Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4

“Donna Noble has left the library. Donna Noble has been saved”

And here we are, my favourite series of Doctor Who. So much huge wonderfulness and even its less good moments are still more than halfway decent. Key to the series’ success is Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble – gobby and one-dimensional in her introductory episode the Christmas special The Runaway Bride, her character journey throughout this season is magisterially constructed, a true awakening of self (with thankfully no romantic inclinations towards our Time Lord) and one given unbearable poignancy due to its frustratingly tragic end.

It’s also one of the best constructed series in terms of its over-arching season arc, its warnings and clues layered meaningfully into several stories and building into a momentous and properly climactic finale, which lands just about the right level of grandiosity. There’s also the first companion-lite episode (the superbly creepy Midnight) to go with the Doctor-lite one (the achingly beautiful dystopian Turn Left); a typically brilliant Moffat double-header in  Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead with gorgeous work from Alex Kingston as the soon-to-be-hugely-significant River Song; and if the return of Rose undoes some of the emotional impact of the Series 2 finale, Billie Piper’s work is spikily powerful. These are episodes I can, and have, watched over and over again.

Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4”

DVD Review: The Queen

“Duty first, self second”

I hadn’t watched the film of The Queen since seeing it at the cinema back when it was released in 2006 and I have to say I quite enjoyed watching it again. Watching it at a time when admiration for the monarch is rather high given the celebration of her 50 years of service, it is a little hard to credit the way in which public opinion swung so viciously against her and the Royal Family in the aftermath of the death of Diana Princess of Wales and the hugely unexpected outpouring of public grief. Peter Morgan depicts a fictional account of the events that followed, though with so much still fresh in the mind, and documentary footage included in Stephen Frear’s film, there’s a sometimes uneasy mix of truth and fiction.

Central to the film is of course Helen Mirren’s Oscar-winning turn as the monarch, completely caught unawares by the shift in public mood and unable to seek refuge in the comfort of age-old protocol as the hands-on government of Tony Blair demands a different way of reacting than she has ever been used to before. Mirren is undoubtedly excellent, steering clear of outright impersonation and finding a vein of dry wit which makes the quieter moments of the film some of the best. She is aided by Michael Sheen returning to the role of Tony Blair, which he really has now made his own, as the PM who seizes the moment to lead the country and is determined to take the monarchy with him, kicking and screaming into a new era. Continue reading “DVD Review: The Queen”

Review: Park Avenue Cat, Arts Theatre

“Is this what you call therapy?”

‘When does a twosome become a threesome?’ Twosome?! Reading the promotional blurb for Park Avenue Cat set alarm bells ringing before the show had even started at the Arts Theatre but I was determined to give this a go as it is starring Josefina Gabrielle. One of the happiest moments of my theatregoing year so far was in her arrival onstage in Me and My Girl as I had completely forgotten she was in the cast and she was just phenomenal, as indeed she had been in Sweet Charity and Hello, Dolly! : this marking the first time I’ve seen her in straight drama. Quite why she chose this, written by Los Angeles-based scribe Frank Strausser who apparently has fingers in films and books as well as theatre, we will never know as it is completely undeserving of her talents.

The show centres on Gabrielle’s character Lily, a forty-something art dealer who has summoned her boyfriend Philip to couples therapy as she is getting frustrated with the lack of progress in their relationship. When he predictably doesn’t turn up, her lover Dorian sneakily takes his place in the session, leaving the therapist struggling to deal with Lily’s emotional crises and the confusion wrought by Dorian’s appearance, especially as he is one of her exes as well. A later session, after catching glimpses of Lily with both her lovers, ramps up the farcical comedy as both men turn up for the session with her and the therapist forces Lily to confront just what it is that she wants. Continue reading “Review: Park Avenue Cat, Arts Theatre”