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BWW Review: UNDONE, Amazon Prime

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BWW Review: UNDONE, Amazon Prime

BWW Review: UNDONE, Amazon PrimeWith a full return to our beloved live theatre still some way off, BWW will bring you reviews of shows that have a connection to our much-missed world. First up is an animated series that stars Hamilton's favourite fighting Frenchman, the Marquis de Lafayette himself, Daveed Diggs.

After watching five (of eight) episodes, I recommended this show to a friend, writing: "Within a surreal setting, it has a lot to say about narcissism, depression, self-sabotage, migration, parenting, sibling relations, bad decisions, the desire to go back, good lies and bad lies, bullying, the seductive and crushing aspects of daily life, the need for psychic space".

But it's about much more than that...

Kate Purdy and Raphael Bob-Waksberg get the "creators" tag and, with a few more Bojack Horseman alumni on the team, you can be sure that things are going to go deep pretty quickly - and they do.

Alma wants to find out what happened when her father died in a car accident on Halloween when she was 11. She also wants to wriggle free of a life that is so much less than what it could be: the grim routine; the boyfriend happy to coast through days, weeks, years; the sister marrying for the wrong reasons; the controlling mother; the search for a self in a world that continually crushes it.

She starts to hallucinate her father and discovers more about his work and its connections to both shamanism in her own indigenous people's heritage and a family history of schizophrenia - a potent mix. Soon, time is sliding backwards and forwards, but is it the result of neurological, physical or psychological disorder?

Though often criticised as a technique, rotoscoping works perfectly here, its jerky slipping between weighty realism and an almost painterly artifice ideally suited to Alma's own "through the fingers" grip on her world. It also allows Rosa Salazar to deliver a fantastic performance: irritating, vulnerable, selfish, warm, generous, assertive. We may never get as far as actually liking her, but we do understand her (that Bojack vibe again), empathy growing with every episode.

The rest of the cast are just as good, from Bob Odenkirk's preternaturally calm (too calm) father to a tour-de-force gig from Constance Marie as the mother who just can't stop herself. Kevin Bigley, in a cameo role, proves a scene-stealer as Alma's country club brother-in-law-to-be, whose self-awareness goes to whatever is the opposite of 11. Hamilton's Daveed Diggs plays a children's centre worker as quietly undemonstrative as he was loudly boisterous in the celebrated musical.

I always find the trope that ancient cultures are more connected to nature a little glib, but I can offset that with a Wizard of Oz motif (and some very funny observations on it) that sets up parallels, particularly in the final episode, successfully grounding a narrative that otherwise threatens to become too untethered.

Though presented in eight 25-minute episodes, Undone is more a tight feature film sliced up for the Amazon Prime platform. Its ambition, and the demands it makes on its audience, is another example of how we're living in a Golden Age of television and film production; I cannot imagine any circumstances in which so weird a show would be greenlighted in the past - and, I fear, in the future too. That said, Amazon has renewed the show for a second season.

For now, we can sit back and, if not exactly enjoy, then marvel at, and think about, extraordinary television like this.

Undone is available on Amazon Prime.


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From This Author Gary Naylor