Reviews Good and Bad

Earlier this week I tweeted that I had enjoyed writer Lucy Gannon’s new drama ‘Frankie’ about a district nurse  seen on BBC1 on Tuesday evening. Out of interest, later I had a look at the reviews in the papers and online, and realised that I was not in the majority. Almost all the reviewers were less than complimentary about the script writing, and even the acting, by the first-rate Eve Myles. The accusations included that it had been ‘over-egging’ the problems of the NHS (though how one can do that I’m not sure) and that the fiesty Frankie looked ‘deranged’ when she was dancing (don’t most of us?). Anyway I was much cheered when I went to see the response of viewers on the Radio Times website, to see that they shared my feelings and that most of them said they would like to watch the next episode, and thought it was a good start to a series. So, the professionals versus the amateur critics, strikes again in my life, and though supposedly I sit among the professionals, as a reviewing journalist of some years experience, I frequently end up on the side of the amateurs. Another case of this occurred some weeks back when my editor, Sue and I were invited to make a judgement between two plays performed for us by our local amateur dramatic company in Cardigan. The play, chosen by us, would go to the next round of a competition run by the Drama Association of Wales. It would be fair to say we were impressed by the standard of acting in the first, but blown away by the second which was the one we chose. ‘Recidivists’ is a hard-hitting, piece of writing where two prisoners face one another with violence and abusive language in a process of overcoming their suspicion of one another in order to be able to share a cell. Marc Owen and Jonathan Preese were brilliant in the parts, and in spite of the vile language, and the aggression, both myself and Sue beside me were transported; forgot where we were; and were deeply moved by it. We were surprised to be honest. The daring quality of the work, and the effort involved in attempting something so new and not relying on something ‘safe’ to take to the competition, affected and impressed us.

We looked forward to hearing that they had been the toast of the night at the Torch where they performed in the next round, but it was not to be. The professional adjudicator profoundly disagreed with our choice, saw no merit in the play whatever, and had only negative things to say about it.

Does all this mean that there can never be a totally objective review or critique, of anything? I sometimes think so. If so why do we do it, and who can we listen to? The guys and their director and producer came back genuinely puzzled and disappointed, and we their first judges felt exactly the same. But that’s the way it goes.

So, if you want to find out what you think of ‘Frankie’ and whose side you are on, the second episode is on next Tuesday. I think there’s a lot of love in it somewhere, love in the writing and in the making of it, but maybe that’s just my rose-coloured contacts. Try it. 

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Determinedly Poetic

My friend Jackie Biggs is an astonishing example to me that anyone can do anything if they really want to do it.  She bravely walked out of a full-time job as a journalist and began to pick up bits and pieces  of work – everything from caring for dogs at a kennels, to free-lancing, but her real intention was to do what she really wanted to do, which was to write poetry. She set about it without wasting any time at all, and she did so with such determination, and such an eagerness to find her own voice, and a willingness to learn how to do it well, that she leaves me open-mouthed with the progress she has made. She writes poetry all the time, every day is full of poetry, ideas for poems, visual triggers for poems, memories that suggest poems – she is a poet, and sends them off here and there; and good news begins to come in return, a poem in a magazine, a choice of poem of the month with a publisher, another for a collection with someone else. It is really exciting to watch. She loves what she is doing, and doing it well. You can see some of her work on her blog and believe me you will see more of it elsewhere before the year is out. She is one  of the Cardigan Cellar Bards who are filmed performing on Youtube, such a treat to see, a genuinely terrific varied bunch of talented writers. I’m writing about this today because someone recently told me to ‘grow up’ when I said I thought it possible that we can all have a go at following our destiny and we don’t have to sit hugging a desk for security and getting rich is not what it is all about. There are others around me who are doing it too. Jackie is not the only one. But yesterday she had good news with one of her poems, and it should be shared!