There’s More to Life Than Football…

This is a football blog.  But it is also my blog.  Which means that sometimes I watch things, or hear things, or maybe just think things, that aren’t football-related at all.  Here’s where you’ll find those things. 

Because sometimes, even if it’s only when you lose…there’s more to life than football.

Friday 21st December 2012

The Animals and Children took to the Streets – Review

On those rare occasions when you see something truly spectacular, however you describe it will sell it short.

Sometimes, it is enough to say: “See it!”

That is how I feel having just witnessed 1927’s amazing production during its limited run at the National Theatre.

The story is a simple one ingeniously told.   Hidden in an unnamed city, the foreboding Bayou Mansions are home to a collection of perverts, racists and murderers; curtain-twitchers and dodgy-dealers.  But they are the comic relief compared to the children who run amok, their collective cackle the siren of impending chaos.

Into this escalating horror walk Agnes Eves and her daughter Evie, intent on saving the feral children with bedtime stories and arts-and-crafts.

Agnes is played by actress Esme Appleton.  Evie is a cartoon projected on to three giant screens behind the actors.  And it works…perfectly.

Paul Barritt’s outstanding animation spills spell-bindingly across the screens for the play’s duration – as its three human actors and countless animated ones are taken on a journey through the Bayou, outside of it and back again.

The show’s cast – Appleton, musical contributor Lillian Henley and writer/director Suzanne Andrade – keep perfect synchronicity with the world ever-changing behind them.  Andrade’s caretaker is a particular stand-out, his inner monologue both heart-breaking and hilarious.

He is just one of the many characters the Bayou has swallowed whole.  And it is this sense of nightmarish inevitability that causes the young to riot in a desperate and violent attempt to break the cycle.

Although first conceived in 2009, the story now seems like a dark social commentary on the riots of 2011.  The children rise up with the chant, “We want what you have out there”.

But it is also hilarious, with countless one-liners and visual gags that had the audience in stitches for much of its 70-minute duration.

It is a play that has to be seen to be believed: a work of true originality with catchy songs, intelligent humour and a sombre yet razor-sharp commentary into the state of society as a whole.

Two days ago I hadn’t even heard of 1927.  But after a brief glimpse into their genius, I am eagerly awaiting their next production.

They are destined for greatness.  In fact they are already there.

Wednesday 17th October 2012 

Happy Birthday xxxxx

It is a truth universal that film adaptations of books are notoriously bad.  So when I heard that one of my favourite novels was soon to be a major motion picture, I was more than a little wary.

The novel was The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.  And for those who’ve read it, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that it feels like a secret you want to share but not too much.

It’s a simple tale, beautifully told, full of memorable characters, superb one-liners and the joys and despairs of life.  In short, it’s the book you wish you’d written.  And the book you’d never want ruined for the benefit of a target audience.

But then the trailer came out, and it was good.  It was better than good.  It was affecting.  The trailer did what the book does every time I read it, it gave me shivers.

So I changed my mind.  I wouldn’t boycott it after all.  I’d see it and, if those three cleverly-edited minutes were anything to go by, I’d enjoy it.

And I did.

The film is faithful to the book in almost every way; which is no surprise given that Chbosky was both screenwriter and director.  It tells the story of Charlie, the wallflower of the title who is entering his first year of high school.

Charlie is nervous, complex and highly intelligent.  But he is also alone.  He drifts through the early scenes, a passive observer, until he meets Patrick and Sam, half-siblings no less wallflowers but far more comfortable with it.

It is this trio that make the story.  So the casting had to be perfect.  And how!

As Charlie, Logan Lerman captures all the adolescent befuddlement, anxiety and excitement of his age.  But it is what ripples under the surface that sets Charlie apart as a true literary – and now cinematic – great.  By the film’s end, I saw something in his journey that I hadn’t seen in five readings of the novel.  This is Lerman’s Charlie…and he’s even better than the one in my head.

Much has been made of Emma Watson’s transition from Hogwarts to the real world, but as Sam she nails both the accent and the (almost) untouchable ingénue.  She’s not the Sam I imagined; far from it.  But she’s not a bad substitute.

And then there’s Ezra – and-the-Oscar-goes-to – Miller, who follows up his terrifying performance in We Need to Talk About Kevin with a perfect Patrick.  In a role that could so easily have been cliché, Miller brings texture, heart and at times a desperate sadness to the role.

These characters are not archetypes.  They are people.  Imagined but no less real.

Both the novel and the film are full of moments, some beautiful, some harrowing, some seemingly mundane but ultimately the ones forever remembered.

Before I saw it, I thought it enough to come out and not be disappointed.  But instead I came out with tears in my eyes and the feeling that having experienced the story for the sixth time, it was one I would never tire of.

For those who have read the book, it will be a very different experience.  My advice if you haven’t is to read it first.  It’s mine (and a few million other people’s) little secret.  But it’s one that deserves to be shared with everyone.  How else will you ever feel infinite?

Sunday 23rd September 2012

I am not, nor have I ever been, a teenage girl.  So I’m probably not the target audience for Now Is Good, the new film starring Dakota Fanning as streetwise, moody-in-a-cool-way leukaemia sufferer Tessa.

But this isn’t your average weepie.  Yes, it has the airbrushed, impossibly sincere boy next door, the slutty best friend, the annoying little brother, and the broken home where dad cares too much and mum not nearly enough.  But it rises above most films of this type with great acting, intelligent humour and, most notably as it nears its end, truth.

Adapted from the book Before I Die by Jenny Downham, the film tells the story of 17-year-old Brighton girl Tessa, who, with only months to live, is working her way through a bucket list of teen to-dos.

As Tessa, Fanning is remarkable.  In a role that could so easily have grated, we root for her throughout.  Yes she looks remarkably well for someone with terminal cancer – less pale, more angelic – but the film is full of the harsh reality of her condition, most shockingly in a bathroom scene that quickly shifts the tone from rom-com to horror.

It’s a film you need to buy into.  But if you do, there are rich rewards.

In the roles of Tessa’s parents, Paddy Considine and Olivia Williams are fantastic.  Considine paints a father desperately fighting against fate; while Williams’ apparently uncaring mother reveals herself to be just as loving and no less scared.  Her realisation that she knows so little about her daughter’s condition fantastically acted in a frantic hospital scene.

Countless films – mostly American – tackle the subject of inevitable death with oversentimentality.  Now Is Good does not.  When Tessa asks about her last days, her nurse answers her with a truth rarely heard on screen.  This is death as it is, not as we’d hope it to be.

And as the credits roll, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be grateful for life, and for everyone and everything you have.

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