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Holiday time really begins at the end of July when the school kids - our childen or grandchildren - are released! HARRY POTTER and the Prisoner of Azkaban (cert. PG 2hrs.16mins.) will still be around then and will provide an enjoyable outing for all.

13 year-old Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) has reluctantly spent yet another summer with the Dursleys, his dismal relatives. He has been well-behaved and not practised his magic. However, when Aunt Marge (Pam Ferris) comes to visit, she is so horrible to Harry that he causes her to inflate like a balloon and float away! Harry, realising he must finally leave, goes away and is immediately picked up by the Knight bus and driven to the Leaky Cauldron pub. Here he learns that a dangerous wizard, Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped Azkaban prison and is looking for Harry. He is befriended by Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.

Harry's third year at the Magician's school is filled with exciting new creatures, like Buckbeak, a magical half-horse, and he has to make sense of Hermione's (Emma Watson's) puzzling appearances and disappearances with the help of Ron (Rupert Grint) and the giant Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane).

Harry Potter and Hermione
Harry Potter and Hermione

A confrontation between Harry and the menacing Sirius Black seems inevitable.. but what exactly is Professor Lupin's relationship with Black? What is the dark secret that Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) is so eager to reveal? And just why is Ron's pet rabbit so frantic to escape his grasp?

Harry,Ron and Hermione
Harry,Ron and Hermione

Remembering that it is based on a children's book and the film is, therefore, aimed at youngsters, there is still much for adults to admire. The range of English actors - obviously queuing up to participate - is outstanding. Michael Gambon is particularly effective as the Headmaster and Thewlis as Professor Lupin and Oldman as the escaped prisoner perform admirably. In fact, young and old, the actors are uniformly good. Much darker than the other two Potter films, both in content and lighting, the director, Alfonso Cuaron, provides a new look to JK Rowling's work


Time to get outdoors and visit the theatre at the same time. The Globe Theatre, Bankside and the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park are both showing Shakespeare. The Globe has an interesting ROMEO AND JULIET - traditional costumes and a dark-skinned Juliet. Also - although you'll find it hard to remember as the play progresses - an all female MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. This provides one of the clearest expositions of the play that I have seen. The story, characters and, after a while, the humour is well brought out.

Meanwhile there is an interesting production of HENRY 1V PART ONE at Regent's Park. While it is certainly not one of my favourite plays, I could at least appreciate the gradual maturing of young Prince Hal's character - actually Jordan Frieda is a good looking actor somewhat in the mould of Prince William - and the pomposity, shallowness and eventual downfall of Falstaff. As usual there is a magical production, by Ian Talbot, of A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT'S DREAM. Russ Abbot is a lean and very funny Bottom and the lovers are played with verve. Oberon and Titania (Keith Dunphy and Lauren Ward) move and speak in a lyrical, almost musical manner, but a sturdy Puck lacks poetry in his voice. It's a lively show with lots of visual 'business' and the event has a freshness that makes one forget having seen it many times previously! There is nowhere more suited to a performance of this play than the park on a warm evening as dusk falls. Take a jacket in case and venture out!

Carlie Newman
The open air theatre, Regents Park
Open air theatre, Regents Park

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