For most people the film of the month will surely
be SKYFALL (cert.12A 2 hrs. 20 mins.). At the time
of writing, it has not yet been released and critics have been told
not to reveal any plot lines! I can, however, say that there is
as much of Judi Dench playing M as there is of Daniel Craig as James
Bond in this film. Directed with suitable panache by Sam Mendes,
we have an exciting pre-credit sequence followed by equally exciting
action scenes throughout.
This is the 23rd Bond film and in its 50th anniversary year it
is interesting to note that the film has almost reverted to its
earlier days, in that the gadgetry is down to a minimum and the
characters are foremost. The girls, the exotic locations, the somewhat
strange villain and the fast chases remain, however! It does look
forward to the future, though, and Mendes has directed a film that
also gives a nod to the past.
Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem
At the end of the opening sequence it seems as though
James is dead, accidentally shot by one of MI6's own agents, Eve
(Naomie Harris). In fact (surprise!), he survives and returns to
London and Headquarters when he learns of a terrorist attack on
the MI6 building and a threat to M (Judi Dench). The villain of
the piece is Silva (Javier Bardem), a former Agent who wants to
take revenge. M is also threatened by her new superior, Mallory
(Ralph Fiennes) who says she is not up to her job and should make
her "retirement plans". To which Dench as M replies sharply, "I'll
leave when the job's done." Back in business, Bond is surprised
to be given very simple weaponry by the new young Quartermaster
'Q' (Ben Whishaw). Various plot twists occur including Bond taking
M to his ancestral home in Scotland, where a somewhat grizzled Albert
Finney appears as Kincade, a character form Bond's past, who helps
007 defend his home and M.
Using renowned cinematographer Roger Deakins, Mendes is able to
conjure up some glorious pictures both of the exciting action and
locations, which move from Istanbul to the mists of Scotland. The
title song written and sung by Adele comes in at exactly the right
moment at the beginning of the film and is super! In this film,
Judi Dench has almost as much screen time as Daniel Craig. As boss
and agent they work well together and the chemistry between them
is remarkably convincing. They are both very good actors and raise
this action film to a whole new level. With his blond hair and somewhat
camp attitude Javier Bardem makes a scary and convincing villain.
Skyfall is a Bond film that all involved in its making can be truly
The highlight of this year's London Film Festival was the closing
gala, GREAT EXPECTATIONS (cert. 12A 2 hrs 9 mins),
which is on general release at the end of November. Mike Newell's
take on Charles Dickens' novel is not only visually stunning but
acted with supreme confidence by a cast of well-known British thespians.
The orphan Pip, assists an escaped convict. Pip is later employed
as companion to beautiful but cold-hearted Estella, the ward of
wealthy Miss Havisham, who has kept her home and wedding fare the
same for 30 years since she was abandoned at the altar. Pip gives
his life-long love to Estella. Pip learns that he has "great expectations"
having been given a huge fortune by an unnamed benefactor.
He moves to London to be educated as a gentleman.
Pip is amazed to discover that his benefactor is the convict Abel
Magwitch. Jeremy Irvine is excellent as the adult Pip - he has an
innocence and air of bewilderment as events unfold, not always to
his liking. Irvine's younger brother, Toby, plays Young Pip.
Estella, brought up by Miss Havisham to be haughty and a heartbreaker,
is well-portrayed by Holliday Grainger and Helena Bonham Carter
plays eccentric Miss Havisham. Bonham Carter manages not only to
age throughout the film but also show how she repents of the damage
she has caused both to Pip and Estella. Ralph Fiennes is evil Magwitch,
displaying a constant undercurrent of violence with chilling accuracy.
Newell directs with real feeling for the period setting bringing
out the way in which people of all classes lived at that time. The
director manages scenes of quiet romance and exciting fight scenes.
He manages to show different angles of the story so it is not all
told from Pip's perspective.
The puzzle is…why has it taken so long for
ELENA (cert.12A 1hr. 49 mins. In Russian with Engl.
sub-titles) to be released in the UK? Elena won the Special Jury
Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section
in 2011. With a magnificent central performance and excellent cinematography
this somewhat slow film holds the attention of its audience from
start to finish.
Elena (Nadezhda Markina) is married to her former
patient Vladimir (Andrey Smimov). He is extremely wealthy and the
couple, who are in their sixties, live together in harmony in his
well-equipped Moscow apartment. Both have children from previous
marriages. Elena's son, Sergey (Alexey Rozin) is lazy. He has no
job and sits around at home with Tanya, his wife, an older child
and a baby son. Elena travels by bus to her son's dilapidated flat,
taking him food and money. He keeps asking his mother to get money
from her husband in order to pay his son's University fees. The
lad wants to go to College not because he is so keen to study, but
to avoid military service. Vladimir has become estranged from his
only daughter, Katerina. Vladimir considers Elena's son a scrounger,
who does nothing to support his own family. In turn Elena believes
Vladimir's daughter has been given everything she needs, but shows
no affection towards her father. When Vladimir suffers a heart attack,
Elena faces a difficult decision regarding her own future and that
of her son.
Everything is understated in the film, helped by the cinematography
(Michail Krichman), who manages to reveal the luxurious world Elena
inhabits contrasting with the run-down block of flats where her
son lives. Writer director, Andrey Zvyagintsev has complete command
of the film from the casting of a look-alike son and father to the
atmospheric slow, almost lyrical depiction of Elena's emotions as
she looks at herself in the mirror. Above all his choice of actors
is absolutely right and the uptight Vladimir and useless Sergey
are portrayed with consummate skill by Andrey Smirnov and Alexey
Rozin respectively. Elena Lyadova's interpretation of the egotistical
Katerina is spot-on and the development of a kind of love between
her and her father in hospital is handled with sensitivity. Nadezhda
Markina gives us a luminous portrait of the plain Russian woman,
Elena. Her conflicts become apparent without over dramatisation.
The most moving film at this year's LFF must be Michael Haneke's
AMOUR (LOVE) (2 hrs. 7 mins.). It stars Jean-Louis
Trintignant as Georges and Emmanuelle Riva as his wife, Anne. The
devoted couple, now in their eighties, have a good life together,
enjoying music and attending to the preparation of their meals together.
The couple have money but that doesn't do much to
alleviate their troubles when Anne suffers a series of strokes,
which leave her progressively less capable of moving and speaking.
Although the couple's daughter (Isabelle Huppert) visits, Georges
finds her presence unhelpful especially when she suggests her mother
goes elsewhere to be looked after. He has promised his wife that
she will not return to hospital. Even the music, which they both
love, provides no comfort and Georges struggles to cope. At one
point Anne refuses to drink although her husband points out that
she will die without liquid.
Unsentimentally, the director shows Georges's struggle to look
after his wife and also to do what is best for her within his own
capabilities. The two lead actors perform with grace and tenderness
towards each other and with their individual situations. A truly
excellent film, sad but filmed with compassion, it has marvelous
performances from Trintignant and Riva.
Not just for Jewish people the 2012 UK JEWISH
FILM FESTIVAL welcomes all. Opening with the UK premiere
of a charming little romantic comedy Paris Manhattan on 1 November,
it draws on the films and utterances of Woody Allen and is about
a young woman whose choices in life and love are shaped by the philosophies
of her favourite filmmaker. It is writer/director Sophie Lellouche's
first film. The Festival runs until 18 November.
There is an extensive programme, which should appeal to all ages
and interests in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, and Glasgow as well
as London. It includes the dramatic My Dad Is Baryshnikov, set in
Moscow in 1986 when a young boy becomes spellbound by watching 'White
Nights'; the Croatian feature Lea and Daria, the true story of two
13 year old girls who were singing stars in Zagreb before the Nazis
arrived; Melting Away from Israel's Doran Eran about identity and
family; the eagerly awaited Yossi, the sequel to Eytan Fox's 2003
movie Yossi & Jagger, which won Tribeca's Best Actor for Ohad Knoller;
and the quirky French comedy The Day I Saw Your Heart in which a
young singleton, her immature dad (played gloriously by Michel Blanc),
her sister and a possible new boyfriend try to make sense of life
and relationships; Zaytoun, which, I thought a well-made film showing
the possibility of friendship between an Israeli fighter and a young
Palestinian boy, who are thrust together as enemies and learn to
know and appreciate each other.
Documentary premieres include Roman Polanski - A Film Memoir, a
full-length interview with Polanski himself about his extraordinary
life and the effect it's had on his movies; The Price Of Kings,
about the life of Simon Peres directed by Richard Symons and narrated
by Helena Bonham Carter; the award-winning The Flat (which won the
2012 Tribeca Best Editing Award) in which director Arnon Goldfinger
travels back to Tel Aviv to clear out his grandmother's flat after
her death and unearths a shocking family history through the photographs
and papers he finds; and Gainsbourg on Gainsbourg: No Comment, about
the legendary French songwriter. For further info. go to www.ukjewishfilm.org
Rob Bryden is by far the best thing in A
CHORUS OF DISAPPROVAL (Harold Pinter Theatre booking until
5 January 2013. NOTE: throughout the run there will be over 100
seats available for £10, many bookable in advance). Bryden is Dafydd
ap Llewellyn, the director of the amateur dramatic company rehearsing
The Beggar's Opera. Alan Ayckbourn's play, first performed in 1984,
is directed here by Trevor Nunn.
Ayckbourn cleverly uses the plot and scenes from the play within
a play to develop the story of the sexual and business intrigues
of the local amateur society. The cast work hard to bring life to
the play but it seems rather tame and not as amusing as Ayckbourn's
comedies usually are. There are, however, some lovely moments such
as Bryden singing All Through the Night in Welsh!
Nigel Harman as Guy, Rob Brydon
as Dafydd and Ashley Jensen as Hannah in A Chorus of Disapproval
at the Harold Pinter Theatre.
For those fans of the Beatles, LET IT BE
(Prince of Wales Theatre (booking until 19 January 2013) might just
appeal. It is really a concert of the Beatles material rather than
a play and the only history behind the songs is printed on screens
shown in between presentations of Beatles' songs. There are 60s
adverts which appear on the two TV screens on either side of the
stage. Four look-alike lads plus a fifth on keyboard perform well.
The songs can't be faulted and they are performed by the tribute
band- because that is what it seems like - more than adequately.
It is a very short show at just over two hours including the interval.
The audience appeared to be having a great time and the choral singing
from the audience at the end was really good. However, if you are
a real Beatle fan, you might just prefer to listen to the discs
OUR BOYS Duchess Theatre (until 15 December) has
a good cast of up and coming young actors led by Laurence Fox as
Joe. Set in a military hospital in 1984 it shows the end result
of war - with injured soldiers from the Falklands and Northern Ireland
trying to come to terms with their injuries and how they will deal
with their future lives.
Plagued by memories of the past they are frequently angry at
themselves as well as each other. When a new officer arrives the
tensions between the men come to the surface. There is a lot of
sexual banter and an interesting version of the Russian roulette
scene from The Deer Hunter using beer cans.
The cast perform really well together and the acting
is very good - Laurence Fox emotes and physically acts well but
doesn't always articulate clearly. I liked Arthur Darvill as Parry
and Cian Barry as Keith, his fellow squaddies. Jolyon Coy gave a
sensitive portrayal of the Jewish trainee officer forced to share
a room with a group of men who are at first most unwelcoming. We
get a very real sense of war as the background to what the young
men are now suffering. Why were they injured? For what cause? And
was it worth it?
GEORGE SAVVIDES caught the latest play at the
Richmond Theatre and reviews:
DRIVING MISS DAISY (Richmond Theatre and then
Tour. See below) David Esbjornson's graceful revival of Alfred Uhry's
award- winning play began life on Broadway starring Vanessa Redgrave
and James Earl Jones before it moved to the West End last year.
Now it begins a National Tour with Gwen Taylor stepping into Miss
Daisy's delicate shoes while Don Warrington gets behind the wheel
as her long suffering driver Hoke Coleburn. The story begins on
November 10th 1948 in Atlanta Georgia. Boolie (Ian Porter) the son
of 72-year-old widow Daisy Werthan decides "it is not safe for her
to drive anymore" and hires the African American Hoke as her chauffeur.
At first Daisy is very hostile to Hoke and is determined to stay
independent-"My fine son thinks I'm losing my abilities". But as
time goes by from 1954 to 1958 and then 1965 to 1972 these two lonely
individuals begin to develop a bond despite their differences.
It is also the time of Martin Luther King and the civil rights
movement which Daisy begins to identify with after her Jewish Temple
gets bombed by a group of racist bigots... I first saw this powerful
play in 1988 just before the Oscar winning film with Jessica Tandy
and Morgan Freeman came out. It was the first London production
with Wendy Hiller as Daisy, Clarke Peters as Hoke and Barry Foster
as Boolie. Daisy is a wonderful creation and Uhry has said that
her character is inspired by his own grandmother, an independent-minded
Jewish woman living in the south of the United States.
Taylor may not be the obvious choice to play this
brittle woman but she soon wins the audience with her authority
and grace while Warrington is effective as the loyal chauffeur.
John Lee Beatty's scenic design is simple but elegant and the projections
on the wall give it a good sense of time and place. This is a ride
The tour continues:
Bath Theatre Royal from 29 October-3 November
Malvern Festival Theatre from 5 - 10 November
Brighton Theatre Royal from 12 - 17 November
Derby Theatre from 19 - 24 November
Southend Palace Theatre from 26 November - 1
GEORGE SAVVIDES reviews DEAD ON HER FEET:
Ron Hutchinson, the writer of the Royal Court success "Rat in the
Skull", has collaborated with director Barry Kyle on numerous occasions
in the past. His latest play, DEAD ON HER FEET (Arcola Theatre until
3 November) takes place in Pulaski Falls, a small provincial town
in the U.S.A during the Depression.
The premise is not dissimilar to Sidney Pollack's 1969 Oscar-winning
film classic starring Jane Fonda and Susannah York and the story
as in the film follows a group of six young people desperate to
win a dance competition so that they can make ends meet. Meanwhile
the predatory promoter Jos Vantyler (Mel Carney) is ready to take
advantage of this vulnerable bunch of individuals that include married
couple Rita (Victoria Fischer) and Myron (Rowan Schlosberg). Velma
(Sandra Reid) has travelled for miles from her farm leaving behind
her tiny child in order to take her chance. Luckily for her she
is paired with a delivery boy named Jake (Lloyd Thomas) who happens
to be there at the right moment...
Kyle's lukewarm production takes a while to get going
and like a disaster movie one can't wait for the action to begin.
Here of course it is the dance marathon we look forward to seeing
and that doesn't start until well into the second half and then
it is very sketchily represented. There is no doubt that the company
has masses of energy and they all have their own private moments
but unfortunately it is difficult to care much about the plight
of these people apart from Velma who is played sensitively by promising
newcomer Reid. Carney's flamboyant promoter relies more on effect
rather than reality which is a shame because it is obvious and very
predictable from the opening moments that he is up to no good.
If you hurry you can catch a lively and very amusing version of
Brandon Thomas's CHARLEY'S AUNT at the Menier Chocolate
Factory (until 10 November).
Director Ian Talbot puts as much fun as is possible into the
comic business of University lads pretending that one of their number
is the Aunt from Brazil, "where the nuts come from" and Mathew Horne
certainly makes the part his own.
Jane Asher is suitably glamorous as the real aunt and Dominic Tighe
as Jack Chesney and Benjamin Askew as Charley Wickham give lively
performances as Lord Fancourt Babberley's (Horne) student mates.
The whole audience erupts with glee on many occasions.
Matthew Horne and Jane Asher
in Charley's Aunt at Menier Chocolate Factory.
The Menier theatre although not the most comfortable
in London, always puts on a good production and doesn't let itself
down on this occasion.
Suffering from a broken toe and forced to wear a huge heavy boot,
I was able to experience the helpfulness of the Box office and other
staff at this theatre. Thanks!
Younger adults will love LOSERVILLE (Garrick Theatre
booking until 2 March 2013). This new bright, energetic musical,
which, while it does not have a load of hummable songs, keeps the
momentum going and the songs illustrate the story well.
Eliza Hope Bennett and Aaron
Sidwell in Loserville
It is a little derivative of Legally Blonde in taking a young
student who really wants to be known for her brain rather than her
body. However in this case Holly (Eliza Hope Bennett) is dressed
in a frumpy way and is not at all glamorous as she is deliberately
playing down her looks so that people do not just regard her as
a beautiful body. She wants to be an astronaut! Set in 1971 at an
American High School,
Holly joins two nerds, Michael Dork (get it?) played
by Aaron Sidwell and his helpful friend, Lucas Lloyd portrayed by
Richard Lowe who are trying to get computers to "talk to each other."
Lucas (get this name, too!) is trying to write a Star Wars type
novel. Part of the fun comes from knowing that computers later DO
talk to each other - it is called emailing.
The youngsters are lively and, although the choreography is somewhat
pedestrian, the songs are sung with charm. The three leads present
their characters well and there is a smooth depiction of Eddie (Stewart
Clarke), a rich boy who thinks very highly of himself and tries
to steal Michael's ideas.
Written by Elliot Davis, and James Bourne, from the boy band Busted,
a few of the numbers actually come from Bourne's 2005 album Welcome
to Loserville with his new band, Son of Dork. The production shows
futuristic steel structures on stage and there are nice touches
by director Steven Dexter such as showing the cast names on boards
held up by cast members. Scenes are also depicted in the same manner
with boards displaying different parts to show where the scene takes
If you like your shows jolly, brash and in your face then you will
most certainly enjoy this one!
Meera Syal as Beatrice and Paul Bhattacharjee as Benedick (pictured
below) in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at the Noel Coward
Theatre until 27 October .
At first the idea of another Much Ado might not appeal, but this
show brought to London by the RSC is exhilarating. In modern Indian
dress, set in India and performed by an all Asian cast it actually
works really well.
Meeera Syall is delightful as Beatrice - quite rightly not an ingénue
but a mature young woman - which makes sense of the efforts of those
around her to find her a husband, while Benedict (Paul Bhattacharjee)
is equally mature (he even has greying hair) and the couple work
well together as they spar with words.
The Asian music adds to the feeling of the play and
the musicians played well. A modern Asian slant is given to the
song, "Fly Away Lady." The set is most attractive, a courtyard with
houses set around it. A huge swing dominates the scene where Beatrice
overhears her friends talking about Benedict being in love with
her. Her costume is used most effectively by Beatrice - she puts
a huge shawl over her head and goes around sweeping the stage When
Benedict, in hiding, hears his friends talking about Beatrice's
affection for him, he is holding a copy of the Much Ado programme!
The set makes sense of Dom Pedro's (Shiv Grewal) wooing for Hero's
hand on behalf of Claudio.
Syall speaks perfect English but she, and the other actors, speak
with an Asian lilt. At times it is difficult to understand those
with extreme accents. Although the play is full of comedy, director,
Iqbal Khan, manages to change the mood most effectively in dealing
with the scenes involving Hero - her rejection by Claudio and subsequent
It is a very lively production acted with much energy and well
There is a most unusual production of the Casablanca film story
at the Pleasance Theatre (until 21 October). CASABLANCA
The Gin Joint Cut has a cast of three: Jimmy Chishom, Claire Waugh
and Gavin Mitchell (pictured as Rick). And, as you can just make
out in the picture, Sam, the black piano player, is a small statue
sitting on a piano.
The three actors manage to portray all the main characters as well
as speaking directly to the audience as themselves. There is humour
in their portrayal of the people in the film and we get the gist
of the movie and its stars. Mitchell as Bogart even manages to make
his eyebrows move up and down!
Based very closely on the old film, the cast manage
to evoke the spirit of Morocco in 1941. Director Morag Fullarton
has done a grand job here and the small Pleasance Theatre should
be proud of this production.
Hampstead has once again come up with a little gem. Artistic Director,
Edward Hall has managed to put on the premiere of Howard Brenton's
play 55 DAYS at the Hampstead Theatre (until 24
November). From the buzz in the star-studded audience at Press Night,
one could tell that the occasion was noteworthy. So, what about
It deals with the 55 days from the purge of Parliament by the
army after the MPs have voted not to try the King until the execution
of King Charles 1. Brenton, dealing with this period, manages to
convey a number of parallels with our own age. Hearing Oliver Cromwell
and his men in 1648 discussing what to do with the King and how
to get him to see the error of his ways is like hearing political
pundits discussing the situation on TV today. One of the ways that
the dramatist emphasises the difference between Charles and the
rest is that the King is the only one in the costume of the age.
Douglas Henshall as Cromwell
and Mark Gatiss as Charles I in 55 Days.
Indeed, there is no way that Charles 1 can be taken as anyone other than the King with his long flowing hair and dress of the period. Everyone else wears a sort of current contemporary dress. While showing the audience Charles's isolation, I would have preferred the whole cast to have been dressed in appropriate period style.
Mark Gatiss is particularly good at showing the King's complete belief in his right to rule - he is a religious man and is quite certain that God has ordered it to be so. Although arrogant he believes in his hereditary right. Oliver Cromwell (Douglas Henshall ) is also a religious being, but he believes in the people's right to have an elected Parliament which then makes laws. In a purely imaginary scene the two men come face to face. Oliver tries to convince Charles to obey Parliament's word and be a figurative King. Charles insists that he was anointed as King with holy water and has a divine right to rule.
Gatiss gives a spot-on portrayal of the conceited King who is so sure of his right to be King that he can go to the scaffold only worried that people may see him shiver, and so wears three shirts. Henshall is firm too as Oliver and prays that he is doing the correct thing. While he gives a most sensitive performance, occasionally he is a little softly spoken and difficult to hear.
Director Howard Davies gives a clear and concise interpretation of Brenton's play. There are many short scenes and young men carry furniture on and off swiftly and as part of the action. The play would work well on television. It is good to see something that is a little challenging intellectually and Davies and his actors pull this off.