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FILM:June 2012

ANGEL & TONY (Angele & Tony cert.15 1hr. 27mins.) has had a troubling time building up to its release in May. It was the real-life victim of a warehouse fire in which copies of the film were destroyed. After much delay, the film is now on view and is certainly worth the wait. In her first major film, French director Alix Delaporte shows that she can deliver a subtle and tender love story.

We first meet 27 year-old Angel (Clotilde Hesme) having a quick sexual encounter. She is a lost soul who, we gradually discover, has spent two years in prison, while her small son, now nine, has lived with her parents-in-law. Angel is on parole and has to find both work and a place to live if she is to have any hope of having her son returned. Tony (Gregory Gadebois), a local fisherman, who lives with his mother in a small Normandy fishing village after his father was drowned six months' previously, gives her both although she is made to feel unwelcome by his mother, Myriam (a sharp characterisation by Evelyne Didi). Angel's son, Yohan (Antoine Couleau) is unhappy and rejects his mother as he resents her long absence. Tony initially refuses to respond to Angel's sexual advances although he is as emotionally lost as she is. Tony is a kind man and agrees to Angel's plan to marry in order to win custody when the matter goes to court.

The film doesn't proceed in the straightforward manner you might expect and the way the two relationship strands (Angel with Tony and Angel with her son) are resolved is satisfying to watch. There is very gentle inter-action between the somewhat hard Angel and her young son and with Tony when she smiles at him. Hesme gives a performance of great subtlety. Gadebois has a less showy part but manages to convey his inner feelings. This is altogether a gentle, lyrical film which you will remember.

Try to see THE SOURCE (cert. 15 2hrs. 5mins.), which has a cast of remarkable women. The story, which takes place in current times, in a small village somewhere between North Africa and the Middle East, tells how a group of women led by the feisty Leila (Leila Bekhri), a young bride, are moved to rebel against the hard labour they undergo daily. For many, many years the women have fetched water from a mountaintop spring in the blazing sun. They have to toil up a rocky path to the only well (the "source") for the village and then back down carrying heavy buckets of water. When LeÔla sees yet another of the local women miscarrying, she realises that something must be done to make the men run water into the village. She urges the women to have a sex strike - no more hugs, no more sex until they install a water-pipe line into the actual village. The men, who have been sitting in the village cafes while their women folk toil are affronted but gradually learn that the women mean war!

Excellently directed by Radu Mihaileanu, who also wrote the screenplay, and acted in such a naturalistic way that it sometimes feels as though one is watching a documentary rather than a kind of updated version of Aristophanes Lysistrata. Do search this out and see a different style of Trades' Union!

Following on from Mirror Mirror we have another version of the Snow White fable. This time, in SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (cert. 12A 2hrs.), the wicked Queen is played by Charlize Theron (pictured below) and Snow White by Kristen Stewart.

Evil Queen Ravenna (Theron) marries the widower King to gain power and the throne. She quickly kills off her new husband and becomes stepmother to the lovely and golden-hearted Snow White When Snow White grows up to become fairer than the evil Queen, Ravenna sets out to destroy her. The Princess manages to escape into the woods and the Queen is forced to employ a Huntsman named Eric (Chris Hemsworth) to track her down.

The Huntsman trains the princess in fighting skills and when they meet up with a friendly group of dwarfs, the stage is set for them all to fight back against the Queen and restore the land to its former glory. The group is joined by William (Sam Claflin) the Princess' childhood friend, son of Duke Hammond (Vincent Regan), who is in love with her. Snow White leads the attack but is torn between the widowed Huntsman who is brave and fearless and her young former childhood sweetheart, William.

Directed by Rupert Sanders the film has a cast of actors representing a virtual who's who of British acting masters. The dwarves, who are hard to recognise under their extraordinary make-up, are played by Ian McShane as Beith, the embittered leader of the clan; Bob Hoskins as Muir, their blind senior statesman; Ray Winstone as Gort, the ill-tempered drunkard; Nick Frost as Nion, Beith's right-hand man; Toby Jones as Coll, the toughest soldier among them; Eddie Marsan as Duir, the shadow to Coll; Johnny Harris as Quert, Muir's musical son and Brian Gleeson as Gus, the youngest of the dwarves, who shows particular affection for Snow White.

While Stewart acts well, Theron, even as the middle-aged Queen (she remains young by taking beauty from young girls such as Lily Cole as Greta) is so much lovelier that it never seems quite right when the mirror replies to the question, "Who is the fairest of them all?" with "Snow White!"

The director has employed lovely photography and the forest is suitably enchanting. Good to see close ups of Snow White with dirty fingernails as she crawls through the undergrowth in the forest. Much darker than the Julia Roberts version, this is a Snow White for adults to enjoy

     
     

 

 


 

 

THEATRE TIP

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James' Bible, there is an intelligent production of David Edgar's WRITTEN ON THE HEART (RSC at the Duchess Theatre until 21 July*)

The play needs to be approached with an open and wide-awake mind. Open, to accept the different views put forward on translating the Bible and wide-awake in order to fully comprehend the arguments put forward by Bishop Andrews (Oliver Ford Davies) in 1610 London and William Tyndale (Stephen Boxer) on the eve of his death in prison in Flanders in 1536 extolling the virtues of his early translation .

Director Gregory Doran skilfully brings together the two main periods in a tight production in which every word is important. The actors interpret their character clearly and dramatically.

*Unfortunately this play is yet another victim of West End commercialism and the run has been curtailed.

SOUTH DOWNS/THE BROWNING VERSION: Terence Rattigan's play is the better known of the two plays presented at the Harold Pinter Theatre (until 21 July), but David Hare has much to offer in South Downs. Together they form a duo which tells us a lot about adolescence, public schools and the class system as well s sadness and loss.

In South Downs set in 1962, young Alex Lawther, excelling in his first starring role, gives a sensitive portrayal of a 14-year-old scholarship lad who feels different from his upper class peers at the school. Only the actress mother (Anna Chancellor) of the most popular boy in the public school is able to get through to him and her genuine sympathy helps him to accept himself.

Anna Chancellor and Nicholas Farrell in The Browning Version

In Rattigan's The Browning Version, set in a public school in the late 1940s, Anna Chancellor, in another spot-on portrayal, plays the disenchanted wife of Andrew Crocker-Harris (a wonderfully moving portrayal by Nicholas Farrell), a Classics teacher who is retiring through ill health. He is told that he will have no pension and knows that his wife is having an affair with another master (Mark Umbers).

An act of kindness by a young boy, who presents him with Robert Browning's translation of the Agamemnon, brings events to an emotional climax. Director Angus Jackson brings out the poignancy without making the play over-sentimental. Excellent performances all round provide one of the most moving experiences to watch on the West End stage today.

The Tricycle Theatre has come up with a most unusual play, A SLOW AIR (until 2 June). David Harrower has written a two-hander, with a difference. Here we have a series of interlinking monologues. The play tells of the meeting up of a brother and sister who haven't seen each other for 14 years. Scottish brother and sister Athol (Lewis Howden) and Morna (Susan Vidler), both middle-aged, have led very different lives over the intervening years, he as a business man, with a wife but no children at home, and she as a cleaner with a son approaching his 21st birthday. We gradually learn the reasons for the couple's estrangement which comes to a climax at the celebrations of Morna's son Joshua's birthday celebrations.

The writing and acting skills of the two performers are able to people the stage with those characters who are talked about but never appear. Lewis Howden shows us a rugged Scotsman who has made good and describes his wife who misses her own son, while Susan Vidler has a coarse, more strident accent as his pushy sister with a grievance.

We learn how Athol felt a stranger in his community until the Glasgow Airport bombers brought the incident to the streets near him and all the neighbours began to talk together and with him. While the end is something of an enigma, the play, which runs for almost two hours without a break, is fascinating to watch and completely absorbing.

Joining other big musicals around, we have a lovely production of Irving Berlin's TOP HAT (Aldwych until 26 January 2013 ). Using Berlin's score which has all the numbers from the original film it also includes many of his other titles, including the delightful Let's Face the Music and Dance. This musical is, of course, based on the movie of Top Hat, which famously starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, cementing their very productive dance partnership, which premiered in 1935, a time of severe austerity.

Summer Strallen as Dale and Tom Chambers as Jerry in 'Top Hat'

While not having the very interesting books of Singin' in the Rain and Sweeney Todd, the show has one story-line, the mistaking by Dale (Summer Strallen) of Jerry for his promoter the married Horace Hardwick (Martin Ball). But there is a lot of fun in this, not least in some of the smaller parts: Ricardo Afonso gives a greatly exaggerated interpretation of the vain fashion designer Alberto Beddinii, even giving us a slow striptease as he changes for his wedding night, and Stephen Boswell as the butler, Bates, who keeps putting on disguises is reminiscent of Charles Hawtrey in his Carry On films. The chorus also boasts some good singers and dancers and a couple of men with exceedingly long legs!

Naturally everyone looks to the performances of the two stars and, although Tom Chambers (who won Strictly Come Dancing in 2008) is no Astaire, he is nimble on his feet, sings pleasantly, has charm and does a fast tap dance. He is particularly good in the title song and when dancing with a hat stand. Summer Strallen, sister of Scarlett Strallen, star of Singin' in the Rain, sings and dances with a certain amount of panache. The couple work well together but find it hard to strike the balance between when they are in love and the times when Dale is angry because she believes Jerry to be an adulterer

Interesting art deco designs make the scene changes easy on the eye and evocative of the period as well as the places. There is a delightful sequence with Jerry and Horace sitting high up in plane seats and then a miniature plane flies over a group in Venice.

Witty one-liners are scattered throughout, "Is there no beginning to your talents?" Asks Dale of Jerry. Director Matthew White has devised a jolly show, which will not only set your feet tapping but get you singing on your way home.

Click tophatonstage.com for booking info

The revival of Joe Orton's 1967 hilarious farce, WHAT THE BUTLER SAW (Vaudeville Theatre until 25 August) has something to say about society as well as being a very funny play.

Director Sean Foley has his cast maniacally rushing in and out of doors and constantly doing double takes in this story which starts with a wife coming into the psychiatrist's office to almost find him seducing a young Secretary.

Of course it all over-played, but that is what a farce is all about and it works well for all the cast except Omid Djalili who shouts his way through as a visiting NHS inspector.

Tim McInnerny as the Psychiatrist and Samantha Bond as his randy wife are both excellent. In the use of his body McInnerny reminds me of the young John Cleese in his aptitude for physical comedy. Bond as the wife shows her range as an actress and has some hilarious moments, particularly when she drinks so much that she almost crawls across the room. Georgia Moffat gives a lovely little portrayal of the blonde secretary who finds herself caught up in a nightmare of dressing and undressing and Nick Hendrix shows that he is one to watch as he makes his West End debut as the young hotel pageboy. If you accept the show for what it is and manage to hear some of the social commentary between the laughs, then you should enjoy a most pleasant evening at the theatre.

Get ready for the RSC's London season. Starting at THE ROUNDHOUSE is TWO ROSES FOR RICHARD III FROM BRAZIL'S COMPANHIA BUFOMEC¬NICA FROM 18 MAY 2012 followed by WHAT COUNTRY FRIENDS IS THIS? SHAKESPEARE'S SHIPWRECK TRILOGY FROM 1 JUNE 2012

As part of the World Shakespeare Festival, the Royal Shakespeare Company will transfer 6 shows to the Roundhouse and NoŽl Coward Theatre in London this summer.

Two Roses for Richard III will open in Stratford-upon-Avon before transferring to the Roundhouse on 18 May. For 6 performances Brazilian theatre company Companhia Bufomec‚nica will present a visually stunning interpretation of Shakespeare's history plays which combines theatre, music, striking imagery and aerial skills.

The Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night and The Tempest, currently in preview in Stratford-upon-Avon form What Country Friends is This? Shakespeare's shipwreck trilogy. Throughout June the shows will be performed in repertoire by one ensemble company on a specially built stage, the famous 'Roundyard' first used for the RSC's Histories cycle in 2008, which replicates The Courtyard Theatre within the space of the Roundhouse.

RSC Associate Director David Farr directs Twelfth Night and The Tempest while Amir Nizar Zuabi directs The Comedy of Errors. The acting company includes RSC regular Jonathan Slinger, Kirsty Bushell, Nicholas Day, Emily Taaffe, Felix Hayes and Bruce Mackinnon.

End of an era in Croydon? The Warehouse Theatre

South London's famous and highly respected Warehouse Theatre could well be about to turn out the lights and become dark after 35 years. Located close to East Croydon station, The Warehouse is well known and loved by many people including its 2,500 theatre members. Many well known artists including Cate Blanchett, Eddie Izzard, Ben Elton, Lenny Henry and Dawn French started their careers at the Warehouse, and many well known and innovative plays have been produced and performed at the Theatre. For the last 25 years, the Warehouse has also run the popular, well respected and unique International Playwriting Festival which has produced many plays and discovered a number of now famous playwrights, for instance Peter Moffatt and Kevin Hood. Its last Festival held earlier this year played to packed houses and demonstrated all that was exciting, and cutting edge about the Warehouse and the innovative approach developed by its Artistic Director Ted Craig, performed as ever in the intimate and friendly atmosphere of the old Victorian building in which The Warehouse Theatre is located.

In addition to the Theatre providing opportunities for new writers and actors to develop their talents, the Warehouse has actively supported local communities and charities in Croydon and would be sadly missed by them all. The Theatre has worked with Croydon schools including the BRIT School and has always provided a friendly atmosphere in the bar and restaurant, open to the public whether or not they are attending one of the Theatre's performances. The Warehouse has always supported the youth of Croydon by providing opportunities and facilities to develop their skills which have been and are needed now more than ever as a result of the current social and economic climate.

The plight of The Warehouse has become critical following funding cuts by the Arts Council and more recently by Croydon Council. As a result of Croydon Council's recent decision not to provide the Theatre with further funding due to cut backs, the Board had no option but to resolve at its meeting on 4th May to reluctantly seek to place The Warehouse Theatre Company Ltd into Administration and appoint Jeremy Frost and Patrick Wadsted to assist them. If these events cause the closure of The Warehouse Theatre Croydon, London and the world of live innovative theatre will sadly lose an important cultural asset which has an established reputation and can never be replaced.

The Board has also resolved to support an Appeal to save the Theatre, and members of the Theatre will be urgently considering how this will be launched. Further information relating to the Administration should be addressed to Jeremy Frost of the Frost Group Tel 0845 260 0101 0845 260 0101 Information on the Theatre and details of its Appeal can be found on the Warehouse Theatre website at: www.warehousetheatre.co.uk

     
     

Carlie Newman

   
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