TV Review: The Salisbury Poisonings

Deeply sensitive writing and direction mean that The Salisbury Poisonings proves a powerfully effective treatment of the story

“God knows what’s happened here”

Whodathunkit, a drama about a public health crisis in the middle of an actual public health crisis proving to be just the thing we needed. Anyone thinking about writing a Covid 19 drama would do well to examine writers Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn and director Saul Dibb’s deeply sensitive approach here in The Salisbury Poisonings.

What works particularly well is that they’ve determinedly gone for a fact-based telling of the story, which steadfastly refuses to indulge in overly dramatic or cinematic touches/ And their focus is on the human aspect of how this whole affair affected actual people rather than extrapolating to the whole of society or going dwon the wormhole of a spy thriller. Continue reading “TV Review: The Salisbury Poisonings”

Round-up of news, treats and other interesting things

You go away for a week, hoping they’ll put any exciting news on hold but no, there were headlines aplenty…

Michelle Terry being revealed as Emma Rice’s successor as Artistic Director of the Globe. I think this is a brave and inspired choice, for Terry is a deeply intelligent actor (Tribes, Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, Cleansed) and a superb Shakespearean at that (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors).

Rice seemed to consider Shakespeare a puzzle that needed unlocking for (new) audiences but you were left wondering if there was a touch of square peg round hole syndrome in the way the plays were manhandled. It is tempting to think that Terry will be a smoother fit whilst maintaining a sense of adventurousness (she played Henry V after all) although this is, of course, pure conjecture. Still, exciting times ahead. Continue reading “Round-up of news, treats and other interesting things”

TV Review: Fortitude Series 2

“People died.
And now people are dying again and what the fuck are they doing about it”

Series 1 of Fortitude was one of those genuinely unexpected dramas which unveiled its genre-spanning ways with some proper jaw-dropping moments, so Sky Atlantic’s decision to commission a second series wasn’t entirely unexpected (though you do wonder what viewing figures are like over there). Though having revealed itself as a sci-fi/horror/psychological thriller/serial killer murder mystery with political and environmental themes thrown in for a good measure, creator Simon Donald was faced with a decision about which way to go to continue the story.

Or, as it turned out, he didn’t make the decision but rather decided to pursue them all once again. And as is proving a recurring theme with shows I’ve been catching up on (Fearless, The Halcyon), the desire to develop multi-stranded complex dramas falls short once again with the writing ending up serving a jack of all trades and master of none. There’s just so much going on in so many of the episodes that it becomes increasingly hard to keep track of exactly what is what, who knows what, who is doing what to whom, and where we are in any of the stories. Continue reading “TV Review: Fortitude Series 2”

Review: Othello, Sam Wanamaker

“O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains”

In light of Roman Tragedies reminding us of the vast potential of what Shakespeare can be rather than the tendency towards the ‘proper’ readings of his work that we tend to get here in the UK (vast generalisations I know, but can you really argue against it…), it’s gratifying to see directors, and venues, taking the opportunity to stretch those traditional notions. The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, housed within Shakespeare’s Globe, isn’t the first place you’d think of to find such a production but in Ellen MacDougall’s interpretation of Othello, we have just that.

Text updated to the 21st century (dramaturgy by Joel Horwood), key characters regendered (Joanna Horton’s Cassio is an inspired move), a contemporary soundtrack that interpolates Lana Del Rey, it is enough to make any purist shiver and you kinda feel that’s the point. MacDougall refocuses the play on masculinity in crisis but it is also tempting to think that on a larger scale, there’s a smidgen of Emma Rice’s shaking of the branches of theatrical orthodoxy at play here too. With the post of Artistic Director of the Globe being advertised again, we can only hope such invention remains. Continue reading “Review: Othello, Sam Wanamaker”

DVD Review: Da Vinci’s Demons Series 3

“People of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them, they went out and happened to things”

I came to Da Vinci’s Demons late but I really enjoyed working my way through Series 1 and Series 2 of this historical fantasy in order to get up to speed for the arrival of the third series. This turned out to be a bit of a bittersweet exercise as the show was then cancelled and the decision made to release the final series in its entirety online. I reviewed the first two episodes here but it has taken me a while to get to watching the rest though sadly, it wasn’t quite the swansong I’d hoped for.

Now thoroughly uprooted from Florence, the multitudinous locations of the many-stranded narrative leave Da Vinci’s Demons flailing aimlessly a little too often, with a sense of confusion about where and when (and indeed why) things are happening and not enough of a grand design emerging, drawing the pieces together with increasing clarity. The most frustrating part of this is the prominence of the programme’s internal mythology, pitching the Sons of Mithras (now bad) against the Labyrinth (possibly good, I think). Continue reading “DVD Review: Da Vinci’s Demons Series 3”

Review: buckets, Orange Tree Theatre

“What we want – and you know this, but I’ll say it again – what we need is lists. People like lists. They share lists”

One of the more difficult jobs that Paul Miller has had, dealing with the loss of Arts Council England funding aside, is in bridging the gap between the old and the new at Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre. As the incoming Artistic Director, his debut season has more than doubled the number of first-time visitors to this in-the-round space – fuelled by buzz-worthy successes like Pomona, soon to be revived at the National – but Miller has also kept a keen eye on existing audiences, making sure that the shift in programming, with a wide range of new writers and directors, hasn’t come at their expense but rather just widened the remit of this venue.

And it is tempting to see buckets , the latest production there, as something of a bridge – Rania Jumaily is the Orange Tree’s Resident Director and first-time (full-length) writer Adam Barnard started as a trainee director here back in 2003 but together, they’ve come up with a subtly forward-thinking piece of theatre. Initial impressions are a little reminiscent of a Gap advert with the company of six draped in shades of blue and white and flowers scattered around a stage dominated by a stainless steel slide but in the midst of James Turner’s innocuous-seeming set, an intriguing mode of storytelling emerges. Continue reading “Review: buckets, Orange Tree Theatre”

Short Film Review #43

Expectation Management – Episode 1

 

 

A blokey sitcom of sorts – episode 1 of Tupaq Felber’s Expectation Management has a great comic energy that centres on Owen’s inability to hold down a relationship with a girl. The advice he gets from his friends isn’t necessarily the most constructive though but highly entertaining to watch.

 

 

Supermarket Girl

 

Directed by Matt Greenhalgh and written by Alex Walker, Supermarket Girl is a delicately moving love story between two solitary misfits working in a large supermarket somewhere in the north. Andy and Michelle share more than they realise as their loneliness manifests itself in self-destructive behaviour but slowly, they edge towards a better place. Matthew Beard and Nichola Burley are both excellent as the sweet pair and it makes for a lovely film. 

Continue reading “Short Film Review #43”

Review: Idomeneus, Gate Theatre

 
“All could be well. Everything could be difficult.”

There’s a wonderful synchronicity in the arrival of Roland Schimmelpfennig’s Idomeneus at the Gate Theatre at the same time that the divisive Mr Burns is in residence at the Almeida, both plays toy wonderfully with ideas of cultural narrative and how stories get passed down through the generations. And it is tempting to think that had this opened first – with its reference point being classicist-friendly Greek tragedy as opposed to the apparently alienating The Simpsons – the response to that latter play might have been a little different with the larger theme already established in the mind.

Who knows though and in some respects, who cares. It really feels like there’s a current vein of theatre that is striking out on its own – it may leave critics scurrying away at intervals or declaring their worst nights ever but by the same token, one might argue that that is how these theatremakers feel whilst sitting through the latest lauded revival of a Noël Coward play (I may or may not have borrowed this idea from someone… ;-)). But at the Almeida, the Royal Court and now the Gate, you can find theatre that really is unafraid to be different – it’s not to say that it is automatically good but even the mere act of stretching what we know as theatre in the UK feels important. Continue reading “Review: Idomeneus, Gate Theatre”

TV Review: The Town

“Apparently once death seems possible, the idea catches on”

One of the things about winding down the theatregoing at Christmas is being able to catch up on some of the television that I rarely have time to watch normally, and doing so at my parents’ house is particularly ace because of their awesome telly. First up for me was The Town, an ITV three-parter written by one of the hottest playwrights in the country Mike Bartlett. Upping the ante was a cast that included Julia McKenzie, Andrew Scott, Douglas Hodge and also Phil Davis and Siobhan Redmond.

I have long been a fan of Redmond so I was pleased to see the opening moments of the show devoted to her as her character went about the rituals at the end of her day including saying goodnight to her husband as played by Phil Davis. I was then gutted as this proved to be a great case of misdirection as they were both then found dead the next morning by their teenage daughter Jodie, never to be seen again. As their son Mark returns to bury them in this provincial town he left 10 years ago to move to London, the show then deals with the difficulties in returning to a less than lamented hometown, combined with the growing sense that the deaths – recorded as a joint suicide – are less clear-cut than the police would seem to think. Continue reading “TV Review: The Town”