(4 / 5)
The Heiresses finishes its short run at Chapter on 30th August 2018
(4 / 5)
The Heiresses finishes its short run at Chapter on 30th August 2018
(4 / 5)
Fatih Akin, is a writer/director with a social conscience, and “In the Fade” is another example that explore this theme. Born in Germany to Turkish immigrant parents, his ethnicity isn’t ever too far from his much acclaimed work.
I first came to notice Akin, in his brilliant 2004 film, “Head on” which told the story of two Turkish immigrants who bond together after ending up in the same Hamburg psychiatric hospital. Compared to the acclaimed 1995 Mathieu Kassovitz film, “La Haine” it provides a ferocious mix of rage and humour, which is typical of many of Akin’s films..
Although, there isn’t much humour in “In the Fade”, which examines the impact of the violent Neo-Nazi campaign of murder and terrorism against the Turkish community in Germany, that was at its height around 15 years ago.
After a tragic act of terrorism, Katja Sekerci, (Diane Kruger) tries to comes to terms with the aftermath of losing her husband and only child. She turns to drugs to try and alleviate her immediate sense of loss, and these are discovered when police arrive to interview her as a witness. The amount is negligible, (only a misdemeanour), but this comes back to haunt her later at the trial she has to endure.
Katja noticed a likely perpetrator who had parked her bicycle outside where he husband, (who was minding their young son), worked. Being able to provide an excellent description, the suspect and her husband are arrested and detained.
At the subsequent trial, Katja’s usage of drugs is used to discredit her reliability as a witness, and her victim husband, who had earlier spent four years incarceration for dug-dealing, also has his character besmirched, although he had qualified himself up whilst in prison, and had successfully set up his own business.
It was a scandal that “investigators assumed that the victims and their families had skeletons in their closets simply because of where they came from,” Akin told the German news agency dpa. “Having a Turkish, foreign background myself, I felt that this was a personal issue. This could have happened to me.”
The film is separated into three sections. The interaction between Katja and her husband and young boy – a happy relationship. Akin skillfully contrasts a relaxed and happy Katja in a Turkish Bath, at the same time that the act of terrorism that shatters her existence is taking place.
The second section deals with the resultant trial of the two suspects and the ordeal that Katja has to endure in the courtroom, not only with having to face the man and wife Neo-Nazis alleged to have carried out the atrocity, but having to listen to a harrowing account of her little boy’s devastating injuries. She wasn’t even able to see her family’s remains – the sympathetic investigating police officer says, that they are only body parts now – no longer human.
The final part, set in Greece, because there appears to have been collusion between a Greek far right sympathiser and the two Neo-Nazis, is about Katja’s revenge. The powerful and emotional final scene will haunt you long after the conclusion of the film.
German actress Diane Kruger, rarely performs in her native language, having starred on Hollywood blockbusters such as “Inglorious Basterds” and “National Treasure” . Ms Kruger is exceptional in this performance, exemplifying a woman dealing with grief and anger to perfection. She dominates this film, and appears in nearly every scene. It is no wonder that she won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival 2017 for this role.
“In the Fade” has won a host of awards including Best Motion Picture in a Foreign Language at the 2018 Golden Globes. Fatih Akin was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2017 Cannes Film Fesitval for this film.
“In the Fade” is a compelling crime drama/thriller elevated with an exceptional performance from the central character.
It might be well to reflect in these uncertain times with Brexit, that for many who voted to leave the EU based on the idea of the UK being overrun with migrant workers, that, this ideology, in fact is largely racist , and the bottom rung of a latter that reaches to acts of hatred from members of the Far-Right depicted in this film. We should learn to accept people for what they are, rather than how they live their lives, how they dress themselves and what they believe in.
Country: Germany, France
Language: German with English Subtitles
Time: 106 minutes
The film was watched at Chapter, but has now completed its short run.
It may seem a little incongruous to have a review about the Welsh National Eisteddfod in English, but, I’m afraid that my best endeavours, (strike that – my lack of endeavour) fifty years ago, meant that I just managed to avoid being unclassified for my O’Level Welsh language examination.
In fact, I think the last time that I attended an Eisteddfod, I was actually taking part in it! I came third, (out of three) in the piano competition. I recall the adjudicator, a Mrs Ogwen Thomas if my nightmarish memory serves me correctly,, summed up my playing by saying that it took her a while to recognise the piece I was playing. So, there ended my budding concert recital career!
Being Welsh, you are always aware, when being out of your native country, of being The Other. Having lived two-thirds of my life to date outside of Wales, I have exploited that, both to my advantage and disadvantage. So, I looked forward to attending the Welsh National Eisteddfod, which, this year is being held at and around the WMC in Cardiff, with great anticipation.
I was also a little apprehensive due to my concern about missing out on most of the activities, due to my lack of understanding Welsh.
My fears were allayed due to the presence of a desk in the foyer, that has free instant translators into English. However, this only works in The Pavilion, (Donald Gordon Theatre), but as all the major action occurs here, this is not a huge problem. And the instant translation works well.
In the three hours I sat here, I watched a huge diversity of competitions – vocal, recitation, instrument duo, instrument solo and dance. Of course, music transcends the difficulties of language, so I found this to be the most enjoyable events.
The talent on display was, at times, breathtaking. In the instrumental duo, I watched two cute little ten year old girl harpists in competition against two Royal College of Music student duos – twice their age! Naturally, they came third, but to be pitted against two highly accomplished duos from the RCM, and not be embarrassed, is an outstanding achievement – especially as one of the girls lives in Lampeter and the other in Cardiff, making practicing together a little awkward.
In the Blue Ribband event for under 16’s events, I saw four wonderful young musicians. Naturally I was drawn to the pianist, a twelve year old girl from Pontyclun, who played Scarlatti and then Bartok. Two vastly different pieces, and her maturity not only in technique, but also expression was awe-inspiring. A brilliant alto saxophonist, and a cellist who again played contrasting pieces, together with a talented trombonist completed the finalists. At the time of writing, I do not know who won this competition, but it was certainly going to be a tough decision by the team of adjudicators.
Monologues are translated into Welsh as well, so you can understand fully what is being said.
Added to all this, there are a number of other venues to visit, both inside and outside the venue.
There are a vast number of stalls present again, providing a real festive environment.
I took a look at the Welsh Books Council stall, and despite my intention not to add to my already burgeoning book collection, I came away with “The Hill of Dreams” by Welsh author Arthur Machen. The opening line goes, “There was a glow in the sky as if great furnace doors were opened”. Well, I can equate the glow to the Eisteddfod and the doors blown wide open, are those to my Welsh soul.
I invite you to rekindle your sense of Welsh identity, because, one thing that is clearly apparent is that the future of our culture is in assured hands.
Tickets, (remarkably good value for money), can be obtained at
NB. There is an abundance of events you can attend free.
(3.5 / 5)
On a warm Tuesday evening on 3rd May 1988, a colleague of mine and I spent a couple of hours in the company of Larry Wansey. Wansey at this time, was Operation Director of the Dallas Cowboys, but had taken time out to act as Security Director for Whitney Houston’s Moment of Truth World Tour. When researching for this review, I had no idea other than the Cowboys connection, of the man I was talking to.
A celebrated undercover operative for the FBI, he was involved in the Patty Hearst 1974 kidnapping by the Symbionese Liberation Army. Later, at the time of 9/11 he was Managing Director of Corporate Security for American Airlines, and was heavily involved in the investigation of that tragic event. I remember him as a very affable man with a good sense of humour.
Why did this conversation take place? Well at this time, I was employed in the In-house security team at the InterContinental Hotel at Hyde Park Corner, and Whitney was not only using this as her base for her 8 night stint at the Wembley Arena, but for her Paris gig as well. She stayed about a fortnight at the hotel and Larry wished to discuss security arrangements for her stay, although I seemed to recall, we talked mostly about other things.
Incidentally, at this time, my ultimate Boss was Stephen Mulligan, who lived in a suite in the hotel with his family, including 3-year old Carey Mulligan. But that is nothing to do with this film, so I shall return to my review.
Shortly into her stay, I bumped into Whitney and Larry, in a lift. Taken aback, I entered rigorously chewing gum for which I gave the excuse that I was making my most recent attempt to quit smoking. Larry had introduced me, so Whitney enquired, how long had I managed to go without a cigarette, and checking my watch, I informed her, about 19 minutes. She shrieked with laughter and a few days later, when I was on duty at a press conference she was doing, she recognised me and with a smile asked if I had still managed to quit smoking to which I responded with a sigh. There ended my short conversation relationship with this American icon – totally forgettable for her but the opposite for me.
What emerges from Kevin Macdonald’s worthy but flawed documentary of the life and death of this iconic American pop star, is her sense of humour – which I think is shown above within my own experience. She loved life and it is all the more sorrowful, that her rapid decline and ultimate death was fueled by a combination of drink and drugs and being surrounded by people, both friends and family who brought this on.
I say flawed, because I think this kind of documentary can only go so far on trying to identify the real Whitney. “All the music. All the stories. All the answers” is the movie’s tagline and it doesn’t really merit any of these assertions. A couple next to me were complaining that there wasn’t enough of her singing so left half-way through. Certainly, all the answers was not provided. It is rather like reading an autobiographical book, where the author naturally only writes about what he/she wishes to know about. Likewise here, people interviewed are selective on what they tell you. Her husband Bobby Brown, flatly refused to talk about her drug abuse.
There is reference to their child Bobbi Kristina Brown on record of having said that she wished to kill her mother. ‘Whitney was probably a good mother at first” we are told, but with the tragic 2015 death of Bobbi Kristina in an uncanny similar way to her mother, this topic is left tantalisingly unfulfilled.
Glaswegian Macdonald is a skilful documentary filmmaker. He won an Oscar in this category in 2000, for “One Day in September” that chartered the hostage taking of the Israeli athletes by militant Palestinian group Black September in 1972. He asks searching questions to a wide range of people associated with Whitney. To get an idea of her early life, he interviews Cissy Houston, her mother. Cissy, (who I also met because she was doing a duet with her daughter, and also came across as a friendly person), is a former singer of note. After a successful career as a backup singer to her niece, Dionne Warwick, (there is only 7 years age difference between them), Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin she is part of a soul dynasty. In addition to her family connection with Dione, she is also aunt to singer Dee Dee Warwick and a cousin to famous opera diva Leontyne Price. From Cissy we learn about Whitney’s gospel singing upbringing and the way her young life was largely protected from the harsher environment that existed in Newark, New Jersey at that time.
Brother Gary provides insightful comments and there is much attention brought to the Svengali type presence of lesbian and possible lover of Whitney, Robyn Crawford. But there is nothing particularly new here.
Probably the coup of this investigative work is the reference to Whitney being molested by her cousin Dee Dee Warwick.
Macdonald provides an historical aspect as Whitney’s life develops with archival film, using the Newark Riots pf 1967 and images of Ronald Reagan to provide a couple of examples. You do wonder whether this adds to the film, or gets in the way, and, at best, is only moderately entertaining.
This is the third documentary of the life of Whitney. It is a highly watchable film that probably goes as far as it can do at this time, only 6 years after her death. Maybe the definitive documentary on this singer has yet to be completed, and perhaps the passage of time, when others are more forthcoming to reveal material, will make this possible.
“Whitney” is currently showing at Chapter. For schedule and booking tickets, please visit,
(3.5 / 5)
Cotswold Arcadians 2018 Shakespeare production, performed outdoors in the gorgeous surroundings of Hatherop Castle, is The Bard’s exquisite comedy, “Twelfth Night or What you Will”.
This tale of mistaken identity, cross-dressing and humiliation is regarded, by many, (including myself), as Shakespeare’s finest comedy.
Viola has been rescued from a storm at sea and lands on Illyria. She believes that her twin brother Sebastian has not survived the ordeal and has drowned. Disguising herself as a young man, she enters the service of Duke Orsino. The Duke belives himsellf to be in love with the highly desirable countess Olivia, and uses Viola, (now known as Cesario to act as a go-between to aid his courtship. Olivia, much impressed with Cesario, fulls in love with him. Cesario, in the meantime fulls in love with Orsino. Still with me? The matters are brought to their conclusion when Sebastian enters the confused threesome’s world and all is happily resolved.
Sub-plots involve some of Shakeseare’s most famous creations. Sir Toby Belch, (Countess Olivia’s kinsman), who is fervent i n his desire to live the heady time of “cakes and ale”, typical of the twelve days of Christmastide to its utmost. His silly friend, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Olivia’s fool Feste, (although he disputes his role himself), Maria, (Olivia’s gentlewoman companion), and Flavia, (a servant in Olvia’s household). combine to humiliate Malvolio, (steward to Olivia), because he is a prig and pompous fellow, full of his own self-importance. “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” (Act II, Scene v), read out by Malvolio from a letter written by Maria, and thereafter used as his creed.
One of The Bard’s themes in this play is to bring attention to the controversial law regarding no female performers at this time being allowed on stage. Therefore, young boys tended to play women parts and this led to inevitable problems relating to sexual exploitation, homosexuality and prostitution.
Since 1991, Cotswold Arcadians have produced an annual Shakespeare production, which has been performed at Hatherop Castle for the past fifteen years or so. The Company has acquired a respected reputation within the amateur theatrical world, and has been recognised by the Royal Shakespeare Company, in its Open Stages project as a Company worthy of assistance, and this has been shown through members taking parts in workshops at Straford-upon-Avon.
Director Geoff Butterworth has set the plot in the 1920’s, the Jazz Age era. This is exemplified by period costume and a live band playing 1920’s hits. This isn’t the first time that I have seen a Shakespearean play adapted in this way. Back in 1992, I enjoyed David Thacker’s, “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” which did exactly the same thing. It work’s well, although I felt that the frivolous nature of flappers and The Jazz age is a little at odds with the Yuletide setting of “Twelfth Night”. The hot summer evening didn’t help either, but, I would much prefer viewing in this climate outdoors, than a cold January night in a deep beak winter.
The grass stage lies between two temporary stands in a traverse style. On either side of the space there are two primitive doors, one of which has a raised balcony . The four-piece band is placed just off-stage.
The quality of acting is of a good standard and in some instances reaches a height that would grace a West End stage.
Samantha Swinford as Viola/Cesario, after a nervous start, grows into her role and is particularly good at displaying masculine gait and characteristics. I watched the first night of this production, and based upon her improvement as the play progressed, I believe that she will do full justice to this demanding role.
Olivia, (Lizzie Leach) and Maria, (Heidi Price), both possess fine voices for Shakespeare and are equally impressive.
Fabia, (Caz Shaw) delivers her lines with a deadpan voice, if she added a rural Berkshire accent, with her appearance, you could take her for a youthful Pam Ayres.
On the male side, I warmed to Tony Free’s, Sir Andrew Aguecheek. It is easy, (and indeed I have witnessed it in a RSC production), to overplay this part, and it must be tempting to do it, but in this case the balance is spot-on. Some of the best scenes are reserved for his interaction with cronies, Sir Toby Belch, (Dave Kilmister), and Feste, John Salter), both of whom are also very good.
Jonathan Vickers, as the humiliated and somewhat tragic Malvolio is excellent, both in his early pomposity and latterly as the affronted victim.
There are no weakness in the remainder of the cast who collectively pull off a highly accomplished performance.
Veteran director Geoff Butterworth keeps the action rolling along at a good pace and shows nicely judged delicate touches. I feel that he should reconsider the opening scene whereby Viola’s voice is largely rendered inaudible due to sound effects of the tempest. I feel that Viola’s voice should be amplified somewhat whilst the effects moderated to get a balanced result. I also felt that the actors’ voices were louder after the interval, and as it being an outdoor production, this greatly added to the enjoyment. The actors’ delivery of both prose and iambic pentameter are conscientiously delivered.
I am not sure whether the live band worked that well. It seemed to me to be an odd variety of instruments and may have been improved by just a soloist or duo. Piped music may even work better. To have a live band is ambitious, but you need it to work well, and to depict the Jazz era more realistically, I feel the playing needs more zest.
These issues aside, this is a worth presentation of one of Shakespeare’s best loved plays and together with its idyllic outdoor setting marks an enjoyable evening’s entertainment in the Cotswold, on a warm summer’s evening.
The performance runs for about 160 minutes including a 15-minute interval. It continues to run until July 28th.
(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
Running time: 113 minutes
(3 / 5)
NB. My review represents the adult nature of this film and should be considered before viewing it.
(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.