TV Review: Silent Witness Series 13

God-tier guest casting, daring deviation in the storytelling and Leo getting hit on the head, Series 13 of Silent Witness is probably one of my absolute faves 

“Your kind think you’re some kind of heroic martyr, you won’t be told or fobbed off. If people get dragged into your mess then it’s jolly unfortunate but you don’t give a shit because you have right on your side”

Now this is the good stuff. Series 13 of Silent Witness opted to shake things up just a little more than usual and the result, for me, is one of their most effective seasons to date. For one, having Leo be the one who is attacked rather than Nikki is (three series on the trot in case you’d forgotten) is just nice for the variety but adding a note of frailty into this most sanctimonious of characters works well.

It also sets up a cracking episode which sees Nikki and Harry at loggerheads as they take the same evidence and end up with wildly different conclusions which they’re then forced to defend in court. And a campus shooting episode, whilst having hardly anything to do with forensic pathology, is brilliantly conceived and chillingly executed. Fresh takes on the storytelling really makes this series feel alive. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 13”

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’

TV Review: Unforgotten, Series 4

Don’t read on if you haven’t finished Series 4 of Unforgotten for major spoilers are within 

“We are who we are – I don’t think you can ever really change that”

It’s a good job that Series 4 of Unforgotten aired as spring arrives in the air and the promise of easements is finally taking some of the sting out of lockdown life. For had it been on in the endless depths of the last few dark months, I don’t think I could have coped. Indeed, I’m not sure I can still really cope now even with it being 23 degrees outside.

They killed Nicola Walker! Again! I’ve barely recovered from how they did Ruth dirty, but given the way that episode 5 ended and the way people were talking at the beginning of episode 6, the writing was on the wall. And so as Sunny finally cracked the case and unwound the puzzle of Matthew Walsh’s death and the four young police officers intimately involved with it, DCI Cassie Stuart breathed her last. Continue reading “TV Review: Unforgotten, Series 4”

TV Review: Unforgotten Series 4 Episode 1

Just a brief reminder really that one of the TV highlights of the year (cos it will be, you know that) has just started – the fourth series of Unforgotten

“Why would someone keep a body for 30 years?”

My love for Nicola Walker has been one of the most consistent relationships in my life, so to see her land on the kind of project that people will rightly be talking about for years to come is highly satisfying. Chris Lang’s Unforgotten now enters its fourth series, an unlikely one you might have thought, given the way the last ended but it’s a welcome return indeed and one which deals adroitly with DCI Cassie Stuart’s uncertain relationship with her job.

Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar’s Khan have lost none of their pleasingly undramatic chemistry as the deeply empathetic heads of the never knowingly over-worked cold case department, this time dealing with the discovery of a headless, handless body in a discarded freezer. And as ever, the casting is nigh on perfect (Victor Jenkins for this series) as the likes of the brilliant Liz White and Susan Lynch – both performers who do ‘sad’ so heartbreakingly well – emerge as part of the web of people intimately connected with the crime, the details of which will spill forth over the next five weeks. Can’t wait!

 

A round-up of February theatre news

Ros is looking for romance. Richard needs a new companion. They’re a match! But the year is 2020, and dating isn’t simple. From glitchy Zoom introductions, to their socially distanced first date in an actual restaurant, Adventurous follows the twists and turns of Ros and Richard’s relationship as they negotiate technology, treachery…and tortoises.

Filmed in lockdown, this is the premiere of actor Ian Hallard’s debut play. Both comic and touching, Adventurous tells the unexpected story of two single souls with an unstable connection. It reunites Hallard with Olivier Award-winner Sara Crowe following their many double-acts in Jermyn’s Street Theatre’s 2018 production of Noel Coward’s Tonight at 8.30. This online production is a heartwarming and hilarious treat. Continue reading “A round-up of February theatre news”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 5

Full of shocks that actually mean something, Series 5 of Spooks is one of its absolute best

“The British people will accept anything if you serve it up with a picture of Will Young in the shower”

A cracking series of Spooks that starts off with a series of bangs, robbing Colin of his life and Juliet Shaw of her ability to walk, the introduction of Ros Myers to the team is an invigorating success, particularly as she inspires Jo to become more badass too. This incarnation of the team really does click well, responding smoothly to the enforced changes in personnel, though newly single father Adam’s mental health crisis too often feels like a plot device rather than a genuine exploration of PTSD.

Subject-wise, the relevance level remains high, particularly pertinent when it comes to national crises with panic buying and over-stuffed hospitals feeling all too real. The role of fundamentalist zealots is shared equally between Christian and Islamic believers over the series and even if the finale underwhelms somewhat, the eco-terrorism theme hasn’t become any less significant.

Nicola Walker-ometer
I’m still not over it, the defenestration of Ruth Evershed. Having finally made it to a date with Harry, which went about as well as could be expected, she runs up against a murderous Oliver Mace conspiracy and ends up having to fake her own death to protect Harry and ends up fleeing the country. An ignominious end for the heart of the team.  Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 5”

11 of my top moments in a theatre in 2017

As ever, the wait for the end-of-year lists of favourite plays and performances has to continue until I’ve actually stopped seeing theatre in 2017. But in the meantime, here’s a list of 11 of my top moments in a theatre in 2017, the things that first pop into my mind when someone says ‘what did you enjoy this year’. For reference, here’s my 2016 list, 2015 list and 2014 list.

Continue reading “11 of my top moments in a theatre in 2017”

TV Review: Fearless, ITV

“I learned a long time ago not to trust what people tell me”

I did want to love Fearless, I really did. Any series with Helen McCrory in its leading role has to be worthy of consideration and ITV have been upping their drama game (qv Unforgotten) recently. But despite an intriguing opener, the six episodes of Fearless increasingly tested the patience as Patrick Harbinson’s script failed to deliver on its twistily complex promise, instead giving us a fairly run-of-the-mill thriller that ultimately proved less than thrilling.

With a playbook that threw out major themes with regularity – miscarriages of justice, the Syrian refugee crisis, institutional corruption, the war in Iraq, the ethics of the surveillance state, just to name a few – it was inevitable that some would fall by the wayside. But with the amount of personal backstory for McCrory’s Emma also shoehorned in there, the narrative was both painfully overstuffed and sadly inconsequential – it was increasingly hard to know what we were meant to care about.

Continue reading “TV Review: Fearless, ITV”

Queer Theatre – a round-up

“There’s nowt so queer as folk”

Only about a week behind schedule, I wanted to round up my thoughts about the National’s Queer Theatre season – links to the reviews of the 5 readings I attended below the cut – and try a formulate a bit of a response to this piece by Alice Saville for Exeunt which rather took aim at the season alongside the Old Vic’s Queers (also I just want to point out too that there are two writers of colour involved – Tarell Alvin McCraney and Keith Jarrett). As a member of the ‘majority’ within this minority, I tread warily and aim to do sowith love and respect. 

It feels important to recognise what the NT (and the Old Vic) were trying to achieve though. Queer Theatre looked “at how theatre has charted the LGBT+ experience through a series of rehearsed readings, exhibitions, talks and screenings” and if only one looked at lesbian women, two of the readings were written by women. Several of the post-show discussions at the NT talked specifically about this issue but in acknowledging it, also quite rightly pointed out that there just isn’t the historical body of work to draw from when it comes to wider LGBT+ representation. That’s where the talks and screenings came into their own, able to provide some of that alternative focus. Continue reading “Queer Theatre – a round-up”

Review: Queer Theatre – Certain Young Men, National Theatre

#3 in the National Theatre’s Queer Theatre season of rehearsed readings

“Well join the radical wing of the movement where to be really queer you have, as it were, to nail your foreskin to the transgressive mast. Literally it seems, on occasion.”

I have to admit to not necessarily being the greatest fan of Peter Gill’s writing and seeing a reading of one of his plays after having partaken of a little of the Pride festivities on Saturday afternoon was definitely not one of my wiser moves. But I wanted the complete set of these readings and so I sat down for 2009’s Certain Young Men.

Following the lives of four gay couples and told predominantly in duologues, it had the slight sense of yet another version of La Ronde as established pairings disintegrate and new ones reform. It is more complex than that, as it seeks to present varied and various forms of gay personalities and relationships, resisting the easy definition of a gay community to present a heterogenous grouping of homosexual men with multiple and conflicting desires. Continue reading “Review: Queer Theatre – Certain Young Men, National Theatre”