This was such a pleasure to watch. I wasn't entirely convinced a sequel was a good idea, but after seeing the trailer decided I had to see it anyway. Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, and easily overlooked Ewen Bremner, what's not to love? I see Shirley Henderson everywhere as well. It's not even as though I was a particular fan of Trainspotting when it first came out, but it was somehow still one of those defining movies of the era, and left its imprint on me. Catching up with everyone 20 years on is a bittersweet reunion, as both its cast and its target audience have aged, and I think the movie captures that sense of wistfulness without entirely losing the energy and edge that drove the first one. I wasn't too fond of the reprise of Renton's iconic speech, but the rest totally worked for me. Pure enjoyment, even if it did take me at least a minute or two to settle back into the accents *g*. And Begbie is still a force to be reckoned with - I've been watching Carlyle in Once Upon a Time and love how he disappears into his roles.
Newsies: the Musical (filmed Broadway production)
I've seen the movie with all-singing, all-dancing Christian Bale (hee - loved him in Swing Kids as well) and all I really remember about it was that there were newspaper boys singing and dancing en masse. And that's... pretty much all I remember about this version as well. Big bad newspaper company tries to increase profits by cutting the already slim margins the newsies get for selling their papers. Newsies decide to go on strike. Chaos and life lessons ensue. Also, I still don't know anything about Santa Fe, but it seems to be some kind of magical fantasyland for New Yorkers (I'm pretty sure the people in Rent were hung up on Santa Fe as well).
I didn't realise this had been nominated for an Academy Award until well after seeing it, but I'm very glad it was. I wanted to see it mostly based on the trailer, wherein Dev Patel does the most immaculate Australian accent from a non-Australian I've ever seen on screen. I was all,"who is this Indian Australian guy, and why does he look familiar even though I don't... actually know any Indian Australian actors?". I'm afraid I didn't recognise him from Slumdog Millionaire, even though I saw that as well. His accent is more authentically Australian than Nicole Kidman's at this point, seriously.
Anyway, Lion is the story of young Saroo (played by Sunny Pawar, who is the real star of the movie, and by rights should probably have received an acting nomination in some category) who through a series of misadventures ends up lost in the city of Calcutta, far from his home village. He doesn't even speak the language (they speak Hindi; he speaks Bengali), and when he tells people the name of his village, no one recognises it. Eventually, he is put into an orphanage and adopted by an Australian couple. Despite a good life and loving parents, as a young adult he nevertheless feels compelled to try and track down his village and find his way "home" (this part of the movie was brought to you by Google Earth). Anyway, it's an amazing (true) story, and like just about everyone else I was reduced to a pile of mush during several scenes. It was a little flat in the middle, when Saroo was reduced to an excessive amount of moping, angsting, and snapping at his girlfriend and family, but the rest of it was good enough to counteract that. It was also incredible to see the real "Saroo" (and the other people in his life) at the end.
Away (Michael Gow) - Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Away is regarded as a classic Australian play, but having seen it, I don't really see why it's such a big deal. After a school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, three families go "away" for the summer holidays - Tom and his family, who are British immigrants, Meg and her neurotic mother and placatory father, and the headmaster and his wife, who are recovering from the loss of their son in the Vietnam War and are having marriage difficulties. Initially, the internal dynamics of each family are explored as they set off for their respective holidays, and when they all end up on the same beach after a huge storm, the families come together to interact (or not) in various ways. It was interesting enough, the characters were vividly drawn, and it's always good to see Australian drama performed on stage instead of something imported, but it still lacked something for me. I think I subconsciously resented that the play leaned so heavily on Shakespearean references - the school play, the huge storm - and I also found it unbalanced in the amount and depth of character exploration and interaction that occurred. Worth seeing once, but eh.
Cabaret - Hayes Theatre
I've seen at least three different versions of this, plus the movie, and I think every time I see it I get more out of it. I've never been particularly fond of this musical, I think because it has a lot of songs that don't strictly move the plot forward, but I'm admiring it more and more as time goes on. I think the themes have just never become irrelevant or dated, and it feels quite cutting even today. The Emcee was played by Paul Capsis, which was probably the major drawcard for me, but it was the musical itself that ended up being the star. Somehow this production felt darker than others I've seen, and the brutal repercussions of a time when civilisation is collapsing - some get trampled underfoot, some escape while they can, and some just stay put, put on a bright smile, and keep right on dancing - feel very relevant right now. In other productions I've seen, Cliff and Sally are very much the focus, but in this one Fraulein Schnieder and Herr Schultz (played by Kate Fitzpatrick and John O'May) became the heart of the show, and I think the strength of their performances very much influenced the overall effect.
The Tempest (RSC Live screening)
I hate The Tempest, but went to it with G out of a sense of obligation. Um... let's see, the special effects were great, Simon Russell Beale as Prospero is apparently a big deal but means nothing to me, and Ariel (Mark Quartley) just took the show and walked off with it. In my head The Tempest is now really the story of a magical spirit, Ariel, who is rescued from a tree by a grumpy magician, and strives with all his might to earn his freedom. Some other people were also there. Okay, that's probably unfair. Trinculo (Simon Trinder) and Stephano (Tony Jayawardena) were ridiculously entertaining, but then they were comic relief. Miranda (Jenny Rainsford) was... fine. Did I mention how amazing Ariel was?
Chimerica (Lucy Kirkwood) - Sydney Theatre Company, Roslyn Packer Theatre
I first heard about this play when it was on in London a while ago, and while the premise interested me, I probably wouldn't have paid full price to see it here (like Away, I bought cheap tickets through a scheme similar to the NT's 10 pound tickets). Chimerica, of course, is a portmanteau of "China" and "America", reflecting the intertwined relationship of the two global powers. The play is about a photojournalist, Joe, who was covering the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests that turned into the Tiananmen Square massacre, and who took a photo of the iconic "Tank Man"- the guy who stood in front of an entire line of tanks with his shopping bags and angrily tried to wave them off. If you are old enough to remember coverage of Tiananmen, you'll remember him. (While he is real, the play is fictionalised.)
Twenty years later, Joe wants to do a followup on Tiananmen, and becomes obsessed with trying to identify and trace the mysterious Tank Man, a search that takes him around Beijing and various parts of the US. In Beijing he hits up old language teacher friend Zhang Lin to help him, and along the way also meets a British businesswoman, Tessa, who is trying to work out ways of segmenting the huge Chinese population for the benefit of future marketing strategies.
The production was distinctive in that it had a significant Asian/Chinese cast, obviously quite rare in Anglo theatre, and while the London production had about 17 people, this production had around 30. This is huge for a non-musical production, and made for some stunning group choreography and crowd scenes. At the very beginning, the entire cast stood in diagonal lines, backs to the audience, all dressed up as Tank Man. In unison, they replicated the gestures he made towards the tanks. The choreography here, as well as in several group scenes, really evoked the sense of scale and unity associated with China, and I loved the use of the cast to populate scenes in general. While the production was a daunting three hours long, each scene moved along at a rapid pace, and I don't remember being bored. Not life-changing in any way, but an intriguing mix of historical fact, detective story, political commentary, and romance, which was well worth seeing.
Aladdin (the musical) - Capitol Theatre
This was a Christmas present for my mum, and therefore I felt I had to go along, even though I really didn't think it'd be my kind of thing. I was right. Although I have to stress that it wasn't bad in any way. It had all the fun tunes you remember from the animated movie. It had many impressive special effects, particularly the scintillating Cave of Wonders, a "flying" carpet, and Jafar's amazing quick changes. The cast were all competent and appealing, although the Genie (an imported Michael James Scott) swept all before him without contest. There were beautiful costumes and well-choreographed dancing and running gags. Everyone around me - including my mum - loved it.
It's just that... compared to musicals like Wicked and Book of Mormon (not necessarily deep, but a little more thought-provoking) it felt like there was no there there. All flash and minimal substance, and I think I would have enjoyed watching the movie again every bit as much, if not more. The stage show did very little for me (except for the impressive "how did they...?" stage magic) that the movie didn't do better. Okay, it didn't help that I sat next to a woman who smelled like she had drenched herself in perfume, and I am particularly sensitive to smell. Given that the musical was two and a half hours long, it was pretty trying. It would be bearable for a while, and then I'd get another huge waft and have to discreetly scrunch up my nose. There's just no polite way of asking someone sitting next to you whether they'd mind go taking a shower :/
And... I'm done. Ooh, and Inside No. 9 is back on, for those who care. Loving it :D
Additional thought: I have been wondering "where to now?" for the Sherlock fandom. While I'm sure there's still hope for another season, The Final Problem did feel quite "final", and I'm getting the vibe - rightly or wrongly - that despite whatever public declarations they might have made, BC and MF would like to move on to other things for a long while, and maybe only come back after things have settled down substantially. Also, I get the feeling S3 split off a lot of avid fans, followed by more in S4. So I'm wondering whether Sherlock fandom will now settle to "cancelled show" levels or whether there's enough likelihood of S5 to keep things going strong. I haven't been on tumblr much, so maybe this is all just a reflection of my own mixed feelings about the show, so what are your thoughts about where fandom is headed (not necessarily based on your own personal feelings)?