ameliareviews

In which I, Amelia Hockey, review stuff. Simple really!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child- Palace Theatre

*STRAP IN KIDS, this one is going to be long. Warning:  here be spoilers. I have kept key plot points to a minimum but if you want to go in totally cold I advise you read this when you’ve seen it. I saw the show at a preview on 18th June which was fairly early on in the process so there may well have been changes in what I talk about.*

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I was five years old when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone came out, seven when my mum bought us the tapes and eight when I read Goblet of Fire, the first one I read on my own. I fell in love pretty much from day one. My friend and I used to play the Triwizard Tournament in the playground. Harry’s world has been in my consciousness for as long as I can remember, Harry, Ron, Hermione and I, as they did with millions of other kids, sort of grew up together. This play was a pretty BIG deal. So imagine how thrilled I was that it turned out to be quite possibly one of the best, most unrelentingly entertaining things I’ve ever seen.

It isn’t perfect. I have never been a fan of time travel as a plot device, especially when it features so prominently and the plot in general lets the production down. There are great big holes and a potentially fascinating plot line is left until far too late in the game for it to have a huge impact. The last couple of scenes felt a little rushed, like they had been tacked on to quickly resolve a sticky plot point. Several characters were woefully underused, Cherrelle Skeete as Rose Granger-Weasley springs to mind (I loved her and where she was going and I was gutted when scenes kept going by without her in) and the most shocking reveal gives audiences a mental image that they would all rather not have. I could dwell on the dodgy elements of the plot (several of which unfortunately are going to annoy fans who will only read the script) but I don’t want to. The rest of the show is so astounding that it more than makes up some iffy plot lines and the show isn’t really about its plot. It’s a show about trauma and the ways it can cause ripples throughout your entire life.

Despite the wonky plot, Jack Thorne’s script is marvellous. This is a funny play. There are consistent jokes, especially in the more light-hearted Part 1. One gag about a farmer’s market made the whole audience fall about laughing, as did a protracted speech about shouting at a baby. The jokes felt far more in the spirit of the book than the films ever did and the cast are all supremely comically talented. There are little nuggets of information too, like the fact that Harry does most of the cooking at their house, that are a delight for fans. There’s a real sense that this script was written by someone who cares enormously about their subject matter. Thorne has regularly said that he was a huge Potter fan and it really shows. It doesn’t rely so much on previous Potter knowledge that anyone who has never read a book will be completely at sea but it is full of enough gems that it feels like a true recreation of the world on stage.

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Being a play about wizards, there needs to be a little magic. Jamie Harrison has created mind-blowing illusions (one involving a telephone box provoked ooohs, aaaahs and a huge round of applause. It was jaw dropping) unlike anything seen on the stage. Many are simple but breathtakingly effective. They feel so natural in the world created, all of which contributes to the feeling that you might just be watching actual wizards gadding about on a stage.

There was puppetry too, in the form of everyone’s least favourite snog, the Dementors. Vast, whooshing puppets with horrible blank faces, they are genuinely terrifying. As they swooped over our heads I went to grab my friend’s hand and had to remind myself that a) they were not real and b) I am a twenty four year old woman. But that is the joy of Cursed Child, it is so immersive. The fear that a Dementor might get you is very real and the show has the transformative power to make you feel nine again.

A quick word for Imogen Heap’s music. It is truly breathtaking, in particular one piano piece which is spine-tingling and atmospheric. I sincerely hope that they release the soundtrack because it is such an integral, wonderful part of the production that could be shared by everyone.

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The performances are the heart of the show. I am reluctant to make too many comparisons to the films but the acting across the board just blew the films’ cast out of the water. Jamie Parker as Harry was a revelation. He walked on stage with his hands shoved in his pockets, said about 3 lines and undid 10 years of Daniel Radcliffe’s work. Jamie gets that Harry is a man who went through enormous, terrible trauma and, despite having had a good life for nearly twenty years, has never got over it. He is a man that, having never been parented, can’t cope with a child who isn’t easy and one that he cannot connect with. I thought the fraught relationship between Harry and Albus, played by Sam Clemmett, was dealt with fantastically. They shout at each other, there is crying, words are said that people mean and don’t mean but it all comes to a head in a scene in which Albus and Harry finally make some headway with their relationship. It’s incredibly awkward but so endearing and Parker does a fantastic job. There is nervous fiddling with his wedding ring and his voice cracks and wobbles in all the right places and it is so affecting. (We also learnt, in a very sweet turn of events, that Harry Potter the Boy Who Lived is scared of the dark, which is understandable. And also pigeons. Which isn’t but is lovely) Parker does pained incredibly well. Your heart breaks for him time and time again, especially watching him break down at his desk one day, wracked with sobs over his lost boy. (I also spotted that he has got I Must Not Tell Lies as a scar on the back of his hand. You can only see it if you are in the front row cos it’s really faint but that is some A+ attention to detail there)

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Whilst Parker is exceptional in the title role, for me at least, this is Anthony Boyle’s show. As Albus’ somewhat unlikely BFF Scorpius Malfoy, I felt like we were watching a star being born. From the second he was wheeled on, sitting on his suitcase I knew I was going to like this kid. It was helped by the fact that he just seemed so desperately lonely and only wanted someone to share his sweets with. Scorpius is a beautifully rendered character who you can’t help but love. He is a bouncy, geeky, sarcastic little weirdo who adores Albus and can’t talk to Rose and doesn’t know how to deal with his dad. He’s clever too and, when he needs to be, incredibly brave. I was overcome on more than one occasion by the urge to hug him and tell him everything was going to be alright. He is a sweetie of the highest degree but in the interest of not spoiling I shall say no more than he has joined the ranks of Ron Weasley and Luna Lovegood as characters that are incredibly dear to my heart. 

But Scorpius’ characterisation would be nothing without Boyle’s performance. He can command a stage with all the wit and charm of the older, more experienced actors. On his own for a fair chunk of Part 2, he pulls it off incredibly well. He’s a natural comedian too. Thorne’s script helps him out but he has absolutely golden comedic timing. It is pretty bloody hard to make the line ‘Oh my god, it’s Harry Potter’ rip-roaringly hilarious but Boyle manages it. (I loved his little shrug of acceptance when he got sorted in Slytherin. Only small but blissfully funny) However his most powerful scene sees him telling his best pal that perhaps, especially when he has both his parents, that being the son of Harry Potter is not as bad as having a dead mum and maybe also being the son of the Dark Lord Voldemort. It’s a scene filled with pain, sorrow and forgiveness and exemplifies one of J.K Rowling’s best traits, the realistic and wonderful representation of friendships.

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But what of Ron and Hermione? Paul Thornley and Noma Dumezweni have both been perfectly cast. Thornley, like Boyle, is supremely comically talented and is so Ron Weasley it hurts. I cannot fault his performance for one second. One criticism would be that Ron was absent far too much and there is one incident that felt a little out of character. But, unlike the film, Ron is not merely comic relief. He shows real bravery when he needs to and is a proper sappy old romantic. As a result of Albus and Scorpius’ actions, Ron comes to realise he cannot live without Hermione, this wonderful, brilliant woman in his life and asks her to marry him all over again. It was incredibly loving and sweet and I loved watching Ron go gooey over his wife, even after all those years together.

Noma Dumezweni is every inch Hermione Granger. Minister of Magic at 40 (cos she’s Hermione, why wouldn’t she be) she still tells Harry off for having a messy desk and despairs when Ron is being daft. Neither is she perfect. Her reluctance to destroy an illegal object sets the whole plot in motion and it proves, as the books often did, that Hermione Granger is not infallible. Dumezweni plays her with a quiet authority and her chemistry with Thornley is entirely realistic. They are an absolute dream team.

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There is brilliant support too from Alex Price as Harry’s schoolboy nemesis Draco Malfoy, who has mellowed considerably since we last saw him. Although Harry and Draco will never be best friends (there is a supremely daft but intensely enjoyable spell and insult slinging match between the two men in the Potter’s kitchen), they are drawn together by their sons’ friendship. Price imbues Draco with a surprising pathos and you do warm to him. Yes, he is still bit of an arsehole but he’s damaged too, grieving for his wife and desperate to protect his son from the vicious rumours surrounding his birth. It’s a grown up transformation and one that works well. 
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There is a scene involving Polyjuice potion that is an absolute masterclass in both performance and effects. From the astonishing transformation of Delphi, Scorpius and Albus into Hermione, Harry and Ron respectively (I was sitting on the front row, they were close and I still have no idea how they did that. It was seamless. I’m convinced it’s actual magic). It’s got people-eating bookcases, floating books and quite possibly one of my favourite gags in the entire show, courtesy of Paul Thornley as Ron-Albus. (I don’t want to spoil it but Noma’s reaction as Hermione is a thing of beauty and brilliance) But it’s Jamie Parker that is the tour de force as Harry-Scorpius. He is phenomenal. He has every one of Boyle’s mannerisms as Scorpius absolutely down and he plays the whole thing with a sense of genuine childish fun. From the tone of voice (especially his protestations that despite Delphi’s (Esther Smith) assurances that it doesn’t, Polyjuice potion DOES in fact taste like fish) to the nervous hair fiddling, it is a performance of pure genius. The genius is highlighted by the very distinguishable difference between when Parker is playing Head of Magical Law Enforcement Harry, striding about his office and panicky fourteen year old Scorpius-Harry, pretending to be his best friend’s dad. I would so happily watch the Polyjuice scene for days, it is in contention for one of my favourite scenes of anything in the theatre ever.

The little girl who pretended that the cranes outside her classroom were Hungarian Horntails would have killed to be there. Luckily for her, the grown up who sat in her place was just bowled over it. I was shaking as the cast took their bows and then pogoed about in front of the stage with my friend just shouting ‘OH MY GOD IT WAS SO GOOD’ over and over again. Because for five hours of my life I was back in the company of the people I had spend my childhood with. I felt like I had just watched one of the books unfold before my eyes and I was overwhelmed. From a theatrical point of view it is one of the most accomplished productions I’ve ever seen. As a fan though, it was more than that. It was an experience I will never forget and was (forgive me) quite simply magical.

They Released Harry Potter And The Cursed Child Cast Photos and I Had Some Thoughts- Part 3: The Malfoys

*Sorry this one has been a bit slower than the others, it’s been a bit of a busy week*

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When they first released that massive rehearsal picture all the way back in February, I picked Alex Price (who you may recognise from such television shows as Father Brown, Penny Dreadful and that episode of Doctor Who where he and Helen McCrory played a mother and son pair of fish vampires who lived in 16th century Venice. So in an indirect way Helen McCrory has played Draco Malfoy’s mum twice. But that is somewhat off the point, just thought it was interesting) out of the crowd as Draco Malfoy. I had two reasons for this 1) He was the only other face I recognised and I was sure they would be giving him a key part and 2) he sort of had a look. And I’m so glad that I got it right because he looks wonderful. He’s giving off a particularly arrogant vibe, especially because of the slightly cocky eyebrow and that dead stare is marvellously villainous. However, there is an elephant in the room. A blonde elephant. Because what self respecting man in his mid thirties in 2016 has A PONYTAIL? And if you’ve seen the behind the scenes video you will know it’s a PLAITED PONYTAIL. DRACO COME ON. There has always been something inherently camp about the Malfoy family and this newest addition is not really helping matters. It is very hard to take anyone, especially a potential antagonist, seriously with a platinum blonde ponytail. It is the one decision I am most unhappy with because it’s so daft it’s almost distracting.

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Poor wee Scorpius. It’s Albus and his nervous cloak grabbing all over again, he looks so worried. He’s got just as much legacy as Albus except his is far, far worse. His grandfather was a widely know and notorious Death Eater and his great aunt was basically Lord Voldemort’s right hand woman. And he’s called Scorpius, which is not exactly setting the poor child up for an easy life because it SCREAMS villain. The assumptions made about him will be numerous and they won’t be good. Which is an awful lot to deal with when you are 11 and about to leave home for the first time. There’s the possibility that the weight of expectation and a family name you didn’t ask for (and the consequences that has) that pushes Albus and Scorpius together to become friends. (That is assuming they even become friends and aren’t set to be enemies, like their fathers before them) Unlike his father, Scorpius seems to be a lot softer. I sort of just want to cuddle him and tell him it’s going to be alright.

I have a theory that this young man is in fact the eponymous Cursed Child, not Albus Potter. I reckon that, if the curse is in fact a literal curse and not a metaphorical one,  either Albus is going to have got Scorpius cursed in some way and it’ll be up to Harry to put aside his somewhat anti-Malfoy feelings and help out.

Author’s note: since I wrote that paragraph they released a picture of Ron, Harry and Draco all standing around being dad lads and looking a bit worried which makes me believe even more that Scorpius is the cursed child in some shape or form. Also I can’t wait to see the three of them having to buddy up. 

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SERIOUSLY WHAT ARE THEY DOING TO THIS KID TO MAKE HIM LOOK SO NERVOUS? Of all the family dynamics, this one is the most interesting to me. It feels almost as if Draco is mirroring his own father. The hand on Scorpius’ shoulder, unlike the similar pose in the other family portraits, seems possessive and not all that loving. And there is a physical distance between father and son which very well could reflect an emotional one. That authoritative pose and Scorpius’ nervous, scrunched up hands all point towards this not being the picture of familial bliss. From this picture, and prior knowledge, I get the feeling that Draco Malfoy might not be the sort of dad that reads bedtime stories and hugs his son.

However, it’s remarkable that, out of the three sets of family portraits, the Malfoys look the most ‘wizardy’ of them all. Of course, they are wizards and there is nothing wrong with wanting to dress in that way. But it seemed, to me at least, to be a distinctly pure-blood, old family thing, like the Malfoys, to do. By dressing in such a way, Draco may not have let go of his previous pure-blood prejudices and in choosing to deck himself out in wizard garb (and distinctly evil wizard garb at that) Unlike Harry, Ron and Hermione whose style of dress is distinctly Muggle, his obvious ‘otherness’ (although I can only speak in the context of these pictures) puts him at odds with his peers, all of whom are significant members of wizarding society. The costume itself, it must be said, is beautiful, elegant and typical Malfoy which is a comfort. He may be a slimy bastard but at least they haven’t changed him.

So that’s all we’ve got. Previews have now begun and the world is learning what became of our childhood icons. I absolutely can’t wait to see what they have in store for us.

They Released Harry Potter And The Cursed Child Cast Photos And I Had Some Thoughts. Part Two: The Granger-Weasleys

Before we get anywhere near these photos I just want to express how marvellous it is that this family are called the Granger-Weasleys. Because of course they would be. It strikes me as a very Hermione thing to do to share all the names with her family (Not that Ron wouldn’t but I can’t imagine that he would really be that bothered either way) Plus Granger-Weasley has such a lovely ring to it. And speaking of Ron…

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I will make no bones about it, Ronald Bilius Weasley is my favourite character of the whole series. He was grossly (although, my 11 year old self was definitely going to marry Rupert Grint) under served by the films, in which his only purpose was to be the gurning sidekick, to eat a lot and to act as someone for Hermione (who I also feel was somewhat mistreated) to shout at. So his casting and his eventual look was of very real concern to me. Admittedly, when the big reveal happened back in December, Paul Thornley’s face was the only one I didn’t recognise. However the more I looked, the more I realised he looks EXACTLY like a grown up version of the illustrated Ron on the front cover of Deathly Hallows (consult below image if you have no clue what I’m talking about) The fact that they cast someone so physically similar to the description of Ron in the books gives me hope for the rest of his character.


But what of his costume? Well first things first I have to express a slight disappointment. Because he simply is not ginger enough. I appreciate that this is Ron in his later years, some greys might have slipped in but could there not have been just a bit more dye splashed around. This is a huge shame because the rest of Ron’s look is perfect. The scarf! The jumper! (I like to think it’s orange because Ron never gave up his loyalty to his beloved Chudley Cannons). I find the choice of clothing for Ron fascinating, especially given his background. The scarf is like something his mum might have knitted him, but it looks expensive, probably made from cashmere. It’s a merging of his two identities, the young man who lived his life in homely hand me downs and a successful Auror who can afford to buy himself something nice now and then. Although we can’t know, Ron Weasley does not strike me as a man who would blow his money on something flashy. Which is probably why I love him so much.

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This is perfect. Let’s start with that pose. This just has Hermione Granger written all over it. It’s authoritative, especially with the folded arms but soft too and totally befits the brightest witch of her age. Annoyingly, this particular photo is not actually the best to try and draw any conclusions about Noma Dumezweni’s costume but I absolutely love that colour and the sleeves are fantastic. It’s a wonderful mixture of colour and practically and is fits with someone who is the wizarding equivalent of the Deputy Head of the Home Office. Although I love this photo, I am finding it hard to put into words why it is so perfectly Hermione. Because it is, Noma has got it so right but she seems to be giving less away than the lads.  So I’m going to leave it at that.

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OH MY GOD SHE IS TOO CUTE. This, like with the photo of her cousin Albus, has so much to tell us about the characterisation of a character we haven’t really met yet. First off, the way Cherrelle Skeete is mirroring Noma’s pose is genius because it’s drawing an immediate visual comparison between mother and daughter, she’s a mini Hermione. But just look at that cheeky little face. From what we have seen from Paul Thornley’s characterisation of Ron, Rose looks like she’ll very much be her father’s daughter too. She’s clearly more confident than Albus (none of that anxious cloak grabbing here) and already engaging with the world of Hogwarts. I think Rose is going to be a little firecracker and I cannot wait to see what they give her to do.

One more thing, I am endlessly impressed with the way, through poses and, in Cherrelle’s case a hairstyle, they have managed to convincingly transform actors in their twenties into eleven year olds. They did it with Sam Clemmett and now with Cherrelle Skeete. It proves the calibre of the actors they’ve cast and instilled me with a huge amount of confidence in the production as a whole.

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This family portrait is more revealing in terms of the characterisation of Hermione than her individual photo. That one was seems to me to be very much how Hermione is at the office whereas this is Mumma Hermione at her best. The hand around Rose’s shoulder is so sweet and the slightly softened facial expression becomes a family portrait more the photo of her on her own. Her placement in the middle of the picture indicates her role as the head of household, exactly, if we take everything we know about Hermione, is exactly where she should be. I also love that we can see just how little Ron cares about his clothing combinations with a full length shot of that super clashing scarf and jumper in all its glory. This is just the most gorgeous, joyful family shot and I reckon the Granger-Weasley home is a very happy place to grow up.

(On a side note, I read the most hilarious article about Hugo Granger-Weasley being the family’s Kylo Ren because he’s not in this portrait. Hugo would be 9 at this point and not going to Hogwarts for 2 more years and therefore I imagine will be featuring far less in the play than his big sister. James and Lily Potter are also absent from the portrait with their mum, dad and their brother. They are all basically Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Play from Monty Python. But I just love the idea that the youngest member of the Granger-Weasley clan would turn to the dark side and they’d all stand around smiling like nothing had happened.)

They Released Harry Potter And The Cursed Child Cast Photos And I Had Some Thoughts- Part One: The Potters

*HELLO ONE AND ALL! I realise it has been an awful long time but I am back! This is more just a quick note to say hello again after what has been nearly a year (appalling I know) and that I hope to be writing an awful lot more again now.

With regards to this new piece, I would like to point out that given that these shots were taken with the actors in character I’ll refer to them for the most part as Harry, Ginny and Albus. I do realise they are fictional characters…*

On Tuesday morning I logged on to Instagram, only to be somewhat unexpectedly confronted with SEVERAL photos of the Potter family (or Jamie Parker, Poppy Miller and Sam Clemmett as they are known in the real world) which, for one of the biggest Harry Potter nerds to walk this green earth, was understandably a very exciting start to the day. I have now spent the last two days ruminating over (by which I mean obsessively picking apart) these pictures and I present you with my thoughts. Of which there are many.

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I’ll start with the man whose name’s in the title, Mr Harry Potter, played by Jamie Parker. I have long been an admirer of Jamie’s work and I was thrilled when they announced that he would be playing Harry. But I’ll admit that, whilst guessing who might land the central role, he never really crossed my mind. I wasn’t exactly sure how he would look as Harry. It turns out SPOT ON.

First things first, I want to talk about that all-important scar. That bolt of lightning carved into his head is one of Harry Potter’s key features and, though I hate to draw comparisons because they are very different beasts, the scar sported by Daniel Radcliffe in the films was always somewhat reminiscent of a small child who had taken a red lipstick to their head. Not so here. That scar looks properly deep, like it would have really hurt which is exactly what you want from a mark left by the most evil wizard of his time. So far, so excellent.

Remaining in the general forehead area, HAIR. That hair was one of the first things I noticed and is so faithful to the books that I wanted to cry. It is just sticking up wherever it likes, just as J K Rowling described it!  It also looks like they’ve dyed it to Potter Black which is WONDERFUL. I know hair may seem trivial but it’s something that will make the characterisation of these iconic characters all the better. It’s no longer just Jamie Parker as Harry Potter, through all of these little details, he becomes Harry.

Next up, that suit. I was most impressed with this suit, it is a gorgeous piece of tailoring. I am especially enamoured of the very trendy knitted tie. The thing I love most about this suit is that it totally fits with Harry’s chosen profession. He’s the head honcho over at the Ministry, why wouldn’t he want to indulge in a little Savile Row tailoring? However behind all those sharp threads there is proof that the Harry Potter of yore has not quite grown up because he CAN’T EVEN BE ARSED TO DO HIS TIE UP. HE IS LIKE A TEENAGE BOY and it is so heartwarming to see because it indicates that behind the rather serious demeanour of this photo, sarcastic, sometimes rather childish old Harry might not be gone.

One final hint of the Potter rebellious streak, which I am sure we will be seeing rather a lot of during the two parts of this play, is the fact that (and I am compelled to use all capitals again) HE IS STANDING THERE WITH HIS WAND STICKING OUT OF HIS POCKET. What WOULD Mad Eye Moody say about the matter?! Constant vigilance, probably… Anyway, the wand proves that Harry’s compulsion to not listen to people who know better than him is still at large in his later years and I’m so fascinated to see how it might play out throughout the show.

So that’s my analysis of Harry. Now, to move on to Mrs Potter, the Quidditch player formerly known as Ginny Weasley.

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I hate to say it but I am altogether less pleased with this whole look than I was with Harry’s. Ginny Weasley seems to get a bad wrap in her on screen/on stage representation, especially in that awful final scene in the film where she looked like she had just purchased the entirety of Per Una. Oh Ginny, I thought, please let them be kinder to you in the play. Well, Ginny, I am sad to say they have not been. Let’s start with the hair, which I will say is fabulous. It’s modern and cool and therefore depressingly in contrast with the ENTIRE rest of her look. Now, costume designers of Cursed Child, do you expect me to believe that Ginny Potter née Weasley, former champion Quidditch player, now top sports journalist and all round generally accepted cool girl would grow up to wear a suede skirt and HORRENDOUS buckle Mum shoes? Well do you? Because I do not for one second imagine that this woman would have grown up to be exactly like her mother. I am going to start a campaign to get Ginny some skinny jeans and better shoes.

Moving on from the hideous jumper (Weasley jumpers were a cute and lovely family novelty gift, they were not something to take into real life), I will say I am really pleased with the way Poppy Miller has characterised Mrs Potter. That pose is incredibly cute whilst at the same time saying that she means business. I am getting the impression that this Ginny isn’t going to stand awkwardly around whilst Harry does up her dress (arguably the cringiest moment in Potter history), she is a woman of action and (fingers crossed) seems like she might be sassy to boot.

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Poor Albus. If that kid were to have a theme song, it would probably be ‘Under Pressure.’ Not only has he got to follow in the footsteps of (in no particular order) his father’s godson, several of his cousins and his big brother, he also carries the names of two of the most famous wizards of all time. (I refuse to acknowledge his middle name. It still makes me angry.) So you would expect him to look a little nervous on his first day at Hogwarts. Which Sam Clemmett, who plays Albus has absolutely nailed, especially in the way he’s awkwardly grabbing at his robes. Although his costume gives us little to go on (we can’t even tell what house he is in yet. Which is probably half the cause of the anxious robe grabbing), Clemett has given us everything we need to know in his posture, the way he’s standing.

And he’s so cute. I know nothing about this character beyond this photo and I’m rooting for him. I don’t want this kid to be cursed. Look at his wee face, he looks so innocent. (AND looks an awful lot like Jamie Parker and Poppy Miller, which is a genius bit of casting) What they’ve done with this photo is set us up with a lead character that we don’t know who we instantly want to sympathise with. Which is pretty bloody clever if you ask me.

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I love this shot, it is both adorable and revealing. Look at Mumma Ginny and how protective she is of her boy, it’s so sweet. (and we get a better look at that FIERCE hair do) I do find it fascinating that Harry is so separated from Albus. Having read the epilogue I don’t think this is any indicator of father and son discord but it may show something about Harry’s parenting skills. No one was kind to Harry as a child, perhaps some of that has rubbed off into a bit of hands off parenting. Although I very much hope not.

Notably absent from this family shot are James Potter II and Lily Potter II but all I reckon all that shows is that they aren’t going to be quite so major characters as Albus will inevitably be. It’s definitely not a show of parental favouritism.

So that’s my thoughts on the Potters. Next up we have the Granger-Weasleys. I can’t wait.

Amelia, With No Prior Knowledge, Liveblogs The Iliad- Almeida Theatre and British Museum

Iliad

Today, 14th August 2015, the Almeida Theatre and the British Museum have launched, with the help of 50 performers, a mammoth reading of the whole of Homer’s Iliad, the tale of the Trojan War. Beginning at 9am at the British Museum and then moving at 8pm to the Almeida Theatre in London. The whole thing is due to span 16 hours. I switched on at 10am and to be honest have struggled to move from the screen since. I therefore thought I would take advantage and liveblog the entire epic experience. (I am unemployed and it has not stopped raining all day, what else was I supposed to do?) I have one problem, I have absolutely no idea what is going on. So this could be interesting for me and for you guys.

12.38pm- Kate Fleetwood (who is about to star in Medea at the Almeida) takes to the stage. I wandered off and missed the guy before and therefore have no idea what’s happening. So it’s a strong start. It seems that Hera and Zeus seem to be having a fight about the battle that is currently going on. According to @iliadlive (the extremely useful Twitter account that is telling people what is going on) what is actually happening is that Hera and Athena are off to intervene in favour of the Greeks. Fleetwood giving a really powerful and rousing battle speech as Hera. Fleetwood is certainly one of the most dynamic readers we have seen so far, her performance is so involving and spirited, with snarling and a really fantastic war like voice.

12.58pm- We are getting a story about someone’s wife who had a massive crush on someone called Beleraphon (I think) She is a slippery so and so, brought to life beautifully by Noma Dumezweni.

13.04pm Glaucus is a numpty. He just traded gold armour for bronze. I can’t see this ending well for him

13.04pm Scott Handy takes to the podium. Hector is having a fight with his mum, who is trying to get him pissed with honeyed mellow wine. Hector is now making his mum sacrifice 12 heifers. Handy is making really excellent use of the echoes in the Great Hall at the British Museum, yelling to the gods with his head held high. It really is atmospheric. I am tempted to get on a train and make my way down there.

13.15pm Andromache, via Handy’s excellent performance, making a really emotional plea to her husband Hector to stop him from being killed. Which is a reasonable request, all things considered. Hector, because he is a bloke and a warrior, is refusing to listen to her and tells her he’s going to keep on fighting.

Rory Kinnear

                                    Rory Kinnear

13.20pm- One of my personal favourites, Rory Kinnear, takes to the stage now, telling the story of Andromache. My mum rang and now I’m behind again but Hector and Paris seem to be on the war path.

13.23pm- Apollo and Athena, being on different on sides, are pissed off with each other and are having a fight about it by a tree.

13.26pm- Hector is off to do some single combat. The second one of the story so far. They are deciding champions. Kinnear is a really great storyteller, I’m hanging on his every word.

13.29pm Oh man Menelaus is getting involved again. He, as a wimp, is being strongly advised against it by Agamemnon. Sensible. (I am caught up now and so very involved in this. It’s like Game of Thrones but Greek)

13.32pm- I really really applaud all of these performers because these names are bloody hard to say. None of them seem to have stumbled so far.

13.33pm By a lottery Ajax has been picked to fight. Kinnear making the audience giggle with his over dramatic praying.

13.36pm Kinnear is one of my favourites. His swaggering Ajax is really wonderful. I’m jealous I’m not in the room right now, the atmosphere seems to be electric.

13.46pm- It’s John Simm now, who seems to have a brace in or something because his s’s are VERY over pronounced. (Also I zoned out for a minute and I’m lost again. There is a recurring theme here)

13.53pm- the Greeks are building a trench which, according to the Iliad Live twitter is going to be important later on. Poseidon is annoyed that the Greeks are doing this, mainly because there hasn’t been any cow sacrifice to them. Also Zeus is now getting revenge on them by creating a massive thunderstorm. Zeus is a dick.

13.57pm Katie Brayben takes to the podium now. She’s the first lady we’ve had in a little while, which is interesting given that she is performing as Zeus, who as usual, is being a knobhead. Athena is telling him what for now. Good on you gal.

14.02pm Oh dear, Zeus has got it in for the Greeks now. Katie Brayben has a lovely soft voice. It’s so soporific, like proper bedtime story style story telling.

14.10pm Jonathan Slinger is REALLY going for this battle talk, I love it. He’s shaking the lectern and everything, it’s very engaging watching. One thing that is very interesting is the different pronunciations that people are going for, for words like Diomedes.

14.13pm- Slinger is certainly the most swaggering performer I have seen yet, I love him. The way he is filling the Great Hall with his voice is fantastic, the frustration of Tuecer is palpable.

14.23pm Slinger as Zeus is a slimy, gloating arsehole and it’s wonderful viewing. I am really loving all the bits with gods being shits. And by gods, I mean Zeus because he is king shit. Also he just called his wife Hera a bitch. It’s just got catty up in here. Oh man, now Slinger’s bit is finished. That was fantastic, snaps for Jonathan Slinger

John Heffernan

                                 John Heffernan

14.45pm- It’s John Heffernan now who has the most storyteller voice I have ever heard and I’m defo going to fall asleep. Also one of the only things I know about the Iliad is that Achilles and Patroclus well fancy each other. Now they are talking about their roast dinner. I’m starving, this is so not cool.

14.57pm- Odysseus is trying to convince Achilles, who is cross about something, to come and join the fight against Hector, mostly by offering him women and gold. John Heffernan continues to have a beautiful, lilting voice and is doing a fantastic, convincing job.

15.04pm Apparently the women of Greece are a wonder. That is the second time they’ve said that. Heffernan continues to be beautiful as Phoenix, appealing in such a heartfelt way to Achilles. It’s a bit of a tearjerker to be honest.

15.17pm John Heffernan has just finished, after what might have been the longest single reader we have had yet.

15.18pm Deborah Findlay takes to the lectern now but I can’t help but think that every time they change readers one of them is going to start ‘And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto the city of Galilee’ in the manner of a school carol concert. FIRST COUGH KLAXON.

15.45pm I haven’t written anything in a while, I have been engrossed by Tim Hutton’s reading. Dolon the spy got it in the neck (literally) by Odysseus and Diomedes and now there is some more fighting going on. But then that is what happens when you are listening to a story about a war. They’ve taken Dolon’s armour, which seems to be somewhat of a big deal.

15.54pm We now have splattering brains. Lovely. And there is just generally a great amount of death. This seems like a good time to take a lunch break. I shall be back soon where inevitably I will have missed loads and not have the foggiest what is going on.

17.13pm I’m back from lunch and IT’S OLIVER CHRIS. I like Oliver Chris, he made me cry laughing in One Man, Two Guvnors. As expected, I have a limited grasp on what is going on. There seems to be some carnage and some very shiny shields. I shall consult the Oracle or The Iliad Live twitter and find out what’s going on.

17.16pm There’s a battle, it’s all very confusing. But a Trojan has just got shanked and died I think.

17.31pm I’m really hoping that I haven’t missed the bit with the Trojan horse because everyone knows that is the best bit. (I’m still very confused. Hector seems to be off to battle again. There are an awful lot of battles. Oh wait Paris isn’t dead yet, that’s good) Also Luke Thompson, who is reading right now, is very handsome. And I’m impressed with myself that I got this far without mentioning someone’s looks.

17.48pm OOOOOOH Hera’s getting herself all dolled up. Methinks this will not end well for the Trojans. It’s got saucy up in here now. Also Hera’s plan to shag Zeus into sleep is so brilliant, I love Greek myths. Horny buggers.

17.53pm I love that everyone is won over by being offered a hot woman. Sleep, you flighty so and so, one mention of a Grace and you go all gooey eyed.

17.54pm Michael Shaeffer is milking the sauciness of Hera and Zeus and it is fabulous. He certainly has the voice for sexy scenes between gods, one might describe it as honeyed. Rather like all this mellow wine they keep talking about.

18.05pm There has been more spearing of people and more death but Zeus has just woken up so I reckon it’s all about to go down.

18.07pm Wow Zeus is pissed that he thought with his penis and slept with Hera. And he’s blaming her for it. Zeus is such a numpty

18.13pm Jenna Russell as an anguished, grieving Ares is doing a fabulous job. And now as Pallas Athena, equally good.

18.16pm I like the fact that each reader has to put their script into the box at the end of their part. It gives a lovely visual representation of how far through we have got. I hope they are going to have a similar box at the Almeida.

18.25pm Aaah the trench that was important has returned. It seems to be important.

18.27pm It is so easy for the Iliad to be the smuttiest thing ever, what with all the talk of penetration, shafts and spears. Which is difficult for someone like me, who has the maturity level of a ten year old.

18.32pm I once had to study a Victorian statue of Teucer, it was beautiful and had some really great copper musculature. Hector is gonna get Teucer now though, he is done for. It’s another rousing, war like performance from Forbes Masson. The quality of all of these readings is so high, no one is just phoning their reading in.

19.01pm And now I break for dinner. We have one hour remaining of the British Museum cast when the livestream for everyone ends, I believe as the Almeida section can only be seen by those at the theatre.

19.33pm I have returned for my last fifteen minutes into what seems to be a death scene. I am not sure whose, I shall find out. Oh wait it was Patroclus. Oh dear, Achilles is REALLY not going to be happy about this. Julian Glover is another with a beautiful storyteller voice, reverberating so well around the Great Hall.

19.50pm And with that the British Museum section of the Iliad ends, with Julian Glover epically recounting the furious battle to return Patroclus’ body to Achilles. From the unseen voice that just issued from the live stream, we will be able to watch the section from the Almeida. I, however, am off out but hopefully will be able to pick it up upon my return.

19.55pm The stage at the Almeida is beautiful, all candle lit. I’m excited.

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00.01am I have returned to find that this behemoth of a production is still running. Having consulted with the Iliad Live twitter it would appear I have missed the death of Hector and the return of Patroclus’ body to Achilles. But surprise surprise I STILL have no idea what is actually going on. I also have missed Ben Whishaw which I am slightly gutted about. But I join the end of the Games Because Patroclus Is Dead and Achilles seems to be having very homoerotic thoughts about him, especially as he is longing for Patroclus’ manhood *giggles* (I’m sorry. Achilles is clearly suffering badly. But COME ON)

00.05am Lovely Susannah Fielding is reading now, in a very pretty necklace. The set is so beautiful, apparently it is the set of Bakkhai which I was so gutted that I didn’t get tickets for. It would appear that Thetis and Iris are off to get Zeus to make Achilles give Hector’s body back to them.

00.10am Achilles is still raging. He basically hasn’t stopped being angry since the beginning so that is 16 hours of pure, undiluted RAGE

00.23am Priam, father of Hector, it would appear is appealing to Zeus to get Hector’s body back off Achilles. Lesley Manville is reading, which quite frankly is dangerous because she is very softly spoken and I am definitely going to fall asleep on my keyboard. I have had quite a lot of cocktails and it’s late which is not helping with the sleepiness

00.28am Quite late on we are being introduced to Hermes, he of the flying sandals/expensive handbags (not really)

00.30am Priam, via Lesley Manville, is making a very beautiful, heartfelt plea for news of his son’s body and the state that it’s in. Which, it seems, is magical because it’s not decayed at all. But then Hector was much loved by the gods (I think. The gods loved lots of people, it’s so confusing) Oh no wait Hermes has confirmed that Hector was loved dearly by the gods. So that’s nice for him, even though he’s dead

00.32am Priam has turned up to get his son back with a wagon full of treasure. No wonder he just waltzed straight into Achilles’ camp.

Tim Piggot Smith, the final actor

                          Tim Piggot Smith, the final actor

00.34am IT’S THE LAST ACTOR LADIES AND GENTLEMAN. And it’s Tim Piggot-Smith who, like everyone else in this production, has a dream storyteller voice. I saw him play Prince Charles (or King Charles III as he was) He was very good (FUN THEATRE FACT THERE READERS)

00.36am Piggot-Smith is a good choice to play an older king. He is very regal.

00.37am Achilles and Priam are having quite a manly cry for all of the people that they liked that died. Which is quite a lot.

00.40am GOD DAMN IT PRIAM DON’T ANGER ACHILLES HE IS ALREADY FURIOUS ABOUT EVERYTHING DON’T MAKE IT WORSE

00.42am Achilles has handed back Hector’s body and is still really sad about Patroclus

00.44am Oh, they are having a roast dinner again. As it is Greece, I am hoping that they’ve got tzatziki  And Priam appears to have a crush on Achilles. There’s a lot of gazing at each other and talking of taking each other to bed. OOH EER

00.49am Piggot-Smith makes a very good hysterical, grief ridden woman. The woman is Cassandra, who we have not yet seen, who is a prophet. A fact which I knew because of Harry Potter. Never say I am not a cultured woman

00.53am This is actually really sad this bit with everyone being emotional over Hector 😦

00.55am Well Helen, it’s all very well being sad about Hector dying, especially given that this whole thing was basically your fault…. (too little too late love)

00.56am Piggot-Smith is imbuing every line now with a stunning sense of finality and ending. We are really getting the sense that this is drawing to a close. It’s spine tingling and beautiful.

00.57 And so the Trojans buried Hector, breaker of horses. And this shindig is OVER. I must say, despite never quite getting a grasp on what the hell was going on, that was a really astonishing day’s worth of theatre, something we are probably unlikely to see again. It kept me gripped for hours at a time, only interrupted when I had to eat, or go to the pub. I realise that this is nothing like one of my normal reviews but then this is nothing like a normal production I’ve seen so the two go hand in hand. And so, with that, I leave you with this sentiment….

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HELLOOOOOOO! I am back! All exams over, all graduations finished and now I hope to be up and running again with lots of lots of posts for you. This post is a bit a of pre amble for what I’m about to publish. Yesterday I liveblogged the Almeida theatre’s reading of the Iliad, which didn’t finish until 1 in the morning. Because it was done so late I decided not to publish it last night. The whole thing is written in real time and all of the timings were correct for yesterday, hence the slightly different style of the review. I was kind of reviewing as it went along and it’s not like anything I’ve done before so I hope you enjoy!

I am ever so sorry for the lack of updates, final year has rather got the better of me. However, in just over a month’s time I will be done and dusted with university as a whole and will have the time to go and see and review lots of stuff for you all. I’m so excited to get back to it all again, I have missed it!

Assassins- Menier Chocolate Factory

* There are a few spoilers in this but I shall once again try my very best to keep it to a minimum. Also I must issue a quick warning, if you don’t like repeated loud banging noises Assassins is not for you. Just a heads up*

©NOBBY CLARK +44(0)7941-515770 +44(0)20-7274-2105 nobby@nobbyclark.co.uk

With nine assassination attempts and three on stage executions, Assassins, a show about a ramshackle group of misfits who all tried to assassinate an American president, may not seem an obvious choice for the Menier Chocolate Factory’s Christmas show. It was however an inspired choice as it has snuck in in the dying days of 2014 to be one of the best things I have seen all year. Although an oddly structured, slightly bitty piece with no real plot line, Assassins grabs you from the word go and doesn’t let go until the final gun shot rings out, leaving you feeling on edge and not quite sure what’s just hit you. But in the best way.

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Aaron Tveit as John Wilkes Booth and Simon Lipkin as The Proprietor

It seems unfair to single out any one performance as this is very much an ensemble piece with a cast that is universally strong, there are no weak links here. Having said that, there are three members of the cast who could be called ‘main’ characters and are the most magnetic presences in one of the slickest ensembles I have ever seen. Simon Lipkin is magnificent as The Proprietor, the filthy gun salesman who entices these misfits into purchasing his wares and orchestrates each attempt. Lipkin also embodies many of the other characters, including all of the intended presidential victims, with a sort of demented glee. The best representation of this is the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, undertaken by John Hinckley Jr (Harry Morrison) springing back from each shot like a horrible jack-in-the-box, taunting Hinckley with his failure. Lipkin has excellent comedy chops which creates an uneasy balance between the sinister and the ridiculous. His Proprietor is, quite frankly, the stuff of nightmares and it’s brilliant. Secondly we have Jamie Parker as The Balladeer and someone else who I shall not mention so as not to spoil the surprise. He is the folksy banjo playing voice of reason and Parker plays him as a likeable sort of chap with his jeans with massive turn ups and gravelly singing voice. Parker’s strongest scene is certainly as the person who won’t be mentioned and I’ll say no more about except Parker is exceptional and he’ll break your heart. Thirdly there is real life American and Broadway star Aaron Tveit, making his London debut as John Wilkes Booth, the smoothie actor who is made leader of this motley crew by the sheer virtue of being the first one to think to shoot a president. There is a line that describes Booth as living with ‘a grace and glitter’ and Tveit certainly has no problem with that. He is all Southern charm and smiles with blonde hair and shiny eyes. Tveit knows how to command a stage, with a magnificent singing voice and cracking dance moves that draw you to him and even when he is off lurking in the shadows you can see him plotting the next move, to make the next assassination happen. It’s worth noting too that he has one of the greatest confetti dislodging hair flicks I have ever seen. Like Parker, his strongest character scene is the pivotal finale with the unmentionable in which the charm is turned on to devastating effect.

Jamie Parker as The Balladeer and Aaron Tveit as John Wilkes Booth

Jamie Parker as The Balladeer and Aaron Tveit as John Wilkes Booth

Honourable mention must go to Catherine Tate who, despite being the most recognisable name on the cast list, has a fairly minor role as dopey Sara Jane Moore who, along with Carly Bawden’s Squeaky Fromme, had a pop at Gerald Ford. Tate is the comic relief of the piece as airhead Moore, a woman so daft that whilst practising for her attempt manages to shoot her own dog. She excels at this with her drawn out West Virginia accent and general incompetence and milks the visual gags for all they are worth. What she may lack in singing ability (she’s not bad but she certainly isn’t the strongest of the bunch) she makes up for in comedic timing and performance. She and Bawden make a fantastic double act as the only two females in the show and their scenes are a genuine pleasure to watch. Other honourable mentions go to Andy Nyman as Charles J Guiteau, the hyperactively optimistic killer of President Garfield whose death scene is an amazing feat of staging and performance and Stewart Clarke as Giuseppe Zangara who, blighted by convincingly portrayed stomach troubles, took it upon himself to end Franklin D Roosevelt.

Carly Bawden as Squeaky Fromme and Catherine Tate as Sara Jane Moore

Carly Bawden as Squeaky Fromme and Catherine Tate as Sara Jane Moore

The Menier stage is a very small space but one that has been used to full advantage by set designer Soutra Gilmour. It’s modelled on an abandoned fairground with a dreadful gaping clown head, an old bumper car and signs reading hit and miss that light up accordingly after each attempt as the only real set. This, coupled with the strings of exposed light bulbs that give off a weird light, all help to create the sinister and oppressive atmosphere of the show. Cleverly, members of the cast are interspersed throughout the audience and mount the stairs where the audience are sitting which is extra good fun when you are sitting on the end like I was. It all adds to the tense atmosphere, especially when you have Simon Lipkin with all his guns breathing angrily down your neck. It’s enough to make anyone nervous. The small space works very much in the production’s favour as the audience can make eye contact with the cast members, increasing the tension. It’s super tense when one of them is making eye contact with you whilst pointing a gun in your face.

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Having not really heard much Sondheim before I was not really sure what to expect musically but Assassins is an interesting blend of different genres of show tune, from folky ditty to epic love ballad. Some of those songs are damn catchy too, especially The Ballad of Booth, which had me muttering “damn you Lincoln, you righteous whore” under my breath because I could not get it out of my head for DAYS, which obviously seems mad when one is in public. The most interesting number however is ‘Unworthy of Your Love’, a duet between Squeaky Fromme (Carly Bawden) and John Hinckley Jr (Harry Morrison). It’s a love ballad, beautifully written with a sweet tune and typical musical fare but is all the more twisted by the fact that the couple aren’t singing it to each other but to the object of their obsessions. In Hinckley’s case that’s actress Jodie Foster with whom he was dangerously obsessed and in Fromme’s it was Charles Manson, notorious mass murderer whose inner circle she was in. The juxtaposition between the syrupy music and lyrics and the context it’s being sung in make it a deeply uncomfortable number to sit through, made even weirder by the whole hearted performances of Carly Bawden and Harry Morrison. The deep passion, and therefore the creepy, is coming off them in waves. For those who do like their musicals more traditional, fear not! There ARE dance routines! And really great cheesy ones with clicking and arms being thrust in the air and the nearest thing you are going to get to a kick line in a space that small (kick lines would not have been a good idea as the front row would most likely have received a foot to the face.) All in all Assassins is a strange, magnetic show unlike any I have seen before with some of the best performances of the year. Kill for a ticket. Oooh I should be shot for that one. (YES DOUBLE WHAMMY GUN PUNS)

©NOBBY CLARK +44(0)7941-515770 +44(0)20-7274-2105 nobby@nobbyclark.co.uk

 

Love’s Labours Won or Much Ado About Nothing- Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

*Hello. Spoilers for the production as usual with a Shakespeare play, it’s nearly 500 years old, you can’t get cross with me for spoiling the plot*

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If I were to choose one word to sum up this new production of that lesser known Shakespeare play Love Labour’s Won, it would be charming. (It’s not a lesser known play at all, it’s one of his most famous Much Ado About Nothing but if you had a dim moment like me wherein I thought Love’s Labours Won was the play in that episode of Doctor Who with Shakespeare and the witches and eventually gets destroyed and therefore wasn’t a real play then this title can be confusing) Set in the autumn of 1918, just after the end of the First World War, in a beautiful recreation of a Warwickshire country house, Charlecote Park, this play fizzes with festive joy and bubbles with the celebratory atmosphere that came at the end of a really terrible four years of war.

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The strength of any Much Ado About Nothing, I think, lies in the strength of its Beatrice and Benedick, the central sparring pair who epitomise the notion of being mean to someone because you fancy them. Both Michelle Terry and Edward Bennett are excellent and bounce off one another in the most charming way possible. They both bring a real sense of realism and the development of their characters’ relationship means that not only are the characters on stage rooting for them to get it on, so are the audience. Their final moments are immensely sweet, especially the very last moment of the play when, proud to the last, the couple check to see that no one is watching them before indulging in an embrace that made the audience go ‘aaaaaw.’ Edward Bennett makes an especially good Benedick as he has excellent comic timing and a very wry sense of play with the audience. His strongest scene by far is a masterclass in slapstick without becoming dreary and overly silly. It involves an altercation with a Christmas tree, being electrocuted (a clever idea brings a whole new meaning to a line about sparks) and a brilliant gag in which his hand is thrust through said Christmas tree in order to get a whisky top up. His Benedick is most certainly a merry man and one of the most memorable I have seen.

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The post war setting is an extremely interesting artistic choice as it colours everything with a touch of melancholy and we are given the very real sense that the war has affected almost everybody. The prime example of this is Nick Haverson’s portrayal of Dogberry, a character who is such an idiot that he can border on being quite annoying. Of course, the malapropisms and slapstick comedy is all still there (there is a fantastic scene in which the accused and the night watch all attempt to manoeuvre themselves around a very small table and end up passing chairs over one another’s heads) and Dogberry remains a principally comic character. However the moment in which Conrad calls him an ass suddenly becomes poignant and full of hurt as Haverson sits down at the table and frustratedly tries to still his shaking hand, collapsing his head onto the table surface. The implication here is that Dogberry has returned from war with shell shock and his blundering and blethering may not entirely be his fault. It is a dynamic that is little seen in this character and a worthy addition in the light of the atrocities that the war caused. The evils of war stretch further into the portrayal of Don John by Sam Alexander as an injured man who now must carry a crutch wherever he goes. Although a self confessed villain, this disability evokes more sympathy with Don John as an audience can understand the rage and frustration that he may feel coming back from a war broken by it whilst his brother has returned hail and hearty.

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Both the staging and the costumes contribute a huge amount to the magic and loveliness of the piece. Simon Higlett has devised a beautiful, slick set from which whole rooms and tombs emerge from the floor and churches and drawing rooms in and out of view. The most beautiful of all are the chapel, recreated with all the fine details down to the plaques on the wall which makes you forget just for a minute that the room isn’t whole and you aren’t in fact witnessing a wedding but are sitting in a theatre and Hero’s tomb that emerges from the ground, decked out in purple flowers, a moving tribute to a life taken far too early. The costumes are breath taking, my absolute favourite being Hero’s wedding dress and veil. Flora Spencer-Longhurst is truly an angelic vision in it which is particularly important given that she is accused of behaviour that is certainly less than angelic. I found it interesting too that Michelle Terry as Beatrice was dressed in a trouser suit and tie. It was still a feminine choice but moving with the times as women, who were well on their way to getting the vote at this point, began to step out of the home sphere and into lives of their own. It seemed appropriate for one of Shakespeare’s most forward thinking and strong female characters. The music is one of the strongest elements of the production, played throughout by a wonderful live band. It evokes the festive party atmosphere of the household, especially the almost jazzy version of Sigh No More. The second half opens with a spine tingling a cappella version of In The Bleak Midwinter with the cast in darkness holding lanterns, a moment so beautiful it made me slightly teary and also wishing that it was Christmas.

LLW3The play, however, is not without its weaknesses. For me, the scene in which Hero is accused of adultery at the altar of her wedding lacked the necessary power to really shock its audience. David Horovitch as Leonato is too monotoned in his delivery as a wronged father and we never really get the impression that he is as disgusted as his words would suggest with his only daughter’s behaviour. Tunji Kasam as Claudio too almost suffers from this but manages to pack an emotional punch by ramping up the anger and shouting just at the last minute. The scene which directly follows it, in which Benedick and Beatrice declare their love for one another is also not as strong as it could have been. Although Michelle Terry plays Beatrice’s grief with heart breaking beauty, for me the impact of the line ‘Kill Claudio” is lost because the preceding dialogue is played so seriously. For me, the scene works better when the love declaration is played for laughs as the force of such a brutal request contrasts with the happy feeling of before. In fact, the audience laughed at the line “Kill Claudio” which felt wrong as it is supposed to be an angry and emotional plea from a normally merry Beatrice.

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Love’s Labours Won is a totally joyous night out and one which I would highly recommend in the run up to the festive period. It is full of laughs, tears, exploding Christmas trees and above all love. And if that isn’t worth a visit I’m not sure what is. Hey, nonny, nonny.

Oh my wow, it’s The Riot Club

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*I’ve tried to avoid mentioning too much of what happens, especially the horrible thing at the end, despite the fact that it is quite heavily implied in the trailer. So it’s more a spoiler kazoo than a spoiler klaxon this time*

I find it incredibly depressing that a film about ten of the most horrible characters you will see on celluloid has now become one of my favourites of the year, if not of all time. I think it is because they are all charming. And have cheekbones you could open envelopes on. And this film looks beautiful and is well written with genuinely laugh out loud jokes (and not just in an lol bantah type of way, my face hurt from laughing) Before you all judge me terribly I am here to explain to you for why. The general background of this story has been widely reported so I’ll go bare minimum to spare you all from too much repetition. The eponymous Riot Club is based loosely upon several of the Oxford dining clubs (playwright of the original POSH and screenwriter Laura Wade has said that it isn’t just based on the infamous Bullingdon Club but the press all seemed to have ignored that) and the plot follows thus: two freshers Miles and Alistair (Max Irons and Sam Claflin) get recruited into the Riot Club, one of them has a common girlfriend of which he never hears the end, they all have a big dinner, fuelled by booze, testosterone and drugs and smash the place to bits. The end.

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The primary reason that this film is so brilliant is that it is headed up by a cast of ten incredibly talented young men and three wonderful women, all of whom are going to be massive in just a few years. It is a credit to the male members of this cast that they all succeed in keeping you on their side as long as they do. Just when you think they might have veered to the dark side they sparkle, they grin, and they’ve won you over all over again. That is of course until they start tearing an innocent man’s business to shreds, simply for the thrill of it. They work as a well oily (like creepy politicians GEDDIT??!!) machine to charm both the audience and others around them into getting what they want handed to them on a plate. The stand out performances for me come from Sam Claflin as the frankly sinister Alistair Ryle, Matthew Beard as Guy ‘Bellend’ Bellingfield who has his eyes on the presidency and has the most immaculate comic timing and posh boy floppy hair and Freddie Fox as James Leighton-Masters, the club’s president who may seem like the big boss with all the big words (LET’S CARPE SOME FUCKING DIEM is in my top ten best lines) but when it boils down to it is just a spineless coward. There is an excellent shot of him sobbing in a prison cell that ALMOST makes you feel sorry for him. However in the next scene you realise that a) he has no backbone and b) he’s wearing horrible stripy socks and boat shoes and all sympathy is lost. Claflin, usually seen as Mr Nice Guy, is truly, sickeningly horrible as Alistair, the fresher who is living in the shadows of his elder ‘legend’ brother Seb and with a violent hatred of those beneath him. His impassioned and venomous speech is one of the film’s stand out set pieces and can arguably be seen as the reason for the devastating climax as his words rile the boys up into a frenzy of hatred and adrenaline. The speech smacks of a rallying leader and Claflin delivers it with such seething anger that you genuinely feel quite scared of him. It’s a masterclass in nastiness.

ALL ABOARD THE CHUNDER PORSCHE

ALL ABOARD THE CHUNDER PORSCHE

The script, thankfully written by original playwright Laura Wade, is sharp and witty whilst successfully solving some of the problems transferring a play which takes place almost exclusively in one room to the screen. She has retained some of her best jokes from the original (favourite examples include how do you make an Eton Mess? Tell him he only got into Bristol and an amazing joke about Alistair’s brother jacking in investment banking to get an Airstream caravan to sell really good burgers at festivals) whilst coming up with some genius additions. I haven’t consistently laughed as long and as loud at a film in a very long time. One particularly special example is the constant repetition of a new catchphrase ‘oh my wow’ that has, ironically of course, entered my vocabulary. There were moments where it was just me and my best friend cackling like demons whilst the rest of the audience shot us evil looks, in particular the scene in which Miles (Max Irons) and his girlfriend Lauren (Holliday Grainger) engage in a steamy sex scene on the floor of a tutor’s office, watched over by a truly horrible stuffed badger. Ain’t nothing to put you in the mood like a dead woodland creature watching you, eh ladies? Talking of the women, I found their treatment extremely interesting, especially given the fact that the playwright, director of the original play and the director of this film (Lone Scherfig) are all women. For such a male centric piece, I do find it somewhat ironic that it’s always helmed by a woman, somehow I don’t these boys would like it. ANYWAY there is now one extra character in the shape of Lauren who, upon meeting Miles on freshers night falls for him immediately which, considering Max Irons is one of the most handsome men ever, I totally understand. What is so clever about the invention of Lauren and her role as the girlfriend of one of the members is the sense of jeopardy the audience feels for her, coming from our investment in her character. There is a horrible and heart rending scene in which Lauren is summoned to the dinner as joke by Alistair, only to be offered £27,o00 to give all the boys a blow job (a disgusting idea that caused the audience where we saw it to audibly gasp) and be humiliatingly assaulted whilst various members hold her boyfriend down. Holliday Grainger does a wonderful job as the innocent whose boyfriend got involved in all the muck and it is devastating stuff to watch. The one downside to Lauren is that she leaves a lot less for Jessica Brown Findlay’s character, waitress Rachel, to do as in the play the ritual humiliation was exacted upon her which I find a great shame because I love Jessica and would liked to have seen more of her. The third and final woman is a ‘prozzer’ named Charlie, played by the unfairly beautiful Natalie Dormer. Whilst it is only a very small part, Dormer plays it well, oozing sexiness and class.

The Riot Club 6

The Riot Club is a beautifully shot, incredibly funny film with a nasty heart that makes you fear going within 50 miles of an Oxford college. It may not be everyone’s glass of champagne but I do urge you to see it. Two hours in the company of these boys might leave you feeling slightly sick but thoroughly entertained. Now come on, let’s leave this behind us and get absolutely chateaued.

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