All posts by Richard Cotter

As a child, Richard loved going to the pictures. He is still getting over the advent of the talkie which set cinema back a century but still sounds off on radio ABC, 2GB and 2UE etc about the state of cinema whenever invited. As well, Richard has been a theatre practitioner for the past 35 years and has been resident director for Big Splash Productions for the past 10 years.

JOE COUNTRY: PAGE TURNING MURDERER OF SLEEP

Consider yourself kidnapped, held hostage, spirited away, your time ransomed.

Welcome to JOE COUNTRY where you are kept captive by a compulsively readable narrative that sweeps in like a rattlesnake and fangs it for over four hundred fabulous pages.

The sixth in the series of so called Slow Horses thrillers, JOE COUNTRY starts ominously with the death of operatives that have so far managed to survive the series. Their identities are kept secret, however, another layer of suspense heaped on by author Mick Herron, that wicked agent of insomnia and page turning acceleration.

The surging confidence in its storytelling swathed in bright shafts of dry wit makes JOE COUNTRY the equal of its predecessors, a sustained and seething thriller that walks both sides of Spook Street on a tightrope of intrigue, espionage and subterfuge.

I could divulge the plot but then you would have to kill me for spoiling the exhilarating thrill of the story, a narrative that capers, strides, bucks and gallops through every provocative page, peppered with acerbic, sometimes appallingly politically incorrect diatribes by the Slow Horses squadron leader, the incongruously named, Jackson Lamb.

Lamb leads to the slaughter any vestige of sensitivity to his employees, his diatribes unfiltered truth serums roughly injected by needle sharp invective.

In JOE COUNTRY, the bread of espionage is leavened with the circuses of violent spectacle, hazard seasoned with humour, real world politik enlivened with a pervasive imagination.

The CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger is an annual award given by the British Crime Writers’ Association for best thriller of the year. It is given to a title that fits the broadest definition of the thriller novel; these can be set in any period and include, but are not limited to, spy fiction and/or action/ adventure stories. Ian Fleming said there was one essential criterion for a good thriller – that “one simply has to turn the pages”; this is one of the main characteristics that the judges will be looking for.

Judges look no further.

JOE COUNTRY by MICK HERRON is published by John Murray.

THE KEEPER: KICKING GOALS FOR RECONCILIATION

“You can’t argue with the bereaved.” says a character in THE KEEPER, qualifying a reluctance to reconciliation and forgiveness.

Based on an incredible true story, THE KEEPER follows Bert Trautmann, a German prisoner of war incarcerated in England at the end of World War II whose exceptional skills on the soccer field get him noticed by Jack Friar, the manager of a local football team.

Impressed by Bert’s prowess as a goal-keeper, Jack gets him out of the prison camp to play for his team, giving him day work in his grocery shop. It is here that a love slowly blossoms between Jack’s daughter, Margaret, and Bert, despite local hostility that a Hun, recent enemy of the state, is allowed freedoms after the fire bombing of local towns.

In addition to the disapproval of his relationship, Bert’s subsequent signing by Manchester City brings passionate protests from the people of Manchester, a city that had been severely bombed in the War, increasing the volatility.

However, against these odds, Bert wins over even his harshest critics during the FA Cup Final for Manchester City in 1956, securing victory and illustrating the great leveller winning is.

According to the film’s director, Marcus H. Rosenmüller, THE KEEPER is an obvious film in many ways- The former enemy becomes the hero of a nation: a unique sportsman exemplifies what sport can contribute to the reconciliation of hostile countries.

David Kross makes a compelling Bert Trautmann, blessed with archetypal Aryan good looks and agility, perfectly matched with Freya Mavor as the firecracker feisty Margaret, the grocer’s daughter who who gives him succour above and beyond soccer.

John Henshaw is terrific as Jack Friar, the local footy coach who sets the whole ball rolling kicking sure footed comedic and dramatic goals throughout.

Films fervent about reconciliation that embrace going forward – not forgetting but forgiving- are to be cherished. This one’s a keeper.

RELATIVE MERITS: FALLING FOUL OF FOLAU

Don’t expect to see Israel Folau in the audience of RELATIVE MERITS.

His loss, really, because it’s about a footy player, Adam Grant, who states that playing the game is the closest thing to heaven on earth, that putting on the boots and ploughing through the paddock is rapturous, tearing up the turf is tantamount to being in the company of angels.

What falls foul of and for Folau is that Adam is gay – a fairy, a faggot, a fruit and God knows how many other derogatory epithets homosexuals are damned and demonised by.

RELATIVE MERITS kicks off with dilemma as football hero, Adam, suddenly and mysteriously retires from the sport, while just as suddenly, his younger brother, Clay, lobs on his doorstep a decade after they last saw each other.

ADAM has hung up his boots in order to come out, something that does not sit well with his homophobic brother, whose fear of the feminine has been fuelled by his fanatically Catholic mother.

The play, set in 1993, is an historical reflection of the hysterical times when HIV and AIDS decimated communities and fanned homophobia into a frenzy.

As its press release states, RELATIVE MERITS is made timely again by the current controversy surrounding another footballer under different – but equally disturbing – circumstances, highlighting hateful homophobia.

The real timelessness of RELATIVE MERITS, however, is the enduring power of love, true brotherly love, literally illustrated here, but universally intended and implied in the play.

Committed and honest work by Samuel Welsh as Adam and Isaac Broadbent as Clay under the crisp direction of Porter James bring Barry Lowe’s dialogue to compelling life.

James’ craft as a choreographer is particularly evident in the fight scenes between the siblings, expertly staged in the confines of the intimate space.

Produced on a g string and the smell of an oily jockstrap, this production of RELATIVE MERITS more than merits your attendance.

Relative Merits by Barry Lowe
Directed by Porter James,
Starring Sam Welsh & Isaac Broadbent
10-25 July: Wed, Thurs, Sun 8.30pm
El Rocco Theatrette, 154 Brougham St Kings Cross
Tickets $25 / $20 concession
Bookings: www.trybooking.com/BDDTB

CHARLES FIRTH’S FRACTURED FAIRY TALES: AESOP COME, AESOP GO.

Warning to the Glutton Intolerant: CHARLES FIRTH’S FRACTURED FAIRY TALES is not glutton free, with conspicuous consumption and capitalist exploitation at the fore of Firth’s fables.

Twee to the point of deedledum, CHARLES FIRTH’S FRACTURED FAIRY TALES comes with a caveat emptor on the disclaimer page: The paper in this book is 100% sourced from re-used soiled toilet paper, to better match the quality of the comedy throughout.”

You have been warned.

Firth goes forth with a fifth, making up five tales with nary a fairy in sight. More correctly, in this case, politically correctly, Firth’s five are folk tales, ancestral to Aesop, and, like the ancient, written with political and social criticism.

They’re also a little bit Grimm.

The Boy Who Wanted A Friend is a sober story about cyber space and social media, the fatuous fallacy of “friending” and the mammoth privacy issues of metadata as individuals face the monoliths of government, bureaucracies and multi nationals.

Gold Child and the Bear Family bares the unbelievable fact that females bear the brunt of domestic work and salary disparity.

The One Bad Prince is a Me Too tale that tackles toxic male behaviour.

And both Mr. Archimedes Bath and The Handsome Troll & The Ugly Professor set their sights on climate change.

Illustriously illustrated by Rania Mahmoud, Glitchfool, Chiara Corradet and Sabdo “Oketoon”, CHARLES FIRTH’S FRACTURED FAIRY TALES are, in the words of editor, Cam Smith, “parables so unbelievable, so clearly made up, you’ll be unable to resist believing them.”

Perfect as a politically correct stocking filler in the rampantly retail fuelled, capitalist exploitative fractured festivity of Christmas in July, CHARLES FIRTH’S FRACTURED FAIRY TALES is published by The Chaser Quarterly, printed, bound, gagged and left unconscious on a popular hiking trail by Spotpress.

WHITE HOT SILENCE: RED HOT THRILLER

“Magnificent cunt! How are you doing?”

It’s a term of endearment from a Serbian mercenary to ex MI-Sixer Paul Samson in Henry Porter’s latest spy yarn, WHITE HOT SILENCE, a lingua franca illustrative of Porter’s ear for dialogue in an English as second language Europe.

Timely and terrific, WHITE HOT SILENCE speaks with a white hot eloquence about modern espionage and the masked continuation, evolution and elevation of the Cold War.

The Soviet Union may have dissolved and the Berlin Wall dismantled, but the Russians are still playing geopolitical chess with the West in a game of high stakes and unwilling pawns.

Kicking off with a kidnapping in Calabria, WHITE HOT SILENCE catapults the action into the high seas with ping ponging intrigue on both sides of the Atlantic.

Cyber sourcing intelligence is de rigeur in 21st century espionage, but tried and true traditional trade craft is still employed with agents in place and blunt instrument practice deployed.

WHITE HOT SILENCE is dense in description and extrapolation delivered in sprawling chapters that are sagas in themselves, which makes the action even more explosive when it comes.

Paul Samson is a credible protagonist, former secret servant of Her Majesty now private sector security sleuth, part time restaurateur and heavily in debt gambler.

Abducted aid worker, Anastasia Christakos is an admirable creation, a great gumption and colossal compassion fused into a formidable force of nature.

Gripping in guile and dripping in vile, the central villain of the piece is Kirill, incensed at the loss of the soviet empire, intent on destabilising the west by use of social media and inflammation of racism.

Reading like exciting fact, WHITE HOT SILENCE, grips the reader with a taut, suave, sensual stranglehold from the beginning and never lets go through a capering 438 pages.

WHITE HOT SILENCE by Henry Porter is published by Quercus

AN UNEXPECTED LOVE: DIVORCE ARGENTINE STYLE

AN UNEXPECTED LOVE begins with a quote from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and then proceeds to harpoon the great white whale of a stale marriage.

When Ana and Marco arrive at the airport to farewell their son Luciano, who is leaving his Argentine homeland to study in Spain, they are filled with certainty that they’ve done well as parents.

However, his departure leaves a significant hole in their everyday lives, and after more than twenty years of marriage, both reluctantly come to admit that their feelings for each other have shifted.

Theirs is a cosy connection, warm and worn as an old cardigan, but their passion has been spent on parenthood and their nest now seems empty of emotional and erotic charge.

So as if it were one last project together, Ana and Marco decide to ‘consciously uncouple’, and begin to explore the surprising and sometimes wonderful world of the newly-single.

A film version of the Pina Colada Song, AN UNEXPECTED LOVE becomes the expected pleasure due largely to the two central performances from Ricardo Darin as Marco and Mercedes Moran as Ana.

These two accomplished actors give heart, soul, and gravitas to this insanely civilised divorce comedy.

Co written by Juan Vera and Daniel Cuparo, and directed by Vera, AN UNEXPECTED LOVE is a modern romantic comedy of the petit bourgeois of Buenos Aries that succeeds on shrewd casting and cohesive writing imbued with a sense of place and feeling for cosmopolitan reality.

Think a Latin Woody Allen with less neurosis and you’re some way there in imagining the flavour of AN UNEXPECTED LOVE, where intellectuals grapple with existential thought, putting emotions in a half nelson and tossing them into the turnbuckle before wrestling them to the mat.

VOLVO SCANDINAVIAN FILM FESTIVAL: A SMORGASBORD OF CINEMA

The Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival presented by Palace offers a strong and diverse selection of films from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland. The programme of 21 films will screen in cinemas nationally from 9 July. Go North!

The Festival will open with the cheeky, star-studded Danish comedy HAPPY ENDING from actress-turned-director Hella Joof (2015 Scandi FF smash hit All Inclusive). Top Danish actors Birthe Neumann (five Robert Awards from the Danish Film Academy, two Bodils from the Danish Film Critics) and Kurt Ravn (two Bodils) head up the cast, which also includes Mette Munk Plum (Borgen), Tammi Øst (The Killing) and Scandi FF 2017 guest Charlotte Sieling (The Man, Borgen, Homeland).                                           Continue reading VOLVO SCANDINAVIAN FILM FESTIVAL: A SMORGASBORD OF CINEMA

YESTERDAY: ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE

Yesterday, all Jack’s troubles seemed so today, but, from across the universe, those birds have flown, now he believes in tomorrow.

In Richard Curtis and Danny Boyle’s cosmic comic confection, YESTERDAY, Jack Malik is a struggling singer songwriter who survives a serious collision between his bicycle and a bus.

Suddenly, its not half the world it used to be, there’s a shadow hanging over the planet, for when he wakes up after the accident, it is to a world that is Beatles-less, as if the Fab Four had never existed.

Before his guitar has had time to weep, Malik has appropriated the Beatles canon, recording them and becoming a world wide music sensation, all at the behest and benevolence of Ed Sheeran.

Like with Rocket Man and Bohemian Rhapsody, if you dig the music, you’re more than half way there with YESTERDAY. It’s a charmer eschewing the challenge of getting in deep and meaningful about piracy, poaching and plagiarism.

Himesh Patel presents a likeable quality in Jack Malik, earnest and erstwhile troubadour initially coming to terms with his own failure at being a popular singer/songwriter then suddenly slung into the stratosphere of success and celebrity.

As his original manager and crush, Lily James exudes an abundance of hope springs eternal, a consummate wish for the consummation of her harboured ardour.

Ed Sheeran is happy to take the piss and there’s a genuinely startling cameo that’s truly a bit of a surprise.

Kate McKinnon has all the acerbic lines as Jack’s professional manager, acidly delivered with sardonic splendour and atomic bomb aplomb.

More Love, Actually than Slumdog Millionaire, YESTERDAY invites audiences to park their critical faculties, purchase their ticket ride, and become a day dream tripper in a film that has The Beatles catalogue carry the weight and reiterate the underlying message – all you need is love.

TREVOR: WELCOME TO THE MONKEY HOUSE

 

There’s a whole lot of monkey business in TREVOR, Nick Jones’ furious flight of fancy that has a chimp make a chump of us all.

The titular Trevor is a clever primate, the apogee of anthropomorphism, touched with the tarnished tizz of Tinseltown celebrity.

Past his prime as a cute performing plaything, Trevor lives with his human mother, Sandra, a recently widowed woman who with her late husband hand raised the chimp from infancy.

Taught to juggle, roller skate and drink from a glass, Trevor attracted celebrity status to the point of starring with Morgan Fairchild, facilitating at the local lawman’s child’s baptism and become the town mascot.

But Trevor’s maturity has caused him to go from cute to culpable, a delinquent prone to unlicensed car driving and baby snatching.

An absurdist satire, TREVOR swings, grabs and bites at society’s insatiable and fatuous infatuation with celebrity and our failure to truly communicate.

There’s no failure in the communication of actor Jamie Oxenbould in conveying the frustration and fun of Trevor, his primate gait, his fret and strut, agile jaw and limbs a pitch perfect performance of cheekiness and menace.

Garth Holcombe similarly channels the simian as Oliver, Trevor’s role model and aspiration, a pongidae whose sophistication has made him more hominid, a startling presence in white suited spangle.

Of the humans, Sandra, Trevor’s foster mother, is the most sympathetic, and Di Adams imbues her with a quiet and patient compassion.

Eloise Snape presents an over the top caricature of Morgan Fairchild, Ainslie McGlynn elicits a simmering hysteria as Ashley, the nervous next door neighbour, Jemwell Danao is an animal welfare bureaucrat and David Lynch the dim witted sheriff.

Directed by Shaun Rennie, TREVOR is a nifty ninety minute rollick, a frolic fraught with frustrated ambition and opportunity thwarted by miscommunication.

When: 14th June – 6th July 2019
Times: Tuesdays – Saturdays at 7:30pm; 5pm on Sundays
Tickets: Adult $42 | Concession $35 | $20 for Under 30s (Thursday events)
Where: Kings Cross Theatre (KXT) – Level 2, Kings Cross Hotel, Kings Cross
Website: http://www.kingsxtheatre.com/trevor

WHEN THE GROUND IS HARD: ADELE IN SWAZILAND

Malla Nunn burst onto the literary scene a little over a decade ago with a brace of historical crime novels featuring exotic copper Emmanuel Cooper.

Nunn’s latest novel, WHEN THE GROUND IS HARD, jettisons detective fiction in favour of a flavoursome coming of age story set in a boarding school in Swaziland.

Taking its title from an African proverb, “When the ground is hard, the women dance.”, the novel centres on the struggle of sixteen year old Adele Joubert, a coloured girl sired by a white man, pitted against pitiless prejudice.

The three tiers of racist tribalism are tackled here – the whites, the coloureds and the blacks – against a background of boarding school bitches and the inherent totem pole pecking order that prevails in any peer pressure cooker.

Taken down a peg or two in the Heathers-like hierarchy of the student status system, Adele is forced to forge an unlikely alliance with Lottie Diamond, a Zulu-Jew, fiercely intelligent and a risk taker, although not reckless.

Nunn’s rendering of this friendship from foundation to framework to edifice is the beautiful spine of the story, a vertebrae that supports the supple flesh of events and situation.

Nunn’s understanding of race, class, gender and culture pervade every page in a pleasing, well paced prose.

Her characters are so vividly drawn they are quickly deposited into the reader’s image bank, as is the description of place and depiction of tone.

WHEN THE GROUND IS HARD may not be a police procedural but Nunn still strays into the mystery genre as the narrative snakes its way into the disappearance of a boy on campus and Adele and her new found friend, Lottie, turn sleuth to solve the absence of a heart grown darker – absconded, abducted, or assassinated?

Death, cruelty and pain are the hard ground that we stand on, says the narrator, the ground itself can’t be replaced but it can be changed. Adele and Lottie see that the ground is too hard and they strive to change it.

WHEN THE GROUND IS HARD by Malla Nunn is published by Allen & Unwin

TOLKIEN: A FELLOWSHIP THAT RINGS TRUE

The forging of fellowship and the fervent following of philology is the focus of TOLKIEN, the brilliant biopic of the creator of the iconic Lord of the Rings.

Directed by Dome Karukoski, TOLKIEN is written by David Gleesonand Stephen Beresford , and stars Nicholas Hoult as J.R.R. Tolkien with Lily Collins as his once and future wife and muse, Edith.

What could have been a rather pedestrian plod of a picture is given athletic emotional flight by an ensemble of actors that embrace the spirit of fellowship forwarded by the script.

The film follows Tolkien’s chronology from Catholic orphan to college boy and the forming of a ring of friends that enjoy the rigours of university and endure the horrors of war.

The film depicts Tolkien as a man with a formidable intelligence and imagination from early on, but it was his experience in the trenches of the First World War that informed his creation of The Hobbit and subsequent Lord of the Rings.

According to this narrative, his true love Edith was a laud of the Ring, Wagner’s opera cycle, a sweeping creation of myth and legend, magic and heroism that appealed to Tolkien’s scholarly penchant for philology and patriotism.

TOLKIEN is overtly a film about love – romantic, platonic, in all its myriad reflections—family, country, tradition, fidelity and loyalty.

The supporting cast is terrific with Anthony Boyle as Tolkien collegiate Geoffrey Smith a standout amongst more seasoned performers as Genevieve O’Reilly as his mother, Derek Jacobi as a kindly, eccentric Oxford Don and Colm Meaney as a mostly compassionate Catholic priest who becomes Tolkien’s legal guardian.

TOLKIEN also boasts a beautiful score by Thomas Newman, decidedly worthy of a fifteenth Academy Award nomination.

It has to be said that TOLKIEN is probably the philological feelgood film of the moment.