Filmed Theatre/ Opera etc


Beware a life in the theatre…

Adapted by Ivo van Hove from the 1950 Twentieth Century Fox film by Joseph L Mankiewicz starring Bette Davis, and the play The Wisdom of Eve by Mary Orr. Hove also directs this version of the play which was filmed at the Noel Coward Theatre with set and lighting design from Jan Versweyveld, costume design by An D’Huys and music from double Mercury Prize-winner PJ Harvey, alongside Tom Gibbons’ sound design .

It is perhaps a little slow to take off at the beginning but is gripping and chilling with stupendous performances by Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, The Fall, NT Live: A Streetcar Named Desire) and Lily James (Downton Abbey, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) .

The play tells the story of leading theatre legend Margo Channing. ( Margo is a true star of the theatre. The spotlight is hers, always has been. Now , suddenly, there’s Eve , supposedly her biggest fan who has attended every performance of the current play she is in.  Young, beautiful Eve. Eve , ‘the girl next door ‘ who becomes the golden girl – at first Margo’s secretary , then her understudy , then … But we know all about Eve…don’t we…?!

Hove’s production has a sparse and clinical atmosphere, very contemporary . There is also the use of a video camera and projection which can be quite distracting and alienating but at other times the heightened use of close up works to great effect. This blurs the boundaries between ‘real life ‘ and life on stage/backstage, and the production also focuses on the pressures particularly on women with body image and the damage and demands imposed on celebrity. It is also about confronting ageism and death. There are spooky parallels when first Margot and then Eve stare into the same dressing room mirror and see themselves aged – both paw at their faces as if to deny it. Continue reading NT LIVE : ALL ABOUT EVE


Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown ..

This is not your ‘standard’ version of Shakespeare’s THE TRAGEDY OF RICHARD 11, nor think for instance of the landmark versions starring Derek Jacobi, Fiona Shaw or David Tennant. Directed by Joe Hill- Gibbons , it is part of the NT Live series and was filmed at the Almedia Theatre in London earlier this year. Rather it is a sparse cold, dark, bleak, blustery version that has been abridged and has ‘only’ a cast of eight most of whom except Simon Russell Beale in the eponymous role play multiple characters .Beale gives a magnificently powerful performance in the title role but the production is somewhat unsatisfying and almost all of the poetry is lost. There is a lot of shouting the lines and sometimes they are spoken almost too quickly, lessening the impact.

The cast, who are onstage the whole time , are trapped in a cold, silver room with no doors or windows and a frosted glass ceiling (as designed by ULTZ).  Rivets in the walls echo their process of construction and can provide a star like effect. There are no chairs or tables, just several buckets (labelled Water, Soil, Blood etc ) against the back wall that are used at particular points in the performance to dramatic affect. The cast wear contemporary casual grey or black clothes and at first large gardening gloves. At times the excellent ensemble work together like a pulsating, whirling mass and become like a Greek chorus. As they are on stage the whole time there is no let up and sometimes it feels as if they are stalking Richard. Some of the scenes have an intense build up of energy, with characters shooting off the walls at times – for example the repeated explosive challenges where hurled gauntlets (here what look to be gardening gloves) are thrown and collect in a pile, or where King Richard confronts Bolingbroke like a boxing match. Continue reading NT LIVE : THE TRAGEDY OF RICHARD 11


Swan Lake is one of the most loved and iconic ballets .As part of the Palace Opera and Ballet season, this is a very strong revival of the 1984 version by Rudolf Nureyev .

Nureyev uses as a basis the ‘traditional ‘ Petipa/Ivanov choreography ( especially for the ‘White’ Acts 2 and 4) to a degree, but with a twist and extra flourishes and additions of choreography . It is spectacularly staged with dark russet colours and gold for the court scenes of Acts 1 and 3. The ‘lake ‘ is simply staged with a low ramp of steps and a very atmospheric use of projections. Costumes (Ezio Frigerio who also designed the sets) are lavish, opulent and exquisitely detailed.

This version is quite dark and can be read as Freudian, especially in the relationships between Siegfried, his Mother and the tutor Wolfgang/Von Rothbart . Everything apparently is in Siegfried’s mind ( the ballet opens with him asleep in a chair – is everything a dream ?) .In Act 1 in particular Nureyev has added a lots of extra fiddly, fancy, almost Ashton like footwork for the dancers . Throughout the work there is more emphasis on the male dancing with the male roles expanded (especially for Siegfried and Von Rothbart, but also in Act1 for example with the huge corps de ballet of male dancers having their set piece ensemble with the polonaise). The mime for Odette telling Siegfried of her story and warning him of the spell is retained from a previous Royal Ballet version.

The national dances in Act 3 are performed almost right at the start of the Act – in this version they are welcome expected guests and not Von Rothbart’s uninvited ‘creatures’.

The six princesses Siegfried is required to choose from are (as is common in quite a few versions) in very similar dresses in shades of dusty pink and carry rather distracting gold fans shaped like mirrors.

The ‘Black Swan’ pas de deux in Act 3 here is far more a pas de trois for Siegfried, Odile and Von Rothbart with Von Rothbart manipulating – one could say perhaps say hypnotising – Siegfried and almost blatantly controlling him.

Rather than the ‘traditional’ ending, here it is far darker, with Siegfried collapsing (dying?), Odette transforming into a swan and being trapped in the spell forever and Von Rothbart, having transformed back into his bat/birdlike form, triumphant.

Only major companies like the Paris Opera can field such a HUGE cast – over 30 swans! and a corresponding number of male corps de ballet. Sometimes – eg for the large court ensembles in Act 1 and the swans – emphasis is made of the lines and criss-crossing blocks of patterns of the choreography (sometimes shot from a high aerial view so we can see them). The swans in the white acts breathe and pulsate as one.

As Odette/Odile Léonore Baulac was excellent displaying superb dancing. As Odette the Swan Queen she is all delicate birdlike and fluttery at first, regal yet softly lyrical and protective of her entourage, most unwilling to trust Siegfried at the start but comes to place her whole world in his trust. As Odile in Act 3 she is smiling, seductive and charming, sparkling and spinning, at times crisply mocking Odette.

As Siegfried handsome Germain Louvet was terrific, in fine form. Siegfried is presented as young , impetuous and romantic.  Technically his dancing is glorious -marvellous epaulement and flowing princely ‘lines’. He is shattered when he realises he has unwittingly betrayed Odette. Their partnership as Odette and Siegfried was delightful .

Francois Alu as Wolfgang the tutor/Von Rothbart gives a great performance. As Wolfgang he is slimily charming. What is interesting is that in Act 3 as von Rothbart he does not wear a mask or anything so that his alter ego is concealed (yet he wears a cap in Act 4 when far more bat/birdlike ).As Von Rothbart (in black , sometimes with , sometimes without , a large black fluttering trailing billowing cape) he is sinister, smiling and manipulative .In Act 3 Nureyev has added a flashy dashing showy solo for him .

Musically the Orchestre de l’Opera national de Paris under the baton of maestro Valery Ovsyanikov was glorious, giving a magnificent reading of the lush, dramatic and romantic Tchaikovsky score.

The ballet was captured live from the Opéra Bastille, Paris, 21 Feb 2019. A very  exciting, thought provoking version wonderfully danced.

Running time 3 hours including one interval .

The Paris Opera Ballet in Nureyev’s Swan Lake screened at selected cinemas between the 12th to the 17th April 2019.




This image: Ermonela Jaho as Violetta ValÈry . Charles Castronovo as Alfredo Germont ROH-2019. Photographed by Catherine Ashmore
Featured image: Kai Ruutel (as Flora Bervoix), Ermonela Jaho (as Violetta Valery) and Robert Lloyd (as Doctor Grenvil) Credit: Johan Persson / Royal Opera House / ArenaPAL

The Royal Opera House 2018/19 Live Cinema Season will exclusively present world renowned composer Verdi’s stunning opera – LA TRAVIATA (16, 17 and 20 March 2019).

Set in three acts, Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA follows the whirlwind romance between Violetta and Alfredo, ending in a heartbreaking betrayal and a reconciliation that comes too late. One of the most popular operas ever, it features exceptional examples of Italian opera’s tunefulness and immediate lyrical appeal, including the famous Brindisi and the virtuoso aria ‘Sempre libera’. Continue reading ROMANCE AND RECONCILIATION, LIVE FROM LONDON’S ROYAL OPERA HOUSE. GIVEAWAY


This sensational, broad, swirling epic, filmed live from the National Theatre , is magnificently staged and acted with towering performances by Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo in the lead roles. Directed by Simon Godwin we see how the two worlds of Egypt and Rome collide and love blindly leads to tragedy.

The production has been transposed to now with mobiles, hi tech computer screens etc and contemporary speech patterns. But the poetry remains and is fresh and exciting ( eg Enobarbus’s “ purple barge “ speech ) .It begins with Caesar’s (Tunji Kasim) arrival at Cleopatra’s monument to discover she has just died and he issues order that she be buried alongside Antony. “No grave upon the earth shall clip in it ,A pair so famous.” We then look back on the great relationship between Antony and Cleopatra .

In Hildegard Bechtler’s set designs Egypt is represented by cool turquoise and water pools, Rome by stark polished offices and war rooms with precise hardness and neatness and displays of primitive masks ( Egyptian plunder? ) . Video footage of riot-shield clashes and a crescendo of mortar blasts in bombed-out streets put us bang in the middle of current middle-eastern clashes .There is a wonderful evocation of a submarine and The Monument uses tall simple lines. At times the use of the revolve is dizzying . Continue reading NT LIVE :  ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA


The Queen of Spades at Dutch National Opera (C) Karl and Monika Forster

Based on a short story by poet Alexander Pushkin, THE QUEEN OF SPADES  follows Gherman, a soldier torn between love and a destructive fixation with gambling. The opera, set in 1890, explores madness, obsessive passions and the supernatural, with the characters giving voice to Tchaikovsky’s own unfulfilled desires.

The Royal Opera House  is celebrating ten years of live cinema broadcasts, leading the way in delivering world-class opera and ballet around the world. The 2017/18 Season was the Royal Opera House’s most successful cinema season to date with more than one million tickets sold globally, including to more than 500 venues across the UK. Continue reading THE QUEEN OF SPADES. ROYAL OPERA HOUSE LIVE IN CINEMAS IN FEBRUARY. GIVEAWAY


Production Images: Johan Persson

ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA by William Shakespeare.  Filmed live from the National Theatre, Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo play Shakespeare’s famous fated couple in his great tragedy of politics, passion and power. Director Simon Godwin returns to National Theatre Live screens with this hotly anticipated production.

Caesar and his assassins are dead. General Mark Antony now rules alongside his fellow defenders of Rome. But at the fringes of a war-torn empire the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and Mark Antony have fallen fiercely in love.  In a tragic fight between devotion and duty, obsession becomes a catalyst for war. Continue reading ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA FROM NT LIVE. PREVIEW GIVEAWAY


Alan Bennett’s play THE MADNESS OF GEORGE III premiered in 1991 and also became a BAFTA Award-winning film starring Nigel Hawthorne. Here, screening as part of the NT Live series, we see a sensational production, this time filmed at the Nottingham Playhouse .

Based on letters and other documents from the Royal Library at Windsor Castle it tells the story of the Regency crisis of 1788-89. It was the age of Sheridan and the landing of the First Fleet in Australia. It was also the period when Britain was still recovering from the effects of its defeat in the American Revolution.

Directed by Adam Penford (Director for Screen: Matt Woodward) it is lavishly, opulently, epically staged with many scene changes and uses of the revolve. Some scenes are very intimate, others are hugely formal. Royal castles and events are contrasted with bedchambers. For the parliament scenes the various actors also hold masks to give the illusion of yet more Members of the House. Costumes are lavish with periwigs and ermine.(It is interesting we now often forget that in this era men wore corsets – we see the Prince of Wales being laced into one to give him the fashionable shape.) Handel was King George’s favourite composer and a lot of the soundtrack features his glorious music. Continue reading NT LIVE : THE MADNESS OF GEORGE III


American master choreographer Jerome Robbins considered the Paris Opera Ballet as his second home after the New York City Ballet.

This production in his honour, to mark the centenary of his birth, brings together four works displaying his incredible range and versatility. All pieces are accompanied live by the splendid orchestra of the Paris Opera, meticulously and enthusiastically conducted by Valery Ovsyanikov.

Fancy Free opens the program .It inspired the musical On The Town. Nowadays it could possibly be regarded as quite dated and sexist, but the choreography is terrific.

The simple plot revolves around three boisterous sailors on 24-hour leave in New York City during the Second World War. They get drunk and try to chat up women. The French dancers , who are also splendid actors ,have a wonderful time with the jazz like moves and showy choreography which in some ways is reminiscent of Broadway /Hollywood musicals of the era. Those familiar with Robbin’s work will note the athletic and travelling steps already visible in this rather early work which is trademark ‘Robbins‘ , hinting at works such as West Side Story. Continue reading PARIS OPERA BALLET : A TRIBUTE TO JEROME ROBBINS


This image and featured image: Meaghan Grace Hinkis as Clara in The Nutcracker, The Royal Ballet ©ROHTristram Kenton, 2013. Image by AKA ©ROH 2016

THE NUTCRACKER from Royal Opera House Live screens for a limited 3 day season in December.    The Royal Opera House celebrates ten years of live cinema broadcasts in 2018, leading the way in delivering world-class opera and ballet around the world. The 2017/18 Season was the Royal Opera House’s most successful cinema season to date with more than one million tickets sold globally.

A young girl’s enchanted present leads her on a wonderful Christmas adventure in this beautiful classical ballet, danced to Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score.

The young Clara creeps downstairs on Christmas Eve to play with her favourite present – a Nutcracker doll. But the mysterious magician Drosselmeyer is waiting to sweep her off on a magical     adventure. After defeating the Mouse King, the Nutcracker and Clara travel through the Land of Snow to the Kingdom of Sweets, where the Sugar Plum Fairy treats them to a wonderful display of dances. Back home, Clara thinks she must have been dreaming – but doesn’t she recognize Drosselmeyer’s nephew?



THE MADNESS OF GEORGE III is written by one of Britain’s best-loved playwrights Alan Bennett (The History Boys, The Lady in the Van), this epic play was also adapted into a BAFTA Award-winning film following its premiere on stage in 1991.  This National Theatre Live film is of the Nottingham Playhouse production.

It’s 1786 and King George III is the most powerful man in the world. But his behaviour is becoming increasingly erratic as he succumbs to fits of lunacy. With the King’s mind unravelling at a dramatic pace, ambitious politicians and the scheming Prince of Wales threaten to undermine the power of the Crown, and expose the fine line between a King and a man. Continue reading ALAN BENNETT’S ‘THE MADNESS OF GEORGE III’. GIVEAWAY TO PREVIEW SCREENING