Review: Nine Lessons and Carols, Almeida Theatre

It’s a joy to back in the Almeida Theatre even if Nine Lessons and Carols did little to change my mind about devised work

“Loneliness is the terror of not being able to dilute your own terrible personality”

Typical. You wait months for lockdown to be lifted and to be able to go to the theatre again and the first show you pick is one which really doesn’t float your boat at all. Critics are still navigating the boundaries of reviewing ethics in this immediate post-lockdown world so I’m going to keep it short if not particularly sweet.

Nine Lessons and Carols: Stories for a Long Winter feels like the kind of show that would have been a dream to create and rehease, devised as it was by the company with writer Chris Bush and director Rebecca Frecknall. But like many a devised show in my experience, that rehearsal room magic doesn’t always transfer onto the stage. Continue reading “Review: Nine Lessons and Carols, Almeida Theatre”

News: Almeida and Turbine reopen, Oleanna cast

The Almeida has announce their new programme of socially-distanced theatre for Christmas 2020 and into 2021:

Nine Lessons And Carols: stories for a long winter, a new production created by Associate Director Rebecca Frecknall, Chris Bush and a company of six actors – Naana Agyei-Ampadu, Katie Brayben, Toheeb Jimoh, Elliot Levey, Maimuna Memon and Luke Thallon.

The Maladies, performed by the Almeida Young Company (18-25), written by Carmen Nasr.

Hymn, a new play by Lolita Chakrabarti, featuring Adrian Lester and Danny Sapani. Continue reading “News: Almeida and Turbine reopen, Oleanna cast”

News: West End Unplugged announces four free concerts in September

West End stars and theatre’s technical entertainment companies come together to support industry family with West End Unplugged

Each Wednesday from 9th to 30th September, a dazzling line-up of the West End’s most well-loved singers will perform alongside some of theatre’s top musicians in West End Unplugged (live from L-Acoustics Creations), a series of four, 45-minute charity concerts. 

COVID-19 has dealt a devastating blow to the theatre community across the U.K., with shows closed across the West End and around the country since March, and for the foreseeable future leaving all those involved with little or no income. This series of shows been produced to help raise funds for three charities that help the most in need across the entertainment industry.  Continue reading “News: West End Unplugged announces four free concerts in September”

Film Review: A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life (2019)

With Katie Brayben in the lead cast and a cameo from Sinéad Matthews, A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life has many a visceral treat

“Next stop, inner serenity”

Released digitally earlier this year, A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life is the kind of spunky indie Brit-flick you’d be more than happy to watch of an evening, without necessarily having deliberately searched it out. The debut long-form feature from writer/director Staten Cousins Roe, it’s the kind of short but sharp black comedy that could well find it building cult status.

Stuck in a dead-end life and living with her over-bearing mother, Lou seeks refuge in listening to various self-help gurus but it isn’t until she attends a seminar and meets the alluring life coach Val IRL that things start to change for her. This journey of self-discovery is not your usual fare though, as Val encourages Lou to take no shit as they scythe their way though the wellness industry that has popped up in the Sussex countryside. Continue reading “Film Review: A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life (2019)”

Not-a-review: Daddy, Almeida Theatre

Let me wet your whistle, should it be needed, for Jeremy O Harris’ Daddy, which is promises to return to the Almeida Theatre when possible

“Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool no where but in’s own house.”

Like all right-minded people, I was particularly gutted to be missing Daddy at the Almeida Theatre due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Jeremy O Harris’ play made waves in New York last year and was a hotly anticipated arrival. If you so desire, you can read any number of reviews from the USA but I am reliably informed that it’s best to go in as blind as possible which is what I still intend to do. But to wet your whistle in an approrpriate way, keep on reading. 

Continue reading “Not-a-review: Daddy, Almeida Theatre”

TV Review: Luther Series 5

Luther Series 5 aka the one that maybe goes too far?

“Can we do that?
‘Within parameters…'”

Not quite flogging a dead horse yet, but the much anticipated fifth series of Luther indulges its title character far too much  in the name of shocks and thrills, whilst simultaneously begging us not to misunderstand him, Nina Simone’s glorious voice plays out over the violent wreckage of the final scene.

As a crime drama, Neil Cross’ Luther really does manage to come up with inventively appalling serial killers and attackers that seem design to lurk in nightmares (the bus murder here…). But it is also increasingly tied up in the mythology of the show itself, the design here clearly aiming for some kind of apotheosis. Continue reading “TV Review: Luther Series 5”

TV Review: Doctor Who Series 10

Episodes, in order of preference
World Enough and Time
Extremis
The Doctor Falls
Thin Ice
Knock Knock
Oxygen
The Eaters of Light
Smile
The Pilot
Empress of Mars
The Pyramid at the End of the World
The Lie of the Land

Top 5 guest spots
1 David Suchet’s Landlord was as perfectly written a character as befits one of our more superior actors
2 Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of Kieran Bew and his astronaut in Oxygen was no exception
3 Nicholas Burns‘ malevolent Sutcliffe was a delightfully Dickensian villain 
4 Another theatrical delight of mine is Anthony Calf, impressive as the pseudo-Victorian Godsacre
5 Rebecca Benson’s young Pict impressively led The Eaters of Light from the front, a perfect vessel for Rona Munro’s vision

Saddest death
Michelle Gomez’s Missy has been a brilliant breath of fresh air and whilst her decision to follow Moffat and Capaldi out the door is understandable, it isn’t any less disappointing. And perhaps the timey-wimeyness of the circumstances around her passing mean that maybe this isn’t the last we see of her…

Most wasted guest actor
I don’t what I expected from the reliably excellent Samantha Spiro in Doctor Who but I didn’t get it from her part in The Doctor Falls.

Gay agenda rating
With Bill onboard, A+!

TV Review: King Charles III, BBC2

“I ask no less than power to achieve my will in fair exchange for total service to the state”

Uneasy lies the head that waits for the crown. Mike Barlett’s King Charles III was a deserved award-winning success when it took the Almeida by storm in 2014, transferring into the West End and then Broadway, later touring the UK and Australia too. Its success lay in the conception of a Shakespearean future history play, written in verse but set in a world recognisably our own, where Prince George is nonchalantly eating croissants, Queen Elizabeth II has just passed and before he has even been crowned, Charles finds himself in a constitutional crisis of his own making. A bold but welcome move from the BBC to commission a version then.

Directed as it was onstage by Rupert Goold and adapted by Bartlett (the narrative has been telescoped down by over an hour), it re-emerges as a powerful, pacy drama, a fascinating look into how the relationship between monarchy and government could so easily shift at a time of transition, anchored by an achingly nuanced performance from Tim Pigott-Smith in the title role. The ache is of course deepened by the actor’s death last month but that sadness shouldn’t overshadow the quality of his work here, masterful in his command of the verse, mesmerising as a man trapped by history. Continue reading “TV Review: King Charles III, BBC2”

TV Review: Doctor Who Series 10 Episode 1 – The Pilot

“Do you know any sci-fi?”

So here we are, the moment that the epic rewatch has been building up to – the start of Doctor Who’s tenth series, notable for being the final one for both Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor and showrunner Steven Moffat. And perhaps predictably, Episode One – The Pilot is a cracking piece of TV, a real return to form that hopefully will last across the entire series (I’m not holding my breath…) or at least the majority of it (that I feel more confident about).

Key to this is the arrival of Pearl Mackie’s new companion Bill, a welcome breath of real fresh air into the standard trope but more importantly, a distinct separation from what came just before. No offence to Jenna Coleman’s Clara but the character’s knowingness made it hard to ever warm to her and though on paper, the idea of her being more of an equal to the Doctor has legs, in reality it just became rather self-satisfyingly wearying. Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Series 10 Episode 1 – The Pilot”