Review: The Ferryman

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Ten things about The Ferryman that took my breath away*

1. The wonderful, sprawling ensemble cast, led by Paddy Considine as patriarch-of-sorts Quinn Carney. I couldn’t fault a single performance and each actor gets their own moment in the limelight, but Laura Donnelly in particular shook me to my core.

2. The child actors, of whom there are four plus a baby (yes, a real baby! Delightful!). Despite being tasked with roles with real narrative weight, the young actors had impeccable comic timing, nailed Irish accents that often outshone those of the pros, and never once became annoying. A theatrical miracle.

3. The presence of multiple live animals on stage. A script filled with livestock must strike fear into the heart of any director but man did the fluffy creatures go down well with the audience.

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On Balance & Boundaries

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This morning, as most mornings, I was pulled from the depths of sleep by the relentlessly chipper jingle coming from my bedside table. Face pressed into the pillow, my hand reached out, blindly groping for the source of the noise. I gripped my phone, rolled over and swiped, peeling my eyes open to type in the passcode. Unthinkingly, instinctively, I tapped into Instagram and began to scroll.

It’s a problem, I know.

Before I’ve sat up, or even wiped the sleep from my eyes, I’m inviting the world into my bedroom, bombarding my brain with an endless gallery of other people’s lives through a hazy Amaro filter.

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Review: Hamlet

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My month in theatre has been distinctly Danish in flavour.

First, I went to the Old Vic to watch Rosencratz and Guildenstern Are Dead, starring the surprisingly dynamic pairing of Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire. It was an extremely enjoyable revival, with McGuire’s sparky wit anchored by Radcliffe’s slightly morose absurdity. Sadly I was too busy to write a full review, but consider this my positive recommendation.

Then, earlier this week, I took my seat in the back row of the Almeida for a highly-anticipated performance of Hamlet.

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#NewAge Campaign: Rebranding Old Age

What do you think of when I say ‘old age’?

A doddering figure with a stick, papery thin skin falling in folds, a frail voice speaking words of old-school bigotry and pro-Brexit rhetoric?

Would you recognise yourself in that description?

Along with a group of writers participating in the DMA’s Future Writers Labs, I have launched the #NewAge Campaign, a movement to change the conversation around growing older and rebrand old age as something desirable, useful and valuable.

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Review: Volunteering at TEDxEastEnd 2017

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In January of this year I wrote a blog post laying out my intentions for the year. Or, more accurately, my intention, singular: to start looking outward.

One of the small steps to which I committed (in writing) was to volunteer at TEDxEastEnd. Well, dear readers, I’m here to tell you that I kept my word. I rocked up at Hackney Empire at 9am on 25th February and threw myself headfirst into the chaos. And it was fabulous.

There’s a particular prestige that accompanies the TED brand. In the build up to the event, whenever I mentioned my volunteering plans, the mere mention of ‘TEDx’ was followed by widening eyes, a respectful nod and, more often than not, an awed ‘Oh wow!’. To those who are less familiar with the hundreds of viral fifteen minute talks that bounce around social media, TED is a non-profit organisation committed to ‘ideas worth spreading’. While TEDx sits under the TED umbrella, TEDx events are organised entirely by independently from the main TED organisation. The idea is to create local events, with local speakers, run by local volunteers.

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On Resolutions

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This post comes a little late, I know.

I’ve missed the annual flood of New Year think pieces and listicles, bashed out somewhere between the 1st and the 4th by put-upon junior writers and lifestyle editors nursing a week-long Bailey’s hangover, waxing lyrical about the relative merits and demerits of deciding to change our entire personalities each January, stuffed with dodgy statistics on the likelihood of sticking by our good intentions or – inevitably – failing once again to live up to our own impossibly high standards. Like much of the 9-5 crowd, I get through the first, painful day back at work by devouring these articles while mainlining coffee, allowing myself to be uplifted by the women’s magazines telling me I can change my life with a NutriBullet, and chuckling gamely along with a satirical takedown of Dry January in the Guardian.

New Year sceptics look away now: I enjoy making resolutions. There’s something about Romjul (the period between Christmas and New Year) that compels me to sit down with a new notebook and pen to scribble my impressions of the previous year and record my hopes and dreams for the coming months. I rarely resolve on a single task – to go to the gym (right), eat more greens (fine), drink less (HA). Instead, I prefer to choose a theme for the year, an overarching goal that guides my smaller, everyday decisions.

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Lessons from NaNoWriMo

This November, I did something a little crazy.

After a few years of placating my gently stirring curiosity with soothing murmurs of ‘that sounds interesting but I’ll try it when I have something to write about’ and ‘I’m so busy – I’ll do it when I have time to commit properly’, I buckled to internal pressure and signed myself up to NaNoWriMo.

What’s that, I hear you ask? NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. On 1st November every year, thousands of people put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) with the goal of writing 50,000 words of an original novel by 11.59pm on  30th November. That breaks down to 1667 words per day, every day for a month.

Is it a slightly bonkers endeavour? Yes. Clearly.

Was it worth it? Yes. Unequivocally.

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Review: King Lear

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There is a history of women playing classic male Shakespearean roles; in the past few years, parts stretching from Hamlet and Julius Caesar to Prospero and Richard III have been taken on by a range of actresses at British theatres, from Maxine Peake at the Manchester Royal Exchange to Harriet Walter for the Donmar Warehouse. The part of King Lear, however, has remained almost resolutely male.

There are exceptions, of course. In 1990, an 80-year-old Marianne Hope played Lear in a production directed by Robert Wilson. Kathryn Hunter took on the role in 1997, earning mixed reviews for her portrayal. Yet, despite these notable performances, the concept is still treated as a novelty at best, and an ‘absurdity’ (as Hope herself pointed out) at worst. Glenda Jackson’s appearance in the role for Deborah Warner’s new production for the Old Vic, then, is doubly remarkable; not only is Jackson adding her name to the female Lear canon, but the production is the actress and politician’s first stage role in 25 years. As a result, Jackson’s casting has generated some serious theatrical buzz, with all eyes on her to see how she handles the quintessential older male role. As soon as Jackson strides onto the stage, however, voice cracking like a whip as she calls her daughters to order, the casting choice seems anything but absurd.

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On the stories we tell ourselves

Do you subscribe to Lenny Letter? If not, you should. Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s weekly newsletter compiles personal essays, interviews, illustrations and creative writing, and covers topics including politics, health, friendship and sex – usually with a feminist angle. It’s always engaging, informative and surprising.

Recently, Nicole Richie (yes, that Nicole Richie) contributed a piece about the impact of fame on her personal identity.

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-13-56-50From Nicole Richie’s essay in Lenny Letter

Her words sparked a memory. A few years ago, I had a conversation with an athletic friend about a recent injury he’d sustained that left his future sporting career in doubt. “The problem is”, he told me, “I’ve always thought of myself as the ‘sporty guy’. Now that’s been taken away, I don’t know what my story is any more.” His phrasing stuck with me. As a writer and consummate dreamer, I’m constantly telling stories – about myself, my loved ones, the characters in my head. My mantra is the classic Nora Ephron-ism: ‘Everything is copy”. But recently I’ve started to wonder if the stories we tell about ourselves sometimes do more harm than good.