Shakespeare’s Globe: The real-life drama that led Emma Rice to quit

Shakespeare’s Globe: The real-life drama that led Emma Rice to quit

Emma RiceImage copyright
Sarah Lee

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Emma Rice said the Globe’s board tried to restrict her artistic freedom

Power struggles, personality clashes and conflicting agendas – it could be the plot of a Shakespearean tragedy.

In fact, it is the real-life backstage drama at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre.

Artistic director Emma Rice and her predecessor Dominic Dromgoole have laid bare details of the dispute that led Rice to resign last year.

Her decision was sparked by her use of artificial lights and sound, but in an open letter she has said it “was about personal trust and artistic freedom”.

She announced her departure in October and will leave the London venue next year.

With applications for her successor closing on Monday, she and Dromgoole have written revealing letters on the theatre’s website.

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Getty Images

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The Globe is a reconstruction of a Shakespearean theatre on London’s Southbank

Rice wrote: “Here, I have found my fight and my ‘right’, I have stood up for what I believe in and tried to do it with kindness, care and seriousness.

“However, in the wake of recent events, the Globe is wrestling with what, at its core, it now stands for. It is still in the process of deciding and clarifying what its fight and its ‘right’ are.

“I had to choose to leave because I choose myself and my work. Never think that my decision to step down in 2018 was simply about lights and sound, it was about personal trust and artistic freedom.”

She added a warning to the person who follows her: “You must make sure that your own freedom is assured.”

She decided to quit, she said, because the theatre’s board “did not love and respect me back” and “began to talk of a new set of rules that I did not sign up to and could not stand by”.

A list of lessons she has learned included: “I have learnt, never again, to allow myself to be excluded from the rooms where decisions are made.”

The Globe, she explained, is “not a job, it is a vocation and an all-consuming, delicious tangle of histories, hopes, passions and agendas”.

Dromgoole, who was at the Globe from 2005-16, went further in detailing the pressures borne by artistic directors.

The “bile” from external critics “can be disabling”, he wrote.

He went on: “Sadly the negativity doesn’t only come from without, there is also a fair sum within.

“There are structural problems, there are personality problems, there is too much fighting for territory, and there are too many who feel free to comment on work without ever taking the risk of making it.

“It is absurd that out of the mess of last year, the only person to be suffering the consequences is Emma.”

He said he disagreed with Rice’s attempts to move away from the traditional “shared light” – in which the actors and audience are in the same light – which he said was “at the heart of her disagreements with colleagues and the board”.

But he said: “I cannot respect the blocking of her choice.”

‘Moral strength’

He warned her successor to be “exceptionally wary of those who do not want to advise but who want to influence”, adding: “Everybody wants to be artistic director. They can’t all be. Only you can.”

The only people with the “moral strength” to get rid of an artistic director are the audience, he wrote.

“No-one else, not the board, not your supposed colleagues, not the vulture punditry, just the audience. Emma had lost a little of the Globe audience, but all the evidence is that she had gained some as well.”

A spokesperson for the theatre said chief executive Neil Constable and the board would not be commenting on the remarks.

The Globe, which opened in 1997, is a reconstruction of a Shakespearean theatre on London’s Southbank.

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How did the new Dragons make their millions?

How did the new Dragons make their millions?

Dragons' Den investors from last series

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The incoming dragons will replace Sarah Willingham (far left) and Nick Jenkins (second right)

Two new faces are to join the formidable investor panel of the BBC’s budding entrepreneur show Dragons’ Den.

One is Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish and the other is Jenny Campbell, a cash machine business founder.

They’ll join existing Dragons Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden and Touker Suleyman, replacing Nick Jenkins and Sarah Willingham.

We’ll first see how readily they part with their cash when the new series starts this summer.

In the meantime, let’s look at how the new Dragons made their money.

Steve Parish

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Richard Lally

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Steve Parish says he is “excited to meet the entrepreneurs… and see what ideas they bring to the Den”

Occupation: Part-owner and executive chairman of Crystal Palace Football Club.

Steve Parish began life as a budding businessman as soon as he left school at 18.

His chosen line of work was a long way from football in advertising and computer graphics. The company was Adplates and while working there Parish was already thinking of creating his own empire, starting by founding a company called Turning Point Technologies. He then went on to buy Adplates itself and gave it his own stamp by renaming it Tag.

Tag grew from a 50 staff-member team making under £4m a year into a big brand promoter, with thousands of employees in 13 offices around the world and making more than £180m annually.

When he came to sell Tag in 2011, Parish made in the region of £150m. And with that money, he bought his passion – Crystal Palace FC – a team he had supported since childhood.

His success with the club in the seven years he’s been there has seen him save it from financial ruin and take it into the Premier League.

On bringing his experience to Dragons’ Den, Parish says: “I’m thrilled to become a Dragon and really excited to meet the entrepreneurs in this series, see what ideas they bring to the Den and how I might be able to help them grow.”

Jenny Campbell

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Richard Lally

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Jenny Campbell says she is looking forward to bringing her own “unique style to the Den”

Occupation: Business mentor, charity supporter and speaker

Another early starter, Campbell left school at 16 and aptly began her working life counting cash in a NatWest bank and checking customers’ signatures on cheques.

She soon rose up the ranks and into head office where she had several jobs including being part of the team overseeing the merger of NatWest and RBS.

After 30 years in banking Campbell sought to become an entrepreneur in her own right – in the cash machine business.

Like Parish, she took a failing enterprise, saw its potential and pulled it from the debt quagmire onto the road of pan-European success.

In the height of the financial crash she bought it out, relaunched it as YourCash Europe Ltd and become the majority shareholder.

Ten years later, she sold YourCash for £50m and now dedicates her work time to encouraging and teaching others how to succeed.

Previously awarded Business Woman of the Year, Campbell’s work ethic is “live by corporate standards, but breathe like an entrepreneur”.

Of joining the Dragons, she says: “As a fan of Dragons’ Den I’m very excited to be taking my seat in the line-up and bringing my own unique style to the Den. I’m looking forward to using my extensive business skills to spot the next generation of entrepreneurs and help them realise their business dreams.”

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BP Portrait Award: All female sitters on shortlist

BP Portrait Award: All female sitters on shortlist

Thomas Ehretsmann's portraitImage copyright
Thomas Ehretsmann

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Ehretsmann depicted his pregnant wife Caroline in his shortlisted portrait

The shortlist for this year’s BP Portrait Award has been announced, featuring an all-female line-up of sitters.

All three of the artists responsible for the works are male.

Thomas Ehretsmann is shortlisted for his portrayal of his pregnant wife, while Antony Williams painted model Emma Bruce posing nude.

Benjamin Sullivan’s depiction of his wife breastfeeding their daughter is also nominated.

This year marks the first time Williams and Ehretsmann have been considered for the top prize, but both have had works selected for exhibition in previous years.

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Benjamin Sullivan

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Benjamin Sullivan painted his wife nursing their baby daughter

All artworks nominated for the annual BP Portrait Award, including the three works shortlisted for first prize, will be displayed at The National Portrait Gallery in London from 22 June.

The winner will be awarded £30,000 in prize money as well as a gallery commission worth £5,000.

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Antony Williams

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Antony Williams’s portrait is of his model and friend Emma Bruce

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Game of Thrones actress to appear in Julius Caesar at Bridge Theatre

Game of Thrones actress to appear in Julius Caesar at Bridge Theatre

Michelle FairleyImage copyright
Getty Images

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Michelle Fairley played Catelyn Stark in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones actress Michelle Fairley is to appear in one of the first plays to be staged at a new theatre at London’s Tower Bridge.

Fairley, who played Catelyn Stark in the HBO series, will play Cassius in a new production of Julius Caesar at the Bridge Theatre.

Her previous Shakespeare roles include Othello’s Emilia and Lady Macbeth.

Julius Caesar will also star Ben Whishaw as Brutus and David Morrissey as Mark Antony.

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London Theatre Company

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Julius Caesar cast (l-r) David Calder (Caesar), David Morrissey (Mark Antony), Ben Whishaw (Brutus) and Michelle Fairley (Cassius)

The new 900-seat venue is the brainchild of former National Theatre bosses Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr and will be the home of their new London Theatre Company.

The first play to open at the theatre will be Young Marx, a comedy by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman, which will see Rory Kinnear playing Karl Marx.

Sir Nicholas told the BBC’s arts editor Will Gompertz about the plays, and said Young Marx focuses on the years just after he arrived in London.

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London Theatre Company

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Rory Kinnear as the young Karl Marx

“He was living in two rooms in Soho – he was broke, restless, horny, brilliant, and had total emotional illiteracy, he was a complete mess.

“Surrounded by creditors, spies, people after his wife, he’s got writer’s block… it’s certainly not the Marx you see on the tombstone at Highgate Cemetery.”

Young Marx will open in October, with Julius Caesar following in December.

“We’re going to occasionally do a classic,” Hytner said of the decision to stage the Shakespeare play.

“A lot of people are doing this play this year because it has so much to say about autocracy, and the horrified and ineffectual reaction of the educated elite.”

Plans for Summer 2018 include Flatpack, a “dark comedy” by John Hodge, screenwriter of Trainspotting and Shallow Grave, and a new play by Nina Raine about JS Bach, starring Simon Russell Beale.

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Rimmel ad featuring Cara Delevingne ‘misled viewers’

Rimmel ad featuring Cara Delevingne ‘misled viewers’

Cara Delevingne in Rimmel adImage copyright

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There was more to Cara Delevingne’s eyelashes than met the eye

A Rimmel mascara advert starring Cara Delevingne has been banned for using tricks to exaggerate the look of her “dangerously bold lashes”.

Delevingne was seen using Scandaleyes Reloaded mascara as the ad promised “extreme volume… extreme wear.”

But it didn’t say Delevingne had also been given individual lash inserts to fill in gaps and that some lashes had been re-drawn in post-production.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has said the ad was misleading.

It must not appear again in its current form, the watchdog said.

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Dangerously bold lashes, dangerously bold production techniques

In the advert, a voiceover said: “Rimmel introduces Cara Delevingne for new Scandaleyes Reloaded mascara. Dangerously bold lashes. New max-density brush for clump free lashes. Extreme volume… extreme wear.”

Rimmel’s owner Coty UK said the ad accurately represented the product, and that Delevingne’s lashes looked “full and long” before they used their extra production techniques as well as after.

Coty said it used individual lash inserts “only to fill in gaps and to create a uniform lash line”, which was “in accordance with industry practice”.

And some lashes were re-drawn in post-production “where they were not visible due to the model’s dark eyeshadow”. But that process didn’t lengthen or thicken the lashes, Coty said.

‘Exaggerating effect’

But the ASA took a different view. It concluded that the effect of the lash inserts or the post-production – or both – was to give the appearance of “longer lashes with more volume”.

The ASA ruling said: “Because the ad conveyed a volumising, lengthening and thickening effect of the product we considered the use of lash inserts and the post-production technique were likely to exaggerate the effect beyond what could be achieved by the product among consumers.

“We therefore concluded the ad was misleading.”

Coty said: “While we regret the decision of the ASA, we will of course comply with the ruling and not air the TV commercial again in this state.”

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Will and Grace star: Revival will be ‘topical’

Will and Grace star: Revival will be 'topical'

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Will and Grace star: Revival will be ‘topical’

18 April 2017 Last updated at 17:28 BST

Megan Mullally, who plays Karen in Will and Grace, has suggested that the presidency of Donald Trump will be mentioned in the new series.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live Afternoon Edition, Mullally said: “The show was not only funny but topical, so the elephant in the room that has now burst out of the room and is now straddling the earth will be mentioned from time to time.”

NBC announced the comedy would be returning for a 10-episode series in 2017.

What’s so great about Now That’s What I Call Music 48?

What’s so great about Now That’s What I Call Music 48?

Peter Kay and Sian Gibson in Car Share

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The compilation has a starring role in Peter Kay’s Car Share, which returned last week

Who wants a copy of a 16-year-old compilation album? Quite a lot of us, it seems.

Sales of Now That’s What I Call Music 48 surged last week, after the double CD (“featuring 41 top chart hits!”) provided the soundtrack to the BBC sitcom Peter Kay’s Car Share.

It even entered Amazon’s compilation chart, despite being out of print, on the strength of second-hand sales.

Prices shot up too, rising from as little as 11p to more than £20.

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Cunning eBay sellers added “Car Share” to their descriptions and bumped up the price

In the show, supermarket employee Kayleigh Kitson (Sian Gibson) announces it’s her favourite album, much to the horror of her curmudgeonly carshare partner John Redmond (Kay).

He prefers Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours: a classic, no doubt, but one which lacks Now 48’s impressive roster of six number one hits (not to mention two solo singles by former members of the Spice Girls).

Music from the 2001 compilation permeated the first episode of the show’s second series, prompting that unlikely interest in hand-me-down copies.

Ahead of the broadcast of episode two on Tuesday, we take a look at some of Now 48’s more interesting moments.

Hear’Say – Pure And Simple

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Will love blossom for John and Kayleigh?

At the end of the first series of Car Share, Kayleigh moves house, meaning her lift to work (and burgeoning romance) with John is no longer necessary.

She gives him a copy of Now 48 as a parting gift. “I’ve got two copies,” she explains, “our Kieran used to fiddle Britannia*”.

Inside is a note reading: “Track two is from me to you, you’re a star. Love always, Kayleigh.”

Series one ended and series two began with that song – Pure and Simple – which brings a tear to John’s eye.

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Hear’Say were fairly short-lived, calling it a day less than two years after forming

Famously, the song was the UK’s first ever talent show number one, emanating from the awkwardly-punctuated Hear’Say, who were cobbled together by ITV’s Popstars series in late 2000.

To watch the show now, it’s unbelievably clunky, with none of the sheen and polish of X Factor or The Voice. There isn’t even a live audience, as the show (like a lot of the early reality shows) presented itself more as a documentary than a competition.

The single is similarly laborious, borrowing heavily from All Saints’ Never Ever, and displaying none of the cartoonish energy you’d associate with co-writer Alison Clarkson – aka Betty Boo.

Bet you can still sing it, mind.

*Note to younger readers: The Britannia Music Club was a company that used to send CDs through the post, usually offering an unbeatable introductory offer (“get six CDs for a pound”) before fleecing you dry for the rest of your subscription period. Everyone who joined inevitably ended up with a copy of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell, whether they wanted it or not.

Shaggy ft RikRok – It Wasn’t Me

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The top-selling single of 2001, beating even Kylie Minogue’s almighty Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, this was Mr Boombastic’s biggest hit.

Inspired by one of Eddie Murphy’s classic stand-up routines, it finds Shaggy consoling RikRok, who’s been caught cheating on his girlfriend with the girl next door.

No matter how damning the evidence, his advice is to deny everything. “She saw me kissin’ on the sofa (it wasn’t me) / She even caught me on camera (it wasn’t me).”

However, while writing the song, Shaggy worried about alienating his female fanbase.

“It was like, ‘ok but this might offend a lot of people, we’re talking about infidelity and making fun of it,'” he told NBC. “So we came up with a disclaimer at the end that says, ‘I’m gonna tell her that I’m sorry for the pain that I caused.’

“So even though I’m playing the bad guy, at the end of it he [RikRok] is saying, ‘I’m not taking your advice. Everything about it is wrong.’ And that’s how we win the ladies back.”

Martine McCutcheon – On The Radio

A high-energy cover of Donna Summer’s disco classic, this was former EastEnders’ star Martine Kimberley Sherri Ponting’s final chart hit in the UK.

It’s pretty inoffensive stuff, but that didn’t stop the NME giving it zero stars and carping that, “Martine McCutcheon continues to try and convince us she’s a pop star and not just a dead barmaid.”

U2 – Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of

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Getty / PA

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Bono said he didn’t want to write a soppy song about his friend

One of U2’s most underrated singles, Stuck In A Moment was written in response to the death of INXS singer Michael Hutchence in 1997.

The star had been a close friend and sometime rival to Bono, and they would spend summers together in France before Hutchence took his own life, shortly before INXS’s 20th anniversary tour of Australia.

The song is “a row between mates,” Bono told Rolling Stone in 2005.

“You’re kinda trying to wake them up out of an idea. In my case it’s a row I didn’t have while he was alive. I feel the biggest respect I could pay to him was not to write some stupid soppy song, so I wrote a really tough, nasty little number, slapping him around the head.

“And I’m sorry, but that’s how it came out of me.”

Bob The Builder – Can We Fix It?

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Can Bob conquer the charts? Yes he can!

The 2000 Christmas number one, this is somehow the 140th best-selling single ever in the UK.

Fragma featuring Maria Rubia – Everytime You Need Me

The beauty of revisiting the Now albums is that they obliterate pop’s habitual revisionism.

Fragma’s dance hit may have spent five weeks in the top 10 in early 2001, but it’s all been erased from history (it was played once on UK radio last month, by Tamworth’s community radio station TCR FM).

But don’t feel too sorry for them: This is a pretty flimsy affair, from the generic trance beat to the throwaway lyrics – “You know I will be there / You know I really care.”

In fact, Now 48 has more than its fair share of forgettable also-rans. Bonus points to anyone who can hum Kaci’s Paradise, or Joe’s Stutter.

Coldplay – Don’t Panic

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Coldplay’s track is short and sweet at just over two minutes

Coldplay’s third appearance on a Now… compilation (after Trouble and Yellow) is something of a rarity for the series: as Don’t Panic never officially charted in the UK.

One of the band’s earliest songs, it was performed at their first ever gig, and was included on their Blue Room EP before being re-written and re-recorded as the opening track of their debut album, Parachutes.

At just 2 min 17 secs, it is one of the shortest songs ever to feature on a Now album. Oasis’s Songbird is shorter, though, clocking in at 2 min 04 secs.

Mya – Case of the Ex

A slinky R&B number that’s notable as the first UK chart appearance of writer-producer Christopher “Tricky” Stewart – who went on to create Rihanna’s Umbrella, Beyonce’s Single Ladies and Justin Bieber’s Baby.

Eva Cassidy – Somewhere Over The Rainbow

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Blix Street Records

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Sir Terry championed Eva Cassidy, who struck a chord with her delicate vocals

Almost unknown when she died of skin cancer in 1996, singer Eva Cassidy posthumously took the charts by storm with this fragile, haunting cover of Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

Recorded years earlier, it was ignored upon its release – until Terry Wogan heard it, and immediately played it on Wake Up To Wogan, his Radio 2 breakfast show.

“The e-mails, phone calls and faxes flooded in”, said his producer Paul Walters. Subsequent plays brought the same response: people told how they had to stop their cars because they were in tears.

When Top of the Pops 2 aired a 1992 video of Cassidy singing the song in December 2000, the BBC switchboard was inundated with requests from viewers inquiring about the American singer; sales took off at an incredible speed.

Cassidy’s startlingly intimate interpretation of Over The Rainbow has long since become the standard.

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Broadchurch finale shocks viewers with big reveal

Broadchurch finale shocks viewers with big reveal

SPOILER ALERT – please be aware that major plot details are revealed in the following story

Olivia Colman, David Tennant and Julie HesmondhalghImage copyright
Colin Hutton

Broadchurch fans took to social media to post their reactions as the ITV crime drama reached its shocking finale on Monday night.

The third and final series ended with cab driver Clive’s 16-year-old son Michael (Deon Lee-Williams) revealed as Trish Winterman’s rapist, having been forced into it by his friend Leo Humphries (Chris Mason).

Humphries also admitted raping three other women previously.

The final episode attracted the drama’s biggest audience ever, with an average of 8.7 million viewers tuning in and a peak of 9.3 million, according to overnight figures.

The average figure also includes the number of viewers who switched on to watch the episode on ITV+1 an hour later.

The highest figure enjoyed by the show previously was the 8.6 million who tuned in to the series one finale back in 2013.

This final series – written by the show’s creator Chris Chibnall – has been widely praised for how it has handled its harrowing subject matter.

Actor Robert Lindsay praised Olivia Coleman, who plays detective sergeant Ellie Miller, writing: “#broadchurch is great TV but Olivia Coleman is probably the most honest actor and is a joy to watch her.”

TV presenter Gaby Roslin picked out actor Andrew Buchan, who plays Mark Latimer, for particular praise.

Latimer’s son was murdered in series one and he has been seen struggling to cope throughout series three.

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Leo was unrepentant when interviewed by police

She said: “When the award season happens I do hope #AndrewBuchan gets an award. Superb performance & utterly heartbreaking in #broadchurch @ITV.”

Other fans concurred – Jack Longstaff tweeted: “Brilliantly written. Loved @BroadchurchTV from start to finish.”

Emily Grace wrote: “Damn #broadchurch finale is making me physically sick. Never had so much hate toward a character before.”

‘Top of its game’

Critics were broadly positive about the finale, but many criticised certain elements of the series as the whole.

In his four-star review in The Telegraph, Michael Hogan wrote: “After a disappointing second series, this third chapter in Chibnall’s trilogy represented a return to the fine form of the debut run.

But he added that the dialogue during Leo’s confession “didn’t quite ring true – a rare misstep in a series which has strived for authenticity and procedural accuracy”.

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Metro‘s Claire Rutter said: “While it didn’t quite surpass the original series, Chris Chibnall and his team should take a bow as it did reaffirm that British crime drama can be at the top of its game and really keep you in suspense week by week.”

But, she added, in her three-star review: “This series didn’t live up to the intensity and suspense of ‘who killed Danny Latimer?’ stopping abruptly at the cusp of rabbit holes rather than exploring the warrens like season one leading to believable red herrings.”

Tom Eames praised the show but also sounded a dissenting note in his review for Digital Spy.

“Broadchurch at its best was one of the best crime dramas the UK has ever produced,” he said.

“But conversely, it can also be one of the most frustrating. Series three was much better than its disappointing predecessor, but it never quite caught the public’s imagination like its first run.”

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The Independent‘s Sally Newall gave the series finale four stars, adding that the show leaves behind “a legacy Chibnall should be proud of”.

“As cameras panned along those now familiar cliffs, it was hard not to feel a twinge of sadness for the end of Hardy and Miller, for now at least,” she said.

“David Tennant and Olivia Colman as the duo have managed to make us cry, laugh and really think – and left us wanting more.”

Writing in The Daily Mail, Jan Moir said some devotees may feel slightly cheated by the ending.

“I was convinced ex-husband Ian Winterman was the guilty party – but DS Miller’s rage and fury at the ghastliness of some men were majestic to behold.

“Her stellar performance was just one of the many things that made Broadchurch a hit – along with the magical location.”

Rapist and groomer Humphries, played by actor Chris Mason, was seen in shocking scenes in the police interview room coldly telling detectives Ellie Miller and Alec Hardy (Tennant) that he was “proud” of his crimes and that rape was “beautiful”.

Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support, a charity that advised writers on the ITV series, said the show performed “excellent work” in portraying the reality of rape.

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Twitter/UK Says No More

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Charities praised the series for its realistic portrayal of rape and its aftermath

And Avon and Somerset Police deputy chief constable Gareth Morgan said: “That was harrowing viewing but vital message landed. Rape is not sex. It’s about power and control.”

The series also focused on the prevalence of porn and charities such as UK Says No More lauded the series for highlighting such issues.

“#Broadchurch offered a powerful portrayal to the aftermath of rape and leaves the audience to start the conversation about porn & consent,” the charity posted on Twitter.

Julie Hesmondhalgh – best known for playing Hayley in Coronation Street – was also singled out for praise.

Rape Crisis England and Wales tweeted: “Ahead of tonight’s finale, thanks to @BroadchurchTV & @juliehes for a sensitive & thought-provoking portrayal.”

Lib Dem peer Meral Hussein-Ece also tweeted: “#Broadchurch brilliant in highlighting rape is not about sex, it’s only about male power & control. Victim never to blame, only the rapist.”

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Colin Hutton

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Miller and Hardy’s spiky yet affectionate relationship has been a big hit with viewers

Chris Chibnall said he wanted to show “best practice” in dealing with rape cases after speaking to various rape charities and the police.

This series has seen many twists and turns as Hardy and Miller strove to find the perpetrators.

The main suspects for the attack on Trish included her ex-husband Ian (Charlie Higson), her best friend’s husband Jim Atwood (Mark Bazeley), cab driver Clive Lucas (Sebastian Armesto) and Trish’s boss, shop owner Ed Burnett (Sir Lenny Henry).

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Did critics like the latest Marvel Guardians movie?

Did critics like the latest Marvel Guardians movie?

Guardians Of The Galaxy 2Image copyright
Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn’t out until 5 May but in an unusual move, Marvel has allowed a group of critics to offer their verdict extra early.

The film was unveiled for a group of press on Monday night who have been allowed to offer reaction as long as they don’t give away any spoilers.

And it’s all looking pretty positive for the team of superheroes.’s Steven Weintraub tweeted that the film “kept a smile on my face from beginning to end.”

He added: “Funny, action packed, emotional, and tons of surprises. Thumbs up.”

Hollywood Reporter’s Aaron Couch tweeted: “Don’t think I’ve heard so much laughter at a press screening. People seemed to really be digging Guardians Vol. 2. Can’t say more (yet).”

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Getty Images

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Gunn is returning for Vol. 3 of the franchise

Fandango’s Erik Davies wrote: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is exciting, funny, gorgeous & a helluva tearjerker. For many, it will become their new favourite Marvel movie.”

And Mashable’s movie reporter Angie J Han tweeted: “I say without hyperbole: #GotGVol2 is MCU at its very best. Grand adventure with intimate stakes. Uses every damn colour in the crayon box.”

Guardians 2 picks up on the adventures of Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel).

Official reviews aren’t due out until next week so the fact Disney and Marvel relaxed the rules on this occasion is probably a sign of how confident they are about the sequel.

The film opens in the UK on 28 April and in the US on 5 May.

And there’s more good news for Guardians fans – director James Gunn announced on Facebook earlier that he would be returning to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

“In the end, my love for Rocket, Groot, Gamora, Star-Lord, Yondu, Mantis, Drax, and Nebula – and some of the other forthcoming heroes – goes deeper than you guys can possibly imagine, and I feel they have more adventures to go on and things to learn about themselves and the wonderful and sometimes terrifying universe we all inhabit,” he told fans in his post on Tuesday.

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Dean Gaffney to return to EastEnders

Dean Gaffney to return to EastEnders

Dean Gaffney

Dean Gaffney will return to EastEnders after several years away from the soap, the BBC has announced.

The actor said he felt “so lucky” to be reprising his role as the Walford regular Robbie Jackson.

He previously starred in the show from 1993 until 2003 but has made the occasional brief appearance since then.

Gaffney said: “I’m really happy to be back. I’m so lucky to be given the chance to work again with such a talented group of people.”

Robbie was a troublesome teenager when he first arrived in Albert Square 24 years ago – but he soon became a favourite with viewers.

Fans will have to wait to find out why the character is returning to the series, as details of his comeback storyline are not yet known.

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