TV Review: Peaky Blinders Series 6

Series 6 of Peaky Blinders reaches the end with a scorcher, you kinda wish there wasn’t a film (and a ballet, and an immersive show) still to come

“Vengeance is for the Lord
‘Not in Small Heath it ain’t. Rest in peace, Poll'”

In a series beset by the biggest of challenges, Covid delays and the loss of one of its key stars, Helen McCrory who played the inimitable Aunt Poll, Series 6 of Peaky Blinders had no right to be this good. But as it wrapped up the televisual chapter of the gang from Small Heath, it paid stunning tribute to McCrory and Poll alike while telling the revenge epic of all revenge epics.

Wisely acknowledging that a vast array of supporting characters could not all be dealt with substantively, Steven Knight used them sparingly, which may have frustrated some but meant that some stalwarts really got their moment to shine. Sophie Rundle’s Ada is a case in point, on the fringes for much of the time but in the episode where she assumed the head of family, she soared. Continue reading “TV Review: Peaky Blinders Series 6”

TV Review: Peaky Blinders Series 6, Episode 1

And so the final series of Peaky Blinders begins, paying achingly sad tribute to Helen McCrory’s iconic Aunt Polly

“There will be a war and one of you will die”

Perhaps more than anything, Peaky Blinders was the thing that pushed Helen McCrory furthest into mainstream consciousness and for that, we can all be eternally grateful. Her Aunt Polly served as the matriarch of the show and grounded it with real ferocity as she dealt with the various vicissitudes of the Shelby clan. 

And in the grand scheme of things, it is a minor tragedy but had we not been blighted by the pandemic, she might have been able to be a part of this sixth and final series before cancer took her. Instead, the first part of this opening deals with the shattering revelation that she’s been killed as a result of Tommy’s plans to shoot Oswald Mosley at the end of the last series and so we get to bid a poignant farewell, along with the cast. Continue reading “TV Review: Peaky Blinders Series 6, Episode 1”

10 top theatrical moments of 2021

As distinct from my favourite shows of the year, this list celebrates the fact that sometimes the good and the not-so-good co-exist right next to each – some of my favourite moments.

For reference, here’s my 2020 list, 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list2016 list2015 list and 2014 list.

Helen McCrory, in memoriam
I still don’t really have the words to talk about how sad the passing of Helen McCrory is, such a favourite actor of mine for so long. But what was joyful was hearing the absolute esteem in which seemingly every one of her colleagues held her, a testament to the person as well as the performer.

Being scared, by women
After having declared that scary theatre just didn’t work for me, the Terrifying Women made me eat my words in quite some style with their Halloween special. Continue reading “10 top theatrical moments of 2021”

Film Review: Skyfall (2012)

As much an M movie as a Bond flick, Skyfall benefits from putting Dame Judi Dench front and centre to make this one of the best Bond films of recent times

“Well, I suppose I see a different world than you do and the truth is that what I see frightens me”

One of the best aspects of Bond in the Daniel Craig era has been the introduction of actual consequences for people. We’re not dealing with total realism to be sure, but rather a thoughtfulness that is too rarely seen in the action genre. Written by John Logan and directed by Sam Mendes, Skyfall is a masterful entry in the Bond canon, playing out the complex relationship between Bond and Judi Dench’s steely M right through to its devastating end. 

Delving into both of their pasts and hauling them up to account, the notion of personal vengeance as all-encompassing motive is far more effective than the fate of the Bolivian water supply. And Javier Bardem’s Silva is one of the most genuinely chilling villains for that very reason, his cyberterrorist truly compelling in his psychopathy – that climactic scene in the chapel is simply stunning on all levels.

It’s not perfect: the queer-baiting, sorely underusing Helen McCrory in just one scene, and all the business on the tube is ridiculous (it’s rush hour in the station but the train that crashes is somehow empty? And you can’t slide down the escalators like they do, there’s things in the way. And yes, I know it is a film, hehe). But I’m picking at small things cos I can – the new Q is introduced perfectly (all credit to Ben Whishaw) and ultimately, it’s just a great film, never mind a great Bond film. Continue reading “Film Review: Skyfall (2012)”

News: National Theatre adds The Deep Blue Sea and The Comedy of Errors to National Theatre at Home

National Theatre adds The Deep Blue Sea and The Comedy of Errors to National Theatre at Home

The National Theatre has today announced The Deep Blue Sea, with Helen McCrory in the lead role as Hester Collyer, will be added to National Theatre at Home for audiences around the world to experience. The recording is dedicated in fond memory of Helen McCrory, who had a long and rich association with the National Theatre and who sadly passed away last month. The Deep Blue Sea was her most recent performance at the National Theatre in 2016. Two on-stage conversations with Helen McCrory have also been made available on National Theatre at Home: one on stage in 2014 with Genista McInosh as Helen discussed preparing to play Medea (also available on National Theatre at Home) and one from 2016 in conversation with Libby Purves about playing Hester in The Deep Blue Sea.

Carrie Cracknell, who directed Helen in Medea and The Deep Blue Sea, said: “Helen was undoubtedly one of the greatest actors of her generation. Incandescent, playful, fierce and wildly intelligent. Her craft and precision as an actor was awe-inspiring. On some afternoons, while Helen was rehearsing The Deep Blue Sea at the NT, the sun would pour through the windows, and it would feel for a moment that time had stopped. That the world had stopped revolving, as the entire cast and crew would stand, quietly enraptured by the humanity and aliveness and complexity of Helen’s work. As we moved the production into the auditorium, I would marvel at how she held an audience of 900 people in the palm of her hand. She could change how we felt with the slightest glance, a flick of the wrist, a sultry pause, yet somehow she never lost the central truth of her character. I couldn’t be prouder that we have this beautiful recording of our production to share. Continue reading “News: National Theatre adds The Deep Blue Sea and The Comedy of Errors to National Theatre at Home”

Film Review: Flying Blind (2012)

Another of the few Helen McCrory films I’d yet to see, Flying Blind is probably a minor key entry in her catalogue

“I don’t wiggle”

Katarzyna Klimkiewicz’s Flying Blind dates back to 2012 and so pretty much counts as vintage McCrory. And as a BBC co-production, this low-budget piece set in an appealing-looking Bristol very much has a TV drama feel to it, rather than a full-on feature film.

Which isn’t so much a criticism more a realignment of expectation. McCrory plays Frankie, a hot shot aeronautics expert and part-time lecturer in her 40s, who responds passionately to the interests of Kahil, a fit young Algerian guy who bumps into her outside of college. Continue reading “Film Review: Flying Blind (2012)”

Film Review: Bill (2015)

Bill reunites the Horrible Histories crew around Shakespeare and features a vivid if too brief turn from Helen McCrory as Elizabeth I

“Do you know Penge at all?”

Just a quickie for this as it just popped up on the iPlayer and it is one of the few Helen McCrory performances left that I hadn’t seen. Bill comes from the team behind Horrible Histories and as it tells an amusing version of the Bard’s arrival in London, it certainly raises a few chuckles. Written by Laurence Rickard and
Ben Willbond and co-starring them with Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas and Jim Howick, who between them play upwards of 40 roles, its gentle ensemble comedy aesthetic offers good family entertainment.

Plotwise, it wisely doesn’t make too much of meal of things, aside from the witty suggestion that Shakespeare spent at least some of his ‘lost years’ handing out leaflets dressed as a vegetable. Nor does it get too bogged down in self-referential Shakespearean humour, recognising first and foremost that jokes need to be funny (qv the guards, my favourite bit of the film). Walsingham popping up unexpectedly, the cockernee accents, border control, the laughs come thick and fast and not always from where you’d think. Continue reading “Film Review: Bill (2015)”

TV Review: His Dark Materials, Series 2

No spoilers, but the second series of His Dark Materials is a continued absolute triumph

“Your duty is to protect the girl…and the boy”

We may have lost an episode of the second series of His Dark Materials to the pandemic but you really couldn’t tell, its atmospheric and elegiac storytelling feeling like some of the most mature work on screen right now. Jack Thorne’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s novel(s) manages a brilliant balance between faithfulness and invention, an added scene between Mrs Coulter and Lee Scoresby is a sensational addition. And the direction from Leanne Welham and Jamie Childs keeps the show looking amazing.

From Lyra’s enduring guilt over Roger’s demise in the Series 1 finale, to climactic struggles that lead to some truly traumatising conclusions, the odyssey that Lyra and Will take from their Oxfords to Cittàgazze and beyond is nothing short of stunning. Dafne Keen’s Lyra remains as intellectually curious as ever but Amir Wilson’s Will takes the spotlight as he’s forced to reckon with the weight of responsibility forced onto his shoulders. And he is achingly good, a new maturity coming forth episode by episode. Continue reading “TV Review: His Dark Materials, Series 2”