Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 2

Now this is more like it, Series 2 of Spooks settles into the classic feel that works so well

“This ridiculous James Bondery…do we need it?”

With this second season, Spooks really gets into its stride I think, recognising that it is an ensemble show at heart (and a rolling ensemble at that, although it’s a shame new recruit Sam doesn’t get more to do) and nailing the variation in tone and style of episodes which largely remain self-contained. Also, Nicola Walker finally arrives as Ruth, which is good news for the audience, Harry and the nation.

Topics-wise, we touch on hacker kids, Irish republicanism, Islamic radicalisation and Anglo-American relations among others. But it is ‘I Spy Apocalypse’, written by Howard Brenton and brilliantly directed by Justin Chadwick with a smothering sense of claustrophobia that really gets the pulse racing as a fire drill for a terrorist incident gets very dark very quickly – it’s possibly one of the best ever episodes of Spooks.

Nicola Walker-ometer
Praise the Lord – analyst Ruth Evershed finally arrives in Episode 2 in all her long cardigans and flowing skirts and though initially viewed with suspicion coming from GCHQ as she does, she soon wins over the team with her knowledge of Greek mythology, Russian crucifixion practices and much more besides. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 2”

News: #HampsteadTheatreAtHome launches this week

The latest venue to announce the opening of their digital archive in order to satisfy our theatrical cravings is the Hampstead Theatre who, in partnership with The Guardian will re-release the live stream recordings of Mike Bartlett’s Wild, Beth Steel’s Wonderland and Howard Brenton’s Drawing the Line for free.

Available to watch on theguardian.com and hampsteadtheatre.com, the three productions will be made available, on demand, over three consecutive weeks as part of the theatre’s #HampsteadTheatreAtHome series and the first of these – Wild – is available now. And once you’ve watched it, take a look at the ways you can support the Hampstead Theatre here. Continue reading “News: #HampsteadTheatreAtHome launches this week”

Review: The Girl Who Looks Up At The Stars – Live Lunch at the Royal Court

“No one wants to be average”

The Royal Court has tried different ways of showcasing the work of the new writing talent that it so vitally nurtures and this autumn sees them try out Live Lunch, a set of six new plays – written from scratch over the summer – which fit into the lunch break (assuming you work nearby!) and to which the audience is invited to bring their own lunch. I brought a sandwich but wimped out of eating it and I’m glad I did because it meant I could focus entirely on the rather brilliant piece of writing that opened the season – Luke Barnes’ The Girl Who Looks Up At The Stars.

In the world of up-and-coming writers as they’re termed here, Barnes has already upped and come into the realm of ‘writers whose work I will definitely go and see’. His Bottleneck was a heartbreaking delight and the underdog charm of The Saints was a highlight of the summer for me, and there was no disappointment here with a tough but tender portrayal of a young woman struggling to hold onto her dreams in the drudgery of life in a depressed town in the north west of England. Continue reading “Review: The Girl Who Looks Up At The Stars – Live Lunch at the Royal Court”

Review: Little Revolution, Almeida

“You’re curious, that’s why you’re here”

The personal connections that one can easily build up in a city such as London are so wide-ranging that the riots of 2011 would most likely have affected us all in some particular way or other. For me, as a former resident of Hackney Downs, it was the sight of an innocuous convenience store being looted that really got me, it was a shop I’d passed every day from which I’d picked up many a bottle of Diet Coke or a lottery ticket and to see it being gutted felt very much not in tune with what Mark Duggan’s death should have stood for.

So I was fascinated to see that Alecky Blythe’s new play Little Revolution was focusing on this very shop and the community action that arose from its ransacking. Though 2011’s London Road saw her break through to mainstream success, Blythe has long been a proponent of verbatim theatre, by which she records interviews with real people at the heart of a certain issue and constructs a play out of their exact words – accents, inflections, verbal tics and all. Continue reading “Review: Little Revolution, Almeida”

Review: Khandan (Family), Royal Court

“Where are they? I can’t be dealing with this Indian timing”

The second Birmingham Rep show to make its bow in London this month (Rachel De-lahay’s Circles being the first), Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s Khandan (Family) transferred for a short run at the Royal Court upstairs. Bhatti explores the dynamics of a first-generation Sikh family and their various complex ties to the notion of ‘home’, whether the Punjab to which matriarch Jeeto longs to return after emigrating to Birmingham in 1969 or the England in which her children were born.

Roxana Silbert’s production has much to appreciate in it but not really enough to engage and truly enjoy. The play skates over the domestic travails of all concerned but without ever really digging deep into the characters, they remain little more than ciphers. Rez Kempton’s ambitious Pal clearly loves his wife Liz yet her pain at their childlessness, something which Lauren Crace evokes beautifully, is something he brutally ignores. Oddities like these are scattered throughout, driving the plot at the expense of character credibility. Continue reading “Review: Khandan (Family), Royal Court”

Review: Drawing the Line, Hampstead via livestreaming

“When blood is spilt, disputes between people, nations, religions become all but impossible to solve”

A complete Brucie bonus to start off the year was the unexpected announcement that Howard Brenton’s new play Drawing the Line – a sell-out success at the Hampstead – would have its final performance live-streamed on t’internet. I hadn’t booked for the show as something had to give over Christmas and New Year and so the chance to catch up with it for free, albeit on the screen of my laptop, was one I was glad to take.

The play is set in the final days of the empire, as the British are beating a hasty retreat from the subcontinent but are determined to partition the land, and its diverse people, into India and Pakistan. The job of, quite literally, drawing the line falls to archetypal Englishman and judge Cyril Radcliffe who is shipped off to somewhere he has never been before, to accomplish what turns out to be a fiendishly complex assignment.  Continue reading “Review: Drawing the Line, Hampstead via livestreaming”