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FILM:MARCH 2008

I don't remember the bank raid in September 1971 when a large amount of cash and jewellery worth millions of pounds was taken and the subsequent inquiry, or lack if it, was kept out of the newspapers, as a result of a Government gagging order. In THE BANK JOB (cert. 15 1hr. 51mins.)

Dick Clement and Ian Frenais, basing their script on what is known of the actual heist, have written a story using mainly fictional characters. A radio ham overheard the robbers planning the raid and then followed the voices as they dug a 40 foot tunnel from two shops away and entered the bank's vault. He called in the police but nobody could find the actual location, which, in fact was Lloyds bank at the corner of Marylebone Road and Baker Street, until too late.

The Bank Job

We learn that MI5 had used a woman, Martine (Saffron Burrows), to get her admirer, Terry (Jason Statham), a small time crook, to commit the robbery as the Government was being blackmailed by Michael X (Peter De Jersey)who had compromising pictures of a Royal (yes, indeed, a good guess would be Princess Margaret).

There are various sub-plots concerning a villain (a good performance by David Suchet) who has a book noting bribes paid to police officers and Terry's wife ( another winning characterisation from Keeley Hawes) who fears her husband still fancies Martine. All this is put together in a somewhat pedestrian fashion by director, Roger Donaldson and most of the accents - apart for Statham, who seems to be speaking in his usual voice - are somewhat dodgy. However the plot lines are interesting and there are some moments of humour and quite a few exciting scenes in this acceptable British thriller.

Garage

Another British film, this time set in mid-west Ireland is GARAGE (cert. 15 1hr. 25mins.), a little (in terms of no big budget or action sequences) gentle film that, I expect, will have limited release. Director Lenny Abrahamson and writer Mark O'Halloran tell the story of Josie, a simple misfit who has worked all his life in a garage in a rural community. He looks longingly at the young woman (Anne-Marie Duff)who runs the general store where he buys his food for his solo suppers and then visits the local pub to share a few pints and crack with other men.

When a teenager, David, is brought in to help at the weekend, Josie finds a friend who allows him to join others in group activities. However, Jose is too na´ve to realise the danger of some of his own actions and his life is turned upside down.

The film has a slow, lyrical quality with a lovely performance by Pat Shortt as Jose. Peter Robertson, the Director of Photography, has picked out different lighting qualities to indicate the varied moods of the scenes.

There are only a few good new films, so do take the opportunity to catch up on the Oscar winners if you have not yet seen them. Two excellent films both for direction and acting are NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (cert.15 2hrs. 2mins.), in which the Coen brothers direct a fine film set in the modern West with Tommy Lee Jones trying to sort out a man on the run (Josh Brolin) with two million dollars in cash, being pursued by a mad villain (Javier Bardem). Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson has created a powerful film THERE WILL BE BLOOD (cert. 12A 2hrs. 38mins.), starring the magnificent Daniel Day-Lewis, which tells the story of a poor man who becomes an oil baron in California in the early 1900s.

no country

THEATRE TIP: MARCH 2008

 

The Sea

Edward Bond's play THE SEA (Haymarket) begins very dramatically with a sailor struggling for his life in the sea. His death has repercussions on all the inhabitants of a small seaside village. Under the direction of Jonathan Kent the play is always imaginative and frequently exciting.

It is most memorable for the excellent cast led by Eileen Atkins as Mrs Rafi, the imperious grand dame of the community who, on a whim, refuses to buy material she has ordered from - the never less than wonderfully funny - David Haigh as the maniacal draper who behaves even more bizarrely when he attempts to explain his potential loss of livelihood to her. Atkins can express more in her clear voice than any actress since Peggy Ashcroft and, I believe that Atkins has more humour than Ashcroft, as well as more emotion in her delivery. A lovely cameo, too, from Marcia Warren as Mrs Rafi's companion.

Another dominating female character presides over her minions in Oscar Wilde's THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (Vaudeville). Nothing can spoil Wilde's wittiest comedy and in this production, directed by Peter Gill, we can enjoy some extras.

The Importance of Being Ernest

For once Lady Bracknell (here played with the cut-glass accent of Penelope Keith) does not come across as the only strong character for, from the moment she first appears in an extravagantly styled hat like her mother, Gwendolen (the delightful Daisy Haggard) shows she is a chip off the old block. From the beginning the young men display decidedly upper class behaviour when Algernon shows no interest in his servant's personal life. Wilde mocks the lives of this group as he delves into their present and past lives. Played here as a farce the audience can discover something new with each viewing of the play.

A somewhat different offering is on show at the Comedy Theatre. Harold Pinter's one act plays THE LOVER and THE COLLECTION are witty in a different way from Wilde. Both are more subtle, and The Lover has a decidedly sensual undertone while The Collection has a strong hint of menace.

The Lover and The Collection

When first performed in 1963 the opening line, "Are you seeing your lover this afternoon?" from husband to wife, was truly shocking. Now we are so used to explicit sexual remarks, and, indeed, sex itself on stage that we just accept the fact that both have lovers. Perhaps, too, because I now know the play, I lose that extra frisson from finding out that the husband is actually the lover in question. Richard Coyle and Gina McKee look and act just right as the couple involved in sexual games.

They appear again in The Collection with Timothy West as an older man and his probable boyfriend played by Charlie Cox who is accused of having an affair with a woman he met at a conference. The homosexual under-current is not really strong enough in this production.

A word about HAPPY NOW (National Theatre), a new play by Lucinda Coxon about two couples coping somewhat badly with their relationships. Well-written and acted, many of us will recognise some of our acquaintances in discussions we have heard about comprehensive versus faith schools and the lack of affection shown by some husbands towards their wives but displayed in abundance towards other women. Again a good cast, with Anne Reid especially telling as the mother of Kitty (Olivia Williams), concerned more about her minor ailments than her estranged husband who is dying in hospital.

Diane Samuels and Tracy-Ann Oberman have called their 3 SISTERS ON HOPE STREET (Hampstead Theatre) "after Anton Chekhov" and the faults in the writing come from a too close following of the original. Having said that there is a lot to admire here. The story of the three sisters, here called Gertie, May and Rita (after the original Olga, Masha and Irina), who yearn for Moscow, is here transferred to a wish to return to New York where they lived when they were children.

They now live in Hope Street in the centre of Liverpool with their aunt and a lodger, a retired gynaecologist, who performs illegal abortions. The girls have a brother Arnold who, during the course of the play marries the scheming Debbie, who is determined to regulate all their lives. Light relief is initially provided by three American GIs - an idealist who is planning to go to the "promised land" an attractive married man who is open to May's attraction to him while he is away from his wife and family and one who has been traumatised by helping to liberate prisoners of Dachau - who come to visit the family.

Some difficulty arises in the transfer of the play to the Liverpool setting at this period. A clever device is to bring in anti-Semitic rioting in the city as a result of the hanging of two British soldiers in Palestine during the British occupation in 1947. But the characters rely too much on a knowledge of the future: GI Vince "And that Austrian nudnik, Adolf...? They said he'd never catch on. Right!"

3 Sisters on Hope Street

The play also needs some tightening both in the writing which tries too hard to marry the Chekhovian threads with its new location and the various plot lines, so that it meanders a little in the middle and is too long. This is not helped by Lindsay Posner's somewhat plodding staging which has some longeurs particularly in the over stretching of the characters watching a top spin until it stops. However, the characters are well-defined both in the writing and acting with Philip Voss showing particular disgust with himself as the doctor, and Finbar Lynch as the amorous GI and Gerard Monaco as the GI virtually destroyed by his memories of what he witnessed at the concentration camps. The sisters are well-delineated, too, and Ben Caplan and Daisy Lewis are excellent as brother Arnold and his irritating wife Debbie. Catch this before the end of March.

Carlie Newman

   
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