Life is Not a Dream

Martin Sherman, Gently Down the Stream (directed by Sean Mathias, Park Theatre, Finsbury Park)

GentlyForty years ago, Martin Sherman wrote the play Bent, which in its original version starred Ian McKellen (before he publically came out) and Tom Bell and was set in 1930s Berlin as Hitler was strengthening his power. McKellen’s then partner, Sean Mathias, directed a revival and a film version – although I have I suspect a false memory of seeing it on TV. Now Mathias has directed Sherman’s new play, which ranges across the last eighty years. It debuted last year with Harvey Fierstein in the lead, a production I wish I’d seen, directed by Mathias.

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Suite Caroline

Tony Kushner (book and lyrics) and Jeanine Tesori (music), Caroline, or Change (directed by Michael Longhurst, Playhouse Theatre, London)

I was lucky enough to catch a day-long double bill of Tony Kushner’s extraordinary Angels in America at the National Theatre in 2017 and was intrigued enough to want to see Caroline, or Change at Chichester… but I’d only discovered it was on a day before it shut and evidently missed the transfer to Hampstead. A transfer to the Playhouse, Northumberland Avenue, seemed like a good bet and I would need to be in London on the day of one of the performances anyway.

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On Pointe

Girl (Lukas Dhont, 2018)

Trans issues are a hot button topic right now — not least because some feminists have an issue with people declaring themselves to be women and sounding in the process as if they have an essentialist view of women closer to the conservative side of the debate. A programme such as Woman’s Hour can have a presenter claiming that sportswomen will no longer succeed as suddenly a lot of male athletes will claim to be women. And a few years back there was a lot of controversy over the (problematic) The Danish Girl, since Eddie Redmayne was a cis actor. Were there any trans actors who could have played the role? Would the film have been funded with one?

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The First Casualty of News

A Private War (Matthew Heineman, 2018)

Marie Colvin was a female war correspondent, following in the footsteps of Martha Gellhorn (and Kate Adie), reporting under fire from many of the hell holes of the world. We know what war correspondents are like from films — hardbitten, tough, driven, sociopathic and unable to maintain normal relationships, slave to the bottle and traumatised if they’d but admit it. It’s still unusually to see a women in this role on film, although since at least the 1930s journalism has been an acceptable job for a woman on screen.

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Two Steps Forward

Foxtrot ((פוֹקְסטְרוֹט) Samuel Maoz, 2017)

This film pissed off the Israeli Minister of Culture because it depicted the Israeli armed forces being less than perfect. There have been any number of incidents over the years which are claimed to be misreported or someone else’s fault. But by the law of averages, all armies screw up. Or act inappropriately.

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Beale Street Blues

If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins, 2018)

Barry Jenkins is a straight man who seems to be making gay-themed films — his last one, which I recall a bit of a sense of agnosticism about, Moonlight, rightly won the Oscar over La La Land. Here Jenkins adapts the late novel by the great gay African American writer, James Baldwin, in a project that has been long in development. I confess I haven’t yet read the novel, but I gather the ending has been softened, but it remains a powerful piece.
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