TV Review: Jonathan Creek, Series 4

Series 4 sees Jonathan Creek lose its way badly as chauvinism slides into misogyny amid Alan Davies and Julia Sawalha’s strange chemistry

“Now it’ll save your time and mine, I think, if I truncate”

I found series 4 of Jonathan Creek surprisingly difficult to watch. Even if the quality had started to taper off over the course of the previous three seasons, something critical had been lost at this point, far over and beyond the departure of original star Caroline Quentin. Her replacement was Julia Sawalha’s Carla, introduced in the 2001 Christmas special and though she shares a screwball-ish energy with Alan Davies’ duffle-coated protagonist, she’s been married off to Ade Edmondson’s svengali Brendan.

It’s an odd choice that unsettles the whole rhythm of the show, as it devotes way too much time to the uneasy relationship between the pair. And as David Renwick’s writing fully immerses itself in its worst male chauvinist excesses – just look at how women are presented in the first episode, from the prizewinner presented as a grotesque to Anna Francolini being done dirty as a ditzy assistant – the idea that the majority of female characters now have to throw themselves at Jonathan’s feet, is delusional nonsense. Continue reading “TV Review: Jonathan Creek, Series 4”

Review: What A Carve Up!

Jonathan Coe’s novel What A Carve Up! is adapted brilliantly into a gripping online play with an excellent lead performance from Alfred Enoch

“Who even reads novels at this point, they’re just an irrelevance”

As the shadow of another lockdown looms, What A Carve Up! shines as an example of what lemonade can be made from those particular kind of lemons. Produced collaboratively by The Barn Theatre, Lawrence Batley Theatre and New Wolsey Theatre and written specifically by Henry Filloux-Bennett for online delivery, this is exciting hybrid thinking.

Based on the novel by Jonathan Coe, Filloux-Bennett and director Tamara Harvey have done a remarkable job here. Covid restrictions aside, it would never have been the most straightforward piece to adapt but reflecting the book’s postmodern structure, this play interleaves multiple layers to build up not just a murder mystery but a damning commentary on the state of the world. Continue reading “Review: What A Carve Up!”

News: casting confirmed for What A Carve Up!

The Barn Theatre in Cirencester, the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield and the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich have today announced the full cast for the digital world premiere of Henry Filloux-Bennett’s online play What A Carve Up!, based on Jonathan Coe’s critically acclaimed satirical novel.

Casting announced today includes Jonathan Bailey as Henry Winshaw, Samuel Barnett as Michael Owen, Robert Bathurst as Thomas Winshaw, Celia Imrie as Joan Simpson and Dervla Kirwan as the Brunwin Advert. Continue reading “News: casting confirmed for What A Carve Up!”

News: Jennifer Lunn wins The Popcorn Writing Award 2020

Jennifer Lunn has been awarded the The Popcorn Writing Award 2020 for her play Es and Flo, and receives a cash prize of £2,500.  The other Finalists are Matilda Ibini (awarded £1,500) and Chris Thompson (£1,000) with Camilla Whitehill receiving a Special Mention (£500).

The Popcorn Writing Award, with a prize fund of £5,500, was established in 2019 to champion fearless work at the annual Edinburgh Fringe festival which playfully and artistically questions and addresses current affairs, societal trends and contributes positively to public debate. Continue reading “News: Jennifer Lunn wins The Popcorn Writing Award 2020”

TV Review: Beautiful People (Series 2)

With its love for Enya and Rory Kinnear camping it up, Series 2 of Beautiful People is another riotous delight

“There’s not many blokes who can say they’ve been felt up by Ross Kemp”

I loved reminding myself of the first series of this most camp of shows and the second series of Beautiful People was just as much fun, albeit with more bits I had forgotten. Or more accurately, there’s bits that resonate differently with different actors – Rory Kinnear doing gay this way is quite something!

Jonathan Harvey’s adaptation of Simon Doonan’s memoirs remain highly witty and as the timeline pushes more into teenage years, it also becomes more overtly gay in a sweet but insistent way, mirroring the journey towards being comfortable enough to come out. Continue reading “TV Review: Beautiful People (Series 2)”

Film Review: Nativity Rocks! (2018)

The fourth instalment in the Nativity film series, Nativity Rocks! restores a little of the goodwill squandered by the previous two sequels

“I’m wishing Father Christmas doesn’t forget where I live like he did last year”

I can’t think of a film franchise that has squandered such promise as the Nativity series. Debbie Isitt’s original film was such a sweetly unexpected success, but its magic sadly proved rather elusive as its subsequent sequels lost any of its sense of purpose or improvised charm. So the arrival of a third sequel in the shape of Nativity Rocks! (released in cinemas in 2018) came with a healthy dose of apprehension, even if the musical adaptation has rescued some of its lustre (though is that also now in danger of oversaturation , as the musical is now in its third consecutive winter tour).

For all my reservations though, Isitt had zero problem in attracting a quality ensemble as the cast undergoes something of an overhaul. So Marc Wootton’s Mr Poppy is dispatched to Australia and replaced with Simon Lipkin’s Mr Poppy (his long-lost brother), Daniel Boys is the fresh-faced teacher taking St Bernadette’s school choir through the rigours of yet another competition, with Helen George as the putative love interest, Gabriel Vick as the posh rival schoolmaster. Plus there’s Hugh Dennis and Anna Chancellor as some well-to-do parents, Ramin Karimloo as a refugee father, Meera Syal and Celia Imrie too, plus Craig Revel Horwood… Continue reading “Film Review: Nativity Rocks! (2018)”

Album Reviews: Singing You Home / Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again / Vanara the Musical

This trio of album reviews covers Singing You Home: Children’s Songs for Family Reunification, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018 Film Soundtrack) and Vanara the Musical

“Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores”

Regardless of your politics, Singing You Home: Children’s Songs for Family Reunification is a really rather lovely album of bilingual children’s songs. But in this day and age nothing is not political and the current US administration’s policy of child separation is a genuine atrocity that it is hard to know how to respond. Laura Benanti had the nous to conceive this project though and produced it with Mary-Mitchell Campbell and Lynn Pinto, and a whole host of the great and good of the American musical theatre. Thus this is more than just your usual set of lullabies – Lin-Manuel Miranda and Mandy Gonzalez crooning on the Mexican song ‘Cielito Lindo’, Audra McDonald shining on Jason Robert Brown’s ‘Singing You Home’, Kristin Chenoweth’s ‘Beautiful Dreamer’, well worth the investment for this uniquely exceptional cause. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Singing You Home / Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again / Vanara the Musical”

Review: Pinter Six, Harold Pinter Theatre

A superbly cast double-bill of Party Time and Celebration makes up a sharp Pinter Six at the Harold Pinter Theatre

“My driver had to stop at a….what do you call it…roadblock.”

One of the benefits in producing such a wide-ranging festival as Pinter at the Pinter has been the flexibility in its programming, allowing for thematic evenings to emerge as opposed to a straight chronological trip through the canon. So here, Jamie Lloyd is able to bring together two plays set at gatherings, both conveniently cast for nine people.

The first social occasion is the most effective, 1991’s Party Time begins with the sepulchral chords of Handel’s Sarabande in D Minor processed through an electronic filter and its partygoers sat in a line facing the audience. They’re members of a private club and we slowly learn that as they sip champagne, the world outside has gone to shit. Continue reading “Review: Pinter Six, Harold Pinter Theatre”