TV Review: River

“We’re all shattered underneath really, aren’t we”

The second part of Nicola Walker’s cross-channel takeover of crime drama has been BBC1’s River. An altogether different prospect to ITV’s Unforgotten, Abi Morgan’s six-parter is aesthetically closer to the Nordic noir of which TV audiences seem unendingly enamoured but still manages to find its unique niche in a crowded marketplace. The Scandi feel is enhanced by the genuine casting coup of Stellan Skarsgård as DI John River but what marks out River are the people around him.

Chief among these is Walker’s Stevie, DS Stevenson, who we meet straightaway and instantly get a feel for their closeness of their professional relationship as they tackle crime on the streets of London. But what is brilliantly done is the shift from buddy cop show to something altogether darker as [major spoiler alert] we find out at the end of episode 1 that Stevie is dead, murdered recently, and River is in fact imagining her presence at his side, even to the extent of regularly conversing with her. Continue reading “TV Review: River”

Review: Hamlet, Cockpit Theatre

“Be all my sins remembered”

Sitting through English Repertory Theatre’s reconceived version of Hamlet, it struck me that the thing is reminded me of the most was an episode of Hollyoaks and I don’t mean that in terms of an outright dis, it really was where the resonance came. The courtroom of Elsinore becomes a private schoolroom in which privileged kids toy with questions of gender and sexuality and deliver overdramatic dramatics, the adult figures have to make do with paper-thin characterisations and there’s an abnormally high death-rate – maybe Shakespeare spent some time in Chester after all…

To fit this vision, Gavin Davis’ adaptation makes some rightfully bold decisions and it throws up some interesting new variations on a familiar theme. The Ghost and Guildenstern are stripped out, with Ophelia, Laertes and Rosencrantz being comparatively beefed up, meaning Hamlet discovers key details about his father’s death from notes being passed around the classroom and Nina Bright’s Ophelia is pleasingly fleshed out to become more of a true compatriot to her lover. And with Rachel Waring’s Hamlet gussied up as a boi, there’s added piquancy to the general ambivalence about their relationship. Continue reading “Review: Hamlet, Cockpit Theatre”