Orson Welles was an American film director, writer, actor and producer. Welles is held with high esteem as one of the most accomplished dramatic artists of the 20th century. He is known for his movie Citizen Kane, which is widely considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made. His genius can be equally seen in his radio dramatisation of The War of the Worlds, based on the original story by H.G Wells who bears no relation to Orson. Welles along with his Mercury Theatre, established in the 1930’s caused the United States to go into a state of panic as the public thought Martians were invading the planet. A panic which Welles would later claim was unintentional.
As you can see Welles is a hugely iconic figure and to approach his character was a great challenge taken on by Richard Linkletter, director of ‘Me And Orson Welles’. The plot focuses on one week during the life of Welles. The Mercury Theatre in New York has its opening night coming up and Welles has chosen to take on a classic Shakespearian tragedy, Julius Caesar.
Previously unknown actor Christian McKay had the seemingly impossible task of performing as Orson Welles. And in this movie McKay did not walk onto the screen he exploded onto the screen, in what was I firmly believe one of the best onscreen performances of 2009. Critics have often commented on Welles’ unique nature of pure brilliance, in particular the tone of his spoken voice, and the way everything seemed to be some sort of performance. In the past I have seen archived footage of interviews with Welles; I have heard his radio dramatisations along with his acting in various motion pictures and when compared to the performance of McKay it is stunning. McKay could not have improved his performance, it was simply fantastic to see and I hope he is recognised for his outstanding achievement in this movie.
Zac Efron joined McKay as Richard, a high school student with a love of the arts and a hunger for knowledge who is however naive and venerable to the world. He starts his week studying the works of Shakespeare and ends it on the stage of the Mercury Theatre performing it. Efron who previously starred in High School Musical and Hairspray has taken on a much more mature role, than what we have seen in the past. It was a refreshing change in direction for Zac, who allows his acting skill to reach new heights. In my opinion with his role as Richard he has expanded his potential and concreted his place as an up and coming actor.
Another highlight of this production is the way in which the audience is seemingly transported back to 1937. The authenticity is truly remarkable; in the background during most scenes we can hear music of the era and never is the illusion distorted. For the hour and a half you sit in your seat you become part of that one week in the fall of 1937. You relive that week in the life of The Mercury Theatre, during a time of war and uncertainty.
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