TV Review: Jonathan Creek Specials (2009–2013)

The Jonathan Creek specials from 2009–2013 undo much of the damage from Series 4, with Sheridan Smith largely to thank for that

“I’ve got a very important presentation to Weetabix in five minutes”

After the horror show that was the fourth series, Jonathan Creek disappeared from our TV screens for five years and for the subsequent five, returned only intermittently for three feature-length specials from 2009–2013. And I think the break did everyone a world of good as these episodes rival some of the show’s best in recapturing the sense of investigative fun that lay at its heart.

Chief in this is the casting of Sheridan Smith as wise-cracking paranormal investigator Joey Ross. Their buddy relationship is well drawn, wisely kept clear of any romantic entanglement and yet still deeply affectionate at its heart. Complex, multi-faceted mysteries are allowed to unfold more effectively in the longer format, although Renwick can’t help himself with women as porn stars and clod-hopping trans jokes. For the most part, everything just hangs together  better – until Jonathan get a wife that is…More of that in Series 5. Continue reading “TV Review: Jonathan Creek Specials (2009–2013)”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 10

Spooks comes to an end with a shortened series 10 which, while not perfect, is effective in many ways

“Wait Harry, this can’t be the end”

And so after a decade, it comes to an end. Series 10 of Spooks, a shortened order of six episodes, sees the writers flip from the Lucas North show to the Harry Pearce show. This naturally makes more sense, with Harry being the head of Section D after all, but I’m not 100% sure that it completely works as it goes against the ensemble ethos of the show at its best.

The argument here is that Harry is the heart of the show and given the jib of his recent decision-making at this point, you have to wonder if this is all that wise. Given all that transpires, the final scene of the show hardly inspires confidence. That said, the memorial is a beautiful touch and Lara Pulver’s new chief Erin Watts proved a strong addition to Thames House.

Nicola Walker-ometer
A tough one this, Walker rises brilliantly to the challenge of essentially co-leading the series as a result of the Harry focus. But her treatment in the final moments of the series can’t help but feel a little unnecessary, essentially cheapened by her reduction to nothing but an adjunct to Harry. She only gets killed because of the personal connection rather than a heroic act of Queen and country she deserved (if she had to die at all). Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 10”

The winners of the 6th annual Mousetrap Awards

Most Legendary Show
Les Misérables

Best Understudy
Alice Fearn (understudy of Elphaba in Wicked)

Best Ensemble
Matilda the Musical

Best Actress
Noma Dumezweni (Hermione in Harry Potter)

New Play On The Block
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery

Best Actor
Tyrone Huntley (Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar)

Band That Rocked our World
School of Rock

Jaw Dropping Set’ sponsored by AKA:
Aladdin

Most Welcoming Venue 
The Young Vic

Show That We’ll Miss In The West End
Sunny Afternoon

Welcome To The West End – Best Newcomer
Amber Riley (Dreamgirls)

Musical That Landed With A Bang
Half A Sixpence

News: Meet the new Matildas!

 

(C) Helen Maybanks

 
For me, one of the more pleasing recent success stories in theatreland has been the enduring success of Matilda The Musical. The cut-throat world of the West End has claimed many a high profile victim but the Royal Shakespeare Company’s multi award-winning production has gone from strength to strength at the Cambridge Theatre, where it is currently booking until 17th December.

>With that in mind and appropriately enough for World Book Day, the show has announced that Lilian Hardy, Emma Moore and Éva-Marie Saffrey will join Abbie Vena the title role of Matilda from 14th March. And to mark the arrival of the show’s new young actresses, a video has been released today of the four girls learning acrobatic tricks, to add to their already immense skill set, with their fellow cast member Craige Els, who plays Miss Trunchbull.

 
And if you needed any further convincing to go and see the show, here’s my reviews of the original Stratford production, the original cast recording (available to buy here), the original West End run, the original Broadway cast recording, and my 2015 revisit to the Cambridge.

Production images – Manuel Harlan

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: Wildefire, Hampstead Theatre

“To them, we are nothing but a bunch of racist, sexist, overpaid thugs in uniform”

In what turned out to be my second Maria Aberg production in quick succession, I got something of a crash course in just why people talk about this director so excitedly. Here, she takes Roy Williams’ urban police thriller Wildefire and elides its scenes into a single downwards spiral as policewoman Gail Wilde takes on a South London posting but finds herself unprepared for the intense trials and tribulations of life in the Met.

Aberg and Williams do a magnificent job at conjuring a world that is at once innately distrustful of the police yet also guilty of inculcating that distrust. Out of the shadows of James Farncombe’s lighting and the nooks and crannies of Naomi Dawson’s open yet functional design, urban nightmares spill forth whether fighting football fans, council estate domestic abusers or the suffocating menace of disaffected hoodies with nothing to lose. Continue reading “Review: Wildefire, Hampstead Theatre”