Saturday, 26 April 2014

Calvary directed by John McDonagh, Brendan Gleeson, Aiden Gillen, Chris O'Dowd

Father James (Brendan Gleeson) learns he will be killed in a week's time. This is Sligo, Ireland. Revelations about abusive priests rock the catholic church, and the killer, abused as a boy, sees purchase in killing a good priest. Father James fits the bill. This is McDonagh's second film. His eclectic style evokes Enda Walsh, David Lynch and Ballykissangel, the dark side. At base level Calvary is a 'who's-going-to-do-it.' The townsfolk, from the ghoulish doctor (Aiden Gillen) to the fallen Magdalen (Orla O'Rouke) simmer with rage against the church and its representative, as the countdown begins. At the same time, Calvary is atonement. The action inexorably moves towards its uncompromising end, yet the journey is both humorous and unsettling.The scenery, breathtaking in its savage beauty, matches the film's mercurial tone: all glowering skies, cross-currents, while the dominant Knochnarea Mountain, in sweeping aerial shots, looks like a sacrificial altar. This is intelligent, angry stuff.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The School for Scheming, Dion Boucicault, The Orange Tree

Orange Tree Theatre co-founder Auriol Smith directs Dion Boucicault's 1847 play, The School for Scheming. Penniless aristocrat, Claude Plantagenet (Paul Shelley), hopes his daughter Helen (Imogen Sage), learns at Mrs French's finishing school, how to land a catch which might save him. Mrs French (Sabina Franklyn) squares up to Plantagenet himself. Helen and her companions, Rose and Matilda, follow a bevy of suitors: Lord Fipley (Oliver Gomm), the would-be capitalist Perkins, aka MacDunnum (Dominic Hecht), and young blood Craven (Chris Bone). Dion Boucicault bridges the comedies between Sheridan and Wilde. He offers a delicious range of carefully balanced foils amidst the grubiness of capitalism, principle and social niceties. His dialogue is as brilliantine as when first penned, while his critique of social mores is sharply delineated. The Orange Tree's in-the-round setting fits the fast pace and presentational style of the play's numerous asides perfectly. For Smith and partner Sam Walters, who co-founded the Orange Tree in 1971, The School for Scheming is the final curtain call. What a jolly romp to go out on, and typically after 33 years, to the therapeutic sound of laughter. 

Friday, 18 April 2014

The Lunchbox

Director Ritesh Batra takes us into the world of the Mumbai 'dabbawallas.'  They have their songs, rhythms, emphasised by the jolting of over-crowded trains or a rain-soaked bicycle ride as they collect nearly half a million packed hot lunches from workers' homes and deliver them to their desks in time for lunch. The fast-paced city life is in contrast to the quirky staidness of widower and accountant  (Irrfan Khan) who receives the wrong lunchbox from neglected wife (Nimrat Kaur), trying her best to spice up her life. This is a film in which the senses record life's longings and despair: from the ritual stability of the multi-stacked, silver, tiffin lunchboxes to the lonely realisation that the lingering smell on a husband's shirt signals an affair. The performances are beautifully observed from Khan and Kaur as they tentatively reach out to one another, and shot against cramped interiors or the fierce, hugger-mugger energy which spills out from city life, the story-telling is sublime.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Silver Tassie, Sean O'Casey: The National Theatre

The Silver Tassie, with a photo of Ronan Raftery in British army uniform

Harry Heegan (Ronan Raftery) football hero, drinks from the Silver Tassie, on the day he returns to the front. With him goes Teddy Foran (Aidan Kelly). In O'Casey's extraordinary, expressionistic second act, an exploding shell paralyses Harry from the waist down, while Teddy loses his sight. Howard Davies' striking production at The National, sees the two end up in Act 4 at an Armistice Day Celebration dance, Dublin. In pieta-style, each intones O'Casey's savage prose-poetry, against the background of dancing figures and up-beat music; ultimately the blind man leads away the cripple. The Silver Tassie is more than the sum of its parts: with a nod to vaudeville, farce it heralds Beckett's clowns and Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop's 'Oh What A Lovely War!' in satire and presentation. Ghosts from O'Casey's highly successful Dublin Trilogy, set against Ireland's civil war, also linger. The Silver Tassie pre-figures these events; yet the question of nationalism, and its practical reality, lies at the heart of his writing.