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Archive for August, 2016

singles

Set in Seattle in the grunge era of the early 1990s, Singles is a romantic comedy about a number of 20-somethings, many of whom live in the same apartment block, and their various relationships and entanglements.

There’s Janet (Bridget Fonda), a coffee stop Barista, who is in love with Cliff (Matt Dillon), lead singer of a grunge band which is far bigger in his mind than in reality. Then there’s Linda (Kyra Sedgwick), who meets Steve (Campbell Scott), who has just sworn off relationships to concentrate on his career.

This film is now a shocking 24 years old! However, it still feels totally watchable and the characters are completely relatable. Most viewers will be familiar with the different games people wittingly or unwittingly play when they meet someone new, and the heartache of discovering that someone is not who you thought they were. Linda for example tells her best friend how happy she is to have met someone who isn’t playing any kind of angle, at precisely the same time as Steve is asking his friends exactly how he should play things with Linda!

There’s more than comedy here though – a completely unexpected development in Steve and Linda’s relationship hits them hard, only for a sudden and unforeseeable event to happen while they are coming to terms with their situation (fear of giving away spoilers prevents me from giving more details).

The acting is great – Kyra Sedgwick and (in particular) Bridget Fonda are believable and likeable. Matt Dillon provides a fair amount of comedy as the deluded wannabe rock star, and Campbell Scott is perfectly cast as Steve – he strikes the perfect note between completely ‘normal’ for want of a better word, and being charismatic enough to attract Linda.

Overall, this is a little gem of a movie – perfect if you want something entertaining, relatable and undemanding.

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Year of release: 1992

Director: Cameron Crowe

Writer: Cameron Crowe

Main cast: Matt Dillon, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Bridget Fonda

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This sprawling, shocking novel revolves (mainly) around three fictional characters, but is rooted in the time of the Kennedy family’s rise to success – it features JFK campaigning for and winning the election and his brother Bobby becoming Attorney General. The events of the novel take us right up to that fateful date of 22nd November 1963.

The main characters are Pete Bondurant, bodyguard for the eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes as well as a terrifyingly effective Mob associate; Kemper Boyd, an FBI Agent who at the request of J Edgar Hoover infiltrates the Kennedy organisation and finds his loyalties (such as they are) split many ways; and Ward Littell, another FBI Agent and anti-Mob crusader. Lets be clear here – none of these men are particularly nice, but they are interesting. In fact, none of the characters in this book – real or fictional – come off particularly well, least of all John F Kennedy.

The story describes the machinations of the Kennedy family and their associates in making sure that JFK wins the election, and covers such historical events as the Bay of Pigs invasion, and attempts to bring down Fidel Castro. There’s so much story here that it was sometimes hard to take in everything that happens – whether you are familiar with the events upon which the book is based or not, this is a book that really demands your attention.

The writing is visceral and brutal and the story is fast paced, with loyalties of all characters constantly being questioned both by the readers and by other people in the story. Despite the concentration required, it’s actually a pretty easy read with mainly short, choppy chapters, which tend to show events from alternating points of view.

Overall, if you are interested at all in what happened to John F Kennedy and who killed him – this book offers a fictionalised theory – then I would definitely recommend this, but be aware that it is not a cosy afternoon read!

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The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is the third play from the masterminds that are the Mischief Theatre Company, following the successes of (the Olivier award winning) The Play That Goes Wrong, and (the Olivier award nominated) Peter Pan Goes Wrong.

This latest play is something of a departure from the format, as unlike the other two productions, this is not a play-within-a-play; it is however as jaw-achingly funny as the previous two plays, proving once again that this theatre company are an incredibly talented group of writers and actors.

So here goes with the story:- It is set in 1958 in Minneapolis, and Robin Freeboys (played by scriptwriter and actor Henry Lewis) is manager of a quiet bank which just happens to house a huge diamond owned by a Hungarian prince. Robin’s daughter Caprice (Charlie Russell) collects boyfriends – usually for whatever money she can fleece out of them – and sets her sights on Sam (Dave Hearn), a young con artist, who is also the son of Ruth (Nancy Wallinger)…who just happens to work for Robin Freeboys at the bank! Matters get even more complicated when Caprice’s boyfriend Mitch (scriptwriter and actor Henry Shields) escapes from prison with a plan to steal the diamond from the bank…

What ensues is a comedy caper full of slapstick, double entendres and plays on words (what would you expect with a character called Robin Freeboys?!) and mistaken identities. One of my favourite scenes was when Sam meets Mitch and has to pretend to be Caprice’s father – I was literally crying with laughter at the incredible performances of Dave Hearn and Charlie Russell.

The whole cast were absolutely spot on and seemed to be having a whale of a time with their roles – kudos to Gareth Tempest, understudy to Jonathan Sayer, and who played the role of eternal intern Warren Slax. It was no small part but Tempest handled it beautifully. Henry Shields and Greg Tannahill were also terrific as Mitch and his hapless associate Cooper. And then there’s Chris Leask, listed in the programme as playing ‘Everybody Else’. No exaggeration here either – he takes on multiple roles with apparent ease, and has a great scene to himself at the beginning of the second half where he shows off a great talent for physical comedy.

This play is absolutely not a musical, but there are some great doo-wop numbers involved during set changes (Nancy Wallinger, take a bow – what an amazing singing voice you have!), which serve to illustrate the time period. And talking of set changes, there is one part of the action which is incredibly clever and daring in its perspective and the way the scene is staged. I don’t want  to give away any spoilers, but it is intended to show Freeboys and Salx from above, and the way it is done is simply ingenious.

Quite honestly, there is nothing at all about this show that I could fault. I loved every minute of it, and the audience around me all seemed to be of the same opinion. I hope this production runs and runs, and I urge everyone to go and see it!

(For more information about the Mischief Theatre Company, or this production, please click here.)

 

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