TV Review: Bodyguard Series 1

Bodyguard reaches a thrilling climax that is sure to disappoint some but left me on the edge of my seat

“I wanted to know who did it, I don’t know who did it”

Except we do finally know who did it. Jed Mercurio’s Bodyguard – an unexpected massive hit and a reminder that the appointment-to-view model is far from over – reached its climax tonight in typically high-tension style, confounding expectations to the end and dashing the dreams of many a conspiracy theorist to boot. Seriously, so glad that Julia Montague remained dead (at least until a sequel is announced and we have to go through this whole farrago again). 

And though it is bound to have its detractors, I have to say I found it all hugely entertaining. If it just wasn’t realistic enough for you, then WTF are you doing watching dramas? If you’re getting swept up in locations in this fictionalised version of London not being where they are in real life, turn the damn thing off! Its not for everyone, that’s absolutely fine, but you don’t have to drag everyone else down with your misery. Continue reading “TV Review: Bodyguard Series 1”

Review: The End of History, St Giles-in-the-Fields

Site-specific theatre done right – High Hearted’s The End of History sits us in the beautiful surroundings of St Giles-in-the-Fields and really makes us think

“Why are we here?”

Marcelo dos Santos’ The End of History is not just performed in the church of St Giles-in-the-Fields but it is set there too, a quiet spot of calm in among the bustling Soho streets. And as Crossrail forces yet another upheaval of the immediate surrounding area, dos Santos and director Gemma Kerr ask us to locate this development in the wider scheme of things, in a history of constant evolution and ponder what might be lost in the process.

This they do by colliding two individuals – charity worker Wendy and Paul, seeking to make his mark in the world of property. They’re both having a shocker of a day – she’s coming out of a long-term relationship and searching for somewhere to live, he’s waiting on some test results and the battery on his phone is going down fast because he can’t quite keep off Grindr. Or Scruff. Or Hornet.  Continue reading “Review: The End of History, St Giles-in-the-Fields”

Review: Anatomy of a Suicide, Royal Court

“I’ll stay
I will try to stay
For as long as I possibly can

I promise”

Beautiful yet undeniably brutal, Anatomy of a Suicide has all the shimmering disquiet of a half-remembered dream, a blurred imagining of people, places and things that coalesce into something deeply profound. Constructed by playwright Alice Birch and director Katie Mitchell, it revels in a hugely exciting formal inventiveness (even the playtext is stunning to look at) but is also filled with a repressed emotionality that is often bruising to watch.

The play contains three narrative strands, set in different times, which are performed simultaneously on the same stage. Across the decades from the 1970s to the 2030s, the lives of Carol, Anna and Bonnie play out with strange echoes and motifs recurring until we realise how interconnected they are. Anna is Carol’s daughter, Bonnie is Anna’s and it is more than blood that they share, Birch suggests a shared legacy of severe depression.

It’s an uncomfortable (depressing, even) premise but one which pays rich dividends as it provokes in us something primal, something elemental about the truths and conventions we cling onto. The thought that motherhood isn’t always considered a blessing but a trial, the idea that we can easily outrun familial legacies, the notion that what is so, so good for ourselves isn’t necessarily so great for another. As words and actions trickle down through the ages, reverberating back again, shaping and reshaping these lives, something vastly moving occurs.

Hattie Morahan, Kate O’Flynn and Adelle Leonce are simply stunning as the three generations of women at the heart of this story, each meticulously detailed in their performance and painstakingly accurate in the different ways in which mental illness has hollowed them out. And the way in which the intergenerational echoes pop up is unbearably moving, the precision of Mitchell’s direction in complete service of fully fleshed-out storytelling producing something astonishing, especially in the agonising poignancy of one of the final tableaux. An absolute triumph.

Running time: 2 hours (without interval)
Photos: Stephen Cummiskey
Booking until 8th July

Casting news for Persuasion and Anatomy of a Suicide

 

 
I’ve already written of my excitement for the forthcoming Persuasion  and the announcement of the cast hasn’t lessened the thrill at all. Lara Rossi takes on the role of Austen’s heroine Anne alongside Samuel Edward-Cook as Captain Wentworth. The cast is completed by Geraldine Alexander, Antony Bunsee, Helen Cripps, Cassie Layton, Caroline Moroney, Dorian Simpson and Arthur Wilson. 
 
Directing them is Jeff James, “one of the UK’s most original young theatre makers”, who has adapted and is directing this bold retelling of Jane Austen’s final masterpiece at the Royal Exchange Theatre. Designed by Alex Lowde this contemporary production of Austen’s beautifully crafted novel discards the bonnets and trappings of formal life for a startlingly modern vision of Austen. Developed in collaboration with dramaturg James Yeatman and with sound design from the award-winning Ben and Max Ringham, Persuasion runs from 25 May to 24 June 2017.

 

Continue reading “Casting news for Persuasion and Anatomy of a Suicide”

Review: The Tempest, Southwark Playhouse

“Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments”

The RSC may have Simon Russell Beale and cutting-edge digital technology but the Southwark Playhouse has real heart when it comes to The Tempest. I missed the press night, which had the happy consequence of meaning that I actually got to watch this Shakespeare for Schools production with its intended audience, hordes of schoolchildren of mixed ages who, by the show’s end, were thoroughly rapt (though perhaps not quite as tear-stained as I).

Streamlined into 90 interval-less minutes and infused with a real sense of theatrical ingenuity, Amy Draper’s production does a fantastic job of reinterpreting the Bard without dumbing him down. Anchored by a deeply compassionate Prospero from Sarah Malin, this Tempest is rooted in fallibility and forgiveness, the clear-sighted storytelling never letting us forget that it is only in the recognition of the former that we can expect the latter. Continue reading “Review: The Tempest, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Measure for Measure, Young Vic

“I have a motion much imports your good”

They say things come in threes and as with Oresteias, so too with Measure for Measures. After Cheek by Jowl’s brutally contemporary Russian interpretation and Dominic Dromgoole’s comic version for the Globe, it is now Joe Hill-Gibbins’ turn to put his inimitable stamp on the play for the Young Vic. And from the industrial techno rave that opens the show to the awkward freeze-frame of the Duke’s happy ending – all done in a smidge under two hours – this is very much a modern take on Shakespeare that is bound to ruffle certain feathers whilst stimulating others.

With the licentiousness of Viennese society being represented by scores of inflatable sex toy dolls, the image of which recur throughout this whole production, and the Duke using live video relays to speak to the city, the modern-day feel is overt but non-specific, the point being we could be in any major city where a conservative regime is free to impose its puritanical fervour. And in this mise-en-scène, curated by dramaturg Zoë Svendsen and artfully framed in Miriam Buether’s box-frame set with hidden rear compartment, the story unfolds. Continue reading “Review: Measure for Measure, Young Vic”

Review: buckets, Orange Tree

“What we want – and you know this, but I’ll say it again – what we need is lists. People like lists. They share lists”

One of the more difficult jobs that Paul Miller has had, dealing with the loss of Arts Council England funding aside, is in bridging the gap between the old and the new at Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre. As the incoming Artistic Director, his debut season has more than doubled the number of first-time visitors to this in-the-round space – fuelled by buzz-worthy successes like Pomona, soon to be revived at the National – but Miller has also kept a keen eye on existing audiences, making sure that the shift in programming, with a wide range of new writers and directors, hasn’t come at their expense but rather just widened the remit of this venue.

And it is tempting to see buckets , the latest production there, as something of a bridge – Rania Jumaily is the Orange Tree’s Resident Director and first-time (full-length) writer Adam Barnard started as a trainee director here back in 2003 but together, they’ve come up with a subtly forward-thinking piece of theatre. Initial impressions are a little reminiscent of a Gap advert with the company of six draped in shades of blue and white and flowers scattered around a stage dominated by a stainless steel slide but in the midst of James Turner’s innocuous-seeming set, an intriguing mode of storytelling emerges. Continue reading “Review: buckets, Orange Tree”

Not-a-Review: The Cherry Orchard, Young Vic

 

I’d love to review Simon Stephens’ version of The Cherry Orchard at the Young Vic but Katie Mitchell’s enthusiasm for the naturalistic approach meant I heard very little, and I mean very little of it. It’s not even as if I could see to lip-read either, the crepuscular lighting combining with a propensity to mutter and the choice that several made to speak with their backs to the audience. I’m not commenting on Mitchell’s artistic choices, I’m simply being truthful about how the basic difficulty of just hearing what was going on. And as such, I’m just not inclined to comment on anything more. If you have any sort of hearing problem, I urge you to ensure you get to the captioned performance on 27th November.

Running time: 2 hours (without interval)
Booking until 29th November

Review: An Enemy of the People, New Diorama

“If we took a vote now, whose side would you be on?”

The works of Henrik Ibsen are often cited as some of the greatest committed to paper but though his plays are frequently performed, they are rarely adapted, seldom excised from their 19th century Norwegian settings to explore how they might resonate in a more contemporary context. David Harrower had a go at putting Ibsen into the 1970s with Public Enemy for the Young Vic earlier this year but Rebecca Manson Jones has brought the same play – An Enemy of the People – bang up to date with this new adaptation which is now playing at the New Diorama Theatre after a tour of London and the South West of England. 

She places the play in a modern-day but fictional small town on the Cornish coast – Porth Kregg – which is finding its way out of economic depression through a co-operative owned health spa, run by the Stockmann siblings. But when the ethical business ethos of one is compromised by the environmentally unsound supplier found by the other, the convictions of all concerned are challenged as the whole community is forced to identify what they consider to be more important – the health of the planet versus the weight of their purse. And it’s a question that we as the audience are also asked to contemplate, in a way that shapes the play itself. Continue reading “Review: An Enemy of the People, New Diorama”