DVD Review: Da Vinci’s Demons Series 1

“War has always been the handmaiden of progress”

From its opening moments of buttocks and blood (both belonging to an uncredited Hugh Bonneville if that floats your boat), it’s clear that Da Vinci’s Demons is going to have its fun whilst playing fast and loose with the early life of its subject, Florentine polymath Leonardo Da Vinci. Conceived by David S Goyer and a co-production between Starz and BBC Worldwide, it’s a good-natured romp of a drama series much in the mould of Merlin, Atlantis or the lamented Sinbad but perhaps tied a little closer to reality as it dips in and out of the tangled history of the Italian city states. 

And it is its historical connections that serves as a main driver for the technological innovations for which Leonardo is famed and which form the ‘issue of the week’ around which most of the episodes hang. So as Da Vinci climbs into bed with the ruling Medici family, he’s sucked into their political machinations whilst battling rival families in Florence and the ever-present threat of the Catholic Church in Rome. Alongside this sits a more fantastical series-long arc about the mystical Book of Leaves and the Sons of Mithras who believe Da Vinci has only just begun to tap into his true power. Continue reading “DVD Review: Da Vinci’s Demons Series 1”

DVD Review: Marchlands

 

 

“Sometimes we don’t see everything that’s going on”

A tale of how the supernatural can linger in the same house, Marchlands was an ITV drama originally broadcast in early 2011. Written by Stephen Greenhorn and set in Yorkshire, it follows the fortunes of three families who all live in the same house. In 1968, Ruth and Paul are mourning the death of their 8 year old daughter Alice but suffering from a serious lack of communication and stifled by living with his parents. In 1987, the Maynard family struggle to deal with young Amy’s invisible best friend whose arrival coincides with all sorts of strange happenings. And in 2010, Mark and Nisha return to the village of his childhood, but secrets from the past threaten their future and that of their unborn child. 

Greenhorn’s writing cleverly sets up and slowly unravels a different set of mysteries in each of the strands, whilst also introducing overlapping elements which intertwine across the years. Jodie Whittaker’s Ruth, dismissed as a hysterical grieving mother, brings  a tortured distress to her determination to find out the truth behind her daughter’s drowning; Dean Andrews and Alex Kingston pair up brilliantly as the 80s couple whose children are inexplicably caught up in Alice’s web; and Shelley Conn is convincing as the modern-day new mother, stressed from the demands of parenthood, the loneliness of her new home, the mysteries that her husband, the ever delectable Elliot Cowan, won’t reveal. And then there is Anne Reid, in scintillating form as a woman vital to all of the stories.     Continue reading “DVD Review: Marchlands”

Review: The Revenger’s Tragedy, Hoxton Hall

“Plagues! Confusions! Darkness! Devils!”

Technical difficulties around health and safety meant that Suba Das’ production of The Revenger’s Tragedy had to be rapidly reconceived from its intended promenade aspect but little can excuse shining a bright light into the eyes of part of the audience for 15 minutes. Thomas Middleton’s Jacobean blood-fest now sits still in the Victorian music hall surroundings of Hoxton Hall, but seriously lacks the basic thread of storytelling that such a complex play requires.

Vindice is determined to wreak a terrible revenge on the duke who poisoned his beloved fiancée and doesn’t care who get sucked into his machinations, whether it is the corrupt extended family of the duke, or his own (slightly) more innocent relations. This is a barely comprehensible world of deep selfishness, punctuated with episodes of extreme violence and illicit lust, and so needs a strong directorial hand to try and impose if not sense, then at least an interpretation of great clarity and focused intent. Continue reading “Review: The Revenger’s Tragedy, Hoxton Hall”