TV Review: Harlots Series 1

The best TV show you haven’t heard about? Harlots just might be it!

“When the time comes, I hope your quim splits”

I suppose that it is good that we have so many more options for good television to be made these days. The flipside to that is that it can be harder to keep track of it all. Harlots is fricking fantastic, a hugely enjoyable and high quality drama but airing on ITV Encore (and Hulu in the US),  it has languished in the doldrums of the unfairly unheralded.

A glance at the castlist shows you how much of a waste this is. Samantha Morton and Lesley Manville at the head, Jessica Brown Findlay, Hugh Skinner and Dorothy Atkinson among the supporting, Fenella Woolgar, Danny Sapani and Kate Fleetwood popping up now and again too. This is luxury stuff and yet criminally few know about it. Continue reading “TV Review: Harlots Series 1”

Film Review: Mr Turner (2014)

“There’s no room for cynicism in the reviewing of art”

One might equally say there’s no room for cynicism in my reviewing of Mike Leigh’s work, such a fan of his oeuvre am I and the laidback, gruff charms of Mr Turner are no exception, confirming the iconic director in the full flush of his prime. Timothy Spall has already been deservedly rewarded for his wonderfully harrumphing performance of the last 10 years of the life of this most famous of painters and it is a compelling portrait, of a man established in his world as a bachelor, a master painter, and later a lover. Leigh’s episodic style fits perfectly into this biographical mode, dipping in and out of his life with the precision of one of Turner’s paintbrushes, colouring in a captivating collage of his later life.

Spall is excellent but around him, the women in his life provide some of the most hauntingly beautiful moments of the film. As Sarah Danby, the mistress and mother of the two daughters he would not recognise, Ruth Sheen is piercingly vivid, her barely contained fury resonating deeply. As Hannah Danby, her niece who was Turner’s long-suffering and long-serving housekeeper, Dorothy Atkinson is painfully brilliant as a woman subjugated and subdued by his wanton sexual advances, the psoriasis that afflicted her, and her deep love for the man. As “self-taught Scotswoman” and scientist Mary Somerville, Lesley Manville near steals the film in a simply beautiful self-contained vignette. Continue reading “Film Review: Mr Turner (2014)”

Review: The Children’s Hour, Comedy Theatre

“You ought not to say things like that about people, Mary”

After her (somewhat surprisingly) Olivier-nominated turn in The Misanthrope, Keira Knightley has returned to the same West End stage at the Comedy Theatre to further stretch her dramatic wings in a production of Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour which also features the London stage debut of Ellen Burstyn, plus Carol Kane, Elizabeth Moss and a host of UK actresses in a rare play full of meaty parts for women. I hadn’t originally intended to see this show, the inflated ticket prices proving a step too far for a desperately uncomfortable theatre, especially in the (now no longer) cheap seats, but the offer from a kind soul to do the queuing for the £15 day seats meant that we ended up on the front row (A2&3) on a rainy Wednesday afternoon to be quite pleasantly surprised.

Set in 1930s New England at a small boarding school run by Karen and Martha, two women who after years of hard work and building up the school, are finally secure enough to begin looking at other things in life, in the case of Karen, marrying her patient fiancé. The only cloud on the horizon is problem child Mary, a massively disruptive influence and constant troublemaker who after yet another punishment is doled out to her, decides to run away to her grandmother’s house. But when an argument between Martha and her dippy aunt turns particularly rancorous with accusations of unnatural feelings towards Karen and is overheard by some of the other schoolgirls who pass on the tidbit to Mary, the malevolent child accuses her teachers of being secret lovers. It’s a charge which the grandmother takes deadly seriously, encouraging all the parents to withdraw their children and thereby threatening the very livelihood of the two women as they battle to clear their name. Continue reading “Review: The Children’s Hour, Comedy Theatre”