Film Review: London Road

“Everybody’s very very nervous”
 
The theatrical production of London Road was a major success for the National Theatre, the opening run first extending in the Cottesloe and then being rewarded with a later transfer to the much larger Olivier – I was first blownaway by its originality and then later comforted by its message in the aftermath of the 2011 riots. So the news that director Rufus Norris was making a film adaptation was received with apprehensive anticipation, could this strikingly experimental piece of theatre possibly work on screen.
 
Writer Alecky Blythe uses a technique whereby she records interviews with people which are then edited into a play but spoken verbatim by the actors, complete with all the ums and aahs and repetitions of natural speech. And in 2006, she went to Ipswich to interview a community rocked by a series of murders, of five women in total, all sex workers, and set about telling a story not of salacious deaths but of a community learning to cleave together in trying times. Oh, and it’s all set to the most innovative of musical scores by Adam Cork, elevating ordinary speech into something quite extraordinary. 

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Review: Ernest, Etcetera Theatre

“This is a match that I wouldn’t encourage
Gwen wants a man, not a piece of lost luggage”

Musical adaptations of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest actually have a strong pedigree as a rather smashing version played at the Riverside Studios a couple of years ago but it is now the turn of Phil Jacobs to have his own stab as The All in One Theatre Company present his take on Ernest at Camden’s Etcetera Theatre. Filleted down to a single sprightly hour and liberally sprinkled with musical interludes, it is an undoubtedly chirpy and charming take on the story which ought to feel at home on fringes and in festivals across the land.
Jacobs has kept the basic structure of the play, in which Jack Worthing invents a roguish persona called Ernest in order to secure the hand of the fragrant Gwendolen Fairfax who will only marry a man of said name but finds his plans led awry by the arrival of his friend Algernon Moncrieff who is also posing as Ernest, in order to win the heart of Jack’s ward Cecily Cardew. A framing device of a modern version of Jack delving into the world of role-playing games doesn’t really pay off but nor does it really affect matters as Pamela Schermann’s production steams merrily on.

 

Samuel Harris provides an excellent anchoring strength as Jack, sweet of voice and lithe of stage presence, he is consistently good in a production that sees him rarely leave the stage but he is best when bouncing off of Linford Hyde’s louche muffin-munching Algernon. Hyde’s delivery is brilliantly done, almost cattish in its sharpness and comicly timed to perfection – a line about cufflinks is surely one of the funniest of the year. Ella Duncan’s spirited Cecily is good fun and whilst Cassandra Foster’s Gwendolen is prissily fine, she does play it a little straighter than the others. 

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