TV Review: The Long Call (ITV)

Gays. Juliet Stevenson. Anita Dobson. Sarah Gordy. The Long Call is practically tailor-made to my interests, and it’s also a pretty darn good TV show too

“Let’s find out if we’re dealing with a revenge killing”

With its soaringly emotive soundtrack and stunning vistas of the southern English coastline, you’d be forgiven for thinking The Long Call is something of a Broadchurch redux but its pedigree is actually something much more established. Novelist Ann Cleeves has seen two of her detective series be adapted into long-running TV shows – Vera and Shetland, both of which I’ve never seen and will doubtless get around to one day… – and so eyes are definitely on future possibilities here.

And featuring a gay male detective lead, who gets to snog his husband in the first episode no less, it is breaking boundaries (albeit the kind of ones you would have thought were broken a fair while ago). Ben Aldridge plays DI Matthew Venn, a policeman who is naturally being forced to confront his past at the same time as solving a crime which is somehow linked to that past. Raised in an Amish-like sect from whom he is now long estranged, the funeral of his father coincides with the discovery of a body on the beach and investigating the crime means dealing with his upbringing. Continue reading “TV Review: The Long Call (ITV)”

Review: Royal Court’s Living Newspaper #6

Moments of dark humour are scattered throughout Edition #6 of the Royal Court’s Living Newspaper but elsewhere it is a bit more hit and miss

“I loved every minute of it, yeah, fuck it, why not, five stars!”

Originally planned as a six-edition run, the Royal Court’s Living Newspaper will actually be gaining a bonus seventh instalment with pieces written by writers aged 14-21. But Edition #6 is now live with its intention of  exploring “the strange and contradictory relationship between a closed theatre building and the world outside; asking questions about why we gather together and who we might have lost when we do so again”.

There are some short, sharp stabs of real brilliance here. Stacey Gregg picking through the minefield that is talking about Northern Ireland whether in English, ISL or BSL; Rory Mullarkey raking theatre critics over the coals in the highly amusing This Play (Louisa Harland, Sule Rimi and Micllicent Wong clearly having lots of fun); Amy Bethan Evans’ scabrously funny take on the agony aunt in Neurodiverge-Aunt, delivered beautifully by Cian Binchy. Continue reading “Review: Royal Court’s Living Newspaper #6”

News: writers and cast for Living Newspaper #6

The cast and writers of Edition 6 of Living Newspaper have been announced. It will be written by Pamela Carter, Hester Chillingworth, Tim Crouch, Molly Davies, Amy Bethan Evans, Robert Alan Evans, Stacey Gregg, Rose Lewenstein, Simon Longman, Rory Mullarkey, Lettie Precious, Pavel Pryazhko, Testament, Joe Ward Munrow, Kit Withington and Rachael Young. Pavel Pryazhko’s contribution will be translated by Sasha Dugdale.

Edition 6 explores the strange and contradictory relationship between a closed theatre building and the world outside; asking questions about why we gather together and who we might have lost when we do so again. It takes us on a journey from the familiarity of an old English pub, down the streets of Belarus, into the heady territory of global financial markets, stop briefly on a quiet park bench before bringing us back into the heart of the Royal Court itself. Continue reading “News: writers and cast for Living Newspaper #6”

TV Review: The Capture

Lia Williams is all kinds of caustic brilliance in conspiracy thriller The Capture

“Accepting you can rarely see the whole picture is part of the job”

I’m working my way through the TV shows I can watch on my free trials on various services, which has lead me to The Capture which aired on BBC1 in late 2019 and somehow completely passed me by. This is particularly egregious since it features Lia Williams the kind of amazing top boss role that makes you wonder why she isn’t better known.

Created, written and directed by Ben Chanan, The Capture takes place in a surveillance state that not too long ago would have been described as a near-future dystopia but now, is just London on a Tuesday. In a society that closely monitors CCTV, so much of justice depends on the reliability of those camera image. But what happens when that confidence is eroded? Continue reading “TV Review: The Capture”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 7

In which the rollercoaster of quality rockets sky-high again, Series 7 of Spooks ranks as one of my favourites

“I want my team to know why I acted the way I did”

The introduction of series-long plots didn’t necessarily work first time round for Spooks but in Series 7, the magic certainly happens to produce one of the best seasons across its decade-long life. Perhaps the reduced episode order from 10 to 8 helped to refine the effectiveness of the storytelling, recognising that it was Adam’s time to go definitely worked and finally made the right kind of room for Ros to rise, and giving Gemma Jones this material was an absolute masterstroke. 

Undoing the silly fakeouts of Ros and Jo’s ‘deaths’ right from the off, the introduction of Richard Armitage’s Lucas North also works well, his time in Russian captivity casting a nice shade of doubt over his presence in the team, a marked difference to the alpha males of Tom and Adam. And the ongoing Sugarhorse mystery is skillfully wound throughout the whole season, coiling ever-tighter until the hammer blows of a properly fierce finale. 

Nicola Walker-ometer
She’s just a distant memory at this point – Harry really is such a fuckboy. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 7”

Film Review: Peterloo (2018)

I wanted to like Mike Leigh’s Peterloo, I really did…

“You must be famished coming all the way from Wigan”

I’ve been a big fan of Mike Leigh’s film work, since discovering it in the last decade or so, and loved his last film Mr Turner. So news of his return to period drama, albeit through his idiosyncratic process, in Peterloo was a plus for me. The reality though is an epic that proved a real slog for me, even boring by the end. Continue reading “Film Review: Peterloo (2018)”

Review: Faith, Hope and Charity, National Theatre

A blistering indictment of austerity and what it has done to all of us, Faith, Hope and Charity is unmissable at the National Theatre

“When we’re hungry, we go to sleep”

A time when the much-abused sobriquet state-of-the-nation is actually entirely appropriate, Alexander Zeldin completes his excoriating triptych of plays about modern Britain with Faith, Hope and Charity. Beyond Caring looked at zero hour contracts and Love homeless hostels, Zeldin now turns his focus onto community centres and their role in holding society together.

As before, there’s little that is inherently ‘dramatic’ in Zeldin’s play, rather scenes are episodic and lean heavily into naturalism – silences as tables are put off, dialogue that interrupts and tails off but rather than feeling empty or clumsy, the cumulative effect is one of deep rumination. And such is Zeldin’s skill, you can’t help but ponder the state of the nation from the seemingly smallest of incidental details as presented here. Continue reading “Review: Faith, Hope and Charity, National Theatre”

TV Review: Chernobyl

In its exploration of the human stories around the nuclear accident, Craig Mazin’s mini-series Chernobyl is simply superb

“You are dealing with something that has never happened on the planet before”

Yeesh! TV dramas surely don’t have the right to be as good as Chernobyl, particularly when they’re ostensibly about such grimly horrific a topic as this,  But as creator, writer, and executive producer Craig Mazin has adroitly identified, the 1986 nuclear disaster – and the human impact it had on those closest to it – is relatively under-explored, in mainstream Western culture at least. 

Chernobyl seeks to explain what happened on that fateful day, and its terrible aftermath, on two distinct levels. Focusing in on the microlevel, we follow stories such as those of the power station workers, the first responders, the people who watched the fire burn up close. But it also takes a strategic look at the Soviet system at large, tracing the institutional problems that allowed it to happen.

Continue reading “TV Review: Chernobyl”

News: the National Theatre announces 15 new productions for 2019 and 2020

So much goodness! The National Theatre have just announced details of productions stretching deep into 2020, and with writers like Lucy Kirkwood, Kate Tempest, Roy Williams and Tony Kushner, and actors like Lesley Manville, Maxine Peake, Conleth Hill, Cecilia Noble and Lesley Sharp, it is hard not to feel excited about what’s ahead.

Olivier Theatre 

Following a sell-out run at Rose Theatre Kingston, the acclaimed two-part adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s MY BRILLIANT FRIEND by April De Angelis is reworked for the Olivier stage by Melly Still (Coram Boy). When the most important person in her life goes missing without a trace, Lenu Greco, now a celebrated author, begins to recall a relationship of more than 60 years.  Continue reading “News: the National Theatre announces 15 new productions for 2019 and 2020”