Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Review: Theatre

Orpheus and Eurydice, National Youth Theatre, dir James Dacre, The Old Vic Tunnels

Classy. Classic tale of love as Orpheus descends to the underworld to rescue Eurydice, with a few modern reversals: a laser eye which architecturally frames the action throughout, scanners, a river which serves for forgetfulness, a crossroads and the famed Styx complete with Charon and his boat. It’s a tale told backwards with a neat promenade at the beginning, which gives nothing away until it’s needed. Stunning ensemble work, singing and live music delivered with conviction, energy and verve; with a chorus of liars, hate dwellers, sorrow dwellers and the Oracles’ Choir. The staging, lighting and sound is superb. While Molly Davies creates dialogue with a ‘language which is intimate yet epic and lives up to the scale of these tunnels.’ And the setting is fabulous. With the constant rumble of the trains from Waterloo an evocative backdrop, while the curved arches and steel grille provide a vision of hell that is real and palpable, and stays in the mind long after the production has finished……Orpheus and Eurydice is the total theatre package…….   

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Review: Film

One Day, Putney Odeon, dir Lone Sherfig, Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Rafe Spall, Romola Garai, Patricia Clarkson, Ken Stott, Screenplay David Nicholls

Diverting. Dex and Em share one day, 15th July, St Swithin’s Day, after graduation. In essence she is from Yorkshire and is working class; he has been educated at Winchester, and is straight out of the top drawer. Neither the book nor film is a class/political statement but it is there quietly in the background as we see their development over a 20 year period; though the film reflects its contemporary date, ending in 2011. It’s a slow-burn as we witness their ups and downs, and its Emma who seems to fair the worst, initially, in a round of waitressing while Dex’s silver spoon sees him on the rise to ultimate TV fame. Yet we get to Dex’s burnout all too quickly. Much of the humour in the book is flattened out in the film; it appears too self-conscious. Though there is a chemistry between Hathaway and Sturgess. The supporting cast are good too, Rafe Spall as Ian and Romola Garai as Sylvie; and the lush music by Rachel Portman supports a dreamy, romantic-looking Edinburgh..…..

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Review: Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Swimming With My Mother, CoisCeim Dance, dir David Bolger, Projection Artist Jym Daly, Dancebase
Exquisite. The joy of swimming; the joy of dancing wrapped in a narrative that is as restorative as good malt. A simple voiceover connects us to Madge, the mother, and her life on the strand and the dance hall; and latterly David, her son, with shared memories of swimming, dancing and a whole lot more. This is a beautiful homage to life and the unique bond between mother and son, told so eloquently through movement. David Bolger as performer/choreographer is supple and imaginative in his movement and storytelling; Madge Bolger in inspiration and stillness is his muse. Simple staging: a bench, a towel and a whistle with imaginative projections of the moon, and digital splashes which are playful, yet creative, make the piece intimate yet expansive…..unique…...

Rock The Ballet, dir Rasta Thomas, Assembly Hall, The Mound
Rocket….Seven males and one girl: macho, proud as beautiful bodies abound. Queen, Michael Jackson, Prince, Black-Eyed Peas, Lenny Kravitz are all featured, with the all-American Girl in a celebration of high octane, creative sculptural movement Americana-Style. Ballet is made accessible to all: the choreography is sharp, witty and inventive with breath-taking balances. Extensions show superhuman pliability, and athleticism proliferates in this eclectic feast of ballet, hip-hop, tap and much, much, more. With energetic projections of cityscapes, psychedelia, rock show lighting and special effects, this is the nearest thing to rock heaven…..….

Sunday in the Park With George, Sondheim/Lapine, Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, dir Phillip Howard, C Venue
B+.’ Art, love, obsession, commitment. Sondheim’s landmark musical, inspired by the creation of one of the world’s greatest impressionist paintings’……George Seurat never had it so good: witty clever lyrics, music - matchstick men eat your hearts out - as characters come to life under his painterly orchestration. Foremost is Dot, a clever reference to Pointillism, from his painting Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte. Staging is inventive given the limitations of the space; and the singing impressive, particularly Sarah Gibbons as Dot and Robert Dalton as George Seurat…..

Homemade Fusion, Music Kooman and Dimond, dir Frankie Wakefield, C Soco
Progressive. Time to let the songs just flow from one to the other: angst, love, falling out, cubicle-love, harmonies, boy with girl, girl, boy, stalkers, star-crossed love, love’s peccadillos; all are given a look in. More review format than a musical, Homemade Fusion, with a strong company of six - three boys, three girls - work creatively as a unit and play the confines of the space well. Simple staging: a bookcase, bric a brac, boxes for levels; with clever lyrics, musical off-beats, counterpoint and harmonies……entertaining……

What Remains, Gridiron, Traverse Production, University of Edinburgh School of Anatomy
Experiential. Gothic horror, hammer films, murder and a quest for perfection; more site-specific interactive art installation than theatre. Intimate spaces are needed to create a true claustrophobic feel but What Remains did achieve a kind of scientific detachment which suited the location well. We become objective participants rather than ‘candidates’ for the project. David Paul Jones is the sole performer and is a talented pianist and composer. And Gilbert Prendergast’s quest? Well this could be music, mastery of the piano or performance itself. There are some interesting yet startling exhibits: the bowl of sweets with shards of glass; the spyhole into his bedroom as a child, the cryptic message on the white board dear friend if you are reading this now I am already dead…..the decaying food in bowls outside a cordoned off crime scene area, and the gallery of answers from previous ‘candidates’ as to the answer to the question: What Remains…..

I Infinite, Tom Dale Company, Choreography Tom Dale, Dancer Maria Olga Palliani, Digital Media Artist Barret Hodgson, Dance Base
Sublime. ‘I Infinite is inspired by the world of digital technology and its efforts to perfect itself as it constantly tries to re-create or reproduce nature.’…..Conceptual piece where a dancer is seen in isolation, and yet in relation to, light, sound and projection. At one point it looked as if the dancer dictated terms, at other times the projection or the light. The audience, clothed in sterile blue gowns, moved around so they too provided a different movement-scape, adding to the intensity and experience. The dancing and movement was rich: fluid limbs, sometimes robotic, sometimes hip-hop but all within a contemporary dance frame of counter-balance and strength….mesmerising…...

Twenty Minutes to Nine, Belt Up, dir James Wilkes, Lucy Farrett, C Soco
Maddening. Performance irritating: too much external not enough internal, caricatured laugh and accent, young playing old: creaking stick, reedy voice, see-through dress. Writing concept interesting: Miss Haversham look-alike gives context, plays with modern profanities and audience interaction; why? Good contextual moments, which when the performer is less self-conscious, are interesting such as a visit to the elephant man or the madhouse or in her many meandering digressions. Kasbah Bedouin tent appeal with dresser, sofa, soft furnishings and decanters, with one main, diagonal lighting source; audience sat on cushions, some fell asleep, unfortunately, I didn’t…..

Oedipus, Written Steven Berkoff, dir Steven Berkoff, Set Michael Vale, Lighting Mike Robertson, Pleasance Grand
Viseral. Painterly staging reminiscent of Da Vinci’s Last Supper: Oedipus is the Christ/sacrificial figure. A huge backcloth dominates, suggestive of vast open spaces, sand, rock, sea. The Chorus are stunning, in poses of the ordinary man: cloth caps, banal expressions, though sometimes this is at odds with the tragedy of the piece – the use of Zorba the Greek in the background. The split Messenger’s speech is a shade over the top in its animation; and Anita Dobson, as Jocasta, is not as comfortable with Berkoff’s pulsating rhythms as the rest of the company…Yet this is a new, bold take on the story’s light and shade, and Berkoff is on home-turf with trademark muscular text, varied tempo, slow motion and stark animated images...…..

Ducks, Michael McClean, dir Tyne Rafaeli, Pleasance Upstairs
Clever. Strong, confident playing by R and K, aka Dean Ashton and Thomas Morrison. Pinteresque in its pausing, beats and menace yet the writing is unique. McClean is an actor’s writer and has a good ear for dialogue and musicality. Staging is clever, making good use of the confined space, with two nifty crates serving as everything: bar, DJ consul, home; add some sharp lighting and sound effects to truncate or initiate scenes and Ducks is an intense, though hugely enjoyable experiment, in what happens when two people are thrown together and one begins to get the upper hand…..

Time For a Good Looking Boy, Box Clever, Writer Michael Wicherek, dir Iqbal Khan, Set Rhys Jarman, Lloyd Thomas, Pleasance Jack
Tour-de-force. Intensely moving. Very tight script and performance; creative set consisting of two cut-outs of a house and a smaller wooden model suspended stage right….….Clever use of rap lyrics, pulsating, pumping, rhythm, featuring ‘the boy’ and his story. Billed as an urban ghost story the play shows the consequences of a night out after the end of exams….Excellent commitment to the piece, the playing area and the production by all the creative team. And as part of the Oval House encouragement to new writing and new talent, Time For a Good Looking Boy features a stunning performance, full of attack, muscularity and vim by Lloyd Thomas that will be hard to better……

Those Magnificent Men, , New Perspectives Theatre, Wrtten by Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon, dir Daniel Buckroyd with C P Hallam and Richard Earl, Pleasance Cowbarn
Chocks-away! A clever two-hander: the story of Alcock and Brown and the first transatlantic flight from St Johns, Canada, to Galway, Ireland is a comic treat. The two actors create everything; they are the characters, they are the actors, they play a variety of parts……and they build a plane. It has the charm and camaraderie of a boys’ own derring do comic, that you forget sometimes just how risky and dangerous this first transatlantic attempt, post first world war, actually was. A couple of crates and flying-clad balaclavas finish the illusion and you are there with the Vimy Vickers, flying with it, willing it, across the line…..joyous…..

Ten Plagues, Marc Almond, Mark Ravenhill, Conor Mitchell, Stewart Laing, Traverse
Experimental. Music-Theatre collaboration with Marc Almond in a song cycle about plague-ridden seventeenth century London, based on eye witness accounts ‘and drawing poetic parallels to modern epidemics.’ The piece didn’t quite hit high C but was oddly compelling in parts, through its use of projections and aspects of Almond’s performance. The setting was a frame within a frame; and music stands were suggestive of people and the London streets. Pianist and performer were linked through similar black costumes, part punk, part seventeenth century, with the piano providing a central focus. The A-tonal music does need adjusting to, though clever lyrics, take the audience on one man’s journey from springtime and the plague’s beginning to survival. Yet Ten Plagues does leave you strangely detached……. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Review: Film

The Rise of Planet of the Apes, Odeon Putney dir Rupert Wyatt, Andrew Serkis, Frieda Pinto, James Franco

Impressive. Great special effects. An experiment to cure Alzheimer’s, amongst other things, leads to the creation of a super-race of apes. A battle for supremacy is slugged out on the San Francisco bridge, beyond which lies the Redwood forest. The film is about good intentions but altruism when not considered objectively, scientifically, can lead to devastating consequences. The Rise of Planet of the Apes is a formula film but it’s very good of its kind, largely due to a talented creative team that was behind Avatar and Lord of the rings, snappy, stylish direction by Rupert Wyatt, with a winning performance by Andrew Serkis as Ceasar. The film is also about intelligence, what it means to be civilised, and who has the right to decide what these things are. In the jungle it is physical supremacy that rules. In captivity subjugation is by other external means, the gun, the syringe, the compound. Great moments of light and shade: the gesture of a stroked palm, in seeking permission, by Ceasar is juxtaposed with the humans’ focus, I’m just interested in making money…..good story-making…..  

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Review: Film

Captain America, Putney Odeon, dir Joe Johnston, Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell

A-Team. Unfit for military service, sickly, puny Steve Rogers, volunteers for a top secret research project. After administering blue serum he is turned into Captain America: a superhero dedicated to defending America’s ideals. An intentionally patriotic creation, often depicted fighting the Axis powers of World Wall II, Captain America was Timely Comics’ most popular character during the wartime period. Today it’s not hard to see its contemporary appeal as America recession, terrorism and a crisis of confidence.  Great build up, set sequences, parody of the Technicolor glamour of the 40s. In jingoistic fashion he tours the country to bolster national pride, whilst yearning to try out his muscle-power. Complete with patriotic shield and indestructible combats he champions the world, and heralds next summer’s blockbuster, as the first avenger…..