Archive for August 24th, 2010


He’s Not Black

Tuesday, 24 August, 2010

London Festival Fringe – The White Bear Theatre Club – 23 & 29 Aug – 19:30 (1:45)

It’s New Years Eve 2008, Barack Obama is about to be sworn in as the first black president of the United States, and four friends are out celebrating the holiday in style at a local night club.  For Jeremy (James Hamilton), a notorious drug dealer, it’s a chance for one more night of freedom.  In forty-eight hours, he will stand trial for possession of drugs with intent to sell, after having been handed in to the police by his best friend Leon (Wayne Joseph).  It’s also Jeremy’s opportunity to keep an eye on Leon’s movements.  Leon owes Jeremy a favour for his role in a previous crime, and Jeremy has convinced him to lie under oath on his behalf.  For Jennifer (Catherine Ashton) and Olivia (Teraiś Latore), wealth management advisors from the City, it’s a chance to drown their sorrows on the brink of financial and professional disaster.  As the evening wears on and the drugs and alcohol flow freely, the group discuss the effect that their race, gender, and class have had on their lives.  If a black man can become President of the United States, reasons Leon, then anything is possible.  ‘He’s not even black’, muse the others in turn, sparking a debate on what it is that defines race in modern Britain.

Set and costume design are appropriate for the piece.  Olivia’s red mini dress, gold shoes and belt, together with Jennifer’s black jumpsuit and accessories lend to the party atmosphere, as does the addition of the roped-off VIP area.  However, sound design detracts from the action.

Although ‘He’s Not Black’ is set in a night club, it is not necessary for dance music to be played continuously as a reinforcement of this setting.  Instead, it makes it difficult to concentrate on the script.  Likewise, the sound is used too often to stress the mood, when the acting and script should be sufficient.  Employing the use of fade in and out would have been better.

The cast of ‘He’s Not Black’ work well together as a company and are fully committed to their roles.  Wayne Joseph, in particular, turns in an emotional performance which captures well his character’s inner turmoil.  But the script and direction by Chima Nsoedo need more work.  At an hour and forty-five minutes in length without an interval, the play is too long with repetitive themes, and it fails to hold attention until the end.  Although a great deal is being said about race, the majority of it is clichéd without new insight.  There’s a mixed race woman struggling with her identity, a black woman trying to find her place in a predominantly white industry, a black man dealing drugs because he can’t find a better way to get himself out of poverty, and a young black man trying to better his situation at any cost.  These are familiar character types, and despite numerous plot twists and turns, their actions are highly predictable.  The characters presented are also not written as sympathetic, and because of this it’s difficult to maintain interest in their predicaments.

Additionally, some of the humour borders on offensive and ‘He’s Not Black’ is therefore not recommended for the faint of heart.  Jeremy states, at one point, that when he ‘fu*ks white women, he gives it to them hard to get back at them for slavery’.  Lines like this are uncomfortable, but if they are necessary within the greater framework and message of the play, they can be justified.  As written, they seem to serve no purpose other than shock value.

Cast CreditsCatherine Ashton – Jennifer.  James Hamilton – Jeremy.  Wayne Joseph – Leon.  Teraiś Latore – Olivia.

Company Credits:  Writer/ Director/ Producer – Chima Nsoedo.  Production Designer – Laurence Webb. Lighting/ Stage Management – Ross Pomfret. Sound Engineer – Daniel Vieco. Producer – James Hamilton. Producer/ Assistant Director – Fiona Bines. Assistant Director – Diana Mumbi.

(c) Megan Hunter 2010

reviewed Monday, 23 August


London 48 Hour Short Film Award 2010

Tuesday, 24 August, 2010

Final Cut

London Festival Fringe – Roxy Bar and Screen, 18 August 2010

The entrants to this competition all have one thing in common: the ability to work to an extremely tight deadline.

Last February each entrant team was given a title and genre, both selected separately and at random, along with a deadline 48 hours later, when they had to submit the final product.

Each of the movies was posted on You Tube and the judges had the tricky task of scoring each movie, all of which are quite different from each other and come from many different genres. They couldn’t have been easy to compare. The winner was selected by a very narrow margin and announced at the end of the screening.

The evening overall was very enjoyable and wonderfully presented by Katya Ozols. Three of the judges were present and went through each of the entrant films giving an individualised critique to each of the teams, much to the interest of the rest of the audience, most of whom seemed to be in the industry. All seven films can be seen on You Tube or via link on the London Festival Fringe site. This is a great opportunity for filmmakers to showcase their skills without incurring huge expense. The judges were clearly enthusiastic about the process and had a lot to say in the Q&A session following the screening and award.

Team: Alma
Title: 3 Lives
Genre: Romance
Director: Mark Withers
On Screen: Trudi Jackson, Matthew Walker, Vivienne Gibbs, Fliss Walton, Lucy Caplin, Al Constantine, Nish, Tim Diggle

This movie was shot with a camcorder and documents the morning of an unconventional London wedding. It was part comedy and part romance.

Team: Art is Useless
Title: The Well of Loneliness
Genre: Suspense
Director: Jimmy Henderson

This movie is true to the genre. The filmmakers take quite a daring option in shooting the film in black and white and without dialogue. To compensate, the makers have used sound, music and beautifully eerie shots to create the atmosphere.

Team: Avocado
Title: What Maisie Knew
Genre: Biography
Director: Pavol Kajan
Writer: Annabel Dearing
Producer: Natalie Thomas
On Screen: Ruth Posner, Rob Lyndon, Provence Maydeo, Lady Suzy

This film was shot as a documentary. An unconvinced presenter interviews a young woman who has perfected the art of speaking with cats. It is a very clever idea and well presented.

Team: Spontaneous Skamp
Title: A day off
Genre: Fantasy
Director: Sophie Windsor Clive
On screen: Sande Schells, Adam Skidmore

This is a quirky movie showing Vincent Van Gough having some down time. The story is told through narration and some very memorable music. The shots and editing are very pleasing and the idea is unique.

Team: Water Rats
Title: Miss Lonely Hearts
Genre: Crime
Director: James Ward
Story: James Ward, Dory Dutton, Samuel Recko, Patric Lyons
Editors: Matthew Tanti, Aaron Moore

The grainy film and film noir shots combine with a very unusual story to create this film. There is nothing run of the mill about this film and all but the most intuitive of spectators will come away with more than a bit of doubt as to what they have actually just seen.

Team: Yardie Style
Title: She
Genre: Mystery
Director: Rhyannon Brand
Writer: Shelley-Ann Higgins
Actor: Lee Neville

The setting and sounds set up a creepy atmosphere. The script and acting maintain it. This short generated a lot of discussion as the version which was screened on the night was different to that which the judges judged. The filmmakers said that they accepted their marks on the original version, however due to a difficulty with editing within the deadline, they decided to present what they felt was the best cut for the entertainment of the audience on the night.

Award Judges: Phil Wood, Manager and Programmer at the Roxy Bar and Screen; Nathan Theys, Director, Film Creatives; Enrique Rovira, Director, Producer,; Kathy Hill, Director, Writer, ‘Down and Out in Cannes

Presenter: Katya Ozols

Reviewed 19 August

(c) Leanne O’Loughlin 2010


Deirdre and Me, by Rachael Halliwell

Tuesday, 24 August, 2010

Street Life

Camden Fringe, Etcetera Theatre, 23 August, 7.30 (45 mins)

Deirdre's number one fan speaks out

This one-actor play was written by Rachael Halliwell who also plays the lead role of Susan, a lady of a certain age with a fascination for a TV star. It should charm and amuse anyone whose knowledge of Coronation Street stretches back a fair way, since the Deirdre of the title is of course the Deirdre of Corrie, whose career in the soap stretches back almost to the time when dinosaurs ruled the earth, or so it seems.

Susan, the character whose life is here explored, was born in 1974, the same week that Deirdre appeared on the cover of the Radio Times (or was it the TV Times?); whatever, you can see what I mean. And while Deirdre has spent the last thirty or forty years like a pinball, ricocheting from one crisis to another in her TV drama, Susan has been slipping quietly from fan to obsessive to worse.

The catalysts along that path have been the deaths of her parents. (Her father, of cancer when she was eleven. Her mother dies much more suddenly and recently). Her quiet friendlessness (working on the reception desk at a factory, where she is sporadically teased) is balanced by the proxy life she lives through the televised soap opera and its characters, and in particular, Deirdre.

So, it’s a drama of surface and sub-text as her explanations to us become more and more pointed and as the reality of the situation spirals gently at first, and then much more alarmingly out of control, and as our understanding of what is going on gets further and further from her comprehension. Susan is touchingly played by her creator Rachael Halliwell.

The set isn’t complex – a couple of chairs and a table, a candle burning as though in devotion to some odd sect – but there is clutter all around, copies of photos and postcards and TV magazines, and it is to this clutter that Susan obsessively returns in the brief intervals between her speeches.

The play is carefully directed by Louisa Fitzgerald and both she and Rachael Halliwell make the most of the many moments of comedy throughout the piece – both in terms of the script (‘She wore some lovely belt-skirt outfits’) and the props. (At one point, Susan dons some impressively huge glasses, which were, for so many years, Deirdre’s trademark in her TV role).

This is Rachael Halliwell’s first play as a writer and it is an assured debut.

Anyone who wants to be reminded of Deirdre’s chequered history over the many years of her TV performances will enjoy this play, and perhaps be warned in no uncertain terms about the dangers that might arise were enthusiams ever to slip into obsession.

Cast: Susan – Rachael Halliwell

Crew: Rachael Halliwell – Writer; Louisa Fitzgerald – Director; Company – Round Pebble Theatre (Producer – Eugenia Caruso).

Reviewed 23 August

(c) Michael Spring