TV Review: The Royals Season 1

“When a mother loses her first-born son, I believe she’s allowed to grieve…
‘Not when she’s the Queen'”

If The Crown isn’t quite your thing, or perhaps you have a real yearning for more monarchical drama, then you could do a little worse that watching The Royals. Showing on US TV station E! as its first ever scripted series, it is wonderfully, monumentally, trashy beyond belief – I mean it has Liz Hurley as the Queen in it for Gawd’s sake – and so quite easily falls into the category of guilty pleasure.

It is essentially Sunset Beach levels of realness, through the lens of Hello Magazine, as it follows a fictional but contemporary version of the British royal family through the trials of modern life. Liz Hurley’s Queen Helena is aghast when her husband, Vincent Regan’s King Simon, announces not only does he want to abdicate the throne, but he also wants to abolish the monarchy. Dun dun duh. Continue reading “TV Review: The Royals Season 1”

Review: ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore, Sam Wanamaker

“I must speak or burst”
 
Short and sweet cos it is in the last week and I’m running out of time… the Globe’s production of John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore got the kind of publicity money can’t buy when TfL banned their posters for being overtly sexual (in a way that David Gandy’s underwear ads are apparently not) but it was sufficiently good a piece of theatre that one imagines it would most likely have sold out the candlelit atmosphere of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse regardless.
 
Michael Longhurst navigates the complex plot expertly to give us a clear-sighted view of what is going on but completely free from judgement, even as the goings-on are pretty scandalous. Annabella and Giovanni are fiercely in love, a passion that gets her pregnant – only small catch is that they are siblings with varying motivation. And the society around them that bubbles with hypocrisy and sexuality also has its complexity portrayed – there’s good and evil in us all, it’s just about what you can resist.

Continue reading “Review: ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore, Sam Wanamaker”

Review: Twelfth Night, Shakespeare’s Globe

“And all is semblative a woman’s part”

Mark Rylance’s much-trumpeted double-bill return to Shakespeare’s Globe this summer started with Richard III but it is now the turn of the belated second part to make its bow. Tim Carroll’s revival  of Twelfth Night, originally seen in 2002, largely uses the same all-male company and the same Original Practices approach of ‘doing it like it’s 1601’ for a short run – all sold out – before transferring into the West End. With a view to this, official press reviews will come from the Apollo rather than the Globe, so heaven know if this counts as a preview or not. Oh and in the interest of full disclosure and as heretical as it may be, I am not really a fan of Mark Rylance, just so you know. I do try to test my dislikes though, in the spirit of open-mindedness, something made much more palatable here by the £5 groundling tickets.

The choice of interpretation might strike a casual observer as typical for the Globe, even a little unimaginative, given the wide variety of Shakespearean re-imaginings on offer, but that would be underestimate the incredible level of detailed work that has gone on here at all levels. Liam Brennan imbues Orsino with a much greater deal of personality than is often granted to this lovesick Lord, making him a constant point of interest; Colin Hurley’s Sir Toby Belch reins in the boisterousness to construct a much more interesting character; Feste’s presence possesses an intriguing ambivalence in Peter Hamilton Dyer’s hands; and James Garnon makes one notice Fabian more than I’ve ever done before. Continue reading “Review: Twelfth Night, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: Richard III, Shakespeare’s Globe

“And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house…”

The last time I was at the Globe (for Henry V), I made the mistake of mentioning that I had never actually been rained on whilst being a groundling. This time round, for the opening night of Richard III, we made it to the second half quite dry but then the heavens opened and I was forced to use my delightful yellow poncho whilst proved little respite against a rather heavy and sustained fall of rain which made me long for the hard comfort of the Globe’s (covered) seating. This Richard III is notable for seeing the return of Mark Rylance to the theatre where he was Artistic Director for 10 years where this all-male Original Practices-exploring company will also take on Twelfth Night later in the season and then transfer both to the West End.

Given the tragic news just last week of the death of his stepdaughter, it is hard to know what to say or how to pitch any comments about Rylance. Though it is probably close to heretical to admit it, I’m not actually that big a fan of him as an actor, having found him too dominant a presence on stages before for my liking at least, but given that for once this is actually a play where that is the intention, I was willing to give this a try. Using the types of costumes and props that would have been available in 1593, Rylance sports a false arm complete with teeny withered hand (I jested at the interval that this is him saying ‘look, I can even do Shakespeare with one arm behind my back…’) and a rather muted demeanour as he limps and shuffles around the stage. Continue reading “Review: Richard III, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: Skåne, Hampstead Downstairs

“It all got too much and we did something we shouldn’t have”

Continuing the season of new writing downstairs at the Hampstead Theatre is Pamela Carter’s play Skåne. I was particularly interested in this when it was first announced as having previously lived in Sweden, I was able to recognise the title ‘Skåne’ as the southernmost region in Sweden – basically the equivalent of calling a play Dorset – and advise all and sundry on the correct pronunciation: it sounds something like Skor-ner with the emphasis on the first syllable. But sadly there wasn’t the shedload of Swedish references that I could have nodded sagely at nor the attention to detail with props that I longed to recognise. Instead, there’s a tale of the repercussions of a heady affair as both parties belatedly decide return to their respective partners and families.

We open in the midst of a joint family conference, called by the wronged partners, Siri and Kurt, to allow the adulterous Christian and Malin to explain to their children and spouses exactly why they disappeared off together, and more significantly, why they have opted to return. It is a fascinating beginning, full of tension and intrigue, contrasting family dynamics and whole worlds of emotions as everyone reacts differently to the news that things will be returning to just as they were. What then follows is [spoiler alert] a journey back in time as scenes play out showing how the characters had been affected by the impact of the affair and how they all interacted – in some cases, providing surprising revelations – ending up at the beginning of the liaison in all its bare sexuality. Continue reading “Review: Skåne, Hampstead Downstairs”

Review: Boiling Frogs, Southwark Playhouse

“Do you have a problem with authority?
‘I have a problem with authoritarians…’”

The title of Boiling Frogs refers to an alleged phenomenon which should be familiar to fans of Christopher Brookmyre’s books and is an apt metaphor for this, The Factory’s first ever full-length original play. Usually known for reinterpreting classic plays and hugely interactive scenarios (the audience bringing along random props to be used and getting to pick who will play each part), Steven Bloomer has written a play set in a police cell in a world not too dissimilar from our own but where global warming has hit hard, the fallout from a riot called the Battle of Birmingham is on everyone’s lips and capital punishment is being introduced for terrorists.

The first people we see in the cell are Mark, a keenly intelligent professional protester arrested for impersonating a police officer and the policeman who is trying to interview him and avoid getting himself tied up in Mark’s word games and constant assertions of his civil rights. As the play progresses, George is then thrown into the cell, another protester who was at the same picnic in Parliament Square and then Tom, a policeman being held for overstepping the line. A sergeant also appears periodically to ratchet up the tension as the walls both metaphorically and literally begin to close in and the three prisoners are forced to face up to what they have done and what they believe is right. Continue reading “Review: Boiling Frogs, Southwark Playhouse”