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Archive for August, 2013

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s famous collaboration Evita, which charts the life of Eva Peron, first lady of Argentina, until her premature death in 1952.  In this production, Madalena Alberto plays the eponymous heroine, with Marti Pellow talking on the role of Che.  The songs are well known and include Another Suitcase, Another Hall; On This Night of a Thousand Stars, Buenos Aires, You Must Love Me, and of course Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.  They all sounded fantastic, due to the incredible talent of the cast and the orchestra.  Pellow, who actually takes the largest role, and who is on stage almost all of the time, as part cynical observer, part narrator, was charismatic and perfect for the role of Che.

Eva’s life is covered with big leaps from era to era – if it was”t based on a true story, you might hardly believe it – and the way that Eva visibly aged throughout the show, from her time as a teenager with high hopes, to the girlfriend then wife of Juan Person – was very well done.

The famous balcony scene was beautifully done, and brought tears to my eyes ( and in fact, there were several audience members wiping away tears at the extremely emotional end scenes).

Having heard and read reviews, I went into the show with high expectations – and they were exceeded in every single way.  My sole regret is that I did not get tickets for another performance of this show, because it was truly wonderful from start to finish.

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Click here for my review of the 2017 production of Evita.

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In the late 1600s, Carlo Demirco’s skill at creating ice creams has brought him from lowly beginnings in Italy, to the court of King Louis XIV of France.   There he meets the intriguing Louise de Keroualle, a lady-in-waiting from a noble but penniless French family.

From there, Carlo is sent to London, to work as confectioner to King Charles II.  Louise is sent as well, to become the mistress of Charles, thus furthering France’s political aims.  But while Louise works on seducing Charles, Carlo finds himself increasingly drawn to her, and is faced with the unpleasant situation of encouraging the relationship between the object of his desire and the English King.

I was looking forward to reading this, as I had previously thoroughly enjoyed The Various Flavours of Coffee, by the same author.  While I did like The Empress of Ice Cream, it did not captivate me in the same way.  The writing is descriptive and evocative, and the machinations and dealings of ministers both in France and England were well described.  The politics of the story were interesting, and made me want to learn more about the period, but I found I could not warm to Carlo or Louise.  Louise in particular always seemed like a distant character, and although the book is narrated by both Carlo and Louise, she never seemed fully fleshed out (although she was in fact a real person; Carlo is fictional, but has his basis in reality).  However, I did like the gradual change in her character – from the point of view of an observer, it was interesting to see her priorities change, and see how she justified her own actions to herself.

On balance, I think I would recommend this book, mainly for the political intrigue, and the descriptions of Carlo’s ice desserts, which are liberally scattered throughout the book.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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After ruining her sister’s wedding and crashing a limousine, Gwen Cummings (Sandra Bullock) is sentenced to 28 days in a rehab centre, to work through her alcohol and drug dependency.  Initially resistant to the idea, Gwen eventually realises that she does have a problem, and starts to re-examine her life.

I admit that much as I like Sandra Bullock, I expected this film to be riddled with cliches, and only watched it because Dominic West is in it, and that in itself makes a film worth watching!  However, the film itself was a pleasant surprise.  Sandra Bullock, who is usually so likeable and sweet, played the part of Gwen really well, and the process of coming to accept and learn how to beat her demons did not unfold at the breakneck speed which I anticipated.  Having never been in a rehab centre, I cannot truthfully say how realistic it was, but it felt believable.

West plays Gwen’s boyfriend Jasper, who is almost certainly as dependant on drugs and alcohol as she is, but not being the one who is sentenced to rehab, does not take any time to look at his own life.  If there is a villain of the piece, he is probably it, but in truth, Jasper is not so much a bad person, as irresponsible and unrealistic about what a sober life means for Gwen.  I thought West did a very good job in a not especially likeable role.  Viggo Mortensen also provided great support as Eddie, a professional baseball player who is also in rehab, and Steve Buscemi was excellent (if slightly under-used) in an uncharacteristically sombre role as a counsellor at the centre.

The story bounced along nicely, and there were a few genuinely moving moments (I definitely had tears in my eyes a couple of times).  The only character who I felt was over-the-top, and who seemed to be there only to provide comic relief was Gerhardt (Alan Tudyk) as an apparently sex-obsessed fellow patient.  Although his monologue about forks in the road and forks in general was quite funny – more so when you realise that Tudyk actually improvised that scene.

Overall, well worth watching – it’s an entertaining, sometimes moving film, with a great cast.

Year of release: 2000

Director: Betty Thomas

Producers: Jenno Topping, Celia Costas

Writer: Susannah Grant

Main cast: Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, Dominic West, Azura Skye, Steve Buscemi, Alan Tudyk, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Margo Martindale

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After being dumped six times in a row, 28 year old Sass decides that dating and relationships aren’t worth the trouble and goes on a dating sabbatical, which means that she can’t date (obviously), kiss or flirt with men.  To her surprise she finds it enjoyable, and becomes more assertive and proactive in her life.  The only problem is the rather gorgeous and funny Jake, who Sass keeps running into and against all her own rules, finds very sexy.

Now, chicklit is not really my favourite genre, but I like it sometimes if I fancy a nice easy read.  However, this is the second book I’ve read by Gemma Burgess (although The Dating Detox was the first one to be published), and I have really enjoyed both of them.

Sass’s experience was less about waiting for any half-decent man to come along, and more about growing as a person and deciding what she wants from life.  The story is told in first-person present-tense, and Sass is an engaging and likeable narrator.  I also loved her totally believable friendships with best mates Bloomie and Kate, who are dealing with their own personal and professional problems.  The characters – Sass particularly – are very relatable.  We all know people like Bloomie and Kate.  (And yes, Jake is rather lovely!)

The story moves along nicely, with some genuinely funny moments.  It makes a pleasant change to read a book about dating and relationships, that also focuses on the positive side of being single and learning to stand on your own two feet.  It’s definitely aimed at female readers, and yes it is very ‘chicklitty’ but it’s fresh and pacy, and gave me lots to smile at.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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John Briley’s novel was adapted from his own screenplay for the film of the same name, which in turn was adapted from two books by Donald Woods (‘Biko’ and ‘Asking for Trouble’).

It tells the true story of the friendship between white Journalist Donald Woods, and black anti-Apartheid activist Stephen Biko, in South Africa in the 1970s.  Initially suspicious of each other’s motives, Woods and Biko become united, driven by their desire for equality in South Africa.  When Biko dies in Police Custody – the Police’s story is that he died of a self-imposed hunger strike, while Biko’s body, and the routine practices of certain Police at the time make it clear that he was beaten and tortured to death – Woods is determined to tell Biko’s story to the rest of the world.  However, the South African government and Police are determined to stop him, and place a banning order on him, effectively placing him under house arrest, and not allowing him to be in the company of more than one person at a time, save for immediate family.  However, Woods is determined that Biko’s story should be told.

I enjoyed the book a lot – it made me gasp in horror at times, but was very compelling.  The injustices committed against people in this book made my eyes pop, even though I already knew something about them.

The story is told in two parts – the first covers the friendship between the two men, while the second, after Biko’s death, describes Woods’ determination to see some justice for his friend, by telling the story of Biko and what he was striving for in South Africa.  My only criticism of it would be that it doesn’t go into some areas in much depth, and I would have liked to have known more.  It does read like a novel (and is described as such by the author), and so even though it is a true story, it flows well, and is hard to put down.  I would have liked to have learned more about Biko’s life leading up to the events in the story, but as it is adapted from the screenplay, it only really describes what was happening in the film, which focused on just that time in Biko’s life.  However, I would still recommend this book highly.

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