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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Review: 'Woman Before A Glass' at the Jermyn Street Theatre, 18th January 2018

Saturday, January 20, 2018 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments



Woman Before A Glass reviewed by David James
Rating: 4 Stars


There are worse ways to spend 90 minutes than in the company of Peggy Guggenheim. Born into the insanely wealthy Guggenheim family (her uncle established the famous Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan), she used her wealth and connections to build one of the most important collections of 20th-century art in the world. She also shagged her way through pretty much all of the last century's best and brightest - her appetite for paintings rivalled only by her libido.

Lanie Robertson's Woman Behind A Glass shows us Guggenheim if not in the final chapter of her life, then definitely somewhere in the third act. After living through World War II, in which she saved countless works of modern art from destruction at the hands of the Nazis, she's settled in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni ('unfinished palazzo of the lions') in a prime position on the Grand Canal in Venice.

Here, her concerns are primarily what's to happen to the collection upon her death. Museums from around the world are schmoozing up to her, desperate to acquire the paintings that, just twenty years previous, the Louvre dismissed as "not worth saving". In the interim, she bitches about her relatives, worries about her children and reminisces about her best lays.

We meet her preparing for a visit from the Italian Prime Minister, presumably hoping to butter her up and try and convince her to leave her collection to Italy. Entering with an armful of dresses, she tosses them on a divan and tries to decide what to wear. Each item of clothes comes with a memory attached, kicking off a meandering tour through Guggenheim's greatest hits.

I worried early on that, as fun as Peggy Guggenheim is, that the show would essentially be one long exercise in name-dropping. It's true that, at about the 30-minute mark, the novelty of hearing someone animatedly chat about how they spent a working week gettin' it on with, say, Samuel Beckett wears off a little.

Fortunately, just as that routine begins to feel repetitive, the play imperceptibly switches gears and becomes less boastful and more introspective. Guggenheim muses on her place in the world, her obligations as custodian of these important works and her role in history. This is never more keenly felt than in a remarkable passage in which she tells us her childhood memory waiting at the docks in New York for the survivors of Titanic to disembark the Carpathia. Her father was on the ship and, as a first-class passenger would be expected to have survived. He was never seen again - and it's a testament to the writing that you can sense the impact of his absence in her life without it ever being explicitly explained.

Of course, all the clever writing in the world would be naught without a great delivery, and Judy Rosenblatt (who played the role in a 2011 New York revival) is never less than compelling. She's all conspiratorial winks and asides to various members of the audience, combined with an earthy, mature and casual eroticism - especially in the first part of the play which she spends in a loose-fitting white gown under which her breasts are unselfconsciously displayed. Rosenblatt straightforwardly feels natural in the part, inhabiting Peggy Guggenheim like she's putting on a worn yet comfy pair of slippers.

Rosenblatt also nicely layers in elements of tension. There's a sequence where she's fussily preparing for her daughter's art exhibition, running through an all-star list of attendees while encouraging her to get ready. Her daughter, Pegeen Vail Guggenheim, remains an off-stage presence, yet the slightly strained and panicky tone that Rosenblatt takes while calling her effectively prefigures future events.

Woman Before A Glass is a modest, theatrically unambitious production. The set is just on the right side of minimalist, the writing is straightforward and the acting is as casually naturalistic as you're likely to see. But it's precisely these elements that help the play achieve its focus and clarity - neatly mirroring the modernist philosophies behind much of the art she collected. It's a great play, a great performance and well worth checking out.

Woman Before A Glass is at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 3rd February. Tickets here.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Review: 'The Claim' at Shoreditch Town Hall, 17th January 2018

Thursday, January 18, 2018 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments


The Claim reviewed by David James
Rating: 2 Stars


The Home Office's treatment of asylum seekers is often cruel, ranging from Byron workers lured into a fake meeting that's actually an immigration sting, sexually abused at Yarl's Wood Detention Centre or simply given £35 a week to subsist on and spending their days living under the threat of imminent deportation.

It's a system fanned by the disgust of the right-wing press, who paint asylum seekers as lying scroungers out to take advantage of our kindness, and executed by cash-strapped government departments and private contractors that discourage empathy in their staff.

The thing is that there are asylum seekers who embellish or fabricate their stories knowing that they need proof of suffering/danger to their lives in order to remain. The Home Office and Immigration Tribunals' job is to decide who is genuine and who is not - and you can't get it right all the time.

Tim Cowbury's The Claim attempts to reveal precisely what goes into this process, promising to "chart the journey of a single asylum claim". This is a bit of an overreach, as what we actually get is a dramatisation of a Home Office interview, in which Serge (Ncuti Gatwa) attempts to explain his circumstances to B (Yusra Warsama) via an interpreter, A (Nick Blakely). 

What follows is a decent example of 'the banality of evil'. B's kindness circuits are pretty much burnt out, replaced by don't-give-a-fuck cynicism and A's cultural assumptions prevent him from translating Serge's story accurately. So, gradually, a story about a terrified child who loves Charlie and the Chocolate Factory morphs into a tale of homelessness, child soldiers, militias and murder.

Cards on the table - the subject matter of this play is extremely relevant to me. Without going into specifics I'm occasionally involved in the immigration appeal process, where people facing imminent deportation from the UK can apply to a judge for a stay on removal. This means that I receive Home Office documents summarising the facts of individual cases as decided in interviews like the one in this play. In addition, I've also participated in various immigration and asylum-related cases, including time spent behind the scenes at the Upper Asylum and Immigration Tribunal.



All this meant I deeply appreciated what The Claim is trying to do. It at least attempts to expose the way things can quickly go very wrong during the interview process, as well the difficulty of interpretation (in my experience it's a minor miracle that Serge even gets an interpreter). However, whilst its heart is in the right place it doesn't succeed in its aims.

For one, the minimalist staging and abstract writing detracts from the dowdy bureaucracy of the system. Part of the general atmosphere of the asylum process is a dizzying array of paperwork and clumsily put together document bundles, generally worked through in interview rooms and offices that have seen better days. 

In addition, while the writing is genuinely clever in the way it captures the frustration of speaking through an interpreter, the many narrative cul-de-sacs into A and B's personal lives end up distracting. I can see what Cowbury is going for - Serge is just another face on a conveyor belt of sob stories for the officials - but that's established early on and the point quickly becomes laboured. 

Similarly, there are a number of creaky translation gags that really should have been trimmed out in the second draft. For example, the interpreter 'hilariously' mistranslates 'intercontinental' as 'incontinence' feels like something from the Chuckle Brothers, not to mention that it doesn't even make sense as a mistranslation from French to English.

It's a shame, as the actual performances themselves are bang on. Ncuti Gatwa is absolutely gripping at Serge - taking us from optimism and friendliness all the way to paranoia and despair. He begins and ends the show shooting shiver-inducingly powerful accusatory stares at the audience, an indelible dramatic image. While Gatwa is the centrepiece, Warsama and Blakeley are also great as the half-distracted functionaries deciding this mans' fate - I just wish they had better dialogue to deliver.

It adds up to a play that captures elements of the immigration and asylum procedures, but misses the bigger picture. I suspect jettisoning the more overt theatricality and writing flourishes in favour of a more naturalistic approach would be far more effective in truly communicating what it feels like to be tangled up in this bureaucracy (at least how I've experienced it for the past decade or so). But I suppose that's to be left to another production now.

The Claim is at Shoreditch Town Hall until 26 January. Tickets here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review: 'Six' at the Arts Theatre, 15th January 2018

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments


Six reviewed by David James
Rating: 4 Stars

Being a woman in Tudor Britain doesn't sound like much fun. You're surrounded by pompous, wealthy men in positions of immense power who seem to think it's their god-given right to belittle, demean and sexually harass you. Thank God we've moved on since then, right?

Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss's Six, a pop concert/musical starring Henry VIII's wives, would have been pretty great under any circumstances, but recasting their stories through a prism of contemporary misogyny and male entitlement slots neatly into the #MeToo movement. After all, what could be more relevant nowadays than the stories of women abused by a corpulent, bearded megalomaniac?

The tale of Henry VIII's many wives is familiar to every British schoolchild, generally summarised as: divorced, beheaded, died / divorced, beheaded, survived. Traditionally they're portrayed as mere planets orbiting the star of King Henry, their fortunes judged by their impact they had on the Crown and State. Six takes a different tack, the Queens indignant that they're just "one word in a stupid rhyme" and eager to define themselves as individuals.

From this grows the loose format of the night. Taking the form of a pop concert, the Queens vie with each other on who has had the most miserable life. Whether they ended their days under an executioner's axe (or in Anne's case, sword), wearing a penitent's sackcloth or of complications in childbirth each suffered various indignities courtesy of their mutual husband.

Things kick off with a bang as the Queens (Renee Lamb, Christina Modestou, Natalie Paris, Genesis Lynea, Aimie Atkinson and Izuka Hoyle) take the stage, dressed in pop contemporary costumes with subtle Tudor embellishments. Each Queen gets their moment in the spotlight to vie for the audience's sympathies, and each song aurally quotes (but doesn't quite parody) the styles of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Lily Allen, Beyonce et al.


My toes were tapping throughout this brief n' breezy 70 minute show - there honestly isn't anything close to a dud number here. However, if I had to pick the songs I thought were particularly smile-inducing, I'd have to go with Genesis Lynea's Anne of Cleves' number, who overcomes the humiliation of Henry's public disappointment that she doesn't match up to her 'profile pic' to go off and live in a castle doing her own thing. Lynea positively brims over with charisma, and her Cheshire Cat grin as she takes her own throne is infectious.

Also excellent is Aimie Atkinson's Catherine Howard, whose song is musically upbeat yet pretty damn depressing. Of all of Henry's wives she got a particularly bad deal, a 16-year-old married off to by this time obese, ulcer-ridden and possibly syphilitic 49-year-old man who lasted just 16 months as Queen before (quite understandably in my opinion) getting caught having an affair and quickly executed. Six portrays her as a typical teenager whose affections are manipulated by each man she encounters, each telling her they have a special connection as a way to get under her bodice. Atkinson gives a barnstormer of a performance, perceptibly sagging as the veil falls from her eyes.

I could go on, but you're just going to have to take my word that the rest are also top notch. At times, Six genuinely felt like a musical tailored to my specific tastes. I love female-fronted pop, a bit of a history geek (handily for this show I recently finished Peter Ackroyd's The History of England Vol 2: The Tudors) and I'm a huge fan of the BBC's Horrible Histories TV show, which Six is obviously influenced by.

Marlow and Moss are obviously a pair to keep an eye on, displaying enviable lyrical and melodic talent. Six quickly adds up to a genuinely exciting theatrical experience, assembling a seriously talented (and very well rehearsed) cast who're obviously enjoying themselves, note-perfect live musical accompaniment and a modest yet effective stage design. It feels as if everyone involved in this is going places - so check this out while you can.

Six is at the Arts Theatre on 22 January 2018 (though I'd bet it'll return soon enough). Details here.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Review: 'East' at the King's Head Theatre, 11th January 2018

Friday, January 12, 2018 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments


East reviewed by David James
Rating: 4 Stars


The East End of London occupies a large place in the British collective identity. This is the  land of pearly kings and queens, florid slang, Jack the Ripper, Eastenders, the Kray twins, grimy boozers, jellied eels and thinly romanticised poverty. But this East End is quickly fading from reality; its real estate gobbled up piecemeal by its prosperous neighbour The City and its long-term residents emigrating to Essex.

Where does this leave Steven Berkoff's East? First performed in 1975 and based on the playwright's Stepney childhood, the play was billing itself as “elegy for the East End and its energetic waste” even back then. So how does it stand up forty years on - when the life experiences of its older characters have faded from living memory?

Pretty well, as it turns out. The five-strong cast (James Craze, Jack Condon, Boadicea Ricketts, Debra Penny and Russell Barnett) portray a gaggle of characters who feel as if they've congealed out of the collective subconscious of the East End. This gaggle of grotesques speak in a blasphemous yet vivid fusion of jumbled Shakespearian quotes, rhyming slang and a fuckload of swearing.

The striking language is overlaid on top of energetic and lively physical performances. Characters turn into motorbikes and are driven around the stage, fall into a cod music hall mime act, run through about twenty different kinds of dance in a minute or, simply and effectively, arrange themselves into expressive Hogarthian dioramas.

All that muscular propulsiveness pays off gangbusters. Each of the characters brims over with life - be it testosterone-infused braggadocio, indignant femininity or racist bitterness. It feels as if the primordial spirits of the East End are being summoned, spilling their guts in front of a contemporary audience they occasionally perceive through the slats of reality.


Each of the performers gets their own monologue in which to shine. My highlight was Russell Barnett's patriarch nostalgically reminiscing about Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts and the Battle of Cable Street - he was on the side of the fascists. It's just an outright great bit of acting, Barnett gradually building up from a light-hearted introduction all the way to his veins furiously throbbing on his bald head as he flicks baked beans everywhere and overturns the dinner table. As he joyously recounted kicking someone's teeth in I couldn't help but think of the footage from the neo-Nazi marches in Charlottesville: this character might be a mouldering pile of bones by now but his spirit remains very much alive.

Though I got the most of out of Barnett's monologue, the rest of the cast all excel. The appropriately named Boadicea Ricketts bemoans her femininity and wishes she was born a man, Jack Condon moons after an unapproachable woman on the 38 bus and James Craze delivers an effervescent, heartfelt paean to every conceivable variety of cunt.

It's difficult not to get caught up in the sheer liveliness of the show: though the characters are off-putting in so many ways they're also palpably alive. You sense that while the neighbourhoods and characters of East are quickly being relegated to the history books, they're not disappearing without a fight.

It's a fantastic bit of theatre and a testament to Berkoff's skill at melding words and motion. Definitely worth the trip - preferably with a seat in the front row.

East is at the King's Head Theatre until 3rd February 2018. Details here.

Pictures by Alex Brenner

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Review: 'Lobster' at Theatre503, 10th January 2018

Thursday, January 11, 2018 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments


Lobster reviewed by David James
Rating: 4 Stars

Friends famously espoused the romantic faithfulness of the lobster - explaining that it mated with a single partner for life. Sadly for romantics (and Etsy vendors) this is bollocks. Like all crustaceans, a pair of lobsters mate once and then head their separate ways, never to see their partner again over the course of their short, brutal lives.

Lucy Foster's play Lobster understands this, giving us a 90-minute primer in the complexities of commitment, incompatibility and romantic disappointment. Our (occasionally) happy couple are J (Alexandra Reynolds), a perpetually upbeat, family orientated woman who hungers for the monotony of middle-age; and K (Louise Beresford), a cynic with a 'dark personality' working through early-adulthood existential blues.

Lobster walks us through the giddy highs and crushing lows of a relationship that feels custom designed to find out whether opposites really attract. At first, it seems they do, K's self-doubt and panic attacks are easily weathered by J's upbeat stability and the pair run through a mini-relationship montage of dates, parties, dinners and curling up on the sofa eating biscuits and watching TV.

But over the course of about a year K's situation gradually shifts. She experiences personal tragedy, unemployment and a change of careers - slowly becoming a happier person. In an ideal world, K's mood improving should make the relationship stronger. But, in the play's keenest observation, we realise that J emotionally feeds upon K's negativity, getting her Christian self-satisfaction by being the happy, uplifting and self-sacrificing partner.

Criticising someone for being too nice is a tricky proposition. After all, isn't being accommodating, empathetic and kind what we should all strive for? But K's criticisms of J  ring true, arguing that J defines her personality in terms of how she's opposed to K. As the play demonstrates, when the pessimistic partner cheers up a bit, the optimistic partner's identity is under threat and it's not long before the relationship falls apart.


As you can probably tell, my sympathies during the play were overwhelmingly with K. Aside from a tendency for teeth-gritting tweeness, J is riddled with desperation that her dreams of bourgeois monotony are gradually slipping through her fingers as each day passes. Eventually, K becomes less a partner and more a convenient vehicle through which J can achieve the conservative life she craves.

That Lucy Foster can communicate all this whilst being funny as hell is a real testament to her playwriting skills. It's also a testament to a damn good production. Beresford and Reynolds are both excellent, each believably evolving their character over the course of the year. 

While I didn't have a lot of time for J as a character, I deeply enjoyed watching Alexandra Reynolds slowly reveal the cracks in her perky carapace - culminating in a powerful emotional climax in which she refuses to understand why life is dealing her shit cards. She's perfectly matched off against Louise Beresford (who I also enjoyed in Victim in Edinburgh last summer) - whose expressive facial gymnastics and body language would communicate who K was even if the play were entirely mimed.

My only criticism is that the play is studded with really shit indie music. Most of the time Lobster feels like a perceptive insight into relationship dynamics, but whenever an acoustic guitar and a floppy-fringed male vocalist pipes up it just feels manipulative, as if the play doesn't have enough faith in its audience to feel the correct emotion. Ditch the bedwetting soundtrack and things would be vastly improved.

That aside, there's very little to criticise about Lobster. It's as perceptive a play about modern love as I can recall seeing: witty, easy to relate to and providing an awful lot of intellectual meat to chew over. Check it out!

Lobster is at Theatre503 until 20 January 2018. Tickets here.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Review: 'The Crystal Egg' at The Vaults, 8th January 2018

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments


The Crystal Egg reviewed by David James 
Rating: 3 Stars

For quite a while now, the go-to buzzword in contemporary theatre has been "immersive" - not content with simply observing a show, audiences now demand to interact with it. And so The Crystal Egg bills itself as an "immersive, multi-media experience" rather than a 'play', promising that you will "uncover the secret for yourself". Now, I'm not criticising the quality of the show as a whole, but the above spiel is, quite simply, bollocks.

What The Crystal Egg actually consists of is an entirely traditional play in which the audience takes their seats, shuts up and watches a story performed on a stage for just over an hour. Any pretensions to immersion come with a brief prologue in which we awkwardly wait around in a plywood recreation of Victorian London while actors do their best to interact with us. It's less immersion and more a drizzle. (Incidentally, I genuinely can't figure out what the multi-media elements were supposed to be.)

This marketing over-reach is a shame, because as a straight play The Crystal Egg isn't half bad. Adapted from H.G. Wells' 1897 short story of the same name, this is a story of the titular, mysterious crystal egg - which drives all who possess it to madness and death. 

We open with Charley Wace (Desmond Carny) frantically searching for the missing egg on the streets of London, only to happen across H.G. Wells himself (Edwin Flay). Perhaps only to humour him, Wells sits down and listens to Charley's story. We flashback a couple of years to the newly orphaned Charley being taken in by his uncle and aunt, Mr and Mrs Cave (Mark Parsons and Jessica Boyde), who inhabit a curiosity shop in the Seven Dials.


Among the meagre possessions inherited young Charley is the crystal egg, which his downtrodden adoptive parents immediately make plans to sell. But all too soon the egg begins working a peculiar spell on Mr Cave, beginning his transformation from kindly and paternal shopkeeper to an obsessed, paranoid and violent madman.

The lion's share of the show's quality comes down to Mark Parsons excellent performance as Mr Cave. He completely sells that this egg is weaving a diabolical spell over him and his breathless descriptions of what he sees inside are perfectly eerie. It's in Parson's Mr Cave that the horror elements of the show blossom - a character sliding inexorably down beyond the moral event horizon as his confused and scared family look on.

Most of the rest of the cast orbits Parsons, and while some characters are a bit under-developed (Carolina Main's withdrawn daughter doesn't really go anywhere) their reactions to him all keep things humming along.

The only real misstep comes with casting Desmond Carney - a tall, well-built, heavily bearded man in his thirties - as a waifish Victorian child orphan. It's a real headscratcher of a casting decision as while there's nothing particularly wrong with Carney's performance, I can't for the life of me see why you'd choose this guy for this role. 

That aside, The Crystal Egg eventually turns out to be a modest bit of theatre that would be best served by shearing away all the pointless 'immersive' frippery that surrounds it. My advice would be to dial down your expectations a bit and maybe show up 15 minutes past the start time so you can skip the unnecessary introductory bits.

The Crystal Egg is at The Vaults 7th- 13th January 2018 4.00pm & 7.30pm daily. Details here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review: 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' (2017) directed by Rian Johnson

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments


After the nostalgia exercises of The Force Awakens and Rogue One, Star Wars was in dire need of a kick up the arse. And here's Rian Johnson with a pair of steel-toe capped boots. It's not that I didn't enjoy Disney's last two stabs at the franchise but wallowing in the past can only take you so far. Sooner or later you need an infusion of new ideas, and The Last Jedi provides them in spades.

It does this by subtly altering the way Star Wars works. Traditionally these movies tell a tight and propulsive story that adheres to Campbell's hero's journey. It's a solid framework in which events drive the narrative and character arcs are reactive. It's the template for pretty much every modern blockbuster and hey, most of the time it works.

The Last Jedi is different. Here the narrative is a merely a vehicle for the themes which are then explored through each major character in different ways until they converge in the finale. The events of the film are not just narrative for the sake of narrative, they're designed from the ground up to support the film's ideas. It's a much more literary style than Star Wars has ever seen before, with ambitions to evolve beyond the franchises' pulp roots.

Johnson's most successful tactic is to dissemble, criticise and move beyond the pulp serial inspirations for the franchise, with a particular focus on the role of a hero within them. Throughout the film characters have their perceptions of what a hero is shattered, comparing the ideal to the grubby reality. For example, Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) encounters Resistance hero Finn and is briefly starstruck at meeting the war hero, before realising he's trying to desert and tasering him. Then you get Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) a square-jawed flyboy who plays by his own rules.



In any other Star Wars movie (and, indeed in The Force Awakens), Poe would be the guy whose instincts, bravery and luck save the day. In The Last Jedi, these qualities just screw everything up for everyone - much as they do in real life. In the opening action sequence his lust for glory decimates the Resistance bombers and during the outer space 'siege' his short-lived mutiny concludes with him idiotically leaking the secret escape plan to the villains, resulting in hundreds of needless deaths. To be fair, it's difficult to blame Poe: in any other Star Wars movie his plan would probably have worked.But The Last Jedi is a Star Wars movie about ideas rather than events.

The real kicker is how the film treats the franchise's most iconic hero, Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker. Once the saviour of the galaxy, protagonist Rey finds him living in ascetic seclusion, spending his days sucking green milk out of weird alien tits and grumpily hauling giant fish across cliffs. Over the course of his scenes, Luke explicitly deconstructs what a hero is and what an individual can do, scornfully shooting down the idea that he can just “walk out with a lazer sword" and save the day.

Rian Johnson beats this thematic drum repeatedly and loudly throughout the first two acts, to the point where you genuinely begin to feel a sense of despair about the state of things. The good guys are all but wiped out, the baddies are knocking at their door and nobody cares about their distress beacon. Everything is fucked.

Then Luke Skywalker turns up waving a lazer sword and saves the day! Except he doesn't. He just gives the Resistance (and the audience) what they want, the triumphant return of Luke Skywalker: complete with a confident swagger, a retro 70s hairdo and an official A New Hope branded lightsaber. But, in keeping with the rest of the film, the legendary hero is an illusion, an inspirational symbol and, most importantly, something a pissed off Kylo Ren quickly realises he cannot kill.



Through Luke, Rian Johnson is imploring audiences not to overthink the nuts and bolts of escapist fiction and realise that its true utility as a source of inspiration. A couple of moments after the Luke illusion sequence we see a child inspired by this story realising his revolutionary potential and resolving to stand against fascism. The moment crystallises The Last Jedi's ambitions: to take the audience's love of Star Wars and use it as a catalyst for personal and political growth rather than to obsess over trivial minutia and nitpicking 'lore'.

That, in combination with the takedown of individualistic heroism tells us to connect and trust the people around us and fight back against selfishness. This isn't an especially radical message, but when we're faced with so many political, environmental and social problems that can only be fixed with mass cooperation and understanding ourselves as part of a larger whole it's on the ball. This collectivist motif appears repeatedly in The Last Jedi, reaching its climax when Luke becomes one with the Force and surrenders to a spiritual gestalt afterlife.

Considering that the Original Trilogy was lauded by Reaganite Conservatives as representing a battle by individualists against the uniform collectivism of the Empire (they read them as an allegory for the Soviet Union) this is something of a turnaround for the franchise, despite Disney CEO Bob Iger claiming that the films are not "in any way" intended to be political.

You can call this inversion a lot of things, but it's seriously impressive that The Last Jedi launches an all-out assault on the dated philosophies baked into the franchise while simultaneously being a fun, dynamic and eye-catching Star Wars movie in its own right. Before its release, many had concluded that Disney's 'new' trilogy was going to be a simple rehash of what came before. Afterwards, nobody can predict what's going to happen in Episode IX. 

Where The Force Awakens looked back, The Last Jedi looks forwards. The view ahead is of weird and uncharted territory - the best possible place for Star Wars to be.
 

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