London · play · review · Theatre

The Encounter

The last time I set foot into the Barbican was to see Titus Andronicus, this was an altogether different piece of theatre.

The Encounter is an experience of sound, a new way of storytelling which in turn, is the oldest form of storytelling we have. Sound is already an intricate part of a performance, but when it is allowed to take centre stage it can alter an entire perception. A whisper can become louder than a shout. A rainforest can appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly.

We follow the story of Loren McIntyre, an explorer in 1969, deep in the Amazon rainforest. His search for the local tribe is less of an adventure as a challenge. It’s an encounter like no other, isolating and terrifying. Broken only through Simon McBurney’s realisation of the modern day, his daughter and the very act of storytelling.

The whole story is told through headphones, making the experience both more intimate and more isolating. You are no longer a member of an audience, but a solo viewer of a solo show. The staging is minimal, the sound is left to convey everything and with it your imagination controls the rest of the story.

It’s a clever retelling, focused on sound and isolation, of the ways we can communicate without language. Simon McBurney captivates the audience through a journey like no other. This is an adventure you should join.

film · film review · Musical · review

The Greatest Showman

I’ve tackled book reviews, theatre shows, trips to museums and galleries — but now it’s time to try a different genre.

I always advocate that the book is better than the film — but what about those films not based on books? The stories that use this platform as a unique story telling experience, and one that can only do it justice.

The Greatest Showman is a cinematic experience from start to finish, visually exciting, the music embodies the tale; enhancing the feeling the story conveys. The music is a triumph that stays with you long after the final credits. There are dreams of a better future, fantasies that can come true and a mindset that the world is yours to take . A message that seems very poignant today.

Yet there are a few downsides to this dream-state world — each issue in the storyline is quickly resolved — making life appear perfect. The gambles of every decision seem insignificant as the reward is instant. A theme that certainly wasn’t true in the real life of P.T. Barnum, but this can maybe be forgiven in the showmanship of Barnum, he’s a storyteller after all.

For any fan of musical theatre this is a film for you, a chance to see a man live a life of showmanship, regardless of the consequences.

After all, we have P.T.Barnum to thank for the entertainment industry of today — entertainment for everyone, and I think that is something worth seeing.

The Greatest Showman was released in the UK on 26th December.

autobiography · book review · books · non-fiction · review

This is Going to Hurt

I don’t often find myself straying from my bookshelf full of fiction, However, as soon as I’d heard of Adam Kay’s diary as a junior doctor, I was intrigued. Kay introduces an honest, raw, retelling of life on the inside the NHS: the long shifts, the lack of staff and funding but mostly the emotional toll this all takes. Despite the dedication of NHS staff across the country — the NHS is failing them.

Told with a side of dry humour Kay’s diaries are simultaneously heartwarming and devastating. It’s a glimpse into a world we rarely see. It’s not just the lack of social life, but the overtired doctors on the ward; what should be an exception is becoming the norm.

This is the shake up the NHS desperately needs, a chance for the outside world to see just how much the NHS is trying, and yet the services it provides continue to be overstretched. There are times when Kay points out more efficient methods of care, ways the NHS should be spending its money, but these decisions aren’t made by doctors, they’re made by people who rarely step foot into a hospital ward — no wonder they’re out of touch.

This book is a chance to appreciate the NHS and the hardworking staff, a chance to laugh out loud and on the next page have tears in your eyes. A chance to try and chance things for the future.

legend · London · myth · National Theatre · performance · play · review

Saint George and the Dragon

I thought I knew the tale of England’s patron saint, yet this National Theatre production alternated my preconceptions of the famous story.

While we may begin with dragons and armour, knights and fair maidens. The story soon shifts to convey a much deeper message; questioning the world that is to come. Saint George (John Heffernan) interjects comedy at just the right moment bringing light relief to this otherwise quite dark play. Rory Mullarkey’s writing is tactically clever, intertwining this historic story with many modern twists and relatable experiences. Perhaps, we too, live in the constant shadow of the dragon.

Yet, it was the set that craftily brought each element together, bringing with it the world we know and the world we think we know. Gradually turning the simple village into a busy town and a thriving city — each time with a new challenge to face. The backdrop enhances the tale and with it the perception of development, of a new and improved life, while hinting at the sacrifice this entails.

This may have been my first visit to the National Theatre — but it certainly won’t be my last.

exhibitions · London · Museum · review

London – The National History Museum

This past month has been quite a busy one, I’ve moved to London and in a typical fashion of exploring a new city took the first opportunity to be a tourist. While I’ve visited the majority of London’s museums, most of my memories are ten years old. It seemed the perfect time to take the tube to South Kensington and visit the National History Museum.

I expected the dinosaurs, the fossils and grand scale of the exhibitions – one thing that surprised me was the architecture. Hintze Hall was astonishing, a masterpiece of the victorian era and something my younger self hadn’t noticed or appreciated. Regardless of the displays and taxonomy this room now held, it was the stonework, bridges and arches that held my attention.

The experience from start to finish was impressive, entering through the Earth’s core and being taken on a journey across the atmosphere from the Earth’s beginning to today. It’s a perfect spot for half term this week with a range of exhibitions everyone will enjoy.

book review · books · literature · reading · review

The Underground Railroad

Colson Whitehead’s tale is one of persistence and bravery. The Underground Railroad follows Cora, a slave from Georgia born into a life of suffering and the desire to escape to freedom.

As introductions go, Cora comes from a line of strong women, her grandmother Ajarry, stolen from her West African village, ferociously protective of her three-foot patch of earth, and her mother Mable, the only slave who has successfully escaped the plantation. When Cora is asked to escape with Caesar, part good luck charm, part companionship – the tale begins with the first trip on the underground railroad.

The journey continues to be one of suffering, small glimpses of hope and a chance of freedom — but the life of a slave can never truly be free. Hunted out by the renowned slave catcher Ridgeway, Cora may at times be physically free, but her time as a slave will forever haunt her. Aided by non-believers of the enslavement regime, the underground railroad becomes a symbol of hope, of kindness and most importantly the opportunity of freedom -— it’s a long ride to take.

An incredible tale of desire and truth, of raising the coloured question when the coloured question was at its most dangerous. It shows the strength of slaves and abolitionists alike, in a quest for freedom that can still be felt today.

book review · books · fiction · literature · review · Shakespeare

Hag-Seed

Margret Atwood introduces her Shakespearean spin-off in this clever tale; beautifully captivating the strength and hope of human life.

We begin with the Felix putting on The Tempest at a Canadian theatre festival, but things quickly don’t go to plan. While he is ousted by a colleague he goes off the grid for a quiet life, plotting revenge as he goes. His own daughter, Miranda, echoed as a ghost in his small abode follows him as he begins to work under a pseudonym.

The story opens out into a tale of hope, of humans pushed to the edge as Felix begins a production of the Tempest inside a correctional facility. Inspiring the inmates to put on the show in time for a visit from his previous colleague Tony. A slice of revenge served twelve years later… what could possibly go wrong?

A clever portrayal of human emotions wrapped around one of Shakespeare’s famous plays, it’s certainly one to read.