Acting Earnest

I’m back! Apologies for my absence these past few weeks I’m afraid I’ve been busier than a bee. I was lucky enough to get a role in the ensemble for a community production of The Importance of Being Earnest at South Hill Park. We had three weeks of rehearsals before we hit the stage for seven performances in five days so it was all a bit hectic! I tend to stay off the stage and behind the computer screen but on occasion I like to act. This was the first play I’ve done since I left school and I had an amazing time. Everyone at South Hill Park was super friendly and made me feel so welcome.

Lady Bracknell was played by Gwen Taylor which made the whole experience even more exciting. Gwen was lovely to work with and so supportive of me as I took to the stage for the first time. Alastair Whatley, the director, created a wonderful interpretation of the play and had us doing crazy things like raves and carrying people across stage. All the actors did a fantastic job bringing Oscar Wilde’s words to life that I was still chuckling away three weeks in.

Acting in the play was great fun but I guess it’s the writer in me that kept being drawn to the script, listening back stage, waiting for my favourite lines to be spoken. I decided early on that my favourite part of the whole play is Algernon’s response to Jack announcing he is going to be christened:

“JACK: Yes, but you have been christened. That is the important thing.

ALGERNON: Quite so. So I know my constitution can stand it. If you are not quite sure about your ever having been christened, I must say I think it rather dangerous your venturing on it now. It might make you very unwell. You can hardly have forgotten that some one very closely connected with you was very nearly carried off this week in Paris by a severe chill.”

For those of you who don’t know the play the person that was ‘very nearly carried off this week’ is Jack’s fictional younger brother. A character he made up only to then kill off when he became an inconvenience. The hilarity ensues when, just after Jack informs everyone that his ‘brother’ is dead, Algernon walks in claiming to be said brother. The extract above is not only funny because of the ridiculous suggestion that one might be made ill as a result of being christened but because of what follows. A technique named the ‘call back’. The ‘call back’ is when a joke that was made earlier is brought up again, later in the show. If you watch any talk show or comedian you’ll see this happen all the time and it never fails to get a laugh. You’d have to talk to a psychologist to figure out why we find it funny, all I know is that when Algernon reminds Jack that he is ‘closely connected’ with someone who was ‘very nearly carried off’ the joke is familiar, yet fresh and down right hilarious. Wilde, of course, adds to the humour through the complexity of the story and the fact that not only is Algernon’s excuse for Jack needing to be careful about getting christened completely fictional but he himself is posing as the very person who nearly died.

The story is a beautifully organised mess that remains relevant and funny to this day and I am honoured to have been a part of the production.

A script for Spring

A little while ago, I attended a script-writing workshop up here in St. Andrews, the theme of which was ‘Spring’.  For no other reason than I want to, I’ve decided to post the script I wrote up here for perusal.  It was meant to be about 10 minutes long, we gave it to a group of actors who performed it and gave us feedback (very helpful, dramatic readings are always the best).  Whilst I imagined one of my characters to be a teenage girl, both were played as male and it came off brilliantly.

I’m obsessed with citrus fruit

I was in a Film Studies lecture recently, being told about avant-garde cinema, when we were shown a 7 minute long video of a lemon.  It’s safe to say that I’m never going to get these 7 minutes back (all that happened was the light changed slowly around the lemon, not the kind of film we’re used to but I suppose that was the point).  I did send many snapchats of this film, and received many more, and so by dinner time everyone had heard about the 7 minute lemon video.  Why, you wonder?

It’s the lemons.

I understand that’s not very explanatory.  Most recently I’ve been working on a play called Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, by a guy called Sam Steiner.  It went up last week and somehow we haven’t been able to escape the clutches of citrus servitude.  Myself and the rest of the crew have been roundly accused of not shutting up about lemons, of both the real and metaphorical variety.  It’s entirely true of course, I now point them out every time we’re in Tesco.  I laughed the other day because my friend got a lemon sorbet.  It’s possibly the oddest in-joke I’ve ever been a party to.

Especially because the play itself has no actual lemons.

It’s about a couple called Oliver and Bernadette, who live in a world which has just passed a ‘Quietude Bill’ that restricts everyone to only being able to say 140 words per day.  I love it as a play, and have a simultaneous hatred and affinity for both of the characters.  It’s quite tricky to pull off, as the scenes jump backwards and forwards from the time before the bill is passed and after.  The title is in reference to a scene where Bernadette wants to get all of her words out in one go, so says a random list that includes five mentions of a certain acidic fruit.

My role in the production was publicity, so my hard drive is now full of pictures of lemons, yellow objects, videos of people juggling lemons, people using lemons as phones, people using lemons as hats, people eating lemons in pubs and videos about lemon-stealing whores (that one’s the intro to a porno – involving lemons?  Was hilarious to a group of people who do nothing but talk about lemons).  I have a dress covered in lemons that I wore to the opening performance.  Soon, I will tear off my outer skin to reveal the lemon underneath.

However many lemons I now have that I now don’t know what to do with; and however many awful lemon puns we came up with; I genuinely enjoyed the experience so I’ve now joined a team that’s taking a production to the Edinburgh Fringe this year.  We had a publicity meeting the other day.  Guess what the ‘symbol’ of the play is going to be?

A banana.

There is no escape from yellow fruit.

Beautiful Words

Hi all, sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been rather busy as of late but I can’t for the life of me remember what I’ve been busy with…

I finished reading Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency so then I began (and promptly finished) watching the TV show. Oh yes, that might have been what I was busy doing… Well that and reading my new book of course.

I’m branching out at the moment, trying to find some adult fiction that I like and I finally managed to succeed with G.M Barlean’s Thorns of Rosewood. I enjoyed the story (a two-thorned – get it… thorned – mystery), I adored the characters (four kick-ass old ladies and a reporter desperate for answers) and I loved Barlean’s writing.

She made me laugh with Gloria’s (the protagonist) internal narration:

“Dear God, please don’t let him be a serial killer because I think I just fell in love.”

There’s a truth in that which is rather sad when you think about it but it was funny none-the-less. And don’t worry, he’s not a serial killer. Not yet at least… it is a series so who knows?

What else, ah yes, Barlean wrote a line so beautiful I oo’ed and ah’ed as I re-read it a half a dozen times.

Naomi is the book’s antagonist. She’s flat out mean and is the town of Rosewood’s resident villain. At a particularly tense part of the book Barlean describes Naomi with her hands on her hips,

“her long red nails like drops of blood against her silken white robe.”

Excuse me whilst I float off on my little cloud of happiness. I’m a little bit in awe of what Barlean’s done here. This sentence could have been cringe worthy cliché with the classic juxtaposition of red on white, evil and innocence and so forth. Yet somehow, instead of working against Barlean the cliché strengthens the words. The imagery of the ‘long’ nails against the soft ‘silken’ robe holds the threat of such violence that, when the thought of blood is added, becomes over-powering and beautiful. Feel free to come join me on my cloud…

I’m on to book two in the series now so I shall keep you updated on any more hidden gems I find but for now farewell. I’m off to read!

 

My Train Journey to Birmingham

Readers brace yourselves because boy do I have a story for you. This post will restore your faith in humanity (for those of you who have lost it), leave you laughing so hard milk spurts out of your nose (even if you’re not drinking milk), possibly unite you with  a new best friend (in cat form), and make you swoon over Italian men.

I had thought that my Friday afternoon train journey from Reading to Birmingham would be quiet and I had hoped uneventful. I can now assure you that my future predicting skills are somewhat dodgy and hopes and wishes are futile – what if the most amazing thing in the world is something you can’t even imagine? How can you wish for that?

There is no way on earth I would ever have been able to imagine the events that occurred on this particular Cross Country train, which is saying something, given that I’m a writer. Right that’s enough preamble, let’s get on with it.

Meet June and Karen, mother and (grown up) daughter respectively. I got on the train at Reading station, platform 12b and June and Karen were sitting across the aisle from me. Our conversation started, as all good conversations do, with cats. I quickly learnt that June, her daughter, and her grand-daughter were big cat lovers and her grand-daughter even runs a rescue cat charity. (This is the part where you might find a new best friend by visiting Bay Cat Rescue) From what June told me on our train journey Bay Cat Rescue sounds like a wonderful charity that takes in strays and looks after them until they are ready to be re-homed.

It was around about now that my faith in humanity was restored a little bit more. We were deep in discussions about our cats when I felt a firm tap on my shoulder. I braced myself for the scolding I was sure to be coming my way for talking too loudly or some such matter and turned to face the lady sitting next to me. Instead, our little train party grew in size as my neighbour stated, somehow both timid and assured that  “My cat was like that” and joined our conversation. As if that wasn’t enough when we arrived at Oxford and my neighbour got up to leave, June and Karen invited me to sit at their table where I would have more room. June, the dear that she is, insisted that we wouldn’t have to talk, I could put in my headphones and ignore her if I so pleased. I am very glad I didn’t because my train journey only got better.

I continued to chat with June and told her that I was a writer. (I must remember to tell people this more often as it seems to lead to some fabulous stories.) June’s story was like none other…

“Oh you’re a writer are you? You know what I think they should write about: Viagra.”

I swallowed the water I had just sipped before I could decorate her shirt with it. June continued…

“You know how men, when they get to seventy, go to the doctors because they can’t get an erection.”

My eyebrows shot up. Even if I had wanted to say something at this point I wouldn’t have had a chance. June was on a mission.

“Well the doctors go and give them Viagra. And then you have all these men who are hard twenty four hours a day and all they want to do is go at it.”

I should mention that Karen had nipped to the toilet so was not there to witness her mother’s initial Viagra Awareness Campaign.

“All these men want to do is have sex all day long and Charlie, I think it’s dreadful because their poor wives don’t want to be romping around. Their vagina’s are all dry and shrivelled -”

I cough to cover my laugh,

“And the men are just ramming in there and I tell you Charlie, none of my friends like it. I’ve thought about writing to the papers you know because it’s just awful… What do you think Charlie?”

Well reader, I was thinking so many things at this point. I tilted my head, gave a measured nod and said,

“To be quite honest with you June, I can’t say I’m very experienced in the matter.”

June cracked up, patted my knee and said “No, of course not!”

If I did not already think that June was the greatest person I’ve ever met then I certainly did now. And she only got better.

We had a brief stint of musical chairs when some other women boarded the train, they were on their way to Manchester for a Hen Do. They departed to join the rest of their group once they found some empty seats and I was back with June and Karen.

Enter smoking hot Italian guy.

“Are you going to sit here?” asks June.

“If you don’t mind” (Oh he has an accent too!) replies the rather suave Italian.

“Ooo we get a man joining us!” June gushed. It would seem she only frowned upon men once they hit their seventies and Viagra came into play. Italian guy took the seat.

“Well you should be all right, we might talk about things you don’t want to hear but if that’s the case you can pop your headphones in. We’ve covered men so you should be safe”

This, I very much doubted.

“Where are you from?” asked Karen.

“Italy.”

And it began…

“What’s your name?”

“Giovanni.”

Honest to God, June gasped. I grinned. The next five minutes consisted of June pronouncing Giovanni’s name.

“Giovaaaani” “GiOvanni”

“It’s quite nice if you say it seductively, isn’t it? – Oh honey, Giovaaani. Karen, you try, say Giovanni.”

Karen shook her head, “No Mum.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want to and I don’t have to.”

Giovanni and I tried not to laugh. But wait for it, here it comes,

“Giovanni, you know Viagra?”

Karen’s eyes go wide. I double over in silent hysterics. And yes, poor, beautiful Giovanni received the whole Viagra Awareness Campaign speech. To his credit he listened with utmost interest and a straight face. Karen and I, on the other hand could not stop laughing.

“Well now you know,” June rounded up her story, “So when you’re seventy you can remember this conversation.”

I wiped away my tears and looked up at Giovanni.

“I don’t think I will ever forget.” he said. Nor will I Giovanni, nor will I.

We then went on to discuss the usual things: menopause, oversized breasts and PMS.

“Would you like some fresh orange juice Charlie?” June asked me out of the blue as we pulled out of Leamington Spa. Unsure where this orange juice was going to come from I declined.

Giovanni was put on the spot:

“So Giovanni, I’ve talked enough, what would you like to know? You can ask us anything, what do you want to know about life?”

What do you mean you didn’t prepare a list of questions about life that you want to ask three generations of women on your train journey to the airport? Who doesn’t carry that list around?

And I fell a little bit in love with all three of my companions.

We arrived at Giovanni’s station and said farewell to our Italian friend. I turned to Karen, we gushed over sexy Italian men and I confided that I had spent the latter part of the journey debating whether or not I could give Giovanni my number.

“I think he liked you” piped up June, “you had all his attention, he was much more interested in you than me.”

***

To my utter disappointment we arrived at my station and parted ways. I’d been fully informed about June’s Viagra Awareness Campaign, two strangers (though I would no longer call them that) offered to buy me a coffee, twice no less. Part of my heart fell for an Italian student. And towards the end of my journey I discovered that June’s granddaughter (Karen’s daughter) is the famous Youtuber Emma Crompton. It’s not hard to see where her charisma comes from. Needless to say, my book sat untouched in my bag.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

So Sasha is going to be very proud of me when she discovers that I am reading Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. She’s a big fan of Douglas Adams. This is a new genre for me, I don’t tend to read much fantasy and when I do it’s YA. So I wasn’t sure how far I’d get with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency but I guess there is a reason for Adams’ success. The jury was still out on the book until I read one of those wonderful lines that made me laugh out loud. For those of you that know the book, it was the quirky professor Reg who stated, whilst at a candle lit collegiate dinner,

“It seems odd, don’t you think, that the quality of the food should vary inversely with the brightness of the lighting. Makes you wonder what culinary heights the kitchen staff could rise to if you confined them to perpetual darkness. Could be worth a try, I think.”

I have to admit that despite the fact he is two hundred years old I am falling a little bit in love with Reg. His absurdity reminds me somewhat of Sasha, a comparison I am sure she will be thrilled by. So it was Adams’ delicious combination of observant humour and exaggeration that drew me into the book. I am now about half way through and it’s really quite satisfying watching the different threads, that seemed utterly disconnected to begin with, weave together. When you’re a writer there’s a fine line between leaving your reader confused but intrigued and leaving them like a bamboozled baboon who doesn’t have the patience to read on. I’m glad to report that as of yet I am still very much a literate human and not a frustrated ape. Congratulations Mr Adams.

How to Dress Evil

For those of you who don’t know I’m currently attending art school. For the next two months I am going to be working on my final project; a satirical cartoon book entitled ‘Everything you Need to Know about Being Evil’. The book is going to tell you, yep you guessed it, everything you need to know about being evil. You lucky devils (or poor souls depending on which way you look at it) get a sneak preview of the chapter ‘How to Dress Evil’

Villains are notorious for being foul, horrific and evil but one cannot deny that they have style. I feel this is understandable; if you are going to destroy the world you’re bound to draw the attention of the infamous paparazzi.

When choosing your evil outfit don’t be afraid to enter into the territory of the madman. No one will fear a ballerina’s tutu but if you cover said tutu in sharp spikes and jagged tears then your victims will sense danger. If you want to go really crazy you can add blood smears to the spikes.

Recommend ways to create blood smears include mixing cornflour with red food colouring and water or, alternatively, killing someone and using their fresh blood.

Below I have outlined four different styles to help you choose your outfit.

The Corset Killer

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The Corset Killer is lethal. She murders with a smirk and a wink. She’s brandished with jewels like a queen. Poison is her weapon of choice but she wields the knife with a passion. She plays with your mind and aims for your heart. Her cuts and deep and her thoughts are dark.

 

 

 

 

The Business Man

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Think Stephan Moffat’s Moriarty. Refined on the outside, bat-shit crazy on the inside. If you go for The Business Man look then don’t be cheap. I’m talking designer suits here. You could even add your own style with personalised cufflinks. Ideas include: beheaded head, pistols, daggers…

 

 

 

 

The Badass Look

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Warning: Only choose this outfit if you are able to tie laces. 

 

 

 

The badass is stealthy. She’s the spy turned assassin, an expert in martial arts. She’s got a smile that makes you grin but a death stare that quite literally kills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Suave Look
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Do you think you are the greatest person on earth? Do girls and guys fall at your feet? Were you the ‘popular’ kid in school? Are you full of shit? If yes then The Suave Look is for you.

 

 

 

 

Once you’ve chosen your style feel free to embellish. Suggested adornments include polished blades, cats, guns and pocket watches (world domination requires strict time keeping).

P.S apologies for the poor quality photos, Sasha’s living it up in Madrid so you’ll have to put up with my lesser photography skills.