‘Working’ at Southwark Playhouse

I recently saw a production of the musical ‘Working’ at Southwark Playhouse, south of the river in London. This was the European premier of the musical, following success across the USA, with writing by well-known theatre names including Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights [see my blog post here], and Hamilton). The whole story of the musical, particularly the characters and their dialogue, is based on the book of interviews by Studs Terkel: ‘Working: People Talk About How They Feel About What They Do’. (What a title!).

This musical performs a range of people from different jobs and backgrounds – a topic that is becoming an increasingly discussed with arguments surrounding jobs given to migrants, both in the UK and US. However, I agree with the idea around this musical, that it’s something that should be explored, and theatre is a perfect way to do just that! The cast was brilliant in this production, with a group of six older, experienced actors in contrast and six young performers, who had just graduated (and were all very good!) I really liked this contrast of experience and new. To me it really emphasised another overarching theme of the musical: passing on working knowledge from the old to the young.

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There was a great range of songs to go with the range of work, from slow and sad, to fast and funny. A lot of them were beautifully produced and performed, with a live band too. Lin-Manuel’s first song was particularly easy to recognise, written in a similar style to In The Heights with internal rhyming and a fast pace that made it stand out from the songs written by Schwartz and others.

The stand-out element on the performance for me was the choreography. The young performers were incredible with their energy and very well-timed movements – plus they looked so happy and excited to be performing! Their movements were especially prominent within such a small stage space, with the thrust-stage design. This was helped by the clever staging that gave space for actors to sit on-stage all the time they weren’t directly performing (which I always like), and areas to the side for the actors to complete costume changes.

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This was a really good production – it may not be a big grand show found on the West-End, but it was extremely well performed and beautiful to watch (the set, the costumes, the sound…), even at pre-views stage when I saw it. I would very much recommend this show – and because it’s not West-End it’s a lot cheaper too!

Photos from: http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/show/working/


Derby Book Festival, 2017

This summer is the third year of the Derby Book Festival, and this year I have been lucky enough to both attend one of the events and work for the festival too, on a placement organised by my university to help organise one of the events.

I received my placement through the School of English at university, and it was a brilliant opportunity. When I got the news that I had received the position, after going through the application process at uni, I was so excited to start – particularly working at a book festival, which seems such a unique experience! I was partnered with a fellow English student, and we were given the task of creating the Children’s Book Trail along one of the streets in Derby centre. It felt like such a huge amount of responsibility (and still does): not only were we organising an entire event by ourselves, but it was also the first event of the festival!

We worked once a week in Derby, communicating with the shops and buying materials for the event, all the time aware of our very fixed timeframe. I learnt a lot, and developed lots of skills in my time working for DBF. It was also fascinating working alongside the creators and organisation team for the festival, being able to see everything develop for myself and how much work goes into creating something so big.

We successfully launched our finished Book Trail a few weeks ago now, including inviting a year group from the local school to be the first to try the trail. We even dressed up as book characters from our favourite children’s book, and got interviewed by BBC Radio Derby! Overall, a lot of fun.

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I also received the opportunity to see one of the events: Virago Press: Changing the World One Page at a Time. It involved publisher, and now chair of Virago, Lennie Goodings in conversation with her author Rachel Seiffert. As someone interested in going into a career in the publishing industry, I found it particularly interesting. Overall, it felt like a very well conducted event (and I know all about how much organisation it takes!).

It was a very enjoyable evening, but I also really enjoyed my time working for Derby Book Festival too. I learnt a lot by working here, and has made me all the more interested and enthusiastic about working in a literary sphere.

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Photos by jaktphotography.

Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna Kendrick

I really like Anna Kendrick – both her career as an actress and her personality, as a lovely human being (if you don’t follow her on twitter then you really should, she’s hilarious!). So when I found out she was putting her funny little quips into a book I just couldn’t resist picking up a copy. Well I wasn’t disappointed! I loved this book a lot; it had me chuckling with laughter to myself all the way through (and if that’s not a mark of a good book, then  don’t know what is!). I know it’s rather cliché, but it felt like she was in conversation with her readers, using a colloquial writing style that put me at ease and made her anecdotes stand out as even funnier.

I’ve read quite a few autobiographies, but never one by an actress, so I was really iterated in finding out more about that type of life – particularly Kendrick’s career on both stage and screen. The book follows her life and developing career from a child working on-stage on Broadway, all the way up to her recent cinematic appearances, such as Pitch Perfect, her time working with Zac Efron, and even working on the Twilight franchise.

The writing is very honest, covering a range of issues, which I liked. This included conversations about her family life, both good – like her memories of travelling to New York with her brother to attend auditions – and then bad too – with her struggles of working away from home at such a young age, and the death of family members. Her honesty continues when writing about even more personal problems, with relationships and even accommodation when moving to LA – proving that er life is not always as glamorous as we may expect it to be (although awards season still sounds very glam to me!).

I really liked this book – I can be quite nosey at times, so it’s nice to be invited to learn a bit about someones life in such an open way! Anna’s personality – humble, quirky and hilarious as a ‘scrappy little nobody’ – shines through in her writing, making for a very entertaining read.



The Jane Austen Book Club, Karen Joy Fowler

So if you can’t tell from previous posts on this blog, I love Jane Austen – and that was what made me initially attracted to reading this book. (I mean, her name is in the title!) However, it turned out to be not quite what I expected.

The premise of the book is that the lives of the characters of the bookclub start to resemble the books that they are reading. But to be honest, I didn’t really get it. I don’t know if it was just me and my forgetful nature about the details of the book (some of which I read quite a while ago), but I felt like it was just a gimmick to entice the readers by using Austen’s name, rather than a well-used device that improved the novel. Continue reading

Gender-Bending Shakespeare?! Twelfth Night at the National Theatre

A couple of weeks ago I went to see the National Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night in London. It’s one of my favourite Shakespeare plays – as a twin myself I’ve always been drawn to it – so I was pretty excited to see what the National would do with it (and wow, it did some very interesting stuff!).

The big selling factor for this production was the decision to change character’s genders: specifically, making Malvolio female – played by Tamsin Greig. In a play that is already fascinated with gender and sexuality, this seemed an interesting, but not foolish, decision. (Well at least, I think so, since its a part of my dissertation topic for next year!) They even changed the character’s name to ‘Malvolia’ for the female inflection, and referred to her as ‘madam’, rather than ‘sir’. Naturally this had quite a big impact on the play and production as a whole; I was especially hit with the realisation that by using a female Malvolia, it changes the humour of the play that comes from gender and sexuality confusion.

Malvolia (Tamsin Greig)

Malvolia’s belief that her mistress could be in love with her brings with it a suggestion of Olivia as not heterosexual – that she could have feelings for the ‘male’ Cesario or a female Malvolia. It was still funny nevertheless, particularly Olivia fanatically pining after (as well as physically chasing and falling over) for her unrequited lover, Cesario/Viola. I did still find the comedy reduced a bit as a result of the change in gender but I think that’s the result of my own curiosity.

Malvolio was not the only male character changed to female in this production though: Fabian, Feste, and the chorus of Olivia’s household were all female. I really liked this, as it emphasised the unwanted presence of Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, as the only men in a powerful female’s home (also yay, girl power!).


Olivia and her female gang (Phoebe Fox and co.)

As can be expected from the NT, the performances were all pretty strong. Tamsin Greig has been the focus of much of the production’s acclaim, and I agree that she was great – her contrast between the uptight lady to the exuberant and mad outcast was impressive (and all the more hilarious). However, I don’t think she was the only stand-out performance: Andrew and Toby were also brilliant. They were super funny, and I thought their characterisation, as both individuals and a double-act, suited the production perfectly.

A beautiful, modern yet timeless setting filled the stage, which was very cleverly designed to be versatile and fluid between the many changes in setting of the play – despite the relatively busy set.

Overall, I really liked this production and I’m so glad I got to see it live onstage for myself (thanks mum!).

Cesario vs. Sir Andrew (Tamara Lawrance/Daniel Rigby)

Photos by Marc Benner, from National Theatre website: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/twelfth-night


Second Year = Complete!

I’ve finished my second year of university! I can’t believe it! This has been a super crazy year, especially this last term which I feel like has gone super quickly (but at the same time when I look back, it seems like the term started so long ago…).

I feel like I’ve developed a lot this term, both personally and academically. I haven’t got my essay results back yet, but I think (hope) that my writing has improved a lot over the year. It was nice this year that I had a lot of freedom with my assessments, being able to choose what texts and topics of what I write about – I feel like this really helps me, to enjoy my writing (at least to start with, before I actually need to write it all) and therefore write better.

I’m also just a lot happier this year – living with my friends and feeling less stressed about work (despite this year actually counting towards my degree, and all my extra curricular stuff, including being in a show at the theatre and my placement at the Derby Book Festival!). But maybe I’m just forgetting all the bad stuff.

Perks of spending a lot of time at the theatre on campus in the run-up to a show…!

I’m so excited for the summer holidays now though – I’ve already started reading my own choice of books. (It’s the little things, ya know?). Now all we need is some more sun!


The Glass Menagerie

I saw The Glass Menagerie in London a few weeks ago with some friends. I had already read the play by Tennessee Williams as few years ago, as part of my IB studies at school, so I was looking forward to seeing it onstage.

This was such a very good production – the costume, set, lighting, acting, sound, all of it! Williams was very specific in his stage directions about what a production of this show should look like (although he did have quite an over-the-top way of going about his descriptions). So, having studied the play in such detail before going to see this play, it made me particularly aware of the use of these production elements.

Continue reading