TV Review: The Crown Series 3

Series 3 of The Crown sees new actors in across the board but Olivia Colman is sadly no Claire Foy. Helena Bonham Carter rocks though

“Sometimes duty requires one to put personal feelings…
‘And frivolity”
…aside”

Doing little to dispel rumours that she isn’t a Time Lord, The Crown takes its cues from Doctor Who as Series 3 sees the Queen regenerate from Claire Foy to Olivia Colman. And not just that, the whole cast of main players has been replaced as this new company will take us through the next couple of series. It’s a clever move, considering the spain of history that the show takes but it is also a little sad to lose such excellent performances as Vanessa Kirby’s Princess Margaret, Victoria Hamilton’s Queen Mum, Alex Jennings and Lia Williams as Edward and Wallis and of course, Foy’s exceptional work.     

Series 3 then, takes us from 1964 to 1977, featuring such notable events as the Aberfan tragedy, the moon landing and the arrival of Camilla in Charles’ life. And with its many millions and pick of the white acting talent in this country, it remains eminently watchable. That said, something has shifted for me and it just doesn’t feel as effective as the first two seasons. A large element of this is the way series creator and main writer Peter Morgan has structured the show, choosing to maintain a massive ensemble of recurring characters but keeping the focus, and turnover, of episodes relentlessly tight. Continue reading “TV Review: The Crown Series 3”

TV Review: The Crown, Series 3 Episodes 1-3

The Crown returns with Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies at the helm, and Helena Bonham Carter stealing the show

“Everyone at the Post Office is delighted with the new profile”

Gotta get those hits…who knows how far behind I am, given I’m 9 hours ahead of the UK at the moment, but I thought I’d jot down my initial thoughts on the first three episodes of series 3 of The Crown (all written by Peter Morgan and directed by Benjamin Caron), as Netflix kindly offered them up as holiday entertainment. (And since I’m away, I’ve been a little insulated from all the Prince Andrew drama, which from over here almost feels like a random bit of guerilla marketing).

  • I wonder if I have a little hangover from just how good Claire Foy was, but I’m 100% feeling Olivia Colman in the role yet. She doesn’t seem quite as subsumed into the character, in the way that Foy’s every minutely detailed movement seemed to be. That said, there’s some scorching moments when Jason Watkins’ Harold Wilson dares to suggest her response to the Aberfan tragedy is lacking.
  • The excellent Tobias Menzies hasn’t really had enough screen time yet to have his Prince Philip make an impact, though I’ve every faith.
  • The casting of Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret is inspired, the extravagance of the character is perfectly suited to her but she’s bringing a real depth at the same time. 
  • And I have to say I miss Matthew Goode’s hugely erotic insouciance as Antony Armstrong-Jones, Ben Daniels’ much more wearied take hasn’t quite ticked my boxes yet.

Elsewhere, the headlong rush through the years means that we’re doomed to the smallest contributions from some excellent actors – Samuel West’s Anthony Blunt and Angus Wright’s MI5 bod were gone too soon, though I live in hope of more from Penny Downie’s Duchess of Gloucester, Aden Gillett as Richard Crossman and Sinéad Matthews as Marcia Williams (seriously, her accent is a thing of pure beauty).

And given the budget is allegedly in the many millions, it certainly looks a treat once again. From glistening palatial lushness to agonisingly destroyed villages, these are fully realised worlds no matter how short a space of time we end up spending in them. Caron’s direction also makes room for a more uncomplicated cinematic as well though, choosing iconic visual to close out each episode – the regal silhouette, juxtapositions of Margarets old and new, the children playing. This is a Crown that has lost none of its lustre.

Photo: Sophie Mutevelian

The finalists of The Offies 2018

The finalists of the The Offies 2018 have been announced and as ever, there’s much of interest there, in the choices made and the breadth of Off West End theatre celebrated. Play-wise, I’m delighted at the love for The Revlon Girl and An Octoroon here, nice to see the Bunker’s Eyes Closed Ears Covered rewarded too, plus Will Pinchin’s work in Frankenstein.

With the musicals, I’m not down with the love for Promises Promises, an ill-judged revival that added nothing to the conversation (and even less in these #MeToo times) and I’m disappointed that none of the boys of Yank! were recognised. The rest of the Southwark Playhouse’s spectacular year does get the appropriate plaudits though, with Superhero, The Life and Working all getting multiple nominations.

And lastly, at times it can seem like all you have to do is sing in your bathroom and you get an Offie nomination ? so it is interesting to see how the numbers break down, albeit somewhat vaguely. These 80 or so finalists have apparently been whittled down from over 350 nominations from over 190 shows – there’s clearly just a lot of Offies love to share. Should you wish to join in said sharing at the IRL award ceremony on Sunday 4th March at The Albany, Deptford, you can buy tickets here.

Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2018”

Review: The Revlon Girl, Park Theatre

“It was all about money. The cheapest solution. No one gave a shit about us”

We often talk about state-of-the-nation plays (well, at least Billington does) but it has often felt like a somewhat dusty, ephemeral concept that has passed me by in plays I have to force myself to see, if I go at all (qv The Entertainer). But it is a notion that strikes me deeply whilst thinking about Neil Anthony Docking’s extraordinary gut-wrench of a play The Revlon Girl, bracingly insightful about how we as a nation deal with disasters, an impassioned cri-de-cœur for those most directly affected. 

I saw an earlier incarnation of The Revlon Girl a couple of years ago and I was deeply impressed then and deeply moved. But now, in these post Grenfell times, its relevance stings. Docking’s prescience has intensified and sharpened the experience of watching the play, almost unbearably so as we watch corporate malfeasance, government disinterest, invasive media practices and the dismissal of community concern in a play set over 50 years ago, events that were repeated almost play-by-play in West London not three months ago.  Continue reading “Review: The Revlon Girl, Park Theatre”

Review: Sensitive Subjects – The Revlon Girl / Barren, Tristan Bates Theatre

“They asked me how I felt. 
How do you answer a question like that?” 

Sensitive Subjects is the title of this double bill of one-act plays which both deal with the traumatic experience of child bereavement in their own ways. Director Maxine Evans and playwright Neil Anthony Docking have deliberately approached the issue this way – The Revlon Girl looks back to the Aberfan disaster of 1966 and looks at how the small mining village community there tried to deal with the loss of over 100 children, and Barren tackles the issue of infertility in a modern day marriage, mourning the children that can never be – and whilst never an easy evening of theatre to watch, it is at times extraordinary.

Just over an hour in length, The Revlon Girl must surely rank as one of the best pieces of new writing in London at the moment. Docking imagines a support group meeting for the bereaved mothers of Aberfan, where 116 children and 28 adults lost their lives when a tip collapsed into the village, where a make-up rep from Revlon has been booked to try and lift their grief-stricken spirits. But there are as many ways to process grief as there are people in the world and this group of four women are no different, from near-catatonic shock to antisocial prickliness, over-compensatory geniality to terse officiousness.  Continue reading “Review: Sensitive Subjects – The Revlon Girl / Barren, Tristan Bates Theatre”