Film & Theatre Review

Ain’t Too Proud


The story of one of the biggest selling groups of all time is now a West End show billed as ‘Ain’t Too Proud’

It’s the story of The Temptations, the group behind very memorable songs such as ‘My Girl,’ ‘Pappa was a rolling stone,’ ‘The way you do the things you do,’ and of course ‘Ain’t too proud to beg.’ 

The show is seen through the eyes of founding member Otis Williams, now 80 years old, and brilliantly played by Sifiso Mazibuko. ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ tells of the ups and downs of the group. From their beginnings in Detroit in 1962, where five young men with soulful voices came together, through to being signed by Motown right after David Ruffin joined the group (a brilliant Tosh Wanogho-Maud) where they were guided by legend Smokey Robinson and managed by Shelly Berger (Dylan Turner). From then their rise to fame continued, through thick and thin. They then became one of the first African American artists to crossover into the mainstream. They were even bigger then The Supremes (told in the mega hit show ‘Dreamgirls’). 

But eventually the path to fame would be a rocky one. Ruffin never adhered to the groups rules, was kicked out and would eventually die of a drug overdose at 50. Original member Melvin Franklin would also die at a young age – 52. And Williams was also no stranger to tragedy, his only son would die at the young age of 23.

But ‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg’ isn’t all about tragedy. It’s a musical with beautiful music, with sings that are not sung to the very end that make you begging for more, and when you get more it’s just not enough. The men who play all the Temptations in this show are perfectly cast, and all with incredible voices (with a lot of sweating involved). Excellent Choreography by Sergio Trujillo and superb direction by Des McAnuff makes this show a winner. ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ is the best thing to happen to the West End in years, and expect it to snatch lots of prizes at next years Olivier Awards. 

TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera]

There’s lots to say about Tony Blair and his time as Prime Minister, but the show ‘Tony! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera’] has lots to say, and it’s all very funny and hilarious!

Now playing at the Leicester Square Theatre until May 21st, and written by Comedian Harry Hill  and Steve Brown, the show takes us through the life of Blair, when he was a child born in Edinburgh, Scotland and how he didn’t have to work very hard in life to get to where he wound up, as Prime Minister (from 1997 to 2007). Jack Whittle is absolutely brilliant as Blair, both as a child and then growing up through to his years as a lawyer, politician, and up to now being a very very rich and well paid speaker. But it’s the second act that takes this satire to a new level when the UK became involved in the ‘War on Terror’ at the behest of George Bush and the U.S. government. You will be laughing out loud (LOL) to songs sung by the cast which include ‘Kill The Infidel,’ ‘Bombs Away’ and, in the first act ‘I’m Gonna be Somebody.’ And a whole raft of the cast of characters that were involved in Blair’s life also make an appearance: John Prescott, Alastair Campbell, David Blunkett, and also his wife Cherie Blair. Meanwhile Princess Diana (Emma Jay Thomas) and her death are satired in the show in a moment where it was going to be either do or die for Blair which would make, or break his premiership. And we all know how that turned out. Yes, even Osama Bin Laden makes an appearance.

Besides Whittle, the hardworking cast (who are superb) includes Howard Samuels (Peter Mandelson), Tori Burgess (Cherie Blair), Phil Sealey (perfect as Gordon Brown) among others who entertain us through song, antics, and just plain funniness to help us get through, via laughing really hard, the life and times of Tony Blair,  a show that is eerily spot on!

Hopefully the same team can come up with a take on Boris Johnson, there will lots of funny material there! 

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Highlights of BFI Flare Film Festival 2023

The life, and the life, of Little Richard is told in the amazing documentary ‘Little Richard – I am Everything.”
Little Richard was the true king, the originator, and the emancipator of Rock & Roll, a true legend who also never hid his homosexuality. He was way ahead of his time – and this documentary is told with an excellent combination of Little Richard interviews he did throughout the years, with concert footage displaying his amazing talent. Him, and us, agree that he was worthy of many accolades that were never bestowed on him. This is one definitely not to miss and catch it when it is released on April 28th, 2023. 

A South Korean couple, together since 1986, enjoy their retired existence in the quiet documentary ‘Life Unrehearsed.’

Soohyun Lee and In-sun Kim met during a summer camp in Germany when they were young. They had an instant connection and then moved to Berlin (leaving family and friends behind in South Korea) to live an open and free life. Thirty three years later Jieun Banpark shoots a documentary about their life and beautifully displays the love these two have for each other after al these years. 

Now in their seventies, and while still heavily involved in activism, the youthful couple engage in playful banter and have squabbles over the mundane activities of life. But life throws a wrench into their existence when one of the two is diagnosed with cancer.  ‘Life Unhnearsed’ shows us that life is not a rehearsal, it’s the real thing. 

A highlight of the festival, and for audiences, is the coming of age take film “Big Boys’ – the story of a young man who is at that awkward stage in life.
Isaac Krasner is perfectly cast as Jamie, who with his older brother Will (Taj Cross), fav cousin Nicole (Emily Deschanel), and her sexy new boyfriend Dan (David Johnson III), take a camping trip together to the California mountains where truths come out with a little bit of drama and a lot of subtle comedy. Director and writer Corin Sherman has everything in place which makes this a charming and wonderful little film. 

‘XX+XY’ is a cute but silly film that follows a young intersex teen (born with both male and female genitalia) who tries to fit it to at school after deciding to go in person and not hide anymore. Jay (Hyun-Ho Ahn), parented at home by two gay dads and whose mother is a doctor, has led a sheltered life and has kept their secret to themselves, only sharing bit and pieces of it anonymously online. Jay’s best friend – Sara (Woo-Sung Choi – charming) knows. Jay, easily accepted by all their classmates, including the rugged and handsome Bang (Choi Woo-Sung) who takes a shine to Jay. But Jays secret will soon enough be revealed. Originally a television special aired in South Korea, XX+XY is educational but really appears  to be aimed at a young audience (high schoolers).

Made on a mere $20,000 budget, ‘Chrissy Judy’ looks worth a lot lot more telling a tale as old as time about a NYC drag queen trying to find his way after his co-hort up and leaves him.

Writer and director Todd Flaherty is perfect and a natural as Judy, who along with Chrissy (Wyatt Fenner) perform together as a drag act. But when Chrissy meets a man, falls in love and moves to Philadelphia (gasp!) Judy has to make it as a solo act, but it’s not easy trying to make a dime to unappreciative crowds in order to pay the rent  Circumstances lead Judy to re-evaluate his life and move to Provincetown (the gay mecca on the U.S. east coast) in this fabulous film that is beautifully shot (black and white).

The fast paced world of Berlin nightlife is told through the eyes of one young man in the mesmerising and very fast-paced ‘Drifter.’ 
After breaking up with his boyfriend, Moritz (Lorenz Hochhuth) falls into a crowd of young good looking and very sexy locals. They all go from one party to the next experimenting with drugs, sex, and each other, in Director Hannes Hirsch’s film that will make you want to catch the next plane to Berlin. The clubbing scenes are ultra sexy, and Hochhuth is the next Harris Dickinson. 

Two transgender women try to look for a place to live in a city in India in the beautifully told ‘A Room of their Own.’
Manisha Soni and Muskan are naturals as Laila and Roshni. Wanting to move from their home as they are experiencing harassment, they keep on having doors closed to them due to their gender identity. They still feel outcast and marginalised in society at every turn even though they have jobs and pay their bills on time. Directed and produced alongside the Ektara Collective, this film expertly and sensitively portrays how transgendered people struggle with day to day life in India. 

Trace Lysette gives a devastating performance in the film ‘Monica.’

Lysette is Eugenia who left her family home when she was younger in order to transition and now has to make the painful trek to head back home to see her dying mother (Patricia Clarkson) who has dementia and is close to death.  Unrecognizable to her mother, Eugenia’s brother knows her secret (and doesn’t appear to accept) but it was never disclosed to their mother – and it’s the touching moments where Eugenia spends time with her mother that provides this film it’s highly emotional scenes. Clarkson, as expected, is magnificent – and Lysette’s performance is understated yet very powerful. Director and write Andrea Pailoaro brings out great performances in a story that tells us you can never really go back home again.

‘100 Ways to Cross the Border’ is billed as a fantastic odyssey through the world of radical artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña, reflecting on 40 years of performance art and border activism. It is that and then some. Exploring, cinema verite style, the work and life of the Mexican performance artist and his ‘followers’ who all love to perform in radical style, many with their clothes off. It would’ve been more useful to have done a documentary on the life of Gomez-Peña himself and not include unnecessary shots of the filmmakers talking back to their subject.

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‘Forever with Pride’