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March 16, 2012

Review: Missing (ABC) 1x1

Posted on March 16, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Missing (ABC)

In the US: Thursdays, 8/7c, ABC

Spies are back. In a sense, they never really went away, but with several spy show pilots lined up for the fall, Covert Affairs now a regular on the USA Network and Homeland clearly the best new show of last fall, it seems like we're ready to have secret agents back in our lives now, particularly with ABC's Missing being thrust onto our screens just to fill in the gaps.

The big new trend in spy shows, though, as that list shows, is female spies. Covert Affairs stars Piper Perabo, Homeland revolves around Claire Danes, The Asset's lead is Ali Larter and Missing has Ashley Judd doing a Jason Bourne all over Europe (yes, they actually have come all the way to Europe to film this).

I say doing a Jason Bourne but Missing is really a sort of hybrid between The Bourne Identity and Taken, with former CIA operative Judd beating up Eurotrash to rescue her son, who's been kidnapped by who knows who? While it never quite hits the heights of either movie, it's actually a pretty good stab at doing both on the small screen.

Apart from the chase on Vespers. That was just silly. Here's a trailer - yes, that is Sean Bean. Yes, there are a lot of spoilers for later episodes.

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March 12, 2012

Mini-review: The Oresteia (Riverside Studios)

Posted on March 12, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Oresteia

Where:The Oresteia Riverside Studios, Crisp Road, Hammersmith, London W6 9RL
When: 29th February-24th March, 7:30pm; 2pm matinees: 6, 8, 13, 15, 20, 22 March
How long: 2h20 with 20 minute intervals
Tickets from: £15

Aeschylus's blood-soaked trilogy in just two hours? Amazing. Yet, using a 'translation' by Ted Hughes, Theatrelab, a Greek theatre company responsible for a very decent adaptation of Sophokles' Antigone at Riverside Studios two years ago, manages to get Agamemnon back from Troy then murdered by his wife Klytaimnestra, she in turn killed along with her lover by her son Orestes, and then have Orestes put on trial by the gods before Athens' first ever jury, all within the allotted span.

While you can quibble a least a bit with some of Hughes' translation, as a condensed version of the trilogy, it cuts away everything extraneous (and there's a lot) in favour of the essence of the story, resulting in a surprisingly fast-paced, accessible and engrossing play, particularly in the second act which manages to get through both The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides in an hour.

A lot of Greek tragedy when adapted for the stage can be very static, as was the case with Tough Theatre's Hippolytus, say, with characters essentially standing stock still on opposite sides of the stage exchanging lines. Here Theatrelab's director Anastasia Revi, who also directed Antigone, takes the opposite direction, filling almost every scene and exchange with movement. Sometimes this works very well, with Revi dramatising scenes, such as Agamemnon's bathing by Klyaimnestra, that usually take place off stage. Revi also deploys numerous directorial tricks and stagecraft to give modern relevance and visual impact to scenes.

Sometimes, however, she goes a little overboard - such as when there's 'synchronised falling' and 'swimming' across the stage by the chorus - it's hard not to avoid the occasional titter. All the same, you're never bored while you're watching.

The actors, many of whom were also in Antigone are fair to good, largely engaging and well cast - although some tend towards the plummier and more 'effusive' approaches to acting, shall we say? Set design is good as is wardrobe; there's even authentic Greek music played and singing at appropriate points. Possibly the only big let down is the seating, which is authentically rock solid:

Riverside Studios seating

You'd be hard-pushed to find better Greek tragedy in fringe theatre and it's no surprise that the company's previous production was commended as the best show in the International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama in 2011 in Cyprus. Go watch it if you have any interest in Greek theatre.

March 9, 2012

Mini-review: BeTipul (In Treatment) (Sky Arts 1)

Posted on March 9, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BeTipul

In the UK: Monday-Friday, 9.30pm, Sky Arts 1/Sky Arts 1 HD. Repeated Saturdays & Sundays
In Israel: First aired 2005

In Treatment was a show I really loved. Clever, engrossing, theatrical, it was fantastic TV. Terribly scheduled, mind. Half an hour, five nights a week? That's not happening for me or for most people - as the ratings bore out.

For those who missed it (why? It was brilliant… Oh yes, now I remember…), it saw therapist Gabriel Byrne see a different patient each day, Monday to Thursday, before seeing his own therapist on Friday, where he'd discuss his feelings about his patients. Then the next week, you'd see the next session with each patient. Over the weeks, you saw his own family, occasionally the patients interacting and more.

But it was based on an award-winning Israeli show, BeTipul, that first aired in 2005. Now Sky Arts 1 is cleverly showing the original five nights a week. And it's very weird to watch.

As with the the US remake of The Killing, it feels almost frame-by-frame identical, just in a different language. It's not quite identical, for obvious reasons, but the dialogue is almost identical, as is the theme tune (which is slightly more upbeat in the Israeli version), and Assi Dayan (Re'uven) looks an awful lot like Gabriel Byrne.

But there are instructive differences. Unlike the very theatrical In Treatment which was largely shot in a studio, BeTipul is naturalistic and shot in a real apartment. Casting also affects things. The Laura-equivalent, Na'ama (Ayelet Zurer), is older than Melissa George, is less vulnerable and (sorry) less attractive. Their relationship, as a result, is different and speaks more to the therapist's difficulties with his wife than Laura/Paul's relationship did in In Treatment, which is correspondingly more about opportunity and desire than emotions.

There are also interesting cultural differences in terms of therapy:

All the same, despite the differences, it feels somewhat futile watching BeTipul having watched In Treatment. BeTipul is different rather than superior, but the differences aren't big enough that having watched In Treatment, you don't feel like you're watching an odd re-run as you do so. It's a case of watch one or the other - but not both.

Here's a trailer with a crappy voiceover or you can watch some of the first episode on the Sky Arts web site:

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