Review: Habeus Corpus, Menier Chocolate Factory

Alan Bennett’s Habeus Corpus gets a belated revival at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Stuck in the past, should it have been left in the past too?

“He whose lust lasts, lasts longest”

The Menier Chocolate Factory know exactly what they’re doing when they lead with the tagline ‘a filthy farce from a less enlightened age’. If that type of comedy is your thing, then come darken our doors and escape the woke crowd… Alan Bennett’s Habeus Corpus dates from 1973 and nothing about Patrick Marber’s admittedly stylish production here can hide that fact. 

Despite the quality of Bennett’s writing being fitfully evident with some really witty stuff, the major issue with the play lies in its uncertainty of form. It pushes towards farce but without any of that genre’s intricate cleverness and so can’t help but resemble a middling 1970s sitcom, with a base level of humour that even the most end-of-the-pier comic might have decided to leave in the dressing room. Continue reading “Review: Habeus Corpus, Menier Chocolate Factory”

TV Review: Doctor Who Flux (Series 13)

Opting for a miniseries for Series 13 of Doctor Who certainly changes up the pace well, as Flux comes to a breathless end with some great work by Jodie Whittaker

“Do you think running will help?”

And so the end begins for Jodie Whittaker, and for Chris Chibnall. The 13th Doctor and her showrunner had a three-series-and-out deal which they are honouring and so this final season – a miniseries called Flux and three specials – will take us up to the centenary of the BBC in late 2022 and the regeneration of the Time Lord into…well, whoever the returning Russell T Davies decides.

One might have thought opting for the ostensibly more focused notion of a miniseries, of one overarching story stripped over six episodes, would have made Flux a simpler affair than the last few series of Doctor Who but Chibnall clearly had other plans. But having reached the end, I’d say that it was a good deal more fun than anticipated, a full-on caper merely teasing traumatic revelations about the Doctor’s selves rather diving full on into the morass of series lore. Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Flux (Series 13)”

TV Review: Doctor Who Flux Episode 1

The end begins… Jodie Whittaker’s final full season as Doctor Who starts with ‘The Halloween Apocalypse’, episode 1 of Flux

“Synchronize watches. Forget that: I’m not wearing a watch”

There’s perhaps something a little awry when news of a show’s new showrunner overtakes the show itself but such is the way of the Doctor Who discourse. Russell T Davies coming back to the show is undoubtedly a huge development but it does feel a bit of a shame that this was announced before Jodie Whittaker at least got to start her final series in the TARDIS. But whaddya gonna do?

For Series 13, Chris Chibnall has opted to shake up the model and so we’re being given Flux, a six-part single story ahead of a handful of specials next year which will lead to Whittaker’s departure. This era has been, not necessarily hit and miss for me but something less than essential, though I think that it is perhaps as much me growing apart from Doctor Who a touch, something that actually started in the Capaldi era. Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Flux Episode 1”

TV Review: Years and Years

Years and Years sees Russell T Davies take on dystopian near-future sci-fi to startling effect

“We’re not stupid, we’re not poor, we’re not lacking. I’m sorry, but we’re clever. We can think of something, surely.”

What if…? What if…? What Brexit happens, what if Trump is voted in again and fires a nuclear bomb towards China, what if global warming happens today and not tomorrow, what if Lee from Steps is the most successful one…? Such is the world of Years and Years, Russell T Davies’ latest TV venture, a six-part drama that dares to ask what if it is already too late.

He uses the Lyons family as a prism to explore what the next 15 years of human history might look like, as technological advances make leaps and bounds alongside the political and social upheaval that strikes at the very heart of this sprawing middle-class Manchester-based family. It’s a daring piece of drama, full of Davies’ typically big heart and bold emotional colours and I have to say I rather loved it. Continue reading “TV Review: Years and Years”

Review: How To Date a Magical Creature, VAULT Festival

Pushing the boundaries of improv beyond the mortal realm, How To Date a Magical Creature is a comic highlight at this week’s VAULT Festival

Sometimes you just have to murder David Attenborough””

The beauty of improv is, of course, that you can make up anything you like and so it follows that you can base an improv show around anything. Which is, I think, how we’ve ended up with How To Date a Magical Creature, a Parky-style chat show with a guest list made up of an array of fantastical beasts suggested by the audience . 

And from their imagination at this show, were plucked such luminaries as the Loch Ness Monster with wings, an ethnically ambiguous unicorn, and the Mongolian deathworm, not to mention Turnip the teenage witch and Hades. An eclectic and impressive mixture, all put through their paces by effortlessly charismatic host Toby Vanilla (Jonah Fazel), a man who knows just what his voice can do… Continue reading “Review: How To Date a Magical Creature, VAULT Festival”

2019 VAULT Festival – 20 shows to see

With less than a week to go before the 2019 VAULT Festival opens, I wade my way through the catalogue and come up with 20 shows I think you should catch – in their own words

Now in its seventh year, VAULT Festival returns this year from 23rd January to 17th March with a broad and diverse programme of more than 400 shows in a range of atmospheric venues throughout Waterloo. And as ever, the remit is to be as big and bold as impossible, with the festival featuring theatre, comedy, cabaret, immersive experiences, late night parties, and much more besides.

It can be a little overwhelming to figure out what you want to see, the majority of shows run for a week (Wednesday to Sunday) so you’ll need to move pretty sharpish once you’ve decided – there’s the VAULT Combo deal which saves you money booking more than one show, and some 241 deals available through the Stagedoor app. And to help you, I’ve identified 20 shows (and it could have been so many more!) that appealed to me and asked them to sell themselves in 10 words or less in order to grab your attention.  Continue reading “2019 VAULT Festival – 20 shows to see”