review

Marvel’s Daredevil – Another Triumph For Netflix

MARVEL'S DAREDEVILIt’s fair to say that Netflix Original Series have a name for being good quality, good looking and – well, good. And Marvel’s Daredevil is no different! Branching off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, along with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Agent Carter, Daredevil takes a more balanced, gritty approach. I’m five episodes in and there are no costumed comic book villains of the week in sight. Instead there’s a seedy underworld of mobsters, people smugglers and heroin manufacturers, apparently working in quiet harmony under the gaze of a mysterious newcomer. One might say there’s a Kingpin holding the grubby net together.

As I said, I’m five episodes in and, although Matt Murdock (Boardwalk Empire’s Charlie Cox) was beating down on Russian sex traffickers from the get-go, he’s yet to don his trademark red costume – he’s still running about in his gym gear. Considering the beatings he’s taking – and the fact that the threat has just been upped considerably – I’m guessing he’s about to accept the need for something a little more protective than stretchy jogging togs.

The cast are shining so far (Vincent D’onofrio’s Fisk is devastatingly nuanced, a breath of fresh air!) and the plot manages to be pacey and exciting without having to rely on 50 minutes of kung fu dancing (though there are fights-a-plenty, and bone-breakingly heavy ones at that!). This isn’t a show you could sit and watch with your kids, like many I know do with S.H.I.E.L.D; this is a violent, brooding narrative which plays nicely as a more adult foil to the gloss and gallantry of Marvel’s more family-friendly TV fare.

I am hooked. I was hooked after the very first episode. Marvel’s Daredevil is a mature, intelligent story that wears its superhero badge under a bloody bandage; a truly great show so far. I have every faith in its pleasing me until the end.

I’ll post a full, thorough and spoiler-filled review when I’ve watched then lot.

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Richard Herring – St David’s Hall, 31/03/15

The last time I went to see Richard Herring he was playing Chapter Arts Centre with his show ‘Talking Cock: The Second Coming’. Before that I saw him at St David’s Hall with his show ‘What Is Love Anyway?’ That time he played the large auditorium. This time he was, as he reflected on himself, “back in the bar”. And, in my opinion, a better time was had for it!

273e5042-ea9e-4fe0-8e28-afb7f310a510‘Lord Of The Dance Settee’ is a show that takes a different form than most of his previous shows; it is, I think, a reflective break from Richard Herring’s wonderful “One Big Topic” shows of recent years. He’s done death, he’s done love, racism and politics, cocks, religion and yoghurt. Rich’s new show is a kind of celebration of all those moments in life that are worth celebrating. I wonder if the onset of fatherhood had a hand in the inward-looking warmth of this new show? That’s not to say the show is any less funny that what’s come before – I laughed like a drain throughout. Because the room was smaller (holding some 300 people, still) and I was sat in the second row, I also felt more included than at any comedy gig I’ve ever been to.

‘Lord Of The Dance Settee’ has a theme, regardless of what the other reviews say, and that theme is – almost obviously – dance. But dance as a metaphor for many other things. Childhood memories, family outings, actual dancing… Herring takes us further into his life than previously and it’s a lovely, funny experience.

SOLOECFAt the open of the second half Rich told us that he had spent the interval playing Addams Family Pinball on his computer, that he’d scored a new personal best! I whooped. He turned to me, threatened to make the entire second half an observational stand-up set about the game.

Would I like that, he asked, given that I was the only one in the room who appeared to know what he was talking about? I explained I had no idea what he was on about, I was just being supportive. He threatened to do so anyway. He smiled, I smiled. It was nice. In fact, that’s the thing about this show. For all the humour, belly laughs, profanity and odd side-streets the feeling I carried out above all other is a feeling of niceness. I had had a really, really nice evening with my fiancée at the show. I laughed all the way through the two hour show and got to meet Rich (again) afterwards, he even signed my Lee & Herring cash-in book page, that Stew signed a few weeks ago. Finally, a piece of Lee & Herring memorabilia signed by them both!

Richard Herring has written better shows and I’m sure that on DVD I would opt to watch one of the others over this on a rainy afternoon in. But as live shows go, this was – by far – the best I’ve been to. The atmosphere, the crowd, the room, the comedy… It was a wonderful experience! And that’s why you should always see comedy live.

I adore Richard Herring. He’s wonderful.

Stewart Lee – WMC Cardiff, 07/03/15

imageStewart Lee has never been one to shy away from the controversial, challenging material and in his latest work-in-progress show, A Room With A Stew – three half-hour sets he’s polishing to appear in the fourth series of his BBC show Comedy Vehicle – he continues to not do not what… not to do… continues to not do what… He’s once again on controversial, challenging form. Chewing up and spitting out an hour and a half of stand up covering Islam, urine and the flag of St George, Stew blew me away tonight; the laughter was consistent and deafening all around the (frankly massive) room. I’ve seen him twice before but this was something else. This was Stewart Lee at his very, very best.

My wife would ask ‘Do you think Nigel Farage can take Rochester and Strood tonight?’… Rochester AND Strood… Yeah, well… It was a Saturday night… On our anniversary: Thanet South!

I don’t want to talk about his material too much since, as this will be on TV soon, I will be spoiling what are some masterly crafted narrative adventures. What I will say is Stew swung from puerile to poignant to downright puzzling with ease, all the while smuggling severe subtext on UKIP and Islamophobia. And piss. I laughed for one hour and forty minutes straight, until my face ached.

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Then I was forced to laugh more as Stew rolled out an encore he’d “written a bit of during the tour and the rest of today, back there”. This hasty encore, cleverly, will no doubt grow into the antidote so many of his fans/critics want to the one issue facing him as his popularity grows: The character of Stewart Lee the Comedian thrives on being misunderstood, disliked and downtrodden. This encore cleverly re-frames his recent boost in status as an even more disastrous state to be in than not being liked or understood. It is a sublime piece of comedic sleight of hand.

LeeAfter the show, in the foyer, a small merchandise stall was set up with a (surprisingly) short queue formed by it. On closer inspection, we saw that Stewart Lee was sat behind the desk signing whatever anyone wanted signed and chatting with fans. We bought a CD, a book and a poster, which he signed “To Mr and Mrs Bundy” as he chatted with us about our upcoming wedding (“Being married is wonderful and ridiculous” he told us with his trademark cackle, “You can call someone your wife or your husband, which is ludicrous!”) and he was his usual friendly, humble, enthusiastic self – a marked difference to his on-stage persona. It was lovely to meet him again and was, all round, a really great evening.

The man is, I can say without hyperbole, a genius. He is an artist! See Stewart Lee at your earliest convenience. Disappointment is an option available only to the people you take with you. | ★★★★★

We are going to see Richard Herring’s touring show “Lord Of The Dance Settee” on 31st March in Cardiff, which I’ll also review here, so stay tuned for that!