Friday, 29 November 2013

First things first. debbie tucker-green and Nadine Marshall are a bloody dream team. I saw Random, tucker-green’s one woman show where Marshall played all characters back in 1998 and spent 30 minutes of a 45 minute show blubbing like a baby (it was a great show, I’m an emotional person, tears are good, stop judging me). nut, currently showing at The Shed at the National Theatre, does the double for the pair; Marshall knows just how to bring her words to life. Harsh, raw, REAL life.

nut, like Random before it, doesn’t deal with a light hearted topic. The focus here is mental health with a dose of self-harm and marriage breakdown for good measure. The opening scene finds Elayne (Marshall) and her friends (Sophie Stanton as Aimee, the gorgeous Anthony Welsh as Devon  and Trey, played by alternating young actors) discussing their funerals; eulogies, the service and so on. The staccato style of writing lends itself to the colloquial voices of the characters, the lines coming hard and fast at the audience, almost like poetry. There is plenty of laughter at the barbed quips thrown, the kind that can only be thrown between close friends, between ex-lovers, between sisters and these are the other characters we meet throughout the 70 minute piece. Ex-wife (Sharleyne Whyte) and Ex-husband (Gershwyn Eustache Jnr) can’t help but antagonise each other and hash over their failings as individuals and as parents trying to deal with raising a child now that they’ve broken down and we see the encircling effects of mental health issues on the wider family when Ex-wife levels the accusation at her sister Elayne, that she is the reason for their marriage failing.

Lisa Marie Hall’s striking set of twisted metal extending from the ceiling is a good match for the subjects explored here; hard, cold, and heavy. The play is as thick and intense as the awful Honey Rose herbal cigarette smoke that fills the space (smoking and cigarettes are pivotal in a hanging off the edge of your seat kinda way – I definitely did that) and the murmours when the penny finally drops ripple through the audience. It doesn’t try to offer any cushioning, there aren’t any tears or soft comforting cuddles on stage, the characters don’t try to proclaim that everything will be okay. Often in these situations, it isn’t okay in the end.
Nut by debbie tucker green
Photograph by Tristram Kenton for The Guardian

Shanika Says: go and see nut at The Shed until the 5th December
N.B The Shed, 'A temporary venue celebrating new theatre that is adventurous, ambitious and unexpected' * is fast becoming one of my favourite theatres.
*Taken from the National Theatre website

The Butler

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

I've been waiting to see Lee Daniels The Butler even longer than most. I did a taped audition for the film last year and although I'd only seen two scenes I could tell this film was going to be something special. The Butler's large and pretty amazing cast tell the story of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) an African American man who serves as a butler at the White House under 6 presidents over more than 30 years. 

We follow Cecil from a young boy working in a cotton field in the South, witnessing the destruction of his family which results in him being 'promoted' to working in the house, then as a young man finding his training as a 'house ni**er' makes him perfect hospitality material - he is trained up to work as a bar tender in a posh hotel for whites. 

The film tells a brief history of the civil rights movement over the decades, historically in terms of Presidents and politics but also personally, in terms of how it affects Gaines and his family. 
Cecil's son Louis (David Oyelowo) embodies the movement, going from counter sit one and freedom rides to the Black Panther movement and then into politics. (I auditioned for the part of his girlfriend Carol Hammie played by the absolutely foxy Yaya DaCosta. She definitely rocks an Afro way better than I ever could)

While the fight for civil rights was powerful on screen, with the sit-ins and brutal KKK scene watched in terrified silence by the audience, the real strength of The Butler lies in it's subtleties. In the change in Cecil from subservient butler to 'man of the house' in his own home; in the faces the butlers wear to get by in front of the whites vs the real them. In the story of his family - arguments with his wife, Gloria (Oprah Winfrey) about his long hours at the White House and the ongoing battle of wills between Cecil and Louis about his involvement in the movement. It really offers a slice of the personal, how this far off time and events I learned about in History class affected real people, real families. 

The film flies through the decades but feels authentic in each one, the wardrobe department were spot on. The dynamic performances were right across the board, the film is likely to garner a host of award nominations. I was especially happy to see not one but two Black Brits among this amazing cast, Aml Ameen as a young Cecil and David Oyelowo as his son Louis; both gave very strong performances. 

My only criticism would not be levelled at the film but at British cinemas. The Butler was the number 1 film in the US, yet the usual independent cinemas I visit weren't showing it and the chains were offering only one showing on a Saturday night, just one week after its British release. We eventually found a showing at 11pm and the screen was pretty much the smallest I've ever been to outside of a private viewing. I felt like was literally on top of the screen. And yet even at that time it was sold out, which shows there was demand. British cinema distributors, I'm side-eying you...

Camden Crawling

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Beanie: Fresh Ego Kid
Fur coat: Ebay
Mens shirt: Munich flea market
Jeans: Topshop
Socks: New Look
Shoes: c/o Doctor Marten's

Christmas shopping season is upon us! To be honest I haven't done much and what I have done has mostly been online. My family came down for a quick trip to Camden the other week and me and my sister had a browse through some of the vintage shops. My faux fur and velvet Doctor Marten's kept me warm.

Billy The Girl

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Mothers. Daughters. Sisters. The complicated relationship between female relatives is what Katie Hims new play, a commission by Clean Break theatre company (a company that explore females and the justice system), is all about. Joanna Scotcher's set was inspired, a caravan sat in the crowded back garden of a small house, the back door and garden gate on either side. The clutter and randomness of the objects in the garden and caravan perfectly mirror the intensity of the relationship between Ingrid (Christine Entwisle) and her daughters Billy (Danusia Samal) and Amber (Naomie Ackie), while the fact that the whole piece is set outside in the garden speaks volumes about the strains on the relationship.

Tension crackles between mum Ingrid and Billy, the foul mouthed, wayward daughter back after another spell in prison and determined to change her life via focusing her energies into healthy living and running a marathon, although definitely not for a cancer charity. Ingrid's desperation to be loved has been something that has driven a wedge between herself and her mum and although it is Ingrid who says Billy has a bit of false memory syndrome, the audience gets the feeling that actually, when it comes to her succession of boyfriends, Billy is the one who is spot on.

The accents are just the right side of working class to give a does of 'salt of the earth' realism without being over exaggerated or offensive. Newcomer Naomie Ackie shone as the adorable, not entirely innocent 'angel' Amber, who just wants to bring her family back together and has all the innocent idealism and teenage rebellion of your average 15 year old.

When the 75 minute show finished I thought it was an interval; it felt way too soon, I felt as though I were just beginning to see a breakthrough in this tentative, volatile family. But I guess that's the best way to leave an audience - wanting more, brimming with hope or dread or both.
Oh and there's also an inspired use of a bear costume. Kinda worth going just to see what they get up to with that.

Billy The Girl shows at the Soho Theatre until the 24th November

Sensational Sade

Sunday, 3 November 2013

All Hail Queen Sade! The beautiful soul crooner is an absolute legend so I am always very flattered when people say I remind them of her. I stumbled across these photos on my laptop of a Sade inspired shoot that I did with my friend Paolo Casseb. We really tried to capture the vulnerability that comes across in Sade's pictures and they are also very Autumnal so perfect to post now!