TV Review: Last Tango in Halifax, Series 5

The short and sweet fifth series of Sally Wainwright’s excellent Last Tango in Halifax is a much-needed shot of the warm and fuzzies 

“I’m not deluded. Nice things do make me happy”

With an almost unerring sense of timing, Sally Wainwright gave the nation a shot of the warm and fuzzies with the perfectly short and sweet fifth series of Last Tango in Halifax. Having to wait for three years for it certainly built anticipation but it also had a powerful effect on the storytelling. In a series that has long been rooted in everyday life, allowing so much of that life to happen before revisiting them (as opposed to the laziness of a time jump) really deepens the context. Also, the official confirmation of the Wainwright shared universe was a real delight, how I would watch these avengers assemble!

So the ‘opposites attract’ element of Alan and Celia’s late-blooming relationship is now manifested in deeper ideological differences on subjects such as Brexit. And Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid play this sense of shifting priorities beautifully as his attention turns to his new job at the supermarket and hers is swallowed up the potential of a new kitchen. And as their families look on slightly aghast, there’s a real sense over the four episodes that this core marriage might actually be in peril. Continue reading “TV Review: Last Tango in Halifax, Series 5”

TV Review: Last Tango in Halifax, Series 5 Episode 1

Sally Wainwright’s Last Tango in Halifax returns in fine form for its fifth series, making Sunday nights great again

“Some people like getting on a bus”

The churlish among us might have grumbled that they felt a little short-changed by the fourth series of Last Tango in Halifax only consisting of two episodes. Having had to wait over three years for the arrival of a fifth, I’m now just ecstatic it is back (with four episodes this time around).

And in the best way, it feels like it has never been away. Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid’s bickering married couple, Nicola Walker and Sarah Lancashire searching for self-sufficiency as their daughters, and associated friends and family members dipping in and out with their varied capers. Continue reading “TV Review: Last Tango in Halifax, Series 5 Episode 1”

Review: The One, Soho Theatre

“Can you not…with the Wotsits” 

From its opening moments of one of the more unconventional sex scenes you’ll see this year, it is clear that Vicky Jones’ The One fits very much into the vein of work that she, and frequent collaborator Phoebe Waller-Bridge, has been mining for the last couple of years. Jones directed Jack Thorne’s Mydidae and Waller-Bridge’s own Fleabag – the latter also appearing in both – and along with The One, there’s something of a reclamation about the way we discuss sex and relationships, a frankness with a particularly feminist bent which has been most refreshing.

That said, I’m not too sure how I felt about The One – the fierce intensity of Jones’ writing not too well served by the oddly expressionistic touches of Steve Marmion’s production and another performance from Waller-Bridge that occupied much of the aforementioned territory once again, leaving me feeling a little disappointed. The audacity of the piece is often breath-taking as it constantly dares to say the unspeakable and is completely unconcerned with making itself likeable but amongst the desire to shock, I found little that it actually wanted to say. Continue reading “Review: The One, Soho Theatre”

DVD Review: Threesome (Series 1)

Do you know what would make me feel less old?” 

Tom MacRae’s 2011 sitcom Threesome was the first original scripted comedy commissioned by British satellite channel Comedy Central. Starting off as a flatshare comedy about 3 college friends making the most of carefree living in their twenties, the big shift comes after a huge night out which ends up with them regretting a drunken threesome. And this being tv-land, it is not Amy’s boyfriend Mitch who impregnates her but rather their friend Richie, who just happens to be gay. And really being tv-land, they opt to have the baby altogether, raising it as a threesome.

Working their way through the tropes of pregnancy-based comedy, this offers a rather neat twist on the standard gags (Sylvestra Le Touzel makes a great ante-natal class leader), allowing for the complementary characteristics of the trio to make up just about enough maturity for one adult – at least at the beginning of the series – as they each come into their own, Stephen Wight’s Mitch doing the most obvious maturing as the father-to-be of a son who isn’t genetically his.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Threesome (Series 1)”

DVD Review: The Woman in Black

“So many…so many children”

For his first major post-Harry Potter film outing, Daniel Radcliffe went for this adaptation of Susan Hill’s bestseller The Woman In Black, directed by James Watkins. An Edwardian ghost story, widowed father Arthur Kipps’ is tasked with closing up the account of Eel Marsh House, an isolated manor in the fens, but on his arrival he finds the locals unwilling to help, strange goings-on all around him and a haunted house to shake even the most resolute of sceptics.

Skewed angles nod back to Hitchcock, the psychological horror suggests more recent exponents like Amenábar and del Toro, James Watkins is clearly skilled in the art of making people jump but what really works successfully here is the genuine sense of creepiness that imbues much of the film. This is of course most effective in the earlier two-thirds of the film when we’re still hunting for explanations – the long wordless scenes and non-explicit moments of threats have a genuinely disturbing quality – and has there ever been a more unsettling collection of wind-up figures in the world, particularly that rabbit toy.  Continue reading “DVD Review: The Woman in Black”

Review: Medea, Watford Palace

“I am a modern woman, exploring my options, making a decision”

Mike Bartlett’s Medea initially seems a world away from Euripides’ original. With a new version written for Headlong and directed by himself, Bartlett transplants Rachael Stirling’s Medea into stultifying Home Counties suburbia, vibrantly captured by Ruari Murchison’s set. In this small town where her husband Jason grew up, she has long been viewed as a too proud outsider and when he leaves her for the much younger daughter of their landlord, she sinks into a deep and angry depression. Her wrath is all-consuming, pushing even her maternal instincts aside as she barely engages with her son Tom, left mute since his father departed, in her relentless pursuit for vengeance.

Even before she arrives onstage, Stirling’s presence dominates proceedings like a threatening storm cloud. Her eyes flashing with coruscating wit and scarcely concealed contempt for those around her, even the making of cups of tea feels like a declaration of war as she seethes with rage at what her life has become. There’s a brutally blunt humour to her, especially in her interactions with those neighbours – Lu Corfield’s compassionate Sarah and Amelia Lowdell’s sharper Pam – but there’s also traumatic emotional damage, eye-wateringly evinced in a highly disturbing kitchen scene. Continue reading “Review: Medea, Watford Palace”