Friday, March 11, 2022

Last Stop: Ballerina Sonia Rodriguez’s Farewell Performance in A Streetcar Named Desire

Sonia Rodriguez as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. (Photo: Johan Persson)

Blanche DuBois, one of the most memorable female characters born of the theatre, is a hot mess of narcissism, nymphomania and other neuroses wrapped in white satin. A nervous breakdown just waiting to happen. The vaporous southern belle at the centre of John Neumeier’s ballet version of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire requires a seasoned dancer who can peel back the layers to expose the fragility behind the tragedy of her fall. Sonia Rodriguez is that dancer.

Born in Canada, raised in Spain and trained in Monaco, the National Ballet of Canada principal is one of the country’s greatest dancer-actresses. She doesn’t just perform a part; she inhabits it, bringing it fully, palpably, to life. That’s her legacy, what she will be remembered for after leaving Canada’s largest ballet company following an illustrious 32-year career.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Divertissement: Death on the Nile

Sophie Okonedo in Death on the Nile.

Watching Kenneth Branagh’s entirely entertaining remake of Death on the Nile, the Agatha Christie mystery, I thought I’d finally guessed what he and the screenwriter, Michael Green, had been going for in their 2017 adaptation of Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Death on the Nile, which revolves around the murder of an heiress named Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) on her honeymoon – which is also an extended wedding party on a boat on the Nile – is played as a combination of high comedy and melodrama. In Orient Express the tone went out of whack: Green and Branagh took the material, which was inspired by the kidnaping of the Lindbergh baby, way too seriously, so the high comedy (a feature of Christie whodunits) got lost and the narrative played as if the filmmakers thought they were making a tragedy. The movie was glum, and once the train got stopped in its tracks halfway through, the glumness hung in the air like a bad smell. Even a first-rate cast, headed by Branagh himself as the vain Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, couldn’t rescue it.