The DCH Blog
Ida (12A) - Monday 2nd March 2015
Winner of both an Oscar and BAFTA, Pawlikowski’s brooding meditation on identity, family, faith, and guilt is absorbing, lyrical, and quite beautiful to look at.
This is a deceptively simple story, and works as a poignant coming of age fable. However, the director uses the story of orphan Ida to examine the hinterland of post war Eastern Europe, and specifically the local population’s complicity in the crimes of the Nazis. Set in early 60s Poland, with a ratio and cinematography to match, the film is reminiscent of Truffaut, or even early Polanski. Shot as a series of eerily haunting monochrome images - the characters are almost squeezed out of frame – its heightened reality could have become a tiresome affectation. Instead, it only emphasises Pawlikowski’s abiding message, that we are all minor players in the grand scheme of things. Newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska has been rightly praised for her portrait of a blank-faced ingénue caught in a heady world of booze, fags, sex and music. But it is Agata Kulesza, as her world-weary aunt, who brings in a truly heart-rending performance of real depth and complexity.
Notwithstanding its brief running time - Ida clocks in at a compact 80 minutes – it makes every second count, leaving the viewer with the sense of seeing something of scope and importance. In an era of the bloated blockbuster it’s heartening to see that there are still filmmakers with the skill and inclination to make dramas of such economic precision.
By David Vass
Bleak House - The Pantaloons Theatre Company - a review - Saturday 28th February 2015
Adaptation of beloved texts, particularly those from the sacred canon, can be a tricky business. Stray too far from the source material and the purists are offended. Adhere too closely and nothing but a dreary resume emerges. The Pantaloons Theatre Company cleverly dealt with this dilemma head on, presenting a theatrical treatment of Dickens’s book that was as much about the adaptation process as the plot of his book.
By explicitly dividing the evening into the 67 chapters of the novel, and heroically presenting every last thing that happens in it, they managed to turn a multi-stranded, multi-voiced monster of a book into an absurdist exercise in relentless exposition. Within a uniformly strong ensemble cast Edward Ferrow was particularly strong as a much needed anchor for the mayhem all about him, while Christopher Smart – channelling Phil Davis – clearly relished his scene stealing turn as Smallweed.
There were occasional incoherence issues, but one cannot deny the ambition of this literate, inventive production. It pelted along at an exhausting pace, was full of meta-commentary and forth wall-busting buffoonery, and yet somehow managed to convey the epic sweep of Dickens in a way rarely seen on stage.
By David Vass
Electric Swing Circus - a review - Thursday 26th February 2015
It was standing room only at the Corn Hall for the Electric Swing Circus’s infectious fusion of swing, break beat and house. With occasional nods to reggae and dubstep, their unique sound had the crowd jumping from the very first number.
Pockets of the audience, so many of them dressed to impress, quickly by passed foot tapping, instead erupting into dance, making the Corn Hall feel something like 1920s speakeasy. The solid rhythm of Chandra Walker’s drums and the laconic bass of Patrick Wreford provided the perfect backdrop for the showmanship and singing talent of Laura Louise and Bridget Walsh. They were bookended by Tom Hyland, resplendent in his top hat and manic smile, and the perennially bobbing Rashad Gregory. While the former was given free rein on his gypsy-jazz guitar, the latter twiddled his knobs to produce a virtual brass section from his vintage samples that built into an impressive wall of sound.
Part band, part cabaret, all circus, they obviously had a fantastic time on stage, as did their audience, who left the Corn Hall giddy with excitement and perhaps just a bit surprised that this sort of thing went on in Diss.