Watchlist: Jan-March

Time was, I kept a running list of all the thing I’d seen that I wanted to mention on my watchlist posts, but I’ve lost the scrap of paper I was writing them on. I’ll start a new ‘note’ for next time, so this post will be heavy on the past few weeks and less so for Jan-Feb, as little has stayed with me worth mentioning, apart from the following: (edited to add one I forgot!)

On Stage & In Person

The English Shakespeare Co’s warehouse production of Macbeth at Dock X in London, starring Ralph Fiennes and Indira Varma certainly was an immersive experience. I found Fiennes a little old-school in his so precise enunciation of word endings, but at other times he was good, and Indira Varma was a super Lady Macbeth. My full review is here.

I went to see Alice Winn talk about her novel In Memoriam in town the other week. I hadn’t read the book before seeing her, but have only heard good things. I hadn’t realised she was American, but she is a product of Marlborough where she boarded, and when researching this novel, used copies of the school’s newspaper from the WWI period as inspiration. To hear her speak, she had clearly researched the potential lives of her two protagonists, and their will-they-won’t-they get together relationship, which was illegal in those days although crushes at school were accepted, so thoroughly.

Result: I am really looking forward to reading the book. I’m not a fan of WWI/II-set novels in general, but will always make exceptions for gooduns!

This Saturday we went to Stratford to see the last night of the latest RSC production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream starring Matthew Baynton (Ghosts, Horrible Histories) as an hilarious Bottom: he was side-splittingly funny from his first appearance. It was a modern dress production on a blank thrust stage, and Baynton came on in a double-breasted pinstripe suit with mustard shirt, tie and socks and a mod hairstyle, the very model of Paul Weller meets Sewing Bee’s Patrick Grant. Once transformed into an ass by Puck, (Rosie Sheehy as a punk Huck Finn type), he used his skinny frame to great advantage parading round in his Y-fronts – his ears were great too, they waggled and rose erect!!! There was plenty of innuendo, especially the Wall (Emily Cundick as Snout), and Lysander’s hips (Ryan Hutton) were worthy of a Strictly samba. There were some innovative effects and stage magic: for instance, we never see the fairies – only as lights cleverly appearing, and voices coming from the orbs suspended from the roof. As is usual, Theseus and Hippolyta doubled up as Oberon and Titania. I loved Bally Gill (Allelujah) as Oberon, as Theseus he reminded me very much of Rishi Sunak (perhaps deliberately?), whereas Sirine Saba was a sexy Titania and very much buttoned up Hippolyta until after the wedding. The Rude Mechanicals were all wonderful, but the primly dressed Starveling (Primi Tamang) became Linda Blair in The Exorcist as the Moon during their performance, truly an unexpected and gruesome transformation! They had cut various bits to keep it down to 2.5hrs – like the whole Ninas Tomb bit in the rehearsal in the woods, however it was just great fun. I couldn’t stop laughing. As you might imagine, Baynton played Bottom as Pyramus’ death scene completely for laughs, with lots of blood capsules hidden in his outfit. I’ll leave you with a montage of the production photos by Pamela Raith.

On Screen

  • Vanya – (Streamed to the big screen) I was originally going to see Andrew Scott’s one-man modern Irish take on Chekov’s Uncle Vanya in the West End, but I was able to resell my ticket once I saw there’d be a screening, which saved me over £100. I think that was the right decision. Although it was very good, it somehow left me wanting.
  • Poor Things – I streamed this on a Prime rental. Not a film you’d want to see with your offspring, given that Bella Baxter is humping for the second half. Kudos to Emma Stone for believing in the vision of director Yorgos Lanthimos and Alasdair Gray, who was obviously a randy old goat! Wonderful sets and costumes which were rewarded with Oscars as was Stone. I wasn’t convinced by Mark Ruffalo’s voice, he was trying to be a Terry Thomas-style smoothie, but it didn’t quite work for me.
  • American Fiction (Prime) – This film was so clever – a social satire on white audiences’ appetite for novels about the Black trauma and poverty trope. Jeffrey Wright plays a blocked writer who dashes off such a novel under the pseudonym Stagg R Lee (Stagger Lee being a murderer, and subject of a folk ballad – Nick Cave’s version is fab), only for it to not only sell, but become a bestseller and be called in for an award at which our writer is on the judging panel. It is hilarious and biting. Loved it, and must get to adaptee Percival Everett’s novels soon.


  • The Completely Made Up Adventures of Dick Turpin (Apple TV) – A super silly comedy vehicle for Noel Fielding, who is the highwayman who cares more about his appearance than actually holding folks up for their money. Co-starring Hugh Bonneville and Tamsin Greig amongst the cream of British alt-comedy folk, it is hilarious and very silly indeed.
  • Constellation (Apple TV) – Noomi Rapace stars as an astronaut returned to Earth after an accident on the ISS involving a US gizmo that has odd repercussions when you’re exposed to it. It got rather complicated with multiple timelines, as people were replicated or not, but I sort of enjoyed it.
  • The Gentlemen (Netflix) – I’ve only watched the first three episodes, but Guy Ritchie’s new drama has a big vein of comedy running through it and, yes, it’s blokey, but it’s also fun. I may return to the remaining episodes, I may not.

16 thoughts on “Watchlist: Jan-March

  1. Anokatony says:

    From your post, it appears that American Fiction is the show to watch. I checked, and it is available for streaming here in the US which I will probably be doing soon.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      It was absolutely superb. And I’ve heard the Percival Everett book it was adapted from it brilliant too.

  2. Marina Sofia says:

    Alas, I bailed on The Gentlemen after 2 episodes. I can’t quite explain why Martin McDonagh’s humour works for me and Guy Ritchie’s doesn’t.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      If I had more access to our one-screen Netflix sub (my daughter hogs it), I’d probably watch more episodes … McDonagh’s humour has tragedy in it in a way that Ritchie’s doesn’t – maybe that explains it?

  3. Laura says:

    I also loved American Fiction! My sister just saw the Stratford MSD and had mixed feelings – she loved the second half but felt the energy and physicality was lacking in the first half.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      MSD always has a very slow start as a play with the whole drama of the uptightness of Hippolyta and Theseus, and then Hermia’s dilemma of death or Demetrius. The Bridge production which I saw the screening of a couple of years ago overcame that by putting Gwendoline Christie’s Hippolyta in a glass box to signify possession, which took your mind off things – as she was magnetic to look at!

  4. A Life in Books says:

    Absolutely loved American Fiction which is very true to the book. Percival Everitt is so funny and smart in his approach to race. I caught up with Broker via the BFI website and would highly recommend it if you’ve not seen it already. I’ve also been watching truelove which has taken a turn I wasn’t expecting and am a little disppointed by. Can’t say more than that!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I’m gradually gaining copies of Percival Everett’s books, but haven’t made time to read any yet. A failing on my part. Thanks for the other recommendations – haven’t seen either.
      BTW, Anatomy of a Fall is now streaming free on Prime.

  5. Elle says:

    I love Midsummer Night’s Dream so much—it can be awfully hard to get the silliness-to-pathos ratio just right, but Baynton as Bottom does seem inspired casting.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      MND is a favourite of mine too. This production’s batch of Rude Mechanicals were excellent, and Baynton, who I’d watch in anything, was an eager puppy in dapper dress, a goofy ass, and a seriously pompous and hammy Pyramus! The girl who played Puck and Bally Gill as Oberon were super too.

  6. Calmgrove says:

    No live theatre for me I’m afraid, but we did at least fit in some classical concerts (a solo violin recital in a freezing church and a string quartet in a rather warmer village hall).

    Poor Things was a real assault on the senses and sensibilities, wasn’t it?! Thank goodness we watched it streamed on our own…

    A film I can recommend – unless, like Emily, you have a fear of flying – is Northern Comfort – a Danish film set in Iceland with a largely British cast (including Timothy Spall) about a bunch of misfits who attempt to overcome that fear: hilarious and possibly traumatic all at the same time!

    We’re also watching, or perhaps overdosing, on loads of streamed crime series – Astrid, The Marlow Murder Club, Whitstable Pearl to name just a handful, but I don’t know what that says about us and the current state of the world. 😬

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I shall look out for Northern Comfort certainly. My dad is a fan of the Robert Thorogood Marlow Murder Club books, which reminds me, we’ve got Richard Coles coming to Abingdon soon – must book a ticket.

  7. imogenglad says:

    Always interesting to see the watchlist – I haven’t really warmed to Turpin, despite the starry cast. Can’t work out if it’s the script or the direction, but something’s letting it down for me

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I’d have liked a longer storyline with Hugh Bonneville. I think you have to be tuned in to Fielding’s idiosyncratic delivery which is more comedian throwaways rather than actorly; twas ever thus, but I do like him.

  8. Cathy746books says:

    I love Baynton, I bet he was fantastic! I also watched Poor Things this month and was surprised that I didn’t like it more. I thought it looked fantastic but it just didn’t have the unsettling edge of Lanthimos’ other movies.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Baynton was predictably fab, so glad I got to see the play.
      I can’t say I particularly liked Poor Things either, although I found it compelling! Mark Ruffalo in particular didn’t work for me.

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