Solo – A Star Wars Story

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When word first appeared of a Star Wars film exploring the origins of a young Han Solo, the general consensus seemed to be…”why?”. For a start, only one person could ever play Han Solo, and that’s Harrison Ford. And, as talented an actor he is, and as advanced as CGI technology can be, it’s unlikely that the 75 year old could pull off playing his iconic character as a boy.

Add to that the well publicised squabbles onset (culminating in original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller being fired in favour of old stalwart Ron Howard), and rumours that the new Han, young  actor Alden Ehrenreich had been told to take extra acting lessons), and it’s fair to say that expectations for Solo: A  Star Wars Story are pretty low.

So is it as bad as advance word has it? Well, it’s not a bad film, in fact it’s a perfectly serviceable sci-fi romp. There is, however, an air of formula and predictability running through it – there’s no real surprises and Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan’s script is pretty pedestrian.

In fact, it sometimes feels like fan service by rote: hey, here’s Han and Chewie meeting for the first time. OK, right now, we’re going to see the Kessel Run. You know, that thing you’ve imagined for 40 years? Well, you’re actually going to see it..

The trouble is that all these things were a lot more exciting in the imagination. Han “doing the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs” is part of Star Wars legend, something referred to by characters from Luke Skywalker in A New Hope to Rey in The Force Awakens. It’s something that should be built up to and feel like an ‘event’. Instead, it’s a quick scene of Han piloting the Millennium Falcon very fast. And then we’re onto the next scene.

There will be some fans who will be very excited that we eventually get to see the card game between Han and Lando where Han wins the Millennium Falcon, but the truth it that it’s just a scene of two men playing cards. However, there are some good moments, including a genuinely funny reference to Han’s most famous line in The Empire Strikes Back (you’ll know it when you hear it). There’s also an undeniable thrill to seeing Han and Chewie behind the controls of the Falcon for the very first time.

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The cast do well, and once you’ve got used to the fact that Ehrenreich doesn’t look much like Ford nor has many of his mannerisms, he makes for a decent lead. However, it’s Donald Glover who’s the star of the show here – as young Lando Calrissian he’s funny, charismatic and steals every scene he’s in. With his excellent TV show Atlanta, his musical side-project Childish Gambino and now a burgeoning film career, it surely can’t be long until he’s one of the biggest stars in the world.

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There’s also good support from Woody Harrelson, Paul Bettany and an underused Thandie Newton, although the fact there’s barely any chemistry between Ehrenreich and Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke means that she’s scuppered as a love interest from the start. Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge does have a gloriously weird cameo as Lando’s love interest, a robot called L3-37 (really).

Overall, while Solo is a decent enough film if you like that sort of thing, it’s missing the sense of occasion that should come with a Star Wars film. Only three and a half years since JJ Abrams rebooted the franchise, it’s already feeling worryingly stale. There’s some hope though – Marvel have proved that, by hiring young, exciting directors like Ryan Coogler and Taika Watiti, a long-standing franchise can be refreshed and revitalised. We’ve got 18 months till the next Star Wars film: hopefully Kathleen Kennedy and the powers that be at Disney can work on breathing some new life into this galaxy far, far away.

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The York Realist – Sheffield Crucible

I normally would have reviewed this for The Stage or Exeunt, but as both sites covered it during the play’s London run last month (The Stage’s review is here, Exeunt’s is here), I thought I’d write a quick review here instead (especially as the lovely people at the Crucible were good enough to invite me to press night).

Ben Batt as George and Jonathan Bailey as John in The York Realist. Photo by Johan Persson.-min

The York Realist is a revival of Peter Gill’s 2001 play which opened at Salford’s Lowry before having runs in Bristol and at the Royal Court Theatre. It tells the story of George, a farmhand and aspiring actor and John, an assistant director from London who stages a production of The York Mystery Plays, which George has a starring role in.

George and John fall into a relationship, and Gill’s script tells of the troubles of a love affair that’s defined as much by class as it is gender. John wants George to move to London to follow his acting dream, while George feels like he has to stay in York as his class dictates that he can only ever work on a farm.

We first meet George and John after the former’s mother has died, and it’s clear from the start that there’s some sort of tension between them. Quickly, we flashback to when they first meet, and also get to see George’s family. It’s a clever structure and one that pulls you into the play straight away.

The cast of The York Realist. Photo by Johan Persson.

A play about a doomed love affair may seem a depressing one, but nothing could be further from the truth in The York Realist. It’s one of the funniest plays I’ve seen in quite a while, and although it premiered at the Donmar Warehouse in London, Sheffield feels like its natural home – there is plenty of Yorkshire humour which receives knowing chuckles at the Crucible, and Gill’s naturalistic dialogue is absolutely whip-smart.

Ben Batt, who you may remember from Channel 4’s Shameless, is absolutely magnificent as George, completely confident in his sexuality, but wildly insecure about his social standing. His monologue about the delights of London (“dinner…at night!”) is worth the price of admission alone. Jonathan Bailey is equally good as John, George’s polar opposite, all puppyish enthusiasm about visiting “the North” but obviously far more at home back in the capital.

Lesley Nicol and Ben Batt as Mother and George in The York Realist. Photo by Johan Persson.-min

There’s good support from Brian Fletcher (making his professional theatre debut) as George’s droll nephew Jack, and a poignant performance from Katie West as Doreen, the local girl who holds a torch for George, even though she knows it can never be. West was absolutely superlative in Simon Stephen’s Blindsided at Manchester’s Royal Exchange a few years ago, and it’s surely only a matter of time before she becomes a huge star.

Although this is being held in the Crucible’s main space, it’s the sort of small, intimate piece that would work equally well in the Studio. Peter McKintosh’s immaculately designed set of a country cottage pulls you into the action, and you feel like you’re sat in the front room with the family.

After the excellent Chicken Soup and Frost/Nixon, Robert Hastie (who directs this with flair and style) is really helming a superb season for Sheffield Theatres.

The York Realist runs until April 7th. For more information, please visit https://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/whats-on/the-york-realist

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The Trouble with Eyes (part 2…)

I did promise to give an update after my vitrectomy last month, but didn’t want to jinx my recovery! Anyway, all seems to have gone well, so here goes:

After the operation, I was patched up (see the fetching picture below), given three loads of eye drops with instructions to apply them four times a day for a month, and was told to come back to the hospital the next morning.

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(one hour after being discharged)

So the next day, the patch was removed, and the sight in my right eye was blurry – I can only compare it to swimming underwater with your eyes open. Everything was out of focus and I could only see indistinct shapes. Luckily, the nurse assured me this was perfectly normal! I had a bit of a shock next time I looked in the mirror – my eye was swollen, and completely bloodshot: but, once I’d put my rational head on, that made perfect sense, given that I’d had needles and injections stuck into it less than 24 hours beforehand.

After a vitrectomy, patients are instructed to undergo ‘posturing’. This may sound like walking round with a bit of an attitude, but it involves making sure your head is still and in one particular position. This is to ensure the bubble of gas which is keeping the retina in place while it reattaches stays in position. Lots of people are told to keep their head down for the majority of the day, and to sleep on their front. I was dreading this.

Luckily, my surgeon recommended that I just sit with my head upright, and to sleep on my right hand side. To stop myself turning over in my sleep, I put a wall of pillows against my back, so if I was to turn over, this should wake me up and remind me to stay on my right hand side. During the day, I listened to a lot of radio, podcasts and music – reading books wasn’t an option and watching TV was possible although as I usually had to watch with one eye closed, then that became a pain.

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After a few days, I noticed a little line appear at the top of my eye – it was a bit like the line you see on a spirit level, and there was clear vision above this line. Over the next few days, this line dropped gradually. About a week after the operation, the line was down to about halfway, and then after approximately two weeks, it suddenly turned into a little circle. On Saturday 10th March, sixteen days after the operation, the circle had disappeared which means the gas had eventually dispersed.

Now, my eye still aches a little bit but my vision is completely back to normal and the ‘blind spot’ which persuaded me to go to the opticians in the first place has disappeared. I have one more appointment due at the hospital at the end of April – I’ve been told that it’s more than likely I will develop cataracts within the next 12 months (it’s a common side effect of this operation), and will have to have surgery for that, but that is a relatively minor procedure.

Plus, it will make good content for a future blog!

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The trouble with eyes…(part 1)

I’ve not blogged for a while, due to a number of reasons. So I thought this would be a good one to come back to, as it may help people in similar situations.

A few weeks ago, I noticed my right eye was a bit blurry. I also noticed ‘floaters’ (little invisible objects floating by) which were becoming more intense, and every so often I’d see a little flash of light in the corner of my eye. Most worryingly, I also noticed I’d developed a blind spot in the right hand side of my eye, like a curtain had been pulled over.

To be honest, I put it down to insomnia and stress. I’ve had a whole heap of personal troubles to work through over the past 6 months, and I thought this was just the natural reaction, and a few nights sleep would do me good. But it seemed to be getting progressively worse, so I booked my first ever eye test at Specsavers.

Yes, my first ever eye test. I’m not proud of this, but it’s something I’ve never felt the need to have. My eyes have never been a problem, so I didn’t think there was much point. Anyway, all seemed fine – my eyes were scanned and photographed, and little puffs of air were squirted into my eye to check that the pressure was ok. I read the letters off the chart and all seemed perfectly normal.

Then I told the optician about the ‘blind spot’ I’d developed. His face fell, and he immediately told me that he’d examine my eye using the special machine they had. Let me tell you, there aren’t many phrases likely to cause you to break into a panic attack like an optician saying “Oh” while he’s doing this.

“This is very serious, and you need to go to hospital immediately. You have a detached retina, it requires surgery as soon as possible, and if you don’t have this surgery, there’s a very real danger you will lose your sight”.

So, with those words ringing in my ears, I made my way to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, which has a walk-in emergency eye clinic. I wasn’t waiting for too long, and after speaking to several nurses and doctors (all of who were absolutely fantastic), the diagnosis of a detached retina was confirmed.

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So what causes a detached retina?

All sorts of things – usually it’s a sports injury, or it happens when someone bangs their head. This wasn’t the case with me, and it turns out I was just one of the unlucky ones – about 1 in 15,000 people develop a tear in the retina which causes detachment. The former Prime Minister Gordon Brown is probably the most famous person to have suffered a detached retina due to a rugby injury when he was a child, which resulted in the loss of sight in his left eye.

What is it exactly, and why is it so serious?

The way a nurse explained it to me made the most sense: think of the retina as the wallpaper at the back of your eye. The lens in your eye sends images to the retina, which beams those images to the brain. If a tear ever develops on the retina, then it can start to peel away, like a corner of wallpaper peeling away. If it’s not treated, it will continue to peel off, and eventually come away completely. There’s still vision when it detaches, but that’s what the ‘blind spot’ was. If it was left, the blind spot would become bigger and bigger, until the vision in the eye disappears.

How can it be fixed?

I was booked in for an operation the next day. I was to have a vitrecomy – if you’re slightly squeamish about eyes, you may want to skip this. Under local anaesthetic, the surgeon makes a couple of pinpoint incisions into your eyeball. Then the vitereous gel in the back of the eyeball is scraped away, and a small bubble of gas is injected into your eye to push the retina back in place. Then, over the next few weeks, that bubble holds the retina while it reattaches itself to the back of the eye. In the weeks after the operation, the patient has to sit in a particular posture recommended by the surgeon in order for the bubble to stay in the right place.

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So, the next day, I arrived at the Hallamshire again. It was a pretty long day – although I wasn’t due to have the operation until the afternoon, I had to be at the hospital in the morning to have the pre-op checks done. There was a lot of scans, several lots of eye drops administred, and a lot of form filling to be done. Eventually, I was sent over to the Day Care Centre where the operation would take place.

More waiting around (by this time, my pupils were so dilated due to the eye drops that I couldn’t even read a book while I was waiting!), and I was called into surgery at 1.30. Then there were more questions, more talk about the possible side-effects of the vitrectomy (one of which is that I’ll probably have to have cataract surgery later in the year).

After changing into the fetching hospital gown you have to wear in theatre, I was taken through to the operation at around 4pm. I won’t lie, I was pretty terrified. I’ve never had an operation before, and the whole idea of someone messing around with my eyes makes me feel a bit squeamish. Yet the whole team who performed the operation did a brilliant job at putting me at my ease.

Firstly, eye drops were administered again, and  a cloth was placed over my face, which had a hole for the right eye. As the drops began to take effect, my sight slowly became darker and my eye began to feel numb. Eventually it all became a bit of a blur, and although I could feel some pressure in my eye while it was being worked on, it was totally pain-free, and I ended up talking to the surgeon while he was performing the operation.

The whole process took about 45 minutes, and then I was wheeled through to the room next door and asked to lie on my front with my head face down for the next hour. My ‘posturing’ for the next few weeks was to sit upright with my head up, and when I went to bed, I had to lie on my right hand side. This would keep the bubble in place.

Around 6pm, I eventually left the hospital with a collection of eye drops, and instructions to return at around 9am the next morning.

To be continued….

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Theatre review round up

Not blogged for a while, mainly because ‘life stuff’ keeps getting in the way, but here’s a round up of my most recent theatre reviews.

There are two excellent plays playing at Sheffield Crucible at the moment – Of Kith & Kin and Desire Under The Elms.

Of Kith & Kin is playing in the smaller space of the Studio – I wasn’t entirely sure what I was expecting when I walked in, I thought it may be a quirky comedy about a gay couple raising a baby, but it turned out to be somewhat darker than that. Written by Chris Thompson, who used to be a social worker, it’s full of biting dialogue and there’s two great performances from the lead two actors, James Lance and Joshua Silver. I still remember Lance from his role in I’m Alan Partridge, but this production gives him a chance to show his more dramatic side.

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These aren’t particularly characters you’d want to spend any time with in real life, but it’s good fun watching them. Definitely recommended. Full review in The Stage can be found here

Desire Under The Elms is in the larger main space at the Crucible – it’s written by Eugene O’Neill, who was a contemporary of the likes of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. I’ve never seen any of O’Neill’s plays, but this is a pretty good introduction to him. It’s a long play – over two and a half hours including interval – but it flies by. It’s a pretty simple story – elderly farmer marries much younger woman, who has her eye on his farm and on his son, passions ignite, tragedy strikes and there’s no happy ending.

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What distinguishes Desire Under The Elms is the cast – especially the brilliant Aoife Duffin who plays the young wife Annie and, maybe surprisingly for those who just know him from hosting Stars In Their Eyes, Matthew Kelly. The set is also fantastic, it really feels like a dusty New England farmland, and some very clever lighting effects means that a cloudy, moonlit sky literally hangs over the stage.

Full review can be found over on Exeunt.

Finally, I also popped over to Doncaster last week for my first visit to CAST theatre. I’d never been here and was really impressed by it – it’s big, immaculately clean, nice friendly staff, and a decent space. Only 10 minutes walk from the train station as well. Their website is https://www.castindoncaster.com/

Cast, Doncaster - designed by RHWL Arts Team; photography and co

Cast played host to a touring production of The Ruck, a play about women’s rugby that had been touring around Yorkshire. I don’t know the first thing about rugby, but like a lot of good dramas about sport, the actual sport is the least important thing about it. Rather, it’s a story about family, identity, community and the growing pains of being a teenage girl. It tells the story of a teenage girls’ rugby team in Batley, who are offered the chance to tour Australia, although all four girls in the team have their own personal problems to deal with, whether it be boyfriend trouble, coming to terms with their sexuality, family problems and religious issues.

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Kevin Fegan uses all sorts of devices to tell his story, including verse, songs of all different genres and soliloquies straight to the audience. It’s fresh, funny, full of heart and excellently performed by the young cast. Unfortunately, it’s finished its tour now so I can’t tell you to go and see it, but Fegan is definitely a name worth keeping an eye on.

Full review can be found on The Stage

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Plays, Books, Films etc

I’ve not blogged for a while so thought I’d bring you up to speed with things I’ve seen, read and listened to over the last few weeks:

Theatre: Tribes – Sheffield Crucible

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This is the regional premiere of Nina Raine’s 2010 play which originally opened at the Royal Court in London. It concerns a young deaf man whose family try to treat him as ‘normally’ as possible, but he feels like he’s being ignored. When he meets a woman who’s gradually going deaf, he begins to explore his own identity as a deaf person and starts to yearn for a ‘tribe’ of his own.

The main problem with Tribes is that most of the characters are really, really annoying. In fact, about 15 minutes into proceedings, I felt a bit of a sinking feeling knowing that I was spending the next two hours with these people. Thankfully, the complexities of the characters soon begin to show, and Raine’s script becomes a multi-layered delight. There are strong performances all round, although I found that Raine tried to pack a bit too much into the second half. My review for Exeunt magazine can be found here.

Music: Lorde – Melodrama

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The second album by the New Zealand singer could well be my favourite album of 2017 so far (although I’d imagine Arcade Fire, The National and St Vincent will all push her pretty close). Her debut Pure Heroine was an excellent introduction, but she’s moved up a whole new level with Melodrama.

Melodrama is a break-up album, and all emotions can be found here: regret, relief, grief, memories, and acceptance. Opening track Green Light is very probably the  pop song of the year, the astounding Writer In The Dark channels Kate Bush at her very best, and Supercut is the best song that Robyn never wrote.

There are so many great moments here you begin to lose count: the way Lorde almost hisses a line like “Jack and Jill get fucked up and possessive when it gets dark”, the way she pretty much screams during Supercut as the emotion gets too much for her, and her sad, mournful delivery of “I’ll start letting go of little things til I’m so far away from you” in Hard Feelings.

It’s an album that sums up what it means to be young, messed up, and a little bit broken and it’s absolutely wonderful.

Film: Baby Driver

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Edgar Wright made his name with Simon Pegg in the TV show Spaced, and is probably best known for the Cornetto Trilogy with Pegg and Nick Frost (Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuss and The World’s End). The last film that Wright made without Pegg in tow was Scott Pilgram Vs The World, which a lot of people, but I hated – to me, it felt like  being trapped with a toddler on a sugar rush.

Baby Driver though is utter brilliance from start to finish. It reminded me of early Tarantino without the tiresome reliance on the ‘n-word’, and the action sequences are technically flawless. The plot concerns a young man forced to work as a getaway driver for crime boss Kevin Spacey – an accident early in life has left him with tinnitus so he constantly listens to songs on his (various) iPods to drown out the ringing in his ears.

At first you may worry that Ansel Elgort’s Baby is far too irritating to carry the film, but his characters vulnerabilities and flaws mean that you soon warm to him. John Hamm pops up, 100% more psychotic than he ever was as Don Draper, and Jamie Foxx is both hilarious and chilling as the reckless Bats.

Some have argued that Baby Driver is simply style over content but that’s unfair – there’s a real emotional connection with the characters and by the end you’re rooting for Baby to drive off into the sunset with his love Debra. Besides, this is a film filled with incredible action sequences, some exhilarating car crashes and the best soundtrack of the year so far.

Television: Twin Peaks

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Originally, I was going to do a week by week recap of Twin Peaks, but it soon became clear that was going to be incredibly difficult (and pointless). This is a show that needs to be experienced, not read about. Just like the original show tore up the rule book and broke new ground, the 2017 version of Twin Peaks is doing the same.

This is not the same show as it was in 1990. And nor should it be. Were you the same person that you were 25 years ago? Lynch has re-modified his show with time, and the result is some of the most daring, thrilling television ever made. It’s almost like having a brand new hour-long David Lynch film every week, with some of the characters from Twin Peaks popping up now and again.

Episode 8, aired last week, will go down in history as one of the most surreal episodes of TV ever broadcast. It’s more like an art installation than a TV show – a five minute sequence of a nuclear bomb exploding, various dreamlike scenes drifting across the screen, and ending with one of the most horrifying, chilling things that Lynch has ever been involved with.

I’m not sure when we’re going to see Audrey Horne, Big Ed, or whether James Marshall will ever re-appear from that one scene in the closing minutes of the opening episode. And there’s no indication of when Kyle McLachlan will shake off his Dougie persona to become the Cooper we all know, love and remember. But, amazingly, I don’t really care. I’m just so grateful to have this show and this creative genius back in my life.

Book: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

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Fun fact; Sarah Perry used to write theatre reviews for Exeunt. Now she’s won various prestigious awards for her second novel. I also write theatre reviews for Exeunt. I have never won an award for any novel. In fact, I’ve never written a novel. But hey, who knows what the future holds.

Perry’s success is more than well deserved anyway – The Essex Serpent is a gripping tale of love, horror and intrigue set in Essex during the late 19th century. A young widow moves to the area following the death of her husband and becomes obsessed with the mythical tale of a sea serpent killing locals along the estuary.

Perry’s characters are beautifully drawn – you can almost picture people like Luke, the ‘impish’ surgeon who holds a torch for the widow Cora, and the belligerent priest of the area William Ransome. It’s almost overflowing with unrequited lust and love – everyone in the novel seems to fancy someone else and nothing ever seems to quite work out for any of them.

It’s Perry’s writing which is the real draw, her prose is beautifully written and by the time you get to the end of the novel you really feel like you’ve got to know these characters. A novel that well deserves all the success that has come its way.

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Twin Peaks: Episode 1 & 2 – initial thoughts

et-twinpeaksWell, I’ve just watched the first two episodes of the new season of Twin Peaks and, while I’m still processing exactly what went on, here are some initial thoughts.

Some spoilers for the first two episodes of the new season of Twin Peaks follow:

This is not the Twin Peaks you grew up with

Showtime described this new version of Twin Peaks as the ‘pure heroin’ version of David Lynch, and they weren’t kidding. It’s closer in tone to Lynch’s later films like Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway and obviously Fire Walk With Me. At times, it’s like watching a brand new Lynch film, with little interludes from the original cast inbetween. It’s dark, violent and foreboding and we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface. I can’t wait to find out what the remaining 16 episodes have in store for us.

Despite Angelo Badalamenti being credited with the score, there’s very little of the light jazzy music that accompanied almost every scene in the original. Instead, Lynch has taken the role of sound designer, and put some harsh, discordant audio over the most disturbing scenes. It’s effectively creepy but takes some readjustment. Also, there’s a blonde female singer singing in the bar at the end, but it’s not Julee Cruise – instead, it’s Ruth Radelet with her band Chromatics. This does rather hint at the reason loads of musicians are named in the new cast – will we see Sharon Van Etten playing out one episode with Serpents in the next few months?

Hello, Old Friends

Not all of the original cast make an appearance in the first two episodes but long-term fans won’t be disappointed. Kyle McLachlan is still trapped in the Black Lodge (looking remarkably well preserved for a man who’s just sat in a red room for 26 years), and his doppleganger is causing havoc murdering people. Evil Cooper now has long hair (a nod to Bob) and a rather weather-beaten complexion, while Good Dale pretty much looks the same as he did last time we saw him. That Damn Fine Coffee has some good anti-ageing qualities, obviously.

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Of the rest of the cast, we see Ben Horne and his brother Jerry bantering away in one scene, Lucy and Andy who are now married (Kimmy Robertson also looks pretty much the same), Deputy Sheriff Hawk seems to be in charge (there are now two Sheriff Truemans, one of whom is ill, the other who has gone fishing – as Michael Ontkean has officially retired, I’d imagine they’ve brought in Robert Forster as his brother), has a distinguished mane of long grey hair and is looking for Agent Cooper (recalling the line that Cooper uttered in the original: “Hawk, if I’m ever lost, I hope they send you to find me”). Doctor Jacoby also appears very briefly towards the start, and in the last scene we see Shelly (Madchen Amick, who’s had a pretty successful career in TV since Twin Peaks, so her appearance isn’t so much of a jolt from the past) and James Hurley (who doesn’t really speak, but I bet he’s still the Absolute Worst).

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And, upsettingly, there are two brief appearances by Catherine Coulson aka The Log Lady, obviously filmed very close to her death in 2015, looking very frail and in pain. It’s lovely that she found the strength to film her scenes, but seeing how ill she looks made me feel quite sad.

Meet the new cast, not the same as the old cast

There’s an awful lot of new characters to get your head around in the first two episodes. Matthew Lillard plays Bill, a school principal accused of murder who, by the look of it, is probably tied up in whatever Evil Cooper’s doing (this section of the show feels weirdly like Fargo). There’s a very strange sub-plot set in New York where a man has to stare at a glass box (this is eventually revealed to be a portal from the Black Lodge), and Ashley Judd appears briefly as Ben Horne’s new secretary. Some people may be disappointed at the lack of time spent in Twin Peaks itself, but I found the new plots totally gripping and can’t wait to see how they tie in to the overall mythology.

David Lynch has still ‘got it’

I was a bit wary that, with Lynch not directing a feature since 2006, that he may be a bit rusty. This was a spectacularly stupid assumption to make. From the opening few frames, this is all recognisably, (un)comfortably Lynchian. Some of the cinematography is breathtaking – there’s been so many slow-moving aerial shots of New York’s skyline that you doubt it could be done any differently, but Lynch’s panoramas are eerie, beautiful and weirdly creepy. There are his trademark long shots and languid style, and he’s still an absolute master of creating a sense of almost claustrophobic foreboding. If he really is going to retire after this round of Twin Peaks, then it’s quite the swansong to go out on.

The Black Lodge

Fans will be pleased that the Black Lodge plays a big part in at least the first two episodes. The chevrons and red curtains produced goosebumps in me when watching, and just seeing Sheryl Lee and McLachlan recreate that iconic dream scene was worth it. It was also a chance to briefly see Ray Wise as Leland, and Al Strobel as the One Armed Man. Carel Struychken also returns, although he was intriguingly credited as ????? ????? rather than The Giant. Oh, and there was also a talking tree instead of The Man From Another Place (probably due to Michael J Anderson’s spectacular falling out with Lynch which happened during filming of this new season). The ending of episode 2 seems to indicate we won’t be back in the Black Lodge for a while, but as ever with Lynch, who knows?

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The first four episodes of Twin Peaks are available to watch on the Now TV app. Episodes 1 and 2 will be reshown on Sky Atlantic on Tuesday 23rd May at 9pm.

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