Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Zara Larsson - So Good

Zara Larsson - So Good

Zara Larsson is quite the opinionated popstar. The Swede's Twitter and Instagram feeds are filled with feminism, swears, memes, cute selfies and a distinct lack of bullshit. Throw in the fact that the best pop music is made in Sweden and Larsson really is a cool, youthful popstar for our times. Her millions of social media followers would certainly agree.

How, then, is 'So Good' so average?

It's the sound of a winning personality and decent vocalist being sucked into a personality vacuum. If Larsson is the quintessential 2017 popstar, then this debut is something of a tick list of trends. I Would Like is the cheeky sex jam. So Good is a pop song in the Ariana Grande mould that's so breezy it simply wafts by uneventfully, with a Ty Dolla $ign rap to boot. Sundown taps into dancehall flavours. Ain't My Fault is standard R&B pop fare.

None of these are bad songs. Far from it - 'So Good' is full of solidly constructed pop with polished production. And with almost all the tracks ending around the three minute mark, they come and go easily enough. It makes for an enjoyable listen, but it's empty. What's missing is Larsson. Much of the album could be sung by any other generic singer and be no less enjoyable. Where's the wit and sass we've come to expect?

A few songs do capture Larsson's essence. Breakthrough hit Lush Life was one of 2016's best pop tracks, Larsson living life "the way I wanna" over buoyant rhythms. The sad-pop TG4M looks to Robyn's Dancing On My Own for inspiration. The raw vocal of Funeral mirrors a relationship being torn apart. And Never Forget You, released with MNEK, remains a banger. Yet when one of your best tracks was released two years ago, there's a problem.

These tracks hint at the popstar potential of Larsson. But it's ironic that it all ends with the brilliantly euphoric Symphony - a Clean Bandit track on which she features, released on the same day. The inevitable success of that track will likely overshadow this album, but Larsson deserves to be more than a featured artist. 'So Good' just doesn't quite cut it.

3/5

Gizzle's Choice:
* Lush Life
* TG4M
* Symphony

Listen: 'So Good' is out now.



Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Frogs @ Jermyn Street Theatre

The Frogs @ Jermyn Street Theatre

Just last week theatre critic Lyn Gardner's column was cut from the Guardian website, one of many examples of cuts to arts funding from all sides in a time of political uncertainty, when really we need the arts more than ever. The Frogs, then, couldn't come at a more timely moment.

Based on a 405 BC comedy from Aristophanes freely adapted by Burt Shevelove and "even more freely adapted" by Nathan Lane with music from Stephen Sondheim, it's a musical that truly celebrates the arts and receives its UK premiere at the Jermyn Street Theatre. Set simultaneously in modern day and ancient Greece (yes that's correct), the narrative follows the god of drama and wine Dionysos (Michael Matus) and his slave Xanthias (George Rae) as they travel through the underworld to bring George Bernard Shaw (Martin Dickinson) back from the dead. Why? Because humanity will find solace in drama, saving the modern world from political strife (this modern version was written following the events of 9/11).

It's a singular political message that cleverly mirrors Aristophanes' work while updating it for a contemporary audience, filled with witty references to politics, musicals and culture. Each scene on the journey is a vignette that takes us deeper into the underworld, from a burly Herakles (Chris McGuigan), travelling aboard Charon's boat (Jonathan Wadey, having a lot of fun with the Johnny Depp meets Beetlejuice characterisation), a chorus of frightening frogs, through to a dominatrix Pluto (Emma Ralston). The show's climax is a wonderfully acted battle of words between Shaw and Shakespeare (Nigel Pilkington) to determine which playwright is most worthy to return to Earth. The theme of artists connecting across life and death adds a meta layer to the show that reflects the collaborative efforts of the writers and composer.

This may not be Sondheim's most original score, but it's enjoyable nonetheless. There are plenty of Sondheim-isms, from the wordy melodies (which the cast occasionally stumbled on) to the contrapuntal textures. There's more than a touch of Into the Woods here, while the frog chorus is suitably frightening and contrasts with some lush chorale singing.

Gregor Donnelly's set and costume design keeps things simple and modern with a few nods to Ancient Greece and director/producer Grace Wessels ensures this is a stylish and mostly polished production in the confines of the small theatre. It's certainly deserving of a larger space to fully-realise the imaginative scenes.

It's bookended, however, with scenes that directly address the audience. They may reflect Aristophanes and they may be entertaining, but they're also a little patronising and unnecessarily implore the message of the musical. It's important to ensure that art doesn't exist within a bubble, but The Frogs is essentially artists patting the backs of artists and it comes off as a little self-aggrandising. Yet with its layers of morality, philosophy and wit, it remains a deliciously intellectual production.

"Smile on us and bless our show", the cast sing to the audience in the opening number. Well I smiled plenty, so - for what it's worth - consider yourselves blessed.

4/5

Watch: The Frogs runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 8th April.

The Frogs @ Jermyn Street Theatre

The Frogs @ Jermyn Street Theatre
Photos: David Ovendon

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Charli XCX - Number 1 Angel

Charli XCX - Number 1 Angel

What's the difference between a mixtape and an album? Gone are the days of recording songs off the radio and on to a cassette to listen to later or impress a potential date. In hip-hop terms, a mixtape is generally an independently created and released recording, but nowadays it's pretty synonymous with the album. Except if it underperforms, well...it wasn't the "proper" album, right?

That's a shame because 'Number 1 Angel', Charli XCX's new mixtape, deserves to be considered a full album alongside 'True Romance' and 'Sucker'. This is more than just a stopgap until the next album. It marks a consolidation of her past records whilst looking to a new future.

Really, the mixtape label hints at the hip-hop influences on much of the record. The provocative cover alone drips with audacious, sexualised glamour, before opening track Dreamer sets a moody tone with its deep, booming synths, trap beats and rap-singing. Blame It On You, White Roses (a nod to Black Roses from her debut?) and Drugs all riff on the same sound, creating a structured sense of continuity and mirroring Aitchison's sexualised image. Features from Uffie, Abra and CupcakKe only add to the underground authenticity.

The darker sound also harks back to her debut and its gothic edge, but really 'Number 1 Angel' is packed with the pop hooks we've come to expect from Charli XCX. Babygirl fizzes with 80s glitter and juicy basslines, whilst ILY2 has a stomping rock vibe reminiscent of 'Sucker' that Sky Ferreira would be jealous of. Elsewhere, MØ - something of Aitchison's Danish equivalent - crops up on the buoyant 3AM (Pull Up), Roll With Me is full of vibrant, stabbing synths, and although Brit producer SOPHIE's influence (said to be involved in Aitchison's third album) is in much of this mixtape, it's most pronounced in the kinetic textures of closer Lipgloss.

Is 'Number 1 Angel' that third album in disguise, an album in mixtape clothing? It's clear that Charli XCX is an artist with a wealth of varied influences and a willingness to experiment. If this mixtape is just a quick release before the main event, it's deserving of a lot more fanfare.

4/5

Gizzle's Choice:
* ILY2
* Babygirl
* Lipgloss

Listen: 'Number 1 Angel' is out now.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Ed Sheeran - Divide

Ed Sheeran - Divide


Only Ed Sheeran could open an album with a grime track and end it with the soppiest of ballads.

In truth, all of his albums have been divided between opposing styles: the hip-hop influenced loop pedaller and the cheesy balladeer. Only now, on 'Divide', it's simply pronounced in the title. Predictably enough it's something of a mixed bag, an everyman singer serving everyone but lacking edge - a fitting metaphor for current British music from British music's biggest export in 2017.

For all the pomp of division, this album is remarkably safe. A handful of tracks may present a change of style, but really 'Divide' only nudges towards the boundaries of Sheeran's sound. That he can take varied genres and make them his own is impressive. That it still all sounds so familiar is a disappointment.

That's mostly true of the ballads, which merge social realism with a typical folk-tinge. Lead single Castle on the Hill set the tone here, merging reminiscence with U2 stadium guitars; later there's Supermarket Flowers, simple storytelling that's a clear ode to Sheeran's family. In between there's the likes of Dive, Perfect and How Would You Feel (Paean) - they're all nice enough songs, but as tearjerkers they're all so calculated towards the Adele demographic. Not even his raspy vocals can hide the schmaltz.

The exception is Happier, where Sheeran hits the jackpot of storytelling and Adele simplicity (even if it sounds a bit like Sam Smith). "Ain't nobody hurt you like I hurt you, but ain't nobody need you like I do," he sings in light falsetto over gentle guitar arpeggios, "baby you look happier, you do". It's a touching moment of acceptance that doesn't sound like he's trying too hard.

On the flip side are the uptempo tracks that borrow liberally from contemporary pop, sounding safely and inoffensively within current tastes. He spits rhymes on Eraser; he taps dancehall sounds on pop standout and other lead single Shape of You; he rap-sings verbosely over funk guitars on New Man, a song that could easily fit on any of his albums. This divider is a jack of all trades, but a master of none.

Yet we also get to hear Sheeran having some fun amongst all the tears and the relatability and the authenticity and the coolness. Galway Girl mixes rap with an Irish jig and some cheeky fiddle, something that makes a return on the folky Nancy Mulligan. Bibia Be Ye Ye is Sheeran's attempt at recreating Paul Simon's 'Graceland' album, inspired by his travels to Africa soon to be broadcast on Comic Relief. And Barcelona is just pure joy, with its infectious rhythms, whistling chorus and Spanish silliness in the final chorus.

It's on these tracks that Sheeran drops the authentic musician act, stops trying to sell records, stops trying to please everyone and just has fun. You get the impression that it's here we see the real Ed Sheeran.

3/5

Gizzle's Choice:
* Shape of You
* Happier
* Barcelona

Listen: 'Divide' is out now.


Swifties @ Theatre N16

Swifties @ Theatre N16

Much has already been written about Taylor Swift's particular brand of feminism and popstar appeal. On the surface she seems genuine and relatable, singing songs of bullying and young love that immediately click with her young fans. But is this all narcissistic? When she connects directly with fans, is it only to boost her own image? Is it even possible to be simultaneously grounded and a flawless pop icon? And how does this star-fan relationship affect the psychology of her fans?

These themes are the focus of Swifties, a loose adaptation of Jean Genet's The Maids that sees two girls idolising Taylor Swift to the point of fetish. Whilst waiting at a meet and greet competition, the girls play out some strange fantasy where they get to become "Tay" - singing her songs, mimicking her style, and re-enacting her life. Yet this eventually devolves into a bizarre rape/murder fantasy involving Swift's (now ex-lover) Calvin Harris and a plot to kill Swift that inevitably goes wrong. The girls are highly unpredictable as they flit between sweet friendship and nastiness. Is this meant to reflect the sort of relationships young girls have with one another? And is this really the fault of Taylor Swift?

Between them, the girls represent two extremes of feminism. One seems brainwashed by the niceties of Swift's generosity and longs to be part of her "squad"; the other is more radical and violent in her approach.

Yet both come across as immature and irritating, meaning what's meant to be a chilling and profound piece of theatre is just silliness. The cartoonish acting of Isabella Niloufar and Tanya Cubric - whether intentional or not - undermines any semblance of sincerity, whilst Tom Stenton's script clunkily steers the drama with the finesse of a GCSE drama improvisation. It leaves these two girls as wholly unlikable and the audience either amused or bemused by their psychological drama.

Two sweet young girls drawn to terrible things by their adoration of a popstar. They're a nightmare dressed like a daydream, but for all the play's lofty aspirations we're simply left with a blank space, baby.

2/5

Watch: Swifties runs at Theatre N16 until March 11th.

Swifties @ Theatre N16
Photo: Luke Davies

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Hidden Figures - Theodore Melfi

Hidden Figures - Theodore Melfi

Plenty of popcorn films have a political agenda, but can they win Oscars?

Because Hidden Figures really is a popcorn film. It's frothy and polished, its characters and sets bathed in a sunny glow that'll leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside when it's finished.

It's a period piece about one of America's greatest triumphs - the Space Race, specifically the mission of John Glenn and the Friendship 7. It follows three women proving their worth to NASA as mathematicians, rising to positions of prominence in calculations, engineering and coding. It's about underdogs overcoming adversity; the power of the human mind versus machines; the importance of study and knowledge in forward thinking. It's a celebration not of the brave male astronauts who were the face of space travel, but the female minds behind them who showed their own kind of bravery.

It's script is full of amusement, largely from its three sassy, wise-cracking female leads. A jovial soul soundtrack accompanies moments of lightheartedness. And it's denouement is predictable yet sweet, tying up each loose end with every character receiving the positive recognition they deserve. There's no doubt it'll have you punching the air with glee by its conclusion.

Yet there's more to Hidden Figures than just female empowerment. Those women? They're African-American.

In the domestic world, they are each pillars of their community. Family women, successful women, religious women. Even at work they speak out of turn only when absolutely necessary. Yet it is absolutely necessary. All three women are repeatedly met with adversity for their gender and their race, yet they take it all with a polite, graceful smile before showing those men who's boss.

The film doesn't sugarcoat the treatment of black people in the 60s, but with such likeable protagonists we can't help but smile with glee at their eventual triumph. That's also testament to the strong performances from Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae who together make the film such a joy to watch and far more than just an Oscar box-ticking exercise.

The film is based on true events that deserve to be told regardless, but seeing three black women in positions of power at the helm of an Oscar nominated film in today's turbulent America is a strong political statement. Frothy and enjoyable as it is, Hidden Figures simultaneously delivers a hard-hitting and much needed message of equality and diversity.

Now pass me the popcorn.

4/5

Watch: Hidden Figures is out now.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Wild Party @ The Other Palace

The Wild Party @ The Other Palace

The Other Palace hasn't changed all that much since its days as the St James Theatre. Now owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber as part of his Really Useful Theatres group, his plan is to turn The Other Palace into a haven for new work, where writers and directors can test and refine - before, presumedly, a successful production will transfer to the bigger West End stages.

The Wild Party opens the new theatre and whilst it's not exactly a daring choice in line with this new agenda - it's an established musical whose Broadway debut was nominated for a number of Tony's back in 2000 - it's certainly a provocative production. Directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie, it's a show that drips with sex appeal, its slinky cast writhing across the stage on just the right side of hedonistic debauchery.

Based on the 1928 narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March (and not to be confused with the Andrew Lippa penned musical of the same name based on the same source material), it depicts a particularly wild night hosted by vaudeville performers Queenie (Frances Ruffelle) and Burrs (John Owen-Jones). Theirs is a fiery love/hate relationship of lust, infidelity and violence. Throw in some bathtub gin, cocaine, and thirteen sexually liberal guests and carnage is bound to ensue.

The musical is artfully constructed as a series of individual vaudeville sketches, LaChiusa's music pastiching a variety of jazz styles with a modern twist and plenty of dissonance and chromaticism to match the sexual characterisation. There's even a certain air of Sondheim with its storytelling through music, spoken word rhythms and overlapping vocal lines. Each vignette recounts the personal tales of the fascinatingly dark characters, touching on sexual promiscuity, drug abuse, violence and paedophilia. Together they don't quite add up to an overarching, convincing narrative.

That's because the plot's success rests on the love triangle at the centre of it all between Queenie, Burrs and party guest Black (Simon Thomas) who comes as the date of Queenie's friend Kate (Victoria Hamilton-Barritt). Yet despite some show-stopping numbers from Owen-Jones as Burrs, this triangle is predictable and fails to compel. It's the periphery characters who prove the more intriguing.

They include some delicious performances. Hamilton-Barritt is on fiery form here, her gritty vocals whipping up a storm. Gloria Obianyo and Genesis Lynca are eminently watchable as the D'Armano brothers, forever in sync with their cool stylish movements, whilst Melanie Bright is an ethereal presence as the drug-addled Sally and Donna McKechnie owns the stage as the fading Dolores Montoya.

McOnie's direction just about keeps control of the often frantic chaos, with plenty of small touches on the periphery of the action as well as delivering an overall stylish and polished production. It's a strong start for The Other Palace - let's hope the wildness continues.

4/5

Watch: The Wild Party runs until 1st April.

The Wild Party @ The Other Palace

The Wild Party @ The Other Palace
Photos: Scott Rylander

The Girls @ The Phoenix Theatre

The Girls @ The Phoenix Theatre

The Girls recently won Best Regional Production at the WhatsOnStage awards. And it’s not hard to see why.

With its opening number setting the scene, it’s a celebration of rural Yorkshire: bunting, tea drinking, village fetes, hill walking, and community. Originally performed as a play back in 2009, this new musical version – with score from Gary Barlow and lyrics from Tim Firth – premiered in 2015 at the Grand Theatre Leeds and clearly captured the minds of its local audience. It’s all as quaint and cheerful and unashamedly British as the 2003 Calendar Girls film on which this production is based (inspired by true events).

In a sleepy village, a group of W.I. women put together a (tasteful!) nude calendar to raise charity money after the death of a husband to cancer. In the process, they confound expectations of the W.I., the village, and women themselves. Here are a group of middle-aged women emancipated, standing up to the stern matriarchy of the W.I. and dragging it into the modern age.

Except, little about this production feels modern – from its small-scale set, to its simple score, to its politics. Success in regional theatre doesn’t necessarily equate to West End success and it’s questionable how relevant this production is to a London audience. In a post-Brexit world, an all-white, all-straight cast stuck in a time warp feels out of touch with modern tastes.

Yet there’s charm aplenty in this production, one filled with universal truths no matter what region you live in. The plot revolves around Joanna Riding’s Annie as she struggles with grief when her husband John (James Gaddas) dies of cancer. Her numbers prove to be the most emotive, Barlow’s simple music highlighting the little, quiet moments of this kitchen sink drama. There’s huge tragedy in something as straightforward as a visit to the supermarket alone, Riding delivering a potently poignant performance. Claire Moore also offers some belting vocals as Chris, whilst Claire Machin (Cora), Michele Dotrice (Jessie), Sophie-Louise Dann (Celia) and Debbie Chazen (Ruth) all amuse in their respective roles. These are real women with real problems serving female empowerment – a triumph of storytelling. And as the show seamlessly builds towards its inevitable naked climax, these women should be commended for their bravery in baring all for the audience.

Barlow’s score isn’t always up to much, the melodies following the rhythms of everyday speech but without much of a hook. The pop arrangements are simple and enjoyable enough, but lack the depth or complexity needed to really make a musical statement. And that’s a reflection of the show as a whole: a gently pleasant evening that will warm the heart but won’t challenge the mind.

3/5

Watch: The Girls runs until July 2017.




Photos: Matt Crockett

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

The Gizzle Review's 2017 Theatre Wishlist

Hamilton

Hamilton
Victoria Palace Theatre
November 2017 - June 2018

This is the big one, the one we're all waiting for. Since its Broadway transfer in 2015, Lin-Manuel Miranda's rap musical has won 11 Tony awards and is seemingly forever sold out. In October this year, the production comes to the West End with a brand new cast and produced by Cameron Mackintosh. It's set to be the biggest hit of the year - not long now to "Wait For It".


Angels in America

Angels in America
National Theatre
April - August

Andrew Garfield, Russell Tovey and Nathan Lane star in this revival of Tony Kushner's multi-award winning two-part play at the National Theatre. If the cast isn't enough for you, its frank exploration of sex and relationships during the AIDS crisis of '80s New York should prove the importance and continued relevancy of this seminal play.



42nd Street
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
March - July

This revival of the classic musical will be replacing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Drury Lane. Directed by Mark Bramble and with new choreography from Randy Skinner, it's set to be a faithful production of familiar tunes and tap dancing wizardry. It stars Sheena Easton in the lead role, amongst a cast of 50!


 Don Juan in Soho

Don Juan in Soho
Wyndham's Theatre
March - June

Don Juan in Soho marks the return of David Tennant to the West End stage as the titular hedonistic lothario. Patrick Marber's take on the character is a dark comedy set in modern day London, here directed by Marber himself with design by the award winning Anna Fleischle. It's bound to be sexy as hell.


Showstopper!

Showstopper!
Lyric Theatre
Now - June

If you're yet to see Showstopper! then get yourself to the theatre immediately. An Edinburgh Festival favourite, the cast improvise a full musical based on suggestions from the audience on story, style and characters. It's a marvel to watch, hysterically funny, and different every time!


Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
Old Vic Theatre
February - April

Tom Stoppard's comedy celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and features in Matthew Warchus' second season at the Old Vic following Kevin Spacey. Starring Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire, the play follows the events of Hamlet from a whole new and hilarious angle


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Palace Theatre
Now - May 2018

Speaking of Harry Potter, Cursed Child is still the hottest ticket on the West End. With its clever continuation of the franchise, dazzling technical effects and gripping time-travelling narrative, this is pure theatrical magic.


The Girls

The Girls
Phoenix Theatre
January - April

Based on Tim Firth's 2003 film Calendar Girls, Gary Barlow's musical is finally hitting the West End this spring after his success on Broadway with Finding Neverland. The film charmingly depicts a group of W.I. ladies who strip off for a charity calendar shoot - this musical is set to follow suit with a new score from Barlow.


On The Town

On The Town
Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
May - July

Leonard Bernstein's hit musical that isn't West Side Story comes to the wonderful Regent's Park Open Air Theatre this summer, depicting three sailors visiting New York and falling in love. Directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie, whose credits include In The Heights and last year's Jesus Christ Superstar, the visuals should match Bernstein's brilliant score for the feelgood hit of the summer.


 The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia?

The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia?
Theatre Royal Haymarket
March - June

Another West End returnee this year is Damien Lewis, starring in Edward Albee's The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia. It's a bizarre play about the effects of sexual secrets on a troubled family, but with Lewis in the lead role and a score from none other than Mercury Prize winning rock artist PJ Harvey, this could be the most intriguing piece of theatre of the year.



This post is sponsored by TheatreTickets.uk, click here to buy West End theatre tickets.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Moonlight - Barry Jenkins

Moonlight - Barry Jenkins

"My eyes don't shed tears but boy they ball when I'm thinkin' 'bout you," sang Frank Ocean on Thinkin Bout You from his 2012 album 'Channel Orange'. It was a watershed moment. Here was a young black man - a hip hop artist in an aggressively straight world - not only showing emotion, but showing emotion for another man.

Now, with the Oscar-nominated Moonlight, cinema has caught up. It's an exploration of African-American masculinity, following the life of Chiron from youth to adulthood (the connotations of his name from Greek mythology are surely no coincidence). In many ways, his life feels like a cinematic cliché: he's so shy he's practically mute, he's bullied at school, his mother is a drug addict, and with no father he lacks a male role model. Yet this sort of life is tragically commonplace in current day America.

Things pick up when the young Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert), known as 'Little', by chance meets Juan (Mahershala Ali). Juan is a sympathetic figure, straddling the harsh world of drug dealing and a comfortable home life with his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe). Together they provide Chiron with something his mother (Naomie Harris) could never provide: safety, comfort, acceptance.

As he grows up, Chiron struggles to dictate his own path as he navigates the alternate worlds Juan so effortlessly balances. He eventually ends up serving a prison sentence before becoming a drug dealer, but was this inevitable with such a selfish, emotionally abusive mother? Were Juan and Teresa powerless to stop this downfall?

It's telling that the film is divided into three sections for each of Chiron's identities: Little, Chiron and Black. No matter which identity he chooses - the shy child, the explorative teenager, the mask of an aggressive thug - he remains the same person underneath. His experiences shape him, but they do not dictate his identity.

That is the key message of this film: to be a man is to accept your identity, your flaws, your decisions and take responsibility for your life, no matter what your background. You can cry and still be a man. You can show vulnerability and still be a man. You can love and support your mother and still be a man. You can be gay and still be a man.

Barry Jenkins directs with tenderness and delicacy, the camera lingering on his subject questioningly but without judgement. Orchestral strings take the place of diagetic hip-hop - the soundtrack fittingly subverting masculine expectations - but mostly it's overwhelming silence that reflects the amount of noise inside Chiron's head.

The performances are indeed Oscar-worthy, in particular Ali's touching portrayal of Juan that's equal parts hard and soft, and Harris' frightening performance as Chiron's mother that's far removed from the Miss Moneypenny we know from Bond. And the three actors playing Chiron - Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes - do a remarkable job between them of depicting a single, confused man in crisis.

And to think, this film has been released in such a tumultuous time in US history. Crumbling relations between the black community and the police. The shooting at Orlando's gay nightclub Pulse. The country's first black president leaving office for...whatever Trump is. Even the #oscarssowhite debacle and the snubbing of black artists at music awards. Black identity, masculinity and homosexuality are in crisis and Moonlight encapsulates all this and more. It is the most Oscar-worthy film of the lot. An awards snub would be painfully ironic.

5/5

Watch: Moonlight is out now.