La. It’s A Sin is a triumphant piece of television written by Russell T Davies, a crucial if challenging watch about how HIV/AIDS cut through the gay community in 1980s London
“We’ve got this great big killer disease and it’s happening in silence”
On the face of it, a five-parter on the AIDS crisis in 1980s London isn’t what you’d necessarily pick to schedule in the depths of a Covid-blighted January. But Russell T Davies and Channel 4 have absolutely hit the mark with It’s A Sin, Dipping every couple of years into the lives of a group of friends who find each other in London’s queer corners, this journey from 1981 to 1991 takes place under the ever-growing and ever-threatening shadow of HIV/AIDS.
It’s the kind of script where you can feel that every word has been intimately felt, with characters based on Davies’ own life, At the heart of it lies Olly Alexander’s Ritchie, an 18 year old would-be law student just waiting to explode out of the closet from his Isle of Wight homelife. It being the 80s, he soon finds himself in a chaotic but fab houseshare in which a new queer family develops – Roscoe (Omari Douglas) escaping his Nigerian family’s plan to straighten him out, the dreamy Ash (Nathaniel Curtis) with his douching advice, quiet Welsh boy Colin (a superb Callum Scott Howells) and Jill (an equally excellent Lydia West) who tempts him over onto the drama course and establishes one of the key relationships of the show (reflecting one of Davies’ own and in a neat touch, the real Jill appears as the fictional Jill’s mum). Continue reading “TV Review: It’s A Sin”
Oof, the start of the downfall…Series 9 of Spooks turns into the Lucas North show with terrible ramifications
“Do you know how I knew it was true? Because for the first time you made sense”
It couldn’t last, two strong series of Spooks back-to-back were undone by the horrors of Series 9. And it needn’t have been this way, it opens with a great 10 minutes. Ros;s funeral! A proposal! Harry as an assassin! Ruth getting called “that dogged, brilliant bitch”! But new head writers Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent then have the trickier task of reconstructing a new team, and don’t quite nail it with Sophia Myles’ Beth and Max Brown’s Dimitri only ever appearing in shades of beige.
Worse though, is the shifting of the entire season’s narrative onto Richard Armitage’s Lucas who – dun dun dur – is actually someone else called John Bateman, whose torturously wrangled personal history is dragged out through the presence of Iain Glen’s Vaughan. Undoing all the good work that Armitage had done in building the fascinating ambiguities of Lucas North, the entire John Bateman storyline was a huge mis-step and ultimately indulges Spooks at its worst.
Never better than turning Harry down, she’s a vital steadying presence in a show that badly needs it. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 9”
Despite an excellent cast, Robert Holman’s Making Noise Quietly gains little in this transfer to the big screen
“I think you’re being very hard on him”
Being asked to review things is always a privilege but when the matter at hand is based on a play I found interminably dull, it can be a tricky business. Directed by Dominic Dromgoole, Making Noise Quietly is based on an elliptical triptych of short plays by Robert Holman, all centred on the human effects of war.
From 1944 to 1982 and then on again to 1996, the film examines how the shellshock of major conflict can reverberate all the way back to the home front, and the varying routes it can take. From conscientous objectors to death in service to inescapable cycles of abusive and violence, the scope is huge. Continue reading “Film review: Making Noise Quietly (2019)”
Ahead of the film’s release on 19th July, a new trailer has been released for Making Noise Quietly
“Not with those muddy boots on”
Since his decade at the helm of Shakespeare’s Globe, Dominic Dromgoole has turned his hand to Oscar Wilde seasons with his new theatre company Classic Spring and has also set up the film company Open Palm Films – no resting on his laurels here. Not only that, but he’s also now making his directorial feature film debut with an adaptation of Robert Holman’s Making Noise Quietly. Continue reading “Film news: trailer for Making Noise Quietly released”
“No one ever changed the world alone”
With pretty much every production of hers that I see (most memorably Lela & Co. and I’d Rather Goya Robbed Me Of My Sleep Than Some Other Arsehole), Jude Christian is becoming one of those directors whose work cannot be missed. And with the 2015 Bruntwood Prize-winning Parliament Square, now opening at the Bush after an October premiere at the Royal Exchange, that reputation doesn’t look in any danger at all.
She’s helped here by a magnificently fearless piece of writing from James Fritz, split almost schizophrenically into two contrasting parts. The first presents us with Kat, a woman on the precipice of leaving her husband and their young son to commit some unspeakable act, being urged along the way by an enigmatic figure far more bluntly daring than she seems to be. The second then takes us past the act, which failed, into an uncertain world of uneasy compromise. Continue reading “Review: Parliament Square, Bush Theatre”
South London based site-specific theatre company Baseless Fabric are presenting David Mamet’s rarely performed short plays Reunion and Dark Pony in libraries across South London as part of National Libraries Week 2017. The plays are two of David Mamet’s earliest work, first produced in the US in 1976 and 1977 respectively and both feature David Schaal and Siu-see Hung in their casts.
Both of the plays explore father and daughter relationships and the audience will be immersed in the worlds of these plays in the unique and atmospheric library environments during National Libraries Week 2017 to raise awareness of exciting events happening in local libraries and bring theatre to people in their local library space. Artistic Director Joanna Turner directs with Set & Costume Designer Bex Kemp, creating a site-responsive design in each library space.
Mon 9th Oct 7.30pm – Durning Library, SE11 4HF (nearest station: Kennington)
Tue 10th Oct 7.30pm – John Harvard Library, SE1 1JA (nearest station: Borough)
Wed 11th Oct 7.30pm – John Harvard Library, SE1 1JA (nearest station: Borough)
Thu 12th Oct 7.30pm – Merton Arts Space, Wimbledon Library, SW19 4BG (nearest station: Wimbledon)
Fri 13th Oct 7.30pm – Merton Arts Space, Wimbledon Library, SW19 4BG (nearest station: Wimbledon)
Sat 14th Oct 3pm – Earlsfield Library, SW18 3NY (nearest station: Earlsfield)
Sat 14th Oct 7.30pm – Battersea Library, SW11 1JB (nearest station: Clapham Junction)
Sun 15th Oct 6pm – Clapham Library, SW4 7DB (nearest station: Clapham Common)
Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”
“’Tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind”
Though no spring chicken myself, I’m not quite the right age to be truly excited about Oscar winning actress-turned politician-turned actress again Glenda Jackson’s return to the stage. I was more intrigued than truly excited when she was announced in the title role of Deborah Warner’s King Lear for the Old Vic for though I’m well aware of who she is, her film and TV credits never broke through into what I was watching either back then or since. (Feel free to recommend her must-see performances – I’ll add them to the list of things I’ll get round to watching one day.)
But I’m always here for casting decisions that shake the established order somewhat and with Celia Imrie, Jane Horrocks and Rhys Ifans in the cast too, there was no chance I wouldn’t go see this. Full disclosure though, I went to the final £10 preview so treat this review how you will. For it is simultaneously an effortful and frustratingly vague production that never truly convinces of the attempted scope of its artistic vision. Fortunately, this often-times ephemeral and occasionally perplexing Lear is anchored by a striking performance from Jackson. Continue reading “Review: King Lear, Old Vic”
“I’ve got the evacuee to prove it”
Now that Blood Brothers has now finished its lengthy London run, the Phoenix Theatre is opening up its doors to new productions: Midnight Tango and Once will come in the new year but first up is Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of Goodnight Mr Tom ahead of a UK tour. Michelle Magorian’s novel belongs to the similar strong tradition of children’s literature as Nina Bawden’s Carrie’s War, that contextualises the Second World War evacuee experience for many children. And David Wood’s adaptation wisely does not attempt to sugar the pill, though billed as a family show and with a beautifully sensitive story of personal awakening at its heart, there is no escaping the brutal shadow of war which ensures the production is never in danger of becoming twee.
The story brings out a wonderful sense of the potential for emotional growth at any age: Oliver Ford Davies’ gruff but kind Tom encourages the bruised soul that is Will, played here by Ewan Harris (one of three young actors sharing the role), to come out of his shell as the young Londoner is billeted to a Dorset village where he experiences the countryside for the first time, learns to read and write and generally flourishes now away from the troubled, abusive mother left in London. But Will provides a similar service for Tom, releasing him from the emotional paralysis that has gripped him for nigh on 40 years and Ford Davies’ depiction of the slow release of his suppressed paternal instinct is just beautiful to watch. Continue reading “Review: Goodnight Mr Tom, Phoenix Theatre”
“Isn’t life extraordinary”
Written in 1951, John Van Druten’s play I Am A Camera will trigger moments of recognition for many more people than will initially be expecting it. Based on Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, it formed a major part of the inspiration for the Kander + Ebb musical Cabaret in its depiction of a 1932 Berlin whose Bohemian excesses are beginning to be curbed by the rise of the Nazi party to power. Suffering from writer’s block, Isherwood happily allowed himself to get side-tracked in the decadent whirl of the Weimar Republic and right in the heart of the storm, taking him along for the ride, is his great friend Sally Bowles.
Spread over a few months, Van Druten gives us vignettes of Christopher and Sally’s hectic lives, as well as those who are drawn into their orbit, like the inscrutable Fritz, the intense Jewish Natalia and the dashingly charismatic American Clive. It is Isherwood’s story, so we delve in and out of his memory – Nicolai Kornum’s lighting crucially good here – as tales of love and friendship play around the hopes, ambitions and trials of this group of people. The combined effect is one of a beautiful portrait of quietly observed humanity in all its complexity.
Barely recognisable as Dudley from the Harry Potter films, Harry Melling imbues Isherwood with a sinuous physical grace and a highly appealing charm throughout. His mostly unruffable demeanour makes him a steadying presence, but one filled with deeply felt emotion which comes out in his show of great maturity late on. Around him, Oliver Rix’s debonair Clive is a bundle of hat-tossing sexually ambiguous delight, Sophie Dickson and Freddie Capper negotiate a failed attempt at romance with skill and Sherry Baines’ domineering matriarch makes a strong late impression.
Continue reading “Review: I Am A Camera, Southwark Playhouse”
“I’m stupefied by the suffering I’ve seen”
I started the year with the best of intentions to try and cut down on the number of shows I’m seeing and specifically to stop going to things I know I won’t like (mainly because of the cast). In this respect Bingo at the Young Vic was a double whammy as it had some of the worst word-of-mouth I’ve ever heard from fellow theatre-goers and I don’t even particularly like Patrick Stewart. But I allowed myself to be suckered into getting £10 tickets for a Wednesday matinee (by someone who then bailed at the last minute!) and safe to say, it was not a good experience.
Edward Bond’s play looks at the final years of Shakespeare’s life as the playwright returns to Stratford-upon-Avon having given up on writing, given up on his daughter and wife whom he loathes and generally given up on life. In the midst of his depressed funk is the enactment of the Enclosures Act which enabled the landed gentry to evict many of the poor and in which Shakespeare is complicit as he allows himself to turn a blind eye – though he is not completely without conscience as he sees the wider impact of these actions on a runaway girl who is brutalised by society. But even this makes it seem more interesting than it actually was as the first half was just criminally dull. I found it extremely hard to stay awake and there were a ton of walkouts. Continue reading “Review: Bingo – scenes of money and death, Young Vic”