Review: Circa, Old Red Lion Theatre

Tom Ratcliffe’s Circa feels just too fragmentary and ephemeral at the Old Red Lion Theatre to really convince

“Most people get to be happy with one person. I don’t see why I should have it any different”

I was a big fan of Tom Ratcliffe’s VELVET at the VAULT Festival and so was intrigued to catch this production of his debut play Circa at the Old Red Lion Theatre. But where VELVET taps right into contemporary culture with its gay perspective on the #MeToo era, Circa feels curiously dated.

The play follows the amorous adventures of a gay man at different stages in his life, ostensibly tracking the way in which gay relationships have developed over the decades. It’s a nifty conceit but one which struggles to come to full fruition here, one man’s shags over 30 years not necessarily equating to the evolution of modern gay life. Continue reading “Review: Circa, Old Red Lion Theatre”

TV Review: Humans Series 3

I can’t help but think Humans might have run its course as a uniquely intelligent and British sci-fi drama

“…the coming together of man and machine. You can change the course of history…”

I’ve enjoyed where Humans has taken us thus far, and the beginning of a third series seemed promising. But as I got to the end of this season and twist after twist pointed at where the story might well continue, it felt like I might have reached my expiration date with the show.

The human/synth baby that Mattie is carrying, Niska’s transformation into ur-Niska, V’s survival…it’s hard not to feel that any of these feel far less interesting than where Humans are trod thus far in its carefully balanced but uniquely British brand of sci-fi. Continue reading “TV Review: Humans Series 3”

Review: Once In A Lifetime, Young Vic

“You don’t know anything about anything, George, and if what they say about the movies is true, you’ll go far”

The end of the silent movie era and the arrival of the talkies has proved fertile ground for many a storyteller, not least Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s immortal Singin’ in the Rain, but Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s Once In A Lifetime has a serious claim to being one of the first, premiering as it did in 1930 and its influence is plain to see. It has received major revivals from Trevor Nunn at the RSC (1979) and Edward Hall at the National (2005) and now it is the turn of Richard Jones at the Young Vic, in a production notable for marking the theatrical stage debut of Harry Enfield.

In a new adaptation by Hart’s son Christopher, Once In A Lifetime follows the trials and tribulations of three workaday vaudeville artists from New York who decide to throw in their lot and ship out to Hollywood. With the first ever talking motion picture doing great business, they opt to capitalise on the trend by opening an elocution school to help all those actors who suddenly need to speak on screen but even in its earliest days, the crowded corridors of Tinseltown prove a tough nut to crack with any number of wannabe starlets, studio heads and screenwriters competing for the limelight. Continue reading “Review: Once In A Lifetime, Young Vic”

TV Review: The Rack Pack, BBC iPlayer

“Think of it as mental snooker”

For somebody whose exposure to snooker was mainly limited to BBC1’s Saturday night show Big Break (and how I loved the trick shots), you might not have expected a drama about snooker to be high on my list of things to watch. But I’m nothing if not tricksy and the announcement of a play about snooker in Sheffield, The Nap featuring a rare foray into theatre for Jack O’Connell, has left me wondering if indeed I really want to schlep up to South Yorkshire to sit through a play about a sport of which I know very little.

Plus The Rack Pack also has a Treadaway (Luke) in it, which always ranks highly in my book, and so I sat down to watch it, hoping that John Virgo might at least have a tiny cameo in it. Written by Mark Chappell, Alan Connor and Shaun Pye, the comedy drama focuses on the rivalry between Alex Higgins and Steve Davis during the 70s and 80s when televised snooker was becoming increasingly popular and so the game became more professional but also more commercialised, each man having their own role to play in this. Continue reading “TV Review: The Rack Pack, BBC iPlayer”

Review: Me, As A Penguin, Arcola

“We all get a bit down Stitch, that’s why there’s dance routines”

Me, As A Penguin is a slightly surreal but gently affectionate tale of the struggle of four twenty-somethings in the search for personal identity. Marking the professional full length debut of playwright Tom Wells in London, it takes up residence in the small Studio 2 at Dalston’s Arcola Theatre. Set in Hull, Liz is nine months pregnant and hosting Stitch, her shy gay brother who’s trying to escape life at home in a tiny village stuck working in a knitting shop, but he’s struggling a bit. He’s not connecting with Liz’s partner Mark and connecting too much with Mark’s predatory gay friend Dave. What follows is a stonkingly well-written tale of stolen penguins, experimental knitting and a whole lot of Battenberg cake.

It is fast-paced, contemporary and extremely funny, with hidden depths that ensure some real emotional investment, a most promising debut play indeed. Where it is particularly strong, and in a most pleasing way for me, is in its depiction of its two gay characters. Without resorting to employing beautiful young men to wander around shirtless, something several gay plays in London are currently guilty of, Wells has crafted two wildly different yet ultimately convincing and recognisable young men. Ian Bonar is simply outstanding as the ever-tongue-tied, painfully shy Stitch, struggling to make the transition to the (relatively) metropolitan gay lifestyle offered by Hull and deal with the emotions provoked by finally embracing his homosexuality. And with the penguin-suited (don’t ask!) Dave, we have as realistic and uncompromising a gay character as I’ve seen recently: arrogant, unashamedly horny, Daniel Abelson invests the right level of self-assuredness that tramples over all around him to great effect. Continue reading “Review: Me, As A Penguin, Arcola”