TV Review: Silent Witness Series 13

God-tier guest casting, daring deviation in the storytelling and Leo getting hit on the head, Series 13 of Silent Witness is probably one of my absolute faves 

“Your kind think you’re some kind of heroic martyr, you won’t be told or fobbed off. If people get dragged into your mess then it’s jolly unfortunate but you don’t give a shit because you have right on your side”

Now this is the good stuff. Series 13 of Silent Witness opted to shake things up just a little more than usual and the result, for me, is one of their most effective seasons to date. For one, having Leo be the one who is attacked rather than Nikki is (three series on the trot in case you’d forgotten) is just nice for the variety but adding a note of frailty into this most sanctimonious of characters works well.

It also sets up a cracking episode which sees Nikki and Harry at loggerheads as they take the same evidence and end up with wildly different conclusions which they’re then forced to defend in court. And a campus shooting episode, whilst having hardly anything to do with forensic pathology, is brilliantly conceived and chillingly executed. Fresh takes on the storytelling really makes this series feel alive. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 13”

#AdventwithClowns Day 15 – Wanderlust (BBC)

NIck Payne adapts his play Wanderlust for TV, with a great lead performance from Toni Collette and stunning work from Sophie Okonedo

“I thought old people were supposed to go off sex”

It being more than 10 years since I saw Nick Payne’s play Wanderlust at the Royal Court, I’d be hard pressed to tell you much about how it differed from this TV adaptation which aired back in 2018 but essentially, Payne circles around notions of sex and intimacy and the different roles they can play in different relationships. At the heart of the tale here are Joy and Alan, long married but sexually stale and thus we follow their decision to open out their marriage, with all the attendant difficulties that presents to their tightly-wound emotional states.

We also see the ripple effects on their teenage children, each finding their own way through love and sex and life and friendship, and we also see a lot of Joy’s therapy clients, the significance of which comes heavily to bear late on. Toni Collette and Steven Mackintosh are great value for money as Joy and Alan, Paul Kaye and Zawe Ashton also entertain as their new sex partners, and Kate O’Flynn and Anastasia Hille both thrill in supporting parts. The whole damn thing is worth it though for the simply spectacular Episode 5 in which locks Collette’s Joy and Sophie Okonedo as her own therapist in a room and keeps them there, to just stunning effect.

Wanderlust is available to watch on Netflix

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 3

Guest stars such as Lesley Manville, Adam James and Elizabeth Berrington help elevate an interesting Series 3 of Silent Witness 

“I’d’ve thought you’d learned by now, this is police work not yours”

Series 3 of Silent Witness brings a new recurring police team for us to get to know, a(nother) new handsome man from Sam’s past who is waiting to jump into bed with her, and a new set of cases for Sam to get overly invested in. It gets to beyond the point of mockery when almost every episode has a line like the above quote in it but you sense the writers acknowledging this, as the opportunity to work in a different capacity in London is presented at the end of the season.

Which is probably right as there can’t be many more police officers in Cambridge that Amanda Burton’s Sam Ryan hasn’t royally pissed off. And in a Midsomer Murders/Morse way, surely there’s a limit to the number of crimes that can take place in a single locale. The casting is on point in this series though – Adam James and Mark Umbers appearing as posh students and somone had clearly been watching Mike Leigh films as Lesley Manville, Heather Craney and Elizabeth Berrington all make appearances here.

Top guest appearences

  1. a baby Nicholas Hoult appears briefly as a grieving child
  2. a fresh-faced Adam James as an earnest undergrad who describes someone as “a bit of poof but he didn’t deserve to get beaten up” (1998 doesn’t feel that long ago…)
  3. there’s a performance of striking froideur from Lesley Manville in ‘Fallen Idol’
  4. Jimi Mistry makes up the numbers in the incident room for one scene in one of the cases early on, never to be seen again
  5. and no spoilers but Josette Simon is brilliant as the slick Drug Squad DCI at the heart of ‘Divided Loyalties’

TV Review: Elizabeth is Missing

Glenda Jackson is brittle and brutal in the excellent Elizabeth is Missing

“How about some Vera Lynn?”

True story, I’ve read Emma Healey’s novel Elizabeth is Missing and can’t remember anything about it, how’s that for dramatic irony… So Andrea Gibb’s adaptation for the television, directed by Aisling Walsh, held layers of mystery for me, as this murder mystery framed through the lens of dementia intersected with my own hazy recollections of what I thought was slowly coming back to me.

That murder mystery element is the driving narrative force across the two timelines of the drama. Grandmother Maud is trying to find out what has happened to her gardening pal Elizabeth who has vanished, but she’s haunted by memories of the disappearance of her sister Sukey 70 years ago and hampered by the onset of Alzheimer’s which is ravaging her life and her independence. Continue reading “TV Review: Elizabeth is Missing”

TV Review: The Crown Series 3

Series 3 of The Crown sees new actors in across the board but Olivia Colman is sadly no Claire Foy. Helena Bonham Carter rocks though

“Sometimes duty requires one to put personal feelings…
‘And frivolity”
…aside”

Doing little to dispel rumours that she isn’t a Time Lord, The Crown takes its cues from Doctor Who as Series 3 sees the Queen regenerate from Claire Foy to Olivia Colman. And not just that, the whole cast of main players has been replaced as this new company will take us through the next couple of series. It’s a clever move, considering the spain of history that the show takes but it is also a little sad to lose such excellent performances as Vanessa Kirby’s Princess Margaret, Victoria Hamilton’s Queen Mum, Alex Jennings and Lia Williams as Edward and Wallis and of course, Foy’s exceptional work.     

Series 3 then, takes us from 1964 to 1977, featuring such notable events as the Aberfan tragedy, the moon landing and the arrival of Camilla in Charles’ life. And with its many millions and pick of the white acting talent in this country, it remains eminently watchable. That said, something has shifted for me and it just doesn’t feel as effective as the first two seasons. A large element of this is the way series creator and main writer Peter Morgan has structured the show, choosing to maintain a massive ensemble of recurring characters but keeping the focus, and turnover, of episodes relentlessly tight. Continue reading “TV Review: The Crown Series 3”

Review: The Antipodes, National Theatre

Annie Baker returns to the National Theatre with The Antipodes – she does not change my mind about her

“We don’t feel like we have to self-censor and we can all just sit around telling stories. Because that’s where the good stuff comes from”

I’ve tried with Annie Baker, I really have. And Circle Mirror Transformation did it for me, both times. But the plaudits rained on The Flick and John baffled me as both left me extremely cold and her latest play to premiere in the UK, 2017’s The Antipodes, is very much in that latter mould, creeping naturalism that seems to defy the laws of time themselves.

Insomuch as a Baker play is about anything, The Antipodes is about storytelling, kind of. A group of people sit in a conference room telling stories and pulling them apart, looking for inspiration but for what, we never really know. And as any kind of leadership offers by the chairman-ish Sandy fades away, something apocalyptically dark looms outside. Continue reading “Review: The Antipodes, National Theatre”

July theatre round-up

I might have taken a break from reviewing for the last couple of months, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre. Here’s some brief thoughts on most of what I saw  in July.

On Your Feet, aka the rhythm will get you, sometimes
the end of history…, aka how can you get cheese on toast so wrong
Equus, aka hell yes for Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting design
Games for Lovers, aka straight people be crazy
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, aka the one that got my goat
The Girl on the Train, aka Philip McGinley in shorts
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, aka Another Dream? dream on
Uncle Vanya, aka I really need to stop booking for plays like this with casts like that 
Jellyfish, aka justice for the second best play of last year
Sweat, aka Clare Perkins should always be on in the West End
Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 The Musical, aka yay for lovely new musicals in the West End
The Light in the Piazza, aka Molly Lynch fricking nails it
Jesus Christ Superstar, aka was third time the charm?
Continue reading “July theatre round-up”

News: the National Theatre announces 15 new productions for 2019 and 2020

So much goodness! The National Theatre have just announced details of productions stretching deep into 2020, and with writers like Lucy Kirkwood, Kate Tempest, Roy Williams and Tony Kushner, and actors like Lesley Manville, Maxine Peake, Conleth Hill, Cecilia Noble and Lesley Sharp, it is hard not to feel excited about what’s ahead.

Olivier Theatre 

Following a sell-out run at Rose Theatre Kingston, the acclaimed two-part adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s MY BRILLIANT FRIEND by April De Angelis is reworked for the Olivier stage by Melly Still (Coram Boy). When the most important person in her life goes missing without a trace, Lenu Greco, now a celebrated author, begins to recall a relationship of more than 60 years.  Continue reading “News: the National Theatre announces 15 new productions for 2019 and 2020”

Review: Sweat, Donmar Warehouse

The ferocious Sweat may not feel festive at the Donmar Warehouse but its message is ultimately one perfect for the season

“You could wake up tomorrow and all your jobs are in Mexico”

Lynn Nottage’s Sweat won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and on the evidence of Lynette Linton’s production for the Donmar Warehouse, deservedly so. Based on interviews with the residents of Reading, Pennsylvania – one of the poorest towns of its size in the USA – it proves an utterly compelling examination of the all-too-personal impact of deindustrialisation. 

Written in 2015, hindsight encourages us to find remarkable prescience in Nottage exploring the kind of economic dissatisfaction that propelled Trump to power but the truth is more layered than that. Set in 2000, with brief forays into 2008, the desperation that poverty inculcates in people is stripped of partisanship as we’re just left to bear witness to those who just believe they have no other choice. Continue reading “Review: Sweat, Donmar Warehouse”

TV Review: Ordeal by Innocence, BBC1

“You have to face the consequences now”

It’s taken me an age to get round to finishing Ordeal by Innocence, the latest in the BBC’s series of hugely successful Agatha Christie adaptation from Sarah Phelps. I watched the first part when it aired at Easter and quite liked it but for some reason, the remaining two got stuck on my ‘to-do’ list.

And having finally watched them, I have to say I found myself a little disappointed. Not being familiar with the story, the major plot alterations had no impact on me and if we’re honest, the replacement of actor Ed Westwick by Christian Cooke had little discernible effect (aside from the obvious delay). Continue reading “TV Review: Ordeal by Innocence, BBC1”