Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 1

“Do not blaspheme! Do not blaspheme!”

To mark Series 10 of Doctor Who starting on BBC1 next week, I’ve been counting down the weeks with a rewatch of all 9 of the previous series of new Who. And now we’re within touching distance, I’m counting down the days talking about each one. For once though, I’m going to keep these posts (relatively) short and sweet, following the below format.

With just the one series to judge him on, and that series being the very first when everyone was still finding their feet, Christopher Eccleston’s Nine often gets a bit of a raw deal. And some of his zany moments are undoubtedly really quite awkward to watch but for me, they’re easily outweighed by the emotional weight of his more serious work, especially when hinting at the considerable darkness of the events of his recent past that had left him so haunted. A solid re-entry back into the televisual world. Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 1”

TV Review: Russell T Davies’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream

“What visions have I seen”

When the RSC announced their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, surtitling it ‘A Play for the Nation’ as it tours the UK, working with amateur theatre groups across the land, they probably weren’t expecting it to be a play for the nation because somebody would be putting on another production of it every couple of weeks. Or maybe they were, it is one of Shakespeare’s more popular plays – indeed it is among my favourites as the first I ever read – and so why wouldn’t Filter bring it back to the Lyric Hammersmith, the Reversed Shakespeare Company put their own spin on it, Emma Rice opened her tenure at the Globe with it, and the Southwark Playhouse open their own version of it with Go People early next week…

For those outside of the London theatre bubble though, the opportunity to see a televised version of the play, adapted by Russell T Davies’ gay agenda and directed by David Kerr, won’t have felt like overkill. And there was much to commend in a reimagining of the play which dabbled in just a fair few changes for the most part and then decided to rip up the rulebook in a jubilant final ten minutes that will doubtless seize the headlines and rile the purists among us but regardless, managed to remain unerringly faithful to exactly how you would imagine Davies’ Dream might play out (Flute/soldier fanfic please!). Continue reading “TV Review: Russell T Davies’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

DVD Review: Gnomeo and Juliet

“The story you’re about to hear as been told before, a lot”

Oh my giddy aunt, I wasn’t expecting that! Kelly Asbury’s computer-animated reworking of Romeo and Juliet (backed financially by Disney) takes us to the world of Verona Drive where elderly neighbours Mrs Montague and Mr Capulet spend their days bickering and sniping at each other whilst tending their equally impressive back gardens. And when their backs are turned, their garden gnomes come to life and play out the same conflict in miniature. Such is the world of Gnomeo and Juliet.

It is very much a family film so therefore this is very much an adaptation of the Bard and for me, it’s a rather entertaining one, if you’re seriously missing Mercutio then you’re seriously missing the point. James McAvoy’s effervescent blue-hat Gnomeo and Emily Blunt’s spirited red-hat Juliet make a highly charming couple, who fall for each other despite the enmity between their clans as typified by fierce back-alley lawnmower racing. But when things go too far – in a sequence that I actually found quite shocking, and moving – it seems that tragedy is destined to haunt this pair no matter what form they take. Continue reading “DVD Review: Gnomeo and Juliet”

Review: A Little Hotel on the Side, Theatre Royal Bath

I’m the headless hunter of Honfleur, I’m the strangled Sister of Soissons, I’m the noseless Nun of Nantes”

Those who know me will attest to how firmly I tend to hold my preconceptions, but I do try to test them fairly regularly on the off-chance that a certain production might prove me wrong, if not about the whole genre then at least about that particular show. And despite its much-beloved status by the likes of Billington, Spencer et al, farce is one such genre of which I am no particular fan. I am one of the few who found One Man Two Guvnors painful in the extreme but I found myself tumbling easily for the charms of Noises Off, so whilst I might not ever call myself a fan of farce, I do know that it is impossible to lump them all together dismissively.

Which is a most long-winded way to say that I went to the Theatre Royal Bath to see Georges Feydeau and Maurice Désvallières’ A Little Hotel on the Side. Adapted by John Mortimer and directed by Lindsay Posner with an amazingly luxurious cast including the likes of Richard McCabe, Hannah Waddingham and Richard Wilson, it seems incredible that the run is just two weeks long but I would struggle to recommend dropping everything to try and see this. My only previous experience of Feydeau was with the Old Vic’s 2010 A Flea In Her Ear, which decidedly didn’t tickle my funnybone, and this felt far closer to that than to the delirious pleasures of Frayn’s backstage antics. Continue reading “Review: A Little Hotel on the Side, Theatre Royal Bath”

Review: Straight, Bush Theatre

“We just have to position ourselves right”

Though Nick Payne is the name on most people’s lips when it comes to exciting new male playwrights thanks to his award-winning Constellations, for my money DC Moore is as equally deserving of such attention. He is probably one of the most talented composers of dialogue working at the moment and his clear-sighted writing has definitely marked him out as one to watch. Directed by Richard Wilson, his latest play Straight opened in Sheffield earlier this month but now arrives in London at the Bush Theatre to present a picture of male friendship unlike most others.

Based on Lynn Shelton’s film Humpday, Straight starts off in a moment of apparent marital bliss. Lewis and Morgan are making the best of a bad lot in their property situation but are so into each other that they are discussing babies. But when Lewis’ old university friend Waldorf arrives, through the letter box first, to collect on a promise of a bed after he finished his gap year travels, he threatens to upset their dynamic by reminding Lewis of the freedom he is midway through relinquishing. A drunken night out ensues with much taunting about their comparative sexual adventures and ends up with them daring each other to have sex on camera, as you do.  Continue reading “Review: Straight, Bush Theatre”

Review: One Day When We Were Young / Lungs, Roundabout season at Shoreditch Town Hall

“The world is going to need good people in it”

Those champions of great theatre Paines Plough make a rare foray into the capital with the Roundabout season – three new plays from three upcoming playwrights which can be seen individually or in a triple bill over one day at the weekend. We opted for the triple bill but sadly, the first of the plays – Penelope Skinner’s The Sound of Heavy Rain – was cancelled due to adverse weather affecting the venue. We were still able to take in Nick Payne’s One Day When We Were Young and Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs though and what a fantastic pair of plays they turned out to be.

Paines Plough have constructed a mini in-the-round wooden theatre, akin to the one in which Mike Bartlett’s Cock was performed at the Royal Court, and they have placed it in the historic and underused surroundings of Shoreditch Town Hall. The intimacy of the space is something really rather special and director of One Day When We Were Young, Clare Lizzimore really explores the possibilities it offers with a beautiful production of Nick Payne’s play. Continue reading “Review: One Day When We Were Young / Lungs, Roundabout season at Shoreditch Town Hall”

Review: The Pride – Studio, Sheffield

Directed by Richard Wilson and starring Artistic Director Daniel Evans, the regional premiere of Alexei Kaye Campbell’s The Pride takes place in the small Studio at Sheffield. The play looks at love and relationships in both modern day-ish 2008 and in 1958, contrasting the two eras to see how attitudes to gay identity and also sexual freedom of all kinds have changed, and how the experiences of an older generation have influenced the decisions we make now. This is done with a trio of characters: Philip, Oliver and Sylvia and a structure that constantly jumps back and forth between the two times and not always in chronological order, so that the two stories become one overarching narrative about the necessity of knowing and loving yourself before you can truly love others.

Dramatically speaking, the 1958 strand is the more intriguing: layers of Rattigan-esque repression make these scenes crackle with the unspoken. Sylvia and Philip are rather unhappily unmarried and when she introduces her colleague Oliver, it becomes clear to us why as the sexual chemistry sparks between them. As Philip struggles to come to terms with his repressed feelings and Sylvia comes to a growing awareness of why he is acting like he is, this story is pursued to its heartbreaking end with all three actors giving stunning performances. Jay Simpson also does sterling work in a number of small roles across both time periods. Continue reading “Review: The Pride – Studio, Sheffield”

Review: Twelfth Night, RSC

“If this were play’d upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction”

There’s a pleasing circularity to this visit to Twelfth Night for me: one of the first plays I saw this year was the Donmar’s West End production of Twelfth Night, a trip marred by horrendous winter storms and travel chaos, so it seems right that one of my last trips to the theatre this year was to the RSC’s version of the same play, once again during some insane winter weather. Fortunately, my journey was less traumatic this time, so I was able to make a more reasoned verdict on the play.

As one would expect from the RSC, and from a production that has already done a Stratford run, it is slickly done and all the performers feel and look supremely confident in their roles. Staged in a incense-laden, Turkish-inspired set, it looks amazing and the costumes are rich and opulent (Orsino’s red robe is a sight to behold). And this all contributed to me being much more amenable to giving the suspension of disbelief necessary for this play, a matter much helped by some canny casting and dressing of Viola and Sebastian who for once really did look like they could be twins.

Continue reading “Review: Twelfth Night, RSC”