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”

Lockdown Theatre Review: Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual, Curve Leicester

Hareet Deol and Jay Varsani excel in a highly physical adaptation of Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual, streamed online from Curve Leicester

“Break the cycle. Find what unites us. It ain’t rocket science.”

Just a quickie for this, a show from Curve Leicester which is being streamed for the next week. Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual is an interpretation of Riaz Khan’s book about his experience as a football hooligan in the 1980s which adaptor Dougal Irvine and director Nikolai Foster have reworked into a two-hander which bursts off the stage with enough energy to reach your screen.

Hareet Deol and Jay Varsani play brothers Riaz and Suf who, in their search for a sense of belonging, wind up in the tight-knit community of Leicester City’s Baby Squad, a multicultural gang who more than squared up to the threat of far-right racism. And as they also take on the tens of other roles in the story with lightning quick precision, there’s a powerful tale of a particular shade of British masculinity that has shaped so much of the attitudes that still prevail in dark corners today. It’s well worth the watch over the coming weeks.

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Photo: Ellie Kurttz
Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual is available to watch until Friday 24th April

If you’ve watched Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual, please consider making a donation to Curve by clicking here.

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: line-up for the second week of Leave A Light On

The schedule has been announced for week 2 of Leave A Light On, a series of live-streamed concerts.

The shows will be live streamed as part of the Leave A Light on series of concerts produced by Lambert Jackson and The Theatre Café, which aims not only to provide financial support for the performers involved, but also to provide entertainment for people in self-isolation.

Tickets to watch the live streams are a bargainous £7.50, just click on the links to book.

The full lineup is as follows:

Monday 30th March
2:30pm Nathaniel Morrison 
4:30pm Grace Farrell
6:30pm Declan Bennett 

Tuesday 31st March
2:30pm Simon Bailey 
4:30pm Kelly Mathieson 
6:30pm Jordan Luke Gage 

Wednesday 1st April
2:30pm Daniel Boys 
4:30pm Sophie Isaacs 
6:30pm Aimie Atkinson 

Thursday 2nd April
2:30pm Declan Egan
4:30pm Hannah-Grace Lawson
6:30pm Velma Celli 

Friday 3rd April
2:30pm Blake Patrick Anderson 
4:30pm Daniel Koek 
6:30pm Marisha Wallace

Album Review: #ZoologicalSociety

New musical #ZoologicalSociety, written by Vikki Stone and Kate Mulgrew, gets a well-timed concept album release

“You’ve been here for one day mate, I’ve been here for years”

With a sense of impeccable timing, new musical #ZoologicalSociety launches with a concept album. The plan was to accompany the digital release with a live concert performance at BEAM 2020, the UK’s leading showcase of new British musical theatre but whilst that obviously isn’t happening, the album is now available for our delectation, thanks to Joe and Nikki Davison at Auburn Jam Music who produced, recorded, mixed and mastered the music.

The first of a series of entirely original musical commissions from Northampton’s Royal & Derngate, Vikki Stone and Katie Mulgrew’s #ZoologicalSociety takes its simple concept – animals going through the same societal pressures as humans – and fashions a rather winning musical comedy out of it. Continue reading “Album Review: #ZoologicalSociety”

Not-a-review: All of Us, National Theatre

A particularly gutting one this, as Francesca Martinez’s debut play All of Us would have marked a key moment for disabled voices at the National Theatre. À tout à l’heure…

Just look at them:

 

And just listen to her:

 

This is definitely a play that we have to make room for once things are up and running again.

For All of Us

You can follow the playwright Francesca Martinez on Twitter here or explore her website here
You can purchase the playtext from Nick Hern Books soon
And the show’s details can be found on the NT’s website here

For the National Theatre

You can follow the theatre on Twitter here
You can look at the different ways of supporting the NT here
And you can sign up to their mailing list here to get any announcements about future plans, once the dust finally settles 

Photo: Spencer Murphy. Art direction and design by National Theatre Graphic Design Studio

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: seeds, Soho Theatre

tiata fahodzi and Wrested Veil’s tour of Mel Pennant’s play seeds should have been opening at the Soho Theatre today but all is not yet lost…

“Well if it ain’t black and white…”

It is some small measure of comfort that seeds had completed much of its UK tour before circumstances dictated its cancellation but I’m still sad that I didn’t get to see it at the Soho, not least because it was another chance to see the excellent Penny Layden (so brilliant in Jellyfish). But as it had done the rounds a bit, there’s a fair bit of content around to ease the pain until theatre doors reopen and potential future life investigated.

Interview with Mel Pennant at Live Theatre
Interview with Mel Pennant at Theatre Weekly

Review of seeds by Yorkshire Post
Review of seeds by Fairy Powered Productions
Review of seeds by Always Time For Theatre

You can also check out ways to support the company and theatre below:

For seeds

You can buy the playtext from Nick Hern Books here
You can check out the website here
You can follow producers tiata fahodzi on Twitter here and Wrested Veil on Twitter here
You can look at the different ways of supporting tiata fahodzi here
And you can watch a teaser trailer for the show below:

 

For Soho Theatre

You can follow the theatre on Twitter here
You can look at the different ways of supporting tiata fahodzi here
And you can sign up to their mailing list here to get any announcements about future plans, once the dust finally settles 

Photo: Wasi Daniju