Thursday, 22 December 2011

Review: Dance

The Sleeping Beauty, Royal Ballet, Petipa, Monica Mason/Christopher Newton, Lauren Cuthbertson, Sergei Polunin

Sumptuous. This glorious ballet, with stunning choreography and soaring Tchaikovsky score, was in 1890, a theatrical event which showed off the grand, Russian, Imperial style. It is also the Royal Ballet’s signature piece. It has land-marked its history from its inauguration at Covent Garden after the war through to its closure for refurbishment, when Darcey Bussell as the lilac fairy put the house to sleep for two years. And in the right season, Christmas, where the spirit of renewal and thanksgiving is uppermost, it is a magical, festive treat. The overall look for this current 'Beauty' is striking, in its recreation of Oliver Messel’s 1946 designs. Back then the paucity of material necessitated the mother of invention, so that the gentlemen’s cuffs were made out of paper doilies. Now its opulence, vibrant colour and grand style throws into relief the grey world of tightened belts and cut corners, and we are the better for it. Under the direction of Monica Mason and Christopher Newton this production is a homage to its 1946 lineage. Lauren Cuthbertson as Princess Aurora has a great technique with long, languorous limbs. She is also a good actress. She excelled in the Grand Pas of Act 111 with Sergei Polunin, and there is a real sense of connection and musicality between them. Polunin, touted as the next Nureyev, is stunning to watch: huge jumps, whose crisp, clean turns are thrilling. The confection of the story is lightly spun, so story book characters such as puss in boots, red riding hood, bluebeard line up as wedding guests alongside the seasons and other royal dignitaries, as we see a handsome prince kiss and reawaken a cursed princess. Yet its reality lies in a noble sentiment in which goodness rather than triumphs, endures.....We are in an allegorical world........a world, like the angels, which dances on a pin…….. 

Review: Film

My week with Marilyn, Colin Clark, dir Simon Curtis, Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Judi Dench, Kenneth Branagh

British. The film is taken from the diaries of Colin Clark in a week in 1956 where he meets, and falls in love with, Marilyn Munroe while she films The Prince and the Show Girl opposite Lawrence Olivier. Clark is at the outset of his film career, he later went on to make documentaries, with Lawrence Olivier Productions and as third assistant director is keen to learn everything he can. Yet the focus is never on him ....Instead the film offers a glorious opportunity for Judi Dench to give her Dame Sybil Thorndike and for Kenneth Branagh to give his Olivier….both excel. For a one note song the film is diverting, amusing. Yet the real interest lies in how Marliyn’s other close associates act towards Colin as his Marilyn stock increases. Yet the film gives little thought to this, beyond a few peeved expressions, so it remains a fluffy light-weight. As Colin is infatuated with Marillyn before The Prince and the Show Girl, once she gives him the glad-eye, that’s it…….Yet the period detail is finely recreated, and for the most part has some fun, interesting performances. And for all its soft focus, shampoo-advert moments - skinny-dipping in the Thames, mid-afternoon, after being halloooed by some hot-under-the-collar Etonians, I dont' think so - My Week With Marilyn is worth the price of the popcorn…… 

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Review: Theatre

13, Mike Bartlett, The National Theatre, dir Thea Sharrock, Geraldine James

Big. Similar in scope to Earthquakes in London with recurring stylistic features: a messianic figure, a large multi-racial cast, of all ages, covering sections of the community from the government down. The thematic backdrop is protest and the exploration of personal and political belief, whilst widespread disaffection is across the board…..Enter John - think John the Baptist - who offers hope, action and positive change, albeit briefly, until the consequences of a young girl’s untimely death de-rails him……It is difficult to know whether hope-cut-down is Bartlett’s own view or not. What is striking is the huge canvass that he sets up which is contemporary and exciting. Bartlett dares to be bold and that is a good thing…..The exploration of belief is central to the play as people wake up from similar, recurring dreams and images. Big in concept 13 features an eerie physical and psychological landscape both familiar and strange. (In Earthquakes in London he reaches into the future, 2025, with the messianic figure, Emily)…..13's huge, revolving metal cube and staging add to the alienation. While an abstract, dissonant soundscape and digital countdown, create a disturbing,  dystopian world……terrific……… 

Review: Film

The deep blue sea, Terrence Rattigan, dir Terrence Davies, Rachel Weisz, Simon Russell Beale, Tom Hiddleston

Moody. Ex-fighter pilot Freddie lives in an older world. He finds it hard to adjust: he drinks and brawls his way through life. Hester falls for him with a passion which consumes her, while married to Judge, Sir William Collyer, who is increasingly out of his depth. The film begins with an attempted suicide. While the presence of death, destruction, is never far from the surface throughout. For the most part the film is believable: the period is meticulously evoked, with fly- on-the-wall camera-work - a Davies’ trope - together with pub sing-songs, and the absence of emotional underscored music, showing a gritty, grainy post-war London. As a result, The Deep Blue Sea is bleak, muted: too much so. The passion between the leads' shared screen-time, despite the artistic entanglement of bodies, kindles rather than fires. With moments from zero to sixty driven rather than realistic……..It looks good, though, if heavily-laden.......and Simon Russell-Beale triumphs……….

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Review: Film

We Need to Talk About Kevin dir Lynne Ramsay, Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, John C Reilly

Accomplished. Shows the intense relationship between a mother and son, over fifteen years, as one grows in hate and manipulation while the other tries to manage and disarm. Tilda Swinton as Eva is outstanding. Her life unravels in seconds and the two main strands in the film, the events which lead up to her changed circumstances and how she copes with this, form the film’s narrative drive. The reveal is slow and utterly compelling from the start: from the breeze-blown curtains to Eva’s start from consciousness as she wakes from a dream. Linking images, ideas such as the thematic use of the colour red, Ramsay produces an intense, psychological thriller based on the best-selling novel by Lionel Shriver. We Need to Talk About Kevin explores the nature vs nurture debate, revealing Eva’s culpability or inheritance, set against Kevin’s disturbed tendencies. Yet there is a redemptive quality at the end, albeit small, which is both dramatically satisfying and prevents the film from being just another nihilistic, slasher-movie. The cinematography and direction capture the story's inside-out quality; and Ramsay in creating a strong, visual text, combines a moral uncertainty with a persuasive narrative, to build towards a chilling, memorable climax……

Review: Film

Wuthering Heights dir Andrea Arnold, Robbie Ryan, Kaya Scodelario, James Howson, Shannon Beer, Solomon Glave

Muddied. Feral children become poised adults with a stretched believability across the two states. Arnold has a great concept: to make the natural elements of the Yorkshire Moors, the weather, time of day as complete a visceral experience as possible. Yet glaring gaps in the narrative and continuity make Wuthering Heights an intensely annoying experience to sit through. The plot is reduced and simplified: Heathcliff is taken in by the wealthy Earnshaw family where he develops an intense relationship with his young foster sister, Cathy. Yet most of the film centres on the younger actors whose inexperience shows little connection between the two, never mind passion. The pair inhabit little more than a pigsty, at odds with the Earnshaws’ wealthy status, roll around in the mud, climb the highest tor and ride bare-backed horses. Yet Cathy’s conversion to the Lintons’ Georgian splendour is covered in one line. The infamous tapping-branches-on-the-windowpane is there but no supernatural, destructive force which dominates and grips the novel. That said it looks wonderful, cinematographer Robbie Ryan, and the bleak aspect fits the dour emotional landscape of the film……