TV Review: Beautiful People (Series 1)

Perfect fun for lockdown viewing, Series 1 of Beautiful People is an indisputable camp classic

“Reading’s such a dump guys, I don’t know how you do it”

There’s camp and then there’s camp. The first episode of Series 1 of Beautiful People contains, among other things, Égoïste advert reenactments, Tennessee Williams-based inner monologues to the tune of  ‘I Will Survive’, future dames Sarah Niles and Olivia Colman wrestling to the tune of ‘Spice Up Your Life’, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor covering ‘Jolene’. Naturally, it is huge amounts of fun.

Written by Jonathan Harvey from Simon Doonan’s memoirs, this 2008 comedy drama follows the life of thirteen-year-old Simon, who isn’t letting the fact that he lives in the sururban drudgery of Reading get in the way of being absolutely fabulous. He dreams of moving to London but until then, we get to see tales from his eventful childhood. Continue reading “TV Review: Beautiful People (Series 1)”

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”

TV Review: W1A (Series 2)

Something doesn’t quite click right with Series 2 of W1A, as it struggles to live up to what has gone before though still remaining quite gently funny

“I don’t want to be dramatic about it, and I mean we all love Sue Barker, but I’ve to to say we are looking at a situation here”

I’ve loved going back to watch Twenty Twelve and my memories of the shift to W1A were that it was just as good, if not better. I’d definitely say that about the first series but having just gone through series 2, I found myself just a little disappointed. The bar having been raised so high, it feels like this collection of four episodes just doesn’t have the same zing that really grabs your attention.

In many respects, nothing has really changed. There’s still much comic currency in the exposure of the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the BBC and the determination of any middle-to-senior manager to avoid actually making a decision. But there’s also a slight sense of familiar ground being retrodden that dulls the edge – I mean once again any and every female is falling at the feet of Ian Fletcher, really? Continue reading “TV Review: W1A (Series 2)”

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”

Film Review: Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans (2019)

With an all-star cast, Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans is a perfectly good piece of family entertainment

“All say yah
Bou-dic-ca”

Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans is my first experience of the multimedia franchise and as a piece of light-hearted entertainment, I thought it was rather good fun. It is especially notable for getting quite the company together to have a rollicking good time of it, Kim Cattrall and Rupert Graves rub shoulders, Sam Spiro pops in for a cameo as do any number of British comics, and no less than Derek Jacobi reprises his (I,) Claudius.

It’s all in aid of a kid-friendly rendition of Boudicca’s rebellion against the Roman rulers, told from the perspective of a dorky Roman kid (Sebastian Croft’s Atti) who finds himself conscripted into the army sent to defend their British territories and Orla (Emilia Jones) a teenage rebel Celt who is determined to be a warrior like her flame-haired rival. And in pairing them up in a rather charming way, it entertains in a pleasingly unexpected way. Continue reading “Film Review: Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans (2019)”

Review: Noises Off, Garrick Theatre

The Lyric Hammersmith’s production of Noises Off transfer in fine style to the Garrick Theatre

“Let there be doors that open when they open and close when they close”

I’ve long had my issues with farce but Noises Off managed to break through my preconceptions to genuinely make me laugh when the Old Vic revived it and then took it into the West End back in 2012. Even so, I have to say I wasn’t much enamoured by the thought of going back to it, hence me not going to the Lyric Hammersmith to catch Jeremy Herrin’s production there and only just now making it to this West End transfer at the Garrick Theatre.

And after the first act, I began to wonder if I hadn’t had the right impulse initially. I’d argue it’s good but not great, leaning into conventional farce as a touring theatre company take their own farce Nothing On across the country while dealing with the repercussions of their tangled inter-relationships. It is after the interval that the play soars though, the second act takes us behind the scenes into a sensationally choreographed piece of riotous fun of the highest order. Continue reading “Review: Noises Off, Garrick Theatre”

Review: Dance Nation, Almeida Theatre

I loved Clare Barron’s Dance Nation at the Almeida but fear it might not get the audiences it deserves

“People don’t say they cry when they watch me dance.
When they watch Amina dance, they cry. I know.
Because I cry when I watch Amina dance.”

I saw a late preview of Dance Nation at the Almeida so I was going to hold off saying much about it. But the hypocrisy of Quentin Letts’ tweet about the show (search on Twitter if you must) roused me to action for it is a pretty damn fine piece of writing by US playwright Clare Barron, and a damn fine piece of theatre directed by Bijan Sheibani.

It uses the device of adults playing kids to delve into the world of competitive high school dance, investigating what it is like to be a 13 year old girl, to be caught up in the ferocity of cut-throat contest whilst also navigating the physical and emotional upheaval of becoming a teenager. It’s blistering, uncompromising stuff and so it is perhaps little surprise that it has ruffled the feathers of some terribly sensitive souls. Continue reading “Review: Dance Nation, Almeida Theatre”

Review: The Norman Conquests, Chichester Festival Theatre

“I’ve learned though bitter experience that the last thing to do with Norman is take him seriously. That’s exactly what he wants.”

What to do with theatre vouchers? Trying to find the kind of theatrical experience that I might not normally have splashed out on isn’t always the easiest, so Chichester Festival Theatre’s announcement that their staging of Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests would be in the round, and that onstage ‘terrace’ seating would be available, a plan fell into place. And so for two of the three plays, I was up onstage (in different seats) and for the third, down in the stalls.

Seeing the plays from different perspectives felt appropriate as that is the nature of Ayckbourn’s trilogy written in 1973. Three times we visit the same group of six characters over the same weekend but based in a different part of the house. So (in the order I saw them on this trilogy day, a couple of days before press night I should add), Table Manners is set in the dining room, Living Together in the living room, and Round and Round the Garden is in the attic*. Continue reading “Review: The Norman Conquests, Chichester Festival Theatre”