Friday, 4 September 2015

Into The Wild

She's never been into the wild.

She settles for the sea.

For a soft breeze and fresh air, and that mass of water that just keeps on going - until it stops. The picture-perfect line of the horizon.

It feels like the opposite of wild, but it's as close as she can get.

It feels like magic can happen here. In the calm.

Where everything else slips away.

Written as part of Cassy Fry's DIYCreativeClub challenge.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Throwback to childhood

Throwback to the beginning. To childhood.

Track down the videos, rewind, and play.

And there we are.

How does it feel? Are you different to how you remember? Are you embarrassed?

I thought I was quiet and sweet. A shy little girl who'd probably turn away from the camera, or just smile and giggle.

I wasn't. I mean, I was sweet, sure, but turns out I was also precocious, and a performer. I'd sing, nicely, and then go a bit wild and make a joke out of it. I'd present our holiday like anyone other than us would watch. I was kind of ridiculous and just so happy.

I don't know why, when we watched these videos a few years ago for the first time in a long time, I felt so reassured. I felt calm, going back to the beginning and seeing that unwavering enthusiasm. A time before I'd experienced any self-awareness, or sadness, just - pure.

I know it's not for everyone, that some may cringe at their younger selves, but for me, it helped me, to remember how I began.

So maybe, if you're feeling a little lost, throwback to your childhood. It might be just what you need.

Written as part of Cassy Fry's #DIYCreativeClub Challenge.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Have hope

Have hope, my dear.

Have hope that even if things don't get brilliant, they get better.

That you'll sleep through the night.

You won't be there to see the streetlights switch off in the early hours. You'll be lost in your slumber.

Have hope that you'll smile again. You'll care what you eat. What you look like. What your friends are doing.

Have hope that your mind is tricking you when it says you will always feel this way, and you should always feel this way. You won't. You shouldn't.

Have hope that one day, you will look back, and it will all feel worlds away. That you'll be able to, with conviction, tell other people to have hope.

Because it does get better. I promise.

Written as part of Cassy Fry's DIYCreativeClub challenge. The phrase "even if things don't get brilliant, they get better" taken from Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe's beautiful play Every Brilliant Thing. 


What's the point? In hope?

I don't understand the question.

Isn't it the whole point? Or perhaps the method.

To keep us moving forward. To keep us smiling and striving for better and knowing, or wanting to know, that everything's going to be alright really.

People ask what's the point in praying and I think hope is the answer. Even if no one's listening, you're talking and you're trying, to keep yourself going, somehow.

You could think worse case scenario and give up and give in or you could have hope, for normality. Maybe you keep going about your day like it's all going to be ok, day in and day out, and maybe then it won't.

But you kept going. You didn't fall apart.

Because you kept trying. Because you had hope.

Written as part of Cassy Fry's #DIYCreativeClub Challenge.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Back to school

I wish I remembered what it felt like. That first day back at school.

I presume we talked about our holidays, and compared timetables, and maybe commented on new hair cuts and eyed up each other's stationery, but, I don't really remember.

I presume it felt like a big deal, going up through the year groups, and feeling that bit more grown up being in year eight, nine, ten, with years underneath us, looking up to us.

Amidst the insecurities, as a group I think we felt strong, together. But we were all so scared.

I might not recall the first day back but I do recall that ongoing wondering of how does everyone else have it so sorted? Wearing the right things and exuding something other than anxiety.

If I could go back, and talk to my younger self, I'd say not to worry. Because everyone is a bit worried and winging it, just like you. And that it'll all work itself out. That the things that make you different now, that make you feel noticed and uncomfortable, they'll be what make you you, what makes you proud and makes you find your tribe. You won't care what people think of what you read or what you wear. You'll even be confident.

But I wouldn't listen. Because who really takes on board advice if it's not something they've learned already. (Especially if it comes from a hypothetical version of yourself from the future. That shit wouldn't go down well.)

If I could go back to school I'd do it all differently. Or maybe just the same.

I wish I could remember that first day back.

Today is the first day of Cassy Fry's #DIYCreativeClub Challenge with creative prompts everyday in September to respond to however you wish. I'm going to try to stick to this. I never push myself to write beyond my limited ideas and so I found the idea of this really appealing, especially seeing what other people share too.

So, if you're so inclined - get involved!

Edinburgh Fringe Festval 2015 - Day Two

Following on from my previous blogpost, here's what we saw at Edinburgh Fringe Festival on my second (and last) day.

[fyi: going at the end of the Fringe means you can make some very good choices about what to see based on recommendations. This has been my shortest trip yet, but such quality theatre fitted into that short time frame. Just a heads up if thinking when to go, but also - I don't think everything is fantastic. Some of this stuff really, really was.]

Ross & Rachel

Photo: Alex Brenner

At first dubious about the pop culture title I was quickly convinced that this would be more than that. I anticipated a meditation on relationships and love, with some cheeky Friends references thrown in, and that it'd be a bit dark but also funny, but I didn't know more than that. And I got a lot more than I was expecting.

It begins fast-paced, hard to keep up, with the frenetic energy of romantic pride, of claustrophobia, of introductions and of uncertainties, of fantasises of something different - maybe something better.

Then there's something unexpected. A diagnosis. Test results. "Anywhere up to a year".

And suddenly the insistence on independence ("when did the 'and' appear after my name?") feels futile. The idea of one without the other is impossible.

We go through the whole ordeal with them, the doubts and nausea and imaginings of a future without, and it was honest and raw and it just about broke my heart.

Molly Vevers' performance and James Fritz' writing together are just astounding. This will surely transfer to London and tour, and when it does you should see it.

Iphigenia In Splott

Photo: Mark Douet
This is the story of a girl in Cardiff. She's drunk most days and scaring mums in the street who try to cross her. She's judged and she knows it.

Everything changes when she meets a wounded soldier. After one night together she no longer feels alone, even when things aren't quite what they seem.

Performing as Effy is Sophie Melville, and she is one of the most phenomenal performers I've seen. Beginning with this aggression and then melting into a sense of warmth, childlike and strong and ready to care, and then into a place much darker. The writing is funny as well as moving, and it all just feels really genuine.

While the performance was naturalistic, her physicality was something else - at times moving to the rhythm of the words and changing in a way that was subtle but intense.

This was one of very few standing ovations I've ever experienced at the Fringe and so, so deserved.

Again, if this tours - SEE IT.


Photo: Jane Hobson
I feel like there's a lot of theatre around about dementia at the moment. It makes sense: we have a growing, ageing population and it's something people are having to encounter more and more. Reading about this piece following a recommendation seemed a little different though. I'll be honest: it was the robot that drew me in.

Preparing for his passing, a man makes his wife a robot, uploading all of his "data" so she could have someone to talk to, about their wedding, or to play games of "I Spy." Encounters with this really rather remarkable robot play alongside flashbacks to the couple's youth and the beginnings of their relationship.

While the writing didn't always feel novel (I feel like I've seen the older couple mirrored by younger couple device many times now?) the story played out nicely with believable performances.

[My parents absolutely loved this and thought it was really very special.]

Sofie Hagen: Bubblewrap

I don't really know how to write about comedy except to say that Sofie Hagen is hilarious and ridiculous, partly because of her actual Westlife fan fiction, but also because HOW IS THIS HER DEBUT FULL SHOW? She is so natural and assured you'd think she had been performing forever.

Sofie has just won the Best Newcomer Award and this really is so deserved. The writing is skillful, she's charming and the show is just very, very funny.

Also huge points for addressing mental health, self harm and body image in a way which isn't scary, it's just a part of who you are and it needs addressing and just bloody YES.

And I so hope that the members of Westlife will get to see this show. I would pay good money to see their reactions..

Monday, 31 August 2015

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015 - Day One

With so much going on I wasn't sure I was going to make it up to Edinburgh this year but I couldn't quite resist and decided on a flying visit for the final weekend.

So, even though the festival's over, I'm sure many of these shows will have a future life. I really was properly in awe of the talent this year. Here's what I saw on the first day.


Photo: End Of The Line Theatre

Seeing Ernie was a result of a changed plan and a "nearby now" suggestion - and I'm so glad it worked out this way. James Craze performs this one-man show telling the true story of his grandad's life.

The show is full of charm, charisma and energy. Despite living and working through the Second World War, the tone is not bleak. There are moments of pathos but Ernie's sense of hope and enthusiasm always propels him forward to the next day and challenge.

Many wartime pieces seem to focus on romance and strife but here the story follows career, adventure and camaraderie - we meet Ernie's managers and mentors and follow his career and struggle to support his family.

This was such an enjoyable watch with a really impressive performance from James - cleverly switching between personas (over 32 of them) and using his physicality to have us truly imagine the moment. A lovely, innovative example of this being his medical exam - seeing his arm pulsate for blood pressure, and then chest for heartrate.

Ernie felt like a hidden gem, and a joyous light amidst the often heavy nature of the Fringe!

The Solid Life Of Sugar Water

Photo: Patrick Baldwin

The set for The Solid Life is striking: a vertical double bed with bedside table and open drawers. The couple are there as we come in, sleeping, upright.

The play begins with the couple talking us through them having sex. It's detailed and an odd mix of familiar and awkward, with humour sitting alongside references to something that's happened, that they're recovering from.

Through two tender, personable performances we find out how they began, of each date, of him being intrigued by her deafness, finding it a little exotic. They're just a normal couple and they're likeable.

Without giving too much away things do get heavy, and flitting between their pain and back to their sex, we feel almost too close to their situation - it's moving and uncomfortable. Jack Thorne's writing is fragmented and powerful and I enjoyed getting to both hear and read the script via the creative captioning. This added to the experience in a way I wouldn't have anticipated.

A Sudden Burst Of Blinding Light

This playful piece explores mental health alongside looking at romance and vulnerabililty, with a bit of magic thrown in too. The vehicle for this story is a dreamlike game show with big smiles from our cheeky presenters. We hear of Jude's mad mother, and flit between the presenters' flamboyant interpretations (pictured) and the duller, more painful reality.

An unexpected highlight came from the smooth voiced, hysterical Frankie Valium - in both his musical number and storytelling.

Jude was played by Rosemary Terry, an incredible actress I was lucky enough to go to university with. All bias aside, Rosemary is wonderful and my parents agreed they could watch her for hours. Those eyes! But in all seriousness, her portrayal of Jude breaking down on London Bridge, afraid and alone, was just so moving.

Jonny And The Baptists: The End Is Nigh

We saw Jonny And The Baptists last year and so knew what to expect - these guys are brilliant, performing musical comedy numbers and bouncing off each other with such a fun chemistry. Where last year felt like a comic gig, the Paines Plough Roundabout gave way to a performance that felt more theatrical but also more inclusive.

Following previous political outputs, the guys acknowledged the election result and, through a worrying promise to Jonny's four year old niece to solve climate change, chose to tackle this issue, in their usual ridiculous, epic way. (Side note: guys, can you please write a full musical one day? I feel like it'd be incredible.)

Also a shout out to Backstage In Biscuit Land's Jess Thom who was in the audience with us. Her contributions throughout (Jess has Tourette's Syndrome) really added to the show - with one in particular prompting a round of applause, and me cry-laughing. I'm so hyped to see her show.

Five Feet In Front

Photo: Richard Davenport

Having caught up with a friend after an earlier show (Rosemary!) we took onboard her strongest recommendation for Five Feet In Front at Summerhall and again, so glad we did.

The story here follows Jonny Wilo, a girl oddly named after her father who has been killed a year previous. She talks to, and makes a deal with, the wind: to find something good in her town, to save the community from an incoming storm and certain death.

It's an odd little tale and I loved it for that reason - as an escape from the everyday. It was also told in the most brilliant way: with a chorus of singing folk musicians, with the most gorgeous voices and harmonies, but also tap dancing in a powerful stand-off between Wilo and Wind, and visual effects through lights and shadows. It felt like every element was considered in a way that surpassed other Fringe efforts.

This magical piece reminded me of a mix between a Steinbeck novel, a Studio Ghibli animation and a Tarentino film. And turns out I bloody love that combination.

It makes me sad that with a cast of six this show may struggle financially to tour and just hope it has a further life: I could even see it developing to a longer, mid-scale piece. The Letter Room are a young company with a wisdom beyond their years both in concept and execution, and I only hope they can be supported to share this work with as many as possible.

Read about our second day at the Fringe here, when we saw Ross & Rachel, Iphigenia In Splott, Spillikin, and Sofie Hagen.