Television Nostalgia – Television’s finest partnership – My favourite Mulder & Scully moments in The X-Files

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With the possibility of a return for Agents Mulder and Scully on television, which I certainly hope is true, I’ve recently revisited some of my favourite episodes of this brilliant series. As my favourite television show since I first watched it aged 12, I’ve always found myself returning to my favourite episodes at times when life gets a bit tough and you need something familiar to calm you and provide that escapism that a trusty show or a beloved book manage to provide.

So, in need of some escapism from real life and following all this exciting speculation, I’ve been looking back at the moments of the series between Fox Mulder and Dana Scully that I’ve never forgotten. Watching the show, I was always quite envious of their friendship, which is one that is so strong and immutable. No matter what happened, or what traumas or tragedies they each faced, they always knew that the other would be there for them, to provide that unwavering support. It’s what sets them apart for me, as the best partnership on television – yes they were destined to be together, but it was always the uniquely close friendship that I loved. There are so many wonderful moments between them over the series, but these are my favourite.

1. Mulder visits Scully’s bedside (One Breath)

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This scene from my favourite episode of the series has always been a memorable one. Scully’s abduction was quite a shocking plotline at the time and her return in such a seemingly hopeless condition allowed the writers to create some very emotional moments for David Duchovny. Mulder spends the episode consumed with fighting to find out what’s happened to his friend, when really all he really needs to do is to sit with her. This scene in which he visits her in hospital and tells her he’s there for her is wonderfully acted and highlighted how important to him Scully had become and is then followed by the touching scene in which Mulder breaks down in his apartment as all seems utterly beyond hope. This story arc may have been unplanned until Gillian’s pregnancy, but I’m so pleased the writers made these brave choices so early, as Scully’s abduction became such a hugely vital part of the series.

2. Mulder teaches Scully to play baseball (The Unnatural)

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Image from: Fanpop.com

In David Duchovny’s writing and directorial debut for the series, we get to see a lighter and more fun side to Mulder and Scully here. After a rather unusual story about the joys of baseball, we see Mulder teach a sceptical Scully how to play, something which she actually finds she enjoys. It’s a sweet, tender moment between the two, as they inch ever nearer to being more than just friends. It’s also one of the more lighthearted endings to an X-Files episode and always makes me smile.

3. The hallway scene (Momento Mori)

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I seem to enjoy the emotionally charged hospital scenes in the series and this incredibly moving moment from series four’s Momento Mori is one of the best moments between Mulder and Scully for me and encompasses so much of what makes their bond special and the series so successful. Gillian Anderson deservedly won an [Emmy] for her work this year, which centred on Scully’s battle with cancer and she is truly brilliant in this episode, conveying all the anger, fear and emotion that must go through you if you have to experience something so frightening. This moment in the hospital, in which Mulder waits outside Penny Northern’s room, knowing his friend will need him there, even if she probably wouldn’t have asked him, is so beautifully written and acted. Scully is determined to fight and Mulder makes it clear he will be by her side every step of the way. Depending on my mood I can get quite teary-eyed watching this scene.

4. Chatting while “stranded” on a rock (Quagmire)

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Quagmire is such a wonderful little episode in which a Loch Ness-style sea monster may or may not exist in America, Scully’s beloved dog (although not loved by Mulder) meets a tragic end and Mulder and Scully end up “marooned” on a rock after their boat sinks in the middle of the night. It’s a rare chance for them to talk about topics other than work and in that respect is quite a refreshing scene. I love how Scully is surprised and impressed by his knowledge of Moby Dick and his joke about her losing weight, which she soon realises is less of a compliment than she first thought is very amusing. David and Gillian are both fantastic at comedy and it’s nice that every so often they had the opportunity to play scenes like this one, in between the more serious myth-arcs.

5. Scully falls asleep on Mulder’s couch (All things)

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A more romantically slanted moment here from the first script written and directed by Gillian Anderson, which also seemingly finally signposts the turn in their relationship from friends to lovers. Scully has been on quite an emotional journey over the course of this episode and it’s Mulder who is there for her when she needs him most. This moment, as she falls asleep on his couch and his obvious love and affection for her is so genuinely lovely and perfectly played by both actors.

6. Scully breaks down (Irresistible)

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Series two remains my favourite of the series (with series four a close second) and it contained some truly brilliant episodes, including this chilling story of Donnie Pfaster, the death fetishist. It’s one of the first times we see Scully in peril and how much Mulder is effected by it. It’s also a crucial turning point in their friendship, as it’s here where Scully lets herself break down in front of him for the first time and allow him to comfort her when she needs it the most.

7. Celebrating Scully’s birthday (Tempus Fugit)

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Image credit: Sadie_Carter on LiveJournal

The main story of this series four two-parter may have been rather tough, dealing with the aftermath of a plane crash and the death of Max Fenig, last seen in series one’s Fallen Angel, but it did contain this lovely scene. Mulder and Scully haven’t been seen much by this point doing everyday activities and their birthdays haven’t been mentioned in any significant way. That perhaps makes this scene, in which Mulder surprises / embarrasses Scully on her birthday with a sparkling dessert and gift, all the more special. These moments don’t come around too often so they are even more of a treat to watch when they do. I also always loved the gesture behind the gift – it may only be a cheap keychain, but Mulder’s reason for giving it to her, is so lovely (whether he admits it or not)!

8. Mulder visits a sleeping Scully (Redux II)

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Back to the hospitals and angst galore for moment number eight, in which Scully’s battle with her illness seems to be one she cannot win. As hidden enemies and uncertain allies gather around Mulder, swaying him to choose a path that he may not necessarily want, while facing the unimaginable reality of losing the closest person in his life, he comes to seek comfort and solace at the only place he can – Scully’s bedside. Watching him watch her sleep, you can almost read his thoughts as he tries to imagine her no longer being in his life and seeing him silently crumble is incredibly moving and beautifully acted by David Duchovny. It certainly tugs at my heartstrings whenever I watch it.

9. “You were my constant” (The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati)

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The opening episodes to series six aren’t one of my favourite stories. However it was lovely to see Mulder and Scully reaffirm their support and affection for each other in this scene, with Mulder admitting that when his world was falling apart, through everything, it is Scully that has been his “constant, his touchstone”, to which she replies that he is hers. As if every fan of the show didn’t know that already!

10. “Maybe there’s hope” (The Truth)

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I watched the last episode of the series with a heavy heart in 2002. I’m still not really satisfied with The Truth as a climax and I certainly hope that any revival will bring further closure than this trial-centred episode tried to do. However, the heart of the series was always the chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson and even stories I am less keen on often contain moments that I love and despite what went before, this scene in a dark motel room, echoing the scene in the very first episode, is a genuinely wonderful moment. It honours the past and all they have been through together, while laying the foundations for the future – one in which hope is their shining light.

11. The dancing (Post Modern Prometheus)

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Image credit: GillyDreamer78 via XFilesUniverse.com

The fact that Mulder and Scully’s relationship remained platonic for so long only heightened fans excitement when there was even the slightest possibility of something more and one of these moments is when Mulder asks Scully to dance with him to Cher’s Walking In Memphis. Post Modern Prometheus is a totally unique episode, which has a special charm and this is a wonderful way to end it. It’s another hopeful, happy scene, in which we see the less serious side of these two characters and it being in black and white lends it an added air of old fashioned romance.

12. Their last scene (so far…!) (I Want To Believe)

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I was rather disappointed by the second X-Files film. After looking forward to it for so long and having such high hopes, the story of body swapping Frankenstein-like science was a bit of a let down. However, despite the plot’s weaknesses, it was still utterly fantastic to have Mulder and Scully back on the screen and David and Gillian certainly hadn’t let years away from these iconic roles lessen their chemistry. It’s a rocky path through this film for them and by the end I had my fingers crossed for something positive and hopeful to finish with and this lovely scene didn’t disappoint. Perfectly acted, shot and with a gorgeous piece of score by Mark Snow it makes the film worth watching for me.

13. Lost in the woods (Detour)

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After the trauma and emotion of the Redux opener, it was nice to have our favourite FBI agents back out on an X-File, albeit one they happen to stumble in to. I’ve always liked Detour. Mulder’s distain for team building and wine and cheese receptions is very funny and there’s lots of opportunity to have Mulder and Scully back in the field again. It’s the scene in the woods though that makes my list of favourite moments. Despite the danger of their situation, it’s light and funny, as let’s face it by this point they’ve already faced so much anyway, what’s a potentially deadly creature in the woods going to do! It’s also more flirty, which was always entertaining to watch – shame it didn’t rain sleeping bags!

14. “Nobody down here but the FBI’s most unwanted.” (Pilot)

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The first meeting of Mulder and Scully had to be on this list and it’s such a great scene. Mulder playfully pushes her buttons, testing the type of person she is and seeing that Scully is a strong, intelligent and independent woman, who will not be intimidated by his tactics. It’s also fizzing with chemistry, which David and Gillian had from the very beginning and you sense that this is going to be something special. It makes me nostalgic every time I watch it.

15. The (in)famous hallway scene (The X-Files: Fight The Future)

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I will always remember the first time I watched this scene. It was at a preview screening of the film, in a cinema filled with X-Philes and at this moment the loud shouting was mad! Half the cinema screaming “Do it!” and the other half screaming “No!” – I’ve never experienced anything like it in a cinema since! Let’s face it this was a huge moment for the series and the characters and speculation as to whether they would finally get together was rife by the time the film opened. It’s a brilliantly created scene by Chris Carter and his team, building the anticipation up, only to dash it at the last moment due to a bee! It was exactly the right choice. As much as I wanted to see these two finally admit their feelings, there was always something special about their friendship that I didn’t want to see change.

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So those are my favourite 15 Mulder and Scully moments. It was certainly difficult to keep myself to just 15 and on a different day the list may also have included either of their reflections on the office scene in Bad Blood, Mulder meeting Emily Sim at the children’s home, Scully threatening Mulder in Wetwired, Mulder arriving at the Senate subcommittee hearing in Terma, their farewell moment in Dreamland II when they think they will never meet again and the Russian roulette scene from Pusher. I’d love to hear which moments other fans love. It’s also thrilling to think what new moments we might be enjoying if the revival really does happen! All my fingers are certainly crossed!

Theatre review – Farinelli & The King at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Mark Rylance Mark Rylance burst to my attention in the acclaimed Jerusalem, as Johnny Rooster Byron, a play, character and performance I will almost certainly never forget. From that point on, I was determined to never miss him on stage in the future and had been sticking to this resolution very well over the last four years (which have seen him in the quirky La Bete, as well as reviving his Richard III and Twelfth Night at the Globe). Currently gaining a wider audience through his excellent portrayal of Thomas Cromwell in the BBC’s Wolf Hall, I was therefore thrilled to hear he was to perform at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the indoor theatre at the Globe, which celebrated its first birthday last month. As the man who ran the Globe for a decade, it seemed right that he tread the boards of its newest stage and thanks to a friend having spare tickets, I was able to see him this weekend.

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Iestyn Davies (front) and Sam Crane, both as Farinelli

Farinelli & The King is based on true events during the reign of King Philippe V of Spain, who suffered from what we would today diagnose as depression. As his advisers grew concerned as to his ability to lead the country and take whatever military action may become necessary, the Queen resorted to a rather unique and radical idea to try and restore her husband to health. She brought Farinelli, regarded as the greatest castrato (yes that does horribly refer to what you are thinking) in the world to the Spanish court. He is 32, famous and growing in success, with the world at his feet and yet he is being asked to step away to become one of the closest members of the King’s circle, as his incredibly unique voice brings a peace and happiness in to the ruler’s life. It sounds fictional, but historical accounts confirm that this did indeed happen. A composer herself, here writing her first play, what Claire van Kampen’s new play does brilliantly is ask us to wonder at what that relationship must have been like between them, what they must have talked about and how such a bond may have developed. The play, although set in the 1730s, is very modern in terms of language (there’s plenty of swearing from Rylance), as well as being very witty, as well as touching. Rylance is wonderful as King Philippe, conveying his deep melancholy, anger, playfulness and naughty sense of humour all brilliantly. I always feel Rylance gives a part of himself to the character in order to inhabit him and I certainly felt that again watching this production.

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Melody Grove as Queen Isabelle

Sam Crane is very good as Farinelli, the young man whose loyalty to his King and Queen is very genuine and Melody Grove plays Queen Isabelle with a convincing strength and determination. I had been curious to see how the production would include Farinelli’s singing and this too was done superbly, with counter tenor Iestyn Davies appearing on stage with Crane, in the same costume, to sing at certain moments the arias which King Philippe heard all those years ago. This didn’t feel odd at all, in fact they felt like two halves of the same character, as you see Farinelli the man as well as Farinelli the singer. The result is an enchanting production, which transports the audience to another era, only enhanced by the period setting of this lovely little theatre. From my seat in the Pit at the front of the stage, I felt privileged to experience such an incredible voice, on top of some excellent acting. This is a lovely story and production, which highlights the power of music to help try and heal a person’s pain and how it can also bring such joy and peace to those who hear it. If you are able to pick up a ticket then it’s definitely worth the effort.

Farinelli & The King continues at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse until 8th March 2015. The run is sold out, but it is certainly worth contacting the box office for details of returns in advance or on the day. More information can be found here.

Theatre review – How To Hold Your Breath at the Royal Court Theatre

how-to-hold-your-breath-poster-672x372 After I sadly had to miss seeing Maxine Peake’s Hamlet live in Manchester last autumn due to my accident, I wasn’t intending to miss seeing such a great actress on stage in this new play at the Royal Court Theatre, but as good as she is in the production, I sadly didn’t particularly enjoy it.

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Maxine Peake & Michael Schaeffer

In Zinnie Harris’s new play, Peake plays Dana, an independent woman, who has had a one night stand with a man she has met in a bar. All seems normal until he proceeds to try and pay her 45 Euros, thinking she is a prostitute! Not ideal for any woman! Dana refuses his money, which leads to his revelation that he is actually a demon/God and that he cannot have debts. She, like us, thinks this is clearly ridiculous and ridicules his attitude. She won’t ever need his money and he won’t be able to trick her in to accepting it either! However, as the story moves forward, she starts to doubt whether his claims were just a joke.

What follows is almost two hours in which we follow Dana and her pregnant sister, as they attempt to reach North Africa, coinciding with the collapse of the Eurozone and the difficulties that causes for European citizens trying to leave to escape the fallout (which may or may not be the fault of the demon). There are some interesting “what if” scenarios as to what could happen if such an event were to happen, but for me it was just too boring and to some extent repetitive, for example, the 45 Euros figure crops up again and again.

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Maxine Peake & Peter Forbes

Peake is very very good, bringing the character to life and highlighting both her strength and also vulnerability (principally caused by her love for her sister, for whom she will do anything). However, this was just too weird and darkly miserable for me. Michael Schaeffer (last seen as the creepy Mr Burns at the Almeida) is good as the creepy “demon” and there’s an amusing role for Peter Forbes, as the librarian figure, possibly signifying God or a guardian angel, who is always at hand to offer Dana a ridiculously titled self help book. I see that this play is aiming to make us think about deeper issues of our materialistic attitude to the world, but I just couldn’t enjoy it. It was just too dismal for me and the story began to bore me, until I found myself really not caring whether Dana and her sister reached their destination or not.

It’s certainly not a play I’d recommend, unless you simply go for Maxine Peake. For me she was the saving grace of a dismal, dull two hours.

How To Hold Your Breath continues at the Royal Court Theatre until 21st March 2015. More information can be found here.

Film Review – Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

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I’ll start this review by saying I cannot believe I have actually seen this film to begin with. I haven’t read the Fifty Shades trilogy, have never had any interest in doing so and have not been anticipating this film for years as some apparently have. However, fuelled by curiosity and the fact my Odeon points balance meant I wouldn’t have to actually part with money to watch it, I joined a friend at the cinema to see what all the fuss was about.

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Everyone (well who care that is) know the plot of this film adaptation of E.L James’s first book in this worldwide juggernaut. Young, naive, innocent Anastasia Steele interviews the older, powerful, successful, billionaire Christian Grey for her university newspaper graduation edition and from there becomes tangled in his world. The crux of the story – he wants her to contractually agree to be his submissive, let him do a varied list of sexual activities to her and do everything he asks. In return he will apparently be devoted to her, but without the romance, as he doesn’t do that. Did I mention he’s also rather attractive?

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Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) reveals the Red Room to Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson)

I will be honest that I entered the cinema expecting to hate this film, as it’s just not my thing at all. In reality, I didn’t hate it, I was more bored by it. It is simply a repetitive film in which girl falls for guy, girl believes she can change said guy, girl sleeps with guy, girl is uncertain whether to get tangled up further in said guy’s world (pun intended), guy pursues girl (rather creepily I may add), guy sleeps with girl again to show her what fun they’d have, lets her meet his family, calls her his girlfriend, but then stresses he doesn’t do romance and girl continues to  be uncertain about what to do. Nothing else really happens except variations of these scenes over the course of the two hours, which felt far too long for me.

I have no idea whether the book lovers feel that Jamie Dornan is good casting in the role of the infamous Mr Grey, but I didn’t mind him. He has the brooding look down well, looks great in expensive clothes and has no problem pulling off those naked scenes. Let’s face it, if Mr Grey was a poor, unsuccessful, unattractive guy, I imagine his offer would seem far less enticing to Ms Steele! Plus he does a pretty good American accent (yet another American being played by a Brit!). Dakota Johnson who plays Anastasia is also fine in the role, bringing both a naivety and sass (well initially before she becomes more sucked in anyway) to the role and I certainly switched between feeling sorry for her and wanting to give her a good slap to bring her to her senses. On the whole their chemistry did seem to work, although at times I did find it less convincing.

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Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey

For most of the film, this is fairly tame, mindless nonsense, which didn’t impress or offend me and Jamie Dornan is easy on the eye. There are some incredibly cheesy scenes and dialogue in this film, which don’t inspire me to rush out and read the books. I did however genuinely enjoy some moments – the DIY store scene early on is rather entertaining as an example and I enjoyed the bits where Anastasia doesn’t take his games seriously (her drunk phone call was a fun one). However, the final portion of the film, when it moves from simply kinky sex practices to the idea of a man playing with a younger girl’s emotions, to then be clear that he will need to punish and hurt her, as that’s just how he is and what he needs sometimes, didn’t sit well with me at all and I can easily see why so many women are concerned as to the message the film / books give, not only to how women allow themselves to be treated, but also what men think is acceptable behaviour towards women. However I’d like to hope that, the fact that this is a work of fiction, like any other fictional film, will mean that the audience will take it for the titillation it is (or is trying to be), rather than using it as a guide to the realities of real relationships.

The film does have a fantastic soundtrack including the latest song by Ellie Goulding, Annie Lennox’s classy I Put a Spell On You and I didn’t even mind Beyonce’s Crazy in Love remix. In fact I think the music was probably the highlight for me. Overall, I’d say you’d definitely have a better time downloading the soundtrack, staying in and spending the two hours with someone you actually have a true and meaningful connection with!

Fifty Shades of Grey is screening throughout UK cinemas and the trailer can be viewed here.  

Theatre review – The Merchant of Venice at the Almeida Theatre

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Back in 2011, I had been very much looking forward to seeing Rupert Goold’s new production of The Merchant of Venice for the RSC. Sadly work commitments meant I never made it to the show and I was therefore very pleased to hear that the same production, with most of the original cast, would be coming to the Almeida stage and tonight I finally saw the show for myself.

I’m familiar with the play, but up until now I’ve never seen it on stage. I can’t think of a better production to start with, which through its unique, imaginative and exciting concept still managed to fit the text of a play written in the 1590s! This production moves the events of the play in to a Las Vegas world of excess, as we see the world of the gambler, making perfect sense for a play most well known for the lending of money and a debt being owed. Bassanio is desperate to try and win the hand of Portio and asks his good friend Antonio, a merchant, for money to help him travel to compete in a game to win her. Antonio wants to help, but cannot lend the money, as all his wealth is tied up in trade ships still at sea. He suggests approaching the Jewish moneylender Shylock, with whom he does not get on and that he will act as guarantor. The loan is agreed. However, if unpaid, Shylock will be entitled to a pound of Antonio’s flesh, to be taken from near his heart, resulting in likely death.

Ian McDiarmid as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice at the Almeida theatre

Ian McDiarmid as Shylock

Replacing Patrick Stewart in the role of Shylock (probably one of Shakespeare’s most well known characters) is Ian McDiarmid, who was Artistic Director of the Almeida (together with Jonathan Kent) from 1990 – 2001 and is returning to the theatre here for the first time. Shylock is a difficult man to categorise – he is both a cruel man, but also an outsider and despite his actions, those of the rest of characters in the court scenes mean no one escapes this play well. McDiarmid is a brilliant actor and plays the role with a creepy, malevolent quality. His manner in the court scene as he prepares to take what he is owed from Antonio, dressed in orange prison jump suit tied at the waist, is very chilling indeed. He seems to glide across the stage, knife in hand, as he delights in the thought of Antonio’s death.

Scott Handy, reprising his role as Antonio, is very good at playing a man who will clearly do anything for the love of his friend Bassanio, even if that results in his death. It is clear his love for him goes beyond the bounds of friendship and in this production I certainly felt that, although he seems to love Portio, it seems clear that Bassanio also loves Antonio as well, which adds an unresolved quality to the final scene and this relationship is deftly played by Handy and Tom Weston-Jones. Lighter moments of hilarity are provided in particular by the character of Lancelot Gobbo, who shifts from working for Shylock to Bassanio and in a surreal choice, which actually works, spends most of the play as a Las Vegas Elvis singer!

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Tom Weston-Jones as Bassanio & Scott Handy as Antonio

However, for me, the star of the production is Susannah Fielding as Portio, whose dead father arranged for her husband to be determined through a game of three chests. In this glitzy, showy Vegas world, the girl whose fate is left in the hands of chance, sees her potential suitors participate in a live gameshow, Destiny, in which they select either the box of gold, silver or lead, in the hope of winning the prize of her hand. It’s a brilliant concept which works superbly. I also loved that, like the world around her, all that glitters is not gold and this Portio is not all she seems. A seemingly ditzy Texan airhead in front of the cameras, we soon see that this is indeed an act and that there is much more beneath the surface. I certainly felt that Antonio’s debt to Shylock, although a key plot line, was only second to the story of Portio’s journey and the ending of this production was particularly interesting in how we leave Portio. It feels unresolved and by no means happy and I understand from others, that this is not usually how the scene is played. It’ll certainly be interesting to compare with the next production I see, but Fielding’s portrayal will certainly stay with me for quite a while.

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Emily Plumtree as Narissa & the brilliant Susannah Fielding as Portio

The set by Tom Scutt is a vibrant, vivid, Vegas world of casinos, but I loved that the central staircase seemed to be based on the bridges of Venice, especially the Rialto, giving a subtle nod to the play’s original Venetian setting and the costumes and make up were also wonderful. In a time in which the news is sadly reporting increases in anti-semitism, I did feel a little strange coming to see a play, in which the focus of so many characters is the dreadful attitude towards Shylock the Jew. However I left the theatre with a sense that the play highlights just how awful this attitude is and that there is bigotry on both sides. Shylock clearly is a morally questionable man, due to his eagerness to see Antonio die, but despite that, you cannot watch the play without feeling disgust at the way he himself is also treated by those around him, making the play feel frighteningly relevant over 400 years after it was written.

This was an incredibly impressive, engaging production, which crucially for a Shakespeare play has been clearly conceived to make it easy to follow for those less familiar with the story. The acting is excellent and Rupert Goold’s setting is an imaginative idea that genuinely works, demonstrating yet again that Shakespeare truly can be reimagined in new and exciting ways. I’m thrilled I was finally able to see a production I’d heard so much about over the last three years and if you are able to get a ticket this week to see it, then I urge you to make the effort.

The Merchant of Venice runs at the Almeida Theatre until Saturday (14th February). Tickets keep popping up on the website and day seats are released at 11 a.m. in person each day. There is also a decent chance of returns at the theatre (call the box office on 020 7359 4404 for more information), making it worth a try if you are able to make a visit to North London this week. 

Theatre review – Treasure Island at the National Theatre

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Opening in December as the theatre’s seasonal family production, it’s taken me a while to get around to seeing Treasure Island. It’s a classic story that most people in Britain seem to be familiar with, even if you haven’t read it and a story of pirates and hidden treasure on a mysterious island seemed like a winner. I was therefore surprised to see quite a number of seats empty at last night’s performance in the Olivier. On watching the production, there’s certainly aspects to enjoy, but perhaps the show lacks an added sparkle.

First and foremost, the set and staging by Lizzie Clachan is utterly fantastic. The Olivier’s drum revolve stage is used to its maximum effect, as we see Jim Hawkins’s journey by ship to the island. In one scene, the drum revolve rises to reveal multiple levels of the ship’s interior, like a cross section of life at sea – the captain’s room, kitchen and lots of others humming with activity. It was an impressive moment that only the Olivier stage could capture and I almost applauded such an achievement. The island is also effectively created, both above ground and below, as the hunt for treasure continues.

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Lizzie Clachan’s sets are the star of the show.

There are also some lovely moments and performances. I particularly enjoyed the scene in which Silver shows Jim the constellations above them, which appear within the bulb lighting in the ceiling, giving a magical atmosphere. The stand out performances for me were Joshua James’s Ben Gunn, who after three years alone on the island has resorted to having conversations with himself, in Gollum-esque fashion and Tim Samuels, who is also particularly funny as shipman Grey, so dull that no one seems to remember he is even there and his deadpan references to this certainly achieve the most laughter.

In this adaptation by Bryony Lavery, the role of Jim Hawkins is played by Patsy Ferran. This is only her third professional role after making her debut in Blithe Spirit last year as the put upon maid (who, for me, was the highlight of some scenes in that show) and she is certainly a talent to watch over the next few years. She is very good as Hawkins, able to carry scenes and connect well with the audience as Hawkins tells the story of Treasure Island. Although I’m all for gender switching when done well, I did find the constant references to her as Jim, but then calling her a girl distracting. Every time it was said, it took me out of the play as my brain couldn’t help getting confused. It may have been designed as a joke to keep it until the end to call her her full name Jemima (shortened to Jim), but I’d have found it far less distracting if that had been moved up front.

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Arthur Darvill as Silver & Patsy Ferran as Jim search for treasure with the crew.

Playing the iconic Long John Silver in the production is Arthur Darvill, last seen on stage in Once (a role I wish he’d stayed in longer as he was so good). I had been surprised by the casting, expecting an older, more frightening figure to play the infamous pirate. Darvill’s Silver is a more modern Jack Sparrow-esque figure and he is great at playing the more manipulative aspects of Silver, as he tricks the Squire in to hiring his crew and builds a friendship with Jim, only to try and locate the map. You can see why Jim would be drawn to him. However, as much as I enjoyed his performance, I did find myself feeling that Silver should be slightly more creepy and be more of a figure earning the description Jim gives him, as being the person of his and Ben Gunn’s nightmares. I didn’t really feel that from Darvill, but perhaps a younger audience would.

Overall, this was an enjoyable production, which is worth seeing and there are some good performances. However, perhaps the fact that the sets are the star of the show is part of the production’s problem and I did leave feeling that there had been some magic or sparkle missing that I can’t quite define – it was enjoyable, but lacking the magic of other family shows, such as Matilda.

Treasure Island continues its run at the National Theatre (Olivier Theatre) until 8th April. More information and ticket availability can be found on the website

Theatre review – Hello/Goodbye by Peter Souter at the Hampstead Theatre

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I’d intended to see Hello/Goodbye during its original run at the Hampstead Theatre Downstairs and so was thrilled to get a second chance today during its current run on the venue’s Main Stage.

Written by Peter Souter, it’s a lovely, funny, tender and heartfelt play. Juliet (Miranda Raison) arrives at her new flat, only to discover Alex (Shaun Evans) already moving in! He also has keys and a contract for the flat whether she likes it or not (and she really doesn’t)! From that moment we watch their initial conversation, as the banter and sparks fly.  Although there are brief scenes with two other characters, this is mainly a two-hander between Juliet and Alex and with such brilliantly sharp dialogue, it never drags.

Juliet is highly strung and used to getting everything her own way, which is the perfect counter to Alex’s more relaxed attitude and dry humour, as he has a sharp, witty comeback for every moment. As the play continues we see how their relationship develops, as the play becomes a touching story about the love between two people and how it changes, or how we think it’s changed when perhaps nothing has changed at all.

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Miranda Raison is very good as Juliet, who drives the audience as mad as Alex with her attitude, especially early on and Shaun Evans is superb as Alex, the geeky collector of all manner of crazy items, who is perfectly happy with who he is and has a confidence about him that Juliet cannot fail but be attracted to. They are a perfect duo, wonderfully directed by Tamara Harvey, sparking off each other with chemistry that feels very believable and real and as an audience you are rooting for them to find a happiness together (as let’s face it we all deep down want to get that happy ending).

Leo Starr stood in today for Luke Neal as Juliet’s boyfriend, who she demands get rid of this person in her new flat and he and Shaun Evans’s scene together was a lot of fun. Bathsheba Piepe was also very good too (I daren’t say too much about her role for risk of giving anything away).

The set is simple, but works well for the play and doesn’t distract from the two key characters and top marks for the props organiser, in particular for the time and effort that’s gone in to compiling Alex’s collection! I also loved the final song that plays, which is an original composition by Jared Zeus called A Room Made Up For You.

I thoroughly enjoyed Hello/Goodbye and there’s a good chance I’ll return for a second trip before the run ends. It’s a charming love story, with some lovely heartfelt moments, which is also filled with sharp and witty moments that will make you laugh. It’s the perfect production to warm the heart during winter and if you have time to book a ticket then make sure you do.

Hello/Goodbye runs at the Hampstead Theatre (Main Stage) until 28th February. For more information and ticket availability see the theatre’s website.

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