Review: The Village, Theatre Royal Stratford East

A free adaptation of Lope de Vega’s Fuenteovejuna by April de Angelis, Nadia Fall’s debut season as AD of Theatre Royal Stratford East starts off in fine style with The Village

“I’d rather spend my nights with a saag aloo”

A free adaptation of Lope de Vega’s Fuenteovejuna by April de Angelis, Nadia Fall’s debut season as AD of Theatre Royal Stratford East starts off in fine style with The Village. Harking back to the past as Joan Littlewood directed it here in 1955, it also looks firmly to the future as a statement of intent about how things are going to be different out East.

The play has been resituated from Spain to northern India and set in the modern day. And in these Kavanaugh-plagued times, there’s something of a gut punch about the way how, even with fast-forwarding half a century, this kind of story can remain so horribly pertinent. What is does remind us though, is of the importance of resistance and the strength that can come from a community.  Continue reading “Review: The Village, Theatre Royal Stratford East”

TV Review: Save Me (Series 1)

Over on Sky, Save Me turns out to be something rather brutally brilliant, written by and starring Lennie James, alongside an exceptional Suranne Jones

“I’ve just gone to see my dad”

Lennie James is billed as the creator of Save Me, as well as leading the cast alongside Suranne Jones, and it is a good thing he is up to the job as it has turned out to be a rather brutally brilliant series. Set in a tight-knit community in Deptford, it’s a clever take on the missing child genre that proved remarkably tense and completely gripping as it winds to a gut-punch of a conclusion.

James plays Nelson Rowe, Nelly to those that love him and it is clear that many do in this corner of South East London. He’s a total chancer, sleeping with any number of lovers, and balancing any number of side hustles in lieu of an actual job. But when the police come crashing through the door, everything changes. The daughter who he hasn’t seen since she was three has gone missing and she was on her way to see him, as her phone shows she’s been messaging with him for weeks. Continue reading “TV Review: Save Me (Series 1)”

TV Review: Fortitude Series 2

“People died.
And now people are dying again and what the fuck are they doing about it”

Series 1 of Fortitude was one of those genuinely unexpected dramas which unveiled its genre-spanning ways with some proper jaw-dropping moments, so Sky Atlantic’s decision to commission a second series wasn’t entirely unexpected (though you do wonder what viewing figures are like over there). Though having revealed itself as a sci-fi/horror/psychological thriller/serial killer murder mystery with political and environmental themes thrown in for a good measure, creator Simon Donald was faced with a decision about which way to go to continue the story.

Or, as it turned out, he didn’t make the decision but rather decided to pursue them all once again. And as is proving a recurring theme with shows I’ve been catching up on (Fearless, The Halcyon), the desire to develop multi-stranded complex dramas falls short once again with the writing ending up serving a jack of all trades and master of none. There’s just so much going on in so many of the episodes that it becomes increasingly hard to keep track of exactly what is what, who knows what, who is doing what to whom, and where we are in any of the stories. Continue reading “TV Review: Fortitude Series 2”

TV Review: Cuffs Episodes 1-4

“All we can do is hang on”

Rather incredibly, given the number of crime dramas there are, Cuffs is actually the BBC’s first police procedural since 2007’s Holby Blue (according to Wikipedia at least), but a rather good one it is too. Creator Julie Gearey has set the show in Brighton and its environs, the territory of the South Sussex Police service, and the first four episodes (which entertained me on a train journey back from Amsterdam) started Cuffs off so strongly that I wanted to recommend it now whilst you can still catch them all on the iPlayer.

The opening episodes are jam-packed with incident, the first part alone crammed child abduction, stolen JCBs, stabbings and a racist released from prison to give a strong sense of the relentless pace of life in the force but the writing has been particularly strong in demonstrating the peculiar demands of modern policing. Traditional boundaries of respect have been torn down so we see the police punched, spat on, and kicked in the face and also having to deal with rubberneckers filming accident scenes on their phone, and members of the public chancing their arm with harassment claims. Continue reading “TV Review: Cuffs Episodes 1-4”

Review: Macbeth, National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Ambassadors Theatre

“If it were done, when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly”

There’s something a little ironic about NYT’s assurance that this is the “only West End showing of Macbeth this autumn” when I will have seen 3 productions of the Scottish play this month. Sure, the muddy paths of Clapham Common and the dusty hall of the London Welsh Centre might fall a little short of the shabby chic of the Ambassadors Theatre but it is a clear indication of the enduring popularity of this programming choice which forms one third of a rep season which also includes Private Peaceful and a modern telling of Dorian Gray in Selfie.

And sure enough, Ed Hughes’ concise adaptation offers up the best of the bunch for the season, the bold thematic vision working well and releasing the play from any dusty RP connotations. From the outset as Grace Chilton borrows the spirit of Alan Cumming’s iconic Emcee to the haunting presence of Lady Macbeth’s ghost during a key moment, Hughes’ liberating attitude (he also directs) makes this a rapid-fire success which pays its own tribute to the WWI anniversary as well as crackling with youthful energy. Continue reading “Review: Macbeth, National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Ambassadors Theatre”

Review: Selfie, National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Ambassadors Theatre

“Ugliness is unfortunate. Beauty is unforgivable”

Written and devised by Brad Birch along with the company of the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain’s rep season (this is the second year they’ve ventured into the West End with a triple bill), Selfie is Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray reimagined for the iPad generation. Transplanted from the whirl of Victorian bohemia to the vacuous poseurs of Hoxton’s hipsters, the portrait of this Dorian (here a woman) is captured digitally but in other respects, largely follows the downwards spiral of Wilde’s original.

It is grindingly hard to care about Mountford, Shenton is grim and gruelling, Gardner has mediocre material – it is fair to say that Selfie didn’t really click with the critics but in all honesty, I couldn’t see quite what provoked such particular ire. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a fair deal that doesn’t work – especially in relation to the source material – but that this company (made up of 18 to 25 year olds) is being empowered to devise theatre for West End audiences feels like something to be celebrated and if they’re not allowed to take risks now, then when? Continue reading “Review: Selfie, National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at the Ambassadors Theatre”