November 25th, 2011

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Catch a falling star ...

This is dedicated to all my friends, my family, and my rich and diverse support network.

It is an Emperor and Galilean/Third Star mash-up, or an Andrew Scott/Benedict Cumberbatch mash-up, whichever you prefer.

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars" - Oscar Wilde

And I, for one, now have my sights firmly fixed on the stars!

The four friends from Emperor and Galilean - Agathon, Peter, Julian and Gregory (left to right).

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The Last of the Duchess, Hampstead Theatre

Once upon a time there was a woman who was loved so much by a King that he gave up his throne for her ... but then he died, and she was suddenly very old.

I saw this on Wednesday, and had no intention of posting about it. However, having seen it, I feel I really must!

I went along to this with no expectations about it at all. I had booked to see it because it was written by Nicholas Wright (although based on a book by Caroline Blackwood) and directed by Richard Eyre. So the creative team credentials were the best there could possibly be. But I did not think I would be that gripped by the play's story. Anyway, I arrived and this play (the content) and the acting blew me away. I just love it when that happens! When you turn up with zero expectations and then are just completely blown away.

Firstly, I had paid zero attention to the cast - as I said, I had booked to see it purely because of its creative team (writer and director). So I almost fell off my chair when who should stride purposefully onto the stage, but John Heffernan who, of course, played Peter in Emperor and Galilean. I have only seen John in Emperor and Galilean and in this. In both, he plays characters who are extremely, almost blindly, loyal to their masters, and who will protect and defend them to the hilt. In both plays, he also plays characters with principles and who have integrity. I love both these qualities in people generally and, especially, in a man! I love to see these types of characters on stage, and I love to see how they deal with, and react to, adversity, and when their master comes under threat. I found John's loyalty to his masters in both plays touching and moving and he is 100% believable in both roles.

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Secondly, I think it is no great secret that my favourite actors are all men, and that I instinctively prefer plays about men. A good example is my obsession with Emperor and Galilean - the play is dominated by men and, of the cast of 50, I think only 5 or 6 were women. The Last of the Duchess is the opposite - ALL the main characters are women. So I was surprised that I connected with the women and their stories, and that I loved the play.

The main reason for this is that this play shows women in positions of power and influence - Sheila Hancock plays Suzanne Blum who is the lawyer in total control of the Duchess of Windsor's life, affairs, estate and possessions and Anna Chancellor plays Caroline Blackwood, the main protagonist, who is a journalist writing a profile/feature on the Duchess and then on Suzanne Blum. Both Sheila Hancock and Anna Chancellor are outstanding in this.

Sheila Hancock as Suzanne Blum and Anna Chancellor as Caroline Blackwood

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The women, and their lives, are complex - they are like the women that I know and love. They are multi-faceted and multi-layered. They are not stereotypes. They are also intelligent, able, talented, bloody minded, dominant, self-obsessed, articulate and headstrong. These are women whom I would like as friends. Women I would like to get to know, and who I would like to spend time with. They were all strong independent women - I loved that!

There was one scene I loved in particular - the drunk scene. It is when Angela Thorne, Lady Mosley, and Anna Chancellor, Caroline Blackwood, are both tipsy and talking about their husbands and what is happening between them at that point in time. Neither is listening to what the other is saying, they are both entirely caught up in their own emotions and feelings, and the story that they are relating to the other re their husbands. Both the stories they were telling were heart-rending - one involving an actual death and the other a living death (Alzheimer's). I was deeply touched and strongly moved.

To summarise, I am highly recommending this play to everyone.

Unfortunately, this play closes this Saturday (26 November) and is sold out until the end of the run, but you can get tickets by queuing up on the day for returns.

Follow the link for the full details on the play and the production:
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50/50 out in cinemas today (Friday 25 November)

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50/50 was the first film I saw at this year's London Film Festival and it was, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best.

I am therefore reposting this review that I posted last month and I am encouraging everyone to go and see this film. I will be revisiting it at the first opportunity that I get as I simply loved this film.

Raks's Review

50/50 is another "Cancer" film. Unlike Third Star, which focuses on friendship and stays away from hospitals and all the associated paraphernalia, this film is most definitely about Cancer - diagnosis, treatment, doctors, patients, hospitals, chemotherapy, surgery, therapy etc. 50/50 refers to the chances of surviving this type of Cancer. It focuses very much on what it is like to get a Cancer diagnosis, how it makes you feel, and how others react to the diagnosis. It looks at the devastating impact it can have on your life, your relationships, your friendships and all those who care about you. It follows the male lead through the whole process from diagnosis, to treatment, to negative news, to recovery and hope. It looks at the support networks that you need to get you through this sort of experience - a best friend, family, and even a dog! This being Hollywood, there is a positive outcome, and we are left at the end of the film with a feeling of hope and optimism. This film is not dark or depressing to watch in any way - it is funny, very emotional, moving and deeply touching.

I will declare a personal interest here. I had a similar experience(s) a few years back. I had a much easier break than cancer. But I went pretty much overnight from being a busy professional civil servant to a professional patient. I would describe the whole experience as a nightmare and the road back to normality was long and hard but I made it - twice! So yes I connected with the film and it spoke to me.

This film was excellent - it reaches the parts other films do not reach - and I am highly highly highly recommending it.

At the London Film Festival 50/50 was billed as an original story of friendship, love and survival - and finding humour in the most unlikely places. It is here:

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A British Subject, Arts Theatre


Brilliant playscript ... mind-blowing acting from a cast of four. Special credit to both David Rintoul and Nichola McAuliffe (who also wrote the play). Gripping real-life story.

Highly highly highly recommended.

Unfortunately, this closes tomorrow so if you want to see it you need to go tomorrow!

Cut and pasted from the Arts Theatre website:

A British Subject
Written by Nichola McAuliffe
Directed by Hannah Eidinow
Produced by Mig Kimpton

Cast includes Nichola McAuliffe, Kulvinder Ghir, Shiv Grewal and David Rintoul.

Arriving in London after a hugely successful run in New York and the Edinburgh Festival, A British Subject is an extraordinary true-life tale of international politics and the media colliding with justice, civil liberties and ultimately, faith.

At the age of 18, Mirza Tahir Hussain, a British Subject, arrived in Pakistan. 24 hours later a taxi driver was dead and Tahir was tried for his murder. Condemned to hang in the Criminal Court, he spent 18 years on Death Row. Don Mackay of the Daily Mirror was the only journalist to visit him in that time.

Full details here: