Review of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

| Uncategorized

Spoiler alert: this review is written on the assumption the reader is already familiar with the plot.

The stage of Regent’s Park fairy light drenched open-air theatre has been concreted over.  There are caravans, the hustle and bustle of tracksuit-wearing men and body-con, body-baring neon clad girls with big hair.  There’s even a crane.  Workmen shout and jeer through the audience.  This is Shakespeare meets My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.

It is an inspired contemporary setting.  The hierarchies of the traveller world, the marriages at a young age, the oxymoron of swaggering, foul mouthed underdressed girls who value their virginity, who won’t have sex before marriage, as documented in the channel 4 TV show, fit nicely into Shakespeare’s Athenian society.  Leaving aside questions over the TV show’s fair portrayal of a race of people, this is what the wider audience now recognises as Gypsy life: huge wedding dresses, massive diamante studded tiered cakes and a bumping and grinding dance routine to LMFAO’s, I’m Sexy And I Know It.  Puck rides through them, a hoodie on a BMX, his face covered with a bandana; as if he’s arrived straight from the London riots or a Banksy artwork.

The Director Matthew Dunster’s Big Fat Shakespeare world is funny.  Very funny.  I particularly enjoyed Rebecca Oldfield’s tottering performance of Helena, clicking after her Demetrius in a fine example of both comic timing and slapstick.  It was wet and cold on the night I went and I was wrapped in a ski jacket and a bin bag.  Each time Oldfield and her fellow actors plunged about the sodden and concrete floor I winced.  They didn’t even flinch.

George Bukhari excels as Bottom.  His performance was a delight from start to finish.  So much so that the darker side of the play took a while to sink in.  Referencing the case where a group of travellers were arrested for imprisoning migrant workers, homeless and other vulnerable men as ‘slaves’, Bottom and his cohort of disparate voiced workmates are kept locked in a white transit van.  They are prisoners.  When they speak of being hanged there is a genuine fission of fear.  This is a clever and bold move by Dunster.  Again it fits nicely into the original tensions and motives explored by the play.  But it does cast the traveller world in an archaic light, how easily their ways and community sit with a play written in the 1590s.

Or does it?  Oberon and Titania appear in magical, if somewhat Mad Max style, guises.  The unreality to balance the reality.  Peer closely at the advertising hoarding that dominates the stage backdrop and you will see something familiar about the glossy couple advertising Athenian Developments.  Puck famously reminds us to think of what we have seen as a dream at the end of the play.  Has Dunster created a nightmare where the audience finds itself laughing at an oppressed people?  When we giggle at the nylon tracksuits and gaudy jewellery, a ‘Chav’ uniform, we laugh at the lower class.  When we laugh at Bottom and his captive clowns, we stand shoulder to shoulder with Theseus, the man who has imprisoned them for entertainment.  An uncomfortable feeling settled like a layer of rain on my laughter.  This is a production that questions more than what is on the stage.  Go, watch, laugh, enjoy, but think about it afterwards.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is showing until 5th September at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.  Further details here: http://openairtheatre.org/production/a-midsummer-nights-dream

Photo from Evening Standard website.

0 comment

Is reading a book on the way to work unprofessional?

| Uncategorized

She hid her copy of Proust inside a magazine to read on the train.

A friend of mine downloads books onto his ipad to read on his commute because, ‘carrying a book or a Kindle into a meeting is unprofessional’.  To him toting a well-leafed novel in a corporate environment sends the wrong signal.  It makes him look distracted, as if he’s timewasting instead of focusing on the agenda.  Based on this logic reading a book is a bad, shameful thing.  It’s something to hide in your electronic planner.

Is reading detrimental to your career?  Is your book habit stopping you from getting that promotion?  Poppycock!  Books are perfectly packaged little mind enhancers.  They’re little dumbbells your brain works out with.  They’re bound cluster bombs of educational titbits and insights into the human condition.  Read a book and you don’t regress into a monosyllabic fool unable to focus on a 5-point financial strategy, you blossom and grow into a smarter, more self-aware person.

We can all learn from reading stories.  My understanding of history comes from fiction, not the classroom.  My grasp of politics, religion and all those things you’re not supposed to discuss at dinner parties is borne from books.  Hell, I’m the pre-internet generation: I learnt about sex from Jilly Cooper.

Each time you open a book you prosper.  I want to work with people who are continually learning.  I want to hire people who are hungry for knowledge.  I’d like to entrust my money to someone who’s read The Great Gatsby, Great Expectations and The Prince.  I feel confident in people who read.  A book is a badge of honour, and infinitely better than strolling into a meeting with a dog-eared copy of a free paper.

 

6 Comments

Why taking Maths A-Level 29 times is a good thing.

| Uncategorized

The Sesame Street gang are delighted Big Bird finally passed A-Level Maths.

An article on the front page of today’s Sunday Times claims a pupil retook their Maths A-Level 29 times.  Andrew Hall, chief executive of AQA exam board, cited this pupil’s repetitive exam experience as an extreme example of “retake culture”.  Ofqual, the exams regulator, is currently calling for there to be a limit of one resit for each paper.  According to the Sunday Times, “critics argue that the ability to resit exams an unlimited number of times is a prime reason for grade inflation and a drain on school budgets.”

I took/barely scraped A-Level Maths and let me assure you once was bad enough.  I’m sure a maths exam is less painful for those whose minds work in logical sequences and see the world as a series of floating numbers.  (My non-mathematical brain is imagining Sesame Street: ‘Today is brought to you by the number 7 and pi.’).  It’s pretty safe to assume the kid who sat the exam 29 times is not a walking calculator.  So why do it?

Exams, even for those who are academically gifted, are stressful.  Resitting the same exam 29 times sounds like a form of torture.  The CIA should adopt it.  ‘He cracked the 15th time we asked him about photosynthesis, Sir.  Tomorrow we start with GCSE Latin’.  To resit an exam 29 times you’d either have to have sadistic parents or a really strong incentive.  I suspect the kid in question needed A-Level Maths to get her dream job or, more likely, to get into her chosen university degree.  She didn’t shrug her shoulders and say, ‘Oh well, I tried’.  She didn’t quit.  It takes maturity, focus and perseverance to keep working toward what you want despite setbacks.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try and try again.

It took me three attempts to pass my driving test, is my licence worth less than someone who passed first time?  Is an ‘A’ worth less if it took you 2, 3, or 29 times to get it?  Exams are meritocratic, an ‘A’ is an ‘A’.

Young people are facing an increasingly competitive world where there are fewer job opportunities available to them.  They have to fight hard to stand out.  If you need A-Level Maths why shouldn’t you retake it until you pass?  That shows grit determination.  That’s not a bad thing, that’s not someone skewing the system or messing with a statistical graph of results.  It’s someone working damn hard for what they want.  It should be applauded.  Good life skills, kid.

1 Comment

A clean and a not so clean column.

| Uncategorized

Here is this week’s clean Wharf column: http://www.wharf.co.uk/2012/06/blondes-eye-view-one-canada-sq.html

And here is the unedited version with some slightly rude words in it (warning: stray commas may cause offence):

Men who wear suits and ties should not cross their legs.  Controversial, I know.  Everyone should be free to wrap their legs around whatever they want.  As long as whatever they’re wrapping consents.  Yet, I can’t be open-minded about men in suits crossing their legs in a dainty little knot.  It looks wrong.

Ever seen a suited man on the DLR doing a high-knee leg cross?  It’s distracting.  They look like they’re practising a yoga position.  ‘Strengthen that core.  Contract that pelvic floor.  Don’t wee.’  Do they count to ten and repeat with the other leg?  Are they breathing properly?  Are they meditating?  Is this part of a new iPad app?  Is leg crossing the new planking?  I’m confused.

The Wharf alpha males have conditioned my expectations.  I presume all suited men sit with their legs REALLY FAR APART.  They have to take up half your tube seat.  They need that extra space to let it all hang out.  They demand young women blush in shock and awe.  They like frightening the pigeons.  Showing us just how big a dick they are, I mean they have.

I’ve always assumed it’s a reaction to One Canada Square.  No matter which way I look at it (and I look at it a lot, it’s hard to miss) the building is a teensy bit phallic.  Do our boys, our brash bankers, our lairy lawyers, and our aggressive accountants (okay that last one’s a bit tenuous), feel threatened by the giant shining glass member that represents Canary Wharf?

Surely not.  By that logic all the Wharf women would be getting boob jobs to compete with the curves of Canary Wharf station.  And last time I checked silicone levels in E14 were still more linked to chips than tits.  If the buildings aren’t intimidating the alpha males into their wide-legged penis posturing then what is?  The Wharf alpha females, I guess.

 

 

0 comment

Passionately Mind Blogling

| Uncategorized

Blogging.  It’s all a bit of nonsense, right?  Nobody reads a blog unless it’s really good.  And how do you start writing a blog, which currently doesn’t exist, and make it a ‘really good blog’ instantly?  It’s mind blogling.  I shouldn’t start with the puns.  Blog off.  Blogging on.  To blog, or not to blog, that is the predictable question.

It’s all been done before.  I’m too late.  It’s enough to give me bloggers block, or webpage fright.  I’m writing something that nobody will read.  I’m a post-blog existentialist before I’ve begun.  Is blogging to no audience the same as talking to yourself?  My Gran said that was the first sign of madness.  The second is probably tweeting.  Least if no one’s reading my blog I won’t have to check my spelling.

But that’s defeatist.  I can do this.  I can conquer the blog.  I googled blogging tips.  “The best thing to do is write passionately and try to provide meaningful, useful information,” according to this article: http://weblogs.about.com/od/writingablog/qt/The-Secrets-Of-Blog-Post-Length.htm.  I confess I didn’t read any further than that quote, I was too busy trying to think of something meaningful and useful I could impart.  I’m still thinking.  Passionate though, passionate I can do.

“Passionate” is the word people use to politely describe me after I’ve drunkenly ranted at them about an issue.  They mean shout-y.  Or aggressive.  Or really, really loud.   All of which I’m re-branding right now into: “passionate”.  I own passionate.  I can totally work passionate.

So what am I passionate about?  That’s the key to a really good blog.  You write about your passion: fashion, feminism, food, books, those small china thimbles with cats painted on them.  Whatever.  Then fellow passionate people flock to your blog and ‘pash’ over it (like teens do on Auzzie Soaps.  It involves tongues.).  Easy.

Except I don’t have one all consuming passion.  I get distracted.  I am a goldfish with wifi.  I am a butterfly flitting from one colourful idea to the next.  Given enough wine I could be passionate about any of the things I listed above, except the china cat thimbles.  Sorry.

My passion cannot be contained to one area.  I have an excess of passion.  I’ve just been waiting for the right outlet.  The blog may not be read by anyone, but least I know now what it’s going to be used for.  Pash away.

2 Comments

The Beginning.

| Uncategorized

The Beginning. 

I tripped over my heels and fell into writing by accident.  Picture the scene…

In a curry house somewhere off Brick Lane, London, a group of people sit at a table devouring poppadoms.  They’re your average motley crew of friends of friends who don’t want to go home when the pub closes.

Me (swaying slightly due to excess wine):  I’m Angela.

Editor:  Can you pass the Mango Chutney?

Me: What do you do?

Editor:  I’m the editor of [insert name of a paper based in a financial district of London].

Me:  I read that!  I loved the stuff you did on the Flaming Ferraris.  BUT you don’t have any women on your paper.  Or at least not any visible ones.  This is the naughties, women are a huge force in the financial sector.  YOU NEED MORE WOMEN.  (Repeat, drunkenly, ad infinitum.)

The next morning, while looking in her handbag for paracetamol, Angela finds the editor’s business card.  On the back it reads: 350 words by Monday.*


And that’s how I landed my first column.  

*Some dramatic licence and less alcohol were used in the re-telling of these events.  To be honest it’s all a bit fuzzy.

1 Comment

1 15 16 17

Join My Pen Knife Readers Club

Sign up for exclusive free writing tips, publishing secrets, reader recommendations, swanky competitions, and all my latest news and gossip.