DVD Review: Pride and Prejudice (1995)

“Your alliance would be a disgrace”

This six-part adaptation of Pride and Prejudice has gone down in history as one of the most iconic TV programmes ever, its cultural breakthrough into the mainstream taking everyone by surprise and spearheading something of a revival in period dramas. For me though, my abiding memory remains watching a documentary some years later and hearing adaptor Andrew Davies saying that the stage direction he wrote for Colin Firth, for when Darcy meets Elizabeth after she has rushed over to see her ailing sister, was “Darcy is surprised to get an erection”.

Smut aside, it is a strikingly well done piece of work though, Luxuriating over 6 hour-long instalments, it allows for the slow-burn of the central relationship which makes this version of the story really work, Firth and Jennifer Ehle so incredibly well-matched that their every interaction is scintillatingly drawn as mutual antipathy turns to mutual admiration amidst the various family dramas of the Bennetts, Wickhams, Collins et al. His brooding looks and engagingly smooth voice and her keenly intelligent eyes with her delightful pragmatism are utterly engaging. Continue reading “DVD Review: Pride and Prejudice (1995)”

Review: The Tempest, Shakespeare on 3

“If you now beheld them, your affections would become tender”

And so to The Tempest, the third and final radio adaptation (by Jeremy Mortimer here) in the Shakespeare on 3 season, though oddly not cross-cast with the other two so its place in the programme felt a little incongruous. And whether I’d had my fill of Shakespeare on radio or whether its my fatigue with this particular play or whether it just generally wasn’t that distinctive, I found this a bit of a slog.

It wasn’t bad per se, just never particularly engaging for me, and consequently I’ve haven’t much to say about it (for once). The incidental music that plays throughout the show was specially written (and also performed by) The Devil’s Violin Company and adds an interesting additional texture, but when the most interesting thing I can think to say about a Shakespeare production is about the music, then something is wrong.

Review The Resistance of Mrs Brown, Radio 4

“I never miss an opportunity to go unnoticed”

I love me some wartime drama especially when it involves the role of women, TV films like Housewife 49 and plays like The Firewatchers fill my heart with joy, and so the 15 minute drama for this week (formerly the Women’s Hour drama) fell very much into my field of interest, with an added twist of alternate history in the mix. Ed Harris’ The Resistance of Mrs Brown imagines a world where the British were defeated at Dunkirk and a Nazi Military Administration has been set up in London. Joan Brown works as a tea lady for the new powers-that-be and is determined to keep her head down, especially after the death of her husband, but when she advertises for a new lodger, she is contacted by the Resistance who want to use her unique position to help strike a blow against the Nazis.

Amanda Root’s delicate clipped tones make a beautifully unwilling heroine out of Mrs Brown, who is pushed along by the forthright Mrs Crace, a delightfully matter-of-fact Adjoa Andoh and Simon Bubb’s Wode who try their best to cajole her into going along with their plans, and using her as a narrator is an inspired choice by director Jonquil Panting as we’re constantly reminded of her reticent fragility which ends up responding beautifully to the challenges that are presented to her. Whether its her daughter, her boss or the men she serves tea to who come to know her a little, she is pulled one way or another until she finally gains the confidence to stand up for what she truly believes in and consequently makes decisions according to her own conscience. Continue reading “Review The Resistance of Mrs Brown, Radio 4”

Review: The Recruiting Officer, Radio 3

“He that bids the fairest, has me”

So following on from the production of Our Country’s Good on Radio 4, Radio 3 then had the version of The Recruiting Officer as ‘performed’ by the cast of convicts. I love reading about plays I’ve never heard of – The Recruiting Officer is Josie Rourke’s opening salvo at the Donmar Warehouse so I’ll get to see it fairly soon – and reading about it, I was duly informed that it was the most popular play in the entire 18th Century (even more so than Hamlet…) and its other claim to fame is that it was the first play to be performed in Australia (though I suppose that assumes that there’s no theatre in the Aborigine culture). As I now know, this latter point is the crux of Our Country’s Good, which I rather enjoyed, so I was quite content to spend the second half of my journey finishing this double bill.

Sadly though, it wasn’t half as entertaining for me (and not just because of the devil’s spawn that got on my carriage at Crewe). The antics of this Restoration comedy – where army officers descend on Shrewsbury to seduce new recruits into bolstering the army and to seduce women into marriage and/or their beds – didn’t quite come across as well as I would have hoped. Having lost the physical side of the humour, I just didn’t really get into the right mindset for it at any point, it rarely made me laugh and not knowing the play, I was also quite a bit confused about who everyone was – I definitely needed the visual clues! Continue reading “Review: The Recruiting Officer, Radio 3”

Review: Our Country’s Good, Radio 4

“Who would act in a play?
‘The convicts of course’”

I hadn’t ever listened to a play on the radio before until Mike Bartlett’s Cock last month (indeed I don’t listen to the radio at all) and though I enjoyed revisiting that show, I couldn’t quite figure out the logistics of listening to theatre, eventually figuring out that I actually needed to stop doing anything else and just give it my full attention. I don’t really have much spare time though so I didn’t think that I’d be returning to the wireless to increase my theatrical fix. But a double bill of fascinating plays – Our Country’s Good and The Recruiting Officer – with an all-star thesp-heavy cast tempted me back and provided me with a most entertaining soundtrack for my Christmas journey home.

Funnily enough, I have seen neither play before but have tickets to see both in the early months of next year: Our Country’s Good at the Rose, Kingston and The Recruiting Officer at the Donmar, and I hadn’t realised the connection between the two before starting the first play. Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good is based on a novel by Thomas Keneally which tells the true story of Lieutenant Ralph Clark’s 1789 attempts to put on a production of George Farquhar’s play The Recruiting Officer using a cast of convicts in a penal colony in New South Wales. This radio production was then followed by the convicts’ version of The Recruiting Officer, using much of the same cast. Continue reading “Review: Our Country’s Good, Radio 4”

Review: Rosmersholm, Almeida

Rosmersholm is one of Ibsen’s lesser performed plays and is presented at the Almeida Theatre in a new version here by Mike Poulton. It is also notable for marking the return to the stage of the wonderful Helen McCrory, an Islington local, and one of my favourite actresses.

Rosmer, a former pastor, is oppressed by a whole series of factors: his conservative ancestry, guilt over his wife’s suicide and loss of religious faith. But, aided by his companion, Rebecca West, he believes he can set out on a new path of missionary idealism. This, however, turns out to be a fantasy as he is not strong in his new path, society turns against him and his new democratic ideals, his closeness to West makes them become a subject of scandal, and as Rebecca has her own demons too, sets them on a path where the weight of the past threatens everything.

Continue reading “Review: Rosmersholm, Almeida”

Review: Pillars of the Community, National Theatre

From where preconceptions come I am not entirely sure, but I’ve never been a fan of Ibsen’s plays even when they come as highly recommended as this production of Pillars of the Community at the National Theatre. The play marks the centenary of Ibsen’s death and is apparently one of his lesser performed works, something that doesn’t always inspire the greatest of confidences.

The play centres around Karsten Bernick, an avaricious and deceitful man who has climbed the greasy pole to become something of a bigwig in his small Norwegian town and managed to create an allure of benevolence and good standing in the community. But skeletons in the closet have a way of re-emerging and when two members of his extended family, who know all of his dirty secrets, return from America, Bernick is challenged to discover just how far he is willing to go to protect his reputation and continue to ignore his conscience. Continue reading “Review: Pillars of the Community, National Theatre”