Monthly Archives: January 2022


(Sara keating’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 1/13; photo: With an implacable smile, Conroy encourages and supports even the most reluctant of audience members to join her on stage.)

It is hard to imagine anyone not falling for its gentle inclusivity and charm


Abbey Theatre on the Peacock Stage

Before the start of Every Brilliant Thing, a soul-stirring play by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe, performer Amy Conroy circles the auditorium, greeting the audience and enlisting their assistance. Each audience member is handed a numbered index card with a short statement on it. When the time comes, Conroy entreats us, would we be so kind as to share that statement with the rest of the theatre? Yes, the fundamental thrust of this magically uplifting show about mental health is interactive, but it is hard to imagine anyone not falling for its gentle inclusivity and for Conroy’s easy charm.

Every Brilliant Thing tells the story of a young girl confronted with her mother’s depression (in the original version the child was a boy). Her instinct is to try and cure her mother. With this in mind, she starts curating a list of all the amazing things that the universe has to offer. She starts with simple things (ice-cream, kung-fu films) but as it grows the list encompasses more personal pleasures, including the family’s shared love of music. While her mother seems immune to her daughter’s interventions, the daughter herself is transformed: the list changes how she sees the world, providing her with an emotional literacy and resilience that will eventually save her from her mother’s fate. he similarity seemed to me uncanny

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(Laura Cappelle’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/10;  Gift for improvisation … painting of Molière reading from Tartuffe at the home of Ninon de L’Enclos. Photograph: Heritage Image Partnership Ltd/Alamy.)

The Comédie-Française is celebrating the 17th-century dramatist by recreating Tartuffe, the play that outraged the Catholic church and almost ended his career

French theatre is gearing up to pay tribute to one of its founding fathers: Molière, the 17th-century playwright whose biting comedies still form many French schoolchildren’s introduction to drama. On 15 January, 400 years after his baptism (the exact date of his birth is unknown), the venerable Comédie-Française company will open this anniversary year with the play that came perilously close to sinking Molière’s career: Tartuffe.

While the first version of the play got the approval of Louis XIV himself in 1664, its satire of Catholic zealots drew the ire of the Catholic church. At the time, accusations of impiety could send a playwright to the stake, and Tartuffe was swiftly forbidden. Yet Molière persisted, switching gears and rewriting the play to suggest that his target wasn’t religion or true believers – but rather the hypocrisy of those who feign virtue. (The word “tartuffe” came to describe such characters in life, too.)

It worked. By 1669, a new, longer version of the play – in five rather than three acts – was allowed and met with acclaim, and researchers now see Molière’s political and social acumen as a key factor in his rise to classic status, even before his death. “Molière was brilliant at this: he had this sense of opportunity, a gift for improvisation,” says Georges Forestier, a Molière specialist and professor emeritus at Sorbonne Université in Paris.

And this month, thanks to Forestier and his colleague Isabelle Grellet, the Comédie-Française’s audience will be able to experience the original Tartuffe again – or at least a text as close to it as possible. While the 1664 play didn’t survive, the duo used a method that Forestier calls “theatrical genetics” to recreate it. It relies on sources the era’s playwrights drew heavily on, such as commedia dell’arte scenarios and existing short stories, to piece together a play’s original plot.

The result is a tighter, more streamlined Tartuffe, focused on the eponymous antihero – a religious beggar who is welcomed into a well-to-do family – and his hosts, Orgon and his wife Elmire. Some characters, such as the young beau Valère, have disappeared entirely along with the second and fifth acts, identified as later additions.

The prominent Belgian director Ivo van Hove will direct what is set to be a curious event – a “new” Molière play at the House of Molière, as the Comédie-Française has long been known. The opening night will be relayed live in cinemas in seven countries, and marks the start of a yearlong celebration for the French company, which was born of the fusion of Molière’s troupe and another, in 1680: its entire 2022 lineup will be dedicated to Molière.

Van Hove originally considered tackling Tartuffe years ago, after staging Molière’s The Misanthrope and The Miser in other countries, but he was discouraged by the standard five-act version. “It’s so artificially made up, due to the pressure from the church,” he says between rehearsals. “I never liked it, and I didn’t know how to solve it.”

Forestier and Grellet’s three-act version convinced him. “It’s what he intended it to be,” Van Hove says of this old-new Tartuffe, presented under its original title (Tartuffe or the Hypocrite, changed in 1669 to The Impostor). The director has added a prologue and epilogue to set the scene, and sees the play as a “social drama”.

Ever the pragmatist, Molière knew when to back down – and when to take risks, too

“This Tartuffe is invited into their home, and then the whole family, every individual, starts to change,” he says. Forestier stresses, however, that while Van Hove sees Tartuffe’s relationship with Elmire, the lady of the house, as a love story, the text doesn’t necessarily support this idea.

Ever the pragmatist, Molière knew when to back down – and when to take risks, too. As Tartuffe and the ensuing controversy demonstrate, he was the first comic playwright in France to leave stock comedy characters behind and tap into zeitgeisty themes, including the education of women, freedom within marriage, fanaticism and fashion. And while conservatives disapproved, he found an eager audience in Louis XIV and his court. “When his career takes off, the king is in his 20s,” says Marine Souchier, a postdoctoral researcher who studied the playwright’s career trajectory. “Molière speaks to a pretty young crowd at court and among the bourgeoisie, and is rather progressive for this era.”

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(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardisn 12/30; via Pam Green; Photo:  Comic parable … Charlie Stemp in the title role of Kipps: the New Half a Sixpence Musical. Photograph: Sky Arts.)

In a surprisingly class-conscious stage adaptation of the HG Wells-inspired musical from the Downton Abbey creator on Sky, Charlie Stemp radiates kindly innocence

What’s in a name? Quite a lot in the case of the musical Kipps, which aired on Sky Arts on Wednesday night. The title comes from the 1905 HG Wells novel, but the show itself is a radical rewrite of an earlier musical version of the story, Half a Sixpence, which starred Tommy Steele on stage and film in the 1960s. Julian Fellowes wrote the fresh book, which he titled Half a Sixpence, in 2016, while George Stiles and Anthony Drewe added seven new numbers to the original David Heneker score. What we saw on screen was a filmed performance at London’s Noël Coward theatre in 2017.

So what’s the difference between the original Half a Sixpence and Kipps? I would say that the former – especially in the 1967 film version where Julia Foster co-starred with Steele – was essentially a romantic tale about how Artie Kipps finally finds true love with his childhood sweetheart, Ann. Kipps is closer to Wells’s original in that it is a comic parable about the English class system. I even wonder whether the novel influenced Shaw’s Pygmalion, which dates from 1912, in that it shows how in a rigidly stratified society accent determines status.

Given Fellowes’s creation of Downton Abbey, what is most surprising about Kipps is its portrayal of the English upper class as brutally snobbish predators. Artie himself is a Kentish draper who comes into a fortune and finds himself, despite his avowals to Ann, falling for the do-gooding Helen Walsingham. But it is made abundantly clear that Helen is being used as bait by her upper-crust family to hook the wealthy Kipps.

Two artfully juxtaposed numbers demonstrate how money can be used for ill or good. In one, Ann’s criminal brother tempts Kipps with capital gains. In another, the raffishly thespian Chitterlow hymns “the joy of the theatre” and asks Artie to invest in his new play.

But I’ve long argued that any musical needs a moment of ecstasy where song, dance and story combine to spirit-lifting effect. In Half a Sixpence, it comes in the number Flash, Bang, Wallop, which is a pub knees-up with its roots in English music-hall. In Kipps, it comes in a new song, Pick Out a Simple Tune, where Artie galvanises a starchy musical evening by playing on his banjo: “Just keep plucking with your plectrum / make new friends across the spectrum,” he jovially sings as Folkestone’s finest rattle spoons, whirl, twirl and even swing from the chandeliers.

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(William Grimes’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/7/22; via Pam Green; Photo: Sidney Poitier’s Academy Award for the 1963 film “Lilies of the Field” made him the first Black performer to win in the best-actor category. He rose to prominence when the civil rights movement was beginning to make headway in the United States.Credit…Sam Falk/The New York Times.)

The first Black performer to win the Academy Award for best actor, for “Lilies of the Field,” he once said he felt “as if I were representing 15, 18 million people with every move I made.”

Sidney Poitier, whose portrayal of resolute heroes in films like “To Sir With Love,” “In the Heat of the Night” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” established him as Hollywood’s first Black matinee idol and helped open the door for Black actors in the film industry, has died at 94.

His death was confirmed by Eugene Torchon-Newry, acting director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Bahamas, where Mr. Poitier grew up. No other details were immediately provided.

Mr. Poitier, whose Academy Award for the 1963 film “Lilies of the Field” made him the first Black performer to win in the best-actor category, rose to prominence when the civil rights movement was beginning to make headway in the United States. His roles tended to reflect the peaceful integrationist goals of the struggle.

Although often simmering with repressed anger, his characters responded to injustice with quiet determination. They met hatred with reason and forgiveness, sending a reassuring message to white audiences and exposing Mr. Poitier to attack as an Uncle Tom when the civil rights movement took a more militant turn in the late 1960s.

“It’s a choice, a clear choice,” Mr. Poitier said of his film parts in a 1967 interview. “If the fabric of the society were different, I would scream to high heaven to play villains and to deal with different images of Negro life that would be more dimensional. But I’ll be damned if I do that at this stage of the game.”

At the time, Mr. Poitier was one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood and a top box-office draw, ranked fifth among male actors in Box Office magazine’s poll of theater owners and critics; he was behind only Richard Burton, Paul Newman, Lee Marvin and John Wayne. Yet racial squeamishness would not allow Hollywood to cast him as a romantic lead, despite his good looks.

“To think of the American Negro male in romantic social-sexual circumstances is difficult, you know,” he told an interviewer. “And the reasons why are legion and too many to go into.”

Mr. Poitier often found himself in limiting, saintly roles that nevertheless represented an important advance on the demeaning parts offered by Hollywood in the past. In “No Way Out” (1950), his first substantial film role, he played a doctor persecuted by a racist patient, and in “Cry, the Beloved Country” (1952), based on the Alan Paton novel about racism in South Africa, he appeared as a young priest. His character in “Blackboard Jungle” (1955), a troubled student at a tough New York City public school, sees the light and eventually sides with Glenn Ford, the teacher who tries to reach him.

In “The Defiant Ones” (1958), a racial fable that established him as a star and earned him an Academy Award nomination for best actor, he was a prisoner on the run, handcuffed to a fellow convict (and virulent racist) played by Tony Curtis. The best-actor award came in 1964 for his performance in the low-budget “Lilies of the Field,” as an itinerant handyman helping a group of German nuns build a church in the Southwestern desert.

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(Jon Blistein’s article appeared in Rolling Stone, 1/6;  Photo: American director and screenwriter Peter Bogdanovich, UK, 20th February 1973. He directed the film ‘Paper Moon’ that year. Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.)

The celebrated filmmaker broke-out with his 1968 thriller Targets and also scored a box office smash with the 1972 screwball classic, What’s Up, Doc?

Peter Bogdanovich, the celebrated, Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind classics like The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon, as well as a frequent actor, died Thursday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 82.

Bogdanovich’s daughter, Antonia Bogdanovich, confirmed his death, saying the director died of natural causes. 

Bogdanovich actually began his career as a film critic and reporter before meeting the producer Roger Corman, who’d been so impressed with some of his work that he enlisted him to help out on some of his films. Despite this ostensibly unconventional path into the film industry, success came quickly for Bogdanovich: He earned praise for his first film, the 1968 thriller Targets, and his follow-up, 1971’s The Last Picture Show, earned eight Oscar nominations (including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay) and arguably remains his signature film.

The filmmaker’s stellar opening run continued the next year with What’s Up, Doc?, a wildly succesful screwball romcom starring Barbra Streisand — in a character so molded after Bugs Bunny she’s eating a carrot in her first scene — and Ryan O’Neal. O’Neal starred Bogdanovich’s next film as well, the Depression-era dramedy, Paper Moon, in which he and his real-life daughter, Tatum O’Neall, played a father-daughter grifting duo (Tatum O’Neal famously won an Oscar for her performance at the age of 10).

But the rest of Bogdanovich’s career would be tumultuous, marred by major flops, financial troubles and personal tragedy. In 1980, Dorothy Stratten — an actress and Playboy Playmate Bogdanovich had begun an affair with while directing her in the romcom They All Laughed — was murdered by her husband, Paul Snider, who then killed himself. While Bogdanovich managed to self-release They All Laughed in 1981, it performed poorly. Three years later, he published the book,The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980, which was deeply critical of Playboy and Hugh Hefner, and effectively blamed both for Stratten’s death.

“I destroyed him,” Bogdanovich said of Hefner in a 2019 Vulture interview. “I destroyed the whole Playboy myth — which, by the way, was a myth. The so-called sexual revolution of the late ’50s and ’60s was just another way of making it easier for guys to get laid. They weren’t feminists. It was just another way of getting laid faster.”

Bogdanovich was born in Kingston, New York in 1939 and fell in love with movie at an early age. As a teenager, he studied acting, but eventually decided he’d rather direct. His earliest work was in the theater, but Bogdanovich’s maintained his love of movies in the reviews and features he wrote for Esquire in the late Fifties and early Sixties. After moving to Hollywood and meeting Corman, the producer tapped him to help on the 1966 Peter Fonda biker movie, The Wild Angels; Bogdanovich rewrote the script and directed the end of the movie, which became one of Corman’s biggest box office hits at the time. 

Targets — which was inspired by the Charles Whitman’s 1966 mass shooting at the University of Texas in August 1966 — followed in 1968 (that same year Bogdanovich directed another movie, Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, under the pseudonym Derek Thomas). With the film’s success and Corman’s backing, Bogdanovich could have easily made a career in such genre flicks, but as he explained to The Dissolve in 2013: “As it turned out, I never made another film like it, really. I thought I would make a series of films like it, because it did well enough that I thought it would be the sort of film I would make. But then I read Larry McMurtry’s novel The Last Picture Show, and I fell in love with the idea of making that as a film, mainly because I didn’t know how to do it. I’m always challenged when I don’t know how to do something. I figure, ‘There must be a way.’ And Last Picture Show made my career.”

While the early Seventies were arguably Bogdanovich’s heyday, his fortunes changed halfway through the decade with a string of duds like Daisy MillerAt Long Last Love and Nickelodeon. After a few years away, he returned with the 1979 crime comedy Saint Jack, which earned high praise, but failed to perform at the box office. Around the same time, Bogdanovich’s long relationship with Cybill Shepherd — which began when he directed her in The Last Picture Show — ended too, and Stratten’s tragic death followed shortly after. 

After publishing The Killing of the Unicorn, Bogdanovich returned to filmmaking with the 1985 Cher-starring drama, Mask. In 1990, he released a Last Picture Show sequel, Texasville, though the film wasn’t nearly as succesful as the first. Following 1993’s The Thing Called Love, Bogdanovich took another long break from filmmaking before returning in 2001 with The Cat’s Meow; the last scripted feature he directed was 2014’s She’s Funny That Way. After making a documentary about the director John Ford early in his career, Bogdanovich returned to the form later in life, directing the 2007 Tom Petty doc Runnin’ Down a Dream, and a 2018 film about Buster Keaton, The Great Buster: A Celebration.

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(Sheelah Kolhatkar’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 1/3 and 1/10; illustration of Joshua Boone by João Fazenda.)

The cast of “Skeleton Crew,” Dominique Morisseau’s play about Black auto-plant workers facing rumors of a shutdown, takes a field trip to check out the set.

Most attempts to translate the 2008 financial crisis to stage or screen, such as “The Big Short,” “Margin Call” and “The Lehman Trilogy,” have focussed on the shenanigans inside Manhattan skyscrapers, where men in suits concoct financial grenades with acronyms like C.D.O. (collateralized debt obligation) and M.B.S. (mortgage-backed security). “Skeleton Crew,” a play written by Dominique Morisseau that is scheduled to open on Broadway in January, takes a different view, showing what happened to a group of Black auto-plant workers after the grenades exploded.

On a recent morning, the cast of “Skeleton Crew” took a field trip to the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, on West Forty-seventh Street, to see the set. “It’s our first time. I’m nervous,” said Joshua Boone, who plays Dez, a Detroit assembly-line worker described in Morisseau’s script as a “young hustler, playful, street-savvy and flirtatious.”

The play follows Dez; two other workers, Faye (“Tough and a lifetime of dirt beneath her nails”) and Shanita (“Pretty but not ruled by it. . . . Also, pregnant”); and Reggie (“White collar man. Studious. Dedicated. Compassionate”) as rumors of a shutdown fly around their auto plant. The action all takes place in a break room.

Morisseau, who won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2018, arrived with her infant son in a stroller. The play’s director, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, rushed to greet her. “Hey! The little warrior is in the house!”

The actors, wearing masks and winter coats, walked the perimeter of the stage and peered around. Adesola Osakalumi, who choreographed the show and dances in it, strode back and forth through a hidden door, glided to the center of the stage, and curtsied. Metal lockers lined one wall.

“As we start tricking out the set, I want you guys to start thinking about what you would have hanging in your lockers,” Santiago-Hudson told them. “What do you want to see every day? A blank wall? Or do you want to see pictures of family? Or do you want to see a car? Is there a team that you’re rooting for? Is there a boxer that you like? I implore you all to have something personal.”

Phylicia Rashad, who plays Faye, stood at her locker and cocked her head. Santiago-Hudson opened the metal door and furrowed his brow. “We got some big-ass coats,” he said. “I don’t know how you’re gonna get a big coat in there.”

“I don’t, either,” Rashad said.

Downstage, Boone was opening and closing his locker. Click! Slam! “My boot won’t fit,” he said, trying to wedge his sneaker onto the bottom shelf.

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(via The  Culture  News Agency, )

France’s The Ten Commandments, (Les Dix Commandements) announces its upcoming U.S premiere—and  releases its first single in English.
Almost 20 years after its opening, “The Ten Commandments” is coming to America and will be presented in English–below,  listen to the first single from the Cast Album,  created by the filmmaker Elie Chouraqui, with music by Pascal Obispo and lyrics by Lionel Florence and Patrice Guirao.  The show has already played to over 3 million spectators in Europe alone.

The revival recording and stage adaptation are the ideas of star baritone (playing Moses) and producer David Serero, who wrote the English language adaptation for American theatrical productions. The first single from the upcoming Cast Album Recording, titled “The Maximum Pain (La Peine Maximum),” has been released on all platforms. The first series of Off-Broadway performances will take place in May 2022 in New York.  Tickets and additional information will soon be available.

First presented in October 2000, the musical was an instant hit, equaling in success another famous French musical: Notre Dame de Paris. The musical carried such radio hits as “L’envie d’aimer,” performed by Daniel Levi. The shows original stars included Yael Naim, Ahmed Mouici, and more. Sonia Rykiel designed the original costumes, and Kamel Ouali  created the choreography.
Serero explains “I have carried this masterpiece in my heart since its first day of creation. This unique collaboration between two masters, Elie Chouraqui and Pascal Obispo, will forever remain in the history of French musicals. The original French lyrics were by Lionel Florence and Patrice Guirao.”   

Creator, Elie Chouraqui, comments: “I am thrilled and honored that my show, “Les Dix Commandements” (The Ten Commandments) with the gorgeous music by Pascal Obispo, has finally been adapted for New York, the capital of musicals. After playing it in France, Europe, and Asia, America is a lifetime achievement. I must thank David Serero for his enthusiasm, strength, and unquenchable desire to bring this musical to Broadway.”

Elie Chouraqui is a French filmmaker born in 1950. Among others, he is known for the films Ô JerusalemHarrison’s Flower, starring Andie MacDowell, Adrien Brody, Gerard Butler, and Brendan Gleeson; Man on Fire with Joe Pesci, Scott Glenn, and Jonathan Price. And several French film classics starring iconic French actors, such as Jean-Hughes Anglade, Christophe Lambert, Richard Anconina, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and many more. 
Pascal Obispo is one of the most successful singer/songwriters in the genre of French pop, who released numerous commercial blockbuster albums, scored Top Ten hit singles with regularity, embarked on multiple sold-out concert tours, wrote songs for a musical of his own creation, and collaborated with a long list of French pop stars. The lead single of  The Ten Commandments, “L’envie d’aimer,” was also recorded in English by Celine Dion.

“The Maximum Pain” is performed by Lawrence Neals, with background vocals by Lisa Monde, Mackenzie Tank, and Kristyn Vario. English adaptation and production are by David Serero. The music is composed by Pascal Obispo, and the original French lyrics are written by Lionel Florence and Patrice Guirao.

The Maximum Pain is available to listen to on:



Released On: 30 Dec 2021

Available for over a year

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Austrian-born film director Fritz Lang (1890-1976), who was one of the most celebrated film-makers of the 20th century. He worked first in Weimar Germany, creating a range of films including the startling and subversive Mabuse the Gambler and the iconic but ruinously expensive Metropolis before arguably his masterpiece, M, with both the police and the underworld hunting for a child killer in Berlin, his first film with sound. The rise of the Nazis prompted Lang’s move to Hollywood where he developed some of his Weimar themes in memorable and disturbing films such as Fury and The Big Heat.

With Stella Bruzzi Professor of Film and Dean of Arts and Humanities at University College London

Joe McElhaney Professor of Film Studies at Hunter College, City University of New York

And Iris Luppa Senior Lecturer in Film Studies in the Division of Film and Media at London South Bank University Producer: Simon Tillotson