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Helen McCrory: a towering, irreplaceable figure of stage and screen

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Helen McCrory: a towering, irreplaceable figure of stage and screen
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elen McCrory’s final stage performance now stands as a monument to a towering, irreplaceable figure of stage and screen. In 2016, as Hester Collyer in The Deep Blue Sea, she turned Terence Rattigan’s heroine into a woman who is simply too big for the confining 1950s world she has been born into. The performance was a gift; she electrified every inch of the National Theatre’s stage. 

At the age of just 52, her death from cancer has floored us all. From the audiences who loved her to the actors and directors that she worked with, many felt connected to her through the sheer force of her charisma and spirit. On screen, she had a habit of stealing every scene she was in, and was awarded an OBE for services to drama in 2017. For many, she will be remembered for her endlessly cool performance as Polly Gray, the matriarch who suffered no fools in Peaky Blinders. But just last year, as we all looked to our TVs for salvation, she had as gripped as the fearsome Sonia Woodley QC in James Graham’s Quiz, and played a Prime Minister we might actually want to vote for in David Hare’s Roadkill

On stage, she commanded vast auditoriums and gave audiences goosebumps. In 2014, she took one of the most canonical female stage roles – Medea – and left anyone who saw it feeling as though they had been wrenched in two. It’s a cruel reminder of the heights to which she would have taken all the other titanic roles she should have been destined to play. 

But aside from being a gifted performer, McCrory was a tireless champion of the theatre. Earlier this year, she generously gave her time as panel member for our Future Theatre Fund, which awarded £120k worth of grants to young talents left struggling due to the pandemic. Her quick thinking and enquiring mind made her contribution invaluable, and will make a real impact to the careers of twelve emerging theatre-makers. In 2019, she hosted the Evening Standard Theatre Awards alongside her husband Damian Lewis, bringing her characteristic joie de vivre to the night’s celebrations. And she spent much of last year engaged in charity work, launching the Feed NHS scheme with Lewis and raising £1m to help feed NHS staff with hot meals during their shifts. 

McCrory had star quality; she also had an unforgettable sense of humour. On Desert Island Discs last year she told a glorious anecdote about meeting Lauren Bacall in a toilet, shared memories of dancing to Grace Jones with Lewis, and said she’d take The Complete Works of Spike Milligan but hide it in a copy of The Complete Works of Philosophy – “just in case anyone else sees me”. She chose Stevie Wonder’s Don’t You Worry ‘bout A Thing has her final track. “I love the sentiment…the shit is going to happen,” she said. There was so much more to come – the loss of McCrory is deeply unfair. But as Lewis said when announcing her death, “she blazed so brightly” – and her impact will continue to shine. 

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These Who Would like Me Dead evaluation: Jolie’s a giggle in this foolish thriller

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Those Who Wish Me Dead review: Jolie’s a giggle in this silly thriller
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ngelina Jolie was a funny lady (observe her riffing in Lady, Interrupted) who grew to become a humorous girl (see Maleficent), though she can swing the other way – it is really hard to continue to be jolly even though seeing motion pictures like Changeling or By the Sea. Fortunately, in her very first action film given that Salt, the 45 yr old actress-cum-worldwide icon is unquestionably up for a snicker.

Thrill-trying to get, secretly troubled “smoke-jumper” (somebody who ways in when fires are out of regulate) Hannah life in a tiny Montana town. Into her world will come 13-yr-outdated Florida university kid and murder witness Connor (Finn Minimal), on the run from two disgruntled assassins (Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult). In between bitching about their penny-pinching employers, this homicidal pair deliberately start a forest blaze to misdirect area police, like Ethan (Jon Bernthal), who is Connor’s uncle, as effectively as Hannah’s ex.

The fiery explosions and chase sequences are handsomely shot, but the plot is undeniably absurd and the ominous/rousing soundtrack downright hokey. It is the performances and banter that make the challenge value watching.

Hannah teaches Connor an obscene tongue-tornado and has a bracingly unusual fascination in his budding sexuality (she assumes he’s captivated to blonde cheerleaders and offers him recommendations on how to “swap spit”. The place is not laboured, but Hannah is evidently in want of a few kisses herself). She also lances a boil of self-pity. When Hannah points out that her work has uncovered her to horrors, Connor claims he watched his mom die of most cancers. Jolie does miracles with the line, “Well, it’s unattainable to really feel sorry for myself all around YOU!”

Even greater are Hannah’s jokes about being old, skinny and exhausted. If you want to see Jolie in goddess manner, you will have to wait until November, when she appears in Chloe Zhao’s Eternals. This is not a automobile made to present that Jolie can nevertheless kick butt and the script, co-created by director Taylor Sheridan, tends to make powerful use of a supporting character Allison (Medina Senghore), who has a dry perception of humour and is greatly expecting.

Finn Minimal and Angelina Jolie as Connor and Hannah

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Expecting wives, in motion thrillers, are inclined to be sacrificial lambs, as was the situation in the recent Without having Regret, which Sheridan aided write. Possibly this is his bid for redemption because, as in A Peaceful Area, the procedures of the sport here are unique. Allison is only partly described by her standing as a mum (just as Hannah’s lack of little ones does not dominate). Hannah and Allison – who hardly ever share a scene collectively but offer you a united entrance – show a type of gnarly resilience that is actually extraordinary.

All in all, People Who Desire Me Lifeless is a casually progressive epic, although there is a random shot of Jolie in her bra that makes you question if studio execs believed this Hannah Montana wanted sexing up. If so, they’re morons! It’s like inquiring Chris Hemsworth to consider his shirt off – guaranteed to thrill specific users of the viewers, but wholly avoidable. Jolie doesn’t have everything to show. In or out of outfits, this sardonic scrapper is sizzling stuff.

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