Theatre Review – Hamlet starring Andrew Scott (Almeida Theatre): devastatingly emotional, thrillingly original & impressive on every level

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Hamlet is my favourite Shakespeare play and I’m always keen to see a new interpretation of this rich and powerful story. Over the years, I’ve never been quite as eager in advance of seeing it, as I was before my very first experience back in 2008 at the RSC. That was until the Almeida Theatre announced Andrew Scott would be taking on Shakespeare’s famous character in a production by one of theatre’s most exciting directors, Robert Icke. I knew this had the potential to be truly special and on Monday night, I was thrilled to discover that all my expectations had been met and surpassed!

The key for me has always been that a great production of Hamlet must have more than a talented lead actor. The whole cast and the vision of its director need to be strong enough to bring Shakespeare’s story to life anew for the audience and this production succeeds in bringing together brilliant actors throughout the cast and a talented creative team, who together deliver a truly devastatingly emotional and thrillingly original experience.

Before we talk about Andrew Scott (and there is much to say!), I therefore have to talk about some of the many other performances in the ensemble worthy of praise. Juliet Stevenson follows Mary Stuart (also at the Almeida) with a fantastic Gertrude. Too often Gertrude is left on the sidelines of the play, but not here. She is a fully realised, flawed woman. Thrilled with the idea that Claudius is attracted to her, she has been carried along by the passion of it and yet is still conscious of how Hamlet is suffering, in no small part because of her actions. The closet scene has always been a favourite of mine and in productions such a this, where Gertrude has a believable bond with her son, it is a joy to watch. Stevenson and Scott wring every ounce of emotion out of it and in a production where Hamlet feels truly capable of anything (frighteningly so in fact), the danger feels very real and Stevenson captures Gertrude’s fear for herself, as well as her heartbreak at her son’s mental state.

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Angus Wright (Claudius), Andrew Scott (Hamlet) & Juliet Stevenson (Gertrude). Photo: Manuel Harlan for the Guardian

Interestingly, this production also places her firmly against Claudius before Hamlet’s return to Elsinore, as we see her realise and accept the King’s villainy when Horatio puts it in front of her. I have never seen such a scene included in Hamlet before and found that it made her choice to drink from the cup instead of Hamlet, a cup she knows with certainty to be poisoned, all the more tragic. Her last act is to show her loyalty to her son over Claudius.

The relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia is also given much more stage time than other productions I’ve seen, which gives far greater life and depth to their connection. Seeing her comfort a devastated Hamlet, who breaks down in her arms once they are alone after the wedding party scene was agonising, yet beautiful. It grounded their relationship in reality and was one of my favourite moments in the production, ensuring a greater emotional resonance to the tragedy of what’s to come. Jessica Brown-Findlay is a strong Ophelia, who has a truly loving relationship with her father, ensuring her spiral in to depression following his death is all the more poignant and heartbreaking. Her descent in to such despair is also handled sensitively. She isn’t a wild, whirling woman in these moments, but a young girl who has lost a father she adored and respected and at the hand of the man she loved.

Also and more so than in any other Hamlet I have seen, I found Rosencrantz and Guildenstern fascinating. For a start, they arrive much earlier than I am used to, which captured my attention! Hamlet has yet to “put on an antic disposition” when we first see them, suggesting that even before his father’s ghost appears to him, his behaviour is already causing concern. Not only that, but from the moment they arrive, there seems to be a tension between them and Hamlet, due to a potential love triangle.

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Andrew Scott (Hamlet), Amaka Okafor (Guildenstern) & Calum Finlay (Rosencrantz). Photo: Manuel Harlan for the Guardian

Amaka Okafor plays the female Guildenstern as a woman who clearly loves Hamlet and you have a sense that perhaps the two of them have a romantic history. Yet now it seems she is with Rosencrantz (played by Calum Finlay), which made for an interesting dynamic between the three. It also meant that certain lines carried much greater meaning, such as when Hamlet asks them to admit they were sent for if they love him, to which Guildenstern responds and also by giving Rosencrantz’s line “My Lord, you once did love me” to Guildenstern. Having two characters who are too often one-dimensional and marginalised actually catch my attention, is just one example of how Robert Icke’s production adds a fresh perspective to this well known story.

Angus Wright’s Claudius is a modern political manipulator. He is calm and collected and carries an air of suaveness that you can see would have turned Gertrude’s eye. I also didn’t believe for a moment that he felt any remorse for killing his brother, which became so evident in his “prayer” scene. He may not have the same commanding presence as actors such as Patrick Stewart had in the role, but Wright’s portrayal makes clear that the King is a threat to Hamlet, which is essential to maintain the underlying tension as the play progresses (and which I felt was lacking in Ciaran Hinds’s version).

Elliot Barnes-Worrell is a wonderful Horatio, who has a believable friendship and loyalty to Hamlet. Often their bond is lacking, resulting in a less satisfying, emotional ending, but not here. Luke Thompson’s portrayal of Laertes is also enjoyable. Laertes is often a weak link, yet Thompson ensures he is a character you sympathise with. David Rintoul’s Ghost was another performance I enjoyed. Although his initial appearance in front of Hamlet is quite eerie, he isn’t a frightening figure. In fact his interactions with Hamlet are much more affectionate than every other production I’ve seen and it only emphasises just what Hamlet has lost. In light of Rintoul’s portrayal, the choice to miss out the Ghost’s bellowing commands from below the earth (a moment I always find rather silly and certainly didn’t miss) was a wise one!

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The play within a play. Photo: Manuel Harlan for the Guardian

As you can see, I could say positives about this whole company (heck it even has the glorious Marty Cruickshank as the Player Queen!), which is one of its biggest strengths. It does not have weak links, allowing the play to sing and for Icke and his cast to try new and imaginative ideas with the material.

So, we come to Andrew Scott. I have been waiting for him to tackle Hamlet for years and he is superb. He is such a versatile actor and this is a performance that covers the entire spectrum of human emotion; one moment his Hamlet is filled with [frenetic energy], exploding with anger, frustration and grief, the next fragile and broken, seemingly utterly adrift in the world. He is also both hugely vulnerable and frighteningly dangerous, which was thrilling to watch. You believe Hamlet to be capable of anything, which provides the production of this 400 year-old play with a fresh tension and energy.

Scott’s ability with the text is also fantastic. He may occasionally be a little too loud, but he found emphasis and humour in lines that I’ve never seen before (and in one particular case regarding Hamlet’s continual fencing practice, addressed a line that has always annoyed me, with perfect comedy). I have always found him to be a truly soulful actor in every role (especially on stage) and every soliloquy was so full of raw emotion that he held the whole audience under his spell. I found his delivery of the “readiness is all” lines particularly heartbreaking. His is absolutely a Hamlet you will never forget.

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An utterly unforgettable Hamlet (Andrew Scott). Photo: Manuel Harlan for the Guardian

Indeed, on leaving the Almeida, I was most struck by how original an interpretation Robert Icke has created. Having seen most of his previous work, it is always thrilling and thought-provoking and yet I was still surprised by how his version of Hamlet had me seeing scenes I know so well in a different light, which is a rare treat. Hamlet is such a rich story, that directors and actors always have the scope to play with it if they dare and it was exciting to see that Icke and his cast have done just that.

I don’t want to spoil the cleverness of this production, but I will say that there are moments where a simple change leads to a whole new context for events that follow. The scene in which Hamlet considers killing his uncle as he is praying is one such example. The choices made on the Almeida stage in this scene were totally new to me and resulted in Hamlet’s crazed, frustrated, wild behaviour in his mother’s room making even more sense than usual, while proving that this Claudius is worlds away from the weaker portrayals of the character I’ve seen in other productions.

Hamlet’s sense of loss is always evident from the outset and yet here it is added to further through his immediate awareness of the fact he is potentially losing Ophelia too, following her father’s command that she stay away from him. In a production where we have already seen him break down in her arms, this is another blow to him and you feel the weight of loss on Andrew Scott’s shoulders. It’s another example of where just a couple of small changes impact on the emotional heart of the characters in new and interesting ways.

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Jessica Brown-Findlay (Ophelia) & Peter Wight (Polonius) in rehearsal. Photo: Miles Aldridge

As for Polonius (played by Peter Wight), he is usually portrayed as either a comical old fool, or for actors unable to capture the comedy, a rather dry and dull character. He may not be my favourite Polonius, but I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that Wight’s version fits neither of these images. He is a loving father and indeed a useful adviser to the king and in the scene in which he is usually most comical – his conversation with Hamlet in which he is called a fishmonger, the production does not take the obvious and well trodden route of Polonius talking to himself or the audience. Instead, here he becomes a shrewd player in the surveillance world of Elsinore and it’s a wonderfully clever way to make the scene and the character feel fresh. The fact that Hamlet makes clear that he knows precisely what is going on too is also very well executed.

The use of newsfeed-style footage for the scenes involving the Polish army and Fortinbras is also a wise choice, as these moments, although necessary for the wider plot, can drag the pace down. By including them in such a modern way, enables them to serve the plot, without losing the audience’s engagement. For example, we need Hamlet to see the Polish army in order for him to deliver the soliloquy it inspires, but here the focus is able to stay on Hamlet.

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Director Robert Icke

Hildegard Bechtler’s set is ideal for this production. There are no huge, ornate sets, filled with lots of furniture, which needs moving on and off stage during key moments (yes, I’m looking at you Barbican Hamlet). Instead, it is a very stripped back stage space that reminded me very much of Icke’s Oresteia. Divided in to two sections, the front half is kept quite bare, with minimal seating, while a sliding door separates it from the back half, where events such as the wedding party can continue in the background, without distracting from the play’s biggest moments. This split stage is also used to beautiful effect during the play’s final moments, where the sense of death and its stopping of our time on the earth are so poignantly conveyed.

I also loved the music choices made by the creative team. More dramatic moments were accompanied by a throbbing beat, which added to the sense of time running out for these individuals, while other scenes were accompanied by songs which captured the emotional heart of the moment. I especially liked the musical choice taken during the fencing scene, which again was something I’d never seen before in this play. As for the running time? Don’t be put off by it. Yes, it’s long, but as with some of his other plays, Icke’s three part, two interval structure and pacing ensures that you are swept along until the final scene.

Simply put, this is how Hamlet should be – thrilling, dramatic, poignant, funny, heartbreaking and thought-provoking. With such a strong, visionary director and talented cast, it made me see the play with fresh eyes and engage with Shakespeare’s tremendous work in new and exciting ways. I am sure it will be one that is discussed and remembered long in to the future and although the 2008 RSC production will always hold a special place in my heart, this production is the only one I have seen since that could go on to become my favourite. I am already excited to see it again, which is exactly how a production of Hamlet should make you feel.

If you already have tickets, you are in for a treat. If you haven’t, make the effort to get your hands on one. I promise you, you will not regret it.

Hamlet at the Almeida Theatre runs until 15th April 2016. Although tickets have sold out, there will be day seats on sale each morning at the box office and it is also worth trying for returns a few hours before each performance. Running time is 3 hours 45 minutes (including two 15 minute intervals). For more information, visit the theatre’s website here

 

Television Review – Suits – Episode 6.15 “Quid Pro Quo”

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Quid Pro Quo, the title of this week’s episode, suggested that we were in for yet more deals and manipulations, as Harvey’s crusade to get Mike in to the Bar continued. That was indeed exactly what this penultimate episode delivered, although thankfully this wasn’t at the expense of the other storylines. The fact that these back six episodes continue to be well balanced, rather than focussing solely on one plot, has been one of its biggest strengths in my opinion.

I mentioned getting Mike in to the Bar as being Harvey’s crusade, as it has been Harvey driving this scheme. Mike may have been dissatisfied with the lack of power and control over cases he was working on at the clinic, but had Harvey not made a deal with Seidel in the first place, they wouldn’t be in the risky position they are now, with collusion and blackmail becoming their default behaviour. This probably all still flows from the guilt he has carried since Mike went to jail for him and this week we saw Harvey doing what he does best, putting pressure on people to get what he needs from them. The only problem I have with this, is the increasing regularity of his actions being distinctly shady. I love these characters and know they are good people, but the more dodgy deals they make, the more irritated I get! At least, with Rachel’s help, they were able to ensure the miners received a fair deal, while keeping Mike’s dream a possibility.

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Rachel (Meghan Markle) & Harvey (Gabriel Macht). Photo source: USA Network

Rachel and Harvey having more contact has been a highlight and the two of them made a fantastic team this week, just as much as Harvey and Mike. Rachel has certainly grown in confidence over the seasons and now she’s proved just what she’s capable of. I’d personally love to see more scenes like this one!

As for Mike, after him seemingly taking a few steps back on the personal development path recently by putting his clients on the line for his own ends, it was a relief to see him redeem himself a little by refusing to put his own dream ahead of obtaining a fair offer for the miners in his case. The celebratory scene between him and Harvey was lovely, albeit, in my opinion, a little premature! They have proven time and again, the extremes they will go to for each other and I sense there will be more before season six concludes.

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Harvey (Gabriel Macht) & Donna (Sarah Rafferty) pursue their own goals. Photo source: USA Network

As for dreams, Donna and Benjamin continued to explore the future of “The Donna.” I’ve been a little hesitant about this storyline so far, beyond the light relief it offers, but the promise that it would cause Donna to re-evaluate her life is now starting to pay off. She is so much more than Harvey’s secretary and this week she started to see that perhaps it’s time for her to think seriously about what she wants for the rest of her career. 

Having seen their investor meeting appear to go so well, it was a heartbreaking moment watching Donna listen to them talking about her as if she was a lesser person and I can see how she will perhaps start to question her life and lay a new path. Whether this leads to her leaving the firm or not, I’m already looking forward to following her story in season seven. Yes, I’d like to see Donna and Harvey end up together, but I also want to see Donna fulfilled and I don’t see a relationship with Harvey as the only source of that fulfilment.

Donna’s story also saw the return of Stu (played wonderfully by Ian Reed Kessler)! I was disappointed that the writers chose for Donna to give up on more meetings so fast before going back to Stu (especially for 90% stake!), but I grew to really like him last time and his easy-going manner will be a welcome addition to the show now he’s back to support Donna and Benjamin’s project. I can see them making a great trio next season.

That just leaves Louis. Poor, poor Louis. Watching him grow up over the last few weeks has been a real delight. He has put pettiness aside just as Jessica always wanted and has been the one keeping the firm going, as Harvey yet again only focuses on Mike. The scene in this episode where he stood his ground with Harvey about what the firm needed, regardless of the effect on Mike was hugely satisfying. He has come so far and at the moment I still think he should lead the firm. It was therefore very sad to see his decision to be honest with Tara backfire.

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Harvey (Gabriel Macht) & Louis (Rick Hoffman) – still a team for the moment. Photo source: USA Network

Rachel warned him that there were no guarantees she would forgive him and the fact they don’t have a solid foundation supporting their relationship, perhaps made her reaction inevitable. I was however, still sad to see that Louis may be about to lose yet another romance because of Mike. Personally, I think their engagement when they barely know each other, let alone her pregnancy, is the most farfetched storyline in the series at the moment and I don’t think it will end well. Tara reminded me a lot of Scottie in this episode, in that she had been pushing for them to be honest and open with each other and yet when that’s what Louis gives her (as Harvey did with Scottie), she says she wishes he hadn’t! Just as I don’t think Scottie is right for Harvey, I don’t see Tara as Louis’s soulmate, but I will be disappointed if we now see him undo all the growth he’s achieved because of her.You can do better Louis!

With everything now in place for Mike’s Bar hearing and after watching the promo for the finale (link below), I can’t help but worry that not everyone will escape this season unscathed! Will Anita Gibbs ruin Mike’s chances? Will Harvey pay the price for one risk too many? I certainly hope it doesn’t cost Harvey his career, as although this latest crusade has been of his making, Suits wouldn’t be Suits without Harvey Specter at the firm as a lawyer! The series continues to be one of the few shows I find impossible to predict and I am bracing myself for an unexpected twist, but all we can do is wait until next week to see whether things will be resolved, or whether a cliffhanger will make the  wait for season seven feel even longer!

I’d love to hear what you think will happen in the finale, so feel free to comment.

The Suits season finale, episode 6×16 “Character & Fitness” airs next Wednesday on USA Network in the USA. You can watch the trailer here. This episode 6.15 airs in the UK on Dave on Sunday night at 10 p.m, with the finale the week after.

Television Review – The Walking Dead -Episode 7.9 “Rock In The Road”

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Once I’d recovered from the horror of the opening episode of the latest season of The Walking Dead (as much as one can ever recover from that!), I admit to growing more and more frustrated with the rest of the episodes. Having to introduce so many different communities often left me feeling unsatisfied at the end of each week, with very little actually happening to move the overall story forward.

Rock In The Road was therefore a welcome return to form and a start that I hope signals the next half of the season is going to go from strength to strength. Crucially, this mid-season premiere picked up the pace, as we finally see Rick and the Alexandria gang preparing to make a stand against the Saviours. Clearly, this being The Walking Dead, this action is bound to end in death for some (please not Daryl or Michonne!), but it’s the only way forward for the characters and the series and I’m excited at what lies ahead.

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Gregory was not in the mood to join the rebellion. Photo source: AMC

It was fantastic to see Rick and the characters we’ve grown to know so well meet and interact with other communities (their reaction to the tiger was fun) and with Daryl in hiding at The Kingdom, hopefully we’ll see new alliances starting to form. It’s clearly not going to be easy for them to convince others to fight, with the threat of a close encounter with Lucille hanging over their heads and it will be interesting to see on which side of the fight these communities and indeed individuals within them will choose.

Charcter-wise, Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes has always been one of the biggest assets to the series and was the reason I started watching in the first place. We’ve been through a lot with Rick and his period of resignation to Negan’s rule was beginning to grate, so thank god he’s getting back to being the leader he has always been. Tom Payne as Jesus is also fast becoming one of my favourites this year and I hope I’m not getting attached to someone with a short life expectancy! I had been hoping to see the original gang (especially Daryl) reunited with Carol this week, but hopefully this will happen as the season unfolds. It was also fascinating that Morgan hid from them that she isn’t actually that far away.

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Two cars + wire = mass Walker destruction! Photo source: AMC

As for set pieces, this episode treated us to one of the most visually impressive scenes in the series to date, as Rick and Michonne dispatched a multitude of Walkers all in one go, using just two cars and some wire. If only getting rid of Negan was that easy!

However the most intriguing part of the episode was what has motivated Gabriel to drain their supplies and run? He has always been weak, but it did seem out of character when he had finally started to step up recently. However, after rewinding the opening scene, I noticed that he wasn’t alone in the car as he drove away from Alexandria, so perhaps he is likely being controlled by others, possibly the group introduced in the final moments of the episode. I’ve never been a fan of Gabriel, so if this storyline gives him a bigger role and purpose, I’m all for it.

Thankfully, after the recent run of dull episodes, Rock in the Road suggests that perhaps the series is taking a turn for the better. I admit I’m dreading the inevitable losses that are to come, but I’m excited again about this series and look forward to seeing what the writers have in store!

The Walking Dead season 7 continues in the USA on Sundays on AMC and in the UK on Mondays at 9 p.m. on FOX. You can watch the promo for the next episode “New Best Friends” here

 

Television Review – Suits – Episode 6.14 “Admission of Guilt”

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Another week, another fantastic episode of Suits, as episode 6.14 successfully moved the multiple strands currently running in this sixth season along, as we head ever nearer to the season finale.

The most striking thought I had after watching Admission of Guilt was how well balanced an episode it was. There were wonderfully light, fun moments, lovely emotionally meaningful moments and lots of drama and tension, so much so that I was biting my nails by the end! It was Suits at its best, reminding me of earlier seasons, as we watch the legal manoeuvrings ping back and forth as people’s true motives were revealed (let’s face it, wasn’t it obvious that man had more at stake than his marriage?).

The main focus was Harvey and Mike’s pursuit of a legitimate case against Velocity Data Solutions, in order to achieve their ulterior motive of getting Mike a hearing for admission to the Bar. It’s a storyline that enables us to enjoy all the aspects that made the series a hit. Harvey is back being the brilliant tactician he is, finding a way to bend the circumstances to his (and by default here, Mike’s) advantage. Whether it works or not remains to be seen, not to mention the fact he seems certain Mike will come back to the firm, while Mike seems committed to not doing so! Plus how will Mike react if Harvey no longer intends to take the lawsuit forward, if he really cares about those workers?

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Will Mike Ross get admitted to the Bar? Photo source: SpoilerTV/USA Network

There is also some wonderful interplay between Mike and Harvey, which reminded me how much I’ve missed the two of them together playing scenes like these. Their partnership has always been the cornerstone of Suits and it was great to see Gabriel Macht and Patrick J Adams delivering more of their characters’ banter.

We were also treated to another successful partnership between Rachel and Katrina. These two characters have had a rocky history and yet they now respect each other and proved to be a strong team. In an episode focusing primarily on the case and Mike, it was lovely that there was time given to furthering Rachel’s personal journey too. She has always been determined to be a success in her own right and make her father proud of her. Seeing her reaction to someone telling her how much he admires her professionally was a lovely, emotional addition to the episode. Added to that, we also don’t seem to have to worry about Mike and Harvey’s actions jeopardising Rachel’s career now that she will be being admitted to the Bar.

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Katrina (Amanda Schull) & Rachel (Meghan Markle). Photo source: USA Network

Louis’s personal development also continued this week and the more he grows, the more I see him as the logical choice for Managing Partner. This week saw Harvey putting Mike ahead of the firm, letting Louis down and putting his career and reputation (and therefore that of his firm) at risk. In the meantime, Louis continued to try and keep the PSL ship steady. Yes, his plan failed, but he did try and was this another predictable show, it would have been a success. It will be fascinating to see whether he does end up heading the firm in the future.

His relationship with Tara continues to grow too, although I remain sceptical, and can’t help thinking she’ll ultimately break his heart. Their conversation about having more children was quite telling, as her cleverly worded response suggests to me that the topic of children may end yet another of Louis’s romances. Rick Hoffman has spoken about Louis either growing in season 6B or regressing and I genuinely hope I’m wrong that things won’t work out for him.

Then there was “The Donna.” I remain unconvinced by this storyline. I love the light relief it brings to the show, especially when the stakes are so high everywhere else and it did produce some fun moments this week, with Harvey being introduced to another Donna and Donna receiving a pep talk from her electronic self. However, it still feels rather superficial and to some extent trivialises the character of Donna and everything that makes her such a special part of the series. I know creator Aaron Korsh has spoken about Donna’s arc growing in to something that makes her think about what she wants from life, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be converted before the end of series and that this brilliant character isn’t let down.

What is already clear though, is that the writing staff are creating a hugely satisfying back six episodes to this season and I’m intrigued to see what lies ahead for the family of PSL. I’m always impressed how unpredictable a series Suits is. With two episodes left, we still cannot be sure what will happen. I’m starting to get a little concerned that something bad is brewing for them, but I love that the writers continue to twist and turn the storylines in order to keep us guessing! Is it next week yet?!

Favourite Lines this week:

  • Louis to Harvey: “Does that mean you’re never going to go mudding with me?” Harvey to Louis: “Yes Louis, that’s what it means.”
  • Harvey to Mike: “You were the least experienced dickhead I’ve ever met.”
  • Rachel to Katrina about her father’s comments: “It doesn’t make me feel bad. It makes me feel great.”
  • Benjamin to Donna: “This isn’t Westworld! I can’t make her human!”

 

My Top TV Couples!

I’ve recently been rewatching a few old television favourites and it’s become clear to me that the shows I tend to invest in usually have a strong couple at their heart. Some of these are friendships, some are more than that and others morph over time from one to the other. I’m still considering my list of ultimate TV friendships (watch this space), but in the spirit of it being Valentine’s Day, I’m starting with my favourite television couples.

Of course, everyone’s list will be personal, so I’m sure there will be couples I’ve missed who you would choose, so feel free to let me know your choices in the comments! It also goes without saying that this post will contain spoilers for the shows referenced.

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Fox Mulder & Dana Scully (The X-Files)

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To me, Mulder and Scully will always be the ultimate television couple. It was a relationship that grew from their strong friendship and over the years of the series I loved seeing how much respect and love these two amazing characters had for each other. It bubbled under the surface, but never detracted from the series itself and even 20 years later, the incredible chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson remains as powerful as ever. The magic the two of them share does not come around very often and as yet, has not been beaten. You can read more of my thoughts on these two here.

Harvey Specter & Donna Paulsen (Suits)

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I know some people may argue against the inclusion of Harvey and Donna in a couples list, but their relationship has developed so much recently, that I find it impossible not to see them as meant to be, even if they are not quite there yet! Over the last six seasons we have seen their deeply-rooted friendship grow. Yes, they’ve already been lovers once, but they share so much more than that. Sarah Rafferty and Gabriel Macht have a chemistry that is rare on television and I’m sure their long-standing friendship has added to the fabric of Harvey and Donna’s relationship. These characters wouldn’t be so wonderful on screen were they portrayed by anyone else. As with Mulder and Scully, this is certainly a slow burn, but surely these two have to end up together?!

Josh Lyman & Donna Moss (The West Wing)

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I clearly enjoy the slow burn relationships don’t I, as here is yet another one! From the start of Aaron Sorkin’s political drama I always loved the banter between the Deputy Chief of Staff and his assistant and as the series progressed, their wonderful bond became more apparent. Thanks to Bradley Whitford and Janel Moloney’s on screen connection, any other relationships each character had just never seemed quite as special as the one they shared together. Josh may have been the political player, but it became clear how much he relied on Donna and when she left to pursue her own ambitions, it gave him the push to pursue his new path and when they did finally get together it didn’t overshadow the series, as by then it was the logical and natural next step.

Alicia Florrick & Will Gardner (The Good Wife)

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I still feel incredibly sad when I think about this ill-fated pair, but there was no way they wouldn’t feature on my list, as they are probably the hottest and most moving couple on TV. The attraction between Will and Alicia was clear from the very beginning (in no large part down to the chemistry between Josh Charles and Julianna Margulies) and along with many fans of the series, I had my fingers crossed for their future. They clearly loved one another and Alicia should probably have picked Will before she ever married her dreadful husband. The time they were together treated us to some of the steamiest scenes on television (here’s one for the uninitiated) as well as some of the most emotional, but sadly it wasn’t to be, with Will being tragically killed in series five (something I still wish the internet hadn’t ruined for me in advance). It was an event I never expected, which still makes me reach for the tissues. The fact their love was cut short in such an cruel way makes their whole story all the more powerful and is probably the couple that has moved me the most on television.

Temperance Brennan & Seeley Booth (Bones)

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Bones is a series I’ve missed over the last few years and I’m slowly playing catch up, but what was clear from day one was the chemistry between David Boreanaz’s Booth and Emily Deschanel’s Brennan. I have only reached series eight (the final season 12 is airing now), but what I enjoy most about this series is how the writers were able to transition the characters from friends, to lovers, to marriage and children. It has enabled fans to see their relationship grow in a more mature and realistic way, which is something other shows could learn from.

The Doctor & Rose Tyler (Doctor Who)

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Since it’s return in 2005 Doctor Who has seen some wonderful partnerships on board the TARDIS. However, there is one that touched the hearts of many fans of the series and that was the love between David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor and Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler. Yes, nothing ever happened between them, but their bond was never in doubt and their heartbreaking farewell on Bad Wolf Bay was a classic moment that certainly made me shed some tears.

Kevin Walker & Scotty Wandell (Brothers & Sisters)

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There were many relationships within Brothers & Sisters, but for me the most heartfelt and believable one was that between Kevin and Scotty (played brilliantly by Matthew Rhys and Luke MacFarlane). Through all the Walker family turmoil, they were a breath of fresh air with their loving relationship. They weren’t free from problems (most notably Scotty’s affair), but loved each other enough not to throw their relationship away.

Buffy Summers & Spike (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)

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Some may be surprised that the relationship on my list from Buffy is not the one between Buffy and Angel! Yes, theirs was one of the core elements of the series in the early years, but Buffy and Spike’s short-lived relationship was the one that has always interested me the most. When you think about it (and leave aside the undead aspect!), they were a far better match for each other. Perhaps it was the fact Buffy was older than the teenager who fell for Angel, but her connection with Spike came across as a more mature one. They knew each other’s faults and accepted them anyway and some of the scenes between James Marsters and Sarah Michelle Geller in those later episodes remain some of my favourites.

Doug Ross & Carol Hathaway (E.R)

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E.R remains my favourite medical series (more on that here) and although it had some lovely relationships during its 15 years, one always stood above the rest and that was the love affair between Doug and Carol. The fact it became so iconic in the 90s (and was the first big break for each of George Clooney and Julianna Margulies) is more impressive when you think that Carol wasn’t even meant to survive the pilot episode. They went through ups and downs, split up and got back together more than once, but you couldn’t help but root for them and the icing on the cake was Clooney’s surprise return for the last few moments of the episode which saw Carol leave Chicago behind for the love of her life.

Chuck Bass & Blaire Waldorf (Gossip Girl)

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Chuck and Blaire were the best schemers in Gossip Girl, manipulating situations and characters to their advantage and there were many times when I really couldn’t stand them! However, the writers created something very clever in their relationship. Despite their underhanded behaviour, they seemed to bring out the best in each other, which in turn changed my perception of them and thanks to the acting talents of Ed Westwick and Leighton Meester they became my favourite characters in the show. Had they not ended up together I’d have been thoroughly disappointed.

Carrie Bradshaw & Mr. Big (Sex And The City)

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The Mr.Big debate was a big one during Sex And The City’s run, with fans divided as to whether Carrie should end up with him or not. He may have been an idiot for the majority of the show, but I was always of the view that deep down they were soul mates. Despite all the pain and hurt, they always seemed to come back to one another and he would do anything for her. I also loved the fun they seemed to have and Chris Noth and Sarah Jessica Parker sparkled in their scenes together.

Sydney Bristow & Michael Vaughn (Alias)

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J.J Abrams’s spy drama was a highlight of American television at the time of its original run and the will they won’t they dynamic of Sydney and Vaughn captured the hearts of its fans (including me). Yes, there were some utterly bonkers plot developments along the way, including Vaughn’s faked death, but Jennifer Garner and Michael Vartan always ensured the relationship between Sydney and Vaughn was genuinely lovely to watch right until the end.

Ross Poldark & Demelza (Poldark)

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Yes, Aidan Turner’s torso has generated a great deal of attention since Poldark was brought back to our screens in 2015, but the best character in my view is the fiery Demelza, superbly played by Eleanor Tomlinson and their romance is what keeps me tuning in each week. They may be from different backgrounds, but they are undoubtably stronger together and do truly belong together. I’m looking forward to seeing what lies ahead in series three after the ups and downs of the last series.

Lizzie Bennet & Mr Darcy (BBC, Pride & Prejudice)

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Colin Firth may be a successful Oscar-winning actor, but he’ll always be best known for his iconic portrayal of Mr Darcy in the BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. The British public fell under his spell and that of his counterpart Jennifer Ehle. In my opinion, they created the definitive Lizzie and Darcy and every scene they had together sparkled, making them one of the TV couples of the 90s in Britain.

Ianto Jones and Captain Jack Harkness (Torchwood)

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The relationship between Captain Jack (John Barrowman) and Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) in Torchwood was hugely important for British television and remains one of my favourites of recent years. What was lovely about the pairing was that they may have been very different personalities, but were in fact perfectly suited. They were playful, affectionate and stood by each other through all the crazy happenings in their lives and Ianto’s emotional death in Children Of Earth was heartbreaking for fans of the show. We felt his loss as much as Captain Jack. Heck, does any other fictional character have a shrine like Ianto’s in Cardiff?!

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So, those are my top fifteen television couples. I look forward to hearing about who you would choose!

Television Review – Suits – Episode 6.13 “Teeth, Nose, Teeth”

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After two character-driven episodes, although the latest chapter of Suits contained a good dose of character development (more on that later), it was a return to the show’s usual rhythm, as we see the characters navigating New York’s legal and business world, while handling a few personal challenges along the way. Overall, it was an enjoyable hour of television; however it wasn’t as satisfying in my view as the last two weeks have been.

There was lots to enjoy in 6.13, wittily titled Teeth, Nose, Teeth as a reference to Louis Litt and as Louis was my favourite character this week by a mile, I’ll start there. Last week was all about Harvey’s personal growth, but this week highlighted he isn’t the only member of PSL to be experiencing a period of personal change.

After Rachel turns to Louis with news that the legal and ethics committee of the Bar have refused her an interview, he doesn’t wade in, explode and make things ten times worse. Instead, he talks the situation through with his fellow named partner, Harvey, and they agree a strategy together! Louis accepting his and Harvey’s strengths was a stride forward for him. The fact he followed this up with asking for Harvey’s advice on his personal life and then actually handled that situation in a rational, mature and loving manner made me want to cheer!

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Louis Litt (Rick Hoffamn) – character of the week!

I do worry though that his relationship with Tara will not end well. Maybe I’m a pessimist, but she comes across as a woman using Louis’s generous nature to have a reliable support in her life. I’m not convinced she loves him and it’ll be a shame if, after this growth, we still don’t see him happy. In fact, with Louis changing for the better and Harvey yet again skirting around the law, perhaps Louis is becoming the man more suited to run PSL in the long-term and I never thought I’d say that!

As for Harvey, it was great to see him more relaxed this week than he’s been in a long time. He was able to actually work with Louis and even give him supportive advice about his complicated relationship. No longer is this type of conversation “not his area” and I hope we see much more of this side to him. It was also lovely to see Donna and him getting back to the witty banter of past years. Yes, I hope they end up together, but for the moment, I’m fine with the type of fun they used to have in earlier seasons coming back to the screen.

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Mike (Patrick J Adams) finds it hard to sit on the sidelines with Rachel (Meghan Markle)

As well as making peace with Harvey this week (and nailing the best line of the episode when discussing his upcoming wedding!), I was pleased to see Mike forging ahead with his desire to try and help people via his work at the legal clinic.  The fact it wasn’t easy due to his conviction made the story all the more plausible. We saw Mike as a man growing up and trying to do the right thing, even if it’s tough. It was disappointing for me therefore, that the episode ended with him and Harvey yet again looking towards the grey areas of the world to get what they want.

As much as I’d love to see Mike and Harvey working together again, how they handle this plot is crucial. From a reality perspective, if they do succeed in getting Mike a hearing to be considered for admission to the Bar (which is the equivalent of their professional body, not just an exam/committee), I hope they don’t just suddenly magic everything fixed, as that is not how it would work and although this is a television show, the solution they come up with has to be one that could happen in the real world for me to take it seriously. I suppose time with tell. I also hope it doesn’t jeopardise Rachel’s hearing, as that could ruin her relationship with Mike!

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Will Harvey (Gabriel Macht) get to hear some home truths from The Donna?!

We’d heard that this week also marked the start of Donna’s own arc. She’s always been integral to the series and on the few occasions we’ve focused more on her (series four’s Intent as an example), they have been some of the best episodes of the series. Yes, I think “The Donna” is fun, it’s lovely to see more of David Reale as Benjamin and there is potential for some highly entertaining moments by introducing it (picture Louis turning to it for advice and it putting him in his place, or Harvey not realising it’s on her desk when she’s no there and it giving him sass), but I was hoping for something with a bit more depth for her. I have faith in Aaron Korsh and Sarah Rafferty is always a joy, so fingers crossed this doesn’t simply turn in to a gimmicky storyline. Having said that, if Harvey ends up getting disbarred for what he’s about to do with Mike, he may need to live off Donna and her possible millions!

So, overall, 6.13 provided some lovely character moments and although I’m not hugely satisfied with Mike’s decision or the start of Donna’s arc, it did what Suits is best at, which is keeping the audience guessing as to where exactly it’s headed. Will Mike get a hearing for admission to the Bar? Will these actions have consequences for Harvey? Will Mike and Rachel actually make it to their vows (for those of us rooting for the Best Man and Maid of Honour, they better do!)? You can watch the promo for the next episode at SpoilerTV here.

Favourite Lines this week:

  • Harvey mocking Mike: “She have a man purse?”
  • Mike mocking Harvey (and officially joining the #Darvey campaign): “We also need to make sure you don’t *cough* Donna at the wedding!”
  • Louis’s analysis of Tara’s ex: “He’s not just good looking, he’s a god damn Renaissance statue!”

Suits series 6 continues with episode 6.14 “Admission of Guilt” on USA Network next Wednesday in the States and with this episode 6.13 on Dave on Sunday at 10 p.m. in the UK.

Who’s Who? – My suggestions for the next Doctor!

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Peter Capaldi has announced that he will leave Doctor Who during this year’s Christmas special. Personally, I’m disappointed Capaldi isn’t staying for longer. He’s a great Doctor, but I think the episodes he’s had under Steven Moffat have been somewhat patchy and I would have liked to see his Doctor under Chris Chibnall’s new era. Sadly it’s not to be.

The announcement has unsurprisingly been followed by speculation as to who should replace him. I’ve seen some rather wacky suggestions over the last few days, including actors far too famous (and therefore expensive) to take the role and so it made me start to think about who I’d like to see. Yes, I agree some of the names flying around would be great (Ben Whishaw, Bill Nighy, Rory Kinnear etc.), but I just don’t think they are realistic and so I’ve tried to keep this list within the realms of possibility!

I’ll start with a disclaimer – Personally, I don’t see the Doctor as a woman. I know not everyone agrees with this and I respect that, but for me, the Doctor is a man and I don’t see myself as doing a disservice to my gender by saying that. My list therefore reflects my view.

  • Kris Marshall

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I’ve been a big fan of Kris Marshall for years and now he’s leaving Death In Paradise, having him become the next Doctor would keep him on my television screen! He’s quirky, capable of comedic and serious work and would bring a new sparkle of fun to the TARDIS. He’s therefore top of my wish list. He also left Death In Paradise to be nearer his family, so regular work in the UK would be perfect for him.

  • Bertie Carvel

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Bertie Carvel is a fantastic actor, whose stage work is always a joy and although he’s started to be seen more on television (most recently in Doctor Foster), he’s not too famous that having him join Doctor Who doesn’t seem farfetched. I could easily see him handling both light-hearted and darker stories and I can already picture him doing a kick-ass “I’m the Doctor” speech.

  • John Heffernen

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John Heffernen has been one of my favourite actors since I saw him on stage in 2010 in After The Dance. Why would he make a great Doctor? The answer is his versatility. I’ve seen him tackle all manner of roles on stage and each time he brings a new energy to his work. Although this would take him away from the stage, I’d be willing to accept it if he was swapping this for such a plum television role!

  • Rafe Spall

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I’ve included Rafe Spall on my list, but I already accept he may already be too famous to be in the position to be open to taking such a role. As his current role in the National Theatre’s Hedda Gabler proves yet again, he has a wonderful way of being able to pivot effortlessly from a playful to dark (and often chilling – did you see The Shadow Line?!) personality and he’s already proved he can take on strong roles in BBC drama.

  • Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

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I first came across Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Mr. Eko in Lost and loved the air of mystery he brought to that role. It’s that sense of being a bit of an enigma that I think he’d be able to bring to Doctor Who. With recent Hollywood films Concussion and Suicide Squad on his CV, as well as a brief spell in Game of Thrones, he’s not an unknown, but is still growing in exposure. He’s probably also a good age for the iconic Timelord.

  • Sacha Dhawan

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Sacha Dhawan is steadily building up a solid television career, which has included roles in a two of Mark Gatiss’s projects (the creepy The Tractate Middoth and the story behind Doctor Who, An Adventure in Time and Space), not to mention a role in the latest series of Sherlock, as well as Line of Duty and Mr Selfridge. He’s certainly an actor on the rise, but someone not too well known, meaning he could bring something fresh to the series, while at the same time building his own profile.

  • Stephen Mangan

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Stephen Mangan’s name has come up in connection with the role of the Doctor in the past and I have to admit, I quite like the idea. If the BBC are wanting a more established name, he provides that, while also bringing a solid career of work with him of roles that don’t just include comedy. He’s also suitably quirky (and his friendship with David Tennant could lure the latter back for the odd cameo)!

  • Jonjo O’Neill

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Another theatre favourite of mine is Jonjo O’Neill, who has impressed me on stage with some unforgettable performances. He is also building his television career, with roles in the last series of The Fall and even a small part in the 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who. Jonjo has an energy that not all actors possess (anyone who saw him as Mercutio for the Royal Shakespeare Company or in the recent Royal Court play Unreachable with Matt Smith, can attest to this). Anyone taking on the Doctor needs to have a strong screen presence and someone with the mesmerising quality he has would be an ideal choice.

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So, those are my top choices to be the next inhabitant of the TARDIS. What do you think? It’s certainly going to be an interesting time for Doctor Who fans as we await a new series this Spring, as well as any information on what Chris Chibnall has in mind (will he have a writer’s room and who will he pick for it? will he turn to some directors from RTD’s era of the series?).

One thing is certain, it’s Doctor Who’s ability to constantly refresh itself with each new Doctor that makes it so fun to watch!

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Tarryn Richardson

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