The only real pleasure in this TV version of Four Weddings and a Funeral is hearing Alex Jennings say “Yes, I suppose you were somewhat of a basic bitch” with a straight face
“You’re insane and watch too much TV”
This lockdown has seen me sign up to too many free trials on various online TV services and so I’ve been ripping through some of the shows newly on offer to me. Over on STARZPLAY, first up for me was the TV adaptation of Four Weddings and a Funeral which I’m not sure if I ever knew actually existed until now.
Created by Mindy Kaling and Matt Warburton and airing in the US in the summer of 2019, the show is an inexplicable riff on Richard Curtis’ 1994 film. Ultimately it is nothing like the film, which is probably for the best, emerging instead as a ridonkulous Jilly Cooper-esque rom-com in a fantastical version of London (and beyond). Continue reading “TV Review: Four Weddings and a Funeral”
The National Theatre, in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, has today launched National Theatre at Home, a brand-new streaming platform making their much-loved productions available online to watch anytime, anywhere worldwide.
Launching today with productions including the first ever National Theatre Live, Phèdre with Helen Mirren, Othello with Adrian Lester and the Young Vic’s Yerma with Billie Piper, new titles from the NT’s unrivalled catalogue of filmed theatre will be added to the platform every month.
In addition to productions previously broadcast to cinemas by National Theatre Live, a selection of plays filmed for the NT’s Archive will be released online for the first time through National Theatre at Home, including Lucy Kirkwood’s Mosquitoes with Olivia Colman and Inua Ellams’ new version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters (a co-production with Fuel). Continue reading “News: NT launches new streaming service National Theatre at Home”
In which the rollercoaster of quality rockets sky-high again, Series 7 of Spooks ranks as one of my favourites
“I want my team to know why I acted the way I did”
The introduction of series-long plots didn’t necessarily work first time round for Spooks but in Series 7, the magic certainly happens to produce one of the best seasons across its decade-long life. Perhaps the reduced episode order from 10 to 8 helped to refine the effectiveness of the storytelling, recognising that it was Adam’s time to go definitely worked and finally made the right kind of room for Ros to rise, and giving Gemma Jones this material was an absolute masterstroke.
Undoing the silly fakeouts of Ros and Jo’s ‘deaths’ right from the off, the introduction of Richard Armitage’s Lucas North also works well, his time in Russian captivity casting a nice shade of doubt over his presence in the team, a marked difference to the alpha males of Tom and Adam. And the ongoing Sugarhorse mystery is skillfully wound throughout the whole season, coiling ever-tighter until the hammer blows of a properly fierce finale.
She’s just a distant memory at this point – Harry really is such a fuckboy. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 7”
“When a mother loses her first-born son, I believe she’s allowed to grieve…
‘Not when she’s the Queen'”
If The Crown isn’t quite your thing, or perhaps you have a real yearning for more monarchical drama, then you could do a little worse that watching The Royals. Showing on US TV station E! as its first ever scripted series, it is wonderfully, monumentally, trashy beyond belief – I mean it has Liz Hurley as the Queen in it for Gawd’s sake – and so quite easily falls into the category of guilty pleasure.
It is essentially Sunset Beach levels of realness, through the lens of Hello Magazine, as it follows a fictional but contemporary version of the British royal family through the trials of modern life. Liz Hurley’s Queen Helena is aghast when her husband, Vincent Regan’s King Simon, announces not only does he want to abdicate the throne, but he also wants to abolish the monarchy. Dun dun duh. Continue reading “TV Review: The Royals Season 1”
“I want to go to Sports Direct”
The august surroundings and let’s face it, the regular clientele of the Almeida wouldn’t immediately make you think it but Islington – the London borough in which it is situated – has the second highest level of child poverty in the nation. The wealth of somewhere like Barnsbury is barely a stone’s throw from deprived areas like the Bemerton Estate and its an issue which simply isn’t getting any better as evidenced by the horrendously out-of-touch approach to wealth of the current administration – “I obviously can’t point to the source of every bit of money…”
Someone who has no choice but to know exactly where every penny is coming from is Liam, the protagonist in Leo Butler’s Boy. Aged 17, he’s got no job, no cash, no motivation and worst of all in this digital age, no smartphone. Emotionally constrained by his teenage inarticulacy, he opts to wander out from his native South London to set off on a journey to try and connect with an old schoolfriend and en meandering route, he encounters a city at its coldest, finding painful isolation even in the most crowded of streets. Continue reading “Review: Boy, Almeida Theatre”
“All these cases where people pretends to be one thing for half a century and then turn out to be something else”
The insanity that is the scheduling wars between the BBC and ITV often throws up random anomalies but rarely has the result been something as rewarding as a surfeit of Nicola Walker. Having recently made River for the BBC and Unforgotten for ITV, both police dramas were premiered in the same week and as six-part dramas, are reaching their climax at the same time too. And what has been particularly pleasing is the fact that both have proved to be highly watchable and interesting takes on the genre.
Chris Lang’s Unforgotten focused on a cold case from nearly 40 years ago as skeletal remains are found in the basement of a derelict house and in the cleverly constructed first episode, the four disparate characters that we have been following are eventually tied together as their phone numbers are found in the victim’s diary. Walker’s DCI Cassie Stuart and Sanjeev Bhaskar’s DS Sunny Khan soon identify him as a Jimmy Sullivan but the show focuses as much on the effect of long-buried secrets on the potential suspects as it does on the case itself. Continue reading “TV Review: Unforgotten”
“The ghee that cook your dhal is as clarified as that which cooks our lamb”
Shakespeare via South Asia, why not. Shishir Kurup’s Merchant of Vembley transports Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice to North West London but not only that, transposes it into the South Asian community there, pitting a Muslim minority against the Hindi majority so turning the original’s anti-Semitism into an Islamophobia that is far too recognisable in today’s society. Directed by Ajay Chowdhury for Rented Space Theatre Company, the play has been rewritten into a strikingly modern vernacular “complete with profanities, prejudices and pentameter”.
Jeetendra (Bassanio) is a matinée idol-handsome Bollywood star whose star is fading and he’s identified marriage to heiress Pushpa (Portia) as the way to revive his flagging career. In order to avoid accusations of gold-digging, he approaches his besotted businessman friend Devendra (Antonio) in order to be able to flash the cash in wooing her but a short-term cashflow issue leads Devendra to his lender of last resort, the Muslim Sharuk (Shylock), a father struggling to deal with the wilfully independent streak of his daughter Noorani (Jessica). Continue reading “Review: Merchant of Vembley, Cockpit Theatre”
“I am Muslim, but my humanness is shared with anyone and everyone. If we choose to love one special person, does it mean that they are the only person worth loving? ‘To you, your religion, to me, mine’. ‘There is no obligation in religion’ – straight from the Quran. We cannot force our religion upon others.”
For all the gnashing of teeth about how ‘national’ Rufus Norris’ newly announced debut season as AD at the NT is or isn’t, there’s actually something much more significant happening right now as part of Nicholas Hytner’s finale. The press attention may be on Tom Stoppard’s return to the stage but over in the Lyttelton, the first South Asian play to run at this South Bank venue is doing that most idealised of theatrical practices – reaching out and engaging with new audiences.
I saw a late preview of Shahid Nadeem’s Dara and I was blown away at how mixed a crowd I was taking my seat with – there’s undoubtedly a more sophisticated debate to be had about people wanting to see stories they can directly connect with rather than being more adventurous but still, it felt like a significant enough matter that I wanted to make mention of. And as critics will be seeing the show with a more than likely traditional press night audience, it isn’t something they’ll necessarily pick up on. Continue reading “Review: Dara, National Theatre”
“There is a way to be good again”
The final moments of this rendering of Khaled Hosseini’s epic 2003 novel The Kite Runner are really something special indeed, capturing the quiet ecstasy of redemptive hope with the subtlest of performances and a theatrical elegance that is gently breath-taking. But Giles Croft’s production, first seen in Nottingham and making its way next to Liverpool, takes a long time to get there, hobbled by a pedestrian adaptation by Matthew Spangler which exploits little of the storytelling possibilities within and lacks the excitement to really make it soar into the sky alongside the multi-coloured kites that play such a vital role in this tale of two young Afghan boys, Amir and Hassan, and their unlikely friendship.
It’s improbable because Hassan is the son of Amir’s father’s servant and belongs to a different ethnic group yet despite their differences, a strong bond exists between the pair, typified by the way they work together in the kite flying competitions that enliven their Kabul childhood. A brutal incident involving Hassan sets in chain a tragic turn of events though and as the heavy tide of history starts to turn, forcing Amir and his father to flee the war that erupts as the incoming Taliban take over Afghanistan, not even decades and continents can prevent the need for Amir to seek redemption. Continue reading “Review: The Kite Runner, Theatre Royal Brighton”