Arts

‘Beige Walls & Navy Sofas’: A Review

I’ve never been to Edinburgh Fringe, hell, I haven’t even been to Edinburgh. I’d love to, but it’s not exactly cheap, but that’s the great thing about being in London. Since coming here, I’ve been able to experience theatre and stand up at local comedy nights and festivals. Most recently, I was invited along to see ‘Beige Walls & Navy Sofas’ at the Catford Fringe starring Anthem’s very own Courtney McMahon.

Beige Walls & Navy Sofas is an impressive debut piece from the Ghosted Ink arts collective featuring spoken word, karaoke and dancing. It aims to bring a story from a working class family into the light where it belongs, and it is lovely. Watching Beige Walls & Navy Sofas is an experience comparable to catching up with a friend you haven’t seen in years, or perhaps even better, meeting someone for the first time and learning about their life.

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In the lead, Courtney doesn’t take on a character that’s been made up or fictionalised; Courtney plays herself. She, along with the rest of the team at Ghosted Ink, take you by the hand and ask you to step inside for a moment, and to listen to one woman’s tale. I really appreciated this piece for such an emphasis on pure storytelling, yet simultaneously for not being afraid to get creative with it. The set design was simplicity at its finest with props evoking both laughter and sadness, yet never taking away from the story being told.

Courtney walks the audience through selected moments of her own childhood, working you through a set of themes that include loss, confusion and anger. We learn about her siblings and mum, and we experience as many highs as we do lows as she takes us on a trip down memory lane.

“Layers and layers and layers and layers of nostalgia” she yells from the floor of her childhood bedroom, and layers of nostalgia is exactly what Beige Walls is. I didn’t live this life, and there are aspects of her life I couldn’t even begin to understand having not experienced them myself, but the brilliance comes from just that word – nostalgia.

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Nostalgia means a remembrance of something that never was, so we have a habit of using it to refer to our childhoods when we think about the presents under the tree at Christmas or the simple games we used to play with friends. Courtney remembers these things hand in hand with fleeting moments of reality. She discusses the great and terrible moments of living with her sister and I laughed. I laughed because I understood and have shared a room with a sister. It’s small moments like this that transferred her very own and very personal nostalgia onto the audience. An audience who were only too grateful to join in and were laughing from start to finish.

Like all good theatre (in my wholly uneducated opinion), Beige Walls doesn’t keep you down for too long. Though there are several times of anger, disappointment and grief, it is not long before Courtney’s pink hair and glittery eyes are up again, singing Wham or dancing to The Ketchup Song.

The team at Ghosted Ink did an absolutely terrific job with Beige Walls, and created a totally new experience for me. It was a pleasure to sit down somewhere new for 45 minutes and to witness a life story play out in the way they have pulled this piece together.

Four stars for Beige Walls & Navy Sofas!

 

Words by Briony Brake for Anthem
Images courtesy of Ghosted Ink

You can stay in the loop with all things Ghosted Ink via the following links:
Instagram – @ghostedink
Twitter – @Ghostedink_Arts
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/GhostedInkArts 
Website – https://ghostedinktheatre.wixsite.com/ghostedinkac  (best viewed on desktop)

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THE MANLEY GUIDE TO FEMALE AUTHORS – Part 2

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‘The Outrun’ – Amy Liptrot

As I sat writing this I realised that Amy Liptrot’s ‘The Outrun’ is one of those hard-to-describe books. It is an autobiography, but it also feels in some way like a travel guide, and love letter, to Orkney (I myself now have a long list of places to visit). Really though, it is about her journey through alcoholism, her descent into it, her recovery and her re-discovery of the wild and beautiful place she grew up.


‘I’m the King of the Castle’ – Susan Hill

If you didn’t read this at GCSE (as I first did), you should definitely give it a go now. ‘I’m the King of the Castle’ is written entirely from a child’s perspective – Kingsley’s. This is a particularly effective method as we the reader have to experience his bullies, his fears and his pleading with adults first hand and the devastating effect all this has on him. Susan Hill, in my opinion, is a fantastic writer and I believe this to be one of the best examples of her work – and a great gateway to her other books.


‘He Named Me Malala’ – Malala Yousafzai

As I’m sure everyone knows, in 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for the equal education of women and girls in Pakistan. She survived, and is now studying at Oxford University and continuing her fight on a global scale. Yet her autobiography tells us the stuff we didn’t know. Malala documents her life growing up in the Swat Valley, the beautiful mountains and it’s fascinating history, the rise of the Taliban and her road towards activism as well as her life after that moment in 2012.

I loved this book because of that different knowledge; it was refreshing, heart-warming (and a little heartbreaking) to hear about life in Pakistan for the normal people like you and I and not just what we see on the news. ‘He Named Me Malala’ is an informative and inspiring read that should be added to your shelves.


‘The Bloody Chamber’ – Angela Carter

‘The Bloody Chamber’ is a collection of short stories by Angela Carter. Each story is based on a traditional fairy tale, but with a twist. Carter takes the basic narrative of each tale she is using and infuses them with something both dark and mystical whilst also echoing reality. As with a lot of traditional fairy tales, each story centres on a female protagonist. However, Carter uses her stories to highlight the very real problem of violence against women, whether that is social, economic or physical.

This was the first book I read by Carter and it got me hooked (which I’m sure you’ll hear about in other posts), I loved the twists and the ability to debate and discuss the topics with others. I also found it fascinating (and a little sad) that the issues raised are still so relevant today almost 40 years later.


‘Women and Power’ – Mary Beard

The fifth book on this list is the critically acclaimed ‘Women and Power’ by Professor Mary Beard. In this book, Beard chronicles misogyny all the way from ancient Greeks and Romans through to today and assesses how these ancient mythologies are still used to undermine, and target, powerful women in modern times. Perhaps one of the most notable was the use of the Medusa head against Hilary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Although this is a bit of a challenging read, it is well worth the time and effort.

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‘And Still I Rise’ – Maya Angelou

‘And Still I Rise’ is one of Maya Angelou’s poetry collections featuring the two poems that first lead me to fall in love with her – ‘Still I Rise’ and ‘Phenomenal Woman’. Angelou’s poems discuss love, life, her experiences as a black woman and growing older,  and whilst each one is deeply personal the themes have universal resonance.


‘Everyday Sexism’ – Laura Bates

This book was the cumulative result of a social media campaign started by Laura Bates in 2012 to document the sexism experienced by women on a daily basis in all areas of life and work. Bates has split the book into various chapters (as authors often do) so as to best examine each sectionality and area of life as closely as possible and backs everything up with facts, which are quite often depressing.

However, despite this, I found it weirdly inspiring and after reading it I bought it for a friend who gave it to her friend and recommended it to others, as I also did. It really is a book that no matter how old you are it is relatable to every one of us (unfortunately). It is a book that should be read by, and affects, everyone. It not only educates, it also makes you say ‘me too’. To quote Caitlin Moran, “it will make most women feel oddly saner”.


‘H is for Hawk’ – Helen MacDonald

‘H is for Hawk’ is a moving account of grief, depression and falconry. Following the death of her father, Helen MacDonald travels to Scotland to buy a goshawk and sets out on a mission to train it – despite no previous experience and only what she has read in books since she was a young girl. I get that this sounds like a slightly strange mix, but it makes for a beautiful one. It is a combination that makes you laugh, cry and gasp in awe along with MacDonald every step of the way and leaves you fascinated by these fantastic birds.

 

Click here for Part 1 of Eleanor’s guide.
Words and images by Eleanor Manley for Anthem.

 

A Space of One’s Own

In many creative industries, as well as in the wider world, women are not encouraged, but are actively discouraged from taking up space. When you don’t see women like you, or in fact any women at all, in mainstream media, it can be hard to convince yourself to take up that space. Taking up space is both physical and metaphorical here; if society expects you to be thin and petite, then being anything other than that feels wrong. When you are told be quiet, talked over, and interrupted, speaking up and out can feel hard.

A solution to this is to carve your own space. To create something that is for you and for other women like you to share in. I chatted to some women who have done just this.

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Kate Eveling is the creator of The View From The Other Side, a blog and youtube channel where she talks openly about what it’s like to have Cystic Fibrosis. The videos are incredibly informative, well-made and fun to watch. “CF has always been a negative in my life but creative writing and making videos is something that I thoroughly enjoy – so I thought, why not take that and use it to turn something negative into a positive” she told me.

It’s particularly interesting to explore CF online, because, as Kate puts it “us CFers can’t actually meet face to face because of the risk of giving each other chest infections.” When you can’t meet the people who share in your experience, creating an online space to talk and discuss (and also to explain what it’s like living with your condition to everyone else) is key to changing the conversation around something like CF.

Kate also says that it’s important most of all to keep these videos interesting. “The ‘10 Facts About Me’ video isn’t one where I sit in front of the camera and drone out ten facts. I try to make it energetic and fun but also cringeworthy – it wouldn’t be a Kate Eveling video if it wasn’t cringeworthy right?!”

I ask Kate who inspires her, and she describes how starting A View From The Other Side led her to discover other CFers documenting their lives. “This might sound cheesy but every story I read on their lives was such an inspiration to me. Because they have CF and they are fighting it every day. Simple as that.” It’s clear to see here how one person carving their own space can inspire another.

It’s a space that’s growing as well. Kate recently made a video campaigning for the drug Orkambi, which greatly improves the lives of CF sufferers but which the British Government claim is too expensive.

Find out more about The View From The Other Side.

 

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Another online space for women is Splint, a platform for innovative women looking to network, collaborate and create. “We just kind of decided that it was necessary to provide a space for women to share creative skills, successes and experiences, whilst also championing the women we know and love” co-creator Abbie Claxton tells me. Abbie and her co-founder Syd interview a series of women about what they make and why, and what it’s like to be a woman doing that. “We both know a lot of women doing things that should really be talked about, and we just realised that not a lot of people know about them or what they’re up to. I am always asking people how they got to where they are today, and Splint kind of offers that answer for people.”

The wonderful thing about Splint is the way it’s pure purpose is to champion women doing cool things, and allowing them to share that.

I ask Abbie who inspires her. “The women around us inspire Splint, without them we would have nothing to talk about.” It’s the perfect description of what sharing space means for women today.

Find out more about Splint.

 

Liberate

Laura Mead is an actor and playwright whose debut play Liberate was recently performed at the White Bear Theatre. I asked her about the move from acting into writing.

“There’s a lot more freedom in writing than I personally found in acting. That goes along with flexibility. I also find I’m not having to ‘look’ or ‘feel’ a certain way to write – I just let what I want spill out on paper.” And why is theatre right for this?

“Art forms are so great because they can be enjoyable whilst also showcasing an idea, which may or may not have been in somebody’s minds beforehand. I also think it’s all about HOW you discuss it; Liberate is full of humour – so it means that feminism is being pushed to the front of the discussion whilst a joke is being made.”

I asked Laura what’s next on the agenda.

“Carry on making coffee at my little coffee-shop. Read books. Shove the candles on. And have a bloody large gin. Who knows?!”

Liberate is on for one more night at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden.

 

Words by Sian Brett with interviews from Laura Mead, Abbie Claxton and Kate Eveling.
Images from The View From The Other Side, Splint and Liberate.

The Manley guide to female authors

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I am definitely a bookworm. There is nothing I love more than curling up with a good book, a blanket and a cup of tea – it’s my happy place. At the last count, I had just over 400 books in my bedroom alone. I also love talking about and recommending books to others so it only seemed natural to spread this to the internet. Enjoy!


‘Spectacles’ – Sue Perkins

When I read this book I couldn’t put it down, and when I finished it I still couldn’t (I sat and hugged it for a while). I first came across Sue Perkins on Bake Off in 2010 and, along with most of the nation, fell in love with her and her friendship with Mel Giedroyc. However ‘Spectacles’ offers us something different to the cake pocketing Sue we see on TV, whilst retaining the humour that we all know and love.

Throughout this book, we learn about all the trials and tribulations of her life and get to see her come out the other side, and she talks about her dogs a lot which is a definite bonus! I truly loved this book and how human it was. Upon finishing (once I had stopped hugging it) I proceeded to tell almost everyone I met to read it, and here I am doing the same.


‘Wuthering Heights’ – Emily Brontë

‘Wuthering Heights’ is the only novel written by Emily Brontë. It is a classic gothic novel filled with drama, complex characters and the Yorkshire Moors. It’s a great book to read with someone or find someone who has already read it as it’s a great book to discuss – you can find out where each of you falls on the Heathcliff debate. If for no other reason, you should read this so that you can channel Kate Bush and dance wildly around your living room in a red dress.

‘Hot Milk’ – Deborah Levy

‘Hot Milk’ is the story of a mother and daughter travelling to Spain in search of a miracle cure. I have to confess, I actually found this book a little strange, and struggled to get my head around it to begin with. Despite the slight oddities, Levy takes us on a journey about mental health, mother and daughter relationships and the toll caring for someone can take  – no matter how much you love them – and also the guilt and anxiety the cared-for can feel. I had been sceptical at the start but by the end, I felt like I had read something really powerful.


‘Love Sick’ – Jessie Cave

‘Love Sick’ by Jessie Cave is not so much a book you read (although it does have words) but a book of satirical, and in her own words, “neurotic doodles” about life, friendships, love and what that person on the bus really thought about you.

I first discovered Cave on Twitter and then followed her on Instagram (@jessiecave) to see more of her doodles, so when I found out she was releasing this book I was really excited. It’s a great book to look at whilst snuggled up with a cup of tea or to share and laugh at with friends. Well worth a read, and a follow on Instagram as well if you like her stuff.

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‘We Should All Be Feminists’ – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

‘We Should All Be Feminists’ is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay on, as the title suggests, why we should all be feminists. It’s a powerful, insightful and thought-provoking read and a book you end up nodding along to a lot. If that’s not enough to convince you, she was also featured in Beyonce’s ‘***Flawless’ (2013), reciting her work.


‘In My Hands’ – Irene Gut Opdyke

‘In My Hands’ is the incredible true story of Irene Gut Opdyke’s life during wartime Poland and her personal mission to save as many Jews from the concentration and labour camps as possible, by hiding them in the house of the Nazi Army Major she worked for. Through her efforts, she was able to save twelve Jewish people from certain death. It’s a wonderful, moving, compelling and important book that remains with you, and is a clear reminder of our past.


‘My Life on the Road’ – Gloria Steinem

I have to be honest, I knew very little about Gloria Steinem when I bought this book, but it was recommended by Hermione Granger so really I had no choice, but by George it’s fantastic! Gloria Steinem has had an incredible life; fighting for women’s rights, travelling the world, campaigning for various presidents and presidential candidates, having some of the most amazing friends, and witnessing Martin Luther King in action amongst many more unbelievable things. I don’t think I’ve ever said wow so many times in one go.

 

Words by Eleanor Manley for Anthem.
Video and image courtesy of Comic Relief and Jessie Cave.

‘The L Word’ is coming back!

The show that gave me hours of joy and the confidence to come out has announced its return and I couldn’t be happier.

It was an ordinary day in October of 2016 when I walked into the living room and told two of my flatmates – I had come to the realisation, and finally had the confidence to say that I was bisexual. Even writing these words I feel myself breathing out. It feels as though I’ve been wearing the wrong size jeans all my life causing me to pull and tug trying to make them fit, but now I’ve added an extra button and everything has fallen into place.

As the weeks went on, I slowly came out to my family and close friends. The more I said the words, the more the jeans started to fit. Of course I had done a lot of thinking and tracing back through my life. I realised that this had always been a part of my me, but I had never been able to admit it to myself. I hadn’t had the words to describe my feelings, I couldn’t put two and two together. As I talked to friends and they asked all their questions, I kept coming back to early 2014.

s1Lquiz480I was living in Bethnal Green with my sister and friends, all of whom had just graduated from University themselves, as I was still completing an access course in order to get there. I was drowning in essays and projects, and my room became my study. The only way to get through it was to escape into TV & Film after a long day of work. I had also just discovered the joys of Netflix and the copious amount of entertainment it had to offer. One night I was trying to choose something to watch when I came across an American TV series called The L Word. The series followed the lives and loves of a group of women; all of whom were gay or bisexual in LA. I should have known that night, having chosen out of hundreds of options to watch such a specific show. A few episodes in I knew something had changed, or to be more precise, something had been found. I couldn’t stop watching this funny, warm, honest and human show.

These women weren’t stereotypes, they were people. As is my want, I started to investigate and discovered just how groundbreaking this show had been when it first aired in 2004 (and continued to be in its six series run). So rarely on American television does a project centred around women, with an entirely female main cast, creatives, and crew get commissioned. The L Word storylines echoed my own, at exactly the right time, and when I needed it the most. I was investigating and asking questions and the women of the L Word gave me the answers.

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As with all ensemble shows, you pick a favourite character, and as is true for many The L Word viewers, mine was Shane played by the wonderful Katherine Moennig. At the start of the first series, Shane is introduced as the Lothario of the group; a woman who other women are drawn to, if only for one night. As the series goes on she becomes so much more, and evolves into a three dimensional beloved character. I related to her because she was the youngest cast member, like me in her early twenties, and unlike the other women, had no intentions to settle down.

She is a character who is comfortable in her own skin, never compromises herself for others, and a woman who always goes by the beat of her own drum. If truth be told, it was love at first sight and a love which grew with every series. From one night stands to almost saying ‘I do’, Shane’s storylines were never boring but funny, moving and at times heart-breaking. I was overjoyed when she appeared on the screen and missed her when she wasn’t.

As the series went on I felt as if the women of The L Word had become friends whom I was checking in on with every episode. I came to love them all in their own way, but Shane would always be different. Here was a woman who I fell for as soon as she came on screen, the first woman I had been attracted to, and someone I could imagine myself with. Of course I know that falling for a character and a real human being are two very things, and that we project so much onto actors who portray much-loved characters, but this had never stopped me falling for male actors.

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In July it was announced that The L Word would be coming back, which caused both celebration and outrage in the LGBTQ+ community. Commentators have been looking back at the series and wondering what this new series will bring, how it will speak to a new generation of lesbian and bisexual women, and most importantly how it will fit into the cultural and political landscape of 2017. For all the good that The L Word did, like all cultural phenomenas, it had it’s problems. I hope in it’s new incarnation we see more WOC within the main cast, rather than one a series (with the exception of Kit), and I hope they give the trans community a character who doesn’t just struggle but thrives.

I for one am beyond excited by the idea of more The L Word coming my way. When I heard the news on a Tuesday morning, having only just recovered from London pride, I was in the middle of my own The L Word re-watch and was preparing myself for the end. Logging onto Twitter I saw the excitement from fans and cast alike, and couldn’t believe I would once again be ‘loving, living, laughing’ with Shane, Bette and Alice and a whole new host of women I could fall in love with. I immediately messaged my old flatmate who shared in my newfound excitement in finding The L Word in 2014, just as she had in previous years. We were both excited to have Shane back in our lives and even talked of having a The L Word screening party when the release day arrives.

 

Words by Lara Scott
Images by Showtime                            

 

 

                                            

 

 

 

 

‘Little Eden’: A Review

In a world where reptilians rule and demand daily doses of blood from all of the earth’s citizens, Little Eden tells the story of Jim, an office worker happy to comply with the rules, but who slowly becomes aware that all he has been told about how the world works may be untrue. As secrets unravel, Jim’s safety and life as he knows it hang in the balance.

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The debut production from Neon Peach Theatre is full of slick performances and big characters that make for an enjoyable romp through this world. Although the world could do with being a bit more solidified, and the set up a bit clearer, the fact that there’s a yearning to know more about the world demonstrates that it’s an interesting one. But with a slightly off version of reality, without clarification of what exactly is going on, it can become hard to follow and properly appreciate when the rules of the world start to come undone.

13320957_10154059108736233_6691409396024720195_o[1]An ode to 50’s sci-fi B-movies, Little Eden’s set, sound, and lighting design perfectly encapsulate this little pocket of cinematic history. Although this is a genre rife with joke possibilities, there was definitely the opportunity for more of this within the piece; the set-up is so rich, I was desperate for more gags and over-the-top self-awareness.

Liam Farmer gives a lovely performance as ‘The Vicar’, who narrates the entire show and is bombastic and incredibly fun to watch. Having a narrator on stage continuously can be a difficult thing to balance with the action of a show, but Neon Peach manage it perfectly. A special mention should also go out to Sophie Miller De Vega whose performance as the local nurse never becomes too ‘bimbo’, or dull, but continues to be funny despite her high-heel, pinned-up-hair, white-coat stock character.13316950_10154059108191233_8984799620704698462_o[1]In a small studio space like Camden People’s Theatre, it can be hard to visually engineer a whole world, but the transitions between different spaces and the way that the narrator interplays between it all is one of the strongest facets of the piece.

A work in progress that needs just needs a bit more of everything, Little Eden has potential, strong performances, and most of all, it’s proper good fun.

 

Here’s how to follow Neon Peach Theatre on social media:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/neonpeachtheatre/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NeonPeachTheatre/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NeonPeachInc

 

Words by Sian Brett
Images by Jon Lee
 

 

‘Watermelon’: A Review

“It’s okay if the love of your life is your best friend”

Last Sunday night I had the absolute pleasure of watching Box Room Theatre’s production of ‘Watermelon’ at the Hen and Chickens Theatre in London, as part of the Camden Fringe. The play was written by Georgia Green and takes a new and exciting look at the role of female friendships in modern life. Quite simply, Watermelon follows two girls named Abbie (Alexandra Proudfoot) and Zoe (Grace Hudson) on a night out, and a boy they bring home named Joe (Henry Taylor). Yet in just 55 minutes, it manages to introduce so many different layers and subtle hints at a wider life I desperately wanted to know. 

In case you hadn’t guessed, I loved Watermelon (and I don’t even like the fruit). The piece was exciting and dynamic, and ultimately showed the immense skill of Box Room Theatre in all aspects, particularly in the writing, and acting that came from Abbie, Zoe and Joe.

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To me, it felt like a case study of sorts on all the different relationships we have. The cast of Watermelon portrayed fantastic chemistry but were equally all able to hold their own in scenes. A relationship between a girl and the stranger trying to sleep with their best friend is one I hadn’t seen before, but thoroughly enjoyed; the sharp dialogue between the two was constant and entertaining. 

One thing I found most interesting was how it showed the friendship between Abbie and Zoe. A lot of things they showed, I had never experienced with my female friends such as taking boys home or discussing sex lives, but then there were so many things I had experienced a hundred times over, like the classic boy talks or even facial hair bleaching… It got me thinking about how no one female friendship is really the same, and how lovely that is.

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Watermelon is a beautifully open piece of theatre that takes the audience’s hand and invites them to share these experiences. Friendships are complex and can involve so much worry, and so to have a piece of theatre normalise that in front of my very eyes was comforting. 

Although very lively and, at times, laugh out loud funny, the piece also enters into some intense scenes, and some equally tranquil ones too. Fear and paranoia come into play when Abbie’s character goes missing in the night, and the relationship between Zoe and Joe develops immensely through the next half an hour of the play. They took a little slice of everyday reality and gave it so much life and depth; the audience is thrown into the drama with no warning, and it allows you to experience a great deal more emotion whichever way it swings.

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In the above photo, you can see one of my favourite scenes of the play. The team at Box Room have a huge imagination but are clever in their delivery. This simple use of fairy lights and music gave such intelligent lightness to the personal drama Zoe’s character was going through. I genuinely thought about the light sequences for the whole week after, I loved it that much.

Watermelon is an excellent example of young new writing that we should be paying attention to in the theatre. A simplistic but secretly challenging piece that is dotted with feminist quandaries most of us face on a regular basis (but perhaps aren’t as brave as Zoe when it comes to resolution). There’s so much to discover and explore that it’s hard not to love.

Four Stars for Watermelon!

 

You can follow Box Room Theatre on social media, and keep up to date with all the lovely events they host (enough to satisfy all your comedy and theatre needs)!

Words by Briony Brake
Images from Box Room Theatre