TV Review: Press (BBC1)

Mike Bartlett’s Press has a fantastic company and big ambitions but is probably best enjoyed as feisty entertainment than an accurate portrayal of the world of journalism

“We do it through the most outrageous storytelling in the world, not statistics”

A lot of the chat around Mike Bartlett’s new series Press, as written by journalists at least, was around how the show fails to represent life at a contemporary newspaper in an accurate manner. So I hasten to remind us all, as if it were really necessary, that Press is a drama and not a documentary, and that dramatic license and a real, and frankly essential, thing.

Soapbox done, this six parter is an interesting if simplistic look at duelling newsroom as it follows the teams at Sun-a-like The Post and Guardian-a-like The Herald as they follow stories, set the news agenda and battle for the very soul of journalism. It’s all highly watchable in a popcorn-munching kind of way but – perhaps ironically given my first paragraph – the shadow of the real world occasionally looms a little too large.  Continue reading “TV Review: Press (BBC1)”

DVD Review: Emma (2009)

“He would know me but there’s no reason I would know a farmer”

Of all the versions of Jane Austen’s Emma, I can’t really believe that I will ever see one as well done as this 2009 BBC adaptation by Sandy Welch and directed by Jim O’Hanlon. Everything about it works for me, from the clever casting choices to the subtle redefinition of some characters, the (now) luxurious running time to the production values which mark it as something of a dying breed in terms of BBC period dramas.

I love its inventive prologue contrasting the early lives of Emma, Frank and Jane, how tragedy touched them all but their positions in life meant their journeys took wildly different paths. Romola Garai makes an immensely appealing heroine, her beautiful wide eyes so open and honest yet quickly able to take on a harder glint as her more self-obsessed side takes over, and she works so brilliantly with her cast-mates to give us full-fleshed, believable relationships.

There’s genuine affection with Michael Gambon’s fretful father, a tangible sisterly bond with Jodhi May’s former governess, a vivid friendship with Louise Dylan’s hapless Harriet and that real sense of antipathy that comes from two beautiful girls not quite able to make each other out with the arrival of Laura Pyper’s mysterious Jane Fairfax. And there’s Jonny Lee Miller’s excellent Mr Knightley, a hugely handsomely dashing figure who shares immense chemistry with Garai. Continue reading “DVD Review: Emma (2009)”

Review: Bang Bang Bang, Royal Court

“There’s always going to be an Amala, or the little boy or the fourteen-year-old or the thirty-five-year-old or the elderly lady or the dying man…”

Though Stella Feehily’s Bang Bang Bang is set in the same part of the world as Lynn Nottage’s Ruined – the Democratic Republic of Congo – the focus of this play is less on the state of affairs in the civil war-torn country but rather delving behind the scenes of the charities, journalists and NGOs out there in Africa, looking at how it affects the lives of the humanitarian workers who go out there. Feehily did huge amounts of meticulous research for this play, interviewing a wide range of stakeholders from the international aid business.

As often happens in such cases, there is the slight sense that Feehily has tried to cram in as much of what she has uncovered into the play as issue follows issue and the shocking scene that opens the show is explained through flashbacks and its aftermath subsequently probed. Experienced Sadhbh and newbie Mathilde set out on a harrowing mission to investigate tales of war crimes and end up in differing situations: Sadhbh, already testing the boundaries of her relationship by returning here as her boyfriend back in London shell-shocked from his own experiences as an aid worker wants her to give it up, accepts an invitation to tea with the warlord himself and finds an opposing account of events, and Mathilde finds herself a distraction in the form of photographer Vin, but both women are never far from danger and their choices have massive implications in their perilous circumstances. Continue reading “Review: Bang Bang Bang, Royal Court”

Review: A Few Good Men, Theatre Royal Haymarket

Perhaps better known for the Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and Jack Nicholson starring film, A Few Good Men was originally a 1989 play written by Aaron Sorkin, but is being revived here at the Theatre Royal Haymarket with Rob Lowe making a rare stage foray in the role played by Cruise in the film.

It is a courtroom drama set in Washington DC, revolving around the trial of two US Marines who have been charged with the murder of a fellow Marine at a naval base and the tribulations of their lawyers as he prepares a case to defend his clients but comes close to unmasking a high-level conspiracy which threatens to unravel all their work. Continue reading “Review: A Few Good Men, Theatre Royal Haymarket”