TV Review: Silent Witness Series 2

Series 2 of Silent Witness sees the show quickly slip into the patterns that bristle against the limitations of the format, whilst Amanda Burton warms up a little

“If you’re lucky, you’ll get away with a slap on the wrist and a warning not to get too involved in the future”

And so to series 2 of Silent Witness, Nigel McCrery’s forensic pathology drama, and the return of Amanda Burton’s remarkably chilly Sam Ryan. Perhaps wisely, there was a big swerve away from her family drama, the focus shifting more solidly to the numerous work crises passed her way. The only problem there is that the writers were in no way content to let her just be a pathologist. 

“I’m a forensic pathologist. All I’m interested in is the truth”, she cries at one point. But it patently isn’t true, her insistence on playing detective with every single case actually having led to the death of someone innocent last time around (she gets over the trauma of that pretty quickly…) and said behaviour continues apace here, reaching almost parodic levels far too quickly. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 2”

Review: I Have A Mouth And I Will Scream, VAULT Festival

“We don’t need a book, what we need is action”

The publicity for Abi Zakarian’s I Have A Mouth And I Will Scream puts it better than I ever could – it’s “a play-performance-art-protest-thing.” With one of the funniest lines I’ve heard in a theatre this year, involving Sean Bean. Directed by Rafaella Marcus, the show has all the raw energy of devised work but also carries with it the weight of something much more deeply considered.

I Have A Mouth… is an attempt to “address every single feminist issue in the space of sixty minutes” and does so, with its company of six, in a mightily anarchic manner. These are women who are just as likely to spit in a mirror, throw a tampon at you and bite the head off a wedding bouquet than sit quietly in the corner and put up with the patriarchy any longer and fuck knows, they’ve got every right to be angry. Continue reading “Review: I Have A Mouth And I Will Scream, VAULT Festival”

Short Film Review #29

ET IN MOTORCADIA EGO! from Tim Plester on Vimeo.

The ‘other’ 50th anniversary of the weekend was of the assassination of JFK and released with impeccable timing, Et in Motorcadia Ego! tips the hat to the huge place that that event occupied in popular culture. Written and directed by Tim Plester (and adapted from his own full-length play), it takes the form of a spontaneous dream-poem and performed by the intensely magnetic Kieran Bew, it is something spectacular. Plester’s camera loves the bearded Bew, but mixes shots of his recital with flashes of dream-like imagery to create something visually stunning and combined with the viscerally rich poetry, this is definitely recommended. Continue reading “Short Film Review #29”

Review: Blue Stockings, Shakespeare’s Globe

“The only thing a woman can own is knowledge”

The experience of a groundling at the Globe can range from the sublime (Eve Best clasping your hand) to the ridiculous (standing for two and a half hour in the pouring rain) yet it is a unique kind of experience that always keeps me coming back for more. At £5 a ticket, it is the bargainous type of risk that is worth taking and with plays like Jessica Swale’s Blue Stockings, the dividends it pays forth make up for the sheer sogginess of the journey home. Swale is perhaps best known as a director, particularly for her inimitable takes on Restoration comedies but also for striking contemporary work of devastating precision but she now returns to Shakespeare’s Globe, where she directed 2010’s Bedlam, as a playwright with this, her first play. 

The play is set in 1896 in Girton College, Cambridge which 20 years prior, became the first college in Britain to admit women. But though they can study, they are denied the right to graduate, their time at university leaving them with little but the stigma of being a “blue stocking”, a woman whose education was deemed unnatural and thus leaving her unmarriageable. Swale explores the year their right to graduate was finally put to the vote, following a group of four students as they are introduced to the novelties of university life, albeit segregated and belittled by the vast majority, where taking exams has to compete with the richer pleasures that a modicum of independence brings.  Continue reading “Review: Blue Stockings, Shakespeare’s Globe”

DVD Review: Criminal Justice 2

“Fools tell the truth”

Where success lies, so sequels inevitably follow and after the success of Peter Moffat’s Criminal Justice, a second series following a different case through the legal system was commissioned and broadcast in 2009. Maxine Peake starred as Juliet Miller, the central figure of the show, a housewife and mother thoroughly cowed by an intensely and secretly abusive relationship whose entry into the criminal justice system commences when she finally stabs her husband, a neatly counter-intuitive piece of casting in Matthew Macfadyen.

I enjoyed the first Ben Whishaw-starring series a huge amount and found it a fresh take on the crime genre so a re-run of something similar was never going to have quite the same impact. But although it is a different take on the model, it didn’t grip me in quite the same way, lacking that sense of relatability that came from having a young male protagonist. For this is a much more female-centric drama – domestic violence, mother-and-baby units, work/life balance are just some of the issues at hand as Peake’s Juliet reels from the impact of her actions, the suspicion with which she is treated, the stresses leading up to and during the trial.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Criminal Justice 2”

Review: Swallows and Amazons, Chichester Festival Theatre

“Better drowned than duffers”

Originally a big success for the Bristol Old Vic last Christmas, Swallows and Amazons was revived for this festive season and has just spent a month in the West End at the Vaudeville Theatre ahead of an extensive UK tour. Starting off here in Chichester, Arthur Ransome’s 1930 novel has been adapted by Helen Edmunson, sprinkled with songs from The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon and directed by Tom Morris, it emerges as a delightfully inventive and highly imaginative production.

It works so well because it captures a long-lost spirit of play so very genuinely. From beginning to end, the show exudes a joyous playful spirit that almost immediately makes us forget we’re watching adults pretending to be kids. As the four Walker children set off to set up camp on an uninhabited island near their holiday home, they are whisked into a thrilling adventure beyond their wildest imagination and we are there with them for every beautifully-realised step. Continue reading “Review: Swallows and Amazons, Chichester Festival Theatre”