Film Review: The Bike Thief (2020)

Alec Secareanu scorches in The Bike Thief, the moodily effective debut film from Matt Chambers

“No bike, no job. No job, no money. No money, no flat.”

Using Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 neorealist classic The Bicycle Thieves as a starting point, debut writer/director Matt Chambers really makes his mark with the slow-burning The Bike Thief. Anchored by a scorchingly good performance from God’s Own Country‘s Alec Secareanu, it lays bare just some of the realities of working class life in modern-day Britain and just how close to the edge it forces people to live.

Secareanu’s nameless rider is a Romanian father of two, living cheek by jowl with each other in a London tower block. Their physical closeness might be enforced but emotionally they’re tight too. So when his moped is nicked, the ride on which he delivers pizzas, takes his teenager to school and his wife to her cleaning jobs, the precarious balance of their lives is seriously threatened. Continue reading “Film Review: The Bike Thief (2020)”

TV Review: I Hate Suzie

Billie Piper and Lucy Prebble reunite and collaborate to great success with the sharply funny I Hate Suzie

“I’m sorry the world’s seen your dick, but also – fuck off, slightly”

Lucy Prebble and Billie Piper’s creative relationship has covered TV (Secret Diary of a Call Girl, the first season at least) and theatre (the excellent The Effect) and was recently reignited with Sky series I Hate Suzie. Drawing something of personal history, the show follows a former teen pop star turned sci-fi actress as she deals with a phone hacking incident which leaves problematic intimate photos of her scattered on the internet.

The eight episodes cycle through, and are titled after, stages of trauma – Shock, Denial, Fear, Shame, Bargaining, Guilt, Anger, and Acceptance – representing the indubitably self-centered Suzie’s processing of her experience. And it is a highly entertaining, linear journey, one which Suzie barrelling forward with an interesting lack of recurring characters – even her family members only get the one episode in which to appear, such is the pace of the high-maintenance that she is alternately trying to salvage and sabotage. Continue reading “TV Review: I Hate Suzie”

Review: Royal Court’s Living Newspaper #2

Sneaking in in the nick of time, I catch the delights of the second edition of the Royal Court’s Living Newspaper

“A slither of hope…hmmm”

I do love what the Royal Court are doing with their Living Newspaper series, rapid-response pieces being created with a limited shelf-life creating a sense of urgency that isn’t always present with digital content, but spreading the week of availability over Christmas does feel a little tricky even if festive plans for so many of our plans were forced astray.

Nevertheless, I was able to get stuck into the second edition before the digital shredder cut in and I’m glad I did as it continues to be an entirely fascinating and engaging disruption of theatrical form. Adopting the various elements of a newspaper (horoscopes, dating columns, cartoons as well as news and opinion pieces) and delivering them from various nooks and crannies around the Royal Court building (the originally planned in-person experience would have been conducted in promenade), the result is fierce and fresh. Continue reading “Review: Royal Court’s Living Newspaper #2”

News: Cast announced for Royal Court’s Living Newspaper #2

Moronkẹ Akinola, Hammed Animashaun, Ayesha Antoine, Alex Austin, Lisa Hammond, Mariam Haque, Zachary Hing, Siu-see Hung, Wendy Kweh, Tasha Lim, Ntonga Mwanza, Rochelle Rose and Liza Sadovy have been cast in Edition 2 of the Royal Court Theatre’s Living Newspaper: A Counter Narrative.

Living Newspaper is a weekly live newspaper running over six weeks. It is urgent, responsive and fast – with writers filing their pieces by Tuesday and actors performing from Thursday, script-in-hand, hot off the press. Continue reading “News: Cast announced for Royal Court’s Living Newspaper #2”

News: The Mono Box launch The Monologue Library

I mean, just look at this absolute treasure trove of theatrical talent! 

 

I’m off to listen to Patsy Ferran read Tom Wells, and Gabby Wong read Alexi Kaye Campbell, and Sarah Niles read Winsome Pinnock and…and…

This incredible resource is free but like so many creative endeavours right now, would benefit hugely from your donations here

 

TV Review: Doctor Who Series 12

Series 12 of Doctor Who goes hard on what we think we know about the Time Lord and finishes in a blaze of glory

“You can be a pacifist tomorrow. Today you just need to survive”

I don’t think I have ever minded anything that happened in Doctor Who so much that I have declared it cancelled, even at the point where all the magnificent character development by Catherine Tate’s Donna was undone in a plot point of real cruelty. So it is hard to take so-called fans of the show seriously when torrents of complaints are unleashed about the sanctity of a world of science fiction that has long enjoyed challenging and expanding what we know about characters we love. (See my Episode 1 review here.)

So it should come as little surprise that I really rather enjoyed series 12 of Doctor Who. Across the season as a whole, I felt that Jodie Whittaker has settled more into the role, especially as the writers feel more confident in finding her voice. And the balancing act of having three companions in the TARDIS has been more assured now that the business of introducing them is over, allowing the group to splinter off for large chunks of episodes has allowed much more of their characters to shine through, particularly for Mandip Gill’s Yaz (who I am mightily glad survived that final episode – I thought she was doomed after her chat with Graham). Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Series 12”

Review: Gundog, Royal Court

“Just make them shag each other and sell all the littluns to rich people who want pets of something”

There’s something unremittingly bleak about Simon Longman’s Gundog that makes it a real challenge. It’s an impressively bold depiction of the complete decline of a way of life, the kind of rural farming that the Common Agricultural Policy hasn’t managed to reach and protect. None of the loneliness or impoverished desperation is spared in what can feel a tad like punishment by the end. 

After the death of their parents, and with their grandfather’s illness and their brother’s listlessness, sisters Anna and Becky find themselves landed with the thankless task of looking after the remotest of farms in an area that can’t even sustain a local pub. The arrival of a foreigner with a nifty line in knitwear is a rare harkening of the potential of change but we’re never allowed to forget that times really are tough.   Continue reading “Review: Gundog, Royal Court”

Review: Yen, Royal Court

“Brother, I’ve come home”

Anna Jordan’s Yen follows its fellow 2013 Bruntwood Prize-winner The Rolling Stone by Chris Urch in transferring from Manchester to London and given that In-Sook Chappell’s P’yongyang was on the shortlist for the same year and is selling out the Finborough now, it’s all rather a good showcase for this particular cohort of that playwriting competition.

The play is a taut, terrifying version of corrupted teenagerhood, not a million miles away from the world of Simon Stephens’ Herons, just set on the other side of London in a council flat in Feltham. There, brothers 16-year-old Hench and 13-year-old Bobby have been left alone by their mother and become cut off from the world around them with no family, friends or school to distract them from a relentless diet of porn and computer games and just a single t-shirt to share. Continue reading “Review: Yen, Royal Court”

The 2015 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations

Actor In A Leading Role
Colin Connor in A View From The Bridge at Octagon Theatre, Bolton
Rob Edwards in An Enemy Of The People at Octagon Theatre, Bolton
Jonjo O’Neill in The Crucible at the Royal Exchange
Sam Swann in Pomona at the Royal Exchange

Actress In A Leading Role
Scarlett Brookes in Educating Rita at Oldham Coliseum
Barbara Drennan in A View From The Bridge and The Family Way at Octagon Theatre, Bolton
Kathryn Hunter in Kafka’s Monkey at HOME
Maxine Peake in The Skriker at the Royal Exchange Continue reading “The 2015 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations”

Review: The Skriker, Royal Exchange

“No mistake no mister no missed her no mist no miss no”

As my dear Aunty Mary used to say, by the crin! Sarah Frankcom’s production of Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker is a properly gobsmacking piece of work, the kind of theatre that leaves you reeling from its sheer audacity, its free-wheeling inventiveness and a general sense of what-the-fuckery. Maxine Peake’s acting career has been far too varied for a peak to ever be declared (though for me, Twinkle ftw) but it is hard to imagine her any more hauntingly, viscerally, intense than she is here, wrapping every sinew of her body around the often bafflingly complex wordplay and utterly owning it with an authoritative otherworldliness.

There’s a plot. Kind of. Though it is literally, and physically, hard to follow. Frankcom has lavished huge amounts of creativity onto the show and empowered her creatives to be daring, so that it becomes akin to an art installation in how densely visual it becomes. Imogen Knight’s choreography haunts every scene as an ensemble of 12 keep a strange and kinetic energy coursing through the theatre, Jack Knowles’ artistically inspired lighting playfully pulls the perspective one way then the other, and Lizzie Clachan’s reinvention of the physical space of the auditorium has to be seen to really be believed (book the stalls, seriously) as it rewrites the rules of engagement. Continue reading “Review: The Skriker, Royal Exchange”