The Angel’s Share

December 24, 2012 at 3:49 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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A film about whiskey – well not really; The Ken Loach directed The Angel’s Share is about people trying to make the best of a bad situation, though there is whiskey. There is an element of a road-film to it as well, though the trip is not the main dramatic vehicle.

Robbie – played by Paul Brannigan – is a young man with a very troubled past and not many prospects of a future. He has just avoided a long stretch in jail, but that just leaves him where his enemies can get their hands (chains, knives, bats, etc) on him. He is about to become a father, though his future son’s grandfather has a very low opinion of him – “you useless piece of shite”. Robbie gets community service, where he meets Mo (a kleptomaniac) – Jasmin Riggins, Albert (a clumsy ignoramus) – Gary Maitland, and Rhino (can’t remember) – William Ruane. This unlikely foursome under the supervision of Harry – John Henshaw – repaint community centres and clean-up graffiti.

It is Harry who takes Robbie under his wing, and reluctantly introduces the foursome to whiskey tasting. The film is set in Glasgow, Scotland; it isn’t going to be beer. Besides only vintage whiskey that can command the high prices which will net Robbie enough money to see him to a new life.

The background to the film is a depressing mix of youth violence and not future. When you have no money and no future, the only value you have is ‘honour’, but that just locks you into an inter-generation death spiral. If the youth sub-culture portrayed in this movie is true, God help Scotland.

Robbie becomes a father, and amazingly he gets a grip of his temper and his substance abuse. He wants to be there for his son. Now all he has to do is get the rest of Glasgow to let him change. “With this scar on me face, I can’t get a job – I can’t even get an interview!”

Robbie hatches an idea to steal some rare expensive whiskey to provide him with a grub-stake to get out of Glasgow. Thus begins the foursomes’ kilt disguise – they are lowlanders and the three lads have never worn kilts before. A giggling tourist asks Rhino why he wears his backwards!

Albert is the most amusing character – from his barely comprehendible Glaswegian lilt to his complete ignorance of anything: what’s that ? he asks of Edinburgh Castle.

The film presents some interesting moral conundrums: Is it right to steal from the rich? Is there a greater good for which small mis-deeds is acceptable?

This film has one of the grossest sequences I have every seen: on par with the bowl of vomit scene in Bad Taste and making the poop in a hand-basin scene in Bridesmaids look like a biological necessity!

Oh, The Angel’s Share refers to the loss due to evaporation, when the whiskey is sitting in the oak barrels.

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Genee 2012

December 16, 2012 at 3:30 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Event Review, Exhibition Review, Show Review | 2 Comments
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I went to the final night of the Genee International Ballet Competition 2012 last night. It was a very enjoyable night. Some of the best young dancers produced by the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) syllabus were competing for the top accolades in the RAD world. It was a truly international competition with semi-finalists from Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, Spain, England, Scotland, South Africa, and of course New Zealand.

The semi-finals (which I did not attend) and the finals were held at the St. James Theatre in Wellington New Zealand. The competition was hosted by the New Zealand of Dance and the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Each competitor – ‘candidate’ – danced: a compulsory piece choreographed especially for the competition; a piece they choreographed; and one chosen by them from a limited selection classical repertoire.

I am told it has become the tradition for the Genee to have new work created for the competition. This year, Adrian Burnett – a Kiwi – choreographed two short dances, for this competition: Exalto (for female candidates) and Homage to Bach (for male candidates). I found these to be intricate / tricky looking pieces: as if designed to offer opportunities to slip-up. The way one would design a golf course or an eventing cross country course. The grand jete, from one step, at the very end of Exalto seemed especially challenging.

The “dancer’s own” works were quite varied, though mainly neo-classical, there were some lyrical classical styled pieces. This was an opportunity for the candidates to express themselves and showcase abilities not required in the other two dances. The two eventual gold medal winners had neo-classical works.

The limited repertoire was another test of the candidates skills and ability.

Throughout, the very knowledgeable audience was wholesome in its support and applause.

Then while the jury conferred, there was a surprise (for me at least) guest performance of excerpts from Swan Lake by Abigail Boyle and Qi Huan from the Royal New Zealand Ballet. The audience was treated to a virtuoso performance. The audience had given some pretty ‘big hands’ for some of the candidates, but surely Qi Huan got an even bigger hand for his Siegfried – amazing amplitude and control; and when Abigail Boyle did all those amazing fouettes – I lost count around 29 – the applause was deafening!

Then it was time for the jury to announce the medals. the jury was headed up by David McAllister, Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet; Christopher Hampson, Artistic Director of the Scottish Ballet; and Li Cunxin, Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet.

Congratulations to: Gold Medal: Aurelian Child-de-Brocas (male), Montana Rubin (female) Silver Medal: Harry Davis (male), Kaena Ahern (female), Ariana Hond (female). And to the other finalists: Anyah Siddall, Sana Sasaki, Georgina Hills, Olivia James-Baird, Isobelle Dashwood, Emma McBeth, and Kelsey Stokes.

A nice touch was that the semi-finalists were listed in the programme and also took in the medal presentations.

The Chills (at the Bar Bodega in 2012)

December 2, 2012 at 4:44 am | Posted in Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went hear (and see) The Chills performing at the Bar Bodega.

The Chills, fronted by Martin Phillipps, treated the large audience to over an hour of new and old works. They performed for over an hour, then after a resounding demand for an encore, they came back on stage and did some of their classics. The band that defined the Dunedin Sound is alive and well.

The Chills has always revolved around Phillips, and in this incarnation, they have added a violinist – Erica Stichbury. Who also plays guitar and keyboard.

This was the first time I had seen The Chills and I was impressed by Martin Phillipps’ guitar skills.

I was treated to one of my favourite all-time songs – “I love my leather jacket”. I enjoyed and I am glad I went.

The Sapphires

December 2, 2012 at 4:26 am | Posted in Film Review, Musical Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see The Sapphires the other day and found it quite disturbing. The script by Tony Briggs and Keith Thompson is not just a musical – this is not an Australian version of The Commitments. The film directed by Wayne Blair is very crafted to bring out into the light some episodes in Australia’s history.

On the face of it, the film is about four Aboriginal young women who go to Vietnam, to sing, to mark their mark on the world. The three sisters Gail, Cynthia, and Julie, and their cousin Kay, are ‘discovered’ by Dave – an itinerant Irishman with a passion for soul music – and the rest is history as they say. But whose history?

There is a tension between Gail (Deborah Mailman) and Kay (Shari Sebbens) that when it is explained is quite shocking – and not the usual adolescent ‘you stole my boyfriend’ squabble. Kay is one of the ‘stolen generation’; she was taken into custody by the Australian government in 1958 to be raised as a European, and in her only visit back to the Mission, she says some very hurtful things about ‘lazy Aboriginals’.

The film begins in 1968, with Gail, Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell), and Julie (Jessica Mauboy) going into town – they live on an Aboriginal Mission – to enter a talent contest. This is the audience’s introduction to race relationships in Australia – it is not violent, but it is not a pretty sight either. Despite being the best act they do not win, and are told to go back where they belong. This is when Dave discovers them, rather Cynthia convinces him to be their manager. He is a bit of a hopeless romantic.

Gail, Cynthia, and Julie are re-united with Kay, and after a short audition, they are off to Vietnam.

This portion of the film inevitably explores Western intervention in Vietnam. The film stays firmly centred on the Sapphires, but what they see and experience of Vietnam is pretty disturbing – the brutality of war, the divisiveness of a civil war, and US race relations injected into an Asian conflict. Vietnam was a war fought without borders or uniforms – there is no rear area, and the Sapphires are caught up in the fighting.

There is lots of romance: what can you expect when young men and young women thrown together – and it is the 60’s.

Definitely worth seeing. The singing is pretty good too – especially if you like soul, the other 90% of recorded music is shite! (or so says the Dave character). Just don’t expect a just musical; there are some very serious issues gently brought out onto the ‘silverscreen’.

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