Film Review

By Local Democracy Reporter

The annual Christmas pantomime production at The Drill saw the tale of Rapunzel told to Lincoln crowds, and it is another victory lap in the form of laughs, romance and stellar acting for Jamie Marcus Productions.

Jamie Marcus Productions returned with its second Christmas pantomime in Lincoln after a COVID-induced break from theatre, bringing Rapunzel to The Drill from December 5 to January 2.

The show follows the classic tale of Rapunzel, the captured princess kept in a tower by the wicked Mother Gothel, who uses Rapunzel’s powers to keep herself young and beautiful – but does so in a modern way with unique plot twists and vibrant stage designs.

The traditional pantomime flavours can be found in full effect throughout the show, with enough slapstick comedy to make Charlie Chaplin blush and theatrical performances of popular songs bringing this fairytale back to Earth when required.

The Drill’s panto returned this Christmas, with Rapunzel the production of choice. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Scott Conclaves and Phoebe Bruerton played the roles of Finn Riley and Rapunzel. | Photo: Jamie Marcus Productions

The title role was portrayed by Phoebe Bruerton, who demonstrated a highly impressive vocal range alongside the smoulderingly vain but eventually heroic character Finn Riley, played by Scott Goncalves.

The pair shared great chemistry on stage as we followed their romantic journey from Mother Gothel’s tower to the forest to the king and queen’s palace.

An energetic performance by Jame Campbell, making the audience laugh as Dame Betty Buttercake. | Photo: Jamie Marcus Productions

James Campbell, the show’s director, had the task of communicating directly with the audience in his role of Dame Betty Buttercake, and he did so with effortless charm and humour during his 10th year in the annual pantomime.

Line deliveries and one-liners were akin to a stand-up comedy routine, cracking dad jokes like they’re going out of fashion and maintaining a running joke with one member of the audience that culminated in a selfie while dressed as Spice Girl Geri Horner (nee Halliwell).

Jordan Shiel and Craig Garner are back once more. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Other cast members who showed a completely natural ability to be funny on stage were Jordan Shiel and Craig Garner, who brilliantly portrayed their Itchy and Scratchy roles of blithering idiots you can’t help but laugh at.

The pair worked brilliantly together and are true contenders for the stars of the show, leaning on Jordan’s past panto experience and Craig’s acting prowess – developed from roles in Hollywood blockbusters such as Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Emma Hickman stood out in her role as the traditional pantomime villain – playing the dastardly Mother Gothel. | Photo: Jamie Marcus Productions

The show had many popular culture references and political jabs, including a joke about tax hikes in the show which made reference to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt ‘beating us to it’, and Philip Schofield’s infamous queue jump-gate during the national mourning for Her Majesty The Queen.

A rousing rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas song came with reimagined lyrics that varied from the outright silly to the relevant, with dirty nappies and smelly socks being placed in the lyrics along with parking tickets, minions and Lincoln MP Karl McCartney.

Renditions of popular songs aplenty, with all the case getting involved. | Photo: Jamie Marcus Productions

It ended with a subtle jab at The Drill’s pantomime competitors, as the cast thanked the audience for attending by saying: “We hope you all had a lovely time, and if you didn’t, we’ve been the New Theatre Royal!”

Tickets are still available for Rapunzel at The Drill – running two shows a day every day until January 2 apart from Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Tickets start from £23 for stall seats and £26 to be at the front in the circle area, and can be bought from The Drill website.

ALSO READ – Panto review: New Theatre Royal’s star-studded Cinderella cast excel

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You’ve probably already read about Lincoln’s one minute of fame in the Netflix blockbuster The King, but what about the film itself? James Buxton gives his verdict.

Above all, The King is a competent, thoroughly enjoyable coming-of-age historical tale, focusing on the evolution of the English King Henry V, from his sordid origins as the rebellious Prince Hal to his finest hour at the Battle of Agincourt.

The film attempts to walk a fine line, purporting itself as an adaptation of both Shakespeare’s Henriad and the true events upon which the play was based in equal parts.

Lincoln Cathedral appears in Henry V’s coronation scene 35 minutes into the film. Photo: Netflix

In reality, The King leans far more towards the former in terms of story, yet does away with the Shakespearean dialect in favour of an odd medley of modern and classical language.

Ultimately, the film falls short on either side of the coin, being too outlandish to stand as a straight historical biopic, yet simultaneously is entirely too straight-laced and gritty to exist as a direct adaptation of Shakespeare à la Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V.

Henry IV (Ben Mendelsohn).

Despite its immediate shortcomings, the film holds up exceptionally well as a piece of entertainment. Timothée Chalamet plays the titular King Henry V, and despite the film’s tendency to match him against a rotating door of scene-stealing talent, he captures the nuances of his character flawlessly.

His ability to jump from the debauched Prince Hal to the fearless warrior king of old without even a hint of contrivance is noteworthy of itself, and despite a few accent quibbles, his delivery of certain lines lifted directly from the source material are borderline iconic.

His rapport with Ben Mendelsohn’s Henry IV, or lack thereof, is the driving force that carries the first third of the film, and it’s entirely due to the talent of the two actors that this succeeds.

The Dauphin of France (Robert Pattinson).

The costume and set design is next to flawless. Aside from a few style inconsistencies, namely Robert Pattinson’s Game of Thrones-esque fantasy armour, every scene excellently depicts the early 15th Century in every aspect. Peasant costumes are rough and bland, and the food looks anything but appetising throughout.

John Falstaff (Joel Edgerton).

The climax of the film, set at the Battle of Agincourt, is a particular highlight, choosing to portray Henry’s legendary victory as the gory, muddy hell that it most certainly was, doing away with Shakespeare’s romanticism entirely.

Catherine (Lily-Rose Depp).

The King is far from perfect, but is by no means a bad film. The acting is faultless throughout, and despite a slow start the political intrigue and raw depiction of medieval war remains engaging to the final scene.

It’s certainly not the best Shakespeare adaptation, but you’d be hard pressed to find a film of its ilk from the last few years that comes close to matching up.

The third time is maybe, sort of, kind of, the charm for the 2019 Disney remakes. The bar was admittedly a pretty low one, and it’s hard to think of any way in which this is superior to its animated original, but at least there is plenty to enjoy, which is more than could be said for Dumbo (read review) and Aladdin (read review) earlier this year.

That being said, they still fail to answer the question of why these remakes exist at all beyond a cynical (and successful) attempt to wrest as much cash from the pockets of millennials and parents, and especially millennial parents.

The irony of The Lion King is that this is the best of the live-action adaptations to come out this year, and yet it also feels like the most pointless of them. With Dumbo they tried to do something relatively original, and with Aladdin they tried to correct some of the more concerning racial issues of its animated predecessor. Neither succeeded in coming even remotely close to being as good as their originals, but at least you could pretend there was a reason for their existence beyond callous money-grabbing. Here, it’s hard to see where that reason lies.

Image: Disney

The filmmakers have created a near shot-for-shot remake, and what they have brought to the table in terms of originality is unclear. The visual work is stunning, the shots of Africa gorgeous, and the CGI animals impressive. But it’s not as if we were lacking high-quality footage of animals in Africa – real ones at that – with Planet Earth and its various spin-offs readily available on Netflix.

It’s also impossible to avoid the feeling that, as incredible as the CGI rendering of the
animals is, some of the charm is also lost. It’s much harder to suspend disbelief of a lion living in perfect harmony with its prey when rendered in 4K.

And yet, I did find myself mostly enjoying it. Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen make a good Timon and Pumba, and given the difficulty Will Smith had in replicating the comedic magic of the Genie, this is no mean feat. Chiwetel Ejiofor is excellent as Scar, and despite my reservations about the CGI, Scar is properly evil and scary-looking.

Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key, and Eric André in The Lion King (2019). Image: Disney

Beyoncé’s casting is hardly more than a shrewd PR coup, with Nala there almost purely to drive the plot along and bring Simba home. The lack of character is not her fault, the filmmakers failing to add anything of note to the film and missing a real opportunity to make Nala’s character more than just a vehicle for Simba’s redemption, especially when they have someone with such star power and gravitas as Beyoncé.

Beyoncé in The Lion King (2019). Image: Disney

And therein lies the crux of the issue with this film as a whole — its lack of experimentation and originality. It is enjoyable, it will make you smile, laugh, maybe even cry. But if you have seen the animated version, this will in no way feel like an improvement, despite the star-studded cast and multi-million dollar budget.

The Lion King (2019) rating: 6/10

Joe is the film and TV critic for The Lincolnite. He is a Master’s student at the University of Lincoln, having abandoned the sunny beaches of the Cayman Islands for the slightly colder climes of Lincolnshire to see whether he could make it as a writer. Joe graduated from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland in 2016, where he studied the Liberal Arts and drank far too much bad American beer.

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