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”

TV Review: Fearless, ITV

“I learned a long time ago not to trust what people tell me”

I did want to love Fearless, I really did. Any series with Helen McCrory in its leading role has to be worthy of consideration and ITV have been upping their drama game (qv Unforgotten) recently. But despite an intriguing opener, the six episodes of Fearless increasingly tested the patience as Patrick Harbinson’s script failed to deliver on its twistily complex promise, instead giving us a fairly run-of-the-mill thriller that ultimately proved less than thrilling.
 
With a playbook that threw out major themes with regularity – miscarriages of justice, the Syrian refugee crisis, institutional corruption, the war in Iraq, the ethics of the surveillance state, just to name a few – it was inevitable that some would fall by the wayside. But with the amount of personal backstory for McCrory’s Emma also shoehorned in there, the narrative was both painfully overstuffed and sadly inconsequential – it was increasingly hard to know what we were meant to care about.

Continue reading “TV Review: Fearless, ITV”

TV Review: Fearless Episode 1

“You let a terrorist’s wife live in your home and you set a murderer free”

Fearless is a new six-part drama on ITV and whilst some people might be excited by the fact that it is written by one of the writers of Homeland (Patrick Harbinson), all right-thinking people will of course be psyched that it is giving Helen McCrory a stonking leading role. She plays human rights lawyer Emma Banville who is utterly unafraid to butt heads with the world as she investigates miscarriages of justice.

Her latest case draws her into the orbit of Kevin Russell (definite fave Sam Swainsbury) whose conviction for murder looks to be a little iffy. With perhaps a little too much ease, she finds it unsafe and secures a retrial but looks set to have opened up quite the can of national security-flavoured worms as a serious-looking transatlantic phone call on a secure line seems to suggest that there is much more to this than meets the eye. Continue reading “TV Review: Fearless Episode 1”

Casting awareness for ITV’s Fearless

“There’s something else going on here”
 
I can’t call this a casting announcement as who knows when this news was actually revealed. But I’ve only just got around to looking at the cast for new ITV drama Fearless and oh lordy, it’s a good’un. Written by Homeland writer and executive producer Patrick Harbinson, Fearless has Helen McCrory in its lead role which of course makes it an instant winner, but by putting the likes of Sam Swainsbury, Jamie Bamber, David Mumeni and Sam Crane in the ensemble makes it a must-see – purely for the acting talent of course… đŸ˜‰
 
 

 

12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:2

“It’s more like…layers on top of reality”

On the eighth day of Christmas, Black Mirror gave to me…proof that video games are evil

Not being a fan of video games at all, the second episode of Black Mirror’s third series Playtest properly creeped me out with its vision of experimental augmented reality games gone wrong. Wyatt Russell’s US tourist Cooper is stranded in London when his credit card details are stolen and to earn a quick buck to pay for his flight home, he signs up to a video game trial thinking nothing could go wrong…

But though the technology that the company SaitoGemu uses initially seems innocuous as in a 3D version of Whack-A-Mole, the non-disclosure agreement and rights’ waiver that he signed come into play with the new game they want to test. Using a small device that has been drilled into his head, this technology is designed to probe the brain for the specific things that make you scared and convert them into a personalised haunted house-type experience. What could possibly go wrong? Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas – Black Mirror 3:2”

Review: Tiger Country, Hampstead Theatre

“Try not to care so much”

Whilst other people wind down for the end of the year, Nina Raine is certainly keeping busy as her self-penned and self-directed Tiger Country returns to Hampstead Theatre, in advance of Donkey Heart – written by her brother Moses and also directed by her – transferring to Trafalgar Studios 2 in the New Year. Declared one of Hampstead’s most popular commissions, I must confess to being a little surprised to see this 2011 play return as it didn’t stick out as particularly memorable but with the promise of a new cast, I was interested to see how it stacked up nearly four years later.

And it seems that some time away has done it some good – the play feels cleaner, sharper and less encumbered with expository dialogue clearing a path through the medical terminology. I don’t know how much the script has been updated or edited but its spin through the state of the modern NHS feels as keenly observed as ever, visiting the stresses it imposes on those who work within it as well as those who use its services. Raine’s production recaptures the frenetic energy of a hospital and its staff at full stretch – metaphorically, physically, emotionally. Continue reading “Review: Tiger Country, Hampstead Theatre”

Short Film Review #48

Eclipse Theatre’s 10by10 project was a series of short films “exploding the myth of a homogenised Black British culture”, all directed by Dawn Walton but written by and starring a wide range of some of our most exciting writers and performers. Filmed in 10 different cities across the UK, the hometowns of the playwrights in fact, and each shot in a single day, these make a fascinating insight into a wider cross-section of British society that perhaps is normally seen. Part 2 of 2.

 

 

 

Music in the Bones
Yusra Warsama’s Music in the Bones begins with Wunmi Mosaku’s Somaliwoman Amina running through a Manchester backstreet and quickly moves into flashback mode to tell us why. Mosaku has a beautifully modulated voice which is perfect for the narration here, aching with longing and loss and confusion and compassion. Beautiful.

Omar
Starring the impossibly handsome O-T Fagbenle as the titular character, Maurice Bessman’s Omar follows a guy who goes to Amsterdam for his stag weekend but before he’s even toked down on his first indulgence of the trip, a brutal attack and a case of serious mistaken identity shakes his world upside down and then some. Dawn Walton’s direction never quite hits the necessary ambivalent darkness to make this as disturbingly disorientating as it should be but the film does get there eventually, mainly through Fagbenle’s slow awakening to the direness of his situation.
Perfume
The delight that is Middlesborough’s shopping centre features heavily in Ishy Din’s Perfume as brothers Sham and Nad run a scam in order to make some cash in order to buy some ganja. Naturally, things aren’t quite what they seem (a running theme in these films)
A Blues for Nia
Representing Bristol, Chino Odimba’s A Blue for Nia sees Sharon Duncan-Brewster’s Nia stride with purpose through St Pauls with her 5 year old son, striding with a purpose of which she gradually informs us as she vents her spleen.
Babydoll
Susan Hunter Downer’s Babydoll takes place in Sheffield’s city centre as Everal A Walsh’s tramp hunts for treasure amongst the bins and is taken by surprise when he finds a suitcase that he can’t open that he just knows will contain something good. Just what that is, well you’ll have to watch!

Re-review: Mr Burns, Almeida

“The episode starts with…
Wait, doesn’t he have…'”

It’s a bit of crime that it was relatively easy to get one of the good cheap seats to see Mr Burns again at the Almeida this far into the run but I suppose it is indicative of the risks that theatres take when they programme in a more exciting way than simply remounting The Importance of Being Earnest… And I sure ain’t complaining as I loved being able to revisit this searing production of Ann Washburn’s play and appreciate more of its dense cultural referencing and complexity rather than just sitting slack-jawed at the audacity of the piece.

My original review can be found here and I think I will leave it at that, I just run the risk of repeating myself ad nauseam otherwise. What I would recommend you read instead are Mildly Bitter’s insightful takes on the US productions she saw – first one here, and second one here which demonstrate a brilliantly articulated appreciation of what the show, and Washburn, are trying to do, and also offer an interesting look into how it has, and continues to, developed.

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with two intervals)
Booking until 26th July, go on – do it, book now. And don’t leave at the first interval! 

Review: Mr Burns, Almeida

“That’s the cartoon show that they watch”

When did theatre get this exciting again? Love it or hate it, and the critical response that has come in today seems to run the full gamut, Anne Washburn’s simply extraordinary play Mr Burns can lay a bold claim to be just unlike anything else on a London stage at the moment. I was pleased to have avoided finding out much about it in advance, even if one particular surprise was spoiled for me on Twitter, coming to something so fresh is a rarity these days but even had I read the play from cover to cover beforehand, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the experience of watching Robert Icke’s breath-takingly audacious production.

In all honesty, it is something that needs to be experienced to truly get it, I haven’t ‘felt’ a new play this much in ages, my reactions ranging from complete and absolute intrigue to slack-jawed amazement to hoots of laughter. Three distinct acts – all 40 minutes long – take us through the aftermath of some unspecified apocalyptic event in North America. Spread over nearly a century, Washburn muses on what the remnants of society’s reaction would be, what might survivors cling onto when hope is all but gone, what coping mechanisms would be developed to either distract from the horrors that have gone before or the uncertainty that lies ahead. Continue reading “Review: Mr Burns, Almeida”