TV Review: Unprecedented, Episode 1

Episode 1 of Unprecedented features strong writing from James Graham, Charlene James and John Donnelly 

“It’s clear that everything’s going to be different…
and then again, I’m scared that things won’t be different”

It is with an admirable speed with which Headlong and Century Films have pulled together Unprecedented, a theatrical response to the impact of lockdown on society. Conceived, written, filmed and produced in lockdown, and now airing on BBC4, some of our most exciting playwright and a cast of over 50 really have pulled together impressively and this first instalment of three short plays is certainly promising.

Necessity is the mother of invention, or something, and so all three use digital conferencing technology in one way or another and if anything, there’s no bigger marker in the way that our relationships to each other have been altered than this. How many of us even knew what Zoom was in January? And between them, writers James Graham, Charlene James and John Donnelly deftly sketch some of these changes.  Continue reading “TV Review: Unprecedented, Episode 1”

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

 

News: cast announced for Unprecedented: Theatre from a State of Isolation

Headlong and Century Films have today announced a cast of over 50 UK actors taking part in Unprecedented: Theatre from the State of Isolation. A series of new digital plays written in response to the current Covid-19 Pandemic, Unprecedented will be broadcast across the nation during lockdown as part of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative.

Written by celebrated playwrights and curated by Headlong, Century Films and BBC Arts, Unprecedented explores our rapidly evolving world, responding to how our understanding and experiences of community, education, work, relationships, family, culture, climate and capitalism are evolving on an unprecedented scale. The series will ask how we got here and what the enduring legacy of this historic episode might be. Continue reading “News: cast announced for Unprecedented: Theatre from a State of Isolation”

Review: Freedom Hi 自由閪, VAULT Festival

Tapping into the Hong Kong resistance movement, Freedom Hi 自由閪 is a piece of inventive chaos at the VAULT Festival

“Let our rage not be crushed
Let our fears not be ignored
Let our silence be defiant
Let our words soar”

As a compilation of new writing and performance art by UK based Hong Kong and British East Asian artists, Freedom Hi 自由閪 is necessarily a messy and complex thing. Which makes trying to review it in the conventional sense something of a fruitless enterprise (some might say that about reviewing anything at all…!!).

Anchored by a brilliant use of technology – joining the show by Telegram is an additional route in for the audience – and compiled by Kim Pearce for Papergang Theatre, the result is a dizzying montage of dance and drama, poetry and prose, interactivity both in person and onscreen. It aims, and shoots, high and the resulting scattershot fall is thus varied. Continue reading “Review: Freedom Hi 自由閪, VAULT Festival”

10 questions for 10 years – Gabby Wong

Always guaranteed to be appearing in something interesting, Gabby Wong takes a moment to tackle 10 pressing questions for me

Review: Pah-La, Royal Court

Intriguing subject matter can’t quite elevate Pah-La above its frustrating structural issues at the Royal Court

“You are unsure whether you are here or not but you are absolutely sure that Tibet is yours”

I was a huge fan of Abhishek Majumdar’s hugely atmospheric The Djinns of Eidgah, so was intrigued to see him return to the Royal Court with new play Pah-La. Set in Tibet, it circles around the realities of political protest under an oppressive regime, particularly in light of native Buddhist philosophy. 

As Chinese interlopers arrive in Eastern Tibet to ‘re-educate’ the masses, the threat imposed on the local nunnery is personified in the form of Deshar, a woman who took the habit in defiance of her father’s wishes and shows similar obduracy now, to searingly horrific effect. Continue reading “Review: Pah-La, Royal Court”

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”