TV Review: Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 1 – The Woman Who Fell to Earth

Jodie Whittaker more than lives up to expectations as Doctor Who in Series 11 Episode 1 – The Woman Who Fell to Earth – plus Bradley Walsh may well make you cry

“Half an hour ago I was a white haired Scotsman”

“Change my dear, and it seems not a moment too soon”. From the mouth of the Sixth Doctor himself, the very nature of Doctor Who (both the programme and the Time Lord) has always been its infinite variety. So it’s about bloody time that we now have the first female in the role – the excellent Jodie Whittaker – as new show-runner Chris Chibnall makes his definitive mark on the BBC serial.

And on the evidence of this first episode (and, let’s face it, to anyone with common sense), the Doctor’s gender is of little consequence. The ability to act as if you have two hearts knows no bounds, who knew, and the hints of Whittaker’s Doctor that were allowed to peek through the regenerative funk suggest we’re in for something of a real treat with an effervescent sense of personality shining through. Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 1 – The Woman Who Fell to Earth”

Review: Parliament Square, Bush

“No one ever changed the world alone”

With pretty much every production of hers that I see (most memorably Lela & Co. and I’d Rather Goya Robbed Me Of My Sleep Than Some Other Arsehole), Jude Christian is becoming one of those directors whose work cannot be missed. And with the 2015 Bruntwood Prize-winning Parliament Square, now opening at the Bush after an October premiere at the Royal Exchange, that reputation doesn’t look in any danger at all.
She’s helped here by a magnificently fearless piece of writing from James Fritz, split almost schizophrenically into two contrasting parts. The first presents us with Kat, a woman on the precipice of leaving her husband and their young son to commit some unspeakable act, being urged along the way by an enigmatic figure far more bluntly daring than she seems to be. The second then takes us past the act, which failed, into an uncertain world of uneasy compromise. 
It’s uneasy and uncertain because Fritz never spells out directly what it is that Kat is protesting about, what the change is that she wants to wreak on the world. And so his writing takes on an ephemeral but awesome power as it explores what it means to take direct action, the diametric opposition of self-sacrifice and familial responsibility blurred into something disturbingly compelling as Kat and her family tread their way through a world that is becoming increasingly dangerous.
That sense of ominous foreboding is inculcated brilliantly by Fritz and Christian, in a second act passage that fast-forwards through a number of years, stopping every so often for jagged shards of dialogue weighed down with peril as the cast, perched on stools, slowly draw their feet as far up from the floor as they can. It’s a chillingly beautiful image, devastatingly effective, and one which helps the play to its glitteringly explosive end.
Esther Smith (the original Delphi Diggory) is painfully excellent as Kat, whether battling internal voices (a striking Lois Chimimba) or external pain (Kelly Hotten shines as a physiotherapist with an agenda). And Christian is finely tuned to the shifting rhythms of the play, ensuring that we’re neither too at ease or too alienated by the formal adventurousness but rather, intrigued by the questions it poses – how far can you go, should you go, to fight for what you believe in? 

Running time: 100 minutes (without interval)
Photo: The Other Richard
Booking until 6th January

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

 
South London based site-specific theatre company Baseless Fabric are presenting David Mamet’s rarely performed short plays Reunion and Dark Pony in libraries across South London as part of National Libraries Week 2017. The plays are two of David Mamet’s earliest work, first produced in the US in 1976 and 1977 respectively and both feature David Schaal and Siu-see Hung in their casts.
 
Both of the plays explore father and daughter relationships and the audience will be immersed in the worlds of these plays in the unique and atmospheric library environments during National Libraries Week 2017 to raise awareness of exciting events happening in local libraries and bring theatre to people in their local library space. Artistic Director Joanna Turner directs with Set & Costume Designer Bex Kemp, creating a site-responsive design in each library space.
 
Performance Locations:
Mon 9th Oct 7.30pm – Durning Library, SE11 4HF (nearest station: Kennington)
Tue 10th Oct 7.30pm – John Harvard Library, SE1 1JA (nearest station: Borough)
Wed 11th Oct 7.30pm – John Harvard Library, SE1 1JA (nearest station: Borough)
Thu 12th Oct 7.30pm – Merton Arts Space, Wimbledon Library, SW19 4BG (nearest station: Wimbledon)
Fri 13th Oct 7.30pm – Merton Arts Space, Wimbledon Library, SW19 4BG (nearest station: Wimbledon)
Sat 14th Oct 3pm – Earlsfield Library, SW18 3NY (nearest station: Earlsfield)
Sat 14th Oct 7.30pm – Battersea Library, SW11 1JB (nearest station: Clapham Junction)
Sun 15th Oct 6pm – Clapham Library, SW4 7DB (nearest station: Clapham Common)
Tickets: £9/£7

Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”

Review: Common, National

“If I were a man you’d call me rogue; let us do with whore, liar, thief, cunt”

Over the past few years where he may or may not have been studying sculpture at Saint Martin’s College, Northampton-born playwright DC Moore has been putting together a résumé of quietly impressive work – exploring aspects of contemporary masculinity in insightful plays such as the excellent Straight and under-rated monologue Honest, or opening up his focus to the war in Afghanistan in The Empire and family dramas in The Swan. So news that he was making his main-stage debut at the National Theatre with Common, in a co-production with Headlong and starring no less than Anne-Marie Duff and Cush Jumbo, was bright news indeed. 

But whilst I thought I wanted to do what other common people do, Moore has taken a completely different tack here. Common delves into the under-explored history of rural England in 1809 as the social and economic changes heralded by the Industrial Revolution begin to filter through the country. More crucially, his acute ear for sharply observed dialogue has been smothered by the invention of a fruitily rich mode of language full of compound words – described charitably by Jumbo as “a mixture of Shakespeare, Harry Potter and some kind of Angelina Jolie movie”. Continue reading “Review: Common, National”

News (and photos): National Theatre gala (plus actors in suits!)

The National Theatre last night hosted its biennial fundraising gala, Up Next, raising over a million pounds to support access to the arts for children and young people across the country. I think they forgot to invite me though… 😜

 

Performances commissioned especially for the event included a new piece by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, alongside performances by Sir Lenny Henry, Anne-Marie Duff and hundreds of talented young people from across London.

Continue reading “News (and photos): National Theatre gala (plus actors in suits!)”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

Originally developed as live shows in Melbourne and the Edinburgh Festival, multi-award winning and ‘two-time Edinburgh Comedy Award Nominee’ comic storyteller Sarah Kendall is set to bring her critically acclaimed trilogy of funny and moving stories to BBC Radio 4 starting on Tuesday 28th February.


Sarah is a storytelling maestro, and in these three half-hour shows – A Day in October, Touchdown and Shaken – she gives a unique snapshot of small-town life in Australia in the late 80s and early 90s. At a time when most people were seeing Australians through the filter of Home and Away and Neighbours, Sarah’s shows present a darker underbelly to the stereotype of the sun-loving, happy-go-lucky Aussie teenager.
Effortlessly combining comedy and tragedy in equal measure, Sarah’s tales of her teenage life blend intricate narratives with a cast of memorable characters, providing belly laughs along with moments of heart wrenching poignancy.

Casting news aplenty from the last week, the highlight of which was Cush Jumbo and Lois Chimimba joining Anne-Marie Duff in Common at the National. Also, Indira Varma and Julian Ovenden join the previously announced Aisling Loftus and Matthew Needham in Martin Crimp’s The Treatment at the Almeida. That cast is completed by Gary Beadle, Ian Gelder, Ben Onwukwe, Ellora Torchia and Hara Yannas.


It’s all about the poster… Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell will star in a production of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Apollo Theatre this summer. The production will be directed by Benedict Andrews (A Streetcar Named Desire) and produced by the Young Vic. It is the first Young Vic production to debut in the West End following transfers including A View from a Bridge, Golem and The Scottsboro Boys.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof will run at the Apollo Theatre from 24 July to 7 October, with previews from 13 July.


After the resounding success of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s State Fair (Cadogan Hall November 2016) and the sell out concert of Alan Menken & Lynn Ahrens’ A Christmas Carol (Lyceum Theatre, December 2016), with numerous five star reviews for both performances, The London Musical Theatre Orchestra is delighted to announce casting for its first concert of the 2017 season, Jason Robert Brown’s hit Broadway musical Honeymoon in Vegas which will take to the London Palladium stage on 12th March 2017
Samantha Barks (Betsy) and Arthur Darvill (Jack) will be Maxwell Caulfield (Tommy), Rosemary Ashe (Bea), Nicolas Colicos (Johnny) and Simon Lipkin (Buddy), with supporting roles played by Daniel Amity, Maisey Bawden and Hywel Dowsell. Other roles in the production will be played by members of the LMTO chorus, including: Will Arundell, Lizzie Bea, Austin Garrett, Alice Gruden, Charlotte Kennedy, Richard James King, Emma Kingston, Lauren Lockley, Laura Messin, Oliver Stanley and Samuel Thomas.

How-could-it-be-a-review: The National Theatre Theatre Quiz 2015

“It’s from that play with lots of words…”
My first ever trip to the institution that is the National Theatre Christmas Quiz saw teams of four from current shows Husbands and Sons and wonder.land doing battle for the honour of, well, several bottles of fizz as it turned out. With Emma Freud as Quizmistress and Angus Deayton keeping the scores, it was a light-hearted 45 minutes of festive fun.
Rounds varied from odd-one-out, working out song lyrics from a dry line reading by Deayton, guess which NT show the costume was from, to Taboo-style-guessing-games, and a surprising array of knowledge troves and hidden talents soon came to life – Anne-Marie Duff was very up on her theatrical knowledge, Julia Ford is clearly itching to do a musical and Anna Francolini bossed everything (apart from Katie Mitchell…)

Husbands and Sons came out winners in the end, all the more impressive given they’d done a matinée and had an evening show still to look forward to and it’s always fun to see actors in their natural habitat (even if it’s still on the stage of Lyttelton!).

Review: wonder.land, Palace Theatre

“You have to live in this world”

The lure of falling down the rabbit hole is one which has kept adaptations of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland appearing on a regular basis on screens and stages and the Manchester International Festival is no exception, commissioning this musical treatment with the National Theatre and Paris’ Théâtre du Châtelet. Composer Damon Albarn (no stranger to the MIF after Monkey and Dr Dee) and writer Moira Buffini’s thoroughly modern version – stylised wonder dot land – certainly has a unique take on the story but has the feeling of something of a work-in-progress perhaps, no bad thing as longer runs in London and Paris will follow this brief engagement at the Palace Theatre.

Here, wonder.land is an online world, a virtual reality where people can escape the drudgery of their own lives or pretend to be someone completely different, for a little while at least. 12-year-old Aly is one such person, trying to hide from the bullies at school and the unhappiness at home by becoming Alice, her all-conquering avatar or online identity who accepts a mysterious quest as part of joining wonder.land. And in her journeying, she comes across variations on many of the characters we’ve come to know but viewed through a different prism, many of them being the avatars of other players, balefully reflecting their own insecurities.  Continue reading “Review: wonder.land, Palace Theatre”

Review: Pitcairn, Shakespeare’s Globe

“It is as if we find ourselves at the beginning of time…”

It may be Shakespeare’s Globe but it is Richard Bean’s when it comes to new writing at this venue and he returns once again with a Globe, Out of Joint and Chichester Festival Theatre co-production about the island colony of Pitcairn which was set up by Fletcher Christian in the wake of the mutiny on the Bounty in 1789. Playing with the ideas of revolutionary freedom that were burning so fiercely on the other side of the globe, Christian dreamed of creating an Utopian ideal out of the sailors who left with him and a group of Polynesian men and women but perhaps unsurprisingly, little that was ideal came out of it.

Little that is ideal comes out of this play either. Bean throws in a number of interesting ideas into his Pitcairn – the power struggles between comrades, the jealousies that come out of the supposed liberation of sexual freedom, the culture clash that arises out of the enduring adherence to the Tahitian tradition of utmost respect for hierarchy. But it all adds up to very little and Bean has also incorporated some dodgier elements especially when it comes to the cringe-worthy expression of that sexual freedom, the constant reliance of embarrassingly dated notions of the ‘natives’ (let’s dance!) and audience participation that doesn’t really fly.

More crucially, there are too many moments when the square peg of the writing doesn’t fit into the round hole of play, endless exposition and contortioning allows for points about democracy to be heavy-handedly made when more time could usefully have been spent delineating the characters. Max Stafford-Clark ensures his cast work effectively – Samuel Edward-Cook and Siubhan Harrison both impress, Eben Figueiredo and Cassie Layton also shine through when narrating, but too much just doesn’t work here for my liking.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 11th October then touring to Plymouth, Warwick, Guildford, Eastbourne, Oxford and Malvern