Sam Mendes’ 1917 is undoubtedly an technically excellent film but the focus on format ends up detracting from the depth of the storytelling
“You’ll be wanking again in no time!
There’s no doubting the technical audacity of Sam Mendes’ 1917. With its ostensibly one-shot, real-time structure (with necessary caveats that it is neither), it is a bravura piece of film-making that elevates this movie from just your average Oscar-baity war flick (cf Dunkirk).
It is clearly a labour of love for Mendes, who directed, co-wrote (with Krysty Wilson-Cairns) and produced 1917, and whose grandfather’s own war experiences inspired the film. And its driving force, following 2 British soldiers tasked with delivering a vital message beyond enemy lines. Continue reading “Film Review: 1917 (2019)”
So much goodness! The National Theatre have just announced details of productions stretching deep into 2020, and with writers like Lucy Kirkwood, Kate Tempest, Roy Williams and Tony Kushner, and actors like Lesley Manville, Maxine Peake, Conleth Hill, Cecilia Noble and Lesley Sharp, it is hard not to feel excited about what’s ahead.
Following a sell-out run at Rose Theatre Kingston, the acclaimed two-part adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s MY BRILLIANT FRIEND by April De Angelis is reworked for the Olivier stage by Melly Still (Coram Boy). When the most important person in her life goes missing without a trace, Lenu Greco, now a celebrated author, begins to recall a relationship of more than 60 years. Continue reading “News: the National Theatre announces 15 new productions for 2019 and 2020”
“The thing that I’m scared of is that everything will break”
Elena Ferrante’s quartet of Neapolitan Novels have been a literary sensation since its first part, My Brilliant Friend, was published in 2012. A forthcoming Italian television adaptation will take 32 50-minute instalments to cover the story of the friendship between two Neapolitan women but April De Angelis has condensed the four into a single play, presented in two parts which can be viewed as a double bill or on separate evenings if 5 hours of theatre in a day seems like too much of a challenge. Read my review for This Is My Town here, find production photos for both parts here and get more info on the show here.
Running time: each part is 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 2nd April
“I would his troubles were expired”
The Hollow Crown rises again. Four years on from the first suite of striking televisual adaptations of Shakespeare’s history plays, the BBC continue their Shakespeare Lives season by completing the set. For theatregoers, it has been a ripe time of it – Trevor Nunn reviving The Wars of the Roses late last year and the excellent Toneelgroep Amsterdam bringing their streamlined version Kings of War to the Barbican just last month – but as you’ll see, the common thread is one of adaptation, opportunities to see the three parts of Henry VI as they are remain few and far between.
And so it proves here. Though this is entitled The Hollow Crown – The Wars of the Roses: 1. Henry VI Part 1, Ben Power and Dominic Cooke have compressed the three plays into two parts and it’s hard to argue against it really – there’s plenty here to sink your teeth into (and get your head around). Emasculated by lord protector the Duke of Gloucester (a solid Hugh Bonneville, displaying as much range as he ever does), Tom Sturridge’s Henry VI finds himself an uncertain king, a querulous youth who bends whichever way the wind blows strongest in his court, riven by dynastic rivalry. Continue reading “TV Review: The Hollow Crown – The Wars of the Roses: 1. Henry VI Part 1”
“You’ll see, you’ll get a blessing for this”
Too often, I leave a play thinking I really want to see it again and never quite manage to get round to booking for it. But I loved Ivo van Hove’s extraordinary take on A View from the Bridge so much on first viewing that I knew there was no chance I wouldn’t make sure a repeat visit would be inked into the diary. And it was just glorious getting to experience this transcendent production of Arthur Miller’s classic play again, to really soak in its textures and further appreciate the acute psychological insight it brings to the work.
There’s not too much more that I can say about the play that wasn’t already mentioned in my original review and being a part of it again simply reaffirmed how I felt that first time. The tension that it creates in the Young Vic almost immediately is exquisitely painful, the knowledge of that final scene coming an additional pleasure, that central scene between Phoebe Fox and Luke Norris (I noticed this time that the way she jumps on him here is identical to the way she jumps on Eddie at the beginning of the play, showing just how complex these relationships are) – I really can’t imagine a better piece of theatre emerging in this country this year.
Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Tristam Kenton
Booking until 7th June, sold out but day seats and return are available from 10am on the day – you will kick yourself if you miss this
“Most of the time we settle for half and I like it better”
And so one of the theatre industry’s best kept secrets is blown wide open – Ivo van Hove is one of the most exciting directors in the world at the moment. I have been near-evangelical about his Dutch-spoken work for a while now (2 of his productions have been shows of the year for me) – booking six hours of Shakespeare here, four hours of Ingmar Bergman there, even going to Amsterdam to see his work with the Toneelgroep Amsterdam company he has so gloriously led for 14 years. So it is a bit of a coup for the Young Vic to secure him for this production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge which sees him work with British actors for the first time.
From the slow rise of its beautiful opening to the excoriating tragedy of a final montage that will live long in the memory, this production simply confirms van Hove as a man whose theatrical vision is just extraordinary. Here, he takes an already magisterial play, strips it of all theatrical fripperies and pretensions, and distils it into a blisteringly acute psychodrama that is just devastatingly precise in its forensic detail. The experience of watching it in akin to taking a deep breath and then being unable to exhale until the very end, its interval-less momentum carrying the audience right through its two hours and it is hard to see how this will be beaten by any other piece of theatre this year. Continue reading “Review: A View from the Bridge, Young Vic”
“People should just shoot themselves at 17. Everything after is a disappointment.”
Written by Ferdinand Bruckner, the alias of the German Theodor Tagger, in 1929, Pains of Youth enters the rep at the Cottesloe Theatre and is the latest play to be directed at the NT by Katie Mitchell, known for her interpretative style and creative use of multimedia techniques, but only the former is in evidence here. It is presented in a new version by Martin Crimp, thereby renewing the creative partnership with Mitchell which has seen recent productions of works like The Seagull and Attempts on her Life, both also at the NT.
It is described as shocking and erotically-charged, which instantly means that it is neither of these things. Set in a Viennese boarding-house in 1923, a group of medical students negotiate the trials and tribulations of their sexually entangled lives, against the backdrop of the recently ended First World War. With an ever-revolving carousel of relationships and interactions, all are struggling to escape the disillusionment of their existence, but choose wildly different paths in order to achieve this. Continue reading “Review: Pains of Youth, National”
I’m not hugely proud of it, but I feel I ought to be honest in telling you that we left this at the interval. Hence this review of Chekhov’s The Seagull is technically a review of the first half but wild horses could not have dragged us back into the Lyttelton at the National Theatre, no matter how much I love Juliet Stevenson. It is presented here in a new version by Martin Crimp, condensed and stripped of its location, so that it is now set in some unidentified locale, a non-specific netherland which was quite disorientating. And combined with Katie Mitchell’s highly individualistic approach to directing, it means that this is most definitely Chekhov with a twist.
And I didn’t like it. At all. So many of the directorial choices were just annoying: the tendency towards the naturalistic speaking style meant that far too many crucial lines were swallowed up, most criminally in Nina’s monologue; even when they were loud enough, the idea to have the domestic servants continually running across the stage throughout the scenes resulted in more distraction away from the clear delivery of lines; the dim lighting restricts how much of the actors’ faces you can see (on the one hand this forces you to watch their physical performance more, but on the other, for a lip-reader like me, it was a nightmare). Continue reading “Review: The Seagull, National Theatre”