Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Fading Gigolo written and directed by John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Vanessa Paradis

This is a Woody Allen movie without Allen’s direction: New York setting, snappy one-liners about mortality, sex, money and relationships, with a small ensemble cast in which the little represents the big. The duo, John Turturro and Woody Allen, are pickle and rye as Murray (Allen) persuades Fioravante (Turturro) to do turns for money, as dermatologist (Sharon Stone) is turned by the idea of a ménage. The fading gigolo, like the film’s autumnal cinematography, is a series of passing moments. Fioravante speaks with many tongues and has healing hands. There is no real threat, even when he falls for Hassidic widow (Vanessa Paradis) under the watchful eye of her strict community. This is not a film for the plot-conscious, but its pace is superb, matched by an evocative Jazz/Kletzmer score. Fading Gigolo captures the bittersweet quality of life passing and life having passed, served on the rocks, New York style. And see the winsome look Allen gives Turturro at the end as if to say: ‘couldn’t have done it better myself.’

Monday, 18 August 2014

Porgy and Bess directed by Timothy Sheader, Regent's Park Theatre


Porgy and Bess is an absolute treat. Timothy Sheader’s production goes beyond genre-classification to create ‘a happening.’ The range in human emotion from comedy to despair, filtered through superlative music via Blues, Jazz, Gospel and dynamic singing, ensures classic status. At the dramatic centre is Porgy (Rufus Bonds Jnr) who protects Bess (Nicola Hughes) giving her what the world of possession and addiction, through the towering Crown (Phillip Boykin) and magical dust dealer Sporting Life (Cedric Neal) have denied her, dignity. The Catfish Row Community, led by its woman-folk, in the compassionate Mariah (Sharon D Clarke) and grieving Clara (Jade Ewen) battle with life’s vagaries and the natural elements. It’s against these two trajectories that the drama plays out in electrifying power and intensity. The Gershwins’ music and lyrics shine through from the anthemic Summertime, sung in both hope and despair, to Sporting Life’s seductive It Ain’t Necessarily So. Porgy and Bess, at Regent's Park, has it all.......

Monday, 4 August 2014

Children of the Great War, Age Exchange, Bridewell Theatre

photoAge Exchange, an Intergenerational Theatre Company, celebrates ‘Children of the Great War.’ The elders interact with the young, sharing their stories. It is a potent mix. They are grandchildren, nephews, daughters or sons, made all the more poignant as every word comes from authentic testimonies, letters or diaries. So that Jo the handyman, Rex and Guy Compton, Sergeant Strickland become as flesh and blood, across a near 100 year divide.

Taken from over 130 interviews, the production's simple, yet effective, presentational format uses artefacts, photographs, projections to stimulate or round off stories, evenly distributed over two halves. One of the most striking images is at the beginning as company members hold artefacts, and for a moment, become a multitude; the most profound towards the end as a cross from a bombed out Belgian church, with the Christ-figure’s arms missing, becoming a serendipitous play on the Theatre of War. It’s near century’s journey a symbol of fortitude and hope.

The elders stood justly proud at the end, while the teenagers who acted out their stories and devised movement sequences of power, imagery and strength, stood shoulder to shoulder alongside them; comrades in arms. 'Children of the Great War' is a delicately balanced production devised and directed by David Savill and Malcolm Jones, with evocative music and sound score by Eliot Lloyd Short, and atmospheric lighting by Mark Blagden. This is Reminiscence Theatre at its finest.