DVD Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

Despite that title, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society proves unremarkable in its gentle cosiness

“Everyone lost someone in this war”

Directed by Mike Newell and written by Don Roos and Tom Bezucha from the novel of the same name by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society really ought to have hit the spot for me. Women-heavy wartime story – check, a cast including Lily James and Katharine Parkinson – check, and a title you can’t help but misremember. 

But it never really clicks into gear as greater than the sum of these parts, sticking at a tone of gently cosy which is never offensive, but rarely remarkable with it.  Set just after the end of the Second World War in 1946, the plot follows a London-based writer who becomes fascinated by the experience of the residents on the island of Guernsey which, lest we forget, was under German occupation. Continue reading “DVD Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)”

Re-review: Great Britain, Theatre Royal Haymarket

“They weren’t lies, they were well researched stories that later turned out not to be true”

Just a quickie for this unexpected revisit to Great Britain. I hadn’t intended to go back to this Richard Bean play, which made a rapid transfer from the National Theatre to the Theatre Royal Haymarket after its up-to-the-minute emergence on the schedule after the culmination of a certain trial involving a certain Eastender-star-bashing redhead. But the offer of a good ticket and the chance to see Lucy Punch – of whom I’ve heard much but never seen on stage – tempted me once again into this murky world of tabloid junkies.

My original review can be read here and if anything, I think I might have been a little kind to it. The play hasn’t aged well, even in the six months since it opened as the fast-moving world of political, institutional and journalistic scandal moves on so quickly IRL that this fictional version already seems quaint. Add in that its bite has been evidently neutered by legal threats and its intelligence barely scrapes the surface of the ethical issues at hand, and it’s a bit of a damn squib for me. Punch was good though.

Review: Great Britain, National Theatre

 “That’s what we do, we destroy lives…but it’s on your behalf, because you like to read about it”

It’s not quite Beyoncé releasing her latest album without prior notice but it’s not far off. Richard Bean’s new play for the National was something of an open secret even if its specifics were unknown but still, announcing it with five days’ notice and no previews is a pretty bold move. What Great Britain has going for it though is a right-up-to-the-minute immediacy as Bean responds with speed to the scandals that have engulfed certain sections of the tabloid media in recent times and a court case that may or may not have just reached a verdict…

We’re in a satirical, pseudo-recognisable world – a ratings-hungry red-top (called The Free Press) is owned by a foreign-born media mogul who wants to buy a television station (an Irishman called Paschal O’Leary if you will) and has a fiercely ambitious news editor at its helm (a blonde woman called Paige Britain, she didn’t say she was “vindicated” so I have no idea who she was meant to be…). Manipulating their way to a position of huge influence with both Police and Parliament under their thumb, it seems nothing could go wrong. That is, until a little thing called phone hacking breaks into the national consciousness. Continue reading “Review: Great Britain, National Theatre”

Revew: Yes Prime Minister, Trafalgar Studios

“Do we have to deal with this tonight?”

When it was first announced that Yes Prime Minister would be returning to the London stage, the question ‘who hasn’t seen it yet?!’ was not unreasonably raised. (The answer, of course, was me, presumably amongst others.) Since opening in Chichester in 2010, it has played the West End twice and toured the UK twice but in shaky economic times, exacerbated by the unknown quantity of how the Olympics will actually affect audiences, the Trafalgar Studios have plumped for a return for this safe banker, which is currently booking til the 12th January 2013.

And safe it is. An update of the classic TV programme by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, the pair crafted a contemporaneous version of their story which captures the main themes of ministerial ineptitude and the enduring survival and influence of the Civil Service. PM Jim Hacker is sequestered at Chequers in the midst of a conference and surrounded by gloomy news. When a chink of light appears in the form of a lucrative oil deal, hopes are raised but the offer comes with an enormous string attached and Hacker and his team are forced to balance ethics and morals with the potential deal of a lifetime. Continue reading “Revew: Yes Prime Minister, Trafalgar Studios”

Review: Four Nights in Knaresborough, Southwark Playhouse

“Look at us, the men who murdered Becket by the altar”

Four Nights in Knaresborough takes a rather unique look at events around a significant moment in medieval English history: the assassination of Thomas à Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. Paul Webb’s play, presented here by co-producers Rooster and MokitaGrit at the Southwark Playhouse, looks at the four knights of Henry II’s court who carried out the murder of the troublesome Archbishop and follows them as they hole up in a drafty castle in deepest Yorkshire, visiting them four times over the course of a year as they wait, and wait, unsure of just what is going to happen to them.

The promotional material cites a modern day sensibility that has “more in common with Tarantino than Cadfael” but what the play put me most in mind of, particularly in the first half, was Sam Mendes’ film Jarhead in its portrayal of military men driven stir-crazy, frustratingly forced into an extended waiting game rather than doing what it is that they do best. And so we see the knights here dealing with the mundanity of killing time with tales of constipation, horniness, hunger, sword-polishing, even love, and the funniest scene of emergency medieval dentistry I’ll wager you’ll see all year. Continue reading “Review: Four Nights in Knaresborough, Southwark Playhouse”