Film review: The Witches (2020)

Robert Zemeckis takes on Roald Dahl’s The Witches for a new spin but loses his purpose pretty quickly. And Anne Hathaway is no Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch

“That’s how you wanna play, we’ll play”

I swear I went into watching this ‘reimagining’ of The Witches with as open a mind as I could muster but the truth, Nicolas Roeg’s iconic 1990 film looms incredibly large in the mind as I first saw it then as an impressionable 11 year old. The fabulousness of Anjelica Huston’s performance, and Jane Horrocks’ menacing work too, etched themselves on my mind, leaving Robert Zemeckis with lots to do here.

And I’m not sure he really does it. His screenplay, written with Guillermo Del Toro and Kenya Barris, shifts the action to Alabama in the late 1960s but does little with that, aside from casting the excellent Octavia Spencer as Grandma alongside Jahzir Bruno’s Charlie. And in simply retreading familiar ground, there’s little that really gives any sort of compelling reason for this new adaptation to exist. Continue reading “Film review: The Witches (2020)”

Review: The Taming of the Shrew, Above the Arts

“Why, there be good women in the world”

At the heart of Custom/Practice’s Verve festival – exploring shifting relations between minority groups and the theatre – is this gender-flipped production of The Taming of the Shrew. Indubitably one of the more challenging of Shakespeare’s plays, contemporary companies thus have to work a little harder to make it ‘work’ for them – Propeller played up the Christopher Sly framing device to confront notions of masculinity and power to great effect but here, director Rae Mcken excises it to plunge us straight into a world where women are ruling the roost.

For pretty much every character save Grumio is being played by someone of the opposite sex as someone of the opposite sex but further blurring the boundaries, costumes suggest the original gender. So Martina Laird’s Petruchio arrives looking for a husband by striding onto the stage somewhere between matador and pirate in resplendent gold satin and Tim Bowie’s Bianca bristles under his mother’s edicts whilst wearing make-up, heels and a corset over his tapered joggers. It’s an inventive and challenging take that forces constant questioning about gender roles and society’s role in enforcing them. Continue reading “Review: The Taming of the Shrew, Above the Arts”