Not-a-review: Manor, National Theatre

Tonight should have been the press night for Moira Buffini’s Manor, directed by her sister Fiona Buffini no less, but alas

Manor would have seen the great Nancy Carroll

For we’ll have to do with this teaser

 

And this interesting interview with Buffini, M.

 

For the National Theatre

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And you can sign up to their mailing list here to get any announcements about future plans, once the dust finally settles 

 

Lockdown theatre review: Jesus Christ Superstar (2018 Concert)

Would Jesus have condoned such artistic thievery? Jesus Christ Superstar (2018 Concert) is full of great performances but borrows heavily from the Open Air’s production

“Would I be more noticed than I ever was before?”

The most striking thing about the US Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert from 2018, that will particularly stand out to those who saw the Regents Park Open Air Theatre production in any of its iterations, is that it is boldly credited to David Leveaux as director and Jason Ardizzone-West as production designer. There’s so much synchronicity between the two productions here that it is hard to believe that Timothy Sheader and Tom Scutt respectively didn’t deserve at least thanks if not full co-credits because original this is not.

A live television musical special – as the Americans did much more of than the Brits – this version of Jesus Christ Superstar is undoubtedly heavily influenced by the freshness of that iconic reimagining of the show. Released from its 70s origins but also any need to be particularly politically relevant (which tripped up the UK arena tour) it is a powerful piece of contemporary theatre which speaks to the cult of celebrity as pointedly as it ever has done. Continue reading “Lockdown theatre review: Jesus Christ Superstar (2018 Concert)”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 4

With the loss of its original core cast and the destabilising presence of Martine McCutcheon, Series 4 of Spooks struggles to find its feet

“You’re up against the British state…who do you think is going to win that particular battle?”

This season of Spooks struggles quite badly amidst all the upheaval of Series 3 in which in the entire original team departed Thames House. Tom’s identikit replacement Adam does well enough but somehow, something goes terribly wrong with the introduction of his wife and fellow spy Fiona (Olga Sosnovska). They sadly lack chemistry and their domestic drama just doesn’t translate well into the business of saving the country on a weekly basis.

The tone is set by the randomly chaotic energy of Martine McCutcheon’s guest spot in the opener two-parter and from then on, as we cover people smuggling, the rise of far right political movements, cultists and the ethics of releasing terrorist suspects, the series jerks along rather, Raza Jaffrey’s Danny-a-like isn’t given anywhere near enough to do and the snaffling of Miranda Raison’s Jo off the street is as bizarre an advert for recruitment as any.

Nicola Walker-ometer
It’s a pretty low-key series for Ruth – hints of her passion for Harry come through whether in romantic feeling or rebelling against him a bit. She comes into her own in the final episode with the revelation of a step-brother who killed himself but has never been mentioned before putting her in the line of fire but all in all she deserves better. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 4”

TV Review: The Crown, Series 3 Episodes 1-3

The Crown returns with Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies at the helm, and Helena Bonham Carter stealing the show

“Everyone at the Post Office is delighted with the new profile”

Gotta get those hits…who knows how far behind I am, given I’m 9 hours ahead of the UK at the moment, but I thought I’d jot down my initial thoughts on the first three episodes of series 3 of The Crown (all written by Peter Morgan and directed by Benjamin Caron), as Netflix kindly offered them up as holiday entertainment. (And since I’m away, I’ve been a little insulated from all the Prince Andrew drama, which from over here almost feels like a random bit of guerilla marketing).

  • I wonder if I have a little hangover from just how good Claire Foy was, but I’m 100% feeling Olivia Colman in the role yet. She doesn’t seem quite as subsumed into the character, in the way that Foy’s every minutely detailed movement seemed to be. That said, there’s some scorching moments when Jason Watkins’ Harold Wilson dares to suggest her response to the Aberfan tragedy is lacking.
  • The excellent Tobias Menzies hasn’t really had enough screen time yet to have his Prince Philip make an impact, though I’ve every faith.
  • The casting of Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret is inspired, the extravagance of the character is perfectly suited to her but she’s bringing a real depth at the same time. 
  • And I have to say I miss Matthew Goode’s hugely erotic insouciance as Antony Armstrong-Jones, Ben Daniels’ much more wearied take hasn’t quite ticked my boxes yet.

Elsewhere, the headlong rush through the years means that we’re doomed to the smallest contributions from some excellent actors – Samuel West’s Anthony Blunt and Angus Wright’s MI5 bod were gone too soon, though I live in hope of more from Penny Downie’s Duchess of Gloucester, Aden Gillett as Richard Crossman and Sinéad Matthews as Marcia Williams (seriously, her accent is a thing of pure beauty).

And given the budget is allegedly in the many millions, it certainly looks a treat once again. From glistening palatial lushness to agonisingly destroyed villages, these are fully realised worlds no matter how short a space of time we end up spending in them. Caron’s direction also makes room for a more uncomplicated cinematic as well though, choosing iconic visual to close out each episode – the regal silhouette, juxtapositions of Margarets old and new, the children playing. This is a Crown that has lost none of its lustre.

Photo: Sophie Mutevelian

News: new productions and casting updates for the National Theatre

Jessie Buckley and Josh O’Connor headline a new production of Romeo and Juliet, while Callum Scott Howells and Rosie Sheehy star in Gary Owen’s Romeo and Julie, among other big news from the National Theatre

New productions

Simon Godwin returns to the National Theatre to direct Shakespeare’s ROMEO & JULIET following his critically-acclaimed productions of Antony and Cleopatra and Twelfth Night in the Olivier Theatre. Set in modern Italy in a world where Catholic and secular values clash, Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, Judy) and Josh O’Connor (The Crown, God’s Own Countryplay the two young lovers who strive to transcend a world of violence and corruption. Fisayo Akinade (The Antipodes, Barber Shop Chroniclesis cast as Mercutio. The production will open in the Olivier Theatre in August 2020.

Set and costume design by Soutra Gilmour, lighting design by Lucy Carter, composition by Michael Bruce and sound design by Christopher Shutt. Continue reading “News: new productions and casting updates for the National Theatre”

TV Review: The Hollow Crown – The Wars of the Roses: 3. Richard III

“The king’s name is a tower of strength”

The Hollow Crown reaches its climax with a solid and occasionally very strong Richard III which once again shimmers with quality and hints of artistic innovation. And for all the lauding of Benedict Cumberbatch’s starring role, it is pleasing to see Dominic Cooke and Ben Power give Sophie Okonedo’s excoriating Margaret of Anjou her due as one of the real pleasures of running these plays together is to trace her complete arc (for she’s the only character to appear in them all) and root her enmity – alongside that of so many others – in something most palpable.

Cooke’s direction also benefits from loosening its representational restraints, Richard III’s monologues and asides make this a different type of play and Cooke responds with a series of interesting choices (though the surfeit of nervy finger-tapping was a touch too much for me) making great use of both gloomy interiors and hauntingly effective exteriors. Playing so many scenes in woodlands was an inspired decision as it leant a real eeriness to proceedings, whether Margaret or Richard bursting from the bushes to disrupt the private mourning of Elizabeth or Anne. Continue reading “TV Review: The Hollow Crown – The Wars of the Roses: 3. Richard III”

TV Review: The Hollow Crown – The Wars of the Roses: 1. Henry VI Part 2

“I was a woeful looker-on”

On a night when the real drama was unfolding in Stockholm’s Globen arena and the main internecine conflict was between the juries of music professionals and the public vote as revealed by the new counting mechanism, the BBC’s decision to schedule The Hollow Crown against the Eurovision Song Contest didn’t work for me. Last week’s Henry VI Part 1 was a great reintroduction into these quality adaptations as it started the new series but the follow-up doesn’t quite match the same level.

Part of the issue lies in the seemingly accepted wisdom that the Henry VI plays are problems that need solving – I’ve still not managed to see a conventional production of the trilogy to use as a benchmark – and so the plays are often abandoned to the mercies of the vision of writers and directors. Such is the case with The Wars of the Roses: 1. Henry VI Part 2, chopped down and frantically paced, there’s a whole lot of fury but just not enough feeling (though if you’re a fan of battlefields and decapitated heads, you might fare better than I did). Continue reading “TV Review: The Hollow Crown – The Wars of the Roses: 1. Henry VI Part 2”

DVD Review: Locke

“You don’t trust God when it comes to concrete”

Steven Knight’s Locke is a really rather remarkable film, set in real-time in a BMW as engineer Ivan Locke makes a hurried journey from Birmingham to Croydon. He’s the only person we see on screen, though he spends much of the time on his phone, and a large part of the dialogue is taken up with the logistics of what will be the most ambitious pouring of concrete since…well, who knows, but from these unlikely beginnings emerges a genuinely gripping thriller.

With a huge skyscraper project about to crown a glowing career and his wife and two teenage boys setting up a blissful family night in watching the football, Tom Hardy’s well-bearded Locke seems to have it all set. But the phone call that has precipitated his dash onto the motorway throws everything up in the air and forces him to face some huge challenges, all whilst never leaving his seat or letting his foot up off the accelerator. Continue reading “DVD Review: Locke”

DVD Review: Women In Love

“Find love that burns your very soul”

A BBC4 television adaptation of the two DH Lawrence novels The Rainbow and Women In Love, although named solely after the latter, the Women In Love DVD was one I had been looking forward to delving into, mainly due to the presence of such luminous actresses as Rachael Stirling, Rosamund Pike and Saskia Reeves. Imagine my surprise, and indeed pleasure to a certain degree, to find that naked male wrestling was also part of the bargain in this William Ivory-directed two-parter. 

Centred on the lives and loves of the two Brangwen sisters, Guthrun and Ursula, as they react against the staid lives of their parents with stridently independent action, yet each end up in relationships with men that are endlessly complicated, not least by the feelings between those two men, Gerald Crich and Rupert Birkin. The first part dealt with these lives individually in England and only slowly brought them together, leaving much of the second half to take place in the Southern African diamond mines and deserts (replacing the Tyrolean Alps of the original) where the partnerships literally reached boiling point. Continue reading “DVD Review: Women In Love”

Review: Haunted Child, Royal Court

“What does the banana do?”

Joe Penhall’s first work for the stage since 2007, Haunted Child, makes for a much different kind of festive show at the Royal Court than last year’s raucous Get Santa! and given his reputation, for plays like Blue/Orange, I was quite looking forward to this. But when the blurb on the back of the playtext starts quoting the play itself, you know there’s trouble ahead. “After attending an innocuous motivational course involving esoteric philosophy, Douglas mysteriously abandons his wife and son to ‘live in a specific, preordained way according to the tenets of a spiritual leader’.” Big words to cover up what is essentially a rather basic set-up.

Young Thomas is wetting the bed and acting up with his mother Julie as his father Douglas has gone AWOL. When Douglas suddenly resurfaces, the relief felt soon turns to dread as it becomes apparent that he has joined a ‘group’, the nature of which we slowly learn more about as he tries to impose his completely altered mindset onto his wife and child. And that’s about it. There’s a lot of talk about the effect of adults’ behaviour on their children which is nothing new, and not enough exploration into what pushed Douglas into such extreme behaviour and the seductive allure of organised cult-like groupings. Continue reading “Review: Haunted Child, Royal Court”