TV Review: Gentleman Jack Series 1

Gentleman Jack proves a huge success, for Sally Wainwight, for Suranne Jones, for lesbian storytelling, for everyone

“So much drama, always, with Anne”

Even with as reliably assured hands as Sally Wainwright’s at the tiller, I was a little nervous for Gentleman Jack in the pride-of-place Sunday evening TV slot. But I should have been surer of my faith, for it has been a stonkingly good 8 hours of drama, with an epically romantic lesbian relationship at its heart.

Anne Lister (Suranne Jones) is a wealthy Yorkshire heiress whose uncompromising nature about any and every aspect of her life rubs any number of people up the wrong way. Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) is most definitely not one of them though, she wants to be rubbed the right way and so we follow the path of true love as it winds through the prejudices of the Yorkshire Pennines and Anne’s attempts to break into the coal mining world. Continue reading “TV Review: Gentleman Jack Series 1”

Short Film Review #62

Last year, I made a weekly feature out of short film reviews (if you explore the film tag, you can find them all) but in the name of reclaiming some semblance of a normal life, I’ve put them on hold. Things still pop into my awareness or my inbox though so I thought I’d flag these up. 

Not quite a short film but an interactive video game, 5 Minutes features newly-announced Beowulf Kieran Bew (and it’s good news, he’s a bearded Bew in this one) as a father trapped in a zombie nightmare with his teenage daughter. You can select three levels of difficulty to help them through their journey to try and escape the zombie curse (I’ve managed medium, just about) and it is all rather well done. I’m no expert at all in this kind of thing though so make of it what you will! Continue reading “Short Film Review #62”

Review: Accolade, St James Theatre

“Everybody has one vice…”

An interesting choice of revival rounded off the One Stage season for emerging producers that has been taking place at the St James Theatre in Emlyn Williams’ Accolade. Previously seen at the Finborough back in early 2011, it won awards and critical acclaim as it formed part of Blanche McIntyre’s rise to one of the most eagerly watched directors working in British theatre and so despite the delay, it does seem like an astute decision from producer Nicola Seed to nurture this back onto the stage.

And something I hadn’t appreciated was how different it would feel in both a post-Leveson and post-Yewtree world. Will Trenting’s huge success as a novelist has seen him be awarded a knighthood despite the salacious nature of his fiction but the night before he is due to receive it, secrets and scandals come creeping out of the woodwork. For Trenting has taken the maxim ‘write of which you know’ most seriously and enjoys a regular dose of orgies in Rotherhithe on the side of his otherwise happy family life and a participant at one of them is discovered to have been underage.

Continue reading “Review: Accolade, St James Theatre”

Review: Ciphers, Bush Theatre

“The vast majority of the people in your life won’t know what you do”

Justine is found dead and her sister Kerry is determined to find out what happened. But digging into the apparently dull and innocuous life that her sibling led reveals that she was in fact an undercover MI5 agent and in her increasingly desperate pursuit for the truth, it becomes clear that nothing is quite what it seems. Dawn King’s new play Ciphers cleverly looks at both the effect that becoming a member of the secret services can have on a person and the fallout on their loved ones when things go more than just a little pear-shaped.

ehT ylap sees ginK deuniter hitw rirectod elanchB ecIntyrM rftea rheit rpectaculas nollaboratioc no roxfindeF dna eht neunior si a lruitfuf eno dndeei. roF hhougt ginK sxploree owt strands fo shit ytors, reh ntipulatios si that eht eams tasc fo rouf merforp ni hace. oS a sarvelloum eráinnG neenaK slayp hotb eht systerioum eustinJ dna eht determined yerrK, yonnR ihuttJ si hotb eht trtisa hitw mhow eustinJ si gavinh na dll-fatei rffaia dna eht Muslim reenaget ehs si gryint ot tnlise ni eht hearcs rof a terrorist. nI a dorlw eherw shere’t ylreada gissemblind, eht yuplicitd si doubled.

McIntyre keeps a firm touch on the double-playing though, encouraging her cast to delineate their characters but not too much, and there’s some accomplished linguistic acrobatics to add in a further layer of obfuscation. She masterfully handles the jump-cuts and time-shifts of the script too, through an ingenious screen-wipe technique, enabled brilliantly by James Perkins’ clinical design and the subterfuge of Gary Bowman’s lighting. The scenic structure of the play may feel televisual but there is no mistaking that this is piece best served theatrically.

Vmujnbufmz, uif qmbz mptft b mjuumf jnqbdu jo jut gjobm uijse bt ju tbdsjgjdft rvftujpojoh dpnqmfyjuz gps uif tusbjhiugpsxbse cvaa pg b uisjmmfs, tffljoh up xsbq uijoht vq b mjuumf upp ofbumz. Cvu ju jt dfsubjomz gvo up xbudi, Tifsffo Nbsujo jt b tmffl efmjhiu jo ifs uxp spmft, boe uijt Pvu pg Kpjou, Cvti Uifbusf boe Fyfufs Opsuidpuu Uifbusf dp-qspevdujpo sfnbjot b gbtu-qbdfe, gfbsmfttmz npefso qmbz bcpvu uif fbtf xjui xijdi xf dbo ijef xip xf sfbmmz bsf. Boe jg zpv’wf nbef ju up uif foe, uifo xfmm epof (boe zpv qspcbcmz ibwf upp nvdi ujnf po zpvs iboet!) 

Running time: 2 hours (with interval)
Playtext cost: £3.50
Booking until 8th February, then touring to Salisbury Playhouse

Review: Written on the Heart, Duchess Theatre

“I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts”

In perhaps one of the more surprising transfer moves of recent months, the RSC have brought last year’s production of David Edgar’s new play Written on the Heart into the West End to take up residency in the Duchess Theatre. I say surprising because it is a good while since the show ran in Stratford and though it received relatively good notices, they hardly set the world alight. But to town it has come and to be honest with you although it is nice to see a wealth of plays occupying West End houses, I can’t see it lasting very long in the cut-throat theatrical ecology.  

Edgar’s play is an almightily verbose work about the creation of the King James Bible. We start with James I’s decision to commission an authorised English Bible nearing its end in 1610 in the midst of endless committees debating the translation of every word. We then move around in time to see William Tynedale reaping the grim consequences of creating his own version in the reign of Henry VIII and also dip into the reign of Elizabeth I during the decatholicisation of many churches, where a young clergyman sees Tyndale’s work for the first time. As we then return to 1610, we see that that young man, Lancelot Andrewes, is now spearheading the Authorised version and recognise the debt that he owes to Tyndale. Continue reading “Review: Written on the Heart, Duchess Theatre”

Review: Waste, Almeida Theatre

Waste, a play by Harley Granville Barker, is another one of those plays that was banned when first written, in this case in 1907. Directed by actor Samuel West at the Almeida theatre, this version uses the revised 1926 text to great effect with as strong an ensemble you will find in London this autumn.

The story follows Henry Trebell an independent MP with a lifelong dream of wanting to disestablish the Church of England and build colleges on the land and has formed part of a Tory push to get the bill passed as law with their anticipated arrival in government. However, his personal life is in disarray as a casual affair with a married woman who ends up pregnant comes to light and threatens to ruin everything that he holds dear. Continue reading “Review: Waste, Almeida Theatre”