Retail Therapy

Retail Therapy is a one act comedy play which tells the story of a corner shop set in Yorkshire, showcased at Ye Olde Rose and Crown in Walthamstow as part of the Undisposables ‘New Voices’ season.
Throughout the piece we are introduced to the staff members and some of their regular customers through the cleverly written script by one of the shows leading actress’, Hannah Whyman. 

The piece features a clever and innovative script using wit to aid the comedy and keep the whole performance at a watchable pace. I’m not usually a fan of sit-com style comedy but for me this was just the right amount of crude, slapstick and nonsensical to make it enjoyable for the whole audience. 

The performances were fantastic, the timing throughout was perfect and given that it was performed in an intimate setting the cast didn’t overact and the expressions on their faces and the comedic skills they were using were on point. With a cast of only 5 people and much more characters than that, they did a fantastic job of quick changes and sudden accent changes that it didn’t effect the piece at all.

I was very impressed with this production, particularly with the writing – I thought the script was perfect. 

Amazing job done by all, they should all be very proud. Looking forward to seeing what else The Undisposables have got up their talented sleeves.

Directed by: Caspian Cunningham
Written by: Hannah Whyman
Starring: Hannah Whyman, Francene Turner, Caspian Cunningham, Jamie Terry and Richard David Law. 

 

 

 

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Retail Therapy

**SPOILERS** The Maze Runner: Death Cure

The time is finally upon us, the end is high, so long hermano….

I was lucky enough to get into the UK Fan Screening of The Death Cure in Vue, Leicester Square last night. The Maze Runner series of books, written by James Dashner, are my favourite series of books (not including Harry Potter because…come on?) has been made into a series of films and has finally come to its end….unless Wes Ball decides to make the other two books…hint hint, PLEASE!

I was concerned about this film at first because of how badly the Scorch Trials reflected the book, they just made all these strange decisions and completely changed the whole story, like not mentioning that Thomas and Theresa have telepathic powers.
HOWEVER, I am working on the whole “see the film as something separate” thing and I think I achieved that mind set throughout Death Cure. Yes, there are a lot of changes to the book, for example why “nose man” is leading the rebellion when in the Scorch Trials BOOK he is crawling around the sewers trying to steal peoples noses…like why make such a dramatic change to the book? But still, they kept Gally in it, whom I adore (played by the incomparable Will Poulter) and they still killed off Newt, ok it’s super heartbreaking but it’s a good part of the story.

We’ve seen Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his friends make their way through and complete the Maze Trials. We’ve seen them loose some friends along the way and conquered the Scorch Trials and we find them at the start of the Death Cure fighting back against the capitalistic co-operation WCKD by taking down a high speed train in the middle of the Scorch to free their friend.
The film opens with this high intensity scene which pretty much set the tone for the rest of the film, the action is non-stop with a lot of scenes involving “cranks”, the zombie type characters that have been affected by the life threatening illness known as The Flare – the cranks have improved visually since The Scorch Trials, they’re repulsive in The Death Cure.
The main characters are tide together with a strong friendship bond which grows and grows throughout the film ending in one devastating scene which I’m glad they kept in from the book.

Personal grievance; There are two strong female characters in the series and they both have their time to shine in The Death Cure – Theresa (Kaya Scodelario) who is seen as Thomas’ love interest and the main female character and Brenda (Rose Salazar) who is a close friend of Thomas’ throughout the second two films. Brenda is by far my favourite character and it bothers me how much Theresa is marketed as the female hero when actually she’s a traitor and just an all round awful person who annoys me a lot. But that’s just my little vent about the characters, no reflection on the actual film.

I would highly recommend this series of films to anyone that is into the whole young adult fiction thing, such as The Hunger Games and Divergent. It’s my favourite out of those series (the books, not the films) although in close competition with The Hunger Games.
The Death Cure is full of heart and great performances from some amazing young actors, special shout out to Thomas Brody Sangster who has come along way from being the little boy in Love Actually, he makes a great crank.

Just remember one thing; WCKD….is not so good.

**SPOILERS** The Maze Runner: Death Cure

Downsizing

Downsizing 
Another film filled day at the London Film Festival today. 

The first film of the day was Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing” starring Matt Damon, Kristin Wiig and Christoph Waltz. Easy enough to say what a fabulous cast it is, and it really is that, Christoph Waltz was hilarious and Matt Damon was perfectly charming. 
The film follows the story of Paul and his choice to be ‘downsized’. This is a medical/scientific procedure taking place all over the world that allows people to shrink down to 5 inches tall. The idea behind it is that we will protect the environment by being a lot smaller and thus producing a lot less waste. Complications get in the way of Paul living the fantasy dream life he had hoped. Largely from the betrayal of his wife who, half way through the procedure, decides to back out completely and Paul is left alone. 

I really enjoyed the concept of the film but did feel a bit conflicted in how I was supposed to feel afterwards. I thought it was full of whit and charm but also full of political statements and a fair amount of racism. There was quite a bold statement about Mexicans living on the other side of the big wall/dome to the North Americans. Interesting how that is famously one of Donald Trumps biggest aims as POTUS. 
There were parts of the narrative that I don’t think were needed, one being a random scene in which Paul ends up high at a Hollywood style party, there was something kind of off about this scene, I never quite understood his motivation to take the drugs and what he thought would come from it. 

There’s another scene towards the end where Paul and his three companions travel to Norway in the wake of the end of the world to the first downsized colonie to join them and relocate inside a mountain to stay safe and eventually save the human race. I didn’t get this bit at all. I understand that the whole point of this scene was that Paul was forced to make the ultimate decision, but really it could have been much quicker had he never travelled all the way to Norway to make the decision. 

I really loved the first and second acts, I like the concept and the general story of people becoming small, it’s funny and original. As I always say, theres not enough originality coming out of Hollywood at the moment. 

Ignoring all the political statements and themes it is a charmingly funny film with a few unexpected twists and turns. I recommend seeing it if only for the lovely Matt Damon. He looks great without eyebrows……

Downsizing

Starlight Express @ The Other Palace

*BEWARE, SPOILERS!*

I know I don’t normally review theatre productions, but I just can’t resist for this one.

Starlight Express Workshop Performance, 15/09/17
The Other Palace, London

This was a very different production of this wonderful 30 year old classic. It was a semi-staged, 3 day run on a tiny stage. The idea behind this workshop style performance was that creative director Arlene Phillips had the chance to make changes to it to make it more current and acceptable in today’s culture. I will discuss some of the changes made and if I think they worked or not.

Please bare in mind, I have seen this musical twice before; once about 20 years ago at the Apollo Victoria and once on tour in Milton Keynes, I’m not an expert when it comes to Starlight but I am making these comments based on my own opinion. 

Let me set the scene, the stage at The Other Palace is round and has a ascending audience. The band is located above the stage on a mezzanine style platform.

ACT 1:

The show opened with Control making his way up to join the band and sat at the front of the platform. Already we see new additions to the show, this is the first time that we have seen Control in person, usually he is just a pre-recorded voice over.
Instead of having Control playing with a toy train set, they have set him up with a headset and iPad and having him playing a train based game on there, this is the first major update we saw.

‘The Entry of the Trains’ opens the show with a bang, a huge opening number and allows the principle racers to be introduced. There have been a few changes to this, the trains names for one have been altered to make them more relevant and one (although I think we could do with a couple more) of the trains is now played by a female.
The British trains name has changed from “The Prince of Wales” to “Brexit”, I personally am not a fan of this change, although this joke is relevant now, I think it will get old very quickly. I also used to like that the gag with the British train was that it was always running late, this was and still is relevant and therefore would still remain funny, however, they have changed it to being a bumbling fool which some people may find offensive and quite frankly, isn’t as funny.

There are a couple of new songs in the first act which provide the female roles with some more activity which I think is great. I’m glad they haven’t changed the personalities of the coaches, they seemed to be more present in the first half than what I remember from the original soundtrack.
If my memory doesn’t deceive me, they have cut “He’ll Whistle at Me” which is not a great loss, it is a boring and predictable song and never brought much to the show.

The freight trains, one of my favourite parts of the show, have changed also since the original cast recording. The used to be called the Rocky’s, but from what I remember, they changed when the show went on tour to the Hip Hoppers (I personally prefer the Rockys!) One of the Hip Hoppers is now played by a girl, which is fab!

I am so glad they haven’t changed Greaseball at all, he’s a fantastic character, one that you love to hate, and he brings a sense of American humour to the show which I think is important to the story.

Electra is also still the same and I’m glad of that, however, in this production they’ve got him wearing 8 inch red heels which I absolutely loved but does this mean we’re not going to see him in skates in the future? Are the skates going forever? I think it would be a crying shame if so.

I had a thought whilst I was watching the show, about the gender of the characters, aside from some of the principles couldn’t all of the ensemble, and perhaps Mamma/Pappa and the Rockys, be played by either sex? I think it would be great to change from performance to performance. Why couldn’t Flat Top be played by a male and have his understudy as a female? I think it would be great!

We then get introduced to Mamma (formally known as Pappa!) and she belts out her wonderful blues number and leads us to the end of Act 1 when Rusty gets his time to shine with Starlight Express. I was very disappointed with this rendition of this song, for me it is one of the most beautiful songs in the show and it’s completely different to the original. They’ve kept the chorus the same, which is great, but the versus are very different and I didn’t feel the song ever really took off.

The production itself is fantastic, the cast are incredibly talented and so funny and the creative team have made great use of the space available to them. I liked how there were parts, mostly during the race scenes, where the cast moved up and down the aisles around the auditorium, much like when it was in the Apollo Vic they would have skated around the audience. The races worked really well, and I loved how they wrote into the script that the “lights weren’t working and kept going out” because the races couldn’t have been staged properly in that theatre, and this also gave the audience the chance to appreciate the band without any distractions.

ACT 2:

Opened with the much adored “The Rap”; so happy this has made the cut in the revised version. Fantastic song and brilliantly performed.

Red Caboose is a character I don’t remember from the original, maybe he’s just got a new name but either way, he has a new song which was fantastic and he’s an interesting character in the way that he plays with Greaseball, Electra and Dusty to try and double cross them. He soon gets his comeuppance in “One Rock’n’Roll too Many” (another of my personal favourites) which was definitely a highlight of the whole show, still just as funny as it was the first time I saw/heard it 20 years ago.

Pearl is not my favourite character by any means but she was given a couple of new numbers in this production and I don’t find her quite as annoying as I used to. Of course, everyone is routing for Pearl and Rusty throughout the whole show and they’re duet at the end of Act 2 is really sweet.

As it was a workshop production we were given feedback forms to fill in based on our opinion of the show. One of the questions was “were there any parts of the story that you found confusing” in response to this question, yes, there are two plot points that I don’t quite understand; Does Mamma die and turn into the Starlight? and Why do the Rocky’s hate Rusty so much that they end up beating him up? Maybe once there’s a fully staged version of the show I will get the answers!

I really didn’t want this review to be about the cast, I spend too much of my time writing “this person was great” and “I hate this actor” and really this post is more about the production. But, I can’t leave without just making a shout out to the entire cast, the principle performers were all fantastic and given that it is only a 3 day run their character development is incredible. The ensemble on the other hand, I really don’t know how to say it, they were just breathtaking, they all played swings and therefor were portraying about 3-5 characters each and still made it so easy to follow the story without the use of sets, costume changes and makeup.

I’m so glad to see more female performers in this show, as it’s always been quite a male dominated cast, however, I think particularly for Dustin they need to cast a heavier actor.  There are comments made throughout the script about him being a heavy coach and that’s the reason Mamma breaks down in Race 1. I’m not saying the guy that played him tonight wasn’t any good, the complete opposite actually, he was brilliant and had a really stunning voice. I just think we need to see a bit more size diversity and this character is a great one for that.

One last thing before I go to bed – thank you, thank you to the creatives behind this new revised version of this amazing musical, for not cutting my favourite song from any musical ever; U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D. For as long as I can remember this has been my favourite and I would have been gutted if it had been cut. (Just like I was when Little People was cut from Les Mis, I’m looking at you Mackintosh.)

Please come home Starlight Express, London has missed you.

 

 

Starlight Express @ The Other Palace

The Limehouse Golem

*SPOILER FREE REVIEW*

As always, I will start this post with an apology for my absence to my 2 readers… This summer has been a crazy one, I worked an amazing job at an exciting “film casting related” company and moved house twice. Today I will be enrolling into my new University. But before any of that starts, I needed to get to the cinema, it had been too long. I think I’ve been twice over the last 6 weeks or something.

So I went to see the new Bill Nighy drama, The Limehouse Golem. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much, but thanks to one of my best friends I am getting much better at going into films with an open mind, so that’s what I did.

The film is set in 1800’s London and follows D.I Kildare (Nighy) as he tries to unveil a series of murders that have taken place. It’s a good old fashioned murder inspection film with detail to gore and interesting characters. I was very impressed with the casting, I usually don’t speak particularly highly of Douglas Booth however in this film he really blew me away. He was incredible, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him dedicate himself so much to a role. Olivia Cooke was also brilliant, she lead the cast perfectly and her character development was impressive. And just a quick shout-out to Daniel Mays who plays the D.I’s assistant copper, I always love Mays in everything he’s done and it was really nice to see him get a big role in something totally different. The story is full of twists and turns and some big surprises. I loved the script, the dialogue was fast paced and kept you wanting more.

Just a quick final note to the production designers of the film, this is a nerdy film student thing to have noticed, but there really are some stunning shots throughout. The use of lighting is perfect, I couldn’t help noticing the use of silhouettes and how powerful they are. They really captured the eerie-ness of London in that era, from the people living in poverty to the grand home of the Creeds, it really is stunning.

I’m happy to say (as you can probably tell) I really loved this film, it was perfect for a gloomy Sunday afternoon. If you want to see a good old fashioned British drama, this is the one for you.

The Limehouse Golem

London Has Fallen

I can’t really decide what I thought of this film. It kind of speaks for itself and I’m glad it was only 99 minutes long.
The film takes place in London (hard to believe, I know) on the day of the British Prime Ministers funeral, he apparently died questionably in his sleep. That’s pretty much all we know about him. That and his name wasn’t David Cameron, however one of the main villains name is Cameron. Controversial?
What we do know is all the most important political leaders from all over the world are coming to London for the funeral so of course they’re all going to die except for the President of the US.
They all have very cheesy entrances to the city, the French Prime Minister is sat on a plush boat on the Thames acting like a bit of a dick, the German Congresswoman is stood admiring Buckingham Palace and the old German Prime Minister is swooning over his young girlfriend on the roof of Westminster Abbey, weird.
The film follows Gerard Butler, who’s characters name I have completely forgotten, around London trying to protect and later save the Presidents life. Aaron Eckhart has had a lot of practice when it comes to playing an important American politician and is actually getting quite good at it.

We all know what to expect from this film and really you get exactly that. Lots of explosions, lots of terrible one liners, lots of guns, lots of patriotism, lots of the F word and lots of a terrible American accent from Mr. Butler (and a happy ending for America, it didn’t get one scratch!)
There are lots of big bangs and London pretty much gets smashed to bits (which felt very strange having seen the film in a cinema on Piccadilly Circus) but all in all, for a film that was going to pretty much suck from the off, it was watchable if you’re into those kind of big budget, America rules, sexy old Gerard Butler films.

London Has Fallen

PAN

Hello world of no-one

I went to the cinema this afternoon to see Pan. I liked it, aside from the random bursting into Nirvana’s Smells like Teen Spirit, it was good. There were a few parts in it that seemed a bit weird, like, the story was kind of confusing, there was no explanation as to why Blackbeard wanted to stay young. Oh, and what was with James Hook’s weird voice and awkward behavior. But, as far as over the top, fantasy, CGI-fests go – it was good. Oh and Hugh Jackman makes a fab pirate. I love pirates.

Also, just found out that James Cameron is producing a series of original comic books based on the story of Avatar. I can’t wait! Eep! (Yes, I love Avatar. Deal with it.)

PAN