Monday, 30 August 2010

HR, Series Two (Monday mornings BBC Radio4)

I say he has been providing it ever since, but in the second series of Nigel Williams' radio comedy HR Nick le Prevost is sort of the straight-man, well, gay, but still the straighter-ish-man to Jonathan Pryce's insane Peter.
I found out about this second series earlier in the month, I am now friends with Nigel Williams. Tell that to the me who eighteen months ago reviewed series one and praised his writing, I'd have a field day. I did have a field day. I'm still there- in the field.
Anyway, no longer in the office, Peter and Sam are living together and still getting on each other's tits but still clearly meant to be. I adore how ridiculous this show is. But it's all startlingly real! That's what's most ridiculous, Peter- the character that Jonathan plays- is appalling, but he is my father! My dad would do and say all the appalling things Peter does and says. Fuck sake!
So far the two of them have lost a boiler and gained a dog. Next week I think they're going on holiday. You'll never be rid of me now, Nigel, I'm sending you my Christmas Special script!

Catweazle (1969-70)

I got a Catweazle boxset for my birthday. I've been asking for it these past three birthdays and Christmases and finally the family caved in... they didn't cave in so much to buy me the 40th Anniversary special boxset with commentaries, documentaries, reunions and postcards in it, no, they bought me the boxset with dutch subtitles and no extras. But never mind, when I'm rich and famous it's at the top of my list.
I've been asking for Catweazle for so long because I really enjoy The Ghosts of Motley Hall- written by Richard Carpenter after he wrote his more famous children's sitcom. I bought Tony Robinson's Maid Marian and her Merry Men complete series recently and they're as good as I remembered them. There are lots of shit kids' shows out there, everything except Sorry I've Got No Head actually, but in the past there have been some real crackers. Big Kids with Imogen Stubbs was a nice one and the recently cancelled Young Dracula was brilliantly written and acted- something rare these days what with the shortage of good child actors on British screens, don't get me started on how I despise that kid from Outnumbered who I predicted would be the new Just William and ruin it for another generation... Thank God for audio books.
So I finally got to see Catweazle. And it was wonderful. It was magical and it was funny and it was quite sad. Beautifully shot and acted, the boy was lovely and likable, the guest stars- Brian Wilde, Peter Sallis, Peter Butterworth, all brilliant. And weirdly, that first series shot in 1969, looked timeless. Farms still look like that, boys still look and dress like that!! I adored it.
Series two by comparison was disappointing. Aside from changing the dynamic of the show- in the first series Catweazle just didn't understand anything and every episode was him being freaked out by modern times, in the second he knew about everything and had a mission, so you automatically knew what to expect from every episode- aside from the way it had somehow lost all it's sadness and soul by becoming almost slapstick, the main problem for me was the boy.
You cannot expect an audience to relate to- or like!- a snobby squirt who tells Catweazle he's too busy for magic in every episode and lives in a gigantic manor house, perfectly content. He was hateful from the get-go! Carrot was a slightly downtrodden yet permanently cheerful and interested farmboy! Owlface was a fucking twonk. I hated his specky gob and I wanted to punch him.
The final episode of the second series almost recaptured the poignancy of the first series when Catweazle at last gets his greatest wish and flies off into the sunset in his hot air balloon, I say almost, it would have done if the camera hadn't panned back to Milhouse's stupid smug face! Argh!!
Anyway, Carpenter obviously learned his lesson by the time he wrote and cast The Ghosts of Motley Hall, the boy in that was a lovely, eager to help, poor, dead stableboy. Freddie Jones played a brilliantly mad character similar to the one that Peter Butterworth played in the first series of Catweazle (not the part he played in the second- that was a waste of Butterworth), Sheila Staefel was a really strong and funny female character (there were none of these in Catweazle), Arthur English provided the soul and the same relationship that Catweazle and Carrot had with Matt the Stableboy, and because we needed some sort of fool, a young Nicholas le Prevost provided drunken comic relief and has been providing it ever since.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Pete Versus Life (Channel 4)

Rafe Spall is ace. The concept for the show is sort of a good idea but it's done on the cheap and doesn't work so well for me, but cut out all the crap and Rafe's acting makes this comedy gold. Not as bad as Vexed. Which I actually like. So there you go.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Danton's Death by Georg Büchner (National Theatre)

Tobes was his usual handsome, charming, brutish self as Danton but the real stand out performance was creepy, calculating, repressed Elliot Levey as Robespierre. Man, he was horrifyingly cold!! He even got booed at the end when the actors took their bows, which luckily he found quite amusing.
Great production- terrifyingly real guillotining at the end!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2010

I'll whiz through these because (on a Toby Stephens kick) Anna and I are off to London for the day tomorrow to see Danton's Death at the Nation Theatre. Last week I saw five Fringe shows, they were all good, but very different, which is what you want when you're seeing five shows in three days! First up was Flanders and Swann tribute act Flanders and Swann. They managed to cram about fifteen classic songs into an hour and a lot of good and sweaty banter too- man, it was hot in that sauna. In the evening I saw my pals DBS Productions do their sketch show A Brief History of Scotland, We Done Loads, for what seemed like the tenth time, but is probably around the eighth. It was the best I've ever seen though, some hot new actors in their company and some excellent new scenes to accompany that talent!
Jimeoin was a standup I'd never seen before- always a gamble seeing someone you don't know- especially on your birthday- but he was great, dry and Irish, just what you want. The next day however I went back to stand-ups that I know I like and saw a legendary recording of internet-podcast AIOTM (aiotm!), Richard Herring is one of my faves, all three podcasts I listen to star him. It was weird being able to see him as well as hear him (small, in't he?). Enjoyed the rest of the gang too, TV's Emma Kennedy, Christian Riley (great song about Scottish girls) and favourite Dan Tetsell, oh, and both Andrew Collins and Tiny Andrew Collins.
In fact I was thrilled later when on the way to see favourite stand-up Jon Richardson do his current show Don't Happy, Be Worry, I saw Andrew Collins again just standing having a drink "Andrew Collins! Film Editor of the Radio Times! That's my favourite publication!!"
Jon's show was fantastic, he never disappoints. I'm glad he's on his way up, I've seen his last four Fringe shows, I miss his podcasts. He's a very clever and mildly-angry young man.

Vexed (BBC1 Sundays)

So after Sherlock- which was really well done in every respect- comes another three episodes of something new from the BBC, why, it's Toby Stephens in a police comedy show!
Such lazy writing!! They never once go anywhere near a police station never mind another member of the force! Forget a backstory, these two are detectives on a case, you got it? And look here's Rory Kinnear doing what he does best, eating eggs.
The jokes are offensive and not very funny but there are lots of them and somehow, maybe it's Tobes' charm, it's really quite enjoyable! It's because it doesn't switch, the writers have decided it is half-arsed, and it's consistently half-arsed, there's no sudden plot, it is just cheap and funny shite. Great stuff.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound and Sheridan's The Critic (Double Bill at Chichester Festival Theatre)

When I was seventeen I was almost in a production of The Real Inspector Hound, we rehearsed it and had a good time and it was the first play I'd been in since I was about five, but in the end it was cancelled because the school decided to go with another play and a less giggly bunch of actors. I have to admit that we were shite, me especially as I'd never kissed anyone and my character had to make out with two of my teenage friends in the play so I was a bit inhibited when those scenes came along. When I sat watching Chichester's current production and watched actors Joe Dixon and then Nicholas le Prevost make out with the character I had almost played I thought; now there's a couple of people I wouldn't have a problem with.
At Chichester this summer there's lots going on, Rupert Everett is in Pygmailion, there's a stage version of Yes Minister with David Haig, 42nd Street is the big musical and over from the main building at the smaller Minerva Theatre there is a double bill of one-act plays both along the theme of plays within a play- and their critics.
The Real Inspector Hound was acted exactly the way I had imagined when I read it at school, it was ridiculous, campy, silly and just brilliant fun. The Critic was a little longer than Hound and I think was much better, strangely spot-on despite being written so long ago and it was riotously funny. I wasn't drunk but I hadn't laughed that much in years, I laughed so much that I was actually in pain.
Both plays were wonderfully staged with beautiful costumes- especially in The Critic, I do like the old powdered wigs etc. everyone looked so beautiful while they were being so stupid! Excellent direction, brilliant physical comedy from all the actors. Yes, it is of course the combination of sharp writing, clever direction and excellent ensemble that made these plays really shine. Joe Dixon, who I saw two years ago in the RSC's A Midsummer Night's Dream was brilliantly OTT in both plays, I was pleased I got to tell him afterwards that he had really made that Shakespeare because he was really really excellent as Bottom. I also met Sean Foley who was just as good in these two! I really love silly. I think that would be the best word for the sort of acting I appreciate. Nick le Prevost, of course, was super silly but he disguises it well by being completely natural throughout the farce, this is very good acting- but I also know that maybe he's a bit of a cheat because he's naturally a very silly man in real life -which is why I adore him. Una Stubbs cracked me up constantly in both plays and the two girls; Hermione Gulliford and Sophie Bould were so sweet, but not sickeningly so- only in a very silly way!
Yes, it hasn't been a very critical review, but I'm not a critic, this is my diary so I can remember what plays I've seen and why I loved them. I don't think I've enjoyed myself at a comedy play so much for years, I actually can't remember the last time I laughed so much. The sight of Nick dangling from the rafters hanging off a giant globe while screaming was a brilliant high to end on, and if they'd have left him up there and I hadn't got to tell him how much I enjoyed it afterwards I don't think I would have minded too much, it was perfection.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Inception (2010)

Best film I've seen for AGES!
Looked amazing, brilliant intelligent script, wonderful ensemble! No shortage of eye-candy either, god I love Tom Hardy.
I want to OWN it!

Russell Crowe's Robin Hood (2010)

So just what was Robin Hood trying to steal from the rich and give to the poor in this appallingly American rewrite of the legend Britain's best loved crim? Liberty?!
I have been watching a lot of Tony Robinson's Maid Marian and her Merry Men (1989-94) lately and I have to say that as a spoof and a children's show even MM was a better telling of the story than the drivel I sat through tonight! In Ridley Scott's RH Russell Crowe leads an army into battle with France on the shores of England. He never EVER steals anything from the rich and gives to the poor- he steals some grain from the church and gives it to the relatively wealthy bird that he fancies. NOTHING else.
The production design was awful, AWFUL. What the hell did they base the look of it on?! It was all wrong. Bad script, bad look, bad casting. Yeah, half the time- no wait, I'm being kind, MOST of the time I didn't have a clue what Russell Crowe was saying, I had no idea what his accent was supposed to be, Scouser, Geordie, Yorkshire, Irish?! What?!
I was angry that Guy of Gisborne never turned up, I was even angrier that the Sheriff of Nottingham had about three minutes screen time- especially as Matthew MacFadyen seemed to be the only one in the film not taking it so effing seriously! He must have signed up and thought "Yeah! Sheriff of Nottingham! That's a brill role! The bad guy, yeah?" Only to find that Mark Strong was the bad guy Godfrey of Basingstoke! He must have got his script and said: "Well eff this, if Alan Rickman can camp it up to fuck then so can I!" And he was extremely campy while everyone else mumbled their lines like it was a serious piece of history.
Yes, I enjoyed the Sheriff's cameo but I spent most of the film (trying to find something to enjoy) deliriously lusting over Mark Strong. The thing I usually like about Mark Strong is his ill-fitting wigs, they change from film to film, but in this, without the ridiculous syrup as sported in Sherlock Holmes, I could really appreciate just how perfect his face is. Pity he got that badly made scar right at the beginning of the film. Boo!