TV Review: Jonathan Creek, Series 4

Series 4 sees Jonathan Creek lose its way badly as chauvinism slides into misogyny amid Alan Davies and Julia Sawalha’s strange chemistry

“Now it’ll save your time and mine, I think, if I truncate”

I found series 4 of Jonathan Creek surprisingly difficult to watch. Even if the quality had started to taper off over the course of the previous three seasons, something critical had been lost at this point, far over and beyond the departure of original star Caroline Quentin. Her replacement was Julia Sawalha’s Carla, introduced in the 2001 Christmas special and though she shares a screwball-ish energy with Alan Davies’ duffle-coated protagonist, she’s been married off to Ade Edmondson’s svengali Brendan.

It’s an odd choice that unsettles the whole rhythm of the show, as it devotes way too much time to the uneasy relationship between the pair. And as David Renwick’s writing fully immerses itself in its worst male chauvinist excesses – just look at how women are presented in the first episode, from the prizewinner presented as a grotesque to Anna Francolini being done dirty as a ditzy assistant – the idea that the majority of female characters now have to throw themselves at Jonathan’s feet, is delusional nonsense. Continue reading “TV Review: Jonathan Creek, Series 4”

Review: A Kind of People, Royal Court

Not much festive cheer around at the Royal Court, but plenty of grimly insightful writing in Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s A Kind of People

“This will bleed and bleed”

Opening with the kind of house party you’d be quite happy to end up at after a few drinks down the pub, you can kinda see where the Royal Court is coming from in programming Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s A Kind of People over Christmas. But as in the tradition of all good parties – and most good plays – something goes wrong, conflict must arise, and any sense of festive cheer is soon Scrooged away.

Bhatti’s play is set in the bosom of a tight-knit multicultural, working class community, with mixed-race couple Gary and Nicky at its heart. With friends and family forever knocking on their door, their home doesn’t lack for conviviality but it is lacking space – they’re bursting out of the seams of their council flat. But Gary’s up for a promotion at work, with a serious pay rise, so things could be looking up. Continue reading “Review: A Kind of People, Royal Court”

Review: [BLANK], Donmar Warehouse

Much to admire technically in [BLANK] at the Donmar Warehouse but it doesn’t quite land the emotional hit it aims for

“Have you ever felt like you were standing exactly to the left of your life?”

On the face of it, [BLANK] has all the makings of an outright success. With Alice Birch writing and Maria Aberg, this Donmar Warehouse and Clean Break co-production is a powerful indictment of how the vicissitudes of our criminal justice system hit women, and their families, the hardest by far.

And in terms of a text, it is undoubtedly an audacious undertaking, consisting of 100 scenes from which directors can craft their own narratives. Here though is where the production doesn’t quite click, Aberg trying her best to form some, any, kind of flow but the form just doesn’t allow for it. Continue reading “Review: [BLANK], Donmar Warehouse”

Review: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Young Vic

“I woke up that morning and the only thing I could do was look around for my shoes”

First things first: there’s a credit in the programme for teeth by Fangs FX but I was sorely disappointed not to notice where these came in and this set my mood for the whole show. Joe Turner’s Come and Gone is a play by August Wilson which forms part of a cycle of plays looking at the African-American experience in the twentieth century. It appears here in London at the Young Vic until the 3rd July.

Set in 1911, Seth and Bertha run a boarding house in Pittsburgh filled an array of characters who drift in and out, some for days, some for weeks, all dealing with the new post-emancipation world they find themselves in. The gentle atmosphere is rocked with the arrival of Herald Loomis and his daughter Zonia. Herald has spent seven years in slavery to a white planter named Joe Turner and is seeking his wife Martha, who disappeared four years ago from their home in Tennessee. He is a menacing half-mad presence and the other boarders deal with him in various ways as people coming to terms with their own experiences too. Continue reading “Review: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Young Vic”