Film Review: Been So Long (2018)

A fatally muddled tone means Been So Long ends up less than the sum of its parts, despite glorious lead performances from Arinzé Kene and Michaela Coel

“People don’t want inclusivity mate, they want exclusivity. And something for the gluten-intolerant”

I really wanted to like Been So Long, and can imagine it having worked well on the stage (it played the Young Vic in 2009) but something has definitely been lost in translation with this screen adaptation here. It is mildly curious as the film is written by Ché Walker, scribe of the original play and the subsequent stage musical, but maybe this was a step too far?

One of the main problems for me is that crucial issue of tone. As a love story set in contemporary Camden, and in which Camden plays a central role, there’s a tendency towards gritty naturalism, particularly in showing the home lives of its protagonists, new ex-con Raymond (Arinzé Kene) and single mum of a disabled daughter Simone (Michaela Coel). Continue reading “Film Review: Been So Long (2018)”

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4

“Donna Noble has left the library. Donna Noble has been saved”

And here we are, my favourite series of Doctor Who. So much huge wonderfulness and even its less good moments are still more than halfway decent. Key to the series’ success is Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble – gobby and one-dimensional in her introductory episode the Christmas special The Runaway Bride, her character journey throughout this season is magisterially constructed, a true awakening of self (with thankfully no romantic inclinations towards our Time Lord) and one given unbearable poignancy due to its frustratingly tragic end.

It’s also one of the best constructed series in terms of its over-arching season arc, its warnings and clues layered meaningfully into several stories and building into a momentous and properly climactic finale, which lands just about the right level of grandiosity. There’s also the first companion-lite episode (the superbly creepy Midnight) to go with the Doctor-lite one (the achingly beautiful dystopian Turn Left); a typically brilliant Moffat double-header in  Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead with gorgeous work from Alex Kingston as the soon-to-be-hugely-significant River Song; and if the return of Rose undoes some of the emotional impact of the Series 2 finale, Billie Piper’s work is spikily powerful. These are episodes I can, and have, watched over and over again.

Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4”

Review: Even Stillness Breathes Softly Against A Brick Wall, Soho Theatre

“I didn’t realise things would be so fucking intense”

The lives of the two characters in Even Stillness Breathes Softly Against A Brick Wall start off the most mundane of circumstances: tales of crowded commuting, office politics at the lower end of the scale, doing battle with mercenary credit card and mobile phone companies. But the niggling unease at the stifling monotony of the 9 to 5 has been building up for far too long and when war breaks out in some far-off land, it triggers some deep contemplation into how everyday life there would be affected and in turn provokes a questioning of their own existence.Thus we bear witness to their lives simultaneously imploding and exploding into jagged chaos.

Brad Birch’s enigmatic writing was sparked by a piece of his own poetry – the 4.5 pages of an introduction to the playtext may seem indulgent but actually prove an interesting read – and it maintains much of that feel. A lyrical complexity plays with repeated imagery and phrases to enrich the at-times gnomic text with a sense of thematic unity, but Birch mainly eschews simplistic narrative for an opaqueness of meaning and purpose which frustrates as much as it intrigues. Continue reading “Review: Even Stillness Breathes Softly Against A Brick Wall, Soho Theatre”