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”

Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Alfred Enoch and Russell Tovey enliven a digital take on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray

“People say there’s no dark side to social media”

What A Carve Up! proved a highlight of the theatre industry’s pivot to online work over the last year, the creative team really probing into what could be done differently, more effectively, through the digital medium. So it is little surprise to see them reunite to tackle Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

A co-production by the Barn Theatre, Lawrence Batley Theatre, New Wolsey Theatre, Oxford Playhouse and Theatr Clwyd, directed by Tamara Harvey and written by Henry Filloux-Bennett, Wilde’s tale is lifted wholesale into the 21st century and immersed in the world of social media. For what is a modern-day equivalent of a portrait if not one’s Instagram profile… Continue reading “Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray”

Teaser images from The Picture of Dorian Gray

First look images of the upcoming digital adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray have been released today.

The contemporary take on the Oscar Wilde classic brings the Faustian tale kicking and screaming into a world of Instagram, Facebook and dating apps and stars Fionn Whitehead (DunkirkBlack Mirror: Bandersnatch) in the title role of Dorian Gray. Continue reading “Teaser images from The Picture of Dorian Gray”

News: full cast announced for digital Dorian Gray

The co-producers of the upcoming digital adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray have today announced the production’s full casting and creative team.

Joining previously announced Fionn Whitehead, in the title role, are Alfred Enoch as Harry Wotton, Joanna Lumley as Lady Narborough, Emma McDonald as Sibyl Vane and Russell Tovey as Basil Hallward with Stephen Fry as the Interviewer. Continue reading “News: full cast announced for digital Dorian Gray”

Review: The Comeback, Noël Coward Theatre

The Comeback proves to be a piece of warmly inclusive comedy at the Noël Coward Theatre, perfect festive fare

“Who wants to see the Alex and Ben show?”

For someone who first became aware of comedy duo The Pin due to their impeccable Twitter content during the first lockdown, the idea of them doing a full length play seemed rather improbable given the strength of those sketches was their 70 second running time. But Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen’s credits stretch much further (you can tell I don’t listen to Radio 4…) and The Comeback actually began life at the 2018 Fringe before being pimped for this West End run at the Noël Coward Theatre.

And over and above the pleasure of being able to go to the theatre again, something sadly not true for everyone in the country and possibly not even for London for much longer, The Comeback offers the kind of warmly generous comedic thrill that feels perfect for the season. I found it to be ‘Christmas Day on the sofa’ -funny throughout, with some moments that are frankly hilarious and others that didn’t quite tickle my funnybone as much, though the beauty of comedy is that we all have different senses of humour and so you’ll just have to come and decide whether it is funny for yourselves. Continue reading “Review: The Comeback, Noël Coward Theatre”

TV Review: Jonathan Creek Specials (2009–2013)

The Jonathan Creek specials from 2009–2013 undo much of the damage from Series 4, with Sheridan Smith largely to thank for that

“I’ve got a very important presentation to Weetabix in five minutes”

After the horror show that was the fourth series, Jonathan Creek disappeared from our TV screens for five years and for the subsequent five, returned only intermittently for three feature-length specials from 2009–2013. And I think the break did everyone a world of good as these episodes rival some of the show’s best in recapturing the sense of investigative fun that lay at its heart.

Chief in this is the casting of Sheridan Smith as wise-cracking paranormal investigator Joey Ross. Their buddy relationship is well drawn, wisely kept clear of any romantic entanglement and yet still deeply affectionate at its heart. Complex, multi-faceted mysteries are allowed to unfold more effectively in the longer format, although Renwick can’t help himself with women as porn stars and clod-hopping trans jokes. For the most part, everything just hangs together  better – until Jonathan get a wife that is…More of that in Series 5. Continue reading “TV Review: Jonathan Creek Specials (2009–2013)”

Book review: The Half – Simon Annand

The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand

Just a quickie for this book as The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand was released in 2008. But with an imminent new exhibition of these photos and a bargainous copy of the book popping up on Ebay, I thought I’d take the plunge.

And I’m glad I did as it is a proper work of art in its own right. Annand has been photographing actors for over 25 years and as such, has a veritable treasure trove of shots to share with us, resulting from the trusting relationships he has built up with so many, from the new kids on the block to veritable dames. Continue reading “Book review: The Half – Simon Annand”

Review: Paddington 2 (2017)

I succumb easily to the charms of Paddington 2 and Hugh Grant having the time of his life

“Exit bear, pursued by an actor”

In a year when sequels have outperformed expectations (at least mine anyway), I should have heeded the signs that Paddington 2 heralded back last winter that sequels were ‘in’. Paul King’s follow-up to his 2014 warm-hearted original, reintroducing us to our ursine Peruvian hero, occupies a similar space of resolutely British family films that are a cut above. 

Written by King and Simon Farnaby, the film is unafraid to take its audience seriously and for every adorably sweet sequence, there’s genuine peril and even darkness in there too. Hugh Grant is the main antagonist, an actor called Phoenix Buchanan who has been reduced to making dog-food adverts and his ne’er-d-well ways see Paddington framed for a crime he did not commit. Continue reading “Review: Paddington 2 (2017)”

Shakespeare Solos – Part 2

“Are you meditating on virginity?”

The Guardian’s Shakespeare Solos series continues apace with its second suite of videos now released on their website and this time they’re much more of a mixed bag. There’s strong work from a duffle coat-clad David Threlfall as The Tempest’s Prospero , mightily bearded and bedraggled but achingly eloquent too with all the heaving sorrow of revels ending. And Samuel West is an excellent Henry V, pacing the South Bank with the Houses of Parliament in full view as he experiences a restless night before launching into war. 

An unexpected delight is Sacha Dhawan taking on the role of a would-be pickup artist in a King’s Cross cocktail bar to deliver Parolles’ speech about virginity from All’s Well That Ends Well. Dhawan is a highly charismatic performer but inhabits this role perfectly, not bad for a Shakespearean screen debut. And there’s striking work from Camille O’Sullivan as King John’s grief-stricken Constance, director Dan Susman capturing much of the intensity that made her Rape of Lucrece so memorable. Continue reading “Shakespeare Solos – Part 2”