Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 9

“Time will tell, it always does”

Phew, the Doctor Who rewatch comes to an end with the most recent series, another that I hadn’t seen any of since it originally aired. And again it was one of highs and lows, a frustrating sense of pick and mix that never settles. So from the astonishing bravura of the (practically) solo performance in Heaven Sent to kid-friendly quirks of the sonic sunglasses and guitar playing, Capaldi took us from the sublime to the silly. Fortunately there was more of the former than the latter (although it is interesting that my memory had it the other way round).

Part of it comes down to knowing in advance how the hybrid arc plays out (disappointingly) and a little perspective makes Clara’s departure(s) a little less galling. This way, one can just enjoy the episodes for what they are, free from the weight of the attempted mythologising. The Doctor raging against the futility of war, the wisdom (or otherwise) of forgiveness, the repercussions of diving in to help others without thinking through the consequences…it is often excellent stuff. It’s also nice to see Who employ its first openly transgender actor (Bethany Black) and a deaf actor playing a deaf character (Sophie Stone). Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 9”

TV Review: Humans Series 1

“You’re just a stupid machine aren’t you”

I wasn’t going to write Humans up but I’ve spoken so enthusiastically about it with several people since I watched the whole thing in three days and so thought I’d better recommend it even further. If there’s any justice in the world, Gemma Chan will win all sorts of awards for her performance as Anita (later Mia), the Synth or human-like android that has become the must-have accessory for domestic service in this parallel present-day universe. 

Anita is bought by the Hawkins family who soon start to twig that something isn’t right in the way she is behaving and as Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley’s drama continues over its 8 episodes, we come to see that the lines between human and machine have been considerably blurred by technological advancement and its potential to be exploited identified as a key priority for the nefarious powers-that-be.

Continue reading “TV Review: Humans Series 1”

Review: The Bear, Ovalhouse

“Let the bear batter you about a bit”


If you go down the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. And if you go down to the Ovalhouse Theatre in South London, you may not get a picnic but you’re sure of a curiously fascinating piece of theatre. The Bear comes from the intriguing mind of Angela Clerkin, based on a short story written by herself and Lee Simpson and in a co-production with Improbable, manages to find the connecting link between film noir murder mystery, tips on how to survive varied bear attacks and assorted musical and dance numbers including a growly blues song and an Irish jig.


It’s a diversely conceived collection of disparate elements yet somehow the throughline is achieved. Clerkin plays herself, or at least a version of herself, a solicitor’s clerk who finds herself swept up into a strange world when she is deployed on a new murder case. When sent to question the accused in his cell below the Old Bailey, he protests his innocence and claims “it wasn’t me, the bear did it”. Unlikely as it seems, Angela soon finds proof that he might actually be telling the truth and as she starts her own covert investigation, uncovers rather more than she could ever have expected.


In Rae Smith’s box-of-tricks set and augmented by a brilliant sound design from Mark Cunningham, an appropriate sense of playfulness predominates in The Bear and nowhere more so than in Guy Dartnell’s energetic portrayal of all the additional characters in the story. From the wisdom-dispensing fur-coat-clad Aunt Gloria, through any array of drunken bystanders, to a fiercely wrestling bear, his quicksilver changes spark and crackle off of the fixed point that is Clerkin and together, they skip lightly from genre to genre with a wonderfully gentle humour.

The ephemeral nature of the piece may frustrate some who crave straightforward narrative clarity, but the joys contained within The Bear come from the very unpredictability of the journey and the huge intelligence that underlie these detours. And as it prowls around its vividly drawn path, coming closer to an understanding of just what the bear is and what it means to all of us, it has a slyly beguiling quality that is really rather enchanting.

Running time: 85 minutes (without interval)

Booking until 8th June

Originally written for The Public Reviews