TV Review: Top Boy – Summerhouse (Series 2)

Series 2 of Top Boy- Summerhouse is, quite frankly, exceptional

“I don’t wanna go to Ramsgate”

The first series of Top Boy surprised me at just how good it was, making a mockery of my earlier decision that it wasn’t my kind of thing. So I launched straight into the second series (now labelled Top Boy- Summerhouse on Netflix), unprepared for how harrowing it would get. It may have taken two years for it to be created but boy it was worth the wait.

Ronan Bennett’s series picks up one year later with Dushane’s (Ashley Walters_ status at the head of the Summerhouse estate as equally precarious and secure as ever, forever dependent on the next big drug delivery. But the Albanians have got their own plans, former besty Sully is setting up his own rival crew and the police have just dug up a body – eep! Continue reading “TV Review: Top Boy – Summerhouse (Series 2)”

News: National Theatre at Home Phase 3

The National Theatre has today announced further productions that will be streamed live on YouTube every Thursday at 7PM BST via the National Theatre’s YouTube channel as part of National Theatre at Home; the new initiative to bring content to the public in their homes during the Coronavirus outbreak. The titles announced today include productions from partner theatres which were previously broadcast to cinemas by National Theatre Live. Continue reading “News: National Theatre at Home Phase 3”

Film Review: The Levelling (2016)

Hope Dickson Leach’s The Levelling is a haunting film debut, and a grim one too

“There’s nothing for you here anymore”

Eee, it’s grim to be a farmer in the UK right now, if we’re to believe what we see in the cinema. At least in Yorkshire, there’s the chance of some hot gay sex but in Somerset, things look decidedly worse with not even that relief as an option.

Writer/director Hope Dickson Leach finds something more desperate in the unforgiving land of the Somerset levels, as she explores the fracturing of a family farm in the aftermath of the death of the son and heir. Trainee vet Clover returns for the funeral of her brother but is shocked at what she discovers.

Continue reading “Film Review: The Levelling (2016)”

Review: Flowers for Mrs Harris, Chichester Festival Theatre

Some of the beauty of Flowers for Mrs Harris gets lost at Chichester Festival Theatre but it remains a striking new musical

“It’s a work of art… something not real, made to make you feel”

I had much love for Flowers for Mrs Harris when it premiered in Sheffield a couple of years ago, and so I was delighted to see Daniel Evans deciding to revive it at his new abode over in Chichester. My only cavil came with the placing of this most heartfelt musical in the vast space of the Festival Theatre rather than the intimacy of the Minerva where it might perhaps have been better served.

So much of the beauty of the show (book by Rachel Wagstaff from Paul Gallico’s novel, music & lyrics by Richard Taylor) comes from the fact that it isn’t a bells and whistles epic. It is something far more subtle that truly celebrates the ordinary in extraordinary, as Clare Burt’s charlady Ada Harris dares to dream of owning a Christian Dior dress and in working to achieve that dream, illuminates the lives of those around her.

Continue reading “Review: Flowers for Mrs Harris, Chichester Festival Theatre”

Review: Miss Littlewood, Swan Theatre

A hugely fascinating new musical from the RSC, Miss Littlewood impresses at the Swan Theatre – might we see it London before too long?

“I’ve come about the theatre”

The last musical to come out of the RSC is a little know thing that is still kicking around somewhere, Matilda I think it’s called… So Miss Littlewood might have a little expectation carrying on its shoulders, although it is clearly a completely different kettle of fish.

In the Swan Theatre, Sam Kenyon (book, music and lyrics) tells us the story of Joan Littlewood. Or rather, given the format of the show, hands the reins over to Joan to tell her story. Clare Burt stars as an older Littlewood who acts as a narrator, a maestro, as she directs six other performers, all of whom take turns in donning the blue cap to embody this most totemic figure of British theatre.  Continue reading “Review: Miss Littlewood, Swan Theatre”

The 2016 fosterIAN nominations

The end of year round-up continues with the acting performances that stood out for me, the ones that made me sit up, and sometimes stand up. As ever, I have used the label ‘best’, the categories should really be considered ‘favourite’ as that is what the fosterIANs (fos-tîr’ē-ən) are – my favourites. So please find below the 2016 fosterIAN award nominations, categories expanded to 7 nominees (and sometimes more!) because I am that indecisive, winners to be announced in the coming days. 

Best Actress in a Play
Uzo Aduba/Zawe Ashton, The Maids
Gemma Arterton, Nell Gwynn
Linda Bassett, Escaped Alone
Helen McCrory, The Deep Blue Sea
Maxine Peake, A Streetcar Named Desire
Juliet Stevenson/Lia Williams, Mary Stuart
Harriet Walter, The Tempest

Best Actor in a Play
Phil Dunster, Pink Mist
Paapa Essiedu, Hamlet
O-T Fagbenle, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Rhys Isaac-Jones, Jess and Joe Forever
Lucian Msamati, Amadeus
Lucian Msamati, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Danny Sapani, Les Blancs Continue reading “The 2016 fosterIAN nominations”

CD Review: Annie (1995 London Studio Cast Recording)

“Betcha they’re good

Why shouldn’t they be?”
I’ve never actually seen Annie on stage. I would have gone to the recent UK touring version but I was too annoyed by the cast of Craig Revel Horwood as Miss Hannigan to even contemplate booking. For me, taking away any of the few opportunities for older actresses without substantially making up for it elsewhere is unforgivable. Yes, you could point to his alternate being Lesley Joseph, or Jodie Prenger, which simply reinforces the pointlessness of the exercise, pushing it too close to stunt casting.
So I was interested to actually listen to Charles Strouse’s score for the first time since becoming a blogger and I opted for this 1995 studio cast recording as it had names like Ruthie Henshall, Kim Criswell and Clare Burt attached to it. I really wish hadn’t though as it is a dated, lethargic run through the music that lacks any kind of real energy at all. It is sung perfectly proficiently – Sarah French’s Annie, Criswell’s Miss Hannigan, Henshall’s Grace, Ron Raines as Daddy Warbucks – but this recording is as dusty as a relic and should be left on a shelf to collect more dust.

Review: Flowers for Mrs Harris, Crucible

“There is more to life than you ever knew, than you ever dreamed,”

Sheffield feels the right place for Flowers for Mrs Harris to come into bloom, its delicately understated charm and musicality making this a world away from the brash, cut-throat commercialism of West End musicals. That’s not to say I wouldn’t love to see this show come down to the capital, for it does deserve such wider attention, but rather to celebrate the creation and nurturing of musical theatre from all parts of the country, a recognition of a theatrical ecology that thrives far beyond the M25.

Daniel Evans’ artistic directorship of Sheffield Theatres, which ends with this production, has been a key part of that over the last few years and it is pleasing to see that his presence in the overall picture will continue as he departs for Chichester Festival Theatre. As for now, we get a gorgeous piece of unmistakably British musical theatre that is as heart-warming and tear-jerking as they come, a tenderly sentimental exploration of far-fetched dreams and earthily real friendships. Continue reading “Review: Flowers for Mrs Harris, Crucible”