#166 - "Wilfully absurd" - theatre review, A Very Very Very Dark Matter 6/11/18

Bridge Theatre

There is slightly more going on in Martin McDonagh’s wilfully absurd play than the caustic reviews allowed. Yes, the plot is a slapdash creation, in which Hans Christian Anderson’s stories are written by a captive, one-legged female pygmy refugee from the future genocide in Belgian Congo. And yes, McDonagh rubs our noses in racism and cruelty yet again while asking us how much daftness we are prepared to take. But the serious point, I think, is that all Europe colluded in African oppression throughout history, and that even socially conscious authors prettify the horrors of humanity. Also, Jim Broadbent’s performance as Anderson is a comic delight; and not many other authors are writing parts  for one-legged black women.

#165 - "Rackety but timely" - theatre review, White Teeth 5/11/18

Kiln Theatre

There’s a slight whiff of panto to this exuberant stage adaptation, which reminds you of the dazzling sweep of Zadie Smith’s novel while missing some of its edge and acuity. The setting at least is right: Smith’s own NW3, where white, black and Asian characters rub along, procreate and observe the changing world, as 70s racism gives way to 90s radicalism. Indhu Rubasingham’s production is rackety but timely: a celebration of London’s melting pot feels urgently needed right now. And its glancing take on the issues Smith considers more deeply – genetics, faith, loyalty, desire – may compel people to read or reread the book.

#164 - "Probably necessary but difficult" - theatre review, Ear for Eye 31/10/11

Royal Court Theatre

Debbie Tucker Green’s latest is a probably necessary but difficult work in three parts, told over 195 uninterrupted minutes on a mostly bare stage. First, a number of unnamed black characters discuss and re-discuss harassment by police and what a ’real’ protest is. Second, a discussion between a patronising white man and a black woman about racial profiling – or the lack of it – in school shootings is repeatedly rehashed, the dynamic slightly tweaked each time. Third, mostly white non-actors (I think) of all ages read out various American states’ punishments for slaves on screens. It is by turns punishing, salutary, funny, repetitive and frustrating.

#163 - "Maisie Williams is better than the material" - theatre review, I and You 30/10/18

Hampstead Theatre

Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams proves better than the material she’s given for her stage debut. Lauren Gunderson’s American play is an earnest Young Adult work convinced of its own profundity. Williams is Caroline, a teen rendered snarkily abrasive by a liver complaint that restricts her life. Recent graduate Zach Wyatt is Anthony, the student who hijacks her solitude to seek help on a class presentation on Walt Whitman. Ed Hall’s production is efficient but the script is achingly eager to seem hip to youth culture and social media, and also to gain ballast via Whitman. The twist at the end is, at least, a good one.

#162 - "Angular limbs and angry genitals" - art review, Klimt/Schiele 31/10/18

Royal Academy

This is a little jewel of an exhibition, bringing together Austrian two artists, master and protégé, whose sense of form and fineness of line were matched only by their erotic obsession. Klimt’s eye was the more romantic, his swoonily embracing lovers prompting their surroundings to bloom; even his skeletons are elegant (see also the works in the Barbican Couples exhibition). Schiele is all angular limbs, angry genitals and discomfitingly youthful models, his self-portraits laceratingly frank. This small show of pencil works informs and illuminates the better-known paintings, and the early graphic designs look startlingly revolutionary still.

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