Friday, 23 September 2011

Review: Film

Drive Dir Wilding Refn from the novella by James Sallis, Carey Mulligan, Ryan Gosling, Ron Perlman, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston

Messy. There’s little driving in this film despite its title……..Ryan Gosling, no name, rolls cars by day as a stunt driver and is a getaway driver by night in this ‘noir-heist’ movie. He says little but looks lots......Yet with little backstory it is difficult to read anything he does say or do…..We know he can drive ‘the best in the business’ and we know he’s signed up to race ‘big time’: a storyline that is left under-developed. And we know he helps the ex-con husband of Irene in a heist that goes badly wrong - then he and the film go visit the dark side……We do get to traverse the mean streets of LA but this is at the beginning before the credits; and that’s pretty much it!.....It has its gore-filled moments; some cheeky, smirking flirtation between Gosling and Mulligan; a scene with bare-breasted showgirls who don’t move a muscle as our hero attempts to hammer a nail into a guy’s head; and a white satin jacket with embroidered gold motif that becomes bloodier and bloodier which nobody comments on……If you like your movies hard-boiled, go see it. If you like your movies…...  

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Review: Theatre

The Tempest dir Trevor Nunn, design Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Andrew Jarvis

Reconciliation. This is the mood throughout. Everything stems from Ralph Fiennes’ fine Prospero as he dons his magical cloak and incants the spell which precipitates the storm. He is ready to forgive. The production feels eighteenth century: in is the masque of the three goddesses, sung in mock-baroque fashion; in is the illusory feast which so stills the ship-wrecked dukes; in is the harmonic balance between action, singing, music and staging; and in is a contrived sentimentality with flying cherubs and counter-tenor arias. The production is big with arielists, projections, while the constancy of the hour-glass downstage reminds us that there are tasks to be completed. From the innocuous log-fetching of Caliban and Ferdinand to Ariel's right to freedom and Prospero's restoration as the rightful Duke of Milan. The comic duo, Trinculo and Stephano, replete with shanties and folk songs as they tame/civilise their moon-calf, Caliban, with the celestial liquor, offer an ironic counterpoint to the vision of kingship and kingdom, as does the gentle, yet steadfast Gonzalo. To each the isle is full of strange noises that are harmonious or dissonant depending on what is in their hearts………… 

Review: Theatre

The Kitchen, Arnold Wesker, dir Bijan Sheibani, design Giles Cadle, National Theatre

Pressure-cooker. In just under three hours we sweat, rail, shed calories, sweat; cook fish, sweat, meat and two veg, sweat, prepare pastries in an inventive revival of Wesker’s play. It’s a tour de force, not to be used lightly, in movement and choreography covering a single day at the Tivoli Restaurant. The kitchen has its hierarchies amongst the chefs and waitresses, and in this respect, resembles a mini state. It has its nationalities, a global village, made more poignant when you consider its original setting, 1959, where things are still unstable after WW2, and principles are embryonic; all anyone can do is cling on…….This is the by-word for the play as the action, becoming more frenetic and surreal, reaches a glorious crescendo at the end of the first half…….All the characters have their moments but Peter, with his dream arch, is perhaps the most developed; the rest present points of view, character detail, like vignettes that serve the wild action of the morning, the lull of the afternoon, and the climactic evening shift….Everything about this production is outstanding from its concept through to its design...........…… 

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Review: Film

Jane Eyre dir Cary Fukunaga, Screenplay Moira Buffini, Michael Fassbender, Mia Wasikowska, Jamie Bell

Muted…..Grief-stricken Jane runs from Thornfield and ends up at Moore House with St John Rivers and his sisters. Her subsequent convalescence allows Jane to reflect on her earlier fortunes from Gateshead and her vindictive Aunt Reed, Lowood School and the saintly Helen Burn, to Thornfield and the dangerous Mr Rochester. Structurally it works. Yet there is a curious detachment at the film's centre......Jane’s passion is buried too deep and is more head than heart. Even her imaginative drawings appear too studied and ordered. And the passion in MIchael Fassbender's Rochester and St John, the versatile Jamie Bell, is never quite given the full opportunity to really fly......There is an excellent support cast, led by Judi Dench, and the tone and palette, particularly in the costumes, settings and round of seasons in the longest section, Thornfield, emphasise a rich inner world with granite exterior............

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Review: Theatre

The Wild Bride, Kneehigh, Lyric, Hammersmith dir Emma Rice

Stunning. The word is too tame. This is the tale of a handless maiden, supping with the devil at the crossroads, a would-be husband who goes to war, and a misguided father who sells more than his old pear tree from the backyard. In a unique blend of theatre, fusing dance, poetry, music and spell-binding story-telling, The Wild Bride catapults Kneehigh from leading players to the forefront of theatrical style. Conventions are re-written every time yet their roots are in strong musicality, physicalisation, comedia, and theatre. The company is made up of six, multi-talented performers who make each element seem effortless. Everything serves the story. Yet over time we have seen them dance, act, play one, two or three different musical instruments, and sing in a number of styles from blues to Bulgarian folksong. Their stamina and commitment is faultless and breath-taking to experience. And this is what this is: a shared experience. Aided by an evocative light and sound design which underscores the progress from innocence, wildness to understanding, this is a thrilling, redemptive, theatrical journey…….Stop everything and go see it….

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Review: Film

Win Win dir Thomas McCarthy, Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor, Burt Young

Feel-good. Witty, dry script with sharply-drawn characters, though it runs out of steam towards the end. Mike Flaherty struggles: his law practice is not doing well, his heating and plumbing system are in need of desperate attention, and he coaches a failing wrestling team. He jogs to reduce stress and needs, in a mid-life-kind-of-way, purpose and direction. His family watch from the side-lines. Mike becomes the legal guardian to elderly Leo, who is in the early stages of dementia, and places him in a care home, collecting a guardianship cheque every month to supplement the family’s reduced income. Kyle, Leo’s grandson, turns up and is a would-be champion wrestler. Yes, you can see it coming……And Mike?.....Well Mike finds his life turned upside down as he tries to balance principles with practicalities……Excellent ensemble cast as wise youth triumphs over fickle middle age, in an off-beat comedy which is a cut above the rest….. 

Review: Theatre

Disco Pigs, Young Vic, Enda Walsh, dir Cathal Cleary, Charlie Murphy Rory Fleck-Byrne, design Chloe Lamford

Rollercoaster. Neither you or they stop: this is the punch of the play. Walsh’s highly-coloured language is Joycean at times, a stream of consciousness, rich in imagery and elaborate syntax. It unites the two characters, Pig and Runt, and deliberately excludes everyone else. The play’s world is seen through their eyes and boasts a host of characters, neatly shown through mannequins or impersonation. At one time Pig says this is ‘his kingdom.’ Pig and Runt, Darren and Sinead, are soul mates born in the same hospital, in ‘Pork City’, Cork, Ireland, just seconds apart. They grow up and are inseparable and have an almost telepathic relationship. As partners in crime they have a voracious appetite for recklessness, destruction and violence, fuelled by drink and an overriding sense of their own invincibility, displayed in the frenetic movement and dance, almost Bacchic-like, at the disco. Up until their seventeenth birthday, it’s always been Pig and Runt, Runt and Pig until the urge to express/claim themselves sexually leads to a devastating end……clever, highly theatrical and right between the eyeballs…… 

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Review: Theatre

The Faith Machine, Alexi Kaye Campbell, dir Jamie Lloyd, Hayley Atwell, Ian McDiarmid, Jude Akuwudike, Ken Stoller

Big. Big ideas, big themes, big execution. Personal faith in a secular world twisted by politics, capitalism and out-moded ideology; the backdrop is the church schism over homosexuality, 9/11, Afghanistan and human laboratories for drugs testing. The Faith Machine set over three acts switches from 2001, 1998, 2006, 2001, 2010 and 2011. Yet structurally Campbell knows exactly what he’s doing. He leaves nothing to chance as lines, ideas recur right the way through to the end. Sophie gives Tom an ultimatum and his choice impacts on them both. Sophie’s father Edward, a bishop, is quitting the church. Edward’s dilemma is played out in an agonising, yet touching portrayal, of mortal decay by Ian McDiarmid. Yet there is a practical realism which runs through this play, which off-sets the polemics and diffused energy of some of the characters, which is refreshing; keeping faith, for all of us, is attainable. And there is plenty of light and shade with a winningly off-beat performance by Bronagh Gallagher as Edward’s housekeeper. The Faith Machine is bold, daring, in its concept and design......