Review: Cock, Studio Theatre online

Streaming allows to me take in a transatlantic version of Mike Bartlett’s Cock, starring Queer as Folk’s Randy Harrison

“You want your boyfriend’s help with the woman you’re sleeping with?”

The subject matter of Mike Bartlett’s Cock is one which has proved satisfyingly timeless, at least over the last decade but in a socially distanced age, it turns out that its form has also future-proofed it. Though it has four characters that interact, its focus on verbal interplay rather than physical shenanigans allies itself with the manipulations needed for COVID-19 protocols much more than other plays.  

And having mounted an award-winning production of the play for Washington DC’s Studio Theatre in 2014, director David Muse has returned to it to launch the theatre’s debut online season. The result is a finely tuned hybrid of film and theatre that slots well into the now-global pandemic programming and as mentioned, Bartlett’s exploration of sexual fluidity remains as pointedly pertinent as ever, particularly in how it refracts through our relationships. Continue reading “Review: Cock, Studio Theatre online”

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)”

TV Review: Unprecedented, Episode 3

Episode 3 of Unprecedented proves a bleak and brutal one-two of hard-hitting Covid drama

“I don’t see what good it does to worry, sitting around panicking”

Due to the (presumably intentional) programming, Part 1 and Part 2 of Unprecedented – Headlong and Century Films’ creative response to Coronavirus – found a sense of balance in their collections of short plays, tragicomic probably being the watchword. Episode 3 however goes all in on the tragedy, making it a pretty bleak half hour.

First up is Duncan Macmillan’s Grounded, directed by Jeremy Herrin, which takes aim at the generation gap and how that has dictated people’s response to the crisis. Katherine Parkinson’s event planner is wracked with job worries and concerns over her ability to home-school. But what really drives her over the edge is the casualness with which her retired parents are taking the whole affair, screaming into the ether as they amble on as if life hasn’t changed but at all. Alison Steadman and Michael Elwyn are excellent as the slightly daffy, devoted couple belatedly coming round to the seriousness of it all. Continue reading “TV Review: Unprecedented, Episode 3”

News: Lockdown Theatre Festival brings four cancelled shows to radio

Plays by writers including Mike Bartlett and EV Crowe that were forced to close early because of the pandemic will be revived on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 as part of a festival created by actor Bertie Carvel.

Lockdown Theatre Festival will feature actors including Katherine Parkinson, Rachael Stirling and Nicholas Burns, who will record their lines in isolation, to reimagine their performances for specially created radio versions of the plays.

The plays, which will be broadcast on June 13 and 14, are: The Mikvah Project by Josh Azouz, which had been running at the Orange Tree Theatre, the Lyric Hammermith Theatre’s Love Love Love by Bartlett, Winsome Pinnock’s Rockets and Blue Lights, from the Royal Exchange in Manchester, and Crowe’s Shoe Lady, which was being staged by the Royal Court in London. Continue reading “News: Lockdown Theatre Festival brings four cancelled shows to radio”

July theatre round-up

I might have taken a break from reviewing for the last couple of months, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre. Here’s some brief thoughts on most of what I saw  in July.

On Your Feet, aka the rhythm will get you, sometimes
the end of history…, aka how can you get cheese on toast so wrong
Equus, aka hell yes for Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting design
Games for Lovers, aka straight people be crazy
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, aka the one that got my goat
The Girl on the Train, aka Philip McGinley in shorts
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, aka Another Dream? dream on
Uncle Vanya, aka I really need to stop booking for plays like this with casts like that 
Jellyfish, aka justice for the second best play of last year
Sweat, aka Clare Perkins should always be on in the West End
Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 The Musical, aka yay for lovely new musicals in the West End
The Light in the Piazza, aka Molly Lynch fricking nails it
Jesus Christ Superstar, aka was third time the charm?
Continue reading “July theatre round-up”

Review: Home, I’m Darling, Duke of York’s Theatre

A return visit to Home, I’m Darling at the Duke of York’s Theatre just confirms how good a play this is and how exceptional Katherine Parkinson is

“You’re 38 and like cleaning behind cupboards”

I don’t think she’ll win but I reckon Katherine Parkinson deserves the Best Actress in a Play Olivier just for the way that she holds her head. The first act in particular is an absolute delight as she tells us crystal clear exactly how she is feeling just by the angle at which it is tilted – cringing at bad language, sussing out competition for her husband’s attention, listening to her mother…   

Parkinson is far from the only reason to book for Laura Wade’s Home, I’m Darling, maintaining the National’s track record of leveraging sell-out runs in the Dorfman into West End transfers (Beginning, Nine Night…).  Anna Fleischle’s design is a thing of wonder (and I liked getting to see it from above from the upper circle here as opposed to the Dorfman’s stalls) and every single detail is perfectly observed, right down to the milk bottle tops. Continue reading “Review: Home, I’m Darling, Duke of York’s Theatre”

2019 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Jonathan Bailey for Company at Gielgud Theatre
Clive Carter for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre
Richard Fleeshman for Company at Gielgud Theatre
Robert Hands for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Patti LuPone for Company at Gielgud Theatre
Ruthie Ann Miles for The King And I at The London Palladium
“The Queens” – Aimie Atkinson, Alexia McIntosh, Millie O’Connell, Natalie Paris, Maiya Quansah-Breed and Jarneia Richard-Noel – for Six at Arts Theatre
Rachel Tucker for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre Continue reading “2019 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”

DVD Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

Despite that title, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society proves unremarkable in its gentle cosiness

“Everyone lost someone in this war”

Directed by Mike Newell and written by Don Roos and Tom Bezucha from the novel of the same name by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society really ought to have hit the spot for me. Women-heavy wartime story – check, a cast including Lily James and Katharine Parkinson – check, and a title you can’t help but misremember. 

But it never really clicks into gear as greater than the sum of these parts, sticking at a tone of gently cosy which is never offensive, but rarely remarkable with it.  Set just after the end of the Second World War in 1946, the plot follows a London-based writer who becomes fascinated by the experience of the residents on the island of Guernsey which, lest we forget, was under German occupation. Continue reading “DVD Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)”