#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: 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”

TV Review: Hollington Drive

Anna Maxwell Martin AND Rachael Stiring in the same show? As sisters? Hollington Drive sure knows how to tempt me in but can it deliver…

“I never thought this would happen”

One of the newest glossy ITV thrillers is Hollington Drive, precision-tooled to my interests as it has cast Anna Maxwell Martin and Rachael Stirling as sisters Theresa and Helen. And as is par for the course, it is full of wild improbabilities (like those sisters living next door to each other in suburban luxury) and unchallengeable truths (someone has an affair with other neighbour Jonas Armstrong because, well, you would). 

The actual story follows the impact on their families of a local boy going missing. Both Theresa and Helen have children who are classmates of 10 year old Alex and on the afternoon he goes missing, Ben and Eva go out to play for a suspiciously long time. When the sisters clock this disturbing detail, they go into overdrive trying to work out if that sickening feeling in their stomachs is justified, forcing them to consider how far they’ll go to preserve the sanctity of their family units. Continue reading “TV Review: Hollington Drive”

News: Donmar Warehouse to stream all 4 versions of Constellations

The Donmar Warehouse will stream its West End revival of Constellations online next month, marking the first time the London theatre has hosted one of its productions on a dedicated on-demand platform. Nick Payne’s play, which was performed with four different casts over the run, has been recorded in each configuration and stream online in October for a month. The play will also be made available free to schools this autumn.

The production recently completed its highly acclaimed run at the Vaudeville Theatre where its four groupings all impressed. For my money, Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah, and Peter Capaldi and Zoë Wanamaker were both excellent but the chance to see Omari Douglas and Russell Tovey, and Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd in close succession really highlights the showcases this enterprise at its best.  All four casting configurations will be available separately online so you’ll be able to mix and match to see the power and possibilities of different interpretations of the same text. Continue reading “News: Donmar Warehouse to stream all 4 versions of Constellations”

TV Review: Code 404

Starring Stephen Graham and Daniel Mays, Sky Comedy’s Code 404 treads an uneasy line between comedy, sci-fi and police procedural

“What’s with the birdbath?”

Created by Tom Miller, Sam Myer and Daniel Peak, Code 404 has a concept that feels like it ought to work but in its execution, somewhat misses the mark. Set (very loosely) in a near-future London, this is a world where technological advances have progressed so far as to be able to bring people back from the dead. So when DI John Major is killed in the line of duty, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end…

Problem is, the procedure is still experimental. So Daniel Mays’ John is more than a bit glitchy. And given that it took nearly a year to execute, his partner – Stephen Graham’s DI Roy Carver – has moved on and moved in with John’s widow – now wife again – played by the excellent Anna Maxwell Martin. And as they try to solve the case of John’s not-murder, all sorts of uncomfortable truths threaten to bubble to the surface. Continue reading “TV Review: Code 404”

Review: Constellations, Vaudeville Theatre

Omari Douglas and Russell Tovey and Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd really raise the game in this multi-cast Constellations at the Vaudeville Theatre

“In the quantum multiverse, every choice, every decision you’ve ever and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes”

Naturally, having declared that the multiple casts of this West End revival of Constellations was perhaps a bit of an extravagance and not worth the return visits, both Omari Douglas and Russell Tovey, and Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd proved me wrong with a brilliant pair of interpretations of Nick Payne’s play, which offer up a powerful compare and contrast exercise right there in the moment.

You can read my reviews from upstairs at the Royal Court to its West End transfer to its bow on Broadway to the UK tour which also popped into the West End to find out more about the play itself. Here, Tovey and Douglas make it sharply witty and as downright sexy as it has ever been and O’Dowd and Maxwell Martin push it to a different funnier place, toying with the fourth wall in several places. So I’m busting out a highly recommended for these, both of them!

Running time: 75 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Marc Brenner
Constellations is booking at the Vaudeville Theatre until 12th September
Omari Douglas and Russell Tovey play until 11th September
Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd play until 12th September

 

Reviews: Constellations, Vaudeville Theatre

The Donmar West End production of Constellations launches its first two casts in Sheila Atim & Ivanno Jeremiah and Peter Capaldi & Zoë Wanamaker at the Vaudeville Theatre

One drink. And if you never want to see me again you never have to see me again.”

With the Donmar currently getting a lick of paint, Michael Longhurst has decided to revive his production of Nick Payne’s Constellations with a pandemic-friendly attention-grabbing model that fits neatly with Payne’s exploration of the multiverse. Four different casts take on the two-hander over the run, pushing it variously in terms of age, sexuality and race.

As if there was any doubting this is a show I like, you can read my reviews from upstairs at the Royal Court to its West End transfer to its bow on Broadway to the UK tour which also popped into the West End. And it is a real pleasure to be able to delve back into its playful structure which tracks the infinite possibilities of the relationship between quantum physicist Marianne and beekeeper Roland. Continue reading “Reviews: Constellations, Vaudeville Theatre”

News: The National Theatre announces 2021-22 programming and launches National Theatre Together

The National Theatre announces new programming and launches a major new campaign for its future, National Theatre Together

The National Theatre has announced its programming until the start of next year with productions on all three South Bank stages as well as three major UK tours, two productions on Broadway, a return to cinemas, and a new feature film to be broadcast on television this autumn. In the week the theatre reopened for audiences again, six new productions were announced, and five productions halted by the pandemic were confirmed to return to the South Bank.  

It has also announced the public launch of National Theatre Together, a new campaign with people at its heart, highlighting the importance of creativity and collaboration with theatre-makers and communities, for young people and audiences. The campaign cements the NT’s commitment to the people of this country and will raise vital funds for the theatre’s ambitious recovery post-pandemic.  Continue reading “News: The National Theatre announces 2021-22 programming and launches National Theatre Together”

TV Review: Motherland Series 3

Series 3 of Motherland returns to give us more of the excellent parental shenanigans, led by the peerless Anna Maxwell Martin

“Another glass of dry white wine”

Despite losing Sharon Horgan from the writing team (she’s still onboard as a producer), the third series of Motherland remains in the safe hands of Holly Walsh, Helen Serafinowicz and Barunka O’Shaughnessy, who regale us with yet more tales of middle-class school gate shenanigans, led by brilliant performances from Anna Maxwell Martin, Diane Morgan, Paul Ready and Lucy Punch.

This time round, we deal with nits, school trips and catchment areas on the lighter side plus a touch of racism, cancer and divorce adding the requisite darker note that has been this series’ hallmark, making it more than just another featherlight comedy. The tightness of the core ensemble means that so much of it works so well but a real joy comes now with the well-judged reappearance of recurring characters. Continue reading “TV Review: Motherland Series 3”

News: Constellations returns to the West End and how!

Constellations returns to the West End and how! One of my favourite plays, with four different casts?!  Amazing stuff.

“One drink. And if you never want to see me again you never have to see me again.”

This summer Nick Payne’s beautiful and heartbreaking romance Constellations is revived in the West End with a twist: four different casts take turns to journey through the multiverse exploring the infinite possibilities of a relationship; each refracting the play afresh. Starring Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah (18th June – 1st August), Peter Capaldi and Zoë Wanamaker (23rd June – 24th July), Omari Douglas and Russell Tovey (30th July – 11th September), and Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd (6th August – 12th September).

It’s a play I’ve followed as much as I can since it premiered upstairs at the Royal Court. From its West End transfer to its bow on Broadway, from the UK tour which also popped into the West End to the Southwark Playhouse production which never happened (very in keeping with the play!), plus there’s the new radio production which I’ve got lined up to listen to very soon. Safe to say I am handling my expectations very well and am in no way over-excited and chomping at the bit to book in to see the same show at least 4 times in less than 3 months…! See you there?