Lenny’s three little Jamaican birds sing a note-perfect tune: CHRISTOPHER STEPHENS reviews last night’s TV
Three Little Birds
Lenny Henry’s gift for impressions turns out to be rooted in a much greater talent — a note-perfect ear for dialogue.
As a young comedian in the 1970s, on shows such as Tiswas, he was feted for his send-ups of newsreader Trevor ‘McDoughnut’ McDonald and naturalist David Bellamy.
He brings his characters to life with such vivid touches of speech, in his period drama Three Little Birds (ITV), it is no surprise to realise they are based on real people and on the tales his mother used to tell him.
This lavish six-part serial follows a trio of young women arriving in Britain from Jamaica in 1957, just as his mum Winifrid did.
It isn’t all biographical: ‘Quite a lot of it is made up, because my family are very litigious,’ he says.
He brings his characters to life with such vivid touches of speech, in his period drama Three Little Birds ( ITV, pictured), it is no surprise to realise they are based on real people and on the tales his mother used to tell him
The women are a broad mix of personalities: Rochelle Neil as Leah (pictured), escaping her abusive husband
Her sister Chantrelle (Saffron Coomber, pictured), is dreaming of movie stardom
But it’s the repartee and backchat, rather than the historical accuracy, that make this both a delight and perfectly convincing.
The women are a broad mix of personalities: Rochelle Neil as Leah, escaping her abusive husband; her sister Chantrelle (Saffron Coomber), dreaming of movie stardom; and upright, religious Hosanna (Yazmin Belo) in search of a husband.
READ MORE: Three Little Birds cast: Meet the up and coming stars of new ITV drama written by Sir Lenny Henry and inspired by his mother’s move from Jamaica to Great Britain in the 1950s
Gossiping in the queue to get their passports stamped, Leah and Chantrelle talk about the men they’ve left behind.
‘How’s your little part-time lover take your departure?’ teases Leah.
‘He wanted to dip his spoon in my sugar bowl,’ Chantrelle retorts. ‘I tell him the cafe was closed!’
‘One day,’ Leah warns, ‘you’re gonna catch hell for all your foolishness.’
That’s a scintillating exchange — one that sets up the dynamic between the girls, gives us a hint of what’s in store for Chantrelle, and captures us the rich, musical dialect of 1950s Jamaica.
As the girls’ destinies begin to pull in different directions, Henry shepherds them cleverly.
Fearless, uncompromising Hosanna finds herself in a police cell overnight, after giving a spiteful copper a piece of her mind.
Chantrelle, desperate to be accepted by the British upper crust, finds herself sent to the tradesman’s entrance of a suburban villa.
Henry himself makes an appearance in later episodes, as Hosanna’s father, the pastor Remuel Drake.
Vinette Robinson (right) and Kevin McKidd (left) play Michelle and Chris in Six Four (ITV), tearing themselves apart after their 18-year-old daughter disappears
Six Four is slow and stodgy, believing the way to build tension is to have actors walk along a street, up a flight of steps and knock at a door that doesn’t open. By the time anything happens, we’re too bored to care
Undercurrents of white racism are exposed, but it’s the Jamaican wide boy Gregory (Gamba Cole) who is the real villain, cheating the girls of their money and leering over them, before stranding them in a Notting Hill squat.
The colours of the hats and cotton dresses saturate the screen, and the soundtrack is as lively as the story, with a dance scene to match.
READ MORE: Six Four cast: The full star-studded line up of gripping new crime drama with Vinette Robinson and one familiar face from an iconic 90s sitcom
Leah and Chantrelle doing the boogie-woogie twist beat anything on Strictly. I loved it.
Don’t expect bright colours in the kidnap drama Six Four (ITV). It makes Edinburgh and Glasgow look like the outskirts of Moscow on a wet Thursday.
Vinette Robinson and Kevin McKidd play Michelle and Chris, tearing themselves apart after their 18-year-old daughter disappears.
Six Four is slow and stodgy, believing the way to build tension is to have actors walk along a street, up a flight of steps and knock at a door that doesn’t open. By the time anything happens, we’re too bored to care.
There’s an unsubtle emphasis on the campaign for Scottish independence.
A reporter denounces the ‘far-Right English nationalist government in power’ in Westminster, while the kidnapper sports a Union Jack and an anti-SNP ‘Better Together’ sticker on the boot of his car.
By far the best reason for watching is James Cosmo’s single scene, as a bereaved, half-mad recluse. It’s a powerful performance, a flash of light in a miserably overcast first episode.
Sad reflection of the weekend: The Mail on Sunday’s back page of Bobby Charlton, kneeling by a football, recalled the glory years of Grandstand and players’ portrait pictures. Sir Bobby wasn’t ‘taking the knee’ — just a humble sportsman, a hero but not a celebrity.
Source: Read Full Article