Film, book and theatre reviews – entertainment you can go out and see locally or curl up on the sofa and enjoy at home.

Wonka (2023) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Wonka ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ½ With dreams of opening a shop in a city renowned for its chocolate, a young and poor Willy Wonka discovers that the industry is run by a cartel of greedy chocolatiers. Out in cinemas on Friday. For all those who are slightly apprehensive about this latest “prequel”, maybe  because their loving connection to the original story, or because of their fond memories of the classic film with Gene Wilder, or even the one by Tim Burton with Johnny Depp (yes, I am told there are people who love that too), I can safely reassure them and tell them that not only this film is the perfect pre-Christmas present for all those who want to spend some time in a cinema with their family, but I might even take it a s

The Truman Show (1998) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

The Truman Show ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ An insurance salesman discovers his whole life is actually a reality TV show. Chiswick Cinema is screening The Truman Show for Andrea's next film club night on Tuesday 5 December 2023 at 8pm, when the film will be shown with an introduction from Andrea and a discussion afterwards. Re-watching The Truman Show 25 years after its original release, I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it still holds up—sharp, thought-provoking, and current. And to think this was written and made a few years before the very first Big Brother and the idea of Reality TV was even a thing! It is one of those rare products in Hollywood that manages to be gripping and very entertaining as

Maestro (2023) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Maestro ⭐⭐⭐⭐ A love story - A biopic which chronicles the lifelong relationship of conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein and actress Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein. Out in cinemas now. A film that comes with both Spielberg’s and Scorsese’s names attached as producers in the front credits deserves to be seen, no matter what, at least in my book. As it happens, this also has two of the best performances of the year waiting to score awards left and right. A lot has been said about Bradley Cooper's prosthetic nose in the film, but if you can get past the pointless debate (and to be honest, it’s not that hard to do that), you will not only find this is his best performance to date, but also it's an immersive and compelling portrayal and a l

Wish (2023) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Wish ⭐⭐ ⭐ A young girl named Asha wishes on a star and gets a more direct answer than she bargained for when a trouble-making star comes down from the sky to join her. In cinemas now. As I am writing this, I hear the news that Wish, the 62nd original feature by Disney Animation, has underperformed at the box office on its first week-end of release (which incidentally is the Thanksgiving week-end in America), falling well short of the already pretty low predictions. And while of course, we shouldn’t really count it out yet (more holidays are coming soon and the film may eventually find its legs), it is clear evidence of the effect that streaming is having on family-oriented films. Once upon a time a Disney release, in the weeks before Chri

Cinderella review – Lyric theatre, Hammersmith

Image above: Cinderella at the Lyric, Hammersmith, the company; photograph Manuel Harlan The biggest ball in west London As Christmas hurtles ever closer, the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre brings us its 15th annual pantomime. This year’s production is a ‘brand new take’ on Cinderella from the pen of award-winning comedian, actor and composer Vikki Stone. Tilly La Belle Yengo makes for a sympathetic Cinderella, here updated as a sassy “boss-lady” selling diminutive clothes for rodents in Shepherd’s Bush Market (definitely a niche that no-one else has spotted!). Most of the laugh-out-loud moments come when Emmanuel Akwafo takes the stage as the inevitable Dame, Lady Jelly Bottom, a terrifying yet exhilarating combination of Margaret Thatcher and

Saltburn (2023) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Saltburn  ⭐⭐⭐ A student at Oxford University finds himself drawn into the world of a charming and aristocratic classmate, who invites him to his eccentric family's sprawling estate for a summer never to be forgotten. On in cinemas now. After leaving this film I found myself a bit baffled, not quite sure how I should really take it. I kept on asking myself “Why?”. I won’t go into spoiler, but the whole thing didn’t quite click or made sense for me. So I waited a couple of days, trying to see if, with time, I’d be able to digest it a bit more and see the good in it and whether anything had stuck. Sadly the answer is ‘very little’. On one hand, the story of Oliver (An ultra-creepy Barry Keoghan), the young

She Stoops to Conquer review – Orange Tree theatre, Richmond

Image above: Whole cast, She Stoops to Conquer; Orange Tree Theatre; photograph Marc Brenner 250th anniversary production of the classic comedy by Oliver Goldsmith I was a little surprised to see She Stoops to Conquer on the bill at The Orange Tree in Richmond.  The comedy, by Oliver Goldsmith, was first performed 250 years ago and it is not so often performed now, as it can be hard to make the humour of such a different time relatable to a modern audience. The only time I had ever seen it before was a production at my sister's school, when it most definitely did not lift off the page. I also associate The Orange Tree with new work. The last play I saw there was set during the student riots in Hong Kong three years ago. The Orange Tree does champion

Anatomy of a Fall (2023) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Anatomy of a Fall ⭐⭐⭐⭐½ A woman is suspected of her husband's murder, and their blind son faces a moral dilemma as the main witness. On in cinemas at the moment. This French courtroom drama/thriller revolves around a complex and intriguing storyline following the consequences of a ‘fall’. The titular ‘fall’ in question is yes an actual fall, which results is somebody’s death, but also a figurative ‘fall’ of a marriage. As the story unfolds, the audience is slowly drawn into an intricate web of emotions, uncertainties, and power dynamics, all of which elevates the film beyond your standard murder mystery or courtroom drama. The strength of the Anatomy of a fall lies not only in its plo

The Elephant in the Room review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: Kristin Milward as Judith, Fraser Anthony (standing), Josie Ayers as Rosemary, Baptiste Semin, Craig Crosbie as Johnny (seated, hidden) and Stephen Omer as David, in The Elephant in the Room at the Tabard theatre Review by By Simon Thomsett Whilst travelling in India, 19-year-old Ashley Davenport encounters Yama, the King of Death and begins to question his place in the world. Disillusioned with his fellow British tourists, disdainfully dismissed as “the shouting people” and overcome with ennui, he decides to give up and retire from this life, and with a “Bye bye world and good riddance,” checks himself in to a retirement home. Thus begins Peter Hamilton’s new play just opened at the theatre at the Tabard. Fraser Anthony as Davenport embodi

The Long Goodbye (1973) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

The Long Goodbye (50th anniversary)  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Private investigator Philip Marlowe helps a friend out of a jam, but in doing so becomes implicated in his wife's murder. There will be a screening of The Long Goodbye to mark the film's 50th anniversary at Andrea's Film Club at Chiswick Cinema on Tuesday 14 November 2023 at 8pm, followed by a talk by Andrea and a discussion. Crime stories are often the subject of modern re-imaginings and remakes. The allure of crime, the intricate plots, the twists and reveals, the complex characters and detective narratives, combined with the timeless appeal of iconic characters such as Hercule Poirot or Philip Marlowe, has always given filmmakers a rich source of storytelling material that is hard to resist. R

The Interview review – Park Theatre

Image above: Yolanda Kettle as Princess Diana and Tibu Fortes as Martin Bashir in The Interview; Pamela Raith Photography A new play by Jonathan Maitland ⭐⭐⭐⭐ What's the point of doing a play about a TV interview? Wouldn't you just watch the TV interview? That's kind of the point of The Interview, the new play by Chiswick resident Jonathan Maitland which opened at The Park theatre in Finsbury Park on 27 October and runs until 25 November. The interview between Martin Bashir and Princess Diana in which she famously declared 'there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded' is no longer available to watch. What is arguably the most important interview the BBC has ever done, and the most significant TV interview of the 20th cent

Backstairs Billy review – Duke of York’s theatre

Image above: Penelope Wilton and Luke Evans in 'Backstairs Billy'; Photograph MGC Penelope Wilton and Luke Evans in a new comedy by Marcelo Dos Santos Backstairs Billy is the new comedy at the Duke of York's theatre in the West End, with Penelope Wilton in the role as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and Luke Evans as 'Backstairs Billy'. It is a fictional confection based loosely on the true story of the Queen Mother and her relationship with William Tallon, her 'Page of the Back Stairs'. He started work with the royal family as a junior assistant at the age of 15, trained as a footman, went to work at Clarence House and remained her servant for over forty years until her death in 2002. They are an odd couple to say the least, although in Marcelo Dos

The Killer (2023) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

The Killer ⭐⭐⭐⭐ After a fateful near-miss, an assassin battles his employers, and himself, on an international manhunt he insists isn't personal. I should probably start by stating the obvious: David Fincher is one of the greatest directors working in the industry today. His films may sometimes venture into uncomfortably dark and gritty territory, but the level of sleekness and precise craftsmanship that he brings to the table sets him apart from pretty much 99% of his Hollywood peers. I remember studying every frame of Se7en back in film school: its blackest blacks, its clinical and meticulous attention to detail and the devastatingly dark (and yet, drenched in sunlight) twist-ending. I was left speechless after Fight Club and

November 2023 books

What’s new and good to read this month? Dan Coombes has a look at what’s on offer and chooses Mary Or, The Birth of Frankenstein; Heartstopper Vol. 5 and The Future. Mary Or, The Birth of Frankenstein- Anne Eekhout The trend for re-interpreting well known tales, their creation and the famed lives of their authors - often bringing *gasp* less well known female perspectives to the fore - has made for a lot of fun reads recently,  just like this one which grabbed me instantly because of the Frankenstein connection. Make no mistake though, this isn't some novelty effort playing around for amusement value - it's a powerful and intense tale with lots to say and an enticingly s

Killers of the Flower Moon (2023) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Killers of the Flower Moon  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ When oil is discovered in 1920s Oklahoma under Osage Nation land, the Osage people are murdered one by one - until the FBI steps in to unravel the mystery. Out in cinemas now. Based on a true story and adapted from a book of the same name by David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon, delves into a chilling chapter of American history, in early 20th-century Oklahoma, exploring a series of murders that occurred among the Osage community of Native Americans, who found themselves wealthy almost from one day to the next, for being the land owner of lands rich with oil. I’ll come out straight: my relationship with Scorsese’s films is a tricky one. As a film geek, I should love the guy, and to a de

Delinquent Dad review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: John Gorick as Robert, the 'Delinquent Dad' of the title Theatre at the Tabard's latest in-house production Apparently 42% marriages in the UK end in divorce, mostly citing ‘unreasonable behaviour’. Many couples decide to call it a day once their children have grown up and left home, so the scenario of Delinquent Dad, in which a sixty something man finds himself couch surfing with his son and his girlfriend, having been thrown out by his wife, may strike an uncomfortable chord with some amongst Chiswick audiences. The play opens with the young couple Matt and Cara preparing for Matt’s parents to come for dinner, where Cara will be meeting them for the first time. As it turns out it’s just Robert, the father, clutching a hol

Flowers for Mrs Harris review – Riverside Studios

Image above: Flowers for Mrs Harris, Riverside Studios; L to R Charlotte Kennedy, Pippa Winslow, Abigail Williams, Jenna Russell, Harry Singh, Kelly Price, Issy Khogali, Nathaniel Campbell Review by Simon Thomsett If you are able readily to accept that a flawlessly generous and kind widow, struggling to get by as a cleaner in '50’s London, can find meaning in life in the form of a Christian Dior dress, even to the point of being ready to sell the last tangible memento of her late husband to acquire said item, then Flowers for Mrs Harris, the new show at Riverside Studios may be for you. Having been dazzled by a client’s dress, Mrs Harris sets out to acquire one of her own, whatever it takes. Reasoning that it would be “something to come home to”

October books 2023

What’s new and good to read this month? Dan Coombes has a look at what’s on offer and chooses A Stroke of the Pen: The Lost Stories by Terry Pratchett, Night Side of the River by Jeanette Wilson and Liberation Day by George Saunders A Stroke of the Pen: The Lost Stories - Terry Pratchett Hands up, I am a huge Terry Pratchett fan, and this collection of his previously unpublished early stories - before he found fame with the legendary Discworld novels - is certainly a must for all lovers of his work. But ask any Pratchett lover just how good a writer he was and they'll mostly tell you the same thing: he was a literary genius would've won pretty much every highbrow book award going if he wasn't pigeonholed as a fantasy writer. There's something in here

Dumb Money (2023) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Dumb Money ⭐⭐⭐⭐ The story of a group of ordinary people who get rich by turning a video game store into the world's hottest company. Out in cinemas now. Dumb Money is the ultimate David vs. Goliath story, based on the astonishing true incident from the very recent 2021, during which a group of everyday people turned a little-known company named GameStop into a global sensation, defying the rules of Wall Street. GameStop is a video game retailer that had seen better days with the rise of online gaming. The pandemic seemed to seal its fate, and the short-sellers were circling like vultures. Enter Keith Gill, played by the always-talented Paul Dano, a small-time analyst and broker who by night turns into a redditor (here’s a new world I

Persuasion review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: Persuasion; Theatre at the Tabard By Simon Thomsett As the Chiswick Book Festival comes to an end the Theatre at the Tabard keeps the spirit alive with a run of Dot Productions’ staging of Jane Austen’s Persuasion which has just opened.  The adaptation by Dawn Bush nips along at pace and somehow in 90 minutes of playing time gets through the main events of the story with an enthusiastic cast of just five, three of whom swop roles throughout. At the centre of the story is Anne Elliot, living reluctantly in Bath ("It’s always wet") and apparently given up on love, not exactly helped by her excessively vain father who, when he can tear himself away from the mirror taunts her: ‘you’ll never catch a husband…’ Enter Captain Wentw

Past Lives (2023) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Past Lives ⭐⭐⭐⭐½ Nora and Hae Sung are childhood sweethearts separated by fate and thousands of miles, wrested apart after Nora's family emigrates from South Korea. Twenty years later, they are reunited for one fateful week as they confront notions of love and destiny. On in cinemas now, including Chiswick Cinema. I guess Award season starts early this year. This is one of the most gentle, subtle and touching films I’ve seen this year and while I’m certain it might not be to everyone’s taste (it’s certainly not one for the action/adventure blockbusters crowds, nor for the Barbie-lovers out there) it is definitely one of those who will stay with you. The story starts with two childhood friends Na Y

A Haunting in Venice (2023) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

A Haunting in Venice ⭐⭐ In post-World War II Venice, Agatha Christie's detective Hercule Poirot, now retired and living in his own exile, reluctantly attends a seance. But when one of the guests is murdered, it is up to the former detective to once again uncover the killer. Out in cinemas on Friday. This is Kenneth Branagh’s third Agatha Christie adaptation, following on from Murder on the Orient Express and Murder on the Nile. Both times I went to watch those film full of anticipation at star-studded premieres, excited by the prospect of a good whodunit and both times I was left rather underwhelmed and I thought the films were just about passable. This time I came prepared, and kept my expectations low to avoid any disappointment

About Bill review – Theatre at the Tabard

Kim Ismay in About Bill, as Gloria - 48 years old and foolish, Bill's landlady By Simon Thomsett The expression “tour de force” is sometimes overused but in the case of the Tabard’s new show, About Bill, it is exactly the right epithet.  Kim Ismay’s solo performance as a series of women all involved in some personal way with the titular Bill is outstanding. Over the course of a snappy 80 minutes, Ismay embodies various characters from the Bill’s life with enormous conviction and huge heart, it’s a remarkable achievement. From the start, as a chorus girl, a “star-spangled gipsy goddess” who is struggling to make her showbiz career work and is desperate for her new baby to be a girl, she pulls us in. It is left to her sister, Aunty Dot

September 2023 books

What’s new and good to read this month? Dan Coombes has a look at what’s on offer and chooses The Last Devil To Dieby Richard Osman, The Fraud by Zadie Smith and Holly by Stephen King The Last Devil To Die – Richard Osman A man who at this point needs no introduction, but here I am writing one anyway. A national treasure, one of the most successful crime writers of all time, a local legend who can occasionally be seen walking past the shop (but still hasn’t been in to sign his books yet…Hi, Richard.) The fourth instalment of the Thursday Murder Club series…well, if you’ve read the others you’ll know what a clever, witty and warm-hearted joy it’ll be, and if you haven’t you still have a couple of weeks before this one

Jurassic Park (1993) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Jurassic Park ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ½ A group of scientists cloned dinosaurs, and are about to open an amusement park where people can see them. What could possibly go wrong? Chiswick Cinema will be screening Jurassic Park thirty years on from when it smashed all the records for highest grossing film around the world and won a whole cupboard full of awards, as part of their Richard Attenborough centenary season. Andrea's Film Club, Tuesday 5 September at 7.30pm. If one had to rate Jurassic Park in terms of its cultural relevance, place in film history and groundbreaking (and game-changing) visual effects, it would certainly get top marks, no question asked. It is also one of those rar

Edinburgh Festival reviews

Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder (Udderbelly) ⭐⭐ Making sense of this proved well beyond my investigative abilities. I wasn’t alone. Having scarpered after an hour I chatted to some twenty something escapees who felt the same. Part of the problem is that the singing diction is poor but drowned out anyway by loud music and poor acoustics. That’s a big problem when singing is 90% of proceedings. The plot - I think - is about two podcasters trying to solve the murder of a famous crime novelist in Hull. I had huge hopes for this as the producers have a great creative track record. To be fair, some of the audience seemed to enjoy it. The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris the 3rd, King of Bulgaria (Pleasance) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ The remarkabl

Edinburgh Festival reviews

Jazz Emu (Pleasance) ⭐⭐⭐ An un-categorisable mash up of musical parody, Terry Gilliam style animation, brilliantly filmed spoof pop video inserts and much more besides. A bit of Tim Minchin here,  a dash of Flight of the Conchords there. Very cult-y, very clever, very slick. Will appeal greatly if you are a) under 40 and b) out of your box on industrial strength spliff. He’s playing the Clapham Grand later this year. Worth a look if you’re feeling adventurous.

Edinburgh Festival reviews

No Love Songs (Traverse) ⭐⭐⭐ In which a young couple with no distinguishing features and a newborn child hit a crisis when he goes off on tour with his band. He sings at her,  she sings at him, and sometimes they sing pleasant but anodyne pop stuff together, in rather sweet harmony. She then gets postnatal depression, a symptom of which is the urge to say nothing memorable or original during the 80 minute running time. One for the Millennials. Corny, predictable, cliched. There’s so much endeavour, sincerity  and heart here, however, I can (almost) forgive it everything. Heaven (Traverse) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Edinburgh Festival reviews

The Grand Old Opera House Hotel (Traverse) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ In which two cleaners at a very beige luxury hotel which was once an opera house fall in love without actually meeting. The building is - of course - haunted by the music and characters of its past. Combines farce, classic 70s sitcom and lots of opera, but delivered in a way even the most opera-sceptic punter will enjoy. Clever, moving, magical. Does what all fabulous theatre should:  it takes you places. Literally and metaphorically. Jack Docherty in David Bowie and Me: Parallel Lives (Gilded Balloon) ⭐⭐⭐⭐ In which the 6

Edinburgh Festival reviews

Adults (Traverse) ⭐⭐⭐⭐ In which a repressed, married teacher of English Literature and father of two finally summons up the courage to visit a male prostitute but it all goes horribly wrong when the lady on the front desk, as it were, turns out to be a former pupil of his. Very well written three hander about the lies we tell ourselves and our loved ones. Alan Ayckbourn-ish (in a good way) but far more bleak and sex-centred with a bright pink dildo playing a starring role. Not one for the in-laws. Steve Richards presents: Rock  ‘n’ Roll Politics (Symposium Hall) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ In which an ex B