TV Review: A Very British Scandal

Claire Foy and Paul Bettany headline some rather alternative festive fare in the BBC’s Christmas special A Very British Scandal

“Canapes and cock, is there anything else?”

A drama about the first major case of slut-shaming in the British media, a warning note about the dangers of dick pics, a harrowing example of how vicious divorce can get, the BBC really do know how to wish us a merry Christmas! A spiritual follow-up to A Very English Scandal, A Very British Scandal was written by Sarah Phelps whose Agatha Christie adaptations briefly threatened to become a welcome festive institution but instead, there was a pivot.

And make no mistake, this is still a high quality 3 hours of a miniseries, blessed with two strong leads in Claire Foy and Paul Bettany and taken from a true story (with the requisite dramatic license) that is eye-wincingly lurid. The 1963 Argyll v Argyll divorce case was groundbreaking in terms of the salaciousness and scandalous detail that it included that was then widely published by the media in a way that had never been done before, not least in revealing the existence of explicit photos showing non-marital relations. Continue reading “TV Review: A Very British Scandal”

TV Review: The Windsors, Series 2

Series 2 of The Windsors ups the absurdity and the satire of this cracking TV show, with Vicki Pepperdine’s Anne a real highlight 

“You lied to me when you went to bed with Nicola Sturgeon in her holiday persona of Flame”

Series 2 of The Windsors ups the absurdity and the satire of this cracking TV show as Theresa May (Gillian Bevan), Nicola Sturgeon (a genius Amy Booth-Steel) and Donald Trump (Corey Johnson) (and Ellie Goulding too – nice to see Lizzy Connolly on TV) all make appearances to further lampoon our blessed Royal Family. 

Harry Enfield’s Prince Charles comes in for some particular stick as his organic credentials, urban planning skills and predilection for interfering in geopolitical affairs all get raked over the coals to great comic effect. Elsewhere, most everyone else gets away with flights of fancy rather than having their actions similarly scrutinised, for the most part. Continue reading “TV Review: The Windsors, Series 2”

TV Review: The Windsors, Series 1

Series 1 of The Windsors proves that Hugh Skinner can do no wrong, nor Haydn Gwynne for that matter 

“We’ve outgrown our usefulness like nipples on men”

Despite starring several of my theatrical faves, I’d never quite got around to watching The Windsors. But given that I’m off to see the stage show The Windsors: Endgame tomorrow, I thought I’d give Series 1 a whirl since it is on Netflix. And I have to say I absolutely frigging loved it. 

George Jeffrie and Bert Tyler-Moore’s parody of the House of Windsor takes the form of a fast-moving soap opera, which means that the joke rate is phenomenal and as in the fashion of many a comedy show, if you’re not enjoying a particular turn, you don’t have to wait more than a few minutes before the next one appears. Continue reading “TV Review: The Windsors, Series 1”

TV Review: The Crown, Series 4

Whereas I was sad that the cast of The Crown had to regenerate at the end of Series 2, I’m kinda glad that Series 4 is the last we’ll see of this second generation  

“Let’s just say, I can’t see it ending well for you”

I sampled the first few episodes of Series 4 of The Crown on release and whilst still appreciating much of the quality of this prestige drama, I couldn’t help but feel that it just isn’t quite up to par. An element of that is certainly personal, I just have zero desire to see depictions of Margaret Thatcher in anything. But there’s also something more nigglingly fundamental awry here, as we move to closer to the current day and increasingly feature people who are still alive. 

Whether royalist or republican (do republicans watch The Crown…?), there’s something fascinating about the way in which Peter Morgan’s writing has challenged conventional notions of myth-building around the British Royal Family. What might previously have been called decorum has been jettisoned with little seeming sacrosanct now, particularly as we delve into the marriage of Charles and Diana and his enduring relationship with Camilla, plus going deeper into Thatcher’s psyche than one could ever care to. Continue reading “TV Review: The Crown, Series 4”

TV Review: The Crown, Series 4 Episodes 1-3

I ration myself to Episodes 1-3 of Series 4 of The Crown in the first instance but find it is losing its lustre a little

“I’m struggling to find any redeeming features in these people at all”

Kicking off in 1977, Series 4 of The Crown swiftly moves into my lifetime with its second scene taking place in 1979, although not quite into events that I remember, at least in these first three episodes. And with the arrival of both Diana Spencer and Margaret Thatcher on the scene, there’s quite the decade to explore.

But something has gone a little awry for me and The Crown. The sheer scope of Peter Morgan’s writing means that there’s a mahoosive ensemble at work here but the nature of his construction of episodes that drill down to intimate focus means that there’s huge gaps and terrible wastage, particularly of Helena Bonham Carter’s delicious Princess Margaret. Continue reading “TV Review: The Crown, Series 4 Episodes 1-3”

Lockdown TV review: Belgravia (ITV)

The first couple of episodes of Julian Fellowes’ latest TV series Belgravia are quite frankly an embarrassment

“How strange that we should be having a ball when we are on the brink of war”

Who knows what hold Julian Fellowes has over the British cultural industries as once again, another major commission comes through for this painfully lazy of writers. I should have resisted Belgravia but with a cast that includes Harriet Walter, Tara Fitzgerald and Saskia Reeves, not to mention Penny Layden and Adam James, curiosity got the better of me and by the crin, I wish it hadn’t. Lucy Mangan puts it scathingly well in her review for the Guardian and I couldn’t have put it any better. Avoid like the, well, plague.

Photo: ITV

TV Review: Brexit: The Uncivil War

Despite some considerable talent involved, I vote to leave Brexit: The Uncivil War

“It says here you basically ran the Leave campaign and yet I doubt most people have ever heard of you”

It is difficult to watch Brexit: The Uncivil War because it is hard to locate a raison d’ĂȘtre for telling this story as a drama rather than a documentary. Given how close it is to the present day and the way in which so much has still yet to unfold in the way the UK eventually disentangles from the EU, making the choice to start creating art around it feels an odd choice.

I’ve long been a fan of James Graham, like any rational person, and the way he has been able to dig deep and really explore so many of the issues afflicting contemporary society has been brilliantly in evidence. But it is hard not to feel that Brexit is a mis-step in the way that it seeks to reinterpret the roles of the key dramatis personae in this whole sorry shebang. Continue reading “TV Review: Brexit: The Uncivil War”

Review: Saint George and the Dragon, National Theatre

“You hunt them where they live”

There’s something interesting about a community that can simultaneously urge the need to talk constructively about failure and also gloat endlessly about the its possibility. Where the National Theatre is concerned, the stakes feel considerably heightened and following a summer that contained the divisive SalomĂ© and Common, sadly you could almost feel the knives being sharpened in advance for Saint George and the Dragon.

Two contrasting viewpoints from two contrasting people, to be sure, but you wonder how open-minded people are being, particularly when the start to this press night was delayed by 30 minutes or so adding fuel to certain people’s fire. But all this dancing around is doing, is delaying the inevitable, in that I found Rory Mullarkey’s new play really quite tough-going and had it not been for an effortful performance from John Heffernan keeping it afloat from the front, it would have been worse. Continue reading “Review: Saint George and the Dragon, National Theatre”

Full cast announced for Saint George and the Dragon

A village. A dragon. A damsel in distress.

Into the story walks George: wandering knight, freedom fighter, enemy of tyrants the world over. One epic battle later and a nation is born. As the village grows into a town, and the town into a city, the myth of Saint George, which once brought a people together, threatens to divide them. Rory Mullarkey creates a new folk tale for an uneasy nation.

Continue reading “Full cast announced for Saint George and the Dragon”

New season at the NT: June 2017 to January 2018

Lots of exciting news in the National’s new season announcement, taking us up to January 2018, rather putting the lie to the cries of “crisis” that pop up far too easily when a less-than-well-received show (or two) takes up residency there.

Highlights for me include the perfection of this production pic:

The return of Barber Shop Chronicles:
Justine Mitchell and Sam Troughton appearing in a thing together (this may or may not be their feet:
And of course the Ivo van Hove/Lee Hall/Bryan Cranston amazefest that will be Network (which will have some onstage seating!):