Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 9

Oof, the start of the downfall…Series 9 of Spooks turns into the Lucas North show with terrible ramifications

“Do you know how I knew it was true? Because for the first time you made sense”

It couldn’t last, two strong series of Spooks back-to-back were undone by the horrors of Series 9. And it needn’t have been this way, it opens with a great 10 minutes. Ros;s funeral! A proposal! Harry as an assassin! Ruth getting called “that dogged, brilliant bitch”! But new head writers Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent then have the trickier task of reconstructing a new team, and don’t quite nail it with Sophia Myles’ Beth and Max Brown’s Dimitri only ever appearing in shades of beige.

Worse though, is the shifting of the entire season’s narrative onto Richard Armitage’s Lucas who – dun dun dur – is actually someone else called John Bateman, whose torturously wrangled personal history is dragged out through the presence of Iain Glen’s Vaughan. Undoing all the good work that Armitage had done in building the fascinating ambiguities of Lucas North, the entire John Bateman storyline was a huge mis-step and ultimately indulges Spooks at its worst. 

Nicola Walker-ometer
Never better than turning Harry down, she’s a vital steadying presence in a show that badly needs it. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 9”

Review: I Wish To Die Singing – Voices from the Armenian Genocide, Finborough

“Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

Rather than being spoken, this quote – taken from a 1939 speech by Adolf Hitler – is projected onto the rear wall of the Finborough as you enter, setting the tone for this sobering piece of documentary theatre. Neil McPherson’s I Wish To Die Singing – Voices from the Armenian Genocide is pulled together from a range of sources – eyewitness accounts and personal testimonies, the worlds of academia and poetry, photographs and music, Cher and Kim Kardashian – to mark the precise centenary of the beginnings of the events that later inspired the coining of the very word ‘genocide’ by Raphael Lemkin.

From the history lecture-like beginnings that cover the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of a Turkish Republic whose rabid nationalism saw them enter the First World War on the sides of the Germans, to the searing pain of an old man reclaiming long-buried memories of being in the middle of a human catastrophe, Tommo Fowler’s production makes no attempt to sugarcoat this particularly bitter pill. The details of the deportations of hundreds of thousands of Armenians and the desert concentration camps to which they were forced to walk are laid out before us, their story told compassionately but clear-sightedly. Continue reading “Review: I Wish To Die Singing – Voices from the Armenian Genocide, Finborough”

Review: Somersaults, Finborough

“Fios agad am facal”

The Outer Hebrides have an austere challenging beauty about them and so too does Iain Finlay Macleod’s play Somersaults, relishing in an inscrutable quality which equally entertains and frustrates. After premiering in Edinburgh last year, director Russell Bolam has brought it to the intimate surroundings of the Finborough where its mix of English and Gaelic makes a fascinating exploration into where language and cultural heritage intersect in our lives.

Born on the Isle of Lewis (as was Macleod), David Carlyle’s James has since gotten it all. A lucrative dotcom business, a swanky pad in Hampstead, he even managed to marry the prettiest girl at university, but this has all come at a price – he’s become disconnected from his birthplace and increasingly so, from the language he spoke as a child, Scots Gaelic. And when his carefully constructed new life crashes down around him, it seems the ideal time to re-establish those links with home and the heart. Continue reading “Review: Somersaults, Finborough”

Review: Pillars of the Community, National Theatre

From where preconceptions come I am not entirely sure, but I’ve never been a fan of Ibsen’s plays even when they come as highly recommended as this production of Pillars of the Community at the National Theatre. The play marks the centenary of Ibsen’s death and is apparently one of his lesser performed works, something that doesn’t always inspire the greatest of confidences.

The play centres around Karsten Bernick, an avaricious and deceitful man who has climbed the greasy pole to become something of a bigwig in his small Norwegian town and managed to create an allure of benevolence and good standing in the community. But skeletons in the closet have a way of re-emerging and when two members of his extended family, who know all of his dirty secrets, return from America, Bernick is challenged to discover just how far he is willing to go to protect his reputation and continue to ignore his conscience. Continue reading “Review: Pillars of the Community, National Theatre”

Review: Henry IV Part II, National Theatre

Continuing from Part I, Henry IV Part II lends itself to a lighter interpretation due to the even higher comic content in its examination of the quirks of the human being, in particular of the Englishman. With one insurrection quashed by Hal’s victory over Hotspur, another mounts up to threaten England and in quashing it, Henry IV hastens his own death. The young Prince Hal now has to step up even further to the mark as his heir, all the while resisting the ever-present grasping hands of Falstaff who wants to milk his relationship to the future King for all it is worth.

I’m not sure what it was about this show that made me like it so much more than Part I, but I felt that the whole ensemble was pulling together much stronger: Susan Brown as Mistress Quickly and Eve Myles as Doll Tearsheet,the two women hankering after Falstaff were both good, Jeffery Kisoon as a fading Lord Percy roused great emotion for his fallen son and Gambon continues his excellent comic work. Continue reading “Review: Henry IV Part II, National Theatre”

Review: Henry IV Part I, National Theatre

Forming a six hour epic, Nicholas Hytner’s productions of Henry IV Part I and Part II take up residence in the Olivier auditorium at the National Theatre. You can see them on the same day if you so desire (and your bum can take it) but we went on different days as a small thing called work got in the way!

The plays deal with the troubled reign of King Henry IV as he deals with rebellion and civil war, while his son and heir, Prince Hal, prefers to hang around East London with small-time criminals led by the aged, corpulent alcoholic Falstaff. They cover the whole breadth of English society at the time they were written, from aristocratic infighting right the way down to sleazy prostitution. Continue reading “Review: Henry IV Part I, National Theatre”