Review: ManCoin, VAULT Festival

Felix Legge’s ManCoin proves a  chilling reminder of how shallow wokeness can be, playing at the VAULT Festival now

“I’m one of the good guys, remember that”

#notallmen right? Felix Legge’s play ManCoin puts the case that, well, it really could be, it really probably is. Guy White wears his wokeness like a badge, his every statement parsed to align with liberal sensibilities, his new cryptocurrency designed to reward those who carry out good deeds. Right on man!  

But peek beneath the proffered bleeding heart and a shell of fragile masculinity becomes apparent, revealed in all its ugliness when Guy has a fight with his girlfriend Polly and a drunken snafu positions him at the forefront of the men’s rights movement. From there, his persecution complex runs wild, showing just how deep – or otherwise – self-proclaimed wokeness is. Continue reading “Review: ManCoin, VAULT Festival”

Review: The Winter’s Tale, National Theatre

The Winter's Tale, National Theatre, Gabby Wong

At the National Theatre in London, a moving rendition of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale for kids, of all ages.

“There’s going to be a whole load of emotional reunions here”

The invitation to this adaptation of The Winter’s Tale came hand in hand with the warning that it is for younger audiences but even if it is aimed at 8-12 year olds, there was much to enjoy, lots to appreciate and just enough to make me cry. The excellent promotional image aside, it was the excellent Justin Audibert directing that was the main draw here and his work with his company did not disappoint.

Streamlined down to an hour, the focus really comes down to the relationships between parent and child, enhancing the throughline of the storytelling beautifully. I loved the idea that the root of this Leontes’ jealousy lay in Polixenes being a better dancer but by having Gabby Wong’s Perdita frame the whole thing as her story and giving Mamillius more time in the sun than usual here, there’s no doubting this is a story of fractured families and how, if at all, they can ever heal.   Continue reading “Review: The Winter’s Tale, National Theatre”

Review: Posh, Pleasance

“Girls for now, girls for later, yah?”

Laura Wade’s Posh first appeared in 2010 at the Royal Court, again in 2012 in the West End, and then in cinemas as The Riot Club in 2014 – each time piercing something of the privilege around the Cameron/Osbourne chumocracy moving into Downing Street at the time of the original premiere. A portrait of insidious male privilege, based on the infamous Bullingdon Club, its intersection of masculinity and class proved a springboard for many a white, privileged actor (James Norton, Harry Hadden-Paton….) 

The notion of this all-female production, directed by Cressida Carré, is thus one that feels rich with possibility. So to find that the cast is playing the roles as men, legs still spread, names unchanged, genders unbent, feels like a crucial neglect of that potential. For the dissection of misogyny and privilege is a vital part of Wade’s writing and having women play the roles unaltered, without any new insight, lends the piece a fatal sense of play, of pretence, that undermines the seriousness of its intent.  Continue reading “Review: Posh, Pleasance”

Review: Doctor Faustus, Duke of York’s

“The hot whore of celebrity”

Jon Snow is dead. Isn’t he? I suspect there’ll be a twist in the tail as far as the newly started sixth series of Game of Thrones is concerned but for the meantime, Kit Harington is alive and kicking his way through this raucous reinvention of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus for The Jamie Lloyd Theatre Company. 

My 3 star review for Cheap Theatre Tickets can be read here. And my little preview piece from a couple of weeks ago is here.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Marc Brenner
Booking until 25th June

 
 
 

 

Short Film Review: The Orphan of Zhao Redux

“What can ordinary people do?”

Based on The Great Revenge of the Orphan of Zhao by Ji Junxiang and mixing in texts from numerous other writers, Daniel York’s The Orphan of Zhao Redux is a most enchanting thing indeed. The play is perhaps sadly most notorious, in recent years at least, for being at the centre of a controversy when the RSC cast just three East Asian actors in minor roles (out of seventeen in total) in what has been known as the Chinese Hamlet, such is the piece’s significance. But York fully wrests ownership away from such unsavouriness to produce a gorgeous eight minute short that is a brilliant showcase for what might have been.

The film features fourteen leading lights of the British East Asian acting scene, the narrative scattered between them all and the text reshaped into something of a poem as just as much feeling as storytelling emerges through the individual lines. Ikin Yum’s stunning monochrome cinematography has been astutely edited by Andrew Koji and the beautifully evocative music underscores the whole affair with just the right level of intrigue and emotion. Not knowing the play didn’t matter a jot, the film stirs something elemental – especially in its haunting final minute – and had me thoroughly hooked from the start. Continue reading “Short Film Review: The Orphan of Zhao Redux”

Short Film Review #23

  My Dad the Communist from Tuyen Do on Vimeo.

It is tempting to see My Dad the Communist as something of a neat companion piece to Chimerica, featuring a Benedict Wong character responding to the events of Tiananmen Square in a completely different way but in truth, they are separate beasts and the only real thing linking them is the dearth of complex Asian-related stories on our screens and stages (although things do seem to be changing, slowly). This Lab Ky Mo film focuses on a typical British-Chinese family who work in a takeaway (where else?!) – Tony has lived all of his life in the UK yet his father has remained stubbornly, inscrutably Chinese in his behaviour, rarely uttering anything at all or showing any affection to his wife or son.
 
A car accident involving the older man motivates Tony to look back on his 20 year life and reflect on the rare moments that his dad did speak, realising the huge significance of those events, and the ones where he didn’t, imagining the parental figure he craved. Mo utilises the fantasy flashback several times to great effect, we really get a sense of being caught up in Tony’s reverie and it is really quite moving. Wong is customarily excellent as the taciturn father, Siu Hun Li is also strong as the son trying to do things differently, not least with his own new wife, an expressive performance from Tuyen Do.  

Continue reading “Short Film Review #23”

DVD Review: Othello, Shakespeare’s Globe

“And what’s he then that says I play the villain?When this advice is free I give and honest”

My first Othello was just last month with the Crucible’s extraordinary production which was rather breath-takingly good, so I was a little trepidatious about putting on this DVD on the Globe’s take on the play from 2007. Wilson Milam directed this rather traditional production but I was still rather keen to see an alternative version, especially once I’d found out that it contained John Stahl and Sam Crane in its ensemble.

Given how strong the four central characters were in Sheffield, I was quite surprised, and pleased, at how good I (mostly) found the four actors here to be, offering different but equally effective takes on the roles and demonstrating the malleability of Shakespeare’s text when in the right hands. Eamonn Walker’s Othello is a strident beast, most definitely a warrior though with hints of vulnerability which Zoë Tapper’s astoundingly accomplished Desdemona is clearly attracted to and thoroughly won over by. He perhaps could have worked in a little more charisma into his performance and his verse speaking didn’t always feel quite so natural, but this was mainly in comparison to Tapper whose luminosity shone through onstage, through every move she made and word she spoke, truly breaking the heart as the betrayals kick in. It feels a crime that she hasn’t done more stage work. Continue reading “DVD Review: Othello, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: Takeaway, Theatre Royal Stratford East

“What makes an Eddie Woo”

Eddie Woo is stuck working in his dad’s takeaway, having failed his A-Levels yet again, but frequently escapes to his daydreaming world where he is the New (Chinese) Tom Jones. Back in the real world though, he is juggling two girlfriends, a best friend who might be drifting away from him and a full-time job though when a talent show seems to offer a potential way out, it leads to yet more confusion as Eddie is finally forced to decide what it is he really wants from life. Such is the set up for the Theatre Royal Stratford East’s new show Takeaway, music by Leon Ko and book and lyrics by Robert Lee, which makes the claim to be the first ever British-Chinese musical.

There is just so much going on in here that the overwhelming impression is that I suspect Lee and Ko might actually be certifiably insane. The manic way in which the show rockets around its different subject areas and formats is breathtaking and not always in a good way. Talent shows, racism, the pressure of working in family businesses, the Chinese immigrant experience and generation gap, frustrated youth dealing with the lack of opportunities, the questioning of sexuality and much more beside are all thrown into the melting pot alongside a structure which throws in songs in the most arbitrary of manners: as Eddie’s internal monologues, insane fantasy sequences, romantic ballads, storytelling songs, comedy numbers, Tom Jones pastiches. Everything is whirled together and so we ricochet from plot strand to plot strand with dizzying speed, resulting in a show that, however well-intentioned, ends up as something of a mess. Continue reading “Review: Takeaway, Theatre Royal Stratford East”