Thursday, 15 September 2016

Theatre Review- Macbeth, performed by Act Three Theatre

Title: Macbeth
Writer: William Shakespeare
Performed by: Act Three Theatre
Major cast: Josh Beecham, Ned Walkely, Simon Morgan
Seen at: Paradise in the Vault, Edinburgh Fringe
Summary: An exciting new take on William Shakespeare's Macbeth. Using the original language but set in a young offenders’ prison, it is bold, fast-paced, and performed entirely with a cast of three.



Review: The story of Macbeth is performed by three actors and set in a modern young offender's prison. I wanted to see this show because Macbeth, multiroling, and a vastly different setting to its original-what more could I ask for?
We open with Macbeth holding a titlecard/ID card, presumably having a mugshot taken, then an opening physical sequence with some impressive stage fighting to set the scene. Then the play develops in its new setting, where guards are witches and kingship is represented by a dressing gown and a paper crown.
The setting works well for the most part, prison hierarchies being a good new setting for kingdoms, and the costumes suited the production, but I did wonder where is Malcolm going when he announces leaves for England, if he's meant to be locked up.
The cast are all really good. My favourite thing about it though was the doubling, because, while necessary with three characters, makes some good links between the characters- Simon Morgan playing both Duncan and Banquo, the two direct victims of Macbeth's ambition, Ned Wakely playing both Lady Macbeth and Banquo's murderer (I know they kept Macbeth's line "Be innocent of the knowledge", but it just got me thinking of how cool it might have been if they'd kept the implication that she killed Banquo), and also Josh Beecham saying the Doctor's words in the sleepwalking scene, while still (I think) being Macbeth, adding a different, kind of caring, spin on him.
I don't know if it was intentional, but the lighting in the "Is this a dagger I see" scene and the banquet scene made the actors' eyes look black, demonic, which went well with those scenes.
The editing of the script is amazing. I think we ended slightly before the advertised hour, but the major plot points were all conveyed. Also, so much love for the delivery of "Birnam" just before the attack on Macbeth. The twist and wordplay and cleverness of getting around the prophecy was just...yes.


Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a fast, intense version of Macbeth.
Links: Company


Monday, 13 June 2016

Theatre Review: This Much by John Fitzpatrick, performed by Moving Dust

I am aware that my timeliness is terrible. I saw this show eight months ago, I wrote this review eight months ago, I found it again tonight.  
I saw it at Edinburgh, and it's now playing at Soho Theatre as part of the Pride festival. 

Title: This Much (or A Act of Violence Towards The Institution of Marriage)
Writer: John Fitzpatrick
Director: Kate Sagovsky
Performed by: Moving Dust
Cast: Lewis Hart, Simon Carroll-Jones, and James Parris
Seen at: Zoo City

Review:Gar is in a long term relationship with Antony, and they're thinking about marriage , but meets Albert on an app. This leads to a romantic drama exploring the meaning and importance of marriage.
I saw this in the programme. I loved the title and the picture and thought maybe if I have time. I then saw this being promoted on the Royal Mile- three men in wedding dresses standing on plinths- and thought, yes, I have to see this. I didn't really know about the play though.
The drama progresses well. Something's always happening, there's twists, tension and anger is mixed with lighter moments, and aside from the ending which seemed a little abrupt, it flows well.
The actors work together well, and the deepness of relationships came through physically in interacting with each other.
The direction and scene setting was brilliant. They use lightweight boxes which are stacked in various ways to create different scenes, and which hold the smaller props. I think everything there was used at least once, with varying degrees of creativity. The scene changes happen in full view, accompanied by disco music and carried out with the emotion present in the scene. I loved watching them as it added unspoken aspects to the personalities.
There's only three or four lines of seating on three sides of the stage so it's a very intimate show. It's made more so by full nudity, (unexpected for me, expected for anyone who takes note of online warnings) but the close setting was good for really feeling the emotions coming off the play. And for those, wow. It cycles through a full range of feelings and situations you find in a relationship- the excitement of meeting someone new, the ease of living together, the hurt of a betrayal, what happens next- and the closeness of the venue means you see all the effects the events have on the characters, even the really subtle ones.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a very exposed realistic play.
Links: twitter | company | Soho Theatre tickets


Thursday, 2 June 2016

Giveaway- THE UNICORNE FILES by CHRIS D'LACEY

Hey, it's been a long time since I had a giveaway for you...but here one is! To celebrate today's release of A Crown of Dragons, the last book in the series of The Unicorne Files by Chris d'Lacey, Laura from Chicken House has kindly offered the chance to win the whole trilogy!



A Dark Inheritance: When Michael Malone discovers his supernatural ability to alter reality, he is recruited by an organization dedicated to investigating strange and paranormal phenomena. He joins in hopes of finding his father, who mysteriously vanished three years earlier. Michael's first task is to solve the mystery of a dog he rescued from a precarious clifftop -- a mystery that leads him to a strange and sickly classmate and a young girl who was killed in a devastating accident. Stakes are high as Michael learns to harness his newfound ability and uncover the deadly truth about his father's disappearance.

Alexander's Army: After the success of his first assignment from the UNICORNE agency, fourteen-year-old Michael Malone is given another unexplained mystery to solve. When UNICORNE detect strange goings-on in a comic book shop, Michael is sent to investigate- a task which is made all the more difficult by allies he can no longer trust, and an enemy he can't actually see.

A Crown of Dragons: Michael, a special agent for the secretive UNICORNE agency, embarks on his most dangerous mission yet: investigating the artefact his father was researching before he disappeared. But the truth is darker than he could’ve imagined. His father is lost in an alternative reality, and Michael is the only one with the power to save him...


If you'd like to enter, use the Rafflecopter below. Entry is open to residents of the UK, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, and entry closes at 12am on Friday 10 June. Winner will be chosen some time on Friday.

Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Friday, 27 May 2016

Theatre Review- Richard III and Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, performed by The Handlebards

Review written with input from two of my friends who saw it with me, Lottie and Amy. Their opinion is reflected here too. 


Title: "Richard III" and "Much Ado About Nothing"
Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Emma Sampson  (Richard III), Nicola Samer (Much Ado)
Performed by: The Handlebards
Major cast: Liam Mansfield, Matt Maltby, Paul Hillar, and Stanton Plummer-Cambridge
Seen at: The Museum of the Order of St. John
Review: In Richard III, Richard, Duke of Gloucester murders his way to the throne and doesn't stop once he's there. In Much Ado About Nothing, plots to set up and break up pairs of lovers happen with varying degrees of success. The Handlebards, four actors who cycle with set, props and scenery to wherever they're going, are taking these shows on a tour.
I was incredibly looking forwards to seeing these. The comedy of the Handlebards that I'd seen before, plus one of my favourite shows (Much Ado) plus one of the plays I knew had many murders (Richard III) all combined to make me think I must see these shows somehow.
Both shows are imbued with the Handlebard style-brightly colour coding the actors, easy to remove and/or alter accessories, inventive ways of holding props to symbolise characters on stage when a scene needs more than four people on stage, audience participation, and epic levels of multiroling, energy, and enthusiasm.
The four actors are all new to being part of the Handlebards, and work together well. Liam and Paul play lovers in both plays (Richard and Anne and Benedick and Beatrice) and in both play off each other well, especially in Much Ado when both believe the other to be in love with them. All four of them have an extensive range of physical movement and  voices and facial expressions that differentiate the characters, which is necessary when most of them are learning about 20 characters each.
The set is a backdrop and some popup tents. It's simple for practicality and when it does what it's meant to, it goes well with both plays (especially when it's being worn by Gainsby and Benedick).
The music was good.  In Richard III, Richard's theme music is overdone in part one of the play (the same music and choreography each time means it loses its effect), or maybe it seems that way  due to the fact the theme was the only music in part one; part two had much more musical accompaniment (and occasional musical feature) so the recurrences seemed more integrated. It is especially performed well on a mop bass with jazz-style singing. Much Ado About Nothing has a lot more music, which is used throughout for scene transitions, comedy, and where the script calls for singing. They all sing and play their instruments well.
On to each performance specifically. I only knew that Richard III was about a lot of murder to become king; and  I was very pleased with how easy it was to follow. I think the multiroling helped with this a lot. With most Histories, I often see most the cast being men who are all named after parts of England and who all look the same and are very easy to mix up. but here, the huge differences between characterisation made it easy to tell what's happening. Despite all the murder, it's played pretty much as a full-scale comedy- timing, music, Richard's movements, the insistance that Richmond was French, the murder weapons.... oh and the ghosts. That was a most wonderful scene involving lots of bedclothes and wooooooing and the opposite of what you'd expect the souls of the dead haunting their murderer. The whole audience was laughing throughout this scene, and the whole play. It was a brilliant atmosphere and a great night.
Much Ado about Nothing was sadly not as good as I was hoping. It may be because we all studied it and loved it and know it, that it was easy for us to notice little slips and where they cut or shortened some of our favourite bits, such as Beatrice's "double heart for his single one" line, and Benedick's   listing of what he wants in a woman, which relates to his longer speech after his tricking scene. I am also used to seeing this performed at pretty much breakneck speed (like at their Richard III speed), and this felt comparatively slow in parts.  I think what they had in mind would have been brilliant, but the fact that  some things just didn't go as planned, such as scene changes and parts of the set starting to fall down, got in their way. They really did do their best at whatever the circumstances threw at them-Beatrice's temporary deafness being a highlight of their improv. In addition, the Watch scenes were good, I loved Stanton's ballet-dancing Claudio, Matt made an absolutely adorable Hero, and Liam's face of complete what the heck after being told to kill Claudio was a wonderful interpretation.I think as they perform more, they'll get used to what they want to do and they'll get quicker, and I'd like to see Much Ado later on in the run if I can.
All this said, this is a great company. They're learning not only two plays, but multiple roles within the plays, plus cycling to wherever they need to go. Also, we did see them on the first public performances. The overall style of their acting, the huge comedy/comedic potential, the running gags both within plays and across plays, and the sheer amount of energy and connection they have with each other and the audience make the well worth coming to see.

Overall:  A high strength 4.5 tea to Richard III and a solid strength 3 tea to Much Ado About Nothing averages out to Strength 4 tea to a set of shows that you should catch if you can.


Thursday, 12 May 2016

Book Review- This Is Not a Love Story by Keren David

Title: This Is Not A Love Story
Author: Keren David
Series:  N/A
Published:  7 May 2015 by Atom
Length: 352 pages
Source: library
Other info: Keren David has also written the When I Was Joe series (When I Was Joe, Almost True, and Another Life), Salvage, Lisa's Guide to Winning the Lottery, and Cuckoo. 
Summary : Kitty dreams of a beautiful life, but that's impossible in suburban London where her family is haunted by her father's unexpected death. So when her mum suggests moving to Amsterdam to try a new life, Kitty doesn't take much persuading. Will this be her opportunity to make her life picture perfect?
In Amsterdam she meets moody, unpredictable Ethan, and clever, troubled Theo. Two enigmatic boys, who each harbour their own secrets. In a beautiful city and far from home, Kitty finds herself falling in love for the first time.
But will love be everything she expected? And will anyone's heart survive?
Review: Kitty and Theo have recently moved to Amsterdam. Kitty's mother's boyfriend's son is Ethan. The three of them must deal with falling in love, keeping secrets from each other, and getting through life.
I wanted to read this because it kept getting flagged up in chats for featuring bisecusl boys, and I'd been meaning to read things by Keren for a long time. Keren reading short story from Ethan's viewpoint made me want to know more about him and therefore I started on this.
It did seem a bit wandering regarding Kitty and Ethan's story, to start with (probably because I'm generally less interested in people working out who they like until there's bigger conflicts involved). I did like seeing the development of Theo's relationship with Sophie, which is told partially by flashback partially in the present too. I also liked seeing all the relationship strands between Kitty, Theo and Ethan converge and how that all panned out. The building and breakdown of relationships in this book are tumultuous, but good to read about.
I really enjoyed reading about different cultures - Jewish and Dutch. I especially liked that Keren provided characters with different attitudes to aspects of their culture, offering a range of characters within such an under-represented group.
The side characters made a good group. My favourite was Rachel, Kitty's sister, who was funny, and a good support for Kitty.
There's a lot of things our main trio have to deal with. Family relationships, working out friendships, health issues, fitting in when moving abroad... A lot is happening here, and I quite liked seeing how Theo and Kitty fit in after the move.
Part one is the climatic event, part two is before, part three is after. I liked this structure, as it catches your attention immediately, and establishes characters.
I loved the ending. Kitty's discussion with her friends is good for reminding all of us of some lessons in life. Characters' justifications for the way they wanted things were realistic, especially Ethan's (last paragraphs of chapter 44) and while the strands unpacked within the novel are tied up, there's still an openendedness for the future.
Overall:  
Strength 4 tea to a story that is not about love, but is about relationships, romantic, familial, and friendshippy, and overall about life.


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Theatre Review-A Midsummer Night's Dream, performed by the Arcola Queer Collective

Title: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Writer: William Shakespeare and Patrick Cash and company
Director: Nick Connaughton
Performed by: Arcola Queer Directive
Cast:  Sheena Anyanwu, Diego Benzoni, Miss Cairo, Daniel Correia, Anthony Cranfield, Vickie Dillon, Rudi Douglas, Camilla Harding, James Hartley, Stuart Honey, Damien Hughes, Krishna Istha, Rubyyy Jones, Damien Kileen, Bex Large, Phil Rhys Thomas.
Seen at: Arcola Theatre

Review: Hermia and Lysander are a happy couple, much to the protests of Hermia's homophobic mother Egeus. Helena is a young man in love with Demetrius, who pushes him away. The couples all get mixed up at a nightclub, La Forêt, when the owner Oberon uses Puck to matchmake. Meanwhile, Oberon's relationship to his wife Titania is breaking down over the care of an abducted Irish musician, while the backstage team of La Forêt prepare for their turn in the spotlight. Through Shakespearean verse and contemporary additions, A Midsummer Night's Dream is a tale of love, relationships, and how that all works out.

I was very excited for this. Midsummer is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, and the fact that they were making it to include queer characters and modernised made me even more interested.
I'm glad I knew it had added monologues before going in. I wouldn't have hated it if I hadn't, I would just have been puzzled to start with. The monologues are good additions, and I'll come to them later.
We're introduced to the last night of La Forêt. Introducing Puck as the in house drug dealer sets the tone. Then for the rest of the play, which happens mostly as Shakespeare intended, with some flashback scenes and speeches added in. 

I like most of the new characterisations. The Mechanicals have a weird love triangle/pining thing going on (Flute loves Quince, Snug makes physical moves on Quince, I'm not sure whether Quince reciprocates either of them. It's not really explored, or maybe I didn't notice it ) but they do produce a good play by the end of it. Theseus and Hippolyta were...bizarre. Were they high? Their comments are amusing ("Hermia can go to a convent or die" "That's a bit much." And "I will kiss the wall's hole" "Shakespeare is a pervert") but I'm not sure where their characters were going.
Other characters get better development. Puck is a cabaret, Doctor Frankenfurter like figure, introduced by a monologue of how he ran away then got into this culture. Hermia talks about her relationship with her mother. Helena's speech about porn and falling for Demetrius is funny and makes you love him. Bottom comes out of character and delivers a passionate speech, including poetry, about their identity and society, which I thought was a brilliant performance. 

There are four characters that this production of Midsummer changed my views on. First, Demetrius, who from the Shakespeare is normally one of my lesser favourites due to him being a bit of an asshole. Here, his speech about HIV gives him a reason for pushing Helena away, despite his feelings for him, and does not make him seem heartless.I also liked it because Oberon, listening to this speech, now has a more valid reason to work to get Helena and Demetrius together and finally yay bisexual visibility. Then there's Oberon and Titania, who are again a warring couple, but there's a confrontation scene at the start of the second half between them that is distinctly modern and pulls up the issues in their lives as they discuss the family and identity they left behind and how to go forwards. We see more flaws in both their characters than from the Shakespeare, and added new levels of manipulativeness, and I liked the new take on the relationship. Finally, there's the kidnapped boy they're fighting over-Irish here, as opposed to Indian, and given a chance to talk about his new life and chemsex, as opposed to being namedropped and maybe brought on with the fairies. He also provides really good keyboard and singing. 

The staging of this is good. They stay mostly on the main stage but sometimes use the upper level, where the Irish Boy and keyboard is stationed, and an aisle, for the flashbacks.I also enjoyed the little bits of audience interaction which made it more inclusive, but not so much to intrude on the main action.

They make full use of innuendo in the Pyramus and Thisbe scene, and the Titania and Bottom seduction scene, providing adult physical comedy that differs to the comedy I'm used to seeing from Midsummer (and the comedy that others are used to too-the performance I was at saw a group of old people leave for the interval and not come back).

The comedy is less present in the lover's fight scene, when Lysander and Demetrius are both artifically in love with Helena, while Hermia looks on. I think it might be because it takes the bad situation for Hermia (having both her suitors completely change tack and court her best friend Hermia) and makes it worse because there's something a little more heartwrenching as her girlfriend Lysander (who I think might have been a lesbian?) starts wooing a gay boy, and the friendship and romance falls apart. 

I think the strength of this performance is that they take the issues surrounding courtship and marriage that are present in the Shakespeare, and look at the issues surrounding courtship and marriage today, particularly within the queer community.


Overall:  Strength 4.5 tea to a play that easily weaves together Shakespearean and modern stories to create a play that is both funny and serious, but entirely powerful.
Arcola Queer Collective is currently performing Le Petit Prince, between 8 -13 February. More information here.