Chiwetel Ejiofor (Everman) in Everyman adapted by Carol Ann Duffy @ Olivier, National Theatre.

©Tristram Kenton

Chiwetel Ejiofor Comes Home to British Theatre Once Again. TBB Reviews 'Everyman'

Last seen portraying Patrice Lumumba in the Young Vic's A Season in the Congo for which he received a nomination for the 2013 Evening Standard Best Actor Award, Ejiofor has been rather busy in moving pictures. But, the theatre is where he honed his craft and gained the critical recognition ...

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RipTheRunwayUK Model Castings - 2nd, 3rd, 4th May 2015

RipTheRunwayUK 2015 RipTheRunwayUK Model Castings - 2nd, 3rd, 4th May Rip The Runway UK a biennial event that fuses fashion, beauty, music and artistic talent together is back again for another 2015 extravaganza. Evolving from a local talent and fashion show established in 2009, Rip the Runway has now grown to be ...

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KID'S CASTING OPPORTUNITY Young Actors Needed for West End Production of 'Kinky Boots'

KINKY BOOTS Adelphi Theatre - West End Production 2015 CHILDREN’S CASTING Dates: Rehearsals in London: on or about 20th July 2015 1st Preview: on or about 21st August 2015 Press night: 15th September 2015 Length of contract: 26 weeks from first preview performance KINKY BOOTS is the unforgettable Broadway sensation with music by Tony® and Grammy®-winning pop ...

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Creator of Kouture Afrika TV Show, Lekia Lée

TBB's Kunga Dred Talks to Lekia Lée, Creator of new VOX TV Fashion show, Kouture Afrika

Lekia Lée is a woman who is truly putting her money and motherly nurturing skills where her mouth is as she fine tweaks the image of the 21st century black female on her new TV show Kouture Afrika.  Lée has been described as an 'Image activist', skilfully linking her background in broadcast ...

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TBB's Nora Denis Gets Some Real Talk @ The Deal Real 'Grind and Shine' Session...

Getting into the music industry is easy… if for some unlikely stroke of fortune you have Sway, Mikill Pane, Princess Nyah, Ben Scarr, Simeon Dixon and Alex Boateng as your entourage and advisors. Unfortunately, the key word here is unlikely but don’t despair, the Deal Real Legacy pop up shop ...

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Juwon Ogungbe composer of score for 'Siliva The Zulu' screening at Wilton's Music Hall

Composer Juwon Ogungbe Discusses Live Film Scoring, & The Art of Merging Classical & African Sounds

Juwon Ogungbe is an inspiring and well respected musician, singer, composer and band leader from London, of Nigerian heritage. Placing African music at the heart of his work, Juwon also incorporates pop, jazz and classical music into his expressive range. Juwon’s concert and music theatre compositions consistently attract interest from theatre and dance practitioners, commissions ...

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#TBBSUNDAYREAD Power of The Black Vote in 2015

Ground-breaking research undertaken by Operation Black Vote – The Power of the Black Vote in 2015 - shows the BME electorate could decide over 160 Westminster seats in the 2015 General Election. Using the recent 2011 census, researchers looked at the BME electorate in all England and Wales seats and found ...

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Tinie Tempah, Glyn Aikins. (far right) Naughty Boy manager Riki Bleu

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With a career stretching back over 15 years, Virgin EMI’s A&R Director Glyn Aikins made his name signing acts such as So Solid Crew, Artful Dodger and Craig David. Now responsible for A&R at one of the UK’s leading labels, he has played a key part in discovering and breaking ...

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(l-r) Ella Eyre, Glyn Aikins, Emeli Sandé, Naughty Boy

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With a career stretching back over 15 years, Virgin EMI’s A&R Director Glyn Aikins made his name signing acts such as So Solid Crew, Artful Dodger and Craig David. Now responsible for A&R at one of the UK’s leading labels, he has played a key part in discovering and breaking ...

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Up in the Sky - TBB Talks to 'Venus Vs. Mars' Writer-Producer, Baby Isako

Baby (pronounced “Babi”) Isako is a critically acclaimed playwright (Love is a Losing Game) and producer the UK should watch very closely. Her passion is infectious, her vision refreshingly simple and her articulation of that vision has been eloquent for a few years now. In short, Isako wants more scope given ...

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The British Blacklist Attends the 2015 Jameson Empire Movie Awards

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Chiwetel Ejiofor Comes Home to British Theatre Once Again. TBB Reviews ‘Everyman’

everyman_reviewLast seen portraying Patrice Lumumba in the Young Vic’s A Season in the Congo for which he received a nomination for the 2013 Evening Standard Best Actor Award, Ejiofor has been rather busy in moving pictures. But, the theatre is where he honed his craft and gained the critical recognition which won him such acclaimed movie roles as Okwe Lander (Dirty Pretty Things, 2002), The Operative (Serenity, 2005), Simon/Lola (Kinky Boots, 2005), Odenigbo (Half A Yellow Sun, 2013) and Solomon Northup (12 Years A Slave, 2013). He has a sterling track record of theatre roles that few other black actors can boast, having played coveted roles in Shakespeare (award-nominated Romeo, award-winning Othello, Malcolm – MacBeth); Noel Coward (Nicky – The Vortex), Chekov (Boris – The Seagull), Ibsen (young Peer – Peer Gynt), and as award-winning Chris in Blue/Orange.

So, it was no surprise that once the news broke that Ejiofor had won the title role of Everyman to be staged at the National, theatre-lovers by the thousands determined that they would not miss it. So it was that on Press Night, the 1160-seat capacity Olivier Theatre was sold out. Because here was Ejiofor in the title role of a late 15th Century morality play, re-worked for modern audiences by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and directed, as his debut, by the National’s new Artistic Director Rufus Norris! Irresistible!

Excited chatter filled the auditorium as press, industry, artists and theatre-lovers mingled. But respectful silence immediately fell, like a suddenly unplugged speaker, as soon as the lights went down. Everyman (originally The Summoning of Everyman) is a profound piece of theatre written by an unknown playwright about the nature of salvation, yet it has constantly found an audience over the last 500 years.
As the title might suggest, Everyman (Ejiofor) represents all mankind. In fact, all of the characters, except God/Good Deeds (Kate Duchene) and Death (Dermot Crowley), symbolically represent vessels of human value – friends, family, money/possessions – and then dereliction, expressed not only through dialogue, but also through the work of choreographer and movement director Javier de Frutos.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Everman) & Kate Duchene (God/Good Deeds)  Everyman adapted by Carol Ann Duffy @ Olivier, National Theatre. ©Tristram Kenton

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Everman) & Kate Duchene (God/Good Deeds)
Everyman adapted by Carol Ann Duffy @ Olivier, National Theatre.
©Tristram Kenton

God, fed up with the state of humanity, chooses Everyman to make an account of his time on earth and sends Death as his messenger. Everyman, arrogant and oblivious, is completely immersed in the hedonistic drugs, booze and sensual over-indulgence of his 40th birthday. In the aftermath, he dismisses Death as an irrelevant because he, Everyman, ‘matters’.

Even as he begins to believe the message Death brings, and sets out on his journey to find, amongst all the people and possessions in his life, just one who will stand by him in the face of God, he still believes that somehow, he can reclaim his life. It is a quiet and dignified moment, after Everyman has acquired the companionship of Knowledge (Penny Layden) and revisited his younger self – the distant, innocent child Everyboy (Jeshaiah Murray) who ‘always says please and thank you’, that he acquires real enlightenment. His pilgrimage has occurred in the time it takes for a stoned, high hedonist to fall from a roof at 9.81 metres per second per second.

For 90 minutes, with no interval, Ejiofor is rarely off stage. He is, by nature, an intense actor, who consistently fully inhabits his characters. He is, simply, believable. On a spare black set, punctuated with giant light and video projections and animated by William Lyons’ electronic score, Norris’ direction extends beyond setting the scene of a frenetic, self-indulgent existence to put Ejiofor’s character commitment to full use. At times, it felt a little like his energy output was somehow a substitute for the lack of props and scenery – quite the physical burden for the better part of an hour and a half. I’m not sure that with talent like his and the power of the re-worked material, it was strictly necessary.

Everyman is someone with whom some will identify, some will recognise, but most may well despise which, as a morality play, may be the point. Surely, in his position, we would have done better, you wonder…And yet, it is the quiet, accepting Everyman who embraces the inevitability of Death – God’s ‘control mechanism’ for humanity – that really draws the empathy. Ejiofor sits serene in his new-found understanding of the beauty of life through wit and capability, and you find yourself caring for him, utterly transfixed.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Everman) in Everyman adapted by Carol Ann Duffy @ Olivier, National Theatre. ©Tristram Kenton

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Everman) in Everyman adapted by Carol Ann Duffy @ Olivier, National Theatre.
©Tristram Kenton

This is an insanely relevant play, exploring what materialism and its pursuit really weighs against love for your fellow man. Carol Ann Duffy’s prose is smart, funny, desperate and evocative, and whilst God/Good Deeds, Knowledge and Goods all have their share of excellent one-liners, it is definitely Death who benefitted most from her masterful turn of phrase. She applies aspects of modern life to what some might mistakenly consider an archaic dilemma: that the good and evil deeds of one’s life will be tallied by God after death.
One other great pleasure offered by this production is the multi-talented and satisfyingly diverse cast – another stand out, of course, being Ms Sharon D Clarke in fine voice as sick, loving Mother. Always a delight to behold, Ms Clarke’s haunting vocals complement the reflective intent of the journey and heighten the sense of insightful rediscovery. Wonderful.

I wish you luck in your endeavours to catch this production, because I think, deservedly, seats will be very difficult to come by.

Everyman previewed 22nd-28th April and runs between 29th April – 30th August, with selected matinees, captioned and audio-described performances, 7.30pm

On Wednesday July 22nd, Chiwetel Ejiofor will be reflecting on the challenges and rewards of playing Everyman, 3-4 pm, Olivier Theatre. (£5/£4)

There will be a live cinema screening in selected venues on July 16th @ 7pm. To find out your nearest cinema go to:  http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/productions/50433-everyman

For more information visit: 

 

reviews of Everyman for the british blacklist by  @DescantDeb

TBB’s Nora Denis Reviews Bugsy Malone @ the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith

bugsy_malone_review_tbb_2015The Lyric Theatre’s production of Bugsy Malone marks a new phase in the iconic theatre’s history. Following a £20 million redevelopment, the idea to stage a musical, as the first of the major shows to be produced is a step in a more daring direction. With a main cast consisting primarily of pre-teens and a well-known film to live up to, one can assume there was a great deal of pressure for the show do well.

For each main character there are three young performers to fill the role. Asanda Jezile, a finalist on Britain’s Got Talent circa 2013, made her professional theatre debut as the sassy Tallulah. Jezile demonstrated control of her powerful vocals as well as a degree of confidence which is often reserved for more seasoned actresses.
Sasha Grey (Bugsy Malone) and Zoe Brough (Blousey Brown) were charming as the quick-witted duo whose interactions anchored the play. Brough, a recent Olivier Nominee for Best Supporting Role in The Nether, and Gray whose credits include Pan and Endeavour, are no strangers to the limelight. Both gave remarkably professional performance. Meanwhile rivals Fat Sam (Jenson Steele) and Dandy Dan (Oliver Emery) served up more than verbal jabs, their timely reactions introduced a slapstick comical element without seeming overdone.

Director Sean Holmes (Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith) succeeded in making a famous favourite work smoothly on stage; the scene transitions were imaginative and swift which aided in securing the mostly adolescent audience’s attention. The young performers emitted an infectious sense of freshness and possibility. A great deal of potential and energy present filled the room and by the evenings end the audience were out of their seats, clapping and cheering.

The excited buzz of children chatting while leaving the show was no doubt a good sign. Watching performers not much older than they, do just as well as “grown-up” leaves an impression that in turn ignite the sparks of possibility. In a sense, this has always been the winning aspect of Bugsy Malone, since it’s inception, when the self-described ‘naïve’ Alan Parker decided to make a film about New York gangsters and showgirls entirely acted by children.

A musical for the whole family, packed with potential and possibility.

Showing until 1st August 2015. To find out more head to http://www.lyric.co.uk

Film Africa Looking For a Programmer for 2015 Festival Team. Deadline May 18th 2015

FA2015-logo-header_181x850Film Africa is looking for a programmer who will join the Film Africa 2015 Programming Committee and work closely with the Festival Producer to deliver an extensive, diverse and balanced programme from countries across the continent that engages a variety of audiences. The programme will screen in several venues across London from 30 October to 8 November. The Programmer can work to their own schedule but will be required to attend monthly programming meetings in London and to be present throughout the festival. The role will entail the following tasks and responsibilities:

This is a freelance role and candidates do not necessarily need to be based in London; attendance at monthly programming meetings in London is required, as well as full participation throughout the festival (30 October to 8 November).

Job role: Film Africa 2015 Programmer

Contract: 5.5 month contract from 1 June to 13 November 2015.

Reporting to: Royal African Society Deputy Director

Fee Fee commensurate with experience:  This position is freelance. The successful candidate will be responsible for their own NI contributions.

Film Africa is the Royal African Society’s annual festival celebrating the best African cinema from across the continent and the Diaspora. Established in 2011 with the remit of promoting a better understanding of Africa through film, every year Film Africa brings diverse London audiences a high quality and wide-ranging film programme accompanied by a vibrant series of events, including director Q&As, talks and discussions; professional workshops and master classes; school screenings and family activities; The Industry Forum; and Film Africa LIVE! music nights. Film Africa also recognises and supports new filmmaking talent through The Baobab Award for Best Short Film. Film Africa 2015 is scheduled to take place from Friday 30 October to Sunday 8 November.

The Royal African Society is a membership organisation that fosters a better understanding of Africa in the UK and throughout the world. Our goal is to promote Africa globally in the spheres of business, politics, academia, arts and culture. We disseminate knowledge and insight to make a positive difference to Africa’s development and celebrate the diversity and depth of African cultures.

For more information / to apply go to: www.filmafrica.org.uk

Little Drizzy, Mini Minaj, Rita ‘Awh’ra, Young Flav & Baby Guetta Celebrate 10 Yrs of Wireless

wirelessAs Drake day at New Look Wireless sells out, Wireless 10 is now the only day to see Drake live in UK

New Look Wireless’ 10th Birthday celebrations are well underway, with the help of a miniature cast of this year’s headline acts. The adorable group of five were snapped together at the special birthday party, channeling the looks of the headliners who are playing across this year’s festival and 10th birthday show; Tyler, aged 6, poses as Drake, Jasmine, aged 5, poses as Rita Ora, Thomas, aged 7, poses as David Guetta, Samuel, aged 7, as Flava Flav and Thyra, aged 9, as Nicki Minaj.

They can be seen celebrating New Look Wireless’ 10th birthday in style as they blow out birthday candles, tuck into a delicious cake and throw some ‘pap-worthy’ poses their larger look-a-likes would be proud of. They even had rider demands to match, with requests for blue mounds of jelly, endless tubs of ice cream, sweets and 10 litres of fizzy drinks in the lead up to the party.

To mark the 10th birthday milestone, Wireless is putting on a four day celebration over two weekends, kicking off with Wireless 10 on Sunday 28th June which will see the likes of Drake, Rita Ora, Katy B and Flava Flav (with Public Enemy) gracing the stage. With Drake day at New Look Wireless on 3rd July now completely sold out, Wireless’s 10th birthday show is now the only festival to see Drake live in the UK this summer.

It has been a whole decade since Wireless Festival hit the UK festival scene back in 2005 and in that time the musical extravaganza has seen some of the world’s greatest artists take to the stage, including Rihanna, Daft Punk, Justin Timberlake and Kanye West. This year the festival will take place in Finsbury Park from 3rd-5th July, with Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Avicii, Nicki Minaj and David Guetta headlining the main stage.

The mini five also channel each of the artists’ trademark style, wearing clothes from high street store and this year’s Wireless sponsor, New Look. The real artists will all be headlining this year’s New Look Wireless festival (3rd – 5th July) and Wireless 10th birthday party (28th June).

For tickets head to http://www.wirelessfestival.co.uk/

#TBBSUNDAYREAD An ‘Empire’ Built On Suds and Pathos by Jennifer G. Robinson

empire_e4Its opening scenes would make any Hip-Hop-R-n-B music video proud. Big sailing vessels (that don’t really sail anywhere), bikini-clad model types, fine food being fed to willing mouths, fizzy drinks in fluted glasses, music with a ‘dope’ beat. This is our entry to 20th Century Fox Television’s ‘Empire’. This TV series is generically packaged as ‘Dallas’ meets ‘King Lear’, but these obvious and trying-too-hard references to Shakespeare tell us that it’s nowhere near as highbrow as it’d like us to believe.

Images of the high life continues as we’re led into the lives of Empire’s main players; sweeping boardrooms, plush homes and mention of a $40,000 dining table! Well connected the players are too. The head of the show talks us into the business via a history lesson; “I started selling drugs when I was nine years old in Philadelphia. I did it to feed myself. But it was the music that played in my head that kept me alive when I thought I was gonna get shot….you see music saved my life”. So connected is the character that even President Barack Obama gets a name check when the mega busy mogul tells his secretary he’s too busy to see POTUS!

So, the story? A top music industry Svengali finds out that he has a fatal illness. He realises he needs to find an heir out of his three sons to lead the soon-to-be publically traded on the NYSE company ‘Empire Entertainment’. He challenges his sons, saying that only one will inherit Empire. Of course rivalry ensues. What he doesn’t reckon on is his former wife, out from a 17-year stretch in prison and wants a piece of what she believes to be her share of the action.

Terrence Howard is ‘Lucious Lyon’, the patriarchal head of Empire Entertainment and is convincing if only because of his own long and chequered acting career and personal life. His work includes ‘Dead Presidents’ (1995), ‘NYPD Blue’ (1998/99) and (behind the scenes) controversially ‘Iron Man’ (2008). He’s already worked with Lee Daniels (one of Empire’s writers/creators) in ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler’ (2013). One could argue that Howard auditioned for Empire in 2005’s ‘Hustle & Flow’ as a former, hard-driven pimp trying to make it in the music industry. Cannily enough Taraji P. Henson stars with Howard here too. Howard’s life? Well, his taste in women gets many tongues wagging and in the resultant break-ups it’s equally difficult to separate truth from salaciousness.

The Empire family (l-r) Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett), Cookie Lyons (Taraji P. Henson), Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), Hakeem Lyon (Bryshere Y. Gray) and behind Andre Lyon (Trai Byers)

The Empire family (l-r)
Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett), Cookie Lyons (Taraji P. Henson), Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), Hakeem Lyon (Bryshere Y. Gray) and behind Andre Lyon (Trai Byers)

By their very nature, television matriarchs are drawn larger than life. Bet Lynch, Vera Duckworth, Pat Evans, Sheila Grant, Angela Channing, Alexis Carrington, Miss Ellie Ewing. Their on screen personas inherit big hair, big animal print clothing, big mouths, big earrings, big bosoms and…big hearts. In this regard Taraji P. Henson does not disappoint and acts her socks off as ‘Cookie Lyon’. Of course she gets some of the best lines. On meeting Jamal’s lover she exclaims; “…oh honey, you didn’t tell me you were dating a little Mexican…” On leaving prison and dressed in obligatory matriarch regalia she announces “Cookie’s comin’ home.” Henson is even popping up in children’s programming. In a recent showing of 46-year-old ‘Sesame Street’, Cookie Lyon gives Cookie Monster a run for his money!

At this stage, it’s difficult to see another actor playing Cookie; the ride-or-die-chick such is Henson’s convincing delivery. But in the furore surrounding Empire Mo’Nique pops up. The actor has revealed that Lee Daniels supported her playing the role, despite words to the contrary and she evidences this with a series of emails between her and Daniels. If you remember, Mo’Nique a former stand-up comedian received ‘Best Supporting Actress’ Academy Award for her part in Lee Daniels directed ‘Precious’ (2009). This comes as rumours surround Mo’Nique’s career and her lack of prominent roles since her Award as ‘Mary’ in Precious. There is the suggestion that she didn’t play the Hollywood game. But winning an Oscar is no guarantee of paths littered with credible scripts – just ask Halle Berry, Octavia Spencer and Lupita Nyong’o.

In some of the latest stories surrounding the hype of Empire, Taraji P. Henson is reported to have thanked British audiences for illegally downloading/streaming episodes of the show. Allegedly, it was this action, which brought it to the attention of UK media including E4 who snapped up the series to broadcast to the UK recently. But what were North America’s poor relations to do when trying to find representation on UK TV screens? There’s only so much ‘Scandal’ one can take. The last thing British audiences got in terms of representation of black British life in a consecutive series, on mainstream TV was…‘The Crouches’ (2003); about as authentic a representation of black British culture as ‘Ali G’.

venus_mckenzies_ryan_nogameWhere the mainstream British broadcasters lapsed, the Internet helped to fill the gaping gorge. A little thing called the Web Series sprang up to produce gems such as ‘All About The McKenzies’, ‘The Ryan Sisters’, ‘Brothers With No Game’ and ‘Venus Vs. Mars’ to name a few. The latter being picked up by Sky Living. Needing small start-up costs, some healthy enthusiasm from drama students and adroit skills in garnering social media audiences, they formed vignettes of ‘normal’ black British life. Away from the mainstream diet of gangs, drugs, knife-crime and single mothers, they reflected the lives of the majority of black British residents’ every day experiences; romance and dating, family life, school and employment. One can only guess at the behind the scenes bargaining which went on between the UK’s E4 and Fox.

Further proof of Empire’s success (ergo money-making potentials) writer Celia San Miguel in Latina.com wailed that the lack of reference to Latino actors/players plays into stereotypes; they too (Latinos) were at the ‘birth of hip-hop music’ and Empire should show this. More out of the woodwork and similarly mogul-ed to Lyons is Sean Combs (or so he claims). Combs is reportedly suing because of what he believes to be Empire’s too close an appropriation of his life. More still; in the works is Starz drama ‘Power’ which is executively produced by rapper Curtis (50Cent) Jackson. He too says Empire is way too similar to his drama vehicle.

Whatever the similarities or who/what got there first, written/produced by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, Empire like many soaps start with generic stereotypes which introduces us quickly to its characters. But what keeps audiences along a programme’s ride is its ability to develop its characters so that they become more rounded players with a full gamut of emotions audiences can identify with – a demonstration of which only time can deliver.

__________________________________
Jennifer G. Robinson is Coordinator for the black filmmaker international film festival. The festival opens between Thursday 2nd July and Sunday 5th July 2015.
www.bfmmedia.com / @bfmiff

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