Review: Teenage Dick, Donmar Warehouse

In which I take issue with Michael Billington (and the whole theatre ecology) (and the world) when it comes to dealing with disability. Something which Teenage Dick at the Donmar Warehouse does extremely well.

“As winter formal gives way to glorious spring fling”

There’s something a little interesting about the way that theatre, and theatre criticism, is tackling disability. Movements towards promoting racial diversity have rightfully been widely celebrated and are beginning the process of hopefully recalibrating the theatrical and critical firmament for good. But when it comes to disability, the same can’t be really said… Onstage, glimmers like the current RSC ensemble and the recently closed Joe Egg remain the exception rather than the rule; when it comes to reviewers, disabled voices are even thinner on the ground (are we surprised, when accessibility in so much pub theatres remains limited, when captioning services are rarely available by press night…).  

Which is all a rather long-winded way of introducing the canny brilliance of Mike Lew’s Teenage Dick, open now at the Donmar Warehouse, and to pull up Michael Billington on assumptions made in his response. His final paragraph talks of “a radical shift in the politics of disability and a revolution in theatrical performance” which he feels undermines the play’s argument about how disabled people can be treated in a society that always, always bends to the ableist. There’s just so much privilege baked in there that I feel I have to react, even if Billington is on his valedictory lap of honour. Continue reading “Review: Teenage Dick, Donmar Warehouse”

TV Review: Humans Series 2

“All we can do is what feels right”

There’s been something really quite moving about the second series of Humans, the Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley Channel 4 drama which has just wound to a close. In a world that started off examining the diametrically opposed differences between humans and synths (series 1 review), the stark black and white palette of the show has moved markedly to a murky shade of grey on both sides, complicating the actions of both parties to make us really appreciate the difficulties in deciding right and wrong.

So where the renegade synth Niska (a brilliant Emily Berrington) has decided to subject herself to human justice in order to try and find some common ground, newly awakened Hester goes fully rogue in defining humans as the absolute enemy, to brutal effect in a chilling performance from Sonya Cassidy. And questions of identity are no less complex on the human side, as the show toys with ideas of humans opting to live life as a synth and experimenting even further with technology. Continue reading “TV Review: Humans Series 2”

TV Review: Humans Series 2 Episode 1

“I don’t deem your remark pertinent”

I came late to Series 1 of Channel 4 drama Humans but I’m making no such mistake this time round. And perhaps conscious of the show’s enormous critical and commercial success, creators Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley have considerably upped the ante on this second series, spreading the reach of the story from the UK to the US, Berlin to Bolivia. And though its scale may be becoming increasingly epic, the writing has thankfully maintained its startling intimacy in its explorations of what it means to be human.

To catch you up, the show centres on the invention, and subsequent evolution, of anthropomorphic robots called synths, designed to serve humans but a certain number of whom have become ‘conscious’. This second series sees that group on the run from the authorities, dealing with the ramifications of Niska’s decision – made early on here – to grant that same life to other synths, uploading code that is gradually deactivating their conditioning worldwide. Continue reading “TV Review: Humans Series 2 Episode 1”