Re-review: Visitors, Bush

“I wish I could put a pin in my life and say, this is the moment I became myself. This is the scene my life was about”

A last cheeky visit to the theatre before the Christmas break and hardly the most festive, given the subject matter at hand. But whilst a play about dementia might not seem like the most joyous of fare, Barney Norris’ Visitors – first seen at the Arcola earlier this year – is hugely life-affirming, joy-inducing and yes, tear-jerking in its sheer beauty. Linda Bassett and Robin Soans deliver what feel like career-best performances as an elderly couple coming to terms with her failing mind and Eleanor Wyld and Simon Muller complement them well as her carer and their son, also dealing with their own dilemmas in a world stripped of certainties. My original review says it all here, I highly recommend you book now.

Review: Visitors, Arcola

“If I could choose any life, I don’t think I’d have things very different from this”

Angela Lansbury may be getting audiences on their feet on Shaftesbury Avenue but for my money, you should be racing over to the Arcola to catch some of the most intensely fantastic acting currently happening. Visitors is Barney Norris’ first full-length play, for the Up In Arms theatre company he co-founded with Alice Hamilton (who directs here), and as a piece of restrained – though hugely affecting – realism, it is an absolute cracker.

Norris examines the corrosive impact of dementia on a Wiltshire farming family with huge skill, deftly exploring the ways in which people make their way through such situations, with love, compassion, comedy, fear, confusion, denial. Both in their 70s, Arthur and Edie are perfectly attuned to each other after many happy years of marriage but though they would happily continue as they are, her declining condition is proving impossible to ignore. Continue reading “Review: Visitors, Arcola”

Film Review: Anna Karenina

 

”I’d rather live life wishing I hadn’t rather than wishing I had”

Today I was lucky enough to catch an early screening of Joe Wright’s new film, Anna Karenina starring Keira Knightley in the title role, which is certain to be divisive with its unique approach. Tom Stoppard has been employed to distil Tolstoy’s weighty tome into something more manageable and his adaptation clocks in at a shade over 2 hours. Remaining largely faithful to the novel, Stoppard’s focus is on exploring different kinds of love, and so whilst the focus is mainly on Anna herself as she negotiates the tumultuous affair with a young cavalryman that sets her against her husband and the might of Russian society, he also ensures that the subplot featuring the agrarian Levin’s attempts to woo the object of his affections is kept in to provide a neat counterpoint.

Presented with a classic of literature and wanting to avoid predictability as far as period dramas are concerned, Wright’s main conceit has been to reconceptualise the whole thing in a deeply theatrical manner, literally. He treats the story as a piece of theatre, sometimes being played out in front of an audience, sometimes as backstage drama, but always with a defined fluidity and through-line. This exceedingly stylised and highly choreographed approach has a huge cinematic sweep which I adored, but it does soon calm down into something more measured and at key moments, it opens out with some breath-taking transformations.  Continue reading “Film Review: Anna Karenina”

Not-a-review: Government Inspector, Young Vic

“Compared to the important things in life, everything in life is dust and vanity, ashes and delusion”

David Harrower’s version of Gogol’s Russian comedy for the Young Vic is titled simply Government Inspector, losing the definitive article as did the Arcola’s Seagull, marking an odd potential trend for 2011. The inept Mayor of a small Russian town is driven into a frenzy with news of an impending visit from a government inspector but when a conman is mistaken for this visitor, the hypocrisy and corruption that the town’s bigwigs are desperate to hide is exposed.

I can’t fairly pass judgement on anything I saw as I didn’t make it to the end. For the first time in about three years, I left at the interval: something I have resisted doing since starting to write reviews properly, although often against my better judgement. And in a week when an article elsewhere about not overdoing it at the theatre mentioned me by name, there was something ironic in the fact that I even arrived to this show since I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it and several people had warned that they knew I would hate it: my default position is currently seeing as much as is humanly possible whilst (barely) holding down a job in order to expand the breadth of my theatrical experience rather than making considered decisions about what I’m inclined to like. Continue reading “Not-a-review: Government Inspector, Young Vic”