Arts

‘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                            

 

 

                                            

 

 

 

 

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‘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

Wonder Woman: The Marketing, The Film & The Future

Wonder Woman came out in the UK on the 1st June, and although it’s still showing a few cinemas nationwide (if you missed out, don’t forget to check out independent cinemas who show films later), it’s generally on it’s way out until we see it next on DVD. Thankfully, a lot of people saw it making it a whopping £173m in its opening weekend, meaning Patty Jenkins now holds the record for the biggest US opening by a female director. 

I have a lot I’ve wanted to say about multiple aspects of the film, including a review itself, as well as how much I struggled with some of the marketing, and ultimately what it all means for the future. So make haste, there’s so much to discuss.

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I should also mention that this article is one part bad news, two parts good, and I’m going to start with the bad things. The way this film was pushed toward a female audience in its partnerships and targeted posts absolutely reeks of a room mostly full of men, all trying to work out how to market superheroes to women. YES I GET IT, SHE IS A WOMAN. You do not need to market her as a woman to me, a woman. You also do not need to market this superhero film any differently to how you market superhero films with men in. Women already watch superhero films, and go to the cinema just as much as men. Just get on with marketing a Wonder Woman film that we have all been waiting for, and show loads of kick-ass scenes and cool scenic shots from her homeland and we’re good to go.

Before I go off on a fully fledged rant, here’s a bit of an idea about the kind of marketing they did for this film. Take it in, and think about it. 

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Wonder Woman is one of the most bad-ass female characters ever, but gals let’s get together and have a girly night and go on a spa day!!! Let’s go see that mega babe, what a stunner that Diana. Please, stop trying to market her to women like we are an alien species.

Superhero films are all marketed pretty much the same way every time, unless they’re female superheroes. I love Wonder Woman as a character, and I always have. I also love pink, and am a bit girly, and being a human being I am capable of being and liking both. The point isn’t that you can’t be both, it’s that in the marketing campaigns for this film (including a free lipstick with your lady’s razor!), it was suggested that despite Diana being a superhero trying to save the planet, we still somehow see women as one thing. It’s very generic, and that’s a tad insulting, really.

Wonder Woman is Amazonian, and I’m pretty sure they don’t shave their legs or plan spa trips to Santorini (because they’re too busy shooting arrows at Nazis while they fly through the air).

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The two good parts begin now, and they will try their hardest to be brief.

The film was excellent. The Amazonian women were so damn cool, and so was Diana. I recently read an article praising the fact that when Diana jumps and runs and lands, her thighs jiggle. It’s very simple things that women have wanted in film for ever, and we’re finally getting them, and it’s finally happening, and I can’t help but think after all this time, was it really so hard?

Wonder Woman is a great film that genuinely has a superhero lead; it isn’t just a soppy romance, or an action-less female superhero flick. I felt so great watching it, I honestly was so happy at all the female characters whooping ass, at one point I nearly cried. 

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Most importantly with anything of this nature, is its consequences, or rather what it means for the future. The female director of a female-led superhero film holds a box office record, and fought off some major summer blockbusters like The Mummy simultaneously. This, plus the thigh-jiggling suggests more positive things in the future for women in films, and improvement in genres like action, horror and so on.

The only negative thing looking forward (the only big negative thing) is still the way we believe that women don’t watch superhero films, or scifi, or horror (despite the fact that sci-fi was invented by a woman), and as a result, the marketing and advertising done on films like this are still really crap. The next time they release a female-led action film or superhero film, I hope we can see similar publicity to male-led films in the same genres. 

Swings and roundabouts, am I right?

What did you think of Wonder Woman? Let us know, and feel free to tell Briony to stop ranting on here (I’m so sorry), and make sure you catch up with other great female led films coming out this year such as Raw, The Beguiled and Atomic Blonde.

 

Words by Briony Brake
Images by Warner Bros Pictures and Odeon Cinemas

Tate Britain Exhibition: Queer British Art 1861–1967

On my first full day living (temporarily) in London, I headed on over to the Tate Britain for the first time, to view their current exhibition, and the first ever exhibition on queer British art. The exhibition is free for members, or £15 otherwise (or £13.10 for all you students out there), and is so much more than an exhibition. 

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I went in around half past six on Saturday, and left almost two hours later. The exhibition is split into six sections, with other events around the gallery including music and spoken word performances. It’s a real celebration, and I expected nothing less.

The LGBT+ community are very present at the exhibition and it was nice to see an institution like Tate open their doors so fully to a community, and to allow fun, bright and happy celebrations to occur. The art itself is fantastically interesting, and successfully tells a story of generations of writers, painters and inspirations whose impact carries through to this day; from varying feminisms to early drag, and even fashion.

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Although the art and its stories are definitely worth talking about, I am not an expert, or even as knowledgeable about art as I’d like to be, and I think the best thing about the exhibition was not the frames on the walls, but the people walking room from room, celebrating their pride and their own history, just by being there. It was the most unique and charming atmosphere I’ve ever experienced inside a gallery.

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When I neared the end of the exhibition, having slowly wandered room to room, reading every plaque, and admiring every painting, sketch and statue, I could hear the thudding bass of an ABBA track in the distance. In the final room, two doors seemed to be illuminated pink from the other side, and I could hear an assortment of Madonna, Lady Gaga and similar. Upon opening the door and leaving the exhibition, we left the history behind, and entered into the bright pink party celebration where love happens, now.

People from all over were just dancing together to great music, and I don’t think it gets much better than that.

 

The exhibition is on until 01/10/17, book here: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/queer-british-art-1861-1967

Words by Briony Brake
Images by Tate Britain and Briony Brake

‘Colder Water’: A Review

Sunday afternoons for me are usually spent aimlessly engaging with whatever cheap dialogue is available on Netflix. Yet I was lucky enough to be invited by Antonym Theatre to watch their latest piece Colder Water, directed by Celine Fortenbacher-Poplawska, and 2016 Edinburgh Fringe success ‘TWIX’, directed by Cara Withers and Molly Evans.

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Out of the New Cross bubble, and with a £4.65 Voddy and Cranberry, I was ready to absorb the works of Antonym Theatre’s Double Decker: ‘Colder Water’ and ‘TWIX’. Ogden’s writing makes you walk in the characters shoes; no matter if those shoes are pinchy, floppy, or relatively comfortable, I was tying the laces of empathy as I went. Since finishing my second year of studying Theatre Arts, I turn to one of my favourite quotes to best describe pieces such as Colder Water and Twix.

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Laurie Ogden’s work may not focus on the lives of 19th century Russians, but it does focus on employing subtlety. Supported by lyrical monologues and passive-aggressive characters which allows her pieces to act as broken glass to present a unique glint into ordinary lives.  The premier of Colder Water was essentially an extract of an awkward, yet needed conversation between four individuals dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.

Colder Water’s subtly allows the audience to uncover that there is more to the situation than the conversation currently offers. Ogden explores our society’s extremely problematic values when it comes to dealing with sexual assault; “What were you wearing?”, “How much did you drink?”, “You were asking for it”, “You’re making it up”. All while sexual predators such as Brock Turner and Andrew Picard have the justice system wrapped around their privileged fingers. There is no point denying that the justice system prioritises their voice and the future of the attacker over the victim’s.

Colder Water’s depth of field focuses on Ally (Alice Brittain), Louise (Jess Reed), and Ellie’s (Laurie Ogden) internal perspectives of female connection, layering these women with intense humanity and interest. Ogdens depth of field allows Colder Water to artistically show a ‘social template’ wherein the attacker’s dialogue and privilege is removed. This template is something our society and justice system should be employing.

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In addition to Ogden’s use of subtlety, she liberates and showcases a lesbian dialogue between Ally and Ellie. Other than the series Orange is the New Black or the video game Life Is Strange, I’ve found that most theatre, art, or television I’ve engaged with is (mostly) heterosexual, or includes a gay-male character. Colder Water introduced me to a lesbian dialogue on stage. It was heart-warming to watch as the piece didn’t focus on the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, but rather the everyday lives of a couple, which I found enlightening to watch. Especially Knowing that artists such as Ogden are composing work about homosexual experience without a political drive – in regards to their rights. Again, Colder Water serves as a template for showing that we’re in the 21st century. Lesbian relationships are more than acceptable and shouldn’t be excluded from art and theatre.

Overall, I think Colder Water is pretty neat and has potential to rock the feminisms world! A massive well done to Laurie Ogden and Celine Fortenbacher-Poplawska and the cast/crew of Antonym Theatre! I give you five stars! (literally)

Peace, Love and Cacti

Courtney McMahon

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p.s. not all dialogue on Netflix is cheap

 

 

Words by Courtney McMahon
Images courtesy of quotefancy, Antonym Theatre, Theatre N16 and Courtney McMahon

Playlist: Briony’s Summer Anthems

“Summertime is here again, and my hayfever is through the roof. Thankfully sitting inside and sneezing gave me an excuse to make up a new Anthem playlist full of excellent female tracks to listen to whether you’re out on the beach or hiding from the sun like me…”

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Click here to listen: Briony’s Summer Anthems