Film Review: The Levelling (2016)

Hope Dickson Leach’s The Levelling is a haunting film debut, and a grim one too

“There’s nothing for you here anymore”

Eee, it’s grim to be a farmer in the UK right now, if we’re to believe what we see in the cinema. At least in Yorkshire, there’s the chance of some hot gay sex but in Somerset, things look decidedly worse with not even that relief as an option.

Writer/director Hope Dickson Leach finds something more desperate in the unforgiving land of the Somerset levels, as she explores the fracturing of a family farm in the aftermath of the death of the son and heir. Trainee vet Clover returns for the funeral of her brother but is shocked at what she discovers.

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Cast of Mike Bartlett’s new TV show Press announced

An ensemble cast of some of Britain’s hottest talent will portray the determined and passionate characters behind the daily news at two fictional, competing newspapers in Mike Bartlett’s (Doctor Foster, King Charles III) drama series, Press, on BBC One.
Charlotte Riley (King Charles III, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) will play the News Editor of fictional broadsheet, The Herald and Ben Chaplin (Apple Tree Yard, The Thin Red Line) will play the Editor of fictional tabloid newspaper, The Post, while Priyanga Burford (London Spy, King Charles III) will play The Herald’s Editor. Paapa Essiedu (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, RSC’s Hamlet) will play The Post’s newest reporter and Shane Zaza (Happy Valley, The Da Vinci Code) its News Editor; while Ellie Kendrick (Game Of Thrones, The Diary Of Anne Frank) will be a junior reporter; Al Weaver (Grantchester, The Hollow Crown) an investigative journalist and Brendan Cowell (Young Vic’s Yerma, Game Of Thrones) the Deputy Editor at The Herald.
They will be joined by David Suchet (Poirot) who will play the Chairman & CEO of Worldwide News, owner of The Post.
Press will be directed by Tom Vaughan (Victoria, Doctor Foster) and produced by Paul Gilbert (Humans).
Set in the fast-paced and challenging environment of the British newspaper industry, Press immerse viewers in the personal lives and the constant professional dilemmas facing its characters. The series follow their lives as they attempt to balance work and play, ambition and integrity, amid the never-ending pressure of the 24-hour global news cycle and an industry in turmoil.
Press is a Lookout Point, BBC Studios, Deep Indigo production, co-produced with Masterpiece, for BBC One. Executive Producers are Faith Penhale and Mike Bartlett for Lookout Point, Bethan Jones for BBC Studios, Nigel Stafford-Clark for Deep Indigo, Mona Qureshi for BBC One and Rebecca Eaton for Masterpiece. International Distribution will be handled by BBC Worldwide.
Press begins filming in London in October and will broadcast on BBC One in 2018.

Review: Gloria, Hampstead

“She’s like an emotional terrorist”

Truth be told I hadn’t intended to see Gloria, my own little act of protest at the Hampstead’s continuing gender imbalance – six shows straight on their main stage both written and directed by men. But the delights of An Octoroon introduced me to the writing of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and he definitely feels like a playwright with a lot to say so I sucked it up and went to Swiss Cottage for a cheeky preview, ironically the location for the Women Centre Stage festival late last year.

Gloria sets out as a dark office comedy, shady and sharp as it navigates the ruthless ambition of a pool of young(ish) editorial assistants in the Manhattan offices of a national magazine. It’s a scathing satire of the journalism industry and the way it has evolved, or not as the case may be – time was that a foot on the bottom of the ladder meant you could reasonably expect to get to the top but times change, cubicle warfare has intensified, and in this uncertain modern world, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. Continue reading “Review: Gloria, Hampstead”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

Hollywood and Broadway icon Stockard Channing will return to the London stage this summer, to star in a new production of Olivier Award winner Alexi Kaye Campbell’s acclaimed drama Apologia, directed by the multi-award winning Jamie Lloyd.

Opening at the Trafalgar Studios on 29th July, Apologia will see the Tony and Emmy Award winning actor performing in the West End for the first time in over a decade. Channing’s hugely popular film and TV credits include starring roles in The West Wing, The Good Wife, her Oscar® and Golden Globe nominated role in Six Degrees of Separation, and the iconic role of Rizzo in the film Grease. An acclaimed Broadway and West End star, Channing’s most recent performances on Broadway, It’s Only a Play and Other Desert Cities (a “peerless” performance -NY Times, for which she was nominated for her seventh Tony Award), have affirmed her position as a true theatrical legend.

Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play is a compelling drama about the importance of family and the pressures commitment and principles exert on it. Apologia follows his critical success with The Pride and his acclaimed plays Sunset at The Villa Thalia at the National Theatre and The Faith Machine at the Royal Court Theatre.

Stockard Channing plays Kristin Miller, a firebrand liberal matriarch of a dynamic family, who is presiding over her birthday celebrations. An eminent art historian, Kristin’s almost evangelical dedication to her career and her political activism has resulted in her sons – Peter, a merchant banker, and Simon, a writer – harbouring deeply rooted and barely suppressed resentments towards her. The fissures in her relationship with them are brought to the fore by the recent publication of her memoir.

Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”

Not-a-review: Four Weddings in a Funeral reading, Hampstead

“Fuck-a-doodle-doo”
 
It is slightly terrifying to think that it is 23 years since Four Weddings and a Funeral was released – the world will insist on reminding me I’m getting older… And though I don’t think I’ve actually seen it in about 20 years, the prospect of a reading of the film as part of the Hampstead Theatre Festival had quite the allure. Mainly because of John Heffernan and Jemima Rooper in the cast if we’re being honest, and they were worth it, but I’m low on time so I’m leaving it at that.

 

 

The Complete Walk, from the comfort of your sofa #4

“Come now, what masques”

With 37 films to work through and no need to do them all in one weekend as the Complete Walk was originally designed, I’m rather enjoying working my merry way through them at my own pace. First, second and third sets of film can be found here. 

Given how many Dreams I’ve seen this year, it’s a little surprising that A Midsummer Night’s Dream can still surprise me but such is the enduring beauty of the play. Nikki Amuka-Bird and David Caves take on Hippolyta and Theseus in the stately surrounding of Wilton House in the English countryside in Wiltshire, done with a romance here by Rebecca Gatward that is rarely seen these days. The flip to the brilliantly feisty pairing of John Light and Michelle Terry’s Oberon and Titania (from the 2013 Globe version which ranks as myall-time favourite) is vibrant, but it’s gorgeous to go back to the further developing of an unexpected tenderness between two characters who rarely receive it. A snippet of Pearce Quigley‘s Bottom is a bonus but it is Caves and Amuka-Bird who are the bees knees here.

Going to the ruins of Juliet’s Tomb itself (‘twas a room in a monastery) in Verona, and constantly switching with a second location (perhaps said room in a modern setting), Dromgoole’s Romeo and Juliet becomes extraordinarily powerful. Jessie Buckley’s final speech is just heartbreaking, really quite hauntingly affecting. Luke Thompson’s Romeo doesn’t quite hit the same heights but it’s still a beautiful encapsulation of the play.

Re-uniting father and daughter Jonathan and Phoebe Pryce from Jonathan Munby’s achingly moving production at the Globe in 2015, this rendering of The Merchant of Venice has the special opportunity of carrying its main actor from the staged to the filmed version, also by Munby. The swaggering demands of Dominic Mafham’s Antonio give way to the quiet confrontation between Shylock and a soon-to-depart Jessica, given real piquancy by being filmed in The Jewish Ghetto in Venice. Munby then goes for the greatest hits of the play, fitting in the ‘Hath not a Jew eyes’ and then Portia’s ‘quality of mercy’, but it is the subtle interplay between father and daughter in the Venetian half-light that sticks in the mind.

Review: Cyrano de Bergerac, Southwark Playhouse

“Perhaps he’ll find the words to tell me of his love”

Just a quickie for this as due to an earlier cancelled performance, the only show I could fit into the schedule was this penultimate one. An all-female production of anything is enough to pique the interest, never mind something starring the extraordinary Kathryn Hunter, and this had the added benefit of being a story I’d never actually seen before – Cyrano De Bergerac. That said, the best single-sex productions are the ones that derive something unique from playing it that way and that was singularly lacking here. 

Adapted by Glyn Maxwell from Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play, Russell Bolam’s directorial conceit is to have the tale told by nuns (who play a role later on) to a novice of their order. But Bolam makes no other concession and shows no real willingness to delve with any depth into the notions of gender, love, identity, masculinity etc that seem ripe for the picking. And without the star wattage of Hunter’s striking performance, the whole show would likely collapse like a house of cards. The consequence is thus a fatally unbalanced piece of work and worse, a squandered opportunity. 

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 19th March

DVD Review: An Education

“Silly schoolgirls are always getting seduced by glamorous older men, but what about you two?”

Lone Scherfig’s film An Education was one of my top films back in 2009 and rightly saw Carey Mulligan nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars. Watching it again reminded me of how good it is, a great showcase for British film and one of my favourite depictions of 1960s Britain I think I’ve ever seen. Nick Hornby’s screenplay is based on Lynn Barber’s memoirs of her schoolgirl years, spent mainly pleasing her father’s desire for her to be an excellent student and get into Oxford. That is, until handsome stranger David offers her a lift one day. That he’s twice her age is no matter, the world of sophistication he inhabits seduces her entirely from her humdrum Twickenham existence and changes her life completely.

Mulligan is brilliantly cast as the 16 going on 17 Jenny Mellor, the combination of her youthful looks and soulful eyes captures much of the teenage precocity that leads her to think she’s more mature than she is, especially in the face of such rowdy schoolgirl friends like Ellie Kendrick’s Tina and as she rushes headlong into this adult world of jazz clubs, stolen nights in hotels and weekends away in Paris, she brilliantly shows how her self-assuredness is slowly stripped away as she comes to see what she has sacrificed in order to follow her heart. Olivia Williams’ brilliant Miss Stubbs is the perfect counterpoint, a spinster teacher who encourages Jenny’s academic dreams yet perversely epitomises the height of ambition for an educated woman. Continue reading “DVD Review: An Education”

The 2014 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations

Best Actor
Rob Edwards, in Duet For One and Separation, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton
Michael Hugo, in Around The World In 80 Days, at the Royal Exchange
Harry McEntire, in Billy Liar, at the Royal Exchange
Dan Parr, in Britannia Waves The Rules, at the Royal Exchange
Michael Shelford, in Early One Morning, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Best Actress
Clare Foster, in Duet For One and Separation, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton
Natalie Grady, in Hobson’s Choice, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton
Suranne Jones, in Orlando, at the Royal Exchange
Maxine Peake, in Hamlet, at the Royal Exchange
Lauren Samuels, in Love Story, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton Continue reading “The 2014 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations”