‘Dick Whittington’ @ Birmingham Hippodrome – December 2016

This year’s panto has arrived at the Birmingham Hippodrome – oh yes it has! And both the Hippodrome and the audience were thrilled to welcome back John Barrowman after an eight year absence – and my, doesn’t absence make the heart grow fonder!

In true rip-roaring tradition, the Hippodrome’s latest panto was funny, risque (talking boobs anyone?!) and downright ridiculous, catering to everyone from toddler to teens and, of course, the ticket-paying parents! The storyline was put aside for making you genuinely glad to have stepped out the house to enjoy this comedy showcase, with panto regular Matt Slack being a highlight with his brilliant impersonations, razor-sharp wit and inventive replacements for dialogue – I’ll say no more…

The one character I came home utterly in love with (besides John Barrowman, he’s an older love from a Torchwood time) was Babby the Tabby – the best Brummie cat I ever did see. I now only wish that my cat could talk so I could mould him into Babby Junior.

But, of course, Barrowman and Babby were not the only stars of the show. Steve McFadden (Phil Mitchell) was a superb baddy in King Rat, and I only wish we could have seen more of the giant rat he was working for, particularly at the end to see how King Rat fared against his boss’s displeasure!

Jodie Prenger, from the TV show ‘I’d Do Anything’, has a spectacular voice, and the Krankies were in fine form as the comedy duo of the piece – Jimmy Krankie in particular was an absolute riot! Add to that a chorus of talented backing dancers, singers, actors, and a clearly talented backstage crew, and this is a panto you won’t forget in a hurry – particularly if you’ve never seen Captain Jack fly an upside down reindeer! And that’s not to forget the spectacular (if rather scary!) 3D effects in the second half.

In short, Birmingham has once again excelled itself in providing festive entertainment for all the family – it’s hysterical, it’s amusing, and it’s everything the holiday season needs, so get yourself to where the streets are paved with gold and turn your fortunes into those of Dick Whittington today!

bht116-web-1800-x-900-jodie-990x495

The Absence of a Miracle…

I am utterly devoted to ‘Torchwood’ series one to three. I have watched and rewatched them to the point of being able to echo the dialogue in my sleep (sad but true). So where did ‘Miracle Day’, a series long-awaited for and highly anticipated, lose this particular fan?

I’m currently rewatching series one, which is what has brought on this long overdue review-cum-rant. Series one and two were based around standard sci-fi concepts: aliens, myths and legends, with intricately woven touches of humanity displayed throughout the storylines. You fell in love with the flawed characters, celebrated their victories and mourned their losses. They were normal people thrown into a world of abnormality and absolute wonder; we were companions to their journeys, rather than unknowing spectators. Case-in point: ‘Countrycide’. My personal favourite episode, we were with the Torchwood team through their harrowing experiences in the country, up until the final reveal where ignorance became revulsion. This culminated in the magnificent third series, which delved into the moral dilemmas faced when facing the unknown, and the devastating ramifications of horrifying dilemmas. It was all going so well…

…Then came ‘Miracle Day’; a day to be remembered, for beginning the downfall of ‘Torchwood’. Gone was the Cardiff base, all but two of the team, and the gritty edge. We were left with the cheesiest of television, from dialogue to direction. Jack went from an enigma to a pussycat, fawning about over emotional decisions when, previously, we’d seen him sacrifice his own grandson whilst only shedding a tear to mark his remorse. Gwen moved from lovingly loyal to psychopathic, claiming this was over her father and baby but actually barely registering their existence unless necessary to create some crocodile tears. And the CIA agents…I have literally no idea why Esther’s family was introduced, besides trying to make us love a woman who barely did anything apart from die. And Rex…I almost liked him, I’ll admit, but sometimes his arrogance in his abilities went from a character feature to plain ridiculous – in such a unique situation, the ability to cooperate with the only three people in the world who are willing to put up with your efforts to help is a given.

Alongside Esther’s redundant family, there was Jack’s love interest. Now I was not one of the hundreds complaining about Jack’s gay love interest: it’s been a clear plot point since ‘Day One’ that Jack would have anything with a pulse. So Angelo was no exception, and Jack falling for him was a touching side to him that we didn’t witness with Ianto; we saw love where previously we saw desire and loneliness. But why? It didn’t fit with Jack’s timeline that we’d created in series one and two first of all; then it added absolutely nothing to the plot. Angelo wasn’t needed for the cause of ‘Miracle Day’ to be discovered, his part in this was just wedged in to make the plot clumsily link together.

What I missed most of all, though, was the chemistry. Jack and Gwen’s hidden need for one another was sealed off, and the new characters were tools, rather than the friends they claimed to have become by Esther’s funeral. I could not foresee a future for Torchwood and Rex, despite the (quite obvious) twist at the end. It’s not even missing the original team; I loved the additions to the team in ‘Children of Earth’, particularly the quirky Lois Habiba who’s sharp-minded tactics fitted in with the team’s needs. I appreciated the new enemies they faced for their dedication to their purposes; unlike the ‘Family’ who didn’t seem confident in their knowledge of what to do with the Miracle, or why in fact they were even bothering with it. Compare the sinister Prime Minister, covering his own tracks in an attempt to strategically defeat a looming threat without being hounded as a murdered, to the Family, craving immortality for the sake of it. I think we have a winner.

I think the conclusion I came too, after devotedly suffering through ten episodes of ‘Miracle Day’ to a fairly visually epic conclusion I’ll admit, it didn’t deserve a series. What ‘Torchwood’ deserved was a return to the glory days of the first three, where the ‘Miracle Day’ was a two-parter at best, dealt with punchily and dramatically, as opposed to be drawn out to tedious heights. It spread itself too thinly to maintain an action-packed pace, and as such lost a lot in the delivery that the other series had thrived on.

As such, I think ‘Miracle Day’ was the opposite: misfortunate, ill-executed and wasting the brilliant talents of Eve Myles and John Barrowman which we had loved before. Keep the miracles out, and maybe the magic can return.