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Posts Tagged ‘adaptation’

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Okay, confession time. I have never seen the film The Shawshank Redemption. That’s right, I’m the one. And maybe this is a good thing because when you see a play that has also been made into a film (although they were both adapted from different source material, in this case Stephen King’s novella ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’), it can be difficult not to compare. I’m reliably informed that this play is actually closer to the source material than the film is, but nonetheless both tell the same story of Andy Dufresne, a banker who is imprisoned for the double murder of his wife and her lover. Andy is innocent but he still serves years in prison for the crime he didn’t commit, and during that time he becomes best friends with Ellis Boyd Redding – or ‘Red’ – who is also in prison for murdering his wife (although Red freely admits that he is guilty).

Despite his physical incarceration, Andy refuses to allow the cruel and corrupt prison staff or the more sadistic fellow prisoners to trap his mind or break his spirit, and his determination to remain true to himself and his values, slowly changes those around him. As Andy’s imprisonment goes on, he becomes involved in doing accounts for the prison warden and helping to shield corrupt financial practices from the authorities, but despite now having the protection of the staff, he is still determined to get his freedom.

The part of Andy Dufresne was played by Paul Nicholls, who was excellent in the role and perfectly conveyed the character’s sense of self-worth and strength of mind. However, the standout role was Red, played by Ben Onwukwe. Red is arguably the biggest character in the play, and certainly has the biggest speaking part, as he narrates the story of Andy’s life in prison and speaks directly to the audience. The rest of the cast were also excellent, including Jack Ellis as Warden Stammas.

Viewer discretion is advised – there is a lot of swearing and depictions of extreme violence, including rape, so this is definitely not a show for children. However, it is a beautifully told, well acted, moving tale of the strength of one man’s spirit. Highly recommended.

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When you go to see a show and the stage has a giant pink lipstick in the middle of it, you have to suspect that you are in for a evening of glitzy camp fun. Of course, if the show you’re going to see is Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, that’s probably what you’re expecting, and indeed would be disappointed if it turned out to be anything other than campy fun.

Well fear not – this show delivers on every level. With more outrageous outfits and lines than you can count, more 80s hits than you can remember and a laugh in every scene, you would have to be a real curmudgeon to leave this show without a huge smile on your face.

Jason Donovan, who previously played the character of Tick in the West End, reprises the role here (alternating with Duncan James). He is excellent as the drag queen, who crosses the Australian desert with his two friends Bernadette the transsexual (Simon Green, and fellow drag queen Adam (Adam Bailey), to see his former wife and finally meet his young son.

Green and Bailey are both perfect. Having recently watched the film with Terence Stamp and Guy Pearce in these respective roles, I thought that anyone performing these roles on stage had a lot to live up to, but by goodness these two actors managed it. Green was wonderfully bitchy but also displayed a genuine vulnerability as a literally new woman, who feels that her glory days are behind her. `Bailey (like Pearce before him) also makes a brash and often insensitive character, actually very sympathetic and likeable.

Of course, with more glitter and sequins than you can imagine, the whole thing is as camp as Christmas, and intentionally so, but there is a also a real heart running through this story – the theme of acceptance runs throughout  as the trio encounter hostility, rejection and prejudice during their journey.

A special mention also for Philip Childs, who plays open minded but unhappily married mechanic Bob – he eventually joins the trio on their journey. Bob was one of the more sympathetic characters – sensitive and kind, but living in a world of close minded people. Julie Yammakee as his bride Cynthia also definitely makes her mark with a saucy dance routine where she does unimaginable things with ping pong balls! Her role may not be that big, but it is certainly memorable.

The cast seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the audience – I had a huge smile on my face from start to finish, and the standing ovation at the end was well deserved.

Fantastic show, with lots of wonderful music and dance, some unbelievably creative costumes and great acting – this is a must-see production which the term ‘feel-good’ should have been created for. Don’t miss it.

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Dr Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock) leaves the lake house which she loves so much, to go and live in the city in Chicago. She leaves a letter for the next resident, who is Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves). He replies and the two start a correspondence which turns into a romance – however it seems that the two will never be able to meet, as Kate is writing the letters in 2006, while Alex is reading them in 2004. Is there a way they can be together, or are they forever destined to remain separated by the years?

There are all kinds of reasons not to like this film. Some people say Reeves is a wooden actor – I think this is a bit harsh. He’s likeable in the role, and certainly good enough to make me root for Alex and Kate. And then there’s the whole time-travel element…yes if you think too much about it, it might give you a headache. The first time I saw this film I kept thinking, “But what about…”, “Well, how did they….”, “Hang on a moment…” etc. But the second time I watched it, I ignored all that and just decided to enjoy the film for what it is.

And what it is is a lovely, sweet romantic film, with two incredibly likeable leads – oh, and a very cute dog, who seems to be able to cross time zones!

Naturally, there are obstacles for the couple to overcome – and that’s before you factor in that they are communicating across two years – and yes you obviously have to suspend your disbelief, but if you can do that, and you are a fan of gentle, romantic films, then I would definitely recommend giving this one a look.

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Year of release: 2006

Director: Alejandro Agresti

Producers: Bruce Berman, Dana Goldberg, Mary McLagen, Erwin Stoff, Doug Davison, Roy Lee, Sonny Mallhi

Writers: Eun-Jeong Kim (motion picture ‘Siworae’), Ji-na Yeo (motion picture ‘Swore’), David Auburn

Main cast: Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves, Christopher Plummer, Ebon Moss-Bachrach

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Well, it worked for Baz Luhrmann, when he updated Romeo and Juliet to a modern day setting.  In this film, director Michael Almereyda updates Hamlet and shifts the action to corporate New York in 2000.  Hamlet (Ethan Hawke) is mourning the loss of his father, who was the CEO of The Denmark Corporation.  He believes that his father was in fact murdered by his Uncle Claudius (Kyle McLachlan) who has gone on to marry Hamlet’s mother Gertrude (Diane Verona) in distasteful haste, and is also the new CEO of the corporation.

Hamlet is determined to avenge his father’s death.  Meanwhile, he struggles with his own loose grip on sanity, as does his former girlfriend Ophelia (Julia Stiles).

I’m not completely sure what to make of this adaptation.  I like the idea – I like Shakespeare’s plays in their own settings, but I do like to see them in new and unfamiliar settings, which may entice other people to try them out.  This version comes in just shy of two hours, which is pretty short, considering that Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest play (the very faithful Kenneth Branagh adaptation is four hours long).  Certain parts have been cut out, but the essence of the story remains intact, and Shakespeare’s original language is used throughout, although not in its entirety.  The cast overall were strong – Ethan Hawke is an under-rated actor, and he captures Hamlet’s fine line between grief and insanity very well.  I also liked Julia Stiles and Liev Schreiber as Ophelia and Laertes respectively.  Kyle MacLachlan did a fine job as Claudius, while Diane Verona was excellent as Gertrude, and really captured the character.  Hamlet’s ‘friends’ (if you have seen the play, you will understand why I use the term loosely) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are played by Steve Zahn and Dechen Thurman – who is the brother of Ethan Hawke’s then wife Uma Thurman – and Zahn in particular shone in his role.  I also really liked Karl Geary as Horatio, Hamlet’s true friend until the end.

The cast was not perfect however – unfortunately, the usually excellent Bill Murray seemed lost as Polonius.  I’ve seen Murray in straight roles before and he is normally great in them, but I didn’t think he suited this particular character at all, and just seemed to be reading his lines with no inflection or meaning whatsoever.  It’s a shame – Polonius could have been great with a different actor, but overall this did not detract from my enjoyment of the film.

What did occur to me however was that if I didn’t know the story of Hamlet, I think I would have had trouble following what was happening.  It’s not the language; it was more that scenes seemed particularly disjointed from one another, and it seemed to me that it was jumping about a bit – first concentrating on this, then concentrating on that.  On that basis, I would definitely recommend that anyone planning on watching this familiarises themselves with the story first.

On a positive note, New York City is actually a very good backdrop for the story…aesthetically it looks perfect, and I also loved the music.  I’m not sure that I can forgive the famous To Be Or Not To Be soliloquy being recited in voice-over while our hero roams a Blockbuster video store.  There was probably some symbolism there, but it escaped me.

Overall, if you are looking for an adaptation of Hamlet, this is not the best one to start with.  However, if you are a fan of the play and want to see this version for that reason, you might find more to enjoy than you expect.

Year of release: 2000

Director: Michael Almereyda

Producers: Jason Blum, John Sloss, Andrew Fierberg, Amy Hobby, Callum Greene

Writers: William Shakespeare (play), Michael Almereyda

Main cast: Ethan Hawke, Kyle MacLachlan, Diane Verona, Bill Murray, Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Karl Geary, Steve Zahn, Dechen Thurman

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Click here for my review of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2013 production of Hamlet.

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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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This is the second adaptation of Virginia Andrews book of the same name (the first being made in 1987).  I read the book many years ago, although it is on my list to read again.  This particular version was made for the Lifetime channel, and while it was not brilliant, it was certainly watchable, and more or less faithful to the book.

The Dollanganger family have an idyllic life, until their father dies in a car crash, at which point their mother Corrine (Heather Graham) takes them to live with her Grandmother (Ellen Burstyn).  To their shock, the children are expected to live in the attic, and are never permitted to leave.  Their mother explains that after a fall-out with her parents years before, she is trying to win back her sick father’s affection, so that he will change his will and leave all of his money to her.  However, her father must never learn that she has children, because if he does he will never leave his inheritance to Corrine.  The children are told that their situation will be temporary, but they end up spending years in the attic, with their mother all but forgetting them.  Their grandmother resents their very existence and treats them cruelly, and Cathy and Christopher must find a way for them to survive.

Kiernan Shipka, better known as Sally Draper from Mad Men, plays Cathy, and Mason Dye plays Christopher.  The younger children, twins Carrie and Cory are played by Ava Telek and Maxwell Kovach.  Shipka is a wonderful young actress, and I really liked her performance.  She really has potential for a great career (I love her in Mad Men too).  Mason Dye was also very good, and Ellen Burstyn was fantastic – rarely do I wish for a horrible and painful ending for a character, but in the Grandmother’s case, I will make an exception.  The weak link in the cast was Heather Graham, who unfortunately was unconvincing as Corrine.  She looks perfect for the part, but was badly cast, and seemed wooden.

The story was compelling however, if not altogether pleasant to watch – anyone who has read the book will know this already, but honestly, things just keep getting worse and worse for the children, and Cathy and Chris end up finding a terrible way of coping with their new life.  There were a few things that could have been done better – for instance, throughout all of his time in the attic, where they have no access to any kind of hairdresser, Christopher’s hair didn’t grow at all and always looked immaculate!

The ending is somewhat abrupt, but that is understandable, as the book, and this film, are the first in a series.  An adaptation of the second book in the series, Petals in the Wind, is currently being made, and I look forward to watching it, although I would hope that the part of Corrine is re-cast.

Despite the slight niggles I have with this film, it was worth watching, and I would probably recommend it, especially to those who have read the book and are familiar with the story.

Year of release: 2014

Director: Deborah Chow

Producers: Lisa Hamilton, Merideth Finn, Charles W. Fries, Harvey Kahn, Tanya Lopez, Rob Sharenow, Michele Weiss, Damian Ganczewski

Writers: Virginia C. Andrews (novel), Kayla Alpert

Main cast: Kiernan Shipka, Mason Tye, Ava Telek, Maxwell Kovach, Ellen Burstyn, Heather Graham

 

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The classic 1954 MGM musical is brought to the stage in this fabulous production starring Sam Attwater and Helena Blackman as Adam Pontipee and his his new wife Milly.  When Milly marries Adam after just one brief meeting, she is dismayed to discover that he has six unruly brothers who she is expected to look after.  She sets about improving their appearance and manners, and help them to find wives of their own.

This show is a wonderful adaptation of the film – it captures all of the films high energy, laughter and colour.  The cast, led by a charismatic Attwater and the adorable Blackman, were all wonderful, and there were loads of laughs to be had throughout.  The dances – particularly the barn dance, with the whole cast involved – were the highlight of the show.  Incorporating acrobatics and ballet, the routines made me feel breathless just watching them.

I also loved the scenery, which slid on and off the stage as the scenes dictated, and which perfectly set the stage for the action to unfold, and there were a few lovely new songs added to the show, alongside old favourites like Wonderful Wonderful Day, Sobbin’ Women, and my personal favourite Bless Your Beautiful Hide.  Attwater may be more of an actor than a singer,  but he handled his songs well.  Blackman has a truly lovely singing voice, and both she and Attwater were well suited to their roles.  A special mention also to Jack Greaves, who played the sweet youngest Pontipee brother Gideon, and Georgina Parkinson as Alice, the girl with whom Gideon falls in love.

Wonderful fun, wonderful songs and incredible dancing made this a truly wonderful show, and I defy anyone who sees it to leave the theatre without a huge smile on their face, and a big spring in their step.

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

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Click here for my review of the 1954 film.

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