Review: Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios

Killer Joe is a horribly misjudged revival at Trafalgar Studios that makes a mockery of #MeToo, you and all of us

“Is she doin’ anybody any good?”

Just to be clear, I’m using the ‘she’ in the quote above to refer to the play itself here – an misjudged, tone-deaf revival of Tracy Letts’ Killer Joe, a poor poor replacement for The Grinning Man at the Trafalgar Studios and a curious choice indeed for Orlando Bloom to make a return to the West End stage.

Written in 1993 and marking Letts’ debut, it is a scorchingly nasty look at working-class American life, the desperation it forces some into, the impact that an unconstrained popular culture has on society. And whilst it may have resonated then, all that chimes now is a warning bell to keep the fuck away. Continue reading “Review: Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios”

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 of Doctor Who, 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! Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 8”

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.  Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 7”

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 đŸ˜‰ Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 5”

DVD Review: Ripper Street Series 2

“You believe in laws but there are only lechers”

For some reason or other, I stopped watching the second series of Ripper Street midway through and it’s taken me until now to finally finish it. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, it’s more likely to do with running out of time to watch it on the iPlayer or something but anyhoo, I’ve managed it now. My review of Series 1 (which I thoroughly appreciated) is over here and I have to say that that enjoyment has continued, even if I do have a few reservations about its female voices.

It’s a shame that in a crime procedural led by three men, two of the leading supporting female characters did not return for this second series. DI Reid’s wife and kind-of-mistress (Amanda Hale and Lucy Cohu) are both MIA, losing all the work done to establish them, and though Leanne Best is introduced as a local politician who can’t help but flirt with Reid (he’s played by Matthew Macfadyen after all), the overall weight of the series does thus feel a little unbalanced.

Continue reading “DVD Review: Ripper Street Series 2”

Review: The Events, Young Vic

“If I’m going to make a mark on the world, I have to do it now”

The Events had a curious impact – Ramin Gray’s production for Actors Touring Company has the kind of sinuous mellifluousness that makes it the kind of show that lingers long in the memory, yet David Greig’s actual writing is ultimately a little bit frustrating in the final analysis. The combined effect though is something complicated and complex that takes a unique look at the way in which terrible atrocities affect the communities on which they are inflicted.

Greig has taken inspiration from Anders Breivik’s horrific rampage in Norway back in 2011 as a boy devastates a village choir rehearsal, shooting many of its diverse members dead. But his focus is on the aftermath, the way in which those who survive try to process what happened, as so we see choir leader and priest Claire (Neve McIntosh) searching for answers even though it seems that there may not be any forthcoming. Continue reading “Review: The Events, Young Vic”

Short Film Review #24

Call Register is the perfect film for anyone who has issues about what mobile telephones have done to our lives. Martin Freeman’s Kevin borrows his best mate’s phone to make a call, James Lance’s Julian, as he wants to set up a date with a girl he’s just met, Neve McIntosh’s Amanda. But Julian’s phone recognises the number and through an series of short phone calls, writer and director Ed Roe details much of the awkwardness around dating, especially when a friend has already been there first, and also adroitly explores the uniquely modern perils that mobiles have brought to the way in which we communicate. There’s much to enjoy here, not least the understated charm of all three actors, and also much that will be painfully familiar to anyone who’s ever called someone up for a date. Continue reading “Short Film Review #24”

Review: The Lady From The Sea, Royal Exchange

“What is it you long for?”

The second part of my double bill at Manchester’s Royal Exchange was the production in the main theatre Ibsen’s The Lady From The Sea. Presented here in a new version by David Eldridge, using a literal translation by Charlotte Barslund, it marks the third time Eldridge has delved into the Nordic playwright’s work, this time working his stuff on one of his lesser-performed works. Just as a quick aside, I can highly recommend the blueberry cheesecake muffin from the bar at the theatre, it was a little piece of heaven!!

Set in a small fjordside Norwegian town, living a passive half life between sea and mountains, Ellida broods over her past love, despite having settled into a comfortable marriage of convenience with Doctor Wangel. Her reluctance to play the role of doting wife and stepmother results in Wangel bending over backwards to try and please her by inviting a man from her past to stay and cheer her up yet a web of misunderstandings and frustrations, that stretches all the way throughout this household, as the pull between domesticity and emotional freedom is explored. Continue reading “Review: The Lady From The Sea, Royal Exchange”