Full of amazing special effects with the actors undergoing
extraordinary performance motion capture work, DAWN OF THE
PLANET OF THE APES (cert. 12A 2hrs.11 mins.) is a truly
The story takes place 10 years after the end of Rise of the Planet
of the Apes. Rise finished with the apes breaking free from their
human captors just as a fatal virus created by human scientists
spread throughout the whole world. Caesar (Andy Serkis), their ruler,
has led the other apes to woods outside San Francisco where the
very young Caesar spent time with his human friend.
In this film we see that the apes have built a successful
community in the woods. At the same time a huge proportion of the
human population has been killed by simian flu. So while the apes
have growing freedom the humans are facing virtual extinction
When a handful of humans led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) come into
the apes' territory, Caesar is forced to try to reach peace with
the group of survivors living in the ruins of an area of San Francisco.
The leader of this community is Dreyfus (Gary Oldman). Malcolm's
group wants to activate a hydroelectric dam to generate power.
Caesar is not just leader of the apes he is also husband to Cornelia
(Judy Greer), who gives birth to a second son for Caesar who already
has the teenage Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston).
Malcolm is in the throes of a new romance following the death of
his wife. His new partner Ellie (Keri Russell) is also struggling
with bereavement after the death of her daughter. Malcolm, too,
has a teenage son, Alexander (the young Kodo Smit-McPhee, who was
so good as the boy in the film The Road).
So Caesar and Malcolm have much to gain and a lot to lose if their
attempts at peace misfire. Unfortunately Caesar has rebel apes within
his group, chief among these is Koba (Toby Kebell) who spent a lot
of his younger life imprisoned and subject to scientific experiments
by humans, so now really hates them.
Once again Andy Serkis gives a remarkable performance, which is
caught by motion capture cameras and transformed into a very realistic
ape with eyes which must surely be actual human eyes.
As most of the film is shot on exterior locations the realism is
enhanced. Director Matt Reeves has pulled together a remarkable
cast of actors as apes and humans and put them in an interesting
and absorbing story, which is well told and visually exciting -
especially in the 3D version. The surprise here is that although
the apes use sign language to each other, they actually speak to
the humans…and ride horses!
BOYHOOD (cert. 15 2 hrs. 46 mins) This is innovative
filmmaking at its very best. Filming in Texas for three to four
days every year for 12 years, Richard Linklater, the director, follows
the same actors in their parts. We see Mason Jr (Ellar Coltrane)
grow from a six year-old child until he goes to college at 18. His
sister Samantha is played by the director’s daughter Lorelei
Linklater and his divorced parents by Ethan Hawke as his father,
Mason, and Patricia Arquette as Mason Jr’s mother Olivia.
The emphasis is on the characters rather than the story and,
although various incidents occur, we are always more concerned with
how the children - in particular the young lad- deal with what is
happening. We see the family move home. The mother marries twice
more and separates from both. One of the stepfathers is actually
over-harsh with young Mason. Most of the time the children live
just with their struggling single mother while their father pops
in and out of their lives.
The years segue into each other and often the only
way we know it is a different year is by the clothes the boy wears
and his different haircuts and little references to games and the
current President of the USA. From being just a little boy we see
Mason develop into a young man gaining and losing a girlfriend on
Arquette gives a moving performance as the mother trying so hard
to do the best for her children but also give herself an education
as an adult and have a love life. Hawke plays the father as someone
who would like to be with his kids more but somehow loses his way
frequently. When he is with the children he is a great dad, but
he spends insufficient time with them. Lorelei shows a very real
teenage girl developing and it must have been very hard for her
father to keep her going as an actress over all the years. Linklater
has drawn out a stupendous performance from Ellar as Mason Jr. We
seem to see a real boy face all the difficulties of growing up and
coping with the fun times as well as the difficult times in his
life. A tremendous film - go see!
Also recommended: the documentary I AM DIVINE
(cert.15 1 hr. 30 mins.), directed by Jeffrey Schwarz. This is the
story of how Glenn Milstead changed from being a bullied and mocked
over weight child in Baltimore to become an international drag artist
- still rather fat. As a cult star he worked closely with film director
John Waters and the two are most famous for a scene in the movie
Pink Flamingos (1972) where Divine eats dog shit.
Another fascinating documentary is FINDING VIVIAN MAIER
(cert. 12A 1 hr. 24 mins). The movie tells how Vivian, a secretive
and somewhat mysterious nanny took over 100,000 photographs which
were never shown to anyone and hidden in storage boxes until they
were discovered by filmmaker John Maloof. Maloof and Charles Siskel
have made this film which shows how the phots were found, developed
and eventually exhibited.
Just out in time for the school holidays, EARTH TO ECHO
(cert. PG 1 hr. 31 mins.) is almost an updated version of E.T. Here
three boys, later joined by a girl, follow signals on their mobile
phones until they come across a little alien creature who wants
their help to build a spaceship to get home…to outer space. All
established by beeps signalling yes or no.
The boys are spending their last night together before they are
parted as their homes are coming down to make way for a super highway.
One of the boys videos the whole adventure. Good to see a girl outwit
Here is a round-up of what is new in the
There is a surprise when one goes to the Tricycle's latest production.
Famed for dealing with the nitty gritty of life in plays with messages
such as Red Velvet and Handbagged, we find ourselves in a completely
different milieu in THE COLBY SISTERS OF PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA
(Tricycle Theatre, London until 26 July 2014. Box office 020-7328
1000). Playwright Adam Bock captures the glamorous lifestyle
of the five Colby sisters and some of the underlying anxieties and
traumas within the family.
The five Colby sisters, Willow (Claire Forlani), India (Isabella
Calthorpe), twins Gemma (Charlotte Parry) and Garden (Patricia Potter),
and the youngest, Mouse (Alice Sanders), have the most glamorous
social life, seemingly composed of endless parties and being photographed
in beautiful dresses such as those shown in this picture.
The sisters desperately try to put on a brave face
to the outside world, helped by Gemma's personal assistant, Heather
(Ronke Adekoluejo). But Garden's husband has been having an affair
for three years. When she finds out Garden is devastated and does
not want to do as her twin Gemma suggests and leave him. Mouse is
caught up with yet another disposable boyfriend and is unable to
form a permanent loving relationship. Gemma is so caught up in her
wealthy husband's world that she displays no emotion at all. Willow
is actually poor as her husband can't find work and she relies on
hand-outs from her sisters while having to put up with Gemma's snide
remarks when she talks of finding a job.
When a major tragedy strikes the sisters they come up against the
real world and the result is a change in attitude for all those
who remain. The sisters no longer live in Pittsburgh but bring their
privileged upbringing to their life in New York. Their Pittsburgh
roots are a distant memory and they now inhabit a world of glossy
The acting is good and we learn not only about the girls but about
the high society in which they live and a little too about the 'servant'
class in the way Gemma treats her ever-watchful black assistant.
Although the play does in fact have a message or a number of messages
if we look at the five sisters as individuals, there is not much
development in the hour and a quarter running time and it still
feels slight and we wish for a deeper play. But director Trip Cullman
has certainly brought glamour to the Kilburn Tricycle!
THE GLASS SUPPER (Hampstead Downstairs, London
until 26 July 2014. Box office 020-7722 9301) starts off
as one kind of play, with two gay men who have chosen to live in
the country away from noise and far away from people in general,
discussing the possibility of Jesus being in the house, and then
morphs into something completely different when they are invaded
by three visitors.
L to R Steven, Jamie, Wendy,
Steven (Michael Feast) together with his young special friend,
Jamie (Alex Lowther) and Wendy (Michelle Collins) arrive on their
way to a holiday. We gradually find out that Marcus (Michael Begley)
and Owen (Colin Sharpe) met the other two men while on holiday the
previous year. We also learn that Wendy is Steven's ex-wife (they
divorced when Wendy realised he was homosexual), but appears to
still be close friends with him. Steven refers to Jamie as "little
tart." The hosts have cemented their twenty year relationship by
As all the revelations come out, the characters,
apart from Marcus, drink deeply and get somewhat drunk. Wendy becomes
very irate and spills wine on the hosts' beautiful new carpet! The
verbal spat between Wendy and Steven escalates into a full physical
confrontation and the play now reminds us of Who's Afraid of Virginia
Although a mixture of styles, this is an interesting evening with
first rate performances. Collins in particular goes full tilt as
Wendy, tottering around on very high silver stilettoes and raging
at her ex-husband. Feast is good too as a seemingly cordial man
who becomes morose as he sees Jamie having sex with Owen. Begley
and Sharpe are also fine as the two gay men suddenly invaded by
the trio of very loud assertive folk. But there is a new star here:
Alex Lowther - so good in South Downs - is tremendous as Jamie,
showing just the right mixture of knowingness and the arrogance
of youth with an air of sexuality just waiting to be used by those
Another amazing play at the Hampstead Theatre is WONDERLAND
(until 26 July 2014. Box office 020-7722 9301), Beth Steels'
new play about the miners' strike in 1984-5. The set is absolutely
marvellous - a mine with a deep underground area and cage above
(both worked by hydraulic lifts) which takes the miners down. There
are also upper walkway levels on which the politicians walk and
discuss the strike and how to deal with it. It is just such a pity
that the play is having such a short run - the magnificent set should
be seen by many more people and perhaps it will be if, as Chariots
of Fire did, it transfers to a larger space.
It is interesting that many of the audience are too young to have
known the time when this massive strike took place. It is now 30
years since the strike which had such a disastrous effect on the
energy supply in Britain. Arthur Scargill proved to be correct when
he forecast the closure of almost all coal mines.
Steel, as the daughter of a miner, seems to know what she is
writing about. The mine not only looks like a real mine and the
actors are suitably coal-covered as miners, but there is also the
smell of coal in the air. We follow the fortunes of two new recruits
to a group of Nottinghamshire miners below ground while above the
politicians discuss how to thwart Scargill and kill the strike.
Although there are no women in the play, emotion
is provided through director Edward Hall's use of song as the men
work and the choreographed movement of the miners. There are some
moments when the men are in danger and the set conveys this in very
real imagery. The play shows how the men rely on each other down
the mine, "Down here your life is always in another man's hands."
The actors put across the various characters involved with realistic
acting and interact well with each other. Andrew Havill is convincing
as the Energy Secretary, Peter Walker and I liked Michael Cochrane's
portrayal of the National Coal Board chairman Ian MacGregor. Simon
Slater and Paul Brennan also give convincing portrayals of Tilsey,
the Pit Manager and Colonel, the Deputy respectively.
An ex Miner sitting near me was quite moved by the play and it
has relevance for many of us who met with those on strike who were
housed throughout London.
It has just been announced that Wonderland will be live-streamed
on Saturday 26 July 7.30pm over the internet worldwide and free
on hampsteadtheatre.com and theguardian.com. An on demand version
of the Wonderland live-streaming will be available for 72 hours
immediately after the live stream on Hampstead Theatre and the Guardian's
It's unusual to see Maureen Lipman in a non-comedy role. But in
DAYTONA (Haymarket Theatre, London until 23 August 2014.
Box office 020-7930 8800) she shows what an excellent straight
actress she is.
Here she plays Elli, one half of a couple in their early 70s who
live in an apartment in Brooklyn. It is 1986 and Joe (Harry Shearer)
is still working as an accountant, but they also have time to spend
on their hobby - ballroom dancing
They are faced with a moral dilemma when Joe's brother, Billy
(Oliver Cotton) who they haven't seen for some 30 years, suddenly
turns up. Billy relates the story of what happened when he was on
holiday with his wife in Daytona, Florida. Billy recognised one
of the guests around the swimming pool as a former Nazi. How he
reacted to this discovery and what happened next is the main theme
of this play. But there is also something to be discovered about
the personal relationships between Joe, Billy and Elli.
Harry Shearer as Joe and Maureen
Lipman as Elli
Oliver Cotton, who also wrote the play, takes the
part of Billy, who is unrepentant about his recent activities but
nurses a secret passion. Joe is confused about what action he should
take while Elli, as directed by Davis Grindley, and movingly portrayed
by Lipman, has her own guilt and longing to contend with.
This is a straight play, not a comedy, although there are a number
of amusing moments. The excellent cast transcends the, at times,
somewhat mundane dialogue and the audience remains intrigued as
to what will happen next.
And now for something completely different: FORBIDDEN BROADWAY
(Menier Chocolate Factory, London until 30 August 2014. Box office
020-7378 1713) is a delightful musical satire on current
West End and Broadway shows.
The Forbidden Broadway version
of Les Miserables at the Menier Chocolate Factory
A cult hit in America where it has been playing since the early
1980s, the show has managed to cross the Atlantic gaining, rather
than losing, admirers on the way. The director and choreographer
Philip George, together with the show's creator and writer, Gerard
Alessandrini, have included material that is so up to date it is
a wonder how the new stuff was able to be composed in time.
There are some excellent pastiche moments. I particularly
liked the parodies of Julie Andrews (although a little cruel bearing
in mind her recent illness) and Elaine Paige, with a very good look-a-like
who exactly captured her way of speaking. The Billy Elliot
sequence with one of the cast in a tutu and a very funny excerpt
from Matilda along with songs sending up Mama Mia,
Miss Saigon, with a little helicopter which was almost
as good as in the real show and, of course, Les Mis all
appealed to me. The very recent re-cast of Charlie and the Chocolate
Factory also came under fire.
Great lines abound, "a new show with no imagination…with Matilda
imitation," with the original music re-interpreted by Musical Director
Joel Fram who plays the piano enthusiastically on stage. Remarkably
fast changes of costumes and a cast - Anna-Jane Casey, Sophie-Louise
Dann, Damian Humbley, Ben Lewis - who can not only sing well but
act the parts with which they are presented, seguing quickly from
one character to another. Initially sold out it has now been extended
to the end of August - try to catch it at the delightful Menier
Gorgeous! A somewhat strange way to describe a play, but that is
exactly what the production of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
(Noel Coward Theatre, London until 25 October 2014 Box office
0844 482 5141) is.
This joyful romp through the part of William Shakespeare's life
when he wrote Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate King's Daughter
(which became Romeo and Juliet) has been adapted from the
film's original screenplay written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard
by Lee Hall, who has kept the fun and turned the film into a play
that retains the backstage story as well as the onstage shenanigans.
Tom Bateman as Shakespeare
and Lucy Briggs-Owen as Viola
We see Will (Tom Bateman) falling for Viola de Lesseps
(Lucy Briggs-Owen), an aristocratic lady who so loves the theatre
that she dresses as a boy in order to go on to the stage as no females
were allowed to perform at this time. Those who know Romeo and Juliet
well will gain additional pleasure from recognising the changes
that Will makes helped by Marlowe (David Oakes) who generously provides
Shakespeare with some lines when he is stuck for words.
The real life of Will and his pursuit of Viola mirrors in many
ways that of the tragedy he is writing but we don't see a sad end
here. A number of the men who are pursuing theatre Manager Henslowe
(Paul Chahidi) for money are given parts in various plays and there
is a very funny Master of the Revels, Tilney (Ian Bartholomew) as
Malvolio, complete with yellow stockings. One of the actors is John
Webster, who likes gory stuff - there is a knowing hint at his later
blood-filled plays. Queen Elizabeth (Anna Carteret) turns out to
be a secret feminist. We see real female assertiveness in the character
of Viola who, as portrayed by Briggs-Owen, comes across as a young
woman determined to lead her own life even though she has to fight
against the male attitudes of the day. She and Bateman make a good
pair in their obvious chemistry which comes through in their scenes
Excellently directed by Declan Donnellan, using a galleried set,
there is also superb music with songs from different Shakespeare
plays, and a great counter-tenor in the shape of singer, Charlie
Tighe and some pretty choreography by Jane Gibson. However this
is certainly not a musical but a play which uses music and dance
in small doses for dramatic effect.
The poor Globe theatre had to cope with a number of disasters in
the way of illness and accidents in the company, but nevertheless
manages to put on a more than adequate production of Shakespeare's
JULIUS CAESAR (until 11 October Box Office 020
This is a lively show, exactly suited to the Globe's younger
audience, the majority of whom pay £5 to stand as "groundlings."
I consider them to be the best audience in town as there are frequently
people present who have never see the play on offer before and "ooh"
and "ah" at what is happening on stage. Dominic Dromgoole directs
and we see his mark before the play starts in the actors milling
around outside the auditorium as drunks and other ruffians participating
in the feast of Lupercal. The stylised battle is also visually interesting.
In Renaissance costume, the play is acted in a straightforward
style with no very unusual innovations. George Irving plays Caesar
as a fairly ordinary guy who believes that he is right in not giving
in to the fears of his wife and others about what might happen to
him. And, of course, disaster occurs and he is chopped down by those
who he considers supporters. The chief one being Cassius (Anthony
Howell) - well portrayed as an ambitious leader out for fame. Brutus,
played by Tom McKay, comes across as sure of himself and justifies
the actions of the killers to the crowd. We need a noble Mark Antony
and in Luke Thompson we have one. He uses his oratory skills in
moving the crowd against Brutus and Cassius. The women come across
more strongly than we generally see: Katy Stephens is a caring Calpurnia,
wife to Julius Caesar and later plays a boisterous First Citizen
and Catherine Bailey portrays the self-mutilating Portia effectively.
As usual the audience is quick to laugh at anything even slightly
amusing and it is sometimes disconcerting to find what we normally
consider serious come across as humour.
This must be one of the best plays on offer at the moment. THE
CRUCIBLE (Old Vic Theatre, London until 13 September 2014
Box office 0844 871 7628) by Arthur Miller is so beautifully
written that it can be almost guaranteed a successful production
but here Yael Farber brings something extra to the story of the
Salem witchcraft trials in 1692. In the fearsome anti-communist
era in America, the play was taken to be a commentary, almost a
judgement, against those who cooperated and those who refused to
give evidence at the Joseph McCarthy Committee trials in 1952. It
still resonates today, however, with acts of violence taking place
all over the world and the media's interpretation giving rise to
the question of who is in the right and who is the aggressor.
Surprisingly Farber has the cast speak English without an American
accent, which I gather is more akin to how people used to speak
in that part of the country.
Even knowing the play well and sure of the outcome, we are still
deeply moved by the accusation of witchcraft against upright citizens
by young girls moved to joint action by hysteria. Combined with
this is the more intimate story of John Proctor who is aware that
he has sinned by committing adultery with his servant Abigail and
now has to face his wife who, for the first time in her life, lies
to save her husband only to have this rebound in the most terrible
manner against them.
Richard Armitage as John Proctor
& Samantha Colley as Abigail
Farber's realistic set and the performance in the
round bring the action close to the audience. The orchestrated movement
of the girls led by Abigail (Samantha Colley) lends an extra dramatic
effect to the tension and Anna Maddeley is so moving and truthful
as Elisabeth Proctor that we wonder how anyone could judge her other
than noble. But it is Richard Armitage as John Proctor who provides
the core to this production - strong yet admitting his weakness
- he puts across a man completely agonised over his wrong actions
and mindful of the trouble he has brought to his wife and their
family. Colley gives a strong performance as 17-year old Abigail.
She shows that she is a most capable actress and we can look forward
to great things from her. There is good support from all other members
of the cast, in particular Adrian Schiller who starts off as an
accuser and then realises he is wrong.
I cannot recommend this theatrical event too highly.
It proves difficult to accept Martin Freeman as a wicked person.
He tries very hard to portray the villainous Richard and in a way
succeeds although there is always a niggling doubt when one looks
at his kindly face. In fact this suits some of the way that director
Jamie Lloyd has approached Richard 111.
This RICHARD 111 (Trafalgar Studios, London until
27 September 2014 Box office 0844 871 7632) is set in the
1970s, with tables for a conference, TV and so on. There has been
a military coup but the play also references the winter of discontent
before Margaret Thatcher and her Government took control. This makes
Richard's "Now is the winter of our discontent," which he speaks
on a microphone, particularly relevant and brought a titter from
the press night audience.
The audience sits on two sides of the stage and some are seated
on it. The set (designed by Soutra Gilmour) is the same throughout
which means the battle scenes take place within and around the area
of the desks. There is a lift on each side of the stage. Queen Margaret
(Maggie Steed) is already seated at the side of the stage when the
audience arrives and, in fact, she remains in or at the side of
the stage throughout.
Martin Freeman as Richard
& Lauren O'Neil as Lady Anne
Martin Freeman's Richard has only a small lump on
his back and one withered arm. As a smooth talking villain, the
production makes use of Freeman's softer attributes - this is no
raving King but a psychotic villain who is able to smooth talk the
widow, Lady Anne (Lauren O'Neil) when he is responsible for the
murder of her husband, into marrying him. Although Freeman manages
the devilish attitude of the King, he lacks the sexual power of
the best Richards.
One of the best moments, when the setting comes into its own, is
Richard's killing of Lady Anne in a chase around the desks culminating
in his strangling her with a telephone cord. Another electric moment
is submerging Clarence in a fish-tank which gradually fills with
blood. There is actually a lot of blood around and those sitting
near the front are advised to cover their clothes!
Those who complain of the long running time of the RSC and Shakespeare's
Globe productions will be pleased to learn that this Richard has
been immensely cut and only lasts two and a half hours!
The Clod Ensemble's RED LADIES (http://www.clodensemble.com),
which I caught at the Purcell Room as part of the Southbank Festival
and is now touring, is a strange beast. Led by choreographer/director
Suzy Wilson, it features 18 women, identically dressed in red headscarves
red stilettos, black trench coats and sunglasses. The women perform
a lot of different pieces including being a battalion. The best
of these is a kind of 50s pastiche with the women wearing print
dresses of the era and portraying women dong tasks such as reading,
knitting and so on. A number of the items have speech where the
women share microphones, but it was difficult to hear and so understand
what they were saying.
While the dance is interesting to watch, it is often hard to understand
just what they are getting at.
Those hoping to see a good performance of Oscar Wilde's delightful
play will be disappointed as will those expecting a comedy take
on the play by a so-called am-dram group. THE IMPORTANCE
OF BEING EARNEST (Harold Pinter Theatre, London until 20
September. Box office: 0844 871 7615), is a very strange
hybrid. The director Lucy Bailey has set Wilde's play in a framing
device of an amateur dramatic company putting on a performance.
There is almost a complete performance of the play within this device
but the framing with dialogue written by Simon Brett, doesn't work
at all well.
The idea, I presume, of having an amateur company, is to allow
all the parts to be played by older actors so Nigel Havers is Algernon
and Martin Jarvis is John Worthing. The only character that works
well is Sian Phillips as Lady Bracknell.
In fact the issue that worried me most before seeing this production
was the age of the actors portraying Wilde's young lovers, but actually
that didn't matter- what did was the poor quality of the writing
which topped and tailed and generally interfered with Wilde's very
Martin Jarvis and Nigel Havers
in The Importance of Being Earnest
While it started as though it was a take on Michael
Frayn's Noises Off, it became a somewhat poor rendition
of Wilde's most famous comedy and didn't work as either.