Review: Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre

Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Uncle Vanya featuring Toby Jones and Richard Armitage at the Harold Pinter Theatre is so good you can forgive the “wanging on”

“I mean what I mean when I say what I say”

Above everything, the thing that stands out most about Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Chekhov’s evergreen Uncle Vanya is his use of the phrase “wanging on”, twice. It’s such a random thing but it rings out like a bell, both times, more so than any of the usages of contemporary language that pepper the script. Running it a close second though, is just how vital and vibrant Ian Rickson’s production proves.

From stacking his cast with real, proper talent (imagine your bit players being of the ilk of Anna Calder-Marshall, Peter Wight and Dearbhla Molloy) to reuniting with Rosmersholm designer Rae Smith, this is a finely tuned piece of theatre which ultimately, doesn’t do too much that is radical (though the fourth wall breaking-bits are smashing), but rather distils its Chekhovian spirit just so. Or maybe that it’s the first production of the play I’ve seen since turning 40 and its midlife crises suddenly have new resonance…! Continue reading “Review: Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre”

Review: The Starry Messenger, Wyndham’s Theatre

Middle-aged white male wish fulfilment writ large, The Starry Messenger is a dull, disappointing and delusional three hours at the Wyndham’s Theatre

“Ian, back up”

Don’t you hate it when your nag of a wife won’t let you tell a story about the family of the nurse you’re secretly having an affair with – women amiright! A significant degree of middle-aged white male wish fulfilment permeates The Starry Messenger to the point where the play is left fatally unbalanced unless, you know, you actually agree with the opening sentiment.

Kenneth Lonergan has written what he clearly believes is an epic role for Matthew Broderick and it certainly fits the brief in terms of it being the major part in a three hour running time. Broderick plays Mark, a 50-something lecturer at Hayden Planetarium in New York, whose dreams of becoming an astronomer seem to have turned to stardust, along with any spark of joie de vivre he might ever have had. Continue reading “Review: The Starry Messenger, Wyndham’s Theatre”

TV Review: Harlots Series 2

Season 2 of Harlots maintains an impressive run for this excellent series

“You let women do this to you?”

I loved the first series of Harlots when I finally got round to catching up with it recently, so I was keen not to let too pass to tackle Series 2. Inspired by Hallie Rubenhold’s The Covent Garden Ladies, creators Alison Newman and Moira Buffini have done a marvellous job of conjuring and maintaining a richly detailed world that puts women’s experiences front and centre.

The heart of the show has been the burning rivalry between competing madams Lydia Quigley and Margaret Wells, and Lesley Manville and Samantha Morton remain a titanic force as they do battle with each other while simultaneously battling a corrupt patriarchy that would abuse them and their power for a guinea a time. And with its new additions, this second series widens out that focus to incorporate the experiences of other women. Continue reading “TV Review: Harlots Series 2”

TV Review: Harlots Series 1

The best TV show you haven’t heard about? Harlots just might be it!

“When the time comes, I hope your quim splits”

I suppose that it is good that we have so many more options for good television to be made these days. The flipside to that is that it can be harder to keep track of it all. Harlots is fricking fantastic, a hugely enjoyable and high quality drama but airing on ITV Encore (and Hulu in the US),  it has languished in the doldrums of the unfairly unheralded.

A glance at the castlist shows you how much of a waste this is. Samantha Morton and Lesley Manville at the head, Jessica Brown Findlay, Hugh Skinner and Dorothy Atkinson among the supporting, Fenella Woolgar, Danny Sapani and Kate Fleetwood popping up now and again too. This is luxury stuff and yet criminally few know about it. Continue reading “TV Review: Harlots Series 1”

TV Review: National Treasure, Episode 1

“Is he supposed to be nice?”

Just a quickie to cover the first episode of this new Jack Thorne drama on Channel 4, and I’ll review the series as a whole once all four episodes have aired. National Treasure takes its inspiration directly from Operation Yewtree and its revelations about the nefarious activities of veteran TV personages, to give us an exploration into how such a scandal could unfold, sweeping up everyone in its path and uncovering a painstakingly hidden past.

Robbie Coltrane takes the role of Paul Finchley, one half of a much-loved TV comedy duo, whose world is rocked by a historical accusation of rape. Placed under investigation by the police, his personal life is shaken, not least his marriage to Julie Walters and his shaky relationship with recovering addict daughter Andrea Riseborough. And once the news conveniently slips into the media, his professional life is also called into question as the number of accusations multiplies. Continue reading “TV Review: National Treasure, Episode 1”

fosterIAN awards 2015

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayLia Williams, Oresteia Letitia Wright, EclipsedThusitha Jayasundera, My Eyes Went Dark
Marianne Jean-Baptiste, hang
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nell Gwynn
Lara Rossi, Octagon
Best Actor in a Play
John Heffernan, Oppenheimer David Morrissey, HangmenChiwetel Ejiofor, Everyman
Jamie Samuel, Plastic Figurines
Eelco Smits, Glazen Speelgoed
Angus Wright, Oresteia
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayDaisy Haggard, You For Me For You T’Nia Miller, EclipsedPriyanga Burford, The Effect
Estella Daniels, Octagon
Rosalind Eleazor, Plaques and Tangles
Sally Rogers, Hangmen
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayJohn Simm, The Homecoming David Moorst, Violence and SonHarm Duco Schut, Glazen Speelgoed
Johnny Flynn, Hangmen
James Garnon, As You Like It (Globe)
David Sturzaker, Nell Gwynn
Best Actress in a MusicalNatalie Dew, Bend It Like Beckham Katie Brayben, BeautifulTracie Bennett, Mrs Henderson Presents
Jennifer Harding, The Clockmaker's Daughter
Debbie Kurup, Anything Goes
Kelly Price, Little Shop of Horrors
Best Actor in a MusicalGiles Terera, Pure Imagination Matt Henry, Kinky BootsIan Bartholomew, Mrs Henderson Presents
Killian Donnelly, Kinky Boots
Scott Garnham, Grand Hotel
Alex Gaumond, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalEmma Williams, Mrs Henderson Presents Amy Lennox, Kinky BootsAnita Dobson, Follies
Anna Francolini, wonder.land
Lauren Samuels, Bend It Like Beckham
Lorna Want, Beautiful
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalEmmanuel Kojo, Show Boat Ako Mitchell, Little Shop of HorrorsMatthew Malthouse, Mrs Henderson Presents
Ian McIntosh, Beautiful
Jamie Parker, High Society
George Rae, Grand Hotel

2015 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Daisy Haggard, You For Me For You
There’s no way to describe Haggard’s performance that could do justice to just how accomplished it is. Ostensibly just gibberish, the precise nature of the gobbledygook becomes apparent as her speech slowly modulates into increasingly recognisable English. And all the while as she’s speaking what is essentially another language, she never forgets to extract every exquisite comic detail – just brilliant. 

Honourable mention: T’Nia Miller, Eclipsed

As with Wright for Best Actress, it’s a tad invidious to separate out the ensemble of what was my favourite play of the year but the extra dimension that she brought to the show, adding the thoughtful complexity of class division to the mix was an absolute highlight.

Priyanga Burford, The Effect
Estella Daniels, Octagon
Rosalind Eleazor, Plaques and Tangles
Sally Rogers, Hangmen

7-10
Adjoa Andoh, A Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes; Zawe Ashton, Splendour; Hélène Devos, Glazen Speelgoed; Ellie Piercey, As You Like It (Globe)

 

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Emma Williams, Mrs Henderson Presents

An actress who deserves to be much better known than she currently is, her latest superlative turn in a British musical might just be the one to push her through to the wider public consciousness, as deservedly so. At one point, a single sustained note from her brought tears to my eyes in seconds.

Honourable mention: Amy Lennox, Kinky Boots
This was probably the closest run of these choices as I loved Lennox’s haplessly quirky turn as Lauren is the very definition of a scene-stealer, none more so than in the glorious ‘The History of Wrong Guys’.

Anita Dobson, Follies
Anna Francolini, wonder.land
Lauren Samuels, Bend It Like Beckham
Lorna Want, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical

7-10

Liza Goddard, The Smallest Show on Earth; Preeya Kalidas, Bend It Like Beckham; Anastacia McClesky, Close to You; Victoria Serra, Grand Hotel

Review: Plaques and Tangles, Royal Court

“It’ll be bad for other people”

Like a Rubik’s Cube forever going wrong, Megan’s memory – ravaged by early onset Alzheimer’s – keeps shifting and reforming itself in endless configurations that don’t quite work. And so in Nicola Wilson’s Plaques and Tangles, we see her at different ages, skittering from 21 to 47, juddering between 32 and 27, her very sense of self fractured by a cruelly progressive disease which in her darkest moments, leaves her unaware if she is even awake or hallucinating in the traverse cocoon of Andrew D Edwards’ set design.

This is made more poignantly powerful by the fact that she has a family, two kids and a husband who suffer alongside her but more often isolated from her as the wife and mother they love becomes harder to find. And with the disease having a high genetic propensity, Wilson’s play probes into the messy ethics of early diagnosis – we first meet Megan on the day she discovers she has a 50-50 chance of developing it – which just happens to be on her hen night – but becomes ambivalent once given the chance to find out for sure. Continue reading “Review: Plaques and Tangles, Royal Court”