TV Review: Doctor Who Series 11

Series 11 of Doctor Who comes to an end and it’s a big yes from me – a hugely successful refresh for this beloved series

“I have to lay down the rules if someone’s new”

From the opening episode, I knew that Series 11 of Doctor Who was going to do it for me. New head writer and executive producer Chris Chibnall’s reset was most obvious in the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor but it was his other changes – namely a real widening of the pool of writers and a pronounced shift in tone – that really defined the shape of this new Doctor Who.

For all its sci-fi nature, that shape was decidedly human. The tragic death of Sharon D Clarke’s Grace was a defining moment in that opening episode, providing the trigger for this TARDIS crew to come together. And rather beautifully, the series really allowed for a full exploration of everyone’s different grief at her passing, culminating in the brutal power of Ed Hime’s ninth episode It Takes You Away.

And pivoting away from the oft-times densely packed complexity of the show’s mythology, the storytelling pointed less at grand alien threats but rather to the foibles of human nature – the enemy within. The racism of Rosa, written by Malorie Blackman with Chibnall, Vinay Patel’s exploration of the British colonial legacy around Partition in Demons of the Punjab, this was science-fiction as its most powerful, commenting powerfully on contemporary society (and naturally provoking the kind of outrage you’d expect). Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Series 11”

TV Review: The Crown, Series 1

“To do nothing is the hardest job of all” 

It’s taken a little time to getting round to watching all of The Crown because, in a first for me, I found it impossible to binge-watch the show. Even with Netflix kindly providing offline downloads just at the point where I had a lot of travelling to do, Peter Morgan’s drama was lots of fun to watch but rarely captured the buzzy energy that has accompanied much online programming. Because it many ways it isn’t like much of Netflix’s previous output, it really is an encroachment into BBC Sunday night and as such, I felt it worked best spread out in almost weekly installments.

That’s partly down to the nature of the subject material, we’re not likely to get many surprises in a detailed retelling of the history of the House of Windsor. But it is also due to Morgan’s writing which tends a little to the formulaic, especially in the middle part of the series, which is when my interest was most in danger of waning. The opening two episodes started brightly but once the shock of becoming monarch was over, the rhythm became very much one of someone close to the queen has an issue and she has to weigh personal desires against public duty, the latter always winning out. Continue reading “TV Review: The Crown, Series 1”

Review: The Comedy of Errors, Oxford University Dramatic Society at Southwark Playhouse

“Your town is troubled with unruly boys”
 

With alumni such as Rory Kinnear, Rosamund Pike and Julian Ovenden, the Oxford University Dramatic Society seems as good a place as any to spot potential stars for the future and obliging with their now customary summer tour, I only had to nip up the road to the Southwark Playhouse to go and see them in their short run of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. As he alludes in his programme note, companies often try to take a different route into such familiar work and director Christopher Adams has relocated this play to the modern day ex-pat community living in the Spanish city of Málaga. Wisely, it’s a choice that the production wears lightly and thus is quite effective, if a little reminiscent of Propeller’s own recent reimagining.

The debauched world of the Costa del Sol serves as a splendid stand-in for Ephesus – a surfeit of sex, sun and sangria seduces the newly-arrived and much-wearied Antipholus of Syracuse into temporarily abandoning the search for his long-lost brother, and the easy hedonism of his city allows Antipholus of Ephesus to pursue a self-destructive path as he struggles to deal with a loss he doesn’t understand. As the latter, Artemas Froushan delivers excellently the cocksure swagger of a man used to having his way completely and so raging violently once things start to go awry. David Shields as his more serious brother revels in the madcap capers but could perhaps have layered in a little more of the strait-laced characteristics instead of abandoning them completely, and their reunion lacked the emotional heft it ought to punch with.

Continue reading “Review: The Comedy of Errors, Oxford University Dramatic Society at Southwark Playhouse”