TV Review: The Crown, Series 4 Episodes 1-3

I ration myself to Episodes 1-3 of Series 4 of The Crown in the first instance but find it is losing its lustre a little

“I’m struggling to find any redeeming features in these people at all”

Kicking off in 1977, Series 4 of The Crown swiftly moves into my lifetime with its second scene taking place in 1979, although not quite into events that I remember, at least in these first three episodes. And with the arrival of both Diana Spencer and Margaret Thatcher on the scene, there’s quite the decade to explore.

But something has gone a little awry for me and The Crown. The sheer scope of Peter Morgan’s writing means that there’s a mahoosive ensemble at work here but the nature of his construction of episodes that drill down to intimate focus means that there’s huge gaps and terrible wastage, particularly of Helena Bonham Carter’s delicious Princess Margaret. Continue reading “TV Review: The Crown, Series 4 Episodes 1-3”

News: the Almeida introduce the podcast in lockdown

Join the likes of Matt Smith, Noma Dumezweni, Indira Varma, and Tobias Menzies on the Almeida Theatre’s new podcast

There’s all sorts of virtual theatre-related content rocking around while the physical doors of theatres remain locked and one of the more fascinating ones, for me at least, is the Almeida’s podcast. Led by Artistic Director Rupert Goold, the theatre’s illustrious alumni means that it can call on the likes of Matt Smith, Noma Dumezweni, Indira Varma, and Tobias Menzies about their careers, the impact of the coronavirus lockdown and what they miss most about theatre.

The series has already begun with two interesting instalments. The first with BAFTA and Emmy Award-nominated actor Matt Smith who discusses his fear in doing his first ever musical, American Psycho, at the Almeida and his work on screen in The Crown and Doctor Who. Continue reading “News: the Almeida introduce the podcast in lockdown”

News: stars come out to support the Jermyn Street Theatre

Stars of stage and screen including Olivia Colman, Helena Bonham Carter, David Suchet, Dame Penelope Keith, Timothy West, Jamael Westman, Tobias Menzies, Aimee Lou Wood, Grace Saif, Dame Penelope Wilton, and Julie Hesmondhalgh have joined forces to perform Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets for Jermyn Street Theatre, a 70-seat studio in London’s West End.

The Sonnet Project launched on the theatre’s social media channels on 21 March, when Hannah Morrish performed Sonnet 1. One sonnet has appeared every day since then, with the cycle due to complete with Sonnet 154 in late August. David Suchet, star of Agatha Christie’s Poirot but also a veteran of numerous Royal Shakespeare Company productions, performed Sonnet 34 on Shakespeare’s birthday. Continue reading “News: stars come out to support the Jermyn Street Theatre”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 8

With major fluctuations in the force, Series 8 maintains a strong level for Spooks – you could argue it should have stopped here

“They think you’ve got Harry Pearce in the palm of you hand and you’re making moves”

 

Finally, after too many years of yoyo-ing between good series bad series, Spooks finally put together two strong instalments back to back. I think the shorter run (8 episodes) really does focus the writing which now goes all-in on the serial plot line running through the whole series, yet still finding time to blend in self-contained storylines here and there.

Big betrayals cut deep, harsh on a team barely recovered from Connie’s recent deception. Personnel changes rock the team equally hard, as Malcolm is (metaphorically) sacrificed to bring back Ruth, Jo is (literally) sacrificed for big business and Ros (understandably) goes in hard for Tobias Menzies. And Richard Armitage’s Lucas North gets his arse out – quality TV all round. Should Spooks have gone out all guns blazing here?

Nicola Walker-ometer
She’s back! There’s a measure of contrivance in Ruth’s return to the show, necessary to undo the finality of her previous departure and to extricate her from the cushy life in Cyprus which she’d established forself. So cheerio to handsome new partner (they weren’t married so it’s OK he got killed), sayonara to her step-child in all but name, and welcome back to sweet emotional lrepression with Harry. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 8”

fosterIAN awards 2019

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlaySarah Niles/Natalie Simpson/Racheal Ofori,
Three Sisters
Marieke Heebink,
Medea
Adjoa Andoh,
Richard II

Sharon D Clarke,
Death of a Salesman

Claire Foy,
Lungs

Leah Harvey,
Small Island

Chris Nietvelt,
De Kersentuin
Best Actor in a Play
Lucian Msamati, ‘Master Harold’…and the boysCary Crankson,
Country Music
Tobias Menzies,
The Hunt

Daniel Monks,
Teenage Dick

Wendell Pierce,
Death of a Salesman

Matt Smith,
Lungs

Zubin Varla,
Equus
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayMonica Dolan,
All About Eve
Jackie Pulford,
Karaoke Play
Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo,
Three Sisters

Janni Goslinga,
De Kersentuin

Pippa Nixon,
The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Cecilia Noble,
Faith Hope and Charity

Gemma Whelan,
Pinter Seven
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayNick Holder,
Faith Hope and Charity
Hugo Koolschijn,
De Kersentuin
Rupert Graves,
Pinter Five

John Heffernan,
Pinter Seven

Martins Imhangbe/Natey Jones,
Death of a Salesman

Arinzé Kene/Sope Dirisu,
Death of a Salesman

Ken Nwosu,
Three Sisters
Best Actress in a MusicalAudrey Brisson,
Amélie the Musical
Kirsty Findlay/Bethany Tennick,
Islander
Lucie Jones/Katherine McPhee,
Waitress

Miriam-Teak Lee,
& Juliet

Samantha Pauly,
Evita

Joanna Riding,
Follies

Zizi Strallen,
Mary Poppins
Best Actor in a MusicalJamie Muscato,
West Side Story (Curve Leicester)
Keith Ramsay,
Preludes
Andy Coxon,
West Side Story (Royal Exchange)

Jordan Fox/Michael Vinsen,
[title of show]

David Hunter,
Waitress
,
Charlie Stemp,
Mary Poppins

Oliver Tompsett,
& Juliet
,
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Cassidy Janson/Melanie La Barrie,
& Juliet 
Jocasta Almgill/Emily Langham,
West Side Story (Royal Exchange)
Laura Baldwin/Marisha Wallace,
Waitress

Tiffany Graves/Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson,
The Boy Friend

Claire Machin/Claire Moore,
Mary Poppins

Rebecca McKinnis/Lauren Ward,
Dear Evan Hansen

Carly Mercedes Dyer/Victoria Hamilton-Barritt,
The View UpStairs
,
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalDavid Bedella,
& Juliet
Jack Butterworth,
The Boy Friend
Ricardo Afonso,
Jesus Christ Superstar

Rob Houchen,
The Light in the Piazza

Samuel Holmes,
Curtains

Cedric Neal,
The View UpStairs

Jez Unwin,
Amélie the Musical

2019 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play

Lucian Msamati, ‘Master Harold’…and the boys
Something about the National Theatre seems to bring out the best in the already prodigiously talented Msamati, here he captures the heart of anyone who has ever disappointed a parent as his Sam suffers such cruel indignities with an unimaginable grace,

Honourable mention: Cary Crankson, Country Music
If there’s any justice in the world, Crankson will be an actor we will be talking about for years to come. Don’t miss any chance to see him, especially when it is as intense and intimate as this was.

Tobias Menzies, The Hunt
Daniel Monks, Teenage Dick
Wendell Pierce, Death of a Salesman
Matt Smith, Lungs
Zubin Varla, Equus

8-10
Gershwyn Eustache Jnr, Small Island; Ethan Kai, Equus; Gijs Scholten van Aschat, De Kersentuin

 

Best Actor in a Musical

Jamie Muscato, West Side Story (Curve Leicester)
In the battle of the Tonys, Muscato won me over with the effortless ease in which he utilises his magnificent voice. Looking as casual as you like as this would-be lover, his rendition of ‘Maria’ left about 95% of the Curve’s audience wondering how to get their name changed so that it’s about them. OK, me, it was me thinking that!

Honourable mention: Keith Ramsay, Preludes
A show that deserved more attention than it got, Ramsay’s extraordinary performance in an extraordinary production was a showstopper in Southwark.

Andy Coxon, West Side Story (Royal Exchange)
Jordan Fox/Michael Vinsen, [title of show];
David Hunter, Waitress
Charlie Stemp, Mary Poppins
Oliver Tompsett, & Juliet

8-10
Andy Mientus, The View UpStairs; Trent Saunders, Evita; Sam Tutty, Dear Evan Hansen

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 Carters rock 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”

TV Review: The Crown, Series 3 Episodes 1-3

The Crown returns with Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies at the helm, and Helena Bonham Carter stealing the show

“Everyone at the Post Office is delighted with the new profile”

Gotta get those hits…who knows how far behind I am, given I’m 9 hours ahead of the UK at the moment, but I thought I’d jot down my initial thoughts on the first three episodes of series 3 of The Crown (all written by Peter Morgan and directed by Benjamin Caron), as Netflix kindly offered them up as holiday entertainment. (And since I’m away, I’ve been a little insulated from all the Prince Andrew drama, which from over here almost feels like a random bit of guerilla marketing).

  • I wonder if I have a little hangover from just how good Claire Foy was, but I’m 100% feeling Olivia Colman in the role yet. She doesn’t seem quite as subsumed into the character, in the way that Foy’s every minutely detailed movement seemed to be. That said, there’s some scorching moments when Jason Watkins’ Harold Wilson dares to suggest her response to the Aberfan tragedy is lacking.
  • The excellent Tobias Menzies hasn’t really had enough screen time yet to have his Prince Philip make an impact, though I’ve every faith.
  • The casting of Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret is inspired, the extravagance of the character is perfectly suited to her but she’s bringing a real depth at the same time. 
  • And I have to say I miss Matthew Goode’s hugely erotic insouciance as Antony Armstrong-Jones, Ben Daniels’ much more wearied take hasn’t quite ticked my boxes yet.

Elsewhere, the headlong rush through the years means that we’re doomed to the smallest contributions from some excellent actors – Samuel West’s Anthony Blunt and Angus Wright’s MI5 bod were gone too soon, though I live in hope of more from Penny Downie’s Duchess of Gloucester, Aden Gillett as Richard Crossman and Sinéad Matthews as Marcia Williams (seriously, her accent is a thing of pure beauty).

And given the budget is allegedly in the many millions, it certainly looks a treat once again. From glistening palatial lushness to agonisingly destroyed villages, these are fully realised worlds no matter how short a space of time we end up spending in them. Caron’s direction also makes room for a more uncomplicated cinematic as well though, choosing iconic visual to close out each episode – the regal silhouette, juxtapositions of Margarets old and new, the children playing. This is a Crown that has lost none of its lustre.

Photo: Sophie Mutevelian