October 29th, 2011

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Mixed Britannia, BBC2

Cut and pasted from the BBC website:

In this three-part series George Alagiah explores the remarkable and untold story of Britain's mixed-race community and examines through the decades how mixed race has become one of the country's fastest growing ethnic groups.

Raks's Take

I have now watched the third and final episode of this series, which was outstanding. The whole series was excellent - it brought social history in Britain to life for me in a way few series in the past have done. Generally, social history bores me, and I much prefer Kings and Queens, high politics, battles, political and military strategies, etc

However, after I started banging the drum for this series, I heard that others had issues with it.

Firstly, people were concerned that the "mixed race" strand of programmes was being run by the BBC during Black History Month, pushing out "real" Black History. I have zero time for this argument. The history of the mixed race community in Britain IS Black History ie an integral and important part of it. In my opinion, the BBC was right to commission the series - it is long overdue that the stories of mixed race couples and their children were shown on primetime TV - and they were right to show it during Black History month - the history of the mixed race community in Britain is part and parcel of Black History. To pretend otherwise is putting your head in the sand, and incredibly disrespectful to mixed race communities.

The other issue people had was that the series was too rose-tinted and celebratory. My response to that is ... so what? Why shouldn't mixed race relationships, communities and children be celebrated? They have had to take enough rubbish over the years - isn't it about time we FINALLY recognised that "mixing"/"blending" races and cultures is a good and a positive thing, not something negative?

A story that I really connected with in the final episode was the young Indian man who had done the unthinkable and married his Black girlfriend. They are now expecting their first child. Even in this day and age, any Asian marrying "out" risks becoming an outcast from their community overnight, and it is inevitable that, in doing so, you will cut yourself off from certain family members, who will just never be able to accept that you have made the right decision. The Asian community also operates a very racist hierarchy system - it is definitely more acceptable to marry a White person than it is to marry a Black person. The young Indian man went ahead and did it anyway - and I say - good on him! I loved the fact that he described himself as the happiest man on earth having done so.

Anyway, I will now get off my soap box and just go on and recommend this excellent series to anyone with an interest in British History!
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Some Like It Hip Hop, ZooNation, Peacock Theatre, Sadler's Wells

I have talked about the powerhouse of London Theatre (National Theatre).
I have talked about the powerhouse of London Film (BFI).
I am now going to talk about the powerhouse of London Dance, which for me is Sadler's Wells. The strapline for Sadler's Wells is "Sadler's Wells is Dance", which I completely agree with. Sadler's Wells is here:

Photo credit: http://toomuchflavour.co.uk/site2/some-like-it-hip-hop-extract-at-sadlers-wells-sampled-2011-review/

Yesterday I went to see ZooNation's "Some Like It Hip Hop" at the Peacock Theatre, which is Sadler's Wells in the West End. Cut and pasted from the Sadler's Wells website:

Some Like it Hip Hop, written by ZooNation founder Kate Prince and Felix Harrison, is the company’s first full-length production since the award-winning West End smash hit, Into the Hoods.

With a nod to Billy Wilder’s much loved film and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Some Like it Hip Hop is a comical tale of love, mistaken identity, cross-dressing and revolution; all played out in ZooNation’s trademark style of hip hop, comedy and physical theatre.

Directed by Kate Prince, with original music by Josh Cohen and DJ Walde, the all star cast includes Tommy Franzén (So You Think You Can Dance, Blaze, Goldberg) Lizzie Gough (So You Think You Can Dance, Blaze) and Teneisha Bonner (Into the Hoods, Insane in the Brain, StreetDance 3D, Shoes).

ZooNation Dance Company was founded in 2002 by Kate Prince. In 2006, the company premiered Into the Hoods, which went on to become the longest running dance show the West End has ever seen. In 2010 ZooNation became a Resident Company at Sadler’s Wells, and Kate Prince became an Associate Artist.

Raks's Take


I see a fair amount of dance but I rarely write about it because I am not really qualified to do so (I did both tap and ballet when I was a little girl but gave both up before secondary school). However, that said, there is no way I was not going to talk about THIS!

The energy levels for this show are off the scale. The dance is street, urban and cool (old fogey language - I am an old fogey!). The tricks that some of these dancers can perform are mind-blowing. There is live singing which is out of this world. Unlike a lot of contemporary and modern dance, there is a real story, with a proper plot, told in this piece.

It spoke to me for a range of reasons. The hero loves books, yet is not portrayed as a "geek". The character is played by Tommy Franzen, one of the real stars of the show, and the piece shows that reading broadens and enriches your mind. Women dress up as men, because they are no longer allowed good jobs in the real world. They do this and the problems this leads to are comically portrayed. It clearly shows that women are the equals of men and as good as men (which of course we are!). It speaks about urban protest, revolution and standing up against authority for your rights (come on the revolution!). It has "LOVE". It speaks about family - especially the father/daughter relationship - and single parenting. And it has more to say about Grief and what it can do to a person than Mike Leigh's Grief at the National Theatre (I am being 100% sincere here). It is packed to the brim with energy, passion and ideas. The audience reception both through the piece and, specifically, at the end, where there is a proper grand finale was the like I have not seen in a West End Theatre for a long time (this was because there were a lot of young people in the audience and a lot of BME people in the audience). This is the sort of theatre and the sort of show I want to see on full-time in the West End, alongside all the other long-running muscials. Also, just like One Man, Two Guvnors, it shows people that theatre is fun and a great night out for all the family.

I am highly recommending this show to people with children and teenagers, especially Black boys and young Black men. This is not a "Black" show as such, but the vast majority of the dancers and singers are Black or mixed race, and the show has a lot of Black attitude and culture built into its DNA. It definitely has Black energy and passion running right through it. It shows these young people that Black and mixed race performers can be the leads on a West End stage. I want children and young people to see theatre that makes them feel alive and happy and that makes them want to become performers on the stage. This show is it! It will show boys and young men that dancing is hip and cool and not just for sissies. That you can be a real man, testosterone filled, and yet dance like an angel, and that this is something to aspire to, not denigrate and laugh at.

On a personal level, recently there was a project manager post advertised at a small charity which specialised in boxing and martial arts. I have no issue with martial arts. I have a huge issue with boxing. After a lot of soul-searching, I did not put in an application. Whilst I appreciate boxing can teach you disicpline, keep you fit, give you a positive and constructive outlet, teach you respect for authority and provide you with good role models, boxing's goal is to hit someone else's head so hard you knock them out. Over time this causes irreparable brain damage. How could I promote and support that? This is what I would want to promote and support and sell. High energy, creative, mind-blowing dance, that knocks the audience off their feet and delivers a standing ovation every night. I want children and young people to perform not box (sorry, as usual, I have got on my soapbox!).

I will get off my soapbox and say - I am highly recommending this to children and adults alike, it is a fun night out for all the family at the theatre, and the dance and the music is mind-blowing, and the issues dealt with make you think and use your mind. See it now!

To read more about the production and to book tickets, follow the link:
This is a world premiere, the show runs until Saturday 19 November and ticket prices start at £12. Under 16s have half price tickets on all performances and there are free post-show hip hop classes on selected dates. The age guidance on the show is 7+.

Get yourself down there now!
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The Tempest, starring Ralph Fiennes, Theatre Royal Haymarket closes tonight

Photo credit: http://www.urban-vacation.com/167/ralph-fiennes-in-shakespeares-the-tempest-showing-at-the-haymarket-theatre-royal-london/

Tonight is the closing night for The Tempest, starring Ralph Fiennes, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. I will miss it very very very much. I really loved this production - I have seen many many many Tempests over the years and this was my second favourite version of all time. My feature on this Tempest is here:

Photo credit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/sep/08/ralph-fiennes-tempest

I am going to close with the epilogue from The Tempest which is spoken by Prospero (Ralph Fiennes in this production). The Tempest is widely recognised as Shakespeare's last play and so these closing words are heavily autobiographical.


Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint: now, 'tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon'd the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

I cannot add to that!
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Da Vinci: The Lost Treasure, Sunday 30 October, BBC1, 9pm

To carry on with my blatant and shameless promotion of the BBC, I am going to recommend this programme even through I have not seen it (yet!). I know this clashes with Downton Abbey - forget Downton Abbey!

Photo credit: http://www.lairweb.org.nz/leonardo/mona.html

Cut and pasted from the BBC website:

Leonardo da Vinci is considered by many to be one of the greatest artists who ever lived. Yet his reputation rests on only a handful of pictures - including the world's most famous painting, the Mona Lisa.

As the National Gallery in London prepares to open its doors on a remarkable exhibition of Leonardo's work, Fiona Bruce travels to Florence, Milan, Paris and Warsaw to uncover the story of this enigmatic genius - and to New York, where she is given an exclusive preview of a sensational discovery: a new Leonardo.

Follow the link to the BBC website: