TV Review: Silent Witness Series 13

God-tier guest casting, daring deviation in the storytelling and Leo getting hit on the head, Series 13 of Silent Witness is probably one of my absolute faves 

“Your kind think you’re some kind of heroic martyr, you won’t be told or fobbed off. If people get dragged into your mess then it’s jolly unfortunate but you don’t give a shit because you have right on your side”

Now this is the good stuff. Series 13 of Silent Witness opted to shake things up just a little more than usual and the result, for me, is one of their most effective seasons to date. For one, having Leo be the one who is attacked rather than Nikki is (three series on the trot in case you’d forgotten) is just nice for the variety but adding a note of frailty into this most sanctimonious of characters works well.

It also sets up a cracking episode which sees Nikki and Harry at loggerheads as they take the same evidence and end up with wildly different conclusions which they’re then forced to defend in court. And a campus shooting episode, whilst having hardly anything to do with forensic pathology, is brilliantly conceived and chillingly executed. Fresh takes on the storytelling really makes this series feel alive. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 13”

Review: Hamlet, Young Vic

Cush Jumbo is excellent, and there’s a great Ophelia, but do we really need another Hamlet? Three hours plus at the Young Vic will soon tell you

“The time is out of joint”

At the risk of sounding like Brenda from Bristol, my initial reaction to hearing of another “highly-anticipated production of Shakespeare’s great tragedy” is rarely one of too much excitement. But the Young Vic’s Hamlet has quite the trump card up its sleeve, in the return of Cush Jumbo to the theatrical stage after nailing transatlantic TV success in shows like The Good Fight

It is 10 years or so now since getting to see Jumbo fairly regularly at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, her talent obvious to see even then in productions of As You Like It and Pygmalion. And with frequent collaborator Greg Hersov at the helm, it is little surprise that her presence here is nigh on revelatory, a high-wattage performance that electrifies the play almost anew. Continue reading “Review: Hamlet, Young Vic”

August casting update

 

Linda Bassett and John Heffernan have been cast in Caryl Churchill’s new play What If If Only, which will be directed by James Macdonald. With set design by Miriam Buether, lighting design by Prema Mehta, sound design by Christopher Shutt and assistant direction from Grace Duggan.

What If If Only will run in the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs from Wednesday 29 September 2021 – Saturday 23 October 2021. Performances run Monday – Saturday at 6pm, plus Friday 8, 15 & 22 October 2021 at 10pm. The running time is a lush 14 minutes. Continue reading “August casting update”

Film Review: London Unplugged (2018)

A quirky portmanteau of 11 shorts, London Unplugged doesn’t really work, even with a nice bit of Juliet Stevenson

“No-one has time for anyone”

A London Film School, Psychology News, Four Corners Film and the Migrant Resource Centre, London Unplugged betrays its collaborative origins in a scattershot collection of 10 short films. Trying to re-establish depictions of London on film in some kind of reality, it certainly has highly admirable ambitions. 

But the reality of so many different writers and directors being given so broad a canvas as London life means that the end result is highly uneven and only occasionally satisfying. Attempts are made to string the films together with the linking device of a runner making her way from Stratford to Kew Gardens but it doesn’t work, there’s no real connective tissue there. Continue reading “Film Review: London Unplugged (2018)”

Casting news for early September

As some theatres look to a careful reopening and others consolidate their online offers, casting news of four intriguing shows breaks 

The Last Five Years at Southwark Playhouse will star Molly Lynch (Cathy) and Oli Higginson (Jamie) who return to their roles after they were cut short on 16 March. They will be appearing in the show from 1 – 31 October and will be in the same ‘support bubble’ so the show won’t adhere to socially distancing staging.

However, in the venue, there will be strict social distancing measures in place. For full info on that head here and click on the Covid-19 FAQS tab: https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/the-large/the-last-five-years/#covidfaqs Continue reading “Casting news for early September”

TV Review: Black Earth Rising

A cast led by Michaela Coel, Noma Dumezweni, John Goodman and Lucian Msamati make Hugo Blick’s complex Black Earth Rising watchable if not quite essential

“That is why I made a deal like that”

A tricky one this. At this point, you know what you’re getting with a Hugo Blick drama (qv The Shadow Line, The Honorable Woman), weighty complex dramas with amazing casts tackling inscrutable global conspiracies. And Black Earth Rising is no different, as it puts the Rwandan genocide and its aftermath under the microscope, examining Western colonial and capitalist attitudes towards Africa along with the role of the Iinternational Criminal Court.

And with a cast led by Michaela Coel, Noma Dumezweni, Harriet Walter, John Goodman and Lucian Msamati to name just a few, it is naturally eminently watchable. Coel plays Kate Ashby, a young woman with a complicated relationship with her barrister mother Eve (Walter). Eve adopted Kate from Rwanda years back but her decision to take on a case prosecuting a Tutsi general who, after helping end the genocide, went on to commit war crimes in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, outrages Kate who is also Tutsi.
Continue reading “TV Review: Black Earth Rising”

Review: King Hedley II, Theatre Royal Stratford East

August Wilson’s King Hedley II is something of a flawed play but it receives a strong production from Nadia Fall here at Theatre Royal Stratford East

“As long as I draw a breath in my body I’m gonna do the right thing for me”

August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle – a series of 10 plays exploring the African American experience in each decade of the 20th century – has some superb plays within it, not least the incendiary Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Fences. As the ninth instalment in the sequence, King Hedley II doesn’t quite live up to those forebears  but Nadia Fall gives it an impressive production here.

Casting Director Lisa Makin was clearly on fire for this project as she gathered established names (Lenny Henry, Martina Laird) and younger talents (Cherelle Skeete – so good in Fun Home, Aaron Pierre) to give a ferocious account of this challenging play. Challenging not only in length at well over 3 hours but also thematically, as it sprawls over too many subjects to ever hope of doing them all justice. Continue reading “Review: King Hedley II, Theatre Royal Stratford East”

20 shows to look forward to in 2019

So many of the recommendations for shows to see next year focus on the West End. And for sure, I’m excited to catch big ticket numbers like All About Eve, Come From Away, and Waitress but I wanted to cast my eye a little further afield, so here’s my top tips for shows on the London fringe (plus one from the Barbican) and across the UK.

1 Medea, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam at the Barbican
Simon Stone’s sleekly contemporary recasting of Euripides is straight up amazing. Anchored by a storming performance from Marieke Heebink, it is as beautiful and brutal as they come. It’s also one of the few plays that has legit made me go ‘oh no’ out loud once a particular penny dropped. My review from 2014 is here but do yourself a favour and don’t read it until you’ve seen it.

Macbeth, Watermill Theatre
2018 saw some disappointing Macbeths and I was thus ready to swear off the play for 2019. But the Watermill Ensemble’s decision to tackle the play will certainly break that resolve, Paul Hart’s innovative direction of this spectacular actor-musician team will surely break the hoodoo…

3 Noughts and Crosses, Derby Theatre, and touring
Pilot Theatre follow on from their strong Brighton Rock with this Malory Blackman adaptation by Sabrina Mahfouz, a Young Adult story but one which promises to speak to us all. Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2019”

Review: Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), Royal Court

“How much you think we’re gonna be worth when Freedom comes?”

There is scheduled to be at least another six parts to Suzan-Lori Parks’ ambitious play cycle but don’t let that put you off, the three hours of Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) are well spent in exploring race, slavery and the US civil war and how its pernicious legacy permeates through even to contemporary (US) society. Jo Bonney’s production is not always the easiest to watch but then how could it be, rather it seeks to provoke serious thought and consideration about what it meant – and what it still means – to be free.

To take on such a grand narrative and possibly to alleviate some of the intense seriousness, Parks has playfully borrowed from a range of storytelling techniques, most notably the Greeks, And through them establishes her interpretation of the African-American experience – the magpie nature of Emilio Sosa’s costume design with details both period and present-day, reinforcing the continuing relevance of its message.  Continue reading “Review: Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), Royal Court”