I’ve not blogged for a while so thought I’d bring you up to speed with things I’ve seen, read and listened to over the last few weeks:
Theatre: Tribes – Sheffield Crucible
This is the regional premiere of Nina Raine’s 2010 play which originally opened at the Royal Court in London. It concerns a young deaf man whose family try to treat him as ‘normally’ as possible, but he feels like he’s being ignored. When he meets a woman who’s gradually going deaf, he begins to explore his own identity as a deaf person and starts to yearn for a ‘tribe’ of his own.
The main problem with Tribes is that most of the characters are really, really annoying. In fact, about 15 minutes into proceedings, I felt a bit of a sinking feeling knowing that I was spending the next two hours with these people. Thankfully, the complexities of the characters soon begin to show, and Raine’s script becomes a multi-layered delight. There are strong performances all round, although I found that Raine tried to pack a bit too much into the second half. My review for Exeunt magazine can be found here.
Music: Lorde – Melodrama
The second album by the New Zealand singer could well be my favourite album of 2017 so far (although I’d imagine Arcade Fire, The National and St Vincent will all push her pretty close). Her debut Pure Heroine was an excellent introduction, but she’s moved up a whole new level with Melodrama.
Melodrama is a break-up album, and all emotions can be found here: regret, relief, grief, memories, and acceptance. Opening track Green Light is very probably the pop song of the year, the astounding Writer In The Dark channels Kate Bush at her very best, and Supercut is the best song that Robyn never wrote.
There are so many great moments here you begin to lose count: the way Lorde almost hisses a line like “Jack and Jill get fucked up and possessive when it gets dark”, the way she pretty much screams during Supercut as the emotion gets too much for her, and her sad, mournful delivery of “I’ll start letting go of little things til I’m so far away from you” in Hard Feelings.
It’s an album that sums up what it means to be young, messed up, and a little bit broken and it’s absolutely wonderful.
Film: Baby Driver
Edgar Wright made his name with Simon Pegg in the TV show Spaced, and is probably best known for the Cornetto Trilogy with Pegg and Nick Frost (Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuss and The World’s End). The last film that Wright made without Pegg in tow was Scott Pilgram Vs The World, which a lot of people, but I hated – to me, it felt like being trapped with a toddler on a sugar rush.
Baby Driver though is utter brilliance from start to finish. It reminded me of early Tarantino without the tiresome reliance on the ‘n-word’, and the action sequences are technically flawless. The plot concerns a young man forced to work as a getaway driver for crime boss Kevin Spacey – an accident early in life has left him with tinnitus so he constantly listens to songs on his (various) iPods to drown out the ringing in his ears.
At first you may worry that Ansel Elgort’s Baby is far too irritating to carry the film, but his characters vulnerabilities and flaws mean that you soon warm to him. John Hamm pops up, 100% more psychotic than he ever was as Don Draper, and Jamie Foxx is both hilarious and chilling as the reckless Bats.
Some have argued that Baby Driver is simply style over content but that’s unfair – there’s a real emotional connection with the characters and by the end you’re rooting for Baby to drive off into the sunset with his love Debra. Besides, this is a film filled with incredible action sequences, some exhilarating car crashes and the best soundtrack of the year so far.
Television: Twin Peaks
Originally, I was going to do a week by week recap of Twin Peaks, but it soon became clear that was going to be incredibly difficult (and pointless). This is a show that needs to be experienced, not read about. Just like the original show tore up the rule book and broke new ground, the 2017 version of Twin Peaks is doing the same.
This is not the same show as it was in 1990. And nor should it be. Were you the same person that you were 25 years ago? Lynch has re-modified his show with time, and the result is some of the most daring, thrilling television ever made. It’s almost like having a brand new hour-long David Lynch film every week, with some of the characters from Twin Peaks popping up now and again.
Episode 8, aired last week, will go down in history as one of the most surreal episodes of TV ever broadcast. It’s more like an art installation than a TV show – a five minute sequence of a nuclear bomb exploding, various dreamlike scenes drifting across the screen, and ending with one of the most horrifying, chilling things that Lynch has ever been involved with.
I’m not sure when we’re going to see Audrey Horne, Big Ed, or whether James Marshall will ever re-appear from that one scene in the closing minutes of the opening episode. And there’s no indication of when Kyle McLachlan will shake off his Dougie persona to become the Cooper we all know, love and remember. But, amazingly, I don’t really care. I’m just so grateful to have this show and this creative genius back in my life.
Book: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry
Fun fact; Sarah Perry used to write theatre reviews for Exeunt. Now she’s won various prestigious awards for her second novel. I also write theatre reviews for Exeunt. I have never won an award for any novel. In fact, I’ve never written a novel. But hey, who knows what the future holds.
Perry’s success is more than well deserved anyway – The Essex Serpent is a gripping tale of love, horror and intrigue set in Essex during the late 19th century. A young widow moves to the area following the death of her husband and becomes obsessed with the mythical tale of a sea serpent killing locals along the estuary.
Perry’s characters are beautifully drawn – you can almost picture people like Luke, the ‘impish’ surgeon who holds a torch for the widow Cora, and the belligerent priest of the area William Ransome. It’s almost overflowing with unrequited lust and love – everyone in the novel seems to fancy someone else and nothing ever seems to quite work out for any of them.
It’s Perry’s writing which is the real draw, her prose is beautifully written and by the time you get to the end of the novel you really feel like you’ve got to know these characters. A novel that well deserves all the success that has come its way.