sat 11/07/2020

17th century

The Old Guard review - serious silliness

It’s hard to take The Old Guard seriously — it’s an action film about thousand-year-old immortal warriors. Pulpy flashbacks and fake blood abounds. But The Old Guard doesn’t need to be serious or even memorable: it’s a fun, feel-good film, a rare...

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Fanny Lye Deliver’d review - blistering English civil war western

Ten years in the making, Thomas Clay’s third feature, starring Charles Dance and Maxine Peake, is a remarkable and potent example of genre-splicing British independent filmmaking. The story opens in 1657. Cromwell is in power and, on a small,...

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The Revenger's Tragedy, Piccolo Teatro di Milano/Cheek by Jowl, Barbican review - fun, but not enough

Vendetta, morte: what a lark to find those tools of 19th century Italian opera taken back to their mother tongue in a Milanese take on Jacobean so-called tragedy, where the overriding obsession is on mortalità. It would take a composer of savage wit...

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Nicolaes Maes: Dutch Master of the Golden Age, National Gallery review – beautifully observed vignettes

A young woman sits sewing (pictured below right: Young Woman Sewing,1655). She is totally immersed in her task, and our attention is similarly focused on her and every detail of her environment. The cool light pouring though the window illuminates...

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Women Beware Women, Shakespeare's Globe, review – wittily toxic upgrade of a Jacobean tragedy

This raunchy, gleefully cynical production takes one of Thomas Middleton’s most famous tragedies and turns it into a Netflix-worthy dark comedy. Where the themes of incest, betrayal, cougar-action and multiple murder would be spun out over several...

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Faustus: That Damned Woman, Lyric Hammersmith review - gender swap yields muddled results

Changing the gender of the title character “highlights the way in which women still operate in a world designed by and for men,” argues Chris Bush, whose reimagining of Marlowe’s play premieres at the Lyric ahead of a UK tour. It’s certainly a...

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Martin's Close, BBC Four review - where did the scary bits go?

The series of short films, A Ghost Story For Christmas, became a Yuletide staple on BBC One in the 1970s. Most of them were adapted from the works of medieval scholar M R James, and drew their unsettling supernatural aura from the understated and...

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Charles I: Killing a King, BBC Four review - sad stories of the death of kings

This three-part series by historian Lisa Hilton is a follow-up to her previous effort from last July, Charles I: Downfall of a King (BBC Four). That examined his disastrous fall from power, and this first new programme opened just before Christmas...

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Caravaggio & Bernini, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna - high emotion in 17th century Rome

It doesn’t matter where you stand, whether you crouch, or teeter on tiptoe: looking into the eyes of Bernini’s Medusa, 1638-40, is impossible. The attempt is peculiarly exhilarating, a game of dare made simultaneously tantalising and absurd by the...

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Bartholomew Fair, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse review - Jonson's chaotic slice of 17th-century life

It was a bold choice by director Blanche McIntyre to stage Ben Jonson's seldom performed, sprawling slice-of-life play in the bijou Sam Wanamaker Playhouse rather than Shakespeare's Globe's main stage – even if she has pared down both the script and...

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Artists in Amsterdam, Dulwich Picture Gallery review - a slight but evocative sketch

Done well, a one-room exhibition can be the very best sort, a small selection of paintings allowing the focused exploration of a single topic without the diluting effect of multiple rooms and objects. In this respect, Artists in Amsterdam rather...

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Charles I: Downfall of a King, BBC Four review - beheaded monarch upstaged by exotic presenter

“I want to discover how our government could fall apart and the country become bitterly divided in just a few weeks,” historian Lisa Hilton announced at the start of her BBC Four account of the traumatic demise of Charles I. In a mere 50 days in...

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