Monthly Archives: September 2012

Timon of Athens (National Theatre)

This production of Shakespeare’s oddest play by Nicholas Hytner is part of the World Shakespeare Festival, and is set firmly in the 21st century. Timon opens a new gallery wing and his fawning friends tell him how wonderful he is, just so they can get more money out of him. For every minor gift they offer, he gives back something far more valuable, and so thinks in this way he has loyal friends. Of course when he falls on hard times and needs something from these ‘friends’, they all find ways of denying him – the rich banker, the crook who with Timon’s cash has set himself up in a rich court, the lady senator.

HSBC backdrops place this story firmly in the times of Canary Wharf (which makes mention of Athens a little spurious, as well as amusingly relevant to the Greek economic crisis). There have been other subtle changes, such as making Timon’s steward a woman. The thieving rebel gang are drop-outs like those who took over St Paul’s Cathedral square last year, the final banquet Timon offers his friends is somewhat more scatalogical than simple water. Most of this works well, and the verse of the play is supplemented by additional lines from other Shakespeare works.

How are the performances? This is yet another Shakespeare must-see from Simon Russell Beale. We might not be seeing his Lear just yet, but this Timon follows Richard III, Hamlet, Iago, Benedick, Ariel, and Leontes, and all were exceptional. This man remains one of our greatest classical actors, and even with a plastered finger (broken during a performance last week) his portrayal of the rich man who grows to hate his fellows is strong within a fine cast which includes Deborah Findlay as the aforementioned steward, and Hilton McRae as the jaded philosopher.


King Lear (Almeida Theatre)

Over a year ago I booked for the latest in a long line of theatrical Lears, this time with Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce, who has been a favourite of mine since my schooldays when the film Brazil was released. So I was intrigued to see how he would do in the greatest of all mature Shakespearian roles, and how Michael Attenborough’s production would present the story of betrayal, ageing, and intrigue.

In a sparse set with a trapdoor, a handful of entrances, and some magic dust in the form of the lightning storm which plagues Lear and his followers, all our attention is on the performers, and as the Almeida is a small space any audience member is in the thick of the action, which might be something to be aware of if you are squeamish in any way about fake blood and eye gouging!

As well as Pryce as lead name in the cast, his three daughters are played by Zoe Waites (Goneril), Jenny Jules (Regan), and Phoebe Fox (Cordelia). As Cordelia is a small role in comparison to her sisters, whether or not she is memorable is squarely on the shoulders of the actress playing her – and although Fox makes the early map scene vibrant with her spitting anger and contempt for her sisters, she becomes less interesting once she becomes the Queen of France. Waites is a terrific Goneril, a true serpent bitch, while Jules plays Regan as – to my eyes – a damaged daughter, perhaps abused in some way by her doting father? Because there is a definite hint of incestuous attraction here, which makes a viewer uncomfortable and takes away a bit of sympathy from our wronged king. If this line of plot is to be taken into account, this man deserves to have the doors closed upon him.

Edmund (Kieran Bew) is less successful at his characterisation than Edgar (Richard Goulding), while Clive Wood makes an excellent Earl of Gloucester. As the exiled, disguised Kent, Ian Gelder is good, but he doesn’t dispel memories long held of another Kent for the National Theatre, Ian McKellen (himself one of two superb Lears I have seen, the other being Tom Courtenay). The others in the cast are less important, and with a bit of doubling up all bases are covered.

So what of Jonathan Pryce’s Lear? His is one of frustration and black comedy rather than tragic dementia, although the ‘I believe this lady to be my child’ bit was moving, as was the sequence with the dead Cordelia. Scenes with the Fool were well done, and the opening map and banishing of Cordelia/Kent scene had all the might of majesty the role requires. So I wasn’t disappointed, and I recommend this production to Shakespeare beginners and aficianados alike.

(One word for the staff member in the circle, though – paying customers don’t want to hear creaky seats throughout, ok?).


Review grab-bag #1

The first in an occasional series, looking at a group of titles from my viewing collection. These may include titles available in Region 1, 2, 4 or 6, or items transferred from videotape (commercial VHS or off-airs).

1. Bloomers. 1979. 5 episodes recorded and broadcast out of a planned series of 6. Richard Beckinsale stars in his final role as resting actor Stan who is currently working in a florist’s shop (the ‘Bloomers’ of the title). Anna Calder-Marshall appears as his wife Lena, with David Swift as his boss Dingley. This series was unfinished after its star’s untimely death and although it has elements of the ‘cutes’, it just doesn’t have the laughs it could have had. Watchable, but not very memorable. Not available commercially.

2. Anne of Avonlea. 1975. 6 episodes. This was a sequel to the 1972 series Anne of Green Gables, also starring Kim Braden as Anne, but unfortunately now wiped. Based on the novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Notable for featuring 11 year-old Nicholas Lyndhurst as Davy. Often compared unfavourably to the 1987 version with Megan Follows citing a low budget and poor locations. It drags a bit and Braden doesn’t quite convince in the lead. Curious how the sequel has survived but the earlier series has not. Available Region 1/2 DVD.

3. Lady Killers / Ladykillers. Two series – 1980, focusing on women who kill; 1981, focusing on men who kill women. With introductions by Robert Morley which are often archly amusing (inappropriately, given the gravity of the subject matter), these dramas are showcases for actors – John Fraser as Dr Crippen, Joan Sims as Amelia Dyer, Elaine Paige as Kate Webster. Not the kind of drama to watch before bedtime but good for Crown Court addicts as there is plenty of courtroom action, verbatim from transcripts. Available Region 2 DVD.

4. Shock Treatment. 1981. Musical film sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, also written by Richard O’Brien. Where Rocky Horror was a parody of horror films, Shock Treatment pokes fun at TV game and reality shows. Brad and Janet are recast from the original film, the sultry Jessica Harper replacing Susan Sarandon. Little Nell and Patricia Quinn return alongside O’Brien. The score is more modern and varied than the fun pieces in the earlier film. Looks great too. Available Region 1/2 DVD.

5. Person to Person: Edward R Murrow. 1953-1961 TV series where Murrow interviews movie stars in their homes – they have a camera there, while he is in the studio. Interviewees include Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando (and Brando Snr), Frank Sinatra, JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren. Murrow is perhaps best known now for Good Night and Good Luck, the George Clooney film. Here he shows his lighter side, on a best of DVD collection. Available Region 1 DVD.


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MTAS

West End Reviews | West End Challenges | Exclusive West End News

A Red Lip And A Nude Shoe

Dior Dreams On A Kmart Budget

is there room for me to sew?

Quilting, Reading and the Movies

Jaime Rebanal's Film Thoughts

Cinema - moving around life one film at a time.

The Case for Jeanette and Nelson

"Whaddya gonna do? I love her. I think she loves me." -Nelson Eddy on the Jack Parr Show, 1960

STARDUST AND SHADOWS

Opinions on Classic Hollywood , B Movies, Grindhouse, SF film , Classic Horror, Film Noir, Books, and related subjects by Canadian film guy TERRY SHERWOOD. (This site is not affiliated with author Charles Foster and his book Stardust and Shadows.)

The Wonderful World of Cinema

This blog is all about cinema, movies and stars of every decades. It's wonderful!

Movie classics

Thoughts on older movies, especially those from the 1930s to 1950s.

Hiss and Tell

Featuring Gryff, the angry diabetic cat, and the humans who serve him

TESSA BARRIE'S LOST BLOGS

Random Blogger from Jersey, Channel Islands, UK. Not Noo Jersey, USA. Expect the unexpected. Life's too short to be niche.

[insert title here]

just one of many things i'm still trying to figure out

buchanblog

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The Phantom Frame

Information about the creative works of Gareth Preston

West End Blog

Bringing you independent, honest, experienced reviews of current theatre shows. We believe theatre is something truly magical and can be enjoyed by everyone.

Archive Television Musings

"To waste one second of one's life is a betrayal of one's self! I wonder what's on television?"

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Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow - the ultimate resource

So much content, so little time...

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