Review: Scandaltown, Lyric Hammersmith

Mike Bartlett’s third concurrent London opening is the silly, superficial and entertaining Scandaltown at the Lyric Hammersmith

“The world is a terrible place, full of evil people like Andrew Neil”

Does theatre always have to be so deep and meaningful? Can we just sometimes get a bit of beautifully designed frivolity that we need to chew over on the way home? That most prolific of writers right now Mike Bartlett might seem to think so as Scandaltown – his third show to open in London in recent weeks – suggests, embracing the silliness.

Toying with form once again as he likes to do, this show sees him transplant the world of Restoration comedy into the 21st century. And he lines up a series of targets – societal hypocrisy whether in the media or politics, generational gaps in attitude and empathy, obsession with media in all forms – which he hits with a gently satirical bent in Rachel O’Riordan’s entertaining production. Continue reading “Review: Scandaltown, Lyric Hammersmith”

Photo teasers for Cock, Scandaltown and Get Up, Stand Up!

Some photos to whet your appetite for Mike Bartlett’s double penetration in London and a notable cast change in Get Up, Stand Up!

© Brinkhoff/Möegenburg

Though the news has been dominated by the chaotic first preview, production photographs of Taron Egerton, Jonathan BaileyJade Anouka and Phil Daniels in Cock at the Ambassadors Theatre – Mike Bartlett’s Olivier award winning play about love and identity have been released to whet your appetite even further. Continue reading “Photo teasers for Cock, Scandaltown and Get Up, Stand Up!”

News: Casting announced for Mike Bartlett’s new comedy Scandaltown

Full casting has been announced today for Scandaltown, a brand new comedy by Mike Bartlett (Doctor Foster, King Charles III) directed by the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre’s Artistic Director Rachel O’Riordan (Olivier Award winning Killology). The world premiere production runs at the West London venue from 07 April to 14 May with opening night for press on 14 April. Tickets are on sale at

Scandaltown is a modern restoration comedy and irreverent satire, set in post-pandemic London, full of immorality, political hypocrisy and the machinations of a fame-hungry elite. It brings together a 12-strong cast including Rachael Stirling (The Bletchley Circle; Love, Love, Love – Lyric Hammersmith Theatre) as Lady Susan Climber, Richard Goulding (The Windsors, King Charles III) as Matt Eton and Emma Cunniffe (Queen Anne – RSC) as Aunty Julie and Rachel De Souza. Also confirmed are Cecilia Appiah (The Long Song – CFT) as Phoebe Virtue, Matthew Broome as Jack Virtue in his stage debut, Henry Everett (Antony and Cleopatra – National Theatre, The Memory of Water – Hampstead) as Peter Media OBE, Luke Hornsby (1917, Harlots) as Freddie Peripheral, Thomas Josling (Habeas Corpus – Menier) as Tom Double-Budget, Aysha Kala (BAFTA Breakthrough Brit, The Welkin – National Theatre) as Hannah Tweetwell, Annette McLaughlin (Matilda, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child) as Rosalind Double-Budget and Scrub, Ami Okumura Jones (EastEnders, Wendy & Peter Pan – Leeds Playhouse) as Jenny Bright, and Chukwuma Omambala (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hecuba – RSC) as Sir Dennis Hedge and Kevin the Postman. Continue reading “News: Casting announced for Mike Bartlett’s new comedy Scandaltown”

TV Review: Magpie Murders / Hotel Portofino

In which I sample the first episodes of new Britbox series Magpie Murders and Hotel Portofino

“Do be careful not to get smuts on your dress”

Across the various streaming platforms that I’ve signed up for, it can be hard to keep track of just how much there is to watch. But Britbox are standing out at the moment as they’re pumping out quite a bit of original content and so I thought I’d dip my toe into the waters of two of their latest dramas.

Magpie Murders has been adapted from Anthony Horowitz’s book of the same name and is one that you definitely need to pay attention to for its a murder mystery that all gets rather meta. When mystery author Alan Conway is bumped off at his country pile, his editor sets about her own investigation as the answers seem to lie in an unfinished manuscript which we also see onscreen. Continue reading “TV Review: Magpie Murders / Hotel Portofino”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 10

Spooks comes to an end with a shortened series 10 which, while not perfect, is effective in many ways

“Wait Harry, this can’t be the end”

And so after a decade, it comes to an end. Series 10 of Spooks, a shortened order of six episodes, sees the writers flip from the Lucas North show to the Harry Pearce show. This naturally makes more sense, with Harry being the head of Section D after all, but I’m not 100% sure that it completely works as it goes against the ensemble ethos of the show at its best.

The argument here is that Harry is the heart of the show and given the jib of his recent decision-making at this point, you have to wonder if this is all that wise. Given all that transpires, the final scene of the show hardly inspires confidence. That said, the memorial is a beautiful touch and Lara Pulver’s new chief Erin Watts proved a strong addition to Thames House.

Nicola Walker-ometer
A tough one this, Walker rises brilliantly to the challenge of essentially co-leading the series as a result of the Harry focus. But her treatment in the final moments of the series can’t help but feel a little unnecessary, essentially cheapened by her reduction to nothing but an adjunct to Harry. She only gets killed because of the personal connection rather than a heroic act of Queen and country she deserved (if she had to die at all). Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 10”

TV Review: Liar (Series 1)

A strong opening concept makes the first half of series one of Liar a must-see, until convention creeps in to mar the second.

“I feel like I’m in Dawson’s Creek

From the very beginnings of Liar, it is tough to like central character Laura Nielson. She’s the type of person who goes canoeing in the morning before going to work, she’s the kind of secondary school teacher who happily flips the bird to unruly students, heck she even sings to Sam Smith in the shower. But before you can get too annoyed with her for being someone who doesn’t prebook her taxi before going on a date, the hammer blow of date rape lands heavily to reshape our preconceptions.

The cleverness of Harry and Jack Williams’ series, at least for its first few episodes, is how it toys with those expectations. As Laura reels from the aftermath of her dinner with handsome surgeon Andrew Earlham, the shattered narrative structure flits repeatedly from present to past as it also switches perspective. It’s a neatly disorientating device that constantly calls into question the ‘truth’ of what we’re hearing or seeing, really ramping up the ‘he said she said’ format as consequences unravel dramatically for the both of them. Continue reading “TV Review: Liar (Series 1)”

Review: Queen Anne, Theatre Royal Haymarket

“Lie down madam and legs apart
Now brace yourself for this may smart”

Helen Edmundson’s Queen Anne played a well-received run at the RSC the winter before last and it has now transferred to the Theatre Royal Haymarket for a summer season. It contains two excellent performances from Romola Garai as Sarah Churchill (stepping into the role created by Natasha McElhone) and Emma Cunniffe as the titular monarch and you can read my four star review for Cheap Theatre Tickets right here.

Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 30th September

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 2

“Some things are worth getting your heart broken for”

David Tennant’s opening season took the template of the opening series and ran with it, Russell T Davies’ vision finding its ideal mate in the Scottish actor. The typically adventurous sweep was tempered with a more tender vision, which considerably upped our emotional investment (previous companions returning, romantic connections whether past or present).

Bringing back the Cybermen was an interesting move, as was the introduction of the notion of parallel worlds (and how important that became…). And if the series-long motif of Torchwood didn’t really pay off, especially not when one considers what Torchwood the show became, the finale to Doomsday is pretty close to perfection. Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 2”

DVD Review: The Merchant of Venice (2001)

“For your love I pray you, wrong me not”

Any filmed adaptation of The Merchant of Venice is up against it for me as I adore the Al Pacino version from 2004 which makes so much sense of so many of the difficulties of the play. This Trevor Nunn production was a big success for the National Theatre, transferring from the then-Cottesloe to the Olivier, winning all sorts of awards and then filmed for the US’s Masterpiece Theatre.

And as is often the case with these stage-to-screen adaptations, it’s a little flat and disappointing, little concession made to the change in medium and so the abiding feeling is that one is left wishing one could have seen it onstage. Which is a shame, as Henry Goodman makes an excellent Shylock, viciously vengeful but clearly victimised too in this adroit resituating of the play to the 1930s. Continue reading “DVD Review: The Merchant of Venice (2001)”

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – A Play For The Nation, Royal Shakespeare Theatre

“Nor doth this wood lack worlds of company”

Surtitled A Play For The Nation, Erica Whyman’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the RSC has fully embraced the communal spirit that the best theatre can summon and across its UK tour over the next few months, will undoubtedly prove a wonderful tribute for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. For at each stop across the land, different local amateur theatre companies will take on the part of the Rude Mechanicals and local primary schools will make up the numbers of Titania’s fairy train, getting their moment to shine in a repurposed final scene.

It’s a rather lovely way to share the warmth of this most loveliest of plays and in Whyman’s hands, it really does succeed. Key to its inclusiveness is the relocation to 1940s Britain and a design from Tom Piper that subtly evokes the Tower of London poppies installation on which he collaborated, the suggestion of a society pulling together permeating every aspect of the show, even Oberon’s fairies muck in as live musicians. And the social disruption of the time allows for an interesting reading of the text which, while emphasising English bumptiousness over sexuality, is witty throughout. Continue reading “Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – A Play For The Nation, Royal Shakespeare Theatre”