TV Review: Kiri

With a cast including Sarah Lancashire, Lucian Msamati and Lia Williams, how could Kiri be anything but good

“Stick a flake in it before you try and sell it to the tabloids will you”

Airing on Channel 4 at the beginning of the year, Jack Thorne’s Kiri was billed as a continuation of his National Treasure brand  (I managed one episode of that first series…). But any fears I had of not liking it were assuaged by a cast led by Sarah Lancashire, Lucian Msamati and Lia Williams, plus this far down the line, I’d heard enough good things about it to finally get round to watching. 

Set in Bristol, Kiri follows the abduction of a young black girl – Kiri – in the foster care system, as she is allowed a meeting with her birth grandparents in advance of her adoption by a white middle-class family. Her social worker Miriam has arranged this unorthodox meeting and sure enough, the proverbial hits the fan when she gets a phone call to say she has gone missing. Continue reading “TV Review: Kiri”

DVD Review: 4321

“You took my shopping and then you took my virginity”

Oh lordy, I have no idea what Noel Clarke is like as a person but on this evidence he is in desperate need of someone to tell him ‘no son, no’. Having shown promise with his earlier work, 4.3.2.1. sees Clarke moving onto what he sees as the next level , it just so happens that it is the next level down rather than up. A brash would-be comedy thriller that dreams so dreadfully of transatlantic success and yet comes off as exploitative try-hard, depressingly manipulative and a laughable vanity project.

Even at its base, it is a disappointment. The structure of the film follows four young friends as they deal with a particularly hectic time involving some gangsters and a bag of conflict diamonds they’ve nicked. Clarke retells the story from each woman’s point of view, a tried and tested device, but one which is wasted here – the narratives are kept essentially separate with no sophisticated intersection or interplay in the storytelling that would actually justify the format. Continue reading “DVD Review: 4321”

Review: Macbeth, St Peter’s Church Manchester

“Thou call’st thyself a hotter name than any is in hell”

One of the big ticket numbers in the Manchester International Festival this year has to be the return of Kenneth Branagh to Shakespeare, with him taking on the role of Macbeth in a production that was surrounded in secrecy and full of advisory warnings to the lucky few with tickets such as “don’t wear any dry-clean only outfits”, “you may not leave your seat once it has started” and possibly the toughest given its 2 hour interval-free running time, “no toilets in the venue”. That venue has now been revealed to be St Peter’s Church in Ancoats, a deconsecrated space used by the Hallé orchestra to rehearse in and whilst the toilets may be five minutes away at Murray’s Mill where tickets are collected from, any fears of emerging from the show drenched in mud and/or blood were left unfounded.

One can see straightaway though why the warnings have been made. The audience is placed in traverse either side of an earth-covered aisle and within moments of the start, a huge battle rages just inches from the audience with rain pouring, mud churning and sparks flying as swords clash. It’s an incredibly visceral start to a frequently breath-taking production – co-directed by Branagh and Rob Ashford – which successfully marries tradition with innovation, reinvigorating rather than reinventing Shakespeare’s timeless tale of the corrupting influence of power and ambition. Ashford’s eye for theatrical spectacle is combined with Branagh’s acute Shakespearean expertise and together, create something uniquely special. Continue reading “Review: Macbeth, St Peter’s Church Manchester”

DVD Review: The Awakening

“This is a time for ghosts”

Released at the end of last year, The Awakening seemed to sink without trace a little. I’m not the best judge of things given how little time I end up with to see films, but I would have thought a film that starred Rebecca Hall, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton would be a surefire hit. In any case, its general spookiness and delving into the realm of the supernatural makes it a good fit for inclusion here.

Nick Murphy’s film is set in 1921, a shell-shocked England still learning how to recover from the devastating impact of the Great War. Rebecca Hall plays a rather witty anti-Yvette Fielding figure named Florence Cathcart, a very modern sceptic who is a published author on the debunking of supernatural hoaxes. After a great opening sequence in which a séance is exposed for the nonsense it really is, she is visited by Dominic West’s Robert Mallory, a schoolteacher who wants her to come and investigate some spooky goings-on at his isolated boarding school. Yet in finding trying to a rational answer, she uncovers a deeper, more personal mystery which is far from easily explained. Continue reading “DVD Review: The Awakening”

Review: Company, Sheffield Crucible

“You ever wish you didn’t get married?”

This trip up to Sheffield to see Company at the Crucible was my last booking for the year (though it ain’t over til the 31st…). Though it seemed like a bit of a faff, involving non-essential travel the day before I’m going to my parents for Christmas and coming at the end of a long, long year, there was never any doubt in my mind that I would be making the effort once the supporting cast around Daniel Evans had been announced. It really is luxury casting from top to toe – Samantha Spiro, Francesca Annis, Ian Gelder, Claire Price amongst others – and though I have recently suffered something of a Sondheim burnout, I got on the train with excitement.

And how glad I am that I made the effort. There have been times over the last twelve months when my enthusiasm for theatre has waned a little, but it is productions that give me goosebumps and bring tears to my eyes that remind me why I love this medium so, and this show gave me both sensations in plentiful measure. Jonathan Munby’s production puts Artistic Director Daniel Evans in the centre of the show as Bobby, the man in the midst of a middle-life, marriage-centric crisis as all his couples friends gather round at his apartment to celebrate his 35th birthday. We then see vignettes from each of their lives, showing that married life isn’t perhaps all it cracks up to be which leaves the directionless Bobby and his coterie of female admirers more confused than ever about what he wants and what he thinks he wants. Continue reading “Review: Company, Sheffield Crucible”