DVD Review: Wild Target

“I’m Victor Maynard, I’m 54 years old and I work as a professional killer”

Wild Target was a 2010 Brit-flick, adapted by Lucinda Coxon from the French film Cible Émouvante and directed by Jonathan Lynn, that made little real impact despite a rather fabulous cast. Bill Nighy plays Victor Maynard, a middle-aged man who has followed in the footsteps of his father as an assassin, but has no personal or social life to speak of, just regular visits to his mother, Eileen Atkins in fierce form. But when a job goes wrong, he finds himself trying to defend the very person he’s meant to kill, Emily Blunt’s con-artist Rose with the help of a young would-be apprentice in the shape of Rupert Grint’s Tony. 

It’s mainly frothy silliness. Amusing in parts as the threesome try to avoid being killed by the hapless assassins dispatched to finish off the original contract and round up the loose ends, including Martin Freeman with some lovely dental work…, the bond that grows between them is strongest when it is most ambiguous. There’s hints that the hitherto asexual Maynard may be a closet case, though meeting George Rainsford as a waiter in a gay café (that I would so frequent) sadly leads to nothing; Rose and Tony both come unencumbered by any attachments and so it seems it is anyone’s game. Continue reading “DVD Review: Wild Target”

Review: Love Love Love, Royal Court

“We never intended to be in this domestic situation”

Though it matters to few people, I’m never quite sure when to label something a re-review or not when I’ve previously seen the show albeit in a different incarnation. I first saw Mike Bartlett’s Love Love Love in November 2010 when Paines Plough took it on a small UK tour and I made the trip to Manchester to take in my first experience of the studio space at the Royal Exchange to be blown away by the show, which came 4th out of 270-odd plays for me that year. It toured again last year, though I was so fond of the original cast that I decided not to see it again and even when the Royal Court announced that it would play in the main house, I resisted for the longest time until I was offered a ticket for the final performance by a friend who offered me gin.

My original review can be read here and I’m not going to rehash what’s in there as the play remained substantially the same (plus the run has now finished), so I will confine myself to just a few remarks (for once) about the differences in productions, which have also come from conversations with others. The most significant change was in the casting of the two leads Kenneth and Sandra: I saw John Heffernan and Daniela Denby-Ashe who were probably closest in age to the first act and so the progression of their ageing across the three acts felt most natural. Here, Ben Miles and Victoria Hamilton are most at home in the middle act, which means they had to act down quite considerably in the first act which I found to be really rather distracting. The flipside to that of course was a greater authority later on, especially from the superlative Hamilton. Continue reading “Review: Love Love Love, Royal Court”

The 2009 Ian Charleson Awards

First prize

Ruth Negga, for Aricia in Phèdre (National Theatre)[35]

Second prize

Max Bennett, for Claudio in Measure for Measure (Theatre Royal, Plymouth) and Frank in Mrs Warren’s Profession (Theatre Royal, Bath)

Third prize

Natalie Dew, for Celia in As You Like It (Curve Theatre)

Special commendations as previous winners

Mariah Gale, for Celia in As You Like It (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Rebecca Hall, for Hermione in The Winter’s Tale (Bridge Project at the Old Vic)

Commendations

Hedydd Dylan, for Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion (Clwyd Theatr Cymru)
Tracy Ifeachor, for Rosalind in As You Like It (Curve Theatre)
Max Irons, for Max Piccolomini in Wallenstein (Chichester Festival Theatre)
Tunji Kasim, for Lucius and Romulus in Julius Caesar (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Vanessa Kirby, for Regina in Ghosts (Octagon Theatre, Bolton)
Keira Knightley, for Jennifer in The Misanthrope (Comedy Theatre)
Jack Laskey, for Orlando in As You Like It (Shakespeare’s Globe)
Harry Lloyd, for Oswald in Ghosts (Arcola Theatre)
John MacMillan, for Malcolm in Macbeth (Royal Exchange Theatre), and Rosencrantz in Hamlet(Wyndhams Theatre)
David Ononokpono, for Orlando in As You Like It (Curve Theatre)
Henry Pettigrew, for Marcellus and Second Gravedigger in Hamlet (Wyndhams Theatre)
Prasanna Puwanarajah, for Messenger in Thyestes (Arcola Theatre)
George Rainsford, for Bertram in All’s Well That Ends Well (National Theatre)
Sam Swainsbury, for Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Salerio in The Merchant of Venice (Propeller)
Ellie Turner, for Agnes in The School for Wives (Upstairs at the Gatehouse)

Review: The Man, Finborough

“I can’t do anything now…without Mum going ‘ooh you and your London ways’”

Isn’t it great when sometimes you have your low expectations just thoroughly confounded. Having booked my ticket to see The Man at the Finborough Theatre for this particular date to ensure I could see the reading of Mike Bartlett’s new play Bull later on the same evening, I was quite disappointed when the cast was announced, the lead role being shared by four actors including Samuel Barnett but on my night, we were being landed with the playwright James Graham instead. So off I trotted to Earls Court fully prepared with grumpy indignation, but I am pleased to say that I think we just might have witnessed something very special indeed.

As you enter the small auditorium, you are handed a receipt and told to keep hold of it as it will form part of the story. The set is simply dressed with piles of receipts, magazines, an iPod and speakers as the focus is on the receipts we have in our hand. Ben arrives on the pretext of trying and failing to complete his tax self-assessment form and begins to go through the pieces of paper one by one, taking them from us and deciding whether they are claimable expenses or not, telling the stories that lie behind them whilst doing so. It means that each night, the whole story will be told in a different way in a different order, providing a “uniquely interactive experience” which for once is exactly what it says. Continue reading “Review: The Man, Finborough”

Leading Man of the Year 2009

Perhaps in one fell swoop, I am undoing all the work I have done this year to try and mould myself into a semi-serious theatre critic, but darn it, it is Christmas and I am shallow, so I proudly present to you, my top ten hottest guys I’ve seen on stage this year! And I know, there’s no consistency about whether it’s the actor or the character who I found attractive, but it’s hot guys, who cares!

NB: I did actually book my tickets to see The Priory before the casting was announced, it was purely fortuitous that all 3 main guys happened to end up on this list, true story!

Review: All’s Well That Ends Well, National

All’s Well That Ends Well is one of Shakespeare’s so-called ‘problem plays’, not easily classified as a comedy or a tragedy, but this production a part of the Travelex season at the National Theatre, posed no problems for me. This is a confidently-acted, stunningly-mounted, assured production which really confirms to me that the NT have hit the ground running with this season of plays.

The programme describes the play as ‘Shakespeare Noir’ which is quite an apt description for it. The comedy, and there is lots of it, is often underscored by the darker turns of the plot, and there is little frivolity of the ‘hey nonny no’ type, which can sometimes seem quite glib. The play opens with a girl of little consequence save the knowledge passed down from her physician father, arriving at the court of the King of France and healing him of his ailment. Her reward is to marry the man of her choice, but her chosen nobleman, Bertram, objects to such a lowly match and sets Helena a seemingly impossible challenge to win his heart and subsequently heads off to war in Italy, but Helena is hot on his heels in order to try and fulfil the deal. Continue reading “Review: All’s Well That Ends Well, National”