Review: Donkey Heart, Old Red Lion

“This has been going on for years…we never put it right, it just repeats.”

Mere mortals don’t stand a chance without a dynasty behind them… Moses Raine’s father is noted poet Craig and his sister is playwright and director Nina (who looked into my very soul with the peerless Tribes) and not only that, his mother, who has her own literary career, is the niece of Boris Pasternak who wrote Doctor Zhivago. And it is to the Russian connection that Moses has turned to write his new play Donkey Heart, directed by Nina, which opens at the Old Red Lion with one of the best casts you could hope to see in any intimate theatre, never mind one perched atop an Islington pub.

Casting director Emily Jones definitely deserves mention for gathering such an illustrious company on the fringe – such experience as Wendy Nottingham and Patrick Godfrey, the younger talents of Emily Bruni and James Musgrave and emerging with one of the performances of the year so far, Lisa Diveney, She plays Sasha, the 20-something daughter of a Moscow family, three generations of which are compressed into a small apartment, along with a British visitor Thomas, her brother’s mouthy girlfriend and her father’s PA whose been stung by her landlord. Continue reading “Review: Donkey Heart, Old Red Lion”

DVD Review: Silk, Series 2

“People are saying you only made silk because you’re a woman and from Bolton”

The joys of Netflix allowed me to quickly move onto Series 2 of Silk in perfect time before the third, and final, series hit BBC1, and it remains an excellent piece of television, a quality legal drama blessed with some cracking writing, a stellar leading cast, and a revolving ensemble which continues to draw in the cream of British acting talent to give their supporting roles and cameos. The series kicks off with Maxine Peake’s Martha having ascended to the ranks of QC whilst Rupert Penry-Jones’ Clive languishes in her slipstream, and the dynamics of their relationship form a major driver of the narrative. 

Her adjustments to her new role and responsibilities are fascinatingly drawn, especially as she negotiates the ethics of working with a notorious crime family and their shady legal representation. And his pursuit of that exalted status of QC as he stretches himself professionally to take in prosecutions, as well as Indira Varma’s attractive solicitor, is challenged when he overreaches himself in a particularly pressing case. As ever, individual cases fit into each episode as well, but these wider storylines are where the real interest comes.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Silk, Series 2”

Review: The Duck House, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

“Remember when we used to trust politicians”

Although outrageous and audacious in its scope, the expenses scandal that rocked the Houses of Parliament in 2009 was also rich in comic detail as the minutiae of what our elected officials deemed acceptable to claim was revealed in the pages of the Daily Telegraph. And it is this that writers Dan Patterson and Colin Swash (with Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You among their credits) have picked up on in their new comedy The Duck House

Set in May of that year with the Labour Party in disarray, backbencher Robert Houston decides to defect to the Tories in order to maintain the lifestyle he and his family have become used to. But with just one more interview with Tory grandee Sir Norman Cavendish to get through, the expenses scandal breaks and the Houstons set about trying to minimise the damage to their prospects. The depth of their financial fiddling means that this is no easy task though and results in farcical shenanigans that affect them all.  Continue reading “Review: The Duck House, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre”

Re-review: Jumpy, Duke of York’s

“You think ‘I’m being a strong woman’, that’s a misinterpretation…”

Not too much to say about this last minute revisit to Jumpy before it closed this weekend, aside from the predictability that I would end up there despite repeatedly assuring the world I wouldn’t. My original review from its run at the Royal Court can be read here and much of it still stands as my response was largely the same second time round and, rather pleasingly for a play in the West End, it was a sell-out. I was admittedly a little surprised when I first heard this would be one of the plays transferring to the Duke of York’s as whilst I found it good, I didn’t think it was necessarily that great (unlike many others).

But holding onto the vast majority of its cast (just two replacements were needed), April De Angelis’ play maintained its essential quality with a stirring central performance from Tamsin Greig as a woman in the midst of a mid-life crisis as crises with her teenage daughter, tensions with her husband and losing her job all leave her reeling. De Angelis wraps all of this into a comedy though and so there’s a lightness to the whole affair which at once feels like its strength and its weakness.  Continue reading “Re-review: Jumpy, Duke of York’s”

Review: Jumpy, Royal Court

“Well it’s been a bumpy ride hasn’t it”

A new play by April De Angelis and directed by Nina Raine, Jumpy has all the makings of another success for the Royal Court and great word of mouth has meant that it is now sold out for the run. It’s a portrait of a fractured family: Hilary is under pressure at work, her husband Mark is becoming increasingly distant and her relationship with her bolshy teenage daughter Tilly is practically non-existent. Despite having just turned 50, life doesn’t seem to be getting any easier and it plays out in a mixture of comedy and moving drama.

Tamsin Greig is brilliant as Hilary, going through something of a midlife crisis as her disillusionment with so much of her life catches up with her, distant memories of protesting at Greenham Common provoked by the antics of her sexually precocious daughter, a terrifyingly convincing turn from Bel Powley, who even at 15 dresses highly provocatively, goes clubbing looking for footballers yet overestimates her capacity to deal with the responsibilities of such behaviour. Dealing with the inevitable ramifications brings Tilly’s boyfriend and his parents in to the picture, another couple fractured in their own way and whose interactions impact just as much on Hilary as they do on Tilly. Continue reading “Review: Jumpy, Royal Court”

Review: Wanderlust, Royal Court

“Sex shouldn’t have to feel like homework”

Wanderlust, the new play from Nick Payne opening upstairs at the Royal Court, carries a warning of nudity and scenes of an adult nature. Frankly, having seen the second preview, it smacks of many a play advertising full frontal nudity in order to whip up a few headlines and controversy and hopefully translate it into ticket sales. It has clearly worked here as there’s already limited availability for the entire run but it wouldn’t surprise me if tickets start to become available once word spreads.

The Richards family: Joy and Alan married for 24 years but haven’t had sex for 12 months and their 15 year old son Tim, desperate to get his first hands-on experience of the facts of life. Whilst looking at ways of trying to rescue their relationship, the sexually frustrated Alan has his eye turned by a colleague who needs comforting after witnessing another teacher pleasuring himself in a classroom after hours; the sexually repressed Joy has her own distraction in the shape of an old flame appearing at her surgery needing treatment for a sensitive matter, but interested in much more and the would-be sexually active Tim turns to his best (female) friend Michelle to show him the ins and outs of sexual congress so that he won’t disappoint an older girl he wants to seduce. As we follow each of them on their journeys, Payne purports to look at the relationship between sex and intimacy and the role each plays in relationships.

Continue reading “Review: Wanderlust, Royal Court”