TV Review: Staged

Starring Michael Sheen and David Tennant, Simon Evans’ lockdown TV show Staged is amiable fun

“Come on, show us your pineapple”

A lot of people I know have fallen very hard for Staged so obviously I have to be contrary in saying that I found it amiably good fun rather than essential humour. Born out of lockdown ripping the heart out of the entertainment industry, the show – conceived by Simon Evans (also writer and director) and Phin Glynn – is something of a meta-drama as Michael Sheen and David Tennant play Michael Sheen and David Tennant.

The set-up of Staged is that the actors were meant to be starting rehearsals for a production of Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author and their director, Evans, has hit on the idea of moving those rehearsals online. The reality though is that it is about anything but, as the pair banter hilariously from their respective homes, cycling through squabbles about the billing order on the poster, to enunciation, lockdown routines and domestic dramas, all the while taking any opportunity to puncture the other’s actorly ego. Continue reading “TV Review: Staged”

TV Review: Spooks – Code 9

Spooks – Code 9 is a spin-off that spins off too far, nowhere near deserving of the Spooks name

“Don’t make me look like a dickhead”

An absolutely baffling one this. Spooks – Code 9 was commissioned by the Beeb as a spin-off of the Spooks franchise that was aimed at the 16-24 demographic. Conventional wisdom dictates that a spin-off has at least some connection to its parent but for some reason, the decision was made to completely sever this new show, with no crossover with Spooks whatsoever.

Not only that, it is also set in an entirely different universe as this series is set in a UK that is reeling from a nuclear attack during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics Games. With London irradiated and most of its staff killed, MI5 has had to evacuate Thames House and set up regional field offices. Because the only way to justify setting a show in Leeds is to make London radioactive…(and even then they can’t keep away for the finale). Continue reading “TV Review: Spooks – Code 9”

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4

“Donna Noble has left the library. Donna Noble has been saved”

And here we are, my favourite series of Doctor Who. So much huge wonderfulness and even its less good moments are still more than halfway decent. Key to the series’ success is Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble – gobby and one-dimensional in her introductory episode the Christmas special The Runaway Bride, her character journey throughout this season is magisterially constructed, a true awakening of self (with thankfully no romantic inclinations towards our Time Lord) and one given unbearable poignancy due to its frustratingly tragic end.

It’s also one of the best constructed series in terms of its over-arching season arc, its warnings and clues layered meaningfully into several stories and building into a momentous and properly climactic finale, which lands just about the right level of grandiosity. There’s also the first companion-lite episode (the superbly creepy Midnight) to go with the Doctor-lite one (the achingly beautiful dystopian Turn Left); a typically brilliant Moffat double-header in  Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead with gorgeous work from Alex Kingston as the soon-to-be-hugely-significant River Song; and if the return of Rose undoes some of the emotional impact of the Series 2 finale, Billie Piper’s work is spikily powerful. These are episodes I can, and have, watched over and over again.

Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4”

Review: What The Butler Saw, Vaudeville

“My uterine contractions have been bogus for some time”

The adage about theatre audiences turning to comedies in times of economic hardship is being increasingly borne out in the West End and with the arrival of What the Butler Saw at the Vaudeville, the Strand gains its second 1970s would-be laugh-fest. But as with The Sunshine Boys, my funnybone was far from tickled as this is a world of humour I just do not get. In Alice Power’s efficient, if needlessly quirky in its protuberances, set design, Joe Orton’s farce plays out in a psychiatric clinic in which all manner of mayhem is unleashed when a government inspector pays a visit at the same time as a doctor tries to seduce a young woman applying to be his secretary whilst his wife has her own sexual shenanigans to hide.

Orton’s intentions were clearly to subvert the farcical form here, to provoke traditional audiences out of their comfortable glow with his deconstruction of sexual and societal values, but this production simply doesn’t reflect that intelligence. What we get instead is something that plays as a straight-up farce. And for fans of the genre, there are some moments to enjoy, especially in the hands of Tim McInnerny’s sweatily lascivious Dr Prentice and Samantha Bond’s nymphomaniacal wife. But the production starts off in such a high-octane gear that there’s nowhere left to go but increasingly overboard in the endless chase for cheap laughs. Continue reading “Review: What The Butler Saw, Vaudeville”