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Nov. 25/98 (C)

................................................................. From the 10/21 Times.... October 21 1998 THEATRE (From left) Jason Hughes, Callum Dixon (back to camera), Joseph Fiennes and Jake Wood in Real Classy Affair Photograph: DONALD COOPER Wide-open Norf and Sarf Real Classy Affair Ambassadors, London WC2 Nick Grosso's sharp-suited lads, knocking back the lagers and whisky chasers in their North London pub, cannot take the Scots as serious paid-up members of the human race, even while admitting (fallaciously, as it happens) that Rod Stewart started out on Clydeside. But the truly serious divide is the Thames, and when they learn that one of their number is to move down south to Streatham they are aghast. Even Stan, the defector, admits that emigration is being forced upon him by his wife, Louise. She really wants to get away, and here's her chance. Grosso's previous plays, Peaches and Sweetheart, indicated a matchless ear for the revealing concealments of street argot, and here again he gives us the unwittingly comic posturing of council estate twentysomethings, along with those rhythmic deflations that play a crucial role in the conversational ritual. In doing so, he uncovers the strains within a close-bonding male group, fuelled by power struggle and sexual rivalry. King of the group is Jason Hughes's Tommy - a smoothly assured, mysteriously wealthy character, closer to Louise than the thickish Stan ever suspects. Seething behind his sardonic mask is Joseph Fiennes's Billy, never as close to her as he would like to have been and dripping the poison. Younger than these are Joe and Harry, the first (Jake Wood) always being sent over for the drinks, where girls and calamities spring on him at the bar, while little Harry (Callum Dixon) sits hunched on his chair nursing thoughts of Rod Stewart. In the opening scene we meet only these four, and there are times when their ceaseless sparring looks likely to become exhausting at any moment. The constant shifting of shoulders under the jackets are the tics of men always readying themselves for their next crisis, the punch-up, the peacock display. James Macdonald's cast is marvellously convincing in all these details of posture and gesture, and in delivering the patter so weirdly humourless to the speakers. The first scene of each half is set in the pub, on Rob Howell's remarkable revolve that punctuates the talk by occasionally turning a full circle. The second scenes take us into Stan's flat where Louise (Liza Walker) is forever ironing. Provided you accept the improbable fact of this character choosing to tie herself to Nick Moran's decent but plodding Stan, Walker's spruce performance is rich in nuance, suggesting irresolution and guile in pretty quick succession. Both these domestic scenes are exercises in seduction, one accepted, the other declined, and the play as a whole portrays a community unlikely to find lasting satisfaction with a mate of the opposite sex, north or south of the river. Or lasting satisfaction in anything longer than a game show on the box or a quick something on the settee. But Grosso records and shapes the speech habits of this little world into an extraordinarily funny and artistic pattern which can accommodate even the playing of a complete Stewart song, with the revolve spinning round and round like the top of a kitsch musical-box. JEREMY KINGSTON --- From the Times of London .... October 24 1998 METRO He's assembled the best young talent around, but, Imogen Edwards-Jones asks, is Nick Grosso's new play just an excuse for lads to be lads? THE YOUNG ONES: Joseph Fiennes, Jake Wood, Nick Moran, Liza Walker, Jason Hughes and Callum Dixon Photograph: GERAINT LEWIS Walking into the Pilgrim pub in Kennington, south London, it feels like any ordinary Monday lunchtime. There's a tall, handsome, dark-haired bloke playing one of those computer games, mumbling along to a tinny Oasis track. There's an attractive dark-haired girl, sitting in the far corner, two boyish blonds having a laugh together, a quiet chap in a long coat and some guy with a Welsh lilt trying to work out what to eat. Take a closer look, however, and you will notice something different about these punters. They may resemble a bunch of students, but this lot are one of the most talented casts in the West End. In fact, when casting Nick Grosso's Real Classy Affair, James Macdonald, Associate Director at the Royal Court, could not have put together amore glamorous and dynamic troupe of actors if he'd tried. The cast list reads like a Who's Who of up-and-coming British acting talent. "They are a good bunch, aren't they?" says playwright Nick Grosso, sipping his drink and smiling a rather self-satisfied smile. And well he might. Real Classy Affair is 29-year-old NickMoran's first stage performance since starring in the phenomenally successful Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. Joseph Fiennes, 27, is back on the stage too, after a year-long absence, filming the excellent Elizabeth alongside Cate Blanchett and appearing in the yet-to-be-released Shakespeare in Love with Gwyneth Paltrow. Liza Walker, 25, is fresh from her theatrical debut in Patrick Marber's Closer, Jason Hughes, 27, starred as Warren in the BBC's cult legal drama This Life, while Callum Dixon, 26, has just completed a run at the National in The Day I Stood Still. Last, but certainly not least, Jake Wood, 26, has received critical acclaim for his performance in Our Boys at the Donmar Warehouse. "Casting was all about getting the right bunch of people together," says the 29-year-old Grosso. An author of almost prodigal talent, he has already written two highly successful plays, Peaches and Sweetheart for the Royal Court. Real Classy Affair is his third. "It's not about getting a good person and then another good person. You've got to get people who can bounce off each other. When you're doing an ensemble piece, which this is, it's all about chemistry." So in the final week of rehearsals, with the opening night beckoning, just how volatile and effervescent has this mixture become? "Jake is the biggest scene stealer," says Nick Moran. "Joe is obviously a seasoned professional. I've seen Callum in Mojo and he's really good, and I've just been rehearsing with Jason and he had me in hysterics, because . . . " Moran pauses for breath. "These people are really good, and if anything I've got to put my nose to the grindstone." Talk about chemistry. They all seem to love each other. In fact, the more we discuss the last four weeks of rehearsals, the gushier they become. "Oh, it's been really good fun," says Dixon, who plays Harry. "You kind of think there might be a few problems before you come, but nobody's got an ego. If you can take the piss out of people, and they can take the piss of themselves, you're in for a good time, and everyone can do that." Real Classy Affair is the story of a group of blokes from Islington, north London, who have been best mates since childhood. They have always done everything together, but then Stan (Nick Moran), the only member of the gang who is married, decides to leave the area with his wife Louise (Liza Walker) and move south of the river to Streatham to open a bistro. "It's all big news and they don't understand why," explains Grosso, "and eventually we learn that the reason Stan is leaving is actually because of Tommy (Jason Hughes), and there's going to be a leaving party and Tommy's not invited, so he tries to find out what's going on." With extremely dense, quick-fire and rhythmic dialogue, Real Classy Affair takes place mainly in the local pub. A black comedy about loyalty and betrayal, fierce ambition and fair-weather friends, all the members of the cast claim to have been beguiled into taking their various roles on the strength of Grosso's writing. "I suppose it's slightly reminiscent of Lock, Stock . . . in that the dialogue is fast and funny, but I have read a lot of things like that which are just below par. But this is just brilliant," says Moran. "You can't take anything at face value with any of these boys," says Fiennes. "Survival is the key - and respect and integrity. They are a very close community. They know each other's secrets and murky pasts. But it's all about just keeping your head above water." So while the male members of the cast have been sharing jokes, marvelling at each other's performances and doing lads' stuff (all in the name of method acting of course), what's the past month been like for Liza Walker? Being the only girl in a group of five boys must have been exhausting. She exhales loudly and grins. "How much am I allowed to swear?" she asks. "It's a f***ing nightmare. No, it's OK really. It's just that there is a lot of male bonding going on. Like playing ping pong. I haven't been asked once if I want to play ping pong. Little do they know I can whip their arses. Actually, you know," she smiles, "I'm not going to get involved. I'm just going to go on stage and attack them with my steam iron. If anyone gets out of order, I just give them a quick squirt and soak them. "In some ways it feels nice not to be part of it because that's how Louise feels," she continues. "It's a bit horrible sometimes when you're trying to rehearse and you want to be part of the group, but you still feel you're not involved." Far from being a big girl's blouse, Walker is right about the general behaviour of her colleagues, especially the ping-pong. "Someone said the other day that they'd like to see our play about ping pong," laughs Dixon. "Because that's all they've heard coming from our rehearsal room floor for the past month. We've beenplaying at every given opportunity to piss our director off." "We're a very competitive company," says Hughes. "And ping pong is where it all comes out. I'm useless at it. Jake is by far and away the best. I'm also probably the worst loser. I get all hot and go really silent, especially when Jake's pinging them all over the place. I take it quite badly." Fiennes has the same problem. "Let's just say we've had to miss quite a few minutes of rehearsals because I've been locked in the loo weeping," he says. I suggest it might have been polite to include Walker in their fun and games, and Fiennes recoils in mock horror. "Oh, no, she's a girl," he jokes. "You can't have mixed doubles on our table. It doesn't go. It's like down the pub. It's boys' territory. "But seriously, that's awful," he says. "Poor Liza. Maybe the sentiments of the play are filtering through into the rehearsal room. That's no good at all. After this I'm going to demand mixed doubles." Lunch over, they all snake their way back over the road to rehearsals. The banter is relentless, and it's hard to tell how much of it is in character, and how much of it is just them. "Right, OK. The idea is to go into a pub in Islington and, um, get the vibes, right, and get really drunk," says Wood, announcing the plan for their last Friday night together before the play hits the theatre. "We might be rehearsing on Saturday, but we'll just turn up in bits." "For Christ's sake don't tell Nick," whispers Hughes loudly. "Oh, I'll just play dumb if they don't ask me to the pub," says Moran. "I do have to be slightly ostracised because I'm the bloke who isn't in the gang any more." Inside the rehearsal hall Grosso is making last-minute changes to the script. "I've learnt my lines," boasts Hughes proudly, "but the rest of that shower still haven't." And on that note I say goodbye, certain in the knowledge that with or without their lines, the opening night will find the boys perfectly in character and Liza still waiting her turn at ping pong. Real Classy Affair is on at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs (at The Ambas sadors), West Street WC2 until November 14. Call 0171-565 5000 for details. There was also a review for the play in the Oct. 21 Times, Arts section. To look up, go to: ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Elizabeth opens tomorrow in L.A. and N.Y. Can find reviews at the following... AP Newswire: The Australian: CNN: Urban Cinefile (AUS): USA Today: And, a short article on Cate and the movie... -- From: Save Address Block Sender Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 15:39:01 EST To:,, Subject: Elizabeth bit & a review/CNN Reply Reply All Forward Delete Previous Next Close Not much Joe, and no pics with any of these, but I thought you might be interested. Note: all the reviews I've seen contain spoilers of one sort or another, so you might want to wait until you see. 'Elizabeth' brings queen's life to big screen Web posted on: Wednesday, November 04, 1998 4:08:16 PM EST NEW YORK (CNN) -- She is remembered as the 16th century's most important and influential woman. Queen Elizabeth, whose reign lasted four decades, helped usher England out of financial and religious turmoil, and into its Golden Age. And now a new film opening on Friday is capturing the magic of the queen's early adulthood and her formation into a historical legend. "Elizabeth" stars Oscar winners Geoffrey Rush, Sir John Gielgud and Richard Attenborough, but the woman who plays the title role is drawing the most raves. Cate Blanchett, director Shekhar Kapur says, was made for the role. After considering actresses like Nicole Kidman and Kate Winslet, he found Blanchett when he was least expecting it. "One day I was sitting in the producers' office and they were running a promo reel of (the Blanchett/Ralph Fiennes film) 'Oscar and Lucinda,'" Kapur recalls. "And I'm sitting here and I suddenly looked at this and I saw Cate. In that half-a-minute promo reel, I knew why I was not supposed to cast anyone else." Modern-day parallels As the movie's plot tells it, Elizabeth's reign was dotted with attempts by various enemies to undermine or even kill her. Blanchett saw parallels between her character and modern-day public figures. "When we were in England last week, people were making parallels between Elizabeth's situation with Elizabethan paparazzi, I guess, and Diana," Blanchett says. "And now we're in the States, where people are talking about Clinton, how his personal life is up for grabs rather then his political platforms, which is kind of I guess a similar situation that Elizabeth found herself in." Blanchett has said she enjoyed playing opposite Rush, who stars as one of Elizabeth's advisers. Rush, who took home an Academy Award for "Shine," says he is pleased with the outcome of the film. "It had such a curious number of elements to it, two Australian actors in principal roles, in a fundamentally English story, with an Indian director," Rush says. "It could have made a very curious kind of salad, you know? "People are intrigued and fascinated, almost obsessed with the private lives of great public personalities," Rush says. Review: Blanchett a queenly knockout as 'Elizabeth' Thursday, November 05, 1998 10:24:14 AM EST Reviewer: Paul Tatara (CNN) -- It's no secret that I don't particularly care for historical costume dramas. Merchant-Ivory films are always a bit of a chore for me (even when I'm mostly enjoying them) and I've never seen "A Man for All Seasons," mainly because I don't want to. I prefer movies where desperate people hold up liquor stores or shmucks comically argue about their girlfriends in greasy diners. Subterfuge behind the castle walls always looks the same to me, no matter who's doing the subterfuging or where the walls are located. My mom and sister are the Tataras most likely to carry on about the detailed costumes and the brilliantly dyed fabrics. I, on the other hand (the one who writes the movie reviews), will head to The Gap if I want to look at some clothes. Consider that a disclaimer, because I'm about to complain a little bit about a film that may very well knock your socks into the stratosphere if you have a soft spot for silk pillows, gilded chalices, lutes, and back-stabbin' among the princes and m'Ladies. It's a gorgeously mounted production called "Elizabeth" that stars Cate Blanchett (who is just as memorably charismatic as she was in last year's "Oscar and Lucinda") as Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, one of the least amicably-split couples of the 1500s. Subterfuge and lies Like every other movie made about a new leader climbing onto England's (very fancy) throne, this one deals with the deceit of the underlings and the personality flip-flops that can occur when a relatively nice person suddenly realizes that they have an infinite number of sycophants who are just itching to do their bidding for them. The local Catholics don't want Elizabeth to take charge because she's a Protestant, and (as you see in the movie's truly horrifying opening sequence, brilliantly shot by director Shekhar Kapur) they like to burn Protestants at the stake if they step a little bit out of line. Elizabeth's half-sister, Mary, wears the crown as the film opens, but she's got cancer and is not long for this world. It's easy to see that we're supposed to favor Liz over Mary because Mary sits in the dark all the time and has rotten teeth that make her look like Joe Strummer did in The Clash's early publicity photos. Elizabeth, on the other hand, dances in green fields dappled with golden sunlight and has a peachy complexion that would not look out of place in a Noxzema ad. A lot of guys with neatly trimmed beards and suspiciously arched eyebrows try to force the wheezing Mary to sign an anti-Elizabeth document before she dies, but she won't do it. So she bites it, and now the Protestant rules. No ball running country If you're imagining that Elizabeth is about to have a ball running the country, though, you don't know how country-running works. The French "warrior queen," Mary of Guise (Fanny Ardant, wild-haired and lecherous), has gathered up troops at the Scottish border ... and they're not preparing an elaborate "Welcome to Europe" fruit basket for Elizabeth. The new queen grudgingly decides to fight the French, but, unfortunately, her team gets stomped. Lack of previous game films may have been the culprit, but it makes no difference -- England's finest are strewn all over a battle field, now looking like impeccably dressed raw steaks. Elizabeth's Master of Spies, Sir Francis Walsingham (a menacing Geoffrey Rush) was one of the few court advisers who protested the decision to fight, and now she realizes that she's going to have to be more careful about who she listens to if she's to survive as Queen. I know what you're thinking: Where's the boyfriend? Well, he's there, in the person of Lord Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes), a cutie who's in love with Elizabeth. It turns out he's not such a cuddly Dudley when she gets to know him better, but nobody thinks he'd make much of a King anyway. It's decided for Elizabeth that she should marry the arrogant -- and, as it turns out, possibly crazy -- French Duc d'Anjou (Vincent Cassel). The Court desperately wants her to sire an heir to the throne, a little trick that's considered one of her top queenly duties, and she needs to get crackin'. No affairs too personal Everybody intends to have a say in this most personal of personal matters, especially Sir William Cecil (Richard Attenborough, far more welcome in front of the camera than he is behind it), one of Elizabeth's chief advisors. He's constantly on her trail, even insisting at one point that the ladies-in-waiting bring him the queen's sheets to see if she's menstruating. As Sir William says of Elizabeth, "Her Majesty's body and functions are no longer her own property. They belong to the state." Who does this guy think he is, Kenneth Starr?! In the early going, I was quite taken with Kapur's fluid camera work. He likes his images to feel like they're floating in front of you (sort of the way they do in "Apocalypse Now"), but he also seems to dig peeking at things from high up above. Sometimes the camera swings around a bit while you're up there, like you've just been hung and are staring down at the culprits. I was disappointed that he kept at it so vigorously for so long, though. After a while you've had enough of elegant swirling around characters when all they're doing is standing there talking. If you're capable of simply marveling at fancy cinematography and sumptuous costumes when you get tired of the establishing dialogue (the movie has gobs of it), this one is in a league with the recent "Artemisia." It's almost guaranteed to get a couple of Oscar nominations in the technical categories, and I think Blanchett deserves one, too. I hope you enjoy it a whole lot if it's your cup of English Breakfast, and I also hope that I'll never have to sit through it again. "Elizabeth" can be pretty rough in places. The opening Protestant bonfire is gruesome, as are some of the battle field wounds. There's lots of violence, nudity, and hot sex shot through silky curtains. There's also a death by poisoned dress. (Honest.) I saw Gretchen Mol in the theater before the movie started, looking cute as a button. I only tell you this because it's an easy way to show off. Rated R. 124 minutes. ---- .................................................................

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