The Week in Review

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The Independent Culture
THE FILM FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS

Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro star in Terry Gilliam's adaptation of Hunter S Thompson's druggy, satirical account of Nixon-era US.

"It has the forlorn look of a museum piece; a screeching battle hymn that wants to celebrate hysteria, and, instead, merely succumbs to it," bemoaned Anthony Quinn. "[It] celebrates extreme drug abuse and social irresponsibility of all kinds - sexual harassment, theft, homicidal driving, threatening people with guns, you name it," tutted the Daily Mail. Far out, thought the Evening Standard: "A wildly enjoyable trip - decorative, morally reprehensible and ultimately an eye-opener." Time Out was less impressed: "Depp and Del Toro... end up mugging like mad, while the merciless satirising of American mores is finally too relentlessly weird, wacky and tacky."

They said it was unfilmable - and they were right. Gilliam delivers typically imaginative visuals but, without a plot or a point, it's a lot of narcotic sound and fury signifying almost nothing.

Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas is out on general release, certificate 18, 118 mins.

THE PLAY TROILUS AND CRESSIDA

Michael Boyd hauls Shakespeare's difficult play into the early 20th-century, the Trojans becoming Irish rebels and the Greeks the occupying English.

Notwithstanding strong performances, Paul Taylor was unconvinced: "Conceptually, the production fails to add up: it feels like an incoherent accumulation of individually compelling touches." "Why does Ajax resemble a particularly dim heavy-metal rock star?" wondered The Daily Telegraph. The Evening Standard was kinder to Boyd's "ingeniously conceived and powerfully staged" production: "Though the framework is rickety and Shakespeare's vision compressed, an atmosphere of anti-heroic oppressive tension grows." "For once, it's like the work of the real RSC, rather than a scratch team falsely trading under that name," chimed The Guardian.

Cynical, blood-stained and savage about the futility of war, Troilus and Cressida truly belongs to this century, but not to Michael Boyd's lurid, wayward production.

Troilus and Cressida is at The Pit, Barbican, London EC2 until 21 November. For bookings and enquiries, call 0171-628 2295

THE TV PROGRAMME BIG TRAIN

Following the success of their sitcom Father Ted, writers Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews dispense with the priest-bating to return with a new comedy sketch series.

"One had quite high expectations... and divine it was," enthused Serena Mackesy, adding: "If the BBC bosses haven't already recommissioned this, they're greater fools than News 24 suggests." Been there, done that, reckoned The Mirror: "Monty Python's Flying Circus was doing the same sort of thing over 25 years ago far better." "I appreciated the show more thinking about it later than watching it," remarked the Daily Mail. The Times was more sanguine: "Those expecting something as magically mad as Father Ted may be disappointed but there were enough intelligently crazed routines here to make you feel that tuning in next week won't be a waste of time."

Sketch shows, including the hallowed Fast Show, are a mixed bag, but the pedigree of Mathews, Linehan and their collaborators suggests that Big Train is certainly on the right track.

Big Train continues on BBC 2 every Monday evening at 10pm.

THE ALBUM WHITNEY HOUSTON

For My Love Is Your Love, her first non-soundtrack album in eight years, Houston has collaborated with Mariah Carey, Wyclef Jean, Missy Elliott and Lauryn Hill.

"Intriguing," remarked Andy Gill, "though as the album progresses... she slips back into her comfortable old routine." The Guardian looked on the bright side: "Houston makes a praiseworthy job of exploring genres outside her usual area... She's never sounded less uptight." The Daily Mail also approved: "Only occasionally does she sound ill-at-ease with tougher, modern beats and, if anything, it is the traditional ballads which disappoint." "An eye-opening set," agreed The Times, as long as you ignore the album's first single "When You Believe": "an untypically simple-minded duet with Mariah Carey which sends out all the wrong signals."

Left behind by the current R&B stars, Whitney has recruited the cream of the crop to make a decent fist of reinventing herself for the 21st- century, but seems to get the jitters halfway through.

My Love Is Your Love is available from Monday on Arista Records

THE COMEDY JACKIE MASON

The veteran Brooklyn-born rabbi-turned-comedian returns to London with a new show - Much Ado About Everything - but

the same old wry Jewish wise-cracking attitude.

"Imagine a wise guy New York cabbie setting the world to rights - on fast forward - and you get the idea," marvelled James Rampton. "He is constantly playing with racial stereotypes but in a way that is playful, rather than pernicious." The Daily Telegraph was appalled, however, finding "his comments, particularly about blacks and homosexuals, unpleasant, oddly obsessive and surely passe". It added that his stage presence "is curiously fascistic in its overtones and devoid of intimacy". The Times thought him "unsure of his audience" but was more tolerant of his tastelessness: "That half- suppressed anger is what makes his shows so rewarding."

OK, so Mason's a little out of line with some of his non-PC material, but he's still untouchable on his home turf: the never-ending differences between Jews and Gentiles.

Much Ado About Everything continues at the Playhouse Theatre, London WC2 until 28 November. For bookings and enquiries, call 0171-839 4409

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