Roger Barrington

Review of “The Bookshop” by Roger Barrington

 

(4.5 / 5)

“The Bookshop” directed by Catalan feminist auteur Isabel Coixet, is a faithful adaptation of British writer Penelope Fitzgerald’s 1978 Booker Prize nominated novel.

Set in a small Suffolk coastal town in 1959, as with all Fitzgerald’s novels, it is drawn from her own experience, as she worked in a bookshop in that country for a time in the 1950’s.

The plot is about awfully nice Florence Green, (Emily Mortimer) as a widowed middle-aged woman who decides to open up a secondhand bookshop in fictionalised Hardborough and concerns her battle with the local bigwigs General and Mrs  Gamart who want to convert the property into an Arts Centre. Also encountering opposition due to small-town small mindedness and ignorant philistinism she garners support from recluse Edmund Brundish, (Bill Nighy) and 13-year old Christine, whom she employs as her assistant. Into the mix comes loquacious rakish BBC man Milo North who Christine perceptively recognises is not a nice man.

The tension arises out of the burgeoning friendship that develops between our heroine and Brundish in opposition to the Machiavellian ruthfulness of the appalling Gamarts.

Isabel Coixet is a multi-award winning Catalan director, who first came to my notice with the superb, “My Life without me”. (2003). She continues to make highly acclaimed film, “Elergy” (2008) and “Endless Night” (2015) and a dominant theme throughout her dozen or so other feature movies is that the central character is a woman who takes control of her life.

Emily Mortimer is ideally cast as Florence Green, the brave and pioneering but vulnerable woman who doesn’t look for confrontation, but will take it on if she has to.

 

Bill Nighy who plays her ally Edmund Brundish is in usual scene-stealing form. Has there been a British actor since Denholm Elliott ho constantly manages to achieve this? All the best scenes in the film feature him.

 

 

American Patricia Clarkson is a regular feature in Coixet’s films and this is their third collaboration. This underrated actress manages the clipped British accent nicely and subtly provides us with a nasty determined character who is determined to get her way within the small community she resides in, as she always does.

 

Thirteen-year old actress, (at the time of filming), Honor Kneafsey as bookshop assistant Christine provides a mature performance of the precocious but charming adolescent. A couple of years on, she is already a veteran of nineteen films and looks a rare talent, even though her middle class speaking voice seems a little out of sorts with Christine’s working class antecedents.

 

Coixet’s Suffolk doesn’t look authentic. In fact, exterior shots were filmed on location in Northern Ireland, whilst interior sets were in Spain.

However, this isn’t really a problem, as Suffolk isn’t key to the story. As I mentioned earlier, it is where author Penelope Fitzgerald resided for a time in the 1950’s whilst she worked in a secondhand bookshop. But the location could be anywhere, and not only in the UK, where closed communities exist.

“The Bookshop” is a story about courage and determination. We  learn late into the film that during WW1, Edmund was an aviator, so he is the ideal person to recognise Florence’s qualities. By contrast, General Gamart, (Reg Wilson) a veteran of the same conflict but who served in The Suffolk Regiment, comes across as the worst kind of army officer of this period, who stoops to levels of deceit to cowardly succumb to his wife’s demands.

This film is also about small town bigotry, in terms of it’s consolidated opposition to a person who doesn’t conform to their small minded way of thinking. If you are brought up in a small town or village, you may appreciate what I am writing.

The time setting of the book and film is significant. The last year of the 1950’s, a period when Britain was coming to grips with the austerity of and aftermath of  WW2, marks a time with the 1960’s, just around the corner,  a decade that transformed society. Also, Arts Centres, that sprung up after 1945, were becoming the trendy venues of the 1960’s and 1970’s, thereby marking a total contrast to the traditional British secondhand bookshop – an institution that in our era of online bookselling and e-books is slowly succumbing to its eventual inevitable demise.

It didn’t pass me by, that I was watching this film at Chapter, an arts centre in Cardiff. I pondered whether I had to give one thing up – secondhand bookshops or arts centres, which choice would I make, coming down in favour of the former. A difficult decision because i love both, but books have always featured strongly in my life. I have always lived in places where books take over the place. Even in the modest flat I live in now, I have upwards of two and a half thousand books. I will never be able to read all of them before I, (hopefully), gain admittance to that great library in the sky, but that doesn’t stop my sense of anticipation when I enter a secondhand bookshop to explore its contents. “You are never alone in a bookshop” is the closing line of this film, and if you feel as I do, then you will identify closely with this.

The satisfying climax works perfectly, but I don’t wish to give the game away by saying more here.

This film will divide the majority of viewers, into those who love it, and those who loathe it. The start is a little sluggish, but if you accept what it is trying to achieve on its own terms, then you will find this an utterly absorbing and memorable film.

Country: U.K., Spain, Germany

Language: English

Running time: 113 minutes

Certificate: PG

Continue reading Review of “The Bookshop” by Roger Barrington

Review of “The Magic Flute” performed by RWCMD at The Sherman Theatre by Roger Barrington

 

 

(4 / 5)

 

Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” which recently finished its short run at The Sherman Theatre in Cardiff, is an accomplished and often very funny interpretation presented by The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Prince Tamino, (tenor Huw Ynyr) is rescued from a serpent by Three Ladies, attendants on the Queen of the Night, (soprano Bernice Chitiul). She promises Tamino the hand of her daughter Pamina, (soprano – Lucy Mellors), if he can rescue her from the hands of the evil Sarastro, (bass – Blaise Malaba), who has kidnapped her. Together with the Royal Birdcatcher Papageno, (baritone – Dragos Ionel), they go off on search of the unfortunate Pamina. They have been granted two magical instruments to accompany them on their dangerous journey. Tamino is given a flute, personified onstage by Andrew Martin, and Papageno bells in the shape of xylophonist James Harris.

The remainder of the action depicts the rescue attempt and the trials and tribulations forced upon Tamino and Papageno to effect the rescue.

Mozart was a Freemason, and symbolism and ritual are shown in this opera in a thinly veiled allegoric way. Masonic themes such as good vs. evil, enlightenment vs. ignorance, and the virtues of knowledge, justice, wisdom and truth are all here. The mysterious worship of Isis and Osiris,  Egyptian Gods concerned with the Afterlife, and a libretto by  Emanuel Schikaneder is full of symbols and rituals associated with Freemasonry. The number three which has a strong association with Freemasonry features strongly as well. Witness the Three Lady attendants of the Queen of the Night, the Three Boys in their flying machines that guide our two heroes in the rescue attempt and the serpent that is cut into three pieces are just some of the references to this number in the opera.

Director Martin  Constandine has an impressive c.v. having previously worked with The Royal Opera House, RSC, English National Opera, WNO and a host of other influential companies. On the basis of what is on display in this production, you can clearly see why this is the case.

In his version, Sarastro is the leader of a totalitarian cult, (suitably named The Brotherhood), whose subjects are brainwashed on a daily basis to render them zombie-like in their passivity.

Masonic symbols abound although chevrons are, I believe, more associated with The Illuminati.

In one highly comic scene, the clones are transformed from their usual catatonic state into a dance troupe doing the twist upon reacting to the magical effects of the bells.

Chad Healy’s busy set design works well. At the opening to Act 2, the curtain opens to a number of girls in a typing pool and then in the upper back section a scene of a clone receiving their daily dose of “medication” contrasts brilliantly.

Huw Ynyr has a very pleasant tenor voice. He also sings with great clarity. This version is in English written by Jeremy Sams.

 

Likewise Lucy Mellors has a very fine soprano voice.  Her aria after Tamino refuses to speak to her, (one of the trials he must pass in order to gain admission to The Brotherhood), Tamino, see, these tears flow for you alone, beloved is sung with great sincerity and intensity.

 

 

Dragos Ionel’s Papageno, has a resonable baritone voice, but he excels in his comedic  acting.

 

 

Blaise Malaba as Sarasto looked the part as the arch-baddie commanding an ominous presence on stage. His bass singing may  lack a little power in the deepest range, but in other respects he is excellent.

 

Bernice Chitiul as Queen of the Night rendered a performance of the highest order. It didn’t surprise me when reading the programme notes that she has performed at London’s  Wigmore Hall. Her two arias, both technically difficult showed her ability as being able to master the coloratura skill required.

 

 

 

The Three Boys and The Three Lady Attendant offer admirable support.

The orchestra of the RWCMD under the baton of Gareth Jones, play Mozart’s score with the lightness and fluency required and complement the singing perfectly.

There are many future stars in the world of opera on view in this production, and one hopes that it will tour in the future so that audiences can enjoy to-notch opera at a very reasonable price.

 

Roger Barrington

 

Review “The Young Karl Marx” at Chapter Cinema 1 by Roger Barrington

Directed by Raoul Peck August Diehl as Karl Marx Stefan Konarske as Friedrich Engels

 

 

 

 

 

(4 / 5)

 

This year marks the the bicentennial anniversary of the birth of Karl Mark, and to mark it, Haitian director Raoul Peck has made a film to commemorate this auspicious event.

When many of us think of Marx, (and I count myself among them), we have some abstract idea of a granite type entity, largely due to his tomb at Highgate Cemetery or his enormous and unfinished Magnus Opus, “Das Kapital”. Unfinished because Marx believed that the subject matter was in a permanent state of evolution. This film introduces us to the human side of Marx.

We are introduced to Marx’s family – his wife Jenny von Westphalen, (Vicky Krieps),  who came from an aristocratic Prussian family, and gave everything up to be with Marx and support his political and philosophical agendas.

In contrast, Friedrich Engels was the son of a wealthy Manchester textile manufacturer, and witnessed the hardships of the workers at first hand. which he wrote about in “The Condition of the Working Class in England” (1845), a work that Marx greatly admired. Engels had a lifelong romantic relationship with Mary Burns, (  Hannah Steele), of which little is known, other than she probably introduced Engels to inside information about the suffering of the working class on which he wrote about.

The two couples juxtaposed represent a kind of counterbalance when you take into consideration their backgrounds. Marx and his family live in poverty, finding it difficult to stay in one country for a length of time due to his radical political ideas.

There is,unavoidably, quite a lot of political and philosophical dialogue in this film. The stunning opening scene which shows a group of peasants, anxiously gathering up dead wood from the forest ground, before being the recipients of a baton charged hussars patrol, leads to a voiceover on Marx’s ideas about class struggles. “To gather green wood, one must rip it violently from the living tree. Yet gathering dead wood removes nothing from the property. Only what is already separated is removed from the property. Despite this essential difference, you call both acts theft and punish them as such. Montesquieu names two kinds of corruption: One when the people do not observe the laws. The other when the laws corrupt them. You have erased the difference between theft and gathering. But you are wrong to believe it is in your interest. The people see the punishment, but not the crime. And, as they do not see a crime…when they are punished, you should fear them, for they will take revenge.”

Marx fiery personality shows him to be an inspiring orator but intellectual bully and in contrast to the more gentler Wilhelm Weitling, the tailor/political activist who as ultimately edged out of The League of the Just, the political Utopian organisation that reorganised into the Communist League under Marx and Emngel’s influence.

In a way, the film is a buddy movie between Marx and Engels. It shows that Marx couldn’t have advanced into the powerhouse he is today without Engel’s assistance – especially his financial help.

 

 

The period covered is relatively small, from 1843 to 1848, when Marx and Engels published what is believed by many to be the most influential literary work of the nineteenth century – “The Communist Manifesto”. It’s immortal first line, ” A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies”.

Karl Marx is vividly brought to life by German actor, August Diehl and his countryman Stefan Konarske portrays Engels as a quieter, more sensitive but equally determined brother in arms. Good support is provided by Luxembourg actress Vicky Krieps as Jenny and British actress Hannah Steele as Mary.

Director  Raoul Peck, working with a pan-European cast and crew, manages to make the film look more lavish than it should do, and the sincerity of the work is unquestionable. You can’t help to be inspired by the energy and commitment shown by these young radicals of a century and a half ago, and it made me wonder whether we will see their like again in the future. Everything today seems so anodyne and people are afraid to speak their minds either due to retribution or fear of political correctness. So nothing much changes and the beneficiaries of this maintenance of the status quo is the bourgeoisie that should remind us that the class struggle is still present and as vital now as it was during Marx and Engels time.

“The Young Karl Marx” is an earnest didactic film, that has enough human interest within it to make it accessible and enjoyable to many cinema-goers.

I shall finish off by quoting Wilhelm Weitling in a line taken directly from the film. “Critique devours everything that exists. And when nothing is left, it devours itself”. On that note, I had better end.

Country: France, Germany Gelgium

Language: German, French, English with English subtitles where needed.

Duration: 118 minutes

It plays at Chapter in Cardiff until 5th July.

https://www.chapter.org/young-karl-marx-ctba

Roger Barrington

 

 

 

Review “Jeune Femme” aka “Montparnasse Bienvenue” watched at Chapter Cinema 1 by Roger Barrington

Directed by Léonor Serraille Laetitia Dosch as Paula

 

 

 

 

 

(4.5 / 5)

 

Leonor Serraille’s terrific debut film, “Jeune Femme” also known as “Montparnasse Bienvenue” was shown at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Camera D’Or award for best first feature.

The titles is a little incongruous in either of its two version. At 31, Paula, the heroine of the story is hardly a young girl. Montparnasse Bienvenue is the name of one of the busiest Metro stations in the Paris underground where a number of lines converge. However, nothing of note in the film happens here.

Maybe “Jeune Girl” is a reflection of Paula’s sometimes immature actions. And Montparnasse Bienvenue(Montparnasse Welcome (you) can be considered ironic, because there is little in terms of cinematography that is particularly welcoming in this film. In fact, for a film made in Paris, the director manages to make it look like any other inner city, with its functionality and ugliness. This represents Paula’s impression of the French capital which she dislikes. “I think Paris is a city that doesn’t like people” .  Or possibly, “Montparnasse Bienvenue” with its confusing convergence of metro lines represents how complicated are everyday life is in the 21st century.

The film starts in a ferocious manner where we see Paula headbutting an apartment door in response to her requests for entry being disregarded.

Having injured her head, she attends hospital, and in a rare lengthy scene, we learn that she was trying to gain entry into her lover of ten year’s flat who has obviously wanted to end the relationship. Returning after this event to the flat she notices her ex-lover’s cat and decides to catnap it. Clutching this white furry ball to her chest, we witness Paula’s attempt to rebuild her life and the encounters she has along the way.

 

In a way, it is an anti-existential film. For Paula lives in the moment paying total disregard for consequences of her actions. Seeking a place to lay her head, (and the cat’s), she calls upon a friend who is prepared to put her up. However, the heavily pregnant friend makes a cutting remark about the cat, prompting Paula to ask whether she thinks she will make a fit mother. So, she and cat get promptly kicked out.

There is a very clever scene at Montparnasse Cemetery, where Paula finds an open tomb to shelter her cat from the rain. I don’t think it is a coincidence that at this cemetery you have buried John-Paul Sarte and his lover Simone de Beauvoir, probably the two greatest existentialists of the twentieth century. So living in the moment, she finds an open tomb a useful place to satisfy her needs at that time, whereas Sarte and de Beauvoir were useless remains – a remnant of the past.

She meets a girl who mistakes her for an old friend due to Paula’s heterochromia iridis – different coloured eyes. Excited by this, the girl takes her home to stay but Paula doesn’t think to tell her that in fact she wasn’t that friend, and this is only learned later on.

 

 

Looking for work, she takes on a job as a home help and childminder for a dance company director. At first, the little girl is serious and guarded, so with Paula being her inimitable self, it almost seems like role reversal. But gradually  the girl takes to Paula and they establish a relationship which appears to open up a new world for the strictly brought up child. Whether the reason is that the mother is jealous of Paula’s easygoing relationship with her daughter, or something else, she decides to look for a replacement.

Paula also takes a ship in a Knicker Bar section of a department store. It is only a temporary job, (but that isn’t going to phase Paula). and she takes to it well. She establishes a friendly relationship with an Afro French security guard for the mall whether the store is located. He is a steady guy who you think might act as a rudder for Paula’s spontaneous lifestyle.

Eventually we are introduced to Paula’s ex Joachim, (Grégoire Monsaingeon), who is a professor and intellectual, in contrast to Paula, who by her own admission states that she is not very clever. Joachim is older than Paula and it would seem that she may be attracted to older men due to her father being missing in her life. Joachim  now wants to get back together with Paula, and this desire is intensified when he learns that Paula is pregnant with his child. He comes across as being a supercilious and condescending man who comes close to sexually assaulting Paula when she turns down his advances.

Paula is estranged from her mother – we don’t know the reason other than her mother complains that she is always leaving. She literally pushes her away and when Paula breaks into her mother’s home, there is a poignant scene when she is clinging on to the banister with both arms and legs as her mother tries to push her out.  However, there does seem to be some acceptance after this on the part of the mother, but we don’t know how long this will last.

Along the way, the director provides some social comment. At the knicker bar where Paula works, each girl has to be dress uniformly and provide a branded look in their personal appearance. Therefore they walk around the store like mindless clones. During a lunch break when she is talking to her friend, Ousmane, the security guy, she is reminded in her ear-piece that breaks are for only 30 minutes not 35, reminding us of the “Big Brother” environment that often plagues the modern workplace. Ousmane has a degree in economics but is working in security. Maybe this is down to his ethnic origin.

 

 

The film is a triumph for Laetitia Dosch as Paula. She is in every scene of the movie and gives a totally uninhibited and honest portrayal of a woman who just gets on with her life and deals with problematic situations as they arise without guarding against them.

Through the skill of director   Léonor Serraille, we view the movie in the moment also. It is very unusual in that way – it immerses you into Paula’s lifestyle which typifies modern living – especially in the great metropoles of the world. I’m tempted to say that it is a film about alienation and isolation – there is an early references to Barentsburg, a settlement on the Norwegian island of Svalbard, (formerly Spitzbergen) and located north of the Artic Circle. You can’t get much more isolated than that.  Alienation and isolation are a factor, but I think  this film is more a testament of Paula’s ability to overcome her difficulties and it leaves a surprisingly uplifting effect on you.

This movie won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you like offbeat comedy-drama, in the classic French New Wave style, then I can recommend it unreservedly.

“Jeune Femme” has finished its short run at Chapter Cinema 1, but can still be found at selected locations in the U.K.

County: France

Language: French with English subtitles

Duration: 97 minutes

Cert. 15 for mild nudity and occasional strong language and sexual threat.

 

Roger Barrington

 

 

 

 

Review: An Officer and a Gentleman – The Musical at the WMC by Roger Barrington

Emma Williams as Paula Pokrifki Jonny Fines as Zack Mayo Ray Shell as Emil Foley Ian Mcintosh as Sid Worley Jessica Daley as Lynette Pomeroy Directed by Nikolai Foster

 

 

 

 

 

(3 / 5)

 

Verve Leicester’s version of the 1982  double Oscar winning film “An Officer and  a Gentleman” is the second attempt to adapt this iconic movie into a musical. The first premiered in Australia in 2012 and bombed out of sight. So can we expect more from this improved 2018 version?

Still set in 1982, the story seems a little dated nowadays with gender issues much more under the spotlight. It is essentially a Cinderella storyline set in Pensacola, Florida, the location of the first Naval Aviation Station in the U.S. military set up in 1914. Since that time, countless number of naval aviators have been trained here. Rather like my home town of Brecon, which also has a, (although diminishing), military presence, there is an uneasy relationship between army personnel stationed there and the local inhabitants. Writer Douglas Day Stewart trained at this base for service during the Vietnam War so his story is based upon his own experiences.

Pensacola, or at least the part around the naval base is depicted as a depressed area where local girls dream of capturing the heart of a trainee officer, in order to raise them from their station.

Friends Paula and Lynette are two of these girls, although it turns out have different agendas. The story shows the courtship of the two officer candidates Zack and Sid, who have to endure a tough twelve-week course to determine whether they are officer material.

 

You’re in the navy now

 

 

The musical version follows the basic story-line of the movie interspersed with a number of well known hits which generally have a slight connection with the action, that helps to keep the show within its historical context.

Early on in the show, a gang of girls working in a mundane job sing, “It’s a Man’s World” and the development of the plot tends to emphasise this.

Emma Williams as Paula is the pick of the singers on display.

Emma Williams as Paula and Jonny Fines as Zack

 

 

Her strong and versatile voice is highlighted in her duet with her mother Esther, (Rachel Stanley), in “Don’t Cry Out Loud” – one of the highlights of the show. Other 80’s pop and rock standards, ” St. Elmo’s Fire”, “Livin’ on a Prayer”, “The Final Countdown”, “On the Wings of Love” and altogether a total of 22 songs are present to entertain you. Most are sung well enough, although sometimes a little stridently, and they are accompanied by recordings of a commissioned band.

Michael Taylor’s set design and Ben Cracknell’s Lighting are of a high standard. With a backdrop of video projections, it provides a filmic effect. The love scene against a backdrop of crashing waves rushing on to Pensacola Beach is memorable.

 

 

The performance was well received and I think this was influenced by the final scene, which director Nikolai Foster judges perfectly by not going too over the top. This is the scene where Richard Gere playing Zack was at odds with director Taylor Hackford for being too overly romantic in contrast to the social deprivation and class issues that preceded it. He wanted a different more realistic ending but lost out.

An Officer and  Gentleman – The Musical isn’t a classic, but it did get audience members around me singing and moving in their seats to the motion of the music and was rapturously received.

If your bag is 80’s music, and a familiar story-line, then you will love this show.

It lasts around 2 and a half hours including a 20 minute interval.

There is strong language throughout and sexual references and scenes.

It runs until 30th June

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2018-2019/DonaldGordonTheatre/AnOfficerandaGentleman/

Cardiff marks the first touring location for this production. For further details of tour dates

http://officerandagentlemanmusical.com/book

 

Roger Barrington

 

Review “Sherlock Holmes – The Final Curtain” at The New Theatre, Cardiff by Roger Barrington

Theatre Royal Bath Dress Rehearsal April 2018
Sherlock Holmes The Final Curtain
By Simon Reade after Arthur Conan Doyle
Director Ð David Grindley Designer Ð Jonathan Fensom
Lighting Ð Jason Taylor Sound Ð Gregory Clarke
Sherlock Holmes/Robert Powell Mary Watson/Liza Goddard
Mycroft Holmes/Roy Sampson Dr Watson/Timothy Knightley
Miss Hudson/Anna O’Grady Officer Newman/Lewis Collier
Other Parts Daniel Cech-Lucas Peter Cadden
Peter Yapp Louise Templeton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1.5 / 5)

 

 

The previous occasion I attended The New Theatre in Cardiff, Jess Conrad was donning his “amazing  technicoloured dreamcoat”. The year was 1978, so with great anticipation, I returned to Cardiff’s well known variety theatre. Opened in 1906, the average height of British men was 4 inches shorter than today, which meant that the Dress Circle seat that I occupied for the performance under review, was decidedly less cramped in Edwardian then what I had to endure.

So, not off to an auspicious start then. I was attracted to this production because I have a life long interest in the famous consulting detective.

The action takes place in 1921 and 1922  and we learn that Sherlock was born on Twelfth Night 1854, which makes him 67-68. In a declining mental and physical state his isolated existence at his Sussex home is interrupted by the discovery of a woman, dressed in male attire being found on his own private beach.  Over the next 100 minutes, we witness Sherlock piecing together the evidence until he unmasks the killer towards the end of the show.

Sherlock Holmes is played by Robert Powell, a solid actor whose acting peaked at the summit of Mount Calvary in Franco Zefferelli’s 1977 mini-series, “Jesus of Nazareth”.

You don’t mess with our Sherlock!

 

 

 

Powell, excellent in this production, is much more believable portraying Jesus than he is Sherlock Holmes. Whether it is Basil Rathbone in the 1940’s, Jeremy Brett in the 80’s, Benedict Cumberbatch in the past ten years and Sir Ian McKellan in the 2015 film, “Mr Holmes”, there is a consistency in how our hero is depicted.  Sharp intelligence, a kind of nervous inspired energy, a man of unique intellectual ability and impeccable instinct, I just don’t see Robert Powell being able to achieve that within his acting range.  A great voice, I concede, but, even in Sherlock’s dotage, as Sir Ian McKellan was able to show, we must believe that Holmes is still an exceptional sleuth.

Liza Goddard as John Watson’s wife Mary is also miscast.

 

Liza Goddard as Dr. Watson’s other half Mary

 

 

 

I have seen Ms Goddard on stage before in a dramatic role and I’m not overly convinced that her talents lie in this direction. The Final Curtain is a comedy thriller, but, sadly the writing doesn’t allow Mary to share many of the humerous lines, and that is a shame, because Liza Goddard is at her best in comedic roles. Instead she comes across as a Dame Judi Dench on Xanax.

Timothy Knightly as Dr. Watson fares a little better.

Timothy Knightly as Dr. Watson broadcasting his memoirs of the casebook of Sherlock Holmes on the BBC

 

 

 

I last saw this actor in the fantastic 1994 revival of Arnold Wesker’s “The Kitchen” directed by Stephen Daldry. I attended the first night and it remains one of the most memorable productions I have ever seen. This production could do with some of the sheer excitement and tension that “The Kitchen” possessed.

Roy Sampson plays Mycroft Holmes.

 

Mycroft Holmes (Roy Sampson” in deep discussion with bother Sherlock probably about why he needs to be in this play

 

 

 

Other than a comment about sibling relationship where he is implied but not present, there doesn’t appear to be any reason why he appears in this story other than padding it out a little.

Anna O’Grady plays Miss Hudson – get it? Daughter of the famous Mrs Hudson, housekeeper of 221B Baker Street, who, as this story is set in 1921, based upon the youthful appearance of Miss Hudson, her mother must have set some kind of record for giving birth. And as there is never a mention of a Mr Hudson – well the mind boggles?Miss Hudson is the breezily cheerful stereotypical Cockney maid.

Lewis Collier plays Detective Inspector Newman, looking suspiciously young for this rank for 1921. It is a totally nondescript character and the actor has little to work with.

Oh and there is a tramp played by Peter Brollow, which is fair enough as long as you don’t ever undertake crossword puzzles.

The play is written by Simon Reade,  has an excellent pedigree of credits. Recently he wrote the screenplay for the film version of R.C. Sherriff’s novel “Journey’s End”. and has also worked with The Theatre Royal Bath, (whose production this is), notably on “A Room with a View” an adaptation of E.M. Forster’s exquisite novel. I don’t know what went wrong here. The dialogue is largely anodyne, bordering on the soporific, which manages to convey no chemistry between Holmes and Watson. The exception being the final scene where they are planning their future together, which is not bad at all.

There are some amusing lines, but the story provides no thrills and is so predictable, I was beginning to feel that I had  read the story previously – I hadn’t. I had experienced greater excitement on a wet afternoon in Cwmbach.

And the final scene is totally superfluous and if you think about it, totally ridiculous.

The effects are nothing special and scene changes are carried out in an untidy and clumsy way of a curtain moving slowly back and for across the stage.

Sets other than 221b Baker Street are sparse with only limited props.

This production lies very much in the commodity camp of theatre. The House was almost full, and plays such as this do have a place in the dramatic canon, but I have seen this genre done much better over the years. If you are looking for theatre which challenges you, you would be better off staying at home taking on your pet Shih Tzu at a game of chess.

Sherlock Holmes – The Final Curtain – well, one can only dream.

The play runs until Saturday 30th June 2018 before moving on to Leicester’s Curve next week.

The play is suitable to all.

Runs 110 minutes including a 20 minute interval.

Tour dates

https://www.theatreroyal.org.uk/production/sherlock-holmes-the-final-curtain/

New Theatre Bookings

http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what’s-on/sherlock-holmes-the-final-curtain/

 

Roger Barrington