Sunday, 31 July 2011

The End of My Childhood a.k.a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2

I apologise profusely for my recent two-week gap in blog postage... work experience wore me out, and then I just got lazy. But I'm here now.
And yes I know, I'm sorry; it's not theatre-based, and like the contrary minx I am, I actually saw it in the East End... but how could I pass a Harry Potter review up! This is (see title) MY CHILDHOOD ENDING!

At the premiere, some genius wrote a placard saying ''Harry Potter is over. See you in therapy.'' and it's true! I was an emotional wreck! But I will try and get past the sheer passion and try to write this review without actually breaking down.
Well. It was a very odd experience, walking into that cinema. I snuggled into my seat, 3D glasses pinched firmly on my nose (not that those things are very secure... sizes should be introduced) and thought 'This is the last time I will do this. That famous title sequence (Huge Shiny P - I refer you to this video) will never roll before my eyes in such humongous splendour EVER AGAIN.' It was tough.
As for the film? Well, if you have to finish a series like HP, you bloody finish it like that. Daniel Radcliffe gave his best performance to date, Emma Watson has become a seriously good actress, and darling Rupert Grint turned up, too. David Yates, the director, really worked his magic and every single scene was atmospheric - he even managed to keep Bonnie Wright's scene alive (for those not in love with the Potter franchise, she plays Ginny Weasley, Harry's love interest, and is the most awkward, wooden actress I'ver EVER seen on film. I ALSO feel that I should, by rights, be playing Ginny). The parts I have come to love most in these films are the scenes with the 'Baddies', and I have a sneaking suspicion that these are also the parts Yates loves to direct. Helena Bonham Carter manages to steal every scene she's in as Bellatrix Lestrange, and the whole of the Malfoy clan just work together magnificently.
While I'm on the subject of Baddies, I have to mention the Baddiest Bad Guy of the Bad Bunch; VOLDEMORT! (alias You-Know-Who/He Who Must Not Be Named). OH RALPH FIENNES YOU ARE A BRILLIANT VILLAIN! Ah but the perfect part in this film (and what was partly shown in the last two) is Voldemort's transition from classic 'villain' to pure, living, evil. Fiennes's speech when Voldemort believes he has won was simply chilling.
If I was to pick one thing that was wrong with the film, it would be that Dumbledore's story was not told. His murky past, always something of a mystery in the franchise, was extremely interesting to read about in the last book, and it is a great shame that they only touched upon his family relationships and his doomed friendship with the dark Wizard Grindelwald. But alas, I have to admit that, had they addressed that as well, it would have been a long film... as in King Kong long.
Of course, I have one, massive shout out to Neville Longbottom. He finally, finally, gets his chance to shine, and WOW he shines bright. So much kudos to the lovely Matthew Lewis for doing it with so much heart, and making me love him.
If you haven't read the books or seen the previous films, stay away, it will make no sense. But if you are anything like as much of a Potter Nutter as me, I don't need to recommend it. You will already have seen it twice.
West End Girl x

Monday, 18 July 2011

Attend the Tale...

I am (and I will say this now) a Stephen Sondheim nut. His beautiful, intensely complicated melodies and hysterically clever lyrics awaken something of a fanatic in me, and so it was a joy for me to see my first production of the Sondheim classic 'Sweeney Todd'! Despite having loved both the film and the Broadway 1979 soundtrack, I had never seen it performed, and I was, needless to say, very excited. On top of this, it was a National Youth Music Theatre production at the Rose Theatre in Kingston, and so I took it to be a bar-setter; I myself am embarking on a two week course with the National Youth Theatre soon, and I am properly terrified now I have seen the standard of performance they put on... wow, I have to match that!?
As any musical theatre fan will know, Sweeney Todd is not your average musical, nor is it an easy singalong, which made the kid's production all the more thrilling (I say 'kids' - mostly late teens/early twenties). When you know the score as well as I do it's easy to tense up, and to lack faith in the cast; ooh there's a hard bit coming up, are they going to get it right? Oh god this song is FAST, can they do it? That sort of thing.
Lizzie Wofford as Mrs Lovett during 'A Little Priest' - singing
and beating 'pie mix' (Play-Doh) in time to the syncopated music?
No, not easy.

But ten minutes in I was ashamed of my scepticism. How professional they all were! What beautiful voices! Lizzie Wofford as Mrs Lovett particularly captured my attention: this was probably because she had a wonderfully powerful voice (built for Sondheim!) and she had impeccable comic timing, but it was, I confess, probably also because I covet that role. I want it. It is my Precious. Ever since meeting Sweeney Todd I have wanted to portray the pie-baking, scheme-making Nelly Lovett - I unfortunately don't have a voice half as wonderful as Lizzie's, but OH I want to give it a go! And if I get it half as right as her, I will be proud of myself! She also highly resembled Angela Lansbury (1979 cast) - weird.
Matt Nalton as Sweeney, my friend and I agreed (same friend of 'I love you David!' fame in my first post), was a little lacklustre. Again, another gorgeous voice, but he was not a psychopath... and by the end Sweeney IS a total psycho. He's willing to kill everyone and anyone, something Nalton didn't really get across; there are several moments when Sweeney cracks, and behind the calm, calculating exterior, we see a terrifying madman - Nalton had a chance to really go for it, to scream his lungs out, but, alas, he left us wanting more. In a bad way. Still, in the calmer, quieter moments, his Sweeney hit all the right notes.
Ah, it seems so harsh to have to pick out names, they were all so good! Tom Milligan as Anthony; Steffani Nash as the Beggar Woman; Stewart Clarke as Pirelli; all fabulous, all characterisations that were at the same time believable, and also the caricatures Sondheim paints in his lyrics.
A word must also go out to the director, Martin Constantine. The cast only had a small stage to work with, but boy, they worked it. Of course, musical director Jeremy Walker must also get a mention, as well as the fine-tuned orchestra; without their expertise it would have fallen apart.
Please, I urge you, go and see this; the audience were too few in number. I know the premise of the NYMT may bring back memories of dire school plays, but that could not be further from the reality; these guys may be young, but they are seriously talented. The names of the future could be in that program... you are making a mistake if you don't take this opportunity to see them shine.

West End Girl x

Friday, 15 July 2011

Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside! (especially if there's a comedy ticket)

So, for only my second post I am no longer a West End Girl; I'm a Seaside Girl! Because, on Saturday morning, off we all toddled to Brighton. It's beautiful; clear air, ocean breeze, seagull chatter e.t.c e.t.c - but I'm not here to share the splendour of the Regency buildings (mostly lovely flats now), I'm here to tell you who we saw.
Dylan Moran has come a long, long way since I fancied him. He has gone from the tousle-haired, slightly manic chain smoker of the Black Books series to being a middle-aged man; on stage, thanks to fire-hazard regulations, chocolate has replaced the ciggies, and he (unfortunately) sports a much more sensible haircut.
This freaked me out a little, sitting in the dark auditorium. OH NO! my conscience shrieked, HE'S NOW A FATHER-FIGURE! THIS IS WRONG! YOU CAN'T FANCY HIM, YOU SICK, SICK GIRL! But luckily, I had been pre-warned. Two years ago I was once before treated to his genius (this time on the West End) and it was apparent to me then that he was no longer a suitable object of desire; he was a changed man. His comedy has morphed from angry young man into disgruntled old man, and though he has always had a world weary tone, he is now also very reflective. He hates 'machines' and frequently references their various evils - one unfortunate woman using one in the front row got a swift and barbed put-down; 'Madam, try and enjoy an unmediated experience'; enough to put you off your iPhone for good.
However despite the annoyance and, often, anger that he exudes, he is side-splittingly funny. The man has so many grievances with the ridiculousness of the modern world and his fellow humans, and puts them across in so pointed a fashion, that you can't help but laugh along at the utter bizarreness of it all. He made a particularly wonderful point about supermarket machines; you know the ones, they go 'blip'. Well, this being Brighton, Moran rhapsodised about the fabulousness of diversity, and then asked why, in this modern world of iPads and sat-navs, can't anyone make anything more diverse and exciting than a thing that always goes 'blip'? Surely we can make a supermarket trip (otherwise routine and dry) more creative by having, say, an Irish checkout machine? 'Oh that's a fierce lotta mangos ya got there, what'll ya be doin' wit them then?'. Or perhaps Italian? 'You want these for that much? OK, you take your top off, then we talk.'
His (hopefully) fictitious conversations with his wife are also priceless. Here is a man who, despite all his efforts, is a wonderful cliche in his home life. His wife wears the trousers, his kids run rings ('It's wonderful to come home, ask your son how his day was and the only reply you get is him walking up to you, grabbing the lower half of your stomach and saying "wibblywobblewibwabblewaooob"'), and he hates all his friends. It's hysterical. You end up wishing you were invited to one of their dinner parties just to see him sulking in a corner next to Boring Keith, whom his wife has said he has to talk to, because she doesn't want to.
It is hard, however, to work out where his comedy persona ends, and where the man begins. He comes back on in the second half angrier than when he went off, and the arguments are so forceful, and the grumblings so seemingly deep-rooted, that it is difficult to discern what is real, and what is false. He is a deep-thinking, complicated man (ha, like all comedians), but he takes it so lightly, he makes you feel nothing but welcome, even if you think he's ranting at you (except if you're that lady in the front row).
Now my laptop's running out of power. Go see him, honestly. Your sides will be split.
Au revoir,

West End Girl x

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Much Ado About... Nothing Much

Much Ado About Nothing is possibly my favourite Shakespeare play, and numerous amazing performances have graced the West End, with Tamsin Greig, Simon Russell Beale (known affectionately within my family as simply SRB) and Zoe Wanamaker among the starry names.
THIS one had the dangerous duo David Tennant and Catherine Tate having a crack at the unwilling lovers; and they, frankly, rocked my socks in Doctor Who. Their escapades together as the Doctor and Donna were truly fun and exciting and they worked like a dream. Naturally the Wyndhams theatre hoped to re-spark the chemistry...
But, oh, had they but talked to a Whovian before heading into the fray! Because it is well know within this geeky but gleeful group (of whom I am proud to be one) that after the emotional car crash that was Rose Tyler's departure, and the terrible unrequited love that Martha Jones harboured for the Doctor for so long, Donna was the first assistant since Doctor Who's rebirth who DID NOT FANCY THE DOCTOR. Donna was having none of it; she wanted adventure, not courtship! She and the Doctor shared a relationship closer to that of siblings than that of a couple, and I liked her all the more for it. I'm a sucker for Mr. Tennant; a friend confided that during Much Ado, she genuinely struggled not to shout out 'I love you David!' during quiet moments, and, though I'm not as vocal about it, I entirely agree with the sentiment expressed.
So, as hard as Tennant and Tate may try, their chemistry is not of quite the right stock. It works superbly when there is witty sparring and jocular banter; the final scene in which they deny any feelings for each other and then find their 'own hands against (their) hearts' in the form of 2 love letters was brilliant, but in the more romantic and emotional scenes, something lacked.
Tennant, being RSC trained and having executed a much complimented Hamlet 2 years ago, was a nigh-on perfect Benedick; he captured the boisterous, uproarious joker wonderfully and then went on to show us all the subtle nuances of his character falling unexpectedly in love. Tate was on top form during the comedic scenes (not a single hint of Lauren 'perpetually un-bovvered' Cooper anywhere) but she lacked the necessary emotion during pivotal scenes. Humour was ruthlessly injected into the scene where Beatrice and Benedick first admit mutual love, and it shouldn't have been there! Tate nearly went full on slapstick which ended up completely undermining a beautiful line; 'I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.' And all just to get a laugh. Grrrr.
The rest of the cast didn't gel as an ensemble either, despite some nice performances from Adam James (Don Pedro), Elliot Levey (Don John) and, even with limited lines, Kathryn Hunt as Ursula. Sarah MacRae as distressed, virginal herione Hero did nothing but annoy me; she was flat and uninspiring. Admittedly Hero is a bad part, but, honestly, do something more with it. The marvellous rotating set was clever without being complicated or off-putting, and it really came into it's own during Tennant's hiding scene ('See you where Benedick hath hid himself?' 'O, very well, my lord...'). 1980's Gibraltar makes a fabulous substitute for Messina with it's decadence, glamour, and, of course, returning soldiers.
If you are a Shakespeare purist, or with limited theatre dosh, don't go. You will, unfortunately, come out disappointed and feeling as though you have wasted your time; it doesn't live up to the hype. However, if you are up for seeing Tennant give a fab performance, Tate show us her considerable comedic talent, and a good-looking production, please, go. It leans more towards the 'oh-Lord-Shakespeare-is-so-hard-to-get-through' end of Shakespeare (as opposed to the 'AH-that-was-amazing-and-it-was-Shakespeare-too!' end), and that is all down to it as an ensemble; the weakness of the rest of the cast means that essentially David Tennant carries it.
And if your a Whovian, of course go. Look who's in it, for pete's sake.

West End Girl x

Friday, 8 July 2011

Curtain Up - it's my cue!

And so I gingerly enter the blogosphere rather like the first man into space; not entirely sure of what I'm getting myself into. But hey ho, here we go.
I have been lucky enough, in my short space of time on this planet, to have been taken to many plays, musicals, dance and opera shows... basically any stage-based activity. From Broadway to the West End (separated only by a pond I'm told - Geography was never my strong point though...) I have been incredibly fortunate in what I have been able to see, and have grown a deep-rooted and intense passion for the theatre. This is what I would like to share with the blogosphere (good name, guys); I would like to share my passion!
Ugh, I was never much good at beginnings - but forgive the cheesiness & bear with me! I will review, I will pass comment, I will moan and I will rejoice, and I will endeavour to share with you all my theatrical experiences, from Shakespeare to Sondheim. I would be honoured if you would read along.
So here I am, ready, set. Wish me luck, and please, enjoy. GO.
Next (and first), the great man himself; Shakespeare.

West End Girl x