#118 - "Ravishing and provoking in equal measure" - art review, Rationalism on Set 18/04/18

Estorick Collection

This exhibition of Modernist architecture and design in 1930s Italian cinema is ravishing and provoking in equal measure, and I suspect of niche appeal. The mostly black and white images it contains of sets, fonts and furniture are beautiful, though there are not enough of them. To set them in the context of the wider Modern movement in film in Germany and the US is worthwhile, but to largely isolate them from their narrative context (largely romantic comedy) and historic backdrop (erm, you know, fascism) seems perverse. Still, look at that bar, that clock, that Mies van der Rohe chair…

#117 - "Eccentricity is definitely the keyword" - theatre review, The Moderate Soprano 13/04/18

Duke of York's

Here, committed socialist David Hare hymns John Christie, the rich English eccentric who constructed the elite operatic paradise Glyndebourne for his singer wife (helped by refugees from Nazism). True, it’s a fascinating story, wittily and cleverly used to discuss art, democracy, will and passion. It’s also old-fashioned and explanatory and though well made you can see all its workings. Roger Allam brings all his tricks and skill to Christie and Nancy Carroll is alternately underused and given operatic deathbed scenes that feel unearned. I slightly despised myself for enjoying it as much as I did. Eccentricity is definitely the keyword.

#116 - "Rackety, enjoyable, real life as light ent" - theatre review, Quiz, 11/04/18

Noel Coward Theatre

James Graham’s rackety, enjoyable play got a kicking in Chichester but it's a lot more fun and more finished than the author’s last political drama, Labour of Love. Here, Graham remounts the trial of “coughing major” James Ingram in the style of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, the show Ingram and his wife tried to defraud in 2001, and enlists the audience as participants and jurors. It’s real life as light ent, but Graham works in pungent thoughts about class and conformity, and the subject plays well to his popular sympathies. The ensemble cast play multiple roles with gusto: the audience plays gleefully along.

#115 - "La-sir-blah-sir" - Theatre review, The Way of the World 06/04/18

Donmar Warehouse

Congreve’s Renaissance satire on marital and romantic morality gets a respectful, only sporadically lively revival by James MacDonald, performed in period costume but on a minimal set. The standout performances come from Justine Mitchell as a brittle Millamant and Haydn Gwynne - a late substitute - as Lady Wishfort: while I yield to no man in my admiration of Jenny Jules, she looks uncomfortable here as Mrs Marwood and the fops and gents and oafs are lacklustre. I have the same difficulty with this play’s labyrinthine plot and “la-sir-blah-sir” epigramming that some have with Shakespeare, and it’ll take a more lucid and brisk production than this to win me round.

#114 - "Playful, touching, baggily brilliant" - theatre review, The Inheritance 29/03/18

Young Vic

Matthew Lopez tips his hat to Howard’s End and to Angels in America in this playful, touching, baggily brilliant, seven-hour tale of gay New Yorkers 30 years after AIDs and Reagan. At its centre is Kyle Soller’s gentle Eric, struggling with Trump triumphalism, his feckless playwright lover and the new gay politics. The script is sprawling, formally experimental, daringly witty, daringly serious, with a core of idealism and a glossy sheen: almost all the characters are young, buff, cultured professionals and even the rent boy reads poetry. The beautiful boys are bracketed by lovely performances from Paul Hilton and Vanessa Redgrave. Stephen Daldry directs with fizzy brio.

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