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La Cage Aux Folles tells the story of Georges, a night club manager (played here by Adrian Zmed) and his romantic partner and star attraction Albin (John Partridge). Happily together for 20 years, their lives are thrown into disarray when Georges’ son Jean-Michael (Dougie Carter) wants to marry a young woman named Anne, but her ultra-conservative parents do not approve of homosexuality (or much else it appears). Jean-Michael wants Albin to stay away when Anne and her parents visit, as they believe that his biological parents are still married. This naturally leads to devastation for Albin, who has raised Jean-Michael as his own for years, and also paves the way for a hilarious evenings of misunderstanding, mistaken identity and shocking revelations.

During the show, the audience are treated to a smorgasbord of highly imaginative, colourful and flamboyant dances by Les Cagelles, the dancers at Georges’ nightclub – a group of young men who dress like beautiful young woman. Albin of course is the club’s star with his alter-ego Zaza, a bitchy, vulnerable and extremely funny drag queen. Stage veteran Marti Webb also appears as restauranteur and friend of the couple, Jacqueline.

I loved the show – the songs, which include the showstopping I Am What I Am as well as others like With Anne On My Arm, Look Over There and The Best of Times, were all performed to perfection. John Patridge’s rendition of I Am What I Am moved me to genuine tears.

Despite the subject matter, this is most certainly a comedy, and Partridge and Zmed make the most of their roles, with Patridge (as Zaza) riffing with the audience for some time in the first half of the show. The more farcical elements are in the second half with the visit of Anne and her parents.

The show got a standing ovation at the end, and it was well deserved. If you want to hear some beautiful musical numbers, watch some spectacular dancing and have a good belly laugh, you should definitely try and see La Cage Aux Folles!

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my-beautiful-laundrette

I first saw this film when it came out in 1985, and thought it was well past overdue another look. I do believe that this was the film that first made me aware of Daniel Day-Lewis, and upon rewatching it, it’s easy to see the star quality that subsequently helped him become such a huge name, and a three time winner at the Oscars.

My Beautiful Laundrette tells the story of the homosexual, mixed race love affair between Omar (Gordon Warnecke) and Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis). Omar is a young man trapped between two cultures and indeed two relatives – his alcoholic father, who has both intelligence and integrity, and his capitalist uncle, who has money but considerably less scruples. Johnny is one of a group of thugs, but he genuinely wants to change his ways, and like Omar is trapped between the world that he came from and the world that he is moving into. Together they revamp Omar’s uncle’s rundown laundrette, but with both of them with a foot in two worlds, and unable to reveal their relationship to their nearest and dearest, their lives get complicated and fraught with tension.

I should say that this film is so much more than the relationship between the two men. It’s also a social commentary, with some scenes of racism that were uncomfortable to watch. Seeing Omar skirt on the fringes of his uncle’s employee Salim’s criminal enterprise, while Johnny was simultaneously trying to become a better person was an interesting comparison, as was witnessing the success of Omar’s uncle, compared to the dismal life that his father led, despite being the more intelligent and principled of the two men.

The film definitely portrayed an authentic atmosphere of living in a run-down neighbourhood with few prospects, and the frustration of feeling trapped, but through it all, the hopefulness of Omar and Johnny both in their relationship and in their business came through.

I would say that some of the acting was not brilliant, but Daniel Day-Lewis was (of course) outstanding, and special credit also to Roshan Seth as Omar’s father.

I definitely enjoyed this film and highly recommend it.

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Year of release: 1985

Director: Stephen Frears

Writer: Hanif Kureishi

Main cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Said Jeffrey, Gordon Warnecke, Roshan Seth

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Set in Snow Hill, London, in 1936, this books tells the story of newspaper reporter Johnny Steadman, who gets an anonymous tip-off that a policeman at Snow Hill Station has been killed. However, when he asks other police officers about it – including his best friend PC Matt Turner – nobody will corroborate the story, and Johnny is told to leave well alone.

Wanting to get to the truth of the matter, he keeps digging and the discovery of a gruesome murder scene makes him only more determined. But soon it becomes apparent that there is a web of corruption being spun to cover up a number of horrific violations, and Johnny ends up fighting not only for his own life, but also to save the lives of those closest to him…

My thoughts

This book was certainly not what I was expecting. What I had thought it would be was a psychological thriller with a scrappy but good-hearted protagonist. I was half-right…Johnny did make for a fairly likeable main character. He is certainly the most well drawn character of the plot – the rest are drawn with fairly broad strokes and more than a little stereotyping.

The story itself was considerably more gruesome than I had expected. The murder scene which Johnny stumbles upon as described above, was particularly unpleasant, and the plot revolves heavily around male sexual assault and violation (no spoilers here; this part is made apparent fairly early on) and subsequent cover-up.

However, for all that the story flowed pretty well and I found myself reading large chunks at a time.

Overall, I would have liked a bit more characterisation – I never felt that we got to know Matt’s wife Lizzie, or Johnny’s colleague Bill as well as we could have done and it might have drawn me in a bit more if I had been able to invest more in the characters. Nonetheless, based on this book I would probably try more by this author.

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This is a really beautiful movie. It tells the story of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two young cowboys who meet in the summer of 1963, up on Brokeback Mountain. They forge a connection which stays with them throughout their lives. This film is wonderfully acted, and watching it now just reminds one of what a wonderful talent has been lost with the tragic death of Heath Ledger. He is outstanding in this movie, as is Jake Gyllenhaal.

The film is widely known as ‘the gay cowboy movie’, but it is so much more than that.  Ennis and Jake fall for each other so deeply, and at a time and in a culture where such a love would be heavily frowned upon (indeed, Ennis suspects that Jack is murdered for being gay).  It’s clear that Ennis in particular is taken completely by surprise at his feelings for Jack, and is not sure how to deal with his emotions.  He has always bottled his feelings up, and additionally, has always been taught that homosexuality is completely wrong.  He struggles with his feelings throughout his entire life, and eventually at the cost of his marriage. It is interesting to note that early on in the movie (before anything physical has happened between the two men), Ennis is talking to Jack about his childhood. Jack notes that Ennis has just said more words in that conversation than he has said in the whole two weeks that they had spend together up until that point. Ennis then says that he has just said more than he has said in the past year. This demonstrates how he finds it difficult to open up to people, but has started to learn to trust Jack.

Jack is more open about his feelings, and even at one point suggests that he and Ennis could live together.  Ennis states that that could never happen – he knows what can happen to men who are openly gay, and still doesn’t seem able to accept his own feelings, let alone be prepared for anyone else to accept them.  Ennis’ inability to accept his own feelings (and to a lesser extent, Jack’s inability to do the same) is a constant thread throughout the film.  Often Ennis’ frustration manifests itself in violence.  Indeed, when Alma, he ex wife reveals that she knew about his and Jack’s relationship, it looks as though he is going to punch her.

The final meeting between the two, where Jack makes it clear once again that he wants more than an occasional mountain break with Ennis, and laments that he wishes he knew ‘how to quit’ Ennis is very tender and sad.  Ennis’s reaction to Jack’s statement is even more emotional.

The ending, where Ennis goes to see Jack’s parents after learning of Jack’s death, is beautifully acted, and extremely moving.  It’s apparent that Jack’s father knows, or at least suspects his son’s homosexuality, and he takes almost a twisted kind of pleasure in informing Ennis that Jack used to talk about him all the time, but had more recently started talking about another man.  Ennis surely has to wonder whether Jack had finally found a way to quit him.  But then the discovery of two shirts shows that Jack never could and never did quite Ennis.  They really were each other’s one true love, and the tragedy is that they could never be together properly.

The acting in this film is excellent all round.  The two leads are outstanding, and Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway are brilliant as the wives of Ennis and Jack respectively.  I really found myself caring about these people and wanting to know how their story would turn out.

I know that this is a film I could – and will – watch over and over again.  A tender, touching love story, which is wonderfully acted and directed.

Year of release: 2005

Director: Ang Lee

Writers: Annie Proulx (book), Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana

Main cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway

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Click here for my review of Annie Proulx’s book ‘Close Range’ which contains the short story ‘Brokeback Mountain’.

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