The State, by Peter Kosminsky – Channel 4 TV, August 20th – 24th.

What an astounding production!  I didn’t expect to like this series about British recruits drawn to join IS in Syria, and I nearly didn’t watch it at all.  Perhaps I thought it would be heavily propagandist, presenting the young Muslims as hate-filled fanatics, and foment yet more prejudice against Muslims in general, regardless of the fact that those who choose to go and fight (or stay and commit acts of terror) are an extremely small minority.  Or that in contrast, it might serve to entice more young believers to leave their families and sacrifice their lives for a bitter cause. Continue reading

Darcus Howe & Tariq Ali re.Partition, Channel 4, 1987

August 20th, 1987

Tariq Ali & Darcus Howe,
Executive producers of ‘Partition’,
Channel Four TV

I am writing to congratulate you on the excellence of ‘Partition’; it was beautifully scripted, filmed, acted and directed – one of the most sensitively handled productions I have seen for a long time.

The composition of individual shots, whole scenes, and the relationship between them was extremely imaginative and thought-provoking; the pacing was courageously unhurried, and the cumulative image of the cruelty of partition was powerfully but unostentatiously portrayed.  Brilliant!

So please pass on my congratulations to the director and everyone else concerned with the production; when is your next one, and when can this be repeated?

Thank you again, and very best wishes for future productions.


In a Free State, by V S Naipaul

Soon after my return from 5 years in Guyana in the early 1970s,
I submitted this piece as part of a bid to review books for the TLS or the TES.
In response I was invited to define the areas I would like to specialise in,
and foolishly uncertain which to suggest, delayed replying too long,
and let the opportunity slip…

In a Free State, by V S Naipaul.  
This novel takes the form of variations on a theme.  It is written in five sections: a prologue, three separate narratives, and an epilogue – and while these sections are unconnected in terms of plot or character, they are all consistent with the theme of the isolation and insularity of expatriates. Continue reading

The Poetry of Alain Grandbois

I wrote this appreciation back in 1967,  in my final year at University,
where as part of my degree in French and Drama
I studied French Canadian Literature.
Some of Grandbois’ poetry can be found in the collection
Classiques Canadiens“, as chosen and  presented by Jacques Brault.

In much of his poetry, Alain Grandbois appears condemned to a restless journey through night, rain, endless streets marked by the impotent illumination of street lamps, exclusion from the existence of fellow men, and the gradual disintegration of contact with a loved woman – to a “périple”  of perpetual solitude. In this nightmare, place succeeding place in a filmic progression, as he makes a desperate, misunderstood, unanswered cry for contact – with another, or with an ideal that will justify the chaos:
Une colonne d’allégresse
– he is obsessed with the evanescence of life, and the ugly manifestations of death among the living, and of decay among the dead:
“…ces trop beaux visages détruits”. Continue reading

Eurovision Dance Contest, 2008

Xenophobia – BBC’s new Mission Statement?  
       (Some names have been omitted to protect the guilty…)

In last night’s transmission of the Eurovision Dance Contest, the BBC sank to new levels of bad taste.
       Over the years the various TV channels have bludgeoned us into expecting, if not accepting, the manifestation of some bizarre belief that the general public is incapable of enjoying anything that is not formulaic, snappy, glitzy, sexy, jokey and smiley.  I might therefore have been prepared for the inanities of the two presenters.  Even so, could someone (a highly-paid BBC producer, perhaps?) not have explained to the gentleman in question (presumably astronomically paid?) that the time delay in receiving transmissions from elsewhere in Europe means that to follow his scripted opening questions with poorly timed colloquial drivel served no purpose other than to make each of the foreign presenters look congenitally stupid? Continue reading

Long Day’s Journey into Night – Review

Two of the online reviews of the  2012  production of this classic
at the Apollo Theatre, London – one on ‘West End Whingers’,
and another on ‘What’s on Stage’- were enthusiastic about its pace. 
I replied to both of those, and then was delighted to find
a less laudatory review on ‘’.

This is my reply to ‘’:

How gratifying to read your less than euphoric review! I do so agree with the points you make, and to focus on one more aspect, some of the rave reviews you mention at the end praise the production, among other things, for its pace..  Ay, ay ay! Continue reading