Episode 3 of Unprecedented proves a bleak and brutal one-two of hard-hitting Covid drama
“I don’t see what good it does to worry, sitting around panicking”
Due to the (presumably intentional) programming, Part 1 and Part 2 of Unprecedented – Headlong and Century Films’ creative response to Coronavirus – found a sense of balance in their collections of short plays, tragicomic probably being the watchword. Episode 3 however goes all in on the tragedy, making it a pretty bleak half hour.
First up is Duncan Macmillan’s Grounded, directed by Jeremy Herrin, which takes aim at the generation gap and how that has dictated people’s response to the crisis. Katherine Parkinson’s event planner is wracked with job worries and concerns over her ability to home-school. But what really drives her over the edge is the casualness with which her retired parents are taking the whole affair, screaming into the ether as they amble on as if life hasn’t changed but at all. Alison Steadman and Michael Elwyn are excellent as the slightly daffy, devoted couple belatedly coming round to the seriousness of it all. Continue reading “TV Review: Unprecedented, Episode 3”
Headlong and Century Films have today announced a cast of over 50 UK actors taking part in Unprecedented: Theatre from the State of Isolation. A series of new digital plays written in response to the current Covid-19 Pandemic, Unprecedented will be broadcast across the nation during lockdown as part of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative.
Written by celebrated playwrights and curated by Headlong, Century Films and BBC Arts, Unprecedented explores our rapidly evolving world, responding to how our understanding and experiences of community, education, work, relationships, family, culture, climate and capitalism are evolving on an unprecedented scale. The series will ask how we got here and what the enduring legacy of this historic episode might be. Continue reading “News: cast announced for Unprecedented: Theatre from a State of Isolation”
“People want things to make sense”
Anchored by a barnstorming central turn from Imelda Staunton (as if there were any other kind), David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People was a huge success for the Hampstead Theatre, so they’ve returned to this American playwright with his Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Rabbit Hole. The suburban comforts of Becca and Howie Corbett’s family life are wrecked when their four-year-old Danny is killed in a road accident outside their home. Tragedy swallows them whole and grief tears them apart, the divergence in their individual journeys threatening what’s left of their family.
The 2006 Broadway run got multiple Tony nominations and won for lead Cynthia Nixon and in 2011, the superb film adaptation garnered an Academy Award nomination for Nicole Kidman, so the stakes could be considered high for Outnumbered star Claire Skinner here. Edward Hall’s production never quite launches into the stratosphere though; whereas Good People depicted an authentic-feeling US working class life, Rabbit Hole’s middle class milieu doesn’t convince, too stagily British for its own good. Continue reading “Review: Rabbit Hole, Hampstead”
“I was wondering if you would help me to die”
It’s kind of an accepted truth now that if Olivia Colman has been cast in something, it is usually in order to win a Bafta for the unerringly heart-breaking way that she breaks a nation’s heart by crying. Whether her performance here in The Dilemma, the first instalment of The Secrets, wins another is for the future to know but be warned, it is an extremely compelling example of this truism.
The Secrets is a series of stand-alone dramas commissioned by the BBC and featuring four “upcoming” writers although in the case of this first one, Nick Payne could well be considered to already have upped and came in the world of theatre (Constellations
being his most famous and awarded work). And it will come as little surprise to regular theatregoers that his first piece is a musing on mortality, following hard on the tear-soaked heels of The Art of Dying
Continue reading “TV Review: The Secrets 1 – The Dilemma”
“I am yours. Do what you want with me”
It is clearly the moment for Thérèse Raquin– a stage adaptation in Bath (and touring to Malvern and Cambridge), the Finborough’s musical version transferring to the Park Theatre, and a film of the story also hitting our cinemas recently. Émile Zola’s 1867 novel heralded a new world of naturalism in literature in its focus on mood rather than character and has remained an enduring classic, hence this confluence of versions now and a cheeky trip to the penultimate show of the run at the gorgeous Theatre Royal Bath.
Reflecting Zola’s intent, Jonathan Munby’s direction is highly theatrical and brings a powerful lyricism to the stage, bringing in Ann Yee to provide a fluid movement style that is near-balletic and which captures the yearning spirit perfectly – in a world where so much is unsaid, body language becomes ever more eloquent. And Helen Edmundson’s version emphasises Thérèse’s elemental connection to the water and the fevered eroticism that takes her over, unutterably disrupting her world as sex, murder and self-destruction come a-knocking to liven up her dull life forcibly married to her cousin in the Parisian backstreets. Continue reading “Review: Thérèse Raquin, Theatre Royal Bath”
“Your alliance would be a disgrace”
This six-part adaptation of Pride and Prejudice has gone down in history as one of the most iconic TV programmes ever, its cultural breakthrough into the mainstream taking everyone by surprise and spearheading something of a revival in period dramas. For me though, my abiding memory remains watching a documentary some years later and hearing adaptor Andrew Davies saying that the stage direction he wrote for Colin Firth, for when Darcy meets Elizabeth after she has rushed over to see her ailing sister, was “Darcy is surprised to get an erection”.
Smut aside, it is a strikingly well done piece of work though, Luxuriating over 6 hour-long instalments, it allows for the slow-burn of the central relationship which makes this version of the story really work, Firth and Jennifer Ehle so incredibly well-matched that their every interaction is scintillatingly drawn as mutual antipathy turns to mutual admiration amidst the various family dramas of the Bennetts, Wickhams, Collins et al. His brooding looks and engagingly smooth voice and her keenly intelligent eyes with her delightful pragmatism are utterly engaging. Continue reading “DVD Review: Pride and Prejudice (1995)”
“How does it seem? Fine? Right, let’s get the sandwiches out.”
Michael Frayn’s star is shining very brightly at the moment in the theatre. The Old Vic’s production of Noises Off has transferred into the West End and the Sheffield Theatres held a three-show retrospective of his work, of which one, Democracy, will be transferring to the Old Vic in the summer. And now the Rose Theatre Kingston has gotten in on the game with a new production of one of his lesser known works Here. Originally written in 1993, it underwhelmed the critics at the Donmar Warehouse, but a reworked version gained popularity on the continent and ever the industrialist, Frayn has tinkered with it again and it is this rewrite that is being premiered here in Kingston-upon-Thames.
Young couple Phil and Cath move into a studio flat but the start of their new shared life together is marked by chronic uncertainty as they tie themselves in knots over every single little decision like where to put the bed, where to put the pot-plant, what to do with the manky old chair gifted to them by the landlady. They pore over the significance of each thing, each question asked of the other, and then challenge the answers in circular discussions full of double-speak and debate. It becomes clear that Frayn is interested in how we construct lives and relationships together, the terms on which we negotiate and the compromises we settle on. Continue reading “Review: Here, Rose Kingston”
BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Rachel Weisz – A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Warehouse
Alison Steadman – Enjoy at the Gielgud
Fiona Shaw – Mother Courage & Her Children at the NT Olivier
Helen Mirren – Phedre at the NT Lyttelton
Juliet Stevenson – Duet for One at the Almeida & Vaudeville
Lesley Sharp – The Rise & Fall of Little Voice at the Vaudeville
THE CAPITAL BREAKS BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
Jude Law – Hamlet, Donmar West End at Wyndham’s
David Harewood – The Mountaintop at Theatre 503 & Trafalgar Studios 1
Dominic West – Life Is a Dream at the Donmar Warehouse
Ken Stott – A View from the Bridge at the Duke of York’s
Mark Rylance – Jerusalem at the Royal Court Downstairs
Samuel West – Enron at the Royal Court Downstairs Continue reading “2010 What’s On Stage Award nominations”