TV Review: No Offence Series 3

After a brilliantly brutal opening, the third series of No Offence twists into something different as the team face off against the far-right

“We’ve all led each other to each other”

The third series of No Offence started with a real bang as they kept us all on our toes by offing one of its lead characters. And though things calmed down considerably, the ongoing main story of Friday Street’s battle against the rising far-right threat offered an interesting spin for the series.

Paul Abbott’s writing always excels when it puts its characters in the forefront and it’s no different here. Dealing with grief (in their own inimitable way) only added to the portrayals, as Joanna Scanlan, Elaine Cassidy and Will Mellor all rose to the occasion, and it was great to see more of Paul Ritter’s maverick forensics guy. Continue reading “TV Review: No Offence Series 3”

TV Review: No Offence Series 3 Episode 1

The third series of Paul Abbott’s No Offence returns to Channel 4 in brilliantly unsentimental form

“What the f*** just happened?”

No Offence makes a welcome return to our television screens but with a quirk of timing, finds itself occupying some of the same space as Bodyguard. Who knows whether Paul Abbott and Jed Mercurio met in a pub to compare storylines and in any case, when they’re both done as compellingly as this, it really doesn’t matter.

We return to Friday Street police station and the big concern for the Manchester Met is currently local politics, a mayoral race potentially being derailed by the efforts of a far right pressure group. And during a hustings event, things go terribly, tragically wrong in a way that seems set to shape the emotional palette for the entire series to come. Continue reading “TV Review: No Offence Series 3 Episode 1”

TV Review: Mum Series 2

A hugely successful return for Stefan Golaszewski’s BBC sitcom Mum, with world-beater Lesley Manville in brilliant form once again

“Three types of potato – are you out of your fucking mind?”

I’m not sure what we’ve done to deserve Stefan Golaszewski’s Mum but I’m sure as hell glad that we have it. The second series of this BBC sitcom has now drawn to a close and it is hard not to think that it isn’t one of the most magnificently perfect bits of television out there, surpassing even the heights of the superlative first season

Starring Lesley Manville and Sam Swainsbury as it does, it could well have been machine-tooled to appeal to my Venn diagram of all Venn diagrams. But Mum is so much more than my varying crushes, it is a supremely well-calibrated piece of heart-breaking and heart-warming writing that finds its humour in that most British of ways, through adversity. Cathy’s husband and Michael’s best friend may have died a year ago but their attempts to move on, to maybe explore their mutual, unspoken attraction are constantly frustrated by the clod-hopping presence of her extended family at every beat.   Continue reading “TV Review: Mum Series 2”

TV Review: Mum

“I feel as sad as the sisters of Lazarus”

A number of the reviews of the first episode of Mum (here’s mine) were cautiously optimistic but commented that Stefan Golaszewski’s writing wasn’t really funny enough for a sitcom, or up to his previous TV show Him and Her. I hope that people persisted with it though, for it emerged as a simply beautiful piece of television, closer to a drama in the end than an outright comedy, and all the more affecting and effective for it.

In some ways, it’s not that surprising that it wasn’t a canned laughter kind of show – an actor of the stature of Lesley Manville, with her nearly 40 years of collaboration with Mike Leigh, wouldn’t do that, would she (I guess My Family being the exception here…). Instead, what we got was a subtle meditation on how life continues after bereavement, working through the stages of grief and minutiae of life over the course of that tricky first year. Plus Manville ate a large crisp in one go, now you don’t get that kind of quality just anywhere! Continue reading “TV Review: Mum”

Review: Human Animals, Royal Court

“I’m taking my cat’s Prozac”

The pigeons are revolting, the foxes are running riot, those damn cockroaches just won’t die – so far so realistic in Stef Smith’s debut play for the Royal Court. But Human Animals take its thesis three steps further to a place where animal nature has become dangerously unpredictable and taken human nature along with it. And as environmental crisis threatens to turn into ecological apocalypse, it becomes increasingly difficult to see where the real problem lies.

Smith explores this world through the interconnected lives of six characters, their interactions played out in a series of duologues that sees them all spiral out differently but still downwardly. Ashley Zhangazha’s Jamie tries to find meaning in eco-activism, giving the cause a hand; Lisa McGrillis’ Lisa, his partner, finds economic advancement but at personal cost; Sargon Yelda’s bureaucrat Si seems more interested in flirting with men in bars (like Ian Gelder’s suave John) than making his blithe assurances that all is OK seem truly convincing. Continue reading “Review: Human Animals, Royal Court”

TV Review: Mum, Episode 1

“Sorry if this isn’t the sort of thing to say at a funeral”

In terms of the Venn diagram of my favourite things, you really could not get more precise than putting Lesley Manville on screen and then following that up with a shot of Sam Swainsbury in his boxer shorts. No, I’m not recounting a dream, this is the actual opening sequence of the first episode of new BBC2 sitcom Mum, directed by Richard Laxton (who worked with Manville most recently in River) – safe to say I’m hooked.

Written by Stefan Golaszewski, probably best known for Him and Her, Mum looks set to be a gently observational comedy rather than a straight-up sitcom. This first episode focused on Manville’s Cathy preparing for the day of her husband’s funeral, dealing with the influx of visitors to her house including her son’s new girlfriend, her brother and his snobbish wife, her ageing in-laws and an old family friend. Continue reading “TV Review: Mum, Episode 1”

Film Review: The Pass, BFI Flare

“I’m not gay…look at me, I’m a footballer”

It’s no mean feat for an LGBT Film Festival to reach its 30th anniversary, but BFI Flare has managed just that and opening its 2016 programme is The Pass, the debut feature film from Ben A. Williams. An adaptation of the John Donnelly play of the same name which played at the Royal Court in 2014, three of the four cast members return to the parts they played on stage – with Arinze Kene subbing in for Gary Carr – and Donnelly remains onboard on screenplay duties (and possibly half-time oranges, who knows!).

Spread over a decade in which footballer Jason rises from academy young buck to full-time Premiership squad member to one of the most famous players in the world, The Pass looks at what such a journey might do to a young man, particularly one who is questioning his sexuality and to those who are left by the wayside. On the eve of a crucial game, Russell Tovey’s Jason and team-mate Ade, played by Kene, are going stir-crazy in a Romanian hotel room, both aware of how crucial the next 24 hours will be but unprepared for what the next 24 minutes will unleash as homoerotic horseplay becomes, well, pretty much homosexual. Continue reading “Film Review: The Pass, BFI Flare”

Review: The Pass, Royal Court

“Sometimes you feel tired. Or angry. Sometimes you get horny”

Football is a game of two halves, The Pass is a play of two halves and between the words and the images, this review definitely made up of two halves. Set in the high-stakes world of celebrity football, John Donnelly’s play spreads over three scenes set over twelve years, starting with young bucks Jason and Ade on the cusp of making their first team debuts in a Champions League dead rubber in Bulgaria. But in their shared hotel room the night before, it seems like they might be interested in sharing more than just tactics.

But though homosexuality in football may be the headline grabber, especially in these post-Hitzlsperger times, Donnelly is just as interested in exploring the corrosive effects that accompanies the leap into superstardom for the lucky few. As the play jumps forward seven years, and then another five, we see Jason’s career goes stratospheric whilst Ade’s languishes, but professional success comes at personal cost – especially in the strait-laced world of the beautiful game – as we see just how far Jason is willing to go to protect his position.

Continue reading “Review: The Pass, Royal Court”

Review: The Awkward Squad, Arts Theatre

“The downside is, there’s always a big pile of ironing to come back to”

The debate about women’s representation in theatre is one which constantly rears its head – most recently on the Guardian Culture Pro website – so with these thoughts burbling in my mind, it felt quite apt to take in this particular show. The Awkward Squad was written by a woman, stars four women and looks exclusively at the trials faced by three generations of modern women in a North East England community.

Lorna has spent the majority of her life serving others. As the wife of a miner, a mother of two, her life revolved around family but during the miners’ strikes of the 1980s, she became the focal point of organised community action and from then on, continued to fight the good fight for her community’s needs. She’s about to be rewarded by having the community centre named after her as she finally decides to retire and her two daughters Pam and Sandy and granddaughter Sarah have come up for the occasion, but her family bring all sorts of baggage with them and so Lorna is left picking up the pieces once again. Continue reading “Review: The Awkward Squad, Arts Theatre”

Review: The Globe Mysteries, Shakespeare’s Globe

“Open the clouds”

It is rare that one witnesses people encouraging the clouds to open at any performance at the Globe, it seems like a needless temptation of fate! But nevertheless, Tony Harrison works in the phrase into this play and on this occasion at least, the heavens did not open (although Mary did still get assumpted!) Starting off with God and the creation and whipping through key stories from the Bible – ostensibly with messages incorporated for us in modern life – until we reach the last judgement, The Globe Mysteries is Tony Harrison’s own adaptation of his 1977 version of The Mysteries for the National Theatre.

Played with a cast of 14 who cover over 60 roles between them, we move from the Garden of Eden through Noah to the birth and death of Jesus and then beyond. There’s a rough chronology which sees us sweeping through time so that we end up more or less in a modern-day setting around the time of Jesus’ death which means the whole range of the costume department is exploited. Harrison’s text is a rough kind of verse, with rhyming couplets and modern reference points aplenty but it is a deeply traditional set of stories which doesn’t take well to the transfer and overall, I found it to be rather problematic. Continue reading “Review: The Globe Mysteries, Shakespeare’s Globe”