Film Review: Animals (2019)

Holliday Grainger excels in Laura Jane Unsworth’s ferociously compelling Animals

“What do you do when you’re not standing around in bars being enigmatic?”

Based on Emma Jane Unsworth’s novel of the same name, Animals is a pretty darn special film from Sophie Hyde, perhaps a little unassuming at first glance but soon revealing itself as richly layered with something special in every frame, especially when Holliday Grainger – delivering a career-best performance – is in shot.

The film hooks on the friendship between Laura and Tyler, BFFs who have literally painted the town (Dublin) red throughout their twenties, and how their relationship alters once Laura meets handsome pianist Jim and priorities start to shift. All the messiness of friendship is here in a brilliantly complex portrayal of the difficulties that come with having to grow up. Continue reading “Film Review: Animals (2019)”

Film Review: Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Moralising, heteronormative rubbish. Bohemian Rhapsody really serves its nominal subject very poorly indeed.

“No-one knows what Queen means because it doesn’t mean one thing”

Most everything you need to know about Bohemian Rhapsody is contained within the fact that Brian May and Roger Taylor were engaged as consultants on the film, intimately connected enough to be able to steer the direction of the movie in the way that they wanted. And so any hope of an independently-minded biography of queer icon Freddie Mercury disappeared behind a PG-friendly hagiography of Queen.

In some ways, it doesn’t matter. The film scored huge commercial, if not critical, success, snagging 4 Academy Awards along the way, but it still doesn’t make it right. How are you going to put your name to a film that is filled with inaccuracies? Because those inaccuracies put yourself in a better light, allowing you to show that you were tolerant of Mercury’s sexual proclivities and later AIDS diagnosis but that you were a finger-wagging Cassandra at his pursuit of a life outwith the heteronormative. Continue reading “Film Review: Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)”

Review: Don Quixote in Algiers, White Bear

“Don’t blame the bridle for what the donkey did”

They say you should live before you start to write and there’s no doubt that Miguel de Cervantes did exactly that. His legacy as one of, if not the greatest writer in the Spanish language was secured by his novel Don Quixote but in the years before it was published, de Cervantes was, among other things, a tax collector, a purchasing agent for the Spanish Armada, a resident of Seville jail, and a soldier who was captured by Barbary pirates and held captive for five years between 1585 and 1580.

And it is that period of captivity in the Ottoman-ruled city of Algiers that playwright Dermot Murphy has chosen to set his play Don Quixote in Algiers, imagining what life might have been like and how his experience shaped crucial aspects of his creative thinking. It’s a bold concept and a formally adventurous play, but also one that proves difficult to crack as its fragmented narrative is more impenetrable than playful and the weight of its detailed research rarely allows the piece to fly. Continue reading “Review: Don Quixote in Algiers, White Bear”

Review: Lay Me Down Softly, Tricycle

Set in a travelling roadshow that has put down somewhere deep in rural Ireland in the 60s, Lay Me Down Softly is a Billy Roche play, directed by the playwright too, that in currently playing at the Tricycle Theatre. The main attraction is the boxing ring around which the community of travellers sleepily coalesce, headed by roadshow owner Theo, but when Theo’s long-lost daughter and a professional boxer with something to prove both turn up, the scene is set for major upheaval.

Roche’s play is very good at evoking the familial atmosphere of this closely-knit group and passages of reminiscences are well written, delivered by a most engaging cast. But having created this world, populated it so effectively and then provided the catalyst for drama with the new arrivals, the play doesn’t progress in this way, instead staying at the same lugubrious pace pretty much throughout until its violent finale. Continue reading “Review: Lay Me Down Softly, Tricycle”

Review: The Condor and the Maiden, King’s Head

“Everyone knows the land belong to him, but I do all the work”

The Condor and the Maiden is a new play by Dermot Murphy which is playing in the afternoons at the King’s Head Theatre at 1pm. Produced by Tricolore, a company dedicated to the promotion of international culture, literature and language, it is a short quirky piece which proved to be a pleasant way to spend an hour in Islington.

Set in a village in Southern Bolivia, Lucía is living below the poverty line with her daughter Clarisa and struggling daily to make ends meet. When duty to her absent husband’s family and a land dispute threatens to leave them homeless and indeed their very existence, she is forced to dig deep in order to defend her and her daughter’s futures. Continue reading “Review: The Condor and the Maiden, King’s Head”