Powder Room – a review

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(From left to right – Jaime Winstone, Riann Steele and Sarah Hoare)

We were excited about Powder Room – it’s got a stellar cast, from Sheridan Smith, to Jaime Winstone and Oona Chaplin (who I am personally obsessed with. Her hair! The fact that she’s Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter! Her tantalising performance as a sometimes-escort in Channel 4’s Dates earlier on this year. The list goes on).

Basically, this is a Brit flick for the girls.

And it’s good – but not as good as it maybe could have been.

Sheridan Smith (who is always amazing. In everything) plays Sam. She’s on a night out – with two different sets of mates. One bunch, her ‘true’ friends, are are also the so-called ’embarrassing’ ones – the ones who nick drinks because they’re skint, get so wasted they end up hiding in toilet cubicles whilst wrapped in bog roll, and shamelessly shave their armpits in the ladies’ loos (well, the latter is  just Jaime Winstone as man-eater, Chanel).

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(Oona Chaplin, Sheridan Smith and Kate Nash)

Sam’s other bunch of mates are played by super-cool Oona Chaplin (Jess), and Kate Nash (Michelle) -yes, really – Miss Nash is an actress now! I didn’t even recognise her without her fringe, to be honest – what a transformation – though not one I’m totally convinced by. But it’s clear from the start they aren’t Sam’s true friends – just a bitchy friend of Sam’s from the past, and her snobby Parisian mate.

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(Jaime Winstone and Sheridan Smith)

Sam spends the night flitting between the two gaggles of girls – with increasing tension and unease. Who are her real friends? The ones she’s grown up with – and outgrown a little – or the chic duo that Sam aspires to be like?

As the narrative moves forward, we see that Sam’s life has actually been unravelling in front of her eyes for months.

I liked this film. Sheridan Smith gave a great performance – and I sympathised with her character, as many girls will – skint, upset, confused, heartbroken, stuck, bored, whatever – there’s a quality in Sam that we can all relate to. And probably several if we’re honest.

Jaime Winstone and Oona Chaplin too were fabulous, as always.

And I liked that the film revolved around the toilets at a club – which is, though a bit of a cliche, the place you often spend half your night nattering with your friends.

The bits I didn’t like? The random bursting into song. I guess that was too… jazz hands for me, but that’s just me. Others will like that element – and the film is based on a play.

This is a slick, girly film, and it’s one younger girls especially will like. I can’t see it becoming a cult classic or anything – but it’s definitely worth a watch. If only to see Jaime Winstone shaving her armpits in a club toilet.

Our rating: ***

Powder Room is at cinemas  from 6th December. 

Rosie x

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The Bodyguard – first night with Beverley Knight at the Adelphi Theatre

the-bodyguard-original1I’ve always loved The Bodyguard.

Whitney Houston is perfect – not only because of her voice (which is obviously one of the main pulls of the film), but also because of her portrayal of superstar in crisis, Rachel Marron.

And a star in crisis Whitney was in real life too – we all know what happened, and I still can’t really believe that Whitney is gone.

For Whitney/Bodyguard fans, the lines are blurred. Are you watching a story about a singer called Rachel Marron, or are you just watching (and gawping) at Whitney and her amazing voice?

So going to see the stage version of the epic film was always going to be pretty poignant for me.

Rachel’s story is different from Whitney’s – in the film/stage show she’s being stalked, and needs the protection of a bodyguard (Kevin Costner in the film, Tristan Gemmill in the stage show), who she then falls in love with.

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Whitney Houston is one of my favourite ever singers, so I was worried that Beverley Knight, though a national treasure with a ridiculously great vocal range of her own, might not be able to emulate Whitney.

But I was wrong – Beverley lends her own twist to Rachel’s story. She hit every note perfectly – and there are a lot of songs in this play! She doesn’t try to emulate Whitney’s voice, but instead sings in her own incredible style.

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The play has been adapted from the film as a tribute to Whitney, and each of her biggest hits is in it – from I Wanna Dance With Somebody to I Will Always Love You.

The stage show is especially tense when the audience realises that Rachel’s stalker is creeping along the side of the seating.

And it was a huge success – Beverley got the standing ovation she deserved, even before the show was finished.

If you’re into Whitney Houston, and want to celebrate her musical achievments, then this is one musical you will enjoy.

A must-see for Whitney fans.

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R.I.P., Whitney Houston – we will always love you!

P.S. As it was Beverley’s first night in the role, there was a good turnout of celebrities, from Emeli Sande to Shingai Shinowa of The Noisettes… and I found myself sitting next to Mel C from the Spice Girls. Which made me feel the ‘girl power’ even more. Perfect.

Our verdict: ****

Rosie x 

Oliver Reed: Wild Thing at St James Theatre Studio

Bounding on stage in a gorilla suit, within seconds there is a drink clasped in Oliver Reed’s (Rob Crouch’s) hand. Crouch seamlessly interacts with the audience, heckling them across the theatre, dragging some on stage, and even casting some as former acquaintances (with re-enacted script reading ensuing). You are unlikely to escape unscathed by his sheer force of personality, or without beer splashing you from across the room. Humour is rife – members of the audience invited on stage are thrown off promptly: “Come on…you’re not the main event!”

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Crouch enters the stage to The Troggs’ Wild Thing (a fitting title for the play considering Reed’s infamous antics). For 70 minutes we are taken on a whirlwind recitation of Reed’s life. It is a spoken autobiography enacted solely by Crouch – a nonstop monologue fuelled by drink after drink. How Crouch is able to maintain his focus and imbibe so much shows his determination to embody Reed from start to finish.

The play is set towards the end of Reed’s tumultuous life: he is in Malta for his final scenes (in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and in life). At various points, Crouch shrouds himself in Reed’s former famous appearances. We see brief glimpses of his life as a school boy, his family ties to Peter the Great (Tsar of Russia), Gladiator, the bar brawl that nearly ruined his acting career, Oliver! (accompanied by shrieks of “Bull’s Eye”), and The Three Musketeers.

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Comparing himself to a warrior, he proclaims: “Beer and whiskey are my weapons, the press my baying mob.”  Crouch manages to adapt Reed’s distinctive clipped enunciation into that of a drunken slur as the evening progresses. We hear the legendary tales of Soho in the 1950s, of parties with Keith Moon, and of Reed’s misogyny (“most women are happy in the kitchen”), where the audience joyfully boo him as a pantomime villain.

With pride and poignancy, Crouch tells us: “You deny [Reed], you destroy the British film industry,” referring to his steadfast dedication to remaining a stalwart of the British institution of hell-raisers, who die younger than they should. Crouch (alongside Mike Davis) created the play, and his admiration of the humour, charisma and talent of Reed is apparent. As we hear the announcement of Reed’s death ringing through the theatre, Crouch adds: “One more for the road…”

Our rating: *****

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/08/02/oliver-reed-wild-thing-at-st-james-theatre-studio-theatre-review/

A Chorus Line at the London Palladium

The phenomenally successful A Chorus Line hasn’t been seen on the West End since 1976. Fast-forward to 2013 and things have changed with the show’s arrival at the London Palladium.

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The stage is stripped back to minimalist production values: although A Chorus Line self consciously reflects the world of show business, it’s not about the glitz and glamour of Broadway; it explores the struggle and endurance required behind the scenes.

Innovative storytelling of down and out, washed-up dancers and their plight won the original musical nine Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Seventeen anonymous auditioning dancers are thrust out of the shadows into the spotlight. Zach, the dictatorial director (John Partridge – famed for his role of Christian in Eastenders), disappears offstage and his commanding voice booms throughout the recesses of the theatre, forcing the dancers to divulge their secrets. The London cast perfectly demonstrate the battle taking place within a performer’s psyche: they squirm, they lie about their ages and when Zach pushes them for answers they show reluctance to divulge their past lives: “Do you wanna know about all the wonderful and exciting things that have happened to me in my life?…Or do you want the truth?”

Characters that begin as mere numbers fill the show with their melancholy, explaining how performing has acted as balm to salve old wounds: “Everyone is beautiful at the ballet”. The audience witness the shattering of the American dream in the cases of Sheila, Cassie and Val. At thirty, Sheila, already world-weary, uses sexuality as a crutch to cope with being past-it; Cassie laments that she has been reduced to a “dancing band aid” instead of a Hollywood starlet; Val sings about the intensive cosmetic procedures she has undergone in order to fit the ideal image in Dance: Ten; Looks: Three.

Fittingly, in today’s media climate of delighting in downfall, Cassie proclaims that the obvious progression of showbiz careers only result in “getting fat and going crazy”.

The staging means that the chorus moves together either in discord or perfect symmetry (such as in the luminous finale One). The manipulation of lights and mirrors adds to the sense of a multitude of homogeneous nobodies, at other times it multiplies one cast member into a multifaceted star, the audience reflected back at them, perhaps showing what could have been. An absolutely amazing production.

Our rating: *****

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/03/26/theatre-review-a-chorus-line-at-the-london-palladium/