Tag Archives: review

Marking World Water Day with an excerpt of Michael Kitchen reading Roger Deakin‘s book, Waterlog:

From the Irish Times, May 5, 2001:

Swimming without a roof over your head has become a subversive activity, says Roger Deakin – and it’s one he pursues with glee as he breast-strokes, crawls and occasionally paddles his way around some of the UK’s more esoteric swimming places, from lazy ox-bow rivers to icy glacial lakes, from the balmy Scilly Islands to the Norfolk Broads. This is eccentricity elevated to an art form, a meditative hymn to the atavistic pleasures of water, which is expertly accentuated by Michael Kitchen’s abrasively English reading. It’s one to listen to again and again.


Henry Kent’s gallantry in the bedtime scene from Falling is akin to many displays of love on Valentine’s Day. Superficial, but romantic nonetheless.

On Amazon ‘golden eagle’ writes:

I have a difficult time imagining the reticent Foyle voluntarily using the word “ravish”. Henry Kent, on the other hand, proffers the word easily, guilefully.

Another difference between Foyle and Kent — the former wears pj’s to bed.

Some iambic pentameter from Michael Kitchen’s Foyle as a temporary distraction from the GOP’s latest reprehensible moves that promise to further unravel the fabric of our society, as if “The Self-Destruction of American Democracy” these past ten months under Trump and his administration weren’t enough.

michael kitchen's foyle using iambic pentameter

As so often, the greatest fun was discovering what Michael Kitchen might do with Foyle’s next line. Refusing to disappoint, he found the iambic pentameter in ‘Vlessing being the only person implicated in the so-called eternity ring.’ What a trooper! – Andrew Billen, The Times, March 25, 2013

Press photos of Michael Kitchen as Dick Foster, who joins a biker gang in Hell’s Angel (1971), one of the episodes in the first series of BBC’s Play for Today.

Excerpted from a review by Leonard Buckley for the Times, Jan. 22, 1971:

So if your adopted son takes to a motor cycle as Dick did, and becomes a Hell’s Angel you will think him a cuckoo in the nest. Though with his anti-glare glasses and his rearing handlebars he looks more like a praying mantis. And if you are the rich widow, Cynthia, doting on your real son, Conrad, you will find him an absolute menace.

But these are arbitrary attitudes. You, your politician friend, Sir Geoffrey, and the others of your generation are all intent on your own selfish conventions. Dick needs love. You are lonely. Conrad is delinquent. But nobody really communicates. And when the Hell’s Angel and his companions beat up your stately home during the dinner party from which you have excluded him, you tell your guests that it is the gardener’s son.

This was an engrossing bitch of a play in which Mr. Agnew exposed the generation gap, the social divisions of our times and much that was disquieting besides. Katharine Blake as Cynthia, Richard Morant as Conrad, Michael Kitchen as Dick and André Morell as Sir Geoffrey sustained the unlikeable characters they were given to complete conviction and Angharad Rees as the one honest girl among the hypocrites provided the right sounding-board for our conscience.

The same generation gap and social divisions that can be seen in Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s Vietnam.

Alibi: Michael Kitchen: Sophie Okonedo: Greg denies making a move on Marcie 1Alibi: Michael Kitchen: Sophie Okonedo: Greg denies making a move on Marcie 2
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And, of course, what follows is Michael Kitchen’s beautiful delivery of a speech that’s at once touching, romantic, and humorous.

Dominic Dromgoole wrote in The Sunday Times (Aug. 31, 2003):

Kitchen and Okonedo are two of our best actors. They managed to play a substantial story of growing love without any intense stares or moist lips or fidgety signals. There was a lone touching of the upper arm. What they played was a slow-growing spread of trust between two people, and what is love if not trust?

Me, too! Sophie Okonedo and Michael Kitchen are a dream team.

Airing on March 29, one final 40-minute episode to celebrate the life of Brian Pern:

Following the sudden death of Brian Pern in a segway mistake, BBC Four is to broadcast a special documentary, dedicated to the musician, celebrating his life and work. The one-off will be directed by the award-winning film-maker Rhys Thomas OBE (self-proclaimed) who will talk exclusively to Brian’s friends and family as well as any random celebrities he can get hold of at such short notice. – beyondthejoke

When asked by The British Comedy Guide if he was sure this is the end for Brian, Rhys Thomas replied:

I don’t think there will be any more Brian Pern on TV. You can’t kill someone off and then say ‘not really.’ Once it’s done, it’s done. He could always appear in some archive from the past – I’d like to do more with Thotch perhaps or John Farrow, the manager – there’s more mileage there.

From beyondthejoke’s review:

…this will be hilarious for anyone who has ever chanced upon a quickly cobbled together programme about a dead celebrity. Thotch’s ageing lynchpins Tony Pebble (Nigel Havers) and Pat Quid (Paul Whitehouse) are also on hand to bicker about who was the last one to see Brian alive as they prepare for a benefit gig in aid of Segway Awareness at the Royal Albert Hall. And manager John Farrow (Michael Kitchen) gives Rhys Thomas OBE a reluctant interview having just given his best quotes to Scorsese, who is making a major Pern package for Netflix.

brian pern tribute john farrow scorsese

From The Velvet Onion’s interview with Rhys Thomas:

VO: The procession of guests involved surely helped reached audiences who might otherwise not have tuned in. Everyone’s been fab, but are there any people you’ve been particularly chuffed to bag?
RT: All of them to be honest. It’s so low paid and small [in profile], that most of them would be better off staying in bed! But I think they responded to the scripts really, and to be honest, once Michael Kitchen was in it that attracted some of the bigger actors.

Naturally, the VO piece includes photos of all the regular cast members of Pern except Michael Kitchen.

Very short preview clip.

No wonder Michael Kitchen is now represented by ITG.

Behind the scenes photo from the March 3 filming of scenes for Brian Pern: A Tribute at the Royal Albert Hall.

Too bad George Michael never made a guest appearance on Brian Pern as Rhys Thomas had hoped.

Foyle's War: The German Woman: Michael Kitchen: confronting Summers 1
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During his meeting with Asst. Commissioner Summers, Foyle is the picture of politeness even though he knows full well why his request for a transfer has finally been granted. Only when Summers gives him an ultimatum does Foyle deliver the smoking gun with an ice cold stare of utter contempt. Such a powerful and memorable scene. Maybe The German Woman would have been better Emmy material. Or maybe not, as the reviews compiled by the Guardian after the premiere of Foyle’s War back in 2002 were suprisingly mixed. And the show received only a brief mention in the NY Times when it first aired in the US:

Foyle’s War brings together the three best things about England: murder mysteries, World War II and class resentment. Or, to put it more succinctly: the series also stars Edward Fox.

However, as Stephen Lacey writes in his essay, “The Blitz Detective”, Chapter 7 in Contemporary British Television Crime Drama: Cops on the Box:

And among the television audience “Foyle’s War was virtually an immediate hit. While most newspaper TV critics found the first episode slow and clichéd, by the second episode opinion was shifting, and by the third they had caught up with the audience in praising it as one of the best pieces of ITV drama since Inspector Morse…” (Reconstructing the Past: History in the Mass Media 1890 – 2005)

From delamaidefoodblog, an assessment of Michael Kitchen as the ultimate father figure in Foyle’s War:

But the show belongs to Michael Kitchen and you wonder why you’ve never seen this actor before and when you will see him again. He conveys the competence and integrity you want in your hero, but the real attraction, I think, is that he is the ultimate father figure. He is concerned about people without wearing it on his sleeve; gruff, even curt, but letting us glimpse the tenderness behind it; and he is wise, not only a clever detective but wise in the ways of the human heart. He is a father not only to his son, Andrew, an RAF pilot, but also to Sam and Milner and to any number of characters in the various episodes, including his goddaughter in the last (final?) episode. Invariably, this father knows best. While he conveys a sense of vulnerability, you never have the feeling Foyle has really made a mistake. This is why I think the films are comforting. With all the chaos of war, and darkness of human behavior, Foyle moves through it all, self-possessed, caring, and ultimately, even when circumstances beyond his control keep him from actually incarcerating the wrongdoer, successful in protecting his charges from evil.

From an IndieLondon review of the revival of Magnificence at the Finborough Theatre beginning today:

Described as both epic and intimate, Magnificence takes audiences from the grubby barracks of the revolutionary struggle, to the heart of centre-right Tory politicking, creating a panoramic vision of Britain at a pivotal moment in history. Many of its themes remain burning issues today – police brutality, drug abuse, shallow politicians, a social housing crisis, and whether violence can ever be justified for political ends.

From The Guardian‘s review of Alibi:

Abbott’s skill is best demonstrated by pithy dialogue in scenes of exceptional economy. In Alibi, for example, a favourite was the brilliant cut diamond of an exchange in the latter stages of the story, between Kitchen’s Greg and his brother-in-law:

Alibi: Michael Kitchen: Adam Kotz: You killed him? Yep. 1Alibi: Michael Kitchen: Adam Kotz: You killed him? Yep. 2
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Brevity is the soul of wit. – Hamlet

Shylock Is My Name

by Howard Jacobson (author); Michael Kitchen (narrator)
Release date: 8 February 2016

Overdrive.com sample (includes “read for you by Michael Kitchen”)

The novel is reviewed in this week’s The New Yorker in Adam Gopnik’s interesting piece, “Why Rewrite Shakespeare?“. His assessment of Howard Jacobson made me smile:

Jacobson has an unmatched reputation in his homeland as a humorist, but not all of it translates for an American reader, since the jokes seem to depend more on extreme aggravation of tone than on close observation of life. Everything in Jacobson sounds as if it should be read out loud by Alan Rickman…

Well, we didn’t get Alan Rickman, but Michael Kitchen seems to have captured the right tone in his narration. From a review at nomoreworkhorse.com:

An excellent reader like Michael Kitchen (Foyle’s War) is an added bonus. His clipped, ironic delivery perfectly matches the author’s sardonic wit. The complex language makes the novel perhaps easier to listen to than to read and Kitchen’s performance gives us many laugh out loud moments.

And from Library Journal:

Provocative and unsettling, Jacobson’s insightful examination of contemporary Jewish identity gets resonating attention from British actor Michael Kitchen.

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Forty-four years ago today The Reporters premiered on BBC’s Play for Today with Michael Kitchen in one of his earliest starring roles on TV.  Such a treat to see MK acting the character of the ambitious young reporter, Alan, who laughs with abandon and plants sweet kisses on the lips of his “bird”. Clive James described MK as “precociously accomplished” in his review for The Guardian (Oct. 15, 1972).

A note about the filming location in Radio Times, Oct. 9, 1972:

To give the play an authentic newsroom atmosphere, much of the action was filmed on location in the office of the Lancashire Evening Telegraph in Blackburn. Its huddled, open-plan muddle of a reporters’ room has that manic depressive air of inefficient urgency, of impassioned ennui that journalists are so proud of.

Encouraged by the sexist notions of his day, poor Branwell was rather full of himself starting out. Based on the evidence of his painting abilities in this famous portrait, it’s astounding to me that the Brontës believed Branwell was Royal Academy material. From an article in The New York Times on the new exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum:

Branwell lacked talent, sad to say, and his depiction of Charlotte gives little or no sense of what she looked like.

I’m looking foward to the new BBC production on the Brontës showing on PBS on March 26, 2017. Would have been nice if MK had a role in it…

Six weeks after Freud aired, Michael Kitchen could be seen live on stage playing a very different role in Tom Stoppard’s new work, Rough Crossing.

Two playwrights and collaborators, the composer and most of the cast of a musical comedy destined for Broadway are trying to finish and rehearse the play while crossing from Southampton via Cherbourg, to New York. – The Guide to World Drama

The play was deemed a big disappointment by most critics, but MK was singled out for his comedic chops. From Christopher Edwards’s review in The Spectator:

Next we move to the rehearsal of Turai’s and Gal’s monstrously bad musical comedy involving upper-class jewel thieves redeemed by the love of good women who play ping-pong. This may not be exactly correct but this is all part of the joke. No one really understands what the musical is about, thus enabling Stoppard to introduce his best idea in the form of a land-lubber waiter who grows in stature until he becomes a sort of one-man deus ex machina. He starts with comic misnomers, e.g. calling the funnels chimneys and the bridge the balcony; he initiates a routine which deprives Turai, on about half a dozen occasions, of a much needed brandy which he knocks back himself. Gradually he finds his sea legs when all about are losing theirs, and reveals a formidable grasp of the plot, unavailable even to those who composed it. Michael Kitchen’s performance is very funny, in particular his matter-of-fact plot synopsis of the ludicrously tangled business surrounding the jewel thief…

And Michael Billington wrote in his review for The Guardian (Oct. 31, 1984):

There is a very good performance from Michael Kitchen as the steward whom he endows initially with a knee-sagging Groucho-esque walk that suggests it is teatime on the Titanic which gives way to a trick of inclining vertically in his boots as if he were a marine Little Titch.

One theatergoer recalled years later on this blog:

It’s interesting to me to see Michael Kitchen in so serious a role in Foyle’s War and remember how funny, with excellent timing, he was as Dvornicheck in Rough Crossing. Very good actor.

Another wrote:

I saw the original version of Rough Crossing by Tom Stoppard with Michael Kitchen creating the role of Dvornichek. My God, Kitchen is good at comedy. It’s spoilt me for any other actor in that role all these years.

Despite MK’s hilarious performance, the poor reviews for Rough Crossing led to the National Theatre pulling the play from its repertoire. For MK, though, unemployment didn’t last long, as the start of filming for Out of Africa in January 1985 was just weeks away.

From The Times (July 6, 2002):

A & E does have the benefit of Michael Kitchen, an actor who couldn’t be dull if he tried. The part calls for him to be one of those charismatic and ruthless mavericks. Kitchen has created a character whose brain appears to be operating on fast forward, creating a weird tension between what he is saying and what he may, or may not, be thinking. It is difficult to describe, but fascinating to watch.

And from The People (July 14, 2002):

But what makes this series a surgeon’s cut above the rest is the calibre of the cast, which includes Niamh Cusack, Martin Shaw, Jane Danson and, lastly but mostly, the wonderful Michael Kitchen as Jack Turner, the arrogant and amorous clinical director of St Victor’s.

Prior to A&E, Michael Kitchen and Niamh Cusack also co-starred as a couple in The Art of Success, a raunchy play that required MK as William Hogarth to don a Restoration wig almost as big as the one he later wore in Lorna Doone.

From Charles Spencer’s review for the Daily Telegraph (Aug. 28, 1987) extracted at http://www.suttonelms.org.uk:

…But though I normally resent dramatists who appropriate the lives of famous figures of the past only to distort them for their own ends, I found myself increasingly warming to this vital, scatological drama, now receiving an exuberant production by the RSC in The Pit.

It is certainly not a play for the squeamish. The language is persistently and inventively foul and, without a hint of historical evidence, Mr Dear has turned Hogarth into a man of rampant and decidedly esoteric sexual tastes. But the play is so outrageous in its invention, Hogarth’s reputation so secure, that it is hard to imagine the play doing the artist’s memory permanent harm, more profitable to sit back and enjoy an evening of good, dirty and surprisingly thought-provoking fun.

More photos and notes at the Michael Kitchen site.

With Janet McTeer and Jeremy Irons in a photograph published in The Sunday Times (July 6, 1986):

Hugh Herbert’s review of Home Run for The Guardian, Oct. 2, 1989:

Nothing in the past week has done much for the image of the City, and Andy Armitage’s smart/sinister vision of Dockland in Home Run (BBC-1) won’t help either. Philip Bonham Carter’s camera catches the scene in smokey blue and gold, but if it looks like Whistler’s Thames morally it smells like Eliot’s river which sweats oil and tar.

Bill English, a name game Armitage really shouldn’t play, is an East Ender made good. He’s returned from a fancy posting in Brussels to be a consultant to a company with interests in development that are not specified beyond an interest in gross profits. Installed in a building converted from warehouse to flats, a home with all the interior charm of a filing drawer, English is assailed by Doubts.

At work he may still be teaching executives to execute more effectively by playing blind man’s buff and feeling each other’s faces (“Should Graham’s response be more assertive and less power-related…”). But back in the buildings his neglected girlfriend leaves and a brush with local yobbos brings him into lethal conflict with a shadowy figure who is part tycoon and part gangster, as English too turns out to be, torn between learnt ambition and inherent guilt.

It’s in the same moral mould as Armitage’s Starlings, but without the humour. Michael Kitchen gives one of his best red-eyed performances as the troubled English, marooned in a kind of Alphaville-on-Thames, its long silences broken only by the distant symbols of violence: incoherent shouts, breaking glass, a football crowd.

Caught on a Train: Michael Kitchen: Peggy Ashcroft: magazines scene 1Caught on a Train: Michael Kitchen: Peggy Ashcroft: magazines scene 2
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Love the praise heaped on Michael Kitchen in filmycks.com’s review of Caught on a Train:

The two leads turn in powerhouse performances, possibly the finest of their respective careers. Ashcroft may have been the flashier but for Kitchen to craft such a complex creation as Peter out of rather simple material, marked him as one of the finest actors of his generation. Notoriously media-shy he has spent most of his career within television and exemplary as his work has been, his relative absence from the big screen is certainly cinema’s loss. To get a sense of his talent, one only has to view a brief moment within a single scene in Caught on a Train. After Peter’s initial meeting with Messner, she plays upon her age and frailty and asks if he will go and buy some magazines from a vendor. It will mean leaving the train (which is still stationary at Ostend) and Peter has no intention of doing so. Consequently, he begins to equivocate and invent various excuses as to why he shouldn’t. Messner bats each of these away (‘It is only a short distance, you won’t even have to run’) and when it looks like he will have no choice but to acquiesce, a station guard’s whistle is heard. Peter believes he is saved from the task because the whistle indicates the train is about to leave. However, just before he can inform Messner another passenger states that the whistle isn’t for their train much to the chagrin of Peter. The moment lasts barely a second and yet within this screen-time Kitchen displays relief, then triumph, then fury. The complexity and skill in conveying so much in an instant, reveals a major talent at work.

His facial expressions in the last two frames are pretty terrific as well.

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Summers gets much more than he bargained for in trying to lay down the law with a suspicious Foyle who sees right through him to his ulterior motive.

Excerpts from Jonathan Meades’s rapturous critique (The Times, Nov. 16, 2002) of Michael Kitchen’s acting in Foyle’s War:

Michael Kitchen’s playing of the title role in a show called Foyle’s War … is uplifting because it is an unalloyed display of high art.

His performance is singular, serious, very quiet.  He does something that only the greatest actors are capable of, that is to convince in character while employing consummate professional skills.

Kitchen’s instrument is his face.  He has used it to create a gestural language of the utmost suppleness and complexity… His sheer control is awesome.  His repertoire causes us to rethink the possibilities of facial musculature.

There are occasions when an interpretation can quite overcome the creation it supposedly serves.

(Jonathan Meades and Michael Kitchen were classmates at RADA.)

Pretty impressive stunt work if that’s Michael Kitchen rolling down the hill.

High praise for Alibi and Michael Kitchen in Sally Kinnes’s review for The Sunday Times (Aug. 24, 2003):