Category: Review


It’s Wales Comic Con season – one of my favourite times of year. Unusually for Wales, it’s a glorious day, which makes the always-cheery Comic Con atmosphere even more potent.

We’re lucky to have such a positive event in Wrexham, especially one that celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. For such a special occasion the organisers had pulled out all the stops to attract some huge names (Val Kilmer, Hayley Atwell, Sylvester McCoy to name three). The unfortunate last-minute cancellations which often blight this kind of event did nothing to dampen spirits, and when I arrived on Saturday the excitement was palpable.

When I first started coming to Comic Con about six years ago, I remember I had to queue for 3 hours just to get inside. I’d since become savvy to this and made it a tradition to arrive extra early and enjoy the parade of cosplayers from a spot near the front of the queue. This year I was naively relaxed about the need to queue and, after arriving just after 11am, I joined a queue so long it showed me parts of the Glyndwr Campus I’d never seen before (and I studied there for three years). Despite the mega-queue, there were very few complaints and organisers worked super-hard to get everyone inside in just over an hour. Shout out to all the cosplayers who must have been absolutely sweltering in their heavy costumes (Stormtroopers, Lady Olena Tyrell, Marvin the Martian and Catwoman to name a few!)

The main hall was packed to bursting and I fought my way past superheroes and the odd villain to get to my favourite stall, Goblin Dreams. This is a real gem of a stall which has some truly gorgeous things to offer, especially the handmade mini costumed dragons. This year I bought a beautiful Phantom of the Opera dragon to add to my collection.

One thing that I did notice this year was that due to the huge crowds within the main hall the access for wheelchair users was poor. There may not be much the organisers of WCC can do about this but I did notice a lot of people struggling to move through the hall. It did make me think whether WCC need to reconsider their venue. Glyndwr University is a perfect spot for this event so I wouldn’t suggest moving but perhaps expanding across the campus. Although Welsh weather is never reliable, it was a beautiful day so it would have been nice to see more outdoor events. The heat was so stifling inside the main hall and the vendors tent that it became uncomfortable to stay indoors for too long. It would have been good to see organisers think on their feet and expand into the outdoor spaces.

The crowds and queues, however, just go to show the success and growth of the event over the last ten years. People are travelling from all over the country to Wrexham and that is fantastic. However, it is sad to see the guests capitalising on that growth, as I couldn’t help recalling my first visit, when selfies were free and autographs were averaging at £15. This weekend some guests were charging fans £20 for selfies and £30 for autographs. I suppose they have to make their money somehow! Some of the guests were sat alone when I wandered through, which did make me wonder if people were too scared to talk to them through fear of being charged per word.

Cynical gripes aside, I do really love this event and I am being very picky. I always take away from Comic Con a feeling of safety and community. In recent years there has been a notable increase in police presence but, in my opinion, that is unnecessary as there is never any noticeable trouble (besides with all those Stormtroopers strutting round, there’s no need for police). It’s not just physical safety, but the safety to be whoever the hell you want. You could rock up dressed as a Pikachu and no one would judge. Everyone is welcome and it’s just what our town needs.

 

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A last minute dash to the West End resulted in Saturday night at the Prince Edward Theatre. Disney’s Aladdin was spectacular – a bouncy, vibrant musical and a special treat for any fan of the Disney film.

Everything from the set pieces to the costumes is big, bold, and classic Disney, screaming Disney from the moment the curtain rises. The decision to add extra characters, such as Aladdin’s friends, does sit a bit oddly at first but his pals prove their likeability during the second act.

This script fizzes with wit in moments, mostly during the Genie’s scenes, however it does feel slightly panto in parts, particularly during Jafar and Iago’s front of curtain scenes. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially given the shows target audience are children, but it does seem a bit unexpected,  when compared to Disney’s other hit, The Lion King.

Aladdin was played with heroic charm by Antony Hewitt and Jade Ewan was perfect as Princess Jasmine. Admittedly, the Genie is the star of the show. Just as the first act is starting to dip, the lamp is rubbed and out pops Trevor Dion Nicholas with his fast-firing jokes and impressive magic tricks. ‘Never Had A Friend Like Me’ is the definition of a show-stopper with an extended arrangement, extravagant tap routine, vanishing male lead, and appearing showgirls, all accompanied by a riffing genie. It’s enough to leave even the Disney-adverse humming the chorus days later.

It’s not just the Genie’s magic that adds an extra special charm to the production. There were ooohs and aaaahs a plenty when the magic carpet actually floated around the stage with not a string in sight. It took a bit of googling to discover how it’s done, but the clever use of modern tech adds a whole new world of magic to the show.

Overall, Aladdin is a dazzling diamond in the West End. A real cave of wonders.

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Image result for miss saigon I walked into the Palace theatre knowing nothing about Miss Saigon, but I left with a haunting soundtrack flickering through my mind. Whilst the story of Miss Saigon is simple, Sooha Kim and Ashley Gilmour make stunning work of captivating the audience as Kim and Chris. I was struck by how quickly the audience cared about them, particularly Kim, whose naivety and innocence is performed beautifully by Sooha Kim. Whilst the doomed romance between Kim and Chris makes for plenty of drama, it’s the score that gives Miss Saigon its real power. From the dramatic opening as Kim’s village is attacked to the thunderous rumblings of the finale, each song whips up the tragedy and emotion perfectly. ‘The Last Night of the World’ was the only song I was familiar with prior to watching, but the intense crescendo of the song wasn’t the only musical piece that left me with goosebumps. Gilmour gave a vulnerable performance during ‘Why God Why?’ and Kim’s ‘I Still Believe’ was pitch perfect in every way.  But it wasn’t all drama – thankfully Red Concepcion was on hand to provide some light relief as the sleazy Engineer, delivering every vulgar comment with extra grease. This was a production where every cast member was giving their all – even the helicopter earned a round of applause!

The most poignant theme of Miss Saigon isn’t the heart-breaking relationship between Chris and Kim, but the desperate lengths Kim will go to in order to protect her son, Tam. It’s a story about the strength of love, but not necessarily the story you were expecting.

 

Image result for How not to be a boy In the last year I’ve been lucky enough to experience two works of art that have really ‘spoken to me’, having never really understood the phrase before. The first was the touring production of Rent in October 2016 (after which I spent several weeks sobbing). The second was How Not to Be A Boy by Robert Webb.

I knew from pre-publicity that this book would be right up my street, and I was correct. Not only was the main thread relatable, but How Not To Be A Boy is beautifully and passionately written by Webb. I absorbed this book. It was actually ‘unputdownable’.

How Not To Be A Boy is Webb’s memoir with a focus on the pressures he encountered to conform to society’s ideas of masculinity. Webb writes honestly about his upbringing and childhood, and with hindsight is able to identify some of the dangerous messages he was given which effected his adult life. It begins with his closeness to his mother and difficult relationship with his father, and ends with his modern day struggles to steer away from following his father’s path.

Webb’s discussions on gender go beyond the ‘blue for a boy and pink for a girl’ debate, and he relives insightful anecdotes, (some warm, some hilarious, some tragic), in a way that had me unable to resist the urge to fling my hands in the air and shout ‘Amen!’.

Webb talks about the patriarchy, and how the rules and gender stereotypes created by society are damaging to both women and men. A striking moment is when he talks about how ‘clever’ boys and girls are viewed by society. He notes how when labelled ‘clever’, girls have to respond with how hard they’ve worked for it, whilst boys are expected to shrug it off, as if it all came naturally. If you’re a boy who does well at school, excuses have to be found for this ridiculous behaviour, and often you’re labelled with having no common sense. ‘He’s a clever lad, no common sense though.’ (How many times did I hear that growing up?)

A common thread throughout  is of males suppressing their emotions. One of the most heart-breaking parts of the book comes at the mid-point, where Webb tells of the loss of his mother. Webb writes about his grief and suffering so eloquently that it’s frustrating to comprehend why we are constantly told to ‘man up’ and hide our true feelings. We’ve all had experiences with this, to various degrees, and it’s important that Webb highlights the problem in his book. With almost three quarters of suicide victims in the UK being male, it’s of vital importance that we breakdown the ‘man up’ culture and talk about our problems, as Webb does in university. The patriarchy strikes again by enforcing a false notion that only females open up and talk about their feelings. What a dangerous message. Webb talks candidly, and admirably, of his battles with suicidal thoughts and his subsequent therapy sessions, in a way that may give hope to many.

How Not To Be A Boy also brings to light just how old fashioned words such as ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ are. As Webb explains, all they do is conjure up archaic stereotypes which, in 2017, are unnecessary. He describes masculinity as a repressive process which needs to be recovered from and explains how the term only really means ‘not being a woman’. Why not a woman? Women are strong, brave, loving, thoughtful, sensible, loyal, trustworthy and millions other admirable adjectives so….why do we have to avoid being like that? Why do we need these words?

The restrictions that we live under should be blindingly obvious, but Webb unmasks these hideous stereotypes with flair and style, adding his own thoughts, warm humour, and prompting many outbursts of ‘YES!’  from this reader. In an era where people are angry at clothes shop for removing labels, and the walls of gender stereotyping are being slowly eroded, How Not To Be A Boy is essential reading and a book I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

Right, it occurred to me that this year I have seen a lorra lorra theatre and, ridiculously, have only written about a few shows. So to catch up, this week I’m giving you four fast reviews for the productions I missed, but really did deserve to be talked about…..

Wonderland, Venue Cymru, LlandudnoImage result for Wonderland the musical

I’ll start with Wonderland because it’s got a bit of a tragic story.  I saw this in Llandudno in June and it was spectacular. Wonderland is the familiar story of Alice given a modern twist. Alice is a 40-something divorcee with a teenage daughter who enters Wonderland via a dodgy lift in her apartment block. She doesn’t take the trip alone as she’s joined by daughter Ellie and awkward love-interest Jack. Whilst in Wonderland they’re encouraged to go through the looking glass, a magical archway that exposes the other side of their personalities (cue Alice becoming stern and sensible and Jack transforming into a confident charmer.)

Wonderland boasted many memorably songs, particularly ‘Through the Looking Glass’ and ‘Finding Wonderland’, sung with passion and energy by a very talented cast. Rachael Wooding was a powerhouse as Alice, revealing Alice’s faults and insecurities poignantly. Bree Smith gave a cracking performance as the sassy Queen of Hearts, slaying with her performance of ‘Off with their heads’. Ben Kerr and Francesca Lara Gordon were also brilliant as the March Hare and Mad Hatter, giving us refreshing twists on the classic characters. The set pieces were gorgeous, fully immersing into the crazy world of Wonderland where anything is possible. Most striking was the way the famous tale of  Alice was re-worked into a modern setting, giving the characters (particularly Alice) a bit more depth along the way. Wonderland was a work of art and must-see, modern musical.

However, just a couple of weeks after seeing Wonderland, the tour was cancelled due to problems behind the scenes. There’s plenty of speculation online, but, whatever the reason, it’s a great shame that the hard work, commitment and talent of the cast and crew will go unseen.

Les Miserables, Queen’s Theatre, London

Image result for les miserablesThis was a bucket-list show that lived up to all of my expectations, and beyond. The star of the show is its musical score and I was not disappointed to hear Claude-Michel Schönberg’s music played by a live orchestra. ‘At the end of day’ saw the full cast launch into action with breath-taking harmonies whilst ‘Do you hear the people sing?’ gave the audience goosebumps you could strike a match on. Simon Gleeson was made for the role of Jean Valjean, whist Hollie O’Donoghue was perfect as Eponine, giving a beautiful performance of ‘On My Own’. Katy Secombe and David Langham stole every scene as the dastardly Thenardiers, providing much needed comedy amongst all the tragedy! The revolving set works really well, seamlessly taking the story across France and through the ages. The battle sequence in the second act is particularly stunning, with tense performances (and gun fire!) keeping the audience well on the edge of their seats. At one point it took all my will not to cover my eyes. The deaths during this battle scene are especially heart breaking (no spoilers), and many gasps were heard as the barricade revolved to reveal the true carnage. Les Miserables remains packed with emotion throughout and it ends in spectacular fashion with the beautiful finale. There’s no question as to why this show has been around for so long. It’s a must-see and a show that I’m sure I’ll revisit.

Don Juan in Soho, Wyndham’s Theatre, LondonImage result for don juan in soho

Sex, drugs and David Tennant – what’s not to love? Though, admittedly, the main pull to this production was, initially, that is starred a certain former Time Lord, I was pleasantly surprised to find a sparkling script and stellar performances waiting for me at Wyndham’s Theatre. Updated to 2017 and relocated to Soho, Don Juan tells the story of a privileged, hedonistic party-goer as he sleeps his way around London, picking up plenty of hookers and cocaine along the way. David Tennant was, of course, fantastic as the titular bastard, unleashing his inner-Russel Brand and being fantastically horrid to every other character, including his loyal aid, Stan, played excellently by Adrian Scarborough. The relationship between Stan and DJ is surprisingly endearing, though Stan, on the edge of a breakdown, is desperate for DJ to pay him so he can retire, he can’t help but stay by DJ’s side. Don Juan in Soho is strikingly contemporary, with references to the ‘strong and stable’ government we find ourselves trapped under today as well as several witty remarks about American politics. DJ deliciously berates the world we live in, stating social media, fake news and lying politicians as factors of a crumbling society in one passionately performed monologue that had the audience on the verge of shouting ‘Amen!’. DJ tries to explain to Stan that life is all about pleasure – shamelessly seducing the chavtastic Lottie (a brilliant comic performance from Dominique Moore) in a hospital whilst simultaneously trying it on with grieving bride Mattie in one ridiculously outrageous scene. Don Juan in Soho was theatre at its best as it forced the audience to think before they left their seats. It was engaging from the first moment, topical and surreal, and definitely one of the best plays I’ve ever seen.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Venue Cymru, Llandudno

Image result for the curious incident of the dog in the night-timeA really touching story told in a refreshing, and visually brilliant, way. Christopher finds his neighbour’s dog has been killed and takes it upon himself to solve the mystery. His mission sees him uncover a family secret, which in turn takes him to the terrifying world of Central London. Scott Reid was phenomenal as Christopher, giving a truly powerful performance, particularly as Christopher’s condition begins to take control. The modern and tech-heavy set pieces drew us in to the story using clever effects (a green box giving the effect of a football match on TV, a remote control train bringing London to life before our eyes) to add an extra fizz to the already sparkling performances. Surprisingly, Christopher has uncovered the culprit by the interval, leaving the second act to explore the secrets of Christopher’s family and the effects his ‘behavioural problems’ have on his loved ones. Anyone who doesn’t feel prickly-eyed throughout Act 2 is incapable of emotion. The emotional energy of the performances is sometimes borderline unbearable, and the sequences in London are also quite overwhelming, as we experiences flashing lights, loud noises and almost nightmarish scenes, we’re forced to view the world from Christopher’s point of view. This is a play that will stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre.

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‘Darkness, grief and unspeakable sorrow.’

Well…not quite. Darkness, yes, but there were plenty of laughs at the WMC in Cardiff on Friday night. I’ve been reading a lot on twitter about The Addams Family musical so I was really excited when, by pure luck, I bagged two tickets for last Friday.

As the orchestra struck up the familiar theme tune, what was initially clear was just how well cast this show was. Samantha Womack is a perfect Morticia – cool and sultry throughout – whilst Cameron Blakely makes a terrific Gomez. Both actors have sizzling chemistry together (proven with a sexy tango) and match each other with each witty punchline. They both resurrect these iconic characters perfectly. Perhaps surprisingly, ‘Love’ is a key theme of this production, most prominently the love between a family, and Blakley shows Gomez’s love for his daughter,Wednesday, beautifully, particularly during the song ‘Happy/Sad’, where he reflects on the memories he has of his young daughter, such as the first time she set fire to the Jehovah’s witness, evoking the dark humour we associate with the family.  (Another example, when Alice asks if the Addams’ have a little girls’ room, Gomez responds with ‘We did, but we had to let them go.’)

At first, Wednesday’s (Carrie Hope Fletcher) change of character is a bit awkward, but all becomes clear when Wednesday belts her showstopper number ‘PRelated imageulled’, explaining that her change is a result of her love for Lucas. As the show progresses, it becomes clear Wednesday’s sadistic side is still lurking as she tortures her brother and gets very excited about potentially shooting Lucas in the head with her crossbow (all in the name of love, of course).

Valda Aviks was also fantastic as Granny, particularly during her ‘Full Disclosure’ speech. It was a smart move to address the ambiguity around Granny’s connection to the family from the cartoons and movies, by having Morticia refer to her as Gomez’s mother before Gomez retorts with ‘My mother? I thought she was your mother?’.

 

Les Dennis gave a great performance as Fester and his story thread of being in love with the moon was typically ‘Addams’ and, at the end, quite sweet. Dickon Gough also deserves a mention for his scene-stealing performance as Lurch. Lurch doesn’t speak but became a clear audience favourite thanks to Gough’s comic timing and surprising hip action in the finale number. (One complaint – where was Cousin itt?!). The main cast are supported by an excellent cast of ancestors, complete with choreography reminiscent of Thriller.

As well as the familiar quirky characters, the show boasts a catchy score. Andrew Lippa nails the new music and each number feels very natural to the characters. In particular, the opening number ‘When you’re an Addams’ is a definite ear worm and the final number, ‘Move towards the darkness’, will haunt you after you leave your seat.

What’s also impressive is the way the gothic Addams mansion is brought to life on stage via moving staircases and hidden entrances. The suspended moon above the Addams family home creates an eery and dramatic scene.

Overall, The Addams Family is a treat for theatre fans with a gorgeous score, fantastic visuals and a stellar cast.

Watch the opening number here

Watch the trailer here

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Image result for 42nd street londonI had an unexpected and very last minute trip to London last week.  Amongst the walking, talking and dining, I found myself at the Theatre Royal for a surprise tap-dance down 42nd Street.

I had very few preconceptions about the show, and I didn’t really have time to consider it too much, but I knew I was in for an old-fashioned, high-kicking performance. Four rows from the front, I had perfect seats (courtesy of TodayTix rush tickets) which gave a great close-up view of the stage.

The shows standout quality is its sheer spectacle. The sets and costumes are absolutely dazzling and during several musical numbers it’s hard to be anything but totally absorbed. The lights, moving set pieces, harmonies….It really is mesmerising. During one sequence a huge mirror is lowered to firstly, reflect the audience, and then tilted to show the dancers lying on the stage floor carrying out a very intricate synchronised sequenced. It was so impressive even the mirror got a round applause!

Tom Lister and Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson gave great performances as theatre producer Julien Marsh and clumsy chorus girl Peggy Sawyer. Sheena Easton was also brilliantly bitchy as the acerbic actress Dorothy Brock. I really enjoyed Jasna Ivir’s performance of Maggie Jones, delivering her witty one-liners with perfect comic timing (On musicians ‘Let’s just say they’re in a pit… and there’s a reason we keep them there!’)Image result for 42nd street london

Musically, the show boasts lots of catchy numbers, many of which I wasn’t familiar with until I’d seen the show, but caught myself humming many times since. ‘Go into your dance’ and ‘42nd Street’ are big tap numbers that get the audience going, but it’s ‘The Lullaby of Broadway’ that really steals the show. Ear worms a-plenty in this show!

The overall plot, a chorus girl getting her big break in a huge Broadway show, is a bit flimsy in parts, particularly some of the songs in the ‘Pretty Lady’ musical (What is the plot of that show?!), but that doesn’t distract from the energy and passionate performances of the cast.  42nd Street is a spectacular night out of good old fashioned West-End magic.

Watch the trailer here

Well I think we can all agree that this week’s episode of Doctor Who was terrifiying. Set on a troubled space station, Oxygen saw the Doctor, Bill and Nardole arrive to answer a distress signal. As if dealing with the space-zombies (dead astronauts being carried around by their smart-suit) wasn’t enough, they also had to deal with the lack of oxygen. Stressful stuff.

It feels like the Doctor has been travelling to increasingly darker territories since the show’s return in 2005. We’ve had everything from face-consuming gas masks to shadows that will eat you alive but it seems the show is still finding new ways to make us shudder.

Whilst Russel T Davies injected fresh new life into Doctor Who, it’s been Steven Moffatt who is responsible for giving it that chilling streak. Since the beginning of his reign we’ve had the Weeping Angels (terrifying!), Dream Crabs (bloody terrifying!) and the Silence (Oh good God, I’d forgotten about those!) – all suitably creepy enough to give us nightmares. But is this what Doctor Who is about? There’s plenty of criticism online that recent series’ have been too dark and scary for children and there’s lots of people who would like to see it return to its warmer, family-friendly roots.

Take Oxygen. I have to admit, I was freaked. The imagery of the dead astronauts stomping around the space station was effectively eerie, an image I can’t imagine many children will be forgetting in a hurry. But, to me, that’s what it’s all about. Yes, I like watching the Doctor travelling to different planets and having banter with his companions but I also like it when it scares me. When I’m still thinking about it as I go to bed. The Doctor lives a dangerous life and it does the audience good to be reminded of that. It’s not all Oods and Robin Hood. One of the most powerful sequences in this episode was the moment Bill is exposed to the vacuum of space. The peril felt real, aided by a great performance from Pearl Mackie. Bill’s genuine fear throughout the episode came across really well, adding to that feeling of unease as you watch from behind your cushion. Then, ofcourse, the suckerpunch of episode came as the Doctor paid a price for his adventures and lost his sight. Grim stuff.

It’s not just the monsters. We’ve been hit with a different kind of scary several times in recent series as the show has proved it can do psychological terror pretty well too. For example, the words ‘Don’t cremate me’ are enough to give you goose bumps. Doctor Who is able to show us just how awful our own world can be, because anything is possible in the Whoniverse, even the most horrendous of situations.

But should Doctor Who tone down the fear factor? Of course not! Classic Who is remembered most for being terrifying (if a little shoddy on the special effects) so NuWho is simply bringing that thread into 2017. It’s a rare breed of show that has a license to do whatever it wants, so it should always be finding new ways to scare us. The best episodes are the ones we’re stilling thinking about and shuddering days later. Doctor Who should always have the ability to send us diving behind the sofa.

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So it’s back. I always forget just how much I’ve missed Doctor Who until those opening titles of a new series roll out.  Series 10 kicked off on Saturday with the introduction of a brand new companion – Bill Potts. After the initial intro clip last year I wasn’t too sure about Bill. She came across as a bit too cartoony and goofy and I could see her being very annoying very fast. However…(wait for it….rare moment coming up) I was wrong. Bill definitely made her mark in her premiere episode – showing that she was an intellectual match for the Doctor and adding a fresh new dynamic on board the TARDIS.

Bill is a new kind of companion. She sees things from a view point we’ve not had before. (She even asks the classic question in a different way – ‘Doctor what?’) She is refreshing for many reasons but mostly because of her humanity. I loved Clara, but by the end of her run if felt like she was saying the same things over and over again. The same quizzical expression. The same sarcastic comments. The same sort of cutesiness. Bill is different. Bill isn’t afraid to call the Doctor out on his faults – which of course Clara was happy to do too – but I can imagine Bill doing it with a bit less sass. She’s honest, grounded and flawed. She’s just a bit more human! The ways she’s written comes across so naturally. Perfect qualities for a classic companion. Bill also had one of the best introductions to the TARDIS, with the lights slowly booting up as the camera pans out…..only for her to liken it to a kitchen (its’ true) and a lift (also true). In her first episode she experiences heartbreak as she is forced to let Heather go. Her strength, complexity and emotional depth in these scenes are promising. It’ll be interesting to see how her story unfolds…

One thing that did stick out as odd was the re-appearance of Nardole. Nardole seems to have just…happened! Probably due to the large gap between his introduction in the 2015 Christmas special and his more recent appearance last Christmas.  Nardole just doesn’t quite seem to work yet. Still, I’m hopeful a satisfying explanation as to why the Doctor has him sticking around will be revealed as the series rumbles on. Though at the minute it does sort of feel like Moffatt is keeping him so he can kill him off in the finale (he’s promised it will be a ‘bloodbath’.)

The Pilot demonstrates one of the shows keys themes – regeneration. Doctor Who has the gift of being able to overhaul everything once things start to get a bit stale. It’s great to keep things fresh and allow a ‘stepping on’ point for new viewers….but what about old viewers? Doctor Who has gone through a lot of changes over time, particulary since it’s return in 2005, and next year will see the show have a new Executive Producer, a new Doctor, a new look and possibly a new companion. So did we really need this new revamp so soon? Sometimes the constant changing between series’ can be off putting to those who want to immerse themselves into a story they have already invested so much in. It can be a bit frustrating when the reset button keeps being pushed. Take Capaldi’s Doctor, for instance. This is only the beginning of his third series and he has transformed so much. He’s gone from grouchy and dangerous to a wise old grandfather figure. What happened to the snarling beast Moffatt promised after Matt Smith’s regeneration? I’d have liked that process to take a little longer, to have really been explored. It’s a shame this is to be Capaldi’s last series as his Doctor hasn’t really had much chance to shine.

So, overall a good opening episode but I’m hopeful for a bit less re-booting and a few more references to the show’s history in future episodes. Having pictures of River Song and Susan on the Doctor’s desk was a nice touch. The new TARDIS dynamic is going to give us some interesting moments in the lead up to Capaldi’s exit. I think it’s gonna be a good one.

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You know I love EastEnders. I’ve had a run for at least four years where I haven’t missed an episode. In the days of the Lucy Beale Saga I was even known to watch episodes twice in case I’d missed anything. Bordering on pathetic, I know, but this heart only beats for one soap and that’s Easties.

However, those days of double viewings are long gone. Since the autumn, it’s hurts me to say, EastEnders has been a disappointment, with the only bit of real excitement being the soon-forgotten bus crash. Gone are the firecracker episodes of recent years (the live episode, Sharon and Phil’s wedding, all the Carter chaos, Claw-dette and the aftermath of Paul’s death to list just a few), instead we’re left with pathetic, half-arsed sighs of episodes, like the writers have actually just given up. Lazy writing, boring storylines and character personality swaps – here’s just handful of reasons I think EastEnders is going wrong!

  • Ronnie and Roxy – I’ve already written about this but still….What the HELL?! Four months later and I’m still not over it. Two of the most iconic characters played by very skilled actresses bumped off in a very (ahem) damp storyline. Ronnie and Roxy deserved so much more than a hastily written exit clearly fashioned to grab cheap ratings. Please, EastEnders, let it all be a dream and just bring them back!
  • Mass Character Culling – it’s not just R&R who have been victims of an over-hasty axing. It seems to be the strongest characters who have left suddenly over the past few months. First, Pam and Les, a couple representing everyday folk, suddenly shoved in a taxi and sent off to Worthing. Then there was Claudette, a fiery matriarch with so many secrets yet to be uncovered. She had one hissy fit with Patrick and disappeared into the night. And don’t even get me started on Babe, who gave her finest performance yet in her last episodes. (I think I’m going to start cursing people too). That’s before we even mention Lee and Belinda! Jeez, Easties, get a grip!
  • Boring newbies – I’m talking about the teens. Stereotypical and dull. Teenagers don’t talk like that. It makes me cringe every time. Stop it, EastEnders. Stop it now.
  • Pointless returns – I am all for a return, especially if it’s an unusual one, such as Yolande or Derek, but what I don’t like is characters who are brought back for no reason. Yolande hovered about for a couple of minutes before disappearing back into the ether. WTF. In previous years we’ve had some fantastic surprise returns (remember Anthony when Patrick had a stroke? Rainie Cross revealing a secret bunk up with Ian? Morgan and Tiff for Whitney’s wedding? Not to mention Kathy. KATHY!) all of which have had a purpose and been really effective
  • Dull storylines – One word. Bins. Need I say anymore?
  • Mick and Whitney – The whole ‘will they, won’t they’ thing with Whit and Mick has been ridiculous. We all know Mick would never cheat on Linda, they’re the most solid couple on square. Stop trying to force this one on us, scriptwriters, it’s not working.
  • Ben and Johnny – Oh I could write a whole post about this one! Ben and Johnny have been mates for years, barely a hint at romance. In fact, years ago, when Johnny had a different face, he rejected Ben and that has sort of been the basis of their friendship since. Until last week when all the other characters suddenly and fleetingly decided they were ‘meant for each other’ (and kept repeating it throughout the episode just to really shove it down our throats). Of course, by the end of the episode they were in bed together. Because, of course, gay men can’t be friends, they always end up shagging their mates. *massive eye roll*
  • Pointless, slapdash storylines – the bus crash – no aftermath. Ronnie and Roxy’s deaths – pitiful aftermath. Johnny and Ben sleep together – agree to be friends again at the beginning of the next episode. Denise’s mum casually reveals she was adopted as she’s getting in a car to leave – barely mentioned again. On times it feels like the story threads have been planned by a hyper-active cocker spaniel. There such a lack of direction or continuity that it makes you think this new producer hates the show and is sabotaging it from the inside….
  • Michelle – It was very brave of producers to recast Michelle, and to an extent it has worked. It’s been good to see the Fowlers branch out a bit and perhaps, if a return of Vicky or Mark Junior was in the works, Michelle might stand a bit more chance of succeeding. So far her constant moaning and references to ‘the way mum use to’ do things is getting on my nerves. Though I must admit her special episode with Sharon was fabulous, full of witty, emotive dialogue. My advice – get rid of Preston, stick her with Sharon and bring in some of her kids. Oh, and let her carry on teaching.
  • Dreadful writing – I remember the days when the writing used to fizz and pop. With the exception of a handful of episodes, the writing this year has been pretty bland. Being able to guess what a character is going to say word for word is not a sign of good writing, and that seems to be happening a lot. We’re suddenly being subjected to a barrage of stock-phrases (‘poor kid’, ‘who does something like that?’, ‘Is this some kind of sick joke?’ *shudders*). Another hint that the writers have just given up.

There was a time when, if you’d have said I’d be writing such a negative blog about my beloved EastEnders, I’d have told you to sling yer ‘ook and get outta ma pub. I’ve tried so hard over the last few months to ignore the building negativity but I just can’t handle it anymore! This week has been billed as ‘explosive’ with the reveal of Michelle and Preston’s forbidden relationship and a rumoured disaster. I’m pinning all my hopes on it living up to the hype, with some powerful performances and possibly some surprises in store, because if it’s another disappointment, I might be giving Easties the duff duffs.