Lockdown Theatre Review: One Man, Two Guvnors, National Theatre at Home

I really love National Theatre at Home
I really don’t love One Man, Two Guvnors 

“I’ve paid for these sausage rolls, so why waste ’em”

To start on a positive, I think we can agree that National Theatre at Home is a huge success. The type of scheme that only large institutions can hope to really pull off but even so, managing the kind of appointment-to-view occasion that was its debut with One Man, Two Guvnors was still a remarkable achievement. Because it is more than just releasing digital versions of plays on streaming services, it is about trying to capture just a spark of that special charge of electricity that comes with going to see live theatre.

Whilst that particular pleasure is denied us during the Covid-19 crisis, this strategy of drip-releasing the NT’s considerable archive on a weekly basis feels like an extremely canny move. Clamouring voices have been demanding that every production they can think of be released but a mass dump of everything would be counter-productive, too easily forgotten once the initial excitement has passed. Heck, even I was excited for this Thursday to arrive to take part, despite being no lover of One Man, Two Guvnors or James Corden. Continue reading “Lockdown Theatre Review: One Man, Two Guvnors, National Theatre at Home”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 4

With the loss of its original core cast and the destabilising presence of Martine McCutcheon, Series 4 of Spooks struggles to find its feet

“You’re up against the British state…who do you think is going to win that particular battle?”

This season of Spooks struggles quite badly amidst all the upheaval of Series 3 in which in the entire original team departed Thames House. Tom’s identikit replacement Adam does well enough but somehow, something goes terribly wrong with the introduction of his wife and fellow spy Fiona (Olga Sosnovska). They sadly lack chemistry and their domestic drama just doesn’t translate well into the business of saving the country on a weekly basis.

The tone is set by the randomly chaotic energy of Martine McCutcheon’s guest spot in the opener two-parter and from then on, as we cover people smuggling, the rise of far right political movements, cultists and the ethics of releasing terrorist suspects, the series jerks along rather, Raza Jaffrey’s Danny-a-like isn’t given anywhere near enough to do and the snaffling of Miranda Raison’s Jo off the street is as bizarre an advert for recruitment as any.

Nicola Walker-ometer
It’s a pretty low-key series for Ruth – hints of her passion for Harry come through whether in romantic feeling or rebelling against him a bit. She comes into her own in the final episode with the revelation of a step-brother who killed himself but has never been mentioned before putting her in the line of fire but all in all she deserves better. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 4”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 3

It’s all change at Thames House as Series 3 of Spooks sees the original core team leave the security service one way or another 

“We cannot have another Tom Quinn”

I’d forgotten just monumental this series of Spooks was, as first Matthew MacFadyen’s Tom took his leave after getting a conscience, then Keeley Hawes’ Zoe was shunted off to Chile to evade justice and then David Oyelowo’s Danny shuffled off this mortal coil thanks to bloody Fiona and an annoyed Iraqi terrorist. Rupert Penry-Jones was drafted in as Adam, a friendly MI6 type who fits the Tom mould perfectly, though we could have done without his wife (more of that anon).

But even besides all the personnel shifting, the writing is shit-hot in this season, especially when the focus is on the morality of security service actions. Targeted assassinations on North Sea ferries, honeytrapping members of the Turkish mafia, these are meaty issues with some real consequences for all concerned. 

Nicola Walker-ometer
Now firmly established in the team, attention turns to her trying to get some, in the most Ruth-like possible way, ie stalking someone illegally and sharing a carbonara with a traitorous ex-colleague, this is prime Ruth territory. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 3”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 2

Now this is more like it, Series 2 of Spooks settles into the classic feel that works so well

“This ridiculous James Bondery…do we need it?”

With this second season, Spooks really gets into its stride I think, recognising that it is an ensemble show at heart (and a rolling ensemble at that, although it’s a shame new recruit Sam doesn’t get more to do) and nailing the variation in tone and style of episodes which largely remain self-contained. Also, Nicola Walker finally arrives as Ruth, which is good news for the audience, Harry and the nation.

Topics-wise, we touch on hacker kids, Irish republicanism, Islamic radicalisation and Anglo-American relations among others. But it is ‘I Spy Apocalypse’, written by Howard Brenton and brilliantly directed by Justin Chadwick with a smothering sense of claustrophobia that really gets the pulse racing as a fire drill for a terrorist incident gets very dark very quickly – it’s possibly one of the best ever episodes of Spooks.

Nicola Walker-ometer
Praise the Lord – analyst Ruth Evershed finally arrives in Episode 2 in all her long cardigans and flowing skirts and though initially viewed with suspicion coming from GCHQ as she does, she soon wins over the team with her knowledge of Greek mythology, Russian crucifixion practices and much more besides. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 2”

News: #HampsteadTheatreAtHome launches this week

The latest venue to announce the opening of their digital archive in order to satisfy our theatrical cravings is the Hampstead Theatre who, in partnership with The Guardian will re-release the live stream recordings of Mike Bartlett’s Wild, Beth Steel’s Wonderland and Howard Brenton’s Drawing the Line for free.

Available to watch on theguardian.com and hampsteadtheatre.com, the three productions will be made available, on demand, over three consecutive weeks as part of the theatre’s #HampsteadTheatreAtHome series and the first of these – Wild – is available now. And once you’ve watched it, take a look at the ways you can support the Hampstead Theatre here. Continue reading “News: #HampsteadTheatreAtHome launches this week”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 1

I had already started a rewatch of Spooks earlier this year as part of a planned Nicola Walker retrospective but as it turns out, I’ll have to use that Britbox subscription for something else!

“When will you tell her that your real name is Tom Quinn and that you are a spy”

It is interesting to look at back at much-loved shows and be reminded of how not everything is always how you remember. So much of Spooks has aged remarkably well – not least its choice of subjects that have remained terrifyingly evergreen – that it is easy to forget that this opening season of 6 episodes sees them still searching for that house style. 

It is undoubtedly a bit shonky in look and feel, the slick Thames House set isn’t yet in place and the focus on the lead team at the expense of too many nameless supporting bods gives the personal dynamics a somewhat off-balance feel as we delve into too much of the personal lives of Tom, Zoe and Danny.

But airing in May 2002 in the immediate post 9/11 climate gives its geopolitics real currency. And the threats they face – homegrown far-right movements, fears over immigration, the push for Kurdish self-government, US abortion rights, Russian spies being murdered on British soil… – are compelling throughout. And any show that has Jenny Agutter and Nicholas Farrell dry-humping in a corridor has to be a winner right?!   

Nicola Walker-ometer
To be honest, I’d forgotten Ruth wasn’t a member of the team from the start, so these six episodes pass by with an outrageous lack of Nicola Walker. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 1”

News: National Theatre announces National Theatre at Home

National Theatre announces National Theatre at Home, starting with One Man Two Guvnors, Jane Eyre, Treasure Island and Twelfth Night 

During this unprecedented time which has seen the closure of theatres, cinemas and schools, the National Theatre today announces new initiative National Theatre at Home providing access to content online to serve audiences in their homes. Audiences around the world can stream NT Live productions for free via YouTube, and students and teachers have access to the National Theatre Collection at home, delivered in partnership with Bloomsbury Publishing.

From Thursday 2 April, a number of productions previously screened in cinemas globally as a part of National Theatre Live will be made available to watch via the National Theatre’s YouTube channel. The first production to be broadcast as part of National Theatre at Home will be Richard Bean’s One Man Two Guvnors featuring a Tony Award-winning performance from James Corden. Each production will be free and screened live every Thursday at 7.00pm GMT, it will then be available on demand for seven days. Alongside the streamed productions, National Theatre at Home will also feature accompanying interactive content such as Q&As with cast and creative teams and post-stream talks, with further details of this programme to be announced.

Working closely with YouTube, other productions streamed as part of National Theatre at Home include:
Sally Cookson’s stage adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre on the 9th April,
Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island on 16th April, and 
Twelfth Night on the 23rd April featuring Tamsin Greig as Malvolia in Shakespeare’s classic comedy, with further titles to be announced. What would you like to see added to the programme?

Photo credits:
One Man Two Guvnors – Johan Persson
Jane Eyre –
Manuel Harlan
Treasure Island –
Johan Persson 
Twelfth Night – Marc Brenner

 

Not-a-review: The Effect, Boulevard Theatre

The effect of coronavirus on The Effect at the Boulevard Theatre, is robbing us of what was sure to be a striking revival of Lucy Prebble’s play

“We are facing an everyday epidemic”

With lines like the above, you wonder how Lucy Prebble’s The Effect would have gone down at the Boulevard Theatre, especially directed by Anthony Neilson at this moment in time. Sadly, we won’t get to find out any time soon and though the current crisis isn’t good for any theatre, it feels particularly cruel on a new venue still finding its feet in the London theatre ecology.

I’d wager this production would have gone some way to establishing the Boulevard’s dramatic credentials. Prebble’s play was a huge hit at the National in 2012, and got even better in its regional premiere in Sheffield a few years later. And with a cast as talented as Eric Kofi Abrefa, Christine Entwisle, Tim McMullan and the ever-excellent Kate O’Flynn, I hope this doesn’t wind up a case of what might have been. 

For The Boulevard Theatre
You can follow the theatre on Twitter here
You can look at different ways of supporting the Boulevard here
You can sign up to their mailing list here to get their announcements about future plans, once the dust finally settles 

Not-a-review: La Ménagerie de Verre, Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe

Coronavirus may stopped me from seeing Isabelle Huppert and Ivo van Hove’s La Ménagerie de Verre at the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe in Paris but some bloopers will always make me smile

“La scène est la mémoire”

In the grand scheme of things, missing out on an Ivo van Hove/Isabelle Huppert collaboration isn’t the end of the world but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. La Ménagerie de Verre was due to come to the Barbican this summer but naturally I wanted to see this Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe production in its Parisian home. As a co-production with La Comédie de Clermont-Ferrand scène nationale, Onassis Stegi in Athens, Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, Thalia Theater in Hamburg, deSingel in Antwerp and the Barbican, one hopes that this won’t be the end for this production, we’ll have to see.

Any chance to see Huppert live should be snaffled up immediately, no matter how strange or how far, but there’s also something interesting in seeing Tennessee Williams done in a foreign language as released from the distracting tyranny of trying to nail a Southern accent, the potential for something richer seems to flow.

 

Continue reading “Not-a-review: La Ménagerie de Verre, Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe”

2020 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

Award season kicks into another gear with the arrival of the nominations for the 2020 Olivier Awards – & Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof and Dear Evan Hansen lead the musicals pack, Death of a Salesman and Rosmersholm the plays

As ever, Laurence giveth and he taketh away and it’s all subjective anyway.

  • I’m really pleased to see the love for Amélie The Musical and The Ocean At The End Of The Lane but a little incredulous that Fairview received no nominations.
  • The weird category shuffle that often happens has landed on ‘Best Entertainment or Comedy Play’ and ‘Best Family Show’ this year, leaving Emilia and Fleabag in a weird place that isn’t ‘Best New Play’ (last year they were divided into ‘Best Entertainment and Family’ and ‘Best New Comedy’.
  • I had zero desire to see Fiddler on the Roof so can’t pass comment there but can’t help wishing the supporting role in a musical nominations weren’t quite so dominated by DEH.
  • & Juliet’s director Luke Sheppard could rightfully feel snubbed, given the wealth of recognition the rest of the production has received.
  • And whither Monica Dolan, Lucian Msamati, Melanie La Barrie, the cast of Three Sisters…(oh wait, they won the more significant award earlier in the year!)

Continue reading “2020 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”