Mike Bartlett adapts his play Bull for the TV in the form of Sticks and Stones, with mixed if enjoyable results
“Maybe it’s banter”
I had clocked that Sticks and Stones that a new TV drama written and created by Mike Bartlett, hence it appearing pretty high on my to-watch list. What I hadn’t realised was that it is an adaptation of his cracking 2013 play Bull, which I have seen a fair few times, dating back to a reading in 2010. Given that the play was less than an hour and this serial was three (ITV) hours, I was intrigued to see how an extended version of this workplace bullying drama would work and I was pleased to see Ken Nwosu leading the cast, which included an alumni of the Young Vic production in Susannah Fielding.
And in line with the way his TV writing has been skewing, the result is something far more melodramatically silly than you’d ever expect from Bartlett in a theatre. I don’t say it as a particularly negative thing, more a statement of fact. The tautness of the play’s running time meant that once teeth were bared, it was one vicious snarl through to the end, heart-racingly menacing in its cruelty. Here, there’s much more time to fill and so it is more of slow build, as nice guy Thomas is essentially gaslit by his cut-throat team of property mangers (“we’re now able to offer a bespoke office solution”). Continue reading “TV Review: Sticks and Stones”
Star names can’t hide the dullness here
“My decision stands, and I’m going to bed”
No. No, no, no. No. The fact that The Post has any Oscar nominations is testament to how much in thrall to star power the Academy is. And fair enough, the trifecta of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep is a weighty one. But this is a dull film, rushed through production to try and capitalise on topicality, that is being severely over-recognised here.
“Speak to me in your mother-tongue and I will let you go”
In a land where truth and reconciliation tried to salve the considerable wounds of Apartheid in a multi-ethnic society (with no less than eleven official languages), it is little wonder that race relations in contemporary South Africa remain complex and challenging. And it is this subject, and his own personal experiences thereof, that writer Mongiwekhaya has turned for his play I See You, a product of the Royal Court’s international new writing development and a co-production with the Market Theatre Johannesburg where it will play next.
I See You, or Ngiyakubona in Zulu, or Ek Sien Jou in Afrikaans, or Ndiyakubona in Xhosa, to give it its full title, follows the events of a traumatic Friday night in Johannesburg where the conflict is even more multi-faceted, refracted through generational tension as well as ethnic. Teenagers Ben and Skinn are hooking up at a party but their revels are interrupted by police sergeant Buthelezi, a man having a terrible night with his marriage collapsing around him and far from inclined to just let this case slide as he whisks Ben away to mete out some punishment. Continue reading “Review: I See You, Royal Court”