TV Review: I May Destroy You

The best TV show of the year? Definitely so far…Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You is just superb

“Just look in the mirror, you know what I mean? It’s really uncomfortable and unnerving for everyone”

Has ‘the grey area’ ever seemed so interesting? Probing into the complexities of real life and fully embracing the fact that there are rarely ever any simple answers, Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You has felt like a real breath of bracingly fresh air.

Sexual consent for straights and gays, dealing with trauma on a personal and institutional level, the perils of buying into social media hype, portraying the scale of casual sex and drug use whilst acknowledging its inherent pitfalls, examining how we bury memories from both the recent and distant past and that’s just scratching the surface. Continue reading “TV Review: I May Destroy You”

Review: Nine Night, National Theatre

Ferociously funny and blisteringly intense in its depiction of a Jamaican family dealing with grief, Nine Night is a surefire success for the National Theatre – book now!

“When yuh get to Heaven, yuh see, God will deal wid yuh”

Grief is universal, but the world of Natasha Gordon’s debut play Nine Night is entirely specific. When Gloria, the grandmother of a Jamaican family passes away, her London home becomes the focus of the Nine Night ceremony, wherein the local community and family of the deceased gather to mourn the passing but also to celebrate the life with love, laughter and no small amount of rum.

But nine days of a wake can take its toll on a family under strain and here, Gordon sets up an archetypal family drama. The sibling resentful of being the one who shouldered the burden of caring, the sibling who wants to sell the house quick because of money troubles, the other half-sibling who got left behind… Plus the ever-present remnants of the older generation who never stop fussing, and a secret pregnancy to deal with, tensions just keep rising.   Continue reading “Review: Nine Night, National Theatre”

Review: The Twilight Zone, Almeida

“We’re not looking for a needle in a haystack but for an alien in a diner”

There’s a scene in the second half of The Twilight Zone which is almost unbearably, poignantly astute on the subject of race relations in the US. Never mind that it was written in the 60s, it says so much about the America of today that it can’t help but chill the bone about the predictability of the baser notes of human nature. It is though, the only moment in this theatrical adaptation of the classic TV show that registered any real impact with me.

Anne Washburn (she of the extraordinary Mr Burns) has fashioned this play out of eight of the stories told by The Twilight Zone and presents them as if shuffling a pack of cards. Some stories broken up and interwoven with each other, some told in toto, all seeking to disrupt and disturb with shocks and scares and no little amount of wry humour too. It makes for a strangely suitable piece of counter-intuitive festive programming but ultimately felt insubstantial to me.  Continue reading “Review: The Twilight Zone, Almeida”

TV Review: Liar (Series 1)

A strong opening concept makes the first half of series one of Liar a must-see, until convention creeps in to mar the second.

“I feel like I’m in Dawson’s Creek

From the very beginnings of Liar, it is tough to like central character Laura Nielson. She’s the type of person who goes canoeing in the morning before going to work, she’s the kind of secondary school teacher who happily flips the bird to unruly students, heck she even sings to Sam Smith in the shower. But before you can get too annoyed with her for being someone who doesn’t prebook her taxi before going on a date, the hammer blow of date rape lands heavily to reshape our preconceptions.

The cleverness of Harry and Jack Williams’ series, at least for its first few episodes, is how it toys with those expectations. As Laura reels from the aftermath of her dinner with handsome surgeon Andrew Earlham, the shattered narrative structure flits repeatedly from present to past as it also switches perspective. It’s a neatly disorientating device that constantly calls into question the ‘truth’ of what we’re hearing or seeing, really ramping up the ‘he said she said’ format as consequences unravel dramatically for the both of them. Continue reading “TV Review: Liar (Series 1)”

Cast for the Almeida’s Twilight Zone announced

 
The Almeida have revealed the cast for their forthcoming Christmas show The Twilight Zone which promises a different take on seasonal fare! Directed by Richard Jones and adapted by Anne Washburn, responsible for the brilliant mindfuck that was Mr Burns, I reckon this will be one to look out for.

Cast includes: Oliver Alvin-Wilson, Franc Ashman, Adrianna Bertola, Lizzy Connolly, Amy Griffiths, Neil Haigh, Cosmo Jarvis, John Marquez, Matthew Needham, and Sam Swainsbury,

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 5

“I’ve seen many things, my friend. But you’re right. Nothing’s quite as wonderful as the things you see”

So as David Tennant’s Ten regenerates into Matt Smith’s Eleven, Doctor Who also changed showrunner/lead writer/executive producer/oddjob man as Steven Moffat took over the reins from Russell T Davies. The pressure was on both to deliver – the relatively unknown Smith had low expectations, Moffat had sky-high ones due to his much-garlanded writing – and I don’t think you can argue that they didn’t. Smith revealed an impossibly ancient soul to his youthful frame with a Doctor unafraid to be as angrily dark as hyper-actively quirky. And Moffat constructed a complex series, introducing the depths of new companion Amy Pond slowly, and building to a multi-stranded timey-wimey finale that makes the head hurt just to think about it.

Elsewhere, the overused Daleks returned in multicoloured format, the Weeping Angels were much more successfully reprised in a stonking double-header, the Silurians also came back, and Arthur Darvill’s Rory grew in stature to become an effective second companion as opposed to a third wheel. Oh, and Helen McCrory stole the show, but then you knew I’d say that didn’t you 😉 Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 5”

TV Review: Apple Tree Yard

“Before I met you I was a civilised woman”

Based on the novel of the same name by Louise Doughty, psychodrama Apple Tree Yard has proved itself most watercooler-worthy with its twisting plot, classy cast and yes, controversial moments making it a hit thriller for the BBC. The story revolves around Yvonne Carmichael – celebrated scientist, mother of two, wife to Gary – who, when a chance encounter at work leads to an unexpected quickie with a literal tall dark and handsome stranger, finds her entire world tipped upside down by the consequences that follow.

Written by Amanda Coe and directed by Jessica Hobbs, the first episode plays out as a rather marvellous exploration of a 40-something woman rediscovering her sexuality and having the kind of illicit affair that makes you write naff diary entries (as Yvonne does…). But by the end of the first hour, the drama takes the first of several hard turns as [spoiler alert] she is brutally raped by a colleague. The use of rape as a dramatic device is one which should always be interrogated but here, coming from the text as it does and its devastating impact detailed as painstakingly as it was in episode 2, it felt appropriately handled and never gratuitous. Continue reading “TV Review: Apple Tree Yard”

Review: Torn, Royal Court

“What you don’t know doesn’t harm you”

Not for the first time, Ultz’s design disarms you. You enter the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs to find it done up like a community centre, a circle of functional, grey plastic chairs in the middle of the room, a tea and coffee station off to the side. So begins Nathaniel Martello-White’s new play Torn and as Adelle Leonce’s Angel opens up the family meeting that she has called to work through some particularly pressing issues, you think you’ve got a handle on it.

You haven’t. For though it is stripped back, Torn is a fantastically knotty and complex piece of writing: full of fragmented flashbacks; verbose, overlapping dialogue; actors switching characters, sometimes mid-scene. It’s clear Martello-White has been using his time as a writer on attachment at the Royal Court well, for this is brave and ambitious work, both thoughtfully demanding and thought-provoking, it digs deep into the lengths families will go to to protect their own. Continue reading “Review: Torn, Royal Court”

Review: Hopelessly Devoted To You, Roundhouse

“I’m gonna speak to them about getting you out of here”

Hotfooting it back from a Leicester matinée to make a 7.30pm start at the Roundhouse is not a journey I’ll be challenging myself with again in a hurry, but I was glad to have done it on this occasion as it meant I was able to catch the final performance of Kate Tempest’s Hopelessly Devoted For You as Paines Plough toured it for a third time in quick succession since its premiere in September last year. Tempest’s star has long been on the rise but a well-deserved Mercury Music Prize nomination for her album Everybody Downand a new volume of poetry Hold Your Own are capping off a remarkable year for her.

Hopelessly Devoted… was born out of Tempest’s own experiences visiting Holloway Prison – Sheila Atim’s Chess and Demi Oyediran’s Serena are two young women who have forged an intense relationship through sharing a cell and lengthy sentences but change is on the horizon. Serena is up for parole and Chess’ musical talent is being nurtured in a singer/songwriter class run by Franc Ashman’s Silver, a woman fighting her own demons. They each have their own struggles – dealing with the outside world, a lack of self-confidence, drug addiction – but the redemption they’re all looking for is the same.

In some ways, there’s a surprising amount of sentimentality in the way the story unfolds but to focus solely on that is to exclude the rich level of detail that Tempest has imbued the text and music with, and which is teased out adroitly by Stef O’Driscoll’s direction. Tempest never lets us forget the iniquities of a society that would happily forget about such women and consequently offers them so little. But she also dramatizes beautifully the soaring escapism that music can offer, the exhilaration of the creative process, the euphoria of singing. Atim is just sensational as the embodiment of all this, slowly coming to realise the gravity of her gift and utterly making you forgive any potential shortcomings the writing might have.

Running time: 75 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 6th December