Although slight, TEA AND SANGRIA
(cert.15 1 hr. 50 mins.) is a charming film. The one man band that
is Peter Domankiewicz, who is the writer, producer, director, editor
and main star - and he even writes some of the music - in his first
feature film, puts everything into this movie. Having given up his
job, his home and everything he knows in England to travel to Spain
and be with the woman he has fallen for, is a huge step. Will David
(Peter Domankiewicz) regret his move?
It doesn't begin too well with Marisa (Angela Boix) turning up
late and, unfortunately, the whole relationship starts to deteriorate
to the point that David moves out of the shared apartment. Now homeless
in Madrid, with little money and less Spanish, David is forced to
rely on friends and find employment.
This is not the usual kind of rom com: instead of focusing just
on the romance between the two, we see David coming to terms with
the different culture of this Spanish city. The characters he comes
across teach him about life in Madrid and, through the eyes of an
Englisman we are able to delight not only in the lovely city but
also in its special characteristics. At first you can see David
translating not just the language but also the customs until he
becomes familiar with both. Domankiewicz is not particularly good-looking
which makes the romantic part of the story quite believable.
The actor has a natural charm which works well with
the very attractive fiery Spanish Boix. The film is light and amusing
with a gentle very British type of humour and a welcome change from
some of the heavier stuff currently on offer. The title of the two
drinks bridges the gap nicely between the countries.
In CHILD 44 (cert.15 2 hrs. 17 mins.) we find
an unusual concept turned into an exciting film which doesn't quite
hit the right buttons because many of the actors have the most appalling
accents. As Russians they converse in a kind of English which is
not convincing either as Russians speaking English or just English.
Tom Rob's 2008 bestseller is here made into a thriller by screen
writer Richard Price.
Director Daniel Espinosa gives us a - seemingly - accurate depiction
of the Soviet Union which, under Stalin, deems murder to be a crime
which is non-existent in the country. When Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy),
a military policeman who is also a war hero, starts to search for
the murder of his friend's child, he is made to feel a traitor.
This view is enhanced when he protects his wife (Noomi Rapace) after
she is accused of being a spy. They are exiled to a small outpost
which is ruled by General Nesterov (Gary Oldman). Although his wife
really wants to escape, once they discover more dead bodies she
decides to work alongside Demidov to find the murderer.
Hardy gives a good portrayal of the hero who begins as a dedicated
Communist but as he pursues the killer realises that perhaps the
State is wrong. Rapace gives us the woman behind the wife of a military
policeman. The grimness of the life led by ordinary people at this
time is well depicted.
If only the accents were not so terribly wrong! Just
English using regional accents would have been fine.
Although THE GOOD LIE (cert.12 A 1 hr. 40 mins.)
'stars' Reese Witherspoon, she takes a back seat as the movie explores
the story of 'The Lost Boys' - children who were orphaned in the
war in Sudan in 1983. Witherspoon plays a more minor role.
The film concentrates on the story of brothers Mamere and Theo
who lead a group of young survivors away from the village where
their families have been slaughtered. The boys' sister Abital is
with them. They are joined by two more young boys, Jeremiah and
Paul and this little group remain together through their long trek
to a refugee camp in Kenya. On the march the Chief, Theo, is taken
away by soldiers, leaving Mamere as leader.
Reese Witherspoon & Ger Duany
in The Good Lie
Finally thirteen years later, the remaining group
of four - now young adults - are able to leave the camp and travel
to America. When they arrive in Kansas City, Carrie Davis (Reese
Witherspoon), an employment agency counsellor, meets them and, against
her will, finds herself not only searching for jobs for them but
also helping them come to grips with a whole new way of life in
which they have to negotiate light switches, telephones, new food
and the whole culture of a different environment. Whilst the boys
are happy to be in America they are also saddened by the forced
departure of Abital (Kouth Wiel) to Boston away from the boys.
As the boys build a new life for themselves, the differences between
then becomes apparent. Mamere (Arnold Oceng) wants to be a doctor
while taking his duties as leader of the little pack very seriously.
Paul (Emmanuel Jal) finds it difficult to adjust to his new life
and his temper sometimes boils over leading to trouble. Spiritually
inclined Jeremiah (Ger Duany) tries hard to keep the peace. He believes
strongly in doing good and is sacked when he gives away food to
the needy in the supermarket where he is employed.
Witherspoon is just right as the reluctant helper who finds herself
drawn into the lives of the young Sudanese refugees. She is completely
un-showy in the part and we feel sympathy for her character just
as she grows to feel responsible for her charges. The adult refugees
are played by young actors who all have experience of the war and
life in the Sudan.
Director Philippe Falardeau brings life to this fictional story
based on the real experience of the Lost Boys. This is a beautifully
shot film which is moving, educational, exciting and all-absorbing.
If you didn't see the original film, I would recommend watching
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (cert. 12A 1 hr. 59 mins). While
Carey Mulligan is by no means the assertive headstrong heroine that
Julie Christie portrayed, Mulligan's Bathsheba Everdene, the heroine
of Thomas Hardy's novel, is pretty enough to make us believe that
she could attract three different men. The male leads are all individuals
but I missed the sparkiness of Terence Stamp's womanising Troy and
the very hurt William Boldwood (now played by Michael Sheen) who
is driven by love of Bathsheba to commit a terrible act. Here Tom
Sturrudge as Troy is somewhat subdued and courts Bathsheba by whirling
his sword around but without the charisma of the original. An admirer
of Peter Finch's middle-aged wealthy widower Boldwood, I was not
entirely convinced by Sheen. As for the very English Gabriel Oak,
I so missed Alan Bates. Instead we get the non-English Mathias Schoenaerts.
The lovely Dorset scenery is well photographed, the background music
swirls around and director Thomas Vinterberg tries hard but misses
some key moments including my favourite bit of dialogue from the
Oak: And when the wedding was over, we'd
have it put in the newspaper list of marriages.
B: I should like that!
Oak: And the babies in the birth - every
man Jack of 'em!! And at home by the fire, whenever you look up,
there I shall be -and whenever I look up, there will be you.
But why undertake a re-make? What will we have next? A new Dr
ROSEWATER (cert. 15 1 hr. 43 mins.) is the dramatic
story of an Iranian journalist imprisoned for writing and speaking
out about the Iranian people who are against the current regime
in 2009. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal as Maziar Bahari and based
on his memoir Then They Came For Me , this is well directed by John
Stewart with good acting from all.
Here is a round-up of what is new in the
It was one of my favourite musicals last year and I was absolutely
delighted to learn that the Chichester Festival Theatre's production
of GYPSY was coming to the Savoy Theatre in London.
Well, it is now here (booking until 28 November. Box office: 0844
871 3046) and, if anything, even better in the smaller proscenium
theatre than on the bigger apron stage at Chichester. The musical
is a delight in itself and with the talents of composer Jule Styne,
book by Arthur Laurents and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and the added
performance of Imelda Staunton as the extremely ambitious mother
of two girls in show business; it is definitely one to see.
Momma Rose is a character of such immense power that she threatens
to dominate the play - actually in the person of Staunton she does
but that is not to say that the other characters disappear. While
it is June (Gemma Sutton) who Rose pushes, it is in fact Louise
(Lara Pulver) who becomes a world-wide success as the lady-like
stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee .
With the change of venue, Peter Davison has taken over the role
of Herbie, the girls' manager, who really loves Rose but is pushed
aside when her daughters' careers are being pursued. He is a sympathetic
character who works well with the more abrasive Mamma Rose. I think
Lara Pulver is stronger here than in Chichester: She is more confident
in the part and this gives her a certain aura once she becomes the
star of striptease.
Pulver develops her character nicely and there is
good support all round, particularly the lively chorus who produce
a variety of styles which are all beautifully executed.
Staunton, however, is the real star of the show and well deserves
all the praise heaped on her performance. Not only can she act to
show the pathos behind the mother's seeming strength but she puts
across the well-known songs so that they are always meaningful as
well as tuneful. What strikes me is Imelda Staunton's ability to
remain in character; she doesn't 'perform' the songs as much as
inhabit them as Momma Rose. If I gave stars - out of five - I would
give six for this wonderful show! When can I see it again?
THE GLASS PROTEGE (just finished its run at the
Park Theatre, London)is written by Dylan Costello and directed by
It is hard to believe that only some sixty years ago, society in
UK and USA was so intolerant to homosexuality that lives and careers
were destroyed to ensure 'secrets' were hidden securely under the
carpet . In this delightful small theatre, the full impact of the
issues people had to deal with if in love and gay unfolds as the
life story of Patrick Glass (Paul Lavers ) is told.
The play is set in two places and in different decades, Patrick's
bedroom in 1989 and a Hollywood Film studio in 1949. The elderly
Pat is looking back on his life as he nears the end. Alternating
between the two places and times throughout the play is extremely
effective in showing the profound impact on Patrick's life by his
love affair with Jackson (Alexander Hume) a movie star who is forced
by the norms of the day to be firmly in the closet. The film studio
cast young Patrick (David R. Butler) and Jackson in a film and their
association explodes but the studio boss is ruthless in ensuring
that that the movie's success and profits is not going to be affected
by any 'unacceptable' behaviour.
The supporting cast all act extremely well underpinning this poignant
play of love denied, though never ended, and of the choices and
decisions made because of the demands of society.
If the subject matter offends and male nudity censored then this
is not the play for you. If not, congratulations to Giant Cherry
Productions, Costello and the cast of the play in providing a challenging
and meaningful production.
I held back the following review until I could also write about
The Merchant of Venice.
Not just as a foretaste of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice
but a worthwhile play in its own right, Christopher Marlowe's THE
JEW OF MALTA (RSC's Swan Theatre, Stratford (until 8 September
2015. Box Office 0844 800 1110) is given a full-bodied
Jasper Britton is Barabas, a Jew who is tormented by the Governor
of Malta (Steven Pacey) and his gentlemen. Barabas is very rich
and tells the audience this. Christian Malta is being attacked by
the Turks and the nobles want the Jewish merchants to give them
money but Barabas refuses and the fiercely anti-Semitic Maltese
punish him. First by having his riches taken away from him and then
spitting on him. Like Shylock, Barabas is moved to revenge by the
actions of the Christians.
Lanre Malaolu (Ithamore) and
Jasper Britton (Barabas) in The Jew of Malta
When he loses his daughter as well as his money he
kills his tormentors without any mercy. As with Shylock, Barabas
mourns the loss of his daughter and his treasure, "O, my ducats!
O, my daughter," he cries. Presumably he loved his daughter but
has no hesitation in punishing her along with the other nuns and
friars. To help him, Barabas has a servant, Ithamore (Lanre Malaolu).
The stereotyping of the Jewish merchants gives the play more than
a touch of anti-semitism. Jasper Britton plays his part well and
it is good to find his daughter Abigail (Catrin Stewart) at least
looking Jewish. However, Britton with long hair, gives a powerful
yet moving performance whose feeling for revenge leads him to commit
Good, too, to see the play set in the right period and hear the
klezmer music at the beginning setting the tone. Matthew Kelly and
Geoffrey Freshwater play not very righteous friars. It is a very
well-produced production which brings to the fore the various elements
so the that an audience unfamiliar with the play can follow it.
Clear in its production values, too, is the Shakespeare's Globe,
London production of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (until
8 September 2015. Box Office 0844 800 1110) which under
the lively direction of Jonathan Mundy brings out all the humour
as well as the pathos of Shakespeare's play. The Globe audience
always responds to any glimpse of fun and here they get maximum
pleasure from the casket scene where Portia's suitors have to choose
a box which, if it contains her picture will give them her hand
in marriage. The vivacious Portia (Rachel Pickup) watches and is
visibly happy when all three choose the wrong casket.
Pickup is good too when, disguised as a lawyer, she has to act
against Shylock who is after his pound of flesh from the best friend
of her new husband, Bassanio( Daniel Lapine).
Jonathan Pryce shows us just why he is so vengeful as he reacts
to the taints and spitting of the anti-semitic Christians in Venice.
We glean some idea of the reasons for his actions. Pryce doesn't
put on a silly Jewish-type voice; he is an ordinary man wearing
a small soft red hat. It's a really good touch to have Pryce's real-life
daughter, Phoebe Pryce, as Shylock's daughter Jessica. The two work
well separately and are great together. Phoebe puts across the well-known
'Quality of mercy' speech as a realistic speech about mercy and
I'm not sure if I like Launcelot Gobo (Stefan Adegbola) getting
audience members up on the stage as it introduces a very modern
element to this ancient story. But he works well as does Dorothea
Myer-Bennett as Nerissa, Portia's maid and the three suitors for
The packed audience responded well to the humour but were also
quiet in the moving scene at the end when we see Shylock forced
to become a Christian and Jessica lamenting by singing a Yiddish
Where Helen Mirren acted regally, Kristin Scott Thomas inhabits
the character and is magisterial as the Queen in THE AUDIENCE
(Apollo Theatre, London until 25 July. Box Office 0844 482 9671).
Each week Queen Elizabeth 11 holds a private audience with the Prime
Minister of the day. Stately with Churchill as a new Queen following
her father, King George's death, Elizabeth has developed her own
style and has met with every Prime Minister.
Although no one knows what is discussed at these audiences, Playwright
Peter Morgan has imagined the conversations.
We meet the very intelligent Harold Wilson (Norman Woodeson) in
middle-age and see him again as his intellectual capacities decline
when he suffers from early Alzheimer's and retires. When he is visiting
Balmoral Wilson demonstrates his amazing memory which sadly leaves
him as he becomes ill.
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas)
with Prime Ministers in The Audience
John Major (Michael Gould) admits that he left school
with three O levels and the Queen comments that she got less and
yet they are running the country! She tries to help Major come to
terms with the antagonisms from his own Party.
Although most of the meetings take place inside Buckingham Palace,
we also visit Balmoral as does Harold Wilson who notices how cold
it is and can't believe that visitors are being asked to join in
a picnic outside in inclement weather.
The set of Buckingham Palace is particularly impressive: a kind
of trompe l'oeil effect as we look from the front where the Queen
and her PM sit, down a long corridor from the centre of the stage
to thrones at the back. Balmoral is much cosier with a particular
Scottish look to the set, with, of course, lots of tartan. Scott
Thomas's costume changes are managed so slickly that she changes
from era to ear seamlessly.
The line of Prime Ministers passing through results, of necessity,
in a great number of short scenes. Most of the actors sound like
rather than look like the PM they are portraying. Gordon Brown is
an exaggerated figure - big and bumbling. Gordon Kennedy is a good
look-a-like. Tony Blair, played by Mark Dexter (who is also David
Cameron) is a good speech-a-like. The stand out performers are Norman
Woodeson as Harold Wilson: he is amusing and insightful and come
across as an endearing character and one of the Monarch's favourites.
Michael Gould puts across John Major's quiet dullness, along with
his worried persona, well. Sylvestra Le Touzel comes in as an angry
Margaret Thatcher who appears to question the Monarch's judgment.
Rising naturally above the throng is Kristin Scott Thomas who manages
in a few subtle touches to interpret the mannerisms of the Queen
as the public see her. Helen Mirren acted the Queen, Kristin Scott
Thomas IS the Queen.
The Queen has audiences with 12 Prime Ministers, "From Churchill
to Cameron and beyond" as she says. Well, we shall now have to wait
longer to see who succeeds Cameron. This play is a good follow up
to The King's Speech, which dealt with the present Elizabeth 11's
father's period as King. Highly recommended.
A bright and breezy evening spent at Hampstead Theatre, London
watching MATCHBOX (until 6 June. Box Office 020
7722 9301), 20 plus short plays, was enjoyable but not all
laughs. What should have been a series of funny sketches often petered
out. While the six actors involved - Esther Coles, Tim Downie, Mark
Hadfield, Chris Larner, Felicity Montagu and Nina Wadia - performed
well ,the material, based on Michael Frayn's book of the same name,
is not all worthy of a full-scale theatrical presentation.
The stage has been re-configured so that it is now completely in
the round which makes it difficult to catch what some of the actors
say when they have their backs to you.
It's worth hurrying along to catch AH WILDERNESS!
At the Young Vic, London (until 23 May. Box Office 020 7922)
Eugene O'Neill's play deals with a young person's life in Connecticut,
happy but with a distinct grimness hidden underneath. His only comedy,
O'Neill gives an idealised version of childhood which descends into
tragedy in his play Long Day's Journey Into Night. New film star,
George MacKay stars as Richard Miller, a young lad discovering love
and booze at the same time. Arguing with his mother (sensitively
portrayed by Janie Dee, showing motherly anxiety when her son is
late home) and giving his views on life,Mackay shows all the behaviour
traits of a teenager.
Ashley Zhangazha (left) with
George Mackay in Ah Wilderness! at the Young Vic
While the joint production by Cheek by Jowl and the
Pushkin Theatre Moscow of MEASURE FOR MEASURE has
now finished at the Barbican it is worth trying to catch it as it
tours. With surtitles this sharp version of Shakespeare's play (it
runs for under 2 hours with no interval) has the actors forming
beautifully choreographed set pieces as they move into formation
as the appropriate scenes for each person crops up. They all remain
on stage all the time and just move as required.
Another one worth hurrying to see is the somewhat fanatical SHOCK
TREATMENT (King's Head, London until 6 June. Box Office
020 7226 443) Originally unsure if it was a prequel, the show
has now declared itself a sequel to the Rocky Horror Show. Very
much in the same genre as Richard O'Brien's original cult creation,
it has its own story. The hero and heroine from the first show,
Brad and Janet (here played by Ben Kerr and Julie Atherton) are
facing a break-up of their marriage. As they present a reality show
it means that when they split the show must change.
Lots of extraordinary business as the members of the exuberant
cast - all very exaggerated - parade up and down the tiny auditorium
that makes up the King's Head pub theatre, you are in for a very
funny and most enjoyable evening here, with much sexual innuendo
and lively songs.
To welcome the newly redeveloped Lyric Hammersmith there is a delightful
production of BUGSY MALONE ( until 5 September
2015. Box Office 020 8741). It is just great to see the
youngsters dancing and singing their way around the stage. They
put this youthful energy to good use as the characters are bang-on.
On the night I went, there was a most impressive Tallulah from
Asanda Jezile, who brought a strong sensuous voice to her character.
The somewhat more subdued role of Blousey Brown was taken by Zoe
Brough who was well up to the mark in the delivery of her soul number.
I liked, too, the Fat Sam of Jenson Steele and, in particular, a
huge black Leroy who rescues Bugsy from muggers. Sasha Grey is a
cute Bugsy Malone.
The show is a re-creation of the stage version of
Alan Parker's spoof gangster film of 1976. It has good choreography
- the best bit being the boxer sequence shown in the picture- and
ingenious sets and all the children in the cast look just right
in their speakeasy-style costumes, and the men with plastered down
hair and the girls as molls but without bosoms.
Just right for an outing for the whole family - go see.
Although it should be a really sad play, the powerful performance
of Kenneth Cranham ensues that we are so mesmerised by his extraordinary
performance that we are unable to look away In THE FATHER
(Tricycle Theatre, London until 13 June. Box Office 020 7328
1000) Cranham plays 80 year-old Andre who has a past that we
are never quite sure of as accounts by him and by his daughter,
Anne (Claire Skinner) vary.
He is unsure of his surroundings but we see that he has difficulty
with establishing not only where he is - his own flat or that of
his daughter - but also who the various people are that enter his
home. He even gets confused about his daughter and at one point
believes that another woman is she.
Andre is sad about his other daughter who we never see, but he
talks about her lovingly.
The clever device of playwright Florian Zeller is to make us, the audience, equally confused: where indeed are we and who are the two men who appear beside Anne? We do realise that Andre, who wanders about in his pyjamas, is more than forgetful and we sadly agree with Anne that his mind is deteriorating and he needs constant supervision and care.
Director James Macdonald balances the various elements of the play and allows the actors to develop their characters.
Claire Skinner is just right as the daughter, who is caring, yet
realises that looking after her father is more than she can manage
if she wants to hold down a job and a relationship. And surely Cranham
will get some award for his portrayal of a man who is slowly losing
his mind as he loses his bearings. He is subdued and honest without
any mannerisms. A real lesson in acting: don't miss this!