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Funny Girl. Two stars.

July 23, 2016

Funny GirlI know every professional review gives it four or five stars. And I think it would probably have been better in the more intimate Menier where it started off, but the Savoy is hardly huge. The main trouble is the story is crap. Sheridan Smith (now back in role) is great at what she has to work with, but it is trite, predictable, old fashioned and underdeveloped. Her character (Fanny Brice) is not really likeable. I didn’t give a shit about what happened to her. There were hardly any hard times for us to see her struggle against adversity; one good number where she is a crap chorus girl and one song about “If you ain’t pretty like Miss Atlantic City, then give up”. And her then telling everyone how fantastic she is which to be honest isn’t  very endearing. But she seemingly got a break straight away and then came on to do a number which I honestly thought was meant to show her bombing. How is flashing bloomers funny? But apparently  everybody loved it so she became the star of the show. Her mother and two friends do various numbers well enough, as does her suave lover, but it is tired.It’s not a musical with anything new to offer, or to excite. It felt like we were watching a school production, albeit a good one. Smith is good – and her comedic song as a bride really well delivered, but it wasn’t enough for us to come back for the second half. She’s wasted in this role and deserves better.

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Where we spent the second half

Bull, the follow up to Cock which we didn’t see, is an uncomfortable hour. I didn’t like it. Found it hard going and fairly relentless. And was pissed off at the audience for laughing. But it’s good. I’m not sure I recognise the workplace politics it describes which seems to hark back to the 80s, but perhaps I am lucky with the people I work with or it’s because I’m freelance so am less encumbered by it all. Or perhaps it’s just that I’m not in a full on sales environment where the three employees are fighting for their jobs and waiting for the boss to come and decide which one of them will be ‘let go’.

As it’s so short, don’t read any more if you might go and see as it might spoil it for you.

It’s basically an extension of playground bullying dressed up as ‘a bit of fun’, ‘don’t take it personally’, and this time done as a two-pronged attack against the same victim. Sometimes direct, sometimes dressed up as caring, these two never let up. And sure enough the victim does himself no favours in front of the boss. The bullies are sharp suited, sharp tongued, confident and attractive. The victim overweight, sweaty, anxious. You expect a twist in the tale; for good to triumph over evil, for the stuffing to be knocked out of these cocksure cunts. I won’t spoil it for you completely.

I’ve seen the film. Years ago of course, but remember the brooding Brando and the annoying Blanche who comes to stay with her sister and him in the steamy South. This Young Vic production gave me a different perspective altogether and I empathised completely with Gillian Anderson’s Blanche. The apartment is on a rotating stage in the round and for reasons beyond me it is set in a timelessness of somewhere in the late 20th century rather than the original post war era. That kind of jarred as the attitudes were still very much early 50s.

Anderson started as flirty, fragile and funny with some sharp cracks and coquettish behaviour. And regular snifters to keep her going. Her sister, Stella, accepts the appalling behaviour of her husband Stanley because the sex is so great with him and she enjoys the passion and volatility of their relationship. We have no idea of the personal backstory that led her to marry someone so beneath her social standing, but Blanche holds no punches telling Stella what she thinks of Stan. However, I don’t really feel we got see the menace, the animal magnetism, or relentless abuse and brutish behaviour that was referred to. Occasionally Stan would explode but it seemed to come out of nowhere rather than being a tinderkeg waiting to blow. Or it may be that Gillian Anderson was so much better than everyone else that their portrayals paled in comparison. Her desperation for affection and kindness were palpable and her determination for her world to be magical and joyous childlike. She had huge monologues which kept us captivated as she told the heart-rending tale of her doomed marriage and having to watch all her loved ones die.Stanley insists on telling his sensitive friend who had taken a shine to Blanche all about Blanche’s reality of having lost the family mansion and resorted to prostitution until being sacked as a schoolteacher for sleeping with a pupil and Mitch too abandons her. Later, Stella goes in to labour and Stanley rapes Blanche as if it were inevitable. Obviously this is the way to put a woman in her place. And then of course Blanche continuing to live there is untenable and they arrange for her to be carted off. It’s awful. Tragic. Pathetic. I wept as her illusory world shattered around her  as her sister decided to side with her husband and the nurse tried to heave her up off the floor. Luckily a man came to her rescue. The doctor, gentle, caring offered her his arm so she could leave with dignity. She responded as a reflex and I could feel the gratitude as she hauntingly said she had “always relied on the kindness of strangers.”  I don’t think it was Blanche living in a fantasy world, I think it was Stella and the only way she could maintain it was to obliterate Blanche from her life.

Five starts for Anderson, and four overall.

Free Prosecco with our tickets!

Free Prosecco with our tickets!

I have to lay my cards on the table. Shakespeare in Love is probably my favourite film. So it was with some fear and trepidation that I booked this one. It is rotten when the stage show doesn’t live up to the film and vice versa. Think Dirty dancing. Think Commitments. Think History Boys. All three were far better in the first version that I saw them in.

But the reviews for SiL the play were good across the board so I decided to chance it. And I’m so glad we dd. The set evokes the Globe with its balustrades and different levels and the play mirrors the film’s narrative fairly closely but makes a much bigger role for Christopher Marlowe as a friend and mentor to “Will”, both of whom are superb. The first half is the comedy, the second the tragedy and when it works it really works. There are lots of laugh out loud moments and a warmth and wit about the whole piece. The cast are great – and Elizabethan musicians add to the drama – although i wasn’t as enamoured by Viola as I was in the film. It is nearly three hours but it whizzed by. It probably helps if you like Shakespeare -it help you get some of the ‘in’ jokes, but no doubt there were plenty i missed but still rate this as nearly five stars.

Skylight. Three stars

June 12, 2014

Just seeing Bill Nighy was enough. Let alone actually getting to watch him for a couple of hours.  He plays Bill Nighy of course, but this time he is a highly successful restauranteur who comes to visit his ex-lover in her squalid flat a year after his wife has died. His 18 year old son had dropped in first, surprising Carey Mulligan as she hadn’t seen him since she left the family home once the wife had discovered the affair.  He set the historic scene for us so that we understood what a lovely, privileged life they all led together whilst Carey and Bill carried on. And Carey loved Bill’s wife too – everything was just lovely apparently. No one mentioned the betrayal of the affair, or what they were doing to the wife.

But I digress, and without spoiling the plot suffice to say that Bill Nighy is cast as the go-getting thatcherite, a self-made man, a guy who ‘makes things happen’, whereas Carey is the caring middle class girl who has chosen to work with ‘kids at the bottom of the heap’, living in a freezing flat and commuting from one grim area of London to another. But of course Bill’s character has humour, wit and charm – although his assertion that ‘listening is half way to begging’ was a brilliant characterisation of his misogyny. And Carey is not entirely left wing do-gooder but she does feel her vocation to help ‘even one child’ out of the gutter.

Nighy was a joy and Mulligan’s body language conveyed her inner feelings. But surprisingly I didn’t feel the chemistry between them. That raging passion that had consumed them. I think it was good, but not fabulous. But I have hope that actually this will improve as the run continues.  Three stars

I arrived before the others. Well, that’s not technically true as one of us had turned up the night before in error – glad my friends make stupid mistakes like I do – but I was the first to arrive on the correct evening. And what a place to walk in to. Fabulous in its very impressive frontage and even more so in the welcome warmth and buzz feel of the Holborn Dining Room – the restaurant in the hotel. It has the feel of an expanded  Wolsely, The Ivy, Balthazar –  you get the drift. High end brasserie stroke club, with that quasi Parisian lighting and some banquette seating near the bar and lots of tables in the huge huge expanse of the room.

As I walked in the staff greeted me with ease and competence and offered me to go to the table or hang around the bar for a while. I chose the latter and he settled me on a great, large  high table by the door and drew up some stools for my missing mates. The Chablis arrived and I watched the world go by. The staff were more interesting than the customers – one in an outlandishly checked suit, stripy shirt and trainers. And  I loved it. An eccentricity that suited the place. I so enjoy watching people excel at their jobs and admired the reception staff (all guys last night) welcome people – some as if old friends – and make them feel special and set them in the mood to know they are going to have a great night. And all with efficiency. there was no hanging around wondering where to go or who to ask – the guys were on point and watching everyone and serving their needs.

And of course when the others arrived we decamped in to the body of the restaurant and chose from the menu. Brasserie-style with eggs benedicts and steaks available but also quite a bit of fish including lamb with a green sauce that has anchovies in. Luckily i didn’t opt for that but had a lovely tomato and onion salad to start and then steak. Both of which were enjoyable, helped down by a small amount of wine (oh, alright then, more than a small amount). The service was friendly and easy and the only reason it doesn’t get five stars overall is that the food was not outstanding. It was good. Better than the Ivy, streets ahead of Balthazar, but not as good as the high end restaurants. But hey, it’s not pretending to be Dinner or Maze and I’d definitely go again. And again.

Harsh harsh harsh I know.  But I’d seen the film and LOVED it so perhaps it was always on a hiding to nothing. The trouble was the narrative just didn’t carry through so we didn’t give a toss about any of the characters. We didn’t feel the poverty, the striving, the fecklessness, the dogged rehearsals, the gradual improvement. We did get some great singing from the lead guy, and the instrumentalists could play OK. But why spend £60 a ticket to see people playing at being in a soul band, when you could go and see the real thing for half that price and get a whole night of it, not interspersed with random bits of flouncing off for no apparent reason? And the accents were shite by some of them. I mean there are enough Irish here in London to either be in the show or helping performers get their accent right.

This is a show for the populous who don’t go to see bands but like having a comfy seat to listen to their music. If it had concentrated the story to just two characters but done them in depth it might have worked. But it didn’t. It tried to recreate the film and failed.  two and a half stars.

But nice Mexican bite to eat right next door on Romilly street – Bodega Negra. Easy three stars.

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