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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Review: Letters Live

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Dear Reader,

The other night, I went to the most wonderful event.

Letters Live.

Put on by the people behind the website Letters of Note, it’s an event where famous faces gather together to read aloud a variety of letters written by other well-known figures from the past few hundred years.

As soon as I heard about it, I decided to book tickets.

I love letters. I have always loved letters – loved to write them, to read them and, of course, to receive them. During my years at boarding school, I would wait eagerly for the post, keen to seek comfort in familiar handwriting (and hungry for the chocolate that usually accompanied each card). At university, I learnt chunks of iconic letters off by heart for my finals, faithfully regurgitating them whilst attempting to emulate the elegant phrases in personal letters of my own. Now, I find that I rarely write letters. Working in a digital space means that the immediacy of email and social media has eclipsed the leisurely pace of the pen. Whenever I receive a card or attend an event, I seize the opportunity to return the favour by getting out my writing set. Letters have a magic that digital correspondence cannot replicated. There is a unique intimacy in the inability to permanently erase mistakes. The act of putting pen to paper induces a certain type of honesty. You can learn things about a person from a letter that you couldn’t were you to spend hours in their company.

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Review: How To Hold Your Breath

How to Hold Your Breath

Photo by the Royal Court theatre

‘So what’s this about then?’ asked the friend who I’d enlisted to accompany me to the theatre. ‘Well… it’s got Maxine Peake…and I think it’s about sisters? And something to do with immigration?’

I must have read the description of the play on the Royal Court’s website five times in the week leading up to the performance. Truth was, I just couldn’t retain the information. I had absolutely no idea what the play was about.

Writing this now, I’m only marginally more confident.

At the centre of the play are two sisters, Dana and Jasmine, who live in Berlin. When the play opens, Dana has just slept with a man who may or may not be the devil and who may or may not have just cursed her for refusing payment for sex.

Somewhat predictably, it’s all downhill from there.

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