Peddling

Written and performed by Harry Melling and directed by Steven Atkinson, Peddling is an incredibly intimate piece of theatre that will draw you right in, despite the thin piece of gauze that separates the life of the ‘Boy’ from you. Going door to door and attempting to sell his wares under the guise of a Boris Johnson scheme for young offenders, Peddling is about youth lost in modern London. We see a multitude of people answer their doors, endless streets, parks, the city, all seeming to appear before our eyes through Melling’s wonderful and flowing command of language.

With the feel of performance poetry but never too much of a gimmick in its style, the blend of south London dialect and poetic imagery meshes well together, enveloping the increasingly frantic young man we see on stage. Melling appears unrecognisable from his Harry Potter days, a boring cliché about anyone from the franchise but true all the same. His command of the space is impressive, for an actor so young and with such pace being maintained throughout.

A lone telegraph pole stands centre stage, strung up with lights which act as the people answering the door to him as he performs his spiel, using a portable PA system to distinguish his voice from theirs, a simple but clever device.

A piece of theatre that never feels too caught up in its depth and knows perfectly when to stop, peddling showcases an interesting talent in Harry Melling. One to watch, as he continues to peddle his wares.

Peddling is at Arcola Theatre until 28th March. Get tickets here

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Venus in Fur at Whirled Cinema

The way you watch a film often has an impact on the viewing experience. If people are talking through a film you’re watching or if you’re on your phone then you’re going to enjoy it infinitely less than if you can give it your whole attention. If you’re in a location that matches the film, the world you’re being transported to will feel all the more real – for instance if you see Breakfast at Tiffany’s at an outdoor cinema in the pouring rain then the end scene will leap off the screen.

A few weeks ago I went to go and check out Whirled Cinema in Loughborough Junction (I can do that because I live in London now which is no big deal whatsoever). Situated under the railway arches of the train station and tucked away next to a gym, Whirled Cinema uses its unique location to offer the cinemagoer something different. With a bar, balcony, and pizzas ordered if you get there before eight, it not only shows the very best art house films from the past few months but does so in a way that shows a true dedication to the art of cinema. As the trains whizz over, full of commuters heading home or people starting their nights out, the rattling noise becomes a part of the atmosphere in the room, punctuating the scenes taking place in front of the audience’s eyes. Occasionally the picture wobbles, and it feels as if the whole room is shaking with the importance of the on screen story.

The film I was lucky enough to get to see whilst there was Venus in Fur from 2013, based on the play by David Ives and directed by Roman Polanski. It follows the audition of Vanda for director and writer Thomas, for his adaptation of the book by Leopold van Sacher-Masoch. Soon the relationship between them and the barriers between audition and reality begin to blur, until what is performance and what is not becomes not only unintelligible but also an unnecessary distinction to make.

When I watch a film what I’m after most of all is to be taken completely out of my own head and to be transported. Venus in Fur not only did this in an interesting way, but where I saw the film also allowed me to venture further into the escapism. Watching a film with an engaged audience that truly connects with a film changes the whole cinema going experience, and at Whirled Cinema it’s clear that, first and foremost, the film’s the thing.

A Small Family Business

Last Thursday I went to the National Theatre Live broadcast of A Small Family Business, currently playing on the same stage it originally premiered on back in 1987, and starring Nigel Lindsay as Jack McCracken.

After promising to rebuild the furniture business originally set up by his father in law, Jack is prompted by knowledge that someone is selling their designs to the Italians, to clean up the business. However he soon discovers that to do this he must clean up the family behind it as well.

Corruption, familial ties and how far people will go to protect their own are all examined in this play, set originally in the 1980’s when it was written but still managing to highlight things about the modern culture of selfies and celebrity.

With wonderful direction from Adam Penford and sharp performances from the entire cast, Ayckbourn’s script is used to full potential, with light and dark moments played upon in equal measure until you’re not quite sure which is which. When being interviewed by the fabulous Emma Freud in the interval, Penford explained Ayckbourn’s agreement to the play being directed by him stemmed from his promise to not mess with it, and to allow the script, originally written 25 years ago, to be the guide.This is certainly something that comes across and is the key when handling writing as wonderful as that of Alan Ayckbourn.

Nigel Lindsay is sparkling, moving from consternation to blind rage to the reasoned and calm head of a family as easily as a factory owner moving from worker to worker. The extended family create their characters so strongly they’ll stick in your head for days after and Matthew Cottle is so marvellously horrid as Benedict Hough I feel quite ill just thinking about his performance.

This is the third National Theatre broadcast I’ve had the chance to see, and every time they blow me away. Aside from the quality of what I’m watching, the fact that I’m getting the chance to see these plays, despite not living in London, is a wonderful opportunity to throw open the culture that London’s theatre land offers tot he rest of the country and even the world – there are over 100 cinemas in the US which screen National Theatre productions. You also get to see detail that those present in the actual theatre might not get to, making being so far away from the real life National a little easier to bear. And if you miss the live event, lots of cinemas do encore screenings after.

You can buy tickets to see A Small Family Business at the National Theatre here, it’s on until 27th August.

You can also look for your nearest cinema which screens National Theatre Live here.

Filmvision

It’s that time of year again where across the country students are sticking their heads in their books. Supposedly.
In between all the brain bashing you might want to relax with a film, so here’s a handy list of the ones to watch that might help with getting that all important information lodged in your head.

History
If you’re doing History AS and looking at 20th century America like I did last year there are plenty of films to help you out. Last year’s 12 Years a Slave will show you what black people were facing in the deep south in the 19th century, whilst Denzel Washington’s turn as Malcolm X will help you to understand the man that inspired a generation. Forrest Gump will give you an overview of all the most important historical events of 20th century America through the eyes of cinema’s most loved runner. The musical Hair from 1979 will get you in the hippy mood. There are plenty of Vietnam films, also handy when it comes to A2 Cold War history, in particular those of Oliver Stone – I’d recommend Platoon with Charlie Sheen and Willem Defoe.

For more specific events you need to make sure you see All The President’s Men, the William Goldman penned film with Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, which documents closely the discovery of the Watergate break in.  Milk is a beautiful and informative look at the changes in gay rights, whilst Saturday Night Fever , the film that launched both the career of John Travolta and disco, will give you a glimpse of the pop culture that exploded into America in the 1970’s.

If you’re doing public health reform as the other half of your course, make sure you see (or read) some Dickens adaptations, such as David Lean’s 1946 version of Oliver Twist, to give you a feel for the poverty ever present in Victorian London.

If you’re doing History A2 and looking at the Cold War then you need to make sure you see Thirteen Days, the film all about what happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. For something light to give you the feel for international relations and nuclear war, see Best Picture winner Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. For an overarching Cold War feel, 2012’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy starring Gary Oldman will get you feeling suspicious of everyone. There are hundreds of films about 20th Century history, so if you have any more suggestions then let me know!

English Literature

It’s always handy to catch the film adaptation of any books you’re studying in English, and if it’s successful enough for you to be studying, chances are a film adaptation is out there somewhere. It will also allow you to see a director’s interpretation of the themes you will be looking at.

For AS I studied The Importance of Being Earnest, adapted into a 2002 film with Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon, The Merchant of Venice, the film version of which has a very good Al Pacino as Shylock, The Road, whose film version starred Viggo Mortensen, and The Kite Runner, which became a very successful film in 2007.

For A2, the two books I personally chose to write about for my coursework were discovered because I watched their film counterparts, (The Hours and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) which goes to show just how intrinsically linked literature and the world of film is.

If you’re doing Doctor Faustus for A2, you might want to seek out the Globe’s film of their version with Arthur Darvill, which is handy in understanding how the balance between the comic and dark in the play should be staged. If, like me, you’re doing Wuthering Heights as well, my advice is to stay away from the highly edited and confused 2011 version and suggest you might want to go with either the Laurence Olivier fronted version from 1939 or the Tom Hardy one from 2009.

Drama

Seeing a play performed in film will never match what live theatre can bring to a piece but it’s worth seeing how different directors interpret what you’re studying.

If you’re studying The Shadow of a Gunman, like I did at AS last year, there’s a TV film adaptation which has the feel of a filmed play, starring Kenneth Branagh, and which you can find on Youtube.

Obviously these are only the subjects I’ve been doing so if you have any other suggestions of films that have helped you or subjects you want film suggestions for then let me know!