TV Review: No Offence, Channel 4

“Calm, methodical, Sunday fucking best”

There’s no two ways about it, Paul Abbott’s latest TV series has been an absolute triumph. Channel 4’s No Offence has kept me properly gripped over the last eight weeks and I’m delighted that a second series has already been commissioned as its enthralling mixture of comedy drama and police procedural has been irresistible from its opening five minutes with all its squashed-head shenanigans through to its thrilling finale which kept us on tenterhooks right til its final minutes.

Whence such success? A perfect storm of inspired casting and pin-sharp writing from Abbott and his team. Joanna Scanlan’s DI Viv Deering reinvigorates the stereotypical police boss to create a career-best character for Scanlan, her fierce loyalty played straight but her dry one-liners making the most of her comic genius. Elaine Cassidy’s DC Dinah Kowalska, the eager young copper on whom the focus settles most often, Alexandra Roach’s earnest but quick-learning DS Joy Freer completing the leads. Continue reading “TV Review: No Offence, Channel 4”

DVD Review: Scott and Bailey Series 1-3

“You went to live with a fella in Wigan, I assume he had a roof”
 

As with so many television programmes these days, it has taken me an inexplicably long time to get around to watching Scott and Bailey and sure enough once I started, I found myself mainlining all three series in advance of the new series starting on ITV. And sure enough, I loved it. Sally Wainwright is one of our best writers of television without a shadow of a doubt and no matter what she turns her hand to, she barely puts a foot wrong, all the while pushing the boundaries of conventional drama to become infinitely more inclusive, whether through the older characters of Last Tango in Halifax or the fierce and flawed policewomen of Happy Valley and Scott and Bailey.

Scott and Bailey grew out of an original idea by Suranne Jones and Sally Lindsay which Wainwright has written up into three (plus one to come) series of fantastic television. Janet Scott and Rachel Bailey are both DCs in the Manchester Metropolitan Police, part of the MIT team that deals with serious crime. And though it may seem trivial to say it, it is just so brilliantly and so casually feminist. The vast majority of the major roles in the police force just happen to be taken by women – Amelia Bullmore’s DCI Murray heads up the team, Pippa Haywood’s DSI Dodson is the next later up, the main pathologist goes by the name of Scary Mary…and none of it is ever an issue.

Continue reading “DVD Review: Scott and Bailey Series 1-3”

Theatre Review: Rutherford and Son, St James

“The family business is a millstone round your neck”

It’s nice to be able to get the opportunity to follow through on recommendations from other bloggers – on a snowy day in Colchester, Gareth advised me to try and catch Northern Broadsides’ revival of Githa Sowerby’s Rutherford and Son on its original tour but I was unable to fit it into the diary. So the announcement of its transfer to the St James was a most welcomed one but also a pleasing fit for what one hopes will be a frequent use for this newest of London’s theatres.

Set in 1912, John Rutherford is an archetypal paterfamilias, ruling both at work and at home with at iron fist. But the family business, a Yorkshire glassworks, is struggling and his three adult children are all entirely dissatisfied with their lot – his professional success has come at huge personal cost and it takes the most unexpected intervention to get him to even consider the changes would secure his legacy. Continue reading “Theatre Review: Rutherford and Son, St James”

Review: Keeler, Richmond Theatre

“She’s that naked girl on that chair right?”

The story of Keeler that is told here purports to be the inside story of the Profumo Affair and is based on Christine Keeler’s own book on the matter with Douglas Thompson, The Truth At Last. Gill Adams is credited as the playwright, although curiously does not merit a biography in the programme and as it actually turns out, Keeler exercised much control over the writing of the play, approving every single word. Thus what we are left with is a heavily partisan account of someone concerned with redressing the balance of public perception in her favour, hardly the makings of great drama.

We revisit the scandal of the early 1960s from its beginnings in the Soho club where she worked as a titillating dancer and was spotted by the sleazily avuncular eye of Stephen Ward, an osteopath with grand designs on society. It was he who introduced her to the high society party lifestyle that brought with it brief but heady affairs with, amongst others, John Profumo, secretary of state for war, and Eugene Ivanov, a Soviet naval attaché. When this came to light in the paranoid Cold War atmosphere, one of the first public scandals of its nature, the ensuing trials, resignations, suicides and infamous photo shoots shocked the nation. Continue reading “Review: Keeler, Richmond Theatre”