I know it’s been a few weeks since I’ve last posted on my blog, and for that I’m sorry – I have been really busy with starting university and all that, but as I’m now getting into the swing of things I’m hoping to post some new reviews and articles here over the next few days. But firstly I have a couple of acting announcements I thought you might be interested in.
Firstly, as I have been mentioning on my twitter for a while now, I am guest starring in an episode of BBC One’s Casualty; airing on 12th November 2016 at around 9pm. For obvious reasons I’m not allowed to say much about the episode or my part, but I will say it’s a truly amazing role that I was honoured to play. I got to work with some spectacular actors and I think it will be an incredible hour of British television.
Secondly, I am pleased to announce that you can come and watch me on stage (if you really want to). Minotaur Theatre Company, which is exclusive to UEA students on any of the three drama courses, are curating the 2016 Minotaur Shorts Festival, in which 12 original plays (each of around 20 minutes in length) are performed across three nights. I am starring in two of these plays, Gorilla (which is being performed on Friday 4th November) and Real? Honest? Justice? (which is being performed on Saturday 5th November).
Gorilla, written by a third year student called Pip Williams, contains some of the best writing I have ever read as an actor and, though it has nothing to do with Harambe, I think it might just blow everyone away. Real Honest Justice meanwhile, is based on the 2014 Isla Vista killings, perpetuated by a psychopath called Elliot Rodger – who I’m playing. This is a really chilling, dark story which I hope will explore the nature of evil and what we can do about it.
So, I’ve survived my first weekend as a uni student. I write this while eating shreddies and drinking tea on Monday morning, ahead of a day of administrative welcomes. The past few days have been a whirlwind of fast encounters and I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol (whether that’s an attempt to boast or a silent plea for help is down to you).
As part of the UEA Drama’s course, all 50 students across the three disciplines (Drama, Literature and Drama; and Screenwriting and Performance) are split into groups over the course of their opening weekend. We were given a challenge which I won’t spoil for those of you who might – you never know – end up going to UEA in the future, but I will say that it involved performing to our peers, the second years and third years and was a tremendous amount of fun. The atmosphere was jovial but in a mature kind of way, so that when a performance did go serious, the audience were willing to follow as well. This was fun to play against as I love trying to engage an audience – particularly when half of them have come straight from the Union Bar.
I think I’ve met most of my flatmates now, and I’m quietly quite pleased with the result. I have yet to meet someone I don’t like and that luckily includes the cleaner as well. My room, as you can see, is already feeling homely.
On the other side I’ve deployed a small library of books, plays and dvds that should keep me entertained during the occasional luls of the years. However, I am quite excited by the presence of the Theatre Royal Norwich just down the road, where they run a £15 student membership scheme that gives me half price tickets to most theatre productions.
Starring: Sennia Nanua, Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton and Paddy Considine
Directed by Colm McCarthy
Rohan Gotobed, for Into Film
The Girl with all the Gifts is a film that doesn’t make you sit on the edge of your seat, but rather long to sink into its depths to get as far away from the action as possible. Adapted by M.R. Carey from his dystopian novel, Gifts tells the story of Melanie (Senniua Nanua), an infected young girl whose brain might hold the vaccine to a zombified Britain. Directed by Colm McCarthy, the visuals are certainly well constructed with some pertinent images throughout the London-set second half (I enjoyed seeing how national landmarks such as Wembley Stadium or the Gherkin had become overgrown with weeds). A scene in echo base where you see the ‘hungries’ at their most threatening, got me with at least one spectacular jump scare.
Compared to other films in the zombie genre, however, Gifts falls more often into being a drama instead of a horror and is sadly rather unsatisfying in its approach. Though Melanie provides a fresh viewpoint and a spark of originality in a crowded marketplace (how many films and tv shows focus on the z word?), the pacing is skewered against fully exploring what could have been an interesting array of characters. Glenn Close is wonderful as Dr Caldwell, so it’s a shame she’s side-lined for much of the film. The opening, which might ultimately be the most intense and dynamic sequence, ends just as I was becoming engaged while, if you miss much of the implied exposition early on then you’ll feel forced to play catch up throughout.
More positive is the British wit. Paddy Considine plays Sergeant Parkes with deadpan quips, so there are surprisingly effective moments of levity in what is certainly not a feel-good film. There is an artistry to Gifts’ tone that, in the long-term, could set it apart from more mainstream movies. However, even as the technical aspects excel the thematic ones feel more generic – I came out questioning the film more than I questioned myself.
Overall, The Girl with the all the Gifts is an enigmatic independent feature that, even after a good night’s sleep, I’m still trying to get my head around. It does wonders with a tiny budget, yet in the end I came away feeling like it could have been better than it was. So I recommend for you to see it and support British cinema, even if Gifts might not be a cinematic landmark like 28 Days Later or Shaun of the Dead.
As we enter the final weekend of the Rio 2016 Olympics, it’s fair to say the most recent incarnation of the biggest sporting celebration of the year has been a triumph.
This time last month, there was a great deal of uncertainty about this year’s Olympics. Amidst controversy over doping scandals, austerity riots and the Zika virus, it was easy for casual observers to be cynical. It wasn’t even that long ago that rumours circulated about the games returning to London. However, with the closing ceremony on Monday forecast to be an exciting conclusion, it’s fair to say that even the most negative fans have been swayed by the outpouring of international co-operation that comes every four years.
Though I was naturally transfixed by the 2012 Olympics (lucky enough to see the football, unlucky enough to see Oscar Pistorius win a few weeks later); I feel almost exhausted from the amount of sport I’ve been able to watch across the BBC over the past fortnight, regardless of the obviously obstructive time difference. I don’t know about you, but there was a moment last weekend where I watched elements of at least six or seven sports in just over an hour. In my family, our favourite sports have probably been the cycling (track and road), gymnastics, swimming and equestrian – though I’ve also been savouring the fencing, table tennis and rowing.
Thanks in part to the BBC’s brilliant coverage (my sister in particular has continued her obsession with Claire Balding) as well as a fantastic performance from Team GB, I’m hoping to see many more promising athletes have a go at a new sport. When I start at UEA in the autumn, for instance, the fencing club has already caught my eye. It’s also interesting to note, particularly in the case of Team GB, how young many of the athletes are, so that we can hope for many more years of medals before these Olympians compete in Strictly Come Dancing or I’m a Celebrity.
From a British perspective, it’s fair to say that our (or rather their) performance this summer has been utterly exceptional. Eyebrows were raised when we were predicted 49 medals on the eve of the games (an away record), but our minds have now been blown to smithereens with a glance at the medal table showing how a country of some 65 million people, with 60 medals, is outperforming a nation of over a billion. Though there have been some disappointments, and a devastating number of 4th place finishes, the success stories coming out of these Olympics show no sign of stopping. Since Adam Peaty swam the three fastest times in world history to win the 100m breastroke (he’s only 21), God Save the Queen has been played to bemused athletes a further 23 times.
As a fan, some of the most memorable moments came, not from the stars of 2012 like Mo Farah, but from the surprise victories. Jack Laugher and Chris Mears won the synchronised diving; Max Whitlock won two unprecedented gold medals on the floor and pommel horse in front of 10 million viewers while, just yesterday, GB’s oldest competitor (58 year old Nick Skelton), won an individual gold medal in the equestrian events at the seventh time of asking.
Away from Team GB, there’s also been a lot to cheer for. Though the US’ swimming tournament has been overshadowed somewhat by the fake robbery controversy, Michael Phelps won another five gold medals to ensure he’s been more successful than 191 different countries in Olympic history. Simone Biles dominated the gymnastics while Usain Bolt completed the triple triple to ensure his place as one of the greatest sportsmen of all time.
As I approach my conclusion, I also have to applaud the atmosphere of these games. Though there have been issues, such as the disappointing attendances and the crowd’s treatment of Renaud Lavillenie, the vast majority of Brazilian fans appear to have thrown themselves into the fervour of the games (perhaps symbolised best by Maria de Cezar, the local bride-to-be who’s found fame after a brilliant interview with Dan Walker). I only hope that this carnival atmosphere continues for the Paralympics and, hopefully, even longer.