THE WEEK IN REVIEW

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The Independent Culture
THE FILM

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION

overview

John Guare adapted his own successful stage play, based on a true story, about a suave youth who blags his way into Manhattan's smartest circles, for the director Fred Schepisi. The rap artist Will Smith plays the young con artist, Donald Sutherland the slightly louche art dealer whose life he invades. Stockard Channing resumes the role of the brittle New York socialite which she played on Broadway and in the West End and was Oscar-nominated for her performance - in 1994. CRITICAL VIEW It was, the consensus seems to be, well worth the wait. The Financial Times praised Schepisi's "gymnastic verbal fluency", while the Guardian approved of his "quiet skill". All the principal players were applauded, with the Times typically singling out Channing's "splendid" performance. ON VIEW On release. OUR VIEW After an uncertain start, the story, with its meaty, satisfying themes of idealism and illusion, the fragility of success and the way we invent ourselves for other people, gradually exerts a genuine grip. THE PLAY RICHARD II OVERVIEW The dynamite team of director Deborah Warner and actress Fiona Shaw are united again in this Shakespeare production which is unorthodox primarily for the fact that Shaw takes the title role. What the production attempts to do is instigate a kind of "gender blindness" whereby any actor or actress is able to play a role given that he or she is good enough. The rest of the cast includes Michael Bryant as the Duke of York, Graham Crowden as John of Gaunt and Brana Bajic as Queen Isabel. CRITICAL VIEW Praise has been more or less unanimous for the production, but some critics have had difficulty with Shaw. The Financial Times celebrated her "intensity, audacity, imagination" but added: "(her) exaggerations cancel out her expressiveness". Time Out applauded her recklessness: "(her) ability to take risks... makes the deposition a white-knuckle affair". ON VIEW National Theatre, Cottesloe SE1 (0171-928 2252), playing tonight and next Mon-Wed, and continuing. OUR VIEW Bravura theatre which, for once, succeeds in moving boundaries. Whatever you think of Shaw's performance, you can't deny its raw power. THE GIG ROLLING STONES OVERVIEW Undernourished post-war juveniles made rich on the fat of the Sixties. Widely held in contempt at the end of that decade for not delivering the revolution. A decade later, they were held in contempt for their social connections and for being too old. In the middle of the Eighties they were also not very good. However, in their pomp, they did make lots of fab singles, four great albums, wear marvellous clothes, and they also invented the idea of the pop group as unpleasant art-school gang. CRITICAL VIEW "None of them has gone to seed in the conventional sense," the Times said generously. "Their resilience verges on the eerie." "Rip-roaring," said the Sun. "The Rolling Stones were Bjorn again in Sweden with a show tighter than Jagger's trousers." ON VIEW All over Europe until July, at which point they hit Sheffield (6) and Wembley (11, 15, 16). Book now. OUR VIEW Sometimes the truth hurts. The Stones are old, ugly, fiscally bloated and sociologically irrelevant. They also play with greater panache, control and, yes, spontaneity than any other art-school gang on the planet. Better now than at any time since 1973. THE OPERA BILLY BUDD OVERVIEW The director Francesca Zambello has been acclaimed for her productions of Khovanschhina and Tosca. Now she presents Benjamin Britten's intense opera based on Herman Melville's novella of innocence, betrayal and heated sexual tension in the claustrophobic confines of an 18th-century warship. The opera is being presented in its full, unexpurgated four-act version at the Royal Opera House, for the first time since 1951 when it was premiered at the same venue. CRITICAL VIEW The Observer proclaimed it "almost perversely unmoving". The Financial Times praised Zambello's decision to foreground the piece's homoeroticism, "a theme so carefully kept below decks by Britten". Time Out, meanwhile, loved Alison Chitty's sets. ON VIEW The Royal Opera House WC2 (0171-304 4000), Tues and continuing. OUR VIEW Zambello's take on Britten is a spectacle to behold, and has genuine emotion and drama pulsing through it, as well as finely judged performances from Rodney Gilfry as Billy and Graham Clark as Captain Vere. Rich and affecting and unmissable.

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