Monday, January 25, 2010

All last week I had it in mind to go to the National Gallery to see the exhibition of Spanish religious art THE SACRED MADE REAL so when did I go Constant Reader? On it's last day on Sunday afternoon of course *rolls eyes* Despite the inevitable throng I am glad I made it.

What do you do when it looks like you are losing your market? You give them something more sensory - when television made inroads into cinema attendance, Hollywood came up with 3-D and Cinemascope... when everyone started downloading films Hollywood came up 3-D.

As the Protestant Reformation swept Europe, the Spanish Catholic Church made a decision to give the worshippers a more tangible experience. They started to commission both sculptors and painters to work together to bring a new hyper-realism to religious imagery - giving the churchgoer a lifelike rendering of Christ, the Madonna and the Saints to confirm that the faith was real.

Strictly governed by both Church doctrine and the separate Guilds of painters and craftsmen, the works were first sculpted from wood then handed over to the painters to polychrome - painted in many colours - as close to lifelike as possible.

It was the curator Xavier Bray's intention to place these sculptures next to known works by artists such as Velázquez and Zubarán to show how the painters who are known to posterity used the techniques of the polychromed sculptures for inspiration. He certainly succeeded.

Although the exhibition space of 6 rooms was relatively small the marvelous sombre lighting and placement of the exhibits made for a powerful experience.

Time and again I had to refer back to the guide just to double-check what I was looking at - the Madonna attributed to Juan Martínez Montanés' is made all the more breathtaking by the painting by an unknown artist of her vestments, the combination of which makes you want to reach out and touch her silky robes. Placed next to Velázquez' portrait of The Immaculate Conception you can immediately see the connection - especially when you read that the artist had studied in the workshops of the artist Francisco Pacheco in Seville.

Pacheco's own artistry is illustrated in the life-size representations of the Saints Francis Borgia and Ignatius Loyola the founder of the Jesuits. These were designed to be able to be dressed in vestments for different religious events so all the artistry was concentrated on the hands and head. One can only imagine the awe these figures generated in the Jesuit brothers who commissioned them, especially as Montanés modelled the one of Loyola from his death-mask. They are beautifully crafted and have a heightened realism thanks to Pacheco's use of an egg-white varnish to make Borgia's eyes glisten and the small glass tears sparkling on Loyola's face. Who knew he invented Glam Rock too? Their cassocks were genuine material that had been coated in glue to give them a leathery, long-lasting quality.

Montanés is also represented by a monumental sculpture of Christ on the cross which - along with all the other works centering on the Passion - offers no redemption, no idea of any passion in fact. Just torture and death. These were made to shock the viewer at the gruesome ordeal of one man for one's sins, to believe you have to be able to almost smell the skin. Next to this sculpture was a massive painting of the crucifixion by Francisco de Zubarán which was originally in a niche above an altar in a small chapel usually viewed through a grill. Zubarán was obviously so familiar with these polychromatic statues that his minutely-detailed painting, when viewed through the grill, was often mistaken to be a real statue.

Zubarán's astonishing artistry was also shown in two remarkable paintings of St. Francis of Assisi. In one the monk is seen clasping a skull as he is lit by a shaft of light from above while the other has the Saint standing in a rapturous state, his eyes case upwards to Heaven. Over 200 years after his death, the Saint's tomb was re-opened and it is reported his body was found standing by itself in an immaculately preserved condition. Zubarán has portrayed this in his rather frightening painting.

In the same room there was a small devotional statue by Pedro de Mena who for once did the sculpting as well as the painting. Twenty years after Zubarán painted his full-length portrait, Mena copied the Saint's upright posture but made the image all the more startling by using glass eyes during the construction, the figures teeth are made from ivory and real hair was used for the eyelashes. It was genuinely eerie.

Mena was also represented by three other remarkable sculptures: Mary Magdalene meditating on the Crucifixion, Christ as the Man of Sorrows and the Mater Dolorosa - all three were powerful works, demanding attention and unable to avoid. The gruesome Christ figure was riven with huge drops of thick blood and, while walking around it, I was genuinely shocked to get eye-contact with the averted gaze of the figure. The Mater Dolorosa was a distillation of pure grief.There are a couple of heads I should mention!

There was a wonderful head of Saint John of God sculpted and painted by Alfonso Cano which would have been used, like Montanés' Loyola and Borges, as a construct to be dressed in vestments so only the head and hands would show. It was a captivating study of humility and piety. The other was Juan de Mesa's frighteningly real and anatomically correct sculpture of John the Baptist's severed head - half-closed eyes, bloodied lips, open windpipe, the works. "Saw"? Bring it.
Finally there were two works of Christ by Gregorio Fernández as unavoidable as they were thought-provoking. The first presented a life-size beaten and whipped Christ which shows that anything Mel Gibson could inflict on Jim Caviezel in THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, Fernández had shown over 380 years before. Again this sculpture was paired with a painting by Velázquez of the scourged Christ slumped at the whipping post being visited by an angel and a child representing the Christian soul. The angel gestures for the child to look at Christ's whipped and torn back - what Velázquez could only hint at, Fernández can show in full detail.

The second work by Fernández was truly the most jaw-dropping. Again a life-size figure of Christ but now after the Crucifixion, lying dead on a shroud. It was a work that challenged you to look at it, again seeming to ram home the idea "this happened, this was real".

Before multi-media there was Fernández! In his depiction of the dead Christ he used glass for the vacant eyes, the horn of a bull for the chipped and discoloured fingernails and even going so far as to paint the bark of a cork tree red and use that for the thickened, dried blood on the shattered knees. But for all it's gore, it was a marvel to behold - the artistry in the rendering of the shroud and the loin-cloth was extraordinary and the figure was truly remarkable.

Like so much in this exhibition, once seen... never forgotten.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

It was with sadness today I read of the death of Jean Simmons.

Although she never seemed to achieve a career-defining role, she made the transition from teenage to adult roles with ease and joined Vivien Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor in becoming one of the most successful English actresses working in Hollywood films during the 1950s.

Her early British films saw her working with some of the finest directors: from her eye-catching cameo in Anthony Asquith's THE WAY TO THE STARS to her haughty, tantalising Estelle in David Lean's GREAT EXPECTATIONS, from her bewitching Indian dancing girl in Michael Powell's BLACK NARCISSUS to her fragile Ophelia opposite Olivier's HAMLET for which she was nominated for an Academy Award.

Her Hollywood career found her working with Otto Preminger in ANGEL FACE, Joseph L. Mankiewicz in GUYS AND DOLLS, George Cukor in THE ACTRESS and William Wyler in THE BIG COUNTRY.

She also made a big impression in three big costume epics as the doe-eyed love interest: THE ROBE with Richard Burton which was the first film shot in Cinemascope, Michael Curtiz' THE EGYPTIAN set during the upheaval of Akhnaten's reign and Stanley Kubrick's SPARTACUS with Kirk Douglas.

Along with Vivien Leigh, her delicate portrayals usually hinted at darker undercurrents and as she moved into the 1960s she played characters usually unhappy in marriage and wanting more from life.

She married twice - to Stewart Granger and then director Richard Brooks who directed her in ELMER GANTRY and THE HAPPY ENDING for which she was again nominated for an Academy Award. Both marriages ended in divorce.

Although her later years were troubled with an alcohol addiction, she continued to work in television and the occasional film role.

Jean originated the role of 'Desirée' in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC in London at the Adelphi Theatre in 1975 after playing the role in an American tour and in fact, it is her performance that I prefer out of the three available cast recordings. Her dry, bittersweet vocals suit the songs to perfection.
Well here's a thing... Kate Winslet is taking on MILDRED PIERCE, the role that won Joan Crawford her Academy Award for Best Actress in the 1945 film.

She is following up her award-winning big screen roles in THE READER and REVOLUTIONARY ROAD with an HBO mini-series based on the James M. Cain novel.

Director Todd Haynes will be able to be truer to the spirit of the book then Michael Curtiz was in 1945 which was as compromised by the censorship of the day as Tay Garnett was when he filmed Cain's THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE in 1946.

However I have always felt that ratcheted up the sexual tension - I'd rather watch Lana Turner and John Garfield sizzling up the screen than miserable Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange.
Cain's hard-boiled stories also included the source for a third classic film noir, Billy Wilder's DOUBLE INDEMNITY.

MILDRED PIERCE however is more about sexual jealousy and class. Mildred is a housewife with two daughters who will do anything to give them a better life. Her blinkered devotion to her eldest daughter Veda leads not only to the break-up of her marriage but also to hiding the fact that she is working as a waitress as her daughter would consider it beneath them. Through a lucky break she opens a chain of restaurants and attracts the attention of a rich playboy who she marries to give Veda the social circle she craves.

Soon however, Mildred realises just what a viperous serpent she has been nurturing...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Yesterday evening Owen and I went to the filums... well we found ourselves on Oxford Street just as the rush hour was about to kick-in and we fancied a sit-down. We decided SHERLOCK HOLMES would do to chew popcorn and slurp Pepsi Max to.

I have so far managed to avoid the oeuvre of Mr. Guy Ritchie - apart from SWEPT AWAY on dvd... oh and his his video for WHAT IT FEEL'S LIKE FOR A GIRL.

I had heard it was not your run-of-the-mill Holmes film but that isn't necessarily a bad thing for me. I've never been a fan of Conan Doyle's creation - that olive-arsed, stiff upper lip, "Elementary my dear Watson" shtick is something I've always found enervating and can usually manage about 20
minutes of any Holmes film. I would hazard a guess the only proper one I have ever sat all the way through is Hammer's THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES and I have seen the two Sherlock Holmes vs Jack The Ripper films A STUDY IN TERROR and MURDER BY DECREE. Despite my worst fears I must admit to the fact that I was never bored by it - didn't have a clue what was going on for most of the time and most of the Ritchieisms I found jarring - but I was never bored as it moved along at a rare old clip - I suspect because if it stopped for any period of time it might just collapse in on itself.

Robert Downey's Holmes certainly breaks the mould. Scruffy, petulant and seemingly hung-over most of the time, he is a striking contrast to Jude Law's Watson - prissy, reserved and stiff-upper-lippy. The storyline involves Watson about to marry his sweetheart Mary and moving out of 221b Baker Street which results in the two men having snitty squabbles which reveal that they borrow each others clothes. This has got the Holmesians in a right old tizz along with Downey's quote that he sees Holmes as a "butch homosexual". Oh please... if you could all just get over your cheap selves. It's just another of the "let's mess with the fanbase's heads" and nothing else. Like... who would have thought a few years ago that Downey would be such a box office draw? This and the forthcoming IRON MAN 2 should consolidate that and does indeed show that F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous line about there being no second act in American lives to not always be the case. He certainly carries the film here and is rarely offscreen - he might be a bit slappable at times but he does draw the eye. Maybe a few years ago, when he was being touted as the Next Big Thing, Law would have been cast as Holmes but he is a slippery fish on screen and works better here as the 2nd male lead. How odd it is that he can hold his own on stage in a lead role but in a screen lead role he just becomes transparent. The film is stolen by the wonderfully malevolent turn by Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood, a nasty toff who indulges in Devil worship and who despite, being confirmed dead by Watson at his hanging, seemingly rises from the dead to continue his evil work. Thank God he does! He has a real screen presence and his murderous lord pervades the film with a dark mystery that you wish for more of. Kelly Reilly and Rachel McAdam play Watson's fiancee and Holmes' criminal femme fatale to absolutely zero effect. They might as well have just sent their frocks on.

However the film bubbles with eye-catching supporting performances - James Fox brings a whiff of old-school frock coat acting in his few scenes as Lord Blackwood's father, Robert Maillet makes a very big impression - well he 7' odd - as Blackwood's chief assassin, William Houston makes a good impression as Constable Clark and Bronagh Gallagher has a fun cameo as a Gypsy fortune-teller. There is another impressive screen performance too from Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lestrade, making you wish he had some more scenes as he brings real weight to this negligible role. Philippe Rousselot's cinematography is suitably impressive. The fine production design by Sarah Greenwood presents an over-populated Victorian London which is dominated by Tower Bridge being constructed that provides the stage for the rather anti-climactic climax. However the look of the film reminded me of how FROM HELL gave a better image of London as Victorian charnel house (mental note to self: most watch that again soon). Jenny Beaven's costumes are also fine - and a particular word of praise for the excellent crowd wardrobe work by Andrew!

Hans Zimmer's score is intriguing and irritating by equal measure which also sums up Ritchie's direction. Although he keeps the traffic of his stage moving along swiftly I felt certain hallmark touches to be annoying - do we really need a totally superfluous scene showing Holmes to be Victorian London's best bare-knuckle fighter?
Mind you one touch definitely caught my attention - when Holmes visits Lord Blackwood in his death cell - putting one in mind of a frock-coated Hannibal Lechter - he finds him reading aloud the passage from Revelations that Madonna used in her track THE BEAST WITHIN.


Back in the day when I worked in Flashbacks, one of my more interesting punters was Richard Lancelyn Green who was a noted scholar, author and archivist on Conan Doyle and all things Holmesian. On the way home I wondered what he would have thought of this new lease of life for the character. However we will never know as he was found dead in 2004, garotted by a shoelace and a wooden spoon. The Coroner delivered an open verdict but it was reported that he had been telling friends that he was being harassed by an unknown American after he had tried to stop the auction of Conan Doyle letters which he claimed had been meant to be bequeathed to the British Library.

If ever Sherlock Holmes was needed it was then...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Since December I have done the occasional day working at the Oxfam in Walthamstow, working mainly in the book department.
It's good to get my shop retail skills back up to speed and needless to say I have bought a couple of books that I have found on the stock shelves.

However my award for book of the year goes to the following:

I think that's a trifle harsh.

Friday, January 15, 2010

...and there was me thinking she liked sea men.

Why is Iris Robinson like Ikea?

One bad screw and the cabinet falls apart.

Thank you Popbitch...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

At the weekend Owen and I braved the icy slush and saw Rob Marshall's film of NINE, Maury Yeston's Broadway musical improbably based on Federico Fellini's art-house classic "8 1/2". I am *still* undecided about the film.

I first became aware of NINE through Elaine Paige's cover of "Be On Your Own" on her STAGES album. I caught up with the cast album a few years later and have always loved the recording which preserves the late Raul Julia's typically stylish performance as Guido Contini the auteur film director caught in a professional and personal crisis. Showcased too are the scintillating performances of Karen Akers as Luisa, Guido's wife who is slowly becoming aware of his continual infidelities, the late Anita Morris as the purring sexpot Carla, Contini's current mistress and the show-stopping turn by Lilianne Montevecchi as Contini's French producer Liliane who can't understand why he won't make her dream musical set in the "Folies Bergere".

The show's success was attributed to Tommy Tune's direction, the overall style of the show - white set/black costumes - and the elegant, sparse score. The show went on to win five Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Score.

After a failed attempt to stage the show in the West End, it finally opened in 1996 at the Donmar Warehouse directed by David Leveaux with Larry Lamb as Guido, Susannah Fellows as Luisa, Clare Burt as Carla, Sara Kestelman as Liliane and Eleanor David as Claudia, Contini's actress muse who is also tiring of her role in his life. Leveaux later also directed a Broadway revival with Antonio Banderas, Mary Stuart Masterson, Jane Krakowski, Chita Rivera and Laura Benanti in the above roles - and Nell Campbell as Rivera's assistant!

Now... to the film.My problem with the film is Rob Marshall. Why does he keep working on musicals I like?? First CHICAGO and now NINE... couldn't he go off and do a film version of LES MIS? I have come to the conclusion that he is trying to be the new Bob Fosse.

Choreographer turns film director with screen adaptation of hit Broadway show (SWEET CHARITY, CHICAGO); makes film of between-the-wars girl desperate to be a star (CABARET, CHICAGO), makes film of director facing professional and personal crisis with Fellini-esque overtones (ALL THAT JAZZ, NINE) - to say nothing of the odd connections that CHICAGO was originally a Bob Fosse stage musical and that SWEET CHARITY was based on a Fellini film! He also borrows Fosse's notion that a film musical should not have characters just sing - in CABARET all the songs are shown only in the Cabaret, in ALL THAT JAZZ on what appears to be an empty soundstage in Roy Scheider's fantasies. Marshall was allowed this with CHICAGO as the score 'points' the songs as being Vaudeville setpieces - but in NINE he has all the numbers being shown in some strange 'other' place namely an empty... um... soundstage. I rest my case.

Along with the other great musical bette-noir Baz Luhrmann with MOULIN ROUGE, Marshall seems petrified of focusing on a single moment for too long, every musical number is cut and diced so much that you never get any real sense of the performer, the staging or the performance. Is he cutting so frantically because the actor he has cast isn't up to it - or to try and whip up some energy that is singularly lacking from his own rather stolid direction? It's almost as if he does not trust his material to deliver so feels he has to help it along but hinders it in the process.

There is one musical moment in NINE which rings emotionally true, when Marion Cotillard as Luisa sings "My Husband Makes Movies" and Marshall's camera for once comes to rest on her just singing - unsurprisingly it becomes the emotional core of the film for this very reason, because we are allowed to simply observe her character's sad resignation.

This flaw in his cinematic approach also means that as his style is so shallow he simply cannot make you care about his characters. He is not a good enough director to be able to bring depth to a non-musical scene and he refuses to let you observe them when they come alive through song. Again as I stated earlier, the only character in the film you do feel sympathy for is Cotillard's Luisa.There is also a major problem with the casting of Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido. He certainly can act the role - I felt every second of his ennui and emotional emptiness - but you need an actor to be able to also "play out" and Day-Lewis is an actor of such peculiar intensity that he absorbs energy like a sponge from a scene - he doesn't give the audience anything. One can only guess what a different film it would have been if Javier Bardem - the original choice for the role - had played it or even Antonio Banderas. Latin fire is sadly missing from Day-Lewis, despite his accent.Arthur Kopit's book has been mostly jettisoned for a screenplay by THE PLAYER's Michael Tolkin and the late Anthony Minghella who have changed a few plot details notably that the character of Lilianne is no longer Contini's producer but his costume designer. All well and good... but the role is played by Judi Dench in her best RADA tones so it comes as a strange shock for her to announce she is French just before she launches into "Folies Bergeres" - which she handles with brio... but by the time you have got over the shock of her supposed nationality the song is practically over.

Maury Yeston has overhauled his score writing three new songs and dropping - would you believe - nine! In the show there is a waspish critic who dogs Guido reminding him how relevant he used to be, this character is dropped from the film but in her place we have Stephanie from American Vogue (Kate Hudson) who can only see the obvious fashionable look of Guido's films rather than their artistic value. Yeston has given her the flashy "Cinema Italiano" which certainly causes a commotion on the screen but only really serves to show Guido how off track he is.

He has also written a ballad for Guido's ghostly mother "Guarda La Luna" but the most jaw-dropping decision is to drop Luisa's savagely cold rejection of Guido and their marriage "Be On Your Own". In it's place is a rather shapeless number "Take It All" which is performed as a fantasy angry strip number by Marion Cotillard which was just such an obvious, dumb choice on someone's part.
As you can probably tell already, I loved Marion Cotillard in the role of Luisa. When she appears in the film you can almost feel the audience breath a sigh of relief in that here is a character that one can invest some sympathy in. During "My Husband Makes Movies" there is the inevitable cutaway but this time it works - Luisa recalls her screen test for Guido when they first met and he unpins her hair and she shakes it out and for one minute Cotillard resembles the young Jeanne Moreau and Cotillard is such a vital screen presence that she bears the comparison with ease.
Penelope Cruz makes the most of the badly-adapted role of Carla, the sexy mistress. On stage, she leaves Guido a sadder-but-wiser woman but with her pride intact singing the rueful "Simple", in the film she attempts suicide and one feels is left unhappy and alone within an unfulfilled marriage. Penelope slinks her way through "A Call From the Vatican" with a raunchy and sexy panache - hampered only by Marshall's infuriating cutting - and despite the script, is a warm and vibrant presence. She is becoming quite a screen goddess.
Nicole Kidman plays Claudia, Guido's screen muse who has agreed to star in his new film but soon realises there is no such thing. She tells him he can find someone else to carry the artistic can then reveals that she always quietly loved him singing the haunting ballad "Unusual Way". Kidman certainly plays Claudia's growing awareness of Guido's flim-flam well but she also seems too ethereal and almost drifts out of your mind while you watch her - Claudia is surely the one character all too grounded in reality, knowing her own mind and in control of her destiny.

The major set-piece of the film is Fergie's cameo as Saraghina, the earthy, voluptuous beach prostitute who shows the young Guido the pleasures of carnality on his ninth birthday. Her rousing "be Italian" is played out with an endless chorus line of lusty, busty tarts whirling tambourines while creating their own sandstorms and is the one time that Marshall's frantic approach to shooting a musical number vaguely works. Fergie is actually the best surprise of the film showing a real presence on screen.

The film though botches the whole idea of this event being the defining moment in Guido's life - his beloved mother's shocked disapproval and the punishment doled out to him by his priest teachers scars him emotionally and in the show, this climaxes (no pun intended) in his breakdown after which he is confronted by his nine year-old self who is the only one who can reassure him that it's all part of "Growing Tall".

It might be an overly-sentimental ending - but it works and it IS an ending. The film seems to run out of steam with Day-Lewis growing a beard and moping around waiting for the Maximilian Schell look-a-like contest to start before realising that he can work out his life - through making a small budget movie. And as he starts to direct.. the characters appear to give their benefaction as Luisa enters the sound stage to watch from the back... So - going by the above - this is one film that I will not be buying on DVD you can surmise?

Of course I will.

Whatever it may be it is always a joy to watch thanks to Dion Beebe's lustrous cinematography, the stylish costumes of Colleen Atwood and John Myhre's impressive art direction. The score also sounds wonderful. And despite Rob Marshall's hapless direction - any film that boasts such a line-up of divas will be worth was particularly pleasing that, for a film about European cinema, that it's the Euro contingent of Dench, Cotillard, Cruz and Loren who keep the film watchable.

Oh yes how could I forget Sophia as Mama Contini! She doesn't have much to do but her presence is as much for what she represents as an icon of European cinema than her role in the film and as such she is a magnificent presence.So Rob Marshall you did your best to ruin the film - but luckily you didn't totally succeed.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


this is a nice way to celebrate the fact that I am now doing this with a sparkly new wireless router - don't get me started on the tsouris I went through to get it set up!!!

Here is the video for the glorious Alphabeat's new single HOLE IN MY HEART, not as good as THE SPELL but an instant toe-tapper and tush-shaker!

Friday, January 01, 2010

The last turkey burp has echoed away and the wrapping paper has been binned... the fireworks have died out and that nasty jumper has been swapped for something better at M&S.

In the cold clear dawn of a the new year it's time for... The Chrissies!

As is tradition we start with the theatre awards:

Best Drama/Comedy:
JUDGMENT DAY by Odon von Horvath (adapted by Christopher Hampton) at the Almeida


Best Musical - not a particularly inspiring year in this genre so the winner goes to a revival :
SWAN LAKE at Sadlers Wells

nominees - SWEET CHARITY (Menier); INTO THE WOODS (Landor);

Best Actor (Drama/Comedy):
SIMON RUSSELL BEALE (The Winter's Tale at the Old Vic)

nominees - DAVID HAIG (Loot); MICHAEL FEAST (Plague Over England);
CHRISTOPHER CONNEL (The Pitmen Painters); JOSEPH MILLSON (Judgment Day)

Best Actor (Musical):
ROGER ALLAM (La Cage Aux Folles at the Playhouse)

nominees - TONY SHELDON (Priscilla); JONATHAN OLLIVIER (Swan Lake);
DOMINIC NORTH (Swan Lake); LEO ANDREW (Into The Woods)

Best Actress (Drama/Comedy):
RACHEL WEISZ (A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar)

nominees - ALISON STEADMAN (Enjoy); IMELDA STAUNTON (Entertaining Mr. Sloane);

Best Actress (Musical):
TAMZIN OUTHWAITE (Sweet Charity at the Menier)

nominees - SARAH HOOD (Into The Woods); SUE APPLEBY (Into The Woods);
REBECCA WICKING (Into the Woods); ORLA MULLEN (Into The Woods)

Best Supporting Actor (Drama/Comedy):
SIMON PAISLEY DAY (Entertaining Mr. Sloane at the Whitehall)

nominees - ADRIAN SCARBOROUGH (Time And The Conways); RON COOK (Hamlet);

Best Supporting Actor (Musical):
MARC UMBERS (Sweet Charity)

nominees - PAUL J. MEDFORD (Sweet Charity); JACK EDWARDS (Sweet Charity);
LUKE EDWARDS (Into The Woods); JONATHAN EIO (Into The Woods)

Best Supporting Actress (Drama/Comedy):
FRANCES BARBER (Madame de Sade at the Wyndhams)

nominees - SARAH WOODWARD (Judgment Day); SINEAD CUSACK (The Winter's Tale);
LAURA DONNELLY (Judgment Day); RUTH WILSON (A Streetcar Named Desire)

Best Supporting Actress (Musical):

nominees - NINA GOLDMAN (Swan Lake); KERRY BIGGIN (Swan Lake);
ABIGAIL McKERN (La Cage Aux Folles); TIFFANY GRAVES (Sweet Charity)

Best Director:
DAVID MacDONALD (Judgment Day)

nominees - MARIANNE ELLIOT (All's Well That Ends Well); HOWARD DAVIES (Burnt By The Sun); NICK BAGNALL (Entertaining Mr. Sloane); MAX ROBERTS (The Pitmen Painters)

Best Designer:RAE SMITH (All's Well That Ends Well)

nominees - MIRIAM BEUTHER (Judgment Day); CHRISTOPHER ORAM (Madame de Sade); CHRISTOPHER ORAM (Streetcar Named Desire); PETER McKINTOSH (Entertaining Mr. Sloane)

Best Lighting:
NEIL AUSTIN (Judgment Day)

nominees - NEIL AUSTIN (Hamlet); NEIL AUSTIN (Streetcar Named Desire);
NEIL AUSTIN (Madame de Sade); PETER MUMFORD (All's Well That Ends Well)

Now onto other awards!

Best Gig - a hugely busy year for gigs this year, so my award goes to the opportunity of seeing three singers I never expected ever to see on stage:

nominees - MADONNA @ O2; GRACE JONES @ Roundhouse;
PET SHOP BOYS @ O2 (December); ALPHABEAT @ Heaven
(closely followed by Beverley Knight, Ray Davies and Tom Tom Club)

Best film - not a great year for cinema-going so it's an easy winner...
BROKEN EMBRACES (Pedro Almodovar)

nominees: MILK; THE READER
Best Books read:

Best Live Entertaiment:
JANEANE GAROFALO (Bloomsbury Theatre)

nominees - JASON BOND: RITES OF SPRING (Purcell Room); SANDRA BERNHARD: WITHOUT YOU I'M NOTHING (Leicester Square Theatre);

Best Television:
THE WIRE - no contest, 60 hours of engrossing drama, teeming with memorable characters wonderfully played.