TV Review: Messiah – The Harrowing (2005)

Helen McCrory and Maxine Peake help elevate Messiah – The Harrowing to arguably the series’ devastatingly effective high point

“See beyond the victim, see the killer”

The first series of Messiah is certainly one of the best, setting the wheels in motion for an effective crime series, but I’d argue that it is the fourth instalment Messiah – The Harrowing that is the best of them all. The arrival of a new writer – Terry Cafolla – releases the show from the baggage of its legacy which seemed to weigh the last series one and produces something that is really, well, harrowing.

Harking back to that first series and its connecting device of people being killed in the style of the Apostles, the murderous connection here ends up being Dante’s The Divine Comedy and its descent into hell. And weighted around the death by suicide of the daughter of one of their colleagues, Red and his team (with Maxine Peake’s DS Clarke now in for a retired Kate) find themselves once again up against the darkest parts of human nature. Continue reading “TV Review: Messiah – The Harrowing (2005)”

TV Review: The Sister

Not even with Neil Cross writing and Russell Tovey and Bertie Carvel starring can I recommend the dullness of TV show The Sister

“You know how these things can spiral out of control”

With Neil Cross (he of Luther) adapting his own novel and a cast led by Russell Tovey and Bertie Carvel, plus Amanda Root lower down the bill, hopes were high for new ITV drama The Sister but boy, were they crushed. Sadly, I think it is one of the dullest shows I’ve seen in ages, rivalled only by Roadkill which I’m struggling through at the same time.

Stripped over a week, this four-parter follows Tovey’s Nathan, whose apparent marital bliss is shattered by the arrival of Carvel’s Bob, a sinister figure from his past with whom he shares some dark secrets. Namely, that after a particularly intoxicated New Year’s Eve involving a random hookup, said hookup ended up dead and buried in the forest. Continue reading “TV Review: The Sister”

New TV shows for winter

As the clocks go back, the prestige TV shows come out, so I checked out the first episodes of The Undoing, Roadkill and The Sister to find not one but two Scandiqueens

“Sounds like we’re digging in for a long answer”

With a company that includes Noma Dumezweni and the empress of jumpers Sofie Gråbøl, I was initially a little disappointed that neither appeared in the first episode of new HBO show The Undoing. But when your leads are Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, your writer is David E Kelley and your director is Susanne Bier, then there’s little to complain about. Based on a Jean Hanff Korelitz novel and set in the dripping wealth of the Upper East Side, the tantalising promise of murder and adultery is skilfully woven across this opening episode and I’m definitely hooked.  Continue reading “New TV shows for winter”

Review: The Understudy

David Nicholls’ The Understudy translates to an amiable radio play with Stephen Fry, Sarah Hadland and Russell Tovey

Unswayed by the arrival of Covid-19, playwright Henry Filloux-Bennett and director Giles Croft have adapted their putative theatrical production of The Understudy into a two-part audio version. David Nicholls’ early novel about a jobbing actor has been lightly updated and the injoke-heavy result is rather good fun.

Narrator Stephen Fry takes us through the journey of Stephen McQueen (no relation!) as he prepares to understudy a hunky young actor in the West End and espies an opportunity to collude with the 12th sexiest man in the world to allow him to philander away and let Stephen chase the stardom that has eluded his career so far. Continue reading “Review: The Understudy”

Film Review: The Good Liar (2019)

Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren team up for the entertainingly twisty film The Good Liar

“It seems like you’ve had quite a past”

Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from the novel of the same name by Nicholas Searle, The Good Liar marks the first time that British institutions Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren have worked together on screen. And when these two are onscreen together, this is a corking film.

With a twinkle in his eye, McKellen’s Roy is trawling the dating apps and lights upon the widowed Betty (Mirren). soon setting a date. They connect over martinis and bond over not necessarily being who they said they were online but as we discover Roy is a lifelong conman, it’s clear his eyes are set on her not inconsiderable means. Continue reading “Film Review: The Good Liar (2019)”

News: The Understudy – a brand new radio play with Stephen Fry, Emily Atack, Sheila Atim, Layton Williams and more

The Understudy is a brand new radio play that will be broadcast in two parts on Wednesday 20th May and Wednesday 27th May to raise funds for the theatre industry which is facing a devastating impact from the Covid-19 health crisis. The Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield will split proceeds of this project with charities including the Theatre Development Trust (SOLT and UK Theatre), Acting for Others and Equity Charitable Trust.

Coming together at a time that matters the most, the stellar line-up of actors currently confirmed to perform in The Understudy includes Stephen Fry, Emily Atack, Sheila Atim, Layton Williams, Russell Tovey, Sarah Hadland, Mina Anwar and many more. The cast and creative team involved in The Understudy will take part completely in isolation and actors will record their lines at home that will be brought to life by an exceptional sound design team. Continue reading “News: The Understudy – a brand new radio play with Stephen Fry, Emily Atack, Sheila Atim, Layton Williams and more”

Not-a-review: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Wiltshire Creative

I should have been going to Salisbury this weekend to see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at Wiltshire Creative so what to do instead? Read about it and the ways to help the theatres involved

“Dashed hopes and good intentions…”

I’ve long been a fan of David Mercatali’s directing (find an interview with him here) so I was determined to fit in a visit to his production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a co-production between Bristol’s Tobacco Factory and Wiltshire Creative (the Salisbury Playhouse as was).

That didn’t happen as my trip was scheduled towards the end of the second half of the run but in some small mercy, the production did get most of the way through its Bristol leg which means there’s all sorts to read about it, which the Tobacco Factory has kindly collated here.

By comparison, the Brit-heavy Broadway revival, starring Laurie Metcalf, Rupert Everett, Russell Tovey and Patsy Ferran barely managed a week of previews before having to close. 

For the Tobacco Factory
You can follow the theatre on Twitter here
You can look at ways of supporting the theatre via this page here

For Wiltshire Creative
You can follow the theatre on Twitter here
You can look at ways of supporting the theatre via this page here

And there’s a trailer 

TV Review: Flesh and Blood

Imelda Staunton plays a blinder in ITV’s Flesh and Blood but for a thriller, there’s not much that is actually that thrilling apart from Russell Tovey’s chest hair

“I never ever dreamt it would end like this”

The myriad ways in which we can now consume television content means that programmers can find themselves in a bit of a bind, searching for the best way to ensure their show breaks through in such a crowded marketplace. Just look at The Split, releasing the entirety of its second series online whilst also going for a weekly broadcast. Stripping a show over a week for four consecutive nights, as ITV did with Flesh and Blood, may seem like a happy medium between those two modes but in this day and age, I don’t it matches either. 

Written by Sarah Williams (Becoming Jane; Small Island), Flesh and Blood is a lush family drama, edging towards thriller territory, as a body is discovered in this sleepy Sussex beach town. And in true winding narrative style, we don’t know who has carked it. Francesca Annis’ Vivien is quietly surprised to find new love with Stephen Rea’s Mark but her adult children don’t think she’s been playing the grieving widow for long enough and once he moves into their former childhood home, hackles are truly raised, conveniently allowing them to turn from the drama in their own lives.  Continue reading “TV Review: Flesh and Blood”

TV Review: Queers

Mark Gatiss’ Queers – a set of monologues has lost none of its power since premiering in 2017

“He knows me for what I am”

I couldn’t make the theatrical readings of Queers at the Old Vic, so I was glad that filmed versions of them were made (for airing on BBC4). Ricocheting around the decades of the twentieth century, this set of monologues marked 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 decriminalised private homosexual acts between men aged over 21, and aimed to celebrate some of the most poignant, funny, tragic and riotous moments of British gay male experience.

Pulled together by Mark Gatiss, these 8 20-minute pieces are ostensibly set in the same bar but run the full gamut of emotion as we shift around in time. There’s exquisite moments of happiness in lives otherwise marked by despair. The fleeting touch from Gatiss’ The Man on the Platform so achingly described by Ben Whishaw, the heady night spent with an American soldier by Ian Gelder’s omi in Matthew Baldwin’s I Miss the War.

Continue reading “TV Review: Queers”

TV Review: Years and Years

Years and Years sees Russell T Davies take on dystopian near-future sci-fi to startling effect

“We’re not stupid, we’re not poor, we’re not lacking. I’m sorry, but we’re clever. We can think of something, surely.”

What if…? What if…? What Brexit happens, what if Trump is voted in again and fires a nuclear bomb towards China, what if global warming happens today and not tomorrow, what if Lee from Steps is the most successful one…? Such is the world of Years and Years, Russell T Davies’ latest TV venture, a six-part drama that dares to ask what if it is already too late.

He uses the Lyons family as a prism to explore what the next 15 years of human history might look like, as technological advances make leaps and bounds alongside the political and social upheaval that strikes at the very heart of this sprawing middle-class Manchester-based family. It’s a daring piece of drama, full of Davies’ typically big heart and bold emotional colours and I have to say I rather loved it. Continue reading “TV Review: Years and Years”