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Unprecedented: Episode 4 – BBC4 and iPlayer

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writers: Deborah Bruce, Matilda Ibini and Josh Azouz

Directors: Deborah Bruce, Debbie Hannan and Ned Bennett

Perhaps the BBC has done a disservice to Unprecedented, the series of mini-plays about life under     lockdown, by showing all 14 in the space of three days. What was at first unmissable is now in danger of becoming repetitive, and in some cases, a little too late in coming, especially being released in the week when lockdown measures have been eased.

The first of Episode Three’s plays, Kat and Zaccy by Deborah Bruce, is set right at the start of quarantine, and stars Monica Dolan and Alex Lawther as mother and son separated by the lockdown regulations. We first meet Kat rummaging in a drawer trying to find some paracetamol, a drug that was rarer than gold dust at the start of the pandemic. Alex Zooms in from Bristol, telling his mother that it’s impossible for him to return home now. As she flusters and blusters it’s patently clear why he is reluctant to come home. And so the process of guilt-tripping him begins, but as shown by Lawther’s patient face, Zaccy is used to this kind of behaviour. He’s made his own plans to remain sane over lockdown, but he must keep them concealed from his mother. Bruce’s short family drama is fascinating.

Matilda Ibini’s The Unexpected Expert explores how disabled people are treated by the Government during the crisis as disabled influencer Roxy played by Saida Ahmed sees cuts to the care to which she is entitled. Golda Rosheuvel plays the government employee who gives Roxy the news about the reduction to her care package. She is, at first, pleased that Roxy understands what is happening and doesn’t query the cuts. However, Roxy understands only too well what is happening and verbally pulls government policy apart. Ibini’s play is straightforward, but perhaps to be more effective, the criticism of the Government could be presently more deftly.

The last play The Night After by Josh Azouz author of The Mikvah Project, which played at the Orange Tree just before lockdown was announced, is absurd and strange. Kathryn Hunter and Marcello Magni play an ageing couple describing their days alone in the house. Their routine may be dull but they have rediscovered sex and Hunter’s character suggests that as the sex is so good Greek and Roman Gods have been in attendance. Magni seems to concur despite the fact that he wears a colander on his head while eating a slice of toast. Their house sounds large, but they are stranded in the bedroom like characters in a Beckett play. Their dialogue is intriguing, but this offbeat approach can’t quite fill the ten minutes of running time.

All four episodes are now online, along with three extra plays that were released straight to iPlayer. Perhaps it’s the not the best idea to watch them all in one go, but instead savour them slowly in order that they yield true riches.

Available here until June 2020

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The Reviews Hub London is under the editorship of John Roberts.The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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