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, 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 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 Saturday’s first matinee to relive it all again!

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Jamael Westman & company. Photo: Matthew Murphy

Seeing two of the first four previews also means that I have been lucky to already see both Alexander Hamiltons (Jamael Westman on Thursday and Ash Hunter’s first performance on Saturday afternoon), so I can give my thoughts on both interpretations.

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.

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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 I only saw their 2nd and 4th performances! 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’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. Giles Terera’s charismatic portrayal of, as he says himself, the villain of the story, Aaron Burr, is also very good indeed, with “Wait For It” and “The Room Where It Happens” being some of my favourite moments. 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, 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 memorable role of King George, here played sublimely by Michael Jibson, who received huge applause from the audience after each brilliant appearance.

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

As for the lead role, having seen both actors who will be taking on that responsibility in London, 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, with Westman’s perhaps the grittier, big brother, when compared to Hunter’s younger Hamilton. Hunter perhaps elicited a more emotional response from me, but 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 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. Three days, two performances and multiple listens to the soundtrack later, I’m a fully paid up member of the revolution! My next 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!

Hamilton continues in previews at the Victoria Palace Theatre until press night 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

 

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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.

 

Theatre Review – Apologia – An Impressive Production

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

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

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

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Television Review – Suits 7.05 “Brooklyn Housing”

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

Did I enjoy Brooklyn Housing?

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

I’ll start with the positives……

We are all proud of you Louis Litt!

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

Mike’s prison case & its potential ramifications

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

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

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

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

Donna Paulsen being portrayed as the poor, unloved woman

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

The weakening of Paula Agard’s character

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

Looking ahead – Chickens come home to roost

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

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

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