Kylie Minogue, Brighton Pride, 3 Aug 2019

In May 2005, I went to see Kylie on her Showgirl tour at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre with my friend Billy.   Our tickets had us seated high up in the gods near the back of the arena, possibly as far from Ms. Minogue as it was possible to get.

Fast forward fourteen years to early 2019 and Brighton Pride announced what many of us had been expecting; Kylie Minogue was to headline their park event in August.  Being a fan of hers since I was 15, I decided that I wanted to rectify my previous live Kylie experience and do it properly this time.  To that end, I stumped up for Golden Circle tickets, a bit nervous at the expense and not realistically expecting anything very special, my gamble paid off when we reached the venue and saw that I couldn’t have hoped for a better view.

Expecting to wait a couple of hours for Kylie to appear, a special surprise addition to the line-up was announced with Emeli Sande appearing on the huge side screen, waiting backstage.   Striding onto stage, she greeted the crowd and announced that this was her first Pride event.   Completely engaging with the audience, she did a short set of her biggest four songs plus one from her forthcoming album culminating in the rousing ‘Read All About It, Pt. III’.   This was the perfect way to start an awesome evening.

Brighton Drag Queen, the incomparable Lola Lasagne, appeared afterwards to introduce the Brighton Pride campaign video.  This is a tough watch but as we enjoy ourselves at a party and then move on with our daily living, it’s necessary to keep in mind how far the Pride movement has come and how much is left to do, globally.

Then came the main event heralded a little before by the stage crew assembling the now familiar Kylie festivals tour staging.   Just before the live appearance, a video filmed in Brighton of her last single ‘New York City’ was put on the screens.

The video then led directly onto the dancers coming on stage to turn the mirrors around, with the last one revealing Kylie herself.  Needless to say, the crowd went wild!

This was pretty much the same set that Kylie performed at Glastonbury with a few special tweaks for her audience as well as a special addition (that I’ll come on to later).  What was different from Glastonbury was that here, Kylie had more time to bond with the crowd and really, this crowd is composed of the people who perhaps love and support her the most.

Her opening live number, ‘Love at First Sight’ just so happens to be one of my all-time favourites Kylie songs so I was immediately happy.

The big highlight came just before the end when after ‘The Locomotion’, especially for us, Kylie added ‘Your Disco Needs You’ into her setlist. This is possible the perfect, iconic gay song – it’s a throwback to the Village People, it’s disco, it’s over the top with operatics and it’s Kylie.   I’ve never seen or heard a crowd go into such a frenzy of joy and excitement.

With the crowd still buzzing from this, she ended her main set with ‘All the Lovers’, even the security staff behind us joined the party, encouraging and rousing the folks behind us.

Most often when I go to a concert, I reach a point where I’m ready to go home.  I didn’t reach that point and I don’t think many others did…  It’s also not often that I go to a concert where I know all the lyrics to all the artists’ songs, again I wasn’t the only one.


  • New York City
  • Love at First Sight
  • I Should Be So Lucky
  • On a Night Like This
  • Get Outta My Way
  • What Do I Have to Do?
  • Never Too Late
  • Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi
  • Hand on Your Heart
  • In Your Eyes
  • The One
  • Slow
  • Confide in Me
  • Kids
  • Can’t Get You Out of My Head
  • Especially for You
  • Shocked
  • Step Back in Time
  • Better the Devil You Know
  • Where the Wild Roses Grow
  • The Loco-Motion
  • Your Disco Needs You
  • All the Lovers


  • Dancing
  • Spinning Around

Barbra Streisand, BST Hyde Park, 7 Jul 2019

This was my first visit to a British Summer Time (BST) event; a bit of a mini Glastonbury with a sizeable chunk of Hyde Park given over to a full day’s worth of music, eating and drinking. There were three different music tents with some other side attractions; the ‘Barclaycard Sensorium’ basically consisted of an elevated bar that you entered through a dark tunnel full of foam gym rollers stuck to the walls!

The main draw on the ‘Great Oak Stage’ on Sunday 7th July (2019) was Barbra Streisand but before that we were treated to Richard Marx, the Kingdom Choir, Kris Kristofferson and Bryan Ferry.

When we’d arrived at the park, getting in was ok, there was a huge queue but they very efficiently got everyone in. The problem lay when we got inside the park and everyone was kettled just prior to the main area for what seemed like ages. The reason we found out later on, was that Ms Streisand wasn’t happy with the soundcheck. It was worth the wait.

Starting with an ‘Overture’ that lulled the excited crowd into thinking she would appear any second, it took a good 5 minutes before she eventually appeared, a vision in pink, the crowd went wild. Her opening number was a bespoke version of ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye’, slotting in numerous, funny references to the UK, London and the Royal Family – the crowd was now putty in her hands.


Throughout the show, Babs had some talky moments ‘Did you go to the Pride parade yesterday? Her driver had asked, ‘No, why would I? I knew they’d all be here’. Then later on talked us through some photos from her scrapbook covering her six decade long career with the focus on her UK trips when filming and performing.  I was especially delighted to see a photo from ‘On a Clear Day you Can See Forever’ shot outside the Brighton Pavilion.

This being Barbra Streisand there were many few bizarre moments, some intentional and some really not. The most bizarre being her rendition of ‘Silent Night’! Nearly everyone looked at each other completely befuddled at her singing a Christmas carol in the middle of summer. Also, just prior to the encore, her three (cloned, I believe) pooches were wheeled on to the stage in a pram for us all to say hello to.

Barbra also had three guests join her in duets on stage, ranging from the sublime to the car-crash: Ramin Karimloo, who we’d seen on stage as the Phantom a few years ago was brought on to sing a solo enabling Babs to shuffle off for a costume change. When she came back they sang a lovely rendition of ‘Music of the Night’. Even though it was an odd choice for a duet, they made it work.

The other two duets weren’t quite as successful. Kris Kristofferson had done 45 mins earlier in the day and from what we’d heard from across the park, it wasn’t great. Barbra then later brought him on stage to duet with her their track from ‘A Star is Born’ ‘Lost Inside of You’. The audience went wild as he came on but then it felt like she was helping him limp through a song he could barely remember. Quite a while after, another ‘secret’ special guest was Lionel Richie who performed a duet of ‘The Way We Were’ but it seemed like Mr Ritchie was out of time and he’d crucially forgotten the opening lyric! This was always better as a solo and I really wish she’d it kept it that way.

Highlights for me included ‘No More Tears (Enough is Enough)’ which got the crowd exuberantly singing along, the beautiful ‘Send in the Clowns’ and the encore cover of Judy Garland’s ‘The Man That Got Away’.

Barbra showed the 65,000 strong audience exactly why she is counted as one of the all-time greats and still is, her voice and stage presence being as strong as it ever was.

Set List:

  • Overture
  • As If We Never Said Goodbye
  • Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home
  • Alfie
  • Evergreen (Love Theme from “A Star Is Born”)
  • Lost Inside of You (with Kris Kristofferson)
  • Guilty
  • Stoney End
  • Woman in Love
  • No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)
  • You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught / Children Will Listen
  • Second Hand Rose
  • The Music of the Night (with Ramin Karimloo)
  • Send in the Clowns
  • The Way We Were (with Lionel Richie)
  • Silent Night
  • People
  • My Man
  • What the World Needs Now


  • Unusual Way
  • The Man That Got Away


Honestly, the motivating factor for going to see ‘Betrayal’ was the chance to see Charlie Cox on stage given how much I loved him in ‘Daredevil’. I knew very little about Harold Pinter aside from his formidable reputation, the phrase ‘Pinteresque Pause’ and that he wrote a famous play called ‘The Caretaker’.

‘Betrayal’ is essentially a 3-hander (with a couple of very brief appearances from two other characters) where the three actors remain on stage for the 90 min duration of the play regardless of whether they’re in the scene or not. The story involves the affair between Emma (Zawe Ashton), wife of Robert (Tom Hiddleston), and Jerry (Charlie Cox), Robert’s best friend.

Told in reverse, the play opens with Emma and Jerry meeting up for the first time a couple of years after the end of their affair, the dialogue between them is beautifully naturalistic and awkward. The genius of the dialogue at this point is gradually and increasingly highlighted as the play goes on to chart various key points and then to culminate in the very beginning of the affair.

It sounds like a very simple story but without being mundane, it portrays very human, relatable emotions and situations. The technique to tell the story in reverse sounded daunting and at first I worried that it would be left to the audience to realise that one scene was chronologically before another but in this production, this was subtly projected above and below the stage. However, the audience does have some work to do in remembering where characters were emotionally and in their knowledge of events. It’s only towards the end that you fully appreciate the genius of this, at the time, ground-breaking way of telling the story as the betrayals deepen throughout and culminate in a heart-breaking and subtle gut-punch of a simple gesture.

Often, the scenes focus on just two of the three characters at any one time, with the remaining character lurking to the side or the back of the stage. Their presence is always there, for the audience and for the other characters. Only once did I see a flicker of interaction between the out-of-scene character and one of the in-scene characters and being so perfectly timed (I can’t express how well that was timed) it really felt devastating.

The staging is minimal in terms of actual things on the stage, aside from a couple of chairs, a table and some glasses;  the actors move and are moved round occasionally using the two parts of the central revolving stage.  What I found most effective was the use of light in this production; as the characters interact, shadows are cast at the back from a low light at the front positioning the characters almost metaphorically differently to where they literally are.

Tom, Zawe & Charlie are phenomenal in this; the focus and discipline this quiet, subtle, thoughtful piece requires really made me appreciate the skill of these three great actors.

I should also mention the use of sound; throughout most of the play there are some periods of incidental music as well as a beautiful version of Depeche Modes’ ‘Enjoy the Silence’ that punctuates a few moments towards the second half. However, it is the silences, those Pinteresque pauses, that are utter genius. This piece captivated the audience so much that despite it being coughing season (the end of the winter cold and the start of hay fever), you could hear a proverbial pin drop.

StoryHarold Pinter
CastTom Hiddleson, as Robert
Zawe Ashton, as Emma
Charlie Cox, as Jerry
DirectorJamie Lloyd
TheatreHarold Pinter Theatre
Date24 May 2019

All About Eve

There are some spoilers below but at the time of writing, the play’s run has ended and the film is 70 years old.

Playing at the Noel Coward theatre in London, this is based on an Oscar winning movie from 1950 by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring the inimitable Bette Davis alongside Celeste Holm, Anne Baxter (as Eve) and the vastly underrated Thelma Ritter.

It may have been written as a screenplay but it was ripe for adaptation to the stage given it’s subject matter. The play opens with Margo (Gillian Anderson) having just come off stage to be introduced by her friend Karen (Monica Dolan) to the ‘mousy girl in the trench coat’, Eve (Lily James). Eve is Margo’s biggest fan; she’s been at the stage door every night and attended every performance of her current production. Eve quickly, but a little implausibly, inveigles herself into every aspect of Margo’s life, making herself indispensable. Seemingly naïve at first, it slowly becomes obvious that Eve is very cynical, she has a plan and is playing the long game to attain her dream.

I felt that the play pushes the psychological aspect of the story further to the fore than the movie did and the stage production in particular reinforces that. Directed by the person responsible for ‘Lazarus’ a few years ago, Ivo van Hove, it’s no surprise that the staging is much different from what you’d expect in the West End. At key moments, usually larger gatherings and in one of the off-stage rooms (kitchen and bathroom), 2 camera-people mingle with the cast to get very close in on the action; a section at the back of the stage is where this extra bit of action is projected. There’s also a camera in the dressing table mirror so the actress’s faces can be seen by the audience. However, pre-shot footage from the mirror is also used to great effect in a few instances where we get the psychological take on the subjects’ state of mind.

The famous party scene (‘Fasten your seatbelts…’) is both hysterical (and shocking) where Margo gets increasingly paralytic and the party descends from polite, and a bit catty, to an embarrassing and unmitigated disaster.

Some of the UK casts’ British accents seemed a little ropey and ‘stagey’; I found it odd that Stanley Townsend chose a Southern accent for Addison Dewitt rather than go for the archetypal British villain sound executed by George Sanders.

It was a real privilege to see Gillian Anderson & Lily James on stage, Gillian exudes class but she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty in a fully-fledged and complex character such as Margo. As Eve, Lily James could easily taken the role from initially overly sweet and obsequious to the cartoonish, swivel-eyed sociopath but she manages to reign it in just to the point where both aspects of the character are portrayed more subtly and believably.

StoryJoseph L. Mankiewicz
CastGillian Anderson, as Margot Channing
Lily James, as Eve Harrington
Monica Dolan, as Karen Richards
Julian Ovenden, as Bill Sampson
DirectorIvo van Hove
TheatreNoel Coward Theatre
Date8 May 2019

The Normal Heart

Larry Kramer is as mad as hell and isn’t going to take it any more; powerful doesn’t do this movie justice.

I’ve heard people say that it seems like any movie about gay people will inevitably end in someone dying of AIDS but with the advent of ‘Love, Simon’, ‘Call Me By Your Name’, God’s Own Country’ and ‘The Weekend’ we are seeing more stories that focus on individuals and their relationships without them getting sick. However, the reality is that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is a major chapter in our history and if you don’t retell it, it gets forgotten – and it mustn’t be forgotten.

‘The Normal Heart’ is a valuable addition to the litany of movies that includes ‘Philadelphia’, ‘Angels in America’ and ‘Longtime Companion’. Where this movie differs is that it charts the rise of a movement as well as telling the very personal stories of the individuals involved.

‘The Normal Heart’ begins with our lead character Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) visiting the East Coast gay party central, Fire Island in 1981 for his friend Craig’s birthday.  Mark Ruffalo is playing a fictionalised version of the movies’ screenwriter (and activist) Larry Kramer. As they celebrate, Craig begins to exhibit symptoms that he is very ill.  From here, the movie then charts the genesis of a movement that led to the recognition of a global health pandemic and ultimately to its detection and treatment.  It’s semi-autobiographical in that all the main characters existed (though their names have been changed) but the events have been condensed and heightened to work effectively to tell the story in 2 hours.

One of the two central relationships of ‘The Normal Heart’ is between Ned and Bruce Niles (Taylor Kitsch).  They’re both desperate to help where no-one else will but they clash wildly on how to go about it.  Ned is an angry, loose cannon, unwilling to compromise while Bruce is more careful and conciliatory – the heart vs. the head.

Julia Roberts is Dr Emma Brookner, wheelchair-bound due to contracting Polio as a child. She is the catalyst that fuels Ned’s anger and indignation whilst also providing him with hope, ‘Polio is a virus and no one gets Polio any more’.  Her initial advice to gay men is that they should refrain from sex in order to survive.  While she is driven initially by logic, through getting to know the people setting up the Gay Men’s Health Crisis group she learns that there are larger, societal and political reasons why this advice is untenable.

Jim Parsons as Tommy Boatright really stood out for me, in a sea of anger and passion, he is the voice of calm and reason.   He’s the most relatable and it feels like he takes you by the hand and leads you through a story that often feels more like a war zone.

The wider political story here is juxtaposed with the effect that this new disease is having on the individuals.  The first, is the dramatic difference we see through Ned’s eyes of an acquaintance, Sanford, who he bumps into in the Dr’s waiting room, he has a couple of scars on his face ‘that keep getting bigger and won’t go away’.  A bit later on, Ned is visiting an isolation ward at the hospital and we see Sanford, totally alone, covered in scars and out of his mind in one of the rooms.  It’s also here that we see the inhumanity, driven by fear, that vulnerable people were subjected to by those meant to be caring for them.

The other central relationship is the love story between Ned and Felix Turner (Matt Bomer). Having met very briefly before, Ned is now more open and their relationship enables him to fall in love for probably the first time.  But like a character in a horror movie, the disease doesn’t discriminate between its victims and Felix soon finds a scar on his foot that ‘keeps getting bigger and doesn’t go away’.

Originally written as a play, there are half dozen instances when a character will give an impassioned speech and I felt that in this context it worked and didn’t seem stagey.   The speeches are immensely powerful, heartfelt and moving whilst punctuating the story and succinctly summarising where a character is at.

In the great honour roll of civil rights leaders, the ones fighting for LGBTQ+ rights are much less welll-known and so the stories of people such as Larry Kramer, Harvey Milk, Cleve Jones & Peter Tatchell require telling.  These people define ‘hero’ as they dedicate their lives fighting for the basic equalities that should be available to everyone despite being portrayed as a nuisance at best or a villain a worst.

Shamefully, their/our fight is still relevant today, nearly 40 years later.

28 May 2020 – Yesterday Mr Larry Kramer died aged 84; the LGBT community has lost one its true heroes. Fearless in the face of unabashed hatred, he fought for our very lives. One of the truly heartwarming things since yesterday has been the outpouring of genuine love for this man. RIP Larry x

Larry Kramer (1935-2020)
Larry Kramer (1935-2020)
StoryScreenplay by Larry Kramer, based on his own play
CastMark Ruffalo, as Ned Weeks
Matt Bomer, as Felix Turner
Taylor Kitsch, as Bruce Niles
Jim Parsons, as Tommy Boatright
Julia Roberts, as Dr Emma Brookner
DirectorRyan Murphy
Running Time132 mins

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (S1 & S2)

I came to Amy Sherman-Palladino’s work when stumbling across the ‘Gilmore Girls’ on Netflix, liking the first episode so much as to then commit to the next 150+ episodes over the next couple of years. What is great about the ‘Gilmore Girls’ is mainly the script, the lead character of Lorelei is annoying and palm-to-forehead-slappingly fickle but she’s charming and funny and loveable. However, it’s the relationship between Lorelei and her daughter Rory that is then the glue that holds the series together.

And now again, with ‘The Marvelous Mrs Maisel’ we have another brilliantly written lead character who is in no way as annoying as Lorelei but at least as charming and even more funny, which is a good thing given her line of work. And here too, the relationship between Mrs (Midge) Maisel and her manager and reluctant friend, Susie is the key component.

The first season starts as Midge accompanies her husband to a seedy club, The Gaslight, as he attempts to kick-start a career in stand-up. He’s ok but nothing special. Later on, he walks out on his marriage and Midge finds herself on stage at the same club inadvertently tearing the house down with hilarious stories of her recent life. This first episode thus sets up the premise for the show as she independently carves a life on her own, getting a job whilst finding that she loves making people laugh and developing as a stand-up. Well, I say on her own, she lives with her very affluent parents and their maid so money isn’t a concern neither is having to worry about who will look after the kids.

The writing of this show really is incredible. Each time we see Midge in front of an audience, be it on purpose on stage or in some random, sometimes inappropriate situation, she is properly, laugh-out-loud funny. I watched this on my commute to work, and that can garner some strange looks from folks at 6.30am. But it’s not just the stand-up routines, it’s the interactions between the characters, the sadness, the frustrations, the banter, it’s all perfectly pitched.

Another ‘Gilmore Girls’ similarity is that the creators are superb in their casting. The lead roles typically going to relative newbies and some of the supporting cast are well-known character and Broadway actors. Rachel Brosnahan is a revelation (I haven’t seen the US version of ‘House of Cards’) and inhabits the role with the vulnerability and confidence it requires.

In support are Alex Borstein as Susie and Tony Shalhoub as her father. There’s also a brilliant cameo by Jane Lynch as a very established and successful fellow stand-up that crosses over the latter end of season one well into season two. There are some wonderful touches too such as with the appearance of the original stand-up, Lenny Bruce who pops up throughout both seasons. He acts as Midge’s mentor and guide, there’s a very delicate flirtation between them that’s never going any further than an affectionate witty remark but it’s lovely to watch.

I don’t know if it’s because they did search a sterling job in portraying Midge’s husband Joel as so fickle, directionless and unreliable but I really didn’t know if I wanted them to get back together. It sometimes seemed like they’re meant to be together (especially when you see some lovely flashbacks) but I also thought… she can do much better. However, the over-riding theme of this show is showing Midge shine as an individual and so a love interest could detract from that.

Much in the same way that ‘Mad Men’ pulled off the 1950’s style so well, this shows plops you directly into that era. Don Draper could easily walk past Midge & Susie on 5th Avenue or turn up to The Gaslight with one of his lady friends. Also, when they leave New York in season two for a few episodes to go to Paris and then later to the Catskills, the styling again is perfect.  I was talking to an American friend of mine recently who told me that his parents got together whilst on vacation at the Catskills in the 1950s, his story grounded what I saw on screen with a touch of reality.  Then there are the odd random musical numbers and we’re whisked away to an MGM, Gene Kelly movie for a few minutes.

The music choices in season two are especially a work of genius. I don’t know how they thought to use contemporary tracks to end episodes but it works SO well in that they compliment what you’ve just seen and it doesn’t make it seem odd to hear a 80’s track from the Pet Shop Boys singing out a show set in the 50’s.

I’m very much looking forward to season three, and I hear there’s a story arc right up to a possible season five.

NetworkAmazon Prime Video
CastRachel Brosnahan, as Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel
Alex Borstein, as Susie Myerson
Michael Zegen, as Joel Maisel
Marin Hinkle, as Rose Weissman
Tony Shalhoub, as Abraham ‘Abe’ Weissman
SeasonS1 (2017): 8 episodes
S2 (2018): 10 episodes
S3 (2019): 8 episodes


Set in 1970, in Mexico City, this is said to be Alfonso Cuaron’s most personal film to date.  The care he’s lavished on this film becomes obvious in the opening credits when you see he’s taken ownership of every key aspect: direction, production, story & script, cinematography and editing.

‘Roma’ is very reminiscent of the British and French New Wave styles of the 1950s and 1960s that promoted a more realistic, pseudo-documentary style of film-making.  The documentary style of this movie is developed through beautiful black and white, naturalistic dialogue, the long-tracking shots and economical use of editing.  Rather than using the bombastic techniques of cinema to show the drama, this all falls to the actors and the story itself.

Using unknown actors is another way of keeping the focus on the seemingly small story and not blowing it big by using famous people.   In her debut role, Yalitza Aparicio is Cleo, maid to a middle-class family and she carries this movie, appearing in virtually every frame.  It’s a powerful performance but a lesson in quiet dignity and unassuming bravery as she bears the pain and disappointments that come her way.  Her priority is the family she works for and in return, they give her an immense amount of love back.

As Cleo’s boss, Sofia, is Marina de Tavira who gives the impression of someone living on the edge of her nerves.  Mirroring Cleo’s tribulations, her life as she knows it is beginning to unravel.  Although the problems are of an equal ordeal to both women, they differ in relation to the social constructs they find themselves in.  The defining common ground they both have is verbalised one night when Sofia returns home and drunkenly says ‘Women, we are alone. No matter what they tell you, we are always alone’, their fortunes are up to this point determined by the men in their lives but are theirs to deal with, on their own.

Having no original score, music of the time and place is played on the radio, at the cinema, at a party, in the street.  The expert use sound in this movie rivals the exceptional cinematography; the bedlam of a hospital, the chaos of a student riot, the sound of a marching band practising in the street, the crashing of waves at the beach, the everyday sounds of the street from people talking, planes flying overhead, dogs barking.  It’s all very beautiful and naturalistic.

This is a classic slow-burner of a movie that through it’s slow and quiet pace draws you in bit-by-bit as you literally follow Cleo through an ultimately dramatic and life-changing year.

StoryScreenplay by Alfonso Cuaron
CastYalitza Aparicio, as Cleo Gutierrez
Marina de Tavira, as Sofia
DirectorAlfonso Cuaron
Running Time135 mins

Black Sails

A tale set up as a prequel to ‘Treasure Island’, it could be argued that ‘Black Sails’ is probably more of re-imagining of a possible prequel given that some characters and outcomes don’t necessarily tally with what transpires later.

As drama, this excels in the ‘Game of Thrones’ sub-genre that now exists in television.  ‘Game of Thrones’ comparisons abound and as a formula that works there, it really works here.  The competing factions, I think maybe 5 or 6 at any one time all working to their own goals, double-crossing and the shock killing off of major characters.  Very few characters are safe and I think it’s only (Long) John Silver, Billy Bones and Ben Gunn that are really required to be alive at the very end.  They also do that semi-regular thing of having the major shock / upheaval happen in the penultimate rather than last episode with the finale being saved for the cliff-hanger link into the next season. And again, like ‘Game of Thrones’ there is a ton of graphic sex and violence and similarly as the story progresses, there’s less sex and the violence gets much worse!  Understandably, the sex is there to establish relationships between characters (or just to give you a further insight into a character) and as those get established, the need for it becomes less.  Conversely, with this kind of action/adventure, the violent scenes become more graphic as the stakes are set higher and the competing factions become more desperate and ruthless.

As well as portraying many of the characters you see or hear about in ‘Treasure Island’, this show appeals to my love of history in that many historical figures are significant characters in this.  Basically, all the main people that aren’t from the book are historical figures, mainly pirates: Captain Vane, Blackbeard, Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny etc.  Though, it should be made clear that ‘Black Sails’ isn’t bound by any historical accuracy so this shouldn’t be taken as too much of a history lesson.

There are some fascinating character studies and without being spoiler-ish, the tracking of the descent of one character from aspiring saviour to despicable villain is devastating and tragic to watch but brilliantly and subtly executed.  However, the true heart of ‘Black Sails’ is the creation of the legends that become Captain Flint and ‘Long’ John Silver.  The dynamic between them shifts from disinterest to irritation to disdain then develops into as close a friendship as two people can possibly get, especially challenging given the environment of deceit, double-crossing and of course, piracy.  The heroes in ‘Black Sails’ are undoubtedly the pirates and the villains are the establishment, particularly the English Government.

Toby Stephens has quickly become one of my favourite actors, I’ve only seen him in this and the superb ‘Lost in Space‘ and based on just those two roles, he excels at the very flawed tough guy that you root for.  I’ve been very impressed also with Zach McGowan in ‘Agents of Shield’ and ‘The 100’ and he plays a very complex role here as Captain Vane, a protege of Blackbeard who’s both ruthless but fiercely loyal, to a fault.

I first saw Luke Roberts in ‘Mile High’ on Sky One back in the day; I really loved his character in that and I was excited to see him come in to this show in seasons 3 & 4.  He really couldn’t be more different in the character of Woodes Rogers, another historical figure (he’s the guy who rescued castaway Alexander Selkirk).  He gives the air of someone wanting to be noble but there’s an underlying fury that as it gets worse, gradually shows that he really is not one of the good guys.

I felt the gender politics were handled sensitively and knowingly without being too 21st Century revisionist about it.  Hannah New as Eleanor Guthrie is pretty much in charge of operations at Nassau as the show opens and this is portrayed effortlessly and logically.  The portrayals of the other major female characters, Jessica Parker Kennedy as Max and Clara Paget as Anne Bonny show how the choices they make are essential for them to just stand even a chance of survival.  This is a tough existence for everyone.   Sometimes, it feels like a cop-out is coming where you see something more traditional for one of the female characters but this typically gets subverted and becomes more of an honest depiction.

I was also happy and comforted in the depiction of sexuality in ‘Black Sails’; I honestly don’t know how same-sex relationships were looked upon in this period, I’m guessing not very favourably.  However, the environment of Nassau is far-removed from that of Great Britain with attitudes being more liberal and so the characters seem freer to love whoever they want to.  Same-sex relationships here are viewed as unremarkable and just as valid as the heterosexual relationships and this, I feel, is a refreshing move in high-profile television programming.

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the entire 4 season run, if I had to choose a favourite season it would be the second.  Season two marks a significant shift in the story and the motivations of Captain Flint become clear through the use of progressively revealing flashbacks.  Then everything changes in one instant.  A beautiful touch to signify this change comes at the end of that particular episode where the credits are played out using Nick Cave’s haunting cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Avalanche’; this being the only occurrence in the entire run where a song is used instead of the original score.

Lastly, the production values are stunning and meticulously executed in this show.  Every care, down to the smallest of detail is taken to portray life onboard a pirate ship or in the bustling and dangerous town of Nassau.    Flashbacks to Flints’ life in London are also cast with a drab hue in contrast to the blazing sun of the Caribbean.

This is a powerful story that arcs across the 4 seasons with an all encompassing moral that you really have to strive for happiness in love over the acquisition of money or power.

NetworkStarz (viewed on Amazon Prime Video)
CastToby Stephens, as James McGraw / Captain Flint
Hannah New, as Eleanor Guthrie
Luke Arnold, as ‘Long’ John Silver
Jessica Parker Kennedy, as Max
Tom Hopper, as William ‘Billy Bones’ Manderly
Zach McGowan, as Charles Vane
Toby Schmidt, as Jack Rackham
Clara Paget, as Anne Bonny
Luke Roberts, as Woodes Rogers
SeasonS1 (2014): 8 episodes
S2 (2015): 10 episodes
S3 (2016): 10 episodes
S4 (2017): 10 episodes

Nish Kumar ‘It’s in Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves’

I’d seen Nish Kumar fairly recently on ‘Question Time’ then ‘The Mash Report’ and various other appearances on TV so when I saw he was coming to Brighton, I thought it would be great to see him live. I’ve not seen very much live comedy, just Russell Brand and Tom Allen but it’s always been good and Nish definitely kept my streak of seeing good comedy going.

Rose Matafeo

Nish’s support act for his gig at Brighton Dome was Rose Matafeo.  Rose came on and charmed the audience, well most of them…. all except Chris.  Chris was Rose’s first heckler; we were sat directly above so didn’t get to see him and could barely hear much of what he said but it was obvious that his ire became too much for him to bear silently as Rose launched into her ‘men are gits (but not all men)’ bit.   The key thing about stand-up comedy is that by its very nature, it’s not to be taken seriously and Rose she was just highlighting a problem by poking fun at it.   It was a bit like Mike Pence toddling off to see ‘Hamilton’; it’s great to expose yourself to different opinions if you have an open mind but seems a little masochistic to pay to go somewhere to be offended.   Though, I guess if your starting point is irrational, logic won’t tend to play too big a part in your decision making.   Whilst she did seem taken aback, it didn’t throw her off and she shut him down beautifully and assertively but I was curious to hear the content of her routine had she not had this diversion. She finished with some deftly observed impressions that turned the idea of what an impression could be on its side.

After the interval, Nish’s routine inevitably began with a further take down of ‘Chris’ who I gather had been ejected in the interval along with his mates (why didn’t they tell him to sit down and be quiet?).

As you’d expect, he spent a lot of time talking about Brexit and it was refreshing to see the uncensored expression of bemusement and frustration that you’re not really permitted to show on television.  He also recounted his experiences of racial prejudice in relatable situations and by making fun of how on a practical level it frustrates the object of it, the insanity of something like racial profiling becomes inherently ridiculous.  Though, as was mentioned at one point, a gig like this is kind of an echo chamber where you’re preaching to the converted.  I also related to Nish’s frustrations with when those people you’ve looked up to as role models (Woody Allen, Ricky Gervais etc.) then go on to let you down – what are you supposed to do with that?

Nish always comes across as a very charming guy and he really had the Brighton audience on his side.  I especially love how he frequently cracks himself up; when asked how he’d describe dial-up internet, a young lad in the audience replied ‘the internet of yesteryear’ which tickled Nish as much as it did the audience.

Nish’s tour ‘It’s in Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves‘ is on until the end of March 2019 and I’d definitely recommend going along (though Chris should probably think again if he was considering another booking).

ActNish Kumar, supported by Rose Matafeo
VenueBrighton Dome
Date1 February 2019


One of the first shows I watched after subscribing to Netflix and in my opinion, it’s consistently been one of the best.  This show follows lawyer Matt Murdoch as he enters a double-life as a vigilante.  His loss of sight as a young boy initially makes this seem like a really bad and short-lived idea however, this is the Marvel universe and Matt is able to perceive the world around him more acutely than someone with 20/20 vision. He’s also a exceptionally skilled fighter, I believe in a more MMA style than any singular technique.  Though, Daredevil is certainly a very human character and unlike most of the other Marvel heroes, he gets hurt, very badly and very frequently.

Charlie Cox as Matt exudes the quiet, brooding intensity required of a character hiding huge secrets from those closest to him. He wrestles with his inner demons the whole time (of which there are many) and continually questions his place in the world but his saviours come in the form of his friends Foggy & Karen, it’s with them that I felt we see him come alive most.

Vincent D’Onofrio is mesmerising as Wilson Fisk and like Matt he holds his emotions down for the most part but the difference with Fisk is that every so often there is an uncontrollable explosion of violence and fury.  Fisk is incredibly clever and calculating, he considers the very long game and plots the future out like he’s playing chess, but when pushed he has no control over his emotions and his genius is subsumed by an old testament-style God wrath.

There is a ton of character development in this show, extended flashbacks in a small selection of episodes give us some backstory and help us understand how some of the characters came to be who they are later on.  Understandably, much of Matt’s backstory is revealed in the first season, Wilson Fisk’s is then revealed later on and in the third season we get a stunning episode that helps us understand what makes Karen tick.  I would say that Karen is by far the bravest character, physically she is slight and has a look that she might start crying or screaming any second but she constantly fights that back and puts herself willingly into situations that many of the male characters would balk at.

Season two is a small departure from that of one and three, where Wilson Fisk while still an ever-present force (and more in control of events than at first seems) takes more of a back seat as new characters, Frank Castle (as The Punisher) and Matt’s ex-girlfriend Elektra come into the story.  Both these characters are like alternative versions of Matt; Frank is also a vigilante but with no off switch, Matt never kills but Franks’ entire modus is to methodically execute the bad guys.  Elektra is like Frank in that regard but isn’t too bothered by good or bad and doesn’t seem to have an end-game in sight, her character being both vulnerable and deadly.

There are some nice references to the wider Marvel universe; one example being the front page of a newspaper reporting the attack on New York from ‘Avengers Assemble’.  There are also references to other Netflix Marvel shows with the character of Claire Temple stepping neatly through all of them.   However, the use of known comic book character names is deftly handled so that this show is more grounded in a realistic setting than a fantasy one. Daredevil isn’t referred to as such until very late on; Bullseye isn’t name-checked at all; Kingpin is mentioned as a code-name for Wilson Fisk (much later on in the third season); Elektra is her name anyway.

Season one became widely known for one particular hallway fight in the second episode that took place over three minutes with more than one minute being a long-shot. Incredibly skilful in it’s complexity, we see Matt Murdoch fight a number of Russian bad guys in a small corridor; this sequence clocked up nearly three million views on YouTube:

In season three, they blew this out of the water with a long-shot of 11 minutes.   It was about three or four minutes into the scene that I realised what was going on with regards to the film-making.  A cut in a movie or TV show is like taking a breath, so when there are no cuts, your attention is held solidly and you’re literally holding your breath.  Film-makers like Hitchcock, Scorsese and De Palma are famous for their long-shots and they’ve been employed more recently by Alfonso Cuaron in ‘Children of Men’ and ‘Gravity’.   In this fourth episode of season three, Matt Murdoch moves from room-to-room, inside-to-outside, fighting off dozens of assailants and engaging in conversations in efforts to escape from his current situation.  Every element is so precisely choreographed, it must’ve taken months to plan and days (even weeks) to film but it really does pay off.

It’s a huge shame that this show got cancelled; I’m not a big fan of wringing every ounce out of a successful product and I guess the character did run for four seasons if you include ‘The Defenders’ but this show really stood out as something exceptional.  However, whilst they do leave a little opening for something more and there’s certainly more content to mine from the Marvel archives, I think if this was to be the end then they’ve done it well, I didn’t feel I’d been cheated of a resolution.

CastCharlie Cox, as Matt Murdock / Daredevil
Vincent D’onofrio, as Wilson Fisk / Kingpin
Deborah Ann Woll, as Karen Page
Elden Henson, as Franklin ‘Foggy’ Nelson
SeasonS1 (2015): 13 episodes
S2 (2016): 13 episodes
S3 (2018): 13 episodes