TV Review: Trying (Apple TV)

Rafe Spall and Esther Smith impress in British comedy Trying, helped by the likes of Imelda Staunton and Cush Jumbo

“Hitler?
‘Badminton?'”

Just a quickie for this, as I’ve only just started to actually have a look at what is on AppleTV since they decided to extend my free trial. Created and written by Andy Wolton, Trying is a rather sweet and very typically British sitcom that follows Jason and Nikki, a 30-something couple as they struggle to conceive naturally and decide that they would like to adopt. Led by Rafe Spall and Esther Smith, the show is lots of fun and is blessed with some wonderful supporting performances.

Forever skirting that comedy/drama line, Trying is unafraid of tackling some rather meaty issues. Infertility and what that does to a couple, the inequities of the adoption system, funding for ESOL classes… And even the simplest idea of how relationships grow and are tested by the act of self-reflection – how do you measure achievement when London property prices lock you into renting forever and opportunities to climb the job ladder are way too few and far between. Continue reading “TV Review: Trying (Apple TV)”

News: Tristram Kenton’s stage archive – the before-they-were-famous edition

One of the joys of seeing so much theatre in London is that sense of seeing any number of actors at the beginning of their careers and Tristram Kenton has been doing that for years now. Here’s just some of those big names as whippersnappers on the British stage:
https://www.theguardian.com/stage/gallery/2020/nov/11/before-they-were-famous-stars-tristram-kenton-at-the-guardian-in-pictures

Photos: Tristram Kenton

News: Digital celebration to mark the centenary of Noël Coward’s West End Debut

A Marvellous Party – Digital celebration to mark the centenary of Noël Coward’s West End Debut

The Noël Coward Foundation has announced A Marvellous Party, a transatlantic, star-studded collection of performances celebrating the continuing legacy of Noël Coward and coinciding with the 100th anniversary of his West End debut as a 19-year-old playwright.

This unique celebration features words and music by Noël Coward, performed by Kate BurtonJudi DenchStephen FryMontego Glover, Derek JacobiJosh JamesCush JumboRobert LindsayKristine NielsenBebe Neuwirth, Julian OvendenPatricia RoutledgeKate RoyalEmma ThompsonGiles TereraIndira Varma and Lia Williams. Continue reading “News: Digital celebration to mark the centenary of Noël Coward’s West End Debut”

TV Review: The Good Fight Series 4

Covid meant we sadly only got 7 episodes of Series 4 of The Good Fight, that’s just not enough Christine Baranski, Audra McDonald and Cush Jumbo

“We need evidence, no conspiracy theories”

Just a quickie for this as the truncated fourth season of The Good Fight meant that it had a rather abrupt finish that cheated the creators out of the fullness of the stories they wanted to tell. What we did get was the customary tackling of huge up-to-the-minute issues – racism in the workplace, political parties trying to reach marginalised communities and in the daring final episode, Jeffrey Epstein.

Baranski’s Diane Lockhart remains one of the great TV characters but I’m not sure anyone was particularly well served by the larger themes of the show. The ramifications of the buyout were tiresome, Memo 618 didn’t get the resolution it needed and Lucca’s plot strand smacked of them not knowing what to do with the character, given how little she ended up interacting with the rest of the main cast. Continue reading “TV Review: The Good Fight Series 4”

New TV shows to get stuck into

I get stuck into the first episodes of TV shows Van Der Valk, The Good Fight, Gangs of London and Penny Dreadful: City of Angels to see what my next must-see will be

“Who else was masturbating into plants?!”

I’m of course far too young to remember the original Van Der Valk – had I seen it before though, I might well have saved myself this couple of hours. Importing a British cast to play Dutch detectives in a crime serial set in Amsterdam seems like such a retrograde move, I still can’t get my head around it, especially in this day and age when so much quality foreign-language drama is readily available. Written by Chris Murray, this revival sees Marc Warren head up the cast as a maverick detective with a team who aid and abet his behaviour – there’s not a smack of originality about it, nor any real interest sadly…great locations though. Am already dreaming of my return to the city, but not sure I’ll be revisiting this show. Continue reading “New TV shows to get stuck into”

TV Review: The Good Fight Series 3

Michael Sheen does his best to destabilise Series 3 of The Good Fight but Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald just about pull it back

“Don’t get in the way of someone kicking ass”

For a season that contains the wonder that is Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald casually duetting on ‘Raspberry Beret’, Series 3 of The Good Fight ends up being something of a challenge. The presence of Michael Sheen’s Mephistophelian Roland Blum was clearly meant to shake things up but that chaotic energy ends up being destabilising.

Which is a shame, as so much of what makes The Good Fight click so well is present here. Topics ripped from up-to-the-minute headlines, including voter suppression, racial profiling, Karens calling the polices, troll farms, historic sexual harassment cases, Kim and Kanye… And they’re all treated sensitively but still daringly in some bold storytelling. Continue reading “TV Review: The Good Fight Series 3”

TV Review: The Split Series 1 / The Good Fight Series 2

If female-fronted lawyer shows are your bag (and why wouldn’t they be!), the twin joys of The Split and The Good Fight have marvellous to behold

“Kill all the lawyers”

If I’m completely honest, Abi Morgan’s The Split did leave me a tad disappointed as it veered away from its legal beginnings to something considerably more soapy over its six episodes. The personal lives of the Defoe clan well and truly took over at the expense of any of the cases they were looking after and even if that family includes Nicola Walker, Annabel Scholey and Deborah Findlay, it’s still a bit of a shame that it ended up so schlocky. Continue reading “TV Review: The Split Series 1 / The Good Fight Series 2”

News: Old Vic bicentenary ambassadors announced

How do you mark a significant birthday? My parents are currently (jointly) turning 140 and are celebrating the occasion with a six month program of events, peaking with an all-day party happening very soon. But if you’re the Old Vic and you’re turning 200, you open your contacts and see who is free.

Turns out a fair few people are, and so their list currently includes Nikki Amuka-Bird, Sheila Atim, John Boyega, Cate Blanchett, Bertie Carvel, Kim Cattrall, Lily Cole, Alan Cumming, Judi Dench, Michelle Dockery, Rupert Everett, Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig, David Harewood, Derek Jacobi, Toby Jones, Cush Jumbo, Ben Kingsley, Pearl Mackie, Helen McCrory, Ian McKellen, Bill Nighy, Anika Noni Rose, Maxine Peake, Mark Rylance, Andrew Scott, Tom Stoppard, Stanley Tucci and Julie Walters.

Continue reading “News: Old Vic bicentenary ambassadors announced”

Review: Common, National Theatre

“If I were a man you’d call me rogue; let us do with whore, liar, thief, cunt”

Over the past few years where he may or may not have been studying sculpture at Saint Martin’s College, Northampton-born playwright DC Moore has been putting together a résumé of quietly impressive work – exploring aspects of contemporary masculinity in insightful plays such as the excellent Straight and under-rated monologue Honest, or opening up his focus to the war in Afghanistan in The Empire and family dramas in The Swan. So news that he was making his main-stage debut at the National Theatre with Common, in a co-production with Headlong and starring no less than Anne-Marie Duff and Cush Jumbo, was bright news indeed. 

But whilst I thought I wanted to do what other common people do, Moore has taken a completely different tack here. Common delves into the under-explored history of rural England in 1809 as the social and economic changes heralded by the Industrial Revolution begin to filter through the country. More crucially, his acute ear for sharply observed dialogue has been smothered by the invention of a fruitily rich mode of language full of compound words – described charitably by Jumbo as “a mixture of Shakespeare, Harry Potter and some kind of Angelina Jolie movie”. Continue reading “Review: Common, National Theatre”