The Bookshop

 

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I went to see the ‘The Bookshop’ preview this week with thanks to the Time Out Bookstore at the Rialto Cinema in Newmarket.

 

Florence Green is played well by Emily Mortimer moving to a quaint old English town with the dream of turning an old house into a bookshop. The English town full of all the stereotypes of village life in the fifties, some scenes were a bit cliche, particularly the gossip with town folk and reactions to Florence’s new business in a closed conservative class concious community.

Florence has an uphill battle with Mrs Gamart who wants to turn the old house into an Arts Centre. Florence was played superbly by Patricia Clarkson and perfected the art of upperclass control in a way that made my blood curdle. She will stop at nothing to take control of the old house.

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Florence receives a strange request to send books to an old recluse Mr Brundish who she has seen walking the marshes. Mr Brundish comes alive with the awkward acting of Bill Nighy. The references to Ray Bradbury and Mr Brundish’s love of his novels were humorous and gave some light relief to the story. Watching their friendship develop is enjoyable and we are all hoping for a happy ending between the two.

Without giving to much away about the film there were aspects that were enjoyable and if you are interested in books there will be some fond reminiscing as familiar titles are drawn into the plot. The film plays on human complexities and confused relationships made even more convoluted by the culture of the community.  After a light start, the challenges become more grim and even darker still moving to the ending.

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Flashback to 1994

 

 I Remember The Resthouse

Today I drifted back to a wonderful memory when I acted on stage in the play by Syed Alwi ‘I Remember… the Resthouse” at the National Theatre in Kuala Lumpur in December 1994.

I touched the program, a good luck note from Syed and read through the yellow tinged newspaper reviews remembering the play. The audition, getting the part, the long and intense rehearsals and of course the production itself. Nostalgia has a way of being selective as you transport yourself back in time.

The preparation is what I remember most. The dream and the intense self directed learning that I undertook to be taken seriously enough to make my debut role with the National Theatre. I was auditioning for the the only part a European lady could have, the Manager of the Resthouse who seduces young boys. I have a series of handwritten performance notes on how I can improve each scene.

Many happy memories of the production come to mind and as the years have gone on I am surprised at the little things I can and can’t remember. I remember being intensely afraid and nervous both at the audition and the opening night. The rehearsals, were long and arduous and I was among many seasoned and experienced actors feeling totally out of place. We had great camaraderie and a Director and playwright who was so passionate about what he had pictured in his imagination and the way it should be represented.

We opened to a full house and the Deputy Prime Minister was front and centre. The performance was well received with the Sun saying the cast had put up a commendable performance with a lasting impact.

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Syed had wanted to present history in a personal way, through family, kampung and social history before the war. Of course the play was deeply personal as he looked within himself and where he was when so much had happened to his family and it was largely autobiographical. How he remembered the war days, the Japanese, the British and the way families were torn apart with so many aspects of confrontation. The story successfully portrays Malaysia’s colonial past finely woven in the social, political and cultural threads from different perspectives that bring the Resthouse together.

I have not saved the original script for which I am disappointed. I would have enjoyed reading through each of the scenes all these years later with a different perspective.

Although my memories are fragmented, I remember…. The Rest House.