TV Review: Rules of the Game

Kieran Bew and Ben Batt for the heart; Maxine Peake, Rakhee Thakrar and Alison Steadman for the head; Rules of the Game offers some luxury casting for a ferocious tale of post-#MeToo workplace life

“You don’t get to leave us, you’re part of this”

With obedient poodle Nadine Dorries doing her level best to distract from the utter shitshow that has become Boris Johnson’s reign by wielding a headline-stealing axe over the BBC, it feels like we ought to be celebrating whatever drama Aunty can still provide us at the moment. Latest up is Ruth Fowler’s 4-parter Rules of the Game which stars a red-hot Maxine Peake and makes Alison Steadman as scary as she’s ever been.

Set in and around the offices of Fly Dynamics, a Cheshire-based, family-run sportswear company that is on the verge of a stock market flotation designed to take them global, COO Sam finds a significant fly in the ointment when she trips over a body in their foyer. In a Big Little Lies-ish twist, we don’t find out who is it but rather, we’re plunged into the trials and tribulations of what turns out to be the most toxic of workplaces. Continue reading “TV Review: Rules of the Game”

Film Review: Blithe Spirit (2020)

Despite a talented cast including Judi Dench and Dan Stevens, this cinematic version of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit is a big miss

“I’ll have a grilled grapefruit and a strong coffee please”

On the one hand, I knew I wouldn’t enjoy Blithe Spirit, Noël Coward’s enduring play offering increasingly diminishing returns every time it reappears. On the other, I don’t think anyone would have predicted how misjudged this film version would be, directed by Ed Hall and adapted for the screen by Piers Ashworth, Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft.

Coward’s plays do what they do, offering safe options for audiences (and theatre programmers) and usually attracting top actors (Jennifer Saunders and Angela Lansbury are the last two to have starred in the West End in this play). And on the face of it, the same ought to be true of a filmed version, here with Dame Judi Dench stepping into the feathered caftan of Madame Arcati. Continue reading “Film Review: Blithe Spirit (2020)”

Review: The Strange Death of John Doe, Hampstead Downstairs

I’m left unmoved by The Strange Death of John Doe, running at the newly press-covered Hampstead Downstairs

“I mean, where does a person begin and end, and when did they stop being a person?”

So it looks like the Hampstead Theatre’s policy of not having its downstairs shows ‘officially’ reviewed has been well and truly junked asThe Strange Death of John Doe is the second show to get the full press treatment after The Phlebotomist. And perhaps it’s just a coincidence that this one is directed by Edward Hall himself…

As it is, the Hampstead Downstairs’ remit as an experimental space has always been a bit of an iffy one, in reality this is more of a Royal Court Upstairs kind of theatre, and Fiona Doyle’s new play is no exception. An intriguing take on a horrific but underexplored aspect of the refugee crisis, vividly staged with movement by the late Scott Ambler. Continue reading “Review: The Strange Death of John Doe, Hampstead Downstairs”