Review: Habeus Corpus, Menier Chocolate Factory

Alan Bennett’s Habeus Corpus gets a belated revival at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Stuck in the past, should it have been left in the past too?

“He whose lust lasts, lasts longest”

The Menier Chocolate Factory know exactly what they’re doing when they lead with the tagline ‘a filthy farce from a less enlightened age’. If that type of comedy is your thing, then come darken our doors and escape the woke crowd… Alan Bennett’s Habeus Corpus dates from 1973 and nothing about Patrick Marber’s admittedly stylish production here can hide that fact. 

Despite the quality of Bennett’s writing being fitfully evident with some really witty stuff, the major issue with the play lies in its uncertainty of form. It pushes towards farce but without any of that genre’s intricate cleverness and so can’t help but resemble a middling 1970s sitcom, with a base level of humour that even the most end-of-the-pier comic might have decided to leave in the dressing room. Continue reading “Review: Habeus Corpus, Menier Chocolate Factory”

Review: The Windsors – Endgame, Prince of Wales Theatre

Sadly a case of theatricus horribilis, The Windsors: Endgame proves a disappointing TV adaptation at the Prince of Wales Theatre

“I send you my very best wishes”

It almost feels to obvious to say it but given how often it seems to happen, it’s gotta be done – adapting a half-hour TV show to a 2 hours plus stage show (or film, for that matter) is difficult, you gotta have a real sense of purpose about why you’re doing it. Too often, there’s the feeling that it can be treated as an extended TV episode or even accorded less respect than that, meaning success is often hard to come by.

Which is all a longwinded way of saying I really didn’t enjoy The Windsors: Endgame, currently occupying the Prince of Wales Theatre while the Book of Mormon guys make their way back from Uganda. Though it is written by the same guys George Jeffrie and Bert Tyler-Moore (Jeffries having sadly passed away last year), it loses so much of the magic of the TV show, not least in recasting more than three quarters of the main roles. Continue reading “Review: The Windsors – Endgame, Prince of Wales Theatre”

TV Review: The Windsors, Series 3

Series 3 of The Windsors sees the show tailing off just a little, as it struggles to work out how fit Meghan in as a comic character

“There could be tanks on the streets of Kensington and Chelsea”

After a couple of years off-air, Series 3 of The Windsors returned with an avowed aim of real topicality but given the way that Harry and Meghan’s departure from royal life and the subsequent revelations have played out, it can sometimes be a tricky watch (if you’re pro-Meghan that is…).

I’d argue that the series does best when cutting a little looser from this territory too. Charles and Camilla’s visit to the Middletons’ is inspired as is the dip into accidental Satanism, Fergie choosing between Eugenie and Beatrice at Glastonbury is hilarious as is their diversion to chalet life in Verbier. Continue reading “TV Review: The Windsors, Series 3”

TV Review: The Windsors, Series 2

Series 2 of The Windsors ups the absurdity and the satire of this cracking TV show, with Vicki Pepperdine’s Anne a real highlight 

“You lied to me when you went to bed with Nicola Sturgeon in her holiday persona of Flame”

Series 2 of The Windsors ups the absurdity and the satire of this cracking TV show as Theresa May (Gillian Bevan), Nicola Sturgeon (a genius Amy Booth-Steel) and Donald Trump (Corey Johnson) (and Ellie Goulding too – nice to see Lizzy Connolly on TV) all make appearances to further lampoon our blessed Royal Family. 

Harry Enfield’s Prince Charles comes in for some particular stick as his organic credentials, urban planning skills and predilection for interfering in geopolitical affairs all get raked over the coals to great comic effect. Elsewhere, most everyone else gets away with flights of fancy rather than having their actions similarly scrutinised, for the most part. Continue reading “TV Review: The Windsors, Series 2”

TV Review: The Windsors, Series 1

Series 1 of The Windsors proves that Hugh Skinner can do no wrong, nor Haydn Gwynne for that matter 

“We’ve outgrown our usefulness like nipples on men”

Despite starring several of my theatrical faves, I’d never quite got around to watching The Windsors. But given that I’m off to see the stage show The Windsors: Endgame tomorrow, I thought I’d give Series 1 a whirl since it is on Netflix. And I have to say I absolutely frigging loved it. 

George Jeffrie and Bert Tyler-Moore’s parody of the House of Windsor takes the form of a fast-moving soap opera, which means that the joke rate is phenomenal and as in the fashion of many a comedy show, if you’re not enjoying a particular turn, you don’t have to wait more than a few minutes before the next one appears. Continue reading “TV Review: The Windsors, Series 1”

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”

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”

An assortment of October theatre news

Full casting has been announced for Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch’s upcoming production of Misfits, an innovative new hybrid of live theatre and digital content, playing 12-22 November 2020. Bookers will purchase a ticket which will allow them the choice of watching the show be performed live onstage in front of a socially
distanced audience or streamed to their homes, right up until the day of the show.

Misfits intertwines four inspirational tales of Essex resilience to make an unmissable world premiere by four of the region’s most exciting playwrights: Anne Odeke, Guleraana Mir, Kenny Emson and Sadie Hasler and will be co-directed by QTH Artistic Director Douglas Rintoul and Emma Baggott. The cast is Anne Odeke, who is also writing part of the piece, Gemma Salter, Mona Goodwin and Thomas Coombes. Continue reading “An assortment of October theatre news”

Film Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)

Armando Iannucci’s rollicking adaptation of The Personal History of David Copperfield is huge amounts of fun to watch

“You can’t complain about a nice bit of kipper”

You might not have picked a Charles Dickens adaptation for an Armando Iannucci big screen feature but evidenced in The Personal History of David Copperfield, it’s a pretty darn fantastic match. It’s a rollicking romp through the story, absolutely refreshed by this treatment as its warm comedy is sprinkled with notes of ruminative reflection on class and identity and just a touch of satirical bite. And by employing a truly diverse and talented ensemble, there’s something special here. 

For all the magnificence of Tilda Swinton’s Betsey Trotwood (truly exceptional), Peter Capaldi’s Mr Micawber and Ben Whishaw’s malevolent Uriah Heep, the real joy in the casting comes from the opportunities now given. Nikki Amuka-Bird is fantastic as the starched Mrs Steerforth, the kind of role she just hasn’t gotten to play before; so too Benedict Wong as Wickfield, it’s great to see such talent stretch their acting muscle this way, and so well too. Continue reading “Film Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)”

Lockdown TV review: The Dresser (2015)

Sirs Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins do much to banish my bad memories of Ronald Harwood in a spectacular version of The Dresser

“One Lear more or less in the world won’t make any difference”

Despite its stellar casting and excellent notices, it has taken a while to bring myself to watch the TV version of The Dresser.  In advance of the 2016 production which toured before hitting the West End, playwright Ronald Harwood took precisely no prisoners and gave exactly no shits in giving a series of interviews (#1, #2) which, to put it lightly, did not endear him to me. And rightly or wrongly (only being human), I let that colour my appreciation of his art.

A little distance has softened me though and I have to say, I found much to appreciate in this televised version, not least the presence of Sirs Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins  and Ian McKellen in the two central roles of an ageing Shakespearean and his manservant. Its the middle of the Second World War and their production of King Lear is still touring the regions, even though its leading man is perilously close to losing his faculties. Continue reading “Lockdown TV review: The Dresser (2015)”