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Old Wealden (Pinner, Middlesex UK)

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King Lear [VHS]
King Lear [VHS]
VHS
Offered by rdowns33
Price: £4.92

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A record of a seminal production, 5 Jan 2008
This review is from: King Lear [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Peter Brook used characteristic boldness in transferring his controversial, yet acclaimed stage production to the screen. Filmed entirely in rural Denmark, the bleak landscape echoes the pessimism of Brook's intepretation which follows the gloomiest version of the three texts which have survived. Indeed this production probably inspired critics to take a look at the texts again and many theatre practitioners have since abandoned the view that productions need to be compilations of all three and view each version as a play in its own right, each representing a different stage in Shakespeare's writing career. Brook's version is therefore a seminal one and it is good that there is a record of it. It will soon be forty years since this film was shot and, even those who disagree with Brook's reading, should surely be pleased to see the performances by actors many of whom are no longer with us. Jack Macgrowan, for instance, plays Lear's Fool with a delicate balance between the abject underdog and the king's chief critic and mentor. This is a production that has peeled away all superficialities to challenge us with the most important questions on identity and personal integrity.


Henry V [VHS]
Henry V [VHS]
VHS
Offered by qualityfilmsfromuk
Price: £7.40

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Psychological Cost of War, 1 Jan 2008
This review is from: Henry V [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Branagh's first screen version of a play by Shakespeare is still, in my opinion his best. It has often gained adverse criticism as being too like the RSC production in which he had recently starred and a pale imitation of Olivier's film. Neither comment is really fair though I wish Branagh had not followed Olivier's lead and been bold enough to include Henry's command during a tricky moment during the battle of Agincourt to "kill all the prisoners." Branagh does, however, grapple with the play's implied and most important question: is Henry V a good king or merely a successful one? The film can also be seen as a dialogue with the forties version. Whereas Olivier's interpretation of the night before Agincourt, has visual echoes of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemene, when Branagh's Henry puts on Erpinham's cloak, he looks rather like the Grim Reaper. There is also an homage to the extended shot of the French knights galloping towards the English lines in glorious sunshine. In Branagh's version the end of the battle shows the exhausted soldiers walking off the field amid mud and carnage, looking absolutlely drained of energy; is it significant that Olivier's long shot is filmed from left to right and Branagh's is the other way round? Branagh also emphasises the psychological cost of war, no more so than when Henry orders the execution of Bardolp, an old drinking companion, his crime being that of looting from a church. Branagh should also be given credit for filming Shakespeare at a time when it was deeply unfashionable; no popular version of any of his plays had been made for about fifteen years. After it the floodgates opened and all through the nineties at least two films based on the bard were released every year. None was more challenging than this one.


Conquest: The story of a theatre family
Conquest: The story of a theatre family
by Frances Fleetwood
Edition: Unknown Binding

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Popular culture at its most fascinating, 31 Dec 2007
Now that it has become respectable to admit enjoying popular entertainment, the story of the Conquest family deserves to be better known. They were one of those colourful theatrical dynasties who flourished from Victorian times until well into the twentieth century. Many of them were actors who, between them, took on everything from Shakespeare to pantomime; my favourite was the one who played the animals or "skin" roles. Several were very successful managers, running amongst other venues the Grecian and the Surrey, two of the most famous dramatic venues in London. Others were playwrights, dancers, acrobats and scenic designers; in fact there is hardly a corner in the theatrical profession which a Conquest did not occupy. Many of them combined an ability to work hard with the most innovative imagination. Frances Fleetwood describes each family member in a way which makes it hard not to like them all. We also learn of the people they employed, the most famous being Dan Leno. The Byzantine complexities of an extended family's relationships sometimes becomes overwhelming but the story is still a delight for anyone who loves to read about the Victorian stage.


Patricia Lynch: Storyteller
Patricia Lynch: Storyteller
by Phil Young
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Welcome but slight account of life rich in contrasts, 24 Dec 2007
I enjoyed a great many of Patricia Lynch's stories as a child and was delighted when I discovered her biography had been written. This one gives a balanced account of her life, which contains many surprising episodes. I was intrigued to learn of the role she played in various political and social movements. This book also gives brief but helpful introductions to each of her books. Ultimately, however, I felt dissatisfied, as if I had just skated the surface; surely all those fascinating twists and contrasts in her life's journey is worthy of much greater analysis. Phil Young mentions many of the people that Lynch knew but none of them are described very well; she seems unable to impart even a whiff of their individual qualities. Some years ago I was fortunate enough to meet Eugene Lambert. Young fails to capture the friendly charm of this extrovert, rumbustious character; here he seems pretty similar to all her other friends. In making her comparison with English writers for children, Young relies very heavily on the works of Enid Blyton; surely this is putting the first rate against the fifth. The obvious comparison would surely be Katharine Briggs' "Hobberdy Dick". Like Lynch this author grafts her story onto traditional folk lore, in this case English, and makes something new without diminishing the tradition in any way. There are also many, many better writers for children than Blyton, whose popularity has declined very much in the last forty years.


The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
by Maggie O'Farrell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written story, poor research, 10 Nov 2007
This is a well written story with an interesting double narrative contrasting a third person narrator and an interior monolgue. The writer has the ability to describe situations and relationships in a few vivid and well chosen sentences which enhanced my enjoyment though I find it offputting for a novel to be prefaced by three pages of adulatory reviews; publisher let the reader make up his or her own mind!

The novel examines the releasing of the mentally disabled into the community, which began in the late 1980s, and takes a worse case scenario. The refence books the author cites at the end are from the sensationalist end of accounts of this process; neither of them are recommended by MIND whose web site contains a long reading list. The flaw in the story comes from the author's apparant ignorance of the changes in mental health care at the end of the 1950s; it seems inconceivable that Esme would not have been moved to a different kind of home at that time and that she could have stayed there after for the rest of her life. Thinking about this story after I had finished reading it I felt that the author wrote this book not out of a desire to help the mentally ill, but to write something which would arouse indignation but not action in the readers.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 17, 2009 10:23 PM BST


In the Country of Men
In the Country of Men
by Hisham Matar
Edition: Paperback

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A child's view of the Libyan Revolution, 10 Nov 2007
This review is from: In the Country of Men (Paperback)
This was a choice of my book club which I looked forward to reading because I had spent some time in Tripoli not long before the revolution, a time and place which ought to be better known and I liked the idea of taking a nine year old boy's perspective and showing how hard he found it to make sense of what is going on around him. The author makes an eloquent case for the dangers which parents face if they try to "protect" their children from knowing the hard realities of life. However I found the emphasis upon the child's confusion made me muddled and the writer didn't delineate the minor characters as clearly as I would like. I also found it very hard to sympathise with any of them; the constant repetition of the parents' weaknesses became wearisome and eventually froze my compassion. There is a similar flaw in the evocation of place, the same few details are mentioned again and again. Overall I would have liked there to be greater variety of tone and mood.


Up the Years from Bloomsbury, an Autobiography
Up the Years from Bloomsbury, an Autobiography
by George Arliss
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read, 7 Oct 2007
The author was born in 1886 and brought up near the British Museum and his account of his boyhood is like a window onto this forgotton world. He is particular good on details such as the men who used to take hot food to eat at the theatre, using their unbuttoned shirts as a pocket so that both hands were free to clap and whistle. From a young age he particularly enjoyed the Harlequinade which came at the end of every Christmas pantomime; later he describes what it was like to perform in one. He gives a graphic and often amusing account of being a jobbing actor looking for work and hoping to get into the West End from the point of view of one who wasn't particularly famous at the time. Some of his anecdates made me laugh out loud. I didn't find the account so interesting once he had arrived in America; the book was written in 1927 and he may have felt inhibited about telling funny stories about colleagues who were still alive; nevertheless a valuable archive for students of the American theatre and cinema. His subsequent career in talkies is covered by his later book entitled "My Ten Years in the Studio." Though Arliss wasn't the greatest of actors, he should be honoured for his humanitarian values. His love and loyalty to friends and family never blinded him to the world elsewhere; the book is told with a geniality which seems to have characterised everything he did.


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