TV Review: Unforgotten Series 3

The third series of Chris Lang’s Unforgotten is another corker, and not just because of Nicola Walker, honest!

“We’ve all done things of which we are ashamed”

The cold cases of Unforgotten have rightly proved a success for their alternative tale on crime drama, putting a real focus on the victims rather than the crimes, a neat corrective to the sometimes exploitative gaze that can characterise this genre. And this third series maintained that strong record (quick review of episodes 1 and 2 here)

A measure of the regard in which Unforgotten is held is the sheer quality of its cast. With James Fleet, Alex Jennings, Kevin McNally and Neil Morrissey as its lead quartet, it added Sasha Behar, Emma Fielding, Indra Ové and Amanda Root as their partners, and then threw in Siobhan Redmond and Sara Stewart as exes as well.  Continue reading “TV Review: Unforgotten Series 3”

TV Review: Unforgotten Series 3 Episodes 1+2

The third series of Unforgotten starts and once again, Nicola Walker fails to disappoint

“Who buries a body in the central reservation of the M1”

They’re back! Nicola Walker’s DCI Stuart and Sanjeev Bhaskar’s DS Khan sit at the heart of Chris Lang’s cold case thriller Unforgotten and for the previous two series, have been extremely impressive. Carving out a niche in the crowded police procedural TV market is enough of a job but doing it this well is noteworthy.

So it is little surprise that they have returned for a third series and though the format might be creaking ever so slightly as the same model is recycled once again, there’s enough here to point out the differences between so many of the other programmes who long to be recommissioned and respected this much. Continue reading “TV Review: Unforgotten Series 3 Episodes 1+2”

Review: The Country Wife, Minerva

A cracking cast can’t quite make sense of a modern updating of The Country Wife at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre

“What is wit in a wife good for, but to make a man a cuckold?”

How many productions does it take for a playwright to have a moment? We could be on the cusp of a Wycherley wave, with the second production of The Country Wife to arrive this year (the first being at the Southwark Playhouse in April). 

But though this Restoration writer is proving popular, directors seem unable not to tinker with his work – that production was set in the 1920s and Jonathan Munby here moves it even further to the present day, casting new light but also dimming its intent. Continue reading “Review: The Country Wife, Minerva”

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: 3 Winters, National Theatre

“Governments fall, wars break out – there’ll be nothing left of this country”

Recent Croatian history forms the fascinating backdrop to Tena Štivičić’s 3 Winters, a multi-generational family drama that stretches across nearly 70 years and endless drama, both political and personal. From the 1945 establishment of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that replaced the monarchy and promised a bright future, to its collapse in 1990 presaging both independence and the bitterly fought Balkan conflicts of that decade, and then on again to a 2011 that heralds another form of confederacy as Croatia enters into EU accession talks. Štivičić’s focus remains on a single household throughout but it can’t help but be influenced by the turbulence of the times.

That household is the Zagreb home of the Kos family, a plush place passed into their hands during the nationalisation of property at the end of the Second World War. So the residence that Monika previously served in becomes the house her daughter Rose moves into with her daughter Masha. Masha grows up to be a forthright wife and mother of two and as the clan gathers to celebrate the wedding of one of those daughters Lucia, years of frustrations and secrets and history and lies begin to uncoil as past events catch up with present actions. Štivičić takes her time to set up the play in a languorous first half but the pay off is intensely wielded after the interval. Continue reading “Review: 3 Winters, National Theatre”

Review: East of Berlin, Southwark Playhouse

 
“You’ll like this part…”

In a year full of military commemorations, the Southwark Playhouse once again turns its focus onto the aftermath of war but where the extraordinary Johnny Got His Gun asked us to consider ‘what next’ for the soldiers once they stopped fighting, Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch’s East of Berlin looks at the impact on the next generation, the children of those directly involved in the Second World War.

Specifically, Rudi is the son of an SS doctor at Auschwitz, a Nazi war criminal now in hiding in Paraguay with his family, who have kept Rudi in the dark about his father’s past which he only discovers as a teenager. Upon this revelation, he flees back to Berlin and builds himself an anonymous new life but the weight of the past and the huge questions of guilt and responsibility hang heavily over him, especially once he finds love with an American Jewish woman.  Continue reading “Review: East of Berlin, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Eternal Love, Cambridge Arts Theatre

“If you marry me you’ll never be a candidate for the Vatican”

Originally seen at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2006 and 2007 as In Extremis, Howard Brenton’s newly retitled Eternal Love marks the 21st birthday year of English Touring Theatre and the first instalment in a three-year-long project to tour quality drama across the country. On a personal note, it also saw my first ever visit to Cambridge (too brief for my liking, I look forward to a return) and the Cambridge Arts Theatre (very friendly, I like the fact I found the bar before I found the box office!).

The retitling offers a further clue to its subject matter in a subtitle The Story of Abelard and Heloise but in some ways, this feels a little bit of a misnomer. For though the enduring love story between the medieval theologian Peter Abelard and his fearsomely intelligent student Heloise is a central part of the play, Brenton also focuses on the key philosophical debate of the time, as intense rival Bernard of Clairvaux declares his determination to defeat this heretical foe and maintain the doctrine of absolute faith. Continue reading “Review: Eternal Love, Cambridge Arts Theatre”

Review: Hello/Goodbye, Hampstead Downstairs

“Shirt on, shirt off, I’m relaxed…”

The oddest thing happened whilst watching the beginning of the second half of Peter Souter’s play Hello/Goodbye downstairs at the Hampstead as huge waves of déjà vu started to kick in. After a few minutes, it finally clicked that I wasn’t going mad and had completely forgotten a play I’d seen but rather that I had actually heard it before as a radio play last year. That’s Mine, This Is Yourswas an Afternoon Drama on Radio 4 and though slightly different – and of course with an additional 42 minute first act in front of it – it played out pretty much as I remembered it. Which was a shame as the ending really bugged me.

But first to the beginning. Souter’s debut stage play opens on a hot summer’s day in a flat full of packing boxes as Juliet arrives at the new place she is renting only to find that a mix-up with the estate agents had resulted in Alex already being given the keys and he’s midway through his unpacking. They instantly rub each other the wrong way – he’s somewhere in geek territory being a keen collector of all sorts of ephemera and she’s been living life hard in the fast lane, too hard as it turns out – but both being unattached young singletons, chemistry builds up in this real-time environment and explodes. 

Tamara Harvey’s production handles this first half excellently thanks to some pitch-perfect casting. Jo Herbert captures the abrasive forthrightness of Juliet, a whirlwind of intensity who one can well imagine ripping through the lives of her friends as she does, and Andy Rush has the adorable nerd schtick down to a T, full of dry wit and his own kind of confidence and though there’s little new in the coming together of a mis-matched couple, it is entertaining in the watching.


The second half fast-forwards 10 years to the flat full of boxes once again, except this time Juliet and Sam are moving out, divorcing due to irreconcilable differences and so the show takes on a more pensive tone as they pick apart what went wrong whilst dividing up what remains of their shared possessions. There’s much loveliness here too in the not-quite-bitter recriminations of something gone wrong, the testing of each other’s previous commitment or otherwise to the relationship, the challenge to remember the most details about better times.


But once I’d recalled that I knew what lay ahead, I couldn’t escape remembering how excellent Tamsin Greig (as fate would have it, acting in the theatre upstairs in Longing) and Alex Jennings were as the radio versions, bringing a weightier experience and resignedness to the interplay between, suggesting a greater sense of loss than perhaps we get from this younger couple here. An unfair comparison to make maybe, but it really was a most disconcerting experience to sit through – I really wish I’d known in advance. But for £12, you can’t go wrong here with a spikily fresh piece of theatre that deserves more attention. 


Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 30th March

Review: As You Like It, Shakespeare’s Globe

“I would love you if I could”

Are certain of Shakespeare’s plays done to death whilst other neglected? When asking a friend, with whom I caught up briefly this week, what he was going to see this week, my response to him saying As You Like It was ‘which one?’. This may actually be the only production currently running in London – though I did take in the Royal Exchange’s modernised version on my trip to Manchester last month – but it does feel we are never too far away from As You Like It in one shape or another.

This particular production, which has played a few dates at Shakespeare’s Globe in the midst of a considerable UK and Europe jaunt, has the similar small-scale touring feel to the Hamlet that opened the Globe’s season this year with a small cast of travelling players – here in Victorian dress – covering all the roles and providing the musical accompaniment, all from the large wooden box that dominates, and forms an integral part of, the stage. Continue reading “Review: As You Like It, Shakespeare’s Globe”