My 2017 Theatre Review – Memorable Moments

I’ve already set out my favourite productions of 2017, so this post will look back on the my most memorable moments, whether a performance, a scene, or a personal experience during a show, these are the moments that I’ll remember most from the last 12 months of theatregoing.

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1. David Tennant declaring he was “magnificently f*ckable” as Don Juan in Don Juan in Soho!

A theatre year is always a little more special for me when Mr Tennant is on the stage and earlier this year he took on the lothario Don Juan. It may not have made my favourite productions list, but he had some wonderful dialogue, this being my personal highlight!

2. The continued excitement and joy of the audience at Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Next spring Broadway will finally welcome the Harry Potter play to the stage (with me in the audience), but until then the only place to see it remains London and being lucky enough to return to see the show a few times this year (including the final show of the original cast and a trip to see the new one), I continue to love the atmosphere in the Palace Theatre. It’s one of the two happiest theatres in town and you can feel the buzz of excitement from everyone around you. It’s simply magical.

3. Realising about 15 minutes in to Hamilton that I was under its spell

The Palace is one of the two happiest theatres in town and since early December, the other is the Victoria Palace Theatre, now home to the mighty Hamilton. You can read my review and my end of year review for thoughts, but I will always remember the feeling of knowing that not only was the hype justified, but that I was watching something very special indeed.

4. Getting to see another of my favourite actors on stage for the first time

I made two trips to NYC this year, but the first was driven by one aim – to see Josh Charles on stage! I’ve been a fan of his film and TV work for quite a while now and couldn’t miss the chance to see him in The Antipodes at the wonderful Signature Theatre. And the cherry on the cake – getting a chance to speak to him afterwards, plus an autograph and photo. He was one of the most genuine actors I’ve ever had the pleasure to speak to and it made my trip!

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5. A final trip to Groundhog Day and frustration that Broadway didn’t appreciate it more

Poor poor Groundhog Day. If only it had stayed here in London. I know it’ll be back here soon enough, but I’ll always be a little sad that Andy Karl won’t get longer in the role of Phil Connors. He really was wonderful and I’m so pleased I had one last chance to see it earlier this year in NYC.

6. Ian McKellen bringing Gandalf back to life for a few minutes on stage!

In July, Ian McKellen helped raise money for the Park Theatre in London through a week of special performances on a one-man show about his life and career. It was a very special experience, the highlight being the opening: a pitch black theatre, Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings score playing and the voice of Gandalf, as if back in the Mines of Moria, coming out of the darkness as McKellen walked on to the stage. Unforgettable!

7. Being on the front row of the first official performance at the new Bridge Theatre!

I’ve been looking forward to this new theatre opening ever since it was announced and being able to be at the first official performance (there were two soft opening performances put on early) of a new London theatre was quite a thrill. The smell of fresh paint and new leather and a whole new building to explore. I look forward to many more visits to come.

8. My front row seat experience for Network and having Bryan Cranston look me straight in the eyes from mere inches away

Network is on my list of favourites of the year and not only did I enjoy the play and its commanding lead actor’s performance, but this was made all the more special, when Mr Cranston ended up sitting behind me during one of the scenes, resulting in him giving a direct performance to those of us sitting around him for a few minutes.

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9. The brilliance of the final scene of Out There on the Fried Meat Ridge Road at the Trafalgar Studios

I won’t ruin it for those yet to see this lovely show, but the final moments were so clever and fun that it had me smiling long after I’d left the building. It’s a show that I’m so pleased I didn’t miss.

10. The OTT reaction of the Broadway audience to Bette Midler in Hello Dolly

Now, first things first, I enjoyed the show and I thought Bette Midler was fantastic, but what wasn’t quite as enjoyable was the reaction of the audience during the show. I know the NYC custom is to applaud the famous names on their first appearance on the stage (as annoying as I find it), but every time she appeared, everything she said or did, was met with prolonged applause and cheers. Ultimately it distracted me from the show and drove me crazy!

11. Witnessing Ben Platt sob his way through “Words Fail” in Dear Evan Hansen

Hello Dolly may have been a less than satisfying theatre experience, but the same couldn’t be said for Dear Evan Hansen (on both visits). I will never forget watching Ben Platt’s performance and Words Fail in particular, as he managed to sing so beautifully through sobs, as the audience sniffled along with him.

12. The thrill of the unexpected in Robert Icke’s Hamlet, particularly Laertes in that final duel

I’ve talked enough about how much I loved this production, but it was filled with moments that surprised me, despite having seen Hamlet quite a few times now. No moment sums up the freshness of this production more than when I realised that Laertes doesn’t want to have the duel at the end! I have never seen an interpretation where Laertes has had second thoughts and when asking for a new foil is wanting to swap the poisoned one for another. It changed how I saw that character and made the end so much more powerful. Such unexpected thrills at the theatre are what make it such a wonderful experience.

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13. The RSC’s sound effect of the year that made an auditorium gasp

I only made one trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon this year, which was to see the RSC’s latest production of Julius Caesar and the moment I have not been able to forget was the moment a young boy seemingly had his neck broken. Yes, I know nothing is real on stage, but the sound effect used to create the illusion of murder in that moment was quite shocking!

14. Andrew Garfield bringing a tear to my eye, as he bid the audience a final farewell at the last performance of Angels in America in London

I loved this production, as I’ve already mentioned in my annual round-up and it was very special to be in the audience for the last performance (I was in good company as Mr Cumberbatch was there too). It’s a powerful piece of theatre, but watching Andrew Garfield give those final lines as Prior Walter, talking directly to us, was something I’ll never forget: “The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come. Bye now. You are fabulous creatures, each and every one. And I bless you: More Life. The Great Work Begins.”

15. Experiencing the wonderful staging of The Great Comet from a stage seat

I didn’t love The Great Comet as a musical, but I could certainly appreciate the staging and the fun of the interaction with the audience when I watched the show from a banquette seat earlier this year. I wasn’t in a position to be picked on, thank god, but I did enjoy some fresh bread to eat and my own little egg shaker to join in with the percussion during the show, not to mention a close up seat for Josh Groban’s gorgeous singing!

16. My horror at the result of my audience’s vote on letting latecomers in to The Majority at the National Theatre

The Majority was a fun theatre experience, requiring each of us in the audience to engage directly in the journey of the performance through a series of votes on our keypads. The most horrifying for me? The narrow victory of those who voted to let latecomers in to the auditorium once the show had started! Fools!

17. My first ever time leaving a show at the interval

I know some people do this often, but I’ve never left a show early. I usually hold on, in the hope I’ll enjoy the second half more. However, on one trip this year, I just couldn’t face it. Ironically, Travesties was a show most people loved and many will no doubt say it was a travesty that I left, but it just wasn’t funny to me and I was bored. Maybe it caught me on an off day.

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So, what were your most memorable, personal theatre moments this year? I’d love to hear them and look forward to finding out what’s in store next year in theatre land!

Photo credits (besides me!): Don Juan In Soho = Helen Maybanks; The Antipodes = Joan Marcus; Groundhog Day/Hamlet = Manuel Harlan; Ian McKellen = Mark Douet; Network = Jan Versweyveld; Out There on the Fried Meat Ridge Road = Gavin Watson; Dear Evan Hansen = Sara Krulwich/The New York Times; Julius Caesar = the RSC; The Majority = Ellie Kurttz; Angels in America = Jason Bell; 

 

 

 

 

 

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My 2017 Theatre Review – Productions of the Year!

It’s hard to believe it’s that time again, when I look back at my theatregoing year and look forward to the year to come (that’s coming soon in another post). I’ve seen a slightly smaller number of shows in 2017, with a total of 56, but with repeat viewings of 13 shows, I’ve actually visited a theatre 80 times in the last twelve months, which isn’t too bad!

Although I’ve seen fewer productions, 2017 has struck me as a fantastic year in theatre land. I’ve seen far more hits than misses and choosing a top ten is practically impossible, so this list is going to run a little longer. The other interesting aspect of the year (well, for me anyway) is, as someone who tends to prefer plays to musicals, I’ve seen more musicals this year than any other, with a total of 12 of 2017’s list. This is undoubtably helped by my two trips to NYC, where Broadway continues to showcase far more musicals than plays.

So, after looking back through programmes, my reviews and most crucially, my memories, these are the standout productions for me in 2017!

1. Hamlet (Almeida/Harold Pinter) & Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre)

There was one production, for which I had huge expectations and on first seeing it in February, was so impressed by, that it seemed certain to claim my top spot. Well, that was until three weeks ago when I finally witnessed the newest musical to hit London. Therefore, this year’s top spot has to be shared between the Almeida’s utterly stunning production of Hamlet and Lin Manuel Miranda’s incredible musical, Hamilton. It was impossible to choose between them, as they both took my breath away in a way nothing else matched in 2017.

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Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

Hamlet is my favourite Shakespeare play and Robert Icke’s production managed to exceed my expectations. You can read more thoughts in full on this here, but in short, it is a production that made Hamlet new again. It was thrilling, original, emotional and exciting, pulling new people to the theatre and Shakespeare and had me seeing scenes I know so well in a whole new light. Supported by a strong ensemble cast, led by the incredibly talented Andrew Scott, this was a sheer joy each and every time I saw it. It will be airing on the BBC in 2018, so don’t miss it!

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Photo credit: Matthew Murphy

And then there was Hamilton. Everyone has heard of it, whether you know all the words, or nothing other than the hype. Crucially for me, a Hamilton newbie on my first visit, it more than lived up to the hype. My first visit was the 2nd preview and already the cast was so good, you could believe they had been performing it for years. You can read my full review, but in summary, it’s an intelligent, exhilarating and unforgettable theatrical experience that you will want to relive over and over again.

2. Ink (Almeida Theatre)

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Photo credit: Marc Brenner

Next on my list is another success from the Almeida Theatre, which continues to go from strength to strength under Rupert Goold. Having missed this show in Islington, I’m so pleased it moved to the West End, as it’s just too good to miss. The play, written by James Graham, whose previous work I’d thoroughly enjoyed (This House, The Vote & Privacy), shines a light on the first year of  The Sun newspaper under Rupert Murdoch’s ownership. You may not think it’s your cup of tea, but it’s a fascinating insight in to the creation of the tabloid, which manages to be sharp, gripping and incredibly funny during its running time. I didn’t expect to laugh as much as I did and that’s thanks to the brilliant writing, but also the calibre of the acting, with two superb central performances by Richard Coyle as editor Larry Lamb and Bertie Carvel (who just doesn’t look like Bertie Carvel!) as Murdoch. It closes on 6th January, so if you can still make time to see it, I urge you to do so.

3. Angels In America (Lyttelton, National Theatre)

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Photo credit: Helen Maybanks

There was huge anticipation before Tony Kushner’s groundbreaking American play returned to the NT 25 years after its original production, with tickets selling out almost instantly. I had never read it, nor seen the HBO miniseries, but I knew this was a must-see due to the casting choices and was lucky enough to experience two separate “two-play days” over its run. It was not a comfortable play to watch, set in America during the mid-1980s, as AIDs caused the deaths of so many in the gay community, but was a sweeping theatrical epic, told across eight hours, which laid bare the horrors of the disease, the pain of those suffering from it and those who love them, as well as highlighting the difficulty many had in accepting their sexuality.

Marianne Elliot, one of Britain’s finest directors, ensures this is a powerful production, which takes hold of your emotions and holds on to them until the very end. The cast was also a treat, with Nathan Lane shining as the equally humorous and vicious Roy Cohn, Russell Tovey impressing as the ambitious Republican lawyer confused and afraid of his true sexuality, together with Denise Gough as his fragile, yet often darkly humorous wife, James McArdle as the man struggling to cope with the possibility of watching his lover die, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as the wonderfully supportive and witty friend Belize and Andrew Garfield, as Prior Walter, trying to cope with his diagnosis and illness, the loss of his partner and the strage dream-like visitations from a rather scary looking angel. It was sensational and I’m thrilled to be able to see it again on Broadway next spring (with most of the London cast). Ticket details can be found at: http://www.angelsbroadway.com

4. Dear Evan Hansen (Music Box Theatre, NYC)

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Photo credit: Matthew Murphy

Dear Evan Hansen was another show I had heard a lot of buzz about, but had managed to avoid listening to, before my trip to NYC in May. Personally, I prefer to see a musical fresh, without knowing all the lyrics in advance. I therefore didn’t know what to expect and a few hours and a few tissues later, I had another highlight of my year in the bag. The story of the show may be a little uncomfortable when you hear it – a shy teenager, isolated from the world because he feels he doesn’t fit in, finds himself at the centre of a local tragedy and its aftermath, through which he is able to find his place and his voice, as well as love and a family environment he feels he has never had.

Why did I love it so much? Well, the songs are rather lovely, the acting is superb (I saw the original cast on both of my two visits) and its central message that no one is alone; that we just need to reach out for help, is one that is more important than ever in the crazy world we live in now. However, on top of all of that was the simply breathtaking Ben Platt as Evan. It was an emotionally raw, incredibly moving, vulnerable performance, during which you truly believed Evan was real. How Platt was able to give such a performance emotionally and vocally (his voice reminded me of the first time I heard Josh Groban on Ally McBeal) through tears, I will never know. Yes, I cried. A lot. It was a privilege to witness something that will be talked about for years to come. Read my full review if you want to know more.

5. An Octoroom (Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond)

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Photo credit: The Other Richard

After years of meaning to visit, I finally made it to Richmond’s wonderful Orange Tree Theatre this year and what a show to start with! Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins’ play (more from him later) was one I heard about through word of mouth. Everyone I knew who saw it, loved it and it was easy to understand why. Shows like this one are what theatre is made for; a show that was so original, inventive, powerful and funny and which turned stereotypes on their heads and made you laugh one moment, before being deeply moved the next. The play uses the plot of the Irish playwright Dion Boucicault’s 1859 melodrama The Octoroon to shine a light on identity, race and culture in a way I hadn’t experienced before. The cast were wonderful, including Ken Nwosu, who has three different roles to tackle, sometimes two at once, Celeste Dodwell as Dora and Iola Evans as Zoe. Luckily, for anyone who missed it (or, those of us desperate to go again), it will have a run at the National Theatre next year, so add it to your must book list!

6. Consent (Dorfman, National Theatre)

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Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

Another favourite from early in the year was Nina Raine’s new play, which dealt with the difficult and emotive subject of assault and the perceptions and attitudes that surround what is and what is not consent, made all the more fascinating by having the key characters be criminal barristers, now experiencing the issues from a very personal perspective. It was strongly written, superbly acted (including Anna Maxwell Martin and Adam James) and gave me plenty to think about for quite a while afterwards.

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

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Photo credit: Johan Persson

Otherwise known as Imelda Staunton’s first hit of 2017, this was my first time seeing a production of Edward Albee’s play and it will take some beating, as Staunton unleashed her incredible force on to the stage, as the domineering Martha. Her chemistry and interplay with Conleth Hill, as her husband George was at times deeply uncomfortable to watch, as they emotionally attacked each other, but three hours have never flown quite so quickly. You can read my full review for further thoughts.

8. Follies (Olivier, National Theatre)

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Photo credit: Johan Persson

To say I’m not a huge musicals fan, the fact three are in this list says quite a lot about how much I enjoyed Follies, especially as, I admit, I’m not a huge Sondheim fan either! A musical that takes a nostalgic look back at a different time, through the eyes of its four central characters, I loved the blending of the past and present, to highlight young hopes and dreams and how life changes us, as we grow older. The central performances, particularly Janie Dee and Imelda Staunton were phenomenal, yet, it was the entire ensemble that brought the story to life so vividly on stage, from Tracie Bennett and Di Botcher, through to Josephine Barstow and Alison Langer’s incredible operatic duet. Combine this with a live orchestra and the glorious utilisation of the Olivier stage to put on a true spectacle and this was a show I enjoyed so much, that I had to go back and see it for a second time.

9. Gloria (Hampstead Theatre)

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Photo credit: Marc Brenner

The second entry for Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins in my list was the heart-stopping Gloria. With a pre-interval twist (well, I admit, I did see it coming) that required a sealed section in the programme, it provided one of the most shocking theatre moments of the year, whether you were expecting it or not. Jenkins’s writing brilliantly lays the foundations for that moment from the start (on a second visit, I was able to appreciate this even more), but this didn’t make it any less traumatic to watch, turning the second half in to an analysis of how we all deal with trauma differently. Would it break you, or would you capitalise on it for personal, monetary gain? This question is answered with dark humour, as we see how the characters are changed by what has gone before. Director Michael Longhurst did a superb job with the staging (including that pre-interval moment) and the acting was fantastic (including Colin Morgan and Kae Alexander to name just two). You can read both my spoiler and spoiler-free reviews for more details.

10. Oslo (Lyttelton, National Theatre)

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Photo credit:Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

I had wanted to see this Tony award-winning play in New York, but decided to wait for its arrival at the National Theatre, where a ticket would cost me a fraction of the price. It was certainly worth the wait, proving to be an insightful, intelligent, engaging play about the lead up to the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and Palestine; a story I knew almost nothing about. It may have been long, but it certainly didn’t feel it, as JT Rogers’ script moved us through the ups and downs of the behind the scenes negotiations, where a Norwegian couple unexpectedly found themselves at the centre of such important talks. The acting was very good (putting aside Toby Stephens’ wavering accent) and I left the theatre keen to learn more about the subject matter, which, following recent world events seems more relevant than ever. Oslo finishes tomorrow (30th December), so you still have a couple of days left to catch it if you are quick.

11. The Ferryman (Royal Court Theatre / Wyndham’s Theatre)

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Photo Credit: Johan Persson

It’ll come as no surprise that Jez Butterworth’s latest play makes my list, as it is appearing on every 2017 theatre list at the moment and with good reason. Following the wonderful plays Jerusalem and The River, his latest success tells a powerful story, set in Armagh, Northern Ireland in 1981, which weaves The Troubles in to the history of one family and their struggle to confront the past and move forward. This may have been Paddy Considine’s stage debut, but he was superb and had fantastic chemistry with Laura Donnelly. I laughed, I gasped and held my breath as the tension grew. The Ferryman continues to run at the Wyndham’s Theatre until at least May 2018 and it is certainly worth a visit.

12. Network (Lyttelton, National Theatre)

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Photo credit:Jan Versweyveld

I had never seen the film the play is based on and so didn’t really know what to expect, my excitement peaked by the chance of seeing Bryan Cranston on stage and he certainly didn’t disappoint, as the news anchor, who has finally had enough of the world and decides to let everyone watching know exactly how fed up he is. The production’s staging is quirky, but the on-stage audience restaurant did feel a little unnecessary to me. However, with such a powerful, commanding central performance from Cranston, you couldn’t help but be drawn in. Plus, hearing almost 1000 people shouting “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” in unison was quite a unique experience, which in 2017 couldn’t have been more timely. Although tickets are scarce, you have until 24th March to try and see this production.

13. King Lear (Minerva Theatre, Chichester)

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Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

There had to be some Shakespeare in my top productions of the year list and this year it was Chichester’s production of King Lear, which I admit isn’t one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. However, this version, with such a brilliantly talented cast, managed to bring both intimacy and a sense of vast scope to the small space of the Minerva theatre. Ian McKellen was excellent in the lead role, clearly revelling in having a second chance to take on Lear and he had strong support from a cast that included Kirsty Bushell, Dervla Kirwan and Danny Webb.

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So, those are the productions that truly stood out for me in 2017 and which I’d happily see again in a heartbeat. Special mentions also to The Girls (a musical that deserved a longer London life), Jodie Prenger’s heartwarming Shirley Valentine and a final visit to Groundhog Day in NYC (Broadway, I’m still disappointed in you for letting this one go so soon).

I’d love to hear your highlights! Over the next couple of days I’ll be continuing by look back at the theatre year, with my most memorable theatre moments from the last twelve months and my favourite performances.

 

 

 

 

Theatre Review – Hamilton – I’ve joined the revolution, as this astonishing show explodes on to London’s theatre scene!

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Ever since Hamilton burst on to the New York theatre scene in 2015, with such universal praise and adoration, I have been intrigued. After ticket lottery failures when I’ve been in NYC and the rising Broadway ticket prices, I decided to wait for the London transfer to see the show for myself. So, before Thursday night, two weeks ago, I had not heard a single second of its soundtrack and I knew only the very basic historical facts. You couldn’t be more of a newcomer to this musical than I was.

The big questions people are now asking me: Could anything live up to the level of hype that Hamilton has (remember it has already won 11 Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize)? Would I want to go and see it again?

By the time I emerged from the Victoria Palace Theatre later on that Thursday night, the answer to both questions was a resounding YES!! In fact, I was so desperate to go again sooner than April (when I have my next ticket booked), that I bought a single ticket for the following Saturday’s first matinee to relive it all again! And now, on the eve of press night I’ve seen it four times (yes, I may have a slight problem….)!

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Jamael Westman & company. Photo: Matthew Murphy

Seeing four previews, also means that I have been lucky to already see both Alexander Hamiltons twice (Jamael Westman and Ash Hunter, including Hunter’s first two performances), so I can give my thoughts on both interpretations, which have formed more, the more I have seen the show.

So, for the uninitiated like me, inspired by the biography by Ron Chernow, Hamilton tells the lesser known story of one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the Caribbean, who arrived in New York and went on to become one of the most vital individuals in the shaping of the foundation of the U.S.A; from his determination to help secure freedom from the British, to his defence of the new Constitution, to his creation of a financial system for a new nation as its first Treasury Secretary. It’s the story of a man who strived to achieve so much and has been, to a certain extent, overlooked by history.

Until now, that is! In fact, one of the finest achievements of Hamilton is that it is informing thousands of audience members about a period of history they may know little about, especially if they aren’t American. It’s the best history lesson you’ll ever have!

Why is it so incredible? Hamilton executes every element of the show to perfection. You may be thinking that the style of music isn’t for you, but you’ll likely by thrillingly surprised. It’s genuinely impossible to choose a favourite song, as the show moves so smoothly from one to the next that it’s hard to separate them. Each one adds to both the progress of the story and the emotional depth of the show. Very few musicals manage this, which is why very few truly capture my imagination. In this case, I left the theatre and immediately downloaded the soundtrack to listen to it all over again and to marvel at the intelligence, wit, passion and power of Lin Manuel Miranda’s music and lyrics. Heck, I now know a good few of them off by heart.

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Giles Terera & company. Photo: Matthew Murphy

As an ensemble, the Hamilton London company is also one of the slickest, most cohesive units I’ve ever seen on stage and that was even from their 2nd performance and two weeks later, they are even stronger! It’s as though they have been playing these roles together for years, which is a testament to their abilities!

The style of the music of Hamilton, which blends hip-hop, rap, RnB and more traditional-style musical numbers, dictates that the pace of the show is incredibly fast and yet, there is not a moment where the actors, detailed choreography, lighting or sound effects falter; all coming together under director Thomas Kail to bring to life so vividly what is the strongest production on any stage at the moment.

What is it that makes stories about revolutions so compelling to watch as musicals I wonder?! My all-time favourite has always been Les Miserables and Hamilton is the only one to rival it, in terms of its sheer power and emotional range it presents on the stage. Certain numbers gave me the same chill of excitement as Les Mis and that was a huge surprise for me. It’s a truly thrilling, exhilarating, exciting, emotional and uplifting experience, that very few shows will ever match. I honestly never expected it to, so decisively, exceed my expectations.

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Michael Jibson. Photo: Matthew Murphy

As the cast are all so strong, it’s difficult to pick out individual performances and each audience member will have their favourites. I loved the character of Angelica, who was the first one to bring a lump to my throat during “Satisfied”; a song which reveals something about her that I hadn’t expected. Rachel John is both a superb vocalist (having already impressed me in The Bodyguard) and actress in the role and really stands out in this show. Giles Terera’s charismatic portrayal of, as he says himself, the villain of the story, Aaron Burr, is also very good indeed, with “The Room Where It Happens” being some of my favourite moments in the production. His Burr feels much older than Hamilton and his friends and Terera brilliantly plays his growing frustration on the trajectory of his own life. Much like the best characters, he isn’t simply a villain, but a man who ultimately makes a tragic mistake.

Obioma Ugoala’s George Washington is a strong and likeable commander, who also commands the stage whenever he is at it centre, while Jason Pennycooke brings the humour and wit of Lafayette and then Thomas Jefferson to life. Although I preferred Angelica as a character to Eliza, who is far less interesting, I did find “It’s Quiet Uptown” between Hamilton and Rachelle Ann Go’s Eliza very moving, capturing two people dealing with loss in such a poignant way. Then of course there is the small, but hugely memorable role of King George, here played sublimely by Michael Jibson, who received huge applause from the audience after each brilliant appearance and is one of the highlights of the show.

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Rachelle Ann Go; Rachel John; Christine Allado. Photo: Matthew Murphy

As for the lead role, having already seen both actors who will be taking on that responsibility in London twice, the good news is that whether you see Jamael Westman or Ash Hunter, you will see a first-class performance. They both bring their personalities and little personal touches to the character, but are equally strong. Westman’s Hamilton is perhaps the grittier, cockier, big brother, when compared to Hunter’s younger Hamilton. He also perhaps more charismatic and has already settled down in to the role with confidence since I saw him two weeks ago. Ash Hunter however perhaps elicited a more emotional response from me; his Hamilton coming across as less arrogant and a little gentler. What really matters though, is that they are both already strong, confident and overflowing with enthusiasm, which shines on the stage.

So, to sum it up. At 7:29 p.m. on Thursday 7th December, I was a Hamilton newcomer, sceptical about the hype and fully prepared not to see the magic that seemingly captured every audience member who experiences it. Two weeks, four performances and multiple listens to the soundtrack later, I’m a fully paid up member of the revolution! My next pre-booked ticket for the show isn’t until April but, just like Aaron Burr, I want to be in the room where it happens far sooner than that!

Do anything you can to see this show. The ticket prices in London are nowhere near as steep as New York and the impressively tight ticket arrangement will hopefully limit the success of any extortionate secondary market. I’ll be writing a further post with information and tips for those either coming to London for the show, or for those looking for tickets, but my main message – Buy a ticket now and if you can, book two performances in one go, as you’ll undoubtably want to go back!

Welcome to London, Hamilton! Now that we have you and Harry Potter & The Cursed Child, we officially have the two happiest theatres in the world in this incredible city! If you do decide to come and are looking for tips for your visit, or are looking for tips getting tickets, I have also written a separate post that I hope will prove useful: Tips for First Time Visitors to the Victoria Palace Theatre for Hamilton

Hamilton continues its run at the Victoria Palace Theatre, with press night tomorrow (on 21st December 2017). There is limited availability until June 2018, with the next block of tickets to go on sale soon. For more information, visit the website here: http://www.hamiltonthemusical.co.uk

 

 

Film Review – Breathe – a beautiful, true story, that makes you want to try and truly live to the full.

 

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I was unable to go to this year’s London Film Festival and so I was relieved that one of the films I had been most looking forward to seeing, was coming out this month in the UK. The film is out now, but I was lucky enough to go to a preview screening last Monday, complete with Q&A with its star Andrew Garfield, director Andy Serkis and producer Jonathan Cavendish, the son of the couple depicted on screen, but more on the Q&A later.

Breathe is a beautiful film. From hearing what it is about you may think it is going to be a very sad one, but, although containing some very moving scenes, the overall spirit of Breathe is one of hope, love and the resounding message that we all need to live, as richly and fully as we can.

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Robin & Diana Cavendish

It is the story of Robin and Diana Cavendish (played by Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy), who meet in 1957 and soon marry. Robin is a tea broker and so they travel to Kenya for his work, enjoying a happy and loving life together. It is when Diana is pregnant with their first child, that Robin contracts polio, which results in the devastating news that he will be permanently paralysed from the neck down. He can only last two minutes at most off an external ventilator and doctors give him mere months to live.

Understandably Robin’s reaction is one of depression and defeat. He does not want to live, locked away in a hospital, unable to move and dependent on a machine and the staff around him and Garfield plays his withdrawal with such rich depth, not an easy task, when so much has to be conveyed through the face and the eyes. Not many actors could convey such emotions, but Garfield is one of the best around, both on stage and screen (his recents roles in Hacksaw Ridge on screen and Angels In America on stage, both had me shedding tears).

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Claire Foy & Andrew Garfield

However, the key to Robin’s renewed sense of living, is thanks to the love and unwavering support he receives from his wife Diana and Claire Foy is utterly superb in this film (give her the nominations for the awards now). As with Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything, a lot of my tears shed during Breathe, were due to seeing the other person affected by such a prognosis and Foy shows how much strength Diana Cavendish had to have. She was away from home, pregnant and faced with losing her husband. It is clear that the reason Robin went on to live for decades is because of her and I left the cinema inspired by her strength.

Their story is not just about their determination to continue to live as a family, as the Cavendish’s fought for rights of those with disabilities, who at that time, were simply locked away and forgotten about by society. The resistance they face at removing Robin from the hospital is frightening and a scene in which he visits a hospital in Germany, in which people with similar paralysis are housed in storage units, seems unimaginable and highlights how important their work to have those with disabilities seen as human beings really was.

Breathe is blessed with many components that come together to create such a wonderfully satisfying film. First, it has been brought to the screen by producer Jonathan Cavendish, the son of Robin and Diana. He talked during the Q&A about how this was the most truthful biopic you would see, as everything in it happened. The involvement of those who were there, or knew those who were, ensures that you feel the authenticity of the film and also adds to the emotional response you have to the story, on knowing it all happened.

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The film also has a strong script from William Nicholson (who refused payment until the Cavendish family had read it and were happy for it to be made), which balances the sadder moments, with the overwhelming sense of joy and fun that you see. Yes, I did shed some tears throughout Breathe, but I also laughed a lot too. There are many moments of fun and humour, as we see how the Cavendish’s and their group of close friends adapt to Robin’s new circumstances, including when the family goes on holiday to Spain and have to pull over by the side of a cliff road, when Robin’s ventilator breaks. While help is called from England (in the form of Hugh Bonneville as their wonderful friend Professor Teddy Hall) and the manual pump is used to keep him alive, they are soon surrounded by locals, setting up caravans and fires and a party atmosphere! It seems so crazy, yet it happened, meaning an event that could have been frightening, actually still seems full of life and humour and joy.

4473The film is also wonderfully directed by Andy Serkis (known best for his work as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit). This is the first film Serkis has directed (although he did work as second unit director on The Hobbit films) and he has delivered a truly lovely film. He spoke on Monday about how close he felt to the material, having once played a polio sufferer himself and by also growing up with a mother who taught special needs children and a sister who was diagnosed with MS. He read the script and was moved by it, asking to direct it, as part of his and Jonathan Cavendish’s company, The Imaginarium Studio. He also had to contend with the tricky task of filming Tom Hollander in two different roles, as he plays Diana’s twin brothers. Serkis spoke during the Q&A about how much work this took to achieve and commended Hollander’s talent in pulling it off.

The talent of the cast is the final crucial element of Breathe. Garfield is fantastic as Robin, first as the athletic, young man and then as someone having to cope with such a terrifying change in their life. Watching Garfield go through the stages of pain and grief at his limitations is heartbreaking (a scene where Diana lays their newborn child by his head just one example). He conveys so much emotion without saying much at all and you feel all of Robin’s pain and sense of loss. However, what makes his performance all the more incredible, is the way he also brings Robin’s playfulness and humour to the forefront too. You laugh along with him, as he continues to live and thrive against all the odds.

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Jonathan Cavendish, Andy Serkis & Andrew Garfield at the Q&A at Picturehouse Central Cinema

Breathe wouldn’t work if the actress portraying his wife Diana wasn’t an equal to Garfield and in Claire Foy (best known for Netflix’s The Crown), they found the ideal talent. It is hard to imagine having to find the strength Diana did and Foy is superb from start to finish as she comes to terms with what has happened, stubbornly refusing to let Robin give up and then doing everything humanly possible to make their lives as rich as possible. They were clearly an incredibly devoted couple and it’s heart-warming to see. Jonathan Cavendish talked in the Q&A about how well they depict his parents, calling it extraordinary, also saying his own 83 year-old mother, who never cries, does cry every time she watches Breathe, shocked by the accuracy of Garfield’s performance.

Surrounding Foy and Garfield is a tremendous cast of British acting talent. Bonneville is wonderful as the friend who builds Robin’s mobile chair, allowing him more freedom than had ever been thought possible at the time and Stephen Mangan plays Dr Aitken, the friend who helps on their mission to raise the profile of the need for rights for those with disabilities. Playing two twin brothers couldn’t have been easy for Hollander, but he’s perfect in the roles, bringing another layer of fun and comedy.

Combine all of these elements with beautiful music from Nintin Sawhney and you really do have a very special film, that feels incredibly personal to those who have brought it to life. I certainly hope it features in the nominations list next awards season and cannot recommend it highly enough. You will cry, but you will also laugh and leave the cinema with a reminder that life is precious and we should do everything we can, to live it to the full.

Breathe is now on general release in UK cinemas. For more information, visit its website here: http://www.breathefilm.co.uk/home/ and watch you can watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JycCFypvgmI

 

 

Television Review – Suits 7.08 – The 100th: a classic case, but some very disappointing character “development”

It’s certainly an achievement these days for a television show to reach 100 episodes and this week saw Suits celebrate the milestone with a mixed bag episode. I liked aspects of it and I strongly disliked other aspects of it, which make me concerned for the direction of some of my favourite characters going forward.

As always, I’ll start with the aspects of the episode, entitled 100, that I thought worked well.

Robert Zane is the King! 

This week’s episode had one true king and hero and that’s Robert Zane. Why would you work at PSL if you could work for this guy?! I mean, seriously?! I knew Robert would save the day on the prison case, which became the main thrust of this episode and he did it brilliantly. He showed not just the evil CEO, but Harvey and Mike that he is the boss and that compared to him they are all little boys pretending to be grown ups. Wendell Pierce is never around enough and it was great to see him really shine here. My only disappointment was that he didn’t follow through in hitting Harvey. I was counting on you Robert!

Rachel Zane stepping out of the shadows

I have always liked Rachel. She is one of the most decent characters of the central cast and is usually the voice of reason. My problem has always been that Meghan Markle is under-utilised in the show.

Therefore it was great to see Rachel sticking up for herself here and wanting to step up in to the game. She was also, yet again, a great friend to both Louis and Donna and her text messages towards the end of the episode helped prevent one of my beloved characters plummeting off a cliff personality-wise (more on that later), so bravo to Rachel this week.

Also, the death of Gallo rules out one theory I had that his reappearance would eventually lead to the possible death of Rachel. I really hope Meghan Markle stays with the show. She would be missed if she left.

The talented direction of Patrick J Adams

It was lovely that Patrick J Adams was able to direct this milestone episode and he did a superb job as usual. Adams has a brilliant eye for directing and every shot looked gorgeous. He clearly knows what will look great on screen visually. The rooftop scene was lovely and the warm lighting in Harvey’s apartment, not to mention the intercutting of the final montage between Louis and Donna worked very well. Let this talented young man behind the camera more often!

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Okay, those were the positives. Now for the negatives and I’m disappointed to say that there are some pretty strong negatives…..

Bring back the old Donna Paulsen! Please stop this direction of her character! NOW!

I have always loved Donna (and Sarah Rafferty continues to be superb in the role) and a lot is always said about what a strong woman she is. The route the writers are taking her down this season is a contradiction that perplexes, frustrates and saddens me.

If a romance between Donna and Harvey is off the table, whether permanently or in the short-term, that’s fair enough. I never watch a show feeling I or any subgroup of fans deserve a certain storyline to happen (even though, narrative-wise they still seem destined to be, in my view). That aside, the writers could have chosen to further strengthen Donna on screen, but are moving away from that. In a season in which she has been given a huge promotion to COO, thereby raising her profile, status and screen time (all fantastic choices!), they have also, in my view, weakened her character through their choice of direction for her relationship with Harvey.

Only those casual viewers, or perhaps those invested in another relationship, would believe, seven seasons in, that the love between Donna and Harvey was one-sided. The only woman he has ever directly said “I love you” to is Donna, there was all his actions in Intent, there was the way he reacted when she left him, there was the 6.11 dream and their growing bond across the back end of season 6. I have male friends and this is not how we behave!

Yet, now, we are facing a Suits where Harvey is supposedly truly in love with his therapist (that’s my laughter you can hear), never loved Donna and Donna is left to be portrayed as the lonely, jealous woman, who has wasted her life pining for a man who doesn’t want her. That is not the way to celebrate a powerful woman on screen! I may not think fans deserve a storyline, but Donna, as a character, deserves better than this! Oh, and I note that the line from the promo in which she said she put Harvey first for too long was cut in the episode. How come Suits? Is it because you like dangling Donna as just waiting for Harvey in front of viewers. Take note – we don’t like it!

We could have had Donna revisiting an old flame and potentially finding her own happiness personally and professionally and yet she is left being offered to be a mistress?! Really?! In 2017?! So, only Harvey can be happy, while Donna waits around for him. No thanks. That makes her look ridiculous and me so angry with the writers. The only reason I am not sending Drogon (yes, I love GoT too) to reek carnage at this point, is that the writers did not have Donna go through with sleeping with Mark. Had she done that, her character would have been irreversibly damaged for me. For the moment, I simply remain hugely concerned for where she is headed.

Yet more pain for Louis Litt

It seems that the Suits writers just like making Louis’s life miserable and honestly, it’s getting boring now. Yes, fair enough, for one night, he has had a good time, but surely the consequences of that are going to make him miserable yet again.

Again, is Harvey the only one allowed to be happy?! Especially in the season where he least deserves it?! Rick Hoffman plays every scene of Louis’s with skill and depth and should have won an Emmy for this role years ago and I loved his scenes this week with the ladies, Gretchen, Rachel and of course Donna, but it’s time to stop the angst and give this man a break. It’s what he deserves.

Harvey’s “love” for Paula Agard

I’m sorry, but the introduction of this plot in 7.01 made no narrative sense off the back of seasons 5 and 6 and it continues to be ridiculous. It doesn’t ring true. I don’t think there’s any need for me to say anything more on it!

Where was Jessica?!

I know we’ve seen Gina Torres more than perhaps we all expected this year, but I was hoping for a brief scene for her in the 100th. She was a huge part of the show and is greatly missed, in a series that is becoming less about strong female characters without her presence.

Looking ahead…….

Next week’s episode is called Shame (fits perfectly with how I feel about elements of the show right now). From the promo, it looks as though we are back to business as usual. I guess we’ll see what I think about it next Thursday.

Suits continues its seventh season on Wednesday nights on USW Network at 9/8c in the USA and on Thursdays on Netflix in the UK.

 

 

 

 

Television Review – More glimpses in to the past in Suits 7.07 “Full Disclosure”

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This week saw the airing of the 99th episode of Suits and it had quite a lot to accomplish, ensuring all the pieces were moved in to position on the board ready for next week’s big 100th episode. Did it succeed? In my opinion yes, with Full Disclosure probably being my favourite of this seventh season.

So let’s dig in to the detail…..

Jessica Pearson doing what she does best

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I love how much Gina Torres has actually been a part of this season, much more so than I expected and the flashback element of this week’s story allowed her to return yet again. Seeing these past scenes between Jessica and Harvey and Jessica and Louis were great fun and provided some wonderful tidbits of backstory. She sent Louis to therapy! Makes sense (more on that later)! Plus, these scenes also acted as a reminder of just how childish her two children were. I mean, they still are let’s face it, but they have certainly grown up quite a lot over the years, all thanks to the brilliant Jessica. I’ve missed these scenes and hope Gina makes an appearance in the 100th (surely she has to).

The many emotional sides of Louis Litt

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My love of Rick Hoffman’s work this season has been one of the only constants and he did another great job tonight. The past and present scenes in Full Disclosure allowed us to see the many different emotional sides of Louis in one hour. He is such a fascinating character and the more we see of his past, the better.

This episode reminded us of how annoying he was in the early days and, the odd blow up aside, how far he has come emotionally. The episode started with the Louis Litt of old, reactive and pressing all of Harvey’s buttons and yet, by the end, thanks to his therapy, we see that it was Louis that did all he could to keep his friend at the firm. It’s always a rollercoaster watching Louis and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

This week, however, there was one element of Louis’s scenes that I did not like and that was his insults of Dr Lipschitz. Yes, Louis has always pushed the envelope with regards to some of his politically incorrect comments and yes, they can be funny, but I have to say, I found him calling his therapist a Nazi after he told him he was Jewish and from descendants who survived the war, incredibly distasteful. I also think it was too far, even for Louis. Too far writers, too far.

Mike Ross – Will he stay or will he go?

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I genuinely can’t decide what I think about Mike this week. For the majority of this season, he’s been the most mature man at PSL, but the last couple of weeks have seen him slipping back to the more annoying elements of his personality. Yes, I know he’s working to uncover some pretty terrible actions, but why does he always have to use illegal methods to do it, putting others at risk in the process? Asking Benjamin to break the law for him – not cool Mike. Stay away from Benjamin.

On the flip side, I did feel a little bit sorry for Mike too this week. Despite all he has been through with Harvey (he did go to prison for him remember, as Harvey reminded us), Harvey was pretty quick to choose Alex over Mike. I get that Harvey screwed Alex over to some extent, but, after all he has done to help Mike over the years, all of a sudden he hangs him out to dry. It just didn’t feel realistic in light of the show’s long-standing narrative (oh, look, it’s that word again, narrative – it really does matter writers). It may not have helped having Harvey choose a character we still barely know and don’t really care about yet, over his protege. Maybe, its just me, but I don’t really care about Alex yet. He hasn’t earned it.

Will Mike get fired next week? Maybe, but I doubt it. Will his involvement in this prison case have worse consequences in the long run (I still worry for Rachel’s fate on the show, I can’t help it)? I guess we’ll see. I just hope we see Mike solving things on the right side of the law. Oh, and Mike – stop lying! Please!

Donna Paulsen – the woman Harvey Specter doesn’t deserve

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It’s been lovely to have Donna and therefore Sarah Rafferty much more central this season. She’s always been one of the show’s biggest assets and the more we learn about her life and personal history, the better. This week saw the introduction of her ex, Mark Meadows (Jay Harrington) and my only complaint was that he was only in one scene! Come on Suits! We need more!

I know some people were disappointed that this week seemed to be one-sided, that is, Donna has always loved Harvey and showed nothing about his feelings for her. I was okay with that for the moment. To be clear, I have never wanted the writers to portray the Donna and Harvey relationship as one of unrequited love and their entire narrative pre-season seven has always included enough examples to show that it isn’t.

I’m therefore hoping that what we are currently seeing is the positioning of all the pieces on the board, so that everyone is aligned for something significant. Last week, we had Paula Agard of all people telling Harvey that he has feelings for Donna and that Donna loves him, which seemed to have triggered some sort of reaction by the end in that gorgeous long shot of their offices. This week, we had another external character, Mark Meadows, making Donna face the truth of her feelings for Harvey. Now the two sides just need to come together.

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The dinner scene with Mark was lovely (and reminded me a little of Harvey’s date with Paula from 7.01, with Donna distracted by the other man in her life). Here is a thoughtful, caring and pretty hot guy, who clearly loved Donna and threw more than just money at her. The man gave her Shakespeare for goodness sake! He’s a keeper Donna! The key here is that the introduction of Mark for only two episodes suggests that he isn’t here for the long-term, so if he isn’t, then he has to serve the larger narrative, which seems to be heading towards Donna deciding to move on from Harvey. Will she decide to leave? If this isn’t aligning everything to ultimately bring her and Harvey together, then I just don’t see the point of it, unless Sarah Rafferty is moving to Gina Torres’s new show and they are preparing her exit. I guess time will tell.

Will I ever really like Harvey Specter again? 

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Before season seven, Harvey was my favourite character on Suits and yet, he’s become the one I dislike most this year. Goodbye character development, hello douchebag, hurting everyone he supposedly cares about.

This week reminded me of something else about Harvey. He’s always tried to exert control over Donna’s life, often being possessive of her, while also arrogantly expecting her to always be there for him. I’ve always been able to overlook this, because there was enough evidence that he truly cared about her (hello, Intent, I’m looking at you in particular). It allowed me to overlook his more questionable behaviour – expecting her to always pick him, paying her salary and throwing it in her face, throwing a new bag at her, as if materialistic things are all that matters to her. Would he have bought her Shakespeare? Nope.

This year however, when we’ve seen almost zero evidence that he cares about her, his actions feel all the more unpleasant – expecting she’d just run after him to Bratton Gould, trying to pay for her anniversary with another guy (which, is just creepy, isn’t it?!). This episode seemed to be highlighting, that he has always been complacent of his relationship with Donna and I’m hoping that next week he’ll receive a wake up call, that she isn’t just going to be there when it suits him.

Will there be a redemption of Harvey’s character this season? Will I start to like him again? I really hope so.

Next week – The Big 100! 

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So, next week is the milestone 100th episode and I hate that my expectations are high for some pay off to all the story strands that have been set up. What can we expect? Well, we know that Mike is going to come up with a plan to keep the prison case alive. Will he succeed? Probably, but I assume there will be consequences through to the mid-season finale.

We also know Mark Meadows is back again and from the promo, it seems he’s arriving in the present day, to hopefully make Harvey jealous (as, if he isn’t sticking around to be a serious relationship for Donna, what is the point of him appearing at all if not to affect Harvey in some way?).  We also know Donna receives a proposition – a new job? Something with Mark? Does this link in to the emotional hug we see her giving Louis on that rooftop? I cannot wait to find out!

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We also know that Sheila Sazz is back! I assume she’s the person Louis sees at the end of the promo and I’m intrigued to see what effect she has on Louis’s life next week.

Oh, and then there is the other clip in that promo – the Agard / Donna reunion. I have all my fingers crossed that the writers don’t portray Donna as a catty, territorial woman, as that has never been her style and will not show her in the greatest light. Will Paula receive some greater insight? Will Harvey overhear them? I have so many questions!

The 100th has the potential to be a very exciting episode indeed. Fingers crossed we’re not disappointed. This time next week, all will be revealed!

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

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.