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”
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.
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’être 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”
“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 Salomé 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”
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”
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:
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!):
“I ask no less than power to achieve my will in fair exchange for total service to the state”
Uneasy lies the head that waits for the crown. Mike Barlett’s King Charles III was a deserved award-winning success when it took the Almeida by storm in 2014, transferring into the West End and then Broadway, later touring the UK and Australia too. Its success lay in the conception of a Shakespearean future history play, written in verse but set in a world recognisably our own, where Prince George is nonchalantly eating croissants, Queen Elizabeth II has just passed and before he has even been crowned, Charles finds himself in a constitutional crisis of his own making. A bold but welcome move from the BBC to commission a version then.
Directed as it was onstage by Rupert Goold and adapted by Bartlett (the narrative has been telescoped down by over an hour), it re-emerges as a powerful, pacy drama, a fascinating look into how the relationship between monarchy and government could so easily shift at a time of transition, anchored by an achingly nuanced performance from Tim Pigott-Smith in the title role. The ache is of course deepened by the actor’s death last month but that sadness shouldn’t overshadow the quality of his work here, masterful in his command of the verse, mesmerising as a man trapped by history. Continue reading “TV Review: King Charles III, BBC2”
“In Whitechapel, they die every day”
When low ratings for series 2 of Ripper Street saw the BBC decide to pull the plug on it, it was something of a surprise to hear Amazon Video would be taking it over (this was 2014 after all) in a deal that would see episodes released first for streaming, and then shown on the BBC a few months later. And thank the ripper that they did, for I’d argue that this was the best series yet, the storytelling taking on an epic quality as it shifted the personal lives of its key personnel into the frontline with a series-long arc to extraordinary effect.
And this ambition is none more so evident than in the first episode which crashes a train right in the middle of Whitechapel, reuniting Reid with his erstwhile comrades Drake and Jackson four years on since we last saw them. A catastrophic event in and of itself, killing over 50 people, it also set up new villain Capshaw (the always excellent John Heffernan) and brilliantly complicated the character of Susan, promoting her to a deserved series lead as her keen eye for business, and particularly supporting the women of Whitechapel, throws her up against some hard choices. Continue reading “DVD Review: Ripper Street Series 3”
“Give me the history of the Congo in four and a half minutes”
There’s an ingenious moment in the middle of They Drink It In The Congo when a PR guy has to step in for an ailing colleague at an imminent press conference and utters the line above. The answer he gets exposes not only the vast complexity of the socio-political issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo but also the way in which Westerners seek to reduce them to manageable soundbites so that they can be dismissed as problems easily solved
Which in a nutshell is the key issue at the heart of Adam Brace’s new play for the Almeida. Aware of the impossibility of doing Congolese history justice in a couple of hours, he approaches the issue from an alternative angle, the impossibility of “doing something good about something bad”. Daughter of a white Kenyan farmer, Stef now works for a London NGO and is excited to be given the opportunity to organise ‘Congo Voice’, a new arts festival raising awareness of the issues there. Continue reading “Review: They Drink It In The Congo, Almeida Theatre”
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Frank Langella, The Father
Gabriel Byrne, Long Day’s Journey into Night
Jeff Daniels, Blackbird
Tim Pigott-Smith, King Charles III
Mark Strong, A View from the Bridge
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Jessica Lange, Long Day’s Journey into Night
Laurie Metcalf, Misery
Lupita Nyong’o, Eclipsed
Sophie Okonedo, The Crucible
Michelle Williams, Blackbird
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Leslie Odom, Jr, Hamilton
Alex Brightman, School of Rock
Danny Burstein, Fiddler on the Roof
Zachary Levi, She Loves Me
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple
Laura Benanti, She Loves Me
Carmen Cusack, Bright Star
Jessie Mueller, Waitress
Phillipa Soo, Hamilton
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
Reed Birney, The Humans
Bill Camp, The Crucible
David Furr, Noises Off
Richard Goulding, King Charles III
Michael Shannon, Long Day’s Journey into Night
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans
Pascale Armand, Eclipsed
Megan Hilty, Noises Off
Andrea Martin, Dotty Otley
Saycon Sengbloh, Eclipsed
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Daveed Diggs, Hamilton
Brandon Victor Dixon, Shuffle Along
Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress
Jonathan Groff, Hamilton
Christopher Jackson, Hamilton
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple
Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me
Jennifer Simard, Disaster!
Adrienne Warren, Shuffle Along