Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand

Simon Annand’s Time To Act is a beautiful book of photos capturing actors in the minutes before they go on stage

Tackling the constraints of the pandemic in its own way, Simon Annand’s fantastic new book of photos Time To Act has launched a virtual exhibition of some of the photographs which has now been extended to until Christmas. It’s an ingenious way of sharing some of the hundreds of images from the book and should surely whet the appetite for either just buying it now or putting on your list for Santa to collect soon.

Continue reading “Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand”

TV Review: Flesh and Blood

Imelda Staunton plays a blinder in ITV’s Flesh and Blood but for a thriller, there’s not much that is actually that thrilling apart from Russell Tovey’s chest hair

“I never ever dreamt it would end like this”

The myriad ways in which we can now consume television content means that programmers can find themselves in a bit of a bind, searching for the best way to ensure their show breaks through in such a crowded marketplace. Just look at The Split, releasing the entirety of its second series online whilst also going for a weekly broadcast. Stripping a show over a week for four consecutive nights, as ITV did with Flesh and Blood, may seem like a happy medium between those two modes but in this day and age, I don’t it matches either. 

Written by Sarah Williams (Becoming Jane; Small Island), Flesh and Blood is a lush family drama, edging towards thriller territory, as a body is discovered in this sleepy Sussex beach town. And in true winding narrative style, we don’t know who has carked it. Francesca Annis’ Vivien is quietly surprised to find new love with Stephen Rea’s Mark but her adult children don’t think she’s been playing the grieving widow for long enough and once he moves into their former childhood home, hackles are truly raised, conveniently allowing them to turn from the drama in their own lives.  Continue reading “TV Review: Flesh and Blood”

Review: Stories, National Theatre

Sam Troughton and Claudie Blakley are excellent in Nina Raine’s new play Stories at the Dorfman in the National Theatre

“This isn’t crowdfunding”

What a difference a few years makes: at 35, Bobbie hasn’t decided on pretty much anything in her life; at 39 however, Anna is resolute that she wants to make big changes in her life. Specifically, in the aftermath of a messy break-up with someone who didn’t want one, she’s determined to become a mother. Such is the world of Nina Raine’s new play Stories and as with Company, there’s so much more layered in here than the headlines might suggest. 

The focus does indeed first seem to be on fertility, as Claudie Blakley’s Anna debates, with her family, the ethics of sourcing sperm donors online and then rifles through her little black book to see if any of her exes would be up for donating a few of their best swimmers. But the scope is always wider than that, probing at the stories we are told stretching from bedtimes tales to the societal myths that we are sold and what that does to a mindset over the years. Continue reading “Review: Stories, National Theatre”

News: National Theatre Season: July 2018 – January 2019

So much goodness announced here in the National Theatre’s near future – particularly excited for Nine Night’s transfer, what looks like a leading role for Siân Brooke and the prospect of Joanna Riding’s ‘Losing My Mind’. 

National Theatre Season: July 2018 – January 2019

Nine Night, Natasha Gordon’s critically acclaimed debut play transfers to the West End following a sold-out run at the NT

Further cast announced for Antony and Cleopatra alongside Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo, playing from September

Cast confirmed for world premiere of David Hare’s new play I’m Not Running, including Siân Brooke, Alex Hassell and Joshua McGuire

Peter Brook returns to direct at the National Theatre for the first time in 50 years with The Prisoner, co-directed with Marie-Hélène Estienne

Following the acclaimed Consent, Nina Raine returns to the NT with her new play Stories starring Claudie Blakley

Anthony Neilson makes his NT debut with new play The Tell-Tale Heart, based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe

Alexander Hanson and Joanna Riding to join the cast of Follies alongside Janie Dee and Peter Forbes, returning to the Olivier Theatre in February 2019

War Horse returns to the NT marking the centenary of Armistice Day

Antony and Cleopatra and I’m Not Running to  broadcast to 65 countries worldwide as part of NT Live

To mark the 100th anniversary of the first women in the UK gaining the right to vote, the NT stages Courage Everywhere; a series of rehearsed readings, talks and screenings Continue reading “News: National Theatre Season: July 2018 – January 2019”

Review: Consent, Harold Pinter

With a mostly new cast, Nina Raine’s deeply considered and thought-provoking Consent transfers from the National to the Harold Pinter

“It’s a fight between two opposing narratives”

Nina Raine’s Consent is yet another play to make the West End transfer out of the National Theatre’s Dorfman space. And a well-timed one it is too as even though it is only a year since it ran, the landscape when talking about how aspects of society deal with sexual assault and rape is significantly different. Read my 4 star review for Official Theatre here.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Johan Persson
Consent is booking at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 11th August

Review: Once In A Lifetime, Young Vic

“You don’t know anything about anything, George, and if what they say about the movies is true, you’ll go far”

The end of the silent movie era and the arrival of the talkies has proved fertile ground for many a storyteller, not least Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s immortal Singin’ in the Rain, but Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s Once In A Lifetime has a serious claim to being one of the first, premiering as it did in 1930 and its influence is plain to see. It has received major revivals from Trevor Nunn at the RSC (1979) and Edward Hall at the National (2005) and now it is the turn of Richard Jones at the Young Vic, in a production notable for marking the theatrical stage debut of Harry Enfield.

In a new adaptation by Hart’s son Christopher, Once In A Lifetime follows the trials and tribulations of three workaday vaudeville artists from New York who decide to throw in their lot and ship out to Hollywood. With the first ever talking motion picture doing great business, they opt to capitalise on the trend by opening an elocution school to help all those actors who suddenly need to speak on screen but even in its earliest days, the crowded corridors of Tinseltown prove a tough nut to crack with any number of wannabe starlets, studio heads and screenwriters competing for the limelight. Continue reading “Review: Once In A Lifetime, Young Vic”

Review: The Painkiller, Gielgud

“We have a problem with this…”

Kenneth Branagh I’ve got an idea what we can put into the March slot for the season
Branagh Theatre employee Oh yes?
KB Me and Rob Brydon did The Painkiller in Belfast a couple of years ago, we can reprise that
BTe Ok. But isn’t that another play by a dead white man in a season already populated exclusively by dead white men?
KB *checks Google* Nope, Francis Veber is still alive. He’s nearly 80 but still alive.
BTe Riiight. But you know, diversity is kind of important. Does the show at least have a decent spread of roles
KB *proudly announces* There’s part for a woman AND a black guy in it.
BTe Ok. And you’re sure they’re not the two smallest parts, almost token gestures in the end?
KB *awkward silence*
Oh wait, there’s a gay man in it too
BTe Well that’s something
KB Yes. He’ll have audiences rolling in the aisles, reminding them of the good old days of John Inman
BTe *stunned silence*
KB So contemporary audiences will find lots in this you see, the idea that two men might be shagging is just intrinsically funny.
BTe I see Sean Foley has adapted it as well as being the director
KB Oh yes, it really is very modern, right up to date. It has a joke about Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen AND one about Chris De Burgh in it. You’ll be on the floor laughing with the rest of them.
BTe I’m sure. And as for the farce, are you good with comedy
KB I am a theatrical knight, I can do EVERYTHING!
BTe Well, at least we’ve got Rob Brydon, he can…well, he can do Rob Brydon
KB And everyone loves farce. Even Sondheim says so and someone who named his blog after a lyric from such a song should know that.
BTe Maybe he just likes good farce like Noises Off
KB And One Man, Two Guv’nors?
BTe I wouldn’t go there…
What about putting something on that isn’t by a dead or nearly dead white man?
KB Oh just find something written by a BAME woman that has been successful somewhere else and plug that in, maybe no-one will notice.

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 30th April

Review: Rules for Living, National Theatre

“Let the bedlam begin”

The final play to premiere in Nicholas Hytner’s final season in charge of the National Theatre is Sam Holcroft’s Rules for Living, directed by Marianne Elliott in the Dorfman. Was it a pointed decision to end his reign with a show both written and helmed by a woman, who knows? Either way, it’s always good to see this venue providing such high profile opportunities for the writers it nurtures. Holcroft’s short(ish) Edgar and Annabel played as part of the Double Feature season in 2011 and she was a writer-in-residence here at the NT in 2013, from whence this rather cracking new comedy has emerged. 

And boy is it funny, I don’t think I have laughed this thoroughly and consistently at a play in ages. As someone for whom farcical goings-on too often fall flat, I’m often left bemoaning the fact I’m sitting stony-faced in a sea of hilarity (cf. One Man Two Guvnors et al) but for once I was right with them. Holcroft’s set-up has an extended family coming together for Christmas lunch, an event for which Edith has been preparing since January. She’s looking forward to seeing both her sons, Matthew and Adam, and their partners, and they in turn are keen to see their father who has been in the wars recently.  Continue reading “Review: Rules for Living, National Theatre”

DVD Review: Pride and Prejudice (2005)

 

 “A Mrs Bennett, a Miss Bennett, a Miss Bennett and a Miss Bennett, sir.”

I deliberately chose to rewatch this version of Pride and Prejudice as Joe Wright’s film was the last I saw and I wanted to remind myself of it on its own merits, before returning to the iconic BBC television adaptation. Joe Wright seems to inspire a strength of feeling in some people which is almost akin to that which his frequent collaborator Keira Knightley is (IMHO) unfairly subjected and I don’t imagine his choice to take on Austen’s beloved story in an abridged film format and to cast Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett would have endeared him to anyone new. 

But Wright’s visual eye cannot be doubted as he has a clear gift for condensing and crystallising the key emotional moments of a story. He captures beautifully the informality of a public dance where the people actually talk, contrasted with the private moments of secrets and passions for all concerned; his customary flowing tracking shots are present and correct and there’s a hugely romantic feel. This really comes through in his composition of scenes – the first touch between the pair as Darcy lifts Elizabeth into her carriage is powerfully charged, the sense of emotional freedom that comes for the girls when they are allowed to dance is always convincing and there’s a clever reinterpretation of the wet shirt scene that tips the nod to the original but stands on its own two feet – Macfadyen wins my vote over Firth for those that are interested.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Pride and Prejudice (2005)”

2014 What’s On Stage Award nominations

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Helen Mirren – The Audience at the Gielgud 
Anne-Marie Duff – Strange Interlude at the NT Lyttelton 
Hayley Atwell – The Pride at Trafalgar Studios
Suranne Jones – Beautiful Thing at the Arts 
Tanya Moodie – Fences at the Duchess 

BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
Daniel Radcliffe – The Cripple of Inishmaan at the Noël Coward 
Ben Whishaw – Peter and Alice at the Noël Coward and Mojo at the Harold Pinter 
James McAvoy – Macbeth at Trafalgar Studios 
Lenny Henry – Fences at the Duchess 
Rory Kinnear – Othello at the NT Olivier  Continue reading “2014 What’s On Stage Award nominations”