Revisiting Doctor Who: Partners in Crime

Imposing arbitrary limits on your own writing can be fun. Here’s an example, from a 2008 review of Doctor Who

Writing a review for Merrily We Roll Along in reverse (to match the narrative technique of the musical) earlier today was fun, even if I don’t think it really came off as well as it did in my head on the way home last night.

It was fun to try, though. Every so often, it’s useful to impose a strange limit on yourself as a way of shaking up how you write.

As an example, back in 2008 I reviewed the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who, Partners in Crime. The episode saw Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble, previously seen in Christmas special The Runaway Bride, rejoin the Doctor. A seemingly throwaway line about bees disappearing (a sci-fi spin on a real world problem) would turn out to have a greater significance nearer the end of the series. At the time, though, it spurred me to write the review using only 25 letters of the alphabet. And yes, that did mean that mention of Bernard Cribbins by name was out…

Originally published on The Stage’s website, it’s reproduced here in full.

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Review: Maurice’s Jubilee, Aylesbury Waterside (and touring)

Editor’s Rating

Maurice and Helena have been married for 66 years. They have their own in-jokes, one providing the setup, the other the punchline – a familiar routine that irritates them both as much as it shows their love and devotion.

Except there’s another woman. 59 years ago, jeweller Maurice was charged with looking over the crown jewels on the night before the Coronation. A chance meeting with the princess who would the following day become queen caused him to fall in love, with a depth that overshadowed his family relationships ever since.

In 2012, Maurice is looking forward to the evening of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee – also his 90th birthday – in the belief that the Queen will fulfil a promise made on a whim that night six decades earlier. But the cancer which is riddling his body may have other ideas.

In Nichola McAuliffe’s warm, poignant and often hilarious script, Maurice is a gentle optimist whose main (and somewhat huge) failing is to not see how his obsession with the Queen has damaged both his marriage and his relationship with his son. In Julian Glover’s hands, Maurice’s faults become endearing, even though they are outshone by the heartbreak visible in Sheila Reid’s eyes.

This is Glover’s play. His performance as the geriatric coming to terms with having just weeks to live is exemplary – and then, at the end of Act One, his extended monologue takes us back to the day he fell in love with Her Majesty. And we are there with them both, utterly convinced that he is 31 again, and Princess Elizabeth is slow dancing with him in Buckingham Palace. It’s a captivating combination of writing and delivery – and one that demonstrates that, no matter the size of the Waterside auditorium, it can contain the most intimate of moments.

McAuliffe’s Katy, the palliative care nurse who moves in to the couple’s Penge bungalow, is somewhat less of the striking, confident figure we are more used to seeing this actress portray. Instead of a shrew, we get a mouse: a lifetime of being made to believe she is inferior produces a woman who lives down to those expectations, but never lets that stop her caring for others. It’s a good performance, but by the end of the first act we are left wondering just why she won The Stage’s Best Actress award for this role at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Post-interval, though, you begin to see why, after Kay comes up with an idea that could make Maurice’s dream of tea with the Queen come true. (Not having made it up to Edinburgh last year, I have no idea how Glover – nominated for Best Actor in the same awards – did not win; there must have been some impressive competition.)

The final conversation between McAuliffe and Glover is full of the humour, warmth and pathos that characterises the entire play. The final few seconds of the play, in contrast, feel a little too quickly paced, the dialogue a little too obvious. By the end of the play, we want our goodbye to these three characters to have a little more care.

Or maybe it’s just that, thanks to Glover’s performance of McAuliffe’s script, and to our memories of those in our own families who we have lost, we are not always ready to say goodbye.

Maurice’s Jubilee is at the Aylesbury Waterside until February 2, then touring to Bath, Woking, Richmond, Brighton, Birmingham, Malvern, Bromley, Cambridge, Windsor and Oxford. For more details, or @MauricesJubilee on Twitter.

Review: Maurice’s Jubilee, Aylesbury Waterside (and touring)4Scott Matthewman2013-01-31 13:12:56Maurice and Helena have been married for 66 years. They have their own in-jokes, one providing the setup, the other the punchline – a familiar routi…

Rock and Doris and Tracy-Ann

Last Thursday’s edition of The Stage includes my interview with actor and writer Tracy-Ann Oberman, whose second “Hollywood Tale” play for Radio 4’s Afternoon Drama slot airs this afternoon. Rock and Doris and Elizabeth tells the story of Rock Hudson’s public appearance in the 1980s and the revelations that he had full-blown Aids. Jonathan Hyde plays Hudson, with Frances Barber as Doris Day and Oberman as Elizabeth Taylor.

The interview is now online on The Stage website. Have a read, and either listen to the play this afternoon, or listen on catch-up later.

Arts 2.0: Twitterstorms and social media stats

My latest Arts 2.0 column for The Stage is online today, reflecting on an eruption of comments on Twitter following agent Stuart Piper’s piece of Wednesday mentioning that some producers are informing themselves of performers’ online footprint.

My first draft of this was absolutely fuming at the sheer stupidity of some people on Twitter. I took most of that out, so that the column could focus on the issues rather than weigh in and get things kicked up again. Of course that does mean that the page views for my column will be rather lower…

Arts 2.0: my new column for The Stage

Visitors to The Stage’s website,, since Thursday will have noticed a new look to our home page, news, features and columns.

We’re moving from a combination of ancient custom CMS (which was built to accommodate a subset of our print-based content) and MovableType, which housed a limited number of blogs, to a WordPress-based platform which will help us expand the amount of content we can carry online. Over the next week, we’ll be reviving the advice section and migrating our static corporate pages into the site. After that, our recruitment, theatre listings and reviews sections will start to get the lion’s share of our development time.

As part of the new content structure on the site, I’ll no longer be regularly writing about TV and radio. Instead, in Arts 2.0, I’ll be writing about technology issues.

In my first column, Signposting from the virtual world to the real one, I talk about UX design, and how theatres’ websites could often do a little bit better in thinking about how their prospective visitors experience their websites.

I’m currently planning to write next Friday’s column on using social media for marketing, although plenty can change between now and then. (Update: I’m going to highlight a selection of iOS apps on a specific theme in my second post.) Beyond that, I want to talk about stuff other than websites. If you or your organisation has a great arts & technology story they want to tell me, please use the contact form on this blog, or email me at

Blogged elsewhere: Doctor Who Magazine’s Sarah Jane special

Over on TV Today on The Stage website, I’ve taken the opportunity to write about Doctor Who Magazine’s latest special edition, covering the final series of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Due to Elisabeth Sladen’s death, production was halted at a critical point in the series’ history: the production team were asking all sort of questions about where the show would go in its following year. Circumstances would mean they would never get round to answering those questions – but that gives TV historians a unique opportunity…

The Stage: When the story has to stop

Danielle Tarento: Master your musical theatre audition

I was taking photos today at The Stage Events’ musical theatre audition seminar, hosted by producer and casting director Danielle Tarento.

Danielle Tarento
Danielle Tarento, presenting Master your musical theatre audition for The Stage Events

I was taking photos today at The Stage Events’ musical theatre audition seminar, hosted by producer and casting director Danielle Tarento. Most of the photos I took will go on file and used on the website and in print, but I wanted to share this one: I think Danielle looks awesome in it.

South Downs/The Browning Version press night party

I didn’t get to see South Downs/The Browning Version on Tuesday, which was press night – we went on Wednesday instead – but I was there at the party afterwards to take photos for The Stage, a selection of which are below.

The slideshow requires Flash: to see the full set of photos, you can also visit my Flickr pages.

All rights reserved. Do not copy any photographs without permission.

Children of Eden aftershow party

Yesterday, I was kindly invited by Kevin Wilson PR to attend a charity concert in aid of Crohn’s and Colitis UK, with a one-off performance of Stephen Schwartz’s musical Children of Eden. With a book by John Caird and best on the book of Genesis, as Bibically inspired musicals go, it’s… well, it’s better than Godspell.

Seriously, there were some great musical performances (especially from Louise Dearman and Lauren Samuels) and it was great to see so many current and future West End stars come together, donating their time for such a worthy cause.

The reason I was invited was, once again, to take party pictures for The Stage. Because Friday was the company’s own annual party, the pictures won’t be in the paper until February 8 at the earliest, but you can see them here first. They’re also visible on my Flickr account.

Crohn’s and Colitis UK homepage