Review: Paddington 2 (2017)

I succumb easily to the charms of Paddington 2 and Hugh Grant having the time of his life

“Exit bear, pursued by an actor”

In a year when sequels have outperformed expectations (at least mine anyway), I should have heeded the signs that Paddington 2 heralded back last winter that sequels were ‘in’. Paul King’s follow-up to his 2014 warm-hearted original, reintroducing us to our ursine Peruvian hero, occupies a similar space of resolutely British family films that are a cut above. 

Written by King and Simon Farnaby, the film is unafraid to take its audience seriously and for every adorably sweet sequence, there’s genuine peril and even darkness in there too. Hugh Grant is the main antagonist, an actor called Phoenix Buchanan who has been reduced to making dog-food adverts and his ne’er-d-well ways see Paddington framed for a crime he did not commit. Continue reading “Review: Paddington 2 (2017)”

Review: The Cane, Royal Court

Powerfully acted by Nicola Walker, Alun Armstrong anf Maggie Steed, Mark Ravenhill’s cleverly written The Cane is bracing stuff at the Royal Court

“These children now can hunt out anybody’s grievance and claim it as their own…they want to be offended”

Inspired by Mark Ravenhill’s realisation that some teachers retiring now would have been active when corporal punishment was outlawed in 1986, The Cane is his first new play for a goodly while. And directed by Vicky Featherstone, it is a strikingly intriguing piece of drama which has as much to say about contemporary outrage culture as it does the abuses of the past.

Edward is marking 45 years as a teacher and preparations for his retirement do are in full swing. A mob has trapped him and his wife Maureen in their own home though, inflamed by his past use of the cane, and the arrival of their daughter Anna is little comfort as she is long-estranged. And as it turns out she has both a personal and professional interest here, the atmosphere within proves no less febrile than without. Continue reading “Review: The Cane, Royal Court”

Review: Pinter One, Harold Pinter Theatre

Beginning with a burst of confetti and ending in a sombre drop of petals, Pinter One is the far darker side of Pinter at the Pinter

“They don’t like you either, my darling”

I found myself enjoying Pinter Two much more than expected and so momentarily forgetting that I’d sworn off the whole thing, I rashly decided to book in for Pinter One, which proves to be an entirely different kind of affair. Not just thematically – it’s an overtly political collection of works and thus considerably darker – but structurally, gathering together no less than nine short pieces, eight of which run together to make the first half.

They’re Press Conference / Precisely / The New World Order / Mountain Language / American Football / The Pres and an Officer Death / and One for the Road (all directed by Jamie Lloyd) with Ashes to Ashes (directed by the Lia Williams) following after the interval. And so ultimately it feels a bit more like a showcase of Pinter which brings with it some challenges, alongside the interest value in unearthing some lesser-seen works, including a world premiere. Continue reading “Review: Pinter One, Harold Pinter Theatre”

Friday feeling – news aplenty

All hail the return of Nicola Walker to the stage! Get your tickets for Camelot! Discover the Heart of Darkness! Get your exam in musical theatre singing with ABRSM!


London Musical Theatre Orchestra has announced casting for Saturday’s concert version of Camelot at the London Palladium and there’s still a few tickets going. Packed with some of musical theatre’s best songs, LMTO’s concert version with full orchestra will celebrate the centenary of Alan Jay Lerner’s birth.

The role of Arthur will be played by Olivier Award-winner David Thaxton (Passion / Les Misérables / Jesus Christ Superstar), Guenevere will be played by Savannah Stevenson (Wicked / Aspects of Love / Follies), and Lancelot will be played by internationally renowned opera star Charles Rice (Mozart’s Requiem The Barber of Seville / Candide). Continue reading “Friday feeling – news aplenty”

The Jamie Lloyd Company announces cast for charity gala to celebrate Harold Pinter’s birthday

– Tom Hiddleston, Kristin Scott Thomas, Kit Harington, Simon Russell Beale, Indira Varma, Zawe Ashton and many more announced

–   Happy Birthday, Harold will take place on what would have been the Nobel Prize winning playwright’s 88th birthday on October 10th

–   Charity event will raise money for Amnesty International and Chance to Shine

–   Tickets are on sale now

Continue reading “The Jamie Lloyd Company announces cast for charity gala to celebrate Harold Pinter’s birthday”

Get well soon Fred Haig aka Not-A-Review: On The Town, Open Air Theatre

“Just when the fun is starting,
Comes the time for parting”

Fred Haig must have thought that this was his year after landing starring roles in two of the big musicals of the summer but during Monday evening’s performance, he sustained an injury to his foot which has now been confirmed as a fracture. Sadly, this means that he has had to withdraw from On The Town at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park (the second actor to do so after Jeremy Taylor withdrew during rehearsals due to injury) and will be replaced by his understudy Jacob Maynard. We’ll have to wait and see if he recuperates in time to play Young Buddy in Follies at the National.

It is a real shame for Haig as I was at the show on Monday, scarcely believing that we actually had lovely weather for the first musical this year at the Open Air. And Haig’s appealingly charismatic Chip, along with Lizzy Connolly’s vibrant Hildy, was among the highlights of Drew McOnie’s production and he seemed to be very much on top of the choreography. It is a dance-heavy show, and in McOnie’s hands doubly so and as so many in this venue, it is one that benefits from being seen as night falls, to behold the full beauty of Howard Hudson’s lighting which is gorgeously conceived. Continue reading “Get well soon Fred Haig aka Not-A-Review: On The Town, Open Air Theatre”

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – 24 Hour Plays | Making Headlines

“Open your eyes, what do you see?”

It may well have had much to do with the fact that I was knackered after the previous six but I have to admit that the seventh final session of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival was probably my least favourite of the day. The 24 Hour Plays | Making Headlines programme saw writers respond to headlines of the moment to create rapid response plays – none of which really lived up to the quality of the programmed works that had preceded them.

There were lots of interesting ideas floating around – Rebecca Lenkiewicz and director Anna Ledwich’s scorching take-down of Vogue’s declaration that the cleavage is out of fashion probably worked the best, interleaved with a young woman’s desperate search for adequate healthcare and the inadequacy of male responses to a serious discussion about breasts. And Charlene James’ kidnap drama with a twist gave Maggie Steed a cracking part to play, directed by Alice Hamilton. Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – 24 Hour Plays | Making Headlines”

News – Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival begins

Monday 14th November sees the launch of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival at Hampstead Theatre and The Actors Centre. Produced by Sphinx Theatre Company and Joanna Hedges, Women Centre Stage exists to promote, advocate for and inspire women in the arts and has developed and commissioned a wide range of new work which uniquely brings together a diverse array of women characters far from the margins into centre stage.

This is the second year of Women Centre Stage and the festival features a range of workshops and creative comings-together which will culminate in the Performance Day on Sunday 20th November which will feature seven programmes throughout the day. This will include opportunities to see emerging work from new and established writers, plays commissioned from last year’s festival, and see four playwrights respond the headlines of the day in writing a new play each in 24 hours. 

“What will we say at the Women Centre Stage Festival? Enough of being backgrounded. The world will just have to get used to our stronger presence in every walk of life and art. I’m happy to be part of that conversation.” 

Dame Janet Suzman.

(c) Ruphin Coudyzer
Reflecting the significance of the festival and the work it has been and will continue to achieve, there’s a mightily impressive role call of British talent contributing to the programme. Writers such as Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Evening Standard Award-winning Charlene James, Dawn King, Howard Brenton, Vinay Patel, April de Angelis and Sabrina Mahfouz will be represented with actors like Dame Janet Suzman, Ann Mitchell, Maggie Steed, Cecilia Noble and Ronke Adekoluejo treading the boards.


It all promises to be a fascinating and valuable day and I’m currently planning to attend a significant amount of the programme – more details below – and if you’re interested in coming along too, then take a look at their website here

Programme for the Performance Day – Sunday 20th November

A Question of Identity – 12.00pm

Three performances from emerging companies and artists looking at the question of female identity, featuring F*cking Feminists by Rose Lewenstein originally commissioned by Theatre 503 and Mama Quilla, Road to Huntsville by Stephanie Ridings originally commissioned by China Plate, Warwick Arts Centre and mac birmingham and Battleface by Sabrina Mahfouz originally commissioned by the Bush Theatre.

Women on the Edge – 1.30pm

Sphinx Theatre presents three plays commissioned and developed from the 2015 festival featuring She Didn’t Jump She was Pushed by Matilda Ibini starring Anita Joy Uwajeh and Ronke Adekoluejo, Man- Up by Camilla Harding and Alexandra Sinclair and Justice by Judith Jones and Beatrix Campbell.

In Conversation: Changing the Landscape – 2.45pm

How can we encourage change in the cultural landscape to improve gender equality in theatre? A panel discussion chaired by Sarah Crompton former Arts Editor in Chief at the Telegraph with playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker, Suzanne Bell – New Writing Associate at Royal Exchange Theatre and Elizabeth Newman -Artistic Director of the Octagon Theatre.

PRIDE and Prejudice – 4.00pm

Presenting work which provokes us to talk about prejudice. Join us for Chloe Todd Fordham’s The Night Club, an excerpt of Tanika Gupta’s A Perfect Match plus Graeae Theatre Company showcase 6 brand new pieces from an all female Deaf/disabled creative team featuring writers from all over the UK; promoting empowering female narratives and shining new light on the perceptions (and misperceptions) of women today.

New Women – 5.30pm

We present new plays by April de Angelis, and Winsome Pinnock including performances by Janet Suzman, Kathryn Pogson and Cecilia Noble plus The Hiccup Project join us straight from tour to present an excerpt of May-We-Go-Round.

Sphinx Writers Group: Power Play – 7.00pm 

Six months in development, we present new writing from the Sphinx Writers Group; Dawn King, Georgia Christou, Jessica Sian and Catriona Kerridge.

24 Hour Plays: Making Headlines – 8.30pm

Four writers are given 24 Hours to write a new play responding directly to that days news headlines. The new work will be rehearsed on the day of the festival and presented at the end of the day as the Festival Finale. Featuring four new plays from Howard Brenton, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Charlene James and Vinay Patel. Ann Mitchell and Maggie Steed plus others will join us to perform in this hour of exciting new writing.

Short Film Review #55

 

I have a thing about spiral staircases and though the one at the heart of The Last Ten is squared off, it is still freaky as shit. A genuinely disturbing film that is ingeniously conceived and shot by David Higgs with some fantastic cinematography from Nicole Heiniger, it’s all about the perspective as a single camera looking down the middle of a stairwell captures the story of a man returning home to find…well, that would be giving it away. Hitchcock-inspired brilliance, just don’t watch it on your own, or in the dark.


 

Continue reading “Short Film Review #55”

Review: Richard III, Trafalgar Studios

“Now is the winter of our discontent”

Like an addict that really should know better, I held out from seeing Richard III for the longest time, safe in the informed knowledge that I most probably wouldn’t like it. But sure enough when a ticket became available for the final matinée performance, off I obediently trotted to that most uncomfortable of theatres Trafalgar Studios for the latest instalment in Jamie Lloyd’s Trafalgar Transformed season. And guess what, I didn’t like it.

Clearly my opinions had already been shaped by friends and colleagues reassuring me it really wouldn’t be my cup of tea but the lure of a good cast is always strong and in some respects, this was true. Gina McKee’s defiant Queen Elizabeth, Jo Stone-Fewing’s oleaginous Buckingham, Maggie Steed’s mad Queen Margaret all emerge with credit but in the title role, Martin Freeman is much more of a debit, offering up a decent enough performance but one lacking any real gravitas. Continue reading “Review: Richard III, Trafalgar Studios”