Film Review: Boiling Point (2021)

Filmed brilliantly in a single take, restaurant drama Boiling Point features a breathlessly fantastic performance from Stephen Graham

“Not everything has to have a rubble of nuts”

There’s a growing sense of tension throughout Boiling Point that is just like the suffocating, slow build of a panic attack. It is almost uncomfortable, unbearable at times like a slow-motion car crash that you can’t quite look away from. Which might not sound like a recommendation I know but it really is, as the film simulates a shift from hell for head chef Andy Jones.

It’s the Friday-before-Christmas and he’s already up against it before he arrives late to his Dalston restaurant due to serious domestic troubles. Once there, he finds a food hygiene inspector finding too many faults and a subsequent staff meeting does little to soothe his increasingly disgruntled crew. And that’s before any customers have even arrived and service begun. Continue reading “Film Review: Boiling Point (2021)”

Film Review: Belfast (2021)

Kenneth Branagh’s memoir-of-sorts Belfast ends up an insufferably twee film despite the talent involved

“They just kick with the left foot”

There’s a line in the cracking TV show Community that often comes to mind, “just because something is in black and white doesn’t mean it’s good”. There’s no doubting that Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, based in part at least on his own childhood, is entirely heartfelt but the filming style feels entirely like an affectation, bringing nothing to the storytelling itself.

This air of nostalgic indulgence is something that characterises the film as a whole. As it uses a child’s perspective to depict a slice of wholesome working-class family life, the backdrop to which just happens to be the start of the Troubles, there’s a weird sense of aimlessness here, a refusal to be drawn into any kind of meaningful comment on a conflict that must have loomed so large . Continue reading “Film Review: Belfast (2021)”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 18

As the dust settles on all the recent changes, Series 18 of Silent Witness turns out to be just a little bit average 

“If you think you can do better, you’re very welcome to try”

After some wholesale changes to the core team and indeed the remit of the show, Series 18 of Silent Witness is the first chance to really sees where the land lies now that the dust has settled. The biggest consequence is the shift to incorporating forensic science just as much as, if not more than, forensic pathology which of course lends much more credence to the team spending so much time out of the lab.

I say the team, I actually mean Nikki and Jack, as it is these two who unquestionably lead the investigations now, Emilia Fox and David Caves finding a nice chemistry. Richard Lintern’s Thomas may be the head of the Lyell but is comparatively considerably under-used. He’s less a third lead than a second supporting lead alongside Liz Carr’s Clarissa, whose dry wit makes her the MVP here. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 18”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 17

Series 17 of Silent Witness, in which the show feel very much still in transition, and we’re not just talking about Nikki’s haircut 

“One maverick on the team is enough”

Of course, having finally implemented the significant change that I was longing for, Series 17 of Silent Witness experiences a little bit of turbulence doesn’t quite nail the landing. With the sanctimonious Leo dispatched to the pearly gates, Richard Lintern’s Dr Thomas Chamberlain is introduced as the new forensic pathologist head honcho. But internally, the writers seem to have decided that Nikki is actually the lead and so Thomas finds himself very much sidelined throughout the series.  

Part of the issue is that they’re still figuring out the roles of newcomers Jack and Clarissa. David Caves’ Jack is posited as an insane Action Man figure, throwing himself into rugby-tackling and questioning suspects even with the police right there. It is noticeable that this is somewhat facilitated by more and more stories featuring fewer and fewer police characters, allowing for the appearance at least that the Lyell aren’t stepping on too many toes… And the writers still seem a little hesitant to consider Clarissa’s analyst a full member of the team.  Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 17”

Review: Holst – The Music In The Spheres, Jack Studio Theatre

Arrows & Traps return to live performance in customary ambitious style with Holst – The Music In The Spheres at the Brockley Jack

“Noise is all relative”

It should come as little surprise that Arrows & Traps Theatre’s return to live performance takes the form of an ambitious and inventive repertory season. Written and directed by Ross McGregor, The Dyer’s Hand presents two interlinking plays aiming to once again do what the company does so well, in excavating fascinating stories from the unsung corners of our history books.

First up is Holst – The Music In The Spheres which looks at the life of Gustav (von) Holst, the English composer best known for the orchestral suite The Planets and one of the most timeless, if repurposed, melodies in Jupiter. From a strict Victorian childhood blighted by illness through his travails as a jobbing musician and teacher, McGregor illuminates Holst’s struggle to pursue his almighty artistic vision. Continue reading “Review: Holst – The Music In The Spheres, Jack Studio Theatre”

News: Ivo van Hove’s Age of Rage to play the Barbican in May

Internationaal Theater Amsterdam will return to the Barbican as an early birthday present for me, as they bring their newest epic production Age of Rage to London. Promising spectacular set design by Jan Versweyveld, choreography from Wim Vandekeybus and music from the contemporary music collective BL!NDMAN [drums], it is just the 3 hours and 45 minutes as opposed to the 6 hours of Roman tragedies so this’ll be a comparative breeze in the park. 

In Age of Rage, Ivo van Hove tells a primordial story of how revenge haunts and wrecks successive generations. This performance is in line with earlier large-scale social productions such as Roman tragedies and Kings of war. This time the history of the Trojan War and the royal Atrid family is the starting point. Ifigeneia in AulisTrojan Women, Hekabe, Agamemnon, Elektra  and Orestes are edited into one story. Age of Rage shows the mechanisms, inevitability and hopelessness of a circle of violence in Dutch with English surtitles.

News: Keala Settle to make West End debut in & Juliet

Keala Settle – internationally renowned for her starring role in the global smash hit movie The Greatest Showman – is to make her West End debut in the award-winning & Juliet.

Keala – who shot to worldwide fame performing the iconic song “This Is Me” in the movie alongside Hugh Jackman, and is a Tony Award nominated star on Broadway – will play the role of Nurse in the joyous musical which won 3 Olivier Awards and 6 Whatsonstage Awards. Continue reading “News: Keala Settle to make West End debut in & Juliet”

TV Review: Rules of the Game

Kieran Bew and Ben Batt for the heart; Maxine Peake, Rakhee Thakrar and Alison Steadman for the head; Rules of the Game offers some luxury casting for a ferocious tale of post-#MeToo workplace life

“You don’t get to leave us, you’re part of this”

With obedient poodle Nadine Dorries doing her level best to distract from the utter shitshow that has become Boris Johnson’s reign by wielding a headline-stealing axe over the BBC, it feels like we ought to be celebrating whatever drama Aunty can still provide us at the moment. Latest up is Ruth Fowler’s 4-parter Rules of the Game which stars a red-hot Maxine Peake and makes Alison Steadman as scary as she’s ever been.

Set in and around the offices of Fly Dynamics, a Cheshire-based, family-run sportswear company that is on the verge of a stock market flotation designed to take them global, COO Sam finds a significant fly in the ointment when she trips over a body in their foyer. In a Big Little Lies-ish twist, we don’t find out who is it but rather, we’re plunged into the trials and tribulations of what turns out to be the most toxic of workplaces. Continue reading “TV Review: Rules of the Game”

Film Review: The Invisible Woman (2013)

The Invisible Woman, in which Charles Dickens is a dick, Joanna Scanlan is magnificent and Ralph Fiennes is really rather good as both director and star

“He is a good man…trying to be a good man”

A film I’ve had on my ‘must get round to watching’ list for a wee while now, The Invisible Woman turns out to be an embrassment of riches for pretty much everyone involved. Written by Abi Morgan and adapted from Claire Tomalin’s novel of the same name, its focus is the years-long love affair between Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan which had been subject to a superinjunction of its time and thus largely secret.

And directed by Ralph Fiennes who also stars as Dickens, it is a rather fine film indeed, eloquently restrained in its depiction of the emotional impact of him being, well, a cad. We open with Felicity Jones’ Nelly married to someone else at some point in the future but soon flash back to her late teenage years when trying to make it as an actress, her path fatefully crosses with the illustrious writer and his inflated ego. Continue reading “Film Review: The Invisible Woman (2013)”

Film Review: Effie Gray (2014)

An entertaining cast make the curious Effie Gray more engaging than it might otherwise have been

“Marriage, dear boy, is all about learning how to wait”

In what turned out to be an afternoon of staid, true-life Victorian romances, Effie Gray turned out to be the odder. Richard Laxton’s film, written by Emma Thompson, follows the story of the troubled marriage between polymath John Ruskin and Euphemia ‘Effie’ Gray which was never consummated and ended when she bucked the social mores of the time to pursue an annulment, which she was indeed granted.

And starting as we do with the marriage between the pair, we see a lot – a LOT – of the dry and dessicated home life of the couple which kicks off with him professing disgust at her naked person and agreeing a five year abstention from sex so he could focus on his work. Plus, his family – with whom they live – aren’t much keener on her, so life’s generally a downer. Continue reading “Film Review: Effie Gray (2014)”