Oof, the start of the downfall…Series 9 of Spooks turns into the Lucas North show with terrible ramifications
“Do you know how I knew it was true? Because for the first time you made sense”
It couldn’t last, two strong series of Spooks back-to-back were undone by the horrors of Series 9. And it needn’t have been this way, it opens with a great 10 minutes. Ros;s funeral! A proposal! Harry as an assassin! Ruth getting called “that dogged, brilliant bitch”! But new head writers Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent then have the trickier task of reconstructing a new team, and don’t quite nail it with Sophia Myles’ Beth and Max Brown’s Dimitri only ever appearing in shades of beige.
Worse though, is the shifting of the entire season’s narrative onto Richard Armitage’s Lucas who – dun dun dur – is actually someone else called John Bateman, whose torturously wrangled personal history is dragged out through the presence of Iain Glen’s Vaughan. Undoing all the good work that Armitage had done in building the fascinating ambiguities of Lucas North, the entire John Bateman storyline was a huge mis-step and ultimately indulges Spooks at its worst.
Never better than turning Harry down, she’s a vital steadying presence in a show that badly needs it. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 9”
- Amanda Hale being excellent in an all-too-rare excursion to the stage
- Ben Whishaw being Ben Whishaw in his Whishawy way, even if it’s not quite enough to enliven the play
- Whishaw briefly in his pants, if you like that sort of thing
- An intelligently sparse design from ULTZ
- Did I mention Amanda Hale? She comes close to making it all worthwhile
- The running time
- The comparative lack of depth to Christopher Shinn’s writing which in no way justifies the above
- The range of issues which touched upon but not interrogated despite the above
- The structure of the play which exacerbates the above
- The inherent misogyny in the writing which only allows men to talk about these issues, however unsatisfactorily
- The cheap potshots at political correctness, seemingly designed for the Cavendishes and Purves of this world
- Did I mention the running time?
Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 30th September
“You believe in laws but there are only lechers”
For some reason or other, I stopped watching the second series of Ripper Street midway through and it’s taken me until now to finally finish it. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, it’s more likely to do with running out of time to watch it on the iPlayer or something but anyhoo, I’ve managed it now. My review of Series 1 (which I thoroughly appreciated) is over here and I have to say that that enjoyment has continued, even if I do have a few reservations about its female voices.
It’s a shame that in a crime procedural led by three men, two of the leading supporting female characters did not return for this second series. DI Reid’s wife and kind-of-mistress (Amanda Hale and Lucy Cohu) are both MIA, losing all the work done to establish them, and though Leanne Best is introduced as a local politician who can’t help but flirt with Reid (he’s played by Matthew Macfadyen after all), the overall weight of the series does thus feel a little unbalanced. Continue reading “DVD Review: Ripper Street Series 2”
“I’m stunned with wonder”
When Rupert Goold first announced the #AlmeidaGreeks season with all its familiar titles, I don’t think anyone could have predicted how genuinely epic a sweep of theatrical innovation it would usher in. From the extraordinary Oresteia to the shattering Bakkhai and Medea, the radical main house programme has been supported by a wide range of supplementary activity, not least the 16 hour, 60+ actor retelling of The Iliad (which can now be viewed in full on the Almeida website).
So it’s only natural that as the season draws to an end, it is bookended by another Homeric extravaganza in The Odyssey, again with 60 odd actors participating in a 12 hour non-stop feat of major storytelling which was live-streamed on t’internet. And conscious of raising the ante, directors Rupert Goold and Robert Icke took us on a literal journey, putting the players in taxicabs, boats, buses, trekking across rooftops and down busy streets to bring Ithaca to Islington as Odysseus winds his way home. Continue reading “Review: The Odyssey, Almeida/Live-stream”
“I’ve read the studies. No one has been able to draw a conclusive correlation between virtual behaviour and behaviour in-world.”
Just a quickie for this revisit to US playwright Jennifer Haley’s The Nether, first seen at the Royal Court last summer, which has now transferred to the Duke of York’s and as my colleague for the afternoon said afterwards, isn’t it great to see plays like this with productions like this in the West End. Weighty subjects like the abdication of responsibility in the digital age and the morality of sexual conduct online when it is ostensibly make-believe or “outside consequence” as one character puts it, and a production that reflects its Sloane Square origins in reuniting almost the entire cast without succumbing to big-name casting.
My original review can be read here and it still stands. Es Devlin’s design and Luke Halls’ video work look even better in the larger theatre, hugely slick both in the cool technological sweep of its 2050 setting but also in the elegant evocation of its online world, The Hideaway, where the mind is left to run riot as to what people might get up to in there. Amanda Hale and Stanley Townsend maintain their coolly combative partnership as law enforcer and online maestro respectively and there’s alternately skin-crawling and heart-breaking work from opposite ends of the age spectrum from David Calder and Zoe Brough/Isabella Pappas/Jaime Adler/Perdita Hibbins* (delete as appropriate).
Running time: 80 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 25th April
“This is starting to get offensive”
Proving herself once, twice, three times a lady Chekhov adapter, Anya Reiss now finds herself in the slightly odd position where (I think) she’s had more of her adaptations produced than her original writing – it’s certainly one way of casting off the mantle of ‘saviour of new writing’ with which she has often been blessed/cursed. I didn’t catch her well-received take on Spring Awakening for Headlong earlier this year but it is reimagining the work of Chekhov that has really fired her mojo – recent versions of The Seagull and Three Sisters are now followed by an equally modern Uncle Vanya for the St James Theatre.
And whilst I’d love to say these adaptation are going from strength to strength, for me it is much more a case of diminishing returns. Moving The Seagull to a contemporary Isle of Man chimed well but Three Sisters suffered a little (well, a lot) in the shift to a modern British embassy and so too does Uncle Vanya here, relocated to a Lincolnshire farm in the modern day. The sense of crippling stagnation, of an entire way of life on the precipice is present but none of the deep emotion or eternal tragedy of the characters that should elevate its concerns to the universal. Continue reading “Review: Uncle Vanya, St James Theatre”
“I will not allow a woman’s nature to be more unconstant than a man’s”
This was actually my first interaction with Persuasion, the novel has languished on my bookshelf for years and I’ve never seen an adaptation before, so it was an interesting experience to take the story in for the first time with this ITV adaptation starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones. Simon Burke’s adaptation condenses Austen’s work right down to 90 minutes, which means a lot may well have been lost, but it also made a great introduction for a novice.
After an engagement with Captain Frederick Wentworth eight years ago which crumbled in the face of her family’s disapproval, Anne Elliot finds herself on the shelf at 27. When her father and sister’s lavish lifestyle requires a downsizing of their household, life seems set to change for good as their beloved Kellynch Hall has to be let out to tenants. But the world is a small place and the connections that emerge between her sister’s household where she goes to stay and the new tenants, the Crofts, ensure that the past is not so easily left behind. Continue reading “DVD Review: Persuasion (2007)”
“Just because it is virtual doesn’t mean it isn’t real”
There are times when an age guidance notice can seem like mollycoddling, but there are others when they are truly justified. The UK premiere of Jennifer Haley’s play The Nether by Headlong and the Royal Court is most certainly one of the latter cases, recommended for over 18s only as one of the more disturbing plays we are likely to see this year. The play is one of the more devastatingly effective looks at how the internet has shaped the way we live our lives and how society is struggling to keep up with, and govern, this fast-changing world. Writing now, a few days after seeing it, it still haunts my mind – a combination of Jeremy Herrin’s stunningly mounted production and a searingly brutal play.
Haley’s ‘Nether’ is her futuristic version of the internet where virtual reality has been fully integrated, so people are able to create their own realms like webpages. The playwright pushes that to the extreme in ‘The Hideaway’, a world created by Stanley Townsend’s Sims for him and other like-minded souls to act out their paedophiliac tendencies without actually committing any crime as it currently stands. Young detective Morris, Amanda Hale, has hauled Sims in for questioning though as she wants the details of the whole thing so she can shut it down, arguing that even online realms need to be policed, that all our interactions lead to our deeper understanding of the rules of the world. Continue reading “Review: The Nether, Royal Court”
“I don’t know anything about lobsters”
Sadly not a sequel to the escapades of Pilar and Marcus, this Eldorado is the UK premiere of Marius von Mayenburg’s 2004 play, translated by Maja Zade. It is also the first production by new theatre company Mongrel Thumb and it makes for an ambitiously bold opening statement, albeit one that is likely to have as many detractors as it does fans. von Mayenburg’s work is inscrutably European in feel (Fireface at the Young Vic is my other experience of him) and Simon Dormandy’s production can only do so much to open it up.
Which means audiences at the Arcola will have to be, well, a little less British, a bit more adventurous in accepting von Mayenburg’s version of the world. His El Dorado is a modern day urban sprawl in which property is king, so much so that even though war is raging close by, investors are excited at the potential for building on the battlefields left behind. The rush for colonisation can’t hide the cultural malaise of a society on the edge of despair though, unhappiness manifesting itself in the strangest and most pervasive of ways – lobsters, cupboards, forests, piano lids. Continue reading “Review: Eldorado, Arcola Theatre”