Hamlet (Royal Shakespeare Company 2016 Production) – Theatre Review.

Title: Hamlet

Cast: Paapa Essiedu, Marcus Griffiths, Tanya Moodie, Cyril Nri, Natalie Simpson, Clarence Smith, Ewart James Walters, James Cooney, Bethan Cullinane.

Director: Simon Godwin

Venue: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon


As I’ve said before, being an English student has given me the opportunity to watch dozens of adaptations, performances, reimaginations and versions of William Shakespeare’s plays. Howevhamlet_production_photos_march_2016_2016_photo_by_manuel_harlan_c_rsc_187355-tmb-img-820er, when I had the privilege to watch the 2016 Royal Shakespeare Company’s production, I felt like I was watching something entirely new and entirely different.

Although still set nominally in Denmark, the play gives us something new and takes on a west African flavour. With cultural heritage and identity crisis at its core, Hamlet is first shown at his graduation ceremony oversees, but the death of his father makes him rush home to a country that he now feels completely lost in. And with the subsequent marriage of his mother to his father’s brother (later revealed his father’s power-hungry murderer), Hamlet is completely lost in the Danish court.

For the first time in RSC’s 55-year history, the titular character of Hamlet was given to a black actor. And what a marvel he has turned out to be. Paapa Essiedu shone with all the poise and calm of a seasoned actor, but with the young age of 25 and a baby-face to match, it is clear that this young man will become something of a success story in the coming years. When he spoke the immortal and well-loved soliloquy starting with ‘To be or not to be’, it was then we saw the once-suited and smart Prince turn into something new. We watch as tears roll down his face, his eyes half-closed and as though the words are tumbling from his mind. It is then we see Hamlet’s descent into madness and despair.

The cast were all beautifully selected, and fit in their respective roles well. We see Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude (portrayed by Tanya Moodie) fall from a dignified and regal queen, into a shell-shocked mess, and Natalie Simpson’s Ophelia is sweet, suitably sassy and cocky in the first half, but distressingly unhinged towards the end. Edward James Walters also gave a chilling performance as the Ghost, as he rose in a mist of dry ice and traditional African costume, and Clarence Smith’s Claudius was sleek and well mannered. However, one of my personal favourite’s was definitely the portrayal of Polonius. Cyril Nr'Hamlet' Play directed by Simon Godwin performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon, UKi has given Polonius a new breath of life, by making him somewhat of a court jester, as well as a scatty and fussy parent.

With Hamlet, so much has been done with it in the past, it may have been challenging to breath new life into this timeless play. However, with a thrilling soundtrack of drums, limb-jerking dancing and graffiti, Simon Godwin’s Hamlet is visceral, raw and gives us a rising star who doesn’t so much as shine but blaze as our mercurial Dane.

Hamlet is at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon until August 13th. Book now, or see it live at participating cinemas. Visit The Royal Shakespeare Company website for dates.

 

 

A Girl Called Alice by Christina Henry (Essay) – The Nightmareland Blog Book Tour

(Below is an essay written for the Nightmareland Book Blog Tour by Christina Henry for the promotion of her Alice and The Red Queen books. Big thank you to Christina for allowing me to be involved in this unique idea, and all those at Titan Books. Enjoy!)

A GIRL CALLED ALICE by CHRISTINA HENRY

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass is a tale beloved by millions, so embedded in our cultural memory that nearly everyone can conjure up an image of Alice – from the original story, a film remake, a game or one of many re-imaginings done by assorted authors through the years.

Alice has taken on the quality of myth, a character no longer bound to her creator or origin story but a modern-day legend open to interpretation like those other contemporary fairy tale figures from Neverland and Oz.

Many people have never read the original Alice but feel as though they have, because so many qualities about the Alice story have entered our shared lexicon – falling into a rabbit hole, for instance, is a phrase that’s taken on a meaning and life of its own quite apart from the original story.

And images from the story – the disappearing Cheshire Cat who leaves his smile behind, the Mad Hatter and the tea party – have become a kind of shorthand, s
hared experiences that make us feel like we’ve all been part of Wonderland for a very long time.

I asked my son why everyone loves Alice, and he immediately answered, “Because there’s adventure. And magic.” I think these are exactly the two qualities that attract children and adults to this story time and again.

There is something enchanting about a world that you can fall into, where there is adventure but somehow never any real danger (despite all of the Red Queen’s blustering about taking off Alice’s head I never worried, as a child, that such a thing would actually happen), and where magical things occur with matter-of-fact regularity.

Then there is Alice herself. She’s very pragmatic throughout the story, in a way that makes everything else real. The famous quote about believing six impossible things before breakfast was actually said by the White Queen in response to Alice’s remark that “one can’t believe impossible things.”

This is fairly astonishing given that Alice has already seen and done more impossible things than most people, but it’s her clear eyes that make her such an attractive character. Alice is very firmly rooted, and that fact roots the story as well. When a fantastic world has this kind of steady grounding it’s easy to believe in talking caterpillars and disappearing cats.

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Tour dates and relevant blogs to visit!

Less FOMO, More GOMO! – Summer Plans and Enjoying Yourself!

With summer approaching at a frankly alarming pace, it’s definitely time for us to shack off our winter blues and coats, stuff them into a corner and pull on our dusty sunglasses and straw hats. So, with the help of Eventbrite and their wonderful summer campaign of putting our FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) to bed, and embracing the GOMO (Going Out More Often), I’ve decided to share my own summer plans, and what to do when you’re on a tight budget, or just a little stuck for plans in this hot next couple of months.

1: Book a holiday!pirate-bay-staniel-cay-3

Now, I start on a high note, I realise this. People view holidays as expensive and tiring, but this doesn’t have to be the case. When I say holiday, I mean just time away from your normal life. If you want to have a holiday, but don’t fancy the exotic, book a stay-cation in your county or country. Stay-cations can be reasonably inexpensive, and can have all the feel of a new place, but with the familiarity of the language, currency and culture. Or just spend a night away from your house, and have a new view to wake up. Sometimes breaking the routine can really help you get in touch with yourself as a person, and not just a worker or whatever role you live your day to day life in.

This summer I’m flying over to Ireland and seeing extended family. I haven’t been to Ireland since I was quite young, so I’m excited to explore the country of my ancestors, and being able to reconnect with my roots.

2: Do something that scares you… Even once!

This is both a big and a small point. Scary things don’t necessarily come in packages of spiders, heights or small spaces, but in trying something new, or something that you never thought you wocomfortzone1uld do. But this is the summer of reinvention. So even for one hour in a day, do something that will genuinely scare you. For some people this is travelling, or buying and wearing a bikini in public. For some it’s going out socially, or conquering old fears. But once you’ve done it, the feeling of accomplishment will outweigh the initial fear, and you will be able to look back at that time and go ‘Yep! Well done me!’

This summer, I’ll hopefully be starting a new chapter in my working life. This wouldn’t just be a filler job, but actual experience in my chosen career path, and I’m so excited, but terrified of the future coming at me. I don’t feel ready to be an adult, and start this chapter just yet, but if I won’t do it at 22, then when will I?

3: Go to a concert or live music event.

It was Victor Hugo who said ‘Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent’, and this is a sentiment I love living by. Listening to your iPod when you’re running day to day errands, or on the commute from work fills an-argument-for-live-music1up those empty hours, and gives you something to look forward to. So why not actually witness it live? There is nothing I love better than going to a gig that I’ve been looking forward to, and hearing my favourite songs being played loud and proud in a room full of equally excited fans. Live music gets you dancing, gets you excited and gets conversations going between like-minded people, and even if the concert wasn’t particularly memorable, I’m sure the experience would be.

And this summer will be a huge one for live music. And whether you want to pay a  lot, or just find something free and local, it’ll always been something to reminisce on.

This summer I’m going to see the Hoosiers perform with my best friend, and I cannot wait!

So, these are my little summery plans and experiences, and I hope I’ve prompted any readers to go out and just take this summer by the horns and live it! Because I’m sure you’ll be regretting it come the cold November nights.eventbrite_logo_gradient_v2

And if you need any more inspiration for this summer, visit Eventbrite. They are the largest self-service ticketing platform in the world, and they help people find and plan events.

 

 

Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016) – Film Review

Title: Alice Through The Looking-Glass

Cast: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Rhys Ifans, Matt Lucas, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen

Director: James Bobin

Genres: Action, Adventure, Disney, Fantasy, Book-to-Film Adaptation, Gothic

Rating: 3/5


As you can tell by the title of this blog, this particular reviewer has an affinity to Alice in Wonderland. I was named after that book, and have had it as part of my literary life as much as any other childhood book.

When Tim Burton released his 2010 reimagination of Lewis Carroll’s tale, I fell in love with how he took the original characters and put his own unique spin on what would happen if Alice grew up and returned to Underland (incorrectly named ‘Wonderland’ by the child Alice), and I assumed there would be a Looking Glass sequel. So when I saw it in the cialice_through_the_looking_glass_film_posternema with my boyfriend last week, I went in with all the expectations and knowledge from the book, but unfortunately came out a little disappointed.

We find Alice a few years after we left her in Burton’s original film. After rejecting Hamish’s marriage proposal and becoming a sea captain of her father’s ship, The Wonder, Alice has explored Asia and returns to England with a head full of plans, reports and expectations. However, her whole world comes crashing to a halt when she finds her mother in a perilous financial state, with the loss of her home and the ship looming thanks to the efforts of her daughter’s jilted suitor.

But as usual, Underland beckons, and Alice manages to find another Narnia-esque portal through a disused mirror. Alice soons tumbles back into the world of her childhood adventures, but she soons releases that all is not well in the magical land. The Mad Hatter seems to be in a depressive slump and falling farther and farther into madness, thanks to the memories of his deceased family, and Alice is dispatched to travel back through time and save his family from their brutal slaying by the Jabberwocky.

But in order to do so, Alice has to deal with Time. And Time isn’t just a abstract concept in this film, but an actual half human/half robotic demigod, whose prize possession is the exact thing Alice needs to steal to complete her mission.

The audience is then treated to a series of different time periods and origin stories. The Mad Hatter is shown as a young boy and then a fresh-faced youth who is the black sheep of his austere hatting family, and we are given new reasons for the Red Queen’s swollen head and her hatred for her sister. And through a series of incidents, Alice has to save the hatter, mend time as well as save her mother.

So, what did I think of the film? Well, like I’ve said, I adored the first film. I really enjoyed the cast (I still do in this film), love the setting and beauty of the CGI and imagination of Underland (I still do), and I really liked the dynamic and chemistry of the characters and how they interact. But this film was lacking something. Maybe due to the fact that Burton was only a producer and not the director of Looking Glass, but this film didn’t have the sparkle and zazz of the 2010 film.

The plot was busy, and wasn’t particularly strong in the plot points. The whole idea of Time was good, and I loved the setting of the clock and the visual element of that, but I didn’t necessarily think the Hatter’s family needing an origin story, and there wasn’t a need to alter time lines. However, I did enjoy seeing the young Red and White Queen, and where their quarrels and differences came from. null

I also loved the smaller details of the films, such as Time having creations he called seconds, which turned into minutes, and why the Red Queen was so keen to cut peoples heads off. But I did feel that it was slightly jumbled and too busy for one film.

The characters were also good, with the memorable cast of Johnny Depp playing a ditzy yet loveable Mad Hatter, and Mia Wasikowka’s Alice being a proper no nonsense and tomboyish version young woman. Sacha Baron Cohen’s personification of the robotic, German-accented Time was also a refreshing and comical feature, and there was real poignancy and emotion of hearing the late Alan Rickman’s voice as Absolem.

But all in all, I felt that despite it being an overall entertaining, light-hearted romp in Underland, this film was really missing something. It didn’t have the gothic beauty of Burton’s original film, nor was it particularly strong in plot wise or story wise. It just felt a bit distracting, colourful and all over the place. Which is shame.

In the words of the Mad Hatter from the first film, ‘You were much more… muchier. You’ve lost your muchness’.

 

This Savage Song by V. E Schwab – Book Review.

Title: This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity Book 1)

Author: V.E. Schwab

Rating: 4/5

Fantasy: Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult, Fiction, Adventure, Teen Fiction


 

The world of Young Adult fiction is a hard category to break into if you’re an author, and equally hard to wade through if you’re a reader. There are categories within sub-categories within sections within communities etc, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming at the choice.

But, to me anyway, there always seems to be one theme and one consistent subplot through these stories, and that is of romance. And to be honest, this has become overused, over-tired and irritating. Especially when it drives the narrative, and without it, the story wouldn’t work.

So when I was sent this book to review by Titan Books it felt like a breath of fresh air. As when I picked up and devourted  This Savage Song, it had all the promise and familiarity of a well-written YA fantasy novel, but without all the use or plot-need of fated romances or even love.

In This Savage Song,  we are set into the world of Verity, a divided city where the violence of the streets has started to creat and manifest itself into real and grisly monsters. Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to this city, and both have their own agendas and ideas on how to survive in this dangerous world. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the inhabitants of his side pay for his protection. August just wants to be human, as good-hearted as his father – but his curse is to be what the humans fear. The thin truce that keeps the Harker and Flynn fathis-savage-songmilies at peace is crumbling, and an assassination attempt forces Kate and August into a tenuous alliance. But how long will they survive when the streets are safe, and the monsters no longer want to lurk in this shadows?

What I liked about this book is the easy flow of writing and the fact the plot never seems to dip or just go slow. The action is fast-paced, continuous and keeps you hooked from page one until you close the book. I haven’t read any of Schwab’s other books, but I’ve heard they’re equally as entralling. The two main characters were also fleshed out well. I felt that although August was my personal favourite, due to his selflessness and overall wish just to be human, Kate was also interesting. Schwab went indepth with her character, and by slowly exploring her weaknesses to the readers and the characters, she felt so real, and living through a mask.

The world-building was good in some parts. I really enjoyed the use of violence actually creating monsters, and how different levels of violence impacted on which sort of monster would manifest. I also enjoyed the political views of Callum and Henry, as they deal with the creatures in different ways. The end was also good to tease the reader for the next book. However, sometimes I needed clarification over which secondary character was which, and I would have loved to find out more about the history of the city and how the monsters came to be. I felt that a map of the city would’ve been useful, as I couldn’t really orientate myself as I was reading.

But one thing I did love was how it was just a good, well-written fantasy novel. When reading it I was so glad over the lack of romance, as another author could’ve easily put it in and just made it about two star-crossed lovers. Kate and August are just allies and friends who were trying to make the city better. Romance was never needed, and I didn’t miss it.

All in all, this was just a good urban fantasy novel. The writing didn’t annoy me, the characters felt three dimensional, and the premise was good and it didn’t failt to deliver a good story. It did help me revisit my fondness of the YA genre, and did give me some faith that not every book has to feature romance. So I’d heartedly recommend this novel to any fantasy fan.

This Savage Song is out June 7th – Buy it here!