Review: Apologia, Trafalgar Studios

“We have just elected our first African-American President
‘Let’s see what happens in the long run…'”

It is tempting to think that this revival of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s 2009 play Apologia was mooted simply so that the above line could get the laughs it richly deserves for its prescience. As it is, Jamie Lloyd has fashioned it into the vehicle that has tempted Stockard Channing back into the West End for the first time in 25 years or so (although she did make it to the Almeida in for Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing). 

Perhaps the word should be refashioned, as the play has been subtly adapted to make its central character an American (I find myself entirely intrigued about the process of this happening – rewrites over accents) but what a character she is. Kristin Miller is celebrating both the publication of a memoir about her career as an eminent art historian and her birthday but gathering folk around the dinner table proves far from a game of happy families. Continue reading “Review: Apologia, Trafalgar Studios”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

Hollywood and Broadway icon Stockard Channing will return to the London stage this summer, to star in a new production of Olivier Award winner Alexi Kaye Campbell’s acclaimed drama Apologia, directed by the multi-award winning Jamie Lloyd.

Opening at the Trafalgar Studios on 29th July, Apologia will see the Tony and Emmy Award winning actor performing in the West End for the first time in over a decade. Channing’s hugely popular film and TV credits include starring roles in The West Wing, The Good Wife, her Oscar® and Golden Globe nominated role in Six Degrees of Separation, and the iconic role of Rizzo in the film Grease. An acclaimed Broadway and West End star, Channing’s most recent performances on Broadway, It’s Only a Play and Other Desert Cities (a “peerless” performance -NY Times, for which she was nominated for her seventh Tony Award), have affirmed her position as a true theatrical legend.

Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play is a compelling drama about the importance of family and the pressures commitment and principles exert on it. Apologia follows his critical success with The Pride and his acclaimed plays Sunset at The Villa Thalia at the National Theatre and The Faith Machine at the Royal Court Theatre.

Stockard Channing plays Kristin Miller, a firebrand liberal matriarch of a dynamic family, who is presiding over her birthday celebrations. An eminent art historian, Kristin’s almost evangelical dedication to her career and her political activism has resulted in her sons – Peter, a merchant banker, and Simon, a writer – harbouring deeply rooted and barely suppressed resentments towards her. The fissures in her relationship with them are brought to the fore by the recent publication of her memoir.

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DVD Review: Le Divorce (2003)

“You can always go home on le Métro”

A Merchant Ivory comedy of manners set in Paris? What could possibly go wrong… Le Divorce is what. A painfully tasteful affair set in contemporary France but resembling nothing so much as a glossy magazine spread, there’s nothing authentic about the city represented here. Nor, which proves to be a bigger point, about the people in the film, a vacuous set of characters purportedly showing us the difference between the US (won’t talk about sex) and the French (won’t talk about money) but mainly demonstrating that everyone is awful.

Based on a novel of the same name by Diane Johnson, one is left wondering why she hates her females so much. Isabel has gone to Paris to visit her émigré sister Roxeanne, whose husband Charles-Henri has left her for a married Russian lady despite being pregnant with their second child. Whilst there, Isabel then engages in concurrent affairs with two Frenchmen, despite seeing first-hand the impact of infidelity on her distraught sister, this kind of reactionary tosh populating the entire film with its inordinately large ensemble cast. Continue reading “DVD Review: Le Divorce (2003)”

Review: It’s Only A Play, Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

“My first night in New York and I’m high-fiving Denzel Washington”

Of everything that I saw or considered seeing in New York, It’s Only A Play possibly best exemplifies the dilemma I faced. Being such an actor junkie, the prospect of Stockard Channing and Nathan Lane and Megan Mullally (the latter two for the first time) was hugely tempting but I could scarcely ignore the fact that they were in a backstage farce. But the lure of the Lane was strong and so I booked myself in, hoping that low expectations would allow me to enjoy it.

And did I? I can’t really say, even now. I certainly laughed quite a bit, chuckling along with the theatre industry references of which there were masses and marvelling at how many modern touches Terrence McNally had managed to stuff into his updated text (James Franco’s x-rated selfies, Shia LeBeouf’s erratic behaviour and Alec Baldwin’s red-hot temper just a few that I can recall). But the whole thing does still feel curiously old-fashioned and perhaps a little self-satisfied.

Continue reading “Review: It’s Only A Play, Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre”

DVD Review: Bright Young Things

“Reader, be glad that you have nothing to do with this world. Its glamour is a delusion, its speed a snare, its music a scream of fear.”

Whilst recently sitting through the 1930s-set play I Am A Camera at the Southwark Playhouse, I had that frustrating sensation of being reminded of a film that I couldn’t quite recall, mainly in the carefree attitudes of its lead characters. A post-show drink or three finally got me there, the film was Bright Young Things and so I popped it onto my Lovefilm list as it had been quite a while since I last saw it and I was keen for a rewatch.

Based on Evelyn Waugh’s novel Vile Bodies which written in 1930, the film marked the screenwriting and directorial debut of a certain Stephen Fry. Positioned as a satire on this section of society, the plot circles around a fast-living decadent set of aristocrats and bohemians living the high life of cocaine and champagne-fuelled parties completely divorced from the realities and responsibilities of the real world around them. Would-be novelist Adam Fenwick-Symes and party girl fiancée Nina Blount are the central couple whose wedding is forever being put off as he keeps losing the money for it, but the Jack and Karen in their lives – the Hon Agatha Runcible and the fey Miles – are much more fun. Continue reading “DVD Review: Bright Young Things”

66th Tony Award nominations

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play 
James Corden – One Man, Two Guvnors as Francis Henshall
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Death of a Salesman as Willy Loman
James Earl Jones – The Best Man as Art Hockstader
Frank Langella – Man and Boy as Gregor Antonescu
John Lithgow – The Columnist as Joseph Alsop

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Nina Arianda – Venus in Fur as Vanda
Tracie Bennett – End of the Rainbow as Judy Garland
Stockard Channing – Other Desert Cities as Polly Wyeth
Linda Lavin – The Lyons as Rita Lyons
Cynthia Nixon – Wit as Vivian Bearing

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical 
Danny Burstein – Follies as Buddy Plummer
Jeremy Jordan – Newsies as Jack Kelly
Steve Kazee – Once as Guy
Norm Lewis – Porgy and Bess as Porgy
Ron Raines – Follies as Ben Stone Continue reading “66th Tony Award nominations”

Nominations for the 2011 Drama Desk Awards

Outstanding Play
Jon Robin Baitz, Other Desert Cities
Adam Bock, A Small Fire
Stephen Adly Guirgis, The Motherf**ker With the Hat
Samuel D. Hunter, A Bright New Boise
Rajiv Joseph, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
David Lindsay-Abaire, Good People
Nick Stafford, War Horse

Outstanding Musical
In Transit
Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical
See Rock City & Other Destinations
Sister Act
The Book of Mormon
The Kid Continue reading “Nominations for the 2011 Drama Desk Awards”

63rd Tony Award nominations

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play 
Jeff Daniels – God of Carnage as Alan
Raúl Esparza – Speed-the-Plow as Charlie Fox
James Gandolfini – God of Carnage as Michael
Geoffrey Rush – Exit the King as King Berenger
Thomas Sadoski – reasons to be pretty as Greg

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Hope Davis – God of Carnage as Annette
Jane Fonda – 33 Variations as Katherine Brandt
Marcia Gay Harden – God of Carnage as Veronica
Janet McTeer – Mary Stuart as Mary Stuart
Harriet Walter – Mary Stuart as Elizabeth I

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical 
David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish – Billy Elliot the Musical as Billy Elliot
Gavin Creel – Hair as Claude
Brian d’Arcy James – Shrek the Musical as Shrek
Constantine Maroulis – Rock of Ages as Drew
J. Robert Spencer – Next to Normal as Dan Continue reading “63rd Tony Award nominations”