TV Review: Bridgerton Series 1

So much to love in the uninhibited Series 1 of Bridgerton, not least the most perfect of roles for the brilliant Adjoa Andoh as Lady Danbury

“If I were truly courting you, I would not need flowers, only five minutes alone with you in a drawing room”

Created by Chris Van Dusen and inspired by Julia Quinn’s Regency era-set novels, the much heralded Bridgerton arrives on Netflix with the most excitement arguably reserved for the presence of producer Shonda Rhimes. And it’s a presence that we feel rightaway as this version of Regency London is a racially integrated one, starting with Queen Charlotte being a mixed-race woman and trickling down through all levels of society.

It’s a simple innovation but still a radical one in its execution here, of course it took an American woman to do it! The best thing about it is that it offers up a range of roles for actors who might not normally get a look-in – Golda Rosheuvel as Her Majesty, Regé-Jean Page as the Duke of Hastings and best of all for me, Adjoa Andoh as the deliciously wry Lady Danbury. And as with Nikki Amuka-Bird in the recent David Copperfield film, there’s a general sense of knocking it out of the park and regret that it has taken this long. Continue reading “TV Review: Bridgerton Series 1”

Review: Young Chekhov – The Seagull, National Theatre

“We should show life…as we see it in our dreams.”

The Seagull may be the most ensemble-focused of the three plays that make up Young Chekhov but with the glorious Anna Chancellor appearing as the mercurial Arkadina – her star cachet getting her out of having to do either of the other two – the attention can’t help but be drawn to her and her extraordinary stage presence.

This may be the most well-known of the Chekhov plays being presented here, it certainly deservedly emerges as the strongest, and so David Hare’s freshened-up version has little of the heavy work it had to do with the others. Jonathan Kent’s production places it at the end of the three-show day deliberately, it’s where it sits chronologically and you really do get to see the maturation of the writer, his ability to develop his characters and themes more dramatically effectively. Continue reading “Review: Young Chekhov – The Seagull, National Theatre”

Review: Young Chekhov – Ivanov, National Theatre

“People think there’s something deep about despair. But there isn’t”

With Platonov failing to even make it onto the stage in his lifetime, Ivanov came to be Chekhov’s professional debut as a playwright. As such, it bears many of the hallmarks of a writer still coming into his strengths – having identified what he wants to say to the world, he’s still working out the most devastatingly effective way of doing it. The first time I saw Ivanov has the distinction of being one of the first times I ever really enjoyed a Chekhov play, seduced as I was by Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal for the Donmar in the West End (which also had a little known actor called Tom Hiddleston in it…), 

I’d be lying if I said I could remember enough about Tom Stoppard’s version to compare and contrast with David Hare’s new adaptation here, but Geoffrey Streatfeild’s interpretation of the title character does feel a little less of an outright cock. Don’t get me wrong he’s still a Grade-A tool (misogynist, anti-Semitic, serial cheat) and ‘mid-life crisis’ remains the pathetic catch-all excuse it ever has done, but there’s a real sense of the depths of the black clouds of depression that lie over this Ivanov and the social pressures that has put him under that offer at least a little insight, if not outright sympathy, for his situation. Continue reading “Review: Young Chekhov – Ivanov, National Theatre”

Review: Young Chekhov – Platonov, National Theatre

“Whatever you do, don’t rely on your own judgement. That’s the worst mistake you could make

Platonov wasn’t performed in Chekhov’s lifetime and even in this radically adapted version by David Hare, I’m not 100% sure that it works. You can see the attraction in terms of the Young Chekhov context – a trilogy of the Russian’s early work – but for me, the main pleasure comes in seeing the benchmark from which his later genius advanced.

It’s not for lack of trying from Jonathan Kent’s production, lead by a sparkling performance of disreputable charisma from James McArdle as an unhappily married teacher intent on spreading his vodka-fuelled discontent through the bedsheets of most of the local community, not least Nina Sosanya’s Anna and Olivia Vinall’s Sofya, with little care for the impact of his actions. Continue reading “Review: Young Chekhov – Platonov, National Theatre”