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FILM:September / October 2017

You might want to see wonderful Judi Dench as Queen Victoria in VICTORIA AND ABDUL (cert. PG 1 hr. 46 mins.) but you'll stay to enjoy a well-made film with a fascinating story. Certainly, it's most likely not all true, but which 'based on fact' film is?

Victoria is 81 and living a rather boring life receiving dignitaries and eating large dinners. At the same time Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), a Muslim prison clerk in Agra, is called upon to deliver a ceremonial coin to the Queen in England. While exiting backward as instructed, Queen Victoria catches the eye of Abdul and likes his look.

The two become friends and this develops into a relationship in which Abdul becomes Victoria's Munshi - her teacher and adviser. However, the others in the court, including the Queen's heir, Bertie, Prince of Wales (played with great effect by an unrecognisable Eddie Izzard) and Paul Higgins as Dr Reid, the queen's doctor, are horrified and do everything they can to try and get rid of Abdul. Assisting them are the scheming Sir Henry Ponsonby, Victoria's Private Secretary (the last film role of Tim Piggott-Smith before his death), Olivia Williams as Baroness Churchill and Michael Gambon as Lord Salisbury, who all give good performances. Stephen Frears has directed a very pleasant if not completely inspiring film.

Ali Fazal is very good-looking as Abdul but not very energetic in the part. Judi Dench is not afraid to look very ancient and she provides a tinkling humour as she relaxes in the company of her new young companion. Writer Lee Hall gives Victoria some amusing lines and everything is enhanced by Dench's performance. She displays moments of kittenish behaviour followed by asserting that she is also, "Empress of India" and can do as she pleases. We see her gobbling her food so fast that guests - who must stop eating when the Queen does - have no time to finish each dish. Is this an Oscar-worthy performance? Most likely.

Rating ****

Although the documentary OUR LAST TANGO (cert.12A 1hr. 25 mins) is basically about the breakup of a relationship, it is a very sweet and tender film. Narrated mainly by Maria Nieves Rego, with Juan Carlos Copes also speaking to camera from time to time, we get a real picture of the lives of the most famous tango dancers in Argentina.

Maria tells the interviewer that she loved the tango and although her family was really poor, she danced around holding a broom and went to the dance hall in her work clothes. She met Juan when she was 14 and he 17. Maria fell in love with him and remained so all her life. They danced together, and Juan formed a dance group which performed very successfully. They married but he strayed and eventually went off on tour with five girls but not Maria. She tells the interviewer that she stuck by Juan.

He found that he needed Maria and they re-formed after two years apart and started a group in Buenos Aires, but he felt extreme rage. Juan says that he was saved by Myriam, who he married; they have two children and have stayed married for 42 years. With hate in every tango step, Maria later resumed her partnership with Juan but hardly spoke; no longer was it the intimate partnership of old. Their artistic separation came many years later. Juan's wife becomes fed up with her husband continuing with Maria as his partner and tells him to come home without Maria, which he does. Maria is very upset and speaks of a "dagger in the heart."

Her early dream was to marry and have children, but this didn't happen for her and in her old age she regrets not having children,

"It's hard being alone," she remarks. She says that she chose tango and it became too late for her to have a child.

At 83 Juan says he still needs to dance every night. We see him dance, but he is in an ordinary suit and nothing like in his young days. Now she is 83 and Juan 86 and we see than dancing together again. There is also a young couple who perform beautifully as a kind of young Juan and Maria.

Those of you who like dance, particularly the tango, will love this film. And for all who are watching the latest series of Strictly, you will be able to see what real tango looks like.

Rating: ****

One of TOFF's critics, CAROL ALLEN and I both saw 6 BELOW (cert. 12A 1 hr. 36 mins.) She gave it 2 ** and I give it 3! Here is what she wrote:

This is one of those "based on a true-life story" films - this time a "human endurance against terrible odds" tale, directed by Scott Waugh. Comparable in theme to "The Revenant" and "127 Hours", the hero this time is Eric LeMargue, who gets lost in the frozen, snowbound wastes of the Sierra Nevada mountains for eight days. I use the word "hero" loosely here though. Eric (Josh Hartnett) is a former Olympic ice hockey player, who was sacked for bullying behaviour on the job and is chilling out in solitude in a remote mountain cabin, while awaiting a court appearance for some other offence. He is, not to put too fine a point on it, an arrogant, selfish, drug addicted prat with an anger management problem. The only reason he gets lost is because when solo snowboarding, he ignores the well signposted safe route and takes the unofficial one. Not a very likeable character at all. This unlikability makes it difficult for us to empathise with Eric and his plight, apart from the sympathy you feel with any physically suffering human being, as he is threatened by hungry wolves, falls through a hole in the ice into sub-zero temperature and must dry his clothes while shivering naked. His final agony is when he is unable to walk after badly injuring his leg and has to watch the leg rotting with frostbite and what looks like gangrene. All done graphically enough to make you shudder.

The only other character of significance is his loving mother Susan (Mira Sorvino), whose persistence and belief that her son is still alive against the odds succeeds in persuading the mountain rescue team led by Sarah (Sarah Dumont) to keep looking for him after they have given up hope. The film purports to be Erik's epiphany as his struggle for survival forces him to take stock of the erroneous and selfish choices he has made in his life. This is done through a series of grainy and unsatisfying flashbacks, which aren't really fleshed out enough to illuminate the character, apart from showing that he was a really cute little boy, as played by Kale Culley, who gave his mum a really hard time after they were deserted by his father (Jason Cottle), who also had an anger management problem - offering us a glib and not very convincing excuse for Erik's bad behaviour.

The film only really starts to involve us emotionally once Sorvino comes to the fore and sets the rescue operation in motion. We could though have done with a clearer and more involving back story and more emphasis on her character and her struggles with her child. The film does its best to wind up the tension, but we know he will survive, because the film is based on Erik's book about his experience. We are also told at the end through photographs of him today with supporting captions that Erik, who lost both his legs to frostbite, is as a result of his experience a reformed character, who now devotes his life to doing good works supporting young people in sporting matters and sharing his survival experience. In order to enable us to empathise with him more, it might have been useful to have included this later information in the main body of the piece.

In fairness, the film is very well shot, the snowscape of the mountains is breathtakingly beautiful and the aerial sequences are good. But 98 minutes largely devoted to the sufferings of a man who comes over as deeply unpleasant throughout does not make for a very engaging experience.

A few years back, in 2002, there was a delightful French film called 'Etre et Avoir' about a one room school in rural France. The class was full of tiny children learning under a kindly teacher. It was funny and sweet. SCHOOL LIFE (cert. PG 1 hr. 40 mins.) is not the equal of that movie. It is, however, an interesting documentary in its own way.

This film is more about leaving - older children are finishing here and going on to other schools and the two teachers with whom we spend the most time are facing retirement. Headfort School is in Kells, Ireland, a boarding school for boys and girls aged 8 to 13. The film follows a year in the life of the school and its inhabitants as the seasons change and the students grow.

We spend most of the time with Amanda and John Leyden who have taught at the school for some 46 years. Both are eccentric in style: Amanda loves the children and teaching literature. She particularly enjoys reading with them and is equally happy sharing 'The Famous Five' as well as more illustrious books. John likes to have discussions with the children around his subjects but is keenest on his rock music group; his search for a drummer throws up some amusing moments.

While it is a joy to see the kids running around, climbing trees and spending a lot of time playing, it is a pity to note that they wear very conventional school uniforms. They appear to have a lot of freedom and choice, but they are still regimented - although not by the Leydens - and stand up and say "Sir" on command. The Headmaster, Dermot Dix, is himself a former student who was taught by the Leydens.

The best parts of the film, ably directed by Neasa Ni Chianain and David Rane, are those that show the couple both on and off duty. The two smoke and talk together in an easy affectionate relationship. We see them at home as they discuss what on earth they would do if they retired. Then we watch them at school, looking after the kids with real care as they teach them and look after them at the same time.

The audience is given a good all-round view of what goes on at this special boarding school, due in no small part to the two remarkable long-serving eccentric British teachers.

Rating ***

The London Film Festival has just finished. There were many very good films, too numerous to mention here, so I shall deal with those on general release already or about to be. First up is CALL ME BY YOUR NAME BELOW (cert. 12A 1 hr. 36 mins.)

This is a very well-made, beautifully acted film in which a young man finds himself and love during one hot summer in Italy.

At the Press Conference for THE MEYERWITZ STORIES (NEW AND SELECTED ) (cert. 15 1 hr. 42 mins.) Dustin Hoffman summed up his character as, "a father who doesn't say it but doesn't want his sons to exceed him." Hoffman plays the father of an estranged family who come together to celebrate the father's new artistic show. All dysfunctional in different ways the film is well acted particularly by Hoffman and Adam Sandler and Emma Thompson.

BREATHE (cert. 12 A 1 hr. 57 mins.) is a moving film directed by Andy Serkis who is known as an actor. He has personal experience of disability in his family and manages to bring this knowledge to the film. The story of Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) who, newly married suddenly finds that at the age of 28 he has contacted polio after working in Africa is both informative and emotional. Married to Diana (Claire Foy), he finds himself paralysed from the neck down and confined to bed in hospital. He declares that his life is finished. Diana, however, is strong-willed and refuses to let him die. She enables him to get out of hospital and the two live a fruitful life together. More than that they help to change the way disability is treated. The two leads are excellent and there is a good portrayal of the inventor of an adapted wheelchair by Hugh Bonneville. Yes, the film, co-produced by the couple's son, Jonathan Cavendish, is, at times, over sugared, but it is fascinating to watch and most sincere its aims.

I AM NOT A WITCH (cert. 12 A 1 hr. 33 mins.) The most amazing thing about this utterly beguiling film is the central performance of non-professional actress Margaret Mulubwa. She plays Shula, a nine-year-old girl in a tiny village in Zambia. When she is accused of being a witch, Shula is given the choice of living as a witch in a camp or being transformed into a goat. She chooses to live with other older witches and all are tied by long white ribbons as they work, eat and sleep. Director Rungano Nvoni, who also wrote the screenplay, directs with such confidence that it is hard to believe that this is her feature debut.

Full of magical images and with much superstition exposed, life at the witches' camp is depicted in a way that shows it is terrifying for the little girl. Beautiful imagery contributes to the mesmerizing effect the film had on the LFF 2017 audiences. Don't miss seeing the wonderful performance by little Maggie in a film that should be a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination.

More like a fictional film than a documentary, I found DINA (cert. 15 1 hr. 43 mins.) totally engrossing. Directed by Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini, it shows a middle-aged couple preparing for their wedding. But they are not just any couple as both have types of autism and Dina has learning difficulties. We learn of Dina's traumatic former relationship and see how she desperately wants her partner, Scott to commit to a full sexual relationship, but unhappily he is not emotionally capable of this although he promises to really try to show his emotions for Dina's sake. Luckily, we are able to see some good film of their wedding and even her first wedding. This is an excellently made documentary.

And from the LFF we can also now find another film with a distinct Oscar buzz around it. THE FLORIDA PROJECT (cert. 1 hr. 45 mins.) is another film with wonderful performances by child actors. Director, Sean Baker has assembled a group of children who have charm and the ability to portray their characters realistically. In a most unusual setting, the story takes place in and around a run-down motel, very close to Orlando's Disney World. Single mother, Hailey (Bria Vinaite in a stand-out performance) struggles with very little money to bring up her daughter Moonie (wonderful acting by six-year-old Brooklynn Kimberley Price).

Poverty-stricken and always on the verge of being evicted for non-payment of rent Hailey tries various scams to raise funds. Motel manager, Bobby (another excellent performance by Willem Dafoe) is exasperated by the antics of Moonie and her friends who run around unsupervised. Sean Baker is one to watch as indeed are the newcomers in this well-crafted and very well-acted movie. Another one to look out for when the Oscar nominations are announced!

Also worth looking out for from the LFF 2017:

THE BALLAD OF SHIRLEY COLLINS tells the story of Collins, now 82, and her remarkable voice. We hear of her upbringing and working closely with her sister, Dolly. We learn of her long relationship with Alan Lomax and their search for old original folk songs. Sadly, they broke up. Shirley suddenly lost her beautiful voice in the late 70s and hasn't sung again until she made an album very recently. Sad and yet intensely moving to hear Shirley sing many years ago and then to hear her now. If you are interested in folk music or folk history go and see this film.

     
     
     

 

 


 

THEATRE TIP

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (Garrick Theatre, London booking until 10 February 2018) Box office: 0330-333 4811) is a real romp of a show! Funny, bawdy, with great choreography, an excellent cast and even a good set. It's a musical version of Mel Brooks' 1974 film. Brooks, now 91 has written the book for this version and you can hear his voice as the gags come pouring forth. The film itself was a glorious spoof on the horror movie and this show captures all its fun. Hadley Fraser plays Dr Frankenstein (he likes to be referred to as 'Fronkenstein' as he is ashamed of his grandfather, Victor) who inherits his grandfather's castle in Transylvania. Although he intends to sell the place quickly he is lured into staying by his voluptuous assistant, Inga (Summer Strallen) and the idea of bringing a dead person to life. Dr Frankenstein also finds another assistant waiting for him - the dorsally-challenged Igor (Ross Noble) - although when he says he can fix Igor's back, the bent-over helper says, "What hump?" There is also his grandfather's housekeeper and lover, Frau Blucher (Lesley Joseph).

Hadley Fraser has a lovely voice and puts in a charismatic performance. He is more than ably assisted by the comedian Ross Noble, who manages to remain doubled over as he sings and dances. There is an excellent song where the two of them sing Together again. As with the rest of the show, it is magnificently directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman. The chorus can all sing and dance well. Summer Strallen shows that she is a worthy member of the Strallen family with her almost acrobatic dancing and lovely voice. Lesley Joseph, who can't sing, puts across her key song, He vas my boyfriend in a hilarious manner. In the small part of Dr Frankenstein's fiancée, Dianne Pilkington manages to sing beautifully and convey her character perfectly.

Not just a spoof on horror movies, the show parodies other musical forms, so that Joseph's song is performed in the manner of a song from Cabaret - she uses a chair and spreads her legs. There is a lovely bit where the Monster (Shuler Hensley) dances to Puttin' on the Ritz. It is not very politically correct, but the show is loads of fun and will send you out of the theatre feeling better, with joy in your heart. Go see!

Rating *****

THE STORY OF SIMON AND GARFUNKEL which is at the Lyric Theatre, London for performances on some Mondays until the end of March 2018 (Box office 0330 333 4812), before it goes on tour around the UK, is really just for real fans of the duo's music. It's not a musical in the rightful sense but another tribute show. The two singers - Sam O'Hanlon as Simon and Charles Blyth as Garfunkel - sing very well and O'Hanlon can play the guitar expertly. They have good singing voices and their harmonies are well sung in the originals' style. The big problem is that the two have virtually no personality. They don't interact with any parts of their bodies and hardly look at each other. While their voices blend well together, the two have no charisma and seemingly no chemistry between them.

The songs themselves are well performed vocally so 'The sound of silence' is moving while 'Cecilia' has most of the audience clapping along for a short while. We have to wait until the encore to hear 'Bridge over troubled water'. The band contains some talented players, especially guitarist Adam Smith. At the back is a screen showing newsreels of the different periods in their lives and when they sing 'Mrs Robinson' we see an excerpt from the film with Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. This almost makes up for the almost total lack of a 'story' behind the songs. So, go if you love the music of S & G and want to see a tribute act, but not if you want to see a full-blown musical.

Rating ***

INK: originally on at the Almeida Theatre, the play has transferred to the Duke of York's Theatre where it plays from 19 September to 6 January 2018, Box Office: 0844 871 7623).

While many may scoff at the Sun newspaper, nobody will ridicule the play INK which shows how the Sun newspaper was purchased and then completely revived by Rupert Murdoch in the 1960s. Appointing Larry Lamb as his founding editor for his new paper was Murdoch's first stroke of genius. Murdoch (Bertie Carvel) creates a new style of newspaper. Larry Lamb (Richard Coyle) recruits journalists from anywhere he can, giving good salaries and promising a successful career. With Murdoch's encouragement Lamb transforms the Sun into a popular paper full of silly stories and lots of pictures.

Well-written by James Graham, the play moves on to examine the circulation war between papers, with the Mirror, the most popular until the Sun came along. We get a really good idea of the bitter rivalry between the two papers and the journalists involved. There is much to amuse here and thankfully the play doesn't moralise. It just presents the setting up of the paper and leaves us to consider what is going on. It is only when we get to the introduction of Page 3 and its scantily clothed girls that we begin to see exactly what Rupert Murdoch had initiated.

Very well acted by the whole cast, Bertie Carvel as Murdoch shows us the energy of the man while Larry Lamb is caught beautifully by Richard Coyle.

A set built of files and layers to give it height with journalist rushing around gives the audience a feeling of Fleet Street in the late 60s and early 1970s. The play speeds along under the direction of Rupert Goold. Book now to see this fascinating play.

Rating ****

Just finished at the Royal Court are two baffling plays, B and VICTORY CONDITION. Both short, B is slightly less confusing. By Chilean playwright Gullermo Calderon, we see what lies behind political action. Two female anarchists are about to go on their first Mission. Their leader arrives with the bomb - the B of the title as the bomb is often referred to as 'B' or 'the cheese.' Well-acted by Aimee-Ffion Edwards and Danusia Samai as the two female activists and Paul Kaye as their boss, it left me feeling uninvolved.

VICTORY CONDITION shows a man (Jonjo O'Nell) and Woman (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) arrive home from a holiday and perform tasks while speaking directly to the audience. Their monologues tell how he is a military sniper tracking a female protester. The woman is dying and is ill on the underground in London. She foresees disaster. The set is good and both actors seem to perform well but it left many of us watching feeling confused.

FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE (New pop-up tent at Marble Arch, London booking until 17 February 2018( Box office: 03333 444167)

The temporary theatre is just the right venue for this lively show. It's set to look like a 1940s New Orleans jazz club with a band stand in the foyer.

The cast all sing and dance with tremendous verve as they make their way around the audience and walkway which circles the stage area and some audience members who are seated at small tables. It is all very lively and great fun and the audience enjoy themselves while they are watching and come out with big smiles on their faces. Lots of jazz hits including Is you or is you ain't my baby and Choo Choo Boogie. Directed by Clarke Peters, the wonderfully lively well-executed choreography is staged by Andrew Wright 'inspired by Charles Augins' original choreography.'

Horace Oliver as Big Moe

The Almeida Theatre, London, has another hit on their hands. ALBION (until 24 November Box Office: 020 7359 4404) is a new play by Mike Bartlett which shows a family trying to preserve the past while being confronted by the present. The play takes place in the garden - the Albion of the title - of a large house which has recently been purchased by Audrey (Victoria Hamilton), who knew the house as a child. She is now in her mid-50s. Nicholas Rowe plays her husband, Paul, who is content to go along with her but would prefer to be back in London. The couple are mourning their dead son as is his girlfriend, Anna (Vinette Robinson). During the course of the play, Audrey manages to alienate her daughter (Charlotte Hope) and her old friend who has formed a very close relationship with the daughter, as well as Anna.

Trying to come to terms with loss, Hamilton displays a quiet despair, comforted only by her husband. It's a wonderful performance along with other members of the cast who separately and together create a special ensemble group, under the meticulous direction of Rupert Goold. They are helped by a great stage design which has a garden which blossoms in front of us.

Rating ****

Victoria Hamilton & Nicholas Rowe in Albion at the Almeida Theatre, London

THE LADY FROM THE SEA (Donmar Warehouse, London (until 2 December. Box office 020 3282 3808) is probably the best production of Henrik Ibsen's play that I have seen, including the production starring Vanessa Redgrave.

The buzz around this production has mainly centred on director, Kwame Kwei-Armah, who has just been appointed to run the Young Vice. But there is much more to the Donmar's presentation. For a start the play has been transposed, in Elinor Cooks' new version, from nineteenth century Norway to a Caribbean island in the 1950s.

Nikki Amuka Bird is outstanding as Elida, who is torn between staying with her devoted husband, Wangel (Finbar Lynch) as his second wife or leaving with her long-lost lover who re-appears as the Stranger (Jake Fairbrother). Living alongside her are Wangel's somewhat difficult daughters who resent the new woman who has come into their lives.

The relationships between all are well-brought out in this taut production which lasts 1 hour 40 minutes without an interval on the intimate Donmar stage. The audience remained silent without any movement watching this fascinating play with its air of mystery.

Rating ****

ALSO RECOMMENDED:

THE EXORCIST (Phoenix Theatre, London until 10 March 2018 Box office: 0844-871 7615) has a competent cast who act well, excellent sound effects and lighting, but somehow misses the very scary effect that the 1973 famous film produced. Good voicing of the devil by Ian McKellen is worth a visit for those who are really up for it!

Just closed at the Park Theatre is WHAT SHADOWS about Enoch Powell. While it is of interest to those of us who were around when Enoch made his famous 'rivers of blood' speech about immigrants and being English, and it obviously has some relevance for today, it might be fairly meaningless to younger folk. While his voice is good, Ian McDiarmid doesn't quite capture Enoch's look.

Well worth catching, particularly if you are interested in politics and what goes on behind the scenes is LABOUR OF LOVE (Noel Coward Theatre until 2 December. Box office: 0844 482 5141). Martin Freeman as the Labour MP and Tamsin Greig as his Constituency Agent work really well together in this play by James Graham about the Labour Party through the years which is combined with a tender - although at times stormy - relationship between the two. Excellently written, acted and directed by Jeremy Herrin, do see!

THE SLAVES OF SOLITUDE (Hampstead Theatre, London until 25 November).

Miss Roach (played by Fenella Woolgar in photo) has fled to a boarding house in Henley-on-Thames from the bombing in London during WW2. She sits alone at a table as do the rest of the residents, lonely souls in 1943. Writer Nicholas Wright has adapted the play from the novel by Patrick Hamilton. Jonathan Kent directs with a sure touch for capturing the lives of the inhabitants of the small hotel. Suddenly there is relief in the shape of a black American GI (Daon Broni), who forms a relationship with Miss Roach.

This is threatened by the appearance of a German refugee, (played by Lucy Cohu). Most wonderful acting by whole cast, particularly Woolgar.

Taking place in the historic setting of the London County Hall, Southbank, this is exactly the right place to put on WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (until 16 September 2018 Box office: 0844 815 7141). The Agatha Christie play is a thriller concerning Leonard Vole (Jack McMullen) who is accused of murdering his friend , a widow, for her money. When his wife is called as a witness he hopes for her help. But Romaine Vole (Catherine Steadman) has been summoned as a witness for the prosecution! If you don't remember all that happens, so much the better, there are so many twists towards the end that it is absolutely mesmerising to watch. This is highly recommended.

Natalie Dormer, who was so good as Anne Boleyn in the TV series, The Tudors, here in VENUS IN FUR (Theatre Royal Haymarket until 9 December. Box office 020 7930 8800) shows she has a different but still sexy side. She plays Vanda, who appears at the end of the audition period and announces to the director Thomas (David Oakes) that she has come to take the leading role in his new production of Venus in Fur. She seems wrong for the part until she begins reading and changing her clothes to fit the moods of the scenes. Director Patrick Marber uses Dormer well. Oakes has a less showy part and is a bit heavy handed. But he responds to her overtures as the evening progresses. Writing somewhat plodding but Dorner gives a good performance.

Three people from different periods give monologues around the same subject in FISHSKIN TROUSERS which has just closed at the Park Theatre 90, London. It is a weird story, or stories, about the legendary Wild Man of Oxford and his close ties with the sea.

At first it looks as though HEATHER (Bush Theatre, London (until 18 November. Box Office: 020 8743 5050.) is going to consist of the two actors giving monologues, but the play opens out to the two confronting each other. All in 50 minutes we see a lot happening on the stage as the woman (Charlotte Melia) speaks to the publisher (Ashley Gerlach) on the phone about the children's book she has written. He is anxious to meet with her and as the book becomes more successful is even keener to have a meeting. She makes all kinds of excuses, she is pregnant...ill and so on. A relationship develops between them, by email, on the phone and finally face to face. The whole story presents something of a mystery and is really well performed. The importance of words - what we say and what we mean - and how we act is demonstrated.

Somewhat dated in its writing and also in the production, nevertheless A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE (Vaudeville Theatre, London until 30 December. Box office 0330-333 4814.) boasts a fine cast. Eve Best plays Mrs Arbuthnot in Oscar Wilde's comedy. She hasn't told her son, Gerald (Harry Lister Smith), who is now grown -up and hoping to find a good position, that his father is the decadent Lord Illingworth (Dominic Rowan). When his father offers him a job as his private secretary, Mrs Arbuthnot is forced to reveal the truth.

There are lots of women with character around including Anne Reid as the hostess in the garden of her house where much of the action takes place. She most amusingly sings Victorian ballads between scenes. Eleanor Bron plays a woman who is forever searching for her lost husband and Emma Fielding is good as a flirt. Directed by Dominic Dromgoole, this is the start of a Wilde season.

CORIOLANUS marks the beginning of the Royal Shakespeare Company's London season at the Barbican. Although it is only on until 18 November it will be followed by:

Julius Caesar, directed by Angus Jackson - 24 November 2017 - 20 January 2018

Antony & Cleopatra, directed by Iqbal Khan - 30 November 2017 - 20 January 2018

Titus Andronicus, directed by Blanche McIntyre - 7 December 2017 - 19 January 2018

Angus Jackson, is the Season Director for Rome MMXVII. He also directs Coriolanus, which has Sope Dirisu in the title role as the brave but arrogant leader, who, when rejected by the common people, goes over and fights for the enemy. Lots of blood and some good stage fights, Dirisu delivers a stiring portrayal of Coriolanus and keeps the energy up from beginning to end. There is really good live music played during each scene change and even a singer, which adds to the atmosphere as do the costumes and sets.

You will have to rush to catch DAVE JOHNS - I FILLUM STAR which is only on for one week at the Soho Theatre London, until 18 November. For exactly one hour, the actor who came to sudden fame as the star of Ken Loach's film I, Daniel Blake, keeps the audience amused. He tells stories of his early days as a stand-up comedian. Then how he got the part, and his mad time as a suddenly feted film (pronounced 'fillum' in the North East) star, winning awards and celebrating the great success of Loach's film.

     
     

Carlie Newman

   
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