Review: Bunny, White Bear

“I prefer surprise to suspense. 
But that’s basically because I feel suspense all the time”

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has catapulted Jack Thorne’s already fast-rising star into the higher echelons of British writing talent, so it is always interesting to look back to earlier work to see if the seeds of success can be spotted. Perhaps with this in mind, newly formed company Fabricate Company have opted to revive his 2010 Fringe First-winning one-woman play Bunny at the tidily renovated White Bear (pub grub definitely recommended, as is the exceptionally friendly bar service).

Recounted by the breathlessly energetic and recklessly teenage Katie, Bunny takes a snapshot of her life in the racially divided estates of Luton over the course of a hot summer’s afternoon. A messy encounter between her older boyfriend Abe and an Asian kid on a bike spirals into something more profoundly disturbing when Abe’s friends get involved and she goes along for the ride, knowing full well there’s more than just a dropped ice-cream at stake here. Continue reading “Review: Bunny, White Bear”

TV Review: The Crown, Series 1

“To do nothing is the hardest job of all” 

It’s taken a little time to getting round to watching all of The Crown because, in a first for me, I found it impossible to binge-watch the show. Even with Netflix kindly providing offline downloads just at the point where I had a lot of travelling to do, Peter Morgan’s drama was lots of fun to watch but rarely captured the buzzy energy that has accompanied much online programming. Because it many ways it isn’t like much of Netflix’s previous output, it really is an encroachment into BBC Sunday night and as such, I felt it worked best spread out in almost weekly installments.

That’s partly down to the nature of the subject material, we’re not likely to get many surprises in a detailed retelling of the history of the House of Windsor. But it is also due to Morgan’s writing which tends a little to the formulaic, especially in the middle part of the series, which is when my interest was most in danger of waning. The opening two episodes started brightly but once the shock of becoming monarch was over, the rhythm became very much one of someone close to the queen has an issue and she has to weigh personal desires against public duty, the latter always winning out. Continue reading “TV Review: The Crown, Series 1”

Review: The Taming of the Shrew, Above the Arts

“Why, there be good women in the world”

At the heart of Custom/Practice’s Verve festival – exploring shifting relations between minority groups and the theatre – is this gender-flipped production of The Taming of the Shrew. Indubitably one of the more challenging of Shakespeare’s plays, contemporary companies thus have to work a little harder to make it ‘work’ for them – Propeller played up the Christopher Sly framing device to confront notions of masculinity and power to great effect but here, director Rae Mcken excises it to plunge us straight into a world where women are ruling the roost.

For pretty much every character save Grumio is being played by someone of the opposite sex as someone of the opposite sex but further blurring the boundaries, costumes suggest the original gender. So Martina Laird’s Petruchio arrives looking for a husband by striding onto the stage somewhere between matador and pirate in resplendent gold satin and Tim Bowie’s Bianca bristles under his mother’s edicts whilst wearing make-up, heels and a corset over his tapered joggers. It’s an inventive and challenging take that forces constant questioning about gender roles and society’s role in enforcing them. Continue reading “Review: The Taming of the Shrew, Above the Arts”