I love lists. I make lists for everything from shopping lists, to lists of things I want to do in the coming year. They help me remember, clarify and stay focused. Forget the iPhone Generation, when I think of the ‘listicles’ that appear on Buzzfeed I know we’re the List Generation. Which is what is so initially appealing about The Thirty List: a romantic comedy that tells the story of Rachel, newly separated from her husband, who draws up a list of all the things she’d meant to do before turning thirty and sets about ticking them off. We all have that list. The one with the big things on it, our hopes and dreams, but how many of us actually tackle them? Rachel jumps in wholeheartedly, and as they say, hilarity ensues.
Woods deftly weaves the tender pathos of Rachel’s broken marriage and impending divorce, with deep belly laugh inducing jokes at the perils of house hunting in London, trying to find a job, trying to make a living, and the day to day troubles that concern most of us. Structuring the story around Rachel’s list, the reader is soon invested in not only the completing of the tasks but also the reconstruction of Rachel’s life. Forced to move in with a grumpy man named Patrick and his four year old son Alex, Rachel corrals her new landlord into writing his own list and this is where the fun really starts. I snorted with laughter at moments in this book, and kept shouting out bits to my companions: ‘Listen to this bit! So funny!’
But Woods is more than a writer of great jokes, the pace and depth of this warm hearted tale built to a real moment of crisis I did not see coming, and one which moved me to tears. There is love and heartbreak and hope in this book: a perfect summer read. Put reading it at the top of your to-do list.
The Thirty List, by Eva Woods: top of my list 5/5
In the wake of the recent election results I watched many publically express their concerns about our changing society, and pledged, among other things, to support the arts. With IdeasTap closing in a few weeks, and funding and grants being slashed, there is a fear our cultural landscape is being irrevocably changed. It’s being white washed, narrowed, minimised. The voices we’ll hear, the books we’ll read, the faces we’ll see, will be restricted to those who can financially support them selves through training, developing their craft, and getting their first break. Which is why we must back projects like Generation Arts, who work through theatre making with marginalised members of society. They provide access, support, and help getting into employment for young people who haven’t had the opportunity to achieve academic qualifications. Guys, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is and cough up a tenner for the ticket. (Added bonus: there’s a student bar at the Platform Theatre and it’s cheap!)
But there is another reason to watch this project end show: it’s bloody good. I sat down expecting worthy, and what I got was real. It took a few seconds for my brain to adjust to those that were on stage. There’s no way to say this but bluntly, most of the theatre I see is white. White actors everywhere. Dirty Special Thing’s cast is diverse, and you know what it looked like? It looked like London. It looked like every day reality. Our capital city and Helder Fernandes’ cheeky young taxi driver training for the knowledge provided the Greek chorus and structure of this play. With charm and wit, he led us through at first what seemed like disparate stories of Londoners, marking out on the floor the routes we take, the transport we use, but they became entwined: we are all part of the same story. A perfect visual execution of the idea of community. A twist on the phrase: we’re all in this together.
Moneer Elmasseek’s erudite Big Issue seller was an oracle providing sharp insights into humanity, as it mostly rushed past. The stories that unfolded were touchingly real, routed in a reality that is often missing in plays that try to address society’s ills. Tammi Blake St Louis’ exasperated nurse, finding time in the 15 minutes she’s allotted with each home care patient to tenderly moisturise the dry face of one. A beautiful moment of compassion in the monotonous grind of life. The numerable cast make light work of the stage, delivering intriguing vignettes full of humour, struggle, pain and triumph. This may be a good cause, but Dirty Special Thing was a great show.
Dirty Special Thing is on until Saturday 6th June, get tickets here: http://www.generationarts.org.uk/dirty-special-thing-2/