where it never stops raining.  Continue reading “Review: The Sound of Heavy Rain, Roundabout season at Shoreditch Town Hall”

Review: One Day When We Were Young / Lungs, Roundabout season at Shoreditch Town Hall

“The world is going to need good people in it”

Those champions of great theatre Paines Plough make a rare foray into the capital with the Roundabout season – three new plays from three upcoming playwrights which can be seen individually or in a triple bill over one day at the weekend. We opted for the triple bill but sadly, the first of the plays – Penelope Skinner’s The Sound of Heavy Rain – was cancelled due to adverse weather affecting the venue. We were still able to take in Nick Payne’s One Day When We Were Young and Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs though and what a fantastic pair of plays they turned out to be.

Paines Plough have constructed a mini in-the-round wooden theatre, akin to the one in which Mike Bartlett’s Cock was performed at the Royal Court, and they have placed it in the historic and underused surroundings of Shoreditch Town Hall. The intimacy of the space is something really rather special and director of One Day When We Were Young, Clare Lizzimore really explores the possibilities it offers with a beautiful production of Nick Payne’s play. Continue reading “Review: One Day When We Were Young / Lungs, Roundabout season at Shoreditch Town Hall”