TV Review: Silent Witness Series 22

Series 22 of Silent Witness continues a rich vein of form as it hits 200 episodes of hot button topics

“Things don’t always conform to expectation”

Series 22 of Silent Witness sees the crime procedural hit the impressive landmark of 200 episodes and after the highs of the previous season, it maintains a strong standard of storytelling that keeps it feeling fresh, even if it does tend to fall back on its regular crutches as it refuses to let hardly any characters recur beyond their single stories. 

Even with Nikki having found love and managing to maintain a transatlantic relationship with Michael Landes’ US diplomat Matt from last time around, keeping him in Washington means he’s barely there. And new intern Alice, who gets to play a big part in the final case, is only introduced just beforehand which feels like a waste of Kiran Sonia Sawar (and also reduces the story’s emotional impact since she’s practically a stranger, qv Mexican intern Luisa from last season’s finale…). Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 22”

TV Review: Innocent (Series 1)

A strong cast make the first series of Innocent highly watchable, even if the storytelling never quite catches fire

“Do you still think he did it?”

Matthew Arlidge and Chris Lang’s Innocent passed me by when it premiered on ITV in 2018 but with the arrival of a second series and an unavoidable publicity push, I thought I’d go back and visit the first, not least because Lang’s stock has never been higher as the creator of Unforgotten. And before the review proper starts, a mildly silly note about names in dramas. I went to school with a David Collins so found it highly amusing but to name his brother Phil? And then never reference it…madness I tell you!

The show centres on the case of Collins who has spent seven years in prison, convicted of murdering his wife Tara. When a legal technicality sees him acquitted, he attempts the process of rebuilding his life. But with his sister-in-law now in custody of his two children and a high degree of suspicion still floating around the air as the police reopen the case to try and find out once and for all who killed Tara, that is much easier said than done. Continue reading “TV Review: Innocent (Series 1)”

TV Review: Broadchurch Series 3

The final chapter of Broadchurch proves to be a little bit underwhelming, despite excellently harrowing work from Julie Hesmondhalgh

“I think you should say sorry to Brian”

Folklore declares that Chris Chibnall always intended Broadchurch to be a trilogy but it kinda feels hard to believe that while watching Series 3. Series 2 had already lost a little of the magic that made Series 1 so essential, diluting the focus on the murder of Danny Latimer and as we move three years on for this new series, that case naturally recedes even further into the backdrop.

Which is all fine and good for a continuing drama but for something billed as the final chapter, it’s an odd choice as it means that the focus is now on a completely separate sexual assault case. And as so many of the supporting characters that helped to build the sterling community feel that marked Broadchurch out are now MIA – we’re in a ‘different’ part of town now – it just feels so separate. Continue reading “TV Review: Broadchurch Series 3”

10 top theatrical moments of 2020

In lieu of trying to make sense of this shitshow of a year through the normal year-end lists, I thought I’d just stick with an unranked list of 10 of my top theatrically based productions of the year

For reference, here’s my 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list2016 list2015 list and 2014 list.

Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre

A rather exhilaratingly good take on the familiar Chekhov classic, a worthy presence in the West End.

The Wicker Husband, Watermill Theatre

One of the last things I saw before lockdown and what a gorgeous lingering memory to have, I pray that this is not the last we hear of this beautiful new musical. Continue reading “10 top theatrical moments of 2020”

TV Review: The Smoke (2014)

London’s Burning for the 21st century? The Smoke treads familiar ground in soapy nonsense set at a fire station

“I thought aubergines, it’s a party, why not”

As does many a Sky drama, The Smoke passed me by on its release in 2014 but in the search for unchallenging entertainment, it scratches the itch with some interesting variations on a familiar formula. I won’t give away the jaw-dropping moment from the first episode but safe to say, you’ll be in no doubt as to exactly what tone Lucy Kirkwood’s show is pitching for.

We follow the shenanigans of White Watch, a brigade of London firefighters who battle just as much personal drama as they do actual fires. Chief among them is Jamie Bamber’s Kev who suffered traumatic injuries in a huge fire and still has his demons even as he returns as fire chief. Helping him is the fact that his girlfriend is the Doctor (aka Jodie Whittaker). Continue reading “TV Review: The Smoke (2014)”

Review: The Welkin, National Theatre

Lucy Kirkwood returns to the National Theatre with The Welkin, starring a brilliant ensemble led by Maxine Peake

“Nobody blames God when there’s a woman can be blamed instead”

There are moments in Lucy Kirkwood’s new play The Welkin that are just outstanding. The opening tableau of silhouetted women engaged in housework is one for the ages, the early montage of women being empanelled onto a jury is as compelling a piece of social history as has ever been committed to the stage as well as looking stunning, and the final scene is equally full of iconic imagery (that veil, that walk, that ribbon, that realisation!).

Set on the Norfolk/Suffolk borders in 1759, the play focuses on a quirk of English justice at the time. A child has died and Sally Poppy has been sentenced for the crime (by men) but as she is claiming to be pregnant – something which if true, would commute her sentence from death to transportation – a “jury of matrons” must decide if she is telling the truth. Thus 12 local woman are summoned and locked in a room to determine her fate. Continue reading “Review: The Welkin, National Theatre”

News: new productions and casting updates for the National Theatre

Jessie Buckley and Josh O’Connor headline a new production of Romeo and Juliet, while Callum Scott Howells and Rosie Sheehy star in Gary Owen’s Romeo and Julie, among other big news from the National Theatre

New productions

Simon Godwin returns to the National Theatre to direct Shakespeare’s ROMEO & JULIET following his critically-acclaimed productions of Antony and Cleopatra and Twelfth Night in the Olivier Theatre. Set in modern Italy in a world where Catholic and secular values clash, Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, Judy) and Josh O’Connor (The Crown, God’s Own Country) play the two young lovers who strive to transcend a world of violence and corruption. Fisayo Akinade (The Antipodes, Barber Shop Chronicles) is cast as Mercutio. The production will open in the Olivier Theatre in August 2020.

Set and costume design by Soutra Gilmour, lighting design by Lucy Carter, composition by Michael Bruce and sound design by Christopher Shutt. Continue reading “News: new productions and casting updates for the National Theatre”

Review: The Odyssey, Almeida/Live-stream

“I’m stunned with wonder”

When Rupert Goold first announced the #AlmeidaGreeks season with all its familiar titles, I don’t think anyone could have predicted how genuinely epic a sweep of theatrical innovation it would usher in. From the extraordinary Oresteia to the shattering Bakkhai and Medea, the radical main house programme has been supported by a wide range of supplementary activity, not least the 16 hour, 60+ actor retelling of The Iliad (which can now be viewed in full on the Almeida website).

So it’s only natural that as the season draws to an end, it is bookended by another Homeric extravaganza in The Odyssey, again with 60 odd actors participating in a 12 hour non-stop feat of major storytelling which was live-streamed on t’internet. And conscious of raising the ante, directors Rupert Goold and Robert Icke took us on a literal journey, putting the players in taxicabs, boats, buses, trekking across rooftops and down busy streets to bring Ithaca to Islington as Odysseus winds his way home. Continue reading “Review: The Odyssey, Almeida/Live-stream”