Film Review: Been So Long (2018)

A fatally muddled tone means Been So Long ends up less than the sum of its parts, despite glorious lead performances from Arinzé Kene and Michaela Coel

“People don’t want inclusivity mate, they want exclusivity. And something for the gluten-intolerant”

I really wanted to like Been So Long, and can imagine it having worked well on the stage (it played the Young Vic in 2009) but something has definitely been lost in translation with this screen adaptation here. It is mildly curious as the film is written by Ché Walker, scribe of the original play and the subsequent stage musical, but maybe this was a step too far?

One of the main problems for me is that crucial issue of tone. As a love story set in contemporary Camden, and in which Camden plays a central role, there’s a tendency towards gritty naturalism, particularly in showing the home lives of its protagonists, new ex-con Raymond (Arinzé Kene) and single mum of a disabled daughter Simone (Michaela Coel). Continue reading “Film Review: Been So Long (2018)”

News: The Mono Box launch The Monologue Library

I mean, just look at this absolute treasure trove of theatrical talent! 

 

I’m off to listen to Patsy Ferran read Tom Wells, and Gabby Wong read Alexi Kaye Campbell, and Sarah Niles read Winsome Pinnock and…and…

This incredible resource is free but like so many creative endeavours right now, would benefit hugely from your donations here

 

20 shows to look forward to in 2019

So many of the recommendations for shows to see next year focus on the West End. And for sure, I’m excited to catch big ticket numbers like All About Eve, Come From Away, and Waitress but I wanted to cast my eye a little further afield, so here’s my top tips for shows on the London fringe (plus one from the Barbican) and across the UK.

1 Medea, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam at the Barbican
Simon Stone’s sleekly contemporary recasting of Euripides is straight up amazing. Anchored by a storming performance from Marieke Heebink, it is as beautiful and brutal as they come. It’s also one of the few plays that has legit made me go ‘oh no’ out loud once a particular penny dropped. My review from 2014 is here but do yourself a favour and don’t read it until you’ve seen it.

Macbeth, Watermill Theatre
2018 saw some disappointing Macbeths and I was thus ready to swear off the play for 2019. But the Watermill Ensemble’s decision to tackle the play will certainly break that resolve, Paul Hart’s innovative direction of this spectacular actor-musician team will surely break the hoodoo…

3 Noughts and Crosses, Derby Theatre, and touring
Pilot Theatre follow on from their strong Brighton Rock with this Malory Blackman adaptation by Sabrina Mahfouz, a Young Adult story but one which promises to speak to us all. Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2019”

Review: The Etienne Sisters, Theatre Royal Stratford East

“I can’t believe my own sister would come with this thievery and anarchy to my door…”

Just a couple of weeks ago, Matt Trueman penned a piece for What’s On Stage about the lack of experimentation in British musical theatre and so the arrival of The Etienne Sisters at the Theatre Royal Stratford East is right on cue. Renewing the creative partnership that produced last year’s smouldering Klook’s Last Stand, this new musical was written by Ché Walker with songs by Anoushka Lucas and additional songs contributed by Sheila Atim (who also starred in Klook’s…), it’s a fascinatingly freeform experiment in jazz virtuosity and soulful discovery.

Led by Nikki Yeoh’s stunning work from the piano, this “play with music” has that music stitched into its very existence, its narrative folds unwind as much from the singing as the speaking to give a thrilling sense of integration to this tale of family strife. Sisters Tree and Ree are mourning the death of their mother and the arrival of their half-sister Bo, who they haven’t spoken to in five years, brings even more disruption to a time of considerable emotional upheaval. But with trouble comes tenderness too, the weight of past history making up for present difficulties.  Continue reading “Review: The Etienne Sisters, Theatre Royal Stratford East”

Review: Klook’s Last Stand, Park Theatre

“His smile’s like the sun 
I’m the bullet, he’s the gun”

Continuing programming that is eclectic to say the least, the Park Theatre continues to bamboozle audiences since opening last year and at the moment, has a couple of productions that are on the good side. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is doing great work in the larger space and Ché Walker’s Klook’s Last Stand brings an interesting slice of musical theatre to Finsbury Park, albeit one which is hamstrung by desperately predictable plotting.

Klook probably sits more in the play with songs category for Anoushka Lucas and Omar Lyefook’s score – performed brilliantly by Rio Kai throughout – is like the lifeblood of the piece, a blues-influenced jamming session that takes in poetry and spoken word as Ako Mitchell and Sheila Atim deliver knockout performances. Mitchell’s Klook is a reinvigorated ex-con and Atim’s younger Vinette a runaway would-be writer and the depiction of their new relationship and its intensity is just excellent. Continue reading “Review: Klook’s Last Stand, Park Theatre”

Review: Blue Surge, Finborough

“I thought I could pay for something a little extra…”

Opening with a pair of botched raids on a massage parlour suspected of offering additional services, the Finborough’s latest UK premiere – that of Rebecca Gilman’s Blue Surge – bustles with relationships between cops and hookers, discussions about the American class system and exploring whether you can ever truly escape your past. Set in a mid-sized Midwestern city in the recent past, Curt is a hard-working honourable cop, who with his doofus of a partner Doug was responsible for ballsing up the raids and thus potentially jeopardising a promotion. They both find themselves drawn to two of the workers they encountered there though and whilst Doug falls into a relationship with the ditzy Heather, Curt tries to play the knight in shining armour and rescue Sandy, with whom he feels a great affinity, putting both his job and his relationship with fiancée Beth severely at risk.

For Beth is middle-class and choosing to slum it as an artist and Curt finds it impossible to really connect with her as he is from a solidly working-class background , his upbringing close to the poverty line and continuing, he believes, to shape his life even now. Connecting with Sandy, who reveals a similarly broken childhood which has directly resulted in her career choice, he sees a kindred spirit despite the 20 year age gap and a quirky relationship of sorts starts to grow between them. But whilst he wants to rescue her, she doesn’t actually want rescuing and so good-intentioned as he is, Curt’s actions threaten to jeopardise everything. Continue reading “Review: Blue Surge, Finborough”