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A TRIP TO THE CINEMA: August 2004

SHREK 2 (cert.U 1hr. 30mins.) can still be seen at cinemas and will provide good holiday entertainment for all the family. I accompanied 16 six year olds - plus goody bags - to a screening and they, their parents and grandparents (us) all laughed at the visual and spoken gags. I urge you to go and see it - it's really good fun.

Controversial - certainly! And yes, it's muddled at times and, of course, it's biased, but it's also the most moving film I've seen this year and says more about America's reaction to Iraq and, in particular, George Bush than most of the media coverage. Certainly the American papers didn't deal with the issues so ably covered in Michael Moore's film FARENHEIT 9/11 (cert.15 1hr. 50mins.).

Shrek2 movie poster
Shrek 2

The picture starts with a reminder of the scandal when thousands of voters - mainly from minority ethnic groups - were disenfranchised when Bush was declared the Presidential victor. It goes on to show the seven minutes after the President received the news of the 11 September tragedy. He carried on reading with primary school children. Explaining the President's links with the Bin Laden family, Moore shows how the war in Iraq was instigated. The human aspect is shown in the way military recruiting officers target young black unemployed men in Moore's home town and the terrible grief of a mother whose son is killed in Iraq after sending a letter home questioning the war. It is highly recommended and well worth seeing.

The Stepford Wives movie poster
The Stepford Wives

An updated THE STEPFORD WIVES (cert. PG-13 1 hr. 35 mins), which turns the suspense of the original into a comedy, works surprisingly well. When Joanna (Nicole Kidman) is sacked from her high-profile job in New York and has a nervous breakdown, she and husband Walter (Matthew Broderick) re-examine their priorities and move, with their children, to Stepford, Connecticut. Here they find a seemingly perfect suburban town where men are very content with their wives who, like their leader (Glenn Close) bake, paint the house, mow the lawn, play with the kids and still greet their husbands in lacy lingerie at the end of the day.Joanna, along with two other newcomers, the gay Roger (Roger Bart) and Bobbie (Bette Midler), decides to investigate. What they find out is, truly, shocking.

Great acting all round, a compelling story and well-defined direction ensure that the picture is always engrossing.


THE MIRACLE OF BERN (cert. PG 1hr. 45mins.) will appeal to all those missing the excitement (!) of the European football matches. It tells the story of Germany's surprising win at the football World Cup in 1954 counterbalanced with the ordeal of the father of a football mad boy returning from Soviet captivity.


TRIP TO THE THEATRE

The last play of the Globe Theatre, Bankside season is MEASURE FOR MEASURE - a good comedy: the only problem being that the play is not a comedy! However, a clear exposition is given so that the story and characters come across vividly. For some unknown reason Mark Rylance as the Duke limps only during the second half!

THE OLD MASTERS at the Comedy Theatre is a classy play, written and acted in an older tradition and is recommended for you classy pensioners. Written by Simon Gray, it looks at the world of fine art and the provenance of paintings and deals with the real-life relationship between Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen. Acted with confidence by Peter Bowles, Edward Fox and, particularly well by Barbara Jefford, it will provide a thoughtful and interesting evening for mature theatre goers.

In contrast DIRTY BLONDE at the Duke of York's Theatre is like a breath of fresh air from across the Atlantic. Two New York loners meet at the graveside of Mae West and develop a relationship. Into their story Claudia Shear, who wrote the comedy and also stars as the woman as well as Mae West, interweaves stories of the star's racy life and sings a number of her songs. At first, seeing the dumpy woman on stage, one can't imagine her ever resembling Mae, but gradually, before our eyes, she is transformed - not only physically - but her voice and movement, into the actress. The two other (male) actors provide a good counter balance.

Claudia Shear
Claudia Shear

Unlike the cinematic version of the legend of King Arthur - do I hear you mutter, "thank goodness?" - is CAMELOT, the last of this year's stage offerings at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park.

Camelot at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park.
Camelot at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park.

Directed in a lively fashion by Ian Talbot, the musical has some good actors with lovely singing voices. In particular Matt Rawle as Lancelot not only has a rich, melodious voice but looks great as well! Lancelot du Lac comes to King Arthur's court because he wants to join the knights who live by King Arthur's moral code whereby might is used only for right. The French knight prides himself on his moral purity but suffers when he falls for Guinevere, the King's wife as, of course, does Arthur. Lauren Ward is a gentle, sweet-voiced Guinevere, who suffers rather genteelly when contemplating leaving her husband for his friend.

As usual at this theatre the music is good and well played. Lancelot's dark baritone is particularly good in the songs, 'C'est moi' and 'If ever I would leave you.'

Daniel Flynn, as Arthur, is a good actor, with a pleasant, rather than a very strong voice. The choreography, however, is somewhat minimal and uninspiring. Russ Abbott plays Pellinore as though he were performing as a stand-up comedian. An apt description of him is given by Guinevere: "a cartoon of a man." When it's very dark, the lanterns on top of poles on stage are lit and members of the audience sip champagne - if they're lucky - a great end to a lovely summer's evening. Do pay a visit before the season ends.

Carlie Newman
Camelot at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park.

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