Less reviews, more notifications that a wonderful radio version of Nick Payne’s Constellationsis now available to listen to on Radio 3, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and George Mackay. It’s well worth your time but be warned, it could well lead to expensive splurges to see the four forthcoming West End casts of Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah, Peter Capaldi and Zoë Wanamaker, Omari Douglas and Russell Tovey, and Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd.
Sasha Yevtushenko also directs a production of Elegyas part of this double bill, a play which I don’t remember half as fondly, despite a strong cast at the Donmar Warehouse. Here again, Juliet Stevenson, Deborah Findlay and Marilyn Nnadebe elevate the production to must-listen levels but it just isn’t as gut-wrenchingly affecting a piece of writing in the end.
Last up is Giles Terera’s The Meaning of Zong, the debut play for this talented performer which is now receiving its premiere on radio. It’s an extraordinary dramatisation of a shocking piece of British history that very few of us will know about, one which is vital to add to the discourse that has emerged since last summer and a play that must be put on major stages as soon as we can.
Clarissa, wife of a diplomat, is adept at spinning tales of adventure but when a murder takes place in her own drawing room she finds live drama much harder to cope with.
Desperate to dispose of the body before her husband arrives with an important politician, she enlists the help of her guests. Hilarity ensues when they are interrupted by the arrival of wry detective, Inspector Lord.
Starring: Nari Blair-Mangat | Nick Blakeley | Brian Bovell | Richard Clifford | Adam Gillen | Jessica Hynes | Sir Derek Jacobi | Matthew Kelley | Gerard McCarthy | Helen Monks | Gloria Onitiri | Stephanie Siadatan
An unhappy game of romantic follow-the-leader explodes into murder one weekend at The Hollow, home of Sir Henry and Lucy Angkatell. Dr. Cristow, the Harley Street lothario, is at the centre of the trouble when, assembled in one place, we find his dull but devoted wife Gerda, his mistress and prominent sculptor Henrietta, and his former lover and Hollywood film star Veronica. As the list of romantic associations grows so does the list of potential suspects when someone is shot dead.
Nearly everyone has a motive but only one of them did the deed.
Starring: Samantha Bond | Simon Callow | James Dreyfus | Kathryn Drysdale | Richard Fleeshman | Beth Granville | Angela Griffin | Laura Haddock | Tom Hughes | Adam James | Valentine Olukoga | Nina Sosanya | Nia Towle
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 coupleof 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”
AKA the one where they take it too far… Messiah V – The Rapture replaces the entire cast and loses its soul
“A new start is good for me…”
After fourinstalmentsoverfive years, it took three years for the Messiah series to return with The Rapture, a self-described ‘second chapter’ for the show written by Oliver Brown. And it has to be described thus because it is the first Messiah story not to feature Ken Stott’s DCI Red Metcalfe at its heart. And yet it doesn’t try to distinguish itself at all as it retreads the ‘serial killer following a bizarre pattern’ storyline that has been the series’ hallmark.
The core team has been entirely replaced, but baffingly with fascimiles of themself. Gruff lead detective with a haunted past, supported by young female and gruff older sergeants. Marc Warren, Marsha Thomason and Daniel Ryan are all fine in their roles but having to get to know an entirely new cast in the fifth series of a show, and with a reduced running time to boot, just makes you wonder why they thought besmirching the Messiah name in this way was an acceptable idea. Continue reading “TV Review: Messiah – The Rapture (2008)”
A rare foray into the world of podcasts see me listening to the Nina Sosanya-starring Seeds and getting properly freaked out by horror anthology At Your Peril
“I think I’ve got this far before”
You have to admire a creative response to this coronavirus bullsh*t. No Stone Theatre were in the R&D stage of their stage show Seeds of Hope but with Covid putting those plans awry, they have reconfigured it into an audio drama called Seeds and writer Nick Walker has reconstructed its narrative to create a podcast series, the first episode of which is now available.
Seeds is based on the true story of Nikolai Vavilov, a plant geneticist who founded the world’s first seed bank in Leningrad but soon found himself on the wrong side of Stalin’s favour. Walker uses the story of an amnesiac patient waking up in modern-day St Petersburg, played by the marvellous Nina Sosanya, to explore not only the tragedy of the past but the prescience of Vavilov’s work around food security and biodiversity. Continue reading “Podcast review: Seeds + At Your Peril”
Starring Michael Sheen and David Tennant, Simon Evans’ lockdown TV show Staged is amiable fun
“Come on, show us your pineapple”
A lot of people I know have fallen very hard for Stagedso obviously I have to be contrary in saying that I found it amiably good fun rather than essential humour. Born out of lockdown ripping the heart out of the entertainment industry, the show – conceived by Simon Evans (also writer and director) and Phin Glynn – is something of a meta-drama as Michael Sheen and David Tennant play Michael Sheen and David Tennant.
The set-up of Staged is that the actors were meant to be starting rehearsals for a production of Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author and their director, Evans, has hit on the idea of moving those rehearsals online. The reality though is that it is about anything but, as the pair banter hilariously from their respective homes, cycling through squabbles about the billing order on the poster, to enunciation, lockdown routines and domestic dramas, all the while taking any opportunity to puncture the other’s actorly ego. Continue reading “TV Review: Staged”
W1A remains entirely watchable in Series 3 but repetition sets in to blunt its comic edges
“It may be the future but it’s still the BBC”
Returning to W1A has been good fun, though watching its three series back-to-back, it is interesting to see just how much it wears its concept increasingly thin. Series 1 was a winner, introducing its cast of misfits all trying to navigate the bureauracy of the BBC and avoid doing as much work as possible but even by Series 2, the strains were clear to see.
John Morton’s Twenty Twelve, the show that kicked off this mockumentary mini-universe, had an inbuilt advantage in that it had a clearly defined end-point, the thing that everyone was working towards. By contrast, W1A has a sense of ambling on which, while perfectly pleasant to watch, means that a terminal case of diminishing returns sets in. Continue reading “TV Review: W1A (Series 3)”