TV Review: Silent Witness Series 12

Series 12 of Silent Witness, aka the one they are allowed to start getting jiggy with it, oh and they jet off to Zambia for a bit 

“You lot are expert arse coverers”

Expanded to six full-length stories and moving one of them to Southern Africa, Series 12 of Silent Witness ought to be something of a golden age for the show. And even if it doesn’t quite hit that highmark for me as the writers start to head increasingly to the personal lives of the team, it is still immensely watchable.

The series starts off well with a horny paramedic getting his arse out for Nikki and Leo’s sanctimony being punctured (briefly) by being done for drink driving. And as we move through London gangs and elite police units, vengeful Russian oligarchs and insular Hasidic Jews, a wide range of stories certainly challenges the team.    Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 12”

TV Review: Years and Years

Years and Years sees Russell T Davies take on dystopian near-future sci-fi to startling effect

“We’re not stupid, we’re not poor, we’re not lacking. I’m sorry, but we’re clever. We can think of something, surely.”

What if…? What if…? What Brexit happens, what if Trump is voted in again and fires a nuclear bomb towards China, what if global warming happens today and not tomorrow, what if Lee from Steps is the most successful one…? Such is the world of Years and Years, Russell T Davies’ latest TV venture, a six-part drama that dares to ask what if it is already too late.

He uses the Lyons family as a prism to explore what the next 15 years of human history might look like, as technological advances make leaps and bounds alongside the political and social upheaval that strikes at the very heart of this sprawing middle-class Manchester-based family. It’s a daring piece of drama, full of Davies’ typically big heart and bold emotional colours and I have to say I rather loved it. Continue reading “TV Review: Years and Years”

Review: Shangri-La, Finborough Theatre

“Welcome to Authentic China”

What kind of holidaymaker are you? The type that looks for the first place to sell you a full English breakfast or the type that cringes when you hear another English accent in the place, usually over-emphasising at a sceptical waiter. If you tend towards the latter then you might have already heard of sustainable tourism, heck, even booked a trip wanting to fully embrace the authenticity of a place rather than its tourist-stuffed facade.

Amy Ng’s Shangri-La questions the very notion of whether its possible though – whether a form of pure cultural tourism can exist or if it is all a sham, something cooked up to relieve all-too-easily proffered wallets and purses. Until 2001, the Chinese Himalayan city of Shangri-La was known as Zhongdian, its renaming aimed to capitalise on the vogue for all things Tibetan, and Ng asks at what cost such decisions are made. Continue reading “Review: Shangri-La, Finborough Theatre”

Short Film Review: The Orphan of Zhao Redux

“What can ordinary people do?”

Based on The Great Revenge of the Orphan of Zhao by Ji Junxiang and mixing in texts from numerous other writers, Daniel York’s The Orphan of Zhao Redux is a most enchanting thing indeed. The play is perhaps sadly most notorious, in recent years at least, for being at the centre of a controversy when the RSC cast just three East Asian actors in minor roles (out of seventeen in total) in what has been known as the Chinese Hamlet, such is the piece’s significance. But York fully wrests ownership away from such unsavouriness to produce a gorgeous eight minute short that is a brilliant showcase for what might have been.

The film features fourteen leading lights of the British East Asian acting scene, the narrative scattered between them all and the text reshaped into something of a poem as just as much feeling as storytelling emerges through the individual lines. Ikin Yum’s stunning monochrome cinematography has been astutely edited by Andrew Koji and the beautifully evocative music underscores the whole affair with just the right level of intrigue and emotion. Not knowing the play didn’t matter a jot, the film stirs something elemental – especially in its haunting final minute – and had me thoroughly hooked from the start. Continue reading “Short Film Review: The Orphan of Zhao Redux”

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Southwark Playhouse

The Southwark Playhouse’s Japanese-inspired production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream provided a welcome respite from a chilly Monday night. Performed by a pared-down cast of 7, with everyone doubling up (and in one case tripling up), this made for an intimate retelling of the story. Most interestingly the lovers also played the Rude Mechanicals, a choice I had not seen before, but one which for the most part worked.

With a minimalist set, and dressed in traditional Japanese attire, the transplanting of the action to Japan looks very effective, and it feels like an interesting twist on what is such familiar material: for example, the fairy Mustard-seed becomes Wasabi. Jay Oliver Yip’s Puck had a wonderful physicality and his delivery of the impish lines did not disappoint, and I felt all four of the lovers/Mechanicals delivered strong performances. However, the Theseus/Oberon and Hippolyta/Titania roles suffered a little bit from heavy Japanese accents to the occasional point of unintelligibility. It was only with the opening scene of Act 2 with Oberon and Puck where it seemed that the accent was being exaggerated and played for comic effect that one felt comfortable enough to laugh at the delivery without seeming patronising. Continue reading “Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Southwark Playhouse”