DVD Review: Kingsman – The Secret Service

“I’m a Catholic whore, currently enjoying congress out of wedlock with my black Jewish boyfriend who works at a military abortion clinic. So, hail Satan, and have a lovely afternoon, madam”

Matthew Vaughan and Jane Goldman’s collaboration on comic book adaptation Kick Ass went rather well for them, so reuniting for spy caper Kingsman: The Secret Service – based on The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons – seemed like a no-brainer. So much so that Vaughan walked away from directing X-Men: Days of Future Past for this project, and it is indeed a whole heap of fun, poking irreverently at the often po-faced spy film genre with great glee.

The film follows mouthy teenager Gary “Eggsy” Unwin as he is recruited and trained up by the same secret spy organisation that his long-dead father belonged to, ultimately having to wise up quickly as a plot by an evil megalomaniac threatens the whole world. So far so Bond, but where Kingsman shines is in ramping everything that 007 can’t do up to 12. So there’s huge amounts of creative swearing,  and more gratuitous violence than you can shake a bag of severed limbs at. Continue reading “DVD Review: Kingsman – The Secret Service”

Film Review: The Theory of Everything

“One simple, elegant equation to explain everything”

Alongside The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything offers a double whammy of Oscar-baiting, British-biopicing filmic goodness – Benedict Cumberwhatsit’s Alan Turing and Eddie Redmayne’s Stephen Hawking seem dead certs for Academy Award nominations alongside their respective films – and for my money, it is the latter has the edge on the Cumbersnatch-starring film as something slightly less Hollywoodised and thus more interesting. That’s not to say that James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything is all rough edges – it is based on Jane Wilde Hawking’s memoir of her marriage after all and both she and Hawking have ‘blessed’ the film – but it is a complex love story that doesn’t shy away from too much challenge.

The focus of the film is in fact the relationship and marriage between physicist Stephen and Jane Wilde, his contemporary at Cambridge University where she studied literature, and the severe pressure that it came under after his diagnosis with motor neurone disease and then his increasing fame as his discoveries broke exciting fresh ground. Redmayne’s physical performance as Hawking is undoubtedly astounding as his condition worsens but there’s something deeper there too that comes across later on, in the merest flicker of the lips and glints in the eye that come before the synthesised voicebox kicks in, an enigmatic level of emotion that we never get to truly discover and that is entirely beguiling.

Continue reading “Film Review: The Theory of Everything”

Review: Tory Boyz – National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Ambassadors Theatre

“The Tory party is the gayest of them all”

The National Youth Theatre originally commissioned James Graham’s Tory Boyz back in 2008 and given its success, they asked him to update the play so it could form part of their West End repertory season. To describe the Conservative Party’s attitudes towards homosexuality is a near impossibility – whilst the Same Sex Marriage Bill was admirably forced through by Cameron’s administration, the debates around it revealed huge rifts, bemoaning the encroachment of the “aggressive homosexual community” and the spectacular ‘activate the lesbian queen’ debacle – yet it has always been a party with gay members. And it is this dichotomy that Graham explores, how the compatibility of homosexuality and Conservatism has evolved over the years and whether, in this day and age, it does or should matter.

Sam (Simon Lennon) is a Tory researcher working in the busy office of an education minister. He’s out to his colleagues but with one eye on a more frontline political position in the near future, he’s more than content to keep it on the QT, much to the chagrin of his fresh-faced Labour opposite number James (Tom Prior) who is trying to coax him into the relationship that they both crave. The discovery that he is working in the same office that Ted Heath started his own career in inspires Sam to research that man and the rumours that swirled around his sexuality – scenes that we see played out in flashback – and in an additional plot, Sam also visits a secondary school to try and engage a disinterested group in politics with a weekly mock-Parliament set up, something which in turn also threatens to lead him to a stronger self-understanding. Continue reading “Review: Tory Boyz – National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Ambassadors Theatre”

Review: Prince of Denmark – National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Ambassadors Theatre

“How can we know what we’re capable of”

Premiered in 2010, Prince of Denmark is Michael Lesslie’s prequel to Hamlet and coming out of the National Theatre Connections programme, it has a strong teen focus making it an ideal part of the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain’s season at the Ambassadors Theatre. Set some 10 years or so before the events of Shakespeare’s play, Lesslie focuses on the younger inhabitants of Elsinore and imagines how they might have interacted as teenagers, sowing the seeds for what we know is to come.

It is a slight piece, barely an hour long, and director Anthony Banks has wisely decided to augment it with atmospheric sequences – whether the testosterone fuelled swordplay, including some very nifty foot flicks, or the beautiful harmonies of musical interludes, there’s a sense of teenage ennui being batted away at every turn as life in the royal court trundles on. At the heart of it is Hamlet, the prince who thinks he wants to be treated like a normal man, but with the arrival of brother and sister Laertes and Ophelia comes an increased emotional volatility. Continue reading “Review: Prince of Denmark – National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Ambassadors Theatre”

Review: Romeo and Juliet – National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Ambassadors Theatre

“Two households, both alike in dignity, In Camden Town, where we lay our scene”

Who better to tell stories of youthful (over-)exuberance than a group of exuberant youths. The National Youth Theatre of Great Britain’s 2013 Autumn season ‘Coming of Age’ continues with a West End residency of three plays, performed in rep at the Ambassadors Theatre. 

First up is Lolita Chakrabarti’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet which relocates the play to the vibrant but cut-throat world of Camden market in the mid-1980s. In the shadow of long dole queues and the rise of a violent sub-culture, this tale of teenage “star-cross’d lovers” is recast in a new light and indeed a new sound, accompanied by a ska and New Wave-heavy soundtrack, performed live to form a cinematically aural backdrop where needed. It creates a vividly energetic atmosphere and one which charges the production with a fresh vibrancy.   Continue reading “Review: Romeo and Juliet – National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Ambassadors Theatre”