Monday, 18 July 2011

Review: Theatre

The Beggar’s Opera, Regent’s Park Theatre dir Lucy Bailey, design William Dudley

A-Treat. Gay and Rich put on the first musical satire in 1728 with The Beggar’s Opera or a Newgate Pastoral. It filters through to us via the likes of Olivier and Roger Daltry and sits as one of the wittiest and cleverest theatrical treats of all time. Written as a criticism against the collapse of the South Sea Bubble, think current financial crash, it’s not just the gargantuan personalities of Peachum and Mrs P and Lockit, the love rivalry of Polly and Lucy, the cuckoldry by Macheath, the ribaldry, camaraderie of the male and female gangs that delight, it’s the complexity and simplicity, fixed like Brighton Rock, of English heritage and folklore itself. The artist William Hogarth was drawn to this opera, himself a fine satirist, with its multiple stories, backdrops both private and public. Director Lucy Bailey has drawn inspiration from him and used his work as a pictorial cue throughout. The music, a mix of operatic recitative, folk songs, ballads, a kick-back at some of the conventions of the time, is evoked on eighteenth century instruments and the singing is strong. The setting of Regent’s Park made for a real pastoral evocation, so that even the predictable deluge could dent neither the spirit nor energy of this timely revival…….

Review: Theatre

The Uncommercial Traveller, Punchdrunk, Pearson Street, Hackney

Too-short. Promises a good deal but leaves you wanting more. A brief snapshot of Dickens' nineteenth century London, inspired by his walks around London. Brilliant evocations, feeling more like an art installation than theatre, I became mixed up with a baby farm. I was led from tavern down dilapidated steps into a tiny cubicle with cot, a bank of bottles and a small camp-sized bed. The dilemma as to whether to administer ‘a compound’ to the baby or not became the nub of the drama; other stories were acted out elsewhere……Working on brief character sketches, the cast of 4 improvised around the themes of transportation and death, reliant on a biddable, credible crowd to help flesh things out. There is a downloadable walk-scape made up of monologues which is separate to the theatre experience which I haven't done. So maybe this is the difference. For you get into the style of theatre, and just as your eyes become accustomed to the dark, it’s all over. One salient punter put it thus: ‘it’s like a neat shot of gin, short, sharp and to the point’….Hmm, I can’t help but feel the feel of wool…..

Review: Film

The Tree of Life, Guildford, Odeon, dir Terrence Malik, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn

Extraordinary. One man’s vision; one man’s film. Big in expanse, including an audacious section which takes us back to the dinosaurs, through apocalyptic visions of volcanic eruptions and the cosmos. The narrative is simple enough: a man, Sean Penn, looks back over his life to find meaning and purpose. His family are from the mid-West and take on its 1950s’ values. His father, a complex, frightening figure played by Brad Pitt, is the capitalist face of new baby-booming America; he invents things, chases everything down and is God-fearing. He tries to instil this life/work ethic in his troubled son. Dizzying camera angles, lighting and colour inform the exquisite artistry of this film. A vision of life that paints spirituality in strong, bold strokes; operatic in conception, The Tree of Life is not to be missed……. 

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Review: Theatre

The Government Inspector, Young Vic, dir Richard Jones, Julian Barratt, Doon Mackickan, Amanda Lawrence, Kyle Soller

Garishly-good. 60s retro sets, wallpaper, patterns and costumes; all brash and clash. Mistaken identity allows Khelestakov to fleece the town, jump ship and begone scot-free. The townsfolk are one-dimensional: obsequious, enjoy one-up-man-ship and play to trample on each other. This is the problem there are no redeeming features or characters in this whistle-stop dash. Does make for some hilarious moments, though, as surreality is topped by surreality: think rats, slamming doors, booze-fuelled conversations and empty declamations. The women excel as Doon Mackickan, Amanda Lawrence and Buffy Davis play within the genre, and rightly, get the most laughs…..  

Friday, 1 July 2011

Review: Cinema

Potiche, Curzon Chelsea, dir Franois Ozron, Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu

Fun. Pastiche, of well-heeled, middle class, left/right/centrist France seen through the exploits of the Pujol family. As the film progresses, each becomes involved in the family business, umbrellas, after Pujol’s heart attack. Potiche, translates as trophy wife, and Madam Pujol is so successful at running the business that by the end she stands for MP. The film has its cake and…..Set in the 1970s, it looks back to a more obvious misogynistic time, and yet points forward to a more liberal-minded France…..Sets and costume are 70s’ retro, and Deneuve and Depardieu have a great time as bo-ho lovers united once more to ward off an impending strike at the factory. Sometimes Carry On…..sometimes Benny Hill; the film is a delight. It references The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,starring Deneuve in 1964, and Saturday Night Fever as the pair get down and hustle on a cheesy disco dance floor……Uplifting…..