New Speak: Re-Imagined. Episode Two, Review
By Conor O’Neill
First things first, yes, I’m later than a privatised train service; yes, this review is more for posterity than anything more elaborate: strange how little gets done when you’ve nothing to do. While others have been learning a new language, millions seem to have been getting all Mary Berry and bonding with their kids over muffins and are suddenly sports and fitness mad, I’ve been struck with an apathy that led to procrastination bordering on sloth.
Thankfully the writers, producers, directors and performers of the Lyric’s New Speak: Re-Imagined have avoided such a slovenly habit. So, while I’m typing up my thoughts on episode two, the third is just hours from airing.
Anyway, on with the job at hand. Episode two features four of the five acts/artists that made it through episode one. First up, our loveable punch-bag of Real Talk. Only, something has changed. What was evident in episode one was our bubble-gum-party-lover’s sheer joy and belief in the system. Writer Dominic Montague’s pencil is as sharp, actor Patrick McBrearty’s delivery as nuanced as the first outing, but something has changed.
Real Talk is still under the Party’s control, but the news is less positive, no matter how McBrearty tries to convince himself to believe it. The backing music and graphics are still of the Teletubbies’ sense of lightness, but the presenter has a little bit of growth, both on the chin and a touch of the cynicism of experience. News of rolling black-outs, benefit cuts and denials of revolution will leave you half predicting where this is going to end. I may be wrong, and I’ll keep my predictions to myself, but I think all regular viewers will share my thoughts.
Second up is a dance orientated piece performed by Zara Janahi. The piece is called The Perception Of The World Through My Eyes, a voice over states: “Today in 2020 we almost have equality.” The piece is centred around women’s rights, Katherine Switzer, the first woman to run a marathon – all be it under the assumption she was a man in the unhappy organisers’ minds – Rosa Parks and Emmeline Pankhurst are all mentioned during the first few moments.
The music is haunting; the camera follows our somewhat androgynist protagonist in a sun lit suburban landscape that could be anywhere in Northern Ireland as she seems to beg, plead and then demand confirmation of equality. Directed by Oisin Kearney and choreographed by Janahi, Clare Montgomery and Annika Drennan-Rocke, the piece is as unsettling as its surroundings are banal.
A bridge across a river is a perfect metaphor for the women’s rights movement, the spasms and contortions of Janahi may be read as the thrashes of a suffragette being force fed by a feeding tube in the movement’s early campaign. Unsettling yes. Worthy of airtime, definitely.
Another returning artist is Lata Sharma. This week finds our Indian friend in front of a star’s dressing table, complete surrounding lights. Sharma’s charm is the attention to detail of the little things. The title to this instalment is a continuation of the Sausage Sodas And Onion Bajhees series and finds Sharma reminiscing on her 17-year-old self and her first gig with a Belfast cover band.
As with episode one, Sharma slips with ease from voice to voice; art one stage a Belfast local who’s admiring her hair and tan: “It would cost me a fortune to look like that, you lucky bitch!” To a more aggressive punter demanding to know what religion she is.
This eye for detail focuses just not on our recent Troubles, but on British and Irish stamp on India’s colonial past.
The Great British Lockdown, by now, and we’re only two episodes in, is bound to be the majorities favourite. Again, we follow the lockdown as lived by Graham and his partner Rebecca. As with Real Talk, there’s progression and expansion of the characters. Rebecca – played by Gemma Mae Halligan – has softened somewhat, though still plays Graham like a fiddle. Maybe isolation fatigue has set in but Rebecca is less stand offish. Jude Quinn’s Graham is still as idiotic as the first outing.
Comfort eating, exercise, a sense of ‘banjaxed’ time, ‘nickety-knockdown’ lockdown stress and chocolate thieving little visitors all get the Amadan Ensemble treatment. Frequent fridge visitor Rebecca admits: “I have the kind of metabolism that I can pretty much eat what I want and it doesn’t show on me… all I would have to do is watch the news and b the end of it and my Fitbit would say I’d walked three miles.” Graham, however is not so lucky.
His cycling, back garden yoga and trips to the shop make for an entertaining and above all, laugh-out-loud seven or so minutes. Arse About Face Productions hit the nail on the head yet again.
Last out is singer/songwriter, Katie Richardson’s The Dark That Settled In. The video is interesting, the words and music evocative, but if I do have a gripe is that I think this sort of song would be better placed earlier in the episode. After the earlier mirth, leaving the viewer with a dose of melancholy is perhaps not what people want during these times. Then again, reality does suck at the moment. And the crescendo of ‘It’s going to get better’ and ‘I can’t wait for morning’, does leave a hint of hope.
Again, Jimmy Fay, the Lyric’s executive producer and all involved give us something to look forward to each Friday night.
Stay safe, and please donate generously!
Same time next Friday night.