TV Review: Rules of the Game

Kieran Bew and Ben Batt for the heart; Maxine Peake, Rakhee Thakrar and Alison Steadman for the head; Rules of the Game offers some luxury casting for a ferocious tale of post-#MeToo workplace life

“You don’t get to leave us, you’re part of this”

With obedient poodle Nadine Dorries doing her level best to distract from the utter shitshow that has become Boris Johnson’s reign by wielding a headline-stealing axe over the BBC, it feels like we ought to be celebrating whatever drama Aunty can still provide us at the moment. Latest up is Ruth Fowler’s 4-parter Rules of the Game which stars a red-hot Maxine Peake and makes Alison Steadman as scary as she’s ever been.

Set in and around the offices of Fly Dynamics, a Cheshire-based, family-run sportswear company that is on the verge of a stock market flotation designed to take them global, COO Sam finds a significant fly in the ointment when she trips over a body in their foyer. In a Big Little Lies-ish twist, we don’t find out who is it but rather, we’re plunged into the trials and tribulations of what turns out to be the most toxic of workplaces. Continue reading “TV Review: Rules of the Game”

News: Royal & Derngate announces further productions for its 2021/22 Made in Northampton season

Royal & Derngate has announced four further productions to complete its 2021/22 Made in Northampton season. A new production of Joe Penhall’s biting contemporary satire Blue/Orange is brought to the stage this autumn by the producing team behind Ralph Fiennes’ hugely successful Four Quartets which is soon to transfer to the West End. Giles Terera and Michael Balogun will collaborate with Artistic Director James Dacre with original music by Valgeir Sigurðsson of Bedroom Community. The venue then premieres The Wellspring, an autobiographic work from playwright Barney Norris and his father David Owen Norris, directed by Jude Christian. The venue’s previously announced production of An Improbable Musical will then premiere with a cast including Niall AshdownRuth BrattAdam CourtingJosie Lawrence and Janet Etuk.

This autumn also sees Royal & Derngate’s artist development programme Generate host a festival of new work and present 60 Miles by Road or Rail chronicling the recent history of Northampton Town. Meanwhile, the venue’s charity compilation album Incidental: Music for the Stage, will be released on 24 September on CD and all major streaming platforms. Continue reading “News: Royal & Derngate announces further productions for its 2021/22 Made in Northampton season”

News: Royal & Derngate and Atlantic Screen Music announce new album Incidental: Music For The Stage

Royal & Derngate Theatres and Atlantic Screen Music have announced the release of a contemporary classical and electronic music album INCIDENTAL: Music For The Stage featuring original compositions for theatre inspired by some of the most famous plays and novels in the English Language. The charity compilation album will contain original music from stage productions by composers such as White Lies, Anne Dudley, These New Puritans, Rachel Portman, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Isobel Waller-Bridge, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Renell Shaw alongside spoken performances from actors including Judi Dench, Amanda Seyfried, David Harewood, Felicity Jones, Giles Terera, Patricia Routledge, James Norton, Sharon D Clarke, Iain Glen, Lesley Sharp, Stephen Fry, Indira Varma, Maxine Peake, Roger Allam, Anton Lesser and Simon Russell Beale.


Together they will raise vital funds to support Northampton Royal & Derngate Theatres’ reopening, helping the venue to recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic and to continue to produce their award winning Made in Northampton productions. The album is available to pre-order at incidentalmusicforthestage.com or pre-save on Spotify, Bandcamp, iTunes, Deezer and Tidal here. To launch the project today, two singles from the album are being released: Rachel Portman’s prologue to A Tale of Two Cities featuring Judi Dench and White Lies’ prologue to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof featuring Amanda Seyfried, both of which are available to listen to here and to download here. Continue reading “News: Royal & Derngate and Atlantic Screen Music announce new album Incidental: Music For The Stage”

A round-up of February theatre news

Ros is looking for romance. Richard needs a new companion. They’re a match! But the year is 2020, and dating isn’t simple. From glitchy Zoom introductions, to their socially distanced first date in an actual restaurant, Adventurous follows the twists and turns of Ros and Richard’s relationship as they negotiate technology, treachery…and tortoises.

Filmed in lockdown, this is the premiere of actor Ian Hallard’s debut play. Both comic and touching, Adventurous tells the unexpected story of two single souls with an unstable connection. It reunites Hallard with Olivier Award-winner Sara Crowe following their many double-acts in Jermyn’s Street Theatre’s 2018 production of Noel Coward’s Tonight at 8.30. This online production is a heartwarming and hilarious treat. Continue reading “A round-up of February theatre news”

10 top theatrical moments of 2020

In lieu of trying to make sense of this shitshow of a year through the normal year-end lists, I thought I’d just stick with an unranked list of 10 of my top theatrically based productions of the year

For reference, here’s my 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list2016 list2015 list and 2014 list.

Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre

A rather exhilaratingly good take on the familiar Chekhov classic, a worthy presence in the West End.

The Wicker Husband, Watermill Theatre

One of the last things I saw before lockdown and what a gorgeous lingering memory to have, I pray that this is not the last we hear of this beautiful new musical. Continue reading “10 top theatrical moments of 2020”

News: Tristram Kenton’s stage archive – the before-they-were-famous edition

One of the joys of seeing so much theatre in London is that sense of seeing any number of actors at the beginning of their careers and Tristram Kenton has been doing that for years now. Here’s just some of those big names as whippersnappers on the British stage:
https://www.theguardian.com/stage/gallery/2020/nov/11/before-they-were-famous-stars-tristram-kenton-at-the-guardian-in-pictures

Photos: Tristram Kenton

TV Review: Jonathan Creek, Series 3

Elements of David Renwick’s writing starts to show signs of flagging as the magic starts to fade in Series 3 of Jonathan Creek

“What exactly does all this add up to?”

After a decent first couple of series, the third season of Jonathan Creek sees the show start to wobble a bit as the raft of impossible crimes sways from ingenious plotting to improbably convoluted. Episodes tackle disappearing aliens and a man who thinks he has sold his soul to the devil and it doesn’t always come off.

That said, there’s still some classic tales in here too. The revelation of ‘The Eyes of Tiresias’ is artfully done and ‘Miracle in Crooked Lane’ is properly, admirably fiendish even with its meta-theatrics. Alan Davies and Caroline Quentin both continue in good form but David Renwick’s writing doesn’t permit more than piecemeal character development which, three series in, leaves them a little flat. Continue reading “TV Review: Jonathan Creek, Series 3”

TV Review: Messiah – The Harrowing (2005)

Helen McCrory and Maxine Peake help elevate Messiah – The Harrowing to arguably the series’ devastatingly effective high point

“See beyond the victim, see the killer”

The first series of Messiah is certainly one of the best, setting the wheels in motion for an effective crime series, but I’d argue that it is the fourth instalment Messiah – The Harrowing that is the best of them all. The arrival of a new writer – Terry Cafolla – releases the show from the baggage of its legacy which seemed to weigh the last series one and produces something that is really, well, harrowing.

Harking back to that first series and its connecting device of people being killed in the style of the Apostles, the murderous connection here ends up being Dante’s The Divine Comedy and its descent into hell. And weighted around the death by suicide of the daughter of one of their colleagues, Red and his team (with Maxine Peake’s DS Clarke now in for a retired Kate) find themselves once again up against the darkest parts of human nature. Continue reading “TV Review: Messiah – The Harrowing (2005)”

September theatre news, the UK version

Chichester Festival Theatre has announced their Autumn plans and it looks to be a good’un. It includes:
– Sarah Kane’s Crave, directed by Tinuke Craig and starring Erin Doherty and Alfred Enoch, staged in a socially distanced Festival Theatre for 10 performances and live streamed to digital audiences
– for Christmas, a series of festive concerts (including one with Rebeccas Caine and Trehearn), followed by Chichester Festival Youth Theatre in a new version of Pinocchio by Anna Ledwich, directed by Dale Rooks
Michael Ball, Sheila Hancock and Patricia Routledge in conversation with Edward Seckerson
– cabaret and comedy including Frisky & Mannish, The Black Cat Cabaret, Barely Methodical Troupe, Rich Hall, Suzi Ruffell, Russell Kane and Rosie Jones
– music ranging from a celebration of Sondheim with West End stars, to a song recital by Kate Royal, a new concert from Joe Stilgoe and a portrait of Rachmaninoff with Henry Goodman and Lucy Parham Continue reading “September theatre news, the UK version”