The third series of Paul Abbott’s No Offence returns to Channel 4 in brilliantly unsentimental form
“What the f*** just happened?”
No Offence makes a welcome return to our television screens but with a quirk of timing, finds itself occupying some of the same space as Bodyguard. Who knows whether Paul Abbott and Jed Mercurio met in a pub to compare storylines and in any case, when they’re both done as compellingly as this, it really doesn’t matter.
We return to Friday Street police station and the big concern for the Manchester Met is currently local politics, a mayoral race potentially being derailed by the efforts of a far right pressure group. And during a hustings event, things go terribly, tragically wrong in a way that seems set to shape the emotional palette for the entire series to come. Continue reading “TV Review: No Offence Series 3 Episode 1”
“You might put me in prison but let me tell you this: you can’t judge me unless you’ve had it done to you.”
Blimey, I knew Unforgotten was good (here’s my Episode 1 review, and my Series 1 review) but I wasn’t expecting it to be this soul-shatteringly excellent. More fool me I suppose, Nicola Walker is a god among mortals and her presence alone is reliably proving a harbinger of excellence, but allied to Chris Lang’s scorching writing, it’s hard to imagine that we’ll see much better television than this before the year is out.
That it managed this by using elements that have been seen recently (historical child sex abuse as per Line of Duty; the Strangers on a Train twist featured in Silent Witness just last month) and imbuing them with a compelling freshness is impressive enough, but the way in which it revealed this at the mid-point of the series and yet still had hooks and surprises aplenty to keep me gripped right until the bitterly haunting end. Continue reading “TV Review: Unforgotten Series 2”
“Maybe we should be concentrating on the suitcase”
In the glut of new crime series that have started this week – Death In Paradise, No Offence – Chris Lang’s Unforgotten stands out for me as a clever twist on a crowded genre, plus it has the bonus of the ever-excellent Nicola Walker in a starring role. Unforgotten’s twist on the crime drama is to completely emphasise the latter over the former, so whilst each series hooks on a cold case brought back to life, the focus is on the lives that have continued in its wake.
The reveal of the format was a highlight of the beginning of the first series, the disparate stories of 4 seemingly unconnected people bound together by the discovery of their phone numbers in the victim’s diary. And this second series wisely sticks largely to the same formula, introducing us to a Brighton gay couple in the process of adopting, a nurse on a cancer ward in London, a teacher applying for a headship in a school in special measures, a young man lying to his mother…all of whom are sure to be linked to the body found in a suitcase in the River Lea. Continue reading “TV Review: Unforgotten Series 2 Episode 1”
“We grow out of the things we love”
Only a short run upstairs at the Royal Court for this Al Smith play, which premiered at HighTide last year and heads out on a whistlestop UK tour in November. Which is a bit of a shame as Richard Twyman’s production of Harrogate proves to be rather unsettlingly brilliant, anchored by two expertly slippery performance from Sarah Ridgeway and Nigel Lindsay, the latter a geniously counter-intuitive move considering how much I like him.
For as we meet the father and daughter combo enigmatically named Him and Her, it becomes increasingly clear that all is not what it seems. She’s 15 so he’s been letting her have a ‘drink’ drink but he’s also been stalking her and her boyfriend. And she needs prompting on some of the details of her life, like her GCSE subjects… With the ground ever unsteady, this relationship between man and woman, or should that be girl, is replayed twice more to really twist things up. Continue reading “Review: Harrogate, Royal Court”
“Don’t you feel any guilt?”
So having succumbed to the temptation to see Jim Broadbent in A Christmas Carol despite vowing not to do Christmas shows this year, I also went back to see the vicious Bull at the Young Vic for my fourth time in seeing Mike Bartlett’s drama. Recast since its first run at this theatre, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see actors as fine as Max Bennett, Susannah Fielding, Nigel Lindsay (in a suit!), and Marc Wootton and at just £10 for the ringside standing spots (which is the only way to see the show), I’d recommend catching it before it closes. See more about the show in this post.
Running time: 55 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Manuel Harlan
Booking until 16th January
“They weren’t lies, they were well researched stories that later turned out not to be true”
Just a quickie for this unexpected revisit to Great Britain. I hadn’t intended to go back to this Richard Bean play, which made a rapid transfer from the National Theatre to the Theatre Royal Haymarket after its up-to-the-minute emergence on the schedule after the culmination of a certain trial involving a certain Eastender-star-bashing redhead. But the offer of a good ticket and the chance to see Lucy Punch – of whom I’ve heard much but never seen on stage – tempted me once again into this murky world of tabloid junkies.
My original review can be read here and if anything, I think I might have been a little kind to it. The play hasn’t aged well, even in the six months since it opened as the fast-moving world of political, institutional and journalistic scandal moves on so quickly IRL that this fictional version already seems quaint. Add in that its bite has been evidently neutered by legal threats and its intelligence barely scrapes the surface of the ethical issues at hand, and it’s a bit of a damn squib for me. Punch was good though.
Year after year, I bust my ass writing about the hundreds of shows I see yet the most popular posts, without fail, are all about the hotness 😉
So let us do the annual ritual of casting off the Daley-like coyness for a while and appreciating the visual pleasure that theatre can bring.
The results from 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 can be found here for your delectation. And so without further ado, let’s take a deep breath, admire Harington’s abs, and dive into this year’s selection, in no particular order.
Continue reading “Leading Man of the Year 2014”
“I think I’m being punished for my wickedness”
When did we become a society so keen on a hot mess? I’m as guilty as anyone for finding guilty pleasure in (some of) the car crashes that increasingly clutter our television screens and if I protest that it’s only really the likes of Greg(g) Wallace I want to see make a fool of themselves on the dancefloor, one can equally argue that that is just the thin end of the wedge. Lindsay Lohan found herself very much at the deep end when the announcement that she would be making her stage debut in David Mamet’s Speed-The-Plow was first made, scepticism rather than enthusiasm being the prevailing tone, and the gleeful reports of a challenging first preview – which have been so incredibly widely reported (and again, I’m no innocent here) – would seem to indicate that many would like nothing more than to see her fall flat on her face.
Whatever the perceived sins of a celebrity, it’s not a particularly good look on any of us, this baying for failure and so I thought I do my best to redress the balance a little. I caught the show on Saturday night (still in preview, opening night is this coming Thursday) to find that Richard Schiff was off sick and understudy Adam Morris would be playing Bobby Gould. Morris was impressively almost entirely off-book (he also performed the matinée that day) and it just goes to show the unpredictability of theatre work, something that any theatrical debutante would have to get used to, especially when a production is in such early days as these. That’s not to place anyone beyond reproach but merely a recognition that getting a play up and running with delayed starts, cast changes and all in the first week alone is no mean feat. Continue reading “(Not really a) Review: Speed-The-Plow, Playhouse Theatre”
“That’s what we do, we destroy lives…but it’s on your behalf, because you like to read about it”
It’s not quite Beyoncé releasing her latest album without prior notice but it’s not far off. Richard Bean’s new play for the National was something of an open secret even if its specifics were unknown but still, announcing it with five days’ notice and no previews is a pretty bold move. What Great Britain has going for it though is a right-up-to-the-minute immediacy as Bean responds with speed to the scandals that have engulfed certain sections of the tabloid media in recent times and a court case that may or may not have just reached a verdict…
We’re in a satirical, pseudo-recognisable world – a ratings-hungry red-top (called The Free Press) is owned by a foreign-born media mogul who wants to buy a television station (an Irishman called Paschal O’Leary if you will) and has a fiercely ambitious news editor at its helm (a blonde woman called Paige Britain, she didn’t say she was “vindicated” so I have no idea who she was meant to be…). Manipulating their way to a position of huge influence with both Police and Parliament under their thumb, it seems nothing could go wrong. That is, until a little thing called phone hacking breaks into the national consciousness. Continue reading “Review: Great Britain, National Theatre”
“Everybody else works little fiddles, because that’s what the system is designed for”
Who knows what hold Alan Ayckbourn has over the theatrical establishment but by heavens, it is a strong one. As prolific a playwright as they come, the appetite for his plays is seemingly insatiable with what must be a constant stream of productions – I imagine one would be hard-pressed to find a week where there isn’t at least one of his plays being performed somewhere in the country. But his charms have never really worked on me, it is with a heavy heart that I hear there’s a new Ayckbourn somewhere with a cast I can’t resist (although I did only see one of his plays last year) and this time round, it is all Nigel Lindsay’s fault.
A Small Family Business is a 1987 play that was hailed as a searching examination of how Thatcherite values eroded societal links through the experience of one man realising that the family furniture business he has inherited is rife with corruption. But in 2014 it feels a little neutered, what once might have appeared daring has been nullified by a quarter century of rapacious capitalism and so what is left is the well-trodden farcical shenanigans that Ayckbourn loves so much, accompanied by an attempt at a darker side that sits very awkwardly indeed with the dated comedy. Continue reading “Review: A Small Family Business, National Theatre”