Oscar Week Film Review: Darkest Hour

No amount of prosthetics can stop this from being my…Darkest Hour

“The deadly danger here is this romantic fantasy of fighting to the end”

Eesh. The world already has too many Churchill films, never mind the fact that two big ones were released in the same year (Brian Cox’s Churchill was the lower profile one here). And for me, there’s nothing here in Joe Wright’s direction or Anthony McCarten’s writing that merits the retread over much-covered ground.

That is not the prevailing opinion obviously, as the film’s seven Oscar nominations testify, but it is what it is. No amount of latex makes Gary Oldman’s performance palatable (and isn’t it odd that he’s getting such acclaim for a role in which he is unrecognisable), and it is a crime in the ways in which the likes of Patsy Ferran and Faye Marsay are under-utilised, nay wasted. Continue reading “Oscar Week Film Review: Darkest Hour”

Review: The Ruling Class, Trafalgar Studios

“How do you know you are God?” 
‘Simple. When I pray to Him, I find I am talking to myself.’”

When a revival of a play is prefaced by “rarely-seen”, it’s hard not to assume that there’s often good reason for that and so it felt with Peter Barnes’ The Ruling Class. As a piece of drama, it feels dated and heavy handed, its formerly satirical edges altogether too manic and blunted. But as a piece of theatre, it has a peach of a leading role for which Jamie Lloyd has renewed his Trafalgar Transformed relationship with James McAvoy, who delivers it with an often breathtaking stage presence.

His 14th Earl of Gurney is a paranoid schizophrenic aristo called Jack who thinks he is Jesus and inherits the family pile after his father’s suicide, much to the consternation of his relatives. But even as they plot with a psychiatrist to get him shut away, Jack finds his way to (relative) sanity and locates a new target for his considerable energies – the House of Lords. That it is the aristocracy bearing the brunt of much of Barnes’ bite makes it clearer to see why the play has languished rather, its class-based pointedness showing its age. Continue reading “Review: The Ruling Class, Trafalgar Studios”

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”