Review: My Eyes Went Dark, Finborough

“You’re not to blame, but that doesn’t mean someone else is”

From an original concept by Matthew Wilkinson and Bob Goody, Wilkinson’s self-directed My Eyes Went Dark is an admirably ambitious and complex study of revenge and redemption and the true cost of forgiveness, playing at the redoubtable Finborough Theatre. Based on a true story, architect Nikolai Koslov’s world is shattered when an air disaster robs him of his wife and two children and the pursuit for his version of justice leads him to perilously close to the world of terrible vengeance. 

Matching Nikolai’s psyche, the play’s narrative is equally fragmented with scenes scattered over three countries and at least five years and Wilkinson makes us work hard for it with a stark and spare staging from Bethany Wells and little in the way of visual cues. But it is extraordinarily effective, especially with the powerful end-on lighting design from Elliot Griggs. Exposed as it is by the traverse stage, to watch how it illuminates the space without as much as the space within is most illustrative.  Continue reading “Review: My Eyes Went Dark, Finborough”

DVD Review: The Awakening

“This is a time for ghosts”

Released at the end of last year, The Awakening seemed to sink without trace a little. I’m not the best judge of things given how little time I end up with to see films, but I would have thought a film that starred Rebecca Hall, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton would be a surefire hit. In any case, its general spookiness and delving into the realm of the supernatural makes it a good fit for inclusion here.

Nick Murphy’s film is set in 1921, a shell-shocked England still learning how to recover from the devastating impact of the Great War. Rebecca Hall plays a rather witty anti-Yvette Fielding figure named Florence Cathcart, a very modern sceptic who is a published author on the debunking of supernatural hoaxes. After a great opening sequence in which a séance is exposed for the nonsense it really is, she is visited by Dominic West’s Robert Mallory, a schoolteacher who wants her to come and investigate some spooky goings-on at his isolated boarding school. Yet in finding trying to a rational answer, she uncovers a deeper, more personal mystery which is far from easily explained. Continue reading “DVD Review: The Awakening”

Review: The Judas Kiss, Richmond Theatre

“I adored you.
‘It was not the same…'”

Fresh from a successful run at the Hampstead Theatre and before its arrival in the West End in the New Year, this revival of David Hare’s The Judas Kiss visits Richmond Theatre for a week and packed out the halls (and overcrowded foyer) of this Victorian theatre last night. The play focuses on two episodes in the destructive relationship between Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas: the first as the playwright retreats to a suite in the Cadogan Hotel in the wake of his failed attempt to sue Bosie’s father for libel and in anticipation of his own arrest; and the second two years later as Wilde tries to recuperate post-incarceration in the warmer climes of Naples.

Everett makes a different Wilde to the one one might expect. Hare resists the temptation to over-burden him with an ever-present rapier wit, making him a more solemn, melancholy figure – though one who can still produce a barbed comment at the drop of a velvet hat – thoroughly pummelled by the weight of Victorian society’s puritanical hypocrisy, a point hammered home by the opening image of screwing servants. But there’s an element too of self-flagellation here, even against the advice of his nearest and dearest to flee for France. With a tragic knowingness in his eyes, Everett’s redoubtable Wilde determinedly holds onto his personal integrity even as he knows that Bosie cannot, or will not, match such devotion. Continue reading “Review: The Judas Kiss, Richmond Theatre”

Review: Peter Pan, Barbican

“Second star to the right and straight on till morning”

There’s something about revisiting childhood favourites as an adult, a huge pleasure in discovering the deeper levels and meanings that escaped one’s more youthful self: I remember vividly discovering just how dark and vicious Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka gets with the truly revolting children in his factory after years of revelling in all the sweets, the excitement of the golden tickets and the Oompah Loompahs. Similarly here, my memories of Peter Pan were limited to the Disney film and the remake Hook, so in a nutshell, lots of fun as a Lost Boy and Julia Roberts being brought back to life. What I was not prepared for was the discovery of a huge well of aching sadness at the heart of this play.

This partly due to the new version created by David Greig for the National Theatre of Scotland, of J.M. Barrie’s classic, which relocates the action to Victorian Edinburgh and in particular the time of the construction of the Forth Rail Bridge, the instant parallels being drawn between the Lost Boys or Neverland and the gangs of young boys used to pass the molten hot rivets to the ironworkers on the bridge. There’s little fun to be had here, but there’s also less fun to be had in Neverland which is reconceived as a darker, more anarchic and dangerous place, populated by boys in need of motherly love, a hunger which drives this whole play and it is one which affected me greatly, as my companion for the evening will attest, tears rolled down my cheeks solidly for the last 30 minutes! Continue reading “Review: Peter Pan, Barbican”