Category Archives: Drama

Class – full marks for this Who spin-off

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I think we can agree that 2016 has pretty much sucked – I feel like Frodo on the side of Mount Doom, unable to remember the taste of strawberries or mainstream politics that weren’t basically fascist – but here, at the end of all things (less than a fortnight before the US presidential election), comes an Eagle: Patrick Ness’s Doctor Who spin-off, Class.

Class takes us to a refurbished Coal Hill Academy, where time has been spread a little thin thanks to the Doctor’s frequent visits, and introduces us to four sixth-formers, Charlie, Ram, Tanya and Avril, and their teacher Miss Quill. It’s not long before galactic malcontents are slipping through the rift in time to cause more disruption than an Ofsted inspection…

To avoid anything even faintly spoilerish, I’m going to steer entirely clear of plot here – except to say the first three stories are all great. What I will say is that the writing is excellent. Geeky lampshading and jokes – check. Playing with audience expectations – check. Characters you’re rooting for after just five minutes – check. Proper LGBT representation – check… Look, basically this is everything I’ve wanted Doctor Who to be for the last few years, okay? (Well, apart from the copious blood-splatter. I’m not a monster.)

The cast are all superb, but especially watchable are Fady Elsayed, who picks out all the subtle layers of Ram Singh, and Vivian Oparah, whose acting has a similar thoughtfulness and intensity to Sophie Okenado’s.

Funny, scary and smart – this really is a class act. Head over to BBC Three and watch the first three episodes now.

Posted by Jo the Hat

 

 

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HIM: The lad with no name

james-murray-fionn-whitehead-katherine-kelly-himHIM is a “domestic horror drama,” for those who like their genres mixed.

HE is, at first sight, your average antisocial, slightly messed up, weed-smoking teenager, forever staring at his phone or shut away with his headphones on. I’m going to have to refer to HIM as HE, because for some reason the writer (Paula Milne) has decided not to give HIM a name. This makes interactions with HIS family somewhat tricky – have you ever heard a parent give a kid a good telling off without mentioning their name at least once?

The set up is that HE (Fionn Whitehead, who is excellent) is the son of divorced parents (James Murray and Katherine Kelly), who have both moved on, found new partners and produced new children. HE has found HIMself pushed out, particularly by HIS father (nobody plays an arrogant twonk quite as beautifully as James Murray, and he’s a surgeon in this one – Holby City casting people, please make a note), whose house is full of studio-produced photographs of his “new” family – a wife who would rather ignore the fact that her husband has another family, plus their son and twins on the way.  Continue reading

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Love, Nina: Don’t ever give her socks

love ninaBritish comedies with a central female character usually fall into two camps. If she is young, she must be impossibly cute and winsome; the main premise being her woeful love life, her quest to get hitched, or her attempts to have a baby. If she is older, it’s possibly all of the former, but more likely her status within her family, her juggling of her exceedingly busy life, or her illicit affair with Roger from Number 36. What drew me to the five-parter ‘Love, Nina’ was that it was less about her traditional role as female and more about a young person coming of age in London in the early eighties, working as a nanny for an eccentric family.

Faye Marsay was the titular heroine, a fairly under the radar actress, who will no doubt pop up more in the future. Cute, but not impossibly so, she captured that sense of gangling awkwardness of the just turned twenty but still feeling like a little girl and not quite knowing how to be grown-up. Padding barefoot between the supermarket, her yoga class and her almost-boyfriend Nunney’s house while trying to fathom her place in the brave new world she found herself in was captivating. She often puts her bare foot in it, frequently embarrassing herself, or acting thoughtlessly, but still very endearing.  Continue reading

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The Durrells: Corfu curiosities

by Maggie Gordon-Walker

imageI was in two minds as to whether to watch ‘The Durrells’. I read ‘My Family and Other Animals’ for the first time when I was about eleven and regard it as an exceptional work, parts of it still reduce me to helpless laughter. Like meeting your heroes, a misjudged adaptation can sour the original, especially if it’s on ITV, which recently gave us the mangled Dr Thorne.

Happily I can report this is not the case. I’ve not seen any of the other versions of it, but so far, this manages to capture both the spirit of the novel and the eccentricity of the family versus that of the islanders rather well. It follows the fortunes of the widowed Mrs Durrell and her four children as they flee a damp and depressing England to start a new life in Corfu in the 1930s. Larry, Leslie and Margo are young adults, Gerry, the narrator and author of the book, is the youngest and strikes terror into the hearts of his family by his fondness for bringing any number of living creatures  (rampant gulls, scorpions and tortoises) into the house as pets to be admired.  Continue reading

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Doctor Thorne: In My Side

By Maggie Gordon-Walker

doctor thorneHurrah, it’s olde worlde rural England. You can tell that from the font they’ve used for the titles. Ah yes, let’s settle down to a nice bit of light gossiping over the teacups – bloomin ‘eck! It’s all gone Midsomer Murders.

Ian McShane creeping about, looking sinister, wondering where all the antiques are, and then bumping someone off. Yes, brutally kills him, by, um, pushing him over. His victim doesn’t even bang his head. That’s a bit like lighting a match to a birthday cake and the whole thing going up in flames because someone’s secretly covered it in brandy. Unexpected. It certainly was for McShane who looked deeply puzzled that one push had proved fatal.

Phew, here we are in olde worlde England, a rural garden with some ladies and teacups. But, shield my eyes – the colours are so bright and garish they must have let a five year old with some Magic Markers loose on the film. It looks exactly like that Specsavers ident crossed with an Utterly Butterly ad. I couldn’t actually concentrate on what they were saying a) they were so OTT and b) I was wondering if a bee was going to alight on their floral headgear. But one of them was getting married and another one wasn’t going to be a bridesmaid. Continue reading

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War and Peace: Napoleon, the hotstepper

war and peace(Episodes 5 & 6) In the words of the great Mr Swayze; Nobody puts Napoleon in the corner. Contrary to my last report, he’s very far from calm and wants all of Russia for his plaything. The score for this drama has been wonderfully majestic and stirring, but I couldn’t help thinking of Ini Kamoze whenever Napoleon oiled his way onto the screen.
‘Here comes the French leader, Napoleon
He’s the ear-rubbing gangster, murderer
Splice all de men in de area, Napoleon
Or blow dem up like dat, murderer!’
He swaggers into the chandelier-laden glamping-style tent, flourishes his magnificent tassels and dulcetly informs hapless messenger Boris, ‘I am going to take your country.’ [Mr Bond] ‘But don’t worry, it’s not your fault.’ He will apparently be merciful to the Russians, he announces magnanimously, as if he’s doing them a favour.  Continue reading

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War and Peace: Pass the Ferrero Rocher

by Maggie Gordon-Walker

war and peaceHaving never had one of those debilitating, but not too painful, illnesses that confine you to your bed for a couple of weeks, there hasn’t been time to read the epic that is ‘War and Peace.’ Now perhaps there’s no need, having this jolly romp to keep me going. Everything looks gorgeous, the people, the houses, the countryside.

The first scene is a grand party, with beautiful creatures flitting to and fro. I can’t help a momentary snigger when they address each other in names that take half a minute to say, Alex PopDownToTheShopsonov, that sort of thing. Into this veritable Eden lurches an outsider. You can tell he is, because he’s wearing ordinary clothes, rather than looking as if he’s wrapped himself in ornamental brocade curtains like everybody else. Also, GASP, he doesn’t regard Napoleon as the devil incarnate. He bowls about, gesticulating madly, while the ladies titter in the background.  Continue reading

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