Review: The Wasp, Hampstead Downstairs

“Looks like we’re both a bit more like each other than we thought”

Maintaining an enviable record of attracting superior acting talent, the Hampstead Downstairs brings Dame-in-the-making Sinéad Matthews back to the stage alongside MyAnna Buring in The Wasp, a new two-hander from Morgan Lloyd Malcolm that casts a disturbing light over the legacy of our school days and how we can let them shape us for years into the future. I am convinced that we will be talking about Matthews in 40 years time in the way we talk about Judi Dench and Maggie Smith now so it is always exciting to get to see her work, especially in such intimate surroundings as these.

The Wasp sees her take on the role of Heather, a well-to-do married woman struggling to conceive who makes contact with old school chum Carla, significantly less well-off and expecting her fifth child, after tracking her down on Facebook. Although close as kids, high school saw them drift into different social groups and let bullying tendencies take over, so it isn’t immediately apparent why Heather has made contact after so long. Cheating husbands and surrogate pregnancies seem to be on the table but when a bag full of money and an even stranger proposition spills forth, the first of many twists kicks in. Continue reading “Review: The Wasp, Hampstead Downstairs”

Review: Strangers on a Train, Gielgud Theatre

“My theory is that everyone is a potential murderer”

Despite never having seen or read Strangers on a Train, I seemed to carry a strong idea of what the plot would entail. So of course I was disappointed to find out that the play wasn’t actually about two men deciding to kill each other’s wives on a long journey on the rails and that the action actually left the train carriage pretty early on. Expectations aside, I was also a little surprised at just how cinematic Robert Allan Ackerman’s production was, a veritable film noir brought to life in all its tense monochrome glory.

But for all the gloss that Tim Goodchild’s ever-revolving set and Peter Wilms’ frequent projections bring, there’s a curious lack of effective theatricality to Craig Warner’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel. The fateful initial meeting between Laurence Fox’s Guy and Jack Huston’s Bruno is charged with homoerotic tension as the latter teasingly offers to kill the former’s unloved wife if he will reciprocate by offing his overbearing father. Yet this isn’t something that is played out in the psychodrama that follows, exploring the effects on each man of perpetrating their crimes. Continue reading “Review: Strangers on a Train, Gielgud Theatre”

TV Review: Ripper Street Series 1

“Whitechapel calls you back”

Victorian crime procedural Ripper Street burst onto our screens at the beginning of this year with a blood-spattered élan and a perhaps more violent streak than many were expecting, but it grew to be a most successful series with audiences (and me) and has since been renewed for a second series. Set in Whitechapel, the first episode had a Jack the Ripper focus, which with the title of the show, proved a bit of misdirection in terms of the series as a whole as the crimes that H Division ended up investigating were of a hugely wide-ranging nature and not just focused on the notorious serial killer (although the Ripper’s exploits did form a backdrop to part of the series-long arc).

It’s a period of history, and particularly social history, that I have long found interesting (I studied it as part of my degree) as notions of crime and punishment were rapidly changing and the nature of policing was also changing with the introduction of a more scientific approach to solving crimes. So Matthew Macfadyen’s DI Reid and Jerome Flynn’s DS Flynn are joined by US army surgeon Captain Jackson, played by Adam Rothenburg, as they work their way through the serious crimes, civil unrest, and personal vendettas that crop up on a weekly basis. Continue reading “TV Review: Ripper Street Series 1”