Film Review: Brighton (2019)

Based on a Steven Berkoff play, Brighton proves a candidate for one of the worst films I’ve ever seen

“We should have gone to Southend”

Sometimes, you just have to say, what the fuck do you think you’re doing. Stephen Cookson’s film Brighton, adapted from Steven Berkoff’s 1994 play Brighton Beach Scumbags, is one of those times. I suppose there is a film to be made about the fragility of British national identity in ageing white heterosexuals but this sure as hell isn’t it.

What’s worse is that you’ve got a top notch cast here. The two main couples having a jaunt back to the town where they met some 40-odd years ago are played by Lesley Sharp and Phil Davis, and Marion Bailey and Larry Lamb, fine actors all, who should be hanging their heads in shame for signing up to this horribly dated and downright nasty piece of work. Continue reading “Film Review: Brighton (2019)”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 10

Series 10 of Silent Witness, aka the one where they add episodes, make Harry a wannabe stand-up and Harry and Nikki do it, or do they?

“I went as far as I believed I could”

Because in TV-land, a young(ish) man and woman couldn’t possibly work together without shagging, Series 10 of Silent Witness sees the inevitable hooking-up of Nikki and Harry. Although to its credit, it instantly puts a fly in the ointment and in the harrowing final story, really earns the affection between this pair. 

As we flit from people-trafficking to performance art, angsty teenagers to animal rights activists, this emerges as a solid rather than spectacular series. Adding in a fifth story adds to the sense of general competence without really raising the stakes, until ‘Schism’ at least, though I’d question just how much mortal danger we ever thought ‘someone’ was in. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 10”

10 top theatrical moments of 2020

In lieu of trying to make sense of this shitshow of a year through the normal year-end lists, I thought I’d just stick with an unranked list of 10 of my top theatrically based productions of the year

For reference, here’s my 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list2016 list2015 list and 2014 list.

Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre

A rather exhilaratingly good take on the familiar Chekhov classic, a worthy presence in the West End.

The Wicker Husband, Watermill Theatre

One of the last things I saw before lockdown and what a gorgeous lingering memory to have, I pray that this is not the last we hear of this beautiful new musical. Continue reading “10 top theatrical moments of 2020”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 5

Full of shocks that actually mean something, Series 5 of Spooks is one of its absolute best

“The British people will accept anything if you serve it up with a picture of Will Young in the shower”

A cracking series of Spooks that starts off with a series of bangs, robbing Colin of his life and Juliet Shaw of her ability to walk, the introduction of Ros Myers to the team is an invigorating success, particularly as she inspires Jo to become more badass too. This incarnation of the team really does click well, responding smoothly to the enforced changes in personnel, though newly single father Adam’s mental health crisis too often feels like a plot device rather than a genuine exploration of PTSD.

Subject-wise, the relevance level remains high, particularly pertinent when it comes to national crises with panic buying and over-stuffed hospitals feeling all too real. The role of fundamentalist zealots is shared equally between Christian and Islamic believers over the series and even if the finale underwhelms somewhat, the eco-terrorism theme hasn’t become any less significant.

Nicola Walker-ometer
I’m still not over it, the defenestration of Ruth Evershed. Having finally made it to a date with Harry, which went about as well as could be expected, she runs up against a murderous Oliver Mace conspiracy and ends up having to fake her own death to protect Harry and ends up fleeing the country. An ignominious end for the heart of the team.  Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 5”

Review: Death of England, National Theatre

In Death of England, Rafe Spall delivers the performance of a lifetime in this punchy monologue by Clint Dyer and Roy Williams at the National Theatre

“These are my dad’s words, not mine”

When the Dorfman gets it right, it really is something special. The combination of our National Theatre’s calibre and the intimacy of its smallest theatre means that when a play dares to do something different in there, the results can be extraordinary. I felt it in the pit for the first run of London Road, in the genius pre-show of Barber Shop Chronicles, and it is now in evidence once again with Clint Dyer and Roy Williams’ epic monologue Death of England, featuring a stunning performance from Rafe Spall, directed by Dyer.

Ferocious and fearless, we first meet Michael on the mother of all benders while he mourns the death of his father and then quick as you like, he flashes into storyteller mode and proceeds to not so much dismantle the fourth wall as to charm it into buying him six pints and then home for an unsatisfactory fumble. For about a quarter hour, Spall sets up Michael’s world beautifully by bantering with audience members with consummate ease, offering a sniff of this, a taste of that, seeking validation too as we come to realise how fragile a man he currently is. Continue reading “Review: Death of England, National Theatre”

Review: Educating Rita, Menier Chocolate Factory

My original review was a lot more detailed but disappeared somewhere into the internet and I’m meant to be working, so here’s a brief recap.

“Sod them Rita, sod them”

I think I got Willy Russelled out on Saturday. After Shirley in the afternoon with a varied sampling of the blogging cognoscenti, I returned in the evening with a different companion for Educating Rita. And whilst she loved it, I was not a fan. This version has more in common with the radio play which was broadcast on Radio 4 on Boxing Day than the famous film. Laura Dos Santos reprises her role from the radio, but Bill Nighy has been replaced by Larry Lamb.

Rita, a 29 year-old hairdresser decides she needs an education and enrols at an Open University course where her tutor, Frank, is a disillusioned middle-aged ex-poet with an indiscriminate liking for whiskey. Over the course of a year, they affect each other in a number of ways, as Rita seeks to better herself and Frank tries to battle his own personal demons. In the attractively designed office set, their relationship is charted but something just didn’t click for me. I didn’t care much for Larry Lamb’s grizzled Frank (as I’m not a watcher of Eastenders or Gavin & Stacey, I wasn’t aware of him before now) although Laura Dos Santos’ Rita was very funny and warm. Continue reading “Review: Educating Rita, Menier Chocolate Factory”

Review: The Five Wives of Maurice Pinder, National Theatre

The Five Wives of Maurice Pinder is a new play by Matt Charman, playing at the National Theatre and looking at whether polygamy is a valid or possible lifestyle choice in the middle of suburbia. Set in a regular house in Lewisham, Pinder and his wife Esther have not been able to have children, so he divorced her and married Fay who delivered a son, Vincent. However Esther didn’t move out and realising he was onto something here, Pinder repeats the trick twice more, filling his house with wives and children. But this alternative lifestyle has its downsides and two new arrivals threaten to upset the delicate balancing act.

Whilst an unbelievable concept, especially given Lamb’s average Joe looks and demeanour, Charman does well at spinning the web that holds them altogether. Sorcha Cusack’s childless earth mother who rather enjoys having a flock to tend over; Clare Holman’s Fay who masks her unease by drinking and sleeping around whilst fretting over her gangly awkward son (Adam Gillen, who is bizarrely brilliant); Martina Laird’s Lydia who was essentially just after a sperm donor. Enter Carla Henry’s Rowena, a heavily pregnant and emotionally and physically battered teenager who is welcomed into the strange state of affairs. This all kind of works and is surprisingly well executed. Continue reading “Review: The Five Wives of Maurice Pinder, National Theatre”