Skyfall

27/10/2012

SKYFALLI won’t beat about the proverbial bush… SKYFALL is probably going to go down in Bond film history as one of the best, if not THE best of the 23-films to date. I am not a film buff so will spare my reader an incompetent review, there are plenty out there to stimulate the debate. But I went into this film hoping that it would be good. And it really, really is.

The production of a Bond film must be a double-edged sword for any Director who gets the call from Eon Productions… following the codes of Bond, the books and films past, must be as excruciating a process as Hedi Slimane faces at YSL or Raf Simons at Dior – bringing a much loved and understood language into the current moment, recognisable and familiar but new and challenging. Sam Mendes has achieved this without question… and in doing so has set up the next 50 years of Bond films for future fans to enjoy. The first half of the film is not I will confess as accomplished as the second half, which is pure unadulterated Bond. The title song is the best since Shirley Bassey belted out Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever.

My regular reader knows me as a Bond fan – more so now than ever.

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Edward & Mrs Simpson are something of a cultural phenomenon once again. Following hot on the heels of that fantastic Oscar-winning film The Kings Speech is a play at the Hampstead Theatre entitled The Last of the Duchess. If you get a moment to go and see it I thoroughly recommend you do… especially as we will soon have Madonna’s much talked about film W.E. to pour over in minute detail. Our fascination with this controversial couple seems very much au courant despite the main events happening over 70 years ago.

The play is set entirely in the Bois du Boulogne mansion which the Duke & Duchess inhabited in exile in Paris. On loan from the French government, the house played host to many a glamorous party over the years but in her last few became something of a prison for the Duchess who, at the mercy of those employed to protect her, became a reclusive and seldom-seen shadow. The play explores the character of her fearsome lawyer Maitre Blum, and in doing so paints a somewhat sinister picture of life for the Duchess as the glamour faded and the notoriety and paranoia came home to roost.

The cast is exceptional and lead by two household favourites, the wonderful Sheila Hancock as Maitre Blum, and Anna Chancellor who is instantly known to all as the actress who played Duckface in Four Weddings and a Funeral. She is really a very good actress  and has probably done masses of much bigger and better roles but that’s the one that has stuck. The acting is brilliant and whilst the play is highly fictionalised, the sinister undertones and unspoken nuances will leave you asking many more questions of the circumstances surrounding these characters that it answers. Which is definitely for the best… for the truth is… who really knows what happened?

The Last of the Duchess runs at The Hampstead Theatre until 26th November.

Royal Opera House Costume Sale

Dressing-up is something I don’t think we grown-ups do nearly enough… and now the perfect excuse to plan a period costume ball is upon us as on 24th & 25th September the Royal Opera House will host a fabulous costume sale at their production HQ in the Essex countryside. No, I don’t know where that is either but it is only 30 minutes from Fenchurch Street by train and affords one the perfect excuse to head out of town for a bit of lush greenery AND the opportunity to acquire an absolutely show-stopping outfit to stow away and bring out when the occasion calls for it.

There are around 1500 costumes for sale, reflecting varied periods in fashion history, and prices start at an achingly affordable £20 and go up to an investment-level £500.

There really are so few opportunities to get hold of such sumptuous garments as this. Theatrical costumes are known to be rigorously well-made to withstand heavy daily use, and many are handmade from scratch by highly skilled cutters, seamstresses and embroiderers. Rich brocades, fabulous colour and statement embellishments are par for the course and a visit here will make our daily wear seem positively monastic in its restraint.

The absolute best news is that all proceeds from the sale go to help support the Royal Opera House, helping them to reach new audiences and create even more lavish and inspiring productions.

Follow this link to all the information you need including how to get to the sale. Enjoy!

Go see…

05/10/2010

Its a real treat going to the theatre on a Monday night when really you feel that you should be at home doing something dull… my very unglamorous and domestic to-do list was thrown out of the window without a second thought the moment I was presented with two tickets to go and see Noel Coward’s play Design for Living at the Old Vic.

I don’t normally review plays or performances I have seen but this play really is worth shouting about. The play itself is fast paced, funny, brilliant, pretentious… and performed with absolutely immaculate timing, polish and pitch. It undulates from intimate, quiet conversation to a crashing crescendo of explosive outrage and protestation and back again with the seemingly endless versatility of the cast being stretched to and fro within the scenes. Seldom did I look round at my fellow theatregoers (who knew the stalls at the Old Vic were so glamorous!) as I was literally swept along by the ebb and flow of the performance.

It is such an old cliche but if you spend £50 on any one ticket this year make it to go and see this play. It is risque, funny, brilliantly acted and above all entertaining. One thing I really did like about the Old Vic was nicely spaced rows, allowing one sufficient leg room to not feel like a battery chicken (Royal Opera House take note!) in the stalls,  and the best thing is that you are allowed to take your alcoholic beverage (in this case a Plymouth Gin and tonic) with you to your seat. Mr Coward would certainly have taken his glass of fizz with him I have no doubt!

Design for Living by Noel Coward.
www.oldvictheatre.com