TV Review: Banana

Released as a complementary anthology series to Cucumber, Banana is an interesting experiment but doesn’t always quite hit the spot

“I’ll buy you lunch and try and kiss you”

A sister series to Cucumber, Russell T Davies’ Banana aired on E4 right after the main show and told eight different stories of supporting characters who in some cases, had only been seen briefly in passing. It was a fascinating way of expanding the dramatic world of the show and useful too, as the main focus there being on Henry meant the spotlight here could be shone on a wider LGBT+ spectrum.

So lesbians get a fair crack of the whip for once, and history was made with the first transgender actor appearing in a transgender role on UK TV. Davies letting in other writers definitely works in this respect, with Sue Perkins, Charlie Covell, Matthew Barry and Lee Warbuton all contributing. And so the end result is predictably uneven but at its best, highly engaging. Continue reading “TV Review: Banana”

TV Review: Cucumber

Russell T Davies returns to gay life in Manchester in heartbreakingly good form with the excellent Cucumber

“Close your eyes and think of me”

Having made his name with Queer As Folk, Russell T Davies’ televisual return to gay life in Manchester took the form in the triad of Cucumber, Banana and Tofu (named for stages of an erection, natch). Most attention fell on the most conventional of the three, Cucumber, which focused on the midlife crisis of Henry Best, a 40-something gay man who lurches into a meltdown when Lance, his partner of 9 years, proposes marriage and he says no.

I remembered the show quite fondly from first time around, so I was surprised upon rewatching at just how much of an uncompromising twat Henry is. Vincent Franklin does a great job at rounding off some of the sharp edges with a genial humanity but he is a selfish middle-class tosser of the first degree throughout and there’s something quite admirable in that, even if Davies can’t resist trying to undo it with a sentimentally tinged final episode. Continue reading “TV Review: Cucumber”

News: National Theatre adds new productions to streaming platform NT at Home

The National Theatre has announced the latest productions to be made available on its National Theatre at Home streaming platform. Launching today, the Young Vic and Joshua Andrews’ production of Tennessee Williams’ timeless masterpiece A Streetcar Named Desire featuring Gillian Anderson as Blanche DuBois, Ben Foster as Stanley and Vanessa Kirby as Stella, the NT’s recent production of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood with Michael Sheen and Nadia Fall’s verbatim play Home that explores homelessness in the UK featuring Michaela Coel. New productions are added each month and since launching in December 2020, there are now 31 productions available to stream on the platform.

It is also announced today some of the productions that audiences can expect to see on the platform in the coming months. Those productions are confirmed to include Antony & Cleopatra with Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo in the title roles; Hedda Gabler with Ruth Wilson in the title role; Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls in the Lyttelton theatre from 2019Sally Cookson’s 2017 production of Peter Pan; Yaël Farber’s Salomé and James Graham’s political drama This House, alongside current NT productions; Kae Tempest’s Paradise with Lesley Sharp and Winsome Pinnock’s Rockets and Blue LightsIan McKellen on Stage will also join the platform this autumn for audiences outside the UK and Ireland. It is currently available in the UK and Ireland for Amazon Prime subscribers. Continue reading “News: National Theatre adds new productions to streaming platform NT at Home”

Film Review: Yesterday (2019)

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away…this British romcom doesn’t do it for my heartbear or my funny bone

“I’m trying to live outside the traditional concept of time”

Truth be told, I’ve never been the biggest fan of The Beatles (I know). Their music wasn’t a part of my childhood soundtrack and my first real memory of it comes from having to learn ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ in primary school choir. So the notion of Yesterday wasn’t one that particularly jumped out at me, even as it posits a world in which no-one has heard of the Fab Four.

Written by Richard Curtis, from a story by Curtis and Jack Barth, and directed by Danny Boyle, it aims squarely for that ineffably British romcom aesthetic and pretty much lands it. Unrequited love interest/friend of the opposite sex, gawky best pal, garrulous inner circle, Himesh Patel’s Jack checks off all the Curtis tropes one by one, with the added twist of twee sci-fi in the mix too.  It should work, right?

Continue reading “Film Review: Yesterday (2019)”

TV Review: Twenty Twelve (Series 2)

Despite an excellent Samuel Barnett, the second series of Twenty Twelve isn’t quite at the level of the first, though still very enjoyable

“I’m not from the sanitary world, I’m from Yorkshire”

Perhaps inevitably, the second series of Twenty Twelve doesn’t quite live up the revelatory quality of the first, the tinkering with the formula knocking the exact chemistry of the ensemble ever so slightly off-balance. Split into two (although you wouldn’t know it watching it now), the final episode ran just a couple of days before the Opening Ceremony of London 2012, and the show’s success was such that it made the move from BBC4 to BBC2.

In many ways, the recipe for John Morton’s mockumentary series didn’t change. The Olympic Deliverance Commission continued their hapless march towards the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games, battling their own ineptitude and institutitional intransigency as personal ambition sets up against religious rights, the Royal Family, the nation’s comparative lack of interest in women’s football and sportsmen’s innate lack of personality to name but a few. Continue reading “TV Review: Twenty Twelve (Series 2)”

TV Review: Twenty Twelve (Series 1)

The enduring lightness and laughter of Series 1 of Twenty Twelve make it an ideal lockdown watch

“OK. Here’s the thing. OK? The thing is… OK. Here’s the thing with this. OK. The thing is…”

Though it is actually nearly a decade ago now, 2011 does seem like another lifetime. And it is worth remembering too that pre-Olympics, many of us (particularly those who live and work in the capital) were sceptical about what havoc the 2012 Games would bring (I had a whole meeting about how dedicated traffic lanes would impact on some training I was meant to be running…).

Into this unknown, mockumentary Twenty Twelve – written and directed by John Morton – was broadcast (on BBC Four natch, those sceptics abounded) to coincide with the 500-day countdown to the opening ceremony. And a new British comedy classic was born, one which still holds up well now that things are, well, different. Continue reading “TV Review: Twenty Twelve (Series 1)”

News: National Theatre at Home Phase 3

The National Theatre has today announced further productions that will be streamed live on YouTube every Thursday at 7PM BST via the National Theatre’s YouTube channel as part of National Theatre at Home; the new initiative to bring content to the public in their homes during the Coronavirus outbreak. The titles announced today include productions from partner theatres which were previously broadcast to cinemas by National Theatre Live. Continue reading “News: National Theatre at Home Phase 3”

Film Review: Peterloo (2018)

I wanted to like Mike Leigh’s Peterloo, I really did…

“You must be famished coming all the way from Wigan”

I’ve been a big fan of Mike Leigh’s film work, since discovering it in the last decade or so, and loved his last film Mr Turner. So news of his return to period drama, albeit through his idiosyncratic process, in Peterloo was a plus for me. The reality though is an epic that proved a real slog for me, even boring by the end. Continue reading “Film Review: Peterloo (2018)”

Film Review: Nativity Rocks! (2018)

The fourth instalment in the Nativity film series, Nativity Rocks! restores a little of the goodwill squandered by the previous two sequels

“I’m wishing Father Christmas doesn’t forget where I live like he did last year”

I can’t think of a film franchise that has squandered such promise as the Nativity series. Debbie Isitt’s original film was such a sweetly unexpected success, but its magic sadly proved rather elusive as its subsequent sequels lost any of its sense of purpose or improvised charm. So the arrival of a third sequel in the shape of Nativity Rocks! (released in cinemas in 2018) came with a healthy dose of apprehension, even if the musical adaptation has rescued some of its lustre (though is that also now in danger of oversaturation , as the musical is now in its third consecutive winter tour).

For all my reservations though, Isitt had zero problem in attracting a quality ensemble as the cast undergoes something of an overhaul. So Marc Wootton’s Mr Poppy is dispatched to Australia and replaced with Simon Lipkin’s Mr Poppy (his long-lost brother), Daniel Boys is the fresh-faced teacher taking St Bernadette’s school choir through the rigours of yet another competition, with Helen George as the putative love interest, Gabriel Vick as the posh rival schoolmaster. Plus there’s Hugh Dennis and Anna Chancellor as some well-to-do parents, Ramin Karimloo as a refugee father, Meera Syal and Celia Imrie too, plus Craig Revel Horwood… Continue reading “Film Review: Nativity Rocks! (2018)”