Tag Archives: Frances de la Tour

Maxine Peake creates a Hamlet that is both timeless and unique for today

To be, or not to be: that is the question . . .
To be honest William Shakespeare’s most iconic work, Hamlet,is the ultimate play about loyalty, love, betrayal, murder and madness. Every production is defined by its lead actor. Or actress.

Save the date: On June 12, Omnibus Entertainment releases the DVD of a stripped back, fresh and fast-paced staging by Sarah Frankcom for Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre in which Maxine Peake creates a Hamlet that is both timeless and unique for today. Though the part has a long history of being performed by women, Peake is the first female actor to be cast in a major production since Frances de la Tour assumed the role 40 years ago.
This above all: to thine own self be true.

“Man in an Orange Shirt” is a critically-acclaimed film that portrays a pair of love stories, 60 years apart,

The plot opens on the Italian front near the end of World War II. British Captain Michael Berryman saves the life of a wounded fellow officer and recognizes him as Thomas March, an old schoolmate, now serving as an official war artist. Though engaged to his childhood sweetheart, Flora, Michael feels a powerful attraction to Thomas, who feels the same way. After the artist’s recuperation, the two share a brief, passionate encounter before parting.

With the war over, Michael looks up Thomas in London, and they spend a liberating, amorous weekend at Michael’s rundown country cottage. There, Thomas sketches Michael for a painting that will become “Man in an Orange Shirt.” In an era when homosexuality in England was punished by prison, there is no hope of living together. Furthermore, Michael feels honor-bound to marry Flora, and he asks Thomas to be his best man. This sets the stage for a turbulent marriage, not least because Flora suspects nothing about her fiancé’s sexual preference.

The second half of the drama skips two generations to the present day. Michael and Thomas have died, and Flora keeps house with her grandson, Adam, a young veterinarian active in London’s gay hookup scene—a subject Flora carefully avoids.

Into Adam’s restless life comes Steve, an architect eager for a stable relationship and intrigued by the challenge of fixing up the cottage that Adam has been given by Flora—the same place where Michael and Thomas spent their idyllic weekend six decades earlier. The times change, the laws change, the technology changes (as illustrated by Adam’s addiction to dating apps), but the problem of love, commitment, and acceptance is as persistent and formidable as ever.

It’s not just Adam and Steve who face this dilemma. Flora, too, has unfinished business with the past.

Such is the wonder of MASTERPIECE: Man in an Orange Shirt (PBS Distribution), a critically-acclaimed film that portrays a pair of love stories, 60 years apart, linked by family ties, sexual identity, and a mysterious painting. It will be available on DVD and Blu-ray June 19; The program will also be available for digital download.

Scripted by bestselling novelist Patrick Gale, the film was a two-part original drama which formed part of the BBC’s Gay Britannia season. Man in the Orange Shirt was broadcast to wide critical acclaim in the UK in 2017 for the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality.

Playing the star-crossed lovers are Oliver Jackson-Cohen, James McArdle, Julian Morris and David Gyasi. Joining Vanessa Redgrave are Joanna Vanderham, Laura Carmichael, Julian Sands, Frances de la Tour, Adrian Schiller and Joanna David.

“Masterpiece: The Collection” . . . Who knew that couture could be so cutthroat?

We have told you many times . . .  many, many times . . . that the DVDs released by PBS Distribution are masterpieces. Another wonder: The all-new fashion-centric miniseries Masterpiece: The Collection on DVD and Blu-ray. World War II is over and stylish clothes are back as Paris recovers from the horrors of the Nazi occupation. Richard Coyle, Mamie Gummer and Tom Riley star as a family struggling to build a fashion empire at any cost.

The beautifully shot series won accolades during its UK debut in 2016, with The Telegraph calling it “possibly the most glamorous series on TV,” The Guardian finding it “captivating … glossy and murky at the same time,” and The Huffington Post praising its large cast as “first-rate from top to bottom.”

Indeed!

Focusing on the Sabine family, composed of business-savvy Paul (Coyle), his wealthy American wife, Helen (Gummer), and his brilliant but dissipated designer brother, Claude (Riley), the program also stars Frances de la Tour as Paul and Claude’s overbearing mother, Yvette, who will stop at nothing to advance her boys’ careers—often to their dismay.

Set in 1947, The Collection captures a turbulent era in French history, when partisans hunted down Nazi collaborators and anyone with something to hide shunned the past and embraced the future. Fashion became the perfect expression of this impulse to look ahead. Wartime rationing, drabness, and erotic restraint gave way to alluring displays of color, form, and fabric in women’s clothes—for those who could afford them.

The Sabine family firm is at the forefront of this exciting but ruthless pursuit, and Paul has been chosen by the French government to lead the battle to reclaim the nation’s preeminence in the couture world. Widely regarded as the genius behind his studio’s stunning designs, Paul is in fact purveying the work of his brother, Claude, an unbridled sensualist who can’t restrain his amorous impulses. In free moments, Claude works in a frenzy to sketch new gowns, often consigning them to the wastebasket, where they are retrieved and turned into the Sabine collection’s latest sensations.

Into this superficially elegant universe comes hard-boiled American reporter Stan Rossi (Stanley Townsend) with suspicions about Paul’s past, but so far little to go on. Assigned to photograph a fashion story for Rossi, Billy soon parts company to become the Sabine studio’s official photographer. In the process, he elevates the worker Nina to be the signature model for the firm—much to the chagrin of the reigning top model, Dominique (Poppy Corby-Tuech, who plots revenge.

Adding to the turmoil, police Inspector Bompard (Allan Corduner) enters the picture when Yvette’s scheme to get Claude under control goes horribly awry, leading to an investigation that threatens the entire Sabine enterprise.

Who knew that couture could be so cutthroat?