Good Omens for Christmas – Review of the BBC R4 adaptation

I have never been one for audio books, I get distracted and my mind wanders. Neither have I ever been gripped by radio dramas despite my appreciation for a good Radio 4 talk show. But when I saw that Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett’s graphic novel, Good Omens, had been adapted for radio, I had to give it a listen. This particularly intrigued me because whilst it is hard enough to convey actions through radio, this is at least compensated for in the imagery of a written text. How were they going to convey all the action and expression of a medium that is so visually dependent, let alone retain its magic?

But it was fantastic. It was gripping, it was coherent, the voices expressed emotion and character. And thankfully it was broadcast on consecutive days which meant that I was not left wanting for too long!

The tale tells the story of the Antichrist and the approaching apocalypse, revitalised with modern day references and humour. The four horsemen are in fact bikers, one of the evils is pollution and the devil speaks through Radio 1. After the Antichrist is accidentally swapped at birth by incompetent nuns, the narrative follows angels and demons working together to seek him out before ‘the nice and accurate prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch’ can be fulfilled. The Antichrist himself presents an interesting, and disconcertingly adorable character – an 11-year-old boy who doesn’t know his own power and simply wants to play in  the countryside that he loves.

This is perfectly timed with the increasing appreciation for graphic novels and something that I hope to see continue to grow in popularity. (I have briefly mentioned before the limited shelf space given to this medium.) Whilst I am writing this Good Omens is still available on BBC iPlayer. Give it a listen whilst you can – although I hope it will be released as an audiobook. It certainly cheered up my days at work over the festive period!

Memories of Paddington

When I used to stay at my granny’s as a little girl, she used to take me to the park. This, I’m sure, is not unique, but what was special about our trips was not the arrival at the hallowed fairground of the young, but the little stops and sights along the way. Drifting off the tourist-filled street and ducking through an archway, the path to the park creeped it’s way over a stream and up a hill, surrounded by fields. This felt like a real adventure and, whilst the stream offered the distraction of pooh-sticks, there was also a house that always caught my attention. Stood in the front window, dressed in a blue duffle coat with wooden toggles, and a little red hat, was Paddington. My memories of the playground are intertwined with stopping to wave and say hello to the little bear.

Books Benches, Paddington BearLast week saw the release of the much anticipated family film: Paddington. From the creator of the Harry Potter films and perfectly timed for Christmas, this film is as warm and fuzzy as the bear himself and provides the perfect nostalgic and heartwarming experience for the festive period.

The film was produced in close collaboration with Paddington-creator Michael Bond, which no doubt accounts for the value of the characterisation. Bond himself even makes and appearance, raising a glass as Paddington whizzes past on a taxi tour of London.

Whilst the story line is simple and sweet, it is the production that really dazzles. The graphics are incredible, showing every individual hair of Paddington, but it is the way that they are used to construct the narrative that is spectacular. In particular, the film reveals flashbacks and asides in magically creative ways, zooming in on a dolls house to show the family in their day-to-day lives, and using a toy train to flashback to an evacuee’s arrival in London.

As the darkness and frost are drawing in, this film provides the ideal way to spend a winter evening. Taking me back to when I was small, stopping on my summer excursions to squint at the sun and wave at the furry face in the window.

Review of Before I Go To Sleep

Last night, I watched  Before I Go To Sleep, the film adaptation of the book by S. J. Watson, starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth.

The film tells the story of Christine, a forty-year-old woman who suffers from amnesia and wakes up every morning thinking she is still in her twenties, having forgotten half of her life and any information she has built up the previous day. The audience joins her in a tangled and painful mystery as she begins a video diary to document her days and force herself to remember what has happened to her.  Each day marks the uncovering of grief and fear as she is tortured by fluctuating feelings of trust for her husband – what he is hiding about her life and the brutal attack that left her in this state?

What is most powerful about this film is the way in which it examines prejudice and trust. Whilst Christine falters in her feelings towards her husband, she places her trust in a man who tells her that he is a doctor, despite their unconventional meetings and the fact that her husband knows nothing of her treatment. She is also terrified by flashbacks of a man with a scarred face that she cannot identify. Without ruining the twists for those who have yet to see this film, it certainly questions our perceptions and judgements of trust and suspicion. Not least of all in the casting of Colin Firth as Christine’s husband, Ben. Whilst never sure of his intentions (loving or otherwise), there is a darkness and secrecy to his character that is rarely seen in the broodingly handsome actor that is a real thrill to watch.

Play Review – Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner

The butterfly wings of a giant kite hovered at the rear of the stage carrying the shifting projections of printed curtains, a bruised street scene and the refuge of the pomegranate tree. On Saturday night, the Oxford  Playhouse held its final performance of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner to an emotionally astounded audience.

Much like the captivating set design, the sound-scape carried us through 70s Afghanistan with the traditional tabla providing a steady backbone to Amir’s heartbreaking monologues.

The lone soldier against the wrenching sincerity in this tale of guilt and redemption was the occasionally jarring American accent. Whilst a part of the characterisation, no doubt a symbol of the protagonist’s attempt to shed his sins and former self in the river of Americanisation, the execution unfortunately did not live up to the metaphor and instead brought the audience back to the theatre.

Despite this, the actors perfectly captured childhood friendship, the craving of parental acceptance and the balance between love and status. The play’s depiction of loyalty and pride provided a deep exploration of civilian life in Afghanistan,the Afghanistan behind the news stories and as raw as the book.

Stephen Fry on Language

Stephen Fry poetically defending the adaptation of language with a fantastic visual representation of how language can flow – growing, shifting and building our ideas. Language is entwined with culture and as our society changes, so too will the ways in which we express ourselves. Language is about communication and, as long as we understand each other, does it matter if we don’t follow old rules and technicalities?

Review: E4’s New Drama Glue

Artistically shot with intermittent clips of beauty: a body in viscose freefall, the intimate glimpse of a couple’s bare legs spilling over an old freestanding bathtub, the glint of fright in the widened eye of both man and beast. Perfectly chosen excerpts promised hedonistic teenage escapism and the darkness of murder, lifting the shadow of quiet insignificance from countryside life beneath the White Horse. Drawn in through these taunting adverts set to the sing song melody of Alt-J, I settled down to watch E4’s latest original British drama, Glue.

And once again E4 have not disappointed offering a jarring series that can be described as the best of original Skins immersed in the current wave of dark murder series such as The Killing and The Bridge. The first episode gave a glimpse of the dark psychology of relationships and the complex societal (and racial) conflicts that afflict countryside life.

During the filming of the series, the actors themselves were unaware of the resolution and this seems to come across, adding to audience intrigue. The element of drug use further warps the lens through which we watch the characters interact; their emotions are in turns exaggerated and cloaked, all seen through a shifty gaze or a haunted stare.

Having heard that Rizzle Kicks’ Jordan Stephens was to feature in the series, I had dismissed his role as merely a gimmick, an attempt for him to break into acting through a playful teenage role and for the show to add a recognisable name. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Whilst his character certainly seems less dimensional and thought provoking than the rest of the young group, he is believable and adds to something to balance of a reckless group of friends.

I was also not convinced by some of the intentionally powerful one-liners that are ever scattered through these types of dramas but all the same, this looks to be an intriguingly dark and twisted mystery to capture our evenings now that the nights are inching closer.