TV Review: Unprecedented, Episode 1

Episode 1 of Unprecedented features strong writing from James Graham, Charlene James and John Donnelly 

“It’s clear that everything’s going to be different…
and then again, I’m scared that things won’t be different”

It is with an admirable speed with which Headlong and Century Films have pulled together Unprecedented, a theatrical response to the impact of lockdown on society. Conceived, written, filmed and produced in lockdown, and now airing on BBC4, some of our most exciting playwright and a cast of over 50 really have pulled together impressively and this first instalment of three short plays is certainly promising.

Necessity is the mother of invention, or something, and so all three use digital conferencing technology in one way or another and if anything, there’s no bigger marker in the way that our relationships to each other have been altered than this. How many of us even knew what Zoom was in January? And between them, writers James Graham, Charlene James and John Donnelly deftly sketch some of these changes.  Continue reading “TV Review: Unprecedented, Episode 1”

News: #AllTheWebsAStage details announced

All the Web’s a Stageis a streaming initiative consisting of 12 marvellous jam-packed hours of all your favourite performers from the West End and theatre to comedy, drag and magic!

It’s fitting that the free livestream will be held on Thursday 23 April, Shakespeare’s birthday and the date that theatres began their process of restoration after strict censorship in 1661, the last time British theatres were ordered to close for a prolonged period. 

The livestream is raising money for our artistic comrades who have been severely impacted by Covid-19. Whilst we appreciate the government’s initiatives, and the support made available for many self-employed workers, there are still many freelance artists who fall through the cracks of these new government programs. As a result, thousands of artists who are now unable to earn an income are facing the coronavirus crisis with no available financial support.

You can watch the livestream on the Theatre Together website or on the Theatre Together Facebook page this Thursday from midday. Continue reading “News: #AllTheWebsAStage details announced”

News: cast announced for Unprecedented: Theatre from a State of Isolation

Headlong and Century Films have today announced a cast of over 50 UK actors taking part in Unprecedented: Theatre from the State of Isolation. A series of new digital plays written in response to the current Covid-19 Pandemic, Unprecedented will be broadcast across the nation during lockdown as part of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative.

Written by celebrated playwrights and curated by Headlong, Century Films and BBC Arts, Unprecedented explores our rapidly evolving world, responding to how our understanding and experiences of community, education, work, relationships, family, culture, climate and capitalism are evolving on an unprecedented scale. The series will ask how we got here and what the enduring legacy of this historic episode might be. Continue reading “News: cast announced for Unprecedented: Theatre from a State of Isolation”

TV Review: Doctor Who Series 12

Series 12 of Doctor Who goes hard on what we think we know about the Time Lord and finishes in a blaze of glory

“You can be a pacifist tomorrow. Today you just need to survive”

I don’t think I have ever minded anything that happened in Doctor Who so much that I have declared it cancelled, even at the point where all the magnificent character development by Catherine Tate’s Donna was undone in a plot point of real cruelty. So it is hard to take so-called fans of the show seriously when torrents of complaints are unleashed about the sanctity of a world of science fiction that has long enjoyed challenging and expanding what we know about characters we love. (See my Episode 1 review here.)

So it should come as little surprise that I really rather enjoyed series 12 of Doctor Who. Across the season as a whole, I felt that Jodie Whittaker has settled more into the role, especially as the writers feel more confident in finding her voice. And the balancing act of having three companions in the TARDIS has been more assured now that the business of introducing them is over, allowing the group to splinter off for large chunks of episodes has allowed much more of their characters to shine through, particularly for Mandip Gill’s Yaz (who I am mightily glad survived that final episode – I thought she was doomed after her chat with Graham). Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Series 12”

Critics’ Circle Awards 2016: the winners in full

 

Even without trying, I end up being contrary! The Critics’ Circle Awards have announced their winners for 2016 and as I cast my eyes down the list, I was amused to see that their best new play and best musical were shows that I did not hugely enjoy (The Flick and Groundhog Day) and their best actor pick – Stephen Dillane – was another that did not register with me at all.
After that, things chime a little better with me, with Billie Piper’s excoriating work in Yerma, which is returning this summer, and Glenda Jackson’s extraordinary Lear (whatever you thought of the production, her production was a stonking return to the stage) both being recognised. And deservedly, the creatives behind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child gain just as much recognition, if not more, as its cast. Lovely to see Charlene James getting a nod too for  Cuttin’ It as most promising playwright.
 
Best new play:

The Flick by Annie Baker
 
Best musical [new or revival]: 
Groundhog Day

Best actor: 
Stephen Dillane in Faith Healer

Best actress:
Billie Piper in Yerma
 
Best Shakespearean performance:
Glenda Jackson in King Lear
 
Best director:
John Tiffany for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Best designer:
Christine Jones for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Most promising playwright:
Charlene James for Cuttin’ It

Most promising newcomer: 
Anthony Boyle in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

 

 

Anthony Boyle & John Tiffany (c) Peter Jones

 

Anthony Pins, Billie Piper, Stephen Dillane, Paul Taiano (c) Peter Jones

 

Tim Firth & Joanna Riding (c) Peter Jones

 

 

Winners of the 2016 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards

Best actor
Sir Kenneth Branagh The Entertainer, Garrick Theatre
O-T Fagbenle Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, National Theatre, Lyttelton
WINNER – Ralph Fiennes The Master Builder/Richard III, Old Vic/Almeida Theatre
James McArdle
 Platonov, Chichester Festival Theatre/National Theatre, Olivier
Ian McKellen No Man’s Land, Wyndham’s Theatre

Natasha Richardson Award for best actress
Noma Dumezweni Linda, Royal Court, Jerwood Downstairs
Helen McCrory The Deep Blue Sea, National Theatre, Lyttelton
Sophie Melville Iphigenia In Splott, National Theatre, Temporary Theatre (a Sherman Theatre production)
WINNER – Billie Piper Yerma, Young Vic
Glenn Close
 in Sunset Boulevard Continue reading “Winners of the 2016 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards”

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – 24 Hour Plays | Making Headlines

“Open your eyes, what do you see?”

It may well have had much to do with the fact that I was knackered after the previous six but I have to admit that the seventh final session of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival was probably my least favourite of the day. The 24 Hour Plays | Making Headlines programme saw writers respond to headlines of the moment to create rapid response plays – none of which really lived up to the quality of the programmed works that had preceded them.

There were lots of interesting ideas floating around – Rebecca Lenkiewicz and director Anna Ledwich’s scorching take-down of Vogue’s declaration that the cleavage is out of fashion probably worked the best, interleaved with a young woman’s desperate search for adequate healthcare and the inadequacy of male responses to a serious discussion about breasts. And Charlene James’ kidnap drama with a twist gave Maggie Steed a cracking part to play, directed by Alice Hamilton. Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – 24 Hour Plays | Making Headlines”

News – Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival begins

Monday 14th November sees the launch of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival at Hampstead Theatre and The Actors Centre. Produced by Sphinx Theatre Company and Joanna Hedges, Women Centre Stage exists to promote, advocate for and inspire women in the arts and has developed and commissioned a wide range of new work which uniquely brings together a diverse array of women characters far from the margins into centre stage.

This is the second year of Women Centre Stage and the festival features a range of workshops and creative comings-together which will culminate in the Performance Day on Sunday 20th November which will feature seven programmes throughout the day. This will include opportunities to see emerging work from new and established writers, plays commissioned from last year’s festival, and see four playwrights respond the headlines of the day in writing a new play each in 24 hours. 

Continue reading “News – Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival begins”

The 2016 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards

Best actor
Sir Kenneth Branagh The Entertainer, Garrick Theatre
O-T Fagbenle Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, National Theatre, Lyttelton
Ralph Fiennes The Master Builder/Richard III, Old Vic/Almeida Theatre
James McArdle Platonov, Chichester Festival Theatre/National Theatre, Olivier
Ian McKellen No Man’s Land, Wyndham’s Theatre

Natasha Richardson Award for best actress
Noma Dumezweni Linda, Royal Court, Jerwood Downstairs
Helen McCrory The Deep Blue Sea, National Theatre, Lyttelton
Sophie Melville Iphigenia In Splott, National Theatre, Temporary Theatre (a Sherman Theatre production)
Billie Piper Yerma, Young Vic
Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard Continue reading “The 2016 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards”

Review: Cuttin’ It, Young Vic

“We have done it for so long. It is who we are. It has to happen”

A play about FGM – female genital mutilation – could never be easy to watch, it should never be easy to watch. But the genius of Charlene James’ Cuttin’ It – initially written for radio and now expanded with direction from Gbolahan Obisesan – is that it makes it essential to watch, theatrical but still truthful, fierce and yet fearless, if you’re more shell-shocked at the end of a play this year, I’d be surprised.

Told in the form of overlapping monologues from fifteen-year-old Somali-born teenagers Muna and Iqra, Cuttin’ It tells of two very different young women. Muna has been in the UK since she was three, Iqra arrived as a refugee when she was ten and though they now attend the same school, there’s worlds between them. But they have something in common, FGM, and in the space of just over an hour, we see just how much. Continue reading “Review: Cuttin’ It, Young Vic”