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)”

News: Royal & Derngate announces further productions for its 2021/22 Made in Northampton season

Royal & Derngate has announced four further productions to complete its 2021/22 Made in Northampton season. A new production of Joe Penhall’s biting contemporary satire Blue/Orange is brought to the stage this autumn by the producing team behind Ralph Fiennes’ hugely successful Four Quartets which is soon to transfer to the West End. Giles Terera and Michael Balogun will collaborate with Artistic Director James Dacre with original music by Valgeir Sigurðsson of Bedroom Community. The venue then premieres The Wellspring, an autobiographic work from playwright Barney Norris and his father David Owen Norris, directed by Jude Christian. The venue’s previously announced production of An Improbable Musical will then premiere with a cast including Niall AshdownRuth BrattAdam CourtingJosie Lawrence and Janet Etuk.

This autumn also sees Royal & Derngate’s artist development programme Generate host a festival of new work and present 60 Miles by Road or Rail chronicling the recent history of Northampton Town. Meanwhile, the venue’s charity compilation album Incidental: Music for the Stage, will be released on 24 September on CD and all major streaming platforms. Continue reading “News: Royal & Derngate announces further productions for its 2021/22 Made in Northampton season”

News: Royal & Derngate and Atlantic Screen Music announce new album Incidental: Music For The Stage

Royal & Derngate Theatres and Atlantic Screen Music have announced the release of a contemporary classical and electronic music album INCIDENTAL: Music For The Stage featuring original compositions for theatre inspired by some of the most famous plays and novels in the English Language. The charity compilation album will contain original music from stage productions by composers such as White Lies, Anne Dudley, These New Puritans, Rachel Portman, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Isobel Waller-Bridge, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Renell Shaw alongside spoken performances from actors including Judi Dench, Amanda Seyfried, David Harewood, Felicity Jones, Giles Terera, Patricia Routledge, James Norton, Sharon D Clarke, Iain Glen, Lesley Sharp, Stephen Fry, Indira Varma, Maxine Peake, Roger Allam, Anton Lesser and Simon Russell Beale.


Together they will raise vital funds to support Northampton Royal & Derngate Theatres’ reopening, helping the venue to recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic and to continue to produce their award winning Made in Northampton productions. The album is available to pre-order at incidentalmusicforthestage.com or pre-save on Spotify, Bandcamp, iTunes, Deezer and Tidal here. To launch the project today, two singles from the album are being released: Rachel Portman’s prologue to A Tale of Two Cities featuring Judi Dench and White Lies’ prologue to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof featuring Amanda Seyfried, both of which are available to listen to here and to download here. Continue reading “News: Royal & Derngate and Atlantic Screen Music announce new album Incidental: Music For The Stage”

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)”

Film Review: Wild Rose (2018)

A Brit-flick with a difference as Wild Rose serves up country music via Glasgow, with great performances from Jessie Buckley and Julie Walters

“No-one wants to see a convicted criminal up there.
‘Johnny Cash was a convicted criminal , you ball-bag’.”

There’s a fair bit of the archetypal Brit-flick to Wild Rose, written by Nicole Taylor and directed by Tom Harper, but enough of a distinct flavour to make it very much its own thing. And how could it not be, featuring a Glaswegian ex-con of a leading lady desperate to make it to Nashville and sing in the same room as the rather marvellous Kacey Musgraves.

Jessie Buckley plays Rose-Lynn, just having served 12 months inside and trying to put her life and her dreams back together. She has a prodigious voice and wants to make it as a country singer but she also has two kids, whom her mother has been looking her after, to think of. Possibilities rise up in the form of Susannah, the wealthy woman whose house Rose-Lynn cleans, but when you wear an electronic tag, dreams have to sit next to reality. Continue reading “Film Review: Wild Rose (2018)”

TV Review: Chernobyl

In its exploration of the human stories around the nuclear accident, Craig Mazin’s mini-series Chernobyl is simply superb

“You are dealing with something that has never happened on the planet before”

Yeesh! TV dramas surely don’t have the right to be as good as Chernobyl, particularly when they’re ostensibly about such grimly horrific a topic as this,  But as creator, writer, and executive producer Craig Mazin has adroitly identified, the 1986 nuclear disaster – and the human impact it had on those closest to it – is relatively under-explored, in mainstream Western culture at least. 

Chernobyl seeks to explain what happened on that fateful day, and its terrible aftermath, on two distinct levels. Focusing in on the microlevel, we follow stories such as those of the power station workers, the first responders, the people who watched the fire burn up close. But it also takes a strategic look at the Soviet system at large, tracing the institutional problems that allowed it to happen.

Continue reading “TV Review: Chernobyl”

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 2

“Some things are worth getting your heart broken for”

David Tennant’s opening season took the template of the opening series and ran with it, Russell T Davies’ vision finding its ideal mate in the Scottish actor. The typically adventurous sweep was tempered with a more tender vision, which considerably upped our emotional investment (previous companions returning, romantic connections whether past or present).

Bringing back the Cybermen was an interesting move, as was the introduction of the notion of parallel worlds (and how important that became…). And if the series-long motif of Torchwood didn’t really pay off, especially not when one considers what Torchwood the show became, the finale to Doomsday is pretty close to perfection. Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 2”

DVD Review: Last Chance Harvey

“Cantankerous I’ve never been”

Joel Hopkins’ The Love Punch was a film that worked far better than one might have expected, a lovely surprise in the cinema back in 2014, so I’ve been looking forward to catching up with his earlier 2008 movie Last Chance Harvey. And once again I was caught unawares, even as I knew that I would probably like it, I had no idea I would love it so completely.

Dustin Hoffman’s Harvey is a washed-up US jingle-writer, finding himself on the fringes of his daughter’s London wedding in place of a beloved stepfather; Emma Thompson’s Kate has found life has passed her by, still single and struggling with an overbearing mother. That the two will end up together somehow is never in doubt but the joy of Hopkins’ film is in making the journey so beautifully, emotionally real. Continue reading “DVD Review: Last Chance Harvey”

Re-review: The James Plays, National Theatre

“The wheel will turn. The wheel always turns. The wheel will turn around again.”

One of the joys of a boxset is that they can be watched over and over again so when I equated the joy of seeing all three of The James Plays on the same day as below 

 I kind of knew in the back of my mind that I would be trying my damnedest to get to the second of the two three-show-days in order to get that experience again whilst the opportunity was there. 

And since I’m clearly in credit with the theatrical karma gods at the moment, a ticket made its way into my grateful hands and I was able to go through the whole 10 and a half hour rollercoaster ride through this vibrantly realised cross-section of under-explored Scottish history. As ever, it was great to be able to revisit such interesting plays – original reviews can be read here James I – The Key Will Keep The LockJames II – Day of The Innocents and James III – The True Mirror – especially now there’s a little more distance from the Scottish referendum which coloured much of the coverage of the plays. There isn’t too much more to say about them aside from I hope they are absorbed into the theatrical culture and emerge again soon somehow, somewhere.