TV Review: Mum Series 3

Stefan Golaszewski’s Mum goes out on an absolute high with a glorious third and final series with Lesley Manville and Dorothy Atkinson never better

“I think this will be an interesting week”

Any TV series starring both Lesley Manville and Sam Swainsbury has clearly been specifically designed for me and me alone, and so I choose to take Stefan Golaszewski’s decision to end Mum after this third series extremely personally. Problem is, the guy knows exactly what he is doing, as this glorious series really did go out on a high.

It’s taken me a little while to get around to watching it. I adored the first series, and the second, and I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye. But given her return to the stage at the National, it felt like as good a time as any to indulge in a Manville marathon. And you can watch this entire series in less than the running time of The Visit, without even having to get dressed, so everyone’s a winner. Continue reading “TV Review: Mum Series 3”

TV Review: Mum Series 2

A hugely successful return for Stefan Golaszewski’s BBC sitcom Mum, with world-beater Lesley Manville in brilliant form once again

“Three types of potato – are you out of your fucking mind?”

I’m not sure what we’ve done to deserve Stefan Golaszewski’s Mum but I’m sure as hell glad that we have it. The second series of this BBC sitcom has now drawn to a close and it is hard not to think that it isn’t one of the most magnificently perfect bits of television out there, surpassing even the heights of the superlative first season

Starring Lesley Manville and Sam Swainsbury as it does, it could well have been machine-tooled to appeal to my Venn diagram of all Venn diagrams. But Mum is so much more than my varying crushes, it is a supremely well-calibrated piece of heart-breaking and heart-warming writing that finds its humour in that most British of ways, through adversity. Cathy’s husband and Michael’s best friend may have died a year ago but their attempts to move on, to maybe explore their mutual, unspoken attraction are constantly frustrated by the clod-hopping presence of her extended family at every beat.   Continue reading “TV Review: Mum Series 2”

TV Review: Mum

“I feel as sad as the sisters of Lazarus”

A number of the reviews of the first episode of Mum (here’s mine) were cautiously optimistic but commented that Stefan Golaszewski’s writing wasn’t really funny enough for a sitcom, or up to his previous TV show Him and Her. I hope that people persisted with it though, for it emerged as a simply beautiful piece of television, closer to a drama in the end than an outright comedy, and all the more affecting and effective for it.

In some ways, it’s not that surprising that it wasn’t a canned laughter kind of show – an actor of the stature of Lesley Manville, with her nearly 40 years of collaboration with Mike Leigh, wouldn’t do that, would she (I guess My Family being the exception here…). Instead, what we got was a subtle meditation on how life continues after bereavement, working through the stages of grief and minutiae of life over the course of that tricky first year. Plus Manville ate a large crisp in one go, now you don’t get that kind of quality just anywhere! Continue reading “TV Review: Mum”

TV Review: Mum, Episode 1

“Sorry if this isn’t the sort of thing to say at a funeral”

In terms of the Venn diagram of my favourite things, you really could not get more precise than putting Lesley Manville on screen and then following that up with a shot of Sam Swainsbury in his boxer shorts. No, I’m not recounting a dream, this is the actual opening sequence of the first episode of new BBC2 sitcom Mum, directed by Richard Laxton (who worked with Manville most recently in River) – safe to say I’m hooked.

Written by Stefan Golaszewski, probably best known for Him and Her, Mum looks set to be a gently observational comedy rather than a straight-up sitcom. This first episode focused on Manville’s Cathy preparing for the day of her husband’s funeral, dealing with the influx of visitors to her house including her son’s new girlfriend, her brother and his snobbish wife, her ageing in-laws and an old family friend. Continue reading “TV Review: Mum, Episode 1”

Review: Sex with a Stranger, Trafalgar Studios 2

“What are you up to tonight?”

It is always nice when a play can change your mind about a theatre. The Trafalgar Studios 2 has never been one of my favourite venues, its awkward shape and uncomfortable seating have often proved a challenge for directors and so my experiences there have definitely been a mixed bag. But Sex with a Stranger, written by Stefan Golaszewski who also pens Him and Her (not that I watch it), has slotted in extremely well with a cracking cast to tell its story of everyday disillusionment with love, sex and life. Adam and Grace hook up in a club and wind their way back to hers for a one night stand via the kebab shop and we get to see their attempts at halting conversation and forming a fumbling connection which are awkwardly, hilariously portrayed. We then skip back in time a day or so to find that Adam has left a girlfriend Ruth at home, but their relationship is no bed of roses and the stranger of the title could sadly apply to either woman.

There’s no denying that this isn’t the most substantial of works, but interestingly enough where I would happily criticise say Ayckbourn for being insubstantial to my mind, the slightness here was much more tolerable because of the connection that I felt with the writing. So much of it feels relatable and recognisable and thus it rang entirely true with me, especially in its depiction of a failing relationship. It probably wasn’t an avocado that caused it, but I’ve had that passive-aggressive moment in the supermarket; that horrible pull between partner and friends who don’t necessarily get on; that nagging sense that neither of you are on the same page. Golaszewski captures all of this so well in its raw awkwardness and uncomfortableness, which is served excellently for once in the close intimacy of the Trafalgar Studios 2 in Phillip Breen’s production. Continue reading “Review: Sex with a Stranger, Trafalgar Studios 2”