TV Review: Beautiful People (Series 1)

Perfect fun for lockdown viewing, Series 1 of Beautiful People is an indisputable camp classic

“Reading’s such a dump guys, I don’t know how you do it”

There’s camp and then there’s camp. The first episode of Series 1 of Beautiful People contains, among other things, Égoïste advert reenactments, Tennessee Williams-based inner monologues to the tune of  ‘I Will Survive’, future dames Sarah Niles and Olivia Colman wrestling to the tune of ‘Spice Up Your Life’, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor covering ‘Jolene’. Naturally, it is huge amounts of fun.

Written by Jonathan Harvey from Simon Doonan’s memoirs, this 2008 comedy drama follows the life of thirteen-year-old Simon, who isn’t letting the fact that he lives in the sururban drudgery of Reading get in the way of being absolutely fabulous. He dreams of moving to London but until then, we get to see tales from his eventful childhood. Continue reading “TV Review: Beautiful People (Series 1)”

Review: Pieces of String, Mercury Theatre online

Finally, a show I haven’t seen before being streamed! And what a beauty Pieces of String turned out to be. 

“Sometimes it’s good to remember
‘Sometimes it’s good to forget'”

For all that I’ve been recommending many of online theatre options to all and sundry, I haven’t actually partaken in many of them myself. In many cases, it has been shows I’ve seen before that are being featured and there’s an element of not wanting to sully their memory there; there’s also a sadness that theatregoing as we knew it might not be returning for the longest time.

But then Colchester’s Mercury Theatre came up with the VE Day treat I was actually waiting for, a showing of their 2018 hit musical Pieces of String. I had a ticket for this, and a train ticket come to think of it but for the life of me, I can’ remember why I ended up not making it, so this rare opportunity to finally see a show that I hadn’t seen and wanted to see was much welcomed. Continue reading “Review: Pieces of String, Mercury Theatre online”

Lockdown film review: Departure (2015)

Not even Juliet Stevenson and gay French holiday romances can really make this Departure land in a satisfying way

“We’re in France, French people talk about these things”

Near the top of my list of films to finally get around to watching, where it has been for a while, is Departure, written and directed by Andrew Steggall. His is a name that is familiar to me from the days when I regularly reviewed short films, as The Door was one of the more moodily memorable of those. Departure marked his feature film debut and with its heady mixture of gay boys on French holidays and Juliet Stevenson, it’s a wonder it has taken me this long to get round to watching it.

In some ways it does live up to that anticipation. Alex Lawther plays Elliott, a moody teenager marooned in the Languedoc village where his mother is packing up their family holiday home. His attention is far more focused on the strapping Clément who ends up helping with the move  and in turn, offering something for Stevenson’s Beatrice to also be swayed by. Lawther plays the hypersensitive Elliott with a neatly sharp edge of self-absorption and what a joy it must be to have Stevenson in your cast – you can just write *cries in car* and she delivers heartbreaking work. Continue reading “Lockdown film review: Departure (2015)”

Not-a-review: DIVA: LIVE FROM HELL, Brockley Jack

A show I was really looking forward to and a theatre I love dearly – this mustn’t be the end for either DIVA: LIVE FROM HELL or the Jack Studio Theatre

“So sit down, shut up and listen to my story”

A musical riffing on All About Eve? Check.
An exciting performer fresh from a stand-out turn in Operation Mincemeat? Check. 
An award-winning fringe theatre with some of the friendliest folk in town? Check.

Any show that refers to itself as eternal campy torment automatically goes to the top of my list and I had high hopes for DIVA: LIVE FROM HELL, a one-man musical with book and characters by Sean Patrick Monahan and music & lyrics by Alexander Sage Oyen. Not least because it was going to give us another chance to see Jak Malone up close and intimately, his Hester having proven to be an extraordinary thing (well worth checking out if/when Operation Mincemeat returns). 

For now though, the Jack Studio Theatre has suspended all performances until June 2020.


For The Brockley Jack
You can donate to the theatre via this page here
You can follow the theatre on Twitter here
You can sign up to their mailing list here to get their announcements about future plans, once the dust finally settles 

For DIVA: LIVE FROM HELL
You can follow the show on Twitter here
You can check out their page on StageFaves here
You can engage with Jak Malone on his website here
And you can watch a sneak peak trailer for the show below:

 

TV Review: Last Tango in Halifax, Series 5

The short and sweet fifth series of Sally Wainwright’s excellent Last Tango in Halifax is a much-needed shot of the warm and fuzzies 

“I’m not deluded. Nice things do make me happy”

With an almost unerring sense of timing, Sally Wainwright gave the nation a shot of the warm and fuzzies with the perfectly short and sweet fifth series of Last Tango in Halifax. Having to wait for three years for it certainly built anticipation but it also had a powerful effect on the storytelling. In a series that has long been rooted in everyday life, allowing so much of that life to happen before revisiting them (as opposed to the laziness of a time jump) really deepens the context. Also, the official confirmation of the Wainwright shared universe was a real delight, how I would watch these avengers assemble!

So the ‘opposites attract’ element of Alan and Celia’s late-blooming relationship is now manifested in deeper ideological differences on subjects such as Brexit. And Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid play this sense of shifting priorities beautifully as his attention turns to his new job at the supermarket and hers is swallowed up the potential of a new kitchen. And as their families look on slightly aghast, there’s a real sense over the four episodes that this core marriage might actually be in peril. Continue reading “TV Review: Last Tango in Halifax, Series 5”

Review: V&V, VAULT Festival

From Virginia and Vita, to Mia and Lottie, Misha Pinnington’s swooningly romantic V&V explores how technology has impacted communication in relationships at the VAULT Festival

“I’ve been doing something so odd, so queer”

The business of conducting a love affair has alwas been particularly charged, as senses are heightened in the erotic rush and emotions brought closer to the surface. But in the world of romance and relationships, communication is key. Misha Pinnington’s V&V explores how even with a century of technological advancement, telling someone how you feel can be an absolute minefield.

From the carefully composed letters between Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf to the scrolling message screen of the dating app on which Mia and Lottie meet, Pinnington compares and contrasts these love stories, asking what if anything has really changed for matters of the heart – lesbian, straight  or otherwise. And in her smartly directed production for Sprezzatura, it proves a deeply affecting and romantic experience. Continue reading “Review: V&V, VAULT Festival”

Review: Too Pretty To Punch, VAULT Festival

Some stunning animation work makes Too Pretty To Punch a powerful exploration of growing up trans at the VAULT Festival

“I am a human through and through
Whether I am or not is nothing to do with you”

You want to say it gets better, and it many ways it does. But for every two steps forward in the case of advancing LGBT+ – and specifically trans – awareness and acceptance, there’s at least one step back – just look at Suzanne Moore’s Guardian-sanctioned transphobia this very week.

So taking the opportunity to actually listen to trans voices, to experience just a little of what it might be like to be on the receiving end of such opinions, has never felt more significant. Transgender/non-binary multimedia performer’s Edalia Day’s Too Pretty To Punch offers such a chance right now, as they explore the experience of growing up trans in a society that is just a little too keen on people fitting neatly into boxes. Continue reading “Review: Too Pretty To Punch, VAULT Festival”

Review: IMOGENÉ: the improvised pop concert, VAULT Festival

IMOGENÉ: the improvised pop concert tickles my improv cravings in quite some style at the VAULT Festival

“I’m used to playing stadiums”

It’s no secret I love a bit of improv so an advisory warning of “strong chance of audience interaction, costume changes, excessive glitter and oversharing” is like manna from heaven. IMOGENÉ: the improvised pop concert promises all of this and delivers more in a highly amusing hour of made-up pop songs, crowd-surfing antics and audience banter which is deceptively slight, smuggling in some on-the-point truths about some weighty themes.

The show sets itself up as a rare chance to see an intimate concert of the megastar IMOGENÉ (once she’s got off the helicopter from Tokyo natch) and since she’s about to head into the studio with Mark Ronson, we gotta help her write some new songs. So dial down your inhibitions and toss your suggestions into the hat as there’s nothing quite like having a spangly leotard serenade you and lead you into some kind of new enlightened state of being. Continue reading “Review: IMOGENÉ: the improvised pop concert, VAULT Festival”

Review: ARABITCH, VAULT Festival

ARABITCH at VAULT Festival is the queer Arab clown show you didn’t know you needed, and comes with some top Arab pop recommendations

“There aren’t any Lebanese lesbian bookclubs around”

You don’t get many queer Arab clown shows to the pound so that alone (along with one of the best titles of this year’s VAULT Festival) makes ARABITCH an intriguing prospect. And as a work in progress, it certainly has the ingredients for a powerful exploration of intersectional gender politics, specifically how to resolve being both a member of the LGBTQ+ community and Arabic. 

Writer/performer Sara Dawood does this through a wide-ranging hour which feels like its heart lies in cabaret, an aura well-cultivated in Serafina Cusack’s production and the intimacy of the Pit. Participatory game shows sit alongside spoken word interludes, confessional coming out stories are followed by exuberant dance, there’s even a measure of dragged-up time-travelling body-swapping. Continue reading “Review: ARABITCH, VAULT Festival”

Review: Dumbledore Is So Gay, VAULT Festival

Who couldn’t love a LGBT+ rom-com – Robert Holtom and Tom Wright’s Dumbledore Is So Gay is like a gorgeously warm embrace at the VAULT Festival

“It’s not how I imagined it, but it’s great”

There’s something beautifully sweet about Dumbledore Is So Gay, a LGBT+ rom-com set in a world of magical realism that gives you hope that things can sometimes get better. Written by Robert Holtom (The Cluedo Club Killings) and directed by Tom Wright (My Dad’s Gap Year, which I now wish I’d seen), it is an adorably funny piece of theatre with a fair amount of potential.

Age 12, Jack can’t stop getting a boner in French class every time he looks at his best friend Ollie but as his parents change the channel when Graham Norton comes on, he knows he can’t be honest about himself. As the years go by, key relationships develop but not always in the way he is expecting so at a crucial moment, he decides to whip out his time-turner and do it all over again, only better this time. Continue reading “Review: Dumbledore Is So Gay, VAULT Festival”