Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 6

AKA the one that doesn’t work and the one that you should avoid if you’re feeling angsty about the current situation – approach Spooks Series 6 with caution

“The only option will be national quarantine and burial pits”

Series 6 is one of the trickier ones to watch right now so be warned – it opens with a two-parter called ‘The Virus’ which makes for a eerily chilling watch. It’s also a curious season as whilst the introduction of a series-long storyline – Iran seeking to gain nuclear capability – for the first time seems like it should work no problem, the reality doesn’t hang together quite as well as it ought.

The major level conspiracy theory takes too long to click into gear, and never really reaches the high-stakes territory it needs to hit home hard. The ‘mole in MI-5’ thread doesn’t pay off convincingly, recruiting another journalist off the street tests the patience (sorry Ben) and where one fake-out death of a major character might be permitted, two in the space of three episodes feels lazy. A major disappointment following the highs of Series 5.

Nicola Walker-ometer
Absolute zero, it’s as if she never existed. Fucking Harry. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 6”

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.

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Album Review: A Little Night Music (NT vs Broadway Revival Cast recordings)

“Isn’t it bliss? Don’t you approve?”

I always assume that people know where the name of this blog came from but for those that don’t, it is a lyrical reference from Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. Which gives a seamless segue into this post about two cast recordings of the show – the first from the 1995 National Theatre production and the second from the 2010 Broadway revival. The first is most notable for capturing one of the greatest moments in musical theatre, possibly even theatre full stop.

Judi Dench’s extraordinary rendition of ‘Send in the Clowns’ may be close to becoming a party trick (if there’s a gala, she’ll be there) but it truly is a remarkable thing. The cracks in her voice are a perfect match for the ageing star that is Desirée and the speak-singing style allows her to act the hell out of the song – the way in which she sighs ‘weeeellllll’ near the end is just spine-tingling. 4 minutes 23 of pure perfection. Continue reading “Album Review: A Little Night Music (NT vs Broadway Revival Cast recordings)”

Short Film Review #30

 
War Hero

 

Doug Rao came to my attention as part of the Spanish Golden Age ensemble currently at the Arcola and I was intrigued to see he was an acclaimed writer and director as well as an actor. His debut short film War Hero hit the festival circuit in 2007 and it isn’t hard to see how it was considered worthy. A densely packed story set in a military hospital , Rao poses questions about the morality of warfare (particularly in Iraq), its effects on the individuals tasked with carrying out the orders and the collateral damage it inevitably collects.

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Short film reviews #8

Another collection of short films that I’ve been pointed to or had recommended to me and which I’ve enjoyed watching. If you have anything you think I should see, drop me an email at the address on the sidebar, and to read other short film reviews, click on the ‘film’ tag at the end of the post.

The Door (trailer) from Andrew Steggall on Vimeo.

Based on the HG Wells tale The Door in the Wall, Andrew Steggall’s short film The Door is a rather lovely piece of film – with a stunningly good cast – which delves into the ambiguous world of between personal memory and boyhood fantasy as an older man tries to make sense of a key event from his past. Charles Dance plays the older Thomas Arlington with a resigned enigmatic quality as he debates with his son, a sharply-suited Elliot Cowan, but clearly distracted by his memory of discovering a magical green door into a extraordinary world.

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Review: You, Me and Wii, Women, Power and Politics at the Tricycle

The fifth play in the Now half of Women, Power and Politics season at the Tricycle Theatre

“It’s like choosing between three turds”

In a council house in a small depressed Leicestershire town, a large family is going about their daily business, Vincent’s skiing on the Wii, Sheila’s feeding her granddaughter McKenzie, and Kerry’s getting on with the ironing. None of them are planning on voting in the election, but when Selina Snow, the local Labour Party candidate rings the doorbell to canvas, she sets about trying to change their minds but as the conversation flows and the revelations come, it looks more like they will change hers.

You Me and Wii is full of witty jokes, the Russell Brand/kettle quip was brilliant, the multiple family relations nicely sketched and the tensions of the working life of a constituency MP with London childcare needs were nicely conveyed, the only criticism would be that there was just so much packed in there, that the half hour running time didn’t allow for a full unfurling of the stories. Kerry’s awakening is necessarily fairly abrupt, Vincent’s war trauma is tantalizingly brushed on, the awful truth about Courtney’s pregnancy unexamined, there’s the makings of a full length play in here as all the characters seem to have interesting histories.

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Review: Playing the Game, Women, Power and Politics at the Tricycle

 

Part of the Now half of Women, Power and Politics season at the Tricycle Theatre

“You’re going to be the Beyoncé of politics”

Bola Agbaje’s contribution is Playing the Game, following three university housemates as the election for a new Students’ Association fast approaches. Akousa is interested in running but unsure if she is popular enough so her trendy housemates set about raising her profile, giving her makeovers, sexing her up and utilising any means possible to get her name out there. Their motives aren’t necessarily pure though and Akousa is forced to examine how far she is willing to go and how much she is willing to compromise in order to gain power.

Following the mantra that any publicity is good publicity, this was a good look at the ways viral marketing, social media and instant news can be used and abused to get your message across, especially to younger people, but also in the way that these things can be manipulated to present anything any way you choose. Lara Rossi and Claire Cox were very good as the key manipulators Jenny and Charlene pushing, prodding and primping their flatmate as a tool to achieve their ambitions, fully aware of how sex sells and what makes their world go round in the pursuit of their individualistic aims at the expense of the collective good. Amy Loughton was excellent as the young woman slowly coming to the realisation that there are always limits to how far one can go in order to get what one wants but also that personal savviness is an essential characteristic in achieving success. Continue reading “Review: Playing the Game, Women, Power and Politics at the Tricycle”

Review: Bloody Wimmin, Women, Power and Politics at the Tricycle

Play number four of the Then half of Women, Power and Politics season at the Tricycle Theatre

“There’s only so much non-violence one can take”

The only play to feature the entire ensemble is Lucy Kirkwood’s Bloody Wimmin which rounds off the evening for Then. Taking the shocking fact, that many women in their 20s have never heard of Greenham Common or what it stood for as its starting point,  it looks back at the protest camp set up in the name of nuclear disarmament, how it developed and what it came to mean to the women who were there, and then it moves to look at what, if any, impact it has on today’s society.

Starting off on Greenham Common itself with a delightful sending-up of the stereotypical view of the protesters, chunky-knit and wellington-boot wearing lesbians smelling of wood-smoke and obsessed with petty squabbles usually about the minutiae of cleaning and cooking rotas and missing ladles. Things take a more serious tone with the arrival of pregnant Helen, played by Claire Cox, and we follow her on her journey as a woman seeking personal liberation and enlightenment away from the daily grind and society’s expectations of her, especially as a mother and an expecting one as well to boot. Her confrontation with husband Bob (Oliver Chris) is genuinely shocking as they play a game of brinkmanship with the emotional missiles they have on each other, papering the cracks of their marriage and so we see Greenham actually as the catalyst for empowering women. Continue reading “Review: Bloody Wimmin, Women, Power and Politics at the Tricycle”

Review: Handbagged, Women, Power and Politics at the Tricycle

Play number 2 of the Then half of Women, Power and Politics season at the Tricycle Theatre

 

“’I never said there was no such thing as society’
‘Yes you did, it was in Women’s Own!’”

Written by Moira Buffini, soon to become the second living female playwright to have a play performed on the Olivier stage at the National Theatre (although by saying that am I undermining what this season is trying to achieve? I know it shouldn’t matter but surely it is significant enough to mention?), Handbagged is an extremely witty look at what the relationship between the Queen of England and Margaret Thatcher might have been like. Thatcher had a weekly audience with Elizabeth II during her Prime Ministership and this could be seen as the most constant professional relationship she had with another woman during that time, but it was not the easiest of times between the two as we see here.

They were tested by a range of major challenges. Like Reagan’s invasion of Grenada, supported by Thatcher but as a Commonwealth country the Queen had an interest as the Head of State there, and the Queen took great exception to not being fully included in the consultations around it. Like Thatcher’s rejection of sanctions against South Africa in order to try and weaken apartheid, something supported by the Queen as she felt it was threatening the stability of the Commonwealth. Like the Sunday Times’ alleged exposé of the rift between the women, leaked (or was it?) by the Queen’s Press Secretary Michael Shea, a waggish Simon Chandler in an excellent cameo here. Continue reading “Review: Handbagged, Women, Power and Politics at the Tricycle”