TV Review: The Long Call (ITV)

Gays. Juliet Stevenson. Anita Dobson. Sarah Gordy. The Long Call is practically tailor-made to my interests, and it’s also a pretty darn good TV show too

“Let’s find out if we’re dealing with a revenge killing”

With its soaringly emotive soundtrack and stunning vistas of the southern English coastline, you’d be forgiven for thinking The Long Call is something of a Broadchurch redux but its pedigree is actually something much more established. Novelist Ann Cleeves has seen two of her detective series be adapted into long-running TV shows – Vera and Shetland, both of which I’ve never seen and will doubtless get around to one day… – and so eyes are definitely on future possibilities here.

And featuring a gay male detective lead, who gets to snog his husband in the first episode no less, it is breaking boundaries (albeit the kind of ones you would have thought were broken a fair while ago). Ben Aldridge plays DI Matthew Venn, a policeman who is naturally being forced to confront his past at the same time as solving a crime which is somehow linked to that past. Raised in an Amish-like sect from whom he is now long estranged, the funeral of his father coincides with the discovery of a body on the beach and investigating the crime means dealing with his upbringing. Continue reading “TV Review: The Long Call (ITV)”

Review: The Best Man, Playhouse

The Best Man, Playhouse Theatre, London

Martin Shaw returns to the West End in US political thriller The Best Man, its relevance to today’s White House painfully clear

“The important thing for any government is educating the people about the issues, not following the ups and downs of popular opinion”

With American politics being the shitshow that it currently is, the temptation to lampoon Trump at every and any opportunity is one that many theatre directors have been unable to resist. A wilier creative mind might regard this as too on the nose (and already overdone) and find an alternative way to critique our transatlantic cousins, at least an avalanche of Brexit plays puts the boot on the other foot.

And that is what Simon Evans’ revival of Gore Vidal’s 1960 play The Best Man has done. After touring the UK last year, it arrives at the Playhouse Theatre with a slight sense of stateliness about it but also alive to how just how much of what was written nearly 60 years ago has to say about today’s political establishment. With a cast that includes Martin Sheen and Maureen Lipman, plus a cracking performance from Philip Cumbus, there’s something interesting here that rises above some slightly dated writing and aspects of a political system long left behind. Continue reading “Review: The Best Man, Playhouse”

Review: Twelve Angry Men, Garrick Theatre

“There’s always one”

My classic movie knowledge is terrible – I rarely watch old films and though I am frequently bought DVDs of “must-see classics”, they invariably remain in their wrappers on a shelf, waiting for the day when I finally decide to catch up on years of cinematic history. So it should come as no surprise that I’ve never seen Twelve Angry Men. Nor had I any intention of going to see it onstage to be honest – though the Garrick Theatre is blessed with a lovely intimacy from the Grand Circle, charging 40-odd quid does seem a little optimistic, but the lovely people at Bargain Theatre (worth following on Twitter too) came through with a deal that saw those seats reduced to £16 and so I took the bait.

Playing out in real time, the play follows the deliberations of an all-white 12-man jury on a hot and sticky New York afternoon in the 1950s as they are tasked with delivering a verdict on a murder case which has seen a young black man be accused of stabbing his father. But what seems like an open-and-shut case becomes more complicated when the initial vote indicates 11 consider him guilty and 1 considers there to be reasonable doubt, and so the debate begins as each side tries to win the absolute majority it needs to prevail. In doing so, the various men – all only known by their juror numbers, never their names – reveal how their prejudices and presumptions have guided them as they decide whether to send this man to the electric chair. Continue reading “Review: Twelve Angry Men, Garrick Theatre”