Orpheus in the Deep South

Green Book (Peter Farrelly, 2018)

There’s a point in this film when driver/body guard Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) tells African American musician Dr Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) that his wife (Linda Cardellini) has bought his version of Orpheus in the Underworld. That’s the one is which the champion lyre player descends into hell to rescue someone.

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Drawn Together and Apart

Klimt/Schiele: Drawings from the Albertina (Royal Academy of Arts, 4 November 2018-3 February 2019)

The Albertina Collection was founded in 1776 by Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen and now has a million drawings and prints, which rarely see the light. Here, marking the joint centenary if their deaths we get a joint exhibition of, well, not quite Master and Pupil, but evidently of two of the leading Austrian artists of the first two decades of the twentieth century. As the medium is drawing, and the fame behind Klimt is for paintings such as The Kiss and we probably know Schiele through his drawings, the younger man will win this draw off.
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Mary Queen of Poppins

Mary Queen of Scots (Josie Rourke, 2018)

Having just seen a rather mixed version of Richard II, with Simon Russell Beale, this felt rather theatrical, albeit without the poetry. There’s the Meaningful Looks from ensemble dignitaries, many of whose names escape me, brandishing of papers, condensation of time (oh, is that the same day or twenty years later?)… the climactic encounter between the two two leads which seems to be staged amidst indoor washing lines. And there’s Simon Russell Beale, in a brief cameo. There’s also race blind casting — yes, there were people of colour in Elizabethan England (and presumably Marian Scotland), but Bess of Hardwick (Gemma Chan) and the English ambassador (Adrian Lester)? It comes as no surprise that Rourke comes from the theatre — the Donmar Warehouse — and is better at tableaux than action.
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Consenting Adults

Life in Motion: Egon Schiele/Francesca Woodman (Liverpool Tate, 24 May-20 September 2018)

A couple of years ago, there was an exhibition called Schiele’s Women at the Courtauld, and I swear that I wrote it up, as Schiele’s Sheilas (yes, I know), but fortunately or unfortunately I can’t find my notes. I think I bought the catalogue. But even without that I would have made the trip to the Pool to see one of their paired exhibitions— like Bacon and Lassnig or Klein and Krasiński where sometimes the pairings work and sometimes they don’t. Like whoever it was with Leonora Carrington.
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Sad Stories of the Death of Kings

William Shakespeare, The Tragedie of King Richard II (Directed by Joe Hill-Gibbons, Almeida Theatre, live relay)

So more bard — I have a vague memory of a Nottingham Playhouse production and at least one War of the Roses cycle, and of course Ben Wishaw played a rather fey version on the telly… Simon Russell Beale in contrast has an air of camp in what is a stripped down, eight person, single set, hundred minute version.

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Faustus Must Be Damn’d

Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus (Directed by Paulette Randal, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse)

img_7197I’d managed to forget that Pauline McLynn was in this as Mephistopheles — which is just as well as I would have been channelling Mrs Doyle. “Ah will you not sell your soul, Father Dougal? Ah, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on… Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on…” It does make sense in retrospect — she brings a grotesquery to the role, as well as a cat who has got the cream (with or without tea), as she knows what is to come. There is also a moment when she licks the knife Faustus has used to get blood to sign with — and I’m reminded of Gary Oldman’s Dracula licking Keannu Reeves’s Harker’s cut-throat razor. There is even a physical resemblance.

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Another Fine Mess

Stan & Ollie (Jon S. Baird, 2018)

8232d0ea-89fd-4b81-95e2-be5046d4dea3All comics end in tragedy, in one way or another. They either die in harness — Tommy Cooper on stage — or fade away to keep bees on the South Sussex Downs or can’t stay at the top. Those giants of silent film — Keaton, Lloyd and Chaplin — transitioned awkwardly into the synchronised sound era, but production slowed or stopped. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were paired together by Hal Roach, with Laurel’s gift for dialogue pairing perfectly with their slapstick. But Laurel never had the financial control he craved and was unable to negotiate a better deal as his contract never ended at the same time as Hardy’s. Laurel left Hal Roach Studios and Hardy made a film with Harry Langdon; thirteen years later the two tour Britain and Ireland in 1953, rebuilding an audience as the has-beens, enjoyed more in reruns than live, and trying to out together one last film. But Hardy is dying.

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