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Movie: Fences with Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington in Fences by August Wilson

Denzel Washington in Fences by August Wilson

A couple of nights ago, I saw a Show Film First screening of Fences at MyVue in Leicester Square then, yesterday evening, I went across to attend a National Theatre Platform event with the film’s actor/producer, Denzel Washington.

Both events were hugely enjoyable, so glad I did that, occasions.

The film, Fences is based on the Black-American playwright August Wilson’s, possibly, greatest stage play – winning multiple Tony’s in a 2010 staging for the production and cast, most of whom are, now starring in the film.

I am a huge admirer of August Wilson but, without too much bias, I think it’s fair to say that this is play-writing that stands comparison with any of the great American, or other, playwrights.

The cast, in the film, are exemplary with performances of towering presence and grace – hard to single out a ‘best’ but Viola Davis and Denzel Washington both deserve their nominations for this year’s Oscars.

The film is beautifully produced, expanding the backyard theatre set just enough to add screen interest, and giving full rein to all the depth, subtlety, humour and nuance of the exquisite writing of August Wilson. To read more about August Wilson, click on the link or do a Google search.

Fences is a film that rewards your full attention by painting pictures in your mind with words being the colours on the tip of every spoken tongue and lip and your imagination the canvas for the brush. Wonderful.

In conversation, on stage at the National’s, completely full, Lyttleton Theatre, Denzel Washington, obviously a hugely popular and well-known actor, talked with charm and absolute focus about the film, his commission to produce all ten of August Wilson’s plays, his commitment to this project and his belief that, now, it is one of his life’s purposes, having been so blessed in his life, to give something back.

It was an absolute treat to hear him speak and feel the passion he has for the works of August Wilson and his drive to make them available to a wider audience. Also, his recognition this cannot be done unless people are willing to come to cinemas and theatres and pay to see them. Interesting take from a Hollywood actor who understands bums on seats get films made.

Personally and physically, he was as full of all the charm and grace you’d expect, his engagement with the project making him far more articulate and amusing than you might have thought from seeing him promote the latest blockbuster on TV chat shows, as well as being both thoughtful and knowledgeable about his subject – able to quote off-the-cuff from August Wilson works.

All in all, a couple of brilliant and inspirational evenings out.

I urge you all to go and see Fences at your local cinema, and note that Denzel Washington is definitely worth a trip out to hear, should he be speaking at a venue near you.

Access Note: booking the tickets for both talk and film was a nightmare. Both the National Theatre (NT) and Show Film First (SFF), who the film screenings were through, seemed entirely unprepared for wheelchair users to be booking tickets.

The NT’s online booking screen showed none of the usual availability for wheelchairs – on phoning to query/complain – I was 41 in the opening booking queue – we were told a space was available, with companion seat, and so, got the tickets we needed.

SFF, in particular, seemed to think an unallocated ticket for a wheelchair user – who might have 2 spaces available – was the same as an unallocated ticket for everyone else – who’d have some hundred or so seats to sit in. Is it that hard to understand that if 3 wheelchairs turn up for 2 spaces, it’s a problem?

SFF’s initial response to that was, basically, tough, one of you won’t get in.

I really did have to go with pointing out that this was not ‘equal’ base offering but, in fact, discriminatory, per the DDA, before someone hastily sorted things out.

But, how tedious is that?

We persevered only because we knew all the venues did have wheelchair access, having been to all previously. How many wheelchair users would have just given up or assumed no access or sold out access?

At both the Lyttleton and MyVue, there were spaces for wheelchairs still available where I was sitting in mine.

Grr, why do they not make buying wheelchair plus companion tickets as easy as any other? It isn’t rocket science, is it? There’s only ever about 2-10 tickets involved. Though, maybe I should shut up. At least I’m getting my tickets right now. If more of us tried, I might miss out. 😉


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