Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Review: Dance

Balletboyz The Talent, William Trevitt, Michael Nunn, A New Generation

Fabulous. 3 pieces promoting high octane, high testosterone levels of animal physicality with nine guys at the top of their game….The baton has passed to a new generation: a clever ploy on behalf of original ballet boys, William Trevitt and Michael Nunn, as the company, now ten years old, repackages itself for a new audience. First up Torsion, the twisting of an object due to an applied torque, with choreography by Russell Maliphant, is striking, fast, classy and with movement that just erupts from the minimal square of light, from which set pieces build into explosions of strength, stamina and athleticism. The romantic Alpha, with choreography by Paul Roberts and music by Keaton Henson, is a fest of colour and movement as costumes, suggestive of the eighteenth century, depict sailors marooned or shipwrecked on dry, bleached sandy beaches. There is an elegance to this piece, in contrast to the visceral quality of the first, as dancers are lifted, in counterpoint, high into the air. Finally Void: edgy, fast, with a black and white film backdrop as a group of disenfranchised hoodies circle and strut in a collision of movement and balance, which is breath-taking. With fresh choreography by Jarek Cemerek, film by Andrew Ellis and music score by Ondrej Dedecek, Yoav and Ismael de Garay this is a stunning closure to the evening…..Balletboyz are on tour now; catch them as they come round….if you can.....  

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Review: Film

The Iron Lady by Abi Morgan, dir Phyllida Lloyd, Meryl Streep, Olivia Colman, Jim Broadbent

Imbalanced. A staggering, meticulous performance by Meryl Streep as the iron lady, ex-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. If the film had remained as an account of grief and dementia, which is its humanity, it perhaps would have earned more plaudits. As it is those at Westminster seem to have distanced themselves from it, and indeed part of an awkwardness is the juxtaposition of real footage, such as the 1980s’ miners’ strike and the sinking of The Belgrano, with its fictionalised, familial account. The difficulty is that we don’t know how to ‘read’ these as they are remembered by the ‘present’ Margaret. They come to us in an unexpurgated form, so that the mis-match of film format, after a while, becomes irritating. This is a shame for its human story is touching. Ably supporting Streep are Olivia Colman as Carol Thatcher and Jim Broadbent as Dennis; and Abi Morgan – who seems to have written everything at the moment – once again demonstrates, as she does in Lovesong, that she writes with real heart. The Iron Lady, complete with the off-stage, spectral presence of Mark Thatcher - always the favoured off-spring - as Carol does her best to keep ‘mummy’ going; and the inter-cut, imagined scenes involving Dennis, elevate the film from a kind of ordinariness……

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Review: Film

Shame written by Abi Morgan and Steve McQueen, dir Steve McQueen, Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan

Brave. A few dead-end alleys in an otherwise compulsive movie: it’s shot beautifully, and erotically, around Manhattan, in subways, in anonymous grey offices, apartment buildings, sleazy bars and meat joints. The common currency is sex: Brandon, a successful middle executive, is an addict. No reasons are made clear for this. Though when Sissy, his drifter-sister, comes back into his life, there is sense of shared history, of which neither speaks. Sissy brings colour and a little bit of the exotic in the beginning, but her fragility is all too apparent when she hits on Brandon’s boss; and her heart-wrung singing of New York, New York shows her already half-submerged. There are two fine performances from Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, in an endless, though compelling round, of seedy assignations and joyless sex, where the New York backdrop is grey and unforgiving. Whether British artist, Steve McQueen, is making some subtle call here, is difficult to tell, as his standpoint at best, is ambiguous…….Hard viewing, but the film is shot with a sincerity as we see Brandon spiral from porn sites, lack-lustre dinner dates, call-girls, orgies to a battle-scarred, mess of self-loathing….He still rides the subway, but whether he is tempted or cured as he catches the eye of an attractive girl in the final sequence, we never know……..   

Review: Theatre

Lovesong by Abi Morgan, Lyric, Hammersmith, dir Steven Hoggart, Scott Graham, design Merle Hensal, video design William Galloway, Adam Young, lighting Andy Purves, Edward Bennett, Leanne Rowe, Sian Phillips, Sam Cox

Spell-binding. A couple, in their early and late years, interleave experiences, in just 90 minutes. It is the story of their beginning and their end......Margaret and William, Billy and Maggie, live as a believable, seamless couple in a beautifully choreographed and finely judged production by Frantic Assembly. The use of projections, architecture, music and movement show the most simplest of stories: a lovesong. Yet it is epic in design. William at one point asks what if our lives are a series of film strips which we inhabit; in which time is not linear?....The company have captured this concept in a threnody that has left audiences standing. Abi Morgan’s script is a clever contrivance: juxtaposed ideas, themes, objects drop into the action only to recur later with an added poignancy, such as the peaches, the hammock and the boy Adam. We are being unashamedly manipulated yet the subject matter is so contemporary and the performances, so much in tune with each other, that we go along with everything. Even the flocks of starlings as they go about their business, mimicking all they hear in their upward sweep, play a fine, thematic role....And a production that can make sense of ipods,cave paintings and dentistry in the same orbit shows a deft touch.....………Exquisite 

Friday, 6 January 2012

Review: Theatre

Comedy of Errors, NT, dir Dominic Cooke, Lenny Henry, Claudie Blakely, Daniel Msamati

Muted-Tint. Classic tale of twins separated in infancy by a shipwreck……mistaken identity as Antipholus of Syracuse arrives in Ephesus to search for his lost brother…….confusion as the action of both brothers and their identical twin servants, ‘the Dromios’, spirals ever faster into chaos and absurdity. Yet the setting and other theatrical signifiers are confusing: we are in a run-down city with tenements, smart apartments and seedy red-light district. The period is difficult to read. The range of accents suggests Africa, Latin-American…..Essex. While a live band sing British pop songs in Romanian. The costumes include football shirts, 60s’ chic, hip-hop, contemporary tart, anonymous brown suits with light travelling clothes…….The appeal overall is contemporary, modern, but the disparity between these elements is too wide for it to truly cohere…..Yet Lenny Henry does a fine job as Antipholus, bringing off comic routines and moments of real pathos; similarly, Claudie Blakely - so secure in comedy – is equally dexterous when she realises she has bedded the wrong guy; and Daniel Msamati, a united Emirates Dromio, with his near-monologue on the uncertain virtues of a close admirer is great fun……..These are joyous moments but the overall dilapidation of the city with its greys and dark tones, has the effect of laughter short-lived………… 

Review: Theatre

Noises Off, Michael Frayn, dir Lindsay Posner, Celia Imrie, Janie Dee, Johnathan Coy, Amy Nuttall, Jamie Glover, Robert Glenister, Paul Ready, Aisling Loftus, Karl Johnson, des Paul McKintosh

Priceless. Just when you think comedy couldn’t be bettered after ‘One Man Two Guvnors’ along comes ‘Noises Off’ at the Old Vic. A masterly script, played at a breakneck pace, which is truly awesome, using a play-within-a-play format where genre and structure is expertly manipulated throughout. Set over three acts, ‘Noises Off’, features Act One of the sex comedy ‘Nothing On’….produced by a second rate touring theatrical company with its stock of theatricals: young juveniles, old hacks, persistent worriers and drunks. Over time, the production disintegrates, as do the relationships between the characters, as actors play characters, who play actors and characters, who play….you get the picture…. ‘Nothing On’ - replete with sardines, banging doors and country-house setting - is ripe for exploitation, reminiscent of the slap n’ tickle, seedy comedies, at the butt-end of pier. Yet Act Two, where the action switches to backstage, objectifies the highlights of Act One while the ensuring chaos of the characters’ feelings towards each other are made more ludicrous because of the backstage etiquette for silence....Celia Imrie more than matches her two predecessors, Patricia Routledge and Patricia Hodge, Robert Glenister is in perfect pitch as the frazzled director, Lloyd Dallas. Yet overall, ‘Noises Off’ is an ensemble triumph: a seasonal treat, expertly told, expertly executed…… 

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Review: Theatre

One Man Two Guvnors, Adelphi, dir Nicholas Hytner, James Corden, Jemima Rooper, Oliver Chris

Hoot. Everything you could wish for and more:  great comedic ensemble playing, stolen identities, ensuing chaos, 60s’ concept, Brighton setting and scene covering with live skiffle-band,The Curve, which has the audience standing on its feet by the end…...Francis Henshall, fired from his skiffle band, needs to keep his two new guvnors – one a gangland, androgynous twin the other a snooty toff - happy but separate. Unbeknownst to him each, in a natural twist of fate, is in love with the other. Throw in a scene-stealing, masterly waiter, Tom Eddon - think victoria Woods’ ‘two soups’ - a criminal underworld backdrop and you have a glorious romp as top-of-the-form James Corden, as the ever-hungry Francis, guides us through the byways of Richard Bean’s sparkling new adaptation of Goldoni’s 1794 comic Italian classic, A Servant and Two Masters, turning it into a very British farce par excellence….