When What Happens in Kavos Doesn’t Stay in Kavos…: TV Column

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kavos

This column originally appeared in The Student TV section, Tuesday 29th January 2013

Ever gone on Facebook to find you’ve been tagged in 107 hideously unflattering/incriminating photos from the night before, then spent a sweaty-palmed half hour de-tagging them in the vain hope that no one saw?

Shows like Channel 4’s What Happens in Kavos… are the televisual equivalent of being tagged in your most wincingly shameful states, except instead of a few hundred ‘friends’ seeing them it’s 1.6 million strangers, and instead of pictures of you with a triple-chin it’s footage of you with your pants round your ankles, vomiting into a wicker bin.

This week’s mesmerising car-crash featured scenes that would make Hieronymus Bosch throw down his paintbrush in despair: vast quantities of garishly coloured cheap cocktails served in huge plastic bowls; a mother-daughter combo on a sexy booze binge; lads drinking their own piss; totally indiscriminate sex; an epidemic of doggy-style dry-humping; horrific drunken injuries, and more misogynistic T-shirt slogans than you could shake a stick at

These shows (including ITV2’s particularly low-budget-tastic The Magaluf Weekender) look as if they cost about 50 quid to hash together. In a way, you can’t blame channels for commissioning them. In times of austerity, shows that cost peanuts must be tempting for TV execs balancing slashed budgets with the battle for ratings. But how many great shows never get funded in place of these cheap, take-away ‘documentaries’?

It all feels so…exploitative. This week’s Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents (BBC3) featured teenager Jemma, daft as a brush with a voice like a high-pitched Lancashire Don Corleone, who was filmed jiggling her boobs about on a nightclub podium and simulating sex positions with a stranger during a boat party (all secretly witnessed by her parents: a shuddersome prospect).

Not admirable, no, but we’ve all done stupid things (and pressed delete on the photos that prove it), except Jemma doesn’t have the option to delete her testaments of shame. They now exist FOREVER, gawked at by people who will judge her, call her a slag and shake their heads at the screen in disgust.

True, a lot of the young Brits filmed here are not behaving well. The way some of the boys regard women had me flinging my copy of The Female Eunuch at the screen in despair. But it is surely the adults behind the cameras who are the worst offenders. Things are bleak for a lot of young Brits at the moment, and people do go crazy abroad. By stripping daft youngsters of their right to delete and de-tag their youthful craziness, the makers of these shows are doing them an injustice.

Shows like these should not be broadcast into our living-rooms each week… but we can’t seem to look away.

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A Taste of Honey: Theatre Review

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taste of honey

This review was originally published on The University of Edinburgh’s Pre-Honours English Website:

http://www.literature.hss.ed.ac.uk/2013/01/review-a-taste-of-honey/

A Taste of Honey

Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

****

When A Taste of Honey premiered in 1958 it became part of the revolutionary wave of British theatre (and later TV) known as ‘kitchen sink drama’, so-called because of its ordinary domestic settings and the everyday lives it portrayed. Written by Shelagh Delaney when she was just 18, the play tells the story of 17 year old Jo and her overbearing mother Helen as they linguistically wrestle with each other in the working-class heart of 1950s Salford.

Feisty, articulate Jo initially has to deal with her alcoholic and sexually promiscuous mother abandoning her to marry well-off but drunken idiot Peter. Jo then falls pregnant to black sailor Jimmy, who soon disappears from her life. She sets up home with her gay friend Geoff and they play at houses until Helen returns to dominate Jo’s life once more.

Tony Cownie’s production stars Rebecca Ryan, who plays Jo with a fierceness and vulnerability that is both funny and devastating. Her delivery is natural, the droll lines rolling off her tongue with a wonderfully musical Manchester twang. Loquacious, shouty and occasionally shrill, Ryan’s Jo is a fighter who, in better circumstances, would clearly have made something of herself.

Lucy Black as Helen is equally brilliant: caustic, bitter, glamorous and garrulous, as funny as she is infuriating. Both Jo and Helen typify the sort of strong, Northern women who roll up their sleeves and get on with it, no matter how dire their circumstances. The fiery banter tossed between the pair is one of the best things about the play: there is hatred there, but also love, no matter how poorly that love is demonstrated.

Charlie Ryan is lovely as sweet, sensitive Geoff; kind, nurturing and ‘big sisterly’, but essentially too meek to make any real difference to Jo’s predicament. Keith Fleming deftly portrays amusing but sinister chancer Peter, and Adrian Decosta is beguiling as Jimmy.

Janet Bird’s incredible revolving set is at once naturalistic and strangely dream-like, a grubby bedsit complete with ageing furniture, faded wallpaper and an industrial-looking backdrop that immediately contextualises the action.

In 1958, issues of race and homosexuality were shocking. Being an unwed mother with a mixed race baby could have rendered Jo a social outcast, and being gay was illegal in England until 1967. Obviously, a lot has changed. We’re no longer shocked by these things; they are part of the tapestry of British life. So does the play still have something to offer in 2013?

It certainly does. The humour and the interplay between Jo and Helen are timeless. The school pupils in the audience were laughing as much as everyone else, a good indication of how spot-on Delaney’s script remains and how entertaining the performances are.

It’s a play worth revisiting, no matter how much Britain’s social climate may have changed, and this is a production well worth investing in.