Click to follow
The Independent Culture
The Opera: The Damnation of Faust Overview: Producer David Alden and conductor Mark Elder, twin talents of ENO's glory days, return with Berlioz's opera which he never intended for the stage. Bonaventura Bottone plays Faust, Willard White is Mephistopheles and Louise Winter is Marguerite in a typically bold production designed by Roni Toren.

Critical Review: Edward Seckerson had no doubts. "Weird and wonderful Berlioz finds a kindred theatricality in the weird and wonderful Alden... [of Elder] Phrases lengthen, pianissimi intensify, and when the big bangs come ... you feel as well as hear them." "What the whole caboodle was supposed to add up to I cannot begin to suggest.The best thing about the evening was the actual sound," frowned The Times. "Alden was back at his old tricks again, returning to the enfant terrible form that so terrorised us poor London opera fans in the 1980s," stuttered The Telegraph. "The charisma and singing of Willard White ... Alden is satirising modern production styles ... but some-times the underlining is too heavy," equivocated The Standard. "Betrays Berlioz," denounced The Spectator.

ON View: At ENO, the Coliseum, London WC2 (0171-632 8300) 16, 19, 23, 30 April, 2 May at 8pm and 26 April at 6.30pm.

Our View: Arch-purists will shudder at this production of a barely stageable work but Elder reminds you of what this orchestra can do and Alden, as ever, encourages performances of passionate commitment. Not his greatest production, but undeniably theatrical.

The Play: Marlene Overview: Pam Gems attempts to do what she did for Piaf, Queen Christina and Stanley Spencer with a Dietrich bio-play. Sian Phillips dons the wig and a copy of the trademark Jean-Louis gown to star as the legendary actress, singer and star.

Sean Mathias directs Lou Gish and Billy Mathias, his mother, in supporting roles.

Critical view: Paul Taylor nodded at this "sketchy, predictable, lazily assembled, and, to be honest, really rather enjoyable show ... the Taj Mahal bathed in moonlight is scarcely less majestic a monument than Phillips's cheekbone-flaunting Dietrich." "Calculated, skilful magic, going straight for the emotional jugular with a heady mixture of myth, nostalgia and style," gloried The Mail. "Her fans will not be disappointed; nor Dietrich fans either," admitted the FT. "For all Phillips's excellence ... somewhere inside Gems is a Hello! reader, embarrassingly in awe of celebrity," diagnosed The Times. "Phillips transforms a dodgy script into a personal triumph," agreed The Telegraph. "Sean Mathias's production ends up looking uncomfortably like a two-hour turn from Stars in Their Eyes," asserted The Standard.

On View: At the Lyric, Shaftesbury Ave, London W1 (0171-494 5045) until 21 Jun.

Our View: In dramatic and biographical terms, a woefully missed opportunity but the final half hour - a concert - is uncannily good and, with Phillips singing "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?", ultimately moving.

The Film: People vs Larry Flynt: Overview: Former Oscar-winner Milos Forman directs Woody Harrelson as Larry Flynt, America's famous pornographer and publisher of Hustler, who fought a landmark legal case over the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech. From the scriptwriters of Ed Wood, also starring Courtney Love and hot new talent Edward Norton.

Critical view: Ryan Gilbey smelt a rat. "Any illusions about this being a political work are quickly dispelled by the film's eagerness to portray everyone but Larry and his clan as sub-human." "This screed of scatological Americana ... Would Columbia Pictures be prepared to take on a movie defending the author of Mein Kampf on similar grounds? You wouldn't have to be Jewish to object," thundered The Standard. "Harrelson puts on a great show as the porn merchant who rightly labels himself a scumbag, yet still earns our admiration for his honesty and fighting spirit," welcomed The Times. "The exploitative misogyny of Flynt's output is never examined ... profoundly problematic entertainment," worried Time Out. "Good causes make shaky and sanctimonious movies," aphorised the FT.

On View: Cert 18, 130 mins, on general release.

Our View: Fiercely attacked in the USA for glossing over Flynt's rampant misogyny, it received good reviews and won Oscar nominations but bombed badly at the box-office. (Courtney) Love, however, conquers all.