Thursday 3 August 2017

A bumper fortnight with a bit of everything, music, classic cinema, theatre and a healthy dose of Science Fiction...

17th July - 30th July 2017

This is a double week due to circumstances beyond our control interfering with last week's post, (illness if we're honest), however we're back so without further ado...

Girl From The North Country

So on Tuesday night we headed over to The Old Vic for one of the first previews of a new play by playwright Conor McPherson and featuring songs by Bob Dylan, although this is not a musical, the songs punctuate scenarios or transition between scenes.

Apparently Dylan's representatives contacted McPherson to request he write a play to feature his music and left him free reign from there, and the result is quite simply superb.

The songs themselves are re-arranged from Dylan's original compositions, sometimes several songs are combined in soulful, gospel tinged arrangements which really fits the characters and mood of the piece, with the instruments and singing performed by the various cast members.

The plot concerns a small guesthouse in America run by Nick Liane, (Ciaran Hinds), who lives there with his wife Elizabeth, (Shirley Henderson), who is suffering from increasingly sever dementia their son Gene, (Sam Reid), and their adopted daughter Marianne, (Sheila Atim), which houses a variety of lodgers and passing guests.

The guests range from an amateur boxer/escaped convict Joe, (Arinze Kene), sly bible salesman/self proclaimed preacher Reverend Marlowe, (Michael Schaeffer), a husband and wife with a learning disabled son (Stanley Townsend, Bronagh Gallagher and Jack Shalloo), and Mrs Nielsen, (Debbie Kurup), who is in love with Nick but their freedom is hamstrung by his guilt to caring for his wife.

There are also a couple of local characters, Dr Walker, (Ron Cook), and a local businessman Mr Perry, (Jim Norton), who frequent the establishment to for various reasons.

The guesthouse is in dire financial difficulty and the secrets within everyone's lives prevents them being free to live their lives without being saddled with guilt, regret or despair, which all comes to a head on Thanksgiving night via several events.

This may have been a preview but was staged superbly and acting impeccably throughout, whilst the songs were seamlessly incorporated into the drama to stunning effect.

This really is truly effective and affecting piece of theatre and the familiarity of some of the music used to such effect works tremendously, a definite must see, it's on until the 7th of October.

Nick Heyward

A late addition to Wednesday night was to see British pop star turned singer/songwriter, (don't let that term put you off), Nick Heyward.

This was the second opportunity to catch Heyward's return to performing and releasing new material, having caught his recent performance at The Water Rats which was filmed for Vintage TV.

In support of his imminent new album 'Woodland Echoes' Heyward seems to be relishing this opportunity to get back to performing new material, whilst also reinvigorating the hits that made him a household name in the 80s.

Backed with a superb band, the Haircut 100 hits 'Love Plus One' and 'Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)' sounded fresh but familiar, as did his early solo material such as 'Blue Hat For A Blue Day'.

The latter solo material from the 90s and encompassing his latest efforts is where the show really took off and Heyward showed he's a hugely underrated songwriter, often overlooked in favour of more 'revered' artist such as Paul Weller, but certainly just as talented and a fine purveyor of very British but well crafted music.

New tracks 'Baby Blue Sky', 'Perfect Sunday Sun', 'Love Is The Key By The Sea' and 'The Stars' sat alongside favourites such as 'Kite' and 'Caravan' comfortably.

The new album has been garnering great reviews and from what we've heard live is shaping up to be a belter in the vein of 'Tangled' and 'From Monday To Sunday'.

If you get the opportunity to catch a show you won't regret it.


On Saturday we headed over to Mercato Metropolitano a street food market near Elephant & Castle which is now also home to the Backyard Cinema, a theme cinema which has different seasons and looks as it's backdrop to a relaxed cinema viewing experience.

The current theme is Miami Beach, which basically means you get to watch films on very comfortable bean bags seats in a beach environment with the opportunity to switch to flip flops and feel the sand between your toes whilst partaking in holiday beach style beverages and snacks.

Of the variety of films on offer we opted for Grease, something with a bit of a fun atmosphere and a summery disposition.

The presentation of the venue was really well done, soft fine sand and large comfortable single seat beanbags were arranged in rows, whilst the screen is set into a mocked up lifeguards hut at the front of the room. The bar is situated at the back serving cocktails, snacks and a variety of other alcoholic and soft drinks.

The film presentation was also well done, starting with a montage of 80s style Miami themed trailers, adverts and clips from TV shows, there was also a mirror ball overhead and a lighting system which came into effect for the final number in the film and added to the atmosphere allowing the audience to be a little more relaxed than a standard cinema and sing-a-long a little too.

Everyone already knows the film so I won't review that, you know what you're getting on that front.

For a different cinema experience and the opportunity to try to pretty good food options too it's well worth a visit, we're interested to see what the next theme will be.


On Monday Mr C continued on the rather nerdy quest to take in all of Alfred Hitchcock's filmography on the big screen, this time it was Hitch's only Oscar winning picture, 'Rebecca' from 1940.

Starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, the film is based on a novel by Daphne Du Maurier, author of another story Hitchcock later filmed, 'The Birds'.

It concerns a young woman who meets, falls in love with and eventually marries a rich English landowner, 'Maxim' De Winter, (Laurence Olivier), and moves with him into his large mansion Manderley, however he and the subsequently her become haunted by the lingering influence of his widow, the Rebecca of the title.

This is what would now be referred to as a psychological thriller, however such dramatic genres were not the norm in the 40s.

This was Hitchcock's first Hollywood picture under his deal with David O Selznick, a high powered producer of 'Gone With The Wind' fame, and as such the external touches of an influence, clearly not Hitchcock, is evident, however it still bears many of his hallmark flourishes and proves to be a satisfying production.

The themes of obsession and guilt and the dreamlike atmosphere would be revisited by Hitchcock in later films such as 'Spellbound' and even more successfully in 'Vertigo', which is not to say that this cannot be considered a landmark Hitchcock film.

The skill of cinematography and performances, along with composition and pacing are a masterclass of a director bringing his wealth of experience in the film industry to that point to the table, but marrying it with his desire to bring his films and visions to a larger audience via the Hollywood system.

The opportunity afforded by the BFI, amongst other less mainstream cinemas, to catch these classics on the big screen really shouldn't be missed and this is a prime example of golden age Hollywood film making at it's height. The artistry of Hitchcock almost demands to be seen on the big screen so if you get an opportunity to catch any of his work in this way, do so!

So that's twenty five features down, and two shorts, the challenge continues...

Into The Unknown : A Journey Through Science Fiction

We took the opportunity on Sunday to catch the blockbuster exhibition Into The Unknown at the Barbican before it closes on the 1st of September.

This exhibition covers Science Fiction and it's evolution in popular culture from it's early roots in literature via Jules Verne's classic books, right up to the latest films and TV, taking in all eras along the way.

The breadth and scope could have been a little too broad, however the separation into different aspects of the genre keeps the show focused and not overwhelming.

Starting with original manuscripts and models illustrating the visions of the early pioneers of such works the exhibition swiftly moves on to the early physical manifestation of characters and worlds, most notably through the seminal work of special effects legend Ray Harryhausen.

The opportunity to see original maquettes from classics such as 'The Valley Of Gwangi' and 'Earth Vs The Flying Saucers' was truly a treat.

Props from more recent offerings are also on show including items from 'Star Wars', 'Stargate', 'Alien' and 'Interstellar' to name but a few, and include models, masks and costumes.

There's also the rare opportunity to see a prop from a legendary unmade film, Jodorowsky's 'Dune', in the form of a metal chair designed by Alien designer HR Giger, (check out the fantastic documentary about the almost realised project, cunningly titled 'Jodorowsky's Dune').

The final section of the exhibition proper concerns the evolution of robots within films and TV, and includes full size props from 'I, Robot', 'Interstellar' and 'Ex-Machina' amongst others.

There are also additional areas of the exhibition showcasing several short films and artistic installations inspired by the genre, however the main exhibition is the real draw here and is essential, even if you've only a passing interest in Science Fiction, it closes on the 1st of September so be quick!

Soylent Green

As part of the exhibition the Barbican are showing classic Science Fiction films at their cinemas on Sundays to get patrons in the mood.

As we were going to the exhibition I thought I'd programme us in for some classic dystopian Chuck Heston goodness in the form of Soylent Green, part of what is unofficially referred to in some circles as his dystopian Sci-Fi quadrilogy, also consisting of 'The Omega Man', 'The Planet Of The Apes' and 'Beneath The Planet Of The Apes', all worthy movies in their own rights.

I'm not sure but I believe it was a digital presentation as the picture was pretty clean, the availability of a print probably necessitated it, but nonetheless it looked suitably film-like and it was great to see projected either way.

Chuck plays a cop in a future New York City, which is overpopulated and food is at a shortage, controlled by the Soylent corporation who manufacture Red, Yellow and Green varieties of food supplements. However the assassination of a corporate lawyer connected to Soylent leads Heston on an investigation which uncovers more than he bargained for.

It's a pacy little thriller which showcases Heston at his prime and is a classic of the genre, well worth a watch if Sci-Fi interests you and any opportunity to see these films theatrically is well worth taking.

Next week sees some classic rock, a bit of comedy and some musical theatre, until then get inspired!

No comments:

Post a Comment