TV Review: What Remains

“Something bad always happens when you go upstairs”

Something is in the water of British crime drama that is making it more interesting than it has been for quite some time. Tony Basgallop’s What Remains, directed by Coky Giedroyc, has thrilled across four weeks on BBC1 making the kind of whodunnit that genuinely had one guessing right till the very end with its carousel of hugely unlikeable personalities remarkably all remaining in the mix for the crime for a very long time. Set in an inner-city townhouse split into flats, it plays on the anonymity of metropolitan life – the fact that we can live next door to people and remain strangers, dissociated from their lives entirely. Such is the fate of Melissa Young, whose decaying body is found in the loft of a building yet whose absence for two years has gone unnoticed. 

She owned the top flat but as soon we get to know the rest of the inhabitants, we soon see why this wasn’t the happiest of houses. A cranky maths teacher lives in the basement with something of a dirty secret, on the ground floor is a recovering alcoholic journalist whose romance with a colleague is under threat from his self-possessed teenage son, above them are lesbian graphic designers gripped in a psychotically abusive relationship and above them are a newly-arrived and heavily pregnant young couple. Throw in a widower detective on the brink of retirement and no life outside of work and the scene is set for cracking four-parter What Remains. Continue reading “TV Review: What Remains”

Review: Chekhov in Hell, Soho Theatre

“I have just woken up”

What would happen if Russian playwright Anton Chekhov were to wake from a hundred-year-long coma to find himself slap bang in the middle of modern day London? What his keen observational eye make of this radically different society? That’s the question Dan Rebellato poses in his new comedy Chekhov in Hell which plays at the Soho Theatre after a premiere run at the Drum Theatre Plymouth late last year. Taking Hell to be our contemporary world, in particular the metropolitan excesses of London, Chekhov is exposed to a series of fashionistas, molecular gastronomists, lap-dancing clubs, Twitter, MTV Cribs, even people-trafficking gangsters in a set of interview-like situations, all the while the police are trying to track him down to reunite him with a long-distance relative.

At the centre of the play, Simon Scardifield (taking over from Simon Gregor and returning to acting after some translation work for the Royal Court with Our Private Life) was excellent as Chekhov, saying really quite little in terms of spoken dialogue but speaking volumes with his sympathetic performance, being so far removed from his time zone yet beginning to deal with his own issues by situating himself in his own comfort zone and lending a considerate listening ear to a vast swathe of this new society. Some of the funniest moments come with his struggle to comprehend the modern English of various sections of society, exposing the meaninglessness of much of what comes out of our mouths. Continue reading “Review: Chekhov in Hell, Soho Theatre”

Review: Our Private Life, Royal Court

“Are you thinking or speaking? Is he thinking or speaking? Am I thinking or speaking?”

Our Private Life, a family parable in three acts and an epilogue by Colombian playwright Pedro Miguel Rozo, is the first play in the Royal Court’s International Playwrights Season – 2 full productions, one each from Latin America and Eastern Europe accompanied by seminars and readings of other works from around the region. Developed in part at their International Residency, Our Private Life or Nuestras Vidas Privadas has been produced in Colombia but appears here in a translation by Simon Scardifield.

Set in an unspecified but rapidly urbanising location in Colombia – a town with the soul of a village or a village with the body of a town – it looks at a family whose veneer of respectability and good standing is severely compromised when a damaging rumour starts to circulate about the father and the young son of one of their former tenants. The shockwaves reverberate internally too though as long-buried secrets edge closer to the surface as the two sons, bipolar-compulsive-fantasist gay Carlos and hyper-masculine, budding businessman Sergio, try to figure out the truth about their childhood amidst all the flying accusations. Continue reading “Review: Our Private Life, Royal Court”