TV Review: Silent Witness Series 2

Series 2 of Silent Witness sees the show quickly slip into the patterns that bristle against the limitations of the format, whilst Amanda Burton warms up a little

“If you’re lucky, you’ll get away with a slap on the wrist and a warning not to get too involved in the future”

And so to series 2 of Silent Witness, Nigel McCrery’s forensic pathology drama, and the return of Amanda Burton’s remarkably chilly Sam Ryan. Perhaps wisely, there was a big swerve away from her family drama, the focus shifting more solidly to the numerous work crises passed her way. The only problem there is that the writers were in no way content to let her just be a pathologist. 

“I’m a forensic pathologist. All I’m interested in is the truth”, she cries at one point. But it patently isn’t true, her insistence on playing detective with every single case actually having led to the death of someone innocent last time around (she gets over the trauma of that pretty quickly…) and said behaviour continues apace here, reaching almost parodic levels far too quickly. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 2”

TV Review: Luther Series 5

Luther Series 5 aka the one that maybe goes too far?

“Can we do that?
‘Within parameters…'”

Not quite flogging a dead horse yet, but the much anticipated fifth series of Luther indulges its title character far too much  in the name of shocks and thrills, whilst simultaneously begging us not to misunderstand him, Nina Simone’s glorious voice plays out over the violent wreckage of the final scene.

As a crime drama, Neil Cross’ Luther really does manage to come up with inventively appalling serial killers and attackers that seem design to lurk in nightmares (the bus murder here…). But it is also increasingly tied up in the mythology of the show itself, the design here clearly aiming for some kind of apotheosis. Continue reading “TV Review: Luther Series 5”

Review: Dusty, Lowry / Aspects of Love, Hope Mill

2 quickies from a flying visit up north to Manchester to Dusty the Musical at the Lowry and Aspects of Love at the Hope Mill Theatre

“Left alone with just a memory”

Does the world really need another Dusty Springfield musical? I avoided the car crash at the Charing Cross a few years back, and wish I had avoided Son of a Preacher Man last year. But still they come and now we have Dusty the Musical which at least boasts a better pedigree than most, with Jonathan Harvey writing, Maria Friedman directing and Katherine Kingsley starring.

And with that level of quality, particularly from the mega-wattage of Kingsley’s titanic performance, it certainly emerges as the best of the bunch, relatively speaking. It is far from a great show though, its book weighed down with the tension between meticulously researched facts and figures and the greater freedom that comes from invented characters who allow story to flow. If it is to make it into the West End, more tinkering needed and Kingsley locked down. Continue reading “Review: Dusty, Lowry / Aspects of Love, Hope Mill”

Review: As Good A Time As Any, Print Room

“It’s very peaceful…”

It’s often that the mind thinks to compare Peter Gill with Simon Stephens but sitting through the former’s self-directed new play As Good A Time As Any in the surroundings of the Print Room at the Coronet cinema in Notting Hill, one couldn’t help but wonder what a different director might have made of it. The playtext for Stephens’ Carmen Disruption allows for, even actively encourages, directorial innovation, offering up a world of theatrical potential (in this case, ingeniously realised by Michael Longhurst) but there’s little of that imagination spilling forth from Gill.

Which is not to denigrate the quality of the writing here, which has a hypnotically compelling quality that transports its naturalism to a higher plane. The play consists of eight women sharing their everyday thoughts in all their banal humdrumness, divided into five choruses that break up the rhythm and interweaving with each other to demonstrate that no matter how different we think we are from the person across the street, the stranger sat opposite on the tube, the seatmate in a never-changing waiting room, we’re all pretty much the same, thinking pretty much the same thoughts. Continue reading “Review: As Good A Time As Any, Print Room”

Review: Hamlet, Citizens Theatre

“One may smile and smile and be a villain”

It was with a little hesitation that I went to another Hamlet so soon after the extraordinary (and criminally under-rated) efforts of Maxine Peake and co but work circumstances conspired to land me in Glasgow (city of my alma mater) and so I made my first trip to the Citizens Theatre. And though Dominic Hill’s creative vision has its own unique stamp, it was interesting to note the parallels that emerged in these two re-envisionings of Shakespeare’s work.

The personal rather than the political was foregrounded (it’s been a rough year for budding Fortinbrases) as the sphere of the play became a domestic one once again and I have to say I love Hamlet as a family drama. The spin on the relationships possess a real power when the scope of the play is thus reduced and their dynamics gain in intensity. Pushing it as far as they do here in Glasgow, one could even argue that the play is transformed into an ensemble drama. Continue reading “Review: Hamlet, Citizens Theatre”