The Donkey and the Great Dame

“Chloe the lovely donkey who has led the Palm Sunday procession from Alpington School to Yelverton Church for many years, has left the area. We would be most grateful if anyone has a donkey in the area who would be willing to fill this important job to please get in touch.”

Nextdoor, the neighbourhood hub

I’m guessing Chloe’s understudy is no longer required as tomorrow’s gig will have been cancelled just like tonight’s performance of ‘I Remember it Well’ with the incredible Judi Dench at the Bridge Theatre in London. The great dame was a surprise anniversary present from Liam. That’s pandemics for you – a monumental pain in the ass.

Apologies for yesterday’s ghost post. I pressed the wrong button – duh!

Cats

I’m not a big Andrew Lloyd Webber fan and didn’t rate ‘Cats’ when I saw it in the West End. I remember thinking it was okay, that’s all. But when I saw the trailer for the new film version I was amazed. Amazed by its exquisite beauty and amazed by the critical storm that followed. Reviews were overwhelmingly bad and just got worse when the alley cats finally hit the streets of post-war Soho. It must be the most slagged-off release in living memory. It made us determined to judge it for ourselves. Was is that terrible?

Not even close. With a top drawer cast – including Judi Dench doing her regal number and a clowder of superb dancers from the Royal Ballet – ‘Cats’ is a sight for sore eyes on a lousy winter’s day – energetic, inventive, atmospheric and visually stunning. I’m not sure what the catty critics saw but it wasn’t the same film I watched.

Nothing Like a Dame

1d19-nothing like a dame banner

We took our seats at Cinema City for Nothing Like a Dame, a film that captures four great thespian dames – Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins – in conversation. We had great expectations and we weren’t disappointed. All the director had to do was point the camera, say ‘action’, sit back and watch them rock. And rock they did with gossipy warmth, wit and insight, humour, naughtiness and modesty – without a hint of the pompous luvviness you might expect from these titans of the stage. It really hit me when I released that Joan Plowright, who could out-act anyone with just a look, is now blind. I had no idea. Despite this, the film was a voyeuristic joy, and it was a privilege to see it.

And so, in the best pansies tradition, here’s the trailer…

Ladies in Lavender

Ladies in Lavender

I’m a sucker for an old dame, particularly those two old Dames Judi and Maggie. They light up my screen.  My all-time fave is Tea with Mussolini, a regular winter warmer on a chilly night. But any film with them in will do. I’m not fussy.

Ladies in Lavender PosterA less well-known screen outing for the pair was Ladies in Lavender, a tender tale of two elderly sisters living quietly in a Cornish fishing village during the thirties who scoop up a handsome young Pole from the beach after he was swept overboard during a storm. They nurse him to health, causing a stir among the locals – and the stirring of long repressed feelings for sister Ursula, played by Judi. The whole thing is a joy to watch, a moral tale of a rescue without hesitation or fear of an economic migrant washed up on a foreign shore. Rather relevant today, don’t you think? And there’s a real Billy Elliot moment at the end that gets me every time. So, when the stage version of the film came to Norwich’s Maddermarket Theatre, we just had to see it (even though neither Dame was in it, obviously).

It was a sterling effort from the cast with the best lines reserved for the housekeeper and delivered with great comic timing. The performance got an enthusiastic hand at the end but I couldn’t help wondering if the message was lost on the mostly elderly audience with their curls, pearls and comfy lives. I hope I’m wrong.

Philomena

Philomena

 

The nice people at Virgin Media offered us two preview tickets to see Philomena, Judi Dench’s latest flick. The advanced screening was at our local Odeon Multiplex which isn’t my venue of choice – too Las Vegas lounge for my liking. I prefer Cinema City, a nice bar-restaurant with a picture house attached. But, it would have been rude to refuse a freebie. Based on true events, the film is about an elderly Irish woman trying to find the son she was forced to give up to the nasty nuns following a quickie with handsome young buck at a village fair. Well, it was the buttoned-up no-thrills Fifties and unmarried mothers were the whores of Babylon. The film co-stars Steve Coogan (who also produced it and co-wrote the screenplay) as the real-like Martin Sixthsmith, former BBC journalist and Blairite spin doctor who wrote the book upon which the film is based. The movie went on general release today so I won’t add a spoiler. Suffice it to say it ain’t The Sound of Music but it isn’t Angela’s Ashes either. The subtle, gentle and often funny script allows the harrowing  story to unfold and take centre stage without the outrage slapping the audience about the face. Dame Judi is, as always, superb and Steve Googan (who is more famous as Norwich’s very own fictitious DJ, Alan Partridge) is surprisingly good.  It’s well worth shelling out a few shillings for.