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Stage Beauty

He was the last of his kind. She was the first of hers. 

Year: 2004 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Stage Beauty

Well, if you like period dramas like I do, then you can skip over this review and I'll see you at the screening. If you're doing Drama and Theatre Studies, then this film will bring to life a small part of the history of English theatre, and you should definitely come for it. For the rest of you, read on.

Ned Kynaston (Crudup) was the most graceful and beautiful woman of his time on stage, at least. This was, of course, during a time when women were not allowed to act on stage and so are substituted by men. (Reminds one of the most absurd lines uttered in Shakespeare In Love "That woman, is a woman!") His assistant Maria (Danes) likes to act as well and admires
Ned a lot, but the only place she can express herself is in an underground tavern. A series of accidental revelations and scandalous events gave King Charles II the wonderfully creative idea that women should play women, and that men playing women be made illegal ('No more boys in dresses, just girls flashing tits!'). Suddenly Ned finds himself jobless and Maria rising
to the top of the game.

Every aspect of the film is wonderfully done. Billy Crudup gave an Oscar-worthy performance of Ned Kynaston who was so stuck in his effeminate ways that his failure to break out of it is heartbreaking, while Claire Danes gave a spot-on performance of a girl who couldn't act but tries to make up for it with her passion and enthusiasm. The supporting actors were notable as well, including Everett playing a sometimes camp King Charles II, Hugh Bonneville as the sympathetic Samuel Pepys, and Richard Griffiths as the foul Sir Charles Sedley, of whom the adjective 'rotund' has never been better employed.

The costumes look great and the dialogue is witty. The music by George Fenton is pulsating and energetic, very hip, almost modern. And you get the quintessential staging of a Shakespearean play as the climax of the film (Othello this time), except this one is far more intense (almost heart-stopping) than the one you see in Shakespeare In Love.

Sebastian Ng

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Screenings of this film:

2004/2005 Spring Term (35mm)