Despite a fabulous returning cast, Series 2 of The Split is classy-looking tosh. Very watchable but tosh all the same.
“The last thing we need is for any more salacious details to come out”
Much like Series 1, the second season of Abi Morgan’s The Split treads a line between legal drama and deluxe soap opera and more often than not, it is less of a balancing act and more of a case of elements of the former sprinkled into a heavy dose of the latter.
Which in many ways in just fine. Getting to see the likes of Nicola Walker, Deborah Findlay and Anna Chancellor strutting in expensive contemporary costumery is a blessing in itself and the production values of this show never dip below the glossy magazine standards it has set itself. Continue reading “TV Review: The Split Series 2”
With Allelujah! at the Bridge Theatre, the return of Alan Bennett leaves me less than enthused
“Still, it was better than this”
In some ways, Allelujah! is perfectly symptomatic of the problem I have with the Bridge Theatre. Does London really need any new theatres, no matter how much people think they want interval madeleines? Does it especially need ones that put on large-scale Alan Bennett premieres? It is nice to see Nicholas Hytner maintaining the long-gestating creative relationship he has with Bennett but at the point where his new venture is now just a carbon-copy of his former home down the South Bank, except with premium seating, it is increasingly hard to make the case for it.
It doesn’t help that this isn’t vintage Bennett. His first play in six years, Allelujah! takes place in the crowded geriatric ward of the Bethlehem, a Yorkshire hospital threatened with closure. A camera crew are filming a documentary, allowing many of the patients to wax lyrical about lives that have passed on by, the England that once was. And in the corridors around the hospital, Bennett similarly lets rip, on the loss of compassion in our society, a social care system on its knees, an NHS in an even worse state, privatisation, gentrification, the downright stupidity of an immigration system that is leaching away the very talent we need to stay. Continue reading “Review: Allelujah!, Bridge Theatre”
There’s something perhaps a bit perverse in some of the strongest episodes of new Who emerging from the series which (arguably) had the weakest companion. Freema Agyeman was ill-served by writing that couldn’t let her be a companion in her own right, as opposed to the-one-in-Rose’s-shadow, and consequently never felt entirely comfortable in the TARDIS.
Series 3 has real highs and certain lows – the introduction of Doctor-lite episodes (to ease the production schedules) produced the inventive wonder that was Blink (and further proved Steven Moffat’s genius), the unashamed grab for the heartstrings was perfectly realised in the Human Nature / The Family of Blood double-header, and the re-introduction of one of the Doctor’s most enduring foes was well-judged. That said, we also had the inevitable return of the Daleks who already feel like they’re in danger of over-exposure.
Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 3”
“We’re all shattered underneath really, aren’t we”
The second part of Nicola Walker’s cross-channel takeover of crime drama has been BBC1’s River. An altogether different prospect to ITV’s Unforgotten, Abi Morgan’s six-parter is aesthetically closer to the Nordic noir of which TV audiences seem unendingly enamoured but still manages to find its unique niche in a crowded marketplace. The Scandi feel is enhanced by the genuine casting coup of Stellan Skarsgård as DI John River but what marks out River are the people around him.
Chief among these is Walker’s Stevie, DS Stevenson, who we meet straightaway and instantly get a feel for their closeness of their professional relationship as they tackle crime on the streets of London. But what is brilliantly done is the shift from buddy cop show to something altogether darker as [major spoiler alert] we find out at the end of episode 1 that Stevie is dead, murdered recently, and River is in fact imagining her presence at his side, even to the extent of regularly conversing with her. Continue reading “TV Review: River”
“Your hair is like a water buffalo”
Though one tries to remain open-minded about most things theatrical, the word ‘multi-authored’ tends to make my heart sink. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen an example of the form that really worked for me (though it is possible that I have and I have forgotten) as it takes something extremely special to harness the potential unleashed by numerous writers and to turn it into something satisfying. And with Feast at the Young Vic, the point is proven once again. Part of the World Stages London festival (although feeling like a Johnny-come-lately in that respect), Yunior García Aguilera, Rotimi Babatunde, Marcos Barbosa, Tanya Barfield and Gbolahan Obisesan have all contributed to a production that celebrates the West African Yoruban culture and traces the paths by which it has spread and developed in their respective and native USA, Cuba, Nigeria, Brazil and the UK.
The central conceit of the show is that three sisters, demi-goddesses if you will, on their way to a feast but who encounter a mischievous trickster on their way who scatters them through time and space, reflecting the diasporic spread of Yoruba. But sadly, at a dramatic level, the globe-trotting and centuries-spanning narrative doesn’t really work. The episodic structure gives little time for the scribes to make their varying points and bouncing from Nigerian folklore to the end of the Brazilian slave trade to sexual politics in Cuba to the US civil rights struggle has a curiously flat effect as none have the space to really develop. But true to its name, Feast is made up of many, many parts and director Rufus Norris brings an astoundingly vibrant energy to the production side of things with dance and music and design elevating this into a genuinely spectacular affair. Continue reading “Review: Feast, Young Vic”
“It’s a bit niche isn’t it Michael…”
Love the Sinner is a world premiere of a play by Drew Pautz, slotting into the Cottesloe at the National Theatre. The play looks at a number of the key moral challenges facing the Christian church, starting off at a conference of international bishops somewhere in Africa trying to reach consensus on how Christianity has to come to deal with homosexuality in the modern world. We then see one of the volunteers at the meeting, Michael, after a brief sexual encounter with one of the African porters and follow him as he returns to his closeted lifestyle back in the UK and battles his own personal demons and the challenges that his faith poses in an evermore secular world.
Whilst Love the Sinner may look at some of these moral challenges, it doesn’t attempt to address any of them to any depth to quite frustrating effect. The opening scene concerns a sequestered group of bishops from different countries trying to come to agreement over the Church’s position on homosexuality and how to deal with same-sex relationships. The issues are bounded about for a bit with the African side defending their homophobic intolerance in the face of the pleas of the more liberal Western clerics, but then once the scene ends, the topic is dropped without resolution. Continue reading “Review: Love the Sinner, National Theatre”
My latest trip to the National Theatre took me to The Observer which is premiering at the Cottesloe Theatre (although strictly speaking it was a preview). I had not intended to see this play but I was seduced by the offer of cheap tickets, and I was extremely glad that I did since it gave me what I think is the strongest acting performance I have seen so far this year.
Anna Chancellor is quite simply astonishing, she’s on stage for practically the whole thing and is entirely believable as Fiona, the brittle, uptight observer of an election in an unspecified African country (though the parallels are clearly drawn with the recent Zimbabwean election). The play follows the processes around the first democratic elections in this country and how the impartial monitoring committee that Fiona works for interacts with the situation that they find themselves in. With her translator aiding her, Fiona finds herself drawn closer and closer to crossing the boundaries imposed by her position, as she realises the potential influence that she has on the election result. Chancellor plays this awakening, this blossoming so astutely, it is a thing of wonder to watch, and one is just swept up in the journey that Fiona is forced to take. Continue reading “Review: The Observer, National”