Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Week that Was #28

Top Girls

I reviewed State Theatre's production of Top Girls; you can find the review here.

It was a tough review to write, mostly because while I'm not entirely ignorant of feminism, I wouldn't presume to be an expert. But the play itself has strong feminist themes, so there was a need to demonstrate at least some insight.

Some other reviews:

No Plain
Kryztoff Raw
Barefoot Review


Another filmed play – though not through the NT Live program (which I've mentioned here and here) but rather a collection of Canadian film and theatre companies – Barrymore, starring Christopher Plummer, is (somewhat unsurprisingly) a play about noted stage and film actor of the early 20th century, John Barrymore. He was one of the legendary Barrymore acting family (his brother Lionel, sister Ethel and father Maurice were all actors; Drew Barrymore is his granddaughter) and a very interesting – and tragic – character.

The premise of the (entirely fictional) show is that an aging Barrymore, who rents a theatre in order to impress potential investors to back his return to the stage in a production of Richard III. To this end he has enlisted the help of a prompt (named Frank) to work with him. But it turns into a reminiscence of his life, with particular references to his family.

I knew practically nothing about John Barrymore, other than his family connections, and he was an actor whose legendary alcoholism ruined his career. And the play doesn't really elaborate on that all that much, other than to take a man with no small number of demons, and turn him into an engaging, captivating character.

Apart from being an outrageously funny, entertaining show, it also gave me a newfound understanding of just how damn good an actor Christopher Plummer is – apart from anything else, I learned he won both the Tony and the Drama Desk award for the role during its Broadway run in 1997. I mean, sure I knew he's had a long illustrious career, but don't actually think I've seen him in that many things, and nothing that I can remember being blown away by other than maybe the recent US remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

But in this he was stunning. He did impressions of numerous people in Barrymore's life, both men and women, all kinds of different accents. He pulled off some amazing Shakespearean snippets, from both Richard III and Hamlet. And he was able to switch from comic to melancholy in an instant. A truly magnificent performance.

It was a lot more filmic than the NT Live shows; most of it was actually filmed in an empty theatre rather than during a proper performance, and they shot a lot of extra footage of stuff a theatre audience wouldn't have seen. The also edited it in a more filmic way – there was one scene where there was a conversation between Barrymore and another person, and it was cut much like the famous Gollum/Smeagol argument scene from The Lord of the Rings.

Overall, a very good show. Like the NT Live shows, it may not ever get a dvd release, but if it does, I'd recommend checking it out. Oh, and while I was there I saw a preview for...

Les Misérables
Here's the preview for the upcoming Les Misérables film; apologies for the advertisement (more on that later):

Okay, so before I talk about anything else, I need to get this out of my system – advertisements during a movie preview? Here's what I tweeted about it afterwards:

Rant over.

So yeah, I was blown away by this preview, which I'd not actually seen before that day; I tend to forget that film trailers exist, and that I can find them on the internet without all that much effort. I guess it's maybe because so many of the damn things give away plot points or other aspects of the film I'd rather enjoy in context.

Anyway, my slackness aside, if you're a regular reader you'll know I have a fondness for both Anne Hathaway (as described here) and Les Misérables (the book version of which I wrote about here; I also love the stage musical which this is based on), so putting the two together is basically a dream come true. When you throw in other people I like, such as Hugh Jackman and Eddie Redmayne1 – and I think Russell Crowe is a superb choice for Javert – I was mentally buying a ticket as soon as I heard about it.

Now, having seen the trailer, I'm even more excited for Boxing Day to roll around. Heck, just the use of I Dreamed a Dream with a shots of all the different characters (with lots of Anne) made me choke up. I think I'm probably even more excited about this than I was for The Avengers.

I just wish the damn thing wasn't so far away...

1I first saw him earlier this year in My Week With Marilyn, which I liked a great deal. He's also won Olivier and Tony Awards for his performance in Red, and has an awesome name. And yeah, I'm not ashamed to say I've got a bit of a man-crush.

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