Thursday, August 25, 2005



Lisa highlighted this. I'm being hit too... As JoeinVegas and others have mentioned, you can now changed your comment settings to include word verification. Seems like a pretty good idea...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Sheffield's new superstar...

... in the theatre world, at least, is Mister Samuel West. As new Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres, he's got pretty large shoes to fill because Michael Grandage is, let's face, now untouchable. Southerners will know him as the guy who got Ewan McGregor onto the stage, but up North he's credited with pretty much single-handedly re-invigorating theatre in 'the provinces'. What a horrible, horrible phrase. But anyway, while this is probably to overlook the artistic directors at, say Manchester's Royal Exchange or Chichester Festival Theatre, his influence has undeniably been huge.

So long, Michael; enter Sam. And good luck.

At least he's started off on the right foot because, well, he's the right person for the job. Young, passionate and apparently infinitely knowledgable about plays and playwrights old and very new - two plasy for this season are not even written yet - and, something which we audiences seem to love, also an actor, his appointment to the post was met with, literally, a universal smile. Too many clauses in that sentence. Anyway, my point is that rather than facing a post-Grandage slump, it seems that Sheffield Theatres are only going to get better.

Why am I so sure? Because yesterday I attended a talk by West and Josie Rourke, the director of the first show of the season, Much Ado About Nothing ('yay' - David, 'boo' - Lisa ;)) in which West plays Benedict. They both spoke with incredible enthusiasm and knowledge about the season they have programmed (Rourke is involved as she is Associate Director). Vitally, they have encouraged me and my family to go to those few productions we overlooked in the brochure. West said he didn't want anything as 'cutsie' as a theme for the season, but one has emerged anyway - and that's simply stories that need to be told. War, unsurprisingly features heavily, from 'Romans In Britain' to 'The Long, The Short and The Tall'. It's a fascinating and incredibly challenging season - it seems that West is eternally grateful for Grandage putting him in the position where the audience will go with him 'anywhere', somewhere he seems determined to go.

So what else came out of the talk. Well, the first question asked was about the plays he would not want to leave having not done. West ummmed and ahhhed for a while, saying there are so many, then threw in a casual 'I'd be very surprised if I left Sheffield not having played Hamlet again'. Sam West. Hamlet. IN SHEFFIELD. Eat that, London. Not that it's a competition of course.... Later a member of the audience asked whether West valued the use of 'big names', and, thankfully, he said that while he loved to use the 'top tier' of young British acting, of course he saw the value of bringing, say, Derek Jacobi back - who is very keen to do so, it seems. And his parents....? Well, he didn't want to do it this season, but he could imagine doing Carol Churchill's 'A Number' - Tim West could play the father and Sam could play the three cloned sons. He talks about this, and playing Hamlet, as if it's nothing extraordinary, but there's a glint in his eye.

He knows, and now so do we, that the next few years are gonna be pretty special.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I've read on several occasions, that if you're looking for a singular, Pirates of the Caribbean-esque performance from Johnny Depp in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, then you're looking in the wrong place.

What? Were we watching the same film? That was one of the oddest performances I've ever come across, and a fabulous one at that. But then, that's just what we've come to expect from Depp, especially when he's teamed up with Burton (more often than not, happily for us). In true hack style, I shall do a "crossed with" comparison - Depp's Willy Wonka is like Ed Wood crossed with Rufus Wainwright. No come back! I don't have a bet with myself that I can crow bar Rufus into every blog, it's the honest truth. I was just thinking how Rufus-like Depp's mannerisms were when my mum leaned over to me and said the exact same thing! Go figure. And then there's a naivety and silliness to the character which reminded me of one of Depp's other fine performances - Ed Wood. Whenever Depp was on the screen, I had a huge, astonished grin on my face. We always applaud innovation and invention in music, we should applaud it in acting.

To be fair, he had a lot to work with, as the script was wickedly funny - but, thank goodness, not in a way which would exclude all the viewers under ten. [rant] That trend in family films is starting to annoy me, because we know it doesn't have to be that way. Shrek could learn a lot from Woody and Buzz. [/rant] And, as with all Burton films, it was treat to look at - his background in design and animation is a great asset. This isn't a perfect film, (a little too 'talky' for the first twenty minutes, for example - film means we can be shown instead of told, guys!) but as is so often the case, Depp has made a very good film great.

Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands are two of the best films of the nineties -long may the collaboration continue, I'm already looking forward to Corpse Bride... well, you can't go wrong with a title like that, can you?!