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RD Recommends: November 2023

6 min read

RD Recommends: November 2023
This month for our RD Recommends feature, the Reader’s Digest editorial team recommends documentary films, TV shows that cover psychological horror and the royalty, a podcast and some festive live shows. We hope you find something you love!

TV show: The Fall of the House of Usher

Halloween is behind us but that’s no reason not to dip your toes into Mike Flanagan’s latest spooky offering, The Fall of the House of Usher. Named after Edgar Allan Poe’s short story of the same name, the show makes references to much of the acclaimed Gothic writer’s work, but you don’t need to be a literary fiend to enjoy it. The series offers twists and gore as it traces the mysterious and often gruesome deaths of the Usher family patriarch’s children.
Fans of Flanagan’s earlier work such as The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass will delight in spotting familiar faces such as Flanagan’s wife and longtime collaborator Kate Siegel. The Fall of the House of Usher tells a gripping tale of sibling rivalry, family strife and good old-fashioned horror, and you won’t be able to look away—even if you want to!
Alice Gawthrop

Event: Swing Into Christmas with the Down for the Count Orchestra 

It’s time to start feeling festive and what better way to get in the spirit than with a night out seeing incredibly talented musicians and vocalists playing Christmas classics! Including the likes of Winter Wonderland and The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting), the 28-piece Down for the Count Orchestra will get you smiling with swing as the holiday season approaches.
"The 28-piece Down for the Count Orchestra will get you smiling with swing for the holiday season"
Down for the Count also recreate swing and jazz favourites from Nat “King” Cole, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and many more, with introductions to the history of the songs from principal conductor Mike Paul-Smith. A truly heart-warming and joy-filled experience, Down for the Count are a must-see live show (and you can get their new album Swing Into Christmas too!). Get your tickets now and see them near you across the UK in November and December.
Ian Chaddock

Podcast: How to Fail with Elizabeth Day, Season 18, Episode 10 (Claudia Winkleman)

how to fail podcast
The 18th season of Elizabeth Day’s brilliant podcast concludes with an episode focused on presenter and broadcaster Claudia Winkleman. Listening to this podcast—which (in Day’s own words) “celebrates the things that haven’t gone right”. It always feels like having a cosy chat with two friends, and this feeling is emphasised with Claudia, who many of us welcome into our homes every Saturday through her BBC Radio 2 show or by watching her antics hosting Strictly Come Dancing.
The speed with which Winkleman’s brain works and the safe, comfortable atmosphere that Elizabeth Day creates for her guests mean that the pair flit from topic to topic with the ease of friends who have known each other for years—despite only first swapping messages last year after the success of the BAFTA-winning show The Traitors, which Claudia presents. I’d definitely recommend this episode if you want to learn more about this national treasure, including the lessons her parents have taught her and her hatred of perfection.
Georgia Harris

Film: Beyond Utopia

A remarkable documentary directed by Madeleine Gavin, Beyond Utopia takes audiences on the perilous odyssey of North Korean defectors. A vivid portrayal of the determination of those who dare to escape oppression, it won the US Documentary Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival. The documentary introduces us to a mother, forcibly separated from her child, driven by an unrelenting desire to reunite. We witness a family of five, including small children and an elderly grandmother, on a treacherous journey through unforgiving terrain in pursuit of a better life. A South Korean man of unwavering faith aids these souls on their path to liberty.
"Beyond Utopia takes audiences along on the perilous odyssey of North Korean defectors"
The film is as heart-wrenching as it is eye-opening. It exposes the steep price paid by defectors: families left behind endure punishment, while escapees must unlearn everything they’ve known since birth. It sensitively portrays the psychological battles these individuals face as they grapple with their identities and the depths of indoctrination. It also reveals shocking facts about their past lives, from the grim reality of citizens’ excrement collection for manure, to the profound wonder at the simple pleasure of a pressurised shower, serving as a stark reminder of the dire conditions in North Korea.
The brutalities depicted, including torture, beatings and labour camps, draw chilling parallels to history’s darkest chapters and serve as a vital reminder that stories like these painfully persist in the 21st century. Ultimately, Beyond Utopia leaves us with a profound sense of gratitude for the freedoms we often take for granted. The poignant line uttered by one escapee, “We were just born in the wrong country,” will linger on your mind long after the credits roll.
Eva Mackevic

TV show: The Crown, Season 6

The Crown season six poster
On November 16, part one of the final season (season six) of Netflix’s hit TV show, The Crown, will be released. The show is a dramatisation of events that took place in the royal house, beginning in the months preceding Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne. However, the newest, and final, season will follow Princess Diana’s death and the years Tony Blair was Prime Minister.
The show has always had an amazing cast, with greats such as Olivia Coleman, Claire Foy, Gillian Anderson and Emma Corrin each playing the iconic people of modern British history, and this season is no different. The season is set to be a dramatic and controversial one too, which will surely spark much debate about happenings within the royal family, so it’s definitely not one to miss.
Owen Scott

Film: Free Party: A Folk History

At this year’s Doc N Roll festival, I had the pleasure of viewing Free Party: A Folk History, Aaron Trinder’s documentary about the intersection between the UK’s traveller movement and the early Nineties free parties. Nowadays, British dance music is a £5.2 billion economy, but between 1988 and 1994, its unlicensed predecessor became a testing ground for an alternative lifestyle.
"It recalls euphoric gatherings alongside the state’s violent attempts to stamp them out"
The film interviews members of sound systems like Spiral Tribe and DiY, and splices it with archive footage of the acid house parties that popped up across the countryside. It recalls euphoric gatherings alongside the state’s violent attempts to stamp them out, all the way to Castlemorton and the Criminal Justice Bill. Trinder makes the case that, far from the apolitical escapism that many now associate with raving, these parties shaped how activists today organise protests. If the audience’s applause is anything to go by, that creative and communal spirit of the Second Summer of Love lives on in more than memory. Catch screenings across the UK and Europe in November and December.
Becca Inglis

Event: Northern Ballet’s Beauty and the Beast

Northern Ballet's Beauty and the Beast ballet poster
Anyone who says it’s grim up North certainly hasn’t seen the delights of Newcastle Upon-Tyne’s tantalising Theatre Royal, or the delightful spectacle of one of the many ballets, stage shows and musicals that adorn the nineteenth century stage throughout the year. This November, ahead of the feel-good Christmas pantos and carol performances, Northern Ballet are reviving their dance adaptation of the 18th-century fairytale, Beauty and the Beast, originally penned by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villenueve in France and made famous by Disney.
If you can’t make it to Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, located on Grey Street—once voted the finest street in the Britain—Northern Ballet are touring this performance around Nottingham and Norwich throughout November, with final performances in their hometown of Leeds in December.
Annie Dabb
Banner photo: Down for the Count Orchestra 
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