#AdventwithClowns Day 2 – Joe Penhall’s Birthday

Today’s Advent treat is this TV version of Joe Penhall’s Birthday, making it a belated Roger Michell tribute first seen at the Royal Court

“Men can take the pain”

Joe Penhall’s Birthday was first seen onstage at the Royal Court back in 2012 and, in the strange way of these things, was chosen for televisual adaptation as part of Sky Art’s Playhouse Presents… programme in 2015. Roger Michell returned to direct with three-quarters of the original cast, only replacing Lisa Dillon with Anna Maxwell Martin (a mildly interesting decision given that’s his wife…!). 

Birthday follows a couple in the final stages of pregnancy. The only thing is it is Ed who is nine months pregnant and Lisa who is pacing the hospital corridors and forgetting to pack the raspberry leaf tea. This is a world where men can have artificial wombs implanted but despite those advances, the often patronising manner that so many pregnant people experience remains very much intact. Continue reading “#AdventwithClowns Day 2 – Joe Penhall’s Birthday”

News: Ruth Wilson and Ivo van Hove reunite for The Human Voice

After the pandemic robbed us of the chance to see 24 hours of Ruth Wilson, the celebrated (not least by me) actress has revealed her plans to return to the London stage. She’s set to star in The Human Voice, an adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s monologue by Ivo van Hove and designed by Jan Versweyveld, at the Harold Pinter Theatre for three short weeks from 17th March until 9th April.

The production brings back together Wilson and van Hove after their vibrant take on Hedda Gabler at the National Theatre back in 2016. And it is a show has been in Internationaal Theater Amsterdam’s (or Toneelgroep Amsterdam as was) repertoire for a good few years now, with the marvellous actress Halina Reijn having performed it one way or another every year from 2008 to 2019! Continue reading “News: Ruth Wilson and Ivo van Hove reunite for The Human Voice”

#AdventwithClowns Day 1: In the Heights (2021)

This Advent I am going to try to showcase some of the online theatre content that’s still available, particularly now as Omicron approaches, starting with the film version of In the Heights

“That’s señorita to you”

Whilst fully appreciating the concerns raised at the lack of Black Latinx representation in a film set in a New York neighbourhood where they make up a substantial proportion of the population, it does feel a bit of a shame that so much of the discourse around In the Heights focused on it, possibly to the detriment of its box office. When there’s so little representation available from Hollywood studios, you want something like this to succeed regardless but with that representation at a premium, it’s no wonder that those who are still left out want to make their voices heard.

These problems around colorism aside, Jon M Chu’s film of Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin Manuel Miranda’s 2005 musical remains a fairly curious choice for adaptation. The story isn’t one of the conventional narrative arc, it really is more of a feeling, a mood, a slice of life from the predominantly Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights. We follow a whole range of characters as they follow their dreams, no matter how big or small, from life-changing decisions to getting an ice-cold drink to ease a heatwave but the focus is on the micro-, offering a warm personal hug. Continue reading “#AdventwithClowns Day 1: In the Heights (2021)”

Review: Love Story 10th Anniversary Concert, Cadogan Hall

The 10th Anniversary Concert of Howard Goodall’s gorgeous musical Love Story sees a beautiful reunion for its stars Michael D Xavier and Emma Williams at Cadogan Hall

“They will dance in the puddles
And teach them these tunes”

Delayed from last year by, what else, the pandemic, this 10th Anniversary Concert of Love Story was such a gorgeous way to spend a Sunday evening. I loved Howard Goodall’s musical from the first time I heard it in the West End (and the second) and have followed it ever since, from fringe revivals in London and even to Bolton.

Director Kirk Jameson’s production elevated the show from its billed “concert” staging to something much more involved, if not necessarily the full monty. And with all the emotion and commitment shown by the musical’s original star pairing – Emma Williams and Michael D Xavier – so much of that initial magic was recaptured. Continue reading “Review: Love Story 10th Anniversary Concert, Cadogan Hall”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 4

Series 4 of Silent Witness sees Sam finally leave Cambridge for London and start to lean into her savant side…

“I’m not in the police, I’m independent. That’s what makes my opinion worth having”

Perhaps cognisant of just how much a pathologist can be needed to do in Cambridge, Series 4 of Silent Witness transplants Sam Ryan to London, ostensibly as a professor at Imperial University but in reality, becoming the pathologist-on-call for any and everyone who wants her services in this shortened series of 3 stories.

So she heads up to Lincolnshire to deal with a North Sea helicopter crash and even returns to Cambridge (already so soon) to reunite fractiously with now-DCI Connors for some furious hate-flirting over the bodies of 12 burnt-alive cinemagoers. The opening out of the scope of location is a definite plus for the series, allowing for a believable variety. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 4”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 3

Guest stars such as Lesley Manville, Adam James and Elizabeth Berrington help elevate an interesting Series 3 of Silent Witness 

“I’d’ve thought you’d learned by now, this is police work not yours”

Series 3 of Silent Witness brings a new recurring police team for us to get to know, a(nother) new handsome man from Sam’s past who is waiting to jump into bed with her, and a new set of cases for Sam to get overly invested in. It gets to beyond the point of mockery when almost every episode has a line like the above quote in it but you sense the writers acknowledging this, as the opportunity to work in a different capacity in London is presented at the end of the season.

Which is probably right as there can’t be many more police officers in Cambridge that Amanda Burton’s Sam Ryan hasn’t royally pissed off. And in a Midsomer Murders/Morse way, surely there’s a limit to the number of crimes that can take place in a single locale. The casting is on point in this series though – Adam James and Mark Umbers appearing as posh students and somone had clearly been watching Mike Leigh films as Lesley Manville, Heather Craney and Elizabeth Berrington all make appearances here.

Top guest appearences

  1. a baby Nicholas Hoult appears briefly as a grieving child
  2. a fresh-faced Adam James as an earnest undergrad who describes someone as “a bit of poof but he didn’t deserve to get beaten up” (1998 doesn’t feel that long ago…)
  3. there’s a performance of striking froideur from Lesley Manville in ‘Fallen Idol’
  4. Jimi Mistry makes up the numbers in the incident room for one scene in one of the cases early on, never to be seen again
  5. and no spoilers but Josette Simon is brilliant as the slick Drug Squad DCI at the heart of ‘Divided Loyalties’

News: One year of National Theatre at Home – New titles added

Ahead of National Theatre at Home’s one year anniversary on 1 December, the National Theatre has today announced the next filmed productions to be added to the streaming service, which is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Joining the platform today is Simon Godwin’s critically acclaimed 2018 production of Antony & Cleopatra in the Olivier theatre, with Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo playing Shakespeare’s famous fated couple. Then the iconic and multi-award-winning production of War Horsebased on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, will be available from 1 December until 31 January 2022 on demand internationally for the first time since its premiere 14 years ago. It will be available with British Sign Language, audio description and captions. Continue reading “News: One year of National Theatre at Home – New titles added”

Review: Manor, National Theatre

Despite the presence of Nancy Carroll and Shaun Evans, Moira Buffini’s Manor proves a disappointment at the National Theatre

“Truth is the argument that wins”

Truth is, Manor can’t help but end up as something of a disappointment. Starring national treasure-in-the-making Nancy Carroll and Vigil-hot Shaun Evans, written by Moira Buffini who has been doing interesting things on both film and TV, and having been building anticipation since before COVID (the show was in rehearsal at the National Theatre when lockdown first hit), hopes were certainly high but the reality is something a little far right of the mark.

It’s undoubtedly a play of big ideas and Buffini seems to have decided to include all of the ones she has in here. Climate changes rubs shoulders with homegrown far-right nationalism, murder mystery vibes clash with country house farce stylings and as we settle into sitcom mode, a disaster movie kicks in. The result in an unholy mess which gathers its unlikely motley crew of unlikeable characters for too long a time in an admittedly elegant set (Lez Brotherston).  Continue reading “Review: Manor, National Theatre”