Former Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe has won unanimous praise for his performance in new London stage show The Cripple Of Inishmaan. The actor plays the title role in a revival of writer Martin McDonagh's black comedy, and he earned rave reviews across the board from U.K. theatre critics when the show opened at the Noel Coward Theatre on Tuesday night (18Jun13).
Libby Purves of The Times newspaper gives the production four stars, branding it the "perfect ensemble piece" and calling Radcliffe the "heart" of the show who imbues his orphan character Billy, a disabled Irish teen desperate to leave home, with a "still, melancholy intensity and resolve".
The Independent's Paul Taylor calls Radcliffe the "genuine article" and hails his "honest, sensitive, unshowy performance", conceding that he "nails the acting - if not the Irish accent".
Michael Billington of The Guardian is also full of praise for the former boy wizard, writing, "Radcliffe... has the precious gift, vital in a play full of narrative surprises, of seeming artful and vulnerable at the same time."
The Daily Telegraph reviewer Charles Spencer gives the production three stars, but insists Radcliffe "lends this disconcertingly cruel play what little heart it has," and adds, "It has to be admitted that the piece is theatrically effective, outstandingly acted and often disgracefully funny."
The Spice Girls musical Viva Forever! opened Tuesday night in London, with both critics and the 90s girl band alike in attendance. Geri "Ginger" Halliwell, Emma "Baby" Bunton, Mel "Sporty" C and Mel "Scary" B posed for photos with fans on the red carpet outside the theater, while Victoria "Posh" Beckham kept everyone waiting after getting stuck in traffic (of course she did).
Told from the point of view of aspiring singer Viva, Viva Forever! parodies TV talent competitions like X Factor while using the Spice Girls' biggest hits to explore the themes of motherhood and friendship. The book was penned by Absolutely Fabulous star Jennifer Saunders.
While hopes were high — Judy Craymer, the producer behind the megahit Abba musical Mamma Mia!, was in charge — turns out, lightning truly doesn’t strike twice. The critics positively ripped into the show, and some reviews were so bad they’re great. We’ve rounded up the best worst reviews of Viva Forever!
The Telegraph, Charles Spencer: "I'll tell you what I wanted, what I really, really wanted – I wanted this terrible show to stop. If you love the Spice Girls stay at home and listen to their greatest hits."
The Times, Libby Purves: "I'm not sure we really, really wanted this. It wouldn't matter if the songs were good. But most of them aren't. This ain’t Abba, and of the 22 only about four are memorable."
The Independent, Paul Taylor: "[There are] marked deficiencies in Jennifer Saunders’ charmless, messy, lacklustre book. Not only does her script rarely give you that necessary gleeful sense of expectancy about where the songs are going to be shoe-horned in, but it’s embarrassingly derivative of Mamma Mia! and looks way past its sell-by date in its utterly surprise-free satiric swipe at X Factor."
The Guardian, Alexis Petridis: "But the real problem is the songs. For one thing, there aren't enough memorable hits in a career that lasted for three albums to support two hours of theatre. In fairness, the Spice Girls had a handful of decent songs – 'Stop' and 'Say You'll Be There' among them – but elsewhere they're forced to rely on pretty vaporous album tracks such as 'Right Back At Ya' and, at one panic-inducing moment, delve into the solo oeuvre of Geri Halliwell. For another, the lyrics are required to drive the action on, and the lyrics of Spice Girls songs are appalling."
Huffington Post UK, Caroline Frost: "Kind of makes you wonder why the producers didn't just hire a nightclub and make it a Viva Forever!-themed night, instead of all this hand-wringing nonsense about friendship never ending, and being true to yourself."
The Stage, Lisa Martland: "Ultimately there is just too much tackiness surrounding the core story for any of the events to be believable, the best example of which is when there is a quick diversion to Simone’s house in Spain where a bizarre carnival street scene arrives from nowhere. It’s as if someone from the props department found a box of paraphenalia in the theatre basement and thought it would make a great scene."
The Times, Caitlin Moran: “Scrappy, lazy, clichéd and inconclusive. Even the end makes no sense, suggesting no jeopardy, choice or sacrifice.”
Follow Sydney on Twitter @SydneyBucksbaum
[Photo Credit: Lia Toby/WENN]
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At the moment there are few greater clichés in the media than the freaking out single woman on the cusp of 30. Of course clichés are clichés for a reason worth exploring even through the lens of just one or two women as in Lola Versus. Unfortunately while the intention behind Lola Versus isn't that we should all be happily married by the age of 30 it still fits into the same rubric of all those "Why You're Not Married" books.
Lola (Greta Gerwig) has a gorgeous fiancé Luke (Joel Kinnaman) and they live in a giant loft together the kind of dreamy NYC real estate that seems to exist primarily in the movies. Just as they're planning their gluten-free wedding cake with a non-GMO rice milk-based frosting Luke dumps her. It's cruelly sudden — although Luke isn't a cruel man. Lola finds little comfort in the acerbic wit of her best friend the eternally single Alice (Zoe Lister-Jones) who is probably delighted to see her perfectly blonde best friend taken down a peg and into the murky world of New York coupling. Lola and Luke share a best friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) a messy-haired rumpled sweetheart who is kind and safe and the inevitable shelter for Lola's fallout. Her parents well-meaning and well-to-do hippie types feed her kombucha and try to figure out their iPads and give her irrelevant advice.
Lola Versus is slippery. Its tone careens between broad TV comedy and earnest dramedy almost as if Alice is in charge of the dirty zingers and Lola's job is to make supposedly introspective statements. Alice's vulgar non-sequiturs are tossed off without much relish and Lola's dialogue comes off too often as expository and plaintive. We don't need Lola to tell Henry "I'm vulnerable I'm not myself I'm easily persuaded" or "I'm slutty but I'm a good person!" (Which is by the way an asinine statement to make. One might even say she's not even that "slutty " she's just making dumb decisions that hurt those around her just as much as she's hurting herself.)
We know that she's a mess — that's the point of the story! It's not so much that a particularly acerbic woman wouldn't say to her best friend "Find your spirit animal and ride it until its d**k falls off " but that she wouldn't say it in the context of this movie. It's from some other movie over there one where everyone is as snarky and bitter as Alice. You can't have your black-hearted comedy and your introspective yoga classes. Is it really a stride forward for feminism that the clueless single woman has taken the place of the stoner man-child in media today? When Lola tells Luke "I'm taken by myself. I've gotta just do me for a while " it's true. But it doesn't sound true and it doesn't feel true.
In one scene Lola stumbles on the sidewalk and falls to the ground. No one asks her if she's okay or needs help; she simply gets up on her own and goes on her way. It's a moment that has happened to so many people. It's humiliating and so very public but of course you just gotta pick yourself up and get where you're going. In this movie it's a head-smackingly obvious metaphor. In one of the biggest missteps of the movie Jay Pharoah plays a bartender that makes the occasional joke while Lola is waiting tables at her mom's restaurant. His big line at the end is "And I'm your friend who's black!" It would have been better to leave his entire character on the cutting room floor than attempt such a half-hearted wink at the audience.
Lister-Jones and director Daryl Wein co-wrote the screenplay for Lola Versus as they did with 2009's Breaking Upwards. Both films deal with the ins and outs of their own romantic relationship in one way or another. Breaking Upwards a micro-budget indie about a rough patch in their relationship was much more successful in tone and direction. Lola Versus has its seeds in Lister-Jones' experience as a single woman in New York and is a little bit farther removed from their experiences. Lola Versus feels like a wasted opportunity. Relatively speaking there are so few movies getting made with a female writer or co-writer that it almost feels like a betrayal to see such a tone-deaf portrayal of women onscreen. What makes it even more disappointing is how smart and likable everyone involved is and knowing that they could have made a better movie.
Britain's leading theatre critics were less than impressed when the curtain went up at a press showing of All New People, which Braff also wrote, on Tuesday (28Feb12).
Michael Billington of The Guardian newspaper called the production a "muddled, meandering affair that reeks of self-gratification", while The Times' Libby Purves declared it "the most aimless, pointless play I have ever seen".
In The Independent's critique, Paul Taylor wrote that Braff "is still writing in the rhythms of television sitcom where the wisecrack and its instant gratifications predominate over longer-term goals".
However, Braff did receive a four-star review from the Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer, who praised the show's blend of "the comic and the poignant" and said it "deserves to prosper".
Spencer added, "This 90-minute piece never outstays its welcome."
All New People, which was staged at New York's Second Stage Theatre without Braff in the cast last year (11), centres around a man contemplating suicide on his 35th birthday.
In Dream House – the new suspense thriller from Jim Sheridan (In America My Left Foot) – Daniel Craig plays Will Atenton a successful New York publisher who disavows his high-powered Manhattan lifestyle and relocates along with his wife Libby (Rachel Weisz) and two daughters (Taylor and Claire Astin Geare) to a picturesque New England hamlet. Their new home a quaint fixer-upper bears imprints of the family that lived there previously: Old tools and other belongings are strewn about the basement a secret room abutting the children’s bedroom is filled with discarded toys. Will and Libby see the items as charming artifacts signs that their house has a history a soul.
The new neighborhood is not so bucolic as it seems. The children complain of a man peering in on them from the front yard – a suspicion confirmed when Will discovers footsteps in the snow the next day. If that weren’t ominous enough Will later learns that five years earlier his new home was the site of a grisly murder spree in which the previous owner Peter Ward was alleged to have killed his wife and two daughters. Acquitted due to a lack of evidence Ward spent a brief time at a psychiatric facility before being released. Could the shadowy figure glimpsed outside the window be Ward returning to the scene of the crime preparing to kill again?
At this point Dream House pulls off a whopper of a mid-game twist that effectively re-frames the entire narrative. (I won’t spoil it for you but if you want to know what it is just watch the trailer which rather stupidly gives it away.) Until now Sheridan has worked steadily to foster the guise of a relatively conventional haunted-house tale presenting a portrait of idyllic domesticity while simultaneously building an atmosphere of looming peril. After the story drops its bombshell the film morphs into a sort of supernatural murder mystery with Craig’s character scouring for clues within his own tortured psyche. Characters and scenes that might have been dismissible as red herrings – a neighbor (Naomi Watts) appears oddly stand-offish; her ex-husband (Martin Csokas) cartoonishly gruff; the town cops inexplicably apathetic – gain sudden relevance.
It’s a clever gambit; it is also patently absurd. A talented cast helps make the twist easier to swallow but the film’s second half sheds credulity seemingly by the frame at points devolving into schlock. Which in a different film might bode well for some silly fun but Sheridan aims for a restrained tone that seems more suitable for a somber character study than a flagrantly preposterous suspense thriller. As it is Dream House is neither thrilling nor suspenseful.