Tag Archives: Kwaku Mills

Dark Sublime
★★★

Trafalgar Studios

Dark Sublime

 

Dark Sublime

Trafalgar Studios

Reviewed – 28th June 2019

★★★

 

“as the story unfolds, the main thread becomes a little tangled and indefinite”

 

There is a touch of Michael Keaton’s ‘Birdman’ as Marina Sirtis, best known for her role as Deanna Troi in ‘Star Trek’, takes to the stage to play a hard-working actress who, years on, can’t seem to shake the shadow of her biggest role. 

An eager twenty one year-old fan (Kwaku Mills) turns up at the door of a jaded, middle-aged actress (Sirtis) to interview her about a cult sci-fi programme that she starred in decades before, and they strike up an unlikely friendship.

The main narrative is spliced with scenes from an unaired episode of ‘Dark Sublime’. Living room furniture doubles up as hammy spaceship tech as Simon Thorp darts about, speaking to his chatty computer (Mark Gatiss) via his wrist with great urgency. The switch between ordinary life and sci-fi sets us up for a fun paralleling of plotlines – presumably ‘reality’ will eventually dovetail with ‘fantasy.’
However, as the story unfolds, the main thread becomes a little tangled and indefinite, combining multiple subplots of unrequited love, professional frustration, generational differences, as well as the tie between the LGBTQ community and sci-fi. It’s a bit much to have all of this going on simultaneously.

Writer Michael Dennis was clearly trying to interlace plot points as much as possible, but it thins out the audience’s focus. Marianne’s unrequited love of her best friend Kate (Jacqueline King), for example, partially overshadows the crux of the story, and gives cause for an ill-fitting scene of somewhat cloying sentiment between Kate and her girlfriend Suzanne (Sophie Ward). This scene then gives way to another snippet of ‘Dark Sublime’, but the clash of genre is now slightly bizarre and distracting.

Similarly, the effective use of living room furniture as futuristic hi-tech is diluted when the living room also doubles up as a hotel conference or a park, with no prop changes beside the TV screen showing either a picture of Alexandra Palace or a conference logo (Tim McQuillen-Wright).

Andrew Keates’ direction places a particular emphasis on Oli’s initial draw to ‘Dark Sublime’ as a gay teenager in a small town looking for a necessary escape: the few times it’s mentioned, Oli is bathed in red light (Neil Brinkworth) and stands to deliver a short but dramatic homily. But there isn’t that much stress on this particular point within the script, so it seems a little out of sync.

Whilst there are a few quippy lines, there is often a sense that you have to be ‘in’ on the joke, which, I presume, I wasn’t. On the whole, Keates and Dennis have been overly ambitious and tried to squeeze far too much in. There are a lot of interesting aspects touched upon – the idea of fandom in relation to an actor’s reality for example, or the tie between the LGBTQ community and sci-fi – but I think they would be best served if they didn’t have to fight so much for focus and stage time.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Scott Rylander

 


Dark Sublime

Trafalgar Studios until 3rd August

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Dust | ★★★★★ | September 2018
A Guide for the Homesick | ★★★ | October 2018
Hot Gay Time Machine | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Coming Clean | ★★★★ | January 2019
Black Is The Color Of My Voice | ★★★ | February 2019
Soul Sessions | ★★★★ | February 2019
A Hundred Words For Snow | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Admissions | ★★★ | March 2019
Scary Bikers | ★★★★ | April 2019
Vincent River | ★★★★ | May 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Good Dog
★★★★

Watford Palace Theatre and UK Tour

Good Dog

Good Dog

Watford Palace Theatre

Reviewed – 1st February 2019

★★★★

 

“Kwaku Mills gives a commendable spirited performance holding the audience in the palm of his hand”

 

A new production of Arinzé Kene’s hard-hitting yet delicate 2017 play, Good Dog, seems as relevant as ever. Although set in the Noughties and inspired by the 2011 London riots, the themes of frustration and social injustice still ring true. Told in an elongated monologue form, through the eyes of a fast growing teenage boy, a multi-cultural community is seen at breaking point. He witnesses the struggles with crime, poverty, addictions and infidelity that cripples his neighbours. With raging energy and surprising chuckle-out-loud observational humour, this powerful piece of storytelling shows what happens when all hope is lost and life is full of disappointment.

Kwaku Mills gives a commendable spirited performance holding the audience in the palm of his hand single-handedly for over two hours. He moves with dexterity through the different stages of the boy’s life. Transitioning from a naive and opportunistic young teen, to a hardened and disenchanted adult, who finds out the hard way that no good comes from being good in this world.

A large, black, wooden, slatted cube dominates the stage (set design Amelia Jane Hankin), representing such places as the balcony of the boy’s high rise home, the corner shop or train platform that makes up the bleak microcosm. Mills plays and interacts with the cube as if it is another character, becoming an integral partner in the story.

Helen Skiera’s sound design helps to flesh out the performance. The voices of the community the boy observes drips out through the speakers, painting a multi-cultural picture of a down-trodden forgotten pocket of the capital. It was unfortunate that some of this dialogue was missed due to the sound being far too quiet.

Arinzé Kene’s penetrating and quick-witted colloquial writing, feels authentic and tangible. It’s storytelling of the everyday man, for the everyday man. At times it can feel dense and borderline self-indulgent, yet this is a tale that holds an honest mirror up to the world, proving to be a vital piece of theatre. Telling a truth about London life that needs to be witnessed more on stage.

 

Reviewed by Phoebe Cole

Photography by Wasi Daniju

 

Watford Palace Theatre

Good Dog

Watford Palace Theatre until 2nd February then touring UK

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Broken Glass | ★★★★ | March 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com