Series 1 of Philippa Gregory’s The Spanish Princess introduces Elliot Cowan and Harriet Walter to the mix with great success
“I won’t be passed around Europe like a colection plate”
Following on from The White Princess, The Spanish Princess is based on the Philippa Gregory novels The Constant Princess and The King’s Curse, and the first instalment of eight episodes tackles the arrival of Catherine of Aragon to England to meet the man she has been betrothed to since they were both children, Arthur, heir apparent to Henry VII.
The biggest problem, aside from the weather and the racism (members of her court had Moorish and descent), is that the epistolary courtship that had so wooed her teenage heart, was actually written by his younger brother Henry…plot twist. But when Arthur died young, it meant that the plan for peace between England and Spain could still be found in another marriage. Continue reading “TV Review: The Spanish Princess, Series 1”
Lucy Kirkwood returns to the National Theatre with The Welkin, starring a brilliant ensemble led by Maxine Peake
“Nobody blames God when there’s a woman can be blamed instead”
There are moments in Lucy Kirkwood’s new play The Welkin that are just outstanding. The opening tableau of silhouetted women engaged in housework is one for the ages, the early montage of women being empanelled onto a jury is as compelling a piece of social history as has ever been committed to the stage as well as looking stunning, and the final scene is equally full of iconic imagery (that veil, that walk, that ribbon, that realisation!).
Set on the Norfolk/Suffolk borders in 1759, the play focuses on a quirk of English justice at the time. A child has died and Sally Poppy has been sentenced for the crime (by men) but as she is claiming to be pregnant – something which if true, would commute her sentence from death to transportation – a “jury of matrons” must decide if she is telling the truth. Thus 12 local woman are summoned and locked in a room to determine her fate. Continue reading “Review: The Welkin, National Theatre”
Jessie Buckley and Josh O’Connor headline a new production of Romeo and Juliet, while Callum Scott Howells and Rosie Sheehy star in Gary Owen’s Romeo and Julie, among other big news from the National Theatre
Simon Godwin returns to the National Theatre to direct Shakespeare’s ROMEO & JULIET following his critically-acclaimed productions of Antony and Cleopatra and Twelfth Night in the Olivier Theatre. Set in modern Italy in a world where Catholic and secular values clash, Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, Judy) and Josh O’Connor (The Crown, God’s Own Country) play the two young lovers who strive to transcend a world of violence and corruption. Fisayo Akinade (The Antipodes, Barber Shop Chronicles) is cast as Mercutio. The production will open in the Olivier Theatre in August 2020.
Set and costume design by Soutra Gilmour, lighting design by Lucy Carter, composition by Michael Bruce and sound design by Christopher Shutt. Continue reading “News: new productions and casting updates for the National Theatre”
I might have taken a break from reviewing for the last couple of months, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre. Here’s some brief thoughts on most of what I saw in July.
On Your Feet, aka the rhythm will get you, sometimes
the end of history…, aka how can you get cheese on toast so wrong
Equus, aka hell yes for Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting design
Games for Lovers, aka straight people be crazy
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, aka the one that got my goat
The Girl on the Train, aka Philip McGinley in shorts
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, aka Another Dream? dream on
Uncle Vanya, aka I really need to stop booking for plays like this with casts like that
Jellyfish, aka justice for the second best play of last year
Sweat, aka Clare Perkins should always be on in the West End
Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 The Musical, aka yay for lovely new musicals in the West End
The Light in the Piazza, aka Molly Lynch fricking nails it
Jesus Christ Superstar, aka was third time the charm?
Continue reading “July theatre round-up”
“How is a woman to have a husband when all the men belong to their mothers?”
You have to respect the huge ambition behind Husbands and Sons, Marianne Elliott and Ben Power’s adaptation of three DH Lawrence plays which sees each of them run simultaneously in the round in the Dorfman. It manages this by taking the Holroyds from The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd, the Gascoignes from The Daughter-in-Law and the Lamberts from A Collier’s Friday Night and imagining them living on the same street in the East Midlands village of Eastwood. And spread over three weeks in October 1911, the interlocked, if not intersecting, dramas of their lives play out, dominated by the long shadow of the pit.
Initially it’s a dizzying affair, as the eye and the ear deals with the three separate domestic establishments. Bunny Christie’s design takes a visual cue from the Lars von Trier film Dogville with the fully furnished houses demarcated by white lines on the floor and labelled by name, doors (and coats, weirdly) are mimed with accompanying sound effects. And with a nod to the fixedness of this arrangement, ticket-holders in the pit swap seats at the interval, getting to sit in the corresponding place on the other side of the auditorium, offering an alternative perspective on the goings-on. Continue reading “Review: Husbands and Sons, National Theatre”
“Calm, methodical, Sunday fucking best”
There’s no two ways about it, Paul Abbott’s latest TV series has been an absolute triumph. Channel 4’s No Offence has kept me properly gripped over the last eight weeks and I’m delighted that a second series has already been commissioned as its enthralling mixture of comedy drama and police procedural has been irresistible from its opening five minutes with all its squashed-head shenanigans through to its thrilling finale which kept us on tenterhooks right til its final minutes.
Whence such success? A perfect storm of inspired casting and pin-sharp writing from Abbott and his team. Joanna Scanlan’s DI Viv Deering reinvigorates the stereotypical police boss to create a career-best character for Scanlan, her fierce loyalty played straight but her dry one-liners making the most of her comic genius. Elaine Cassidy’s DC Dinah Kowalska, the eager young copper on whom the focus settles most often, Alexandra Roach’s earnest but quick-learning DS Joy Freer completing the leads. Continue reading “TV Review: No Offence, Channel 4”
Elevator Pitch is a brilliantly ingenious short which manages to pack in a huge amount into its couple of minutes, layer upon layer builds up as the fourth wall is continually smashed by an intern trying to make a pitch to a film producer. Highly recommended. Continue reading “Short Film Review #45”
How To Get Mugged
At barely 3 minutes long, Cecilia Fage’s How To Get Mugged is a brilliant example of how to do a comic short, focusing hard on getting the concept right and then exploring it without exploiting it. Too often, comedy stretches out a joke far too thinly but there’s no such fear here as two new Hackney residents are accosted by a mugger but react in a far different way to what you might expect. And given that that mugger is played by the luscious Philip McGinley, I know a good few people who would have reacted in yet another way to being accosted by him 😉
Continue reading “Short Film Review #42”
“Two men just watching a bit of Cruise, nothing wrong with that…”
The most amusing part of James Perkins’ design for Matt Hartley’s Microcosm may be accidental or it could well be a nod to the sweltering heat that often builds up in the attic room of the Soho Theatre Upstairs. In the midst of moving flats on a hot summer’s day, one of the characters sets up a desktop fan, points it out towards the audience and switches it on – it may only offer comfort for a small group but in lieu of effective air-con, it is well played.
The flat belongs to Alex, recently purchased with an inheritance from a grandmother and long-term girlfriend Clare is moving in too. It may only be a conversion but it marks a major step for him in becoming lord of his own manor but he soon comes to realise that along with property comes neighbours. Some are benign, if overbearingly creepy, as in the relentless attentions of married Philip from next door but others are more ominous, like the small gang hanging out down the road – the show opens with the chirpy tones of ‘On The Street Where You Live’ which soon gains a double meaning. Continue reading “Review: Microcosm, Soho Theatre”
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Bruce Dern – Nebraska as Woody Grant
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave as Solomon Northup
Tom Hanks – Captain Phillips as Captain Richard Phillips
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club as Ron Woodroof
Forest Whitaker – The Butler as Cecil Gaines
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine as Jeanette “Jasmine” Francis
Sandra Bullock – Gravity as Dr. Ryan Stone
Judi Dench – Philomena as Philomena Lee
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County as Violet Weston
Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks as P. L. Travers Continue reading “20th Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees”