Review: wonder.land

wonderland

Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

Alice in Wonderland is the story that spawned a thousand adaptations, the latest of which is currently playing at the National Theatre. After a lukewarm reception in Manchester, Damon Albarn’s musical has comes to try its luck with Londonders.

Loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s classic tale, Albarn and his collaborators, scriptwriter Moira Buffini and National Theatre artistic director Rufus Norris, have hoiked the coming of age story into the twenty-first century by substituting Alice’s Wonderland for Aly’s wonder.land, a mobile game that allows the user to escape their problems by entering the game as an avatar.

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When does a brand biopic become a marketing ploy?

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Steve Jobs, the third film to be made about the founder of Apple in as many years, has been chosen to close the 2015 BFI London Film Festival. This news confirms what was already obvious: from Howard Hughes to Mr Heineken, Hollywood has an increasing obsession with entrepreneurs. With films about the founders of Google and McDonalds in the pipeline, it’s a trend that shows no sign of abating.

In many ways, it’s unsurprising. The origin stories of many iconic brands contain the hallmarks of the classic rags-to-riches plot that has long proved irresistible to filmmakers.

Whether or not an official studio-brand production partnership exists, films about existing brands inevitably come with a side-order of subliminal advertising that can diminish the power of the storytelling.

At their best, these films present an inspiring tale of vision and fearlessness. At their worst, they become little more than souped-up marketing ploys masquerading as artistic entertainment.

I’ve had a look at four films that revolve around brands and their leaders to decide in each case whether integrity won out over The Man.

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Surviving the Job Hunt (aka The Hunger Games: London Edition)

I’ve had to take a brief hiatus from blogging in order to focus all my attention on dealing with two big challenges in my life: moving house and finding a new job.

The first is tricky enough, especially in London where landlords charge half the average monthly salary for a one-bed flat in Zone 3 with a shower in the kitchen. Combine that with the job hunt and life becomes pretty hellish. 90% of the calls I received over the summer were from estate agents or recruiters. You feel popular for about a day. Then you start to feel pestered. Then so overwhelmed that you turn your phone on silent and hide it in the freezer.

The story has a happy ending; about three weeks ago, I moved into a great new flat and, earlier this week, I accepted a job offer. After countless cover letters, dozens of interview outfits and many, many pep talks, I finally (finally!) found a job I’m excited about. Here’s what I learned in the process…

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In Defence of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

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Photo: Alastair Muir

I have a confession to make.

I’m a musicals fan.

I’m not just talking about the hip musicals like Rent, or the impossible-to-hate musicals like Book of Mormon, or the constantly-shoved-down-your-throat musicals like Les Miz. I love the really cheesy ones. The all-singing, all-dancing ones stuffed with terrible Southern accents, flouncy skirts and questionable plots.

This obsession may go some way to explain why I spent last Saturday afternoon sipping a glass of Pimms in the sunshine and cackling at a new production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

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Introducing Williamsburg, Brooklyn

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For the millennial crowd, Williamsburg is the centre of New York life.

Williamsburg is like Shoreditch’s younger, cooler, less crowded cousin. The main street, Bedford Avenue, is lined with boutiques, cafés, bars and restaurants. Excluding the obligatory Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts (which really are on every corner), chains are kept to a minimum and the street is always lined with people as a result.

We were only there for four days and, with a mountain of quirky shops, live music, flea markets and countless places to eat and drink, it was impossible to do more than scrape the surface of what Williamsburg has to offer. Nonetheless, here are a few of our favourite places from the trip.

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Rooftops of New York

I was thirteen the first time I went to New York. It was a couple of days before Christmas. I remember buildings so tall that you couldn’t see the top, even when you craned your neck back as far as it would go. I remember the lights glittering above the wide avenues. And I remember the cold. The biting, blistering cold. It was snowing and the wind was howling along the streets, turning my nose to a frosty lump on my face.

Returning ten years later for a muggy week in June, I was faced with a somewhat different experience. Instead of freezing cold, there was a sticky, overwhelming heat that turned me into a sweaty, grumpy mess (I have no idea how New Yorkers handle August).

I quickly learned that there’s only one way to cope with summer in the city and it involves a view and a cocktail.* Oh, and a lot of air-con.

Here are a couple of my favourite rooftop spots.

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Exploring New York on a Budget

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New York isn’t exactly the cheapest of holiday locations. The flights alone can leave a significant dent in your wallet, and that’s before you factor in the cost of accommodation, food and transport around the city.

Whilst some of New York’s most famous sights are free (the Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Station and Central Park, to name a few), many of the city’s main attractions are relatively pricey. However, there are ways of seeing the best of what New York has to offer without bankrupting yourself in the process.

Here are a few of my favourite budget activities for those of you paying a summer visit to New York.

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Review: The Merchant of Venice

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I have strong emotional ties to ’The Merchant of Venice’. It was the first Shakespearean play in which I performed. Hearing Portia’s infamous ‘quality of mercy’ speech, even ten years later, takes me back to the moment when I first spoke Shakespeare’s words and learned to love them.

Later, at university, I became fascinated with the generic problems posed by the play. It is full of contradictions, with an intricate blend of comedy and tragedy that flounders in the wrong hands. This production nails it.

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