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”

TV Review: Black Earth Rising

A cast led by Michaela Coel, Noma Dumezweni, John Goodman and Lucian Msamati make Hugo Blick’s complex Black Earth Rising watchable if not quite essential

“That is why I made a deal like that”

A tricky one this. At this point, you know what you’re getting with a Hugo Blick drama (qv The Shadow Line, The Honorable Woman), weighty complex dramas with amazing casts tackling inscrutable global conspiracies. And Black Earth Rising is no different, as it puts the Rwandan genocide and its aftermath under the microscope, examining Western colonial and capitalist attitudes towards Africa along with the role of the Iinternational Criminal Court.

And with a cast led by Michaela Coel, Noma Dumezweni, Harriet Walter, John Goodman and Lucian Msamati to name just a few, it is naturally eminently watchable. Coel plays Kate Ashby, a young woman with a complicated relationship with her barrister mother Eve (Walter). Eve adopted Kate from Rwanda years back but her decision to take on a case prosecuting a Tutsi general who, after helping end the genocide, went on to commit war crimes in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, outrages Kate who is also Tutsi.
Continue reading “TV Review: Black Earth Rising”

TV Review: Top Boy – Summerhouse (Series 2)

Series 2 of Top Boy- Summerhouse is, quite frankly, exceptional

“I don’t wanna go to Ramsgate”

The first series of Top Boy surprised me at just how good it was, making a mockery of my earlier decision that it wasn’t my kind of thing. So I launched straight into the second series (now labelled Top Boy- Summerhouse on Netflix), unprepared for how harrowing it would get. It may have taken two years for it to be created but boy it was worth the wait.

Ronan Bennett’s series picks up one year later with Dushane’s (Ashley Walters_ status at the head of the Summerhouse estate as equally precarious and secure as ever, forever dependent on the next big drug delivery. But the Albanians have got their own plans, former besty Sully is setting up his own rival crew and the police have just dug up a body – eep! Continue reading “TV Review: Top Boy – Summerhouse (Series 2)”

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)”

TV Review: Chewing Gum (Series 2)

Series 2 of Chewing Gum sees Michaela Coel nail the ‘two series and out’ trajectory of some of the best British sitcoms

“I’m not 17, I’m a grown-up woman. I just…regularly make childlike mistakes”

I belatedly came to Chewing Gum just now and watched both the first series and this second one in a single sitting each, their addictive nature and too-easily bingeable lengths giving me two fine nights in front of the TV.

Writer and creator Michaela Coel rarely let her imagination get in the way of the first six episodes but here, the expansion of Tracey’s world beyond her Tower Hamlets estate is quite simply fucking hilarious. Plus, the marvellous Sinéad Matthews appears in this series too. Continue reading “TV Review: Chewing Gum (Series 2)”

TV Review: I May Destroy You, Episodes 1 & 2

The superlative Michaela Coel looks to have absolutely nailed with new TV show I May Destroy You

“How did last night end?”

I mean we knew I May Destroy You would be good but damn, it’s really good. Even on the evidence of episodes 1 & 2 which have just been released by the BBC, Michaela Coel – whose credits here include executive producer, co-director, star, and writer – looks set to thoroughly invigorate our TV screens as she breathlessly tackles, well, pretty much the whole of contemporary society.

At the top of it, I May Destroy You is a drama about consent, though it is immediately clear that Coel’s canvas and the scope of her ambition is much larger than that. It blends just as much comedy as tragedy into its playfully inventive structure. And though the hook is Coel’s Arabella – a 30-something London-based writer – trying to piece together the memories of a night where her drink was spiked and she was sexually assaulted, there’s so much more about the lives of young Black British people filled out along the way. Continue reading “TV Review: I May Destroy You, Episodes 1 & 2”

TV Review: Chewing Gum (Series 1)

In the spirit of Black Lives Matters and an inspiration from Noma Dumezweni, I’m turning my attention to the TV shows, I haven’t gotten round to watching that I should have done by now, starting with Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum 

“Do you want a Fruit Pastille?”

Michaela Coel’s comedy show Chewing Gum was born out of her play Chewing Gum Dreams which played in the Shed at the National Theatre in 2014, a rare moment when a monologue like that could be programmed at a theatre like that. I didn’t catch it then and on the evidence of this first series, the loss is most definitely mine.

A proper British sitcom (6 episodes, no fuss), the show stars creator and writer Coel as Tracey, an East London shop assistant in her early 20s who is determined to cast off the shackles of her religious upbringing and learn about the world. Oh, and she really really really wants to get some. Continue reading “TV Review: Chewing Gum (Series 1)”

News: Olivier Awards presenters revealed

The Olivier Awards 2017 has announced the list of people who’ll be handing out awards at the ceremony, hosted by Jason Manford of all people, on Sunday 9th April in the august surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall.

Presenters this year include – deep breath – David Baddiel, Alfie Boe, John Boyega, Michaela Coel, Leanne Cope, Julian Clary, Robert Fairchild, Ben Forster, Phoebe Fox, Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough, Matt Henry, Ruthie Henshall, Amanda Holden, Rufus Hound, Cush Jumbo, Nathan Lane, Rose Leslie, Maureen Lipman, Danny Mac, Audra McDonald, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Laura Mvula, Paul O’Grady, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Sophie Okonedo, Charlotte Ritchie, Mark Rylance and Russell Tovey. Continue reading “News: Olivier Awards presenters revealed”

12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:1

“If we drill down into the numbers, you’ve got a solid popularity arc here”

On the seventh day of Christmas, Black Mirror gave to me…a Hollywood makeover courtesy of Netflix

In what could be seen as a rather ironic move, Black Mirror found itself the subject of a bidding war, the result of which was its third series of 12 episodes, later split into 2 series of 6, was commissioned by Netflix and shown exclusively there, Channel 4 losing out and protesting about such behaviour until they did the exact same thing to the BBC with the Great British Bake-Off that is… 

There’s no defined order to the six episodes, that’s the nature of an anthology series, but there’s no mistaking the order Netflix want you to watch them in, leading with Nosedive, the episode featuring a Hollywood star in Bryce Dallas Howard. Directed by Joe Wright, it also deviates a little from standard practice by having a teleplay written by Michael Schur and Rashida Jones from an idea by Charlie Brooker, rather than Brooker himself like the majority of the other episodes. Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:1”

TV Review: London Spy

 “People lie Danny, they lie very well” 

Well this was a disappointment wasn’t it, there’s no two ways about it. Tom Rob Smith’s London Spy started its five episode run most promisingly with its forthrightly modern gay love story – between emotionally reclusive Secret Service operative Alex and Danny, a shift worker and regular on the hard-partying Vauxhall gay clubbing scene. Edward Holcroft and Ben Whishaw made a powerfully effective couple, negotiating their differences beautifully and believably so that by the time Alex went missing, the substance of the emerging conspiracy theories actually meant something.

But as the plot wound vaguely into labyrinthine dead ends and red herrings, it became increasingly hard to get a handle not just on what was happening but what Smith was trying to say. And directed in would-be sepulchral (but actually just frustratingly dark) gloom by Jakob Verbruggen, the joys of recognising bits of my local Vauxhall soon wore off as you realised that such a stunning supporting cast as Adrian Lester, Clarke Peters and Harriet Walter were indeed being criminally underused or landed with heinous dialogue and what started off irresistibly disintegrated into implausibility. Continue reading “TV Review: London Spy”