Sunday, 3 January 2010

Bye to the Tennanth Doctor

Well, rather than continuing to ramble on other people's blogs I thought I may as well add my thoughts here about The End of T(ennant)ime Pts 1 and 2. Alongside Hamlet and Outnumbered, it was one of the big events over the holiday that we all sat down as a family to watch.

Although this probably won’t be the top of many favourite episode charts, there were some great moments, enough for me to feel pretty satisfied overall. The best bit was the undercutting of the big build-up to the ‘He Will Knock Four Times’ scary prophesy. Well, he did knock four times, and it was BRILLIANT, taking it all back down to a human scale again.

Overall, there were huge plot holes, completely un-patched and leaking irritating questions all over the place, and the long goodbyes were indeed indulgent, but I didn’t care one tiny bit. This was a big fat sentimental goodbye to this Doctor, his companions and also to Russell T Davies’ version of Who, and it was exemplary in giving us all that was brilliant as well as a bit flaky and irritating about this incarnation.

Finally, I loved the fact that the Ood seemed to be referencing Hamlet, offering to sing him to his sleep (ok, they may not be flights of angels, but it worked for me!).

I will certainly miss David Tennant as the Doctor, and hope he hurries to find something that will keep him popping up on our tv screens, or, even better, gets himself to a theatre near me very quickly.

As for the next Doctor, time will tell whether Matt Smith is a Tom or a Colin Baker, but I’m optimistic….

Friday, 1 January 2010

Darker Shores

Watching the first preview night of Darker Shores at Hampstead Theatre was a slightly nail-biting experience. The first night had been delayed as Tom Goodman-Hill had taken over his role from Mark Gatiss just a couple of days earlier, and I was beginning to wonder if all my visits to this theatre were going to be jinxed.

Despite this, all appeared word perfect and, if the pace slipped on occasions and some scenes meandered about a bit, overall this was a very creditable performance. Tom Goodman-Hill did an excellent job playing Professor Gabriel Stokes, a Victorian widower consulting an American spiritualist/potential huckster after a supernatural experience and recruiting him to investigate further in the best tradition of ghost stories. Julian Rhind-Tutt played Tom Beauregard, the American ex-civil war soldier turned ghost-finder, battling his own demons in a performance nicely balanced between bravura showman and troubled war veteran and throwing in a few magic tricks for good measure! The rest of the cast did a brilliant, understated job in holding the whole thing together, leaving the men to get on with the melodrama.

On second viewing, I had a much better seat and the pace had picked up considerably so that the plot whipped along quite nicely. There are fantastic special effects throughout, best appreciated from the stalls, and the final reveal, when we find out what all this is about, was a real treat, particularly as I hadn’t seen it very clearly on the first visit. Despite following the tradition of plays like Women in Black, there is a secular sensibility underwriting it all, giving Gabriel Stokes in particular some great (and funny) lines which mean that for most of the play I was never quite clear whether we are supposed to take it all seriously or not. The slightly uncertain chuckles from the audience seemed to suggest to me that they felt the same way!

The one thing that was missing was the final chiller moment – I think it is there in embryo, but it seemed to get lost in the final scene on both occasions I saw this, and I would love to see it built up a bit more. I’m going again in January, so I’ve got my fingers crossed.