CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend's TV

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s TV: Simmering racial tension… and a superb portrayal of a lost London

Small Axe: Mangrove 

Rating:

Ronnie’s: Ronnie Scott And His World-Famous Jazz Club

Rating:

On the streets of Notting Hill, shimmying to the buoyant song of the steel bands, a happy crowd dances. Up the road, at the local cop shop, darts thud dully into a board and a morose constable downs the dregs of his cold tea.

Hang about — could that be some sort of metaphor? The defiant celebration, the joyless police — it’s as subtle as being hit over the head with a truncheon.

Small Axe: Mangrove (BBC1), the first of five films about contemporary black history in the UK by director Sir Steve McQueen, were equally earnest, if somewhat one-sided with their starry-eyed view of black British activism in the 1960s

All two hours and ten minutes of Small Axe: Mangrove (BBC1), the first of five films about contemporary black history in the UK by director Sir Steve McQueen, were equally earnest, if somewhat one-sided with their starry-eyed view of black British activism in the 1960s.

That said, some of the images of a lost London were beautiful, and if you managed to stick with it to the third act, the courtroom drama in the last 40 minutes was superb, conveying all the alternating excitement and tedium of a trial.

To get there, though, we had to sit through long, didactic speeches, with no subplots to distract from a lot of understandable anger and shouting. ‘British justice, what a joke,’ yelled one character — and in five words that was the gist of the whole script.

Shaun Parkes played reluctant community hero Frank Crichlow, a chef with a short fuse whose restaurant on All Saints Road served Caribbean cuisine — and was subjected to constant raids by police who suspected it was the headquarters for drug dealers and political troublemakers

Shaun Parkes played reluctant community hero Frank Crichlow, a chef with a short fuse whose restaurant on All Saints Road served Caribbean cuisine — and was subjected to constant raids by police who suspected it was the headquarters for drug dealers and political troublemakers.

Junk store of the weekend

Aficionado of rubbish Angel Strawbridge was in heaven as Escape To The Chateau (C4) returned, finding a hay loft full of scrap. 

Husband Dick wanted to put it in a skip. One woman’s treasure is another chap’s trash 

Sick of being targeted, the regulars staged a demo. Its leaders were arrested and charged with assault, incitement to riot and possession of weapons.

What McQueen left out of the true story was how Left-wing luvvie Vanessa Redgrave and her brother Corin hitched a ride on the trial’s notoriety, putting up the bail for one of the protesters, Barbara Beese (played here by Line Of Duty’s Rochenda Sandall). The Redgraves were always adept at grabbing the headlines.

But the drama captured the look of the demonstration exactly, right down to the lettering of the painted slogans.

This vivid accuracy was spectacular, as was an opening scene filmed from the air that used computer graphics to recreate low-rise West London as it was 50 years ago — including the scaffolding around the Westway flyover that was then under construction.

The city’s 1960s streets were remembered, too, with lashings of archive footage shot around Soho, in Ronnie’s: Ronnie Scott & His World-Famous Jazz Club (BBC4).

Punters in floral shirts blew kisses at the cameras while costermongers yelled their prices and neon outlines of naked bodies flickered over strip joints. An entertainer passed the hat as his budgerigars performed tricks on a wheel.

The city’s 1960s streets were remembered, too, with lashings of archive footage shot around Soho, in Ronnie’s: Ronnie Scott & His World-Famous Jazz Club (BBC4)

Over it all, the spine-tingling sounds of Ronnie Scott’s all-star artistes drifted — Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Oscar Peterson, and fabulous vocal performances from Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Cleo Laine and Sarah Vaughan. Chet Baker jammed with Van Morrison, Roland Kirk played three saxophones at once: the great pity of this documentary was that, though it lasted almost two hours, most of these performances were cut short.

Ronnie, who died in 1996, would not have approved. A sax player himself, he said the great benefit of his club was ‘having a masterclass 12 months of the year’.

Next time, a compilation of longer musical recordings, with a bit less moaning about how hard it is to make a jazz club turn a profit, would be welcome.

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