Wednesday, March 21, 2018

'Macbeth' by William Shakespeare

21 March 2018

We last saw Christopher Eccleston on stage (alongside Jodie Whittaker) in Polly Findlay’s production of ‘Antigone’ at the National Theatre in London (reviewed here in June 2012). As I wrote here, Eccleston was excellent as King Creon, giving a subtle and clever performance, turning his mood on a sixpence and discovering moments of humour amongst the angst of classical Greek tragedy, without resorting to sending it up. So I was fascinated to see what he made of another classical king, working with the same director on the new Royal Shakespeare Company production of ‘Macbeth’ which we saw in Stratford-upon-Avon on Tuesday. Christopher Eccleston was impressive again – a mixture of steely intensity and capricious mood swings, conveying much about the character’s inner turmoil through his movement and body shape. There was some great acting but otherwise I found Polly Findlay’s production strangely flat. The three young girls playing the witches were great – their synchronised speech perfectly co-ordinated – but cute rather than sinister. The idea of the witches reminding the Macbeths of their lost children was clever but its realisation wasn’t scary enough. Michael Hodgson’s ever-present Porter – a seedy janitor keeping an eye on the events of the play and chalking a body-count tally on the wall – was amusing but slightly out of kilter with the rest of the production. But Edward Bennett stood out as an excellent Macduff – an exasperated rational grown-up stranded amid a group of over-reacting adolescents. And Niamh Cusack stole the show as Lady Macbeth, giving a brilliantly physical performance with every muscle of her body betraying her thought processes.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 16, 2018

'The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Hexagonal Phase' by Dirk Maggs

16 March 2018

Long time readers with good memories may recall me writing here in October 2009 about the 30th anniversary of the original radio broadcast of Douglas Adams’ 'The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy' (which was to be marked by the publication of an authorised Hitch Hiker sequel by Eoin Colfer). Now, nearly nine years later, the BBC is marking the 40th anniversary (well time is a funny thing!) with a new series on BBC Radio 4. 'The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Hexagonal Phase' (broadcast on Thursdays at 6.30 pm) is written and directed by Dirk Maggs and based on ‘And Another Thing...’ by Eoin Colfer – the sixth book in the famous Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy – with additional unpublished material by Douglas Adams. It’s a real treat for us HHGG fans, with the remaining members of the original cast reunited for another surreal journey through space and time. But for the uninitiated this is probably not the best place to start. 'The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy' has become increasingly self-reverential: although a convoluted explanation is provided for why there are now two Trillians, it is no secret that this is merely an excuse for involving both Susan Sheridan and Sandra Dickinson who respectively played Trillian in the original radio series and the 1981 TV adaptation. There are also some poignant tributes to those actors who are no longer available to reprise their roles: in the first episode of the new series we hear The Book explaining the concept of the Babel Fish in the voices of Peter Jones (from the original radio series), Stephen Fry (from the film) and John Lloyd (who co-wrote some of the original series with Douglas Adams). Jim Broadbent does a good job of filling the aching aluminium feet of Stephen Moore’s Marvin the Paranoid Android. And there is an added poignancy now to the appearance of the late Stephen Hawking as The Guide Mark II. See:

Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 08, 2018

'Mum' by Stefan Golaszewski

8 March 2018

I am delighted to have belatedly discovered Stefan Golaszewski’s brilliant BBC Two sitcom, ‘Mum’. The second series is currently being broadcast but series one is still available to watch on BBC iPlayer, see: ‘Mum’ is a beautifully written, wonderfully acted, painfully poignant, incredibly funny show. Lesley Manville plays Cathy, recently widowed and surrounded by friends and family ostensibly trying to support her through her grief but clearly more in need of her support themselves. Peter Mullan is Michael – the old family friend who is desperately in love with Cathy but achingly unable to make the first move. Cathy and Michael are surrounded by a cast of ridiculously self-centred and annoying characters who Stefan Golaszewski somehow manages to make sympathetic. Lisa McGrillis is wonderful as Kelly – Cathy’s son’s dim but well-meaning girlfriend. And I loved Cathy’s foul-mouthed aged in-laws, played by Karl Johnson and Marlene Sidaway. ‘Mum’ is quite an old-fashioned sitcom: the action never moves away from Cathy’s house and garden. It has a similar gentle subtlety to Mackenzie Crook’s ‘Detectorists’ as well as the sad smiling feel of a Mike Leigh film. Highly recommended.

Labels: , ,