TV Review: Silent Witness Series 2

Series 2 of Silent Witness sees the show quickly slip into the patterns that bristle against the limitations of the format, whilst Amanda Burton warms up a little

“If you’re lucky, you’ll get away with a slap on the wrist and a warning not to get too involved in the future”

And so to series 2 of Silent Witness, Nigel McCrery’s forensic pathology drama, and the return of Amanda Burton’s remarkably chilly Sam Ryan. Perhaps wisely, there was a big swerve away from her family drama, the focus shifting more solidly to the numerous work crises passed her way. The only problem there is that the writers were in no way content to let her just be a pathologist. 

“I’m a forensic pathologist. All I’m interested in is the truth”, she cries at one point. But it patently isn’t true, her insistence on playing detective with every single case actually having led to the death of someone innocent last time around (she gets over the trauma of that pretty quickly…) and said behaviour continues apace here, reaching almost parodic levels far too quickly. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 2”

TV Review: Vigil

Maybe I missed the point but I really rather enjoyed the campy, ridiculous side of submarine drama Vigil

“They’ve tried to disable us. Now they’re hunting us”

I think a lot of people were expecting Vigil to be the new Line of Duty, the Guardian even set up one of their episode-by-episode blogs. But somehow I missed that memo, assuming it was less of a serious drama and more of a campy thriller from the off, hence finding its increasingly improbable twists and turns juicily enjoyable and never expecting much realism from it.

Which is how I think we should take most TV shows these days, escapism serving as a valuable corrective tool for our times and allowing drama to flourish in enjoyable ways. Created by Tom Edge, Vigil is a police procedural mostly set on a Trident submarine and thus has even more opportunity to piss off the growing number of armchair experts whose voluble online responses are increasingly being used as new stories by an increasingly lazy media. Continue reading “TV Review: Vigil”

London theatre update for June

The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company has announced that tickets are on sale for a brand new production of Terence Rattigan’s much loved play The Browning Version. The production will play for 3 weeks at Riverside Studios from 5 – 29 August with Branagh directing. Tickets are available now from branagh-theatre.com.

The cast is made up of all RADA graduates with Branagh playing Andrew Crocker-Harris. He will be joined by Kemi Awoderu (Taplow), Joseph Kloska (Frank Hunter), Lolita Chakrabarti (Millie Crocker-Harris), Wendy Kweh (Dr Frobisher), Victor Alli (Peter Gilbert) and Sarah Eve (Mrs Gilbert).

The production will be designed by Frankie Bradshaw, Lighting Design will be by Paul Pyant and Sound Design by Emma Laxton. Continue reading “London theatre update for June”

News: Almeida 2021 season announcement

First up in June is the World Premiere of and breathe… by Yomi ode, a theatrical adaptation of poems from his forthcoming collection Manorism. Directed by Olivier Award-winning director Miranda Cromwell, featuring David Jonsson.

From July Lolita Chakrabarti’s Hymn will be performed to live in-person audiences for the first time following a string of sold-out live stream performances earlier this year. Adrian Lester and Danny Sapani reprise their roles, and Blanche McIntyre directs. Continue reading “News: Almeida 2021 season announcement”

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: Soho Theatre’s Verity Bargate Award 2020 Longlist Revealed

Following a record number of 1,493 submissions to its Verity Bargate Award 2020, Soho Theatre today reveals the 20 plays that have been longlisted for the award. The shortlist will be announced at the end of September and the winner of the award announced in October.

Since 1982, the Verity Bargate Award, Soho Theatre’s foremost playwriting award, has uncovered the best new and emerging writers. It has launched the careers of some of Britain’s most established playwrights and screenwriters including Matt Charman (Bridge of Spies), Vicky Jones (HBO’s Run), Toby Whithouse (Doctor Who) and many, many more. This year’s award will be judged by a panel of industry experts including former Soho writers Phoebe Waller-BridgeArinzé Kene and Laura Wade, screenwriter Russell T Davies, actress and playwright Lolita Chakrabarti. The award is sponsored by Character 7 and chaired by film and television producer, Character 7’s Stephen Garrett. The Award honours Verity Bargate, Soho’s co-founder who passionately championed new writing during her time at the small but hugely influential fringe theatre, Soho Poly. Continue reading “News: Soho Theatre’s Verity Bargate Award 2020 Longlist Revealed”

Winners of the 20th What’s On Stage Awards

A relatively controversy-free set of results for once, though sad not to see Waitress get any love at the 20th What’s On Stage Awards

Publicly voted awards often end up rewarding celebrity and/or social media pull rather than any sense of theatrical merit, so it is nice to see a more balanced set of results emerging from this year’s What’s On Stage Awards. & Juliet and Come From Away could both claim to have ‘won big’ with Dear Evan Hansen also nicking a couple of prize acting awards. This did sadly mean Waitress went home empty handed and I thought Mary Poppins might have scored at least another one award to go with Best Musical Revival.

On the plays side of things, the lack of a clear front-runner in terms of nominations resulted in a nice spread of recognition, topped off with Life of Pi nabbing the best new play and representing well for the regions, ahead of its West End debut in June. The only bum note comes with the continued lack of engagement with the concerns raised around Jewish representation in the recent production of Falsettos. Rewarding the show without recognising any of these issues (I don’t think WoS has published anything about it at all) feels like a thoughtless compounding of something which shouldn’t be swept under the carpet. We can all do better.

Best Actor in a Play, sponsored by Edwardian Hotels

Tom Hiddleston – Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
WINNER – Andrew Scott – Present Laughter – The Old Vic
Matt Smith – Lungs – The Old Vic
Wendell Pierce – Death of a Salesman – Young Vic / Piccadilly Theatre
Laurie Kynaston – The Son – Kiln Theatre / Duke of York’s Theatre

Best Actress in a Play, sponsored by Tonic Theatre

WINNER – Claire Foy – Lungs – The Old Vic
Zawe Ashton – Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
Hayley Atwell – Rosmersholm – Duke of York’s Theatre
Sharon D Clarke – Death of a Salesman – Young Vic / Piccadilly Theatre
Juliet Stevenson – The Doctor – Almeida Theatre Continue reading “Winners of the 20th What’s On Stage Awards”

Film Review: All Is True (2018)

Ben Elton and Kenneth Branagh latter-day Shakespeare biography All Is True is at once precious and poignant

“You spent so long putting words into other people’s mouths, you think it only matters what is said”

A most curious one this, continuing our creative obsession with filling in the biographical gaps in the life of William Shakespeare (cf Shakespeare in LoveAnonymous; Dedication; Will). All Is True is written by Ben Elton, who has (comic) form in the shape of Upstart Crow, the TV show soon to make its own theatrical bow and has as its director, producer and star, one Kenneth Branagh.

In some ways, it is a beautiful film. Branagh eschews a lot of artifical lighting and flickers of candlelight illuminates several interior scenes to gorgeous effect. He also takes pains to find interesting angles for his shots and the opening image of his silhouetted figure against the burning Globe is stunning. And being able to call on the likes of Sir Ian McKellen (the Earl of Southampton) and Dame Judi Dench (Anne Hathaway) to toss off some Shakespeare recital is of course an unalloyed pleasure. Continue reading “Film Review: All Is True (2018)”

2020 What’s On Stage Award nominations

The nominations for the 20th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards have been announced and I have a thought or two #justiceforAnneHathaway

As a publicly nominated affair, the What’s On Stage Awards always throw up an interesting set of nominations, as fanbases engage alongside theatregoers to produce an idiosyncratic reflection on the year. This year though, the nominees for the nine creative categories (Choreography, Costume Design, Direction, Graphic Design, Lighting Design, Musical Direction, Set Design, Sound Design and Video Design) have been decided by an independent panel of industry experts appointed, which has resulted in some pleasing inclusions for the likes of Equus and Small Island

Acting-wise, the focus does land a little heavily on the more famous names (plus ça change) and that Supporting Actress in a Musical category is super-crowded (the Dear Evan Hansen mothers would have been a shoo-in for me there). My only real point of issue comes with the categorisation for the & Juliet players – are you really going to nominate Oliver Tompsett as a lead and then put Cassidy Janson in the supporting category? Did you not see the show, or get any of its message at all?!

Voting for the winners is open now and closes on 27th January 2020, with the winners being revealed at a ceremony on 1st March 2020.

Best Actor in a Play, sponsored by Edwardian Hotels

Tom Hiddleston – Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
Andrew Scott – Present Laughter – The Old Vic
Matt Smith – Lungs – The Old Vic
Wendell Pierce – Death of a Salesman – Young Vic / Piccadilly Theatre
Laurie Kynaston – The Son – Kiln Theatre / Duke of York’s Theatre

Best Actress in a Play, sponsored by Tonic Theatre

Claire Foy – Lungs – The Old Vic
Zawe Ashton – Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
Hayley Atwell – Rosmersholm – Duke of York’s Theatre
Sharon D Clarke – Death of a Salesman – Young Vic / Piccadilly Theatre
Juliet Stevenson – The Doctor – Almeida Theatre Continue reading “2020 What’s On Stage Award nominations”