Review: Hansard, National Theatre

Lindsay Duncan and Alex Jennings prove entirely watchable in Hansard, a sharp new play at the National Theatre

“It’s the great mystery of our time…the insatiable desire of the people of this country to be fucked by an Old Etonian”

Hansard opens at the National Theatre with an impeccable sense of timing. As the blinkered thinking of Brexit and the perilous threats of prorogation rock Parliament, Simon Woods’ play (his first) urges consideration of what political discourse has become and also reminds us history reflects with a coolly unblinking eye – messages you wonder whether the watching George Osborne took onboard but at all… 

Set in May of 1988, Diana Hesketh and her husband of 30 odd years Robin, a Tory MP, are poiltical opposites and don’t we know it. From the opening shots to the final quiet devastation, her left-leaning sensibilities and his Thatcher-loving ways tear ever-increasing strips off each other in a manner redolent of Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf but one which also leaves you wondering how they ever made it this far.  Continue reading “Review: Hansard, National Theatre”

News from the National Theatre Autumn 2018 Press Conference

All sorts of goodies were announced today for the upcoming slate of productions at the National Theatre, including Small Island, Peter Gynt, and Top Girls 

Olivier Theatre

Small Island, a new play adapted by Helen Edmundson from Andrea Levy’s Orange Prize-winning bestselling novel, will open in the Olivier Theatre in May. Directed by Rufus Norris, the play journeys from Jamaica to Britain through the Second World War to 1948, the year the HMT Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury. Small Island follows the intricately connected stories of Hortense, newly arrived in London, landlady Queenie and servicemen Gilbert and Bernard. Hope and humanity meet stubborn reality as, with epic sweep, the play uncovers the tangled history of Jamaica and the UK. Hundreds of tickets for every performance available at £15. Small Island will be broadcast live to cinemas worldwide as part of NT Live. Continue reading “News from the National Theatre Autumn 2018 Press Conference”

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Specials 2008-2010

“Because your song is ending, sir…It is returning. It is returning through the dark. And then, Doctor? Oh, but then… He will knock four times.”

Cos he’s special, David Tennant got to spread his farewell over 4 specials from Christmas 2008 to New Year 2010, and as this also marked Russell T Davies’ departure from the show, the stories start off grand and rise to operatic scales of drama by the time we hit the megalithic The End of Time. That finale works well in its quieter moments but does suffer a little from an overabundance of plot and whatnot. The Next Doctor and Planet of the Dead are good value for money romps but it is The Waters of Mars and all its attendant darkness that stands out most, teasing all the complex arrogance of a God-figure gone wrong. Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Specials 2008-2010”

TV Review: The Honourable Woman

“It’s the Middle East Shlomo, enemies is what you make”

Only by chance did I find out that The Honourable Woman was leaving Netflix at the end of this month, so I quickly took the opportunity to catch up with Hugo Blick’s political spy thriller and as is so often the case with these things, was left wondering how I could have taken this long to watch it.

Political intrigue and personal drama coming from kidnapped children, suspicious suicides and betrayals ranging from old blood feuds to intra-familial conflict set the scene immediately for a typically dense and complex story from Blick, centred on a refreshingly new take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the seeming impossibility of finding a solution when the wounds of the past are still felt so keenly and deeply. Continue reading “TV Review: The Honourable Woman”

12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 1:1

“Oh for…fucking internet”

On the first day of Christmas, Black Mirror gave to me…a politician fucking a pig.

Can Charlie Brooker ever have conceived that four years after The National Anthem aired, the theme of his first episode of Black Mirror would actually come horrifically to life as Lord Ashcroft’s biography of David Cameron alluded to unsavoury acts with a pig’s head. Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 1:1”

The Complete Walk, from the comfort of your sofa #9

“Man is a giddy thing”

Much Ado About Nothing

Quite a bold gambit here, as Jessica Swale’s Sicily-set scenes are interpolated with Jeremy Herrin’s glorious 2011 production. And most glorious within that production, Eve Best’s heart-breaking, life-affirming recounting of a star dancing is placed front and centre. So Katherine Parkinson and Samuel West are up against it a bit, swanning luxuriously but longfully around the Villa Ida in Messina, never too far from Best and Charles Edwards doing Beatrice and Benedick as well as they ever have been done.


All’s Well That Ends Well
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DVD Review: Le Week-end

“Once the kids have gone, what’s left of us?”

Renewing the creative partnership between director Roger Michell and writer Hanif Kureishi (which has included The Buddha of Suburbia and The Mother), Le Week-End was released in 2013 to well-deserved, general acclaim. And it really is well-deserved, this is the third time I’ve seen the film and I still find myself hugely enamoured of its bittersweet portrait of a long-married couple trying to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in Paris, with the emphasis very much on bitter.

We first meet Meg (Lindsay Duncan) and Nick (Jim Broadbent) on the Eurostar, where we first see the niggling signs of discontentment, the tiny behavioural tics that in isolation seem manageable, but over a lifetime, build up to intolerable degrees. Meg’s frustration boils over with a snafu over Nick’s hotel booking and though they soon replace that establishment with a far fancier one they can ill afford, the scene is set for an excoriating examination into the state of their marriage.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Le Week-end”

Review: A Delicate Balance, John Golden Theatre

“There is a balance to be maintained”
 
One of the main reasons for finally booking a trip to Broadway was the chance to see Glenn Close make a rare foray back onto the stage in a revival of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance. I saw the play at the Almeida back in 2011 with an exceptional cast and didn’t imagine it could be bettered but something about it clearly attracts the crème de la crème as the ensemble around her in Pam McKinnon’s production is just as thrill-makingly irresistible.

Brits Clare Higgins and Lindsay Duncan join John Lithgow, Bob Balaban, and the delectable Martha Plimpton to form the kind of company to dream of, and deliver this modern classic exquisitely if agonisingly as its WASP certainties are thoroughly dismantled. Albee’s prose has an unwieldy verbosity on the page but in the hands of such consummate professionals, it flows beautifully off the tongue as even the most convoluted of clauses gain conversational clarity. Continue reading “Review: A Delicate Balance, John Golden Theatre”

My top 10 favourite Doctor Who guest star appearances

With the new series of Doctor Who almost upon us, I thought I’d look back on some of my favourite guest spots on the show since it has come back on air, as it has become quite the magnet for actors to get on their CV. Have a look at my top 10, well 11, here and let me know who you think should have been on there instead.

Suranne Jones (The Doctor’s Wife)
This is probably my all-time favourite moment out of all of the new Doctor Who episodes. Neil Gaiman’s conceit was brilliantly simple, to bring the TARDIS to life, but Jones’ performance elevates it to something extraordinary, I get goosebumps just thinking about it and this scene, from near the end, is just perfection. As Matt Smith’s lip starts to wobble, we see the Doctor at his most affectingly human.


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DVD Review: Mansfield Park (1999)

“Life seems nothing more than a quick succession of busy nothings”

Eek. So having sampled the more recent ITV version of Mansfield Park. I next turned to Patricia Rozema’s 1999 film adaptation and adaptation is surely the right word for it felt like an entirely different story and not in a good way. Again, there’s a distinct modernisation of the heroine into something which was assumedly palatable for test audiences and/or studio bosses but consequently way misses the mark for anything truly Austenesque, Frances O’Connor isn’t exactly bad as Fanny but it never feels like a good fit.

Elsewhere, there’s a scything of some of the key characters, script changes altering others completely. And strangely, given how much of Austen’s novel has to be concertinaed into feature film length, Rozema opts to add in new material – an overworked strand about slavery is heavy-handed in the extreme, the hints of lesbianism (Embeth Davidtz’s Mary Crawford) a desperate ploy for scandal, opium addiction for Lady Bertram scandalously wasting the presence of Lindsay Duncan.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Mansfield Park (1999)”