Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: Review

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher is ITVs cosy Sunday night drama for this week. I say cosy because this production was based on an infamous Victorian murder case, notorious for the brutality in which a three year old boy was killed, yet people of a sensitive disposition need not worry, audiences are well and truly guarded from the gruesome details.

Adapted from the best-selling non- fiction book by Kate Summerscale, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher opens in 1860 and follows the murder investigation of Saville Kent from the point of view of detective inspector Jack Whicher, Paddy Considine. It quickly begins to look like an inside job at Road Hill House, but getting evidence to back up his suspicions is what becomes the drive of the narrative. Whicher is eaten up with frustration at the case, which is helped in no way by the local Superintendent Foley, Tom Georgeson, who seems determinedly apt in miss-direction.

Inevitably Mr Whicher’s frustrations transcend to the viewer, as they are never treated to any extra reveal, which so frequently occurs in detective dramas. Instead, being limited to Whicher’s point of view, whose only real confidence is in his knowledge of the criminal mind and its motives, it becomes tragically apparent how much guesswork and simple self-belief was involved in the criminal justice system in the 1800s.

Paddy Considine’s sincere and textured performance was very accomplished; without it the drama could have been left quite dry. And the eventual culprit (or culprits depending which way you want to look at it) pulled off the feigning of their innocence so well that, although it was clear they were guilty, I was left unconvinced of their capabilities of cold-blooded murder. As a result, this dramatization of a real-life case felt more like a soft, inoffensive fiction.

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher does build up tension and mystery well and is an exciting whodunit, with enough ‘suspicions’ still left over at the end, rather than proof, that will keep you guessing about what really happened in the murder at Road Hill House for a long time afterwards.

To catch-up please click here.

This review is also featured at Step2InspireTV.

Monday, 18 April 2011

TV News - ITV to Bring Titanic to our Screens

ITV are set to bring back Titanic as an epic new TV drama.
Written by Jullian Fellows of Downton Abbey fame, the production is being made to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of the disastrous sinking of the Titanic in 1912.
Quinn Taylor of ABC Network said: “The tragic tale of the Titanic has retained a powerful hold on people around the world for almost 100 years, and this new miniseries will offer a compelling take on this epic, tragic story."
Set to jump on board is a whole host of British talent, including BAFTA award winning producer Nigel Stafford Clark (Bleak House), actress Sophie Winkleman (Peep Show) and actor Stephen Campbell Moore (Ashes to Ashes).
The drama will feature both fictional and historical characters, from steerage to the upper classes, whose lives will interweave in mystery and romantic plot lines.
Viewers are warned not to expect a happy ending, after all this is the ill-fated story of the Titanic and death is an inevitable conclusion for some characters.
Filming for the four hour long episodes is set to begin in Hungary at the end of April.
What are your thoughts? Do we really need another dramatisation of Titanic? How might this one be any different? Can the romance ever live up to Leo and Kate's?
(You can also read/reply to this discussion on Step2InspireTV here)

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Crimson Petal and the White Part 1: Review

The much-anticipated Crimson Petal and the White is the latest BBC period drama to hit our screens - surprisingly not on a Sunday night, which is the usual slot for these Victorian affairs. Presumably this is testament to the content, which, instead of focusing on the cosy upper classes, has the grim life of a prostitute take centre stage. Its weeknight slot suggests the audience appeal is slightly different to that of your typical period drama.

The Crimson Petal and the White was adapted from Michel Faber’s 2002 bestseller. Upon researching the unbelievably vast scale of prostitution in Victorian England, Faber set out to reflect its true realism using “the riches of Victorian prose without any of the usual artificiality costume drama.” This same vision is clearly what writer Lucinda Coxon and director Marc Munden have attempted to re-create on screen.

Set in the desolate streets of St Giles, London, where poverty and starvation is ripe, Mrs Castaway’s whorehouse is the prime-place for business. Played by Gillian Anderson, Mrs Castaway is a dishevelled character akin to the likes found in the pages of Dickens. Her star attraction is Sugar, Romola Garai, who has a reputation as a girl who “never disappoints”. Self taught to read and write, she is an intelligent and driven individual, who finds solace in writing a sadistic novel in which she seeks revenge on “every pompous trembling worm who taps at Mrs Castaway’s door”.

In pursuit of Sugar is William Rackham, Chris O'Dowd, a failing writer and businessman. Fragile and disturbed, his wife Agnes, played superbly by Amanda Hale, is bedridden. Although all is not as it seems as you quickly discover that she is a victim of the abusive Dr Curlew, Richard E Grant.

If Sugar is the crimson petal then Agnes is the white. Both suffer at the hands of men in a misogynistic world. Agnes has money, is devoutly religious, and is sexually prudent, Sugar is poor, sells her body for money, and is sexually adept. However, it is clear that female submission to men transcends across the classes and in Victorian England men remain powerful and have the free reign to exploit it.

Thankfully The Crimson Petal and the White firmly portrays the grim reality of prostitution without unnecessarily sensationalising it for those who tuned in to see a good romp. The audience is forced to watch it from Sugar’s perspective, often through an extreme close-up on her hollow face. She takes no pleasure from the indignity she has to endure: her body is being used and she has no choice but to let it be.

Like with the majority of BBC period dramas The Crimson Petal and the White is of a high standard. And, as with most great dramas, I was gripped enough that when the episode ended I just wanted it to continue.

To catch up on this episode please click here.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The London Comedy Writer's Festival 2011

I was stunned and completely honoured
when I was told I had been picked from a large number of people to be one of two reporters for the London Comedy Writers Festival 2011. Thank you to Step2InspireTV for this wonderful opportunity.

Excerpt: Griff Rhys Jones kicked off proceedings as keynote speaker at The London Comedy Writer’s Festival 2011, which was hosted by the London School of Film, Media and Performance at Regent’s college.

The Festival took place over two days. The first an intense day of seminars dedicated to informing and educating people in the world of comedy writing, and the second an informal networking day, mixed with workshops and seminars that people could attend at their leisure.

here to read on at Step2InspireTV.
here for important tips and advice for aspiring comedy writers.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Women in Love Part 2: Review

After the gripping first part of Women In Love, which followed sisters Ursula and Gudrun (Rachael Stirling and Rosamund Pike) in their quest for sexual freedom at the turn of the 20th-century, I expected to see much of the same fearless strong women, mixed with agonizing heartbreak, in part two.

However, what detracted from that acute achievement in part one was the fact that the melodrama in part two had been amplified ten fold.

Not having read D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love and The Rainbow, from which the drama was adapted, I am not here to suggest that noticeably intensified melodrama was the wrong way to go. Like with all adaptations it is difficult to know what to stay faithful to from the original material and hyperbolic melodrama could have been precisely scriptwriter, William Ivory’s, interpretation and aims for the text.

Here it’s post war, Ursula runs her own schoolhouse and Gudrun has moved back home because she’s ‘bored’ with London (although one suspects it’s more to do with her social decline). Ursula manages to form a special relationship with Rupert (Rory Kinnear), who is secretly homosexual and Gudrun forms a special relationship with Gerald (Joseph Mawle), who is a serial womaniser.

The dialogue between Ursula and Rupert is beautifully lyrical, expressing with such dignity their feelings for one another. Ursula recognises that Rupert does not have sexual feelings towards her and wonders if ‘love needs sex?’ Their relationship is an example of two people giving each other as much of themselves as they can, not because they are burning with passion, but because being together holds greater happiness than suffering lonely discontent.

For a modern audience Rupert’s homosexuality is neither a shock nor a taboo. Yet watching his attempt to explain the type of love he does feel towards Ursula, when he is unable to say why, highlights just how trapped he is and how frustrating it must be that he will never be able to fully become his true self.

In complete contrast Gudrun and Gerald are instantly and passionately in love. However, that true love self-destructs, as they are both too scared to surrender to it. Gudrun pushes Gerald away believing that he could never stay faithful to her and Gerald, possibly because he thinks so poorly of himself, accepts this as the unfortunate, defacing, truth.

My frustration comes at how needlessly complicated their relationship becomes. I appreciate the poetics of dying for love and see the importance of experiencing real raw emotion, but until this point Women In Love had set its borders within the realms of realism, only to then stray into surrealism. I found this detaching, as I was suddenly unable to empathise with the characters as before.

Having said that, the message was not lost. William Ivory wrote of Women In Love “every lifestyle show on TV, every aspirational blog, all speak to me of a world in which the individual is desperately trying to locate themselves; to find their proper place: the place where they will feel truly engaged”. Ursula and Gudrun are also seeking to find this place, never sure if it lies in passionless love or loveless passion. Issues of the heart are universally timeless: should you settle for a love that’s safe, or do you hold out for unstable passion… even if it never comes?

Click here to watch part 2 of Women In Love.