The Enemy

20/10/21

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Ooh. I’m VERY excited about this one. I’m an avid admirer of Ibsen – what self-respecting theatre-lover isn’t? I’m in awe of the way he combines theatrical innovation and political conviction with accessible story-telling. I’m also a fan of Kieran Hurley’s work (Chalk Farm, Mouthpiece and Beats are all excellent), so I’m fascinated to see what he and director Finn den Hertog do with the Norwegian’s masterpiece, An Enemy of the People.

In fact, Hurley doesn’t change much at all, plot-wise. This 140-year-old play is uncannily prescient. The difference is all on the surface: in the modes of communication, and the cadence of the dialogue – and it’s beautifully done. The story shifts easily to a contemporary “once-great Scottish town,” where a new spa resort promises regeneration, and offers hope to the poor and dispossessed who live there. But Dr Kirsten Stockmann (Hannah Donaldson) is concerned: a sickness bug is spreading, and she’s almost certain the town’s water supply has been contaminated. But how? Could blame lie with council-approved shortcuts, aimed at bringing forward the resort’s opening? Maybe. If so, it’s more than a little awkward, because the provost is Kirsten’s sister, Vonny (Gabriel Quigley). Still, surely she will be grateful for the heads up, pleased to be able to avert a public health disaster, no matter what the cost? But no. Vonny has no qualms: without the resort, the people have nothing. They’re not sick because of poison, she tells her sister; they’re sick because they’re poor. She has a point.

Although the story remains unchanged, the staging is bang up-to-date: video designer Lewis den Hertog has created a multi-media piece à la Katie Mitchell, with ‘live cinema’ (where the onstage action is filmed and projected simultaneously onto a large screen) a key feature. There are pre-filmed sequences too, such as a jarringly upbeat advert for the new resort, and a series of enthusiastic vox pops on the local news. And there are text messages, and YouTube videos, and Skype and BTL comments a-plenty. It’s Ibsen with all the socials. It works. There’s a dizzying sense of things spiralling out of control, with Kirsten in the middle, alone, holding on to the damning test result – a dreadful talisman.

But Kirsten isn’t quite alone. She might have broken ties with her sister; her friend, Benny (Neil McKinven), and local celeb, Aly (Taqi Nazeer), might have sidled away – but her teenage daughter, Petra (Eléna Redmond) is firmly on her side. And so, perhaps, is Derek Kilmartin (Billy Mack), who has a proposal for Kirsten to consider…

It’s wonderful to see creative theatre projects taking shape again (I’ve nothing against old favourites, and it’s clear to see why theatres are being cautious post-pandemic, but it’s definitely time for something new). This particular project seems like a canny move, combining Ibsen’s timeless appeal with something bold and fresh. It’s almost guaranteed to get bums on seats, while simultaneously allowing playmakers the chance to experiment. Good call!

For the most part, it pays off. I have a little trouble hearing some of the dialogue, especially in the first act. I’m sitting quite far back in the stalls, which might have something to do with it, but I wonder if it’s more about the actors delivering their lines to cameras rather than to the auditorium. But this is my only gripe. The performances are natural and convincing, the relationships well-defined.

The message is clear: the truth matters, however unpalatable. It’s a timely homily. We need to heed the experts. The only problem is, we all think we’re Kirsten Stockmann.

4.3 stars

Susan Singfield


The Last Duel

16/10/21

Cineworld, Edinburgh

You have to hand it to Ridley Scott. At an age when most people are seeking nothing more than a mug of Horlicks and a pair of comfy slippers, he’s still creating big, powerful movies at a rate that would make most younger directors quail. Lurking just over the cinematic horizon is The House of Gucci, but meanwhile there’s The Last Duel, a powerful slice of true history, that unfolds its controversial story over a leisurely two hours and thirty-two minutes. Set in France in the fourteenth century, it relates the story of the last official duel ever fought there.

After years of military service in various wars under the sponsorship of Count Pierre d’ Alençon (Ben Affleck), Sir Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) is struggling to maintain his house and lands, after the death of his wife. So he marries Marguerite de Thibouville (Jodie Comer), the daughter of a disgraced but prosperous landowner. As part of the dowry, Jean is promised an area of land he’s long coveted, so he’s understandably miffed when Pierre takes control of it and gifts it to his squire, Jacques le Gris (Adam Driver), a former friend of Jean’s.

A powerful rivalry develops between the two men – a rivalry that finally culminates in Jacques visiting Jean’s castle in his absence and raping Marguerite. Jacques denies the allegation – in his self-aggrandising mind, Marguerite was attracted to him and therefore there was no rape. She meanwhile insists on speaking out against her assailant in an age when women in such situations were advised to keep quiet about such matters for their own safety.

Jean demands that Jacques meets him in mortal combat, and that God should decide who is telling the truth – but the consequences of him losing the fight are severe to say the very least. Marguerite will be burned alive if God judges her to be a liar.

The message here is inescapable. In a world where toxic masculinity holds sway, a woman’s word is worth nothing. She is expected to obey her husband in all matters and keep her mouth firmly shut, just as Jean’s mother, Nicole (Harriet Walter), had to when she was younger. It’s sad to observe that, many centuries later, this situation hasn’t improved as much as it should have done. Only recently, certain commentators in America have insisted on holding to the medieval belief that a woman cannot become pregnant through rape. It beggars belief but it’s still out there.

The Last Duel is told, Rashomon style, in three separate chapters, each one seen from the point of view of one of the leading characters. Often we see the same scene replayed with sometimes subtle, sometimes jarring differences. It’s not until we reach the final stretch that we witness Marguerite’s account of what actually happened to her and there’s no doubt in our minds that hers is the one we ought to believe. The script by Damon, Afflick and Nicole Holofcener, based on the novel by Eric Jager, is perfectly judged and a quick perusal of the actual events reveals that the writers have been assiduously faithful to what happened. Both Damon and Driver excel as men driven by their own overbearing sense of privilege, while Comer dazzles in every frame, clearly a woman on the verge of becoming a major star of the big screen. Little wonder that Scott has lined her up to play Josephine in his upcoming Napoleon biopic.

This is serious, grown-up filmmaking of a kind that’s sadly all too rare in a cinema dominated by cartoonish fantasy films. Scott has always excelled in recreating history on an epic scale and The Last Duel doesn’t disappoint. The big screen virtually explodes with a whole series of magnificent set pieces. Here is a medieval world that convinces down to the final detail, one that looks and feels thoroughly believable. And is there any other director who can depict medieval warfare in such brutal, unflinching detail? For once, the film’s 18 certificate feels entirely appropriate. I find myself gasping at just about every sword, axe and hammer blow.

The Last Duel won’t be for everyone, but for me it provides a visual feast with a compelling and fascinating story – and reinforces my belief that Ridley Scott is one of cinema’s most enduring and most versatile talents.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney

The Woman in Black

12/10/21

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

I’m somewhat amazed to realise that this is actually the fourth time I’ve seen this play – but it’s one I somehow never tire of watching. Its beauty lies in its simplicity, and in the late Stephen Mallatratt’s canny adaptation of Susan Hill’s gothic chiller. It’s proof if ever it were needed that a decent novel can be elevated by the way it’s interpreted on the stage. While The Woman in Black incorporates all the tropes of the traditional ghost story, the staging still – thirty years after its debut performance – feels fresh and innovative.

Something bad happened to Arthur Kipps (Robert Goodale) back down the years and, in an attempt to purge himself of those memories, he has decided to do a performance of it in a down-at-heel theatre, just for friends and family. He has engaged the services of ‘The Actor’ (Anthony Eden) to help him bring this about, but the latter is horrified by Kipp’s stilted attempts at reading and, in a moment of inspiration, he suggests that the two men should swap roles. He will play Kipps, while the older man will portray a number of supporting characters.

And so the rehearsal begins and we are inexorably drawn into the story of Kipps as a younger man, when he was a solicitor, engaged to go to Eel Marsh House in a remote spot on the North East coast of England. There he is to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow – and to settle her estate. It doesn’t help his mood to discover that the house can only be reached via a causeway that will leave him trapped alone in the place for hours at a time. As he goes about his mundane duties, it begins to dawn on him that all is not as it should be – and he learns that the area is haunted by the titular character, a woman intent on seeking revenge for tragic events that happened in the past.

Robert Herford directs with consummate skill, using shadows and sounds and an oppressive atmosphere to conjure an sense of mounting dread. Michael Holt’s exquisite set design keeps finding new places to explore: hidden within what first appears to be a one dimensional setting is a meticulously detailed child’s playroom, a white-shrouded cemetery, a ghastly silhouetted staircase. And has so much apprehension ever been generated from the simple device of a door that can’t be opened – until it opens itself?

It’s all wonderfully evocative. Of course, the fact that I’m so familiar with the play inevitably means that some of the jump-scares are less effective than they were on first viewing. I find myself envious of those undertaking this theatrical thrill ride for the first time.

Some plays are classics for very good reasons. If you’ve never experienced The Woman in Black, here’s your opportunity to sample its twisted delights. Don’t have nightmares.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney

The Bombay Bicycle Club

06/10/21

Brougham Place, Edinburgh

We’ve lived in Edinburgh for six years now and The Bombay Bicycle Club has been there the whole time, in various hues of garish colours, up at the top of Brougham Place. We must have walked past it hundreds of times but, for whatever reason, we’ve never thought of eating there. Until tonight.

It’s a chill October evening, we’ve just had our regular stroll across The Meadows and and we’re planning to head off for a drink at The Cameo. In the gathering darkness, the curry house looks warm and inviting and I say, ‘Maybe we should give that place a try?’ And we both realise that, at this particular moment in time, we really REALLY fancy a curry. Maybe it’s a symptom of having had to carefully plan restaurant visits in advance for far too long (thanks, COVID), but, almost before we know what’s happening, we’re seated inside, enjoying some drinks and perusing the menu.

Of course we start with some papadums – not too many, because we know how they can erode your appetite long before the main courses arrive – but we’ve time to appreciate how good the accompanying pickles are, the mango chutney in particular has a deep, gingery tang and the lime pickle is one of the best we’ve tasted.

Then out come the starters, a fish pakora and a tandoori salmon. The former has been deep fried, which is often a turn off for us, but its been expertly done, crispy rather than greasy, with a nice, flakey texture within. The salmon is a delight, marinated in a spicy sauce and oven baked until it’s bursting with flavour. It’s a promising start.

We’ve both opted for naan bread. I’ve gone for the plain variety which is light and slighty crisped at the edges, an absolute delight. Susan’s peshawari naan is another revelation, filled with a delightful blend of mango and coconut. For the main courses, there’s a fabulous king prawn biriani, baked in a pot with a covering of bread, which, when opened, reveals the filling in all its sticky, aromatic glory. And there’s also a bowl of the Bombay Bicycle Club lamb curry, tender chunks of meat basking in a thick, mouthwatering sauce, just perfect to dip chunks of naan into.

Of course, we tell ourselves, we can’t possibly finish everything that’s in front of us; we’ll surely have to ask for something to take the delicious leftovers home in… except that, somehow, we do finish every mouthful and we’re full and happy and we have nothing to criticise.

The moral of this story is, I suppose, to take notice of what’s right on your doorstep. Hopefully we won’t wait another six years before returning to this little treasure of a curry house.

4.5 stars

Philip Caveney

No Time to Die

06/10/21

Cineworld, Edinburgh

My first Bond film was everyone else’s first Bond film. Dr No.

It was 1962, I was eleven years old, sitting in a cinema in Singapore, and I remember being suitably dazzled by the experience. I’d honestly never seen anything quite like it before. I was probably a bit too young but, back then, nobody seemed to care too much about asking for your ID. After that, I considered myself a genuine Bond fan. From Russia With Love (still in my humble opinion the best in the series), Goldfinger, Thunderball… you know the rest. I think I saw every one of them, even after Sean Connery had jumped ship and the character went through more changes than Dr Who. I disliked Roger Moore in the role (too affable) but still watched the movies – and I reacted with various degrees of approval and bemusement as new incarnations appeared over the years.

I thoroughly approved when Daniel Craig delivered a great big kick up the franchise with 2006’s Casino Royale – even though the suspicion lingers that Eon Films had simply studied the Jason Bourne movies and borrowed some of its action tropes. Still, the series continued to have traction and 2012’s Skyfall ranks as one of the biggest earners of all time. So there’s no denying the Bond films’ longevity, nor the simple fact that, where Tenet failed to put bums back on seats, NTTD appears to be succeeding.

And now here we are, a full two years after its projected release, and No Time to Die marks Craig’s swan song as the world’s most successful secret agent. Little wonder so much hope has been pinned on 007’s return and little wonder too that the advertising preceding the film seems to go on for just about forever.

We (finally) begin in time-honoured fashion with a pre-credits sequence. A little girl is terrorised by a sinister masked villain in a snow-bound location. Years later, that little girl has grown up to be Madeleine Swan (Léa Seydoux) and she and Bond are enjoying a passionate love affair in a very picturesque part of Italy. But of course, we know, don’t we, that such happiness can’t go on for very long?

Visiting the grave of old flame, Vesper Lynde, Bond is lucky to survive an explosion – and then there’s a succession of breathless action sequences featuring cars and motorbikes and a leap from a bridge that would be ludicrous if some poor stuntman hadn’t actually had to do it for real. It’s perfectly timed, brilliantly executed, a joy to behold.

But then of course, comes that familiar theme music and the realisation that we’ve still got an entire film to sit through. Quite why that film has to be two hours and forty-three minutes long is a puzzle. Trim thirty minutes out of this sucker and you’d have a triumphant action flick, but hey, swan songs can’t be dismissed too lightly, and it has to be said that there’s still plenty here to enjoy. It’s clear from the get-go that a lot of holy cows are being slaughtered in the process. Long-running characters are summarily handed their termination notices, old preconceptions are briskly upturned and you can’t say that Eon haven’t done their level best to drag the old misogynist kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century. A black female 007? That would never have happened under the old guard’s watch. There are also some wry observations about Bond’s age and the more keen-eyed viewer will spot references to classic moments in earlier films.

Some of the familiar problems still linger. Villain Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) may have sound reasons for wanting to inflict a deadly virus on his enemies but why does he feel the need to unleash the same punishment upon the entire world? And why is it still considered fair game to equate facial disfiguration with such evil?

But there are some surprises too. I have to admit that I really don’t see the final twist coming. And quite what happens from here is anybody’s guess. There are plenty of people saying that it should simply end, but given the potential earnings that a new Bond could generate, I’ll be very surprised if it does.

Maybe it will simply have to Die Another Day.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney

Looking Good Dead

05/10/21

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Superintendent Roy Grace is the protagonist of Peter James’ popular police procedurals – a diligent but troubled policeman, who’ll stop at nothing to solve a case. In Shaun McKenna’s stage adaptation of the second novel, Looking Good Dead, Grace (Harry Long) is relegated to a supporting role. Instead, the focus here is on the Bryce family, inadvertently caught up in a terrible crime. I think this is a wise move; they, after all, form the crux of the story.

Top of the bill, therefore, are soap favourites Adam Woodyatt and Gaynor Faye, as Tom and Kellie Bryce. They enjoy an affluent, suburban life. Tom works; Kellie cleans a lot; their teenage sons, Joe and Max (Luke Ward-Wilkinson), are – respectively – in Venezuela climbing mountains and on the sofa listening to silence through NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES. Did you get that? NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES. I’ll mention them again anyway, just in case. (Director Jonathan O’Boyle is clearly a fan of Chekhov’s, holding dear the great playwright’s principle: if, in the first act a character has worn noise cancelling headphones, then in the following act, someone must fail to hear something important.) It all seems fine and dandy until a stranger leaves a memory stick on Tom’s commuter train. Tom makes the rash decision to bring it home; he plans to play the good Samaritan by tracking down its owner and ensuring its return. However, when Max plugs the stick into Tom’s computer, it reveals a link… to a murder. Happening in real time before their eyes. What have they been witness to? And what will the killer do when he realises he’s been seen?

Woodyatt and Faye inhabit their characters convincingly, and I especially enjoy Ian Haughton’s performance as the enigmatic Kent. I like Sergeant Branson (Leon Stewart)’s bad jokes, and the way Grace responds to them; this shift in tone works well to undercut some of the more histrionic scenes. The way Michael Holt’s set design incorporates the villain’s lair as well as the Bryces’ home is ingenious, and I am especially impressed with the decisive way the lighting is used to move us from one to the other at the flick of a switch.

There are some issues though – and the main one is the plot. Quite frankly, it’s risible. I’m more than happy to suspend my disbelief, but this stretches the elastic beyond its capacity. I’m unconvinced by any of the characters’ motivations, and am aghast at the ineptitude of the police, who keep politely agreeing to step outside so that suspected serial killers can have a private chat. And why exactly does everyone keep talking and revealing secrets in a room they’ve been told, quite clearly, is bugged? And why exactly exactly is it being bugged in the first place?

In addition, the police station set seems clumsy in comparison to the slick kitchen/lair: it’s pushed on and pulled off with wearisome regularity, and is so small that the actors seem constrained by it. There’s no space for movement, and they lean and perch awkwardly as they deliver their lines. I’m not a fan of the bigger action scenes either; the direction here just isn’t dynamic or fleet-footed enough.

So yes, there are problems. But do I enjoy myself? Yes, I do. Looking Good Dead might be silly but it’s entertaining, and I am more than happy to be back in the environs of the lovely King’s Theatre.

3 stars

Susan Singfield

Toast

04/10/21

The Shore, Leith

We’re meeting friends. Hurrah! This still seems like a big deal as we slowly ease our way back to a semblance of normality, and we’re keen to make the morning a success. Said friends are on their way further north, with a camper van and two dogs to look after, so it doesn’t make sense for them to come into the city centre. Instead, we agree to meet them at the Shore, where they can take their pooches for a beach walk and park with relative ease. As we’re less au fait with Leith, I ask the Hidden Edinburgh Facebook group where’s good to go for a dog-friendly breakfast, and Toast tops the list.

So Toast it is.

It’s a bright, sunny morning, so Philip and I decide to make the most of it and walk there, along the Waters of Leith. It’s three and a half miles of absolute pleasure, all dappled green light and sparkling water. And we’ve certainly built up an appetite by the time we arrive.

We start with coffees, which are good and strong, then spend some time perusing the menu. Philip opts for toast Benedict, which comprises toasted sourdough, two poached eggs, two rashers of smoked bacon and a hollandaise sauce. It looks delicious, and he declares it a triumph. The eggs are perfectly cooked, and the bacon, only subtly smoked, is superb quality. I have the French toast, and so does one of our friends. It’s the same sourdough, this time dipped in egg, vanilla & cinnamon, before being fried in butter. I add crispy praline bacon, hazelnut & maple syrup to the mix, because, well, why wouldn’t I when it’s on offer? The portion is huge, but I make my way through it womanfully, because I’m nothing if not stoic, and only a fool would leave any of this on their plate. I don’t lick the plate clean, but I can’t say it doesn’t cross my mind. I bet my friend is thinking the same thing. Our other friend has a toasted sourdough sandwich with sausages and eggs. He doesn’t say a lot about it; he’s too busy eating. He looks happy enough though.

The only slight negative is the peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake Philip orders afterwards. We’ve been sitting a while, ordering more coffees, chatting, and the cake cabinet is right in front of us, so it is very tempting. Sadly, he makes the wrong choice. The cheesecake is vegan (which the lovely waitress does inform him). He decides to try it anyway, but there’s none of the gooey naughtiness of dairy, just a not-quite-sweet enough, worthy, healthy tasting snack. It’s not awful, but it doesn’t feel like a treat. Luckily, our pal (who has also fallen prey to the allures of the sweet counter) lets him sample a pear tart, which is exquisite. He’ll know what to order next time.

And there’ll certainly be a next time.

4.3 stars

Susan Singfield


The Green Knight

02/10/21

Amazon Prime

Has there ever been a more divisive movie than The Green Knight?

Unceremoniously pulled from its intended theatrical release and plonked onto Amazon Prime, it’s interesting to look at the audience reviews, which feature a plethora of five star ratings and an equal number of one stars. The latter break down into three distinct groups. Many people decry that the film is simply ‘too dark’ for their modest screens – and I have to agree that, if ever a film demanded to be seen at the cinema, this is the one.

More worrying are the blatantly racist comments about the casting of Asian actor, Dev Patel, as the ‘quintessential British hero’ Sir Gawain. But this is a work of chivalric fiction, written anonymously in the fourteenth century. It’s not as if director, David Lowery set out to do a biopic about Winston Churchill. Gawain could be played by any actor and Patel is terrific in the role.

The third strand is the most baffling: people complaining that, over the film’s two hour duration, ‘absolutely nothing happens’ – even though most of them casually add that they stopped watching after twenty minutes or so! The truth is that a lot happens in this film, even if the story unfolds at a leisurely pace, and what happens is fascinating stuff, open to a viewer’s own interpretation.

Our hero is the nephew of The King (Sean Harris), and we’re first introduced to Gawain as a slovenly layabout, happily carrying on with commoner Essel (Alicia Vikander), but, despite her entreaties, showing no inclination to marry her. One Christmas Eve, Gawain is summoned to a feast at the castle where he is invited to sit at his Uncle’s side. At this point, there’s an unexpected visitor, the titular Green Knight (Ralph Ineson). He rides in and issues a playful challenge. If any man will face him in combat, he will offer them the chance to strike him with a sword. But in one year’s time, that man must present himself to the Green Knight and receive the same treatment in return. Gawain recklessly steps up to the plate and, no doubt fuelled by a little too much alcohol, lops off the knight’s head, thinking perhaps that it will end there – whereupon the ancient warrior picks up his severed bonce and gleefully rides away.

One year later, as Christmas looms, Gawain is understandably nervous. After some procrastination, and girdled by a protective belt fashioned by his witchlike mother (Sarita Chowdhury), he sets off for the Green Chapel to meet with his adversary.

A classic quest dutifully unfolds. On his travels, Gawain meets with a duplicitous young thief (Barry Keoghan), a talking fox, and a mysterious lord (Joel Edgerton). He also has a close encounter with the lord’s wife – also played by Vikander – who tests Gawain’s mettle as a ‘gallant knight’…

The Green Knight is a splendid film. I love the gorgeous cinematography, its grubby depiction of a medieval world. I enjoy the various themes that criss-cross throughout the story. Here is a profound meditation on death, on coming of age, on the need for a brash young man to find his maturity. It explores the constant struggle between pagan beliefs and the rising power of Christianity (note how the Green Knight is depicted as the Green Man of mythology). I love the strange hallucinogenic interlude where Gawain encounters a race of giants and I marvel at the fact that, hours after the credits have rolled, we’re still discussing the meaning of some of the film’s weirder moments.

Of course this won’t be for everyone. And of course, some will see it as pretentious. But in many ways, The Green Knight is one of the most original films I’ve ever seen. It should have had its proper chance to dazzle us on the big screen.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney

The Guilty

01/10/21

Netflix

Director Antoine Fuqua has previous form with cop movies. 2001 ‘s Training Day brought Denzel Washington a well-deserved Oscar, while End of Watch (2012), starring Jake Gyllenhaal, was also a memorable addition to the genre. Gyllenhaal returns in this riveting slice of drama, a remake of a Danish movie of the same name. Here he’s Joe Baylor, currently relieved of his usual duties as an L.A. street cop – for reasons that will eventually be revealed – and demoted to handing emergency calls in the midst of a catastrophic wildfire, which is straining emergency services to the limit.

Baylor is edgy and unpredictable. He’s suffering from asthma and going through the throes of a painful separation from his wife and young daughter. He’s also nervous about an important court appearance he’ll be making the following morning. But, for now, he has an important job to do and, when he receives a panicked call from Emily (voiced by Riley Keogh), he goes straight into protective mode, trying to find a way to get her away from her husband, Henry (Peter Sarsgaard), who has her locked in the back of a speeding van. In the process of his enquiries, Baylor also discovers that the couple have two young children left alone at home…

The Guilty is essentially a one-hander, with Gyllenhaal onscreen throughout. Though the hard scrabble bustle of the emergency room is fully realised, his supporting actors are relegated to background roles or appear simply as disembodied voices on phone lines. Given this approach, it’s remarkable that the film manages to generate almost unbearable levels of suspense as Fuqua steadily racks up the peril and the potential repercussions of Baylor’s actions. It’s not until the halfway point that we start to fully appreciate something worrying. Baylor may not be handling the situation as well as he could. Perhaps he’s letting his instincts overrule his common sense.

Gyllenhaal submits a stellar performance here, making us fully appreciate the complexities of this flawed character and pulling us further and further into his troubled world. Ultimately, the only thing that lets The Guilty down is the film’s conclusion, which seems unwilling to embrace the full enormity of what lies behind Baylor’s impending court case – and there’s an unlikely late development that slightly defuses the film’s power. Screenwriter Nic Pizolatto should have had the guts to step up to an unpalatable truth, which would make this story more hard-hitting.

That said, The Guilty is one of those rare creatures (along with Buried and Locke), a filmed monologue that fully deserves its place on the big screen. Though of course, as a Netflix film, the size of the screen will depend on whatever you have to view it on.

3.9 stars

Philip Caveney

Grease

29/09/21

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

We’ve been denied the magic of theatre for far too long… so what’s the ideal production to get us back in our seats, clapping our hands and grinning behind our face masks? I put it to you that Grease is a pretty sound option. It has everything you need for a guaranteed good time – brash, funny and shot through with a heady mix of nostalgia. What’s not to like? And, what’s more, where most big musicals can offer you four or five great numbers, Grease is packed with wall-to-wall, solid gold, five-star bangers. A couple of chords into that memorable theme song and I’m already sold.

We all know the story of course. Prim, virginal Sandy Dumbrowski (Georgia Louise) arrives at Rydell High School having already spent a summer being romanced by handsome Danny Zucco (Dan Partridge) – but he finds it hard to be romantic in front of the other members of his gang, so a troubled courtship ensues. Those who only know the story from the movie version may be surprised to discover that this production, based on the original musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, is quite different from that familiar screenplay. This slick, adrenalin-fuelled adaptation gallops effortlessly from scene to scene and is at its finest in the ensemble dance numbers where Arlene Philips’s nifty choreography has the whole cast hoofing up a storm.

We also have Peter Andre in the dual role as disc jockey Vince Fontaine (cunningly housed in a circular booth at the top left of the stage) and as the Teen Angel, where he delivers a delightful version of Beauty School Dropout to Frenchy (Marianna Nedfitou). Andre might appear to be stunt casting, but he’s terrific in this production and a moment where he holds a top note for what seems an impossibly long time is proof that he possesses an accomplished singing voice – as does Georgia Louise who gives a super-powered rendition of Hopelessly Devoted to You.

There are also some memorable visual motifs. A scene where Danny and Sandy watch a drive in movie in glorious 3D is a particular delight.

If the first half is good, the second is even better – and the finale, where the cast lead us through a spirited singlalong of the best known songs has the entire audience up on its feet, clapping and stamping out the rhythms. I don’t mind admitted to being quite emotional at this point. I’ve missed live theatre so much and it’s just great to be back, relishing the shared experience. we’ve all been longing for.

So if you’re looking for a guaranteed good night out, Grease is the word!

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney