News: Tristram Kenton’s stage archive – the Hollywood edition

Perhaps inevitably, famous names getting more clicks than bona fide theatrical talent remains as true as ever as Tristram Kenton’s before-they-were-famous photo montage and its sequel are now followed up by a full-out Hollywood edition. Interesting to see the people who’ve trodden the boards over the years but for me, this is a less interesting selection of productions than we’ve previously seen, not much FOMO envy here at all:
https://www.theguardian.com/stage/gallery/2020/nov/18/nicole-kidman-orlando-bloom-hollywood-stars-west-end-stage-in-pictures

Photos: Tristram Kenton

Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand

Simon Annand’s Time To Act is a beautiful book of photos capturing actors in the minutes before they go on stage

Tackling the constraints of the pandemic in its own way, Simon Annand’s fantastic new book of photos Time To Act has launched a virtual exhibition of some of the photographs which has now been extended to until Christmas. It’s an ingenious way of sharing some of the hundreds of images from the book and should surely whet the appetite for either just buying it now or putting on your list for Santa to collect soon.

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Barely-a-Review: You Can’t Take It With You, Longacre Theatre

“I know they do rather strange things. But they’re gay and they’re fun and I don’t know there’s a kind of nobility about them”

I had a perfectly good time at George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s You Can’t Take It With You – surprisingly so, given its old-fashioned comedic nature and the presence of the destroyer of Shakespeare James Earl Jones. Well why did I book, you might well ask. For Rose Byrne I would tell you (the first series of Damages is one of my utmost favourite pieces of television ever) and she was indeed great. Annoyingly though, I was quite under the weather that evening (apologies to anyone who the in the vicinity of my stifled spluttering – yes, I was that guy) but when on Broadway – for the first time too – what do you do? It’s not as if you can reschedule… And there’s nothing worse than being stuck in an audience of people laughing their heads off when you’re not quite feeling the same. It’s not to say I thought this was a bad show, it just wasn’t really my cup of tea.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 22nd February

TV Review: Muse of Fire

We found Shakespeare tough at school” 

What a brilliant little film – tucked away on BBC4 but fortunately on the iPlayer for another few days yet, Muse of Fire: A Shakespearean Road Movie is a one hour documentary by actors Giles Terera and Dan Poole exploring the Bard’s reputation for being difficult to understand. This they do by speaking to an astonishing array of people including “ten Oscar nominees, five Oscar winners, one dame, seven knights” along with some of our greatest actors – it’s one of the most impressive roll-calls you’ll see all year (at least until the NT’s 50th bash next week…) – and some regular people too, from estate agents Cambridge to baffled students. 

This extraordinary depth of collaboration is at once the strength and the weakness of the film. We get such a wide range of insights from luminaries such as Ian McKellen, Fiona Shaw, Michael Gambon, Judi Dench and Derek Jacobi but there’s only time for snippets, the glorious Frances Barber is seen briefly at the beginning never to reappear and the list of credits at the end show all sorts who haven’t made the final cut. There’s so much fascinating stuff that must have been left on the cutting room floor that one can’t help but be a little frustrated – can we get a director’s cut?!  Continue reading “TV Review: Muse of Fire”

Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Old Vic

“He hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age”

There was certainly a raised eyebrow or 3 when it was announced that the leads in Mark Rylance’s take on Much Ado About Nothing for the Old Vic would be Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones. Neither have previously taken on the roles of the warring Beatrice and Benedick and having worked together recently on Driving Miss Daisy (which others liked even if I didn’t), their’s is a pairing with history. But undoubted quality aside, it is a brave move to cast so daringly and with a production that relocates Shakespeare’s play to England in 1944. 

Does it work? Making the Aragonese soldiers into a company of GIs has a visual impact that works well and turning Sigh No More into a bluesy harmonica-driven ditty is inspired. But putting Shakespeare’s language into the mouths of American soldiers doesn’t always work “my Lord…” and without wanting to open too far the can of worms that is the subject of race, I’m not so sure the lack of comment on a 1940s inter-racial marriage, never mind the issues of honour flung about later, really flies. Messina as the home front is neat though, making the Watch a Dad’s Army-style collection of ragbags and kids (including one called Beryl, maybe?). 

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66th Tony Award nominations

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play 
James Corden – One Man, Two Guvnors as Francis Henshall
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Death of a Salesman as Willy Loman
James Earl Jones – The Best Man as Art Hockstader
Frank Langella – Man and Boy as Gregor Antonescu
John Lithgow – The Columnist as Joseph Alsop

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Nina Arianda – Venus in Fur as Vanda
Tracie Bennett – End of the Rainbow as Judy Garland
Stockard Channing – Other Desert Cities as Polly Wyeth
Linda Lavin – The Lyons as Rita Lyons
Cynthia Nixon – Wit as Vivian Bearing

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical 
Danny Burstein – Follies as Buddy Plummer
Jeremy Jordan – Newsies as Jack Kelly
Steve Kazee – Once as Guy
Norm Lewis – Porgy and Bess as Porgy
Ron Raines – Follies as Ben Stone Continue reading “66th Tony Award nominations”

Review: Driving Miss Daisy, Wyndhams

“I think we’re gonna have to have a little talk…”

Once again, I found myself coerced, coerced I tell you, into seeing something I knew I pretty much wouldn’t like, yet unable to resist the allure of accompanying someone who was much more enthusiastic about seeing the play in question. This time, it was Driving Miss Daisy – sold very much as a dual star vehicle for James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave (with Boyd Gaines making up the cast) though Redgrave’s multiple absences throughout the run have ruffled more than a few feathers. One often says that you shouldn’t book for the stars but for the play, but in this case I can understand the frustrations of those who ended up with understudies, even after being told Ms Redgrave would be on when they bought their tickets just an hour before curtain up.

Anyway, I had scratched my itch with both of these actors, having taken in Redgrave in The Year of Magical Thinking and Jones in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (in which the audience reaction to him drove me buts) so there was no novelty value in seeing them onstage and the play itself held no attraction (I’ve never seen the film) so it hadn’t been a hard decision to steer clear of this. But being the benevolent soul I am, I filled in on plus one duties and tried to keep an open mind to allow myself the possibility of enjoying this. Continue reading “Review: Driving Miss Daisy, Wyndhams”