MO-JAI MCKEOWN reviews Steve Loveridge’s biographical documentary about the life of rapper and artist M.I.A. The title of Steve Loveridge’s astute take on the intermittently eminent singer M.I.A. reflects the film’s approach. MANTAGI / MAYA / M.I.A. offers a fairly standard look at the rise to stardom and the ill consequences which accompany it, much in the vein of 2015’s Amy and this year’s Whitney: Can I Be Me? The film shines, however, in the incisive observations it makes on the formation of the star’s identity, tracking her — and her sense of self, divided between those three monikers — from youth up until the mid-2010s. MANTAGI / MAYA / M.I.A. opens on an elusive figure and seems set on understanding the opaque character of this intriguing pop star. Matangi’s journey is sprawling: from experiences in her South London home, to her exploits on her way into the music industry; from her…Continue Reading

MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A.

DANIEL LUBIN reviews the Florence Theatre Company’s Protest Song. In the UK, the number of rough sleepers in 2017 alone rose by 15%, according to government statistics. The same stats also show that nearly a quarter of all rough sleepers in the UK reside in London. In this context, Tim Price’s Protest Song not only addresses a social issue that is progressively getting worse, but also hits close to home for its London audience. The one-man show brings to the stage a problem that most people have conditioned themselves to ignore, normalising extreme poverty and demeaning a vulnerable population; it forces its audience to challenge these self-imposed assumptions. Danny (Jack Tivey) sleeps rough on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, until suddenly the square is packed with Occupy activists tenting up alongside the homeless community. Through the play, Danny falls in and out of love with the movement, finding a voice through the…Continue Reading

Protest Song

THOMAS NGUYEN discusses Mary Wollstonecraft’s message on education for the Time’s Up generation.  Following the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, the ever-growing number of liberating speeches, marches and articles give us hope that the fight for gender equality is progressing. Springing from Alyssa Milano’s accusations against producer Harvey Weinstein in October 2017, debates on sexual harassment and sexism have opened up in all spheres of society – ranging from politics and the military to fashion and business. Oprah’s speech at the 2017 Golden Globes, Israel’s victory at Eurovision with the song ‘Toy’, and the hundreds of testimonies given the spotlight in national newspapers are just a few of the encouraging examples. It seemed, for the first time, that male executives, actors and photographers who had previously abused their power were finally getting brought to justice. Despite this, we are yet to reach the essence of the problem: namely, that a child’s education, both at…Continue Reading

‘No Distinctions of Vanity’

‘My mother would scowl at me when I sat in the sun for too long. She feared how dark my skin could get, much like she feared her own.’ ELLA WILSON talks to ISSAM AZZAM writer and director of Ed Fringe show Papaya. Ayesha Baloch, Sarah Al-Sarraj, and Rosemary Moss star as three women grappling with family, loss, racism, colonialism, colourism and womanhood. How did the show come to be? Well, I came up with the idea of having a person from two places – I wanted to have something where a person was forced to integrate into a new society, to come over to work here and be in an environment which was completely alien to them. So in the play, it’s a maid who works for a couple. The first one I wrote was about comparing West and East a lot more. When she was home she kind of…Continue Reading

Papaya

A poem by SIMRAN DIVATIA. The nurse, in worried tones whispers to my mother “but your daughter is so dark, what will people say?” I had not been alive for a single day before I was nothing more than the shade of my skin, and as I grew up, and it grew light, something still didn’t sit right, that people praised the change, as though fair was seen as the greatest thing a girl could be. Featured image from Brick Lane, directed by Sarah Gavron, 2007

Fair and Lovely

ELENA BREA discusses transdisciplinary art residential CLASTIC in the Valchiusella, Italy. What is CLASTIC? CLASTIC is a one-week residency of artistic exchange bringing together five performing arts groups from five different European countries to live, share and create together in Valchiusella valley, in the Italian Alps. The residency invites groups to reflect on the meaning of European cultural heritage in our current historical context, when Europe is living through a process of social, political and cultural fragmentation. ‘Clastic’ is a geological term that describes rocks formed from fragments of pre-existing minerals, solidified through external forces which act on the fluid in which they move. I thought this was a perfect image to describe European cultural heritage and identity: a series of fragments from the past that are re-configured into new solid structures in the present and which can persist into the future. Incidentally, Valchiusella is a glacial valley which was formed thousands of years…Continue Reading

Clastic

A poem by ANONYMOUS. How many times will I go through Gower Street looking for you again?   In between the trees, And the Quad, And the faceless smiles, of every stranger that locks eyes.   How many times will I miss you again? In the library spot you liked With the panini you always ate Small memories are pointless I know. But they form a bigger picture of something else, something that hurts a little less.   All the places you once were, Are now empty and silent. I don’t know how to deal with it yet,   Your silence.   Our lives are part of other lives. Cobwebs made of cobwebs, Piles of red string tangled together, The best mess was our paths crossing in between it all. Despite it all.   I keep looking for you everywhere. Not in the trees this time, but in the sunny flowers…Continue Reading

Gower Street Missing

EMMA CHEUNG explores the concealment of queer identity in Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith and Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden. The lesbian narrative of Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith revolves around duplicity and entrapment. Beautifully reimagined for the screen in The Handmaiden, both works present a captivating portrayal of the way disguise forces itself upon queer identity. The role of clothing in Fingersmith is at the forefront of the reader’s mind. With dishonest intentions, the characters mould artificial identities through changes in dress in order to control the way in which the world perceives them. But within this method there is a potential sacrifice of the self. Does a disguise leave space for the existence of a true self beneath? At what point does external perception become self-perception? The dizzying web of betrayal and fraudulence in Fingersmith plays with these questions, continuously drawing upon the crisis of identity that can plague the queer experience. The…Continue Reading

‘My strait gown cuts me’

ALICE DEVOY looks at the what, why and who of swearing. Some words are more shocking than others. They have been deemed inappropriate, offensive or disrespectful, and are placed under the umbrella term of ‘swear words’. Swear words have the ability to shock because they violate social norms and transgress established barriers of what is and isn’t appropriate. You may recognise the following extract from the 2003 film Love Actually, in which the new housekeeper, Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), embarrasses herself in front of the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) by swearing, and so verbally violates the cultural expectations. Natalie: Hello David. I mean, Sir. Shit, I can’t believe I’ve just said that. And now I’ve gone and said ‘shit’. Twice. I’m so sorry, Sir. Prime Minister: It’s fine, it’s fine. You could have said ‘fuck’ and then we’d have been in real trouble. Natalie: Thank you, Sir. I did have a terrible premonition…Continue Reading

The female curse

CLARISSA SIU discusses the varying responses to the female remakes of the Ocean’s and Ghostbusters franchises. One of the most anticipated films of the summer, Ocean’s 8, arrived in UK theatres early this week. A female reboot of the Ocean’s trilogy, its star-studded cast features Oscar winners Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and Anne Hathaway, as well as personalities Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, and Awkwafina. The film is centred on Debbie Ocean (Bullock), sister of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean, who recruits a team of modern pariahs to pull off the heist of a lifetime: infiltrating the Met Gala to steal a $150 million Cartier diamond necklace. Following in the footsteps of the 2016 all-female Ghostbusters reboot, much of the discussion surrounding Ocean’s 8 revolves around the gender-swapping of the previous male cast. Both remakes were born from beloved originals but bore a major difference in the way they were received.…Continue Reading

Ocean’s 8 and the Female Narrative

JAMIE HARDIE reviews UCL Drama Society’s Eigengrau and Girl in Yellow Raincoat at the Bloomsbury Studio.  Drama Society’s term three double bill in the Bloomsbury Studio was a fitting end to the 2017-2018 academic year. From the fearful uncertainty in Girl in Yellow Raincoat, to the clash between feminism and predatory masculinity in Eigengrau, the production seemed an accurate reflection of the confusion and conflict that has filled our headlines in recent months. The evening began with Penelope Skinner’s Eigengrau, a disparate, irreverent, and at times gruesome tragicomedy concerning the lives of four entangled characters. The central struggle of the play is between manipulative lothario Mark (William Mead) and staunch feminist Cassie (Aude Naudi-Bonnemaison). The performances are strong: Mark is skin-crawlingly authentic, while Cassie is brought to life with fiery passion. In contrast to these tough characters, the touchingly melancholic Tim (James Fairhead) and the frenetic and scattered Rose (Ema Mulla) stack up as the casualties of Mark’s callous antics.…Continue Reading

EIGENGRAU / GIRL IN YELLOW RAINCOAT

ANYA JOHNSON looks at the ins and outs of the enduring stereotype of the woman in the kitchen.  One of my mum’s favourite things to do before she goes to bed is to scroll through recipes that the Guardian puts online from time to time. My dad loves to do the same. But I’ve come to notice that only one party is able to put this pastime into practice. I have either cooked with most of the women in my life or eaten food that these women have cooked for me. I’m not sure I could say the same about the men in my life. I’ve found that man’s transition into the kitchen requires two things: a willing man to do some cooking and a willing woman to let him. I fear there is inequality in the kitchen, and I argue the unwilling woman plays a role that society has overlooked.  And…Continue Reading

The (roast) Chicken and Egg of Feminism