Review: Henry V, Donmar Warehouse

There’s way too much going on in this production of Henry V at the Donmar Warehouse, despite Kit Harington’s return to the stage

“Every subject’s soul is his own”

There’s a lot of good ideas in Max Webster’s production of Henry V for the Donmar Warehouse. Too many in fact, as it frequently feels like all of them have been thrown at the back wall in order to see what sticks. And given the intimacy of the stage and the efficacy of Shakespeare’s words, the end result is often overstuffed and overwhelming. 

The idea of playing scenes between French characters in French makes sense on paper and certainly reinforces Webster’s thesis about entrenched ideas about national identity. But somehow it doesn’t quite fly on stage, surtitles distracting from what should be a comic scene in the second act, and at the point where Mandarin is introduced you can’t help but be a little puzzled. Continue reading “Review: Henry V, Donmar Warehouse”

TV Review: Cucumber

Russell T Davies returns to gay life in Manchester in heartbreakingly good form with the excellent Cucumber

“Close your eyes and think of me”

Having made his name with Queer As Folk, Russell T Davies’ televisual return to gay life in Manchester took the form in the triad of Cucumber, Banana and Tofu (named for stages of an erection, natch). Most attention fell on the most conventional of the three, Cucumber, which focused on the midlife crisis of Henry Best, a 40-something gay man who lurches into a meltdown when Lance, his partner of 9 years, proposes marriage and he says no.

I remembered the show quite fondly from first time around, so I was surprised upon rewatching at just how much of an uncompromising twat Henry is. Vincent Franklin does a great job at rounding off some of the sharp edges with a genial humanity but he is a selfish middle-class tosser of the first degree throughout and there’s something quite admirable in that, even if Davies can’t resist trying to undo it with a sentimentally tinged final episode. Continue reading “TV Review: Cucumber”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 11

Signs of staleness start to creep in Series 11 of Silent Witness as Nikki ends up in ‘mortal’ peril for the second time in four stories

“Please, you’re letting this become personal”

There’s an easy chemistry that flows between William Gaminara, Tom Ward and Emilia Fox as the core team in mid-career Silent Witness that it seems churlish to criticise. I find their gentle banter and dad jokes just a delight to watch in their office scenes, but sadly that’s not enough to hang a top-rated BBC series on.

So as it is, Series 11 finds itself tackling such wide-ranging topics as military secrecy and medical bureaucracy, neglect of the traveller community and asylum seekers, abuse in both the Catholic Church and in African religious groups, even mad cow disease. The less said about Leo’s white saviour moment the better. And of course, there’s a pronounced divergence from their remit as forensic pathologists. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 11”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 7

Some cracking guest stars elevate Series 7 of Silent Witness which settles rather well into its mould of slightly fractious teamworking

“This is not Toy Town. I am not Mr Plod. You are not Tessie Bear”

The establishment of a team around Sam Ryan at the Lyell Centre was certainly one of the best decisions Silent Witness made, certainly while Amanda Burton’s frosty lead was still at the helm. And I think Series 7 ranks as one of her best as the writers finally tackle her self-declared infallibility and throw her inability to work nicely with others right under the microscope.

Through stories of suspected terrorism, steroid abuse and sexual assault, there’s an ongoing theme of reputational integrity, examining how far people will go to protect their name. Professionally, she has her own judgement called into question, both by outsiders and in a clever twist by William Gaminara’s Harry as the colleagues are pitted against each other in a high-profile case. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 7”

News: NT launches new streaming service National Theatre at Home

The National Theatre, in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, has today launched  National Theatre at Home, a brand-new streaming platform making their much-loved productions available online to watch anytime, anywhere worldwide.

Launching today with productions including the first ever National Theatre Live, Phèdre with Helen Mirren,  Othellowith Adrian Lester and the Young Vic’s Yermawith Billie Piper, new titles from the NT’s unrivalled catalogue of filmed theatre will be added to the platform every month.

In addition to productions previously broadcast to cinemas by National Theatre Live, a selection of plays filmed for the NT’s Archive will be released online for the first time through National Theatre at Home, including Lucy Kirkwood’s Mosquitoes with Olivia Colman and Inua Ellams’ new version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters (a co-production with Fuel).   Continue reading “News: NT launches new streaming service National Theatre at Home”

News: Theatre Royal Stratford East to release audio play 846 in response to the death of George Floyd

Theatre Royal Stratford East to release audio play 846 in response to the death of George Floyd

On May 25th 2020, a police officer in Minneapolis killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

This brutal murder ignited a global surge of anger and pain. An ocean away, from the Windrush scandal to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, racist oppression is very much alive in the UK.

Acclaimed playwright Roy Williams brought together 14 writers to respond artistically to George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter Movement. From this came 846 – a collection of short pieces. Each is a standalone exploration of racial inequality and oppression, but together they form a powerful tapestry of voices. Continue reading “News: Theatre Royal Stratford East to release audio play 846 in response to the death of George Floyd”

TV Review: Chewing Gum (Series 2)

Series 2 of Chewing Gum sees Michaela Coel nail the ‘two series and out’ trajectory of some of the best British sitcoms

“I’m not 17, I’m a grown-up woman. I just…regularly make childlike mistakes”

I belatedly came to Chewing Gum just now and watched both the first series and this second one in a single sitting each, their addictive nature and too-easily bingeable lengths giving me two fine nights in front of the TV.

Writer and creator Michaela Coel rarely let her imagination get in the way of the first six episodes but here, the expansion of Tracey’s world beyond her Tower Hamlets estate is quite simply fucking hilarious. Plus, the marvellous Sinéad Matthews appears in this series too. Continue reading “TV Review: Chewing Gum (Series 2)”

TV Review: Gangs of London (Sky 1)

Some epic storytelling and a mighty ensemble make the hyper-violence of Gangs of London highly watchable

“A war was started when my father was shot”

Sky 1 seem to have got themselves quite the coup in Gangs of London, a major new series which – if there was any justice in the world – ought to break through the limitations of Sky’s minimal audience share. Created by Gareth Evans and Matt Flannery and boasting a highly exciting ensemble cast, it is a visceral and highly violent look at an immense power struggles between power syndicates in London after the assassination of the patriarch of its premier crime family.

Finn Wallace ruled the streets of London for 20 years but in the wake of his untimely death and with no-one taking responsibility for ordering the hit, it falls to his younger son Sean to take the reins. But Sean is a highly volatile young man  and the careful balancing act required to keep the billions of pounds flowing through the organisation and to maintain the equilibrium between so many warring factions is of little interest to him whilst his father’s killer remains unpunished. Continue reading “TV Review: Gangs of London (Sky 1)”

New TV shows to get stuck into

I get stuck into the first episodes of TV shows Van Der Valk, The Good Fight, Gangs of London and Penny Dreadful: City of Angels to see what my next must-see will be

“Who else was masturbating into plants?!”

I’m of course far too young to remember the original Van Der Valk – had I seen it before though, I might well have saved myself this couple of hours. Importing a British cast to play Dutch detectives in a crime serial set in Amsterdam seems like such a retrograde move, I still can’t get my head around it, especially in this day and age when so much quality foreign-language drama is readily available. Written by Chris Murray, this revival sees Marc Warren head up the cast as a maverick detective with a team who aid and abet his behaviour – there’s not a smack of originality about it, nor any real interest sadly…great locations though. Am already dreaming of my return to the city, but not sure I’ll be revisiting this show. Continue reading “New TV shows to get stuck into”