Review: The Painkiller, Gielgud

“We have a problem with this…”

Kenneth Branagh I’ve got an idea what we can put into the March slot for the season
Branagh Theatre employee Oh yes?
KB Me and Rob Brydon did The Painkiller in Belfast a couple of years ago, we can reprise that
BTe Ok. But isn’t that another play by a dead white man in a season already populated exclusively by dead white men?
KB *checks Google* Nope, Francis Veber is still alive. He’s nearly 80 but still alive.
BTe Riiight. But you know, diversity is kind of important. Does the show at least have a decent spread of roles
KB *proudly announces* There’s part for a woman AND a black guy in it.
BTe Ok. And you’re sure they’re not the two smallest parts, almost token gestures in the end?
KB *awkward silence*
Oh wait, there’s a gay man in it too
BTe Well that’s something
KB Yes. He’ll have audiences rolling in the aisles, reminding them of the good old days of John Inman
BTe *stunned silence*
KB So contemporary audiences will find lots in this you see, the idea that two men might be shagging is just intrinsically funny.
BTe I see Sean Foley has adapted it as well as being the director
KB Oh yes, it really is very modern, right up to date. It has a joke about Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen AND one about Chris De Burgh in it. You’ll be on the floor laughing with the rest of them.
BTe I’m sure. And as for the farce, are you good with comedy
KB I am a theatrical knight, I can do EVERYTHING!
BTe Well, at least we’ve got Rob Brydon, he can…well, he can do Rob Brydon
KB And everyone loves farce. Even Sondheim says so and someone who named his blog after a lyric from such a song should know that.
BTe Maybe he just likes good farce like Noises Off
KB And One Man, Two Guv’nors?
BTe I wouldn’t go there…
What about putting something on that isn’t by a dead or nearly dead white man?
KB Oh just find something written by a BAME woman that has been successful somewhere else and plug that in, maybe no-one will notice.

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 30th April

DVD Review: Cinderella

“Perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take is to be seen as we really are”

Who knew what the world needed was a live-action version of Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh. It oughtn’t be as good as it is but somehow the fusion of Disney magic and folktale wonder comes together most effectively, thoroughly traditional in its outlook yet somehow still feeling fresh. Chris Weitz’s screenplay is based on Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon but both he and Branagh take lots of inspiration from the Disney version of the story too and the resulting confection is really rather bibbity-bobbity-beguiling.

There’s a cleverness too about what it does in spinning new details like giving us a reason that her step-family don’t recognise her at the ball and weaving much humour into the magic spells that get her to said ball. Ella herself is well pitched by Lily James, not quite too perfect to be true but still hugely appealing. It’s no wonder Richard Madden’s Prince Charming tumbles instantly for her (and she for him, those breeches…those boots!) and their chemistry is palpable, one can see why Branagh has cast them as Juliet and Romeo in his upcoming theatre residency in London.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Cinderella”

DVD Review: The Way We Live Now

“We’ll be making history gentleman, and money too”

I picked up a copy of The Way We Live Now mid-November and as my first Anthony Trollope novel, I rather enjoyed reading it. So with time on my hands for once over Christmas, I decided to watch the 2001 BBC adaptation which I didn’t watch at the time. Prolific period adaptor Andrew Davies was on hand to turn this lengthy novel into a four parter (just about 5 hours in total) and I found it to be a rather effective rendering of a most complex world of plots and subplots which, although a tad disappointing in its ending, was well worth the time to savour and enjoy.

If it were on the stage, it would be labelled all over as a ‘timely revival’ as Trollope’s main thrust concerns the deviousness of financiers and politicos and the depths that society will sink to in order to maintain its position. There’s also love and good natured people involved to and the balance between the ever-spinning storylines is very well done. At the heart of it all is David Suchet’s Augustus Melmotte, surely one of his best ever performances, a foreign businessman who attempts to reinvent himself as a Englishman of pedigree by buying his way into business, society, property, the House of Commons, his ambitions know no bounds. And as he does so, many around him attempt to jump on his coat-tails for the ride up, not least the aristocratic but impoverished Carburys.  Continue reading “DVD Review: The Way We Live Now”

2013 What’s On Stage Award nominations

THE DIGITAL THEATRE BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Sheridan Smith – Hedda Gabler at the Old Vic
Billie Piper – The Effect, Headlong at the National, Cottesloe
Hattie Morahan – A Doll’s House at the Young Vic
Jill Halfpenny – Abigail’s Party at the Menier Chocolate Factory & Wyndham’s
Julie Walters – The Last of the Haussmans at the National, Lyttelton
Sally Hawkins – Constellations at the Royal Court Upstairs & Duke of York’s

THE DIGITAL THEATRE BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY

Rupert Everett – The Judas Kiss at Hampstead
Adrian Lester – Red Velvet at the Tricycle
David Haig – The Madness of George III at the Apollo
David Suchet – Long Day’s Journey into Night at the Apollo
Luke Treadaway – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time at the National, Cottesloe
Mark Rylance – Twelfth Night & Richard III at Shakespeare’s Globe & the Apollo Continue reading “2013 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Review: A Chorus of Disapproval, Harold Pinter

“I just want you to know I think you’re a total and utter bastard and that one of these days I hope you’ll get what’s coming to you. Having said that, best of luck with the show tonight and I hope it goes really well for you.”

Alan Ayckbourn’s plays seem to be unavoidable, not least at the Harold Pinter theatre where Absent Friends previously played to be followed by Trevor Nunn’s production of A Chorus of Disapproval and that’s before a Pinter play has even made it onto the stage of the renamed theatre. And I’ve yet to really succumb to the pleasures of our most prolific of living writers, I’ve visited many of the productions of his plays that have played in London in recent years but never quite had that lightbulb moment to explain to me his enduring success.

But I’m always up for testing my assumptions and when a friend offered to day seat (front row seats for £10), I was happy to accept and sure enough, whilst it wasn’t quite a Damascene conversion, I did find myself laughing more than I expected and actually enjoying myself for the most part. Key to this was Rob Brydon’s central performance as the ineffably Welsh Dafydd ap Llewellyn, a solicitor by day and a amateur dramatics theatre director by night taking his group through their latest production of The Beggar’s Opera. The play opens with the final number from that show and as the curtain descends, we see backstage that the relationships amongst the cast are incredibly strained. Continue reading “Review: A Chorus of Disapproval, Harold Pinter”

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”