Sunday, 26 March 2017

"Brontë" by Polly Teale (2005): A Review

Charlotte. Emily. Anne.

These are famous names, in that one need only repeat them as a trio and most readers or listeners will know exactly which Charlotte, Emily and Anne you mean; chances are it's not your dowager aunts. But more often we refer to them, perhaps too often, as "the Brontës", as though they were a single unit with a single set of concerns and interests, or a single style, rather than three fiercely delineated individuals. This is misleading and unhelpful; these remarkable sisters differed dramatically from one another even taking into account their clear similarities. That they did live and grow up together, their fates so closely intertwined, is conveyed in the curiously-titled "Brontë", the single solitary surname resounding as it does with a sobriety and dignity that feels almost regal, as though it warrants a preceding "The House of...". Mercifully, however, Polly Teale's 2005 play also has the common sense to treat them as separate individuals with all the joys, difficulties, and complexities that entails, all of which Thistledown Theatre's recommended production (running until 1st April in the Old Library, University Church, Oxford) brings to the fore.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Broadchurch Series 3, Episode 4 by Chris Chibnall (2017)

This isn’t a particularly Trish-centric episode of Broadchurch, but she is still far and away the best thing about it; if Julie Hesmondhalgh isn’t showered with gongs come award season, it’ll be criminal.

The opening quarter of this fourth instalment sees Trish returning to the scene of her assault at the Axehampton party. This detail is powerfully conveyed, and despite my general reticence towards flashbacks as expressed last week, they work well here, as the superb Daniel Nettheim – a veteran Doctor Who director – wrings every ounce of contrast out of the transition: upbeat, boozy Trish at the party and the broken woman who stands now in the empty house, as though on two different sides of a huge divide. The moment where she lies down in the exact spot where the terrible crime occurred, feeling the earth beneath her and hearing the same sounds she could hear then, is a brilliant piece of uncomfortable, awkward physical acting, complete with the immediate and visceral vomiting that follows.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Broadchurch Series 3, Episode 3 by Chris Chibnall (2017)

If there’s a defining theme that seems to run through Broadchurch 3, but is particularly prominent in this third episode, it’s toxic masculinity. As Hardy says, “it makes me ashamed to be a man”.

Chris Chibnall’s script dwells on the many ways the men of Broadchurch act suspiciously, defensively or even aggressively at the thought of being accused of rape, and on the many insidious ways permeating society at all levels that men objectify, abuse or mistreat the women in their lives. This is achieved through simple things like Miller’s newly-found fear of walking home alone at night, her son Tom’s porn obsession (“very much not the first”, as Rev Coates comments), Mark distressing his wife by insisting on revenge against Joe, or Hardy’s concern at his teenage daughter hanging around with “the boys”, but also through more disturbing elements of the storyline like Ian’s binge-drinking and dodgy laptop content, Lukas’ womanizing, and Jim and Ed coming to blows over Cath. Even something as innocuous as the owner of the party venue saying that, as a kid, “down by the waterfall was my place... I’d sit and no one would notice me” sounds a shade sinister in light of what we know took place there. Cath herself comes to doubt her own husband. When it comes to the suspect list, it is – in Miller’s words – “a scarily wide net”.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Broadchurch Series 3, Episode 2 by Chris Chibnall (2017)

The second episode of Broadchurch 3 wastes no time in launching us into Hardy and Miller’s investigation into the brutal rape of Trish Winterman we saw reported to the police in last week’s premiere.

Offering up a range of new characters and suspects to keep us – and the police – guessing, it’s an effective and tense bit of drama that isn’t afraid to pause for breath and quieter, more intimate moments – and ends on a disturbing text message being sent to Trish telling her to “shut up or else”, a moment that surely made every viewer’s skin crawl.