My mood on seeing this show…
My mood on seeing this show…
“Of course I have disposable income, I rent in Zone 4”
It’s black and white – no means no. That should be enough right? Except all too often, sadly it isn’t, and the many different ways in which this is true form the bedrock of Consent, Nina Raine’s new play for the National Theatre, co-produced with Out of Joint. From the multitude of ways in which consent can be exploited by the legal profession in the public sphere, to the brutal, personal intimacy of how it impacts on a disintegrating marriage, Raine plays interestingly and intelligently with shades of grey.
Barristers Ed and Tim are on opposing sides of a rape case and there’s little love lost between them personally either, as the perennially single Tim is a long-term friend of his wife Kitty, who is trying to set him up with another pal, actress Zara (played by the wonderful Daisy Haggard). And as Ed and Tim do battle around the finer points of Gayle’s case – she alleges she was raped on the day of her sister’s funeral – with their focus on legally outmanoeuvring the other rather than on the victim, a twist that puts all their private lives under the microscope shifts their perspective entirely. Continue reading “Review: Consent, National”
“Before I met you I was a civilised woman”
Based on the novel of the same name by Louise Doughty, psychodrama Apple Tree Yard has proved itself most watercooler-worthy with its twisting plot, classy cast and yes, controversial moments making it a hit thriller for the BBC. The story revolves around Yvonne Carmichael – celebrated scientist, mother of two, wife to Gary – who, when a chance encounter at work leads to an unexpected quickie with a literal tall dark and handsome stranger, finds her entire world tipped upside down by the consequences that follow.
Written by Amanda Coe and directed by Jessica Hobbs, the first episode plays out as a rather marvellous exploration of a 40-something woman rediscovering her sexuality and having the kind of illicit affair that makes you write naff diary entries (as Yvonne does…). But by the end of the first hour, the drama takes the first of several hard turns as [spoiler alert] she is brutally raped by a colleague. The use of rape as a dramatic device is one which should always be interrogated but here, coming from the text as it does and its devastating impact detailed as painstakingly as it was in episode 2, it felt appropriately handled and never gratuitous. Continue reading “TV Review: Apple Tree Yard”
“Perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take is to be seen as we really are”
Who knew what the world needed was a live-action version of Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh. It oughtn’t be as good as it is but somehow the fusion of Disney magic and folktale wonder comes together most effectively, thoroughly traditional in its outlook yet somehow still feeling fresh. Chris Weitz’s screenplay is based on Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon but both he and Branagh take lots of inspiration from the Disney version of the story too and the resulting confection is really rather bibbity-bobbity-beguiling.
There’s a cleverness too about what it does in spinning new details like giving us a reason that her step-family don’t recognise her at the ball and weaving much humour into the magic spells that get her to said ball. Ella herself is well pitched by Lily James, not quite too perfect to be true but still hugely appealing. It’s no wonder Richard Madden’s Prince Charming tumbles instantly for her (and she for him, those breeches…those boots!) and their chemistry is palpable, one can see why Branagh has cast them as Juliet and Romeo in his upcoming theatre residency in London. Continue reading “DVD Review: Cinderella”
“Are you a giraffe?”
Birthday Girl is a rather odd little thing, a 2001 film from Jez Butterworth (he of Jerusalem) that seemed to slip under the radar somewhat. It’s not brilliant but by the same token it isn’t terrible either and plenty worse films have made bigger waves. Ben Chaplin’s John is hapless in St Albans (is there anything else you can be there? ;-)), having no luck in love and so resorting to getting himself a Russian mail-order bride called Nadia. She turns up in the form of Nicole Kidman, who else, and though she can’t speak a word of English, she indulges his S&M fantasies and so job’s, it would seem, a good’un.
But it’s no happily ever after, Nadia’s two rough cousins soon turn up on the doorstep (played by Frenchmen Vincent Cassel and Mathieu Kassovitz, assumedly because the Russians were out on the day they were casting?) and John’s job as a bank clerk turns out to be rather important. Their unpredictable violence pulls John deep into a morass of deception and criminality but after the mid-film twists take place, the movie runs out of energy and trundles towards a rather uninspired ending that no amount of random Brit cameos (Ben Miller, Reece Shearsmith) can rescue. Continue reading “DVD Review: Birthday Girl”
“We’re here to outplay a scenario”
I can’t remember who alerted me to Jack Thorne’s War Book being on iPlayer but I’m grateful to them as it is a classy little thing indeed, boasting a top-quality cast and Tom Hooper on directorial duties. A BBC4 drama that takes place over the three days of a role-playing exercise by the government in which assorted civil servants take on the mantle of the different departments tasked with responding to the outbreak of nuclear hostility between two countries, a conflict which threatens to break out into all-out nuclear war.
Designed as a hothouse experiment to produce the kind of thinking that can’t be replicated in traditional briefings, Thorne subtly suggests how decision-making, even at this level, can be shaped by personal circumstances (the husband struggling with his wife’s illness) but also how we’re not all in thrall to their influence (the cancer survivor who has to advocate for the withdrawal drugs from the general public). And as the ‘crisis’ escalates, serious questions are asked and discussed about what it really means to be a nuclear power. Continue reading “TV Review: War Book”
“Are you in a relationship now?”
The Secrets now turns to Elinor Cook’s for The Lie as once again marriage falls under the scrutiny of our young writers. Here, Lexie’s domestic bliss is shattered when an inopportune phone call reveals that her husband is hiding something from her, a double life as she quickly finds out. And as with all such things, she visits the other woman’s house, who turns out to be a counsellor, and pretends to be a client in need of help.
Thus Lexie tries to explore what her husband has been up to and why, whilst not letting on to him that she knows, Joanne Froggatt’s brittle intensity perfect for the role as she comes up against the comparative glamour of Emilia Fox’s Zara. Their shared scenes are excellent and the hints of psychodrama that creep in here are amongst the story’s highlights. Ben Chaplin’s Philip isn’t quite the draw he needs to be though, the character never really suggesting adequate appeal.
“A woman playing a woman, where’s the trick in that”
Any film with Clare Higgins yelling ‘give me back my merkin’ is surely destined for stone cold classic status but 2004’s Stage Beauty seems to have slipped from people’s minds whereas I always remembered it as a film I really enjoyed, more so that Shakespeare in Love. Much will depend on your opinion of Claire Danes but this tale of the rapidly changing world of the theatre during Charles II’s reign proved much more enjoyable than Shakespeare in Love ever did, and offers a fascinating, even-handed look at how both the men and women of the stage were affected by the decision to ban the former from playing the latter.
Billy Crudup’s Ned Kynaston has become one of the top actors in town, specialising in female characters like Othello’s Desdemona in which he frequently steals the show and aided by his faithful dresser Maria, played by Danes. She has a burning desire to act on the stage herself but since the Puritans outlawed such a thing in professional theatres, she’s limited to appearing in grubby pub theatres on the fringe (plus ça change…). The thespian desires of Charles’ ambitious mistress Nell Gwynn seem set to change that completely though, along with the fortunes of all concerned. Continue reading “DVD Review: Stage Beauty”
“Today the theatre has failed all of us, and we suffer from this failure”
This Farewell to the Theatre is a new play at the Hampstead Theatre by Richard Nelson, about Harley Granville Barker. It should not be confused with Farewell to the Theatre, a play by Harley Granville Barker which finally received a premiere at the Rose Kingston last year. They are different beasts, though both skirt around similiar issues of disillusionment and disenchantment, and the former is set at the time at which the latter was actually written.
Nelson tells the story of a group of British ex-pats in the sleepy Massachusetts town of Williamstown in 1916. The Great War is being waged in Europe but has yet to pull in the US and the concerns of this motley crew are of a much more personal nature. Barker has fallen out of love with both the theatre and his wife and finds himself in a boarding house run by an English widow, Dorothy, who is still in mourning. Her brother Henry is a lecturer at the local university but professional jealousies are hampering his progress; glamourous Beatrice is a married actress conducting an affair with a young student; George is looking for a better job; and Frank, who is a reciter of Dickens, is hiding himself away from a horrible truth. Continue reading “Review: Farewell to the Theatre, Hampstead Theatre”