TV Review: Too Close (ITV)

Emily Watson and Denise Gough both excel in chilling TV psychodrama Too Close

“Grief can be its own kind of hell”

Too Close comes to ITV with Clara Salaman adapting her own pseudonymous novel and Susan Tully directing the 3-part series. And rather impressive it was too, continuing to buck the (possibly unfair) preconceived notions about ITV dramas that persist in my mind. 

Emily Watson plays Dr Emma Robertson, a forensic psychiatrist returning to work after a personal tragedy, whose first case back is that of Denise Gough’s Connie Mortensen, a woman accused of a horrific case of attempted murder whose fitness to stand trial Emma must declare. Continue reading “TV Review: Too Close (ITV)”

TV Review: Stephen (ITV)

Stephen is a deeply compassionate and quietly furious look at the many injustices of the Stephen Lawrence case

“Never expected getting justice to be my job”

Written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Joe Cottrell-Boyce and directed by Alrick Riley, Stephen is based on the book In Pursuit of the Truth by DCI Clive Driscoll who spearheaded the 2012 police re-investigation which ultimately led to the conviction of two of the killers of Stephen Lawrence. Murdered in 1993 in a racist attack, the 18 year old Black British man’s case was fumbled in the extreme, the subsequent Macpherson report finding the Met incompetent and institutionally racist, his family left despairing that justice would ever be served. 

And this is where the show is strongest. Sharlene Whyte as Doreen Lawrence and Hugh Quarshie as Neville Lawrence deliver two quietly devastating performances as Stephen’s parents, now separated but still bound inextricably by their son’s murder, their lives shaped not just by his absence but by the absence of fair treatment by the investigating authorities. Thus the arrival of Driscoll, played here by Steve Coogan, a DCI handed the case in a cold case review in 2006, is rightly treated with a high degree of hard-won scepticism and scorn. Continue reading “TV Review: Stephen (ITV)”

TV Review: Motherland Series 3

Series 3 of Motherland returns to give us more of the excellent parental shenanigans, led by the peerless Anna Maxwell Martin

“Another glass of dry white wine”

Despite losing Sharon Horgan from the writing team (she’s still onboard as a producer), the third series of Motherland remains in the safe hands of Holly Walsh, Helen Serafinowicz and Barunka O’Shaughnessy, who regale us with yet more tales of middle-class school gate shenanigans, led by brilliant performances from Anna Maxwell Martin, Diane Morgan, Paul Ready and Lucy Punch.

This time round, we deal with nits, school trips and catchment areas on the lighter side plus a touch of racism, cancer and divorce adding the requisite darker note that has been this series’ hallmark, making it more than just another featherlight comedy. The tightness of the core ensemble means that so much of it works so well but a real joy comes now with the well-judged reappearance of recurring characters. Continue reading “TV Review: Motherland Series 3”

News: Young Vic and Old Vic announce new programmes

Theatre returns at both end of The Cut – programmes announced for both the Old Vic and the Young

  • Queers Curated by Mark Gatiss, 2 Jun, 30 Jun
  • Home? Curated by Noma Dumezweni, 14-20 Jun
  • The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter, 7-10 Jul
    Directed by Jeremy Herrin and starring Daniel Mays and David Thewlis
  • Bagdad Cafe by Percy and Eleonore Adlon, adapted by Emma Rice, 19 Jul-21 Aug, streamed 25-28 Aug
    Starring Patrycja Kujawska, Le Gateau Chocolat and Sandra Marvin
  • Camp Siegfried by Bess Wohl, 7 Sep-30 Oct
    Directed by Katy Rudd and starring Patsy Ferran and Luke Thallon
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Jack Thorne, 13 Nov-8 Jan
    Directed by Matthew Warchus
  • A Number by Caryl Churchill, 24 Jan-19 Mar 
    Directed by Lyndsey Turner  and starring Lennie James and Paapa Essiedu
  • Into the Woods – Music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine, 16 Apr-9 Jul
    Co-directed Terry Gilliam and Leah Hausman

  • Changing Destiny by Ben Okri, 9 Jul-21 Aug
    Directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah
  • Klippies by Jessica Siân, 4–13 Aug
    Directed by Diyan Zora
  • AI developed by Chinonyerem Odimba and Nina Segal, written alongside GPT-3 OpenAI technology, 23–25 Aug
    Created by Jennifer Tang and Company
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare, 25 Sep-13 Nov
    Directed by Greg Hersov and starring Cush Jumbo
  • Best of Enemies by James Graham, 2 Dec-22 Jan
    Directed by Jeremy Herrin

News: a stream of Emilia announced to get us through November

With an unerring sense of timing, our dark November evenings now have the chance of being brightened by the theatrical wonder that was Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s Emilia. An archived recording of the show’s 2019 West End production is being made available online for two weeks from 10th November.

I loved the show in its first run at the Globe and its subsequent transfer into the West End at the Vaudeville Theatre and I’m sure much of its power will be retained in its taping. And because the people behind the show really are good sorts, they’re using a pay-what-you-can model with the proceeds from the recording being shared across the entire team from the 2019 production. Continue reading “News: a stream of Emilia announced to get us through November”

Nominees for the 9th annual Mousetrap Awards

The nominees for the 9th annual Mousetrap Awards are announced

These awards are voted for by young people, anyone aged 15-29 is invited to have their say as to who should pick up the trophies at the ceremony on Sunday 19th April. And while usual suspects Dear Evan HansenWaitress and & Juliet are leading the pack, it is nice to see such love for Small Island here too.

Mousetrap Theatre Projects strive to make London’s theatre scene accessible to young people, low-income families, mainstream and SEND state schools, and those with additional needs.

Voting is open until midnight on 23rd March via this link. Continue reading “Nominees for the 9th annual Mousetrap Awards”

Review: [BLANK], Donmar Warehouse

Much to admire technically in [BLANK] at the Donmar Warehouse but it doesn’t quite land the emotional hit it aims for

“Have you ever felt like you were standing exactly to the left of your life?”

On the face of it, [BLANK] has all the makings of an outright success. With Alice Birch writing and Maria Aberg, this Donmar Warehouse and Clean Break co-production is a powerful indictment of how the vicissitudes of our criminal justice system hit women, and their families, the hardest by far.

And in terms of a text, it is undoubtedly an audacious undertaking, consisting of 100 scenes from which directors can craft their own narratives. Here though is where the production doesn’t quite click, Aberg trying her best to form some, any, kind of flow but the form just doesn’t allow for it. Continue reading “Review: [BLANK], Donmar Warehouse”

TV Review: Motherland (Series 2)

The second series of Motherland continues to peel back layers of articifice around cultural ideas of motherhood – still bruisingly comic but sometimes just bruising

“Life’s too short to dick about with aubergines”

There’s a boldness to this second series of Motherland that is sometimes breath-taking. The show, created by Sharon Horgan, G*a*a* L*n*h*n, Helen Linehan and Holly Walsh, has never been sentimental about motherhood, brutally comic about the varying difficulties of being a parent/partner/employee/friend all at the same time and being utterly unafraid to show its characters failing at one if not more of them on an episodal basis.  

This second season though, all now available to watch on t’iPlayer, tightens the screws even more, really pushing out the limits of what these people are willing to inflict on others in the name of just getting through the day. It makes for a bracing watch but even I was wondering whether the brutality shouldn’t be reined in just a bit… Continue reading “TV Review: Motherland (Series 2)”

TV Review: Queers

Mark Gatiss’ Queers – a set of monologues has lost none of its power since premiering in 2017

“He knows me for what I am”

I couldn’t make the theatrical readings of Queers at the Old Vic, so I was glad that filmed versions of them were made (for airing on BBC4). Ricocheting around the decades of the twentieth century, this set of monologues marked 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 decriminalised private homosexual acts between men aged over 21, and aimed to celebrate some of the most poignant, funny, tragic and riotous moments of British gay male experience.

Pulled together by Mark Gatiss, these 8 20-minute pieces are ostensibly set in the same bar but run the full gamut of emotion as we shift around in time. There’s exquisite moments of happiness in lives otherwise marked by despair. The fleeting touch from Gatiss’ The Man on the Platform so achingly described by Ben Whishaw, the heady night spent with an American soldier by Ian Gelder’s omi in Matthew Baldwin’s I Miss the War.

Continue reading “TV Review: Queers”

Review: Emilia, Vaudeville Theatre

Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s Emilia transfers to the Vaudeville Theatre with all of its feminist fire and fun intact

“There’s a woman on the stage”

Is there anything currently on the London stage that is more gracefully eloquent than the moment that the transformative power of grief is writ large at a crucial point a third of the way into Emilia. It’s a rare moment of beautiful subtlety in a play that is more often considerably bolder in its sentiment but it’s also a mark of just how nuanced Nicole Charles’ production and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s writing is, even while some tie themselves in knots trying to square its historical and feminist credentials.  

A transfer from Shakespeare’s Globe last summer (officially the 13th best show of the year doncha know) where its short run caught fire, its all-female and wonderfully diverse cast and creative team mean that all three of the Strand’s major playhouses currently have work written by women in them (I wonder when this last happened). And while that ought not to be noteworthy, god knows it still is and it all ties up rather neatly with Lloyd Malcolm’s writing. For though this is a play about a historical woman, it is also a play about all women. Continue reading “Review: Emilia, Vaudeville Theatre”