Review: Tiny Dynamite, Old Red Lion

“I know what fucking surf and turf is”

It is always fascinating to revisit the early work of writers who have gone on to bigger things and Tiny Dynamite offers that chance with Abi Morgan, screenwriter of such hits as Shame, The Iron Lady and Suffragette. This play, revived by David Loumgair for Time Productions, is somewhat of a challenge in the forthrightly enigmatic way in which it has been written and a set of creative decisions that show a pleasing affinity for taking risk.

As ever, not all of though decisions pay off. But when they do, Tiny Dynamite is full of small surprises. Anna Reid’s design introduces water onto the small stage of the Old Red Lion to powerful effect, especially when combined with the electric effect of Zoe Spurr’s lighting. And the gender-swapping of one of the three characters demonstrates the kind of active commitment to redressing gender inequality that remains all too rare in the theatre industry. Continue reading “Review: Tiny Dynamite, Old Red Lion”

Review: Winter Hill, Octagon

“Heroism is danger and risk, and frankly, until now, it’s been male”

Plays set in places I knew well as a child unexpectedly looks like it might be one of the theatrical memes of the year – Years of Sunlight explored the history of the neighbouring town where I learned to swim and now we have Timberlake Wertenbaker’s new drama Winter Hill, named for the West Pennine peak that was the location of many a childhood walk. 

Wertenbaker’s play is set on the Winter Hill of the near future, as opposed to the not-so-near past, where a chunk of the land has been sold to developers who are constructing a luxury skyscraper hotel there, set to completely alter the way that the hill dominates the landscape and the town of Bolton below it. As a local women’s reading group sneaks onto the building site to have their meetings, hidden agendas bubble to the surface to make matters a little more serious than whether they’ve got enough wine to get through the evening. Continue reading “Review: Winter Hill, Octagon”

TV Review: Humans Series 1

“You’re just a stupid machine aren’t you”

I wasn’t going to write Humans up but I’ve spoken so enthusiastically about it with several people since I watched the whole thing in three days and so thought I’d better recommend it even further. If there’s any justice in the world, Gemma Chan will win all sorts of awards for her performance as Anita (later Mia), the Synth or human-like android that has become the must-have accessory for domestic service in this parallel present-day universe. 

Anita is bought by the Hawkins family who soon start to twig that something isn’t right in the way she is behaving and as Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley’s drama continues over its 8 episodes, we come to see that the lines between human and machine have been considerably blurred by technological advancement and its potential to be exploited identified as a key priority for the nefarious powers-that-be.

Continue reading “TV Review: Humans Series 1”

Review: Perfect Match, Watford Palace Theatre

“Oh it’s online? It’s an online thing? You should’ve said…”

Part of Watford Palace Theatre’s Ideal World Season, Gary Owen’s new play Perfect Match looks at the role that the internet has to play in our relationships – whether forming new ones through cast-iron guaranteed dating services or shaking up long-existing partnerships that may or may not have gone stale. Anna and Joe have been together for nine years and Lorna and Aaron six, but when a computer algorithm declares Anna and Aaron to be perfect soulmates, they meet up for a dirty sojourn in Stevenage, declare the connection is indeed real and decide to ditch their other halves and elope to Gretna Green. 

Kelly Hotten’s Anna is a wonderful combination of sweetness and steel – caringly concerned that no-one is too upset but absolutely determined to get her own way. And Tom Berish is often hilarious as the dumbly delicious Aaron, most amusing in his blokish behaviour. But dumping someone else for your perfect match isn’t quite as easy as all that and the pair, in their vastly different ways have to extricate themselves from the lives of the people with whom they have spent years and Joe and Lorna are not about to make it easy for them. Eva Jane Willis’ professional debut is a vivid delight as the brutally blunt Lorna and Ken Nwosu’s Joe quietly captures the sympathetic centre of the story. Continue reading “Review: Perfect Match, Watford Palace Theatre”