Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Theatre Review: The Great Gatsby: An Immersive Experience

The Great Gatsby, Secret Location, LondonWritten: Alexander WrightDirected by: Alexander Wright
"The honour would be entirely mine if you would attend my little party." It’s the roaring twenties – an era of bootleg liquor, red hot jazz and hedonistic pleasures. Jay Gatsby has invited you to one of his infamous parties and that's not an invite you want to turn down."

Review: I've ranted before about how much I love immersive theatre, and so I think I went into this making two mistakes. The first was having expectations, you should never presume with a show like this ( because when you presume you press you to me and that's just weird -#Sorrynotsorry) and the second mistake was that I went home (but I don't think I could have known that to be an issue before going).

This immersive experience plays out the story of Jay Gatsby, immortalised in the F. Scott Fitzergerald novel The Great Gatsby. Gatsby is a chancer, a gambler and a man of mystery. An enigma to crack, by one with heart, a heart that has been taken and consumed by Daisy, and when life brings them together again sparks fly, and not just because someone has set off some fireworks. 

If you do go and see this, my advise would be to dress up, not only does it get you in the mood, you also don;t then feel like a lemon when everyone around you is dressed up. There was a great vibe, drink was flowing, it felt like a party. This is what Gatsby would have wanted I felt. Then out of no where the action kicks off and you're taken into their story and moved through the sets. 

In any immersive piece of theatre sets are vitally important, and when you;re trying to do what they were then it becomes more difficult because you have to have a multi functional set. It was nice, but that was kind of it for me. It worked for it's purpose but me wondering around by myself i was paying more attention and i wanted more from it. 

The show really tries to get you in the mood of the twenties, teaching you to swing, having a fully operating band that played you in and out and provided some great moments for the theatre. There set itself isn't massive so there isn't a lot of diversity in where the actors can take you, but they did well with that they had. 

This then leads on to the main problem I have with immersive theatre.You never get the full picture you get pieces and you have to piece them together depending on how you you travel round and who you choose to follow. It was also a fault of the set that depending on where action was happening you got a lot of feedback from the crowd talking, so bits got mixed in and you could only appreciate it if you were there next to the actors. 

But you got the story. I felt it helped that i'd seen the film (yes i know..i know) so I had an idea of the plot, but as an experience, you get the key elements, you get the moments. 

The actors to their credit got full force into, emotions were on point, you felt part of their moment and accents were on point (for the most part). For all the faults that am almost looking to find (i can't help it) this is a fun show, full of life and energy and if you want a good 20's night outgo and check this out. 

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Monday, 14 August 2017

Book Review: Editing Emma by Chloe Seager

Title:Editing Emma
Author: Chloe Seager
Publisher: HQ, HarperCollins
Release Date: 10th August 2017
Synopsis: According to Netflix, this is NOT how my teenage life is supposed to look.' When Emma Nash is ghosted by love of her life Leon Naylor, she does what any girl would do - spends the summer avoiding all human contact, surrounded by the Chewit wrappers he left behind. Seeing Leon suddenly `in a relationship' on Facebook, however, spurs Emma into action. She vows to use the internet for good (instead of stalking Leon's social media),chronicling her adventures on her new Editing Emma blog. But life online doesn't always run smoothly. From finding her mum's Tinder profile, to getting catfished and accidentally telling the entire world why Leon Naylor is worth no girl's virginity... Surely nothing else could go wrong?!

Review: Let me start by saying I AM AN EMMA. You are also, or have at some point in your lives been Emma. It's all a part of growing up. We need to stand and fall so that we grow, and so that we have lots of embarrassing stories we can tell people. That is what this book did. There was also a Britney reference so I was sold. 

But I need to digress a little to in part explain why I loved this book so much. This is a fault I mention a lot (and something that will crop up in a couple of upcoming reviews). Judging books by their covers. No we shouldn't do it, but when there's so many books out there sometimes it happens. This is not a book I would have normally picked up. I have a tendency to think that this type of book isn't my jam. However I had the pleasure of interviewing Chloe as part of the #CringeFest and have now read a lot more contemporary YA fiction than intended this year. In doing so I have found once again that I have to open up and admit that I was wrong, this book is right and now lets go back into it....

The book is written in a diary 'blog post' style format, so that we go with Emma on her journey, getting our information in as much real time as is possible. But a blog post is always with a slight delay so there is some level of though. This makes for a really interesting protagonist. You get an open and raw narrative that also allows you to get a lot of history to. With Emma it was like a conversation. She was taking at you, and you got hooked on what she was writing. That private nature as the blogs weren't published made it more of a treat. She also wasn't perfect, but you couldn't help but be on #TeamEmma 

Situationally Emma goes through a lot, and with this, like with a lot of teen drama's, I feel there is an element of hype to a characters life. Adding extra levels of embarrassment, but it adds to the drama, encourages the comedy and it keeps you hooked. I was laughing along which is what you want to be doing, but I was also cringing, and that's just as important. I could see myself in so many elements of Emma, you don't want to, but the more I read through, the more I actually embraced it! Own the Emma inside you! We've all had a Facebook stalk now and again and we've all kept something given to us....Don't even lie.

On that note relationships are an important part of anyone's teenage years, whether you had ten boyfriends or two (or none...because being a bystander is also ok I'll have you know) and that formed a core part of Emma's story. This book was very open in terms of sex and relationships, and the perils (and to some extent danger) or internet dating. This is the reality of the world we live in, it's something more and more teens are having greater experience with and that we need to be talking about. I loved how her story bore out of heartbreak, and the depth that she felt for it. In the book she is almost mocked, or led to believe that she's crazy for having such strong feelings. BUT WE DID. You felt like it was the be all end all, you did stupid things, you over analysed ever single action, and you wanted to believe that it was all one big mistake that will fix itself and everyone will seeing rainbows. But that's also not reality and I loved the openness with which Emma experienced this, and the way that it didn't just resolve itself, she went through cycles and pitfalls and had to learn from them. I could empathise with her. You think you're fixing a problem yourself because you know best, but ohhh the benefit of perspective. 

It was here as in life, that we evaluate ourselves through the way we see and experience others around us and Emma had a great group of friends to be able to help, hinder and be the shoulder to cry on. There was ever different type of friend you've known or still had and at the heart of this group was their relationships and the roller-coasters you go on with your friends in as much as you do with everything else in life. It makes you appreciate your friends more, it almost makes me want to go back and try and fix bridges that have been set fire to. But i think that's almost a fruitless task, it's more about how you take what you've experiences and go forward with it. Make the edits, learn and move on. 

I'm not sure in this I've really expressed what i wanted to with this review, it all feels a bit like a ramble. What I want it to say is how much I enjoyed the book. It was fun, pacy, full of laughs, but also full of heart. It had depth, it had moments of sadness where you just want to reach out and hug a character or shake them, or wipe a smug smile off their face. It's a book that says, you know what its ok to go through these things, you just have to learn from them and in that reflection you find the version of you you want to be, not the version you're putting out for the world to be. We could all do from having a look and making small edits from time to time. 

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Friday, 11 August 2017

Theatre Review: The Magic Flute at The Kings Head

The Magic Flute, Kings Head Theatre, LondonDirector/Co-translator:  John SavourninConductor/Co-translator:  David EatonDesigner:  Simon BejerLighting Designer:  Nicholas Holdridge

Review: This is a reviewthat has been a long time coming for which I apologise, as the run of this Opera at the Kings Head is now over, but it is touring! And I still wanted to express my thoughts. This was something I had been looking forward to having originally seen a production of The Magic Flue a year before, and I enjoyed this fresh new take on it.

Opera is a difficult format to get into, especially for the younger generations. It was something I'd put off for a long while.Theatres are making it more accessible in terms of cost, but it is a very specific art form to commit to, appreciate and enjoy. But it is one with such a unique skill. It is something I want to like, and have seen a couple of Operas in an attempt to achieve this, including The Magic Flute at the ENO. That was a grand spectacle, massive beautiful sets, and impressive vocals. But without the visuals it was almost hard to understand. Enter the Charles Court Opera's interpretation and you have a winning formula. I could finally understand the beautiful words, the characterisations, the emotion and the fun that are at the core of this production. 

Mozart's Opera tells the story of Tamino tasked by the Queen of the Night to rescue Pamina. On his travels he meets Papageno on a quest to find his one true Papagena love. This story has a bit of everything, good versus bad, a quest, magic, deathly trials and here set in this beautiful jungle setting. You walk in feeling like you're part of the jungle and the action unfolds around you, putting you up close and personal. 

One of the strengths of this company is their combination of theatre and puppetry. I looovvveeee a good puppet, and here it worked beautifully from the three spirits in bird form to Papgena. She filed the space, literally growing into it, it felt imposing and I was engrossed. This was the fun plot line, where the humour could really play up, very much amped up by Matthew Kellett's performance, which was full of ham and substance in equal measure, and having seen him in a number of productions is a very skilled actor.  

The cast moved through the story beautifully, the pace was kept, there were moments of light and dark, the plot was allowed to floor within the comedy, but then moments of tenderness and sadness, and more importantly i really could listen to the words and what they meant. Opera doesn't have to be incomprehensible. 

Do watch out for Charles Court, they do some great things for which this will stand up among them!

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