(no particular order)
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
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.
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
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
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
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
"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: http://www.newsday.com/ap/rnmpet1s.htm
Urban Cinefile (AUS):
USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/life/enter/movies/lfilm331.htm
And, a short article on Cate and the movie...
From: PHowell741@aol.com Save Address Block Sender
Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 15:39:01 EST
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Elizabeth bit & a review/CNN
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."
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,
"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
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
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
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