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FILM: April 2008

A real little gem SON OF RAMBOW (cert. 12A 1hr. 37mins.) is a smashing film suitable for children over five as well as adults accompanying them. Director and writer Garth Jennings spoke to me about basing the story on his own childhood experiences and the film certainly has the ring of authenticity. We meet Will (Bill Milner), the 13 year-old son of a religious Plymouth Brethren family whose father has died.

Son of ranbow

He lives with his mother and sister. He shares his bedroom with old Granny (Anna Wing) who his mother cares for. Excluded from watching TV at school (because of his religion's strict moral code), his first film viewing is of Rambo: First Blood with a young villain called Lee (Will Poulter) and he is completely bowled over. The boys make their own little film, "Son Of Rambow" using other school mates and a French exchange student as their cast.

Son of Rambow

There are a lot of very funny moments and a few moving ones. As the boys' friendship developed in the film, so, I was told, did the young boys' comradeship grow in real life - they even went on holiday to Paris together, with Will's family. They were asked about the many action moments and said that they were all done by stunt men apart from swimming in a very cold lake.

I wanted to know which the hardest scene to do was and was told by both boys that being very emotional in a cold warehouse was tiring and difficult for cast and crew. Although the director's family was not from a religious sect his next door neighbours were and through them and his imagination Garth Jennings got his ideas for the film set in the early 80s. Well-acted by the whole cast particularly the two boys this is truly delightful, do go and see it.

Dr Seuss' HORTON HEARS A WHO (cert. U 1hr. 25mins.) is another children's film which is out in good time for the Easter hols. Good fun and well crafted.

Brian De Palma's fictional story based on real events, REDACTED (cert.15 1hr 30mins) is a powerful film with a mixture of actors, an imagined video diary and French and Arab news reports. 'Redacted' means deleted or blacked out and the film implies that the media have omitted many of the horrible incidents in Iraq in their quest to make one side villains and our side heroes.

redacted

This story of the rape and murder of a 14 year-old Iraqi girl by a US army squad shows otherwise.


Theatre Tip

Go quickly to the National to catch two good productions. THE HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER (Lyttelton until 12 April) is a most unusual play in that there are no words. Instead 27 actors portray 450 characters in very short episodes that all take place in an unnamed square with the outline of houses surrounding it. No dialogue but sounds from time to time. Directed by James Macdonald, people portrayed include a cowboy with a whip, a cool youth on a skateboard, a blind woman, Old Testament characters and a small remote controlled car. There are very few inter-relationships until a crowd scene towards the end. It is always lively and watchable with humour thrown in.

There is a lot of fast, mainly teenage-speak, talk in BABY GIRL and THE MIRACLE (Cottesloe). Both plays are concerned with and acted by youngsters and well directed by Paul Miller. The first takes a 13-year old girl (the daughter of a 26 year-old) who is pregnant by a fellow schoolboy, also 13. She is not particularly interested in the boy but is glad to have finally lost her virginity. A background of constantly changing split screen videos shows the surrounding area and interior sets. The Miracle tells of a 12 year-old with mystical powers. Aided by her friend she performs little miracles and finally gives up when all involved are changed into different, perhaps better, people. Both plays run until 10 April.

Major Barbara

The always excellent Simon Russell Beale is a lead player in MAJOR BARBARA (Olivier, National Theatre), a great performance in a well-developed production. There are two main strands to the play: the first concerns Barbara Undershaft (Hayley Atwell) who is a devoted Salvation Army Major engaged to the somewhat less enthusiastic Army member Adolphus (Paul Ready).

She is torn asunder by the offer of money to support her work from her father, the very wealthy armaments manufacturer Andrew Undershaft (Russell Beale). The second strand, connected to the first, is millionaire Undershaft's efforts to find a foundling to inherit his business and also to get his whole family and particularly his daughter, to appreciate that the work that he does benefits his workers as he provides excellent working conditions as well as housing for their families.

Nicholas Hytner's imaginative production of Bernard Shaw's 1905 play - the well-written descriptive programme shows the conditions of the times and the historical background - has something to say to our present day more knowledgeable world as it did when it was written. Atwell, who is about to become a leading film actress, looks lovely and brings passion to her portrayal of Barbara. There are, too, good characterisations from the rest of the Undershaft extended family and Ready is especially good as the fiancÚ who tries to bridge the gap between Barbara's idealism and Undershaft's worldliness. But it is Beale who brings real humanity to the millionaire who combines a wonderful stillness with the ability to really listen to those speaking to him. It is worth making a huge effort to see this production.

BRIEF ENCOUNTER (Cinema Haymarket, a converted cinema with probably the most comfortable theatre seating in London) is Noel Coward's one-act play Still Life combined with elements of the 1945 film by the Kneehigh company, led by Emma Rice, to provide an evening of much comedy as well as quite a few poignant moments.

Brief Encounter

Whilst looking on the whole set up - from the roses-strewn entrance to the Noel Coward songs inserted into the dramatic action - with some scepticism, I couldn't help being won over by the sheer exuberance of the whole company and there was especially good creativity from Amanda Laurence as the station-buffet waitress Beryl, Tamzin Griffin as her boss Myrtle, Andy Williams in two diverse parts, Laura's husband and the station master, Fred. The clipped tones of Naomi Frederick's Laura and Tristan Sturrock's Alec convey the repressed emotions of the couple who meet, but never consummate, their love. All this is interspersed with filmed inserts in which the characters appear.

The Vortex

There is another Coward play at the Apollo. THE VORTEX has an outstanding cast, which Peter Hall directs with his usual mastery. Felicity Kendal does not seem an obvious choice as the beautiful spoilt actress who fights against growing old and losing her attraction to men, but, in fact, she looks great and acts with passion and poignancy and gives a moving performance. The actress' son and boyfriend are both 24 in the play and Kendal fights hard to be an appropriate companion for her lover and at the same time feel some sympathy for her son when she is forced to face up to his drug-taking.

Her long-suffering husband seems to put up with the situation but at the same time has some inner turmoil which we can sense without fully understanding. While still bringing out Coward's witticisms the production also shows the darker side of this particular family.

Jean Anouilh's play RING ROUND THE MOON (Playhouse) is given a much more conventional production. Getting the period (now set in the early 1950s with terrific Dior inspired dresses) exactly right is director Sean Mathias who has cast his play well. Fiona Button plays the dancer who appears delicate but who finds herself capable of holding her own when she discovers she has been hired by the cynical one of twins who is trying to prevent his brother's marriage. Both twins are well differentiated by JJ Field, who has something of Jude Law in his looks. The satire on the upper classes was brought out and there was a great dance emphasised by characters speaking as they twirled. I was not very happy at having two intervals in a one set shortish play.

A quick word for LEGAL FICTIONS (Savoy), two one act plays by witty John Mortimer. Edward Fox uses his distinctive voice to portray an unsuccessful barrister in Dock Brief, delighted to have someone to defend at last and a Judge in You Never Can Tell. There is excellent support from Nicholas Woodeson as the obviously guilty man in the first, and the next door neighbour who may or may not be the father of the Judge's supposed son in the second play.

     
     

Carlie Newman

   
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