TV Review: Close to Me, Episode 1

The first episode of Channel 4’s new drama Close to Me promises much, with Connie Nielsen and Christopher Eccleston in unsettlingly good form

“How could she have hurt herself so badly just falling down the stairs?”

Based on Amanda Reynolds’ 2017 novel and written by Angela Pell, Close to Me looks set to take the place of the stylish drama of the month. All six of its episodes have been released on All4 but I’m going to resist the urge to binge for now at least, although with Susan Lynch in the cast and Kate O’Flynn yet to appear, this will be quite the effort. 

Connie Nielsen’s Jo has taken a nasty fall down the stairs at home which has left her with a serious case of amnesia, the whole last year gone from her memories. But as she recuperates and tries to piece it back together, it turns out life is a lot more complicated than that, with secrets heaped upon secrets involving both family and friends. Continue reading “TV Review: Close to Me, Episode 1”

TV Review: Ted Lasso, Series 2 Episodes 1+2

Series 2 of Ted Lasso looks like it is continuing the success of the first, plus with added Sarah Niles

“Jan Maas is not being rude, he’s just being Dutch”

The first series of Ted Lasso was a real lockdown boon, a perfectly bittersweet heart-warmer that showed the best way that American people can do shows about football is by making them about something else altogether – in this case, being a thoroughly decent human being.

This Apple TV show treads the line between being unbearably twee and really very touching with real skill, and this second series looks set to continue that trend as AFC Richmond deal with relegation, life in the Championship and the presence of a sports psychologist in their midst. Continue reading “TV Review: Ted Lasso, Series 2 Episodes 1+2”

Re-review: Follies 2019, National Theatre

Follies 2019 remains the show that I need right now

“I’m so glad I came”

Just a quickie for this revisit to Follies, which remains as perfect a piece of musical theatre as I could hope for. I loved it then but I really love it now, Joanna Riding is just heartbreakingly perfect as Sally, she really brings something to the role that somehow eluded Imelda Staunton (for me at least), Alexander Hanson is superb in tracing Ben’s tragic fall, and Janie Dee and Peter Forbes maintain their stellar work as Phyllis and Buddy (seriously, Dee is a proper showstopper).

And as is surely appropriate in Dominic Cooke’s production, ghosts of the past interplay with what we’re seeing from top to bottom. It was great to see Dame Felicity Lott as Heidi, a different but no less affecting proposition than Dame Josephine Barstow (there truly ain’t nothing like a…). And the young talents of Gemma Sutton, Ian McIntosh, Harry Hepple and Christine Tucker are eloquently elegant as the younger incarnations of the central quartet. Continue reading “Re-review: Follies 2019, National Theatre”

Review: Follies 2019, National Theatre

The Olivier Award-winning Follies returns to the National Theatre in richer, deeper, more resonant form and just blows me away

“It’s the cat’s pyjamas”

Like the ghosts of their younger selves that haunt the characters in Follies so beautifully in this production, for those who were lucky enough to catch its superlative Olivier Award-winning 2017 run, so too do our memories interplay with what we’re seeing, inducing some soul-shiveringly exceptional moments that are almost metatheatrical in the feelings they provoke. 

The tingle of anticipation is never far away but the show somehow feels richer, deeper, more resonant in the note of melancholy it strikes as it exposes nostalgia for the rose-tinted self-delusion it so often becomes. Janie Dee’s Phyllis somehow feels more desolate, especially in her bitterly brilliant ‘Could I Leave You’; Tracie Bennett scorches the roof once more in ‘I’m Still Here’ in what feels like a more internal performance now; we’re all at least a year older… Continue reading “Review: Follies 2019, National Theatre”

TV Review: King Lear, BBC Two

A contemporary adaptation of King Lear does little to prove its worth on BBC Two

“Some villain hath done me wrong”

A belated visit to this Bank Holiday TV offering and one I should probably have left alone. I’m not the biggest fan of King Lear, nor of Anthony Hopkins if I’m honest. But the notion of a contemporary adaptation and a deluxe level of supporting casting was enough of a draw for me to give it a try.

A co-production between the BBC and Amazon, this Lear has been adapted and directed by Richard Eyre. Trimmed down to a scant couple of hours and located in a contemporary England, it clearly has its eye on new audiences as much as your Shakespearean buff, and I’d be intrigued to know how the former reacted. Continue reading “TV Review: King Lear, BBC Two”

Review: Oh, the Humanity and Other Good Intentions, Tabard

“Do I sense a wider deeper sense of wonder and mayhem?”

I have a great sense of affection for Will Eno’s Oh, the Humanity and Other Good Intentions for a previous production at the Soho Theatre introduced me to the glorious talents of Lucy Ellinson. So this production at the Tabard Theatre, the debut show for the End of Moving Walkway company, was something I was keen to fit into the diary, not least because director Paul Lichtenstern has flipped the script in terms of casting a company of nine rather than having three actors covering multiple roles.

It’s a collection of five short plays that at their simplest, touch on the randomness and ordinariness of life and all its ups and downs. Connected by a (scarcely needed) directorial innovation that sees the action play out in Andy Edwards’ photography studio-like set design, Eno’s writing revels in dense wordplay as many of his characters struggle to deal with the situations in which they find themselves – a demanding press conference, the aftermath of a plane crash, emotional crises – and the cumulative effect can occasionally become a little wearing. Continue reading “Review: Oh, the Humanity and Other Good Intentions, Tabard”