Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 6

“Demons run when a good man goes to war”

And here it is, the point at which I stopped loving new Doctor Who, even in a series that has two of the best episodes it has done, and the first series that I haven’t ever rewatched in its entirety. I do enjoy Matt Smith’s Eleven immensely but the writing across this season – which was split into two for transmission – was just fatally erratic for me. Alongside the innovative work from Neil Gaiman in The Doctor’s Wife and Steve Thompson in The Girl Who Waited, two contrasting but superlative pieces of writing, stories such as The Curse of the Black Spot and Night Terrors took the show to a less sophisticated place – (or do I really mean that I started to feel that this version of Doctor Who wasn’t necessarily aimed at me…?)

Even the big finales (for there were two, one for each half) fell a little flat. The premonition that the Doctor would “fall so much further” than ever before in A Good Man Goes to War raised expectations only to be dashed by an overloaded episode with little emotional heft aside from the River Song reveal, and The Wedding of River Song suffered from the general over-use of the characters dying-but-not-really-dying trope (poor Arthur Darvill…). That said, the high points of the series are so very good – the striking US-set opening double-bill, the Doctor finally meeting the TARDIS, and brain-scratching sci-fi with real heart. Frustratingly inconsistent. Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 6”

Review: Fen, Finborough

“Give me back my hoe and get out of here”

The Finborough Theatre’s new season is entitled In Their Place, focusing the next three months on women playwrights and featuring as its opening production, the first London revival of Caryl Churchill’s 1983 play Fen. Set in a poor East Anglian farming community, the play looks at what people, women in particular, expect from life and the realities of what that life actually offers them. By looking at different generations of women, the possibilities of change are revealed but their unlikeliness never hidden as we see that it is external factors beyond their control that affect them the most, whether it is foreign corporations buying up the land or Margaret Thatcher’s draconian policies.

The cast of six cover over 20 roles as the drudgery of a menial life in an impoverished rural setting is portrayed through a set of short scenes with various stories and characters fading in and out of focus with most attention being paid to the character of Val, a woman torn between her love for a man and her two children and ostracised as she chooses the former over the latter. Katharine Burford’s performance was powerful but the tendency to the non-naturalistic meant that I wasn’t quite convinced of the depth of passion with Alex Beckett’s Frank. Elsewhere there was great work throughout the ensemble who were all given opportunities to stretch their range whilst bringing so many different aspects of this community to life, Nicola Harrison in particular shone as a vindictive stepmother and the sweetly innocent young Deb and Rosie Thomson was also excellent, delineating all of her roles clearly yet moving in all of them. Continue reading “Review: Fen, Finborough”