Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Out On Blue Six : Bronwen Lewis

This, taken from the film Pride, has made me cry twice now. Once in the cinema and again in my living room last night.

Bread and Roses has always been a song that melts me, but this version from a stirring moment in the film and performed by Bronwen Lewis has me in a puddle. 

Welsh girl Lewis first tried her luck at the age of 19 on the BBC talent show The Voice. She performed Fields of Gold in Gaelic and made Tom Jones cry, but didn't make the judges turn around. Shame on them! But then, when you consider the judges back then included J****e J and D***y O'D******e (let's treat those talentless cunts with the expletives they deserve) it kind of explains their inability to spot a good singer. Thankfully the makers of Pride knew talent when they saw it and hired her immediately for the pivotal scene in which she starts a rendition off Bread and Roses in the miners club.

End Transmission

"By God, Believe In Something" Well Said, Michael Sheen

Actor Michael Sheen took part in a St David's Day march in Tredegar yesterday to celebrate the NHS and its founder Aneurin Bevan and delivered a rousing vitriolic speech which shamed the cowardly Labour party we now have for lacking in conviction and joining the Tories in undermining the key values of the NHS that Bevan built.

Listen to the speech and read the full transcript here at the Grauniad website

Well said Michael! You and my DVD of Pride have today made me realise the fight is still there and that apathy is actually the very least of our problems.

We need to stand and fight and we need to do it NOW! Go grassroots, find your local NHS support groups and help them so that they can continue to help you!

You might also like to sign the following petitions;

Channel 4; Show Sell Off - Our NHS Is Being Taken Away From Us

Nye Bevan Day 5th July

Monday, 2 March 2015

Angels Series Two : Review

I previously bought, watched and reviewed the first series of Paula Milne's nursing drama Angels and enjoyed it so much I quickly snapped up the second series on DVD too.

Well, I've watched all thirteen episodes of that now as well so I thought I'd write up a review for it as well.

The official press release from DVD distributor, Simply Media describes the second series as...

'"The hard working nurses of St Angela's are back, in the second series of Paula Milne's ground-breaking medical drama.

After the huge success of the first series, the student nurses return to face a new st of challenges, both in their working hospital lives and at home. The show continues to tackle the real-life issues that face the medical profession, and is not afraid to deal with the hard-hitting aspects of hospital care or face up to controversial personal issues" 

What that actually means is it's more or less more of the same thing I'd enjoyed from series one, with each episode focusing specifically on one or two of the main cast of characters. 

Returning to the wards for a second dose are Pat (Fiona Fullerton) Maureen (Erin Geraghty) Jo (Julie Dawn Cole) Shirley (Clare Clifford) and Sita (Karan David) whilst Sandra Ling played by Angela Bruce, fleetingly spotted in a canteen scene in series one, is promoted to regular status here for the second run. The reason for this is obvious; disappearing between the first and second series is Lesley Dunlop who played the bolshie young nurse Ruth. Watching these episodes (and especially the early ones here) it's pretty obvious that Sandra's lines were written specifically for Ruth and changed at the last minute when Dunlop decided to leave. As a result we see that Sandra is sharing a flat with Jo, just as Ruth had previously done, and that she often thinks before she speaks especially when it comes to the thorny issue of the insufficient pay and conditions nurses work in. Later in the series, Sandra moves away from the hospital to become an occupational health nurse at a local factory complex in the community - again something one can easily imagine was planned for Ruth. There's no explanation provided regarding Ruth's whereabouts, but she is mentioned on several occasions by her former colleagues.

Whilst it was clearly deeply commendable of Angels to give a main and regular role for a young Black British actress like Angela Bruce and realistic too given the ethnic diversity within the NHS, the same praise cannot be given to how slipshod they are with Karan David's character Sita Patel who still remains a semi regular in all but name, never getting an episode entirely to herself in the way that her fellow cast members do. By the final episode of this series its revealed that Sita, having passed her SRN alongside Jo, is set to leave both St Angela's and the UK for a life in India and I can't help feel this was a lost opportunity to properly represent the Asian community on primetime TV in 1976.

The main focus of this second series is - much like that of the first - Pat, Maureen, Shirley and to a slightly lesser extent Jo. 

We are again treated to the enjoyable opposites attract dynamic between upper class Pat and Irish girl Maureen and it's interesting to see how they each react to life on the wards now they've left their extensive classroom based training behind them. Perhaps unexpectedly at the close of the last series it was little homesick Maureen who took to the nursing duties like a duck to water, whilst Pat is shown to struggle and continue to butt heads with authority and their rules and regulations which she viewed as petty. As this series progresses we see Pat and Maureen question why they have remained friends long after what bonded them (starting together) has passed given how different they are, as well as seeing Maureen become noticeably harder and less forgiving forcing Pat to intervene and give her something of a wake up call. This takes up much of the final episode and is a little unexpected and not very believable given that, the episode immediately before it, depicts Pat as being very insensitive towards psychiatric patients, uncomplimentary referring to them as 'nutty' and literally giggling at them. As such its a little hard to swallow seeing her, just one episode later, trying to get Maureen to realise that not everyone can help themselves in life. I guess it's just an example of having a different writer per episode but really, some more thought should have been put into the character development here.

The episode regarding psychiatric care is one that focuses primarily on Shirley Brent, the surly officious and deeply lonely first year staff nurse played by Clare Clifford. Again she is one of the show's most interesting characters (perhaps the most truly interesting in this run, given that Lesley Dunlop has now left) and the series depicts her struggling to find a position that suits her in the hospital. In the first episode we see her turning to drink because she's worried about taking her midwifery qualification, a speciality she has no interest in. When she's told she needn't take it, she takes a role on the geriatric ward and seems especially enthusiastic about this branch of medicine before another change of heart takes her to mental health care where its commented that she's there to learn as much about her own psyche as she is to help the patients.

I didn't like the episodes that focused on the geriatric side. They were filmed in a genuine day ward which gave these episodes a completely different and rather flat look to those around it (which are made up of studio sets and filmed exteriors at St James's, Balham) They were enlivened a little by a guest turn from the legendary Irene Handl and Hi-de-Hi's Leslie Dwyer, as well a reappearance from Colin Higgins as the sensitive young male nurse who had previously appeared in the series one episode Saturday Night but I couldn't muster up much enthusiasm overall. 

Celebration, the penultimate episode in the series, focuses on Shirley's move to psychiatric care and was written by Sapphire and Steel creator PJ Hammond, who had previously wrote a very good Shirley centred episode from series one. It's a strange but absorbing episode that walks a tighrope between bleakly and authentically depicting life on a psych ward at the time and delighting in the perverse manifestations that shape our mental health. It's sort of half Roy Minton's Funny Farm and half One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest but not as successful as either, alas. Nevertheless, it's very watchable and has a couple of good guest spots from Alan Lake and Z Cars star Joseph Brady.

Familiar faces are often in attendance in this series of Angels with the likes of the aforementioned Handl, Dwyer, Lake and Brady rubbing shoulders with Maurice Denham, Geoffrey Palmer, Sally Jane Spencer, Don Henderson, Miriam Margolyes, Sheila Keith (the scary old woman from Pete Walker movies!) David Troughton, John Bardon and, as Maureen's younger sister, a very young Pauline Quirke!

Overall, I found this series to be less enjoyable than the first run but still very entertaining. I know I missed Lesley Dunlop, though I have nothing against Angela Bruce, who is very capable - though saddled with one factory based episode that features some terrible overacting from one guest performer during his accident scene. This episode was directed by Julia Smith (Smith was also responsible for Off Duty, one of the weakest episodes of series one, so I don't think I'm a fan of her directing style) who went on to produce the show in later years, turning it into a twice weekly soap before creating EastEnders and Eldorado - but I do think I also missed the student side of it which we got with Pat and Maureen in the first series. With both of them now on the wards, there was no new characters taking their place to explore those first steps into the profession which, in turn, meant there was very little for Faith Brook's character nurse tutor Heather Windrop. There's more of a concentration on the various aspects of nursing in this series, from community nursing through to intensive care and taking in the aforementioned geriatrics, mental health and occupational health. This approach is fascinating enough and shows how adept and flexible a young nurse has to be, but you only really get to dip your toes in each speciality and its hard to get too involved or care too much as a viewer knowing that the characters will move off to something else by the following episode.

As with the first series, the Simply Media DVD release is a no frills package consisting of n extras. They do title each episode in the thirteen part run on the back cover, but neglect to use these titles in the DVD menu, simply numbering each episode as it appears.

So in conclusion, not as good as the first but still an enjoyable 70s programme to sit and watch before bed of an evening and wallow in a bit of nostalgia. Simply Media have subsequently combined both series one and two together in a boxset but if they get around to releasing any further series of Angels I think I probably would buy them.

*The Radio Times cover and article on the second series of Angels is taken from the Angels fan site Stangelas.homestead.com*

Hi-de-Hi, Susan Beagley!

I'd previously blogged about BBC2 repeating Hi-de-Hi of an afternoon and how the first series gave us a chance to admire the beautiful Penny Irving here

But I'd clean forgot about the Yellowcoat who would go on to replace her in series three to five, the beautiful Susan Beagley

Susan played Tracey Bentward, an attractive brunette and doctor's daughter who was born in Stoke Newington in 1935, which made her twenty-four during the 1959 season her episodes were set in. Tracey's talent lay in sport where it was revealed she was a former club tennis champion and a league basketball player.

There's actually less info available regarding where Susan Beagley is now than there is on the somewhat reclusive Penny Irving. All I know is she married a stockbroker in the September of 1986 which made the news (well, the Daily Fail at least)

And that her last TV credit was as a 'newswoman' in a 1990 episode of the ITV sitcom Never The Twain.

The two years she spent on Hi-de-Hi between 1982 and 1984 appears to have been her biggest TV role and as well as marrying after she left the series she starred in a theatre version of Cluedo from 1985-1986 at the Theatre Royal Bath alongside Avril Angers, Are You Being Served? star Trevor Bannister and, who else, Christopher Biggins  - I'm guessing she was Miss Scarlett!

For my money, the prettiest of the Yellowcoats, it's been nice to say Hi-de-Hi to her again!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Theme Time : Aram Khachaturian - The Onedin Line

From music featured in the trailer for Poldark to the theme tune for The Onedin Line, another vastly popular period drama from the BBC archives.

Running for nine years from 1971 to 1980, Cyril Abraham's The Onedin Line told the story of a Liverpool based shipping line run by James Onedin (Peter Gilmore) and his dealings in both business and family both on the high seas and on the shore. 

Loosely based on the real life Allan line steamship company, Abraham came up with the unusual surname of Onedin when he accidentally stumbled upon the myth of the Ondine, elemental beings or nymphs associated with the sea.

As well as Gilmore, the show starred Anne Stallybrass and Howard Lang and featured among its number over the years the likes of Warren Clarke, Jill Gascoigne, Jane Seymour, Kate Nelligan, James Warwick, Ken Hutchison and Maurice Colbourne who would of course later star in his own sailing saga, Howards Way. Filming was largely done down on the South West coast which explains why so many actors adopted a carrot crunching accent as opposed to the Lancastrian or Liverpudlian one would expect for a drama set in the North West of England!

The theme tune is an excerpt from the Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia from the ballet Spartacus by Aram Khachaturian. It's a deeply evocative piece that now - thanks to the programme - seems synonymous with the sea, despite originating from a piece that has nothing to do with the sea, but instead a revolutionary slave in ancient Rome.

Amazingly successful at home, The Onedin Line also achieved great success around the world too; in Romania it was so popular that when Ceaușescu opted to replace broadcasts with something more biased towards his own communist policies, the population tuned into foreign TV stations to continue following the exploits of James Onedin! As a result, they became aware of such pivotal world shattering news such as the fall of the Berlin Wall from subsequent news broadcasts - information that the dictator had insured remained off their native networks. The programme was also so popular in Sweden that a real life Stockholm based shipping line in 1973 called itself Ånedin-Linjen in honour of the show and operated cruises around the Baltic. 

Out On Blue Six : Rag 'n' Bone Man

This song is all over BBC1 at the moment thanks to its constant trails for the forthcoming new adaptation of Winston Graham's Poldark series of novels

You can see the trail here;

I was a fan of the 1970s BBC adaptation and so am looking forward to seeing a new spin on it.

End Transmission

Silent Sunday : Lambeth Walk

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Out On Blue Six : The B-52's

The second episode of Reginald D Hunter's excellent music documentary and travelogue, Songs of the South saw him visit Alabama and Georgia on BBC2 tonight and catch up with Cindy Wilson of the B-52's. The conversation naturally turned to this, their biggest most durable hit...

End Transmission

A World Apart (1988)

A World Apart is a 1988 film based on the life of Ruth First, the South African anti-apartheid activist and scholar who was one of 156 Congress Alliance members found guilty in the treason trials of the late 1950s and early 60s. She became the first white woman detained under the 90 day detention law, serving a total of 117 days in isolation and without charge. Following her release, she went into exile, initially in the UK, before taking a university post in Mozambique, where she was  killed by a parcel bomb addressed specifically to her in 1982.

The real Ruth First, 
re-enacting her incarceration for Jack Gold's BBC film 90 Days

The film was written by First's daughter Shawn Slovo and is an autobiographical account from her point of view, depicting a thinly fictionalised First as Diana Roth (played by Barbara Hershey) and Slovo herself as the eldest daughter Molly (a remarkable debut from the young Jodhi May)

Mixing the personal and the political, debut director Chris Menges (cinematographer on Roland Joffe's The Killing Fields and The Mission) delivers a film that in some ways is reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird. Young Molly's life is depicted as an affluent but open minded as befits her upbringing; she attends ballet classes, a good school and does not see race as an issue. She visibly baulks at one of her young friend's demands for a servant's attention with the loaded cry of "Boy!" and is quick to point out that that is not his name and she is shown to treat the families own servants as friends. In focusing largely from Molly's point of view, the film depicts her parents 'treasonous' activities as something that slowly impacts on her life - friends start to shun her, invites to parties don't reach her, she becomes targeted at school. It is these subtle changes that show how perversely placid life in the horrors of Apartheid could actually be. Granted, in telling the story from a white perspective the film may - like many of its contemporaries from the time - sideline the potential to depict first hand the actual hardships and intolerance of such a brutal regime from the eyes of its black characters, but it still manages to pack a surprisingly hefty punch from its 'smaller' perspective, aided immeasurably by May's talented beyond her years performance in which hurt and rejection is all too palpably depicted upon her fresh young face.

In depicting her mother, Solvo paints a picture of someone who was dutiful but occasionally lacking in the necessary maternal focus expected towards children. This is a woman for whom the injustices around her came first, perhaps to the sometime detriment of her home life, and Barbara Hershey delivers a strong performance that is both hard and angry yet at the same time deeply vulnerable.

Rounding out the rest of the cast are the familiar faces of Paul Freeman, David Suchet, Jeroen Krabbé and a young Tim Roth and Adrian Dunbar. The soundtrack is by Hans Zimmer and is similar tonally to his work on Rain Man which is fitting as I believe the director of that film, Barry Levinson, hired Zimmer based on what he heard here.

A World Apart is available to view in full on YouTube.

Hanging On The Telephone

Friday, 27 February 2015

RIP Leonard Nimoy

Sad news, Leonard Nimoy has passed away at the age of 83.

Actor, film director, poet, musician, presenter and photographer, Nimoy will forever be known for his performance as Spock, the half human/half Vulcan space explorer in the original series of Star Trek, the animated series, two episodes of The Next Generation series and several films including the two most recent JJ Abrams reboots.

He also starred in two seasons of Mission: Impossible and guested on Columbo as well as appearing in films Baffled! the western Catlow and The Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. He also appeared on the stage in productions of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Oliver! Camelot, Sherlock Holmes, Fiddler On The Roof, Caligula, The Man In The Glass Booth, Twelfth Night and Equus

As a director he was responsible for the Star Trek films The Search For Spock and The Voyage Home as well as Three Men and a Baby. He released several albums of music, with standard folk and country material as well as songs he penned himself and was an avid photographer, having studied at UCLA in between Star Trek and Mission: Impossible. He owned a camera he rebuilt himself at the age of thirteen for the rest of his life and his work (many capturing Rubenesque women in the nude) was exhibited in Massachusetts.

He certainly lived long and prospered.


Rubbish, Shite and Bollocks Too!

The trouble with living in a small town means there's very little in the way of entertainment of an evening. Having lived here all my life, I'm rather used to it. What's worse is when they actually try and rectify matters. As you can see here with the latest production at St Helens Theatre Royal...

Now, I love Andrea Dunbar's Rita Sue and Bob Too and I wouldn't mind seeing a stage production of it. But seriously, the washed up teenybopper that is Lee from Steps is no one's idea of Bob!

Bless the naivety (or arrogance) of what he says here;

"I'm really excited to take on the character of Bob and join the cast of this fantastic production. This gives me an opportunity to flex my acting muscles and I hope the audience will enjoy seeing a very different Lee on stage as opposed to the pop star they are used to in Steps"

Acting muscles?! Pah!

Elsewhere there's Emily Fleeshman, sister of former Corrie star Richard, most recently seen in Still Open All Hours, someone who is referred to as ''Merseyside's'' Olivia Sloyan, a former LIPA student who has apparently previously appeared in a Halfords commercial and Crissy Rock (Ken Loach's Ladybird, Ladybird and TV's Benidorm) and a Scouse comic called Micky Finn, two performers who seem to be on the Theatre Royal every season along with Joe Longthorne, Freddie Star, Ken Dodd, the faded stars of Brookside and Shameless and any number of TV psychics.

Rita Sue and Bob Too concludes tomorrow night. I'll give it a miss, thanks.

Common Sense Prevails!

Blogger had intended to make private all blogs with adult content by the end of next month in a bid to deter a minority commercial porn spammers (as previously blogged about here)

But common sense has prevailed!

They have decided, thanks to much criticism and complaints, to overturn their original decision. Read all about it here

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Traitor (1971)

This week saw BBC2's Newsnight broadcast 'the holy grail' of espionage aficionados; the discovery of a long forgotten interview with Guy Burgess of the Cambridge spy ring in Moscow (see link here) For someone like myself, who used to have an encyclopedic knowledge of Burgess, Philby, Maclean and Blunt being given the unexpected chance to see and hear Burgess speak was a real treat. It's fitting therefore that following that surprise I decided to watch Dennis Potter's 1971 play Traitor which saw a BAFTA award winning turn from John Le Mesurier as a fictionalised defector to the USSR from the dreaming spires and the ruling classes of England.

Traitor is a claustrophobic piece that sees a party of Western journalists visit the Moscow flat of the notorious traitor of the title, Adrian Harris (Le Mesurier), to secure the rare scoop of interviewing the former MI6 controller and Soviet double agent.

Much like the pieces concerning Philby that appeared in the newspapers in the late 60s, Traitor's main set - Harris' Moscow flat - is depicted as a bare and minimal room save for just a couple of chairs and a table with the obligatory bottle(s) of spirits ready to hand. Even in exile, Philby remained nostalgic for 'his' England and Harris also shares this sentiment as witnessed by the metaphorical landscape portrait of rural England that adorns the wall of his flat, sticking out like a sore thumb.

Like the best autobiographers and journalists who concerned themselves with the Cambridge spies, Potter explores the dichotomy inherent in the notion of treason. For the reporters and indeed much of the outside world, Harris betrayed his country by becoming a committed communist who passed on vital information to the KGB that cost people their lives. But as the deeply troubled and slowly intoxicated Harris continues to maintain, it was not his country which he betrayed but rather his class. Potter himself discussed “the misstatement that someone could politically betray their country and be presumed not to love it” and via his trademark flashbacks we began to understand and empathise with Harris' point of view; his upbringing was one of an aloof father and a strict, violent boarding school regime where he was physically slapped by the headmaster for having a stutter and therefore proving incapable of reciting Blake (quotations feature heavy in Traitor and the present day Harris seems to seek solace in his ability to say them now just as much as he takes solace in the bottle) As a result it's easy to see why someone would not feel loyal to such a lifestyle and, in one of the most satisfying moments of the play, when we see footage of the Jarrow Marches, the general strike and the back to back penury of the working classes of the 1920s and '30s accompanied by that traditional paean to England, Jerusalem, we become aware of a very different and more important England that Harris both believes in and wanted to fight for. “There is another England, you know?" he cries out to the reporters at one point "And you can paint it in blood and tears and sweat and slime and shit!"

As with many of Potter's works there is more going on with Traitor than initially meets the eye. A double agent is of course a wholly unreliable narrator and duplicitous figure and this ultimately bleeds into the play itself when, in the final scene, we suddenly flashback to the beginning and a replay of Harris awaiting the journalists. Except this time we are privy to something Potter did not reveal at the start -  Harris discovering that the KGB has bugged his flat in preparation for the meeting. “Remember the microphones and be careful… For God’s sake remember the microphone!” we hear Harris say in his head as he opens the door to greet the reporters. So what is this? Is it a straightforward flashback in which it is revealed that Harris knew he was bugged and has just lied to his Western audience by putting on an act?  Or does this flashback suggest that the entire play has been in Harris’s mind -  that the journalists have only just arrived and everything we have witnessed is Harris imagining what is likely to happen next? Either is possible as witnessed by his description of “home” as “a journey you take inside your head” or his references to the likes of Nellie Dean, the equally unreliable narrator of Wuthering Heights. Either way, Harris is continuing to be the master of deceit and is lying to someone, be it the journalists, the KGB, or even just to himself. 

Traitor is an extremely dialogue heavy static piece which despite its brilliance does occasionally make it heavy going. That it was later remade for radio is particularly telling. Nevertheless it benefits greatly here from the performance by Le Mesurier for whom Nancy Banks-Smith said "cursed with so Hamlet-like a face, he seems to have been coerced into comedy. This, is Hamlet, was worth waiting for" Le Mesurier was by then a household name thanks to Dad's Army and his arrival to the role says much about Potter's intentions to cast comedic actors against type (some of his first choices included Tony Hancock for Jack Hay in Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton - previously reviewed here - Spike Milligan in Pennies from Heaven and Max Wall and Jimmy Jewel for Blade on the Feather) The actor was extremely hesitant in accepting the role, nervous about the long speeches and swearing and scared that he would not be able to ''pull it off''. In the end his fears were unfounded and he won the BAFTA for Best TV Actor that year. It was said that Le Mesurier, not a great believer in awards, used the statuette to prop open his bedroom door! 

To get the BBC to consider repeating some of these classic Play for Today's please sign the petition I started here

Out On Blue Six : Clean Bandit ft. Stylo G

I must admit to finding cellist Grace Chatto rather striking

End Transmission

Double Dare (1976)

For me, Double Dare is possibly Dennis Potter's first bona fide masterpiece. It takes the theme of the relationship between reality and fantasy previously explored in his 1972 TV play Follow The Yellow Brick Road (reviewed here) and his novel Hide and Seek, as well as prefiguring the concept of the fantasy bleeding out into real life that he would later effectively use in The Singing Detective and Karaoke.

The play tells the story of blocked and ill TV playwright Martin Ellis (Alan Dobie, channeling Potter's own circumstances) who arranges to meet a young actress called Helen (Kika Markham) in a hotel to discuss a loose idea for a play he has in mind involving a meeting between a prostitute and her client, which he imagines will be fraught with sexual tension and bartering. As their own meeting goes on, it soon becomes clear that the same kind of game is being played between the writer and the actress.

The most interesting thing about this particular exploration of the blurring of fact and fiction is that the play was based on a real life hotel meeting between Potter and Markham. 

As Kika Markham herself said, Potter seemed fascinated about "what it meant to act a part - he was confused as to whether you were what you were acting. I'm sure that was very central to him - he had trouble with the boundaries of reality." 

Potter's belief, she believed, was that all performers are in effect whores; willing to reveal the most personal aspects of themselves to -  and discard their principles for - an audience in order to gain a good part. He sought to examine this willing exploitation by casting Markham in the dual role of Helen the actress and Carol, the call girl who is playing a seemingly dangerous game with the profusely perspiring sexually frustrated businessman played by Malcolm Terris - in a performance that for once actually benefits from his loud, egregious style.

Perhaps naturally this was not a belief shared by Markham herself and, in the meeting that inspired the tale, she recalls she gave as good as she got defending her art by challenging and rebuking his theories and views, which ultimately made its way into the fiction itself; "I gave him half his lines in that play, because I really did argue back. And he kept that in, though I think my answers didn't always please him - and even that is incorporated!"

The symbiotic nature of the play and the two couples is further complicated by Martin's increasingly disturbed and panicked frame of mind as he starts to believe that the client and the prostitute are the characters in his mind brought into being and that the violent fate he has in mind to conclude his play will occur for real during the course of the evening. As the evening progresses and Martin's mind becomes further disturbed he begins to fear that he is even controlling Helen, as much as he would become her puppet master for the purposes of the play itself.

The reflexiveness has extra weight when you consider how fascinated and disgusted Martin is by Helen's previous nude scenes which in turn Potter positions Markham into doing for the play itself and ultimately, how Potter naturally has total control over his vision; "In a way, he won, in the play" Markham related.

The links between creativity and sexuality is a beguiling and disconcerting mix which I feel was the last real time Potter gave his women a genuine mouthpiece, thanks to the original meeting he had with Markham, who was very much an independent, late 20th century artiste with intelligence and principles - being active in the Workers Revolutionary Party. He continued to explore the nature of exploitation towards women and his own difficult coming to terms with female sexuality, but never quite with the same sensitivity or intelligence as he perhaps shows here, even if he does rather get his own way in the end as Markham alludes to. 

To get the BBC to consider repeating some of these classic Play For Today's please sign the petition I started here

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Last Night's Tele : Critical

Jed Mercurio, creator of Line of Duty, Bodies and Cardiac Arrest, returned to the medical drama last night with Sky One's Critical and soundly pronounced the likes of Casualty and Holby City dead.

I'd been looking forward to this ever since it was announced last year and the opening episode did not disappoint. Set in real time, Critical explores the crucial 'golden hour' of emergency medicine, the first sixty minutes that means life or death for the poor unfortunate on the Resus trolley.

And this really was a poor unfortunate. Unlike the soapy, long in the tooth and unrealistic Casualty and Holby City, we learnt nothing about the man our determined team fought to keep alive, we just knew about the serious injuries he had received...and we saw them, and the surgical procedures to combat them, in graphic gory detail.

Focusing firmly on the nitty gritty, former doctor Mercurio turned in another scarily accurate depiction of medicine that focused on the procedures and only suggested just the slightest hint of what occurred around it, such as the lives and personalities of the staff and the back stabbing hospital politics. 

Set in a state of the art major trauma unit, this often felt and looked like science fiction but it's reassuring to know - should we ever be unlucky enough to find ourselves in such a Resus - it is all fact. Whizzily filmed around an almost Kubrick like set and choc-full of tensely uttered jargon being spat over grimly realistic CGI body organs I felt like I couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen and the cast, including Neve McIntosh (Bodies) Emma Fryer, Catherine Walker, Claire Skinner, Kimberley Nixon and (only briefly seen in the debut episode) the show's lead Lennie James certainly helped to hold our attention too.

Tuesdays, Sky One, 9pm.

Wordless Wednesday : Bus Stop

Heller In Pink Tights

Just some stunning publicity shots for Heller in Pink Tights, George Cukor's 1960 glorious technicolour adaptation of Louis L'Amor's western novel Heller With a Gun, featuring the beautiful Sophia Loren and the lavish costumes of Edith Head.