The Umbrella Organisation

The Umbrella Organisation

May the power of the brolly live on!

@MycroftBrolly
Londoner. Gandhian. Tatchellite. Sherlockian. Cumberbatchfan. Theatre (esp National Theatre), film and TV geek. Politics, LGBT, race and religion.



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SherlockNight

The blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one's deepest as well as one's most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person — having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
- Dinah Craik, in A Life for a Life (1859)


The Trials of Oscar Wilde - Review
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I have joined the writing/contributing team of EQView which launched on 1 July 2014. EQView describes itself as:
"EQView is a fresh LGBTQ perspective with a lotta heart. A queer slant on news, views & reviews, across the arts, entertainment, lifestyle and current affairs."

EQView is here:
http://eqview.com/

For my second feature for EQView, I reviewed The Trials of Oscar Wilde at the St James Theatre (Studio). It is a new play dramatizing the libel and criminal trials of Oscar Wilde, co-written by Merlin Holland (Wilde’s only living grandchild) and John O’Connor. Oscar Wilde was at the peak of his career, and the height of his fame, on Thursday 14 February 1895, the triumphant opening night of The Importance of Being Earnest. But less than 100 days later, he found himself a common prisoner, sentenced to two years hard labour, with his career in tatters and his reputation destroyed. It was a swift and brutal fall from grace. This play shows us, for the first time, what happened during those fateful libel and criminal trials which brought about Wilde’s downfall, using the original words spoken in court.

This was a superb production which transported you back to 1895 and, by focusing on the libel and criminal trials of Oscar Wilde in 1895, using the original words spoken in court, presented new material about Wilde’s life to theatre audiences already very familiar with Wilde’s body of work and his life story. Interesting, engaging, intriguing. Bravo!

My review of The Trials of Oscar Wilde is here:
http://eqview.com/2014/07/18/trials-oscar-wilde-review/

Cut and pasted from the EQView website:

THE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE – REVIEW

Last week I went to see The Trials of Oscar Wilde at the St James Theatre (Studio). This new play dramatises the libel and criminal trials of Oscar Wilde and is co-written by Merlin Holland (Wilde’s only living grandchild) and John O’Connor.

The production has been touring extensively around the UK throughout May, June and July, visiting 43 different venues, and the St James Theatre was the final stop on its current tour.

In 1895 Oscar Wilde was at the peak of his career, and the height of his fame. The 14th February that year saw the triumphant opening night of The Importance of Being Earnest. But less than 100 days later he found himself a common prisoner, sentenced to two years hard labour, with his career in tatters and his reputation destroyed. It was a swift and brutal fall from grace. This play shows us, for the first time, what happened during those fateful trials which brought about Wilde’s downfall, using the original words spoken in court.

I love Oscar Wilde’s work, both his plays and his short stories. His work has always delighted, amused and entertained me. No one can beat Wilde for a witty one liner or a quotable quip. I also know Wilde’s life story in broad terms and have read biographies of Wilde and watched films about his life. But I was not familiar with either the libel or the criminal trials which are the focus of this play and so this was new material to me.

Overall I thought the production was superb as it transported me back to 1895, to the courtroom where Wilde was on trial, and to an era where Victorian values ruled and where a gentleman’s word was his bond and his reputation was everything.

All three actors were superb. John Gorick playing Wilde was exceptional, and he brought Wilde vividly to life so you could see the vulnerable human being behind the celebrity writer. Rupert Mason and William Kempsell provided excellent support, by bringing to the stage a cast of colourful characters (13 in total), including the Marquess of Queensbury, lawyers, police officers, young men Wilde was accused of performing illegal acts with, a journalist, a masseur and even a chambermaid! The two actors played a very wide range of characters and personalities involved in the Wilde trials with total conviction.

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This was a touring production and so the set was, of necessity, minimal but the few props that were used, like the theatre billboard, were striking, effective and had a purpose. The costumes really helped to conjure up the Victorian era when the play is set, and Wilde’s two costumes were exquisite showing the audience how a rich Victorian gentleman would dress, the impression this gave and the impact it had.

When John Gorick playing Wilde first strode onto the stage, I thought Wilde came across as very proud and arrogant, but I warmed to the character and his predicament over the course of the play. This play does not show us Wilde when he is at the height of his powers and fame, the centre of attention, dominating the conversation in the room, and entertaining and amusing everyone with his witticisms. This play shows us Wilde when he is at his most vulnerable, when he is unsure of himself, facing public humiliation and the total destruction of his life and career.

At the time of his trial, Wilde was just over 40, and had two sons aged 10 and 9 with his wife Constance. Wilde’s undoing was the fact he had had a series of relationships with a number of men, much younger than himself (late teens and early 20s), and who were of a much lower class and social standing (servants and valets). Wilde would actively seek out the company of these men, invite them back to his rooms, and shower them with gifts like silver cigarette cases. Wilde’s feelings for these younger men were deemed immoral and unnatural – the love that dare not speak its name. Wilde was seen as being the centre of a circle of corruption of men who were younger than him and of a much lower class and social standing.

Lawyers prosecuting Wilde believed art and literature had moral consequences and argued that Wilde’s work was immoral and would have a corrupting influence on readers and audiences. The Picture of Dorian Gray was cited as a specific example. The novel was originally published in a monthly magazine in the US and, when it was later published as a novel in the UK, certain sections were erased. These purged sections were those that strongly suggested sodomy as Dorian Gray’s crime. Dorian Gray was therefore used as an example to illustrate the corrupting influence of Wilde’s work.

Wilde argued powerfully that literature and art was about beauty, wit and emotion, not morality. Literature was not moral or immoral, just well written or badly written! In this day and age, Wilde’s argument would definitely have carried the day, but this was a very different time with a very different code of morality.

The criminal trial resulted in Wilde being convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years hard labour. This came as a shock to Wilde who had wrongly assumed his fame, celebrity and eloquence would win through. The trial and the conviction indirectly brought about Wilde’s early death. He died just three years after being released from prison. The British State had indirectly killed one of its greatest ever writers and playwrights, merely for being homosexual.

This was an exceptional production which transported you back to 1895 and, by focusing on the libel and criminal trials of Oscar Wilde in 1895 using the original words spoken in court, presented new material about Wilde’s life to theatre audiences already very familiar with Wilde’s body of work and his life story. Interesting, engaging, intriguing. Bravo!

Time for the Commonwealth to act on LGBT rights
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I am proud to announce that I have joined the writing/contributing team of EQView which launched on 1 July 2014.

EQView describes itself as:
"EQView is a fresh LGBTQ perspective with a lotta heart. A queer slant on news, views & reviews, across the arts, entertainment, lifestyle and current affairs."

EQView is here:
http://eqview.com/

For my inaugural feature for EQView, I chose to write about LGBT rights in the Commonwealth. I chose to write about something outside of my usual comfort zone of theatre and film (“the Arts”) because I have become increasingly concerned about recent developments and I feel very let down by the inability of the Commonwealth to take any meaningful action or to stand up for what is right. It is timely because Glasgow will be hosting the Commonwealth Games later this month.

My inaugural feature on why it is time for the Commonwealth to act on LGBT rights is here:
http://eqview.com/2014/07/11/time-commonwealth-act-lgbt-rights/

Cut and pasted from the EQView website:

TIME FOR THE COMMONWEALTH TO ACT ON LGBT RIGHTS

I thought long and hard about my inaugural feature for EQView and I have chosen to go off-piste, outside of my usual comfort zone of theatre and film (“the Arts”), to write about LGBT rights in the Commonwealth. I have become increasingly concerned about recent developments and I feel very let down by the inability of the Commonwealth to take any meaningful action or to stand up for what is right.

I define myself as British. I was born and brought up in England and I have lived in England my whole life. I have Indian heritage, as my parents were both born and brought up in India, and they came to England in the 1960s.

I am part of the Black and South Asian (Commonwealth) diaspora living in England. There is a real connection between British BME individuals and communities and the Commonwealth nations as most British people with South Asian, Caribbean or African heritage have family and relatives “back home” with whom there is frequent and regular contact through phone calls, letters, visits back and forth, and, more recently, social media such as Facebook.

Although I am straight, I have been a lifelong supporter of LGBT rights. I have always been passionate about equality issues in general, and I firmly believe that if we, as BME people, are committed to achieving race equality, then we should be equally passionate about ensuring equal rights for everyone.

I have been increasingly worried and disturbed by the way LGBT people are perceived and treated in many parts of the Commonwealth. 80% of Commonwealth nations criminalize homosexuality – 42 out of the 53 member states. Seven Commonwealth member states stipulate life imprisonment for homosexuality, and two of them (Pakistan and Nigeria) even have the death penalty under Sharia law in some regions.

In Britain, over the past decade, there has been significant progress towards LGBT equality, and last year Parliament passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act granting same-sex couples the right to get married.

But in many African, Caribbean and South Asian Commonwealth nations things have been getting progressively worse for LGBT people with state-sanctioned homophobia, persecution and criminalization. Over the last year, new laws have been passed in many Commonwealth nations making life for LGBT people in those countries very difficult.

Uganda passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act introducing prison sentences for LGBT people in a same-sex relationship (up to a maximum of a life sentence), and prison terms for those deemed to be “promoting” homosexuality, which includes advocating for LGBT rights or helping and assisting LGBT people.

Nigeria passed the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act which outlaws public same-sex affection and LGBT organisations, events, and advocacy. Participation in, or support of, LGBT social or campaign groups and events is banned and carries a 10 year jail term. Just kissing or holding hands in public is now a serious crime for same-sex couples in Nigeria.

Even India, which has historically been one of the more liberal and tolerant of the Commonwealth nations, and which has a long tradition of respecting difference and diversity in matters of sexuality and sexual orientation, took a major step backwards last year when it recriminalized homosexual acts between consenting adults.

The Commonwealth claims to stand for civil liberties and the Commonwealth Charter clearly states that it is opposed to discrimination on any grounds. But the Commonwealth has remained silent about these human rights violations and failed to deliver on its ambitions. This makes me sad and leaves me bitterly disappointed.

The Commonwealth should aim to be the gold standard on human rights laws and equalities issues. It should be playing a leading role in fighting the persecution and oppression of LGBT people within its member states, working towards the decriminalization of homosexuality across the Commonwealth, and championing equal rights for all.

This month Glasgow hosts the 20th Commonwealth Games, and athletes, officials and spectators from all over the Commonwealth will be visiting Scotland to celebrate sporting achievements and our family of nations, rich in diversity and complexity. Now is the time for the Commonwealth to take a good look at itself and attempt to live up to its own values and deliver true equality for all of its citizens.

London Pride Parade: Saturday 28 June 2014
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Today was the London Pride Parade and I very much enjoyed being part of the Terrence Higgins Trust's Walking Group :) (despite the torrential rain!)

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Pride in London Official Website:
http://prideinlondon.org/
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Walk for Life on behalf of Terrence Higgins Trust: My Story
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Photo: Me part-way through the Walk

On Sunday 8 June 2014, I did the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT)’s Walk for Life, a fundraiser for their Hardship Fund.

Walk for Life is the Terrence Higgins Trust's annual 10km sponsored walk around Central London. All funds raised from Walk for Life goes towards their Hardship Fund, which provides vital grants for people living with HIV in severe financial need.

This year's fancy dress theme was "Heroes, Heroines and Villains". When I was a little girl I always wanted to be a Witch when I grew up, so I realised my childhood ambition and did the Walk as a Witch!

It was a glorious sunny day on the day of the Walk, I completed the 10km in about 3 hours, and my fundraising total currently stands at £310 (£370 including Gift Aid).

I am more than happy with that :) Thank you to everyone for their best wishes, their support and their sponsorship.

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Photo: Me having completed the Walk, with my Medal :)

You can still make a donation here:
http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RakshitaPatel

Further information about Walk for Life:
http://www.tht.org.uk/get-involved/Fundraise/Walk-for-Life

My previous feature on this year's Walk for Life is here:
http://mycroft-brolly.livejournal.com/435541.html

Walk for Life on behalf of Terrence Higgins Trust, Sunday 8 June 2014
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On Sunday 8 June 2014, it is the Terrence Higgins Trust’s Walk for Life, a fundraiser for its Hardship Fund.

Walk for Life is the Terrence Higgins Trust's annual 10km sponsored walk around Central London. All funds raised from Walk for Life go towards its Hardship Fund, which provides vital grants for people living with HIV in severe financial need.

The Hardship Fund offers invaluable support to some of the most vulnerable people with HIV, allowing them to afford basic necessities like warm clothing, healthy food and the fare to get to the hospital - helping them to keep their dignity and stay healthy despite severe financial difficulties.

This is the 25th year Walk for Life has been running and it will be the 6th year I am doing the Walk. Every year there is a fancy dress theme and this year the theme is "Heroes, Heroines and Villains".

When I was a little girl I always wanted to be a Witch when I grew up, so I will be realising my childhood ambition and doing the Walk as a Witch!

I choose to do the Walk for Life every year because it is for a cause that is special to me and is very close to my heart. This year the Walk will mean even more to me as I have been volunteering with the Terrence Higgins Trust for the past 8 months.

I know it is the Age of Austerity and money is tight, but if you are able to please consider sponsoring me - the money is going to a really good cause and to people who are facing real hardship and are in real need.

Sponsor me here:
http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RakshitaPatel

Better still, you can join me!

Useful Links:

Further information about Walk for Life:
http://www.tht.org.uk/get-involved/Fundraise/Walk-for-Life

Terrence Higgins Trust Website:
http://www.tht.org.uk/

Terrence Higgins Trust is the UK’s largest HIV and sexual health charity with centres across England, Scotland and Wales.

They provide information and advice about HIV and sexual health and offer a range of services including sexual health checks, counselling and support groups.

They campaign for a world where people with HIV live healthy lives, free from prejudice and discrimination, and they promote good sexual health as a right and reality for all.

Sandel Press Night, Above the Stag, Thursday 22 May 2014
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Me @ Sandel Press Night, Above The Stag Theatre
Left to Right: Ryan Penny (David Rogers in Edinburgh production), Katherine Ives (Press @ Above the Stag), Rakshita Patel, Ashley Cousins (Sandel in London production)
Photographer: Glenn Chandler

My Sandel Twitter Review:
I was spellbound :)

Read my previous features on Sandel here:
http://mycroft-brolly.livejournal.com/434998.html
http://mycroft-brolly.livejournal.com/434676.html
http://mycroft-brolly.livejournal.com/401847.html

Sandel, Above the Stag - Preview: Interview with Director and Cast
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Me with the Sandel Cast
Photographer: Glenn Chandler

This feature was first published in Vada Magazine here:
http://vadamagazine.com/16/05/2014/arts/sandel-preview-2

Sandel is a stage adaptation of Angus Stewart's well known cult gay novel and it opens at Above the Stag, Vauxhall, London tomorrow. I interviewed the Director and all three cast members of Sandel. My feature covers the novel, the play, the new London production, and how and why the piece is still relevant today.

Cut and pasted from the Vada Magazine website:

Sandel – Preview

Sandel, the stage adaptation of Angus Stewart’s well-known cult gay novel, adapted and directed by Glenn Chandler, was one of the major critical hits at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe. A new London production of Sandel, again directed by Glenn Chandler, opens at Above the Stag next week.

I visited the Sandel creatives and cast as they began rehearsals, to talk about the novel, the play, the new London production, and how and why the piece is still relevant today.

Sandel is set in Oxford in the 1960s and tells the story of a love affair between a 19 year old undergraduate, David Rogers, and a precocious and beautiful Cathedral choirboy, Antony Sandel. The third character in the play is David’s Catholic friend, Bruce Lang, who is studying to be a priest. Sandel is intended to delight and shock and is more controversial today than it was in the 1960s.

I interviewed Sandel’s director Glenn Chandler (GC) who adapted Angus Stewart’s novel for the stage. Chandler is a Scottish playwright and novelist and has written plays for theatre and radio, original screenplays for television and films, and television series. His best-known work is the Scottish TV detective series, Taggart.

What drew you to the material? Why did you want to bring this story to the stage?

GC: A publisher with whom I was working on another project told me he was desperate to reissue it. I remembered reading Sandel as a teenager and got hold of a copy – at great expense from Canada – and as I read it I just burned to put it on the stage.

It was a beautiful love story with an amazing setting, Oxford in the 1960s, yet incredibly controversial – and I enjoy a challenge!

Why did you want to tell this story now?

GC: I was advised to wait a few years. But I think this is the right time. We’re in the middle of a moral panic, and here’s the story of a 19 year old and a 14 year old who find mutual happiness, and a shared interest in music, and in which the younger boy is the groomer and manipulator of the older. We could say that the older boy should know better.

But in the 1960s, in the hothouse atmosphere of public schools and universities, there was a totally different ethos. Homosexuality was only just being legalised over 21 – both characters, the older and the younger, were underage.

Did you face any particular challenges adapting the novel for the stage? What were they?

GC: Adapting the novel wasn’t the main challenge – a lot of Angus Stewart’s dialogue trips off the page, and his characters are beautifully drawn. I did have to condense.

There are lots of characters in the novel who aren’t in the play – the choirboy’s aunt, Ricks the tutor, Dr Jones the head of the choir school. To have put those characters in the play would have meant other actors coming in to do just a couple of scenes – never practical.

I wanted to do it as a three hander – David, Tony and David’s friend Bruce, and concentrate on their relationships. The other characters are simply referred to throughout the play.

Do you think the novel, or play, is controversial?

GC: Decidedly so, and even more controversial than it was in the 1960s. The Sunday Telegraph at that time described it as a “love which is not despicable”. This was a choirboy sleeping with a teacher! Which national newspaper would dare to describe it as such now? But then we are half a century on.

What impact would you like it to have?

GC: I want it to delight people. I want them to see it as a beautiful love affair, and then pull themselves up short and say “Hey, but just a minute!” I think people will be emotionally and morally torn, not sure which side to come down on. And that makes for good theatre. I expected to get mixed responses. More than anything, I wanted people to think, to feel, to come away not quite sure of their position.

What sort of reception did your get in Edinburgh, both from critics and the public?

GC: Critical reception in Edinburgh was universally excellent, except for one blogger who described me as morally desolate. The Scotsman critic loved it, but didn’t feel she could review it! The Sunday Express, not known for its liberal views, said it was a gem of a play and might just change one’s mind about the subject matter. Yes, truly.

Audiences were often stunned, not knowing whether they should applaud such a controversial ending – no spoilers here! A few people were left in tears. Some came back four, five, six times. I think it got under peoples’ skin.

Do you think you will get a different response at Above the Stag in Vauxhall, London?

GC: Who knows? One can never predict audiences, and Edinburgh and London audiences are notoriously different. What a primarily gay audience will make of it, I wait to see. Ticket sales are booming, so nobody seems to be frightened away by the subject matter.

How will the London show be different from the Edinburgh show?

GC: There are two new members of cast. Ashley Cousins, who spent three and a half years in Billy Elliot, plays the choirboy Antony Sandel. And Joseph Lindoe plays David Rogers, who becomes his teacher. Their pairing creates a very different chemistry.

The play is also longer, as it is the two-act version. I was able to go back to the novel and extract more stuff that I didn’t have time to do in Edinburgh, such as their picnic in the Cotswold hills and the encounter with an American bomber from the Brize Norton Airforce Base. Now that’s fun to do on stage!

What are the key differences between writing for TV and film and writing for the stage?

GC: Writing for TV you only have control over the script – and very often, not even that. On stage, you have control over everything. Casting, direction, production values, the lot. You stand or fall.

What do you love about writing for the stage?

It’s always different. A TV programme can be shown a hundred times and it it never changes. A stage play changes every night, matures, evolves. Sandel is still evolving in rehearsal and will do so throughout its run at Above the Stag.

How do you find directing your own work? Are there any particular challenges?

GC: You have to be disciplined. To wear two hats. You can’t get precious about your writing. Very often my actors suggest they might say different lines, and you have to listen to them. There’s always a reason for it, and its usually a good one.

You have to recognise a bad bit of writing and turn it round. I wrote one new scene for Sandel which just didn’t work when I tried to direct it – so the director side of me forced me back to the drawing board, to accept it was my fault.

I think directing your own work is a valuable lesson, if you allow it to be. I would say that to become a good writer, you have to work with good directors. To become a good director, you have to work with good directors. Nobody ever learnt anything from working with writers!

What do you love about directing?

GC: Working with actors. I love them.

I also interviewed all three actors in the play – Ashley Cousins (AC) playing Antony Sandel, Joseph Lindoe (JL) playing David Rogers, and Calum Fleming (CF) playing Bruce Lang. Cousins and Lindoe are new to Sandel, whilst Fleming is reprising the role of Lang which he performed in Edinburgh.

Were you familiar with the novel Sandel before you auditioned for/were cast in the play?

All the actors said their first encounter with the novel was when they auditioned for, or were cast in, the play. Being involved in the play had encouraged them to read the book and they were all enjoying reading the novel.

AC: The stage adaptation retains the narrative and plot of the novel, its essence, but cuts to the chase.

CF: If I had read the novel without being involved in the play, I would have thought the cultural setting and context of the novel – a Choir School, Oxbridge in the 60s, and the heavy focus on the world of the Arts and Music – was not relevant to me and did not speak to my life experience of being a young man growing up in Edinburgh. Being in the play made the novel accessible to me.

JL: The stage adaptation has raised awareness and will introduce many new people to the novel. One of my friends is even reading the novel as part of her book group because she is coming to see me in the play!

Do you think the novel, or play, is controversial? If so, why?

JL: The story is controversial because it depicts a love story between a pupil and a teacher, where the younger boy is clearly below the current age of consent, and where the older boy is in a position of power, being a teacher. Many people have no issue with the relationship until Rogers becomes Sandel’s teacher, and at that point they feel Rogers should have ended the relationship.

AC: The play would be even more controversial, and clearer cut, if Sandel was a girl. Then everyone would see the relationship as inappropriate. Despite all the advances towards women’s equality, people still feel girls need more protection from potential male predators, whilst boys should be able to look out for themselves. But young boys are just as vulnerable as young girls, and are often more emotionally and sexually immature.

Why and how do you think the novel and the play are relevant to a modern-day audience?

AC: The novel is very relevant to today’s audiences because it is essentially a love story about the relationship between a teacher and pupil. Most people can relate to having a crush on a teacher. Whilst the world in which the story is set is outside most people’s experience, the love story is universal and is something everyone can understand and relate to.

Can you say a bit about your respective characters, their motivations, how you are portraying and interpreting them, and whether you identify or empathise with them?

JL: In portraying Rogers, I am trying to focus on his inner turmoil, the struggle between his conscience and his desire and passion for Sandel. In playing Rogers, I have to empathize with him and sympathise with his predicament. If I played Rogers as a villain, the play would not work.

AC: It is possible to play Sandel as a manipulative devil but I have tried to put myself in Sandel’s shoes and understand his motives for behaving in the way that he does. Sandel was bound by rules and regulations in all aspects of his life, as a choir boy and within his family. His relationship with Rogers was the one area of his life where he was able to take control and to be in the driving seat. It is important to understand his behaviour in that context. I see Sandel’s relationship with Rogers as his personal bid for freedom.

CF: Lang could be seen as the moral conscience of the play, encouraging Rogers to do the right thing. But I don’t see this as something to be admired because it conveniently coincides with Lang’s own personal vested interests. I have not yet made my mind up about the Rogers character. Initially I wondered what would drive someone to pursue such an unsuitable relationship? Then I realised it was same as me liking doughnuts. Sandel represented temptation, temptation Rogers could not resist even though he knew it was bad for him, in the same way that I can’t resist eating doughnuts!

Has the way you interpret or play your character Lang developed or changed since Edinburgh? If yes, how?

CF: My portrayal of Lang is constantly evolving. I have not looked back at the Edinburgh script and I am coming to the London production fresh. This London production of Sandel has a new script and two new actors. Having two new actors in the roles of Sandel and Rogers creates a new dynamic and I am responding to the different ways JL and AC are playing their respective roles. This will make for a slightly different Lang.

How did you research what it was like to be a young man growing up in the 1960s, especially in the context of a choir school and Oxford colleges?

JL: My research was easy! My parents were students at Cambridge in the early 1970s and so I asked them about their lives and experiences at that time. They told me all about college life, including all the rules and regulations and curfews. College life for students was much more restrictive than it is now.

AC: I researched the daily life and routines of a choir boy within a choir school. I found the diary entries fascinating and was struck by all the rules, regulations and restrictions, and the traditions the choir boys had to abide by. From reading these diaries I developed the idea that, for Sandel, Rogers was a chance to break all the rules and represented a very personal bid for freedom.

CF: I visited my local library and found a long-forgotten book about queer life in the 1960s. The book had not been taken out for so long that it was gathering dust! The book gave me a fresh insight into what it was like to be gay at that time, when practicing homosexuality was still a criminal offence which could send you to prison.

I loved the afternoon I spent with the Sandel cast and crew – both conducting the interviews and watching them rehearse. And I am really looking forward to the Sandel Press Night on Thursday 22 May so I can see the fruits of their labours and once again experience the sheer joy and delight of seeing the novel Sandel brought to life on the stage.

Sandel plays at Above the Stag Theatre, Vauxhall, London from 20 May to 14 June 2014.
http://www.abovethestag.com/sandel/

Angus Stewart’s novel, Sandel, long out of print, was republished by Pilot Press last year.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sandel-Novel-Angus-Stewart/dp/1900064081/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1400074707&sr=1-2&keywords=sandel

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The Hunt - Review
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This feature was first published in Vada Magazine here:
http://vadamagazine.com/09/05/2014/vadafilm/hunt-denmark-eurovisions-cinema

The Hunt is a story of a modern-day witch-hunt, and follows what happens to an ordinary citizen when a false allegation about their conduct spreads. It is intelligent, thought-provoking, dark, powerful, shocking and moving, and grips from start to finish. A ground-breaking film which makes you think about serious issues long after the screening is over. Highly recommended.

Cut and pasted from the Vada Magazine website:

The Hunt – Review

“A story of a modern-day witch-hunt”
- Thomas Vinterberg, Director and Co-Writer of The Hunt


The Hunt is about what happens to an ordinary citizen when a false allegation about their conduct spreads.

Lucas is a nursery school helper/assistant and his whole life is turned upside down when a little girl in the nursery, Klara, makes an allegation of sexual abuse against him. Klara is the daughter of one of Lucas’s best friends.

Lucas is innocent, but that does not stop the lie from spreading and the whole town turning against him. Overnight, his life goes from one of normality to a living nightmare.

The Hunt shows how, in a small-town, a single lie can lead to your whole life unravelling and being destroyed; and how you can go from being a pillar of the community to a social outcast overnight, even when you are innocent and have done nothing wrong.

Klara is played by a beautiful little blonde girl, who looks like an angel and personifies innocence. It is inconceivable that such an angelic looking child could ever lie. And yet anyone who has ever had children, or worked with children, knows that children are capable of lying.

The scene where Klara is interviewed about the allegation shocked me to the core. On several occasions the interviewer asked leading questions, and put thoughts and words into Klara’s mouth, which were not there – he planted them. This was grossly unfair and unjust.

The principle of “innocent until proven guilty” fell down in this situation because the nursery staff decide Lucas is guilty whilst investigations are still ongoing, and inform parents that certain things have happened when the allegations are yet to be proven.

Lucas is newly divorced from his wife and is living separately from his wife and teenage son. The Hunt deals very sensitively with issues of separation, divorce, and family breakdown, exploring how fraught these relationships can be, especially when there are children involved.

The Hunt shows in graphic detail the direct effect of the lie on all aspects of Lucas’s life – on his job, on his relationship with his new girlfriend, on his relationship with his son, and on how the whole town views and treats him.

Lucas becomes a leper and a social outcast, and his whole world falls apart because of this one false allegation of child abuse.

If you think this could never happen in real-life, think again! The story is a fictional one but it is based on real-life cases and so this can – and has – happened in the real world. The Hunt shows how suspicion breeds suspicion, and how quickly and easily one lie can spread and contaminate the whole water supply.

The whole ensemble cast deliver very powerful performances but a special mention goes to Mads Mikkelsen, playing Lucas, whose performance is outstanding.

The Hunt is a Danish foreign language film. This is usually problematic for me because it is extra work reading the subtitles and, whilst you are busy reading the subtitles, you can often miss the acting. This was not an issue in this film. The subtitles are easy to read and follow, and all the meaning is conveyed in the actors’ faces and expressions. I think you would be able to follow the film and its meaning without even reading the subtitles, such is the quality of the acting across the whole cast.

The Hunt was the first film I saw at the 2012 London Film Festival and it turned out to be my favourite film of the Festival because it moved me and touched me deeply.

To summarize, The Hunt is excellent and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to see a ground-breaking film, that makes you think about serious issues long after the screening is over. It is intelligent, thought-provoking, dark, powerful, shocking and moving, and grips from start to finish.

The Hunt is available now on DVD.

Trailer:


Sandel, Above the Stag
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Me with the Sandel Cast
Photographer: Glenn Chandler

Just a very quick post to say that I had THE best time with the Sandel creatives and cast when I visited them during rehearsals at Above The Stag Theatre to interview them for my upcoming feature on Vada Magazine.

Cut and pasted from the Above the Stag Website:

Sandel
20 May - 14 June 2014
by Glenn Chandler | adapted from the novel by Angus Stewart

Glenn Chandler's beautiful adaptation of the well-known cult gay classic was one of the major critical hits at last year's Edinburgh Fringe.

Set in Oxford in the 1960s, it tells the story of a love affair between a 19 year old undergraduate, David Rogers, and a precocious and beautiful Cathedral choirboy, Antony Sandel. When David is sent down after infringing college regulations, he is given a job as a teacher at the choir school - where Sandel is still a pupil. Add David's catholic friend Bruce, who is studying to be a priest, to the mix and the stage is set for a powerful showdown.

Though even more controversial today than it was in the 60s, Sandel is nevertheless very funny, witty and light-hearted, a tale about what love can do in any age when it takes over your life. The uncompromising ending left Edinburgh audiences stunned in their seats. Sandel is bound to both delight and shock.

*Angus Stewart's Sandel, long out of print, has now been republished by Pilot Press.

More details and tickets for Sandel, Above the Stag:
http://www.abovethestag.com/sandel/

My previous features on Sandel can be found here:
http://mycroft-brolly.livejournal.com/401847.html
http://mycroft-brolly.livejournal.com/396793.html

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Moriarty Madness!
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This arrived for me in the post today and it really put a smile on my face :)

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Compare and contrast!

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Let the Right One In, Apollo - Review
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This feature was first published in Vada Magazine here:
http://vadamagazine.com/02/05/2014/arts/let-right-one-review

The stage adaptation of Let the Right One In is a re-imagining of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Swedish horror novel and film. Why I think this particular story is so powerful is that ultimately it is about human beings and their need and search for friendship and love, a universal theme that everyone can relate to.

Let the Right One In is a story of two people, Oskar and Eli, both misfits and outcasts for different reasons, finding each other, learning about each other, and falling in love. A dark and disturbing story of the eternal search for friendship and love.

Cut and pasted from the Vada Magazine website:

Let the Right One In – Review

The stage adaptation of Let the Right One In is a re-imagining of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Swedish horror novel and film, adapted and reworked for the theatre by Jack Thorne. It arrives in London’s West End following a sell out run at the Royal Court last year.

This stage adaptation is a co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland and the Royal Court and, whilst the storyline remains true to the Swedish novel and the film, the action is relocated to the Scottish Highlands.

The play is described as “a chilling tale of loneliness, love and legend”, and I thought this stage adaptation was an excellent re-imagining and re-telling of a story already familiar to me through the two film adaptations I have seen.

Small light touches make a big difference. Five or ten minutes before the play starts, selected characters walk across the stage, wrapped up warm against the cold of the Scottish winter, interacting with the snow, the set and, as time goes on, each other. This brings the set, the setting and the environment fully to life because it is not just a backdrop, it is a real landscape, populated by real people, each with their own story to tell.

Oskar is a lonely teenage boy from a broken home, living with his mother. He is constantly bullied at school, feels very isolated and longs for friendship. The Scottish village where he lives is in shock as there has been a recent spate of brutal murders in the woods nearby. Everyone is living in fear and Oskar is no longer allowed out into the woods to play.

Oskar meets his new neighbour Eli, a young teenage girl living with her father, at the local playground. They start to talk, share stories and gradually become good friends. But Eli and her father share a dark secret, and the play explores this mystery, and what this means.

The story is told from Oskar’s viewpoint. We are in his footsteps from the very outset and we see the world through his eyes. When he is bullied at school and called “Piggy”, we feel his pain. We understand his frustration at being mollycoddled by his Mum. We feel his elation at finding a soulmate who he can talk to. We see his happiness when he is with Eli and the fun they have together. And, along with Oskar, we experience the joy and pain of first love.

The enigma, right at the heart of Let the Right One In, is Eli. Who and what is Eli, and what does this mean for Oskar and Eli’s growing relationship? Eli says she is not a boy and not a girl, “I’m just me”. She is otherworldly and harbours a dark secret. As the play progresses, we realize what Eli is, and the play powerfully conveys the pain and the heartbreak of being “Other”. As someone who is both different and special, a character with physical and emotional strength, who ultimately saves the day, I found Eli an empowering character.

The young actors were all very strong, and the two leads, Martin Quinn as Oskar and Rebecca Benson as Eli, were exceptional.

The set and the staging were simple and effective, incredibly powerful and very clever. I liked the fact that the set was real, including real trees on stage and a solid and robust climbing frame.

I thought it would be nigh on impossible to recreate the climactic swimming pool scene onstage but this production delivered that scene in a truly ingenious way (I don’t want to give away any spoilers and the scene has to be seen to be believed!).

Although this adaptation is suitable for, and directly marketed at, teenagers and young people, it does not shy away from the darker elements of the novel – the blood, the killings and the horror. The production is very explicit in showing exactly who and what Eli is and what this entails. The end result is a deeply disturbing and chilling piece of theatre.

Why I think this particular story is so powerful is that ultimately it is about human beings and their need and search for friendship and love, a universal theme that everyone can relate to. Oskar and Eli’s love story takes place in today’s modern world, which can be friendless, lonely and isolating for many people. Let the Right One In is a story of two people, both misfits and outcasts for different reasons, finding each other, learning about each other, and falling in love. Will Love win through in the end? Go along and find out!

Let the Right One In plays at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London until 27 September 2014.

Let the Right One In official website:
http://www.right-one-in.com/

Trailer:


Bank Holiday Madness: Guess Who I met on the Tube last week?!
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Photographer: Rakshita Patel

Gay Sex in the 70s - Review
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This feature was first published in Vada Magazine here:
http://vadamagazine.com/25/04/2014/vadafilm/gay-sex-70s-review

Gay Sex in the 70s is a documentary film, looking at the lives of gay men in New York after Stonewall and before AIDS, when sex was risk-free, fun and plentiful. A brief and short-lived period of true sexual liberation and sexual freedom.

Cut and pasted from the Vada Magazine website:

Gay Sex in the 70s – Review

Gay Sex in the 70s is a documentary looking at the gay men’s scene in New York between 1969, the time of the Stonewall riots and the beginnings of the gay liberation movement, and 1981, which marked the arrival of the AIDS crisis. For gay men in New York, the 70s represented a time of unequalled sexual liberation and sexual freedom.

The documentary is based on archive footage, photographs and the testimonies of gay men who lived in New York during the 70s. We hear their stories and their memories and we get a real insight into their lives during this period.

Before 1969, homosexuality was not often spoken about and was something that tended to be hidden away. If you were homosexual, you were regarded as abnormal and it was something to be ashamed of. Homosexual men were institutionalised by their families, locked away in sanatoriums, and subjected to ECT treatment in an effort to cure them.

Things finally changed in the 1970s, with a move from repression to liberation, and the beginnings of the gay liberation movement. The gay men featured in the documentary talked about how the 70s were a time of sexual freedom when they felt “free”. A time when they had “no worries”, a time of bliss, joy and self-discovery, when they were finally able to explore their sexuality openly, and when sex was readily available. Sex was a recreational activity and was great fun.

Cruising carried on all the time, in everyday places like the streets and the subways. There was a wide range of public spaces used by gay men to have sex, including the trucks, the piers and Central Park. In addition to the public spaces, private spaces specifically catering for gay men rapidly developed, including bars, clubs, saunas and baths.

There is a particularly rich description of the St Marks Baths in New York. This was open 24/7, seven days a week, and was a Pleasuredome. A trip to the Baths was seen as a “vacation” and described as a trip to the “candy store”. Men would check in and stay for the whole weekend. Everything you could possibly want or need was available there including a pool, a gym, a massage parlour, a dancefloor, secret places and hideouts and, most importantly, plentiful sex.

Drugs had a real role to play in creating the atmosphere of free love because they allowed people to lose their inhibitions and their fears and to be more adventurous. Most of the gay men in the documentary talked about the rampant drug culture which went hand-in-hand with the gay men’s scene, and a wide range of drugs were in use, including pot, speed, poppers and LSD.

The gay men featured talked about how a casual sexual encounter would often develop into a deeper long-lasting friendship, and very strong bonds and relationships were formed at this time as men got to know each other very well through their shared involvement and participation in the gay culture scene.

There was a presumption that there were no consequences to having plentiful casual sexual encounters with a large number of men. But this was misguided. There was a price to pay and STD epidemics rose amongst gay men. Even then, there was an underlying assumption that all you had to do was see a doctor who understood, who would prescribe you the right pills, and this would solve the problem. The STD was an inconvenience, nothing more.

A real sign of the very different times and attitudes was when one gay man recalled how another man had asked him to wear a condom. The gay man was completely taken aback by this ridiculous request and described the other man as a “real sicko”!

Sadly, this brief period of sexual liberation and sexual freedom for gay men was brought to a very abrupt end with the emergence of the AIDS crisis circa 1981. AIDS became known as the gay cancer and spread very rapidly through the community of sexually active and promiscuous gay men in New York. But the deep bonds of friendship formed through their shared involvement and participation in the gay culture scene held firm and those afflicted by AIDS, predominantly gay men, took charge of the AIDS crisis, caring for the sick, and becoming activists to spur the drugs companies and their Government to take action.

One of the most moving scenes in the documentary for me was when one of the gay men featured shows us a pile of jigsaw pieces that he has, and each jigsaw piece bears a photo of one of his friends or lovers. He piles them one on top of the other, to make a mountain, always ensuring that the piece on the top is the photo of his longtime companion and partner. Each of the jigsaw pieces is someone who was lost to AIDS. This really brought home to me the huge human cost of the AIDS epidemic and how it claimed the lives of a whole generation of gay men.

Finally, unusually for a documentary, the film has a very strong soundtrack featuring music from the 70s running right the way through the film. The soundtrack gives the film real energy and life, and helps to convey the optimism, the joy, and the free spirit of the times. It is an essential part of the film, adds an extra dimension, and definitely deserves a special mention.

To summarise, a very interesting and engaging documentary, looking at the lives of gay men in New York in the 70s, during a short-lived period of sexual liberation and sexual freedom. A time when sex was fun, free and readily available, and could be enjoyed without having to worry about or fear the consequences. Highly recommended.

I saw Gay Sex in the 70s at a GALHA (LGBT Humanists) event, but it is available for streaming through its official website for a very low price, or to buy as a DVD through Amazon.

Official Website:
http://gaysexinthe70s.com/

Trailer:



GALHA (LGBT Humanists) Website:
http://www.galha.org/

Locke: Accompany Ivan Locke on a single life-changing car journey as his life unravels
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This feature was first published in Vada Magazine here:
http://vadamagazine.com/01/11/2013/entertainment/locke-review

Locke accompanies Ivan Locke, played brilliantly by Tom Hardy, on a life-changing car journey from Wales to London as his whole life unravels as a result of a single mistake. It is completely engrossing, grips from start to finish, and is a thrilling ride. The journey of a lifetime! Highly recommended.

Cut and pasted from the Vada Magazine website:

Locke – Review

Locke is a remarkable and unique film. It focuses on one character – Ivan Locke, a Welsh structural engineer (played brilliantly by Tom Hardy) – as he makes a life-changing car journey from Wales to London.

Locke is the only character you see on screen and you only encounter the other characters in this story through the phone conversations Locke has with them on his drive down to London. However you get to see all the facets of Locke’s life as you meet his employer, his work colleagues, his work associates, his wife, his children, and his one night stand, through his phone conversations.

The basic premise of the film is how, potentially, your whole life can unravel before you – despite your best efforts to hold it together – as a result of a single mistake.

In the case of Ivan Locke, that mistake is a one night stand with a work colleague which has resulted in a pregnancy and an imminent birth. Inconveniently for Locke, the baby is being born on the eve of one of the most important days of his life in terms of his work and his career. This rang true because that is often the way of the world!

At the start of the film, Locke tells his wife over the phone that another woman is giving birth and the baby is his. He has to tell her in this way, as he drives down for the birth, as the baby is being born prematurely. During this fateful car journey, as a direct result, Locke will lose his job, his marriage, his wife, his children, and his home (temporarily, if not permanently).

I found Locke a very sympathetic character because he is honest with himself that he made a stupid mistake, a mistake that he bitterly regrets, and he is taking responsibility for his actions and attempting to make amends. He wants to do the right thing by his wife, his family, his mistress, his unborn child, his employer and his building. This is a tough ask but Locke tries his hardest in very difficult circumstances. You witness exactly how much he does, and how hard he tries, in the never-ending phonecalls he makes during his drive to London. I felt very strongly that Locke was a good man with a conscience. Someone who was usually a very “solid” and reliable person, just like his concrete. But he was trapped in an impossible situation.

I admired the fact that although Locke loses his job, for abandoning the project when he is most needed, he still continues to shoulder responsibility for it, refusing to let go, ensuring that all the correct arrangements are made for the following day.

One of the things driving Locke’s actions is his father’s ghost. His dead father is a character in the film, a character that is very real to Locke, and Locke speaks directly to him on a number of occasions. We learn that Locke’s father did not do the right thing by Locke – he abandoned him when Locke needed him – and did not fulfill his responsibilities as a father. Locke is determined to be a proper father to his unborn child, not like the father he had, and that is why he is adamant that he must be there for the birth and for the baby, despite the heavy personal cost to his work and family life.

Locke tries over the course of the whole film to “fix” the situation. He is a practical man; in his work he is used to being faced with practical problems and finding solutions. However, when emotions and feelings are involved, in the case of both his wife and his one night stand, Locke comes up against problems that cannot be solved. He has inflicted long-lasting damage on his marriage through his actions and there is very little he can do now to “fix” the situation.

The film is completely engrossing, grips from start to finish, and is a thrilling ride. It does not suffer from focusing on one person’s story or from only having one character on screen. Locke was programmed in the “Journey” section of the London Film Festival and this is definitely the journey of a lifetime!

Tom Hardy plays Ivan Locke to perfection, but I also have to mention Andrew Scott playing Donal, Ivan’s right hand man, who provides great support.

Locke observes the classical or Aristotelian unities for Drama – unity of action, a play should have only one main plot/storyline; unity of place, a play should occur in a single physical place; and unity of time, the action in a play should take place over no more than 24 hours. Locke is a film that follows one character, Ivan Locke, in his car in real-time as he drives down from Wales to London.

When Locke hits UK cinema screens I am recommending you beg, borrow or steal a ticket to see it, and accompany Ivan Locke on his life-changing journey.

Locke (2013) is a British film, written and directed by Steven Knight, and is out in cinemas across the UK now.

Official Trailer:


Calvary – Review
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This feature was first published in Vada Magazine here:
http://vadamagazine.com/18/04/2014/vadafilm/calvary-review

Calvary is the story of Father James, a Catholic priest in rural Ireland, who receives a genuine death threat. The film then follows Father James as he goes about his daily business in the week leading up to his appointment with death.

Calvary is a film about people and its focus is Father James, a Catholic priest, a good man and a good priest, innocent of any wrongdoing. A rare gem of a film that explores the richness and complexity of human beings by putting a rural community in Ireland under the microscope.

Its twin themes are goodness (contrasted with wrongdoing and sin) and forgiveness, and it explores what it means to genuinely forgive someone who has wronged you. Well worth exploring if you want to reflect on the true meaning of Easter.

Cut and pasted from the Vada Magazine website:

Calvary – Review

Calvary is the story of Father James, a Catholic priest in rural Ireland, who receives a genuine death threat. The film then follows Father James as he goes about his daily business in the week leading up to his appointment with death.

Calvary has a very dramatic start. In the opening scene, we join Father James (Brendon Gleeson) as he hears confession. A man, who we don’t see, says he was sexually abused as a child over a long period of time by a Catholic priest who is now dead. The man then casually informs Father James of his plan to kill him on the following Sunday.

Right from the start we have two mysteries to solve – who is the unseen man, and will he go through with his plan and commit cold-blooded murder? But if you think this film is a murder mystery you would be very wrong.

Calvary is a film about people. Its focus is the aforementioned Father, a Catholic, a good man and a good priest, innocent of any wrongdoing. The setting is rural Ireland, and the scenery and landscapes are breathtaking. But although the film is set in Ireland, because its focus is people and the way they interact and behave, the story is a universal one and could take place anywhere.

Having received his death threat, we follow him on his rounds, meet his parishioners, learn about their private lives and their deepest darkest secrets, and are given an insight into what drives them and their hopes and ambitions for themselves and their future.

I really enjoyed meeting all the characters in the village, including the woman daring to have an extra-marital affair with a black man, the sexually frustrated young man thinking of joining the Army so he could have a legitimate outlet for his anger, the atheist doctor seeing the whole world through a cynical lens, the very wealthy ex-banker seeking atonement for his past financial sins, the pub landlord facing foreclosure and financial ruin, and the elderly writer wanting to die at a time of his own choosing. The village contains a diverse range of complex characters (as all places do). All the actors in the film are excellent and make their characters totally believable.

As this is a village in Ireland, there is a real sense of community, and of people living shared lives where they care about each other, look out for each other, and know what is going on in each other’s lives. There are a couple of very enjoyable scenes in the pub where the community comes together to enjoy some music, drinking and dancing.

At one time the Catholic Church would have been the beating heart and the centre of this community, but that time is now past. Whilst people still consult the priests, and talk to them about their worries and anxieties, there is a real sense that the answers to their problems lie elsewhere and won’t be found through the Church or religion.

Father James is unusual in that he had a life before he joined the priesthood. He is of the world and living in the world. He was married, only joining the priesthood following his wife’s death. And he has a daughter who comes to visit him, seeking a place of refuge. The life he had before he became a priest makes Father James a more sympathetic character, and someone more likely to understand and empathise with the normal day-to-day concerns of his parishioners. The film shows you the man behind the cassock.

The Director, John Michael McDonagh, stated that the film’s title Calvary references the burden Father James carries in the week leading up to his appointment with death. I admired and respected the bravery and the dignity with which Father James shouldered this burden in the film.

The film has some great dialogue, and its language is rich, poetic and nuanced. As you would expect from a film set in Ireland, the dialogue is sharp and witty and there are some great one-liners. To give you just one example of the poetry of the language, and my own personal favourite, the phrase “Machiavellian chicanery” is used in one of the opening scenes!

Two key underlying themes in the film are goodness, contrasted with wrongdoing and sin, and forgiveness. The film explores what makes a good man and looks at people’s sins and the underlying motivations for their wrongdoing, which can range from vengeance, love of money, boredom, sexual frustration, and financial ruin. The film also examines forgiveness in some depth, and looks at how far it is possible for humans to forgive those who have committed the most heinous crimes.

In summary, a rare gem of a film that explores the richness and complexity of human beings, by putting a rural community in Ireland under the microscope. It looks at the changing, and diminishing, role of the Church and religion in people’s lives; examines goodness and sin; and explores what it means to genuinely forgive someone who has wronged you. Well worth exploring if you want to reflect on the true meaning of Easter.

Calvary is out in cinemas across the UK now.

Calvary Trailer:



Follow the link to the film's official website:
http://reprisalfilms.com/calvary/

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