Review: Manor, National Theatre

Despite the presence of Nancy Carroll and Shaun Evans, Moira Buffini’s Manor proves a disappointment at the National Theatre

“Truth is the argument that wins”

Truth is, Manor can’t help but end up as something of a disappointment. Starring national treasure-in-the-making Nancy Carroll and Vigil-hot Shaun Evans, written by Moira Buffini who has been doing interesting things on both film and TV, and having been building anticipation since before COVID (the show was in rehearsal at the National Theatre when lockdown first hit), hopes were certainly high but the reality is something a little far right of the mark.

It’s undoubtedly a play of big ideas and Buffini seems to have decided to include all of the ones she has in here. Climate changes rubs shoulders with homegrown far-right nationalism, murder mystery vibes clash with country house farce stylings and as we settle into sitcom mode, a disaster movie kicks in. The result in an unholy mess which gathers its unlikely motley crew of unlikeable characters for too long a time in an admittedly elegant set (Lez Brotherston).  Continue reading “Review: Manor, National Theatre”

TV Review: Vigil

Maybe I missed the point but I really rather enjoyed the campy, ridiculous side of submarine drama Vigil

“They’ve tried to disable us. Now they’re hunting us”

I think a lot of people were expecting Vigil to be the new Line of Duty, the Guardian even set up one of their episode-by-episode blogs. But somehow I missed that memo, assuming it was less of a serious drama and more of a campy thriller from the off, hence finding its increasingly improbable twists and turns juicily enjoyable and never expecting much realism from it.

Which is how I think we should take most TV shows these days, escapism serving as a valuable corrective tool for our times and allowing drama to flourish in enjoyable ways. Created by Tom Edge, Vigil is a police procedural mostly set on a Trident submarine and thus has even more opportunity to piss off the growing number of armchair experts whose voluble online responses are increasingly being used as new stories by an increasingly lazy media. Continue reading “TV Review: Vigil”

News: National Theatre On Sale, July 2021 – January 2022

The National Theatre will return to performances with full capacity audiences from later this month. Additional seating will now be available for performances of After Life from 27 July alongside the previously-announced productions Rockets and Blue Lights in the Dorfman theatre and Paradise in the Olivier theatre, with extra tickets going on sale to the public from Monday 19 July.  

Tickets for The Normal Heart, East is East, Manor and Hex on sale to the public from Friday 30 July. Continue reading “News: National Theatre On Sale, July 2021 – January 2022”

News: Tristram Kenton’s stage archive – the before-they-were-famous edition

One of the joys of seeing so much theatre in London is that sense of seeing any number of actors at the beginning of their careers and Tristram Kenton has been doing that for years now. Here’s just some of those big names as whippersnappers on the British stage:
https://www.theguardian.com/stage/gallery/2020/nov/11/before-they-were-famous-stars-tristram-kenton-at-the-guardian-in-pictures

Photos: Tristram Kenton

TV Review: The Scandalous Lady W

“My mother did not tell me playing rantum-scantum would be thus”

To be in a marriage where your partner wants you to sleep with Oliver Chris on the side might seem like an ideal scenario for several people I know, but as The Scandalous Lady W shows us, dreams rarely match up to reality. Continuing my belated catch-up of TV from throughout 2015, BBC2 repeated this 90 minute drama from the summer and finally having the time to watch things, I sat down for some Georgian shenanigans.

Written by David Eldridge from Hallie Rubenhold’s book Lady Worsley’s Whim, The Scandalous Lady W tells the sorry marital woes of  Seymour, Lady Worsley. Married to Tory MP Sir Richard Worsley, the heiress was taken aback to discover that his carnal desires stretched wanting her to sleep with other men whilst he peeped through the keyhole and whilst she complied at first – a man’s wife being his property and all – she eventually eloped with one of them. Continue reading “TV Review: The Scandalous Lady W”

TV Review: War Book

“We’re here to outplay a scenario”

I can’t remember who alerted me to Jack Thorne’s War Book being on iPlayer but I’m grateful to them as it is a classy little thing indeed, boasting a top-quality cast and Tom Hooper on directorial duties. A BBC4 drama that takes place over the three days of a role-playing exercise by the government in which assorted civil servants take on the mantle of the different departments tasked with responding to the outbreak of nuclear hostility between two countries, a conflict which threatens to break out into all-out nuclear war.

Designed as a hothouse experiment to produce the kind of thinking that can’t be replicated in traditional briefings, Thorne subtly suggests how decision-making, even at this level, can be shaped by personal circumstances (the husband struggling with his wife’s illness) but also how we’re not all in thrall to their influence (the cancer survivor who has to advocate for the withdrawal drugs from the general public). And as the ‘crisis’ escalates, serious questions are asked and discussed about what it really means to be a nuclear power.  Continue reading “TV Review: War Book”

Review: Miss Julie / Black Comedy, Minerva

 Miss Julie is in complete denial about the whole thing”

Something of a random double-bill – August Strindberg’s Miss Julie (adapted here by Rebecca Lenkiwicz) and Peter Shaffer’s Black Comedy have previously been put together here at Chichester and so once again, they’re programmed as an engagement in the Minerva, partly cross-cast in a production by actor-increasingly-turned-director Jamie Glover. Each show has its merits but putting them together didn’t really add anything to the experience for me. 

Lenkiewicz’s version is solid rather than inspirational – the play has been adapted so many times now, it feels almost more surprising not to remove it from its original context. And consequently there’s no escaping the more misogynistic edges of the writing without the filter of another time. The glorious Rosalie Craig is excellent though as the titular, brittle aristocrat who can’t resist visits downstairs to bit of rough Jean, her father’s valet who is engaged to a kitchen maid. Continue reading “Review: Miss Julie / Black Comedy, Minerva”

DVD Review: Silk, Series 2

“People are saying you only made silk because you’re a woman and from Bolton”

The joys of Netflix allowed me to quickly move onto Series 2 of Silk in perfect time before the third, and final, series hit BBC1, and it remains an excellent piece of television, a quality legal drama blessed with some cracking writing, a stellar leading cast, and a revolving ensemble which continues to draw in the cream of British acting talent to give their supporting roles and cameos. The series kicks off with Maxine Peake’s Martha having ascended to the ranks of QC whilst Rupert Penry-Jones’ Clive languishes in her slipstream, and the dynamics of their relationship form a major driver of the narrative. 

Her adjustments to her new role and responsibilities are fascinatingly drawn, especially as she negotiates the ethics of working with a notorious crime family and their shady legal representation. And his pursuit of that exalted status of QC as he stretches himself professionally to take in prosecutions, as well as Indira Varma’s attractive solicitor, is challenged when he overreaches himself in a particularly pressing case. As ever, individual cases fit into each episode as well, but these wider storylines are where the real interest comes.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Silk, Series 2”