Pride: An inspiring film that everyone, Everyone should see.

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Set in British Cinema’s favourite decade – the 80’s – beneath the iron grip of Thatcher and amidst the miners strike, a group of headstrong gay and lesbian young activists decide to try and help the miners’ cause by raising money for them in an attempt to rally together against a common foe. With the group title Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners or L.G.S.M, no one wants to have anything to do with them in 1984 But then a phone call to a Welsh mining town sets up an unlikely alliance and ultimately, friendship between two groups of sidelined people. it’s all based on a true story and is told exceptionally well with some astounding performances particularly from Andrew Scott and Bill Nighy who demonstrates a subtlety you rarely get to see from him.

Pride is an inspiring film that is heartfelt and uplifting. Occasionally it becomes almost too sentimental and slightly cheesy, but always manages to pull it back with very assured performances and an overall well crafted script from Stephen Beresford. It’s also different and refreshing to see an L.G.B.T. film that is so overwhelmingly positive and does not end all in tears like other films of the genre. Brokeback Mountain for example is an excellent film, but certainly not an easy watch. One of the main strengths of Pride is that it feels honest and consistent in its portrayal of hardships, prejudice and loss. Appropriately H.I.V. comes into the film as an integral part of L.G.B.T. history but does not become a focus. The focus is solidarity and celebration. The film has clearly been designed for mass appeal – it follows in the footsteps of well loved and heartwarming Brit flicks such as The Full Monty and Made In Dagenham with its up heartwarming proud Brit style. This may provoke fair criticisms but is also one of the film’s strengths. The point is that this is a film and subject matter everyone should be able to embrace and feel happy and proud to.

I urge you to see Pride. Particularly if this strikes you as a film that is not for you. Believe me it is.

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Major Tom at Battersea Arts Centre Review

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Told through a journey into the comparable worlds of beauty pageants and dog shows, Victoria Melody’s Major Tom explores how easy it is to become obsessed with personal image and competitiveness.

It’s quite a novelty to walk into Battersea Arts centre and see a bunch of dogs sat on the steps of the old town hall having their pictures taken. The novelty continues when you walk into the space and the Basset Hound, Major Tom, lies by the door looking up at you and letting you pet him as you go in. IT’S A DOG ON STAGE! And he’s a very likeable, very sleepy dog. Victoria Melody warns at the beginning of the show not to get too excited about Major Tom as he’ll mostly be asleep through the whole thing. But that’s not a problem as the audience clearly loves seeing him sleep, wake up, yawn and go back to sleep. It’s clear that Victoria Melody’s Bassett Hound Major Tom is a big draw to the show. After all, he’s got the title.

In Major Tom, Victoria Melody tells the story of how she came to be the owner of such a sleepy hound and how she decided to enter him into dog shows to prove what a unique and special dog he is. After being told a number of times that Major Tom wasn’t good enough to win, Victoria became concerned about the dog’s possible low esteem so she decided to enter herself into a beauty pageant so she could sympathise with the pressure of being best in show.

Major Tom is a relaxed and charming show with smart commentary under its fur. There’s no angry rant about beauty pageantry, just an informed and funny look at some of the things women go through for these pageants. It’s effectively mirrored with Major Tom’s best of show competitions for dogs – One of the show’s highlights is a hilarious side by side comparison of Melody’s and her dog’s preparation for their shows presented like a training montage. It might not be ground-breaking – beauty pageantry is generally considered sexist and objectifying – but one of the strengths of Major Tom, is how Melody demonstrates that the desire to look ‘perfect’ (or fake) and the competitiveness that comes from attaining your ‘perfection’ can be addictive. Particularly when this perfect/fake image is still paramount in mainstream entertainment and effects our general attitudes about self-image.  It’s a very current issue with increasing levels of anorexia and bulimia in the UK and the presence of social media memes such as ‘thinspire’, encouraging people to get unhealthily thin and contributing to a type of eating disorder competiveness. Victoria Melody does a good job of demonstrating how infectious this way of thinking can be whilst still keeping the show funny and enjoyable.

With a clever and current look at the obsession with body image and celebrity, a modest and easy style and a very lovable dog, Major Tom might not win best in show but is well worthwhile for its simple yet honest and poignant qualities.

Major Tom is at Battersea Arts Centre till the 27th of September.

Original article and star rating available at http://www.broadwaybaby.com/shows/major-tom-/703365

Thinking back over the stage version of Let the Right One In at the Apollo Theatre

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Let The Right One In wasn’t a Hammer House of Horrors cheese-scare. Nor was it a convoluted story about a secret society of vampire and vampire hunters. It was more intimate and so much more refreshing.

Based on the Swedish movie that also has a Hollywood remake called Let Me In, the theatrical version of this Swedish Vampire tale came from The National Theatre of Scotland and was appropriately re-imagined in a Scottish woodland setting.

It’s a refreshing and authentic vampire tale for a generation of viewers vampired out from the likes of True Blood and glossy shallow vampire fests like Twilight and Underworld. With a beautiful story, great performances, fantastic music and imaginative choreography, Let The Right One reminded me of the fantastic potential of a genre I’d all but given up on. The play managed to be fresh, moving and exhilarating all at once. The premise is simple and refreshing – there is a murderer loose in the woods. Lonely boy Oskar is told by his distant mother not to play out there. But he doesn’t listen. The woods are his refuge from the vicious bullies at school and the rottenness of a broken home. In the woods he meets Eli, a strange young girl who has just moved in next door. Oskar immediately likes Eli and Eli likes Oskar. The only problem is it that Eli ultimately turns out to be a blood sucking vampire.

Watching Let The Right One In on the stage felt like quite a unique experience. The stage seems to be the perfect place for this genre, after all, with the immediacy and intimacy of theatre, when done well, where else can vampires be more haunting than on the live stage? – (Except maybe in a real forest, or an alleyway) – But this was no meager scare fest, although there were some truly jumpy moments; It’s wasn’t a Hammer House of Horrors cheese-scare. Nor was it a convoluted story about a secret society of vampire and vampire hunters. One of the strengths of Let The Right One In is in its toned down and very intimate story. This separates it from the majority of vampire stories we’ve been inundated with for so long now, avoiding  the clumsiness and clutter that often surrounds the vampire narrative.  And there’s no acrobatic gun-cata shoot-fests in black leather and sunglasses. – The Matrix is dead, makers of the Underworld series. The 90’s ended and many of us moved on. Also rather refreshing is that as the protagonists are children, Let The Right One wasn’t all about sex, which seems to have become the main focus and selling point for the vampire genre for a long time now. Sex arguably comes into the story, as this is after all a love story, but Let The Right One In is a much more innocent and ultimately, more sinister tale of love, obsession and cruelty.

The stage production made for a very evocative play that stays with you long after you’ve left the theatre. An intriguing and unnerving ambiance was created before the play even began with figures weaving through the woodland set and an eerie soundscape permeating through the auditorium. This feeling was maintained throughout the piece and heightened at dramatic points with the excellent soundtrack. It was also greatly enhanced by the wonderful choreography where the movement was used to communicate feeling and story in visually striking and also abstract ways helping to create a piece of theatre that felt fresh and inventive. It was also as you can imagine, pretty gory in places. Let The Right One In was a wonderful edition to the West End that is over-swamped with easy crowd pleasing musicals. Let’s hope that great works like Let The Right One In continue to make it big and find space on the West End and elsewhere..

If you saw the production and would like to share your thoughts on it feel free to get in touch or comment below. If you missed it watch the original movie and look out for a revival. It’s definitely one to watch.

Ed Fringe 2014 Beowulf the Blockbuster

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I love Beowulf. And to that I owe Seamus Heaney. One of the greatest of great past poets. I watched Beowulf the Blockbuster at the Edinburgh Fringe – managed to nab myself a cheeky return ticket for the completely sold-out show – I was so moved by the piece I decided to write a little bit about it all.

Beowulf the Blockbuster may be one of the finest examples of what is so great about the Fringe. It’s a simple one man show, with a fascinating narrative style that amuses and moves you in striking doses. It’s different from most theatre and yet is routed firmly in aural tradition. The Beowulf saga would have originally been spoken by bards just as the Homeric performers had performed The Odyssey and the Iliad thousands of years ago. And the bards would change the story, adapt it for who they were telling it to and when they were telling it. The original Beowulf tale was likely much more pagan than the Christian hero saga that survives today and of course Seamus Heaney adapted it beautifully. It’s one of the most beautiful works he left us before he left us behind.

So fitting then is it that in Beowulf the Blockbuster, the narrated Beowulf is just that: a tale adapted and modernised for a specific audience. In this play, that specific audience is the dying protagonist’s ten year old son. Da is dying and he needs to tell his son. Instead he tells him one final bedtime story; Beowulf the Blockbuster. He uses the tale as a way of trying to teach his son about life and to try and make him understand that all things must one day come to pass. Passing, as the great storytellers throughout history have always done, the story onto the next generation.

Beowulf the Blockbuster is so beautifully and simply realised by Bryan Burroughs. It is heart-breaking and emotionally shattering. After watching I wanted to find a room, where no one could see me and see what I was feeling. Those feelings conjured deep within and with a knowing of life and loss, its deep pains and what countless more will follow. Everything comes to pass.

But with all the sadness comes so much beauty and humour in Beowulf the Blockbuster that it never stops being enjoyable. Just utterly beautiful. This feeling, this stirring in the soul, this this. This is what theatre at the Fringe can be.

Ed Fringe 2014: Bill Clinton Hercules Review

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“A swansong to the former President and an intelligent meditation on the decay of modern politics”

Bill Clinton was one of America’s glowing presidents, a shining democrat in the fashion of Jimmy Carter and even America’s beloved JFK. But after the scandal with Monica Lewinsky, Clinton’s lasting legacy has been cemented by that one infamous quote, ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman’. However, there was much more to President Clinton than the stain he left on his intern’s dress. Bill Clinton Hercules is a fascinating one man show that is at once a personal ode to Bill Clinton and an indictment of modern politics filtered through a curious classical intrigue.

According to ‘Bubba’ himself, every year the former president reads Seamus Heaney’s The Cure at Troy, an adaptation of the Ancient Greek play Philoctetes in which the deified Hercules appears to convince the Greeks to make peace with each other to achieve victory through unity. This is the democratic notion that the play’s Clinton believes in and it is this Hercules to whom the character relates and wishes to personify. ‘I am Hercules’ says Paisley’s Bill Clinton as he talks about global conflicts and America’s role in them. His ultimate desire is for peace, even if it must be sought through conflict.

But there’s so much more to this play than simple hero worship. It’s a personal examination of Bill Clinton and of the changing nature of politics from the latter years of the 20th century to the present day. Bob Paisley’s performance is very strong; he appropriately exudes sentiment, regret, wisdom and pride during every moment of Rachel Mariner’s brilliant script, and his Clinton impersonation is spot on. Mariner has done her homework and the play is very intelligent and very well informed, gleaning much of its personal content from Clinton’s autobiography. When the play jumps from Clinton’s personal life to American politics of the past, present and future, the observations made are razor sharp and the criticisms piercing.

Smart, funny, moving and exceptionally current, it is fantastically written with a most Bill-thentic performance from Paisley and assured direction from Guy Masterson. Bill Clinton Hercules is a swansong to the former President and an intelligent meditation on the decay of modern politics. It’s a powerful and thought-provoking play that should not be missed.

(Original article on Broadway Baby: http://www.broadwaybaby.com/shows/bill-clinton-hercules/701227 )