Friday, 30 April 2010

Blood Brothers (Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London)

Never thought I'd be writing in praise of a Spice Girl, but hey, life's a funny old thing. Sporty Spice (Mel C) is the best thing about Blood Brothers in its current West End incarnation. It's long been said that she's the only former Spice who can actually sing. Don't know if I'd go that far, always thought Mel B has a reasonable set of pipes, but Sporty sure can belt 'em out. Maybe I shouldn't have slept thru her set at the V festival back in '99, but I was V trashed at the time.

Mel C's voice is rich and strong, and she has a pretty good range. She's sometimes a little too
careful about individual words, rather than singing smooth phrases, but that's just me being picky. Beforehand, I did wonder whether she could act, well I doubt she'll ever join the Royal Shakespeare Company, but she did well enough in her role as the mother of twin boys, the Blood Brothers of the title.

I didn't join in with the standing ovation at the end, I'm mean with my standing ovations (last one was for Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in Waiting for Godot last summer, a theatrical experience that'll take some beating), mainly because for me, the musical is flawed. The same actors play the twins from boyhood to young men, and as usual when actors play children, they play it for laughs and go way over the top. So in the second act, when the boys' relationship goes downhill to the tragic denouement, it's pretty hard to take them seriously. Plus one of them is the spit of Prince William. There's also a really irritating devilish narrator, who wanders on at intervals to the sound of overloud soft rock guitars, to pronounce solemnly about Sporty and her family's future. But the music was so loud I could only make out the odd word, and it was just plain annoying. Weirdly, part of me was thinking throughout "This is so silly" but I still had a tiny tear in my eye at the end, when Sporty knelt at stage front, singing the final song.

Monday, 19 April 2010

The Hurt Locker

Sometimes I watch a film almost to the end before I "get it", I feel like I understand what the film is about. That happened with The Hurt Locker. That's not to say I wasn't held by the tension throughout, finding myself holding my breath as US bomb defusers tackled explosive devices on the streets of Iraq. Those streets seemed like the war had already passed thru to elsewhere. The insurgents were an absent presence- there in the devices left in the corpses of cars, and in one harrowing sequence, in that of a young boy. There was also a sense that they were watching, from the windows and roofs of nearby tower blocks, as the defusers delicately unpicked the wires holding explosives to their fuses. The film used the familiar narrative of a main character who is reckless and seemingly invincible, who puts himself and his comrades in danger at every encounter, by pushing for the ultimate adrenalin kick. You just know his psyche has somehow, somewhere, already been blown to bits and he's doing his best to ensure his body follows suit. But this narrative is played with in a scene where his increasingly desperate co-workers, nearing the end of their tour of duty and convinced he'll kill them all before then, discuss whether they could remotely detonate the device he's tinkering with, and blow him out of existence. I was wondering all the way thru whether this film is pro or anti the war, and feeling unsettled until a scene near the end. The reckless hero has made it home, we see him in the supermarket with his wife and child. Sent to get some cereal for the baby, the shot opens out to show his bewilderment at the vast array of choice, the box after box of cereal wheaty, corny, sugary goodness. This shot for me works on two levels. Firstly, since the next shot shows him getting off the plane in Iraq, life there is simpler for him than life back home. But that long line of cereal boxes also reminded me that this was the purpose of the war, the march of consumerism, and our democratic right to choose whatever form of cereal we desire.