Review: The Forest, Hampstead Theatre

Like being given a jigsaw with no corner pieces, the challenges of putting together what is happening in Florian Zeller’s The Forest means it is hardly worth the trip to the Hampstead Theatre

Apparently you’ve no objection to telling stories yourself”

You might not have picked Florian Zeller to be the writer who arguably one of the most regularly produced in London over the last few years but theatres have fallen hard for the French playwright (indeed, cinemas too as his Academy Award for The Father last year attests). His latest new play The Forest arrives now at the Hampstead Theatre but despite the quality cast, I found it hugely disappointing.

Any familiarity with Zeller means that you know nothing is ever straight-forwardly presented in his world. But he pushes that to the extreme here, amping up the levels of disconcertion to a point of almost meaninglessness. There’s naturally no concession to narrative construction but this goes beyond fiendish puzzle building, this is being obtuse for the sake of being obtuse, Zeller trying to outdo his reputation at the expense of all else. Continue reading “Review: The Forest, Hampstead Theatre”

News: Cast for Hampstead Theatre’s The Fever Syndrome announced

Hampstead Theatre has announced the full cast and creative team for the world premiere of Alexis Zegerman’s vivid, new play, The Fever Syndrome, including the marvellous Alexandra Gilbreath

Running from 19th March until 23rd April 2022, The Fever Syndrome will be directed by Roxana Silbert and designed by Lizzie Clachan and features quite the impressive cast.

Lisa Dillon (Cranford, BBC One; Hapgood, Hampstead Theatre), Jake Fairbrother (Skyfall, EON Productions; Hamlet, National Theatre), Alexandra Gilbreath (Not Going Out, BBC One; The Provoked Wife, Royal Shakespeare Company), Robert Lindsay (My Family, BBC One; Anything Goes, Barbican), Sam Marks (Doctor Who, BBC One; Richard II, Royal Shakespeare Company), Bo Poraj (Miranda, BBC One, Raya, Hampstead Downstairs) and Alex Waldmann (The Mikvah Project, Orange Tree; Julius Caesar, Royal Shakespeare Company) will perform in this thrilling portrait of a brilliantly dysfunctional family.  They are joined by Nancy Allsop and Charlotte Pourret Wythe. Continue reading “News: Cast for Hampstead Theatre’s The Fever Syndrome announced”

TV Review: Black Narcissus

A quality cast including Gemma Arterton and Dame Diana Rigg can’t save Black Narcissus for me

“Better honey than vinegar”

A funny one this, particularly for the captive audience of the inbuilt lethargy of the Twixmas period. In the absence of Sarah Phelps’ brilliant reinventions of Agatha Christie, Black Narcissus was the BBC’s big drama punt on the festive schedule but I’m not entirely sure if it was the right choice.

Based on the Rumer Godden novel and famously filmed in 1947 by Powell and Pressburger with Deborah Kerr, the story follows a band of Anglican nuns as they try to establish a new mission in the Himalayan mountains. Their chosen base is a former palace with erotic paintings on the bricks, a troubled history seeping from the mortar and a swarthily handsome agent who keeps popping by – Sister Act this ain’t. Continue reading “TV Review: Black Narcissus”

TV Review: Waking the Dead Series 8

Alas poor Stella. Series 8 of Waking the Dead shakes up the team once again but its real strength comes from some god-tier guest casting

“Your evidence is based solely on the deluded ravings of a paranoid schizophrenic and the manipulative whisperings of a serial killing psychopath”

In all honesty, I’d forgotten that they killed off Stella in Series 8 of Waking the Dead and the rather low-key way in which she was dispatched seems to indicate the writers wanted it that way. I think Félicité Du Jeu did well to try and assimilate into the team but she rarely got much of a shot in terms of characterisation aside from being their dogsbody. Alors…

So we’re given a new junior – Stacey Roca as Detective Sergeant Katrina Howard – but once again there’s so little attention paid to developing her character that it is little surprise she only lasts for this one series. And whilst I’m being critical, the lack of follow-through from the traumatic events for Boyd at the end of the last series is a dereliction of duty IMHO. Continue reading “TV Review: Waking the Dead Series 8”

TV Review: Secret State (2012)

With Lia Williams and Sylvestra Le Touzel both being badass in the cast, how could I not love Secret State

“Do I look like somebody who reads tweets?”

Inspired by Chris Mullin’s 1982 novel A Very British Coup, 2012’s Secret State stands up realy well nearly a decade on. And how could it not, when it features Lia Williams at the head of MI5, Sylvestra Le Touzel as the Foreign Secretary, Gina McKee and Douglas Hodge as hotshot reporters and Tobias Menzies as the Prime Minister. Continue reading “TV Review: Secret State (2012)”

News: The Mono Box launch The Monologue Library

I mean, just look at this absolute treasure trove of theatrical talent! 

 

I’m off to listen to Patsy Ferran read Tom Wells, and Gabby Wong read Alexi Kaye Campbell, and Sarah Niles read Winsome Pinnock and…and…

This incredible resource is free but like so many creative endeavours right now, would benefit hugely from your donations here

 

Book review: The Half – Simon Annand

The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand

Just a quickie for this book as The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand was released in 2008. But with an imminent new exhibition of these photos and a bargainous copy of the book popping up on Ebay, I thought I’d take the plunge.

And I’m glad I did as it is a proper work of art in its own right. Annand has been photographing actors for over 25 years and as such, has a veritable treasure trove of shots to share with us, resulting from the trusting relationships he has built up with so many, from the new kids on the block to veritable dames. Continue reading “Book review: The Half – Simon Annand”

TV Review: Line of Duty (Series 5)

Series 5 of Line of Duty has some cracking moments, some big revelations and one of Anna Maxwell Martin’s best ever performances

“There’s no secrets in AC12”

So we make it to the end of Series 5 of Line of Duty and it was a lot wasn’t it. A properly tragic couple of deaths, a deep suspicion of a core team member or two and perhaps inevitably, one step forwards and two steps back in the ongoing H conspiracy.  

Jed Mercurio’s plotting remains as tightly wound and full of surprises as ever, the reveals in the organised crime group were well done but I think the gang stuff was nowhere near as much fun as the internecine conflicts within the police force itself. Continue reading “TV Review: Line of Duty (Series 5)”

Review: Di and Viv and Rose, White Bear Theatre

Flying Rabbit Productions’s Di and Viv and Rose at the White Bear Theatre is a smart production of a play that has endured well

“I’ll be alright – won’t I?”

Amelia Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose is a play I’ve loved since its 2011 debut in the downstairs space at the Hampstead Theatre, from whence it graduated to the main house and from there into the West End. At each spot, it has been blessed with some superb actors – Nicola Walker, Claudie Blakley and Tamzin Outhwaite, Gina McKee and Anna Maxwell Martin, Samantha Spiro and Jenna Russell – so I was intrigued to see how it would fare in this off-West End production by Flying Rabbit.

And I have to say it stood up really rather well, a mark of the strength of its writing. The play follows the developing friendship between three women thrown together as undergraduates who move to a houseshare in which a real kinship is formed, connections which are tested by the trials and tribulations not only of student life, but through into the ‘real’ world as well. Did the Spice Girls really get it right? Does friendship never end…?  Continue reading “Review: Di and Viv and Rose, White Bear Theatre”

TV Review: Bodyguard Series 1

Bodyguard reaches a thrilling climax that is sure to disappoint some but left me on the edge of my seat

“I wanted to know who did it, I don’t know who did it”

Except we do finally know who did it. Jed Mercurio’s Bodyguard – an unexpected massive hit and a reminder that the appointment-to-view model is far from over – reached its climax tonight in typically high-tension style, confounding expectations to the end and dashing the dreams of many a conspiracy theorist to boot. Seriously, so glad that Julia Montague remained dead (at least until a sequel is announced and we have to go through this whole farrago again). 

And though it is bound to have its detractors, I have to say I found it all hugely entertaining. If it just wasn’t realistic enough for you, then WTF are you doing watching dramas? If you’re getting swept up in locations in this fictionalised version of London not being where they are in real life, turn the damn thing off! Its not for everyone, that’s absolutely fine, but you don’t have to drag everyone else down with your misery. Continue reading “TV Review: Bodyguard Series 1”