About @RochFolk

Folk music and fringe theatre critic and reviewer.

REVIEW: Iron Sky: The coming race

If like me you loved the cheesy original Iron Sky from 2012, don’t hold your breath for a repeat.

Back in 2012, director Timo Vuorensola unleashed Iron Sky, this year, he lets his sequel loose on the cinema-going public.

Sadly, everything that made the original such a great movie is missing from this. Where you had believable good and bad guys, this time you have the wonderful Julia Dietze reprising her role as Renate Richter, but left as a side character with very little screen time.

Where the original took a really daft premise and gave you some great but even dafter characters and storylines, this sorry excuse for a sequel fails to give you any sort of believability, no matter how far fetched.

Where the original had parody, (Stephanie Paul as a Sarah Palin type US president anyone?) this just has hidden historical leaders who were in fact aliens, so we see Hitler, Thatcher, Steve Jobs and others not even parodied that well.

The premise is that the earth is hollow, and there is an alien power source that will save the last of humanity which has been living on the former nazi moon base for 30 plus years, trying to integrate with the last of the nazis.

The daughter of our two heroes from the first film, (Dietze & Christopher Kirby) takes a ship back to the abandoned earth to look for the said power source. She also takes a host of religious types who worship Steve Jobs.

In one scene, our heroine parodies that Apple 1984 advert as she smashes down the temple doors, but that is about it for decent parody.

To be fair to Lara Rossi, she does what she can with a lacklustre script that telegraphs every twist and turn.

This is as lame a film as you will watch this year, and if you have ANY love for the original, you will avoid this trash.

1*/5

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REVIEW: Unbreakable, Kings Arms, Salford.

Has Danny Clifford done it again? Andrew Riley went to Salford to find out.

When Danny Clifford burst as a writer into the Fringe scene with his first play about the Salford Pals, From Heaven to Hell, it quite rightly garnered him praise, not only for its writing, but it’s direction by Sue Jenkins.

In his new piece, Danny has managed to take a very personal look at the descent into drug addiction, gathered a cast who are simply spellbinding, but is sadly let down in my opinion by a director who simply didn’t share the vision the writer had for his work.

Yes, they were limited by time constraints because of how busy the Kings Arms is over the Fringe, but the direction appeared lazy and at times non existent. Karl Koo had the germ of a fantastic piece, and either rushed, or didn’t bother with direction.

The scenes appeared too rushed, and the simple dimming of the lights to announce a scene change lacks any imagination. There is no denying this is a tough business to be in, especially with a fringe production, but come on! Would it have killed to give the actors a little more than three chairs to work with and a bit of background music to cover scene changes?

The stand out actor in the cast is Eve Gordon, whose trip from happy fiancé to pregnant crack whore is very believable, but not one of those on stage gave less than everything. Special mentions must go to Dru Jones as Dave and David Ambler as Frank, but as I say, the whole cast shone.

Overall, this would be better served as a more expanded work, perhaps running to two acts, and to give the cast more to work with than some chairs. The solitary use of the projection screen was a waste of a tool.

I dearly hope Danny Clifford begins to look for tougher roles for himself. You cannot seriously tell me that you can complete the RADA Shakespeare course and not want to push yourself as an actor?

If this is expanded and given a set and a better direction, then I seriously think it could be a big hit.

This short run is a good place to start. Mr Clifford is a hell of a writer, I just wish in this instance his director had shared his vision.

4*/5

REVIEW: Bette and Joan, Hope Mill theatre, Manchester.

If you have no idea who Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were, then look away…

Arguably, two of cinemas greatest female stars only ever appeared together once, and that was long after their hayday.

This play, written by Anton Burge and directed by Sue Jenkins, brings the two faded stars of the silver screen together before and after the infamous “Whatever happened to Baby Jane?” lifting scene.

For a two handed play, this certainly made the most use of the limited, but wonderful space at Hope Mill Theatre. The rear of the stage used as a corridor between the two dressing rooms, and the front as a space for flashback pieces.

Our two protagonists are played (magnificently) Julie Edwards as Bette Davis and Kerry Willison-Parry as Joan Crawford. Both actresses more than inhabit their roles, they truly became them. The audience at Hope Mill was full of fans of both the original stars, and I did overhear at least one audience member at the interval say just how impressed he was with BOTH actresses as they were so accurate in their portrayal.

This play was produced by the Wise Fools theatre company, which has as its aim to produce work that celebrates the positivity and possibilities of later life. This is their first production, exploring how women can fight for later life opportunities. They have also been part funded for this by the Arts Council England, National lottery.

All I can say is that this work was simply outstanding. The two images you see on the photo below are not, s both my companion and myself thought projections, but actual photos that spin out of sight! This was done so deftly that we were both astounded to learn that this was not the case.

The juxtaposition of having the younger versions of Bette and Joan looming over the two older versions is inspired.

Bette & Joan

Bette & Joan, Hope Mill Theatre.

The whole show is simply, yet effectively directed by Sue Jenkins (Brookside, Coronation St.) and flows thanks to both actresses being absolutely perfect for the roles. I only recall one slip up delivering lines across each other, and that was because I made a note of it.

This is a superb show, with a very limited run and number of tickets remaining.

Get one!

5*/5*

 

 

Rocketman DVD/BluRay review

Believe the hype…

The Elton John biopic should be heading to a digital and disc release in early September 2019 for those who missed its big screen release.

For those of you who are looking to compare it to the other music biopic of the last 12 months, Bohemian Rhapsody, forget it.

They are chalk and cheese.

Where they deviate is this is an unashamed musical in the old school sense. Every choreographed moment of what is a fairly warts and all treatment of Reg, sorry, Elton’s lifein show business is set brilliantly to his and Bernie Taupins songs.

From the opening with Elton strutting, bedecked with wings, into an AA meeting, to his closing as the nations favourite homosexual father, lead Taron Egerton is a fairly believable Elton John, although by the end, he does look a lot like Phil Collins…His voice is stretched at times, but he does a passable Elton vocally.

The whole tale is wonderfully backed up by an ensemble cast that includes the woefully under appreciated Stephen Mackintosh, Bryce Dallas Howard and Richard Madden as Elton’s manager (and sometime lover) John Reid.

One thing, Bryce Dallas is only 8 years older than Taron Egerton, and whilst this is OK when she’s mum to the young Reg, as time goes on, it does become fairly obvious they are closer to brother and sister than mother and son.

The songs are used so creatively as to weave a narrative across the years that lead Elton into sobriety out of the self inflicted drink and drugs fuelled singer of the 70’s.

On the whole, his story is dealt with sympathetically, as you would expect when the main thrust of the film is also its producer, but not so sympathetically that you don’t at points dislike the man.

It’s one of the most original biopics I’ve seen. Yes, it misses out the Lion King and Candle in the wind, but you do get a whole host of songs, imaginatively reimagined for the big screen.

It truly is a pleasure to sit and watch this film. It swings between the lows and highs of his life, and doesn’t shy away from anything.

If you can still catch it on a big screen, do. If you’re willing to wait, so be it, but when you finally do watch it, you will end up after 2 hours smiling with unadulterated joy.

5*

REVIEW: Rachel Creeger Hinayni! @ The Garrick, Whitefield

It’s always a joy to see a comic in the process of honing a new show before a tour…

And this was no exception. Rachel Creeger will be a familiar name to some in the Jewish community, but, sadly, not to those outside of it.

When she brought her last show, “It’s no job for a nice Jewish girl” to the Greater Manchester fringe two years ago and won “Best Comedy”, I for one was not surprised to see the show go on to sell out it’s entire Edinburgh run.

This show is a little different. Still a work in progress, Rachel takes the audience on a tour of Hinayni! from primary school all the way to her medical problems and syndromes to the present day.

Approaching the show from a fan’s point of view, it was a real pleasure to welcome Rachel back to the Garrick, and it’s intimate space. From a critical view, Rachel was bang on form, letting the audience meander with her as she scribbled notes and made adjustments to the set as she went along.

Working without a microphone to an attentive audience who were happy to be entertained by a performer who appears very at home on the stage. Remember, this is the same artist who happily entertained over 4000 in Trafalgar square at Chanukah in 2018!

I wont spoil the show, but there are gags a plenty, and a special mention goes to her husband, who gets his own gag as a personal present…After all, its those sort of handmade gifts that make a marriage.

If you get chance to catch the show when it hits the Edinburgh fringe, do so. Tickets will undoubtedly be hard to come by, but I assure you, seeing Rachel Creeger live is worth the effort.

5*