Category Archives: Film & TV

REVIEW, STUDIO KILLERS: 404 PILOT, YOUTUBE, BY JAMES ELLIS

FILM & TV

DECEMBER 18TH, 2021 JAMES ELLIS

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Truly a group who have gone under the radar, Studio Killers have made some banger club tracks and also embraced some of the mystery surrounding them. Cherry, their lead “singer” is loud and proud, unashamedly herself. Watching this figure in songs like Ode to the Bouncer and Eros & Apollo, you can only fall in love this this outrageous CGI heroine, who seems to get herself in all sorts of trouble. In short, she’s your toxic friend with a heart.

With this cult success under their belt, a Kickstarter raising nearly £130,000 went towards an animated pilot, now finally for all adult eyes to watch. The name 404 is a wink to the error number which infuriates anyone unsuccessfully attempting to get on a website. The premise seems to be that the band are stuck in an internet realm which rules supreme. This is a world where people can be banished by the algorithm and hearts sent to people powers up their strength. Basically just real life, with more advanced technology. This pilot packs a lot into its mere 11 minutes and some things are missed upon the first watch. Some inside jokes about bands having a break and some meta humour help flavour the already multi-coloured pot. I’d like to think this group are well aware that they might not be getting the recognition they truly deserve.

The script is not as funny as it’s trying to be, some of the line delivery and quips don’t quite hit the mark. Many jokes about feminism and toxic masculinity have been done much better in the past, as the characters are thrust into Planet Jeff in the Reddit System (groan). One joke about their missing manager called Bi-Polar Bear harks back to an old internet cartoon called Queer Duck with a character bearing the same name. You get the vibe of Adventure Time, The Yellow Submarine, Daria and a touch of Sci-Fi to boot. Their are multiple cliches, though I find the animation endearing, with its minimal, stylistic lines. Some of the mouth flaps for the characters are not in sync either. That will need work.

There are some highlights. Cherry prepping for her Style Battle is a brief moment of dazzling fashion and visuals. Pornica, a fine villain to the plot, is a giant gas mask wearing dominatrix with hair that seems to waft like fumes. Grey Griffin is always swell in everything she’s in and here saves a lot of the other inconsistencies. Her design is my favourite part of the show and I hope she isn’t just a one demential baddie. Though Cherry’s voice has been drastically changed (it was originally an English accent and believed to be voiced by a man) though Hayley Marie Norman does a fine job, some delivery particularly well executed. Also voicing Cherry’s love interest Jenny (how could we forget her from her own song?) is hopefully not just a lone POC for the series, some nice lines here and there and hopefully more chemistry will develop between them both. Thankfully, the anthropomorphic animals (Goldie Foxx and Dyna Mink to name a few) in the group still keep their English accents, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

For a pilot it is a fine effort but its flaws need seeing to. Of course, I’m here for the journey and I look forward to watching more.

Watch on YouTube now. For mature audiences only.

Reviewed by James Ellis

Review, In My Skin, Series 2, BBC3, by Gareth Williams

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

The second series of In My Skin has really got under my skin these past few days. Content simply to watch at first, I’ve found myself itching to write something in response after a final episode in which the emotional pull of this award-winning drama really tugged at the heartstrings. I laughed. I cried. I smiled at the poignancy and hope with which this coming-of-age story signed off. Writer Kayleigh Llewelyn has really captured something special with this semi-autobiographical series. And actor Gabrielle Creevy and crew have brought it beautifully to life.

Kayleigh Llewelyn

From the continued subtlety with which sexuality is explored and presented, to its unashamed yet understated presentation of Welshness, the second series of In My Skin matches the achievements of the first. It does come across as much more arthouse in both pace and aesthetic than its predecessor. Yet this slow burn, highly-polished look only gives it a gravitas that adds to the verisimilitude which made it so relatable and ruinous to begin with. Bethan (Creevy) is still living out a compartmentalised existence, where her efforts to keep family and friends separate are increasingly tested this time around. Her mum Trina (Jo Hartley), in recovery from bipolar, is found to be working at the bingo by best friends Travis (James Wilbraham) and Lydia (Poppy Lee Friar). Her father (Rhod Meilir), still an abusive alcoholic, becomes the subject of taunts by class clown Priest (Aled ap Steffan) after his devastating actions toward his wife’s secret lover are found out. Meanwhile, her blossoming relationship with Cam (Rebekah Murrell) sees the roots of shame surfacing from beneath her steely exterior. All this forces Bethan to face up to who she is and where she comes from.

Rebekah Murrell (Cam) and Gabrielle Creevy (Bethan)
(C) Expectation – Photographer: Huw John

This emergence and gradual acceptance of personal identity is both beautiful and heartrending to watch. The scenes between Bethan and Cam become increasingly delicate as their relationship develops. More artistic shots, close-ups, movements, and softer conversations bring to mind the craftsmanship of Normal People. They help to convey a vulnerability in Bethan that has so far been hidden but that Cam gently draws into the light. Such tender compassion is matched only by Trina, whose fragility may lead to a relapse in the wake of husband Dylan’s actions, but is also a source of strength in her daughter’s time of need. In one of the most grace-filled scenes of dialogue, in the final episode, within the space of a few minutes, I found myself reduced to tears as she responds to Bethan’s brokenness with a touching recollection of love, failure, and hope. Creevy and Hartley are simply sublime in this incredible mother-daughter exchange. Their conversation is painted onto the camera lens with such gentle brushstrokes as to form the most exquisite piece of sacrificial art. It begins a chain of events which, though numerous and rich enough to warrant a further episode, nevertheless see Bethan find her wings and set off via coach for a new life in London town. The look-to-camera right at the end, complete with a modest, appreciative smile, only adds to the positive vitality which imbues these final moments of a series that will be sorely missed but has ended on a high.

Gabrielle Creevy

In My Skin is an extraordinary piece of television. It has made stars of Gabrielle Creevy and Jo Hartley. Kayleigh Llewelyn has brought something magical to the screen. I thought I’d said everything that there was to say about this wonderful drama. Turns out, in light of series two, I needed to say a little bit more.

Click here to watch the full series.

Reviewed by
Gareth Williams

Series Review, On the Edge, Channel 4/BlackLight Television by Gareth Williams

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

It is a clique to say that I laughed and cried at Channel 4’s anthology series, On the Edge, but it’s true. The three films, devised by new and emerging writers, are stirring, disturbing, entertaining and gripping. Each of them explores the impact of mental health in families through parent-child relationships in ways that are innovative, empowering, and unapologetic. They make for exceptional viewing in their own right; shown together, they become an unmissable 90-minutes of superb drama. I devoured them in a single sitting.

The first, ‘Mincemeat’, by Samantha O’Rourke, is a funny and moving tale starring Aimee Lou Wood. Jane is fresh out of school, working in a shoe shop, trying her best to be a good daughter to her controlling mum (Rosie Cavaliero). When she meets Nish, a boy she had a crush on in school, a sweet romance blossoms between them. However, the far-right views of Jane’s mum cause an irreparable rift that sees the lovers separate but, ultimately, leads Jane to find a sense of purpose. Nikhil Palmer (Nish) and Wood are perfectly suited, portraying the social awkwardness, first-kiss innocence, and gentle encouragement of a developing relationship with rich plausibility. Palmer’s kindness is in direct contrast to the harshness of Cavaliero, who plays Jane’s mother with a good deal of unconscious irony whilst injecting a slight empathy that reveals the pain behind much of her behaviour. She uses the death of her husband, Jane’s father, to guilt trip her children when it suits her, creating a distorted view of him that is blown apart in a moment of revelation that brings Jane freedom. What O’Rourke manages to do so deftly is to work through the underlying issues and motivations behind these characters with a delightful touch of humour. It ensures their humanity is not lost to a dark political underbelly that can otherwise lead to simplistic caricatures. The soundtrack only contributes to the wealth of emotion that exudes through the screen.

The emotion is no less pronounced in the second film, ‘Cradled’, by Nessah Muthy. Here, it is the extraordinary performance of Ellora Torchia as new mum Maia that makes for a compelling watch. She has a seemingly comfortable and ideal life. However, underneath the surface, something more sinister is stirring. She begins to hear a voice, and thinks her baby is in danger. What is witnessed over an enthralling and gut-wrenching half-hour is a descent into mental illness that creates real fear. That fear is so palpably felt through the screen that the tension becomes unbearable at times. Torchia really does embody her character, achieving a verisimilitude that causes genuine terror for its audience. It is not so much the effective horror tropes used in the telling of this story that contribute to this real anxiety as the fact that it involves a little child who appears to be actually at risk such is Torchia’s ability in conveying the awful experience of Maia. Muthy writes in such a way as to give her protagonist a sense of agency whilst simultaneously losing some of that agency to darker forces. The supporting characters are all culpable to some degree of ignoring or belittling her awareness that something is not right. The drama thus becomes a kind of rallying cry to all of us to take mental health seriously. It is, in part, a depiction of the consequences of failing to do so adequately. I breathed a huge sigh of relief at the optimism of its final scenes.

Optimism also marks the final film, ‘Superdad’, by Daniel Rusteau. Not before an incredible amount of nerves have been shredded however. When Keon (Martin McCann) turns up at his ex-partner’s house to wish his son a happy birthday, he gets the door slammed shut in his face. He is determined to make Wesley’s day special though, so he waits until he is walking to school to take him on a road trip that, slowly but surely, is not all it’s crept up to be. Rusteau drip-feeds information that gradually causes unease both for the viewer and Wesley (Joseph Obasohan). First about the car; then a quick dash away from a café; and then, finally, a confrontation at a petrol station. The interaction between the characters at this final point cause the façade of Keon to fall to such an extent as to give rise to worry. Obasohan is so adept at portraying the doubt clearly arising in his character’s mind that, coupled with the juddery movements of the handheld camera accompanying McCann, it is difficult not to be immersed in the tension of the situation. Similarly, his strength at resisting his dad’s calls to get back in the car when he realises the facile nature of his explanations is deeply felt. It conveys a maturity that, like Wood’s Jane, surpasses that of the adult parent, revealing a wisdom and thirst for emotional honesty in young people that can too often be ignored or go unappreciated by their elders. It is the recognition of this at the film’s end that makes it all the more beautiful and heartfelt.

Together, these films express the effects of mental health within modern British families. They are stories told with sensitivity; thrilling yet heartfelt. Filmed across Wales, and made with the support of Creative Wales, they offer the opportunity for new and emerging talent both on and off camera to gain experience working on a production that is on the cutting-edge of storytelling and broadcast on a mainstream channel. This is what public-service broadcasting is for. The three writers that have had the opportunity to showcase their work on such a platform are all deserving of further commissions. If their future stories are as veracious and enjoyable as these half-hourly instalments have been then their future looks bright. Go check them out if you haven’t already. They are simply excellent.

All three films can be viewed on 4OD here.

Reviewed by
Gareth Williams

An Interview with singer-songwriter Eleri Angharad, conducted by Gareth Williams

In this latest interview, Get the Chance member Gareth Williams chats to singer-songwriter Eleri Angharad. Their chat takes place in the form of a podcast, the third in a trial series in conversation with Welsh creatives. Eleri talks about her new EP, Nightclub Floor, as well as Swansea’s music scene, songwriting, her creative journey as a musician, and Welsh identity.

Click here to listen to the interview.

To find out more about Eleri, visit her website here, or follow her on social media @ImEleriAngharad.

You can purchase Nightclub Floor on her website, or stream it here.

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics like Gareth to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here. Thanks.

Review, Yr Amgueddfa, S4C by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Two of my screenwriting heroes went head-to-head a couple of weeks ago. On BBC1, the master of social realism, Jimmy McGovern, brought us the incredible Time; and on S4C, thriller-extraordinaire Fflur Dafydd gave us the heritage-crime drama Yr Amgueddfa. The former may have been getting all the plaudits but the latter has not been without its supporters. The most prominent, Russell T Davies, has been shouting about it in the Radio Times no less. And deservedly so. For Fflur Dafydd has again created a drama that is well written, intricately woven, gradually builds tension, and offers plenty of twists and turns.

At first, it appears that Della (Nia Roberts) is the main character in the show. The opening scene sees her deliver her first speech as newly-appointed Director of the National Museum of Wales. The focus on her and her family gives the impression that these characters are going to be the bedrock of the series. And in some sense, they are. All have their own intriguing storylines that help flesh the drama out, making it a patchwork of stories that all, somehow, end up connecting as the series progresses. But the appearance of a mysterious young man called Caleb (Steffan Cennydd) in the grand entrance hall of the Museum in those first few moments, and his obvious attraction to Della, acts a bit like a red herring as, far from being the antagonist, he emerges over the course of six episodes as an empathetic protagonist.

It is testament to the clever writing of Fflur Dafydd and Steffan Cennydd’s subtle performance that Caleb is imbued with an ambiguity that keeps the viewer guessing his real motives throughout. One minute he appears vulnerable and fragile; the next, suspicious and manipulative. He seems to be seducing Della at one point, earning her trust to gain access to files from the Museum. Then, at another turn, he seems genuinely in love with her and self-loathing in his actions. Dafydd really plays with our perceptions of the character, as she does with so many here. This is what she is best at: subverting our expectations and playing with the objectivity of truth. Cennydd, for his part, ensures that this is achieved through minimal expression that is precise in its execution; and a deceptive amount of flat emotion that keeps us wondering who he is and what his intentions are.

Nia Roberts may be formidable in the role of Della, but it is Cennydd as Caleb that emerges as the most fascinating person in Yr Amgueddfa. It may not be as high-octane as its sister production, Y Llyfrgell, but it is as absorbing in its mystery and suspense. The fabulous sets and expansive scenes may have been a result of Covid protocols but they also give the impression of a sleek and modern Wales that is far removed from the rural stereotype. Fflur Dafydd has again collaborated with producer Paul Jones to create a series that is full of colourful characters, none of whom are wasted, all caught up in their own well-written subplots that gradually feed into the grand narrative. It has clearly struck a chord with viewers given its extended run on Clic and BBC iPlayer. So if you haven’t seen it yet, make it a priority for your summer viewing. You won’t regret it.

Reviewed by
Gareth Williams

Artists enable care home residents to voice their experiences of the pandemic

A group of artists are working with Age Cymru to hold conversations with care home residents across Wales as part of a project to explore and capture how this group of older people experienced the pandemic.

The project, called Tell Me More, encourages residents to talk about what it was like to live in a care home during lockdown.  Of course, for lots of older people it was a torrid time as many residents and care staff became seriously ill or even died through Covid 19.

Up until now, residents have had little opportunity to voice their experiences of the pandemic. Age Cymru worked with the artists to make contact with residents through Zoom and used open conversations to gather the residents’ thoughts, wishes and experiences.

As the conversations were taking place, the artists sketched a portrait of the resident and sent it to them as a thank you in recognition of their participation. The artists then applied animation software to the sketches and the recorded conversations to produce a unique and creative method of capturing residents’ voices.

So far residents from homes in Anglesey, Fishguard, Mold, Porthcawl, and Port Talbot have taken part in Tell Me More. With funding from the Welsh Government, Age Cymru will take the project to more care homes across Wales so it can capture the voices of more than 100 residents by December 2021.

Age Cymru’s chief executive, Victoria Lloyd says: “During the height of the pandemic, care home residents experienced some of the strictest lockdown conditions in Wales. Most residents were unable to receive visits from family and friends and, at the same time, they were unable to do any of their usual activities or visits. It was even more difficult for those residents who were transferred directly from hospital to the care home as not only were they cut off from their family and friends but they had little opportunity to socialise and get to know existing residents.

“It is crucial that we hear the experiences of residents and understand how they have felt over the last year.  It is also wonderful to hear those experiences not just in peoples’ own words, but with the recordings, in their own voices too.

“Remarkably, some of the residents said their biggest concern was not being able to reassure their loved ones living outside of the care home. While others touched upon missing quite simple things such as going to the cinema, eating an ice cream at the sea-side or going to church.

“Tell Me More has given us a remarkable insight into how care home residents experienced lockdown and we look forward to hearing more of their voices in the months ahead.”

Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan said: “Care Home residents have been some of the most affected by the pandemic. After being isolated from family and friends, it is fantastic that we have been able to fund a project which gives care homes residents a voice and brings their experience to life. It is vital we hear these stories as we look to move forward and recover from the pandemic.”

Review Hamilton by Ethan Clancy

My name is Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexander Hamilton. And there’s a million things I haven’t done. But just you wait, just you wait”

That is the very first line spoken by Alexander Hamilton, and in it, we can see his character, he is nervous, repeating what he say in two instances, but yet, their is a era of confidence in his words, telling the world what he is going to do, and for them to just wait. Written, acted and published by musical genius Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was able to provide a boost of energy to perhaps an extremely boring subject. With a record breaking 16 nominations, and 11 awards. He clearly did something right. This particular version was uploaded onto Disney+, the show being filmed in the Richard Rodgers Theatre, over a course of three shows, each edited together in order to give a cinematic feel to this musical. Despite it technically not being a play, more of a film (Being nominated for the Best Motion Picture in the Musical or Comedy section) the editing is seamless, and it goes out of it’s way to make you feel like you are actually there. First performed on the 20th of January 2020, this version was released on the 3rd of July 2020, despite the original 2021 release, with the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, the release was boosted by a year. Telling the story of the Founding Fathers of America, Miranda was inspired by the 2004 novel Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, it took him six years to write this, performing the first song at the White House, directed by Thomas Keil, this production combines the generations of music, in a masterpiece that is Non-stop. 

In Act I, orphan Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) makes his way to 1771 New York from his island of Navis, with dreams of joining the American Revolution, as opposed to Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr) who prefers to wait until the opportunity to come to him, advising Hamilton to do the same. However Hamilton disagrees, as he speaks his mind to the world of New York, impressing fellow revolutionists, the anti slavery John Laurens (Anthony Romos), the French Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (Daveed Diggs,) and the tailor Hercules Mulligan (Okieriete Onaodowan), however, as they sing to the revolution, King George the III (Jonathan Groff) insist on his authority, as the true war starts, and after impressing General George Washington (Christopher Jackson), Hamilton becomes his right hand man, and later at a ball, he meet’s and later marries Eliza Schuyler (Phillipa Soo), whilst her sister Angelica Schuyler (Renee Elise Goldsberry) supresses her own feelings for him, as conditions get even worse for the American’s, La Fayette and Mulligan leave, whilst John Laurens enters a duel with Charles Lee (Jon Rua) who speaks against Washington leadership, after this incident, Washington orders Hamilton to return home, where he discovers his wife is pregnant with his son. La Fayette returns to the battlefield with French aid and convinces Washington to call Hamilton back, as they engage in the battle of Yorktown, which they win due to Mulligan acting as a spy. With this victory, and their newly secured freedom, Hamilton son Philip is born, but he hears word that Laurens has be killed and he and Burr (Who is still waiting for his opportunity) plunge themselves into their work, as the now President George Washington invites Hamilton to join him as Secretary of the Treasury.                                                                                                         

In Act II, Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Digs), who was acting as the ambassador of France, which has now entered its own revolution, returns alongside his friend James Madison (Okieriete Onaodowan) and immediately clashes with Hamilton. Under stress from his work, Hamilton enters an affair with Maria Reynolds (Jasmine Cephas Jones) whilst Eliza is away on a visit to her father. The affair is later discovered by her husband James Reynolds (Sydney James Harcourt) who blackmails Hamilton into giving him money, in exchange, he keeps quiet about the affair. Later, Burr, who watches Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison come to an agreement about the nation’s capital, becomes envious over Hamilton power, and finally begins to gain power, taking the role of Eliza’s father. Jefferson and Madison Agree to work with burr in order to find a way to discredit Hamilton, as George Washington steps down from president, as John Adams (Who does not make an appearance in the show) becomes president, firing Hamilton, who in retaliation, publishes a letter to the press, insulting and discrediting Adams, convincing him to one term. Jefferson, Madison and Burr discover the checks sent to James Reynolds and accuse Hamilton of embezzling government funds, forcing Hamilton to admit his affair with Maria Reynolds, ending his political career. Hamilton son’s, Philip (Anthony Romos defends his father’s name, however he is later shot and killed in a duel for this, leading Hamilton into a depression, however when the election of 1800 arrives, between Jefferson and Burr, he chooses to support Jefferson, stating that he would rather have somebody with disagreeable beliefs than no beliefs as president, leading to Jefferson winning. Butt insulted by this, challenges Hamilton to a duel, which he agrees to prostate, Hamilton however in his last moments, aims his pistol at the sky, resulting in him being shot, leading Eliza to tell his legacy, starting up a orphanage for children, like Hamilton, until she dies, like we all do eventually.

The death of Hamilton, in fact, is set up from the very first song, entitled “Alexander Hamilton” (Happening right after Jonathan Groff’s King George welcomes the audiences, kindly asking them to switch their devices off and telling them to enjoy his show, already telling us that this character is self indulgent), this song summarizes the first two decades of Hamilton’s young life, growing up as a son of wedlock, in the slums of a poor. In the very first line he is called a “Bastard”, “Orphan and “Son of a Whore”, these quotes are later used again in the musical, often as a motif to remind the character of his upbringing, the song is sung threw many of Hamilton’s friends and enemies, and Hamilton only speaks when he is asked to identify himself, which makes us familiar with each of the actor. However the song is primarily sung by Aaron Burr, the main antagonist of the show, and he even tells us at the end, when each character tells the audience their connection to Hamilton, he informs us that he is the “damn fool that shot him” his words echoing through the stage, effectively giving away the ending. However, it is much like the Titanic, it focuses more about how they got there, rather than the end result. The pace of the song also reflects the character of Hamilton, specifically his mind. The song starts off slow, however, as Hamilton slowly realizes that in order to live, he must work, it picks up as we can see him writing and writing. 

Another thing that is reflected in these characters is the costume. Every actor is dressed in white at the start of this number, with the expectation of Hamilton, he is the only one left out, showing us his loneliness which he did not conquer until “My Shot”. However, as the play goes on, as Hamilton gives more and more ideas, we see that colour is used significantly much more, and in Act 1 they start of rather grounded and darker, the majority being darker browns, but as the revolution stars, we can see that they are getting more colourful, until they are final their own colour, signifying that they are finally broken free, the costumes themselves are reflective of their times, as well as their different personalities. Hamilton’s primary colour is green, which is fitting since he was the secretary of the treasury. Whilst Thomas Jefferson appears to wear right and much more out tier costumes, showing us his own the top nature. Maria Reynolds wears red, the colour of love, as well as anger, which is what her presence in the show shall later provide. The historical accuracy of the costumes themselves are clear, and when it comes to the fight between Britain and America, we are able to clearly distinguish them. Britain’s uniform appears to be much more old fashioned, and royal, in comparison to America’s scruffy and messy outfits.

The portrayal of Britain is seen mostly through the eyes of America, as a tyrant, however, the few instances we have with Britain, come with the hilarious and light hearted King George the III. In his song, they provide a change of face, in opposition to the fast paced ripping of the Americans. Out of the three songs he sings, each song represents a stage in Hamilton’s life, His first song “You’ll be back” he sing his views on the revolution and how America will be lost without him, and not to fight, otherwise they will die, this song signifies the rise of Hamilton, how came from a gutter rat, to the right hand man of George Washington, whilst the second song “What comes next?” comes after America has won its freedom, King George does not stand around complaining about how they have left him, but instead informs them of the challenges about how hard it is to lead, and that, from now on, they are on their own, this announces respects the start of Hamilton’s political career and the many challenges he shall face. Whilst his third and final song “I know him” he sings about how George Washington is stepping down and his assessment at John Adams is the new president, making fun of him, and claiming that it is going to be fun. This song tells us about Hamilton’s downfall, as well as the basement people shall have at it. His character provides a piece of light hearted comic relief to the audience, and the style and the way he sings represents the old idea’s, whilst the new ideas that the American revolution fight for, are sung thru rap. There is a clear difference between the two, allowing people to easily distress the two countries. I would also like to note that in his final song, King George dances along to the rap, perhaps signalling that he has come to expect America’s freedom, and even ideas. 

The idea that the new ideas are represented is perhaps seen most clearly in “My Shot”. After Hamilton arrives in New York for the first time, he meets with Aaron Burr, and tells him that he wants to join the revolution, but Burr rebuffs him, disappointing Hamilton. Burr prefers to wait by the side, until an opportunity becomes clear, the safest opportunity, keeping his ideas to himself, but Hamilton chooses to say his mind to the word, and daring anyone to challenge him. From their very first introduction, the rivalry of these two characters is clear, from their opposing ideals and it shall keep creating tension between them for the rest of the play, however Hamilton chooses to point of the similarity between Burr and himself, stating that they are both perhaps, but they have gone down different paths. Burr attempts to give each Hamilton a lesson, taking him to a bar where we meet key players for the first act. John Laurens, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette and Hercules Mulligan, who sing their praises of the revolution an why they are doing it, Laurens in order to end slavery, La Fayette, in hopes that it shall lead to unrest in France, leading to their own freedom and Mulligan in order to advance his social status, they all sing independently, in their own tunes and styles. The only thing they sing together is the revolution. Until Hamilton steps in, no longer able to keep quiet after Burr shuns them, asking him “If you stand for nothing Burr, what will you fall for?” A question that shall haunt Burr for the reminder of the play. Hamilton immensely impresses them with his quick thinking and confidence, and they all join in with him, for once, all their tunes are both together into one voice, no longer disconnected, they are stronger in numbers, which is why the British attempt to break them apart. It also subtly sets up the idea that each character has their shot, and foreshadows later in the play that Hamilton will literally throw away his shot, and the song frequently makes a return whenever a shot arrives for a character, and whether they will take it or not. The song however also highlights the nervous side to Hamilton nature.

Throughout the play, every song is a form of narration, and the characters often break the fourth wall, sometimes for comic relief, or some time to serve as a history lesson. Whenever they do this, the lighting becomes darker, and everything else stops, to show that they are alone, this is most prominent whenever Hamilton sings in the “Eye of a Hurricane”, as he tells the story of how a Hurricane came to his town, destroying it, but he lived. The stage is painted in a blue mess, surrounding Hamilton as only when he amidst the truth to his affair, does sit vanish, for he is no longer alone. It has also been used in smaller ways, such as in “What comes next?” King George is surrounded by a red light, until he says that “I am so blue” stomping her foot to the ground, as it quickie changes to blue, reflecting his mood, however it has deeper meaning, representing where Britain was politically, surrounded by America, which took the colour of blue, whilst Britain was red.  Another instance when the lighting is used is whenever they need to create a room, due to the fact they did not redo each set, it is nothing more than a plain dock, with stairs that move around. This is most noticeable in “The Room Where It Happens”, as Burr sings his heart around, moving from place to place, as he attempts he wants to get into the room where it happens, however. Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison stand in the yellow light, representing the room, but Burr nearly steps on it, staying in the blue, showing that he has not been able to join. 

Aaron Burr serves as, in my opinion, a sympathetic antagonist, and he even states that history shall remember him as the villain in Hamilton’s story. His differences from Hamilton himself are present from his very first song, but whenever he sings with somebody, he is forced to the background, until he is on his own, where he sings his mind, and his reason, and why he shall wait. In the song “Wait for It” Burr sings his heart out to the world, explaining why he waits and waits, for he has too much to risk, and that he doesn’t do it because he is lazy, but because he has to, and this all changes. This all changes in “The Room Where It Happens’ ‘, which in my opinion, is perhaps one of the best, and most unique songs, with the tune of the song having a jazz feel to it. Burr has now stopped waiting, he has faintly found what he is waiting for, but it is motivated out of jealousy for Hamilton rather than his own feelings. The end of the song seven foreshadows where this design shall lead Burr to, with the last word being “Click boom!” I commend the musical for giving Burr a personality, rather than making him a dislikeable evil man, all his choices have firm motivation. However he lacks a physical presence to him, due to the fact he doesn’t commit any violent crimes, until the very end. I will say this though; his method of waiting until he chance arrives is effective. If you look at every other character who is introduced in Act 1, John Laurens, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette and Hercules Mulligan all disappear, simply because Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (Daveed Diggs, and yes, that is his full name) and the tailor Hercules Mulligan hey speak their opinions. Laurens is killed for his, La Fayette returns to France, and whilst it is not clearly stated in the play, he was imprisoned for 5 years for following the Americans into revolution, and Mulligan, well nothing particularly bad happens to him, in fact after the war, he became a full time tailor. But if you look at all these people, after Act 1, they are gone, whilst Burr remains, because he waited, like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who waited during Act 1, have taken their opportunity. That, or the same actors acted different characters in Act 2.   

Burr and Hamilton’s relationship is perhaps the most in depth of the play, as their contrasting ideals are present almost since the beginning, however we see that they share the same motivation, they are both doing this for their children. The song “Dear Theodosia” highlights this, as they both sing the same on to their children, saying that they will attempt to make the world a better place for their children no matter what. Conveniently, the two characters eventually meet their duel, as they have become more like one another, near the end, Hamilton has became to walk in straight lines and only speaking when it is needed, due to the harshness of the world shaping him like this, as opposed to his emphatic quick witted character for would not waste a single second. Burr however, ends the play, being loud; he walks in all different directions, which is different from his walk at the start of the play, walking only in straight lines. This small and to be honest, quite misable detail, shows the character how they have become more like one another, and it is equated to that, they have reached their downfall. Burr reached his downfall due to his lack of action in Act 1, in fact, he barely has any impact in Act 1, but in Act 2 he has became more active, due to the fact he was not active enough in Act 1, he no longer want to be ignored, even if he refuses to state his ideals. Another reason he may have started to distrust and dislike Hamilton, was the fact he started to dislike Burr, at the start of “The Room Where It Happens’ ‘ he reuses Burr exact words, inferring that Hamilton does not take Burr seriously. 

Hamilton’s relationships to other characters appear to be a major thread, for example, his relationship to President George Washington, appears to be a father to son relationship, it is flawed, but it is meaningful. His relations to his friends are strong, it was in fact the death of John Laurens that puts her mind back into focus, but all in all, the relationship that I think is most penetrating is, his and Thomas Jefferson relationship. Introduced at the very start of Act 2, Thomas Jefferson is given a similar introduction to Hamilton himself, except, instead of being about how he came from a poor background, we see Thomas bright, colourful, and most of all, rich. In his song “What I’D Miss” near the end, Hamilton arrives and cut’s his own medley into Jefferson’s, further creating tension, and later in “Cabinet Battle” which appears to be a parody of a rap battle, providing a douse of energy into what most people would consider boring. The song becomes more of a personal attack on Jefferson, however, despite everything Jefferson does, with his more sinister nature coming out in “Washington on your side” where we can see his pure hatred of Hamilton come into play. But in “The Election of 1800” Jefferson becomes president, and perhaps, finally a respect has been shown.

Despite all these relationships he has had, the most heart breaking is his relationship with the Schulyer Sisters. Mainly Angelica and Eliza. It is at this point in the play that I feel the pace slows down. Every time a more serious subject is brought in, the songs change from rap to more romantic. For example “Helpless” paints the image of how Eliza and Hamilton met, it is upbeat, and rather sweet, in contrast to the Helpless that Eliza will later experience in the play. The same could be said to “Satisfied” which is in my opinion, a ground-breaking song, not just for the technical feats it is able to achieve, but also a serves as a look into the character of Angelica, during the wedding toast, Angelica rewinds the events to witnesses them from her point of view, as we are told that she falls in loves Hamilton, and she gave up her love for him for her sisters own happiness. These songs are often more emotional than any other song. This emotional tone is not just restricted to love, but friendship, as shown in “The Story of Tonight” which is reprised three times. The first time we hear it, it comes after “My Shot” where the characters have finally shouted their beliefs out into the world. This time, it is quieter, and more personal, sharing and celebrating the revolution, as well as their newfound brotherhood, and the performance reflects this. 

I find it quite disappointing that, whilst the director was able to create these two strong plotlines, that being the more face paced Politics storyline, and the more slowed down romance story line. The two storylines are perfect, however they fail to connect the two together, as, up until “The Reynolds Pamphlet” were they attempt to connect the two together. The transition between the two also spoils the effort of some. For example, during the “The Reynolds Pamphlet” after Hamilton has published the story about his affair in order to end rumours, his enemies, most notably Thomas Jefferson, celebrate and dance in glee, however, the song swiftly changes into “Burn” showing how Eliza has taken the news, the transition feels rushed, they feel disjointed, the tone has significantly changed as well.

There are times that I feel the aspect was effective. “Non-Stop” the final song of Act 1, especially. Whilst I am biased, due to the fact this was my favourite song. The song is fast paced, to the point, and informative, and the final line is a combination of songs, which we have previously heard. The song takes place after the news of John Laurens death, sending Hamilton into his work, where he begins to climb to the top, Angelica moves to London as she is getting married, Eliza beg’s Hamilton to stop working in order to spend time with her, Burr jealousy of Hamilton only grows and Washington invites Hamilton as the Secretary of the Treasury as well as History has his eyes on him, each character sing’s their theme, surrounding Hamilton, Eliza and Angelica more romantic themes of “Helpless” and “Satisfied” by both his eyes, whilst Burr walk around, yelling “Non-Stop” whilst Washington stands above them all, reminding him that “History has its eyes on you” they overwhelm him, (I will note that their are call-back to song’s are present throughout the play, for example, “Blow Us All Way”, Philip sings about his achievements as well as his mind, similar to what Hamilton did at the start of the play, only this time, he does not get the same glory as his father, I would like to point out that the particular song has a child like Lytham too it) until Hamilton own theme of “My Shot” cut through all of them, as he joins Washington, whilst everyone tells him to wait, foreshadowing the conflict he shall face in the form of Thomas Jefferson, as well as the Reynolds. It surprises me that, in smaller instances, this effect has been achieved, but on a whole the show fails to combine the both storylines. 

Another thing I love about the song is the use of the set, as Washington stands above them all, at the side to begin with, however, the stairs then move to the centre of the stage. The use of a movable set is interesting, allowing characters to move without even walking. The set itself is extremely bland however. It has a state, but to both sides, there appears to be a stairwell up on both sides and a raised platform. The use of the raised platform is often used when characters are in different locations, for example in “Yorktown,” Eliza stands up there, as Hamilton sings about how he has to live in order to see her again, the stage itself is different to others due to the fact it is a Revolving Stage, in fact it uses a double rotating stage, which is comely referred to as a Concentric Revolve, allowing for them to have more flexibility, either by spinning in two directions, or at different speeds. This is used again in “Non-Stop” when Angelica fades into the background, the sage taking her to the back whilst Eliza comes into view, and during “Hurricane” as well as “My Shot” whenever Hamilton freezes as we hear the inside of this mind, the remaining actors stand upon it, as it slowly moves around, some holding objects, but as Hamilton speaks louder, it goes faster and faster. 

The pace of some of these songs is extraordinary. In fact the world’s fastest Broadway rap is featured in the number “Guns and Ships’ as La Fayette returns to the battlefield with French aid, and at the fastest speed, he is singing 6.3 words per second. This song is also notable for focusing on one of Hamilton’s friends, as well as highlighting the fact that the war was not only fought through America, but the French as well. Daveed Diggs is by far the most physically active actor, doubling as La Fayette as well as Thomas Jefferson, adding a boost of energy into every scene he is in, La Fayette event foreshadows the fact he will leave in Act 2 in order to fight for freedom in France in his final line. The use of foreshadowing is painfully clear though both acts. Some more obvious than others, as well as seen as a call-back, for example, near the beginning of Act II, Hamilton son’s Philip learn to play the piano as well as speak in French, however he struggles of number seven, which is late the number he shall be shot on during his duel, but perhaps the biggest use of foreshadowing is threw the character of the bullet. Portrayed by the ensemble cast member, Ariana DeBose, she acts as the personification of death. With the expedition of Hamilton mother, she is the first character to die, and every time after, every character she interacts with, will die. For example, she is the last character to be intact with John Lauren’s before his death, as well as informing Philip where the man who has insulted his father has been, and she is the one to hand Aaron Butt the letter he shall write to Hamilton, sealing his fate. 

The use of letter is by far the most commonly used prop. Their are in my opinion, no notable props, but the use of letters as a symbolic thing is seen, every time a letter is sent, it shall either bring good news or bad news, for example, the letter containing the affair shall later end Hamilton career, as well as the letter informing him of John Laurens death, and they bring news as well. “One Last Time” especially. The letter tell the actual evidence of what George Washington said as he stepped down as president, the song itself is wonderful as Washington sings about everything he had learned as he asks his friend to write it down, and as his declaration is read to the public, starting in Hamilton voice, he slowly goes into the background as Washington takes control of the letter, telling them about his choice, until he is the only voce. It is starting however, that Washington is the only character who is treated with any respect by all members, Jefferson claims that Hamilton is nothing without Washington, however he is immediately disproven after Washington steps down as president, and he even uses the same lyrics when he needs Hamilton aid.

George Washington’ s presence is not just physical, but mental, as he is the character to inspire Hamilton to live past tomorrow, giving him motivation, telling him that history has he eyes on him, and during the final number of the show, it starts with him repeating these lyrics. 

“Let me tell you what I wish I’d known

When I was young and dreamed of glory

You have no control

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”

And rather appropriately, in the final song, Hamilton does not get a word to say, as it is in fact, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Angelica and Eliza who take the lead, singing about Hamilton amusements and seeds, as well as the stories of the soldiers who fought with him, as well as Washington, and themselves, with Eliza proudest accomplishment was her orphanage she opened up, for children like Hamilton. The last time Hamilton sings, he sings his mind, there is no beat or medley, like he previously wondered in “My Shot” singing about why he should waste his shot and how history shall remember him. The musical is a combination of excitement and non-stop musical genius, every song has its purpose, and no matter how long or how small it is. I have always loved musicals, and I love the way they have been able to make a rather bland subject into a 160-minute musical.  I will not be long, but in conclusion: I love it. 

Review, Humane, True Name Productions, The Pleasance/Omnibus Theatre/Arcola Theatre/Theatre Deli Sheffield/Compassion In World Farming, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

In the last year we have seen a development in Theatre. Many, due to the pandemic, took to digital platforms and this has continued as the world opens up. This is a super interesting way of performance, not necessarily new in concept (The Archers for instance has been going for what seems a lifetime) but has its own challenges and positives.

Humane is a story about animal cruelty, about personal development, about feminism, race, friendship and secrets. We see the story of two very unlikely women, join together in protesting the export of live animals from their little Essex town. Their community grows but with this, while there is support and a joint agreement, there are also secrets and arguments, beginning to question nature over nurture and the society we live in.

Split into 6 parts and therefore hosted by different partners, these 30minute bursts are really great and easy to access when on the go, at a quiet moment, and great for a tube journey. They are also easy to listen to, which I found when I traveled to and from an in person show and enjoyed on my travels.

I think, without visuals, it can be quite hard to picture the story. The story itself starts at the end and we are then brought back in time to explain how we got there. This is slightly confusing when just in audio and took a few episodes in for me to piece together the narrative. The same can be said with the characters – with similar sounding voices and some doubling up on characters, it again took me some time to get my head around who was who and whose story I was listening to. Once I grasped this, it made sense and soon the different stories began to naturally interweave and compliment and contrast.

The final crescendo comes at a little surprise – without spoiling the story, part of the ending relating to race and friendships feels slightly out of place and thrown in as an after thought. I understand that perhaps the shortness of each episode and trying to get all the information into each one perhaps knocks some of these narrative plots out but it felt as if this should have been more interwoven into the story.

Humane nonetheless is a very interesting story, and perhaps goes down a route that you never expect while reading the synopsis. It just felt as if more direction was needed when deciding if this should be about animal cruelty, friendships, race and if it needed to be all of these, how they could be more interwoven together.

An Interview with Screenwriter Fflur Dafydd, conducted by Gareth Williams

In this latest interview, Get the Chance member Gareth Williams chats to screenwriter Fflur Dafydd. Their chat takes place in the form of a podcast, the second in a trial series in conversation with Welsh creatives. Fflur talks about her latest series, Yr Amgueddfa, as well as the writing process, her creative journey, Welsh identity, memory, and Welsh TV drama.

To find out more about Fflur, visit her website here, or follow her on social media @fflurdafydd.

You can watch the whole series of Yr Amgueddfa on BBC iPlayer here.

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics like Gareth to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here. Thanks.

Review Starlings (Sky 1, 2012-2013) by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Living in lockdown after lockdown has facilitated more binge-watching than ever before, and a lot of us have taken the chance to catch up on shows we missed the first time round. I’ve finally caught up on Fringe, Red Dwarf, and Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes. I’ve rewatched more of the Stargate franchise than is healthy and puzzled my way through Neon Genesis Evangelion. But two of my personal lockdown favourites, Spirited and Starlings, happen to have something (or, rather, someone) in common: and that’s Matt King.

King is known to many as Peep Show’s lovable crack addict Super Hans, but I first knew him as charming grifter Cookie in Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla, in which he effortlessly stole scenes from the likes of Gerard Butler, Idris Elba, and Tom Hardy. While he’s perhaps best known for playing wide boys and weirdos onscreen (to great effect!), he’s also a dab hand behind the camera, having co-written and produced series like sketch comedy Dogface, acerbic sitcom Whites, and the subject of this review, Sky 1’s family dramedy Starlings.

Starlings Cast Shot © Adrian Rogers for Sky 1 HD

Written by King and Steve Edge (who also star) and produced by Steve Coogan, the series follows four generations of the lovable and slightly chaotic Starlings, an everyday working-class family who all live under one roof. At its heart is happily married couple Terry (Brendan Coyle) and Jan (Lesley Sharp), and their three children: eldest daughter Bell (Rebecca Night), separated from her boyfriend Reuben (Ukweli Roach) on the eve of giving birth to their son; Gravy (John Dagleish), the layabout son with a penchant for reptiles; and Charlie (Finn Atkins), teenage football hopeful and seemingly the only person in the family who’s got it together. Add in Jan’s jack-of-all-trades nephew Fergie (Edge), eccentric Granddad Billy (Alan Williams), and Billy’s long-lost son, Loz (King), and the Starlings’ detached red-brick house is getting rather cramped by the end of the pilot.

Set in Matlock, Derbyshire under perpetually blue skies, the world of Starlings is beautiful to look at and to live in. King and Edge set out to make a comedy drama without the caricatures you’d find in your common garden soap opera, and they succeeded: while its contemporaries wring laughs from families falling over, falling out, or downright falling apart, Starlings is about people who both love and genuinely like each other – even when they get on each other’s nerves. There’s not a weak link in the cast, and their rapport feels natural and lived-in. Honest, gentle, and understated, Starlings delights in the everyday. It doesn’t just give you a window into family life – it makes you feel part of that family.

The Starlings – Series 2 Gallery images Alan WIlliams as Grandad, John Daglish as Gravy, Finn Atkins as Charlie, Brendan Coyle as Terry, Lesley Sharp as Jan, Matt King as Fergie, Steve Edge as Loz, Rebecca Night as Bell and Ukweli Roach as Reuben. ©Des Willie for Sky 1 HD 2013

In doing so, it manages a deceptively tricky balance: it’s warm and genuine without being twee, funny without being farcical, snarky without being mean-spirited. It has an eye for detail and the small, quietly meaningful moments of life that other series tend to trample on or overlook entirely. It thoughtfully subverts toxic masculinity and crafts characters you relish spending time with. It’s also very refreshing to have a series where people are not just happy, but profoundly relieved, to be able to go home to their loved ones at the end of the day. In the Starlings’ world, family is sanctuary.

On an aesthetic level, Starlings is ideal summertime viewing. In many ways a modern pastoral, the series immerses you in a bucolic fever dream of British rural/town life that is still rarely seen on screen. Watch it in the winter, and you can feel the balmy breeze rustling through the trees of the Starling homestead; see it in the summer, and you can sense its warmth spilling over the edges of the screen. It was clearly a joy to make, and that affection is apparent in every frame – no wonder it attracted the likes of Dolly Wells, Cherie Lunghi, Vincent Regan, and Una Stubbs to guest star.

Starlings Cast Shot © Adrian Rogers for Sky 1 HD

As I wrote about the dearly departed Spirited, discovering a gem of a show years after it’s ended is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there’s the injustice of it being taken before its time, the realisation that there is a finite amount of the thing you love; a story unresolved. On the other, it’s like happening upon buried treasure; a rare jewel you never even knew existed and now couldn’t bear to be without. The appeal of unthreatening mediocrity means that countless copy-paste procedurals run ad infinitum and gems like Starlings get struck down in their prime. I wish it could have gone for longer. I wish it would come back. But whatever its fate, I’m grateful it exists in the world. It takes a little time to worm its way into your heart, but once it does, the Starlings come home to roost – for good.

Starlings is streaming on iTunes, Apple TV, Google Play and Amazon Prime Video.

Review by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics like Barbara to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here thanks.