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FILM: July 2006

Ken Loach's THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY (cert. 15 2hrs.4mins.) rightly, though somewhat surprisingly, recently won the big prize at Cannes. It is, obviously, a film with much to say about the politics of Ireland. It is more anti-British than against Irish people although towards the end, after a truce has been declared, but one that involves swearing allegiance to the British crown, we see former members of the IRA arresting and even shooting their former Irish colleagues.

The Wind That Shakes The Barley
The Wind That Shakes The Barley

It starts in 1920 when volunteers use underground tactics against British soldiers who have been sent to stop independence. The story centres on Damien (Cillian Murphy) a doctor who at the last moment decides not to leave for England and a career but to stay and fights alongside his brother, Teddy (Padriac Delaney). It is clear where Loach and his excellent writer, Paul Laverty's, sympathies lie as the Director shows the courage of ordinary people from the very young to an old lady who stays in her chicken coop rather than leave her family home after British soldiers have set it on fire. The use of non-professional actors from Cork, where the film is set, adds to the feel of authenticity. Loach has made comparisons with the plight of the Irish and that of the Iraqi people: judge for yourselves when you see the film.

Thank you for smoking

THANK YOU FOR SMOKING (cert. 15 1hr.32mins.) has something to say - well, with that title, it would, wouldn't it! But because we have become used to Michael Moore's films which put across equally personal views on a particular subject, it does not come across strongly enough. This is partly because it has a lot of humour which dilates the satirical stringent tone.

There is a most attractive performance by Aaron Eckhart as the spokesman for a tobacco company who, basically, has to persuade children and adults that smoking isn't necessarily bad for you. I know the effect it is supposed to have - all I can say is that one renowned critic came straight out of the screening I saw and immediately lit up!

It might well be difficult to find, but if you can, do try to catch 10TH DISTRICT COURT (no cert. 1hr 45mins.). Directed by Raymond Depardon, the documentary shows a series of cases in a court in Paris presided over by Madame Justice Michele Bernard-Requin, a Judge,with a good grasp of the motives behind the excuses people make. As one who spends a lot of time in a Magistrates' Court in London (as a Justice of the Peace, I hasten to add) the cases are remarkably similar to the ones we face daily.

10th District Court
10th District Court

There is humour and a certain amount of pathos and one is genuinely interested in the outcome of the cases shown on the screen.


SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE (Wyndham's Theatre) is a really magical show. It illustrates how the painter Georges Seurat came to paint his famous paintings, in particular Sunday Afternoon On The Island of La Grande Jatte. Seurat was so obsessed with painting that he neglected his pregnant girlfriend, Dot, who eventually married a baker and went to America.

Sunday in the park with george
Sunday in the park with George

Many years later we see their great grandson, (another) Georges, a light-artist, who is trying to convince the world that his, very different, art is worthwhile. Stephen Sondheim's music is lovely and I found that, unlike some of his other musicals I was able to comprehend what was happening. Interesting, well-sung and moving performances from Daniel Evans as the two Georges and Jenna Russell as Dot and the very elderly daughter of Dot. But above all the set is absolutely outstanding - computer-generated projections appear on the back wall of the set to show the characters in the painting and then they, seemingly, come to life before our eyes and walk, talk and sing on stage. Thankfully the run of the show has been extended.

The taming of the shrew

We can find two delightful productions in the new season at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park. First there is THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, a lively and well-acted production with great effort made to show Katherina as a shrew with a heart waiting to be loved by Petrucio. When he does make her fall in love, she takes his bad treatment of her without rancour and is able to teach the other wives what loving someone is all about - however it still involves obedience, which rather sticks in (some of) our throats! Directed by Rachel Kavanagh, there is a warm Italian feel to the set, and some good touches including real smoke from a chimney and fireworks to finish. I find it difficult to watch this play without wanting to break into "Kiss Me Kate" songs, but the actors strive hard to make one forget the musical and there is a very lively, scowling Kate in Sirine Saba and a more delicate blonde Bianca (Sheridan Smith). Petrucio (John Hodgkinson) could do with a lighter touch.

An excellent production by Ian Talbot of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (Open Air Theatre) makes one look at the play anew. There is so much comic business to delight and everything seems different: the fairies are almost bald hob-goblins in bovver boots and the four lovers stripped to their underwear as they hang on to each other's legs and roll around on the ground are very funny. John Hodgkinson as Bottom shows that he can perform comedy and the scenes with him wearing an ass's head had the audience laughing out loud. On a warm evening with real birds singing, there are not many better places to be!

A midsummer nights dream

You can't really say that about TITUS ANDRONICUS (Shakespeare's Globe) which is a gory spectacle and looks as though Quentin Tarentino has put Hannibal Lecter on stage. Four or five people fainted in the audience when we saw the play on a hot, sticky evening.


Carlie Newman

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