Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer

Norman (Richard Gere) is a Fixer, a Deal Maker, in New York. In his own mind anyway. When he encounters an Israeli politician at a New York conference he sees the opportunity to befriend and cultivate him as a source for dealmaking.

'Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer' plays out as a kind of Jewish allegory. It won't appeal to everybody. It is slow moving and its dense dialogue is counterbalanced by the absence of action. Humour, where it is present, is quite subtle.

For those who would enjoy a slow burning, subtle, morality tale, 'Norman' is worth the effort not the least for its unexpectedly neat resolution.


Saturday, 27 May 2017

A taste of Vivid

The annual Vivid Sydney festival is underway. The light display is spectacular and well worth a visit into Sydney's CBD even though you have to battle horrendously packed crowds to view the buildings and installations lit by displays. The only aspects of the light display evident from my suburban home are the lights on the Harbour Bridge and a search light display.

This was the view of those lights from my home tonight. The lights on the Bridge changed colour and movement continuously. The search lights fanned around Hollywood or Battle of Britain style.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Only Heaven Knows

'Only Heaven Knows' is set in the Kings Cross district of Sydney in the 1940s and 1950s. For those not familiar, Kings Cross is a small residential suburb which in those days was seen as a Bohemian district for artistic 'types' and those living 'alternative lifestyles'. It was an area attractive to homosexuals in an era when homosexuality was criminal activity and often brutally suppressed by the authorities. It was also an area that attracted many US Forces personnel spending their short R&R breaks away from World War 2 conflict.

In this play which seems variously a drama, a musical and a comedy, we find several relationships, sexual and platonic played out between four males and a sympathetic lady friend. This staging marks the thirtieth anniversary of the work.

I am completely unfamiliar with the work so came to this production with no preconceptions. Act 1 frankly seems to me to be a muddle. The plot and lack of focus confused me at times and the songs did not appear to advance the storyline. Act 2 was a different matter altogether as though a different author/creator had taken over. The second Act was far tighter and focussed than its predecessor and the songs advanced the plot. The performances seemed to lift too.

(We attended the first performance. Perhaps the production will tighten as the season progresses.)


I like this poster from the 1995 revival of the play and include it here simply because I fancy it.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Don't Tell

'Don't Tell' is centred around a civil trial for damages sought by Lyndal (Sarah West) for sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of a teacher at her school. The story is based on actual events in Queensland which led eventually to the resignation of an Australian Governor General and which also was a trigger for a national Royal Commission into institutional child abuse.

The story is told without sensationalism. It is an important reminder of shocking failures in child protection and the powerful forces that tried to cover up those failures.


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Kinky Boots

Charlie inherits his late father's family shoe business only to find it is in financial difficulties. A chance encounter with Lola, a drag queen, inspires Charlie to make a desperate bid to save the business by producing versions of Lola's 'kinky' boots.

'Kinky Boots' is enjoying a successful run in Australia replicating similarly successful long runs on Broadway and in the West End and, no doubt, elsewhere. Almost without exception my friends who saw the show ahead of me praised it as one of the best, if not the best, musical they had experienced.

I'm on the outer here. I think the show is overrated. Yes, it is energetically performed and staged. Yes, the dance sequences are enjoyable and the show has its moments. However, it is very noisy. With one exception, I found the songs unremarkable and not at all memorable. The powerful amplification of the voices left much of the lyrics undecipherable. The plot is thin and a love story sub-plot is even thinner.

What saves the show and provides most of its entertainment is the character of Lola performed here by Callum Francis. Lola has all the best lines and Callum Francis, a performer with a terrific personality and loads of charisma, lifts the show at every appearance. He has the luck to deliver the one quiet song in the musical and that number provides one of its best moments.

The other main character, Charlie, is a thankless role for its performer, Toby Francis (no relation to Callum). Toby works hard but his Charlie has no chance against the exuberant Lola. Where Lola is full of colour, life, sympathy and humour, Charlie is bland, unsympathetic, uncaring and self centred.

It is not Charlie's fault. The show's characterisations gives Lola everything and leaves nothing for Charlie. The support cast throw themselves into their roles tirelessly. I can't blame any of the cast for my disappointment. It is the structure of the book, music and lyrics and elements of the production that left me unimpressed.

My overall rating would be lower but for Callum Francis' performance.


Sunday, 21 May 2017

Drivers. Beware. Elderly drivers!

It is a stereotype. Elderly drivers are dangerous. Especially those driving Volvos. Particularly those wearing hats.

Well. Somebody told me that tale thirty or so years ago. And it has stuck in my mind.

I don't drive Volvos. I don't normally wear hats while driving but occasionally I will wear a baseball style cap. Nonetheless I may have turned into an elderly driver. Just maybe.

Friday night. It is dark and rain is falling. City back streets, not well lit. I'm trying to find a car space. I notice one to my right on a one way street. (Overseas readers, we drive on the left hand side of the road in Australia.) Actually I have driven almost past the space.

I check my back mirror. I check my side mirror. My rear window is splattered with rain. I cannot see anything behind me. All is dark.

I start to reverse my car. I continue to reverse my car. Suddenly. Simultaneously. A car horn and a very loud crashing sound.

I have backed into something. I look back at the rear window. Still cannot see anything.

I get out of my car. A small, black (or maybe it is dark navy) Toyota is behind me. Apparently I have backed into it.

The Toyota driver and I examine her little black car as best we can in the rain and darkness. No evidence of any damage. 'I will check it later in better light and away from the rain' the Toyota driver says.

We both examine my car. Embarrassingly, mine displays a few scratches and minor indentations which I know are from previous incidents. One tiny scratch looks to me to be the result of this incident.

Examining my car the next morning I see several other smallish paint scratches, four in total. If the Toyota driver finds similar damage - and none was evident on the night - it won't be worth claiming the cost of restoration through the insurers.

Drivers. Beware. I am an elderly driver on the road. I drive a dark grey, Mazda 3 sedan.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Viceroy's House

Lord Louis Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville), arrives in India in 1947 with instructions to oversee the transition of that nation to independence after three centuries of British rule. He and his wife, Lady Edwina (Gillian Anderson), prove very different from their remote predecessors but are confronted with intransigent religious based factions unwilling to accommodate compromise over a nation's future.

'Viceroy's House' is a blend of 'Downton Abbey' meets 'Gandhi' with touches of the opulent privilege and frivolity of the former seasoned with the political seriousness of the latter. The blend is not entirely successful; a sort of bet each way really but it is a useful introduction to an important period in world history.


Friday, 19 May 2017

Mr Burns

(Image: Daniel Boud)
'Mr Burns' is a co-production from the Belvoir Theatre and the State Theatre Company South Australia.

Some cataclysmic event has destroyed much of the planet and its inhabitants and a small band of survivors occupy their time reliving episodes of 'The Simpsons'. The cast of seven is energetic and lively and performs admirably.

If like myself and my companion you have not been an ardent follower of that animated series, then like us, you may well be left mystified by the happenings on stage in this work. Quite a few patrons did not return to their seats after the interval. Most of those who did return however, enthusiastically roared their appreciation at play's end. We were left bewildered albeit admiring of the performers' efforts.


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Black is the New White

(Sydney Theatre Company)

In a twist of racial stereotypes, a well to do Indigenous family comes to terms with the struggling, white, boyfriend and his parents who visit for the Christmas holidays.

'Black is the New White' is a Guess Who's Coming to Dinner for the 21st Century. Authored by Nakkiah Lui, the play contains plenty of sassy, intelligent dialogue and much humour. Two slapstick scenes may be slightly over the top and the eventual resolution may be a little too neat but for the most part this is a very funny and intriguing play.


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Bonnie and Clyde

Minor felons, Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty), meet by chance, are quickly drawn to each other and embark on a crime spree that cannot end well.

'Bonnie and Clyde' is one of a series of classic films screening over the year at Sydney's Randwick Ritz to celebrate the cinema's 80th anniversary. It also is the 50th anniversary of 'Bonnie and Clyde's' release.

Surprisingly, given how much time I spend at the cinema, this is my first ever viewing of the film. It must have seemed a very violent affair half a century ago given that the impact of the violence is still stunning today. There is a fascinating assemblage of supporting characters and Dunaway's and Beatty's charismatic coupling still resonates.


Monday, 15 May 2017

Things to Come (L'avenir)

Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) who teaches Philosophy at a school is increasingly drawn to a former student and his commune lifestyle as her marriage to another academic begins to disintegrate.

'Things to Come' (L'avenir) is one of these French films which present a snapshot of a time in a person's life. There is little to explain their past and just as little to suggest their future. The film ambles along as a period in Nathalie's life.

I generally find Huppert to be a rather cold, emotionless presence. In this instance there are flickers of passion in her character.

An observation piece without the interruption of action.


Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Zookeeper's Wife

As the Nazis occupy Poland in 1939, in Warsaw the local Zookeeper and his wife Antonina (Jessica Chastain) pursue action to maintain their animals while also secretly protecting members of the Jewish population from incarceration in the Jewish Ghetto.

'The Zookeeper's Wife' is based on actual events and individuals. A most extraordinary story told well.


Saturday, 13 May 2017

Their Finest

Catrin (Gemma Arterton) is selected to write scripts and storylines for British propaganda films during the Second World War. She has to deal with male chauvinism and the eccentricities of fading matinee idol.

'Their Finest' is quite a pleasant, if sometimes slow, romantic comedy which follows a predictable arc to its eventual resolution.


Friday, 5 May 2017

The Book of Mormon

Two Mormon missionaries are sent to Uganda and are confronted by a culture and lifestyle beyond anything imaginable from their own experience and education.

'The Book of Mormon' ostensibly ridiculing religion sends its characters on a journey of revelation in a manner never envisaged in the Bible. If you take your religion very seriously this is not the show for you. For those more relaxed about their beliefs and for those without belief at all this musical will mostly be an hilarious two and a half hours of entertainment and silliness.

Currently staged at Melbourne's Princess Theatre this is a brilliantly performed production.

I believed!


Thursday, 4 May 2017

Personal Shopper

Maureen (Kristen Stewart) flits between Paris and London shopping for her celebrity employer's clothes and accessories but her mind is constantly distracted by her late twin brother's vow to send her a message.

'Personal Shopper' is a European atmospheric experience rather than a plot driven journey. It is a case of love it or loathe it, I think. Definitely not an action flick.


Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Berlin Syndrome

Clare (Teresa Palmer), an Australian tourist in Berlin, meets local teacher Andi (Max Riemelt) who takes her home for the evening. The next morning after Andi has left for his work, Clare finds herself locked in his apartment. Is the lock in deliberate or accidental?

'Berlin Syndrome' is a slow burn thriller/mystery which has its moments but the rationale for Andi's behaviour is never fully explained and the final resolution appears superficial and unconvincing.


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Rules Don't Apply

Marla (Lily Collins) is invited to Hollywood by Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty) to audition for a new movie and before long she becomes involved with Frank (Aiden Ehrenreich), one of Hughes' company drivers.

'Rules Don't Apply' is as much about the eccentricities of the legendary filmmaker/billionaire as it is about the young couple's relationship. Collins charms on screen and Ehrenreich makes for an interesting partner.

Beatty does a great job as Hughes but how humorous you find this movie humorous may depend in part on how much you stomach the character's eccentric behaviour.