Saw the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company screening of The Entertainer (by John Osborne), starring the aforementioned Kenneth Branagh. This production was originally slated to co-star John Hurt, but he had to pull out due to health issues, which is sad. Branagh is Archie Rice, a ye olde music hall entertainer, and the play charts the decline not only of his profession and way of life, but of grand old England, which is getting involved in foreign wars while being overrun by immigrants who don't know their place (those bloody Poles!). Archie is white, male, middle-aged, angry and bitter, and holding on to his past and future as best he can. So it would appear to hold a lot of thematic promise and relevance, but considering I only pieced the connections together for myself after the fact, it didn't really deliver.
The first obstacle for me was that the play was intended for audiences of its time (1957). And unlike many other plays, which are pretty self-explanatory regardless of when they are set, it did not bother explaining the prevailing circumstances, because the original audience would have already understood them. So when Rice's daughter returns home right at the beginning, one of the major controversies that is referred to repeatedly is that she "was at Trafalgar Square", and this may be related to her breaking up with her boyfriend. I had no idea what this was about, and mentally subbed in a theory about women's rights until I could google it. Secondly, one of Rice's sons is fighting in a war overseas. Much later we are informed he's in Egypt. Again, sorry for not knowing my history, but in a quiz show I would never choose the category "British military conflicts of the 50s" for double points.
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Then saw an actual play at the Belvoir, Faith Healer, by the late Brian Friel. A production of this was on in London recently, and to be honest, half the philosophy of the Australian theatre scene seems to be "let's copy what's on in London". We had Charles III and Hamlet last year, and next year we're getting a production of Chimerica and Icke's 1984 (which I do want to see). Sure, some of these are new plays, and therefore you might expect them to be picked up and produced, but given how small the theatre scene is in comparison, it really is an ongoing theme.
This was an interesting play, structurally, in the sense that it was not so much a play but three separate monologues, something none of us realised going in. I spent the first 15 minutes wondering if anyone else was going to come on and wondering if I'd inadvertently booked a one-man show. The play begins with the Irish "faith healer" in questions, Francis Hardy (played by Colin Friels, no relation, note the 's'). He talks about his life travelling from town to town, and admits that most of the time he's a complete fake, but sometimes... sometimes he really does have the gift. He just can't predict when he'll have it, but he knows when it happens. He talks about his dear wife Grace and his eccentric manager Teddy, and that time he cured an entire room of people, and the time he was in a bar with a roomful of drunken men who ask him to cure one of their friends - and he agrees even though he knows he won't be able to. The second monologue is from Grace (Alison Whyte) who talks about her own life with Francis, and through her we realise that Francis' version of events may not be entirely reliable. Finally, we have manager Teddy (Pip Miller) who elaborates on, corrects, and extends the first two versions.
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Also went to see The Wharf Revue. This is an annual comedy revue at the Wharf Theatre based on current and political events of the preceding year, and a well-loved tradition. I've only been once before, but it's generally a lot of fun, and given the year's events I decided at the last moment that I wanted to go. Tickets were already sold out, but I managed to get some discount last-minute releases (similar to the NT's Friday rush tickets) which I was really happy about. It's always written and performed by the core cast of Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe, and Phillip Scott, who are all amazingly talented, and this year with Katrina Retallick playing many (not all) of the female roles and supplying some excellent vocals.
The actors really are chameleons, and their impersonations of our local politicians were spot on - Tony Abbott (Jonathan Biggins) fan-dancing in red budgie smugglers was terrifyingly realistic, and Drew Forsythe as Pauline Hanson and Philip Scott as Derryn Hinch (a former controversial current affairs host - I can't believe he's a for-real politician now) were other highlights. They rounded off with a nod to US politics in the form of 'Little GOP of Horrors" (I never said it was high-brow comedy) which featured the songs "Suddenly Donald" and Bernie Sanders with his flyaway hair imploring the public to "Vote for Me". There was also a bizarre but hilarious parody of Disney's "Under the Sea" (because we should all go back where we came from!) featuring the cast in full-size turtle, lobster and starfish costumes.
Movie-wise, I keep meaning to see Arrival and Fantastic Beasts, but have seen neither of them. However, I did go see Denial, which screened here as part of the Jewish International Film Festival. I mainly went to see it for Mark Gatiss (and bonus Andrew Scott), but I was interested in the subject matter as well. I grew up with Holocaust books and movies, which in hindsight is kind of weird, because Jewishness isn't really a part of the cultural landscape here, the way it seems to be in the US. While the media might occasionally have a story on Lunar New Year or Ramadan, everything I know about Jewish cultural traditions I got from my f-list (and/or research and reading). Nevertheless.
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Oh, and last and very much least, I watched The Visit (M Night Shyamalan) on DVD. Two children go and stay with their grandparents, who seem to be acting very strangely. But, as their mother reassures them over Skype, they're just a bit eccentric - because they're old. The kids were both great actors, but the resolution was obvious in the first half hour (even though I am generally Captain Clueless), then took forever to get there, and was thoroughly unsatisfying when it finally did. Eh.
I'm really looking forward to Split (James McAvoy) and T2. Honestly, I was put off by the idea of a sequel to Trainspotting, but the trailer looked unexpectedly cool and now I must see it :D. What movies are you looking forward to?