TV Review: Stephen (ITV)

Stephen is a deeply compassionate and quietly furious look at the many injustices of the Stephen Lawrence case

“Never expected getting justice to be my job”

Written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Joe Cottrell-Boyce and directed by Alrick Riley, Stephen is based on the book In Pursuit of the Truth by DCI Clive Driscoll who spearheaded the 2012 police re-investigation which ultimately led to the conviction of two of the killers of Stephen Lawrence. Murdered in 1993 in a racist attack, the 18 year old Black British man’s case was fumbled in the extreme, the subsequent Macpherson report finding the Met incompetent and institutionally racist, his family left despairing that justice would ever be served. 

And this is where the show is strongest. Sharlene Whyte as Doreen Lawrence and Hugh Quarshie as Neville Lawrence deliver two quietly devastating performances as Stephen’s parents, now separated but still bound inextricably by their son’s murder, their lives shaped not just by his absence but by the absence of fair treatment by the investigating authorities. Thus the arrival of Driscoll, played here by Steve Coogan, a DCI handed the case in a cold case review in 2006, is rightly treated with a high degree of hard-won scepticism and scorn. Continue reading “TV Review: Stephen (ITV)”

TV Review: Messiah – The Promise (2004)

With its third instalment The Promise, Messiah loses its way a little bit given the high standards of the first two serials

“I wasn’t alone, other people were there”

The problem with doing things so damn well, is that you then have to live up to those standards. Messiah found itself in such a position after a first and second series that helped to redefine the serial killer genre and with  2004’s The Promise, it struggled to meet that bar. Written again by Lizzie Mickery, it suffers from the unnecessary compulsion to cleave to the template of prior series rather than having the boldness to step outside.

So with Ken Stott’s Red and Neil Dudgeon’s Duncan pasts having figured so heavily in the last two series, it isn’t hard to work out that it is Frances Grey’s Kate to have a go through the emotional wringer. It starts sooner than you might think with a daring opening sequence set in a prison that is highly effective. And as deaths of people involved start to mount up, long buried secrets prove the key to finding the killer and saving the day. Continue reading “TV Review: Messiah – The Promise (2004)”

Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand

Simon Annand’s Time To Act is a beautiful book of photos capturing actors in the minutes before they go on stage

Tackling the constraints of the pandemic in its own way, Simon Annand’s fantastic new book of photos Time To Act has launched a virtual exhibition of some of the photographs which has now been extended to until Christmas. It’s an ingenious way of sharing some of the hundreds of images from the book and should surely whet the appetite for either just buying it now or putting on your list for Santa to collect soon.

Continue reading “Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand”

Film Review: Peterloo (2018)

I wanted to like Mike Leigh’s Peterloo, I really did…

“You must be famished coming all the way from Wigan”

I’ve been a big fan of Mike Leigh’s film work, since discovering it in the last decade or so, and loved his last film Mr Turner. So news of his return to period drama, albeit through his idiosyncratic process, in Peterloo was a plus for me. The reality though is an epic that proved a real slog for me, even boring by the end. Continue reading “Film Review: Peterloo (2018)”

TV Review: Chernobyl

In its exploration of the human stories around the nuclear accident, Craig Mazin’s mini-series Chernobyl is simply superb

“You are dealing with something that has never happened on the planet before”

Yeesh! TV dramas surely don’t have the right to be as good as Chernobyl, particularly when they’re ostensibly about such grimly horrific a topic as this,  But as creator, writer, and executive producer Craig Mazin has adroitly identified, the 1986 nuclear disaster – and the human impact it had on those closest to it – is relatively under-explored, in mainstream Western culture at least. 

Chernobyl seeks to explain what happened on that fateful day, and its terrible aftermath, on two distinct levels. Focusing in on the microlevel, we follow stories such as those of the power station workers, the first responders, the people who watched the fire burn up close. But it also takes a strategic look at the Soviet system at large, tracing the institutional problems that allowed it to happen.

Continue reading “TV Review: Chernobyl”

Review: Rutherford and Son, National Theatre

A superb cast including Roger Allam elevates a fine production of Rutherford and Son at the National Theatre

“There’s not a scrap of love in the whole house”

It’s grim up north. I can say this as an absent son of t’other side of the Watford Gap. But in Githa Sowerby’s Rutherford and Son,  it really is tough-going. Roger Allam’s mightily bearded Rutherford is a ferociously brutal industrialist from the north-east of England who is fierce at home as in the glassworks he runs but down a generation, there’s a growing tendency towards not putting up with such levels of grimness. 

One of his sons bogged off to London and has come back with a working class wife and child, the other wants to find God in Blackpool and his daughter has pretty much been the downtrodden whipping boy for 30-odd years. But it is the beginning of the twentieth century and change is afoot – political and personal, societal and sexual and writ large in the generational struggle here, it can be powerfully affecting. Continue reading “Review: Rutherford and Son, National Theatre”

fosterIAN awards 2018

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayLeah Harvey, Clare Perkins & Vinette Robinson, EmiliaSarah Gordy, JellyfishPatsy Ferran, Summer and Smoke
Marieke Heebink, Oedipus
Elinor Lawless, To Have To Shoot Irishmen
Carey Mulligan, Girls and Boys
Sarah Niles, Leave Taking
Best Actor in a Play
Kyle Soller, The InheritanceHans Kesting, OedipusBen Batt, The York Realist
Ian Bonar, Jellyfish
Paapa Essiedu, The Convert
Richard Harrington, Home I'm Darling
Shubnam Saraf, An Adventure
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayCecilia Noble, Nine NightMartha Plimpton, SweatAdjoa Andoh, Leave Taking
Eva Feiler, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Watermill)
Penny Layden, Jellyfish
Lashana Lynch, ear for eye
Charity Wakefield, Emilia
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayPaul Hilton, The InheritanceForbes Masson, Summer and SmokeLouis Bernard, Much Ado About Nothing (Antic Disposition)
Demetri Goritsas, ear for eye
Wil Johnson, Leave Taking
Nicky Priest, Jellyfish
Sam Troughton, Stories
Best Actress in a MusicalRosalie Craig, CompanyKaisa Hammarlund, Fun HomeBonnie Langford, 42nd Street
Eva Noblezada, Hadestown
Caroline O'Connor, The Rink
Gemma Sutton, The Rink
Adrienne Warren, Tina the Musical
Best Actor in a MusicalSteven Miller, Sunshine on LeithAndrew Finnigan, DripPaul-James Corrigan, Sunshine on Leith
Arinzé Kene, Misty
Michael Mather, Mythic
Leon Scott, Midnight
Zubin Varla, Fun Home
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Patti LuPone, CompanyAmber Gray, HadestownNaana Agyei-Ampadu, Caroline or Change
Vivien Carter, Sweet Charity (Watermill)
Genevieve McCarthy, Mythic
Hilary McLean, Sunshine on Leith
Seyi Omooba, Christina Modestou & Renée Lamb, Little Shop of Horrors
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalJonathan Bailey, CompanyPatrick Page & André de Shields, HadestownAlex Cardall, Sweet Charity (Watermill)
Alex James Ellison,
The Secret Garden

Richard Fleeshman, Company
Matt Willis, Little Shop of Horrors

2018 Best Supporting Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Paul Hilton, The Inheritance
How many times and in how many ways can the same man break your heart? Hilton is exquisitely, agonisingly, pitch-perfect in The Inheritance no matter who he is playing, a much needed voice of experience in among the tight, bright young things, an unforgettable, powerfully moving tribute to generations lost.

Honourable mention: Forbes Masson, Summer and Smoke
I’ve long been a fan of Masson’s, going back to seeing his hysterical musical Stiff! back in my uni days, so it was great to see him as such a vibrant and vital part of the ensemble in this Rebecca Frecknall production, standing out as a pair of patresfamilias.

Louis Bernard, Much Ado About Nothing (Antic Disposition)
Demetri Goritsas, ear for eye
Wil Johnson, Leave Taking
Nicky Priest, Jellyfish
Sam Troughton, Stories

8-10

Oliver Alvin-Wilson, Nine Night; Kevin Harvey, The Wild Duck; Samuel H Levine, The Inheritance

 

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

Jonathan Bailey, Company
Done well, ‘Getting Married Today’ is a highlight of any production of Company but here, making Amy Jamie works an absolute treat in showing both how far we’ve come and how little there is between us all when it comes to gay marriage. Partnered perfectly with Alex Gaumond’s patiently lovestruck Paul, this vignette becomes even more heart-breakingly, soul-raisingly fantastic.

Honourable mention: André de Shields & Patrick Page, Hadestown
Between de Shields getting the party started with his twinkling charm and Page’s basso profundo doing all sorts of things to me, I couldn’t split these two on the way down to Hadestown

Alex Cardall, Sweet Charity (Watermill)
Alex James Ellison, The Secret Garden
Richard Fleeshman, Company
Matt Willis, Little Shop of Horrors

8-10
Maison Kelley, Brass the Musical; Sean Kingsley, Once; Jordan Shaw, It’s Only Life

Review: Stories, National Theatre

Sam Troughton and Claudie Blakley are excellent in Nina Raine’s new play Stories at the Dorfman in the National Theatre

“This isn’t crowdfunding”

What a difference a few years makes: at 35, Bobbie hasn’t decided on pretty much anything in her life; at 39 however, Anna is resolute that she wants to make big changes in her life. Specifically, in the aftermath of a messy break-up with someone who didn’t want one, she’s determined to become a mother. Such is the world of Nina Raine’s new play Stories and as with Company, there’s so much more layered in here than the headlines might suggest. 

The focus does indeed first seem to be on fertility, as Claudie Blakley’s Anna debates, with her family, the ethics of sourcing sperm donors online and then rifles through her little black book to see if any of her exes would be up for donating a few of their best swimmers. But the scope is always wider than that, probing at the stories we are told stretching from bedtimes tales to the societal myths that we are sold and what that does to a mindset over the years. Continue reading “Review: Stories, National Theatre”

Re-review: Beginning, Ambassadors

 “If you knew everything about my life, you wouldn’t like me.
‘I don’t think there’s a person in this world you could say any different about.'”

Things worth beginning:
– a nice run of plays transferring into the Ambassadors as it really is a nicely intimate theatre and obvs it has now been released from the long-running tyranny of Stomp
– a playlist based on cheesy tunes in the style of Modjo’s Lady (Hear Me Tonight), or maybe just find my copy of Now 47
– a reassessment of David Eldridge (on my part at least) as the troubled memory of The Knot of the Heart far outweighs the glories of In Basildon in my mind
– redecorating the kitchen, using the beautiful tiling from Fly Davis’ design as an inspiration
and 
– cooking myself a fish finger in said kitchen when I am sober (I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had one sober!) (I’d be using tartare sauce though, none of this ketchup/mayo combo nonsense)

Continue reading “Re-review: Beginning, Ambassadors”