"Photographs are unreliable souvenirs."

Dating Stand down. If you're a long term reader you'll know that the emboldened keyword in front of this sentence indicates this isn't going to be a personal blog post. Remember those? Oh the good times when no one was reading this blog and I could say things about things. Sigh.

 Apart from work, and enduring the usual forty-five minutes of desolation and loneliness at Saturday tea time because there's no new episode of Doctor Who again, one of my Saturday rituals is The Guyliner's Table Manners/Impeccable in which he "reviews" The Guardian's Blind Date column working through over the answers of the participants and offering a critique. It's clever, witty and thoughtful.

The upshot is that I haven't read the actual Blind Date column itself first, if at all, in months because in providing commentary he also injects a greater element of jeopardy and depth to what usually look on the page (or screen) and if you're not clued in on such things (which I'm not) relatively benign blandisms.

By the time they get the kiss the question, we're either nodding sagely in full understanding of why this would be the case or heartbroken, devastated and there'll be an animated gif of Dawson Leery sobbing to share in our grief.

This week's is something special and although you probably have to have been reading these reviews for a while to appreciate the full implications of it, it's also probably an excellent place to start.

"It is a beautiful day in Chicago. Temperatures in the upper 70's."

Film Fans of the old Now and Then documentaries on the Doctor Who dvds and of Ferris Bueller's Day Off will like this AV Club article. On Ferris's school:
"The railings got an upgrade, and in a sign of the times, there’s now a security camera mounted on the wall. The principal surely would have loved to have that kind of surveillance at his disposal in his day—perhaps he could have pored over the parking lot footage and discovered the true identity of the doting “father” who pulls up in a vintage sports car and greets Sloane with a deep, passionate kiss."
It's incomprehensible to me that Northbrook haven't acknowledged the tourism opportunities of keeping the "Save Ferris" sign on the water tower. The heartless wenches.

Sunset at the Villa Thalia at the National Theatre.

The National Theatre were kind enough offer a ticket for the press night of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s new play, Sunset at the Villa Thalia (illustrative image © Manuel Harlan). Geographically challenged and unable to attend, friend of the blog James Cooray Smith went instead and offers this review:

Theatre  I’m a sucker for a production that takes place on a single set. Alexi Kaye Campbell’s strong new play Sunset at the Villa Thalia not only does that, and very effectively, but also obeys classical ideas of unity of action, time and place for much of its running time. (There is one, very effective, moment where it goes all Time And The Conways on us). This is clearly deliberate.  The setting, a Greek island on a single evening in 1967 (Act One) and then another in 1976 (Act Two) is an appropriate one for a play that works in such a manner.  At one point the play’s anti-hero Harvey (Ben Miles) points out to his friends, and thus the audience, that they are very close to place where classical theatre was born.

Harvey is an American, a CIA spook, in Greece ahead of, and anticipating, the Colonels’ coup of 1967 which, it seems he has done something to help bring about. He’s having a drink with his wife June, (a nuanced, hilarious, sad Elizabeth McGovern) and two new friends Charlotte (Pippa Nixon, strident and sympathetic) and Theo (Sam Crane, bookish and relatable), a younger English couple, an actress and a writer respectively, who are renting a house on a small Greek Island for the summer.

Before long, Harvey has gamed Charlotte and Theo into buying the house they rent from the owners, who are intending to emigrate to Australia within days. With his easy, coercive manner, surface reasonableness and kiss curl, Harvey initially seems - in a superb piece of symbolism - like a malignant Clark Kent. But Harvey is not malignant, nor is he a hypocrite; he’s merely delusional about America’s role in the world and his role within it. Yet he also has powers of insight, as well as persuasion, asking the other characters and the audience pertinent questions It’s a towering, persuasive, detailed performance that’s the best thing in Miles’ career. (He also convincingly ages a decade between acts with changed posture and a pair of Nixon sideburns.)

The first half, then, is essentially perfectly shaped and perfectly delivered by the cast. The second half, in which Harvey and June visit Charlotte and Theo again nine years later, as they prepare to sell the house, could do with some very small cuts. A brief discussion of ‘cultural appropriation’ feels more of 2016 than plausibly of 1976, and the point has already been made through action. A final argument between Charlotte and Theo is again mere repetition, spelling out explicitly things the plays has already told us, sometimes more than once, and drawing too much attention to how the house and its history and the black ops in which Harvey has been involved mirror each other. By this point every member of the audience either understands the metaphor or never will. It doesn’t need spelling out quite so prosaically. The actors and the play have, as Harvey argues he has done in many of the world’s ‘trouble spots’, already done the dirty work so the rest of us don’t have to.

Sunset at the Villa Thalia runs until 4th August 2016.  Click here for details.

The Curse of the Fugue (Big Finish Audio Short Trips)

Audio A pleasingly small scale adventure in which the Doctor drops Lucie off in the year of my birth (1974) amid the blackouts to help investigate something strange happening in relation to an old woman with many secrets.  The answer is unlike something you'd find in Agent Carter, wartime secrets as a result of alien intervention and although there's nothing here which really stretches much further than could be created on television, everything happens in and around a single house, that simply adds to the sense of authenticity.  The writer Alice Cavender also nicely captures the TARDIS team, especially the magnesium spark chemistry between the two characters.  The headline here is the return of Sheridan Smith to Doctor Who and although she's a bit unsteady initially in the textual reading, just as India was when she began with the Short Trips, almost as soon as she's asked to voice Lucie again everything snaps into place and we're back.  There's one especially great moment when she's allowed to go full throttle into some piercing anger and we're reminded of just how good Sheridan's performance was back then.  It would be fascinating at some point if Big Finish put together a boxed set ala the Sixth Doctor's swansong with one story working its way through the Eighth Doctor's era, so we could he McGann and Smith interacting together one more time.  Placement:  Feels more like somewhere in the second season of With Lucie stories.

Extracting the BBC Genome: Shakespeare at the BBC: Hamlet.

Shakespeare With the Shakespeare Festival still in full swing at the BBC, I thought it would be an idea to see how often some of my favourite plays have appeared on the BBC, which is now somewhat possible thanks to the BBC Genome. We begin with Hamlet, because having seen a fair few of them now, it would be nice to see which ones I'm yet to catch up with.

Find a list below.  Since they're all Hamlets, I've highlighted the transmission details.  They're all with BBC selected casts unless otherwise stated and I've just included the first transmission details - Gielgud's 1948 effort was repeated numerous times in subsequent years.  I've also only included complete or near complete productions.  Including excerpts would make this list five times longer.

Note that I've also included data from outside the Genome in relation to the World Service because due to the vagaries of how the database was set up - utilising Radio Times data, for some reason there are gaps specifically the version starring John Duttine.  But I'm adding him back in for completions sake.

Notes:  The first film Hamlet to appear on the BBC was the Kozintsev version.  The Olivier didn't appear until 1973.  Cedric Messina, who produced the Michael Redgrave version on the Third Programme in 1960, was the producer of the 80s TV adaptation with Jacobi.  The Ian McKellan broadcast was a complete surprise.  I wonder if it's still available.

2LO London, 15 February 1924 19.30
Radio.  Hamlet unknown. Produced by Sydney Russell. Company is the B.N.O.C.

5WA Cardiff, 29 May 1924 19.35
Radio.  Hamlet unknown.  Directed unknown.

2LO London and 5XX Daventry, 18 July 1928 21.35
Radio.  Hamlet played by Gyles Isham.  Director unknown.

National Programme Daventry, 5 June 1932 16.15
Radio.  Hamlet played by John Gielgud. Produced by Barbara Burnham.

National Programme Daventry, 16 December 1934 17.30
Radio.  Hamlet played by Stephen Haggard. Produced by Barbara Burnham.

Regional Programme London, 2 January 1938 21.05
Radio.  Hamlet played by Leslie Howard. Produced by Barbara Burnham.

BBC Home Service Basic, 6 October 1940 21.25
Radio.  Hamlet played by John Gielgud. Produced by Barbara Burnham.

BBC Home Service Basic, 8 April 1946 19.20
Radio.  Hamlet played by Barry Morse. Produced by Howard Rose.

BBC Television, 7 December 1947 20.30
TV.  Hamlet played by John Byron. Produced by George More O'Ferrall.

Third Programme, 26 December 1948 18.00
Radio.  Hamlet played by John Gielgud. Production by John Richmond.

Third Programme, 23 October 1960 17.40
Radio.  Hamlet played by Michael Redgrave. Produced by Cedric Messina.

BBC One London, 19 April 1964 20.05
TV.  Hamlet played by Christopher Plummer. Directed by Philip Saville. A BBC-Danmarks Radio recording. [review] [amazon]

BBC Home Service Basic, 20 January 1965 14.20
Radio.  Hamlet played by Michael Bryant. Produced by Robert Gittings.

Network Three, 18 September 1966 18.10
Radio.  Hamlet played by Kenneth Griffith. Directed by John Gibson.

BBC Radio 3, 30 March 1970 19.30
Radio.  Hamlet played by John Gielgud. Produced by Bennett Maxwell. Recreation from vinyl records.

BBC Two England, 11 September 1970 20.50
Film.  Hamlet played by Innokenti Smoktunovsky. Directed by Grigori Kozintsev. [review] [amazon]

BBC Radio 3, 31 October 1971 18.50
Radio. Hamlet played by Ronald Pickup. Produced by John Tydeman. [review] [amazon]

BBC Two England, 23 September 1972 21.05
TV. Hamlet played by Ian McKellan. Directed by David Giles. Prospect Theatre Company.

BBC Two England, 22 September 1973 20.45
Film. Hamlet played by Laurence Olivier. Directed by Laurence Olivier. [review] [amazon] [free legal stream]

BBC Two England, 12 March 1978 22.35
Film. Hamlet played by Nicol Williamson. Directed by Tony Richardson. The Roundhouse Theatre Company. [review] [amazon]

BBC Two England, 25 May 1980 19.15
TV. Hamlet played by Derek Jacobi. Directed by Rodney Bennett. [review] [amazon]

BBC World Service  4 September 1983 
Radio.  Hamlet played by John Duttine.  Produced by Colin Davis. [review]

BBC Radio 3, 26 April 1992 19.00
Radio. Hamlet played by Kenneth Branagh. Directed by Glyn Dearman. A Radio 3/Renaissance Theatre Company co-production. [review] [amazon]

BBC Two England, 7 December 1992 19.25
Animation. Hamlet played by Nicholas Farrell. Produced by David Edwards. [review] [amazon]

BBC Two England, 30 October 1994 22.25
Film. Hamlet played by Mel Gibson. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli. [review] [amazon]

BBC Radio 3, 12 September 1999 19.30
Radio. Hamlet played by Michael Sheen. Directed by Jeremy Mortimer. [review] [amazon]

BBC Knowledge, 6 March 2002 21.00
TV. Hamlet played by Adrian Lester. Directed by Peter Brook. Theatre de Bouffes du Nord. [review]

BBC Radio 4 FM, 30 June 2007 19.00
Radio. Hamlet played by John Dougall. Directed byu Eoin O'Callaghan. Tom Stoppard adaptation. [review]

BBC Two England, 26 December 2009 17.05
TV. Hamlet played by David Tennant. Directed by Gregory Doran. Royal Shakespeare Company. [review] [amazon]

BBC Radio 4, 24 March 2014 14.15
Radio. Hamlet played by Jamie Parker. Directed by Marc Beeby. [amazon]

Further details of all these productions can be found at An International Database of Shakespeare on Film, Television and Radio.