Quick media summary:
Wonder Woman (yes, this is going waaay back now) - I used to watch the TV series as a kid, but was still not terribly enthused about the movie, just because I reached my superhero limit a while back. But I did actually enjoy it, which was surprising and a nice change. Exceeded expectations.
1984 - this was the Australian staging of Robert Icke's London production, and I knew the reviews had been mixed, but I love the book so was still looking forward to it. There were some great moments - especially O'Brien, who was basically channelling dark!Mycroft - but I thought this production rather fell under the category of "too clever for its own good".
Here the play is framed by "new" scenes that show the world has moved on since Winston's experience, and a book club is now examining his diaries as historical documents. There's some meaningful doubling and intercutting of past/future character roles, paired with a cursory rendition of the story that I felt assumed an underlying knowledge of the book. I think it would have been too perfunctory to give the full sweep of the world if you didn't already know the text. Admittedly, most people probably would know it, but I still didn't see it justifying the concept. I can understand that it was a way of putting a new "spin" on the production, like that Almeida Richard III that bookended the play with his bones being excavated from the carpark. But while I really liked that particular conceit, and felt it added something to the story, this one did nothing for me. I don't think it underlined the themes - if anything, it shortchanged them by pulling focus. The real power of the play came mostly from the original text.
Cloud Nine (Caryl Churchill) - Very interesting production of a play that toys with the ideas of gender, race and identity. The first part is set in colonial Africa, in which a prim, white, upper-class household is filled with people all longing for the freedom to be something or someone else. The female nanny is in love with the mistress of the house, while she lusts after her husband's male friend, who in turn fancies their houseboy. Meanwhile, the husband is having an affair with another woman, and the little boy just wants to grow up and be a man. But the housewife is played by a man, the little boy by a mature-age woman, the husband's upper-class friend by a black man, and the house servant by a white man.
The story itself is along the lines of a classic relationship comedy of errors - at least until the end - but the casting gives it an interesting edge. Some very nice staging with a big glass box at the back that served as the "house" interior, with the characters stepping out onto red dirt that gradually stained their crisp white clothing. Then after the interval we move to the present day, the cast swap around again, and we end up with a modern-day scenario of love and longing in England where time has somehow warped so that the characters have only aged one generation in the interim, and some still remember their time living overseas.
Well worth seeing, but I felt it didn't quite come together - the first half was brilliant, but didn't really tie into the the second half and its themes to form a coherent whole. It was almost like they were crafted as two separate one-act plays, and then stapled together. But still good.
Atomic Blonde - I would never have gone to see this, but was offered free tickets, and hey, Charlize Theron and James MacAvoy, why not? And it was actually pretty good, mainly due to Charlize Theron kicking serious ass. It's basically spy thriller crossed with action movie, where she does everything a typical male spy would - including sleeping with a mysterious femme fatale - except in awesome outfits. Also gets points for the 80s setting, in Berlin just before the Wall fell, with an atmospheric soundtrack to boot. It made the 80s seem way cooler than I remember them being at the time, full of moody blue lighting and synth beats. James MacAvoy was good, but his role wasn't really all that important. John Goodman was in there as well as her grumpy boss, and he was great.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (NT Live screening) - I studied this in high school and enjoyed its rhythms, but it didn't have the same weight it does seeing it now. Went mainly for Imelda Staunton, who was flat out INCREDIBLE. Even on the screen - or maybe especially on the screen, I have no comparison - she was a force of nature. People often write "her eyes flashed", but I don't think I've ever seen it demonstrated quite so vividly before. She was sweet, seductive, and terrifying. When Nick and Honey finally leave, I was reminded of the aftermath of a horror movie, where the survivors finally stagger out into the sunlight, bloodied and beaten but still alive. But of course in this one, the monster still manages to elicit sympathy.
I've known who she was since Peter's Friends (and she was lots of fun in Psychoville) but have never seen her in starring roles until Gypsy (which I saw with flywoman two years back). Anyway, she's amazing. I know she's doing Follies right now with Philip Quast, which will be recorded, and cannot wait. I should spare a mention for George (Conleth Hill), who was also excellent, and a worthy foil for her.
The Book of Mormon (Princess Theatre, Melbourne) - I went down to Melbourne for a conference (long story), and thought I'd try the Lottery since I'd already seen it in London and didn't mind too much if I happened to miss out on seeing the show entirely. I won! Eeeee! (It means you can buy front row seats for $40, yes please and thank you.). Anyway, this was a really fun time as always - I liked this production a little better than the one in London, mainly because our Arnold Cunningham was much more ungainly - the actor in London was so conventionally attractive that he didn't have much to work with *g*. Everything was top-notch, as you'd hope, and the front row was a fantastic place to be. Will probably see again when it comes to Sydney.
Bernadette Robinson - The Show Goes On (Opera House) - I've followed Bernadette Robinson's career since the 90s - she's basically a cabaret-style singer who specialises in vocal impersonations, and she's amazing at what she does. This show was loosely based around Judy Garland talking about her life (as well as singing The Trolley Song) and going on to introduce fellow divas like Barbra Streisand, Julie Andrews, Shirley Bassey (singing a glorious Diamonds are Forever), Piaf, Patsy Cline, and an amazing Maria Callas. Just think of what it takes for someone to be able to sing like Shirley Bassey, Patsy Cline AND Maria Callas, and you'll have some idea of her sheer vocal technique. There was also a "duet" between Judy Garland and Julie Andrews that had to be heard to be believed. I am pretty sure she could just have been an opera singer, but I've read that she enjoyed the challenge of the different vocal styles. Solidly entertaining, as always.
The Dark Tower - wow, way to end on a low note. Aiyiyi. Not even Idris Elba could save this one, sorry. It bore the same resemblance to the Dark Tower book series as a porn version of Harry Potter might to its source material. Like, you know who the characters are meant to be, and they kind of have the personalities you'd expect, and there's a superficial attempt at recreating the vibe of the thing, but nothing that happens in it remotely resembles the text. I was more bemused by it than anything else. Entertaining in its own YA way, but a bit... silly. Please, no sequels. Try a TV mini-series instead.
Wait, that reminded me of something that really was good - I recently read Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (now host of The Daily Show) and it was both dazzlingly entertaining and thought-provoking. I know very little about what apartheid-era life in South Africa was actually like, and it was fascinating to hear about it from his unique perspective. Not only has he had an amazing life, but he really knows how to tell a story. I thought this was so worth reading I've been pushing it onto people, and I can't remember the last time I did that. So let me also recommend it to you all now :)