TV Review: Top Boy – Summerhouse (Series 1)

Top Boy – Summerhouse easily makes a mockery of my previous decision that this wasn’t my type of thing. 

“We’re gonna need some more time, and we’re gonna need some guns”

With the renewed vigour behind the Black Lives Matter movement and people’s determination (myself included) to do better at recognising black talent, it’s interesting to look back at the challenges they have faced. You’d imagine that Top Boy, a crime drama set in the heart of a fictional estate in Hackney, East London, would have been written by a black writer but as it turns out, Ronan Bennett is white and hails from Northern Ireland.

The series dates back to 2011 and I can’t speak to the realities of Channel 4’s commissioning process but it merits a raised eyebrow. Fortunately, Bennett’s assiduous research means that Top Boy (renamed Top Boy – Summerhouse on Netflix) does better than most at evoking the brutality and bullishness of gang life in the East End, where conventional notions of good and bad are cast aside in the name of survival by whatever means. Continue reading “TV Review: Top Boy – Summerhouse (Series 1)”

Review: The Convert, Young Vic

Danai Gurira’s The Convert is a Christmas treat of a different order at the Young Vic Theatre

“Gracious to goodness”

There’s all sorts of lovely connections here. Danai Gurira’s play The Convert was first seen in the UK at the Gate last year, a theatre where her earlier drama Eclipsed was produced in 2015. That play starred Letitia Wright in an astonishing performance and Wright now appears in this new version of The Convert at the Young Vic – Wright and Gurira having starred in some little arthouse film called Black Panther in the meantime…

It’s a cracking good play too, worth the attention of this second production. Set in 1896 Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe), it looks at the ways in which colonial rulers sought to erase African cultural identities through any means they saw fit. Culturally, religiously, linguistically, their tools of ‘progress’ were wielded with considerable force and Gurira counts up the cost with a slow-building dramatic flair. Continue reading “Review: The Convert, Young Vic”

Winners of the 2018 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards

BEST ACTOR in partnership with Ambassador Theatre Group
Bryan Cranston Network, National Theatre (Lyttelton)
WINNER – Ralph Fiennes Antony and Cleopatra, National Theatre (Olivier)
Ian McKellen King Lear, Minerva Chichester & Duke of York’s
Colin Morgan Translations, National Theatre (Olivier)
Kyle Soller The Inheritance, Young Vic & Noël Coward Theatre

NATASHA RICHARDSON AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS in partnership with Christian Louboutin
Laura Linney My Name Is Lucy Barton, Bridge Theatre
Carey Mulligan Girls and Boys, Royal Court
Cecilia Noble Nine Night, National Theatre (Dorfman)
WINNER – Sophie Okonedo Antony and Cleopatra, National Theatre (Olivier)
Lia Williams The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar Warehouse Continue reading “Winners of the 2018 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards”

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 9

“Time will tell, it always does”

Phew, the Doctor Who rewatch comes to an end with the most recent series, another that I hadn’t seen any of since it originally aired. And again it was one of highs and lows, a frustrating sense of pick and mix that never settles. So from the astonishing bravura of the (practically) solo performance in Heaven Sent to kid-friendly quirks of the sonic sunglasses and guitar playing, Capaldi took us from the sublime to the silly. Fortunately there was more of the former than the latter (although it is interesting that my memory had it the other way round).

Part of it comes down to knowing in advance how the hybrid arc plays out (disappointingly) and a little perspective makes Clara’s departure(s) a little less galling. This way, one can just enjoy the episodes for what they are, free from the weight of the attempted mythologising. The Doctor raging against the futility of war, the wisdom (or otherwise) of forgiveness, the repercussions of diving in to help others without thinking through the consequences…it is often excellent stuff. It’s also nice to see Who employ its first openly transgender actor (Bethany Black) and a deaf actor playing a deaf character (Sophie Stone). Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 9”

TV Review: Humans Series 2

“All we can do is what feels right”

There’s been something really quite moving about the second series of Humans, the Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley Channel 4 drama which has just wound to a close. In a world that started off examining the diametrically opposed differences between humans and synths (series 1 review), the stark black and white palette of the show has moved markedly to a murky shade of grey on both sides, complicating the actions of both parties to make us really appreciate the difficulties in deciding right and wrong.

So where the renegade synth Niska (a brilliant Emily Berrington) has decided to subject herself to human justice in order to try and find some common ground, newly awakened Hester goes fully rogue in defining humans as the absolute enemy, to brutal effect in a chilling performance from Sonya Cassidy. And questions of identity are no less complex on the human side, as the show toys with ideas of humans opting to live life as a synth and experimenting even further with technology. Continue reading “TV Review: Humans Series 2”

fosterIAN awards 2015

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayLia Williams, Oresteia Letitia Wright, EclipsedThusitha Jayasundera, My Eyes Went Dark
Marianne Jean-Baptiste, hang
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nell Gwynn
Lara Rossi, Octagon
Best Actor in a Play
John Heffernan, Oppenheimer David Morrissey, HangmenChiwetel Ejiofor, Everyman
Jamie Samuel, Plastic Figurines
Eelco Smits, Glazen Speelgoed
Angus Wright, Oresteia
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayDaisy Haggard, You For Me For You T’Nia Miller, EclipsedPriyanga Burford, The Effect
Estella Daniels, Octagon
Rosalind Eleazor, Plaques and Tangles
Sally Rogers, Hangmen
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayJohn Simm, The Homecoming David Moorst, Violence and SonHarm Duco Schut, Glazen Speelgoed
Johnny Flynn, Hangmen
James Garnon, As You Like It (Globe)
David Sturzaker, Nell Gwynn
Best Actress in a MusicalNatalie Dew, Bend It Like Beckham Katie Brayben, BeautifulTracie Bennett, Mrs Henderson Presents
Jennifer Harding, The Clockmaker's Daughter
Debbie Kurup, Anything Goes
Kelly Price, Little Shop of Horrors
Best Actor in a MusicalGiles Terera, Pure Imagination Matt Henry, Kinky BootsIan Bartholomew, Mrs Henderson Presents
Killian Donnelly, Kinky Boots
Scott Garnham, Grand Hotel
Alex Gaumond, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalEmma Williams, Mrs Henderson Presents Amy Lennox, Kinky BootsAnita Dobson, Follies
Anna Francolini, wonder.land
Lauren Samuels, Bend It Like Beckham
Lorna Want, Beautiful
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalEmmanuel Kojo, Show Boat Ako Mitchell, Little Shop of HorrorsMatthew Malthouse, Mrs Henderson Presents
Ian McIntosh, Beautiful
Jamie Parker, High Society
George Rae, Grand Hotel

2015 Best Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actress in a Play

Lia Williams, Oresteia
Could it have been anyone else? Finally given the opportunity to present Klytemnestra’s story from the beginning, from the advent of her ferocious rage that is too often taken for granted, Williams gave us a strikingly modern politician’s wife and mother who couldn’t sit idly by if she tried. With live video giving her nowhere to hide, it was us to shrank away from the intensity of her emotions.

Honourable mention: Letitia Wright, Eclipsed
I’m not one to play favourites but short of inventing a new category of Best Ensemble, there was little else I could do for this most favourite drama. The expression on Wright’s face at the end still haunts me to this very day, clearly an actress to watch for the great things she’s bound to deliver.

Thusitha Jayasundera, My Eyes Went Dark
Marianne Jean-Baptiste, hang
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nell Gwynn
Lara Rossi, Octagon

7-10
Kate Fleetwood, Medea (Almeida); Ophelia Lovibond, The Effect; Chris Nietvelt, Glazen Speelgoed; Gemma Whelan, Radiant Vermin

 

Best Actress in a Musical

Natalie Dew, Bend It Like Beckham
Redefining the triple threat to singing, acting and scoring, Dew proved to be an effortlessly charming leading player in this film adaptation. Guileless, appealing and wonderfully warm, her performance was quite the surprise and a welcome anchor for a show that is still holding on to its place in the West End.

Honourable mention: Katie Brayben, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
Cassidy Janson may have stepped into her shoes now but there was real joy for me in watching Brayben graduate to this leading role, having admired her work for a long time. And if the show itself isn’t the strongest in the West End, the sheer conviction of her performance level ensured it worked.

Tracie Bennett, Mrs Henderson Presents
Jennifer Harding, The Clockmaker’s Daughter
Debbie Kurup, Anything Goes
Kelly Price, Little Shop of Horrors

7-10
Laura Pitt-Pulford, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; Jenna Russell, Songs For A New World; Zizi Strallen, Mary Poppins; Lauren Ward, Bat Boy

Review: Eclipsed, Gate

“You tink it normal you wifing some dirty self-proclaimed general in de bush? You tink it normal a boy carrying a gun killing and raping? You tink it okay dere no more schools, no more NOTIN!”

In 2003, Liberia was in the fourth year of its second civil war, the first having only ended in 1997 with cumulative casualties estimated to have reached over half a million. It is the context of this situation that Danai Gurira’s play Eclipsed visits four young women sequestered on a rebel army base as the wives of the resident C.O. and explores the choices that they’ve been forced to make in order to survive. The intimacy of the Gate naturally lends itself to intense theatrical experiences but Caroline Byrne’s production here captures something equal parts raw and refreshing in both its uncompromisingly Liberian-accented subject and its forthright sincerity.

It’s refreshing because the Zimbabwean-American Gurira’s writing stems from an innate desire to understand character and even though the four women have been reduced to naming each other in the order they were ‘betrothed’ to the unseen general, they’re all written beautifully. As the dominant mother figure, No 1 runs as tightly regimented a ship as the man who no longer sexually desires her, No 2 took the only escape route available, joining the ranks of the soldiers leaving No 3 to bear the brunt of the amorous intentions, leaving her pregnant. The arrival of a frightened No 4 forces a change in the group’s dynamics though, as each woman struggles to assert their position.  Continue reading “Review: Eclipsed, Gate”