TV Review: Messiah – The Harrowing (2005)

Helen McCrory and Maxine Peake help elevate Messiah – The Harrowing to arguably the series’ devastatingly effective high point

“See beyond the victim, see the killer”

The first series of Messiah is certainly one of the best, setting the wheels in motion for an effective crime series, but I’d argue that it is the fourth instalment Messiah – The Harrowing that is the best of them all. The arrival of a new writer – Terry Cafolla – releases the show from the baggage of its legacy which seemed to weigh the last series one and produces something that is really, well, harrowing.

Harking back to that first series and its connecting device of people being killed in the style of the Apostles, the murderous connection here ends up being Dante’s The Divine Comedy and its descent into hell. And weighted around the death by suicide of the daughter of one of their colleagues, Red and his team (with Maxine Peake’s DS Clarke now in for a retired Kate) find themselves once again up against the darkest parts of human nature. Continue reading “TV Review: Messiah – The Harrowing (2005)”

Theatre Review: The Kindness of Strangers

“Most people think it’s like a bloody episode of Holby City”

The sheer inventiveness with which companies approach the world of immersive theatre is just breath-taking. Even if it isn’t always completely successful, the idea of a sleepover Macbeth, a literal rollercoaster ride, a Kafka-esque legal nightmare or an office party pushes the boundaries of how we experience theatre and in a first for me at least, Curious Directive’s latest show takes place in a moving ambulance, which travels the streets of Southwark to give a taste of the frontline of the NHS.

Given that my only previous experience in ambulances has been a) being hit by one (my fault) and b) being transported in them whilst in a coma, there might have been something mildly poignant about being escorted into the vehicle but the amnesia put paid to that. Instead, there’s a genuine sense of thrill to The Kindness of Strangers as we’re handed headphones and in our group of five, taken on a journey which marks the final shift for driver Sylvia and the first day on the job for newly-trained paramedic Lisa. Continue reading “Theatre Review: The Kindness of Strangers”

Review: Cymbeline, Tabard Theatre

“Hath Britain all the sun that shines?”

Cymbeline is one of Shakespeare’s later plays, occupying an uneasy middle ground between tragedy, romance, comedy with a loose smattering of history thrown in for good measure and thus garnering the reputation as one of his problem plays. New London-based theatre company Avanti have taken up the challenge with their 1970s re-imagining though which is currently playing at the Tabard Theatre in West London.

It’s essentially a romance, with tragic overtones, focusing on Imogen, a princess of Britain who has secretly married her lowly childhood friend Posthumus, frustrating the plans of her wicked (step)mother. Upon finding out, her father King Cymbeline banishes him from the kingdom, and thus a whole merry load of confusions start. Posthumus is tricked into believing Imogen has been unfaithful and orders her murder, Imogen is forewarned and dispatched to Wales in the guise of a boy, there she meets two random boys who turn out to have a very strong connection to her, more betrayals and murder ensue, there’s a bit of a war, the god Jupiter pops down for a chat and then there’s an incredibly neat, yet interminably long ending in which every single plot strand is recapped and then resolved.

Perhaps it is not the most considered of opinions but it is all a bit bonkers really, incorporating so many Shakespearean devices that are familiar to us from other plays – cross-dessing princesses, potions that feign death, long-lost children, wagers about virtue – and folding them all into the one huge narrative, but matters aren’t necessarily helped by some of the creative decisions. It is set in a loose version of the 70s, all flares and flowery shirts, and in large part this is surprisingly effective: Posthumus’ defiance of society’s norm, Imogen’s rebellion against the convention’s of her parents’ generation, the singing of the young princes over a dead body feels a heartbeat away from Godspell, but these all fit well with the concept. It is less successful later on though when history kicks in as Rome invades Britain, some vaguely fascist-looking uniforms appearing lending a slightly surreal air.

Continue reading “Review: Cymbeline, Tabard Theatre”