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    BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Keira Knightley gives us Christmas… with a twist

    BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Keira Knightley gives us Christmas… with a twist

    Keira Knightley and the ensemble from Silent Night — the most astonishing Christmas movie ever made — are preparing to complete post-production on the film, work that was interrupted by the pandemic.

    An unfinished version was shown privately to distributors at a series of Covid-secure screenings in Soho, London, this week, one of which I snuck into … keeping my distance, of course.

    Knightley and Matthew Goode are Nell and Simon, a privileged couple who live in a country pile with their three sons.

    Keira Knightley and the ensemble from Silent Night are preparing to complete post-production on the film

    Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode play Nell and Simon, a privileged couple who live in a country pile with their three sons

    Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode play Nell and Simon, a privileged couple who live in a country pile with their three sons

    The boys are played by Roman Griffin Davis (schoolboy star of director Taika Waititi’s Oscar-winning film Jojo Rabbit) and his real-life younger twin brothers Hardy and Gilby.

    The movie is directed by their mother, Camille Griffin, a first-time feature filmmaker who also wrote the screenplay. 

    Nell and Simon are preparing to welcome some old college pals, plus their partners and offspring. 

    They include Sope Dirisu, Lily-Rose Depp, Annabelle Wallis, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Lucy Punch, Rufus Jones and Davida McKenzie (a golden find).

    Roman Griffin Davis in Silent Night

    Roman Griffin Davis in Silent Night

    The film is partly inspired by conversations that took place in the Griffin Davis household, about climate change and unconscious bias (racism and sexism in particular), among other stingers. For good measure, Griffin takes a few sly swipes at wealthy types from both sides of the political divide.

    Where’s Christmas, you may ask? Well, in the opening scenes, as guests travel to Nell and Simon’s, there’s a ditty called The Christmas Sweater song playing gaily on the radio. It’s sung by Michael Buble, who co-authored it with Matthew Vaughn, Gary Barlow and Jane Goldman.

    There’s a Christmas tree and presents. And folks do sit down to a turkey lunch, though oddly there’s only one potato each, to go with the other trimmings. And what’s up with the murky tap water? No worries, though, because they’re knocking back the Prosecco like there’s no tomorrow. Much more I will not tell you, because the film contains an incredible twist that will become a mega talking point.

    Suffice to say that Silent Night is a brilliant Christmas satire, reflective of the times we’re in. And that Marv Films (run by Vaughn and Claudia Schiffer, along with producers Trudie Styler and Celine Rattray) want it to open in cinemas over the Yuletide holidays.

    During filming of the low-budget offering, Silent Night was a temporary, working title. But Griffin and the producers decided to make it permanent. Post-production will involve the actors doing voice work, further editing and the completion of its score.

    A no to dirty dancing as even stage floor gets a health check…

    Choreographer Lynne Page is relishing the chance to be in a room with dancers again. But she’s treading carefully!

    The premises for rehearsing a new show that included Olivier award-winning star Katie Brayben, four artists from the Royal Ballet, two of her closest professional dancing colleagues, plus a top flight string quartet — and a celebrated flute player — had to be Covid-secured. And then there was the dance floor itself.

    Page and her associates tracked down special performance flooring with antimicrobial properties built in. ‘I realised that the first thing dancers do is lie on the floor,’ she said ‘They put their hands on the floor.

    Choreographer Lynne Page is relishing the chance to be in a room with dancers again

    Choreographer Lynne Page is relishing the chance to be in a room with dancers again

    They move on and off the floor. And this covering we have is extra protection.’ Extra on top of the temperature taking, hand sanitising, and other safety protocols directors and stage managers now require before a show can be put on in front of an audience.

    During lockdown, Page fretted about the legions of dancers she’d worked with over the years, on West End and Broadway shows, Royal Ballet productions and films and pop videos.

    ‘They were taking dance class in the tiniest spaces, in their homes,’ Page told me. ‘Like an Olympic athlete, unless a dancer can really stretch, they are trapped — like caged birds.’

    Those thoughts formed the basis of a show that she has called Wingspan. Page remembered putting on a community dance project last year at a cavernous new building called Bridgepoint in Rye. She approached Sarah and David Kowitz, its owners, who allowed her to transform Bridgepoint into a performance venue.

    Page has ensured that her band of freelancers, on stage and off, will be paid via ticket sales for the three performances. The rehearsals and show will also be recorded on film

    Page has ensured that her band of freelancers, on stage and off, will be paid via ticket sales for the three performances. The rehearsals and show will also be recorded on film

    The Kowitzes offered much practical advice, too. Page has ensured that her band of freelancers, on stage and off, will be paid via ticket sales for the three performances from September 26 (2.30pm, gala at 7.30pm; and a final matinee show the following day).

    The rehearsals and show will also be recorded on film. Brayben will perform two numbers including, appropriately, The Birds by Elbow, rearranged for a string quartet. Page has created a Pas de Deux for Royal Ballet artists Leticia Dias and Joseph Aumeer (who also performs for the Paris Opera Ballet) and new choreographic solos for Royal Ballet artists Ashley Dean and Francisco Serrano.

    She and the dancers have found the unusual circumstances liberating. ‘I’ve seen Ashley Dean do lots of Fairy solos, so I said: ‘What do you want to do?!’ We had this amazing day where she took her pointe shoes off and danced in her socks — she just let her hair down. The kind of thing she probably wouldn’t be able to do on the Royal Opera House stage.’

    Page has taken as much care with the safety of the audience as she has with the content of Wingspan.

    She and others will double as safety wardens on performance days, handing out specially designed visors as they seat members of the audience at cabaret tables spaced out around the stage.

    Page is already planning another show in Rye. And she’s hoping to persuade Rosalie Craig, another Olivier award winner, to perform.

    Details at bridgepointrye.com

    Watch out for…

    Peter Dinklage (pictured), who was Tyrion Lannister in Game Of Thrones and a member of Martin McDonagh’s stellar Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri screen ensemble, will play Cyrano de Bergerac in Cyrano, which Joe Wright will begin filming on locations in Sicily next month.

    The Working Title production, using a screenplay by Erica Schmidt (Dinklage’s wife), will also star Ben Mendelsohn and Brian Tyree Henry. Haley Bennett has been cast as Roxanne.

    Bennett also features in American South gothic drama The Devil All The Time, which has just started streaming on Netflix. However the film belongs to an impressive Tom Holland, the Spiderman star.

    Peter Dinklage will play Cyrano de Bergerac in Cyrano, which will begin filming in Sicily next month

    Peter Dinklage will play Cyrano de Bergerac in Cyrano, which will begin filming in Sicily next month

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