Widows: can Steve McQueen transfer one of the UK’s best-ever crime dramas successfully to film?

I can’t help myself. I’ve started watching it again.

I’m currently on my twenty-somethingth viewing of Lynda La Plante’s Widows – a six-part TV drama I’ve been obsessed with for as long as I can remember. I’m so familiar with it, I now have to ration myself so I don’t spoil it – although I can’t imagine familiarity ever breeding content with this series. I love pretty much everything about it.

The biggest strength of the drama is an incredibly clever, original conceit: The widows of a gang of suddenly-deceased career criminals decide to do their husbands’ planned ‘last job’ themselves. Of course, it doesn’t go to plan.

‘Suppose they were to carry out the robbery themselves?’

The characters are combative and antagonistic – forced together by a shared goal to become incredibly rich overnight, using a plan devised by their dead husbands. As the end goal comes in sight, the relationships fracture even further, and there is constant danger from without and within.

In a nutshell, it does exactly what a good drama should: It keeps you watching, on the edge of your seat, never knowing what is going to happen next. There is no padding, no flagging, and everything feels completely plausible in the world of the story.

It’s a sign of the series’ enduring quality that I still remain tense and caught up in the drama of the final episode, even though I’ve seen it play out countless times.

I was very surprised when news broke that Steve McQueen is to direct a film version. To my mind, much of the appeal of the series will be lost in trying to squeeze it into a two-hour film.

More recent news that Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn will co-write the screenplay with McQueen makes more sense – but the fact that McQueen’s film will ‘diverge dramatically’ from the original and be set in modern-day U.S. makes me question it further.

It’s going to be very hard to match the (IMHO) peerless original. Cue the haunting violin music…

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Off The Wall Players’ Saturday Soup – drama exploring food and relationships

Last night I saw Saturday Soup – a collection of short plays by Off The Wall Players – a small emerging theatre company based in Shoreditch, east London.

The plays were performed at The Brady Arts Centre in Shoreditch – a setting right at the heart of the community depicted in the drama.

The plays explored the relationship we have with food, and how food affects, and defines the relationships we have with each other.

The idea of ‘Saturday soup’ was new to me – but it’s an established tradition in West Indian families, taking a central role at the dinner table on most weekends. Preparing the soup can take all day, with ingredients added to the pot at particular times, in a particular order.

In the titular play extract, the central conceit of the soup was used almost as a third character, a silent, bubbling presence in the background of the increasing marital woes of the two main characters.

In the other play extracts, other forms of food were the cause for disagreement, disgust, and deceit – and intense pleasure.

Moving the play into ‘real’ life

Following the three short extracts, there was a Q&A with the writer, cast and director, exploring some of the themes raised in the plays.

Then the really clever bit happened – the theatrical experience of the evening was taken on, away from the stage by the act of feeding the audience some of the food they had just heard about in the plays.

Watching the audience eating after watching the drama was a neat idea which made me look at the audience in a different way. Eating is such a natural, everyday task that we rarely think about it – but every mouthful, ever serving we dish up for someone else, every drink we sip, the way we move the food around our plates, and the speed with which we eat all speak volumes about how we feel about ourselves – and who we’re dining with.

There’s inherent drama in the act of cooking, eating, and feeding others – and these short plays explored that brilliantly. I can’t wait to see more from Off The Wall Players.

Off The Wall Players can be found here. 

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