More gay news: casting for Queers

Following yesterday’s Pride-fest, The Old Vic today announced casting for Queers, a series of eight monologues curated by Mark Gatiss. Staged on 28 and 31 July at The Old Vic, they mark 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 began the decriminalisation process for homosexuality between men. Queers celebrates some of the most poignant, funny, tragic and riotous moments of British gay male history over the last century.

Mark Bonnar, Sara Crowe, Jack Derges, Ian Gelder, Kadiff Kirwan, Russell Tovey, Gemma Whelan and Fionn Whitehead will perform monologues written by Matthew Baldwin, Jon Bradfield, Jackie Clune, Michael Dennis, Brian Fillis, Mark Gatiss, Keith Jarrett and Gareth McLean. The monologues will be directed by Mark Gatiss and by Old Vic Associate Director Max Webster and Baylis Director Joe Murphy.

Queers is produced in partnership with BBC Studios, Pacific Quay Productions. The monologues were filmed earlier in the year, directed by Mark Gatiss and featuring many of the cast who will be appearing on stage at The Old Vic. These films will be screened on BBC Four this summer.

Queers is part of The Old Vic’s One Voice series, funded by the TS Eliot Estate, which celebrates the rawest of theatre forms – a single voice on a stage without scenery and with nothing to rely on but words.

The full line up is as follows:

Fri 28 Jul
The Man on the Platform by Mark Gatiss, performed by Jack Derges
The Perfect Gentleman by Jackie Clune, performed by Gemma Whelan
I Miss the War by Matthew Baldwin, performed by Ian Gelder
Something Borrowed by Gareth McLean, performed by Mark Bonnar

Mon 31 Jul
Missing Alice by Jon Bradfield, performed by Sara Crowe
Safest Spot in Town by Keith Jarrett, performed by Kadiff Kirwan
A Grand Day Out by Michael Dennis, performed by Fionn Whitehead
More Anger by Brian Fillis, performed by Russell Tovey

TV Review: Doctor Who Series 10

Episodes, in order of preference
World Enough and Time
Extremis
The Doctor Falls
Thin Ice
Knock Knock
Oxygen
The Eaters of Light
Smile
The Pilot
Empress of Mars
The Pyramid at the End of the World
The Lie of the Land

Top 5 guest spots
1 David Suchet’s Landlord was as perfectly written a character as befits one of our more superior actors
2 Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of Kieran Bew and his astronaut in Oxygen was no exception
3 Nicholas Burns‘ malevolent Sutcliffe was a delightfully Dickensian villain 
4 Another theatrical delight of mine is Anthony Calf, impressive as the pseudo-Victorian Godsacre
5 Rebecca Benson’s young Pict impressively led The Eaters of Light from the front, a perfect vessel for Rona Munro’s vision

Saddest death
Michelle Gomez’s Missy has been a brilliant breath of fresh air and whilst her decision to follow Moffat and Capaldi out the door is understandable, it isn’t any less disappointing. And perhaps the timey-wimeyness of the circumstances around her passing mean that maybe this isn’t the last we see of her…

Most wasted guest actor
I don’t what I expected from the reliably excellent Samantha Spiro in Doctor Who but I didn’t get it from her part in The Doctor Falls.

Gay agenda rating
With Bill onboard, A+!

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 9

“Time will tell, it always does”

Phew, the rewatch comes to an end with the most recent series, another that I hadn’t seen any of since it originally aired. And again it was one of highs and lows, a frustrating sense of pick and mix that never settles. So from the astonishing bravura of the (practically) solo performance in Heaven Sent to kid-friendly quirks of the sonic sunglasses and guitar playing, Capaldi took us from the sublime to the silly. Fortunately there was more of the former than the latter (although it is interesting that my memory had it the other way round).


Part of it comes down to knowing in advance how the hybrid arc plays out (disappointingly) and a little perspective makes Clara’s departure(s) a little less galling. This way, one can just enjoy the episodes for what they are, free from the weight of the attempted mythologising. The Doctor raging against the futility of war, the wisdom (or otherwise) of forgiveness, the repercussions of diving in to help others without thinking through the consequences…it is often excellent stuff. It’s also nice to see Who employ its first openly transgender actor (Bethany Black) and a deaf actor playing a deaf character (Sophie Stone)


Episodes, in order of preference

Heaven Sent
The Zygon Inversion
The Zygon Invasion
The Woman Who Lived
The Girl Who Died
The Magician’s Apprentice
The Witch’s Familiar
Face the Raven
Before the Flood
Under the Lake
Hell Bent
Last Christmas
Sleep No More
The Husbands of River Song


Top 5 guest spots

1 Jemma Redgrave’s Kate Stewart, rarely putting a foot wrong since being introduced a while back
2 T’nia Miller’s newly regenerated Gallifreyan general is the perfect baiting of all traditional attitudes
3 Representing for Wigan, Ian Conningham is a tenderly moving Viking father
4 Gruffudd Glyn and Reuben Johnson amuse as the bantering pikemen in The Woman Who Lived
5 Davros is a stalwart of many an adventure but Julian Bleach’s injection of real personality was a proper eye-opener


Saddest death

It’s operatically overblown and ultimately undone by the machinations of the following episodes, but I’m putting Clara’s demise in here.


Most wasted guest actor

Even with the shortest of scenes, Robin Soans is heart-breakingly good in Face the Raven


Most important thing that is never mentioned again (or has never been mentioned before)

Extraction chambers…puh-lease


Gay agenda rating

C – aside from Clara alluding to having snogged Jane Austen, Who’s famed gay agenda really is lacking under Moffatt’s reign

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 8

 

You are the chief executive officer of the human race”

 

 

It was quite interesting to rewatch Series 8, one which I hadn’t revisited at all since it originally aired, as my memories thereof were not at all positive. And whilst disappointments remained – Robin Hood, 2D cartoons, the treeees! – there was also much to enjoy that I’d forgotten about. The smash-and-grab of Time Heist, the simplicity of ghost story Listen, and the ominous darkness of the finale.

 

I’m still in two minds about Peter Capaldi’s Twelve though, I want to like him so much more than I do, and I think you do get the sense of him feeling his way into his irascible take on the role. Jenna Coleman’s Clara benefits from being released from the yoke of impossibility to move to the forefront of several episodes and if she’s still a little hard to warm to, that finale really is superbly done. And then there’s Michelle Gomez, stealing the whole damn thing magnificently!

 

Episodes, in order of preference

Listen
Dark Water
Death in Heaven
Time Heist
Kill the Moon
Deep Breath
Mummy on the Orient Express
Into the Dalek
The Caretaker
Flatline
In the Forest of the Night
Robot of Sherwood

 

Top 5 guest spots

1 Michelle Gomez’s genuinely psychopathic reinterpretation of one of the show’s key villains has to be one of the boldest and most brilliant moves in new Who
2 and 3 Jonathan Bailey’s cyberhacker Psi and Pippa Bennett-Warner’s shape-shifting Saibra both made pleasingly fleshed-out impressions as supporting characters-of-the-week
4 David Bamber’s quiet dignity as Captain Quell
5 Tom Riley, just because!


Saddest death

A few too many fakeouts here – the brutal suicides of Flatline, Missy’s slaughtering in Death in Heaven, all undone, so it is probably Danny Pink’s demise that proves most affecting in the end.


Most wasted guest actor

All too briefly used in Mummy on the Orient Express is the glorious Janet Henfrey.

 

Most important thing that is never mentioned again

When the TARDIS is under attack, it can go into self-protective Siege Mode. It has done this on-screen… exactly once.


Gay agenda rating

C – now we’re blase about lesbian lizard/woman pairings, there’s not a huge amount more of fun to be had on the LGBT side

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 7

“It is known that the Doctor requires companions”


Right – the first season that I haven’t rewatched any of at all. Things get a bit hectic here as once again, the series got split in two, accommodating the mid-season departure of Amy and Rory and the (re-)introduction of new companion Clara Oswald, plus a pair of specials respectively marking the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who and the end of Matt Smith’s tenure as Eleven. It all adds up to a bit of a bloated mess to be honest, though not without its high points.
Amy and Rory feel a little ill-served by their final five, the introduction of Mark Williams as Rory’s dad detracts from their screen-time (yet he doesn’t feature in their farewell?), though the return of the Weeping Angels gives their noirish NY-set exit episode some real heft. And though I admire Jenna Coleman’s confident take on Clara, she’s a hard companion to warm to without any contrasting humanity to go with her intelligence and intensity.
The ‘Impossible Girl’ arc didn’t really tick my box and the grandiosity of Moffatt’s writing for the finale of The Name of…, The Day of… and The Time of the Doctor doesn’t really help (I was curiously unmoved by all the fan-service second time round). Still, Gatiss knocks it out of the park with the superb Ice Warrior tale Cold War and bringing mother and daughter Dame Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling together on screen for the first time. 

Episodes, in order of preference

Asylum of the Daleks
Cold War
Hide
The Name of the Doctor
The Power of Three
The Crimson Horror
The Angels Take Manhattan
The Snowmen
The Day of the Doctor
Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
The Time of the Doctor
Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
The Bells of Saint John
Nightmare in Silver
The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe
The Rings of Akhaten
A Town Called Mercy

Top 5 guest spots

1 Dame Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling – together on screen for the first time
2 There’s not much Jessica Raine does that I don’t love and she’s great in Hide
3 Liam Cunningham/David Warner
4 Riann Steele’s Nefertiti
5 Neve McIntosh/Catrin Stewart/Dan Starkey – the Paternoster Gang deserve a shoutout because they really do work well together

Saddest death

Not really any tragic demises that caught my attention – Matt Smith’s farewell speech is probably the moment that moved me the most

Most wasted guest actor

Lots of far too small guest appearances (Tessa Peake-Jones for one) but Jade Anouka’s blink-and-miss-it waitress is a real missed opportunity to utilise such a great actor.

Most important thing that is never mentioned again

Either everything in this series makes complete sense or else I’ve stopped caring… Oh I know, that conference call thing. Just no.

Gay agenda rating

A – Vastra and Jenny’s relationship is proudly out in the air, David Warner hits on the Doctor, and Clara is (at least) bi-curious

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.

Episodes, in order of preference

The Doctor’s Wife
The Girl Who Waited
The Impossible Astronaut 
Day of the Moon
The Rebel Flesh
The Wedding of River Song
A Christmas Carol
A Good Man Goes to War
Let’s Kill Hitler
The Almost People
Closing Time
The God Complex
The Curse of the Black Spot
Night Terrors

Top 5 guest spots

1 Suranne Jones’ Idris – I think this is one of my all-time favourite performances – idiosyncratic and unexpected, interesting and deeply moving, the farewell scene as Smith’s lips start to wobble is simply heart-breaking 

2 Mark Sheppard’s work as Canton Everett Delaware III is vividly done

3 Although only appearing in voice form as Interface, Imelda Staunton still brings enormous gravitas to a striking episode

4 I love Sarah Smart and so getting two distinct versions of her Jennifer in 

The Rebel Flesh/

The Almost People was a real bonus

5 As Madame Kovarian, Frances Barber was a delicious teasing presence as her brief cameos hinted at the series arc. That her character’s fully-fleshed appearance was ultimately a little underwhelming is best swept under the carpet.

Saddest death

Idris aside, Christina Chong’s Lorna Bucket

Most wasted guest actor

Daisy Haggard, if we had to suffer the return of James Corden’s Craig, the least they could have done was give her a decent role in the story too.

Most important thing that is never mentioned again

What throws the TARDIS so off-kilter in The Rebel Flesh? A solar tsunami from our Sun you say? Oh, one of those old things

Gay agenda rating

A – Marriage equality is raised, gay marriage is shown and crime-fighting kick-ass inter-species lesbians are introduced

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 5

“I’ve seen many things, my friend. But you’re right. Nothing’s quite as wonderful as the things you see”
So as David Tennant’s Ten regenerates into Matt Smith’s Eleven, Doctor Who also changed showrunner/lead writer/executive producer/oddjob man as Steven Moffat took over the reins from Russell T Davies. The pressure was on both to deliver – the relatively unknown Smith had low expectations, Moffat had sky-high ones due to his much-garlanded writing – and I don’t think you can argue that they didn’t. Smith revealed an impossibly ancient soul to his youthful frame with a Doctor unafraid to be as angrily dark as hyper-actively quirky. And Moffat constructed a complex series, introducing the depths of new companion Amy Pond slowly, and building to a multi-stranded timey-wimey finale that makes the head hurt just to think about it.


Elsewhere, the overused Daleks returned in multicoloured format, the Weeping Angels were much more successfully reprised in a stonking double-header, the Silurians also came back, and Arthur Darvill’s Rory grew in stature to become an effective second companion as opposed to a third wheel. Oh, and Helen McCrory stole the show, but then you knew I’d say that didn’t you 😉

Episodes, in order of preference

The Time of Angels
Flesh and Stone
The Vampires of Venice
Vincent and the Doctor
The Pandorica Opens
The Big Bang
The Beast Below
The Hungry Earth
Cold Blood
The Lodger
The Eleventh Hour
Amy’s Choice
Victory of the Daleks

Top 5 guest spots

1 Sophie Okonedo’s spiky monarch Liz Ten
2 Helen McCrory’s Signora Calvierri is vividly complex
3 Alex Kingston’s River Song, so achingly good before it all got way too complicated
4 A bit under-utilised but Susannah Fielding’s army officer Lilian is nicely done
5 Starry starry Tony Curran’s Vincent Van Gogh is an archetypal Richard Curtis bloke and all the more effective for it

Saddest death

Rory – I know, not a ‘real’ death but you didn’t know that at the time and it is still powerfully played, particularly in its aftermath

Most wasted guest actor

Olivia Colman, although she does get to utter a pre-warning about the Pandorica

Most important thing that is never mentioned again

The rationale behind the Dream Lord was fascinating and I’d’ve loved to have seen more of him (if only to get more Toby Jones)

Gay agenda rating

E – even with rainbow coloured Daleks, it’s all rather cis-het

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 3

“You 

 

Are 

 

Not 
Alone”
There’s something perhaps a bit perverse in some of the strongest episodes of new Who emerging from the series which (arguably) had the weakest companion. Freema Agyeman was ill-served by writing that couldn’t let her be a companion in her own right, as opposed to the-one-in-Rose’s-shadow, and consequently never felt entirely comfortable in the TARDIS.
Series 3 has real highs and certain lows – the introduction of Doctor-lite episodes (to ease the production schedules) produced the inventive wonder that was Blink (and further proved Steven Moffat’s genius), the unashamed grab for the heartstrings was perfectly realised in the Human Nature / The Family of Blood double-header, and the re-introduction of one of the Doctor’s most enduring foes was well-judged. That said, we also had the inevitable return of the Daleks who already feel like they’re in danger of over-exposure.

 

Episodes, in order of preference

Human Nature
The Family of Blood
Blink
Utopia
The Shakespeare Code
Gridlock
The Sound of Drums
Last of the Time Lords
42
The Runaway Bride
The Lazarus Experiment
Smith and Jones
Daleks in Manhattan
Evolution of the Daleks

Top 5 guest spots

1 Dean Lennox Kelly’s rugged and omnisexually flirtatious Shakespeare was hugely charismatic
2 Almost unbearably poignant, Jessica Hynes’ Joan Redfern’s love story with the human John Smith is magnificently done
3 A pre-Hollywood Carey Mulligan’s Sally Sparrow – the best companion that never was
4 Tom Ellis all stubbly is always a treat
5 Derek Jacobi’s Professor Yana – I still get chills thinking about the epic reveal at the end of Utopia

Saddest death

A tie between the Face of Boe’s heroic demise in Gridlock and Chipo Chung’s gently elegiac and courageous Chantho.

Most wasted guest actor

Bertie Carvel’s three seconds as The Lazarus Experiment’s Mysterious Man is egregious, as is most every choice for Miranda Raison’s New Yoik flapper.

Most important thing that is never mentioned again

 

I think most things in this series made sense or had their time and place, even the paradoxes, after all it’s just “a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey….stuff”.

 

 

 

Gay agenda rating

B – Shakespeare and the Doctor makes for the kind of fanfic that (some) people dream of.

 

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 2


“Some things are worth getting your heart broken for”

David Tennant’s opening season took the template of the opening series and ran with it, Russell T Davies’ vision finding its ideal mate in the Scottish actor. The typically adventurous sweep was tempered with a more tender vision, which considerably upped our emotional investment (previous companions returning, romantic connections whether past or present).


Bringing back the Cybermen was an interesting move, as was the introduction of the notion of parallel worlds (and how important that became…). And if the series-long motif of Torchwood didn’t really pay off, especially not when one considers what Torchwood the show became, the finale to Doomsday is pretty close to perfection.


Episodes, in order of preference

The Girl in the Fireplace
Doomsday
Army of Ghosts
School Reunion
New Earth
The Christmas Invasion
Tooth and Claw
The Impossible Planet
Rise of the Cybermen
The Satan Pit
The Age of Steel
The Idiot’s Lantern
Love & Monsters
Fear Her

Top 5 guest spots

1 School Reunion is a bit of a shonky villain-of-the-week episode all told, but it is completely redeemed by its parallel plot of the show revisiting past companions and the effect travelling with the Doctor has on those left behind. Lis Sladen’s return as Sarah-Jane Smith was simply spectacular and perfect in its emotional nuance.
2 Just as heartbreaking but in a completely different way, Sophia Myles’ Madame de Pompadour makes The Girl in the Fireplace a stirring high-point for Doctor Who in its entirety
3 Andrew Hayden-Smith’s Jake with his excised gay agenda (see below) still manages to come across as a better companion than Mickey with a fraction of the screen time
5 Only a short appearance in The Idiot’s Lantern but Sam Cox’s resigned detective is still top notch

Saddest death

Helen Griffin’s redoubtable Welshwoman Mrs Moore was a standout in the resistance fighters of Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel

Most wasted guest actor

Personally it’s the 5 seconds of Cathy Murphy (Tilly from the amazeballs The House of Eliott) in The Christmas Invasion that annoyed me most, but there’s something a little odd about the way Maureen Lipman’s Wire in The Idiot’s Lantern is portrayed that doesn’t make anywhere near the most of her.

Most important thing that is never mentioned again

Anyone who cracks the Skasis Paradigm (also known as the God Maker or the Universal Theory) would be able to control the very building blocks of the universe. So its a wonder that only the Krillitanes of School Reunion have ever tried it.

Gay agenda rating

D – hardly any gayness in this one, indeed references to a gay coupling between Jake and Ricky in Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel was removed into the world of deleted scenes.

Hallowe’en DVD Review: Victor Frankenstein (2015)

“This is not life”

Released last year, Victor Frankenstein has the ignominy of being something of a flop, a little surprising when you consider it is loaded with Brit talent like James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe and was directed by Sherlock alum Paul McGuigan. But as many have learned, not least Dr Frankenstein himself, reanimating old things doesn’t always go smoothly. 

Writer Max Landis’ new spin on Mary Shelley’s classic is that the story is told from (the non-canonical) Igor’s perspective, reframing the ‘hunchback assistant’ as something much more nuanced and offering a fresh set of eyes on their scientific endeavours. Here, McAvoy’s Victor is a manic medical student who rescues Radcliffe’s Igor from an undignified life as a circus freak and quite literally gives him a new lease of life as his collaborator. 
Captivated by his experiment on the boundaries between life and death, Igor becomes a willing participant but as the authorities edge ever closer to discerning the terrible truth of their actions, yadda yadda. You see that this really isn’t that imaginative a take on the Frankenstein story at all and though the film is entirely watchable, it’s also ultimately rather dull, lacking any real sense of vibrancy in what it brings to the classic tale.
What it does have is McAvoy eating the scenery and then some in a wildly over-zealous take on the mad scientist, something exacerbated by having Andrew Scott in the cast as the detective chasing them down. There’s a climactic scene where they face off and you’re uncomfortably reminded of how much better the latter can do chillingly exaggerated rage. McAvoy is much better than this but there’s no redeeming him from this monstrosity.
Radcliffe fares a little better in the subtler role of Igor, conflicted from the off about the nature of their work and caught between his new friend and his potential new love in the form of Jessica Brown Findlay’s Lorelei, a character of whom more could have been made. Pulling on those Sherlock connections, Louise Brealey and Mark Gatiss pop up in tiny cameos, and the likes of Freddie Fox, Charles Dance and Daniel Mays have minor roles but by and large, this is one Frankenstein to leave on the operating table.