Wednesday, 21 December 2011

‘The Comedy of Errors’ - National Theatre: Olivier Theatre - Tuesday 20th December 2011

(Rated 4/5 )

This was marvellous entertainment! Such a simple, well-executed plot involving mistaken identity – well there’s a surprise ;) – two sets of twins, and a whole series of errors. To me it felt as though it was over in a few moments – as they say time does fly when you’re having fun and this had bucket-loads of that! A fast-paced, high-jinks comedy, which felt somewhat like Morecombe and Wise do Old Bill’s best rhyming dialogue, including many bonkers beatings that had us crying with laughter.
Lenny Henry was the absolute master of comedy as ever. And Chris Jarman an excellent match as his twin of the same name, Antipholus. The Dromios – Lucian Msamati and Daniel Poyser - were fabulous as well. Also of note was Amit Shah, highly humorous as Angelo, the disgruntled  goldsmith, chasing both Antopholuses for money for the gold chain commissioned by one of them.
Lenny proves that he wasn’t just a one hit Shakespearean wonder as Othello, and combines his perfection in comedy with his new passion for the Bard. He convincingly becomes increasingly confused and indignant, as he is chased by the law and women believing he is his brother and accused of madness. His elocution is faultless and the audience may recognise a few mannerisms from his stand-up such as cawing ;) Others were not so clear in their expression – a bit of mumbling – though still the delightful rhymes shone through.
The set was amazing – revolving blocks creating numerous different types of construction – our favourite the Phoenix block of flats. This production was set in modern times and the costumes were lovely.
This lesser known of Shakespeare’s plays stands out above many of his comedies in the way it is treated here by performances and production.

Note: The ‘we’ in the above is not royal, but multiple as this review is based on comments from all four of us who attended.

P.S. For those with disability of the lower limbs it’s worth noting that there are many flights of stairs to climb to The Olivier Theatre. You may like to take the lift. The seats are very comfortable. And the setting – The South Bank – is a personal favourite of mine.

The Comedy of Errors – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2011
Twitter: @RestrictReview

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

‘My Week With Marilyn’ - Vue Cinema, Leicester Square - Monday 30th November 2011

(Rated 4/5 )

This is a wonderful little film about real-life film-maker Colin Clark’s time spent working as third assistant director on The Prince and The Showgirl, starring Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. It features particularly beautiful performances from Michelle Williams as Marilyn and Eddie Redmayne. He is adorable as the young Colin, who becomes besotted with Marilyn and helps take care of her, so enabling her to produce her incredible performances. Also personally striking a huge note for me was Dame Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike, who contrary to Olivier’s reaction to her, encouraged Marilyn by asking her for help in reading lines together – such a lovely example of empowering someone! Michelle produced a truly inspired, sympathetic and gentle embodiment of Marilyn.
This is a gorgeous insight into Marilyn’s use of Method acting, which so conflicted with Olivier’s (Kenneth Branagh) use of technique from observation of people. Marilyn’s work was erratic to say the least. Many times she would be late for set, other times ill and unable to come at all, yet more times what she produced was wrong, mediocre or even bad. This maddened Olivier. Yet when in the zone – and as Paula Strasberg (played very nicely and humorously by Zoe Wanamaker) said it took her time to prepare – she was sheer brilliance. She was so vulnerable and in touch with a breadth of emotional range, which would even amaze Olivier. As he said towards the end of the film, while he and Colin watch the rushes of her work as The Showgirl, she was exceptional and yet had no idea how good she was, which made her even more brilliant.

The captions at the end of the film remind us that following this work, Marilyn made Some Like It Hot – her most famous and critically acclaimed performance. And Olivier also produced his best work on stage directly afterwards. Had they learned from each other in spite of their majorly opposing approaches?

My Week With Marilyn – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2011

Twitter: @RestrictReview

TV Lady Cops: ‘Cagney & Lacey’; 30th Anniversary - British Film Institute - Tuesday 29th November 2011, ‘The Killing II’; Preview with Sofie Grabol and Piv Bernth - BAFTA - Monday 31st October 2011

On reading my A Round-Heeled Woman review, a friend asked me ‘What about Sofie at BAFTA?!’ She’s got a very good point. What indeed?! Well I had intended to give The Killing a review all of its own and will do once I have seen both of the first two seasons, but in the meantime I thought I’d write something combining my experiences involving three lovely ladies who have played highly significant and ground-breaking television roles as female detectives.
As Jenni Murray commented at the BFI event commemorating the 30th Anniversary of Cagney & Lacey, without them there would have been no Sarah Lund. And so, even though seeing Sofie Grabol in person came first for me, it feels right to start with Tyne Daly, Sharon Gless and the man behind the women, without whom none of this would have happened, Barney Rosenzweig.
Barney had a lot to say bless him. He, Tyne and Sharon discussed the show and its process with broadcaster, Jenni Murray, as event host. There were clips from both Cagney & Lacey – the first of which; the show titles had me in tears!- and The Trials of Rosie O’Neill, which was also produced by Barney and starred Sharon in the title role with a guest appearance by Tyne.
Cagney & Lacey had been billed as Starsky & Hutch in drag but how much more it was! These were intelligent – intellectually and emotionally – women, and we were seeing their home lives as well as work lives and how they juggled both. Not – I have to say – that I didn’t enjoy Starsky & Hutch, but for a young female viewer they were more eye candy and without much depth to either of them. This was so revolutionary in that sense, and even more so with putting two women at the helm. In a sense Barney – I wanted to call him Harvey there; how important and endearing a character was Harvey Lacey; Mary Beth’s husband – had missed the boat; the women’s movement had already happened, and he had such a fight on his hands to get the show picked up, and then at various points to defend it and keep it going against all the odds and in spite of great viewing figures. Even fans had to be recruited to sign petitions to persuade the network to commission new seasons.
It’s quite amazing now to discover that both Tyne and Sharon were reluctant to take it on. Tyne spoke about playing the role of a cop again. Sharon was also unsure about that and she ‘didn’t like the man with a beard’ at her audition. That man was Barney. Ten years later she married him! Sharon also spoke about having trouble finding Christine. She wasn’t sure who she was for ages. Sharon said her agent/manager of the time persuaded her to take the risk.
Tyne and Sharon talked about the big differences between the two women. Lacey; the family woman with lovely husband Harvey. Meanwhile there is single woman Cagney, who, as Tyne said, ‘blows off’ her boyfriends. This last caused great hilarity. There is quite a difference in meaning between the English and American even though we think we speak the same language. 
Later Sharon spoke about how she came to acting late. She had worked more behind the scenes. I felt so much for her when she talked about how nervous she gets before she goes into a scene or on stage and how that is still the case. She said her agent/manager had persuaded her she had a talent for acting and that’s how she went for it. Now she is happy she did and all her Emmys are a testament that she does have something pretty amazing. Tyne too. Between them they have won 6 Emmys for Cagney & Lacey.
Jenni asked Tyne and Sharon about the chemistry between them as acting partners. Tyne replied, ‘I flunked at chemistry.’ She preferred to call it magic. They clicked – it’s that simple and that wonderful. They did a lot of reading lines together just the two of them. And from other interviews I know they said they sweated together and that sweat created a cemented bond, as Tyne’s mother referred to it. They are very close and firm friends now.
As well as dealing with many pertinent issues episode after episode, the show addressed two very major concerns. The first was the cancer storyline in which Mary-Beth was diagnosed with breast cancer. Again, for me, it’s such a massive indication of the impact of this show on a teenage girl, that only having seen these episodes maybe a couple of times, and watching selected scenes again now, I remembered what was said line by line and how each actor responded and their character felt. Emotion memories stronger than those from my own life at the time! Tyne commented that she had been reluctant to do this storyline because it takes Mary-Beth away from her hero-status. I was quite surprised about this but putting it in the context of how heroes were then it does make sense. They couldn’t be seen as vulnerable. Now, for me, a hero is someone who is vulnerable and can go to the pits of despair and show that pain and yet still rises above strong and fully feeling. To me that is more heroic than wearing the mask and carrying on. The heroes of then were ‘perfect’. Now we have the celebrated anti-heroes; the Sarah Lunds. One question asked at BAFTA was why should we love Sarah when she is so cold, so flawed – well that’s exactly why – she is interesting and loveable for those flaws; why she has them and how she deals with them and others react to her. Far more interesting than a perfect, happy super-woman. But, for now back to those heroes of the 80s – the ones who dared to be different in that way and laid the path for Sarah Lund and Helen Mirren’s character in Prime Suspect. (Sharon told the story of how Helen Mirren went down at her feet and bowed, bless!) Tyne and Barney mentioned that there wasn’t much time for Tyne to do research, but she had already researched cancer for another character she had played. And though taking her away from that perfect hero, such things win Emmys!
In Christine’s case, Sharon had been interviewed by someone who commented that Christine behaves like the child of an alcoholic, which gave them the idea of making her father, Charlie, an alcoholic and then Christine herself. Jenni made some comment about Sharon using her own drinking experience. Sharon bravely acknowledged that she had also been an alcoholic – she’s a hero for me with that openness and courage! Wow! The script was written and shown to Sharon. She saw how excellent it was and asked Barney, ‘So, who are you gonna get to play this?’ She did and another Emmy came her way! Unusually the scenes were filmed in order in order to make it easier to work through. Sharon also spoke about her concerns at losing the tough hero Cagney and showing that vulnerability in her.
And that beautiful, human vulnerability is so obvious in Sharon herself. She goes all over the place when she tries to explain something or explores the answer to a question. I identify with that and find it very endearing J. Tyne is so full of wit and confidence. It’s interesting that she has played a couple of Diva-like characters – there seems to be a hint of that in her in the nicest possible way. As I mentioned before Sharon still experiences stage-fright and was talking about that in relation to her opening night of A Round-Heeled Woman the next night at The Aldwych.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching the interactions between the two lady thespians. Sharon admitted to having the habit of hitting Tyne’s arm – all with so much affection – but Tyne had hurt one of her arms – thankfully it was the one the other side to Sharon’s hitting. They had such delightful banter going on between them. And little exchanges, which amused me, like when one of the clips came up and Tyne asked Sharon if she was going to watch it.
The event had sold out within a few hours of being announced. I was one of those who came to know about it too late to get a ticket. In fact I found out from Sharon at the stage door of The Riverside Studios. So, as is my way with things that matter so much to me, I went to join the returns queue at the BFI. I did actually arrive first but wound up in second place. When I arrived I asked when the queue might start and was told that it’d be when the first person decides to start it ;). I decided not to simply because I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand for as long as it would take – I’d arrived at 2pm and tickets would not be released til 6pm. So I sat on a sofa nearby. Half an hour later another woman started the queue. I went to join her, and was just explaining how I’d have to sit on the floor to manage the wait, when a BFI person (one of the queue managers – yes there are such roles!) came up to us and explained how it would all work. I explained my problem standing so long and he kindly got me a chair. So I spent the long wait seated. I felt a bit guilty as well as very grateful. By 6pm the queue had at least 20 people in it. I am aware that the first 5 people at least managed to get tickets – I hope it was more. This time I couldn’t fail to notice there were many lesbians, and some gay men, in the queue – and certainly they made up a large proportion of the audience. One of them pointed this out to the Cagney & Lacey panel and asked why Christine’s sexuality as a lesbian had not been explored. Barney replied that they had not been aware of the large lesbian following and that Christine was a healthy heterosexual woman and there was enough to explore in that. This was also discussed further in the queue for autographs afterwards, as well as scenes from Cagney & Lacey: The Menopause Years and how having Christine get married and have kids was so against her type – for me that’s also what makes it so interesting – she was struggling with it and that was obvious – growth (or not!) in the character. It was agreed though that Barney talked a lot – and IMHO he has every right to – without him it wouldn’t have happened and I couldn’t be more grateful that a producer of his calibre had the idea and fought so strongly for it. I told him when he signed for me that it was the first TV show to which I had become addicted and for such good reasons. I thanked Tyne and she did me too in her dedication with autograph J. And Sharon remembered me and the camera problems we had at Riverside Studios J.
When asked about who their own heroes were, Tyne talked first about an actress – feel awful because I’ve forgotten her name and I’d love to know – who focussed on acting as being. That resonates with me too. Then Sharon spoke at length about her grandmother and what a strong and supportive woman she was, until Tyne interrupted her and said she could also have talked about her grandmother! I’m with them – my grandmothers are the most significant heroines of my life and I wouldn’t have made it through without them when they were still in this realm and without the influence their spirits have on me. And like Sharon and Tyne, and Christine and Mary-Beth, they were very different women.

The BFI screening was a very warm and cosy experience. The temperature was just right, it was packed with lots of lovely warm bodies and, as I commented to my next-seat neighbours, you feel like you’re sitting in a comfortable cross-between an armchair and a rocking chair. I am sad to say the same is not the case at BAFTA’s Princess Anne Theatre. I have had some truly wonderful times there, but always feel I am battling against the extreme cold of the auditorium. So for The Killing II preview screening one of Sarah Lund’s jumpers would have come in very handy. And I’m getting one knitted by my lovely, fellow Killing-fan mother for Christmas – maybe this year or next year depending when it gets finished. It’s a copy (-ish because it uses different wool) of the jumper that opens season 2; red with stars over her chest. Sofie was asked about the jumper/s. The first one – I guess the Lund classic – was decided on as part of developing Sarah’s character and showing how unfashionable she is – how ironic then that it has become the fashionable sort-after item, costing over 200 euros for a pre-made one. Sofie finds this amusing and said, with a smile we never see on the face of Sarah Lund, she would rather talk about more serious matters. However, she did confide that that first jumper had been ditched for season 2, but she realised after a time it was so Sarah and she had to wear it again to feel fully back in her shoes – or jumper. And those jumpers, the trousers and long boots with hair ties back in a scruffy pony-tail are the little bits of information, aside of course from Sofie’s acting, that we get about Sarah. We never see her at home. She hasn’t yet had a permanent home – more like she lives in places she uses the way others would use hotels – and when we have seen her things, they are in boxes for when she intends to move. She is this mystery character and much of the pleasure we get watching her is trying to suss out who and why she is. And will we find out? Well it would seem the writer, Soren Sveistrup always planned to tell us over the series of three seasons so we shall see. The writing is in collaboration and following discussions with Sofie and Piv, fellow writers and other members of the team. The episodes are filmed in sequence as they are written, so while the previous one is being filmed, the next one is written. This is very special and unusual for a TV show. Like many actors, Sofie was not sure about committing herself to the entire series. As she said, it’s good to change and do a lot of different projects – she has also worked on the stage in Denmark. But happily she agreed – who else could play the extraordinary Sarah Lund?!
Watch this space for more on The Killing…!!!

TV Lady Cops – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2011

Twitter: @RestrictReview