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Archive for November, 2014

This stage version of the hugely successful film, is a riot of laughter and poignancy.  Six unemployed men, four of whom are former steel workers, all need to raise cash quickly, and hit upon the idea of forming a striptease act, during which they reveal everything – i.e., the full monty.

Gaz (Gary Lucy) heads up the cast, in his first theatre role.  He was excellent, and really made the part his own.  Together with his best mate Dave (Martin Miller); Lomper (Bobby Schofield), a young man who Gaz and Dave meet when they stop him committing suicide; Horse (Louis Emerick), Guy (Rupert Hill); and Gerald (Andrew Dunn), Gaz and Dave’s former boss, they set about learning dance routines, and preparing for revealing everything in front of everyone who knows them.

Each has their own issues and reasons for wanting or needing to form the striptease group, but during their preparation, friendships are made, relationships are formed, and the project becomes about more than just raising cash.

The staging was excellent, and all the songs from the film featured, with the film’s best known and loved scenes all being faithfully recreated in a stage setting.  The ‘Hot Stuff’ routine in the job centre was a real audience pleaser, and the final routine was brilliantly done.  The men do indeed do the full monty, but the lighting is cleverly done so that there is nothing to make any blush.

As well as lots (LOTS!) of laughter, there are also some tender moments – Dave desperate to lose weight, wrapping himself in cling-film, while eating a Mars Bar; Guy and Lomper falling for each other, Gaz’s struggles with his ex-wife, and Gerald’s worries about trying to find a new job before his wife discovers that he has lost his old one.

The main cast were all excellent – I would never have guessed that Gary Lucy had never done theatre before – and each and every one of them brought his character to life, and really made the audience care about them.

The show received a standing ovation, and it was well deserved.  The whole audience clearly had a wonderful time, with whooping and hollering throughout, but all in a very good natured sense (and boy, do the ladies love Gary Lucy!)

Definitely a show to see if you get chance – you are guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face!

(For more information about this production, please click here.)

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Robert Vaughn has had a long and successful acting career.  As well as being The Man from U.N.C.L.E., he was also one of The Magnificent Seven, and in more recent times, was a main cast member on the BBC show Hustle.  But in addition to such achievements, he has also starred in countless other films, and appeared on stage many times.  In this book, he describes his life, from his childhood with a mother and step-father who were also actors, to his unconventional adolescence, to his ascension to genuine Hollywood star.

However, this book also covers much more ground than just his acting career.  With a keen interest in politics (he is a staunch Democrat), Vaughn also describes his friendship with Robert F. Kennedy, and his theories on the truth behind RFK’s assassination.  There are fascinating tales of being trapped in Czechoslovakia at the time of the Soviet invasion, and being placed under house arrest while filming in South America.  Amongst all of these stories are of course, anecdotes from Vaughn’s lengthy career, in which he talks about many of his friends, famous and otherwise, including Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen.

Vaughn is clearly a highly intelligent and thoughtful man, and he has written an absorbing autobiography.  I had only seen him in the aforementioned Hustle, and more recently on stage in a (breathtakingly wonderful) production of Twelve Angry Men, and was large unfamiliar with his earlier work, but the stories from that part of his career made for interesting reading.

I would certainly recommend this book to fans of Robert Vaughn, but also to anyone who enjoys reading autobiographies.

 

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This Shakespeare comedy has been updated in this production by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and is set in 1914, which allows the show to pay respects to the hundred year anniversary of World War I.  The story revolves around the King of Navarre (Sam Alexander) and his three companions Berowne, Longaville and Dumaine (respectively, Edward Bennett, William Belchambers and Tunji Kasim), who all agree to swear off the company of women for three years, in order to concentrate on study and fasting.  However, their plans go awry upon the arrival of the Princess of France (Leah Whittaker) and her three companions, Rosaline, Maria and Katherine (respectively Michelle Terry, Frances McNamee and Flora Spencer-Longhurst).  A battle of the sexes ensues, with the play eventually ending in a poignant scene, which gives cause for reflection.  There is also a subplot featuring the visiting Don Armado (John Hodgkinson), a Spanish visitor, who falls for a local lady named Jaquenetta (Emma Manton).

I really loved this production.  Apart from the fitting and respectful ending (where – spoiler alert – the Princess is informed that her father has died, and she and her ladies in waiting inform their suitors that they must wait a year before their courtships can continue, and which ends up with the four men appearing in World War I uniforms, about to go off and fight in the war), there was so much humour and verbal sparring, with several laugh-out-loud scenes that had the audience in fits of giggles.  The King and his friends were so well portrayed, and the Princess and her companions perfectly matched to them.  (I love how Shakespeare wrote so many strong and intelligent female characters).

The stage was beautifully and cleverly designed and the costumes were gorgeous (I had serious gown envy during the final part of the play!)

Love’s Labour’s Lost is presented as one part of a diptych, together with Much Ado About Nothing (retitled here as Love’s Labour’s Won, which was the name of a lost Shakespeare play – possibly Much Ado).  I have tickets to see Love’s Labour’s Won next year, and I am really looking forward to seeing it.  (In that play, the four main male characters are returning from World War I.)  Edward Bennett plays Benedick, opposite Michelle Terry’s Beatrice, and having seen the chemistry between them in this production, it promises to be a great show.

Overall, an excellent evening of comedy, with excellent acting and staging throughout.  Thoroughly recommended.

(For more information about this production, please click here.)

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William Ashenden is an author of reasonable success, who is contacted by an old friend – fellow author and literary darling Alroy Kear, who in turn has been asked to write a biography of a recently deceased writer named Edward Driffield, by Driffield’s widow.  Kear – and Driffield’s widow Amy – want William’s help, as he knew Driffield many years earlier.  This request sparks William’s memory, and the majority of Cakes and Ale is written in flashback, as William – who also narrates the story recalls his friendship with Edward Driffield and his first wife Rosie.

Here, he faces a dilemma, because Rosie is remembered with disdain and even disgust by most people, due to her promiscuity, and her unfaithfulness to her husband.  However, William remembers her with affection, and is concerned over how much to tell Kear, and what exactly should appear in Kear’s biography.

I have never read anything by W. Somerset Maugham before, and was not sure what to expect.  I was thoroughly charmed by this novel.  It is narrated in a meandering fashion – laced with cynicism, but also very wry and humorous in parts.  William, who was clearly something of a wannabe snob in his earlier years, has clearly mellowed with age, and is able to think of Rosie without disapproval; seemingly the only person who is willing or able to do so.  The story is written in a conversational manner, and William’s observations about small town life, and the people who inhabited his childhood village were sharp and very ‘on the ball’ (I definitely felt like I knew some of these people!)

It sounds contradictory, but while quite a lot happens, it feels also like not much happens – perhaps because the main bulk of the story is written as a reminiscence, rather than events which are taking place in the present time.  It’s a light and easy read, and one that is perfect to curl up on the sofa with on a rainy day.

I would definitely recommend this book, and will be seeking out more work by Maugham as a result of reading it.

 

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The ever reliable Rob Lowe plays Rob Harlan, a happily married man who, after losing his job writes a book which becomes a best seller – turning Rob into a literary phenomenon.  However, as his fame spreads and his success grows, he starts to take his family for granted, and loses sight of what is important in his life.

This film was made for cable television, and is not one of Rob Lowe’s better known films, but it is definitely worth catching if you get chance.  Lowe is of course perfect in the lead role, and although Rob (Harlan)’s behaviour became frustrating, Lowe just about kept the audience on his side (or this viewer at least), in that I wanted him to open his eyes and see what he was in danger of losing.  Paget Brewster was great as his wife Allyson, who watches in dismay as her loving husband grows further away from here, and Frances Conroy is also very good as Rob’s agent and friend Camille.  Christopher Lloyd takes a small but pivotal role as a mysterious man who pops up several times and always unexpectedly, to warn Rob of what he is putting at risk by his behaviour.

The only thing that annoyed me about this film was the ending.  It’s an adaptation of a book – which I haven’t read, but which apparently the film remains pretty faithful to – and therefore, any disappointment at the ending is not really the fault of the film-makers.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers, and if I told the ending, it would be a BIG spoiler, but suffice to say that it was not what I was expecting, and I don’t mean that in a good way.  I mean it in a a kind of “what the heck were they going for there?” kind of way.  But for a film of an hour and  a half, at least an hour and a quarter of it is very enjoyable, and on that basis, I would recommend it.

Year of release: 2003

Director: Peter Levin

Producers: Stephanie Germain, Sunta Izzicupo, Frances Croke Page, Kimberley C. Anderson, Malcolm Petal, Judy Cairo

Writers: Richard Paul Evans (novel), Joyce Eliason

Main cast: Rob Lowe, Paget Brewster, Frances Conroy, Christopher Lloyd, Jude Ciccolella

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In this political dramedy, Peter Boyle plays Marvin Lucas, a political election specialist.  He needs a democratic candidate to run for Senator in California against the incumbent Republican Crocker Jarmon, and selects Bill McKay (Robert Redford), the son of a former Governor.  McKay sees the opportunities to voice his ethics and values, and as Jarmon is fully expected to win, McKay feels able to be honest what he would like to do in the position of Senator, because he knows that realistically nothing he says is going to affect the result of the vote.

However, when predictions show that McKay is not only likely to lose, but to be completely humiliated, Lucas decides to tweak McKay’s message, and to manipulate his words and actions, so that the candidate is more palatable to voters.  As the campaign continues, McKay finds his loyalties and morals compromised, and realises that his message is getting lost in a sea of buzzwords and platitudes.

This film is now 42 years old, but the message is as relevant as ever.  I hesitate to call it satire, as I suspect that a lot of it is actually very close to the truth, and at the root of the film is the question, how much are you prepared to sacrifice what you believe in order to get what you want?

Robert Redford is perfect as Bill McKay – he has the enthusiasm and energy that his campaign plays on, in comparison to the older and stuffier Jarmon (Don Porter).  However, you see the character becoming weary of the machinations of such a campaign, losing his keen-ness and perhaps forgetting what he wanted to run for in the first place.  All of this is perfectly portrayed by Redford.  Also excellent is Peter Boyle as campaign manager Lucas – he doesn’t over play his role, but portrays the tightrope that someone in his position has to walk – between wanting to stay true to the candidate’s values, and wanting to do whatever is necessary to win.

Great support is provided by Melvyn Douglas, as the candidate’s father, and Don Porter as Jarmon.

If you are a fan of political films, or have an interest in politics, then I would highly recommend this film.

Year of release: 1972

Director: Michael Ritchie

Producers: Robert Redford, Nelson Rising, Walter Coblenz

Writer: Jeremy Larner

Main cast: Robert Redford, Peter Boyle, Melvyn Douglas, Don Porter, Karen Carlson

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