TV Review: Peaky Blinders Series 6

Series 6 of Peaky Blinders reaches the end with a scorcher, you kinda wish there wasn’t a film (and a ballet, and an immersive show) still to come

“Vengeance is for the Lord
‘Not in Small Heath it ain’t. Rest in peace, Poll'”

In a series beset by the biggest of challenges, Covid delays and the loss of one of its key stars, Helen McCrory who played the inimitable Aunt Poll, Series 6 of Peaky Blinders had no right to be this good. But as it wrapped up the televisual chapter of the gang from Small Heath, it paid stunning tribute to McCrory and Poll alike while telling the revenge epic of all revenge epics.

Wisely acknowledging that a vast array of supporting characters could not all be dealt with substantively, Steven Knight used them sparingly, which may have frustrated some but meant that some stalwarts really got their moment to shine. Sophie Rundle’s Ada is a case in point, on the fringes for much of the time but in the episode where she assumed the head of family, she soared. Continue reading “TV Review: Peaky Blinders Series 6”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 15

Series 15 of Silent Witness ends up being a bit of a dud with both Harry and Leo getting close to the end of the road

“This is police business”

As has become increasingly obvious, criticising Silent Witness for not being a show about forensic pathology is a fruitless task, the blurring of the lines between the lab and fieldwork (aka stepping on the toes of police investigations) has long been a significant part of the show but once the deliberate sainted antagonism of Sam Ryan had gone, I felt that the writing had managed to balance it fairly well, finding a sweet spot where it rarely bothered me too much. 

Series 15 throws all that in the bin though. There’s police interview scenes with a single police officer but both Harry and Leo in there. There’s Leo marching into crime scenes without calling the police, chasing suspects through the forest out back and then casually walking right back into the house with nary a piece of PPE on him. I don’t mean to take it all so seriously but it is just so frustrating to watch, especially coming from so sanctimonious a character as Leo – I think Janet has eventually dodged a bullet here.  Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 15”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 8

Amanda Burton’s departure is smoothly managed as Series 8 of Silent Witness heralds a major new age for the show 

“Hard act to follow…the blessed Sam”

Given that the first 7 series of Silent Witness featured Amanda Burton’s name above the title, it is impressive that the show’s transition to life without her is effected so smoothly here. She leaves after the first story of Series 8 with a return to Northern Ireland and some long held secrets from the past and if her departure comes a little as a surprise, it’s slightly less so given how the first part of that story finishes on quite the cliffhanger.

Harry and Leo then get one story to themselves and their petty rivalries until Emilia Fox’s effervescent Dr Nikki Alexander is introduced to the team. She comes as a forensic anthropologist, focusing on Iron Age facial reconstructions but is soon co-opted into the Lyell Centre’s ways (“Why are they still involved? They’re pathologists”) in a dicey tale of horse racing and helicopters and then a truly harrowing tale of the aftermath of a train crash, stirringly written by Michael Crompton. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 8”

News: Jamie Lloyd and Gypsy production updates

Paul Foster’s concert presentation of Gypsy at Alexandra Palace has added to its already exciting castlist. Joining the seven-fold Rose of Tracie Bennett, Nicola Hughes, Melanie La Barrie, Rebecca Lock, Keala Settle, Samantha Spiro and Sally Ann Triplett will be will be Laura Pitt-Pulford as Louise, Carly Mercedes Dyer as June and Christopher Howell as Herbie.

Directed by Paul Foster with choreography by Joanna Goodwin and sound design by Paul Smith, the show will feature a 26-piece orchestra playing the show’s original orchestrations, conducted by Alex Parker. Book your tickets for 21st February 2022 here. Continue reading “News: Jamie Lloyd and Gypsy production updates”

Late summer casting news

Vivienne Acheampong, Adelayo Adedayo, Ray Emmet Brown, Ernest Kingsley Jnr, Tamara Lawrance, Rudolphe Mdlongwa, Mark Monero and Cecilia Noble have been cast in the UK premiere of Is God Is written by Aleshea Harris and directed by Royal Court Associate Director Ola Ince. 

Is God Is by Aleshea Harris will run in the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs from Friday 10 September 2021 – Saturday 23 October 2021 with press night on Thursday 16 September 2021, 7.30pm.

With set design by Chloe Lamford, costume design by Natalie Pryce, lighting design by Simisola Lucia Majekodumni, composition by Renell Shaw, sound design by Max Perryment, movement direction from Imogen Knight, choreography by Jordan ‘JFunk’ Franklin and special effects design by Susanna Peretz. The associate designer is Shankho Chaudhuri, the assistant director is Leian John-Baptiste, the dialect coach is Dawn-Elin Fraser and the fight director is Philip D’Orléans. Continue reading “Late summer casting news”

TV Review: Waking the Dead Series 8

Alas poor Stella. Series 8 of Waking the Dead shakes up the team once again but its real strength comes from some god-tier guest casting

“Your evidence is based solely on the deluded ravings of a paranoid schizophrenic and the manipulative whisperings of a serial killing psychopath”

In all honesty, I’d forgotten that they killed off Stella in Series 8 of Waking the Dead and the rather low-key way in which she was dispatched seems to indicate the writers wanted it that way. I think Félicité Du Jeu did well to try and assimilate into the team but she rarely got much of a shot in terms of characterisation aside from being their dogsbody. Alors…

So we’re given a new junior – Stacey Roca as Detective Sergeant Katrina Howard – but once again there’s so little attention paid to developing her character that it is little surprise she only lasts for this one series. And whilst I’m being critical, the lack of follow-through from the traumatic events for Boyd at the end of the last series is a dereliction of duty IMHO. Continue reading “TV Review: Waking the Dead Series 8”

News: National Theatre announces National Theatre at Home

National Theatre announces National Theatre at Home, starting with One Man Two Guvnors, Jane Eyre, Treasure Island and Twelfth Night 

During this unprecedented time which has seen the closure of theatres, cinemas and schools, the National Theatre today announces new initiative National Theatre at Home providing access to content online to serve audiences in their homes. Audiences around the world can stream NT Live productions for free via YouTube, and students and teachers have access to the National Theatre Collection at home, delivered in partnership with Bloomsbury Publishing.

From Thursday 2 April, a number of productions previously screened in cinemas globally as a part of National Theatre Live will be made available to watch via the National Theatre’s YouTube channel. The first production to be broadcast as part of National Theatre at Home will be Richard Bean’s One Man Two Guvnors featuring a Tony Award-winning performance from James Corden. Each production will be free and screened live every Thursday at 7.00pm GMT, it will then be available on demand for seven days. Alongside the streamed productions, National Theatre at Home will also feature accompanying interactive content such as Q&As with cast and creative teams and post-stream talks, with further details of this programme to be announced.

Working closely with YouTube, other productions streamed as part of National Theatre at Home include:
Sally Cookson’s stage adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre on the 9th April,
Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island on 16th April, and 
Twelfth Night on the 23rd April featuring Tamsin Greig as Malvolia in Shakespeare’s classic comedy, with further titles to be announced. What would you like to see added to the programme?

Photo credits:
One Man Two Guvnors – Johan Persson
Jane Eyre –
Manuel Harlan
Treasure Island –
Johan Persson 
Twelfth Night – Marc Brenner

 

Review: Cyrano de Bergerac, Playhouse Theatre

Jamie Lloyd and Martin Crimp’s iconoclastic take on Cyrano de Bergerac is a bracing breath of fresh air at the Playhouse Theatre

“Decided to come out, watch a play?”

Not having any real kind of relationship with Edmond Rostand’s original play, aside from a dimly-remembered all-female version back in 2016, I approached Cyrano de Bergerac at the Playhouse Theatre with something of a blank slate, my intrigue at Jamie Lloyd’s directorial vision tempered by my fear of most anything Martin Crimp has written.

It is certainly a challenging watch and predictably, Crimp and Lloyd make us work. The free adaptation switches rhyming verse for slam poetry, Soutra Gilmour’s design gives us a starkly contemporary milieu and the fourth wall might as well not exist as lines are often spoken out to the audience. The utilitarian modern aesthetic also extends to costumes, meaning there’s no nose… Continue reading “Review: Cyrano de Bergerac, Playhouse Theatre”

Review: Medicine, Hope Theatre

Rightfully tough to take in its exploration of mental illness, Meghan Tyler’s Medicine impresses at the Hope Theatre

“You taught me the wrong things”

It’s a real gift to be able to write the kind of dialogue that manages to both leave you breathless with laughter and yet feel entirely rooted in believability. And as Ma bickers delightfully with her daughter Moira-Bridget over whether she’ll catch her death without a sweater, or the quality of the wine she’s nicked, or what they should drink that wine out of (I think this is the first play I’ve seen to mention Mooncups…), it is clear that Meghan Tyler has such skill.

But Medicine is far from just fun and games and banter, the full complexity of mother-daughter relationships is explored here, right down to everything that they share. Which includes a tendency to severe depression. We first meet the pair on Warrenpoint Pier in Northern Ireland, where Ma discovers Moira on the edge – quite literally – but though every part of her wants to do something, sometimes it is just impossible to help. Continue reading “Review: Medicine, Hope Theatre”

Review: Twelfth Night, National Theatre

“A little thing would make me tell them how much I lack of a man”

There’s nowt so queer as folk, at least not in Simon Godwin’s version of Illyria here. A gender-swapped Malvolia longs after her mistress Olivia, hipster-fop Sir Andrew Aguecheek is entirely smitten by a flirtatious Toby Belch, Antonio follows up his snog with Sebastian by inviting him to a rendez-vous at local drag bar The Elephant. And that’s before we’ve even dealt with the sexual confusion that Shakespeare himself engineered in Twelfth Night, as shipwreck survivor Viola disguises herself as her presumed drowned twin brother and wreaks havoc on the libidos of Olivia and Orsino alike.

It’s a mark of the success of Godwin’s production that it wears this all so lightly. It’s a modern-dress version for a modern sensibility (if not for the audience member who gasped audibly at the first gay kiss) and one that is rooted in a real sense of playfulness, as an expertly cast ensemble just have a huge amount of fun with it. Phoebe Fox’s delicious Olivia, who gives new life to the phrase ‘dance like nobody’s watching’; Oliver Chris’ Chelsea playboy of an Orsino, in the throes of a mid-life crisis having just turned 40; Tim McMullan’s swaggeringly confident Sir Toby ever accompanied by Niky Wardley’s spirited Maria and the comic masterpiece that is Daniel Rigby’s Sir Andrew.  Continue reading “Review: Twelfth Night, National Theatre”