‘Handmaid’s Tale’ returns to television, darker and more chilling

Cast member Elisabeth Moss, who stars as Offred in the hit television series, poses at the premiere for the second season of the television series “The Handmaid’s Tale” in Los Angees on April19. (Reuters)
Updated 24 April 2018
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‘Handmaid’s Tale’ returns to television, darker and more chilling

LOS ANGELES: “The Handmaid’s Tale” returns to television this week with its chilling portrait of a near future where women are turned into second-class citizens seeming even darker and more prescient than ever.
That’s not by chance. As the Emmy-winning series moves away from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian 1985 novel, it delves further into how the US moved from democracy into a fictional totalitarian state called Gilead.
Here, pollution has caused widespread infertility, women are forbidden to read, cannot control money, and people spy on each other.
“We began Season 1 feeling we cannot let Margaret Atwood down,” said Warren Littlefield, one of the show’s executive producers.
“Then right after the (2016 presidential) election, as this pre-Gilead Trump administration unfolded, we felt the responsibility that we can’t let down America.
“We are storytellers, but our world that we depict is relevant and the themes are more relevant than ever before,” Littlefield added.
Season 2 starts on Wednesday on streaming platform Hulu, resuming immediately where Season 1 ended last June, with the pregnant Offred (Elisabeth Moss) taken away to face punishment for an act of mass rebellion by a group of handmaids in Gilead.
Pre-Gilead flashbacks show the undermining of human and civil rights, where women need their partner’s consent to get birth control, are pressured to be stay-at-home mothers, and gay people lose legal protections to face persecution.
It also gives viewers a first, terrifying glimpse of the book’s polluted colonies, where infertile or dissident women are sent to live in concentration camp-like conditions.
“There is a lot that we draw upon from the world we are living in,” Littlefield said. “The series tried to dramatize some of the human rights issues that we are experiencing in the world and understand, ‘How did that happen?’”
Season 1 premiered in April 2017 but production started long before Hillary Clinton lost her bid to become the first woman in the White House and Donald Trump was elected US president.
The TV series, striking for its handmaids dressed in red capes and white face-obscuring bonnets, won awards in its first season.
Canadian author Atwood remains as a consultant and producer as the second season moves beyond her book, which became one of the top 10 best-selling novels of 2017.
“Margaret is probably the biggest cheerleader for go, move, do not fear going past the book,” Littlefield said.


Chip Wickham ushers in winds of change on the jazz scene

Updated 22 May 2018
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Chip Wickham ushers in winds of change on the jazz scene

PARIS: The hotly hyped “British jazz invasion” has been the toast of international scenesters for some months now, with breathy adjective-heavy sprawls penned on both sides of the Atlantic paying tribute to a fresh generation of musos who grew up not in the conservatoires but the clubs, channelling the grit and groove of grime into a distinctly hip, 21st century strain of freewheeling, DIY improvised music.

Now the Arab world has its own outpost in the form of Chip Wickham, a UK-born flautist, saxophonist and producer whose second album grew out of extended stints teaching in the GCC. “Shamal Wind” takes its name from the Gulf’s primal weather patterns, and there’s a distinctly meditative, Middle Eastern vibe to the title track, a slow-burning, moody vamp, peppered with percussive trills, with hints of Yusef Lateef to be found in Wickham’s wandering woodwind musings.

There’s rather less goatee-stroking to be found across the four further up-tempo cuts, which swap soul-searching for soul-jazz, soaked in the breezy bop of a vintage Blue Note release. Recorded over a hot summer in Madrid, a heady Latin pulse drives first single, “Barrio 71” — championed by the likes of Craig Charles — with Spanish multi-percussionist David el Indio steaming up a block party beat framing Wickham’s gutsy workout on baritone sax.

Having previously worked with electronic acts, including Nightmares on Wax and Jimpster, one imagines the dancefloor was a key stimulus behind Wickham’s rhythmically dense, but harmonically spare compositional approach. Phil Wilkinson’s sheer, thumped piano chords drive the relentless nod of second single “Snake Eyes,” Wickham’s raspy flute floating somewhere overhead, readymade to be skimmed off for the anticipated remix market.

In truth, Manchester-raised Wickham is both too thoughtful, and too thoughtless, to truly belong to the London-brewed jazz invasion — Shamal Wind yo-yos between meditative meandering and soulful strutting with a wilful disrespect for trend.