Thursday, 14 February 2019

Ariana Grande - thank u, next


Ariana Grande - thank u, next

Listening to ‘thank u, next’, the latest album from the current reigning queen of pop Ariana Grande, it's clear she's redefined the pop album for 2019. Music alone is no longer enough. This is a pop cultural event that works on multiple levels, defining Ariana not only by the music, but by her relatability and her meme-worthiness.

This really is an album for the internet age. Lead single and title track thank u, next has become a meme since its release, while its accompanying video – an ode to Mean Girls and other teen rom-coms – broke records in its first 24 hours on YouTube. The title of closing track break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored seems particularly primed for the internet; it immediately got fans’ attention when the tracklist was released. And while the album’s second single 7 rings received a (mostly) positive reaction, fans have since started a hashtag to boycott the song in an attempt to get break up with you girlfriend, i’m bored to the top of the charts. Such is the power of fans in this digital age.

It all ties in with the relatable pop star, social media allowing artists to interact directly with their fans. That’s certainly the case with Ariana, whose fans have stood by her over the past couple of years through engagement, break-ups, tragedy and every other twist and turn of her life. ‘thank u, next’ addresses all of this, working like a puzzle box for fans to decipher lyrical context. Other references add to the pop cultural fun – “highlight of my life, just like that Fenty Beauty kit,” she sings on make up, in a nod to Rihanna’s beauty company.

On a deeper level, though, this album is clearly catharsis for the singer. Beat for beat it takes us through her emotional relationship history over the last year. It begins with the downbeat romanticism of imagine, perhaps referencing the impossibility of love with ex-boyfriend Mac Miller who passed away from a drug overdose. Through needy, NASA and bloodline she gives reasons why a relationship would break down, from neediness to time apart and not wanting to commit. Introspection comes with fake smile, Ariana at her most open and vulnerable: “I can’t fake another smile…And I won’t say I’m feeling fine / After what I been through.” Later that continues on ghostin in which she tragically admits “I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again over him.” By the end, the album is flipped on its head with the empowerment of its final few songs. Not merely satisfied with a kiss off to her past lovers with the title track, she ends the album openly coming for your man.

Initially at least, ‘thank u, next’ seems least satisfying on a purely musical level. Known for her pop bangers, this album lacks a big pop moment in the vein of Break Free, Into You, or no tears left to cry. It also sees her leaning more heavily into hip-hop, filling the void that Rihanna has seemingly left behind, for the time being at least. bloodline is a re-tread of Side To Side. 7 rings is tritely based on ‘The Sound of Music’ song My Favourite Things.

Repeated listens prove fruitful, however. The personal connection provides a compelling overarching narrative and, just as the lyrics are filled with little details, so too the production comprises little sonic nuggets. The yearning, rising whistle tone hooks of the gospel-tinged imagine. The warm synths and space whooshes of NASA. The half-rapped pre-chorus in bloodline. The delicious guitar line in bad idea that’s slowly overtaken by cinematic strings in the bridge; the way, in that same song, the outro pitch bends and distorts the vocals. The breathy, otherworldly harmonies in ghostin. The simple hook and playful tone of thank u, next juxtaposed with its sassy sentiment. The anthemic break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored that certainly lives up to its brazen title. Throughout, deep trap beats and delicate vocals create a sensual, intoxicating mix. 

Even beneath the fun and the memes and the raw, cathartic lyrical content, the songs of ‘thank u, next’ ensure Ariana Grande will remain on the radio, YouTube and streaming services for as long as she's written about online. It seems 2019 has already been won.

4/5

Gizzle’s Choice:
* NASA
* Bad idea
* Break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored

Listen: ‘thank u, next’ is out now.




Sunday, 10 February 2019

Boy Erased


Director Joel Edgerton tackles a tricky topic in Boy Erased. Based on the real life memoirs of LGBT activist Garrard Conley, it's a film that commendably faces up to the dangers of religious gay conversion camps in America. But it's so wrapped up in its agenda, that its narrative plods and stumbles.

Lucas Hedges plays the lead Jared, a young man wrestling with his sexuality. His father, Russell Crowe is a pastor and deeply religious; his mother, Nicole Kidman, meekly follows her husband.

When Jared admits to his parents that he's had sexual thoughts about men, they send him to a religious gay conversion camp led by the villainous Victor Sykes (Edgerton). Alongside a group of other men and women, they're subjected to humiliation and religious manipulation. They're forced to relive trauma in front of one another, admit to their shame. And they're told to direct their anger towards their parents, believing that we're not born homosexual, it's a behavioural issue. It is deeply harrowing.

That the film is based on real events makes it all the more poignant. These camps still exist across America and it's undoubtedly Edgerton's agenda to highlight their destructive power. In that sense, Boy Erased is a vital film in the fight for equality and acceptance.

But the narrative falters. Largely, that's because the underwritten Jared is a bland cipher through which we simply witness the horrors in the camp for ourselves. We never truly develop an attachment to him as a character. He's vulnerable, but barely do we see him actually struggling with his sexuality or his loneliness. Two flashback scenes lurch to two extremes - a troubling attempted rape and a tender moment of sweet innocence - but it's not enough. He's left to merely wrestle with the morality of his situation, which is somewhat a given.

Instead, the emphasis is less on self-discovery and more about the horrendous experience he's forced to endure by his parents. It's they who have the more interesting narrative arc. Do they deserve his forgiveness? Can they be redeemed? There's an issue with casting here too: Hedges may get the most screen time, but for emotional power it's hard to compete with the star power of Kidman and Crowe. Musicians Flea and Troye Sivan also pop up in the peripheral cast.

The washed out and dreary visuals may suit the downbeat tone of the film, but it's all a bit one-note and falls flat. Where emotional resonance is required, Boy Erased feels too cold and muted to make enough of an impact.

3/5

Watch: Boy Erased is out now.


Friday, 8 February 2019

New Music Friday 08/02/19

MARINA - Handmade Heaven

MARINA - Handmade Heaven

It's been four years since 'FROOT', so it's great to have Marina back with some off-kilter pop. In that time she's dropped the diamonds, learn to deal with her mental health and rediscovered herself. That all comes together in Handmade Heaven, using imagery of nature to suggest insignificance and lack of purpose. Marina's falsetto is unmistakable; here it soars over cinematic production. Dreamy, sad, beautiful. Welcome back.

Add to playlist.



ionnalee - Open Sea


After her project as iamamiwhoami, Sweden's Jonna Lee last year released a new album under the moniker ionnalee. Open Sea is the first track from its follow up, but it remains typical of her style: icy synths, disco beats, and a widescreen sensibility. This track stands out though, for its bubbling production, aquatic lyrical imagery, and a particularly fizzy middle eight. The forthcoming 'Remember The Future' is going to be a treat for the ears.

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Anna Of The North - Leaning On Myself

Anna of the North - Leaning On Myself

From Sweden to Norway, here's another Scandi returning artist. Leaning On Myself is a more sparse affair when compared to Anna Of The North's 2017 debut 'Lovers', glacial 80s synths swapped for an echoing guitar riff and a slow, shuffling beat. It's more personal too, as the title suggests, with lyrics influenced by a personal breakdown. An anthem for anyone who's feeling alone.

Worth a listen.



Kim Petras - If U Think About Me

Kim Petras - If U Think About Me

Kim Petras has released not one but three new singles today. 1, 2, 3 dayz up features SOPHIE and has the producer's idiosyncratic computerised sound all over it. Homework with lil aaron is pure teen romance. But the highlight is If U Think About Me, a pulsing, whirring, rush of a synth-pop track.

Add to playlist.



Khalid & Disclosure - Talk

Khalid & Disclosure - Talk

Khalid is racking up quite the discography, collaborating with R&B, pop and dance artists alike. This latest track - the first from his forthcoming second album - falls into the latter category, with production from Disclosure that glistens and twinkles over an addictive staccato beat.

Worth a listen.



LYRA - Falling

LYRA - Falling

Singer-songwriter LYRA is set to be one of Ireland's hottest new talents this year. Dramatic production full of lush strings and a thundering beat create a sense of empowerment juxtaposed with lyrics detailing a cheating lover. It's that distinctive voice that really stands out though: intense, haunting, and with a hint of lilting Irish flair.

Worth a listen.


My Dad's Gap Year @ The Park Theatre

My Dad's Gap Year @ The Park Theatre

William is eighteen, gay, and a virgin. His idea of a gap year is a (pretty dull) marketing job at his mum's office. His dad, Dave, is a lazy alcoholic slob, spending his days playing video games and drinking beer. He's in need of a gap year from life. And so, the two men journey to the sun, sand and sex of Thailand to find themselves.

My Dad's Gap Year, from Tom Wright, takes us on a journey too. What starts like an episode from The Inbetweeners travels through comedy and solemnity to a grave end, jarring tonal shifts suggesting a clash of genres between family comedy and drama.

Along that journey, the show touches on numerous important themes. On the one hand, the uptight and repressed William (Alex Britt) struggles with his sexuality and eventually turns to substance abuse as a coping method for both his inner trauma and the trauma of his parents splitting up. On the other, Dave (Adam Lannon) is dealing with splitting up with his wife, a lack of job, a lack of prospects. Both rely on escape to run away from their issues rather than facing them head-on. In predictable fashion, the play is essentially about these two disparate characters reconciling their differences and re-establishing their father-son relationship.

But it's also about opposing views of masculinity. Of a generational gap turned on its head. Of a broken family. Of trans rights and breaking down the image of Thai "ladyboys".

My Dad's Gap Year certainly has its heart in the right place. But for every moment of progression, there's a moment of trite cliché: from characterisation and the setting, to some cringey dialogue.

It remains an entertaining piece of theatre. Britt and Lannon make a great double act and their connection is ultimately heart-warming, while Victoria Gigante gives a poignant performance as Mae. Michelle Collins, while the headline actress as William's mother Cath, is largely superfluous to the narrative.

Still, the play is caught between the precocious seriousness of William and the juvenile banter of Dave. It never quite meets in the middle.

3/5

Watch: My Dad's Gap Year runs at the Park Theatre until 23rd February.

My Dad's Gap Year @ The Park Theatre

My Dad's Gap Year @ The Park Theatre
Photos: Pamela Raith

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Cougar @ The Orange Tree Theatre


Cougar @ The Orange Tree Theatre

The title of this new play at The Orange Tree theatre, from Rose Lewenstein, implies a piece about a relationship with an older woman. Illicit, dangerous, predatory. Cougar is all of these things. It’s intense and erotic. But more so, it’s actually a play about consumption and climate change. Weirdly, that mix works.

It’s the relationship that initially hooks us though. This is two people – the twentysomething John (Mike Noble) and the older Leila (Charlotte Randle) – with animalistic passions caged up in luxury hotel rooms. Rosanna Vize’s design is a Perspex box and we are the voyeurs. Lewenstein has structured the play as a series of extremely short scenes, some just a matter of seconds, that don’t play out chronologically. It gives Cougar a timeless quality that simultaneously suggests their passion for one another and their entrapment in this hotel room relationship.

There are hints and snapshots of violence, fantasy and role-play. Leila wishes to be bought; John finds her irresistible. There’s a reversal in perceived (outdated) gender roles: Leila, financially secure, holds all the power; John is emasculated, her naive prey. They are such polar opposites that you know it won’t work out between them. Yet while John falls for her, Leila's own intentions remain teasingly ambiguous.

Lewenstein’s intentions, though, are more acute. This isn’t just a play about two humans consuming each other in a disturbing and provocative affair. It’s about the hypocrisy of the modern world, the way we consume the planet and its resources. Leila works in climate change, making speeches to corporations in hotel conference rooms. She speaks of NGOs and economics and saving the planet. Yet, by her own admission, she earns a “disgusting” amount of money. Over the course of the play, both she and John consume food like beasts, drink alcohol like water, and change into identical clothes fresh from cellophane wrappers. John tries to make his own small gestures – giving money to a beggar for instance – but he is depressingly representative of the youth led astray by an older generation.

Cougar is expertly paced, its quick scenes slowly drawing us into the nuances of the script. Snappy dialogue reflects the age difference of the characters, and both Noble and Randle deftly switch between contrasting emotions in two bold performances.

By the play’s conclusion, the couple’s carbon footprint is laid bare in their hotel room, littered with the detritus of their affair, their passion burnt out. It’s an apocalyptic end to the play, the world, and their relationship.

4/5

Watch: Cougar runs at the Orange Tree Theatre until 2nd March.

Cougar @ The Orange Tree Theatre
Photo: The Other Richard

Saturday, 2 February 2019

New Music Friday 01/02/19

Billie Eilish - bury a friend

Billie Eilish - bury a friend

This menacing, minimalist new single from Billie Eilish feels like everything we could want from a popstar in 2019. The production has a distinct Kanye West vibe to it, while the lyrics - from the perspective of a monster under the bed, perhaps inspired by an episode of sleep paralysis - take us down a dark twisted road that certainly fits the apocalyptic sign of the times. Paired with the video though and the song takes on a whole new level of horror, heightening the quiet terrifying drama of the song.

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Astrid S - Someone New

Astrid S - Someone New

This Charli XCX penned track, also co-written with Noonie Bao, is a bubbling pop joy. The hook is a simple one, but the unexpected syncopations of the staccato beat keep you on your toes throughout three minutes of concise songwriting. Probably the Norwegian singer's best song.

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ALMA - When I Die

ALMA - When I Die

The Finnish singer's got death on her mind in this new track taken from her forthcoming album 'Have You Seen Her'. Goth pop, clubby vibes and sinuous guitar lines squelch together in this ode to a spectacular end to life, drinks in hand, full of excess, and everybody motherfucking dancing.

Worth a listen.



LUCIA - Blueheart

LUCIA - Blueheart

This new single from the Glaswegian rock band is a rowdy mix of guitars and soaring vocals, but there's a distinct pop sensibility too. Produced by Jim Abbiss and mixed by Charlie Holmes and Mark "Spike" Spent (who between them have worked with acts as varied as Arctic Monkeys, Adele, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga), it's melody-driven, features a sing-along chorus and at less than three minutes doesn't outstay its welcome. Lucia Fairfull's clear vocal is layered with harmony in a track that treads a line between dreamy and grunge.

Worth a listen.



The Chemical Brothers - Got To Keep On

The Chemical Brothers - Got To Keep On

The dance duo will be releasing their ninth (!) album 'No Geography' in April, from which Got To Keep On is taken. The infectious bass is layered with sumptuous disco vocals, classic house vibes and spacey effects, all punctuated by light, clipped percussion. This is an instant festival classic.

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Empire of the Sun - Chrysalis

Empire of the Sun - Chrysalis

Empire of the Sun have never quite outshined their debut album 'Walking On A Dream', which went on to win Album Of The Year at the ARIA Awards. It's now being re-released with this previously unheard track included. And let's be honest, Chrysalis should've remained that way. The warm synth pads and funk guitars are now typical of the band, but the song is one-note and dull. One that should've stayed in the studio.

Don't bother.



Busted - All My Friends

Busted - All My Friends

The three-piece's previous album 'Night Driver' was an under-appreciated 80s thrill. For new album 'Half Way There', then, they've gone back to their roots with a pop-rock sound taken straight from the year 2000. All My Friends is a dry acoustic ballad about growing up - it's meant to show maturity, but instead it's three relatively young guys sounding like country crooners on Radio 2.

Don't bother.



Ally Brooke feat. Tyga - Low Key

Ally Brooke feat. Tyga - Low Key

Yet another release from an ex-Fifth Harmony member, following squarely in Camila Cabello's footsteps with a Latino-infused mid-tempo "jam" and a hook that sounds like she's summoning a Norse God. You low key should not have bothered.

Don't bother.



Thursday, 24 January 2019

Company @ The Gielgud Theatre


Company @ The Gielgud Theatre

The gender flip in this revival of Sondheim’s Company, produced by the National Theatre, has received plenty of attention. Rather than telling the tale of perennial bachelor Bobbie, actress Rosalie Craig turns the same character into a likeable single gal whose friends relentlessly try to set her up. There are other switches too, not least of all the introduction of a gay couple, plus a brand new song from Sondheim to allow the lead role a further moment in the spotlight. It gives this 1970 musical an updated twist, to resonate even more with a modern audience.

Equally, though, it sort of makes no difference. The changes to character and script are so seamless that you’d never know the musical wasn’t written this way. It is, after all, not a show defined by gender. Its themes are universal – a single thirtysomething finding love in New York City, discovering their innate desire for human connection. Man, woman, gay, straight…none of these things really matter, such is the malleability of Sondheim’s work to remain relevant to any and all audiences.

The show is, abstractly, a dissection of relationships. Though it takes place on Bobbie’s 35th birthday (a repeated moment that’s as much about her own age anxiety as it is a structural device), each scene explores the lives of her partnered friends: the overly competitive couple; the couple who need to loosen up; the couple panicking about marriage; the couple more content in divorce. Through Sondheim’s music and George Furth’s book, it’s an incredibly perceptive show that refracts and shifts like a prism. Humans are difficult and oxymoronic, our relationships good and bad. There’s no easy truth, no fairytale ending. All we’re after is…some company.

And who said Sondheim doesn’t write tunes? Company is full of them! There are long and searching melodies, jittery and nervous melodies, incessant hooks that niggle away in our minds as much as Bobbie’s. There’s the cutesy “You Could Drive a Person Crazy”, now turned into a barbershop trio, the intricately choreographed “Side by Side”, and of course the soaring “Being Alive” – Craig closing the show in absolutely stunning fashion. The performances throughout are exquisitely sung, each crescendo and lush harmony sending tingles up the spine. And even though the characterisation is sometimes cartoonish, the quirks and emotions of each character are imminently relatable.

Bunny Christie’s sleek design frames each scene literally with moveable sets, each bordered in neon themed colours. They’re like comic book panels, vignettes, windows into the lives of these people. It’s a minimalist design that nonetheless parallels the nuances of the show, morphing from intimate bedrooms to the hustle and bustle of the big city and the hundreds of potential connections to be made. This is a polished production that feels effortless, the star cast – from Craig, to Patti Lupone and Mel Giedroyc  - all living up to their billing. Special mention to Jonathan Bailey though whose comedic performance as Jamie is scatty and adorable.

What’s most apparent, though, is Sondheim’s ability to pick apart the surface of each character and reveal the personal neuroses of each. It turns these characters into real people, a reflection not only of messy humanity but of love itself. Company is sad and frightening and hilarious and reminds us of the sheer joy of being alive.

5/5

Watch: Company runs at the Gielgud Theatre until 30th March.

Company @ The Gielgud Theatre
Photo: Tristram Kenton

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Violet @ The Charing Cross Theatre


Violet @ The Charing Cross Theatre

This is a truly global proposition. A very American musical – both in subject and in writing team – in a Japanese co-production receiving it’s UK premiere in London. It’s themes though are universal: a young girl on a journey of self-discovery.

What’s immediately apparent is Morgan Large’s set design. You’ve never seen the Charing Cross Theatre like this before, transformed into a traverse stage complete with revolving floor. There are plenty of details in the side panels too, but this type of staging isn’t necessarily well-suited to the space – the audience are seated too far from the stage to appreciate the finer intricacies of the set and the performances, impressive though they are.

The score is from composer Jeanine Tesori, most famous for Caroline, or Change (currently showing at the Playhouse Theatre) and Fun Home (which recently ran at the Young Vic). Violet, then, is nothing if not timely. Here, Tesori’s music takes on a multitude of American styles, from country ballads and rock ‘n’ roll, to blues harmony and gospel choirs. There are some gorgeous choral harmonies in what is overall an uplifting chamber score. Early on, though, there’s an over-reliance on polyphony, multiple characters singing their stories over one another, that doesn’t exactly lend itself to a clear exposition.

It’s difficult, therefore, to warm immediately to the story. The titular Violet boards a bus to journey across the deep south of America. Her goal is to meet an evangelist who can miraculously cure the facial scarring she endured as a child. Along the journey she meets two soldiers – one black, one white – forming a half-baked love triangle. There are hints of the civil rights movement and themes of religion and race, but this is ultimately a coming-of-age tale of a young girl learning to accept her scars, both physical and psychological. The denouement, though, feels saccharine and the final message - of not judging by appearances - seems to awkwardly equate facial disfigurement and race, with two people scarred by society finding companionship together.

Violet, though, is a compelling character. Brash and headstrong, yet utterly naïve, she feels like an authentic country girl finding her place in the wider world. Hammarlund (who incidentally just performed in Fun Home) is a wonderful leading lady, vocally strong and delivering a clearly defined and characterful performance. Elsewhere the cast are talented – there are great vocals from Angelica Allen, Jay Marsh and Simbi Akande especially, while Kenneth Avery Clark brings plenty of energy as the preacher – but the peripheral characters feel underwritten and incidental. This is, ultimately, Violet’s story.

Despite a bold and polished production, the plot doesn’t quite have the drive or clarity to be dramatically engaging and stalls with each musical number. With Hammarlund centre stage, though, Violet is warm, endearing and very well sung.

3/5

Watch: Violet runs at the Charing Cross Theatre until 6th April.


Violet @ The Charing Cross Theatre

Violet @ The Charing Cross Theatre
Photos: Scott Rylander

Saturday, 19 January 2019

New Music Friday 18/01/19

Sigrid - Don't Feel Like Crying

Sigrid - Don't Feel Like Crying

At this point Sigrid's songs are all blurring together. When her debut album 'Sucker Punch' does eventually arrive in March it'll probably just be a string of singles. But the short, uplifting Don't Feel Like Crying does stand out above the rest, especially for the trill on "nooo" that takes us soaring into the melismatic chorus, before a sassy little rap section. It's exactly what Sigrid is known for - brilliant pop.

Add to playlist.



Ariana Grande - 7 rings

Ariana Grande - 7 rings

At this point Ariana is an unstoppable force, undoubtedly the biggest popstar on the planet. 7 rings embodies that with its braggadocio lyrics and repeated "I want it / I got it" in the chorus, leaning further into hip-hop with its sparse production and trap beat. The hook, though, is a riff on My Favourite Things - a trite reference - and it's hard to shake the feeling this has all been done better before, Ariana morphing to fit a Rihanna-shaped hole.

Worth a listen.



Mabel - Don't Call Me Up

Mabel - Don't Call Me Up

Mabel has so far largely seen success alongside other artists. But Don't Call Me Up sees her going alone in more ways than one, with a catchy slice of tropical dance-pop that's a middle finger to an ex. "'Cause the truth is, without you boy I'm stronger," she sings in the chorus, before an emphatic "I'm over you." It's her boldest, catchiest moment yet.

Worth a listen.



Call Me Loop - Silly Boy

 Call Me Loop - Silly Boy

Yet another bop from Call Me Loop. Silly Boy has a sparse, bubbly Scandi vibe (likely due to production from Swedish duo TEOFRANS) as she scalds her beau for overthinking and getting cold feet. It's sugary sweet yet sexy, coy and honest. Listen to it again when her forthcoming EP is out in March.

Worth a listen.



MIO - With Love

MIO - With Love

With Love is taken from the Swedish newcomer's new EP 'So What Do We Do Now?' and it's as bold and clean and addictive as the best Scandi-pop. The verses are heartfelt before lurching into a mid-tempo chorus that gently bubbles with staccato bass synth. The remains of the EP is as stylistically varied as it is enjoyable, though With Love is the real crowning jewel.

Worth a listen.



Papa Roach - Come Around

Papa Roach - Come Around

Look, allow me my emo moment, ok?



Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The Daughter-in-Law @ The Arcola Theatre


The Daughter-in-Law @ The Arcola Theatre

D.H. Lawrence is best remembered for his novels and poetry but he wrote a number of plays too, most of which weren’t performed in his lifetime. Indeed, The Daughter-in-Law was first performed in 1967, some 54 years after he wrote it. Though unpopular back in 1913, it is exemplary of his style of working-class British drama and, far from a dusty period piece, remains insightful to this day.

This particular production, directed by Jack Gamble, returns to the Arcola Theatre following success last year. Louie Whitemore’s set places the dining table at the centre as emblematic of this family drama that somewhat foreshadows the kitchen sink realism of the 50s and 60s; much of the play occurs at dinnertime, the core of family life. And it’s the female characters – the matriarchs who run the household and cook said dinner – who dominate throughout the narrative.

The plot is a relatively straightforward tale of a husband cheating on his wife and the fallout of his philandering. There are secret plans to provide money to the ‘other woman’; women suffocated by misogynistic views; and boisterous adult men molly-coddled by their mother. The bonds of marriage are in competition with a mother’s overbearing love for her sons.

It’s set to the backdrop of the 1912 miners’ strike that adds another layer of friction. This is a working class family struggling financially, the men pressured to bring in a salary, the women pressured to make ends meet. Yet what’s remarkable is how relevant it all is. This is the sort of drama that wouldn’t be out of place today (minus the mining part), only proving the universality of Lawrence’s themes. He was a writer ahead of his time as he explores a pathetic masculinity, upturns traditional gender roles, and interrogates the nature of marriage. The lesson at the heart of the play is that marriage is based on trust.

The script is written phonetically in a dialect Lawrence had grown up hearing in his home of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. It is initially tough to tune into, but the use of specific sayings, quirks and metaphors brings authentic character to the drama and a sense of familial warmth as they banter around the dining table. Props too to the cast who speak Lawrence’s words with clarity, and to dialect coach Penny Dyer. As the titular daughter-in-law Minnie Gascoyne, Ellie Nunn offers an assured performance that deftly handles the character’s swings from frustration to desperation and, eventually, overwhelming love for her husband. Tessa Bell-Briggs charms as the bumbling Mrs Purdy, and Veronica Roberts is a perpetually flustered mother as Mrs Gascoyne.

The pace plods a little, but this simultaneously allows us to settle into the language and relish both the play’s humour and high drama. This is a layered piece, presented with lucidity and attention to detail, that will resonate with a new audience.

4/5

Watch: The Daughter-in-Law runs at the Arcola theatre until 2nd February.


The Daughter-in-Law @ The Arcola Theatre

The Daughter-in-Law @ The Arcola Theatre
Photos: Idil Sukan