TV Review: Jonathan Creek, Series 3

Elements of David Renwick’s writing starts to show signs of flagging as the magic starts to fade in Series 3 of Jonathan Creek

“What exactly does all this add up to?”

After a decent first couple of series, the third season of Jonathan Creek sees the show start to wobble a bit as the raft of impossible crimes sways from ingenious plotting to improbably convoluted. Episodes tackle disappearing aliens and a man who thinks he has sold his soul to the devil and it doesn’t always come off.

That said, there’s still some classic tales in here too. The revelation of ‘The Eyes of Tiresias’ is artfully done and ‘Miracle in Crooked Lane’ is properly, admirably fiendish even with its meta-theatrics. Alan Davies and Caroline Quentin both continue in good form but David Renwick’s writing doesn’t permit more than piecemeal character development which, three series in, leaves them a little flat. Continue reading “TV Review: Jonathan Creek, Series 3”

Book review: The Half – Simon Annand

The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand

Just a quickie for this book as The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand was released in 2008. But with an imminent new exhibition of these photos and a bargainous copy of the book popping up on Ebay, I thought I’d take the plunge.

And I’m glad I did as it is a proper work of art in its own right. Annand has been photographing actors for over 25 years and as such, has a veritable treasure trove of shots to share with us, resulting from the trusting relationships he has built up with so many, from the new kids on the block to veritable dames. Continue reading “Book review: The Half – Simon Annand”

Review: Consent, Harold Pinter

With a mostly new cast, Nina Raine’s deeply considered and thought-provoking Consent transfers from the National to the Harold Pinter

“It’s a fight between two opposing narratives”

Nina Raine’s Consent is yet another play to make the West End transfer out of the National Theatre’s Dorfman space. And a well-timed one it is too as even though it is only a year since it ran, the landscape when talking about how aspects of society deal with sexual assault and rape is significantly different. Read my 4 star review for Official Theatre here.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Johan Persson
Consent is booking at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 11th August

TV Review: Line of Duty Series 4

“Watch what I do, not what I say”

So Series 4 of Jed Mercurio’s Line of Duty winds up to its insanely tense climax and once again it satisfies the requirements of event TV – giving some answers but withholding others, in the full anticipation of further seasons in which to explore the overarching stories that still remain. This did also mean that it didn’t quite push all of my buttons the way I would have liked for it to be as spectacular as the end to Series 3.

With the Caddy arc being resolved so thoroughly then, I very much enjoyed the fresh slate of AC12’s investigation of an entirely new case here (review of Episode 1 here). And Thandie Newton’s superbly slippery DCI Roz Huntley was an excellent antagonist, the potential framing of a suspect being only the beginning of the twistiest of tales that threatened to swallow up any and everyone around her, good or bad, corrupt or misogynist. Continue reading “TV Review: Line of Duty Series 4”

TV Review: Line of Duty Series 4 Episode 1

“Don’t make out I’m in the wrong”

After three superlative, and interlinked, series, one might have forgiven Jed Mercurio for leaving Line of Duty as it was. But the show has been a victim of its own slow-burning success and so a fourth series has arrived, with a plum Sunday evening slot in the schedule to boot and the good folk of AC-12 are once again with us. And having most cleverly toyed with its structure of featuring a high profile lead guest star in the previous series, the arrival of Thandie Newton as this year’s bent cop (or is she…) left us pondering how the hell are they going to top Series 3’s opening instalment.

 Well, like this is how! The beauty of Line of Duty has been how it has increasingly embraced its batshit mental moments with the intense realism that comes from its peerless interrogation scenes. It is both silly and serious and it pulls it off with real élan – so much so that you don’t care how ridiculous it is that Vicky McClure’s Kate can still slide in to work undercover in police stations that are down the road from her own or that forensics guys apparently aren’t so hot at telling whether people are dead or not.  Continue reading “TV Review: Line of Duty Series 4 Episode 1”

Film Review: Mr Turner (2014)

“There’s no room for cynicism in the reviewing of art”

One might equally say there’s no room for cynicism in my reviewing of Mike Leigh’s work, such a fan of his oeuvre am I and the laidback, gruff charms of Mr Turner are no exception, confirming the iconic director in the full flush of his prime. Timothy Spall has already been deservedly rewarded for his wonderfully harrumphing performance of the last 10 years of the life of this most famous of painters and it is a compelling portrait, of a man established in his world as a bachelor, a master painter, and later a lover. Leigh’s episodic style fits perfectly into this biographical mode, dipping in and out of his life with the precision of one of Turner’s paintbrushes, colouring in a captivating collage of his later life.

Spall is excellent but around him, the women in his life provide some of the most hauntingly beautiful moments of the film. As Sarah Danby, the mistress and mother of the two daughters he would not recognise, Ruth Sheen is piercingly vivid, her barely contained fury resonating deeply. As Hannah Danby, her niece who was Turner’s long-suffering and long-serving housekeeper, Dorothy Atkinson is painfully brilliant as a woman subjugated and subdued by his wanton sexual advances, the psoriasis that afflicted her, and her deep love for the man. As “self-taught Scotswoman” and scientist Mary Somerville, Lesley Manville near steals the film in a simply beautiful self-contained vignette. Continue reading “Film Review: Mr Turner (2014)”

CD Review: Hood: The Scribe of Sherwood

“But tell me about Robin Hood…”

Spiteful Puppet’s reimagining of the world of Sherwood Forest continues with Hood: The Scribe of Sherwood which brings together two 30 minute stories, The Outlaw’s Tale and The Sheriff’s Tale. Both written by Iain Meadows, there’s a real pleasure in immersing oneself in so familiar a story to find that not everything is quite as it seems, what we’ve heard from the legend is not necessarily the way things are, neatly reflecting the overall conceit here of the arrival of troubadouring storyteller Alan-a-dale.

Both stories hang around Alan’s desire to find out more about the shadowy and elusive figure of notorious outlaw Robin De Loxley. In The Outlaw’s Tale he meets Little John and Will Scarlet and as they take shelter from a storm, he urges them to tell him the truth. But the story that John tells is not one that he is expecting, nor us for that matter, and it does a great job of subverting our expectations and yet still managing to be entertaining. Peter Greenall and Damian Cooper as John and Will are highly charismatic, allowing Billy Miller’s Alan to play a straighter role. Continue reading “CD Review: Hood: The Scribe of Sherwood”

CD Review: Hood – Noble Secrets

“You won’t survive a night in Sherwood Forest”

Spiteful Puppet’s debut audio drama revisits one of our most well-known folk heroes, Robin Hood, but in this origin story for the Merry Men, Iain Meadows has managed an adroit reimagining of the world of Sherwood Forest and beyond. Aided by a swooping orchestral score from Samuel Pegg, it rises from a slightly ponderous beginning to become a constantly surprising and interesting piece of drama.

The list of characters is familiar – Robin De Loxley, Little John, Will Scarlet, the Lady Marion… – but their actions not necessarily so. This is a fresh take on everything you think you know but never unnecessarily so and it is a clever technique that demands the attention of the listener, keeping us on our toes not least in making the central character Phillip De Nicholay, the Sheriff of Nottingham. Continue reading “CD Review: Hood – Noble Secrets”

Short Film Review #37

Method Actor from Justin Stokes on Vimeo.

A monologue by the silken-voiced John Shrapnel is something to look forward to no matter the format, and Justin Stokes’ short film Method Actor is a brilliant vehicle for it. Mere minutes long, it courses through the imagination of an ageing actor as he dispenses bitterly-won advice on how he has gotten where he has, Glenn Smith’s script cleverly weaving its way into unexpected places and DP John Lynch creating a gorgeously lush world for him to inhabit. Continue reading “Short Film Review #37”

Review: Marple – Nemesis

“How do you know?”

Working my way through the works of Ruth Wilson, I came across an episode of Marple in which she appeared, but the most striking thing about was the name of the director – Nicolas Winding Refn. Yes, the man better known for films such as Drive, Pusher and Only God Forgives once directed an episode of Marple for ITV back in 2008 when Geraldine McEwan was playing the role of the intrepid sleuth, a choice he now admits was made entirely because he was broke and one which was full of frustrations for him. And as you can see for yourselves on the YouTube clip below, it isn’t really the finest of works.

For those familiar with the novel, this adaptation takes huge liberties with the story as to be almost unrecognisable from the source. And sadly, it never feels like any of the changes were worthwhile, strictly necessary or indeed effective. In this version of Nemesis, Marple is still invited to solve a murder by an old colleague John Rafiel by taking part of a Daffodil Tour Company mystery tour with a carefully selected group of people who, as always, are more connected that first impressions reveal. Continue reading “Review: Marple – Nemesis”