TV Review: Coalition, Channel 4

“No Lib Dem leader has ever had this kind of exposure and opportunity”

James Graham definitely seems to be having a moment – the noted playwright has been branching out into film and TV and with some serendipitous timing, is showcasing his talent in all three avenues. The Vote will soon be hitting the Donmar, X&Y is in cinemas as we speak, and his television film Coalition aired on Channel 4 last night. I’ve yet to catch X&Y but if Coalition is anything to go by, then there’s absolutely no fear that he is overstretching himself as it was a cracking bit of telly.

One of the reasons it worked so well for me was its basis in more-or-less contemporary events. His play This House was a sterling piece of political theatre but for someone who had no knowledge of the 1970s politicking it portrayed, there was always a sense of catch-up whereas the more august members of the audience could enjoy the nuances of Graham’s skilful writing and observations without the niggle of also trying to work out just what was going on.  Continue reading “TV Review: Coalition, Channel 4”

TV Review: Ripper Street Series 1

“Whitechapel calls you back”

Victorian crime procedural Ripper Street burst onto our screens at the beginning of this year with a blood-spattered élan and a perhaps more violent streak than many were expecting, but it grew to be a most successful series with audiences (and me) and has since been renewed for a second series. Set in Whitechapel, the first episode had a Jack the Ripper focus, which with the title of the show, proved a bit of misdirection in terms of the series as a whole as the crimes that H Division ended up investigating were of a hugely wide-ranging nature and not just focused on the notorious serial killer (although the Ripper’s exploits did form a backdrop to part of the series-long arc).

It’s a period of history, and particularly social history, that I have long found interesting (I studied it as part of my degree) as notions of crime and punishment were rapidly changing and the nature of policing was also changing with the introduction of a more scientific approach to solving crimes. So Matthew Macfadyen’s DI Reid and Jerome Flynn’s DS Flynn are joined by US army surgeon Captain Jackson, played by Adam Rothenburg, as they work their way through the serious crimes, civil unrest, and personal vendettas that crop up on a weekly basis. Continue reading “TV Review: Ripper Street Series 1”

DVD Review: Nicholas Nickleby

“You must bear up against sorrow my dear”

Douglas McGrath’s adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby manages the not-unimpressive feat of condensing Dickens’ weighty novel into a two hour film, and whilst much must have been jettisoned (I’ve never read the book so I couldn’t tell you what) it still hangs together as a cohesive story with much to recommend it. McGrath also directs and remains very much faithful to the spirit of Dickens with a straightforward aesthetic that takes a few artistic liberties but whose heart is very much in the right place.

After the death of Nickleby senior, Nickleby junior is thrust into the role of head of the family but with the dastardly deeds of their unscrupulous Uncle Ralph, Nicholas has to work extremely hard and keep his wits about him in order to protect his friends and family from the misfortune around them. Those misfortunes are many and varied but entertainingly portrayed here as there’s a good deal of humour and pathos mixed in with the grimness. Continue reading “DVD Review: Nicholas Nickleby”

Review: Flare Path, Theatre Royal Haymarket

“I always thought our private happiness was more important than outside things”

Flare Path marks the second of 3 Rattigan plays this month for me as his anniversary year really gets into swing with two major London productions opening this month, joining the fringe and regional shows that have already begun to celebrate the work of this most English of writers. It also marks the first production of Trevor Nunn’s artistic directorship at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Written in 1941 it is drawn from Rattigan’s own RAF experience in the Second World War

Set over a 1942 weekend in a hotel occupied by fighter pilots and their visiting wives, near an airbase in Lincolnshire, the story centres on Patricia, an actress who although she has married the affably handsome Flight Lieutenant Teddy after a whirlwind romance, has been tempted back by her former lover, film star Peter Kyle and she intends to tell Teddy of her intent to leave him. But the war waits for no woman and as Teddy serves his country alongside his fellow men and she is left waiting with the other wives, all struggling with the different pressures the war is placing on their own marriages, Patricia’s resolve is weakened and the her dilemma becomes more pressing. Continue reading “Review: Flare Path, Theatre Royal Haymarket”

fosterIAN awards 2009

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayRachel Weisz, A Streetcar Named DesirePhoebe Nicholls/Lisa Dillon, When the Rain Stops Falling; Chris Nietvelt, The Roman TragediesImelda Staunton, Entertaining Mr Sloane
Juliet Stevenson, Duet for One
Anna Chancellor, The Observer
Best Actor in a PlayHans Kesting, The Roman TragediesJude Law, Hamlet (Donmar)Dominic Rowan, The Spanish Tragedy
David Troughton, Inherit the Wind
Dan Stevens, Arcadia
Henry Goodman, Duet for One
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayRebecca Hall, The Winter’s Tale (Bridge Project)Kate Fleetwood, Life is a DreamJessie Cave, Arcadia
Michelle Dockery, Burnt By The Sun
Alexandra Gilbreath, Twelfth Night
Ruth Wilson, A Streetcar Named Desire
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayAndrew Scott, CockSimon Paisley-Day, Entertaining Mr SloaneMark Dexter, Inherit the Wind
Tom Goodman-Hill, Enron
Ethan Hawke, The Winter’s Tale (Bridge Project)
Barnaby Kay, A Streetcar Named Desire
Best Actress in a MusicalSamantha Spiro, Hello, Dolly!Julie Atherton, The Last Five YearsMelanie Chisholm, Blood Brothers
Donna King, Frank’s Closet
Patina Miller, Sister Act
Tamzin Outhwaite, Sweet Charity
Best Actor in a MusicalSimon Burke, La Cage aux FollesCarl Mullaney, Frank’s ClosetRoger Allam, La Cage aux Folles
Mark Umbers, Sweet Charity
Aneurin Barnard, Spring Awakening
Tony Sheldon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalJosefina Gabrielle, Hello, Dolly!Sheila Hancock, Sister ActJosefina Gabrielle, Sweet Charity
Tiffany Graves, Sweet Charity
The Lovely Debbie McGee, Frank’s Closet
Jodie Prenger, Oliver!
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalOliver Thornton, Priscilla Queen of the DesertDaniel Crossley, Hello, Dolly!Rowan Atkinson, Oliver!
Clive Carter, Priscilla Queen of the Desert
John Marquez, Annie Get Your Gun
Jason Pennycooke, La Cage aux Folles

2009 Best Supporting Actor in a Play/in a Musical

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Andrew Scott, Cock
In a late challenge for this award, Andrew Scott’s performance in Cock was truly astounding for me: I’ve rarely seen an actor so fully at ease with his lines that it feels genuinely like he’s not even acting. In the strange cock-fighting-inspired pit, there was nowhere to hide, for actor nor audience, meaning we could bear witness to the considerable intensity of this performance down to the last tear on his cheek.

Honourable mention: Simon Paisley-Day, Entertaining Mr Sloane
The sight of the closetted Ed salivating over the leather-trouser clad Mr Sloane was a highlight of the year even back in February and Paisley-Day’s chemistry with Dame-to-be Imelda Staunton made this play crackle with more twisted hilarity than even Joe Orton might have dreamed of.

Mark Dexter, Inherit the Wind
Tom Goodman-Hill, Enron
Ethan Hawke, The Winter’s Tale
Barnaby Kay, A Streetcar Named Desire


Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

Oliver Thornton, Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Threatening to steal the show with his every number, Thornton’s camptastic Felicia is a sheer riot to watch. Perfectly toned, shockingly limber, obsessed with Kylie and armed with the most vicious of tongues, we also never lose sight of the boy beneath the make-up and his growing chemistry with Tony Sheldon’s Bernadette is a thing of beauty to watch through its ups and downs.

Honourable mention Daniel Crossley, Hello, Dolly!
As is probably apparent by now, I loved practically everything about Hello, Dolly! And as Cornelius Hackl, Daniel Crossley was a delight. His learning to dance scenes were hysterical and ‘Put On Your Sunday Clothes’ with its choreography is close to being one of the happiest thing I’ve ever seen.

Rowan Atkinson, Oliver!
Clive Carter, Priscilla Queen of the Desert
John Marquez, Annie Get Your Gun
Jason Pennycooke, La Cage aux Folles

Review: Inherit The Wind, Old Vic

“I don’t want to believe that we come from monkeys and apes, but I guess that’s kinda besides the point”

Inherit The Wind is a courtroom drama, based on the true life story of a Tennessee schoolteacher who was threatened with imprisonment for teaching Charles Darwin’s ideas on evolution, in direct contravention of school policy. A highly strung court case then follows, pitching creationists against evolutionists, and bringing two legal titans to a small town in Tennessee to argue the case, the ramifications of which clearly extend beyond that classroom in the Deep South. Its timing seems uncanny: even on the 150th anniversary of the publication of On The Origin of Species, a highly recommended (by me at least) film Creation, about Darwin’s struggles with his own faith as he wrote it, has not been able to find a distributor in the US because it is considered too ‘controversial’ in a country where allegedly barely a third of the population actually believe in evolution.

The scale of this production really is admirably epic: the staging is superb, with the Old Vic’s stage being opened up to a great depth (you could probably fit the stage for Annie Get Your Gun on there 15 times over!), the already healthy cast is ably bolstered by a phalanx of supernumaries, bringing the total company to 50 bodies who bring an authentic air of claustrophobic small-town living to several scenes, most notably the prayer meeting just before the trial. The use of hymns sung by the company during scene changes further reinforces this strong sense of a community joined by the power of their faith. Continue reading “Review: Inherit The Wind, Old Vic”

Review: Time And The Conways, National Theatre

This week saw a visit to the Lyttleton at the National Theatre for the first preview of J.B. Priestley’s Time and the Conways. Starting off in 1919 at a birthday party, we meet the Conways, a rich family infused with hope for the future: the Great War is over, the sons have returned home safely and potential love matches abound for the numerous sisters. This act is sumptuously mounted, the costumes are fantastic and the company do a great job of introducing a sense of real decadence and loucheness, exuding the confidence that their upper-class lives safely back in place after the wartime turmoil. Francesca Annis as the mother of the family excels here, ruling her roost with a witty demeanour, as does Faye Castelow as the youngest daughter, a bubble of positive energy in primrose yellow. Annis also dealt extremely well with her scarf becoming attached to one of her daughter’s rings for over a minute!

Act II then skips 20 years into the future to see how the passage of time has affected the Conways. With this leap forward, all the actors are called on to really deliver sufficiently nuanced performances to convey the passage of time, and with the aid of some impressive make-up, they pretty much all succeed in this. Lydia Leonard and Hattie Morahan in particular stood out for me, both of them reaching deep to show the frustrations that inter-war life has imposed on them. That said, the acting all-around was of a high quality, although some nerves were in evidence with a couple of fluffed lines (something I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed at the National before).

The final act then returns to where we left off at the end of Act I and we see the culmination of the storylines that started, but with the knowledge of how they will ultimately turn out, 20 years later.

Continue reading “Review: Time And The Conways, National Theatre”