TV Review: Humans Series 3

I can’t help but think Humans might have run its course as a uniquely intelligent and British sci-fi drama

“…the coming together of man and machine. You can change the course of history…”

I’ve enjoyed where Humans has taken us thus far, and the beginning of a third series seemed promising. But as I got to the end of this season and twist after twist pointed at where the story might well continue, it felt like I might have reached my expiration date with the show.

The human/synth baby that Mattie is carrying, Niska’s transformation into ur-Niska, V’s survival…it’s hard not to feel that any of these feel far less interesting than where Humans are trod thus far in its carefully balanced but uniquely British brand of sci-fi. Continue reading “TV Review: Humans Series 3”

TV Review: Unforgotten Series 3

The third series of Chris Lang’s Unforgotten is another corker, and not just because of Nicola Walker, honest!

“We’ve all done things of which we are ashamed”

The cold cases of Unforgotten have rightly proved a success for their alternative tale on crime drama, putting a real focus on the victims rather than the crimes, a neat corrective to the sometimes exploitative gaze that can characterise this genre. And this third series maintained that strong record (quick review of episodes 1 and 2 here)

A measure of the regard in which Unforgotten is held is the sheer quality of its cast. With James Fleet, Alex Jennings, Kevin McNally and Neil Morrissey as its lead quartet, it added Sasha Behar, Emma Fielding, Indra Ové and Amanda Root as their partners, and then threw in Siobhan Redmond and Sara Stewart as exes as well.  Continue reading “TV Review: Unforgotten Series 3”

TV Review: Man in an Orange Shirt

I end up a little disappointed after an excellent first half of Man in an Orange Shirt

“You didn’t think we could set up home together like man and wife?”

I wanted to love Man in an Orange Shirt , I really did. A BBC two-part mini-series from 2017, it was written by Patrick Gale using elements from his own family history. And featuring a cast that is both suitably impressive -James McArdle, Vanessa Redgrave – and pretty – newcomers to me Julian Morris and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.

The first half is by far the stronger. Set in the 1940s, old schoolmates Michael and Thomas find themselves stationed together in WWII Italy. An unexpected connection blooms between the pair and once war is over, Michael searches out Thomas and they spend a blissful weekend together. Only trouble is, Michael also has to eventually reunite with his fiancée too. Continue reading “TV Review: Man in an Orange Shirt”

CD Review: From Here To Eternity (2014 Live Cast Recording)

“All along knowing that no-one has returned to care”

Barely managing six months in the West End in 2013/4, I think it’s fair to say the musical adaptation of From Here to Eternity underwhelmed. And though I was reasonably fair to it at the time, I can’t say that it has aged well, upon returning the live cast recording that was made before the final curtain fell, blame seeming to fall evenly between composer Stuart Brayson, lyricist Tim Rice and book writer Bill Oakes. 
And with weaknesses on all sides like this, very much exposed in the medium of record, it’s not too hard to see why the show didn’t achieve anywhere near the levels of success it was aiming for. There’s so little sense of the main thrust of the story coming through, or indeed any of the strands put forward being sufficiently developed, to make you care about any of the relationships or the plight of the men. 
Oakes’ book moves inconsistently around all of them and Brayson’s score does little to provide any covering connective tissue. His musical influences pull from too broad a canvas to provide aural cohesion and far too few of the songs are focused on advancing narrative – the coupling of Warden and Karen (whose surf-soaked bodies provide the iconic image) are given hardly any musical time together, quite Darius Campbell and Rebecca Thornhill are meant to do to generate chemistry in solo numbers is beyond me. 
Robert Lonsdale and Siubhan Harrison as the other couple fare a little better but again, are more apart than together musically. What we’re left with is a grab-bag of tunes, barely scratching the surface of anything, least of all the men of G Company whose tragic fate ends up feeling like divine retribution for being horrific human beings. There’s undoubtedly some halfway striking musical moments – the startling melody of ‘Thirty Year Man’ provides real interest, Ryan Sampson’s sardonic ‘I Love The Army’ threatens to show some character but all in all, it’s little surprise we’ve gone from here to obscurity.

2014 BroadwayWorld UK Awards Shortlist

Best Choreography in a New Production of a Musical
Bob Avian & Geoffrey Garratt – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Peter Darling – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Gary Lloyd – 20th Century Boy – The Grand Wolverhampton
Ann Yea – Urinetown – St James

Best Costume Design in a New Production of a Play or Musical
Andreane Neofitou – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Rae Smith – The Light Princess – National Theatre
Soutra Gilmour – Urinetown – St James Theatre
David Shields – Sister Act – Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Best Direction of a New Production of a Musical
Laurence Connor – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Matt Ryan – Dogfight – Southwark Playhouse
Jamie Lloyd – Urinetown – St Jamess
Paul Kerryson – Chicago – Curve Leicester

Best Direction of a New production of a Play
Yael Farber – The Crucible – The Old Vic
Declan Donnellan – Shakespeare in Love – Noel Coward Theatre
Jamie Lloyd – Richard III – Trafalgar Studios
Daniel Evans – The Full Monty – Noel Coward

Best Featured Actor in a New Production of a Musical
Kwang-Ho Hong – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Hugh Maynard – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward, London
Matthew Barrow – Chicago – Curve Leicester
Adam Pearce – Urinetown – St. James Theatre

Best Featured Actor in a New Production of a Play
Adrian Schiller – The Crucible – Old Vic Theatre
David Oakes – Shakespeare In Love – Noel Coward Theatre
Bill Nighy – Skylight – Wyndhams
Andrew Scott – Birdland – Royal Court

Best Featured Actress in a New Production of a Musical
Rachelle Ann Go – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Rebecca Trehearn – Dogfight – Southwark Playhouse
Jenna Russell – Urinetown – St. James Theatre
Zizi Strallen – Hairspray – Leicester Curve

Best Featured Actress in a New Production of a Play
Samantha Colley – The Crucible – Old Vic
Angela Lansbury – Blithe Spirit – Gielgud
Anna Carteret – Shakespeare in Love – Noel Coward Theatre
Carey Mulligan – Skylight – Wyndhams

Best Leading Actor in a New Production of a Musical
Jon Jon Briones – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward, London
Richard Fleeshman – Urinetown – St. James Theatre
Jamie Muscato – Dogfight – Southwark Playhouse
Warren Sollars – 20th Century Boy – Wimbledon

Best Leading Actor in A New Production of a Play
Richard Armitage – The Crucible – Old Vic Theatre
Martin Freeman – Richard III – Trafalgar Studios
Daniel Radcliffe – Cripple of Inishmann – Noel coward
Tom Bateman – Shakespeare In Love – Noel Coward

Best Leading Actress in a New Production of a Musical
Eva Noblezada – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Rosalie Craig – The Light Princess – National Theatre
Lucie Mae Sumner – Avenue Q – UK Tour
Jodie Prenger – Calamity Jane – Watermill Theatre

Best Leading Actress in a New Production of a Play
Anna Madeley – The Crucible – Old Vic
Angela Lansbury – Blithe Spirit – Gielgud
Gillian Anderson – A Streetcar Named Desire – The Young Vic
Billie Piper – Great Britain – National Theatre

Best Lighting Design in a New Production of a Play or Musical
Charles Balfour – Richard III – Trafalgar Studio
Adam Silverman – Urinetown – St James Theatre
Paule Constable – The Light Princess – National Theatre
Grant Anderson – The Addams Family – Assembly Hall (Edinburgh)

Best Long-Running Show in the West End
Les Miserables – Queens Theatre
Wicked – Apollo Victoria
Phantom of the Opera – Her Majesty’s Theatre
Matilda – Cambridge Theatre

Best Musical Direction (Fringe or regional)
George Dyer – Dogfight – Southwark Playhouse
John Donovan – Singin’ In The Rain – UK Tour
Ben Atkinson – Chicago – Leicester Curve
Zach Flis/Joanne Ho – The Addams Family – Assembly Hall (Edinburgh)

Best Musical Direction (West End)
Alfonso Casado Trigo – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Richard John – Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – Savoy
Martin Lowe – The Light Princess – National Theatre
Alan Williams – Urinetown – St. James Theatre

Best New Musical in the West End
Urinetown – St James Theatre
I Can’t Sing! – London Palladium
The Light Princess – National Theatre
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – Savoy Theatre

Best New Play
Shakespeare In Love – Noel Coward Theatre
Let the Right One In – Apollo
1984 – Headlong/Almeida / Playhouse Theatre
Great Britain – National Theatre

Best New Production of a Musical (Fringe/Regions)
20th Century Boy – UK tour
Dogfight – Southwark Playhouse
Happy Days – UK tour
Sunny Afternoon – Hampstead Theatre

Best Performance in a Long-Running West End show
Carrie Hope Fletcher – Les Miserables – Queens Theatre
Gavin Creel – The Book of Mormon – Prince of Wales
Willemjin Verkaik – Wicked – Apollo Victoria Theatre
Rebecca Lock – Mamma Mia – Novello

Best Scenic Design in a New Production of a Play or Musical
Totie Driver, Matt Kinley & Adrian Vaux – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Soutra Gilmour – Richard III – Trafalgar Studios
Soutra Gilmour – Urinetown – St James Theatre
Rae Smith – The Light Princess – National Theatre

Best Sound Design in a New Production of a Play or Musical
Mick Potter – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Richard Hammarton – The Crucible – The Old Vic
Terry Jardine/Nick Lidster – Urinetown – St James Theatre
Tom Gibbons – 1984 – Headlong/Almeida/ Playhouse Theatre

Theatrical Event of the Year
West End Live – Trafalgar Square
50 Years on Stage (National Theatre) – Various Theatres
Les Mis V Phantom Charity Football Match – Bromley FC
Kerry Ellis’s return to Wicked – Apollo Victoria

Theatrical Venue of the Year
Southwark Playhouse
Donmar Warehouse
Leicester Curve Theatre
Edinburgh Playhouse

Understudy of the Year in any production of a Play or Musical
Carolyn Maitland – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre
Marc Antolin – From Here to Eternity – Shaftesbury
Emma Hatton – Wicked – Apollo Victoria theatre
Niall Sheehy – Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre

Re-review: From Here To Eternity, Shaftesbury

“I got the ‘ain’t where I wanna be’ blues”

Suffering the fate of a fair few musicals that have taken up residence in the slightly-too-out-of-the-way Shaftesbury Theatre, From Here To Eternity announced its early closing last year and since then the end has drawn even closer with the final date being moved from the end of April to 29th March. I wasn’t blown away by it on first viewing but I had thought I might be tempted to see it again to see how it stood up to repeated viewing and also to get another listen to Stuart Brayson’s naggingly persistent score. But to be honest, it didn’t really work out that well. 

A sadly small audience robbed the theatre of atmosphere despite the cast’s best efforts – it was however nice to see Marc Antolin doing well standing in for Ryan Sampson as Maggio – and there is no escaping the strange weighting of the show towards trying to make empathetic figures out of a largely objectionable group of people, especially in the racist, adulterous, misogynistic, homophobic bullying G Company.  Continue reading “Re-review: From Here To Eternity, Shaftesbury”

Review: From Here To Eternity, Shaftesbury Theatre

“Don’cha like Hawaii?”

From Here to Eternity marks the return of noted lyricist Tim Rice to the London stage with this new adaptation of this World War II story, probably best known in its film incarnation and its iconic shenanigans in the surf. This treatment harks back to the original novel to introduce darker elements to the story yet it has also been transformed into a traditional West End musical, which brings with it a certain style that doesn’t always sit too well together with the material.

Set in the adulterous, misogynistic, homophobic, racist and bullying atmosphere of the G Company barracks in Hawaii in the summer of 1941, Bill Oakes’ book – based on James Jones’ novel of his own experiences – has a strangely disjointed quality as it struggles to weave together its three main strands. First Sergeant Milt Warden is hot for his captain’s lascivious wife; new arrival Private Robert E Lee Prewitt is less concerned about joining the corps’ boxing team and falls in love with call girl Lorene instead; and Private Angelo Maggio spends his time ducking and diving, making a quick buck by fraternising with the island’s gay population. Continue reading “Review: From Here To Eternity, Shaftesbury Theatre”

Review: Kiss Me, Kate, Chichester Festival Theatre

“But when the thermometer goes right up, and the weather is sizzling hot…”

So confident in their run of successful summer musicals is Chichester Festival Theatre that the transfer for Kiss Me, Kate (it will play at co-producers London’s Old Vic from 20th November to 2nd March) was announced before it had even opened at its native theatre. But with experienced hands Trevor Nunn directing and Stephen Mears choreographing, Cole Porter’s ever-spry music and a cast headed up by leading light of the British musical theatre scene Hannah Waddingham, it was a reasonably safe bet.

And unsurprisingly, it is one that has paid off. The show follows a theatre company putting on a musical version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, where the feisty relationship between Petruchio and Katherine is echoed by the conflict between director and leading man Fred and his ex-wife Lilli who is playing opposite him. As the offstage drama threatens to overwhelm the onstage, some shenanigans from another member of the company in a gambling room throws matters further into disarray. Continue reading “Review: Kiss Me, Kate, Chichester Festival Theatre”