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RAPSCALLION MAGAZINE THEATRE – PREVIEW: Agatha Christie spoof with New Old Friends at Bath’s Ustinov Theatre


Crimes-Under-the-Sun-No-Title-A5 crop

A secluded island hotel just off the English coast becomes a crime scene, as a scandal-inducing femme-fatale is felled. All the guests on the island are suspects, but are they alone and is this the first crime this idyllic island has witnessed?

The Bath based theatre company New Old Friends returns with this comedy thriller directed by James Farrell (The 39 Steps, West End) with four actors playing multiple outrageous characters, and a plot that romps along in the company’s trademark inventive style.

Inspired by Agatha Christie, Hitchcock and film noir, the drama is a hilarious but murderous trip to a classic English Riviera retreat.

The Ustinov in Bath is staging the production which runs for the 13th to the 24th February before going on tour around the country until the end of May. For a full list of dates and venues visit http://www.newoldfriends.co.uk/crimes-under-the-sun

For details of tickets in Bath visit  www.theatreroyal.org.uk or call 01225 448844.

RAPSCALLION MAGAZINE Theatre Review: it’s all about to go wrong as the writers fall out in Daniel Kelmann’s comedy drama The Mentor in an evening of marital bust ups, jealousy and a pond dunking

The Mentor: it's all about to go wrong as the writers fall out

The Mentor: it’s all about to go wrong as the writers fall out

The Mentor. Ustinov Studio, Bath

Four frustrated arty types battled it out for the title of the most arty type of the year award in a leafy courtyard. They were: held-back Gina, ambitious Martin, has-been Rubin and arts administrator Erwin.

And it was the arts administrator (officially the least arty person there) Erwin Rudicek (Jonathan Cullen) as a frustrated artist who appeared the most honest about his work and even threw in his job to be a painter. Now that’s passion for your art.

Erwin had an unenviable task in Daniel Kelmann’s The Mentor at the Ustinov, for he had to humour two ego centric writers along as the old, very rude and arrogant Benjamin Rubin (F Murray Abraham) was supposed to be helping develop the new young writer Martin Wegner with his work. Instead he did the opposite, much to Erwin’s frustration. The young writer (Daniel Weyman) was priggish, selfish and annoyingly self-opinionated. The mentoring session was never going to work especially when Rubin discovered to his horror they were both being paid the same amount of money for the mentoring session. This was art ludicrously priced as a commercial commodity – a point well made by Kelmann.

And then there was Martin’s two dimensional wife Gina (Naomi Frederick) who after despairing of her husband holding her back in life appeared to be about to have an affair with the old, oily, egotistical, bombastic Rubin just because he was famous. Oh, and the fact her husband in a moment of self-loathing made a fool of himself by tearing up his play script and jumping in a duck pond. Grounds for a blazing row perhaps, but an affair? There was sympathy for the exasperated Erwin as he attempted to serve tea or coffee or the wrong sort of whisky to the old bore Rubin. So far, so funny and Cullen’s physical comedy with these domestic duties were well paced by the director Laurence Boswell.

The format of a set piece argument followed by a bust up and the resulting fall out was agreeably comic. As the barbs flew there were occasional sharp intakes of breath from the packed audience. Kehlmann’s script gave some enjoyable lines. Martin announces: “I’m an artist and have different standards,” when challenged by his wife about his childish antics. Guffaws all round. Then there’s his wonderfully empty and meaningless statement along the lines of: “I still want to want, what I want without wanting to want, knowing what I want, to want,” to which Rubin says sarcastically, “did you write that line?” More chuckles at the put down as Martin’s face fell. And perhaps my favourite line came from Erwin who stormed: “Who wants to be an arts bureaucrat, it’s a profession for those who are dead inside.”

Cullen was excellent, Frederick and Weyman made the grade but F Murray Abraham seemed to be almost going through the motions. He had the lines from Kehlmann but didn’t seem nasty enough for such an old so and so.

For 80 minutes it falls slightly short as a traditional drama. An interval could have prompted a what’s going to happen next moment. Instead there’s a steady increase in the two writer’s dislike of each other and although we reach a sort of climax as Martin has a break down it’s somehow not quite enough. They shy away from a punch up as Martin suggests he’d win in a fight as he goes to the gym, and we don’t see the suggested affair between a lightly sketched Gina and unlovable Rubin. For a play about writers it could have done with more of a plot and without the predictable ending – as enjoyable as it was.

Harry Mottram

The Mentor by Daniel Kehlmann, in a translation by Christopher Hampton, directed by Laurence Boswell. 6 April – 6 May 2017


RAPSCALLION MAGAZINE DIARY: from Charlie Chaplin to a French silent movie and from Punch to love poetry – it’s all happening in January

The Suitor is on in Bristol at the Slapstick Festival

The Suitor is on in Bristol at the Slapstick Festival

January 2017

Christmas is over, the mornings are dark and the evenings darker and all seems gloomy as you realise how much heavier you were than just a few days ago. How you could murder all those Christmassy events and start again in November.
Speaking of murdering Christmas there’s a play during the rounds by New Old Friends. Crimes Against Christmas is a comic Agatha Christie type story where the guests at the county house keep getting bumped off to the theme of the 12 Days of Christmas. It’s on in Bath at the Theatre Royal from January 3-7.
Which brings us to death. Just months before his death in 1669 Rembrandt painted a self-portrait sporting a rather natty beret. He was 63 and had already painted a number of self-portraits charting the 17th century aging process – got covered in muck and became increasingly dark with all the grime and soot. In the late 1960s it was given a clean revealing Rembrant’s signature and instead of being rather dim in tone was really quite colourful. It can be seen at Bristol’s city art gallery.
Meanwhile the Cartoon Museum in London goes all Punch with an exhibition of some the best cartoons from the magazine’s history. Sometimes cruel, sometimes ultra conservative and sometimes offensive they were often timeless and extremely funny. One thing is always the case with these 19th century drawings: the draughtsmanship is excellent. And of course they open a window into some aspects of Victorian life. Pictures from Punch: A 175th Anniversary Exhibition – runs to January 22.
Also in London there’s an exhibition of Picasso’s portraits at the National Portrait Gallery off Trafalgar Square. Rapscallion’s favourite art gallery is always worth a visit as it is free and contains such an eclectic collection of portraits both painted and photographed through the centuries.
Coming to the Roxy Cinema in Axbridge in January is the film A Bigger Splash. Billed as a darkly comic drama it’s set in Italy where a couple staying in Tuscany having a visit from a long lost friend. You know what’s coming – the past arrives to haunt the present with a certain amount of emotional fall-out.
It’s directed by Luca Guadagnino and written by Alain Page and David Kajganich, based on the film La Piscine and features Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson.
Speaking of relationships the Bristol Old Vic’s poetry nights has something of a battle over the vexed emotion ahead of St Valentine’s Day. Held once a month on a Sunday evening (although January gets missed out) Blahblahblah on February 13 features Love vs Cynicism. Two teams of wordsmiths go head to head to argue each side of the case. Expect soaring ballads, tenderness, pain, bitterness and hilarity from some of the best poets around.
One of Bristol’s great festivals arrives in time to cheer everyone up from the winter blues. Slapstick 2017 returns with film, performances and talks.
On Wednesday, January 20, there is Rediscovered and Restored featuring the talents of one of Europe’s finest silent film champions Serge Bromberg as he presents his latest collection of newly discovered and restored silent comedy shorts to open the Slapstick Festival.
Another interesting evening is on the following day when there is a screening of Bed and Sofa, a 1927 Russian film which somehow escaped the dead hand of the Stalinist censor with its focus on human relationships and disregard of state and party.
During the week there’s a talk by Lucy Porter about the fascinating life of Anita Loos – one of early Hollywood’s most talented and prolific screenwriters and there’s a screening of Charlie Chaplin in The Kid.
The shows mainly take place in the Colston Hall and include appearances by Bill Oddie, Ian Lavender and Robin Ince.
And another delight is the screening of the The Suitor or rather Le Soupirant in the original French title. It is a 1962 French comedy film directed by and starring Pierre Étaix and is almost silent throughout.
Stylish and beautifully shot it was Pierre Etaix’s tribute to Buster Keaton in which a young man is pressed into finding a girl friend by his parents in an amusingly droll story of  his bungling attempts at love. It’s all a bit Rapscallion in the way real life seems to turn into farce.
There’s more Rapscallion Magazine features, news and reviews at www.harrymottram.co.uk