TV Review: The White Queen

This TV adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen proves rather schlockily enjoyable

“You live in a country that is divided”

Philippa Gregory’s novels have long been a pleasure for me, a guilty pleasure if I believed in such a thing, as her female-focused, historical fictions offer much trashy enjoyment. A miniseries of The White Queen was created in 2013 but though it aired on the BBC and garnered some award success, it proved to be a one-off (for five years at least).

The White Queen is an adaptation of her Cousins’ War series ((The White QueenThe Red Queen, and The Kingmaker’s Daughter) and uses the Wars of the Roses as its backdrop to explore the roles of some of the most powerful women in the country. Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, Anne Neville – all determined to parlay their dynastic power into a real shot at the English throne. Continue reading “TV Review: The White Queen”

Film Review: Crooked House (2017)

“The murderer is never the one you initially suspect”

A real treat here for fans of Agatha Christie as Crooked House is one of the few novels of hers that has yet to be adapted for the screen. With a screenplay by Julian Fellowes, Tim Rose Price and Gilles Paquet-Brenner, the latter of whom also directs, a curious release strategy sees it materialise on Channel 5 in the UK despite it being blessed with the kind of castings and high production values that you’d’ve thought would be destined for the cinema.

The story begins as so many of them do, with a murder. This time it is wealthy 80-some tycoon Aristide Leonides who kicks the bucket and the finger of suspicion doesn’t know where to point as it could any one of the disillusioned family members who also lived in the sumptuous family pile. His grand-daughter secures the services of a private investigator to look into the case discreetly and thus the mystery begins.

Is it Glenn Close’s mole-murdering Lady Edith, the sister of Leonides first wife? Christina Hendricks’ much younger second wife Brenda who stands to inherit everything? His hapless elder son or his hapless younger son or maybe one of their wives, a pair of crackingly vibrant performances from Gillian Anderson and Amanda Abbington respectively. And what secrets do Jenny Galloway’s nanny or Honor Kneafley’s 12 year old Josephine have up their sleeve?

Pleasingly, Max Irons’ investigator isn’t a Poirot or Marple-like savant and so the focus is allowed to rest on the unfurling of characters with murky motivations and a real sense of unease that percolates through the whole story. Sebastian Winterø’s cinematography plays into this with constantly interesting angles and Simon Bowles’ luscious production design is extraordinarily detailed in the way different rooms reflect their inhabitants.

Last but by no means least, there’s no denying the thrill that comes from a genuine shock of an ending that is brilliantly brutal, both in its reveal and its finality. Its darkness is possibly one of the reasons Crooked House hasn’t been filmed before but I love the fact that it is also one of Christie’s two favourites of her novels (the other being Ordeal By Innocence which was scheduled to be this year’s BBC/Sarah Phelps adaptation but which remains in limbo due to allegations made against one of its cast members).

 
 

 

 

 

 

DVD Review: The Riot Club

“I’m afraid you’re not really the right sort of chap”

Laura Wade’s Posh took the Royal Court by storm in 2010 and then the West End in 2012 with a slightly amended version, each time slipping quite easily into the contemporary political narrative with its skewering of a fictionalised version of the Bullingdon Club, an elite Oxford student dining club that has boasted the likes of David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson in its ranks. Wade’s intimation is clear, that the reckless and thoughtless behaviour of these men as students is symptomatic of their charmed future political careers as a whole and enclosed in the claustrophobic dining room of a gastropub that they proceed to thoroughly trash, the play had a horrendously compelling energy to it.

Wade has adapted her own play here into The Riot Club  and through the determined effort to make it work on screen, it has become quite the different beast. Personally, I wasn’t too keen on it, the changes detracting from the strengths of the story as I saw them, and the realities of making – and casting – a feature film have altered the whole underlying theme. A cast headed by model-handsome men (Sam Claflin, Douglas Booth, Sam Reid, Max Irons etc), most of whom get to ‘learn a lesson’ by the end, takes away from the vileness of their behaviour – it almost feels like director Lone Scherfig is letting them get away with it without ever really showing us the true ugliness of their political and personal prejudices.

Continue reading “DVD Review: The Riot Club”

Short Film Review #24

Call Register is the perfect film for anyone who has issues about what mobile telephones have done to our lives. Martin Freeman’s Kevin borrows his best mate’s phone to make a call, James Lance’s Julian, as he wants to set up a date with a girl he’s just met, Neve McIntosh’s Amanda. But Julian’s phone recognises the number and through an series of short phone calls, writer and director Ed Roe details much of the awkwardness around dating, especially when a friend has already been there first, and also adroitly explores the uniquely modern perils that mobiles have brought to the way in which we communicate. There’s much to enjoy here, not least the understated charm of all three actors, and also much that will be painfully familiar to anyone who’s ever called someone up for a date. Continue reading “Short Film Review #24”

Review: Farragut North, Southwark Playhouse

“The question you gotta ask yourself is do you want friends or whether you want to work for the president?”

Beau Willimon may now be better known for his screen work – he was head writer on the Netflix House of Cards and also penned Oscar-nominated film The Ides of March – but he started in the theatre and that film was actually based on a play, Farragut North. Its contemporary Washington machinations are based on his own experiences working on a failed presidential campaign but as with so many takes on modern politics, the shadow of the real thing looms large.

Stephen Bellamy is a highly ambitious political campaigner, working for a major candidate for the Democrat party’s presidential nomination and at the age of 25, already a seasoned old hand of 10 years’ experience. But in the world of spin, people are more concerned about scoring the advantage rather than doing the decent thing and the trust and loyalty that Stephen cared so little for on the way up the greasy pole, bites back with a vengeance on the way down. Continue reading “Review: Farragut North, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: The Poetry is in the Pity, Donmar Warehouse

“No prayers nor bells, nor any voice of mourning save the choirs”

Poetry is one of those art-forms that has kind of passed me by in life: I never really engaged with it nor made the effort to acquaint myself post-education and I can only really quote two bits at you, one random verse of The Lady of Shalott and a large chunk of Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est. For the one area of poetry that did make an impact on me when I was younger was the First World War writings of poets like Siegfried Sassoon, Alfred Noyes and Owen which appealed to the history student in me, and reinforced by school trips and family holiday excursion which took in the haunting battlefields and achingly huge fields of memorials in northern France and Belgium, they have long lingered in my mind.

So when the Donmar Warehouse announced their Poetry Week under the aegis of Josephine Hart, Lady Saatchi, a most passionate advocate of widening the audience that poetry reaches, this afternoon The Poetry is in the Pity was the one that stood out for me, especially with its exciting cast of actors who would be reading: in this case, Kenneth Cranham, Rupert Evans, Max Irons and Ruth Wilson. Hart herself has sadly been quite ill and so was unable to attend, Deborah Findlay stepping in and fulfilling the role of narrator, providing context and connections between the programme of poems she has put together, fulfilling her mission of trying to demystify, illuminate and intensify the experience of listening to poetry. Continue reading “Review: The Poetry is in the Pity, Donmar Warehouse”

The 2009 Ian Charleson Awards

First prize

Ruth Negga, for Aricia in Phèdre (National Theatre)

Second prize

Max Bennett, for Claudio in Measure for Measure (Theatre Royal, Plymouth) and Frank in Mrs Warren’s Profession (Theatre Royal, Bath)

Third prize

Natalie Dew, for Celia in As You Like It (Curve Theatre)

Special commendations as previous winners

Mariah Gale, for Celia in As You Like It (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Rebecca Hall, for Hermione in The Winter’s Tale (Bridge Project at the Old Vic)

Commendations

Hedydd Dylan, for Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion (Clwyd Theatr Cymru)
Tracy Ifeachor, for Rosalind in As You Like It (Curve Theatre)
Max Irons, for Max Piccolomini in Wallenstein (Chichester Festival Theatre)
Tunji Kasim, for Lucius and Romulus in Julius Caesar (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Vanessa Kirby, for Regina in Ghosts (Octagon Theatre, Bolton)
Keira Knightley, for Jennifer in The Misanthrope (Comedy Theatre)
Jack Laskey, for Orlando in As You Like It (Shakespeare’s Globe)
Harry Lloyd, for Oswald in Ghosts (Arcola Theatre)
John MacMillan, for Malcolm in Macbeth (Royal Exchange Theatre), and Rosencrantz in Hamlet(Wyndhams Theatre)
David Ononokpono, for Orlando in As You Like It (Curve Theatre)
Henry Pettigrew, for Marcellus and Second Gravedigger in Hamlet (Wyndhams Theatre)
Prasanna Puwanarajah, for Messenger in Thyestes (Arcola Theatre)
George Rainsford, for Bertram in All’s Well That Ends Well (National Theatre)
Sam Swainsbury, for Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Salerio in The Merchant of Venice (Propeller)
Ellie Turner, for Agnes in The School for Wives (Upstairs at the Gatehouse)