Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 10

Spooks comes to an end with a shortened series 10 which, while not perfect, is effective in many ways

“Wait Harry, this can’t be the end”

And so after a decade, it comes to an end. Series 10 of Spooks, a shortened order of six episodes, sees the writers flip from the Lucas North show to the Harry Pearce show. This naturally makes more sense, with Harry being the head of Section D after all, but I’m not 100% sure that it completely works as it goes against the ensemble ethos of the show at its best.

The argument here is that Harry is the heart of the show and given the jib of his recent decision-making at this point, you have to wonder if this is all that wise. Given all that transpires, the final scene of the show hardly inspires confidence. That said, the memorial is a beautiful touch and Lara Pulver’s new chief Erin Watts proved a strong addition to Thames House.

Nicola Walker-ometer
A tough one this, Walker rises brilliantly to the challenge of essentially co-leading the series as a result of the Harry focus. But her treatment in the final moments of the series can’t help but feel a little unnecessary, essentially cheapened by her reduction to nothing but an adjunct to Harry. She only gets killed because of the personal connection rather than a heroic act of Queen and country she deserved (if she had to die at all). Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 10”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 9

Oof, the start of the downfall…Series 9 of Spooks turns into the Lucas North show with terrible ramifications

“Do you know how I knew it was true? Because for the first time you made sense”

It couldn’t last, two strong series of Spooks back-to-back were undone by the horrors of Series 9. And it needn’t have been this way, it opens with a great 10 minutes. Ros;s funeral! A proposal! Harry as an assassin! Ruth getting called “that dogged, brilliant bitch”! But new head writers Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent then have the trickier task of reconstructing a new team, and don’t quite nail it with Sophia Myles’ Beth and Max Brown’s Dimitri only ever appearing in shades of beige.

Worse though, is the shifting of the entire season’s narrative onto Richard Armitage’s Lucas who – dun dun dur – is actually someone else called John Bateman, whose torturously wrangled personal history is dragged out through the presence of Iain Glen’s Vaughan. Undoing all the good work that Armitage had done in building the fascinating ambiguities of Lucas North, the entire John Bateman storyline was a huge mis-step and ultimately indulges Spooks at its worst. 

Nicola Walker-ometer
Never better than turning Harry down, she’s a vital steadying presence in a show that badly needs it. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 9”

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. 

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Review: The Tell-Tale Heart, National Theatre

Edgar Allan Poe via Anthony Neilson might not seem the typical recipe for your festive fare but The Tell-Tale Heart proves a gory and gothic delight

“I will do anything to make you happy”

Edgar Allan Poe via Anthony Neilson might not seem the typical recipe for your festive fare but The Tell-Tale Heart proves a gory and gothic delight. Marking Neilson’s National Theatre debut, it is a typically free-wheeling affair, a playfully post-modern take on Poe.

The Writer wins a major playwriting award but declines it publicly and to escape the outrage caused, decamps to Brighton to write her second play. She’s looked after there by a delightfully offbeat Landlady who, while she keeps half her face hidden with a mask, opens up her heart and home.  Continue reading “Review: The Tell-Tale Heart, National Theatre”

News: National Theatre Season: July 2018 – January 2019

So much goodness announced here in the National Theatre’s near future – particularly excited for Nine Night’s transfer, what looks like a leading role for Siân Brooke and the prospect of Joanna Riding’s ‘Losing My Mind’. 

National Theatre Season: July 2018 – January 2019

Nine Night, Natasha Gordon’s critically acclaimed debut play transfers to the West End following a sold-out run at the NT

Further cast announced for Antony and Cleopatra alongside Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo, playing from September

Cast confirmed for world premiere of David Hare’s new play I’m Not Running, including Siân Brooke, Alex Hassell and Joshua McGuire

Peter Brook returns to direct at the National Theatre for the first time in 50 years with The Prisoner, co-directed with Marie-Hélène Estienne

Following the acclaimed Consent, Nina Raine returns to the NT with her new play Stories starring Claudie Blakley

Anthony Neilson makes his NT debut with new play The Tell-Tale Heart, based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe

Alexander Hanson and Joanna Riding to join the cast of Follies alongside Janie Dee and Peter Forbes, returning to the Olivier Theatre in February 2019

War Horse returns to the NT marking the centenary of Armistice Day

Antony and Cleopatra and I’m Not Running to  broadcast to 65 countries worldwide as part of NT Live

To mark the 100th anniversary of the first women in the UK gaining the right to vote, the NT stages Courage Everywhere; a series of rehearsed readings, talks and screenings Continue reading “News: National Theatre Season: July 2018 – January 2019”

Preview: The Prudes, Royal Court

“My mind’s telling me no…”

As The Prudes is still in previews and given the nature of the way Anthony Neilson works, I ain’t gonna write a review but just offer up these images as an obscure preview.

Running time: currently around 80 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Manuel Harlan
The Prudes is booking at the Royal Court until 2nd June

Preview: Unreachable, Royal Court

“All artists have their whims”

A slightly odd experience to see a show being performed almost entirely on-book but such is the nature of Anthony Neilson’s collaborative creative process of shows being created in the rehearsal room that the scripts for Unreachable had only been printed the day before. And what’s more, they’re only being used as a starting point for considerably more rewrites, which will continue to happen up until press night later this week. So all I’ll say is that the show is brilliantly light-hearted at a time when the world is seemingly going to shit, the ticket price is worth it for the allotment joke, the corpsing (whether real or not) should be kept in, and Matt Smith is one flirtatious bastard when it comes to live audiences.

Running time: around 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval) (at the moment)
Booking until 6th August

Review: The Night Before Christmas,Soho Theatre

“We’ve got an elf tied up and Christmas is under threat, that’s about the size of it”

Given there are two other shows with the same title but aimed at the family market, it would be advisable to check in advance that Anthony Neilson’s The Night Before Christmas is the one you intend to see. For blessed with adult content warnings and a sense of humour as dark as black ice, it’s not one for the kids. Christmas Eve sees an intruder in Gary’s warehouse and he calls ex-con mate Simon for help but as he arrives, he’s managed to apprehend them. Thing is, he dressed as an elf and claims to have fallen from the sky, so naturally they decide to interrogate him.

Neilson’s comedy really is as black as they come, with topical jokes and references abounding (though one wonders if the Mandela one is still present, written as it was before his death…) and the premise allows for a daftness which is hugely appealing. When they find trackmarks on his arms, Simon sees this as confirmation that he’s a junkie on the make yet Gary believes the elf’s story of a tragic addiction to fairydust – it’s silly but charming and so the choice to adapt it into a musical doesn’t come from too far left-field. Continue reading “Review: The Night Before Christmas,Soho Theatre”

Review: Narrative, Royal Court

“Don’t internalise it, tell us your story”
 

‘Form is broken’, so the publicity for Anthony Neilson’s new play Narrative tells us, so here goes. Simply described as a new play about stories, it has been devised by Neilson and his company of seven  and brings together a blend of characters and scenes and songs and poems and scripts and video to diagnose something of the modern condition, the world in which we find ourselves today.  Continue reading “Review: Narrative, Royal Court”

Review: Utopia, Soho Theatre

“We know that there’s another way…we just not sure where it is”

What is Utopia? Defining the hopes and dreams of a perfect world has occupied writers for hundreds of years and in this co-production between Newcastle’s Live Theatre and the Soho Theatre, contemporary writers have also been asked to explore their own takes on the concept, blueprints for future happiness, which have been woven altogether by Steve Marmion and Max Roberts in this ambitious, if unwieldy production.

In a strange grey room, six pierrots work their way through the different blueprints, working through the various scenarios to see if any of them actually do lead to the promised land. Some are funny and satirical as in the warlord discovering the power of Facebook or the old-school stand-up whose jokes fall flat in a world of perfect harmony. And some are more serious, as the authors probe the idea of utopian ideals arising out of  less-than-perfect situations, acts of self-sacrifice and tender kindness coming out of the blue. Continue reading “Review: Utopia, Soho Theatre”