Television Review – Truths and Lies in Suits 7.06 “Home To Roost”

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The last week seems to have flown by, but it’s that time of the week again for me to mull over another episode of Suits.

This week’s instalment was very much an hour revolving around truths and lies, with all of our main characters facing either the consequences of a lie (theirs or someone else’s), or some uncomfortable truths, all of which began to build a fascinating narrative that I assume will play out over the remaining four episodes of this first half of season seven.

As regular readers will know, I’ve been less than impressed with the direction of Suits during this seventh season, as old narratives seemed to be thrown out of the nearest window and I had a hunch this would be a make or break episode for me, once the synopsis revealed Home To Roost would include Harvey’s struggle to tell Donna about his “relationship” with Dr Agard. How they handled that and how they portrayed Donna was key for me.

So, let’s start there shall we?

Could two people be more confused about their feelings than Donna & Harvey?!

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This episode was perhaps the most revealing one so far in Suits history, when it comes to exploring Donna and Harvey’s feelings for each other. Yes, we had The Other Time, but that was the past and since then, things have been implied, or left open to interpretation. Home To Roost finally started to reveal some truths.

I’d been dreading Harvey telling Donna about Agard, not because I will have a tantrum at him being with someone else (well, not yet anyway!), but because I did not want Donna to be portrayed badly, falling to pieces in front of Harvey. I therefore breathed a huge sigh of relief on seeing the choices made on screen. First things first, Sarah Rafferty stole the show in 7.06, giving a beautiful, honest and very believable portrayal of a woman who is, after years of denial, finally facing the truth – that she loves Harvey and knowing he has chosen to be with someone else hurts her deeply, even though she wishes it didn’t. That is a hell of a lot of progress.

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I loved that she pretended she already knew about Paula, laying out to him exactly what he’d done in 7.01 so accurately and yet, making it clear to viewers that she was putting the pieces together as she was saying them. The look on her face as he left her office was utterly heartbreaking and some of Rafferty’s finest work on the show. you could see the emotional wheels turning in Donna’s mind.

We also finally had Donna voice the truth of her feelings to someone else and having it be Rachel was lovely. Meghan Markle and Rafferty on screen together is always a treat and it’s about time it was Donna opening up to her rather than the other way around and it was a good decision to have Donna wishing she didn’t have these feelings. I mean, it’s not ideal is it, when he is with someone else? I noticed the episode was written by one of the female writers on the show and I can’t help thinking that that was a huge benefit to such a key episode for Donna.

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That brings me to Harvey Specter. I still don’t like him this year (memberships for the Big Pile of Everyone Hates Harvey Club are open, just let me know if you want to sign up!), but we may at least be inching towards him finally acknowledging his feelings. I still hate how Agard is being used this year, but I actually enjoyed her putting a few truths to Harvey. Did you hear that Harvey? Even your girlfriend thinks you clearly have feelings for Donna. Hearing someone actually tell him that he has feelings for Donna and that she loves him was a huge step for this show and I’m excited to see how this plays out. The final scene between Donna and Harvey, in which they are both not being totally honest with the other was a heart-wrencher and full marks to both actors, the director and director of photography for that gorgeous last shot, of two people so close and yet still so far.

So, will Darvey finally happen this year? The door is either inching open or slammed shut right now. It’s all down to Aaron Korsh, but the narrative path must surely now be moving towards our favourite couple realising they are fooling themselves?! Surely?! Hopefully it’s just a matter of time now. I have my fingers crossed.

Mike is lying again – that didn’t take him long!

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While Donna faced some truths (and Harvey perhaps is starting to), Mike Ross was back to keeping secrets. He’s only been an approved lawyer five minutes for God’s sake!

Mike wanting to work on the prison case is admirable, but he made an agreement no to and in the real, adult world, that agreement means something. I’ve been a big fan of Mike this year; compared to Harvey and Louis, he’s been the only mature man at PSL, but this week saw the return of the more annoying version of Mike – the one who thinks the rules don’t apply to him.

Sure, law firms take on pro bono, but not cases that could ever conflict with their clients and I don’t see how Mike’s desire to help those really in need can ever work at PSL. Rachel was dead right when she said he had to choose and it will be fascinating to see whether that is a choice he is forced to make before the mid-season finale. In the meantime, Mike yet again risked the financial security of his original client on the prison case and it didn’t pay off. It’ll be interesting to see where this will go now. Maybe he gets Robert Zane to take it?

Shout out to Meghan Markle for some fab work in her scenes with Patrick J Adams. The two have strong chemistry and seeing Rachel deliver some hard truths to him was very satisfying.

Louis Litt – On the road to recovery (I hope)!

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Louis Litt’s arc so far this season has been my favourite aspect of what, for me, has been a confused narrative and Rick Hoffman just keeps getting better and better.

This week, we watched Louis face the truth that his behaviour had consequences and that honesty was the best way to resolve it (did you hear that Mike, honesty, maybe you should look that word up in a dictionary). By the end of the episode, we saw the best side of Louis; a man who is kind, thoughtful and decent and his gift to Brian was superb. Suits USA, where can I order one for my friends?!

It was also fun to see the beginnings of Louis’s potential mentorship of his own associate. Maybe he’ll finally have his own Mike. I already like Brian, so I hope we see much more of him. My only complaint was that we haven’t seen enough Katrina yet this year.

Alex Williams – just how dirty is this guy?

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It wasn’t only Mike lying this week, as we continue to see Alex Williams’ actions indicate that he is worried about much more than losing a client. I was pleased for Harvey to finally wake up from his rose-tinted view of Alex at the end of this episode and see that he is hiding something. I look forward to learning just how dirty he is next week.

Looking Ahead to Full Disclosure

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So, next week’s title is an interesting one and from the promo, I assume this will be where we learn exactly what Alex Williams has been up to and how it involves his past with Harvey. We already know 7.07 is a flashback episode, so I’m guessing we’ll see the early days of their friendship and how whatever history they have is going to potentially screw them over now. As I’m still not a huge Harvey fan this year, I’m hoping it’s going to hurt, just a little!

We also know that next week’s episode sees the introduction of Mark Meadows (Jay Harrington) as Donna’s ex. After this week’s episode forcing both Harvey and Donna to really think about their complicated relationship and Harvey’s reference to it bothering him when she was with Stephen Huntley, I’m very much looking forward to him discovering her hot ex is back on the scene. That’s someone else to be the object of her attention and affection Harvey – how does that sound to you? Hold on to your seats folks, things are about to get very interesting!

Suits continues next week: Wednesday on USA Network at 9/8c in the USA and Thursday via Netflix in the UK.

 

Theatre Review – Apologia – An Impressive Production

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The latest production at the Trafalgar Studios had all the indicators that it would be something special. It’s the latest play by the brilliant Alexi Kaye Campbell, directed by Jamie Lloyd and a show that would see the return to the London stage of Stockard Channing (best known for television roles in The West Wing and The Good Wife and film roles including Rizzo in Grease), as well as a promising supporting cast, including Freema Agyeman.

Having now seen the production, I can say that it more than lived up to my expectations, proving to be a powerful, emotional exploration of a family and how the choices and secrets of one member, in this case, the matriarch, can impact on the others.

This review is my first for the fantastic Blogtor Who site! To read the review in full, please click on the link below: 

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Television Review – Suits 7.05 “Brooklyn Housing”

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I’m catching up with the latest episode of Suits a little later today, thanks to the terribly slow upload speed of Netflix UK. However, now I’ve watched it a couple of times, I thought I’d give my thoughts, as I’ve been doing for the previous episodes of this seventh season.

Did I enjoy Brooklyn Housing?

Yes and no. Overall, it was a strong episode of Suits and reminded me a lot of earlier episodes in its run. We had Harvey kicking ass at work, Mike showing what a great (now legal) lawyer he is, Louis showing the best side of his quirky personality and Donna and Rachel providing voices of reason when most needed. The episode did however give me concerns as to the direction the writers are potentially taking certain characters and storylines and if I’m proved right, I will be thoroughly disappointed.

I’ll start with the positives……

We are all proud of you Louis Litt!

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For the fifth week running, the strongest element of Suits at the moment remains Louis Litt and Rick Hoffman’s superb portrayal of him. He may have had a bumpy start this year, but Louis is really starting to show true growth and I’m excited to see where he will end up. As the weeks tick on, the view I had in season 6 that he would be better in charge than Harvey, only seems to be given more credibility. If he were able to get his emotions in check and find some happiness, he’d be more than capable of running the show. This week we saw him help Harvey, use his discretion to avoid causing any problems, successfully defend Agard and acknowledge improvements he still needs to make to his own character in order to be happy. As his therapist told him at the end of this hour, I’m proud of you Louis!

Mike’s prison case & its potential ramifications

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I’m actually really enjoying the prison case and am looking forward to seeing where it goes next. I still think Alex Williams is going to end up involved in this, causing problems for PSL and Harvey in particular. Mike working on this behind Harvey’s back also brings in the potential for some juicy scenes between our favourite on screen brothers, once Harvey finds out Mike has broken his trust. As Rachel pointed out, this could all end in tears. There’s also the addition of Frank Gallo. He already has a grudge against both Mike and Harvey and whether his involvement here ends up coming back to bite them both in the ass remains to be seen. After all, he could find ways to hurt both of them, whether directly or indirectly through those they care for. Mike needs to be careful here. It’s a fun storyline with exciting possibilities and that’s certainly a positive for this show at the moment.

Harvey back to kicking some ass (albeit, yet again with help from someone else)

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I’m starting to wonder if Harvey Spector was ever as good a lawyer / manipulator as I’d previously thought. This week we did at least see him back to doing what I aways enjoyed, kicking ass against those up to no good. However, this series we’ve seen him helped out of a jam by Mike and in 7.05, it’s only thanks to Holly Cromwell that he comes out on top. Maybe, he’s lost his edge? He was at least far less annoying this week, which is a relief.

So, those are the positives this week. Now, it’s time for my growing concerns……….

Donna Paulsen being portrayed as the poor, unloved woman

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I’ve always loved Donna. She has always been a strong, funny, caring, interesting female character, who is always brought to life so vividly by Sarah Rafferty. She has never been a victim, even when her boyfriend was a murderer, she wasn’t painted as a weak character. Yet, now, at a time when we should be seeing Donna at her strongest and most confident, following her promotion to COO, I have a horrible feeling the writers could be taking us down an unpleasant path for her.

And it’s all because of Harvey Specter. I’ve never really viewed Donna as the woman pining for her boss. Their relationship had been written to have so many more intricacies than that. Did I think she loved him? Yes, perhaps even when she didn’t really acknowledge it herself. However, crucially, I’ve never felt that that was unrequited. Especially from season four onwards, there have been so many nods to Harvey sharing those feelings, whether he is ready to act on them or not. Hell, he’s even started dreaming about her romantically.

Yet, this week’s episode seemed to be setting up a new, unpleasant narrative and that’s one of unrequited love; something that would, in my opinion, be a betrayal of the character of Donna Paulsen.

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Why do I think this? Well, the first thing Louis asks on learning of Harvey’s relationship with Agard is whether Donna knows about it. Why does he ask that? Harvey and Louis have never discussed Harvey’s complicated history with Donna and the very fact he asks, introduces the premise that Donna will have a problem with it, i.e. that she’ll be hurt/ jealous. There is no narrative basis for Louis to ask that! Had he said something to Donna, it would have made more sense, as she did tell him about hers and Harvey’s past, but it makes no sense for him to raise it with Harvey.

 

 

 

Secondly, there was all Donna’s questioning of both Louis and Harvey about what was going on between them and the awkward moment when she tells Harvey about the PSL family not keeping secrets from one another. The entire way Donna is starting to come across on screen is as the poor woman with feelings for a man who doesn’t share them and who is trying to find a way to let her down gently. If this is the way the writers are taking Donna in the series I will be furious, as it just doesn’t fit with the narrative I thought they had plotted over the previous six seasons. It also makes me continue to dislike the arrogant Harvey Specter. If this is the creator’s plan to make every viewer hoping to see Harvey and Donna get together change their mind, then congratulations Aaron Korsh, it’s working.

The weakening of Paula Agard’s character

I’m not going to cover old ground. I’ve made my thoughts on the crazy Harvey / Agard plot line this year very clear! I really liked Agard in season five and the more we see of her now, the weaker she comes across. The whole, I was worried you wouldn’t think I was loveable bit was just irritating. I do admit though that her chemistry with Harvey is at least improving. Hell, maybe they will end up living happily ever after.

Looking ahead – Chickens come home to roost

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Next week’s episode is entitled Home To Roost and we can expect to see the negative consequences of Mike’s involvement in the prison case come back to hurt him. I assume this will mainly be between him and Harvey, but the promo suggests this could also include difficulties in his relationship with Rachel. If he ruins that, he really will be in trouble!

So, I’ll see you back here next week, when I hope there will be more positives and none of my concerns will have come to pass!

Suits continues next week, in the USA on Wednesday at 9/8c on USA Network and on Thursday via Netflix in the UK. 

Television Review – Suits 7.04 “Divide and Conquer”

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I’m a little late with this review, but as this was, in my opinion, the best episode of this seventh season so far, I thought I’d take the time to enjoy writing some more positives about Suits while I can!

Back to business as usual

Divide and Conquer was back to the style of Suits we have known in the past. The team all pulling together for the good of the firm, making move and counter move to come out on top (well, for now anyway). The ridiculous side plots were nowhere to be seen and instead we were able to enjoy seeing everyone working together as a team. I love some conflict, but the constant fighting this year was getting tiring.

A big pile of people hate Harvey!

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Well, he said it! My opinion of my former favourite character has been my biggest disappointment in season seven and I have to say, seeing his terrible management style and attitude to those he supposedly cares about come back and bite him in the ass was very satisfying. Yet again, it was down to Donna to make him realise he was in deep trouble and then Jessica to help him grow up and fix things. He really would be lost without these two women wouldn’t he? I found the last scene with him alone in his office very telling. He is still struggling in this new role and has managed to isolate himself from those who have always been there for him due to his behaviour.

I’m hoping that we will start to see some of the old Harvey emerge now, but time will tell, if he’ll be able to stop being so horrid to Louis (I’m still not over his treatment of him last week), not lose it with Mike (when he learns he is disobeying him) and start treating Donna the way he used to until this season. Yes, he said she hadn’t let him down in 12 years, but other than that, he seems to have thrown their close friendship away and continues to act very differently with her. No, Harvey, she does not want to come back to your desk! Stop being so arrogant and show her some respect.

I still think he has issues he needs to talk through with a therapist, but look how well that worked out last time……..!

Is Alex Williams really one of the PSL family now?

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I still can’t decide whether I like Alex Williams or not. Is he genuine or does he have his own agenda that will only lead to trouble? He clearly has a history with Harvey, which I’m still curious to know more about and this week made it clear that he has skeletons in his closet that are likely to cause problems for him (and by default, PSL) later on. I have a feeling his involvement in Mike’s prison case is going to get very interesting indeed.

Mike Ross straddling two worlds

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The idea of Mike being able to do both corporate and pro bono work against large multinationals was never realistic really was it? His desire to do good in the world has always been a little at odds with the corporate clients and this week was the start of the storyline I assume will continue over the next few weeks. Oliver is certainly not as good a lawyer as Mike and the idea of him being able to fight a class action single-handed was crazy. It was only a matter of time before Mike went back on his word to Harvey. We all know how Harvey feels about loyalty and I assume there will be fireworks when he finds out Mike is hiding this from him, especially if it brings Mike in to conflict with Alex.

Can we all work for Robert Zane instead?

 

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I’ve always liked Robert Zane (brilliantly played by Wendell Pierce). You really could believe he runs a law firm, unlike Harvey and Louis who seem to be playing at doing it! He makes them just look like fools! It was lovely to see Zane willing to try and help PSL, clearly out of respect for Jessica (anyone else think they may have had a history in the past?!) and his love for his daughter.

I’ve always felt sad for Rachel regarding her desire to prove to her father she is a great lawyer. Wanting our parents to be proud of us is an emotion most of us can relate to and it was lovely to see Wendell Pierce and Meghan Markle on screen again. They have such a genuine and believable relationship and seeing them become closer by the end of this hour was a real delight. Maybe Rachel really should consider going to work for her father. His firm is certainly more stable than PSL right now!

Looking ahead – the Agard episode……(I can’t wait….)

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So, the promo for 7.05 makes it clear that part of the episode will deal with a case involving Paula Agard, which Louis is going to handle. Is she being sued and what is she hiding from Harvey? I’m already bored of this storyline and I just hope this new plot point actually starts to make the whole crazy narrative make sense.

As well as Agard, it looks like Mike’s run of playing by Harvey’s rules is over (that didn’t take long did it?), so I imagine they’ll be fighting again before the hour is over.

Enjoy the new episode tonight in the USA (on USA Network at 9/8c) and tomorrow in the UK (via Netflix).

 

 

Film Review – Dunkirk (2017): Powerful & emotional filmmaking at its best

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On exiting the cinema tonight after seeing Dunkirk, one thought struck me in particular. After all the big, loud, brash Hollywood fodder in the trailers before it, here was a film that proves that a big budget does not have to mean over the top, overly long, Hollywood rubbish! Thank you Christopher Nolan!

Dunkirk is quite simply breathtaking in its raw, powerful, emotional depth, across a mere [96] minutes. I had expected quality from Mr Nolan and he delivered in spades, with a film that everyone should take time out of their lives to see. Those of us in the UK are perhaps more likely to be aware of the story of Dunkirk and it is fantastic that this incredible tale from WWII is being presented to a wider audience.

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For those less familiar, in 1940, after Nazi Germany had invaded France, the Allied forces were pushed back to the city of Dunkirk, resulting in almost 400,000 stranded soldiers in need of rescue on the beach. Attacked on land and by air, they were trapped and the fact so many survived is thanks to not only the bravery of the Royal Air Force, but also the civilian boats that answered the call to cross the English Channel to provide rescue, putting themselves in great danger in doing so, due to U-Boat attack and enemy fire.

I've been a fan of Nolan as a film-maker for years and he truly shows his skill as both a writer and director with this film. Structure-wise, Dunkirk is written in a very clever way, in that it is not a simple linear story. It takes a bit of time, but you start to pick up that the boat you saw capsized a few minutes ago is still afloat, or the people in the water earlier are suddenly characters you realise you know well from a different story strand. The script's movement from storylines on land, sea and air, over varying lengths of time (one week, one day and one hour respectively) means that you see moments more than once, from different perspectives, which only enhances their emotional power. It also means you have to pay attention as an audience member and I certainly found it a brilliant way of packing so much story in to a relatively short running time.

I know some have complained about the lack of introduction of the characters, but for me, simply throwing us in to the film's events and us having to learn who everyone is, gave the film another layer of realism; as if we were stepping in to a moment in time and witnessing it first hand.

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The acting is also excellent. There isn't loads of dialogue, requiring the cast to capture and convey the events and experiences we see through more than simple dialogue. It takes confidence for a film maker to not try and saturate a story with needless words and Nolan's use of this style also makes the film seem so much more real and true to life. We are watching people simply trying to survive.

The cast contains some of the most respected actors around. Tom Hardy moved me to tears by the end as the RAF pilot determined to stay in the air as long as he could to provide air support for those trying to rescue those stranded below. Cillian Murphy is wonderful as the shell-shocked survivor of a U-Boat bombing, Kenneth Branagh brings weight and authority as the Navy Commander, determined to try and get his men home and Mark Rylance gives yet another quiet, nuanced performance as the civilian determined to play his part in helping save his fellow countrymen. Much has also been said about the inclusion of Harry Styles in the cast, but he gives a solid performance as a simple soldier, who desperately just wants to make it home, despite feeling shame that their attack has resulted in retreat. Newcomer Fionn Whitehead is also excellent as Tommy, also struggling to be rescued.

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Each aspect of the story is handled beautifully and as the strands begin to crash together, as the intensity of the events increases, I found myself gripped by just how real it all felt. Visually, it is excellent too. Nothing is done to extreme, so that the film always feels authentic and the opposite of Hollywood. The visuals of the battles in the air over the vast water of the English Channel are incredible, as are the shots when the full scale of the civilian rescue operation become apparent (I had a lump in my throat).

On top of that is Hans Zimmer's intense score. There is an undercurrent of music constantly and the strong use of strings and a ticking clock effect (produced using Nolan's own pocket watch) add an urgency and tension to every scene. It keeps you on edge. Therefore, the brief moments when the music disappears carry even more weight. Add in the inclusion of a slowed down version Edward Elgar's beautiful classical music "Nimrod" and the final scenes in particular had me shedding some tears (the track is Variation 15 on the soundtrack for those who want to hear it again).

All in all, this was every bit as brilliant a film as I had hoped for. Cleverly structured, fantastically and confidently directed and terrifically acted; the result being a truly powerful, realistic insight in to one of the most memorable stories of WWII. I urge everyone to go and see it as fast as you can (preferably on an IMAX screen if you can get to one).

 

 

 

Mid-Year Theatre Review 2017

As we are now well in to July, my mid-year theatre review is well overdue. 2017 is already shaping up to be a fantastic year of theatre and there is still so much more to come (I’ll talk a bit about that at the end). I already anticipate my top ten of the year will be a difficult selection, so at least this way, more of the productions I’ve loved in 2017 will make it on to at least one of my lists!

So, these are the current highlights of my theatre year. They are in no particular order, as I always finding ranking productions that way quite difficult, unless something stands head and shoulders above the rest.

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1. Hamlet (Almeida / Harold Pinter Theatre)

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This production of Hamlet was probably my most anticipated show of 2017 and I’m thrilled it not only lived up to my expectations, but exceeded them, so much so that it’s probably my favourite Hamlet, a crown that has been Mr Tennant’s ever since 2008. It’s simply because Robert Icke’s decisions with the text and how to stage certain scenes is fresh and innovative. Watching this Hamlet had me experience the story and the motivations of certain characters in a whole new light. Thrilling, exhilarating and incredibly emotional, it’s ensemble cast are superb and it has one of the most beautiful endings I’ve ever seen on a stage. You have until 2nd September to see it. Go, go, go! Read my first review of this production here.

2. An Octoroom (The Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond)

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I bought a ticket to An Octoroom after reading so much praise for it on Twitter from theatregoers whose opinions I value more than any professional critic and I’m so pleased they brought it to my attention. Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins’s play was the complete theatre experience – surprising, inventive, powerfully emotive, yet funny in places too. The cast were superb (especially Celeste Dodwell as Dora) and the staging truly brought the play to life in the intimate space of the Orange Tree. I would love to see this have another life somewhere in the West End.

3. Dear Evan Hansen (Music Box Theatre, Broadway, NYC)

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Besides Hamilton, this is probably the most talked about show in New York at the moment and I was taken by surprise by how moved I was by it. It’s an emotional story about feeling alone, wanting to belong and giving people a hope that if they reach out, someone will help them and Ben Platt’s central performance is one I will never forget, so full of raw emotion, not to mention an impressive vocal. I don’t have the soundtracks to many musicals, but I listen to this one quite often. Read my full review here.

4. The Little Foxes (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, Broadway, NYC)

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I was unable to see both versions of this play, in which Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon alternate the roles, but despite this, it remains one of the strongest productions I’ve seen so far the year. I chose to Cynthia as Regina and Laura as Birdie and I wasn’t disappointed. Nixon was truly cold and calculating in the role, while Linney brought the tragedy of Birdie’s life to the stage. With a beautiful set and a strong ensemble, particularly Richard Thomas as Regina’s husband, who no doubt would have been happier with Birdie, this was a joy to watch. It would be lovely to see this play come across to London soon.

5. Angels in America (Lyttelton, National Theatre)

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I have a second trip to this epic two play event next month and I certainly cannot wait to experience every moment of it again. Told across 8 hours, this seminal play is certainly not an easy one to watch, but its story is one that we should all see. The cast is one of the finest you could wish for, with Denise Gough bringing yet another raw and stunning portrayal to the stage, together with Nathan Lane, Russell Tovey and James McArdle. However, it was Andrew Garfield that blew me away as Prior Walter, a character so full of life, whose journey is the axis of the story. It will be a production talked about for years.

6. The Ferryman (Royal Court Theatre)

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Jez Butterworth has already established himself as one of the best playwrights we have and he follows Jerusalem and The River with another powerful story, set in Armagh, Northern Ireland in 1981, which weaves The Troubles in to the story of one family and its struggles. Paddy Considine’s stage debut is certainly impressive and his chemistry with Laura Donnelly shines off the stage. You will laugh, cry and probably gasp before the three hours of The Ferryman has passed. Buy your tickets for its West End run (until January 2018) now.

7. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Harold Pinter Theatre)

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There are only two words really needed to explain why this production is on the list – Imelda Staunton, who is utterly outstanding as the acid-tongued Martha! To be fair though, that doesn’t do justice to the other fine performances (especially Conleth Hill as her weary husband George). There was something darkly entertaining about watching Martha and George tear shreds off each other and some of the sharp, biting dialogue had me laughing out loud, even as I grew more and more uncomfortable. I can imagine it’s easy to overdo the dramatics in this play and yet director James Macdonald’s production didn’t do this. In fact, in a frightening way, it feels very believable. Read my full review here.

8. Consent (Dorfman, National Theatre)

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Another success from the National this year was Nina Raine’s latest play, which focused on the powerful subject of rape and consent, in the context of a group of criminal barristers, whose professional and personal lives become caught up in what is a difficult topic to think about. Intelligently written and superbly acted by its cast, I was gripped by Consent from start to finish and wish I’d had the chance to see it twice.

9. Gloria (Hampstead Theatre)

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A second, but fully deserved, entry for Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins is a play that has such a powerful end to Act One that the programme has a sealed spoiler section! I’ve already seen this twice to fully appreciate the sharp, biting dialogue, which makes you laugh one minute even when you shouldn’t, before making you gasp the next. You have until Saturday to catch it if you can. Read my spoiler-filled review here, or the spoiler-free one here.

10. Shirley Valentine (UK Tour at Lyceum, Sheffield)

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A trip with my parents to the theatre to see this revival of Willy Russell’s production surprised me for the simple fact that I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Effectively a one-woman show, in which Jodie Prenger brought the iconic Shirley Valentine to life, it made me laugh, but was also rather moving too, as this older woman bravely reaches for a fresh start in life. I left the theatre with a huge smile on my face and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

 

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Special mentions so far this year also need to go to the continued magic of Harry Potter & the Cursed Child, whose original and new cast ensure the Palace is the happiest theatre atmosphere in town, The Glass Menagerie, which I managed to see before its run ended and a NYC return trip to the glorious Groundhog Day!

Coming up is Ben Whishaw back at the Almeida in Against, the arrival of the Follies at the National (even more Imelda Staunton!), the opening of a brand new London theatre in the Bridge Theatre, whose first show Young Marx stars Rory Kinnear and Oliver Chris, Apologia with Stockard Channing and the arrival of the Tony Award-winning Oslo, to name just a few.

Yes, there’s no denying the end of year review is definitely going to be tough in 2017!

 

 

 

Television Review – Suits 7.03 “Mudmare”

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Thursday morning means it’s time for a new episode of Suits, as season seven starts to find its feet. There was thankfully lots to enjoy this week, particularly if I ignored the elements of the current narrative that drive me nuts (you know what I’m talking about)!

So, on to my thoughts this week (all screenshots are thanks to Suits USA and Netflix UK by the way)…..

Mudmare for Louis, a dream for viewers!

IMG_6902Well, we can finally tick off off our wish list, the dream of seeing Harvey and Louis mudding together! It may only have been a dream (unlike 6.11, I saw this one coming Aaron Korsh), but visually it was everything I had hoped for and Gabriel Macht played it wonderfully. The fact they managed to weave this scene in to Louis’s anxiety about losing his friend was perfect and this opening provided some much needed light relief, which has been lacking from Suits for far too long. While we are talking about Louis….

The brilliance of Rick Hoffman

IMG_6911I’ve already commented this season about how superb an actor Rick Hoffman is and he continues to be one of season seven’s biggest strengths. His ability to move so comfortably between comedic and serious, emotional moments is hard to beat and this week was a rollercoaster for Louis Litt. It was lovely to see him and Donna playing off one another again, albeit briefly and I hope Hoffman and Sarah Rafferty have many more scenes together. As usual he also had all the best lines!

Louis has come so far as a character and at this point, the one thing that keeps pulling him down is Harvey, who continues to treat him with a level of disrespect that infuriates me. Louis may be emotional, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t right a lot of the time, especially the concerns he raised the week (as well as last week) about Harvey’s decisions for the firm.

I predict an explosion coming between the two named partners and the powerful ending of Mudmare made me a little concerned that Louis may be headed for his biggest breakdown yet. If I were Harvey, I’d keep out of his way, but as a viewer I hope we see him learn to regret his mistreatment of his so-called friend.

Women in power finding their feet

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This week was also a strong episode for the women of PSL, with both Meghan Markle and Sarah Rafferty having a chance to explore each of their characters’ new roles in the firm.

I tended to agree that Donna as a Senior Partner was rather silly, but having her now in a senior managerial / personnel role is a much better fit. Having her still finding her feet in this new function and admitting when she doesn’t always get things right was authentic and Harvey should take note of admitting when you mess up! I assume there will be more challenges ahead for Donna, but she’s more than up for the challenge.

Seeing her stand up for herself with Harvey was very satisfying too. They may have been a unit before, but it was great to see that she won’t blindly follow when she thinks he is wrong. How arrogant of Harvey too, to think that he can speak for her on all things!

Having Rachel take over the associates was another aspect of episode one that I found a little silly (I won’t repeat all my moaning about the premiere, don’t worry). Yes, she has been in the firm a long time, but in reality, a newly qualified lawyer would never be in charge of those years ahead of her. However, this is Suits and we need to suspend reality, so in this world, it was great to see her want to step up, especially when Louis was incapable of doing the job. I’ve always viewed Rachel as one of the most mature characters in the series and seeing her understand that a supervisory role was perhaps not right for her at this point in her career seemed very true to the person she is.

Rafferty and Markle don’t have nearly enough scenes together and so it was lovely to see them play both confrontational and conciliatory with one another this week. I hope we get plenty more of them over the coming weeks.

The enigmatic Alex Williams

IMG_6910He may have only just joined the PSL family, but I’m already questioning exactly what history Alex Williams has with Harvey. In every episode of this season so far, he has managed to flag up to Harvey some favour, or past incident, that he let go. It clearly must be significant and has the ability to influence Harvey’s decisions as managing partner, which I assume is only going to have further ramifications later on. Dule Hill is a fun addition to the cast and I’m intrigued to explore his character’s past with Harvey and how it will continue to impact on the present, as well as his relationships with Mike, Louis and the others in the firm.

The maturity of Mike Ross

IMG_6907While the new managing partner continues to falter in his role, it’s lovely to watch Mike flourish. We knew conflicts between corporate and pro bono would  arise and no doubt this week was only a flavour of what’s to come, but Mike has a new lease of life, free of the secret that limited his life in so many ways and the interview was a great way of acknowledging his past, without having to bring it up every time he works on a case.

We didn’t get much of the bromance between Mike and Harvey this week, with the exception of the fun scene in which Harvey’s creative headlines papered Mike’s office (Big Boy Pants: The Mike Ross Story was my favourite)! We did however see Mike continue to grow in confidence and stature and at this rate, he’ll be the one running the firm when Harvey and Louis kill each other! Bravo Mike, you win the award for Most Mature Male in the show for a third week running!

Then we come to Harvey………if you can hear me giving a deep sigh, then you’d be right….

The continuing decline of the once great Harvey Specter

IMG_6913Can someone please find the real Harvey Specter? He must be around here somewhere! I’ll get to his bizarre relationship, but that aside, we are still seeing a terrible version of Harvey this year. Is this setting up that perhaps, like Rachel, he’ll realise managing partner is not the right role for him? I still think Louis is the better choice for seeing what is best for the firm as a whole, but that’s a whole other topic.

Harvey (or Henry, as some of us fans are calling this imposter), may be starting to feel comfortable behind Jessica’s desk, but he is still miles away from being the leader she was and this week saw him using some unpleasant tactics to exert his will. Harvey has never been great at hearing opposing views, only ever really listening to Jessica and Donna and watching him use Louis’s personal insecurities against him in a business context, in front of Donna, only made me miss the old version of him more. It was cruel, unprofessional and is, I hope, something that will bite him in the ass.

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Then there is the as yet unknown cards Alex Williams is holding over him. He only needs to mention it and Harvey is falling over himself to do whatever he asks. Should corporate work come before pro bono at PSL? Yes, absolutely (sorry Mike, it’s business), but as Mike pointed out, this wasn’t a direct client conflict and it seemed clear Harvey would never have folded had it not been Alex’s demand. It will be interesting to see what other questionable decisions his past with Alex causes him to take and the divisions these will cause.

And then there is his insane “love” for Paula Agard. I’m not going to repeat myself from previous weeks (read my other reviews for that), but this plot line continues to baffle me. “Darvey” aside, I still don’t know where the writers are going with this. Yes, you have a connection with her Harvey – she was your therapist!! At least this week, Agard herself started to voice the questionable reality of their relationship (yes, it’s a terrible mistake, yes, it won’t work out and yes, you’ll look like a fool Paula). Why couldn’t she tell her mentor about it? She knew she would have told her it was unethical and unprofessional, that’s why and she’d be right! Oh, and if Harvey thinks it’s crazy to care what others think about their relationship, why didn’t he tell Donna about it when he had the ideal opportunity? Hmmm, Harvey? Nothing to say?

I will always hate how Agard has been reduced from the strong, professional woman that she was in season five, to simply being a plot device in the journey of Harvey Specter, but I truly hope Aaron Korsh and co have a way of having Harvey learn from this dalliance (it cannot last, surely?!). Whether that will ultimately lead to him and Donna getting together, who the heck knows these days, but I certainly don’t see that coming any time soon, if at all. Right now, I’d just like to see him being the type of man he used to be, before he fell and hit his head (or whatever happened literally overnight between 6.16 and 7.01)!

Looking ahead?

acfd389d76f022db4a8078bf92aeThe promo for next week doesn’t give us much detail, other than a battle with Alex’s former firm, who are looking to divide and conquer PSL. Maybe it would have been better Harvey, if  you hadn’t already opened a huge divide between you and Louis (who I expect will prove to be the better man than Alex come the end of the year).

Will we start to see the return of the old Harvey? Who on earth knows. I’m just thankful that, at the moment, I continue to love the other characters enough to keep watching.

Suits season seven continues on Wednesday nights on USA Network at 9/8 c in the USA and for UK fans, you can watch on Netflix every Thursday.