DVD Review: uwantme2killhim (2013)

“Everyone is being followed”

A rather successful foray into the world of internet chatrooms, somewhat akin to Enda Walsh’s Chatroom, Mike Walsh’s uwantme2killhim invites descriptors such as darkly compelling and timely as it follows two teenagers sucked into a morass of online deception. Directed by Andrew Douglas, it takes a fairly traditional approach to representing digital communication – they speak as they type, which let’s face it, a lot of us do anyway – but the complications thrown up by their actions are thoroughly modern.

Based loosely on a true story, the film opens with Joanne Froggatt’s fervent Detective Inspector trying to work out why Mark has stabbed John, a schoolmate supposed to be his friend. We then loop back to the beginnings of Mark’s venturing into chatrooms and in particular with his friendship with Rachel, who turns out to John’s older sister. She’s in a witness protection program and has a violent boyfriend but Mark has fallen head over heels and will do anything for her. And ultimately he does do anything for her. Continue reading “DVD Review: uwantme2killhim (2013)”

DVD Review: Made In Dagenham

“All over the country, women are getting less because they’re women”

I thought this would make an appropriate film review for International Women’s Day, it being a celebration of the sewing machinists whose ground-breaking 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham plant laid the basis for the Equal Pay Act of 1970, enshrining the right of equal pay for equal work. Nigel Cole’s 2010 film, written by William Ivory around the real life events, has been turned into a musical which will be opening at the end of the year, Gemma Arterton taking the lead role under Rupert Goold’s direction, but she has a lot to live up against the glorious Sally Hawkins and what is a rather lovely film.

Made in Dagenham very much fits into the well-established working class Brit flick template – think The Full Monty, Brassed Off, Calendar Girls… – in that it is never particularly challenging, it revels in period cliché and can definitely be described as heart-warming. But also like those films, it does have a little grit at its base, realism (of sorts) is allowed to temper the optimism that drives this huge moment of social change, the individual struggles of these women co-existing with the collective battle to great effect and backed by a super cast, it is frequently moving. Continue reading “DVD Review: Made In Dagenham”

Review: The Revenger’s Tragedy, Hoxton Hall

“Plagues! Confusions! Darkness! Devils!”

Technical difficulties around health and safety meant that Suba Das’ production of The Revenger’s Tragedy had to be rapidly reconceived from its intended promenade aspect but little can excuse shining a bright light into the eyes of part of the audience for 15 minutes. Thomas Middleton’s Jacobean blood-fest now sits still in the Victorian music hall surroundings of Hoxton Hall, but seriously lacks the basic thread of storytelling that such a complex play requires.

Vindice is determined to wreak a terrible revenge on the duke who poisoned his beloved fiancée and doesn’t care who get sucked into his machinations, whether it is the corrupt extended family of the duke, or his own (slightly) more innocent relations. This is a barely comprehensible world of deep selfishness, punctuated with episodes of extreme violence and illicit lust, and so needs a strong directorial hand to try and impose if not sense, then at least an interpretation of great clarity and focused intent. Continue reading “Review: The Revenger’s Tragedy, Hoxton Hall”

Review: Sex with a Stranger, Trafalgar Studios 2

“What are you up to tonight?”

It is always nice when a play can change your mind about a theatre. The Trafalgar Studios 2 has never been one of my favourite venues, its awkward shape and uncomfortable seating have often proved a challenge for directors and so my experiences there have definitely been a mixed bag. But Sex with a Stranger, written by Stefan Golaszewski who also pens Him and Her (not that I watch it), has slotted in extremely well with a cracking cast to tell its story of everyday disillusionment with love, sex and life. Adam and Grace hook up in a club and wind their way back to hers for a one night stand via the kebab shop and we get to see their attempts at halting conversation and forming a fumbling connection which are awkwardly, hilariously portrayed. We then skip back in time a day or so to find that Adam has left a girlfriend Ruth at home, but their relationship is no bed of roses and the stranger of the title could sadly apply to either woman.

There’s no denying that this isn’t the most substantial of works, but interestingly enough where I would happily criticise say Ayckbourn for being insubstantial to my mind, the slightness here was much more tolerable because of the connection that I felt with the writing. So much of it feels relatable and recognisable and thus it rang entirely true with me, especially in its depiction of a failing relationship. It probably wasn’t an avocado that caused it, but I’ve had that passive-aggressive moment in the supermarket; that horrible pull between partner and friends who don’t necessarily get on; that nagging sense that neither of you are on the same page. Golaszewski captures all of this so well in its raw awkwardness and uncomfortableness, which is served excellently for once in the close intimacy of the Trafalgar Studios 2 in Phillip Breen’s production. Continue reading “Review: Sex with a Stranger, Trafalgar Studios 2”

2010 What’s On Stage Award nominations

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Rachel Weisz – A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Warehouse 
Alison Steadman – Enjoy at the Gielgud 
Fiona Shaw – Mother Courage & Her Children at the NT Olivier
Helen Mirren – Phedre at the NT Lyttelton 
Juliet Stevenson – Duet for One at the Almeida & Vaudeville
Lesley Sharp – The Rise & Fall of Little Voice at the Vaudeville 

THE CAPITAL BREAKS BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
Jude Law – Hamlet, Donmar West End at Wyndham’s 
David Harewood – The Mountaintop at Theatre 503 & Trafalgar Studios 1 
Dominic West – Life Is a Dream at the Donmar Warehouse 
Ken Stott – A View from the Bridge at the Duke of York’s 
Mark Rylance – Jerusalem at the Royal Court Downstairs
Samuel West – Enron at the Royal Court Downstairs  Continue reading “2010 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Review: The Fastest Clock in the Universe, Hampstead

“Fuck the milk of human kindness…welcome to the abattoir”

It’s a wonder anyone still lives in East London given the treatment it gets in our cultural life, and Philip Ridley’s play The Fastest Clock in the Universe is no exception to characterising it as a place of danger, despair and delusion. The play was very well received on its 1992 debut, where it starred a little known actor called Jude Law…, and Ridley’s writing is very much his own unique style, combining a raw sense of the ugliness of the world with a fantastical, almost child-like playfulness that makes for a disarming combination. This was also a first trip (I think) to the Hampstead Theatre for me, incidentally also the venue where the show premiered.

Here, the 30 year old Cougar Glass is preparing for his birthday party with older flatmate Captain Tock in the same way he’s done for years – everyone pretends it is his 19th birthday, Tock provides cards and presents from imaginary friends and Cougar procures his own favourite gift in the shape of a nubile teenage boy. But this year, the target he has groomed, Foxtrot Darling, has brought along his rather pregnant girlfriend, Sherbet Gravel, (one assumes these names are picked by some kind of random generator…) and so the party doesn’t anywhere near as smoothly as planned. Continue reading “Review: The Fastest Clock in the Universe, Hampstead”