The Legend of King Arthur ***** Presented by The Guildford Shakespeare Company (GSC)

This autumn sees the welcome return of the Spiegeltent, venue for GSC’s new production of The Legend of King Arthur.

This brand new play has been written by Caroline Devlinwho has given us a delightful, action packed, humorous and family friendly tale, just right for this time of year.

More than that, she has produced a script befitting the multitalented company, taking and using recognisably Shakespearean plot devises to great effect.

We have the Fool as narrator, babies separated at birth, family treachery, songs, and so forth.

For children, it is a great introduction to the wider world of live drama.

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The players are very few in number but, by incredible costume and lighting changes, plus our willing suspension logic, the stage is filled with a massive menage of characters.

A young girl changes to aged monk to soldier in moments and we applaud in delight.

The founders of GSC, Sarah Gobran and Matt Pinches, can be very proud of what they have achieved yet again.

I fully recommend this delightful play to anybody who can get to Guildford before it ends on 5th November.

Truly a 5 star production.

 

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Goodbye Christopher Robin *****

This is the dramatized biography of Christopher Robin Milne, son of the author Alan Milne and inspiration for the Winnie The Poo books.

A total of five actors are employed to portray Christopher, from baby to adult. The casting director did a good job in selecting actors with sufficient resemblance to convince the audience of the continuity.

These boys, in turn, produce incredible performances, giving a vivid insight into a dysfunctional family from the child’s viewpoint.

The film also provides a terrifying insight into middle class family life during the inter-war period.

But the heart of the story is how fame and fortune, being forced on a young person, when all they want is the love of their parents, can produce very unhappy adults.

I was struck by the thought as I watched that this film was an allegory for the many young stars of today who ‘go bad’ as adolescents.

This film carries a PG certificate but I would say it is certainly not a film for young children.

It may even leave adults reading Winnie the Poo in a different light.

The full 5 out of five for this emotional rollercoaster.

Victoria and Abdul ****

Judy Dench makes a triumphant return to her portrayal of Queen Victoria (see Mr and Mrs Brown) as she approaches the end of her life. Dressed in perpetual mourning for Prince Albert, and perhaps also the loss of John Brown, her life is less than stimulating. The arrival of an Indian servant, Abdul Karim, at Court, triggers this story.

Victoria and Abdul posterBased on a true story (almost) and the recently discovered journal of Abdul, the Director and Dame Judy give us a delightful and yet sad story of love, intrigue and betrayal. There are several laugh out loud scenes, many based on the Queens sharp tongue.

Filmed with great attention to detail and in beautiful surroundings, this is also a delight for the eye.

A special mention for Eddie Izzard, as Bertie, Prince of Wales. He is totally convincing in this supporting role and I hope he is recognised for it at the BAFTAs.

I did feel that some of the supporting characters were rather cartoonish or stereotypical flunkies.

For that reason, I give 4 out of five stars to Victoria and Abdul.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard *****

Starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a rip-roaring high adventure set in the UK and Holland.

It is full of gun fights, explosions and enormous body count, all delivered in the familiar overblown style of such stories and punctuated by the inevitable expletives so associated with Jackson.

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It sits happily alongside many other similar films such as London Has Fallen and all the Mission Impossible stories.

What elevates this above the other movies is the performance, humour and chemistry between the two lead actors.

They appear to have had a ball making this film and it comes through the screen to the audience.

A great laughter and destruction festival, not to be taken seriously but enjoyed for what it is.

I left the cinema with a sense of satisfaction and a broad smile on my face.

The full 5 out of five stars for this excellent film.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream *****

This is the first of an occasional series of live theatre reviews.

Guildford is lucky to be the home of the Guildford Shakespeare Company (@GuildfordBard).  They are famous for its summer outdoor productions and using unusual venues at other times of the heat.

June saw their first outdoor offering, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The location is in the ancient quarry, Racks Close, just 200 meters from the High Street.  This offers multiple natural stages for the action.

The cast gave us a fabulously reimagined story, set in and around the Dennis Fire Engine factory in the mid sixties, while retaining the Bards original text.

Sadly this show is now closed but, The Two Gentlemen of Verona runs 14-29 July, University of Law Gardens, Guildford.  Get these hot tickets before they are all gone.

I give the Guildford Shakespeare Company my full 5 stars out of five.

#guildfordbard, @guildfordbard