Review: Off The Kings Road, Jermyn Street

“I am so lonely…”

Academy Award-nominated stars are appearing in the unlikeliest of places off-West End at the moment, but the key is to work out the connection. Fatal Attraction’s Anne Archer will soon be appearing at the Park in The Trial of Jane Fonda, which just happens to be written by her husband, and Jeff Bridges is now to be found at the Jermyn Street Theatre in Off The Kings Road, as a favour to his friend Neil Koenigsberg, a Hollywood publicist, manager, producer and first-time playwright.

To be clear, it’s an “e-appearance” from Bridges, via the medium of pre-recorded Skype interactions but the point still holds, it’s all about the connections. And you might wonder if those connections helped this production into theatres, for it isn’t necessarily the strongest piece of writing from Koenigsberg. Even with a company of just five, Off The Kings Road is too filled with uninspired stock characters whose hackneyed dialogue give them little chance to escape stereotype. Continue reading “Review: Off The Kings Road, Jermyn Street”

TV Review: Unforgotten

“All these cases where people pretends to be one thing for half a century and then turn out to be something else”

The insanity that is the scheduling wars between the BBC and ITV often throws up random anomalies but rarely has the result been something as rewarding as a surfeit of Nicola Walker. Having recently made River for the BBC and Unforgotten for ITV, both police dramas were premiered in the same week and as six-part dramas, are reaching their climax at the same time too. And what has been particularly pleasing is the fact that both have proved to be highly watchable and interesting takes on the genre.

Chris Lang’s Unforgotten focused on a cold case from nearly 40 years ago as skeletal remains are found in the basement of a derelict house and in the cleverly constructed first episode, the four disparate characters that we have been following are eventually tied together as their phone numbers are found in the victim’s diary. Walker’s DCI Cassie Stuart and Sanjeev Bhaskar’s DS Sunny Khan soon identify him as a Jimmy Sullivan but the show focuses as much on the effect of long-buried secrets on the potential suspects as it does on the case itself. Continue reading “TV Review: Unforgotten”

Review: The Importance of Being Earnest, Harold Pinter Theatre

“It wouldn’t be like this at the National”

Does the West End really need another straight production of Oscar Wilde’s old war horse The Importance of Being Earnest? Apparently not, as the new productions lined up each have their own spin – 2015 will see David Suchet take on the role of the redoubtable Lady Bracknell for Adrian Noble and 2014 sees Lucy Bailey impose her own conceit onto the show which allows her to gather an ensemble of more seasoned professionals than might normally be expected to take on this play.

That she does with the help of extra material written by Simon Brett which sees this starry cast take on the mantle of am-dram society The Bunbury Company of Players who in turn, are putting on their take on Wilde’s play as part of their summer season. So before Algernon and Jack have even taken to the stage, we’ve been inducted into the mini-dramas of the company themselves – Nigel Havers’ lothario now having an affair with a third woman in the group, Siân Phillips and Patrick Godfrey’s long-married couple fussing and bickering, Cherie Lunghi’s would-be diva complaining about her costume not fitting… The scene thus seems set for a melding of onstage and offstage drama which would bring something new to this old classic.  Continue reading “Review: The Importance of Being Earnest, Harold Pinter Theatre”

Short Film Review #39

WOW 2014 – A Day In Detention

 

Not a short film as such, but utterly essential. The Women of the World Festival took place at the Southbank Centre in early March and A Day In Detention was part of that event. A piece of verbatim theatre pulled together by Nell Leyshon and directed by Jessica Swale, it looks at varying experiences of refugee women in the UK asylum system with an unblinking eye and a near-shocking straightforwardness. The harsh reality of what they are forced to go through, after escaping untold horrors in their own country, is appallingly bleak but there’s a beautiful dignity to the way in which their stories are told, both in the way they have been captured and also in the stunning performances of Juliet Stevenson, Bryony Hannah and an unbearably moving Cush Jumbo.

Continue reading “Short Film Review #39”

Review: Steel Magnolias, Richmond Theatre

“I do not see plays, because I can nap at home for free”

The prospect of a stage version of Steel Magnolias, populated by a motley crew of British actresses from stage and screen, filled me with equally with dread and anticipation as I am a big fan of the film (one of Julia Roberts’ best performances). But curiosity won the day and for my first trip back to the theatre after a trip away, I made my way to Richmond Theatre to be transported to 1980s Louisiana and delve into the trials and tribulations of Truvy, M’Lynn, Shelby and co.

Robert Harling’s story was originally a play (sadly inspired by the death of his sister) and though the expanded action of the film may be more familiar, the play’s limitation to Helen Goddard’s perfectly 80’s-hued beauty parlour across four acts is structurally sound and works extremely well. This salon forms a gathering place for six women and over a period of three years, we see the ebb and flow of life and how the mutually supportive atmosphere helps all of them in one way or another as they variously look for and selflessly give strength to one another.  Continue reading “Review: Steel Magnolias, Richmond Theatre”

Review: The Syndicate, Minerva

One is constantly learning when going to/reading /writing about theatre, there’s just so much of it to take in! Unknown to me, Eduardo Di Filippo is apparently a giant of Italian theatre but even this, The Syndicate – a version of Il Sindico Del Rione Sanità by Mike Poulton – is receiving its British premiere here, indicating that my ignorance is perhaps a little forgivable. Playing at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre, it boasts a healthy cast of 20 headed by Sir Ian McKellen, on a break from filming The Hobbit.

McKellen plays Antonio Barracano, a man smuggled to New York by the local Godfather after murdering a man in his native Naples. After many years accumulating wealth and reputation by working for the mob there, he returns to his hometown as a man of standing amongst the criminal classes who look to him to dispense his own individual brand of justice and one particular case, intervene in a vicious dispute between a son and his father, the son’s murderous urges reminding Don Antonio of his own youthful indiscretion. Continue reading “Review: The Syndicate, Minerva”