Arts: The Week in Review

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The Independent Culture
THE FILM GODS AND MONSTERS

Bill Condon's picture, which won the best adapted screenplay Oscar, speculates on the last days of 1930s horror auteur James Whale (Ian McKellen).

"McKellen's expertise has already been feted. Brendan Fraser, on the other hand, was a complete revelation," trumpeted Anthony Quinn, adding, "Bill Condon has made a wonderful film." "The two troupers bravely troup in a film saved from the odour of biopic sanctity by its campy charm and deft, allusive wit," cried the Financial Times. The Daily Telegraph decided: "It's Condon's jigsaw script that gives the film its subtle depth charge." "Sterling work by McKellen," wrote The Big Issue, while Uncut deemed it "An unexpected delight, and monstrously enjoyable." "I wouldn't change a thing," declared The Spectator. "Gains in assurance as it goes along," reported Time Out.

McKellen's moody-yet-mischievous Whale is perfectly complemented by Lynn Redgrave's wonderfully clucking housekeeper and Fraser's guileless gardener.

Condon's picture more than lives up to the hype.

Gods and Monsters is out on general release, certificate 15. 110 minutes

THE PLAY THE LATE MIDDLE CLASSES

Harold Pinter (left) directs Nicholas Woodeson and Harriet Walter in a new play by Simon Gray which explores the underlying tensions of a post-war family.

"There will be no justice if this play does not transfer, but since the West End is not known for justice, lovers of emotionally literate theatre should head for Watford," declared Paul Taylor. "Circuitous, ambiguous, enthralling, and chilling," wrote the Financial Times, while The Times trilled: "Trademark Pinter, quintessential Gray." "Pinter directs with a sharp eye for detail and ambiguities," revealed the Daily

Telegraph. "Pinter's hand," decided the Daily Mail, "is applied to acting of the very

highest order." The Evening Standard, however, begged to differ: "Not even

direction by Pinter can make this play speak between the lines."

Backed by scorching performances and Pinter's pitch-perfect production, Gray's play reveals an acute understanding of the tensions that underpin middle-class family life.

The Late Middle

Classes is at the Palace Theatre, Watford until 10 April. For bookings and enquiries call 01923 225671

THE OPERA MEPHISTOPHELES

Ian Judge's staging of Boito's first opera at the ENO - based on Goethe's Faust - sees Alastair Miles as Mephistopheles and David Rendall playing Faust.

"Judge is a man after Mephistopheles' heart; sceptical, unsubtle, a bit of a showman. And camp? Is he ever," cried Edward Seckerson, adding: "It won't be to everyone's taste. In fact, taste doesn't come into it." "Judge turns Boito's potboiler into a succession of fire-crackers, enough to keep the audience amused and musical space well-occupied. But," explained the Financial Times, "he fails to camouflage the opera's banality." "The ENO direction boils it all down to a story of virginal white vs Ann Summers red with some sharpish jokes thrown in," rumbled the New Statesman. "Going to the devil in style," quipped the Daily Mail.

With its abundance of cavorting devils and curly-haired cherubs, Judge has his tongue firmly in his cheek in this inordinately camp production. An acquired taste, but riotous good fun.

The Coliseum, London WC2, until 29 April. For bookings and enquiries call 0171-632 8300

THE EXHIBITION GENTILESCHI

A diminutive show of the work of the Italian painter Orazio Gentileschi, father of Artemisia, friend of Caravaggio and painter in the court of Charles I.

"Clumsiness is the moral point. These pictures tell Bible stories, and the idea is to give the stories a kind of realism. Great moments of sacred history," explained Tom Lubbock, "were not enacted in elegant and well- blocked tableaux. They happened awkwardly. His awkwardness is judged." "Gentileschi at his most individual, free of French and Flemish influences, free even of Caravaggio... startlingly splendid," cried the Evening Standard. "A modest but near perfect little exhibition," gushed The Daily Telegraph. "The show does give, in its relatively limited compass, a good idea of Gentileschi's development," wrote The Times.

The physical awkwardness of Gentileschi's compositions are revealed as a virtue. This show sheds new light on a painter who seemed destined to live in the shadow of his daughter.

Gentileschi is showing daily at the National Gallery, London WC2, until 23 May. For enquiries call 0171-747 2885

EXIT POLL

Africa by Africa Barbican, London

An exhibition of portraits of native Africans, taken by their countrymen

INA RILKE

55, translator Holland

I thought it was absolutely stunning, wonderful. I have heard of The Drum magazine in Africa, but never seen the magazine prints in a gallery, and the informal shots of people who were involved in this pioneering publication. There is a good mix of everyday shots and socially committed reportage, especially from the Johannesburg photographs.

CROFTON BLACK

24, student

London

It brings to life a history not often seen. Black-and-white work is not given gallery space so often, and this is the best portrait photography I have ever encountered. The aesthetics are brilliant, particularly the stark faces against the decorative backdrops. It looks simplistic; then you notice details you don't often see.

YOUNG KIM

27, stylist

New York

The staged photographs are touching, and it is obvious that they were very special because the people have really dressed themselves up. And the same effort is put into involving themes in the portraits. And it's nice to see the pop idols, and other characters who are generally unknown outside Africa.

Exit Poll

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