Review: Affairs of the Art by Joanna Quinn and Les Mills
Sarah Morgan Jones
Beryl Thomas is drinking from the cup of creativity.
As we catch up with the latest installment of the Beryl story, Affairs of the Art – directed by Joanna Quinn and written by Les Mills, starring Menna Trussler – the award winning, Oscar nominated star of the show is at a crossroads.
She has lived a life in a family of obsessives and at 59, with a nerdy 38-year-old son still at home and a husband who, though her loyal muse, has moments of falling for the temptations of online twerking videos, she has had enough.
Taking advice from her big sister Bev, who has grown from a goofy-death-obsessed-weirdo into a glamorous-death-obsessed-entrepreneur, Beryl decides she has to go for it. She has to grasp the moment, seize the day, take control and launch herself into the world that she wants.
Creating art full of movement in hilarious ways, she invents an art movement of her own – hyper-futurism – taking the lead from those familial obsessives who sought to sculpt their lives, their bodies and their opportunities.
Preservation is the underlying family theme – from her grandmother’s pickles to her sister’s taxidermy – and Beryl grasps the nettle by capturing her own body and that of her husband in her bold and dynamic art, gaining critical acclaim as a reward.
Up close and personal, the pulsing animation so beautifully drawn deals with all the nitty gritty of body stuff, from the hairs poking out of her teacher’s stockings, to the hair popping out of her dead granny’s chin, to the wobbly dangling body parts common to us all.
Getting to know Beryl’s husband Ivor, her son Colin and her sister Bev adds flesh to Beryl’s already considerable and beautiful character and anchors her in the heart of a family at once completely weird and completely normal.
Joanna Quinn looks and sees and portrays with an unflinching female gaze, celebrating body forms without any shame, and gently ridiculing the expectations of society regarding body beautiful.
Menna Trussler gives Beryl a voice that adds to her endearing quality, full of Welsh character and expression which we all recognise from the voices we hear around us. In her last role before retirement, Menna re inhabits the woman she has been portraying since Beryl first appeared twenty years ago and her breathy forthright performance further infuses her with the authenticity which makes her so appealing.
Les Mills’ cracking script is loaded with luscious one liners and pay offs, saving some of the best belly laughs for the droll comments from family members, which are so well observed and ooze Welshness
There are a plethora of blink and you miss it moments which I won’t spoil here, but suffice it to say that not a second is wasted in this funny and touching and at times self deprecating memoir of a woman on the verge of greatness.
They might not have ‘got her’ in Hollywood, where bodily obsession and façade and image appear to matter more than anything else, but Beryl fits perfectly into hearts and minds right here in her homeland.
You can watch Affairs of the Art on BBC iPlayer here
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