TV Review: Mum Series 2

A hugely successful return for Stefan Golaszewski’s BBC sitcom Mum, with world-beater Lesley Manville in brilliant form once again

“Three types of potato – are you out of your fucking mind?”

I’m not sure what we’ve done to deserve Stefan Golaszewski’s Mum but I’m sure as hell glad that we have it. The second series of this BBC sitcom has now drawn to a close and it is hard not to think that it isn’t one of the most magnificently perfect bits of television out there, surpassing even the heights of the superlative first season

Starring Lesley Manville and Sam Swainsbury as it does, it could well have been machine-tooled to appeal to my Venn diagram of all Venn diagrams. But Mum is so much more than my varying crushes, it is a supremely well-calibrated piece of heart-breaking and heart-warming writing that finds its humour in that most British of ways, through adversity. Cathy’s husband and Michael’s best friend may have died a year ago but their attempts to move on, to maybe explore their mutual, unspoken attraction are constantly frustrated by the clod-hopping presence of her extended family at every beat.   Continue reading “TV Review: Mum Series 2”

Round-up of news, treats and other interesting things

“Oh please, Mother, make it stop! It’s hurting.”

 

The Exorcist will be unleashed onto the West End stage for the very first time in a uniquely theatrical experience directed by Sean Mathias and adapted for the stage by John Pielmeier.
 
The Exorcist will play a strictly limited run at the Phoenix Theatre from 20 October 2017 to 10 March 2018. Tickets will go on general sale at 4pm today.

Continue reading “Round-up of news, treats and other interesting things”

CD Review: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (2015 Original West End Cast Recording)

“I’m halfway up a tree and completely in a jam.
I’m out here in a desert and nobody gives a damn”

After the abortive first run on Broadway, dubbed “a very expensive out-of-town try-out” by composer David Yazbek, a reconceived version of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown made its way to the West End in early 2015 but it only managed the same 4 months of a run there before closing in ignominy once again. Some things just aren’t meant to be it would seem.

I saw the show at the Playhouse and saw first-hand how ill-conceived this reconceived conception was and listening back to the score, you’re just reminded of how very random the whole thing is. At times, it seems on the verge of working – the manic patter of ‘Model Behavior’ is well delivered by Anna Skellern and Haydn Gwynne brings her customary class to Lucia and her lament to ageing in ‘Invisible’.  Continue reading “CD Review: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (2015 Original West End Cast Recording)”

TV Review: Mum

“I feel as sad as the sisters of Lazarus”

A number of the reviews of the first episode of Mum (here’s mine) were cautiously optimistic but commented that Stefan Golaszewski’s writing wasn’t really funny enough for a sitcom, or up to his previous TV show Him and Her. I hope that people persisted with it though, for it emerged as a simply beautiful piece of television, closer to a drama in the end than an outright comedy, and all the more affecting and effective for it.

In some ways, it’s not that surprising that it wasn’t a canned laughter kind of show – an actor of the stature of Lesley Manville, with her nearly 40 years of collaboration with Mike Leigh, wouldn’t do that, would she (I guess My Family being the exception here…). Instead, what we got was a subtle meditation on how life continues after bereavement, working through the stages of grief and minutiae of life over the course of that tricky first year. Plus Manville ate a large crisp in one go, now you don’t get that kind of quality just anywhere! Continue reading “TV Review: Mum”

TV Review: Luther (Series 4, Episode 2)

“So, because you can’t believe it’s true, logically it’s false”

So the second and final part of Series 4 of Luther is done and well, it’s hard not to feel a little shortchanged. There’s been chatter about a movie and given that we only got 2 hours of screentime here, it’s hard to see why creator Neil Cross and star Idris Elba opted for a single two-parter split over two weeks as opposed the fiercer energy that a feature-length epic would surely have borne. 

Episode 1 aired last week and did a decent job of pulling us back into the world of DCI John Luther, delving back into the show’s mythology and the tangled web of his own past but also moving forward with the dastardly exploits of a new serial killer, which proved to be the main hook for Luther’s return from semi-retirement. Part Two continues the blend, as John Heffernan’s marvellously malevolent cannabalistic killer continues his rampage and Luther deals with the past impinging severely on his present. Continue reading “TV Review: Luther (Series 4, Episode 2)”

Review: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Playhouse

“The car’s OK but where’s the wheels…?”

The Broadway production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown was less than a stellar success so it is little surprise that it is a majorly reworked version of the show that has opened at the Playhouse Theatre four years later. But even after all the reconstruction and renovation that has been done to Jeffrey Lane’s book and David Yazbek’s score, it is hard to feel that director Bartlett Sher has really nailed it here either.

For something based on a Pedro Almodóvar film, there’s a shocking uncertainty of tone, or more accurately a lack of any real sense of tone at all. The story in set in late 80s Madrid but there’s little concession to either this particular decade or country (though there is bafflingly one incongruously Hispanic accent). One could argue that this is a wise decision but the issue lies in that no overarching conceit of any substance has replaced it. Continue reading “Review: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Playhouse”

Review: In the Republic of Happiness, Royal Court

“Go into a theatre and there would be whatever…”

Martin Crimp’s new play for the Royal Court is likely to become as divisive a work as we have seen this year if initial responses are anything to go by. Subtitled a ‘three part entertainment’, In the Republic of Happiness starts off rather traditionally as an invective-filled Christmas dinner potboiler, which then shifts entirely into a freeform confessional exploration of modern society’s preoccupations and then lastly into a two-hander of strange intensity as two of the first scene’s characters returns. And there’s songs, lots and lots of songs from Roald van Oosten. It’s a rum mixture to be sure but it has a heady, intoxicating power which is quite unlike anything else in London’s theatres at the moment.

The unconventional nature of the show means that will undoubtedly provoke strong reactions – our performance saw about a half a dozen walkouts and friends declare it the worst thing they had ever seen as we stumbled out into the bar and already, amusing reviews have popped up from other bloggers such as Sans Taste’s skewering of the dialogue here. But in some ways it’s a shame to go for the easy laugh (as well written as it is) as he doesn’t engage with what Crimp is actually doing. Much of the play is deliberately non-naturalistic, the contrast thrown into especially stark relief given the opening scene and in its layered density, constant interplay and poetic echoes requires perhaps a little more consideration and reflection than a kneejerk reaction will allow. Continue reading “Review: In the Republic of Happiness, Royal Court”

Re-review: Jumpy, Duke of York’s

“You think ‘I’m being a strong woman’, that’s a misinterpretation…”

Not too much to say about this last minute revisit to Jumpy before it closed this weekend, aside from the predictability that I would end up there despite repeatedly assuring the world I wouldn’t. My original review from its run at the Royal Court can be read here and much of it still stands as my response was largely the same second time round and, rather pleasingly for a play in the West End, it was a sell-out. I was admittedly a little surprised when I first heard this would be one of the plays transferring to the Duke of York’s as whilst I found it good, I didn’t think it was necessarily that great (unlike many others).

But holding onto the vast majority of its cast (just two replacements were needed), April De Angelis’ play maintained its essential quality with a stirring central performance from Tamsin Greig as a woman in the midst of a mid-life crisis as crises with her teenage daughter, tensions with her husband and losing her job all leave her reeling. De Angelis wraps all of this into a comedy though and so there’s a lightness to the whole affair which at once feels like its strength and its weakness.  Continue reading “Re-review: Jumpy, Duke of York’s”

DVD Review: Appropriate Adult

“I’m not your friend Fred”

Not strictly a DVD review as I watched this on Netflix, finally getting round to using it having signed up a while back, and part of an impromptu Monica Dolan weekend – having seen her on stage for the first time with a magnificent turn in Chalet Lines and watching a DVD of her in She Stoops To Conquer. Her role as Rose West in Appropriate Adult is actually quite small across the two hour-long (ish) episodes but given how ferociously foul-mouthed and genuinely terrifying it is, this is probably a good thing.

The focus is on Fred West and Janet Leach, the trainee social worker drafted in to be the ‘appropriate adult’ whilst he is being questioned at a Gloucestershire police station on suspicion of the murder of his daughter. Her presence was requested to ensure that there could be no suggestion that West did not understand anything being asked of him, but we see a strange relationship building up between the pair even as increasingly horrific details about the number and nature of the crimes committed by the Wests came to light. Continue reading “DVD Review: Appropriate Adult”

Review: The House of Bernarda Alba, Almeida

“They are women without men, that’s all”

The list of actresses whom I adore is forever growing and changing but certain women remain constant on it, and one of them – who I never thought I would get to see on stage – is Shohreh Aghdashloo. She completely broke my heart in the film House of Sand and Fog (for which she was Oscar-nominated) and then toyed with our loyalties with a brilliant duplicitous turn in series 4 of 24. So when she was announced as taken on the titular role in the Almeida’s new version of The House of Bernarda Alba, I was ecstatic.

Emily Mann’s adaptation relocates Lorca’s Spanish story to rural Iran and changes a few of the names, but largely keeps the architecture of the play intact (although compressed into 95 minutes here). It is a relocation which is extremely successful, the oppression and repression of female sexuality sadly fitting in as easily here as in Catholic Spain and class issues are common across the world, making this a powerfully affecting, beautifully staged and haunting production that lived up to my every expectation. Continue reading “Review: The House of Bernarda Alba, Almeida”