British actress Zoe Wanamaker has voiced her support for Martin Freeman's turn as Richard Iii, applauding him for attracting new audiences to theatre. The Sherlock star's appearance in the Shakespeare play at London's Trafalgar Studios theatre has been met with mixed reviews, with one critic branding his performance "disappointingly underpowered" and others criticising the staging of the production.
There have also been complaints that some fans of Freeman's TV roles have behaved badly at the shows, interrupting the performance with inappropriate cheering, and actress Maureen Lipman complained, "The producers are aiming for people who spend most of their day with wire in their ears. It is not so much Richard III as Richard the rock concert."
However, Wanamaker insists Freeman should be praised for filling theatres with audiences who would not normally visit stage shows.
She tells Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, "If Martin is getting people who would normally watch television or go to the cinema into a theatre for the first time - especially when it's Shakespeare - then that's great. It's essential that as many different people should cram into our theatres as possible and see the beauty of what is put on."
Stars of hit period drama Downton Abbey will be filling in as serving staff at upmarket London restaurant The Ivy on Sunday (01Dec13) in a bid to raise money for charity. Actors Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter and Brendan Coyle will join writer Julian Fellowes to serve diners at the event organised by their co-star Samantha Bond.
Guests will pay $225 (£150)-a-head for the privilege of being waited on by British stars including Emilia Fox, Maureen Lipman and Imelda Staunton.
Carmichael had the chance to practice her serving skills during the filming of an adaptation of Madame Bovary, in which she plays a servant, and she tells the London Evening Standard, "All that bobbing - I'm very versatile."
The money raised at the event will be donated to Acting for Others, a group of charities working with ill, injured or elderly actors and backstage staff.
Bond says, "The thing about our industry is when life is good it's very good and when life is bad, it's hateful. If you're unable to work there's no back-up."
It's love at first sight when Solomon (Ioan Gruffudd) the son of an Orthodox Jewish tailor meets Gaenor (Nia Roberts) a strong-willed young woman from a humble family of Welsh miners. Posing as a Christian and adopting a false name Solomon successfully woos his lady. But his deception can't last forever and when the truth comes out the hate-filled atmosphere in their hardscrabble town assures that there will be big trouble.
Gruffudd (TV's "Horatio Hornblower") immediately puts the drama on a sure footing with his natural leading-man presence and easy emotional accessibility. Roberts ("The Theory of Flight") is equally compelling as Gaenor whose conservative exterior hides the fiercely independent mind of a Jane Austen heroine. Most importantly the two leads throw sparks every time they're onscreen together. The strong supporting cast includes the compelling Maureen Lipman ("Educating Rita") as Solomon's mother who isn't above a bit of cruelty to protect her own.
Writer-director Paul Morrison a documentarian and practicing psychotherapist (!) invests his debut feature with passionate feeling and wonderful period detail. Clear motivations torturous conflicts and no small amount of suspense (thanks to the foreboding presence of Gaenor's hulking anti-Semite brother) give the piece engaging narrative urgency. Things lose steam a bit during the last act's over-the-top melodrama but it's a hard heart indeed that won't be rooting desperately for the star-crossed lovers to prevail.