Review: The Distance, Orange Tree

“You’ve more chance of survival if you stay put”

Paul Miller’s subtle reinvention of the Orange Tree continues apace with Deborah Bruce’s The Distance, an exploration of a more complex side to parenting and friendship that is challenged when one of their group suddenly returns from Australia. Bea emigrated there to get married and have two beautiful kids but she’s turned up on best friend Kate’s Sussex doorstep alone and with their other good friend Alex also there to lend support, they to sort out Bea’s life for her, little suspecting what it is that Bea has actually done. Truth be told, I wasn’t the hugest fan of Bruce’s first play Godchild which premiered downstairs at Hampstead last year but the chance to see Helen Baxendale return to the stage tempted me over to Richmond.

There’s much to appreciate in the amusing and frank way Bruce depicts how parenthood, and different experiences thereof, affects the tight bonds of friendship. The ease with which Baxendale’s Bea, Clare Lawrence-Moody’s Kate and Emma Beattie’s Alex interact with each other is brilliantly portrayed as they bicker and banter and nurture and natter – their lives don’t stop because of Bea’s dilemma, it just has to fit into the tumble of jigsaw pieces that makes up the hustle and bustle of everyday living and so gets added to the ever-growing list of things that need to get sorted. The inclusion of the London riots is a canny move here, not as a focal point for the play but just a backdrop of a world still spinning. Continue reading “Review: The Distance, Orange Tree”

TV Review: The Secrets 3 – The Visitor

“…something inside of me, it’s just been missing”

Ben Ockrent’s contribution to The Secrets is the rather tender The Visitor, the third in the series, where Dean’s life in his adoptive home is rocked when a young woman tracks him down and claims to be his sister. The cosy domesticity of his middle-class existence is thus challenged by the revelations that spill from her mouth but is her desperation rooted in complete honesty or something more calculating.

Ockrent explores the tension at the heart of Dean’s life beautifully, torn between the present and the past, questioning the strength of blood ties, and layering in the aspects of class and race that figure into the equation. Paige Meade’s Cassie is a Southend girl through and through and her rough edges clearly ruffle the liberal well-to-do consciences of Helen Baxendale and Anthony Flanagan’s parents Julie and Nigel. Continue reading “TV Review: The Secrets 3 – The Visitor”

DVD Review: Anonymous

“Let me offer you a different story”

Any film that contains someone being dragged to the theatre saying “there won’t be puppets will there?” is bound to be a winner with me. And if that film has also courted controversy then my interest is bound to be piqued. But the publicity campaign against Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous was so vociferous that it disappeared from cinemas before I got the chance to see it and so I had to wait for it to emerge on DVD. Why so controversial? Emmerich’s (better known for loud blockbusters like Independence Day, Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow) film is based on the premise that the 17th Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere was in fact the true author of the works normally attributed to Shakespeare. Thus a great outcry was launched, by the people and scholars for whom this is the biggest deal, and the film largely scuppered.

Which ultimately is a shame, as I found it to be rather an enjoyable film and somewhat perversely, the authorship question is just one of many strands of story in what turns out to be a historical political thriller, mainly based around the succession to the throne as Elizabeth I’s reign has produced no (legitimate) heirs. That one of the key players in her court just happens to be a playwright on the sly, who is forced to use a surrogate by the name of William to get his plays staged, is taken as a given here and it makes for an entertaining ‘what if’ scenario. Continue reading “DVD Review: Anonymous”