News: Stars Announced For The Marlowe Sessions

Stars including Elliot Cowan, Thalissa Teixera, Jack Holden and Adrian Schiller announced for The Marlowe Sessions, Re-imagining The Pioneer of Elizabethan Theatre

This June, the Malthouse Theatre in Canterbury will bring together a cast of leading expert Elizabethan actors and some of the biggest names in British theatre for a once-in-a-lifetime celebration of the works of Christopher Marlowe. The Marlowe Sessions is a true reimagining of Elizabethan Theatre’s enfant terrible.

Eleanor Wyld (Misfits, Thirteen, Hamlet) and Adrian Schiller (The Last Kingdom, Dr Who, Victoria), will rise to the challenge of the lead roles of Abigail and Barabbas in Marlowe’s classic The Jew of Malta. The on-stage pairing, who respectively played Jessica and Shylock in the Sam Wanamaker Globe Theatre’s acclaimed 2021 production of The Merchant of Venice, this time taking on the parts widely accepted to have provided Shakespeare with the blueprint for the original courtroom drama. Continue reading “News: Stars Announced For The Marlowe Sessions”

TV Review: Magpie Murders / Hotel Portofino

In which I sample the first episodes of new Britbox series Magpie Murders and Hotel Portofino

“Do be careful not to get smuts on your dress”

Across the various streaming platforms that I’ve signed up for, it can be hard to keep track of just how much there is to watch. But Britbox are standing out at the moment as they’re pumping out quite a bit of original content and so I thought I’d dip my toe into the waters of two of their latest dramas.

Magpie Murders has been adapted from Anthony Horowitz’s book of the same name and is one that you definitely need to pay attention to for its a murder mystery that all gets rather meta. When mystery author Alan Conway is bumped off at his country pile, his editor sets about her own investigation as the answers seem to lie in an unfinished manuscript which we also see onscreen. Continue reading “TV Review: Magpie Murders / Hotel Portofino”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 23

What the… Series 23 of Silent Witness maintains a rich vein of form but then really upends the apple cart 

“What would Thomas do?”

All good things must come to an end, eh? Having settled into an excellent run of form with all four members of the Lyall team firing on all cylinders, Series 23 of Silent Witness culminates in some serious upheaval with the departure of no less than two of them in a brutally effective final story that probably ranks as one of the best ever.

So farewell to Clarissa, leaving on her own terms to pursue new opportunities, Liz Carr’s performance hands down one of the best on TV in and of itself before you even factor in the shot in the arm it has been for representation. And with a pleasingly meaty storyline involving her mother, it proved a satisfying journey although a gutting loss for the show. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 23”

Film Review: Belfast (2021)

Kenneth Branagh’s memoir-of-sorts Belfast ends up an insufferably twee film despite the talent involved

“They just kick with the left foot”

There’s a line in the cracking TV show Community that often comes to mind, “just because something is in black and white doesn’t mean it’s good”. There’s no doubting that Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, based in part at least on his own childhood, is entirely heartfelt but the filming style feels entirely like an affectation, bringing nothing to the storytelling itself.

This air of nostalgic indulgence is something that characterises the film as a whole. As it uses a child’s perspective to depict a slice of wholesome working-class family life, the backdrop to which just happens to be the start of the Troubles, there’s a weird sense of aimlessness here, a refusal to be drawn into any kind of meaningful comment on a conflict that must have loomed so large . Continue reading “Film Review: Belfast (2021)”

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”

TV Review: Messiah – The Promise (2004)

With its third instalment The Promise, Messiah loses its way a little bit given the high standards of the first two serials

“I wasn’t alone, other people were there”

The problem with doing things so damn well, is that you then have to live up to those standards. Messiah found itself in such a position after a first and second series that helped to redefine the serial killer genre and with  2004’s The Promise, it struggled to meet that bar. Written again by Lizzie Mickery, it suffers from the unnecessary compulsion to cleave to the template of prior series rather than having the boldness to step outside.

So with Ken Stott’s Red and Neil Dudgeon’s Duncan pasts having figured so heavily in the last two series, it isn’t hard to work out that it is Frances Grey’s Kate to have a go through the emotional wringer. It starts sooner than you might think with a daring opening sequence set in a prison that is highly effective. And as deaths of people involved start to mount up, long buried secrets prove the key to finding the killer and saving the day. Continue reading “TV Review: Messiah – The Promise (2004)”

TV Review: Waking the Dead Series 7

Series 7 of Waking the Dead continues its golden era, with a walloping personal impact for Boyd 

“I wish you never found that body”

The introduction of George Rainsford as Boyd’s son Luke was a really ballsy move from Waking the Dead.  His disappearance has long been a driver for Boyd’s every action, particularly in cases where missing children were involved, so you knew that Luke’s return would be noteworthy to say the least.

But I don’t think anyone would have predicted where Series 7 would take us. With Luke still deep in the throes of drug addiction and Boyd unwilling or unable to ask for help, there’s a deeply tragic trajectory to their relationship, ultimately proving desperately devastating in the final episodes. Continue reading “TV Review: Waking the Dead Series 7”

Film Review: Notes on a Scandal (2006)

A marvellously against-type Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett score a huge hit in Notes on a Scandal

“Lasagne irritates my bowels, I’ll ask for a small portion”

Intelligently adapted from Zoë Heller’s novel by Patrick Marber, you get the feeling that Notes on a Scandal would be good even if anyone was acting in it. But since Richard Eyre’s film boasts Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett as its leads, it is something extraordinary.

Barbara and Sheba both teach at the same Islington secondary school. Barbara a long-serving history teacher, Sheba a brand new recruit to the art department, an unlikely friendship develops between the pair, one which detonates when the latter starts an affair with a pupil. Continue reading “Film Review: Notes on a Scandal (2006)”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 5

Full of shocks that actually mean something, Series 5 of Spooks is one of its absolute best

“The British people will accept anything if you serve it up with a picture of Will Young in the shower”

A cracking series of Spooks that starts off with a series of bangs, robbing Colin of his life and Juliet Shaw of her ability to walk, the introduction of Ros Myers to the team is an invigorating success, particularly as she inspires Jo to become more badass too. This incarnation of the team really does click well, responding smoothly to the enforced changes in personnel, though newly single father Adam’s mental health crisis too often feels like a plot device rather than a genuine exploration of PTSD.

Subject-wise, the relevance level remains high, particularly pertinent when it comes to national crises with panic buying and over-stuffed hospitals feeling all too real. The role of fundamentalist zealots is shared equally between Christian and Islamic believers over the series and even if the finale underwhelms somewhat, the eco-terrorism theme hasn’t become any less significant.

Nicola Walker-ometer
I’m still not over it, the defenestration of Ruth Evershed. Having finally made it to a date with Harry, which went about as well as could be expected, she runs up against a murderous Oliver Mace conspiracy and ends up having to fake her own death to protect Harry and ends up fleeing the country. An ignominious end for the heart of the team.  Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 5”