Pinter 2, Pinter at the Pinter Season, Pinter Theatre, London WC1

 
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In December 2018 it will be 10 years since the death of Harold Pinter. In celebration of his legacy, the Jamie Lloyd Company is producing a season of all 19 of his one act plays at the Pinter Theatre. There will be 7 different programmes each containing either 2, 3 or 4 of his pieces. The cast list for the season has to be seen to be believed, stellar is no over-estimate of their quality.
Pinter 2 contains two plays, The Lovers and The Collection, both comedies and both written in the early 1960s. The Lovers has John MacMillan, Hayley Squires and Russell Tovey. The Collection has these three and David Suchet. The Lovers is a one room play set over a couple of days in the living room of a married couple. The dialogue is, in true Pinter fashion, bright and stilted. The set and conversation are pastiche early TV sitcom. This works really well, it makes the subject matter funnier, darker and pinpoints it in time perfectly. John MacMillan and Hayley Squires are the husband and wife, Richard and Sarah. Their comic timing is impeccable. The piece lasts about 50 minutes, it starts off light an funny. The story is inventive and the writing witty. In short, this is classic Pinter done well.
The Collection is a four hander, this time about 2 couples, set in 2 living rooms. This one is more sinister, right from the start. It is still very funny though. David Suchet and Russell Tovey, play Harry and Bill, the other couple are Stella and James, played by Hayley Squires and John MacMillan. Although there is nothing explicit anywhere in this play, it must have been quite shocking when it was first performed in 1961, and I can imagine that the censor would have taken an interest in how it was produced. It is beautifully written, in that, there is nothing overt in the manner of their relationships, however we are in no doubt as to what is going on. For it to work this well, the actors have to be well attuned to the writing. All four of them are wonderful. David Suchet gives an acting masterclass in this play, he knows perfectly when to be larger than life and when to rein it in. Russell Tovey too, gave a nicely nuanced performance delivering funny double-entendres with an ominous undertone.
The set is simple and clever, spot lit areas move us from one scene to another. Jamie Lloyd directs both plays sympathetically, he allows the writing and acting to shine. This play is also just about an hour long. I am beginning to think this might be Pinter’s perfect length. This pair of plays are pure joy to watch and now I am left with the quandary of how to get hold of tickets for the other 6 in the season.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Harold Pinter Theatre, 2017

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Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf perfectly illustrates the difference between the questions “Was it good?” and “Did you enjoy it?”
This is a fantastic play, and a wonderful production of it. The acting was immense from all four characters. Imelda Staunton was as brilliant as you would expect, there is nobody better at making you understand the frailty of a dark, flawed individual, and she can change from a vicious harridan to a seductive, provocative vamp in the blink of an eye.  Conleth Hill was a revelation, he lives that part – how he can keep up that intensity for three hours per performance is incredible.
The direction is sparse, keeping you focussed on the people and the set is simple but effective. Three hours is long for such heightened emotions but the time flew by because of the compelling nature of the character interaction. However, it is comparable to watching a car crash in slow motion because, the farther you move into the play, the stronger the realisation becomes – that there can be no happy conclusion here. The only option is to sit and watch in morbid fascination, to see just how bad the casualties will be.
So, I did not enjoy it very much, it wasn’t written for enjoyment, but this does not prevent it being one of the best plays on in London at the moment.
The audience really appreciated their effort, it is a rare thing these days to see the whole audience stand in ovation from curtain down, but they did here, and this was truly deserved.
If you get the opportunity to see this production, I recommend that you gird your loins, prepare yourself mentally, but definitely go.

Maleficent (dir. Robert Stromberg) 2014

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This movie has earned over $750million so it is a huge success by many standards and it certainly has a lot going for it. It looks spectacular – this is obviously what Disney were aiming for when they hired Robert Stromberg, whose previous experience was in special effects, as director. They took a risk by giving him the largest ever budget for a first time director and it paid off. The style of the film is individual and the worlds he created are lush and beautiful.
Angelina Jolie is perfect for the part, always visually striking. As Maleficent, she is cold and polished, yet she is compassionate and composed when necessary and she makes us believe these changes in temperament. She needs to be strong as this film is all about her, every other role is almost a cameo.
It was nominated for an Academy Award for Costume Design and this was deserved.
It is darker than expected for a Disney film, but this adds a little depth and probably reflects the slightly older audience they were aiming for.
Overall, although it does not really go any where new, it is a high quality, enjoyable Disney telling of a classic fairytale.