Saturday, 12 November 2016

The Wipers Times

It has been quite a while since I last wrote, hasn’t it? Life has got pretty busy with the start of my MA course but with my first portfolio handed in and done with for now, I will chat to you lovely folks about The Wipers Times which I saw at Sheffield’s Lyceum a week ago.

The Wipers Times tells the true story of soldiers from the 12th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters who, during the First World War, find an abandoned printing press in the Belgian town of Ypres (called Wipers by the British soldiers) and decide to print a satirical paper about the war. Left in the very capable hands, and the obvious heirs to The Wipers Times’ humour, of Private Eye’s Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, the soldiers’ voices and the magazine’s jokes shine through without being overly sentimental or nostalgic – in fact, the jokes are all too relatable, even 100 years on.

The play is a theatrical rewrite of Hislop’s and Newman’s 2014 television screenplay of The Wipers Times (I checked – it’s on Netflix and definitely worth a watch!). The TV film obviously has the advantage of being able to use different locations and very helpful subtitles to let the viewer know when and where the action is taking place. However the play handled all of these changes really well by the soldiers moving the composite set to represent the newspaper office post-war as well as all the war time locations. During these set changes, the cast sing a range of spoof First World War songs which Nick Green so expertly crafts to add to the gallows humour of the play.

The Wipers Times smoothly combines plot with sketches based on actual ads from the paper with a music hall variety act tone – “do you suffer from optimism?” probably being the most well-known. Definitely one of my top moments had to be the miracle at Christmas tale with a very aggressive Father Christmas literally pelting a hapless soldier with snow – it tickled me a lot! The satire is just spot on and pretty much all the jokes made within the play are the soldiers’ own from the paper. Even if you have next to no knowledge of the First World War, I would still recommend going to watch it! During a Q&A session after the performance, Ian Hislop commented that it was easy to dismiss or patronise humour from history but the humour of The Wipers Times is just so cuttingly British that it will make anyone laugh!

The production is touring until the 19th of November so definitely go if you can – if you can’t, I would highly recommend the TV film available on Netflix instead. And if you're interested in reading The Wipers Times then the original documents have been digitised. 

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Operation Crucible: A Testament to Sheffield's Strength

Hello again! This blog was written for Sheffield Theatres about Operation Crucible.

Operation Crucible tells the story of four steel workers who become trapped in the basement of Sheffield’s Marples Hotel which was bombed during the winter of 1940. The Crucible’s Studio space becomes the workers’ foundry and their prison. Although the story of the workers is fictionalised, the emotions behind it are unequivocally human and real.

Kieran Knowles’ debut play is fast paced and combines physical theatre with energetic dialogue. The four male characters’ camaraderie is formed within the foundry and remains unbreakable even with football rivalries, and this provides a great deal of good-natured teasing. However the moments of stillness throughout the play cut through this and remind the audience why this story is being told. The lighting effects are superb and cut very quickly from bright flashbacks to the darkness and silence of being trapped with only candlelight to see. The audio track of falling rubble and bombs in the distance also emphasises the claustrophobic nature of being buried and makes the long silences all the more deafening. The audience are reached out to and engaged directly by being brought into the story from the very start through the characters’ reflections on Sheffield’s industrial heritage. The sparse set allows the actors to become everyone and everything they encounter – the machines within the foundry and the people working within them. The actors themselves become Sheffield. The play is as much a celebration of Sheffield’s industrial heritage as it is a lament for those who lost their lives within the Blitz. The title, Operation Crucible, takes its name from the German codename for the strategic bombing of Sheffield and other cities known for their munitions factories. These characters’ professions were protected because of their importance to the war effort and this is addressed within the play as the men contemplate whether or not they would have wanted to join the army. However the play does not just focus on the impact on the male workers; the women of steel also have their moment. Their scene highlights how the foundry was incredibly important for everyone who lived in Sheffield and how the women were just as capable at their jobs as the men. The teasing, fast dialogue continues right through. Operation Crucible is a play that at its heart celebrates the strength of Sheffield to carry on in spite of adversity.

Funnily enough, the play premiered in the Finborough theatre in London before coming to Sheffield, which saw the play receiving different reactions from the audiences and humour being found in different places. Sheffield is a proud city and this sentiment carries out into the audience; most of whom are from Sheffield and were either alive or knew someone alive during the Blitz. The human experiences told build and gather momentum throughout the play and so the audience become totally invested in the lives of these four men. Operation Crucible received a standing ovation from the audience and it is an emotive piece of theatre that everyone living in or from Sheffield should definitely go see.

As young ambassadors, we had the privilege of meeting the cast – Salvatore D’Aquilla, Kieran Knowles, Paul Tinto and James Wallwork – for a Q&A session after the performance. This was really interesting because we were able to hear in detail about the research process for the production and how the storylines of the characters changed from men who were unable to go to war because of medical reasons after finding the story of the Marples hotel and how steel workers’ professions were protected. It became important to tell this story as Sheffield was beginning to forget its own history and this was the biggest loss of life on a single night within the city. The steel heart of Sheffield beats once again as this significant event in the history of the city is relived through the eyes of ordinary working men and tells the story of Sheffield’s industrial heritage.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

A Knight to Remember

Normally I would use this blog as an attempt to sign people up for Live for 5 by chatting about the latest play I’d seen. Well, I hope that I will still be able to do that this time even though there are no more tickets left for this play – let alone Live for 5 tickets! The play I am talking about is No Man’s Land by Harold Pinter with the two lead roles being filled by two Knights of the Realm – Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart! This was the hottest ticket in town and I’m pretty sure half of Sheffield is going to the theatre over the course of the week. These two men could literally talk about toilet paper and people would still pay the money to go! You might remember from a previous blog post about my own experience trying to get these tickets on the day that they were released to the public back in March and, as I found out over the course of this week by doing some work experience with Sheffield Theatres, we were very lucky to get them when we did. I think for every performance, the theatre was full! So, although the run in Sheffield is now drawing to an end, No Man’s Land continues to tour round the UK and remember that if you are in Sheffield and aged between 16 and 26, then sign up for Live for 5 and you could see legends come to the theatre for just a fiver!

The joy when we first got the tickets!
The play itself was actually surprisingly funny – I’ve never seen or read a Pinter play before but he seems to be of a similar ilk to Beckett. I didn’t expect to laugh quite as much as I did – I was more expecting a dramatic conversation between two men rather than a comedy. But the timing and the chemistry between all four of the actors really kept the play fast paced and witty. From my point of view, I thought the play was all about memory and senility and set in the 1970s in a grand old house which I took to be like a care home, though none of the characters ever said as much. I’m not going to lie, I was never really too sure what was going on but I think the point was that the audience just sees a snapshot of these men’s lives at the moment that they intertwine – it’s not a complete story. The best way I can describe the plot (with a little help from Wikipedia!) is Spooner (Ian McKellen), a down-on-his-luck poet, is invited back to Hirst’s (Patrick Stewart) grand house after a night of drinking at the pub and becomes his house guest. In the morning, Hirst becomes adamant that he knew Spooner whilst at university and begins to reminisce about mutual acquaintances. All the while Briggs and Foster (Owen Teale and Damien Molony), Hirst’s man servants, also join in on the drinking and interrogate Spooner about his identity and his friendship with Hirst. It seems like such a complex plot for a play set in one room of a house and it is a very wordy play but the chemistry between the actors helps the audience to keep afloat of what’s happening.

Speaking of the actors, obviously Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart were great! I mean, I think everyone was there at the theatre because of them (myself included) but Owen Teale and Damien Molony were also brilliant! Owen Teale was great as a slightly terrifying man servant and bodyguard – I think that has to be the most aggressive “we’re out of bread” I’ve ever heard, made even better with the frilly apron! Damien Molony as Foster actively encouraged Hirst’s drinking because it kept him in his position of power and he would try to move all obstacles so it would stay that way. Molony played Foster as a ‘Jack the lad’ type but one who ultimately just wanted power and leverage – which, you know, brought a bit of dark humour into things.

No Man’s Land is a witty play about, well, nothing and everything! And Sean Mathias’ version really brings that to light with the failings of human memory, whilst, you know, the comedic timing stops the audience from falling into the dangerous trap of an existential crisis! I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a bit of a slower – though still funny – evening at the theatre and for anyone wanting to see stage and screen legends! Though be warned, tickets will sell out very fast for this one!

You can follow No Man’s Land on Twitter (@NoMansLandPlay) for updates about the tour.

Stay tuned here for a Lady Chatterley’s Lover update (Live for 5 tickets available!) in September and for any random adventures I might go on in the meantime!

Saturday, 23 July 2016

I Didn't Fall Over! A Graduate's Tale

This week I graduated from The University of Sheffield with a 2:1 in English Literature and, as were many people I suppose, I was very scared I was going to fall over on stage or at least forget where I was going. However neither of these happened and in all honesty, no one fell over at all during the ceremony! So, in this blog post, I thought I would sum up a bit of my university experience and someone somewhere might find it useful!

Hannah and I have managed to get a collection started!

University is hard. There are so many changes within the three years and suddenly, after eighteen years of support at home and at school, we’re left to our own devices. This takes a while to get used to and to really feel at home at university – this is totally normal. People take things at different paces and personally, Freshers’ Week in my first year was incredibly hard for me to deal with. As an introvert, I found the week draining and, although I tried to make an effort talking to people and throwing myself into the life expected of me as a student, it did take a huge toll on me. I remember halfway through the week calling my mum in tears because I was just so overwhelmed. Thankfully I had really great flatmates who, at the end (or near the end) of our degrees, I’m still in contact with and they really helped me to settle in and we will always know six o’clock to be tea time! So don’t be worried if you don’t magically settle in as soon as you move in – you will fall into a good group of people eventually. If you are worried, don’t be afraid to find help. There are those support services in place at university so use them! And they’re free so even more reason to use them if you need to. The support is there to be used so never pass up the opportunity if the occasion calls for it. And never forget the support that your family and friends will be able to give you as well – university is scary for everyone, people will be able to understand your worries.

When people think of students, what comes to mind is drinking and nights out, and I’m not going to lie, there is the expectation that that will happen. However, never feel pressured into fulfilling that stereotype. It may sound clichĂ© but you do you. I didn’t go out out in my first Freshers’ Week and I managed to make some great friends by doing other things – we watched movies and went out to lunch and went shopping. And also, no one cares if you don’t want to drink and if they do, they are not worth being around. I’ve had plenty of sober nights out and I’ve been able to enjoy myself so if you’re with the right group of people then how sober you are doesn’t matter – you have a good time whatever. Then again, if you do want to drink then know your limits – no one wants to be saddled with that really drunk friend who does stupid things. I have been that friend a couple of times and I have not lived it down (sorry guys – you know what I’m talking about!). But, in the midst of partying, remember you’ve also come to university to work. And your degree is something that you want to do – remember that. Let no one put you down about it. If it interests you and helps you in what you want to do in later life then that’s all that matters. This may sound contradictory but also remember that you have to relax at some point as well. Yes, university is about the work but you’ve got to blow off steam when exams and assessments are getting you down. Find a society that interests you and gets you out of the house. In my three years of being at university, my biggest regret is probably that I didn’t join in more with societies. I always said I would but just never pushed myself that far. So go do something. Carry on with something that you did before university or start something completely new! Employers like to see well-rounded CVs so, even though the final grade helps, remember that that’s not everything. The experiences and the opportunities offered to you during your degree are just as important as they give you the chance to learn new skills which might be more applicable to the career path you want to take. And remember to have fun! As the chancellor of my university told us at our graduation – university is not the best years of your life. You have your whole life ahead of you. You take the path you want to take. I have no big life plan honestly – I know I want to be a writer at some point, but other than that I don’t really know what I’m doing! I’m twenty-one and I burst into tears on the phone just the other day trying to sort out bills for my flat. Yes, university sets you up with some skills for life but there are some that can’t be taught – you just have to live them. Other career paths and choices do that as well so if you know that university isn’t for you then you will learn all you need to know to look like you know how to adult and perhaps even quicker than those at university. And as a very wise friend told me last month – no one has their dream job in their twenties, so don’t panic of things don’t suddenly fall at your feet. It takes a while just to set up how you want to live your life and you may find that your dream job changes or adapts depending on where life takes you. Nothing is set in stone so, although it’s easier said than done, do not worry about what the future might hold. You have the power to control your life.

This is my favourite picture of the day because its not posed!

Now, on a more personal note, anyone who knows me knows that I am extremely reserved when it comes to emotions, so if you’ve been my friend whilst at university, you may not know just how much you mean to me. Whilst I’ve been at university, I’ve realised that I’m not cute, I’m practical and personally, I find it quite embarrassing to say things like I love you even to people I’ve known for my entire life so, although I know it is extremely cowardly to do it online and in writing where you may never see it, just know that I do care about you guys and I have really appreciated the support and the wonderful memories that I have of us all. And I am extremely proud of us for getting this far – we graduated and I couldn’t have done it without you all helping me through the ups and the downs! So thank you, it’s been a pleasure.

Personally, I think university has been the best experience and the worst experience of my life so far. I have never felt more exhausted and drained but then I have also never felt more confident, more self-assured and happy with where and who I am at this point in my life – even if I still can’t talk to people over the phone! It sounds so ridiculously cheesy but it’s the truth. 

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Just Another Day At The Office

These past few weeks, I have been despairing and getting increasingly frustrated at numerous job applications and I have felt like I have been getting nowhere. If you have read my last few blog posts, you’ll know that I received an offer to do a Masters in Creative Writing. Ever since I got the offer, I have been unsure whether I wanted to take it – there were many things to consider like did I want to take out another loan to pay for the course or was I better off trying to get a job? I applied for many scholarships but I didn’t think anything would come from it. However, yesterday I got an email back from the university’s financial services offering me a scholarship that will cover my tuition fees and part of my living costs for the next year. So basically this gives me a chance to do my MA without worrying too much about how I’m going to pay for everything! I can’t put into words how happy I am about this unexpected surprise. I genuinely did not expect to receive this scholarship and am incredibly humbled that I have. And I can’t wait now to get back to Sheffield and start my Creative Writing course!

So in-between all of this frustration and eventually excitement, I went to the theatre twice and saw two plays based in and around offices. The first one last week was The Government Inspector by Gogol. This was a good old Russian farce; a corrupt town anticipates the arrival of a government inspector and mistakenly think a broke middle class writer is the said inspector. This performance is part of Ramps On The Moon, a project which brings together seven major theatre companies and incorporates sign language, audio description and subtitles into their performances. Disabled artists and audiences are given centre stage and stimulates positive change and awareness within arts and culture. The inclusion of sign language and subtitles within the performance really added to the hilarity of the farcical nature of the play. Mistaken identity and miscommunication is at the heart of this play and the addition of sign language, which the majority of the audience was not able to understand, added an extra layer which was not prevalent in the original text. 

The set was like a matchstick town, representing how easy it was to bowl over its inhabitants. Kiruna Stamell was perfect as the Mayor's wife, Anna. She brought the vain, superficial character to life through affecting a French accent for certain words to make herself seem more than just a provincial mayor's wife. David Carlyle as the Mayor himself got gradually more unstable as the play went on. He was beset by a crisis of faith and uncertainty as he tried to maintain the way of life the town had built for itself based on corruption and bribery as well as his own conscience. Gogol's satirical comedy has stood the test of time and is still relevant and humourous today and through the Ramps On The Moon project, theatre has become even more relevant and accessible to an increasingly diverse audience. That is something that I hope can continue. 

The next play I saw one week later (and a week that had changed my life) was Mike Bartlett's new play, Contractions. It took the style of 3-5 minute interviews between Emma, a sales rep, and her unnamed manager. By forming a romantic relationship with a co-worker, Emma is informed that the relationship is in breach of the company's contract. This interview style of the play made it feel very fast paced as there was a lot to fit into a short space of an hour and the stark revolving stage echoed the revolving nature of the production. The audience voiced their own frustration and disbelief at key moments of the play, which is proof that it certainly held our attention. Sara Stewart was chillingly terrifying as the manager who was impassively corporate and extremely hard to read. Rose Leslie took the audience on an emotional journey as a woman stuck in a job that she couldn't leave and it had ruined her life. It was hard not to feel her desperation and frustration as she tried to hold onto some semblance of her life. After seeing this play, I'm kind of glad I didn't get any of the jobs I applied for; if Contractions is a real representation of an office environment, then I don't think I'm suited to that! Contractions is a darkly funny play and I would highly recommend going to see it, especially since Live for 5 tickets are available on all performances!

Anyway, I am taking a well-deserved break from applications and enjoying my week away on holiday. I haven't got many theatre trips lined up over the summer but watch this space for updates about whether I fall over at graduation and a much anticipated performance of No Man's Land with Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart in August.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Flowers for Mrs Harris

Flowers for Mrs Harris *****
By Rachel Wagstaff and Richard Taylor
Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Director: Daniel Evans
Cast includes: Claire Burt, Anna-Jane Casey, Mark Meadows
Dates: 19th May to 4th June
Times: 7:30. Matinees, 2:30 Wednesdays and Saturdays
Running Time: 2hrs 40mins including interval
Review by Nicola Wallace
26th May 2016

When you first hear about this new musical, it sounds cute but not exactly the most riveting of topics. Based on the novel Mrs Harris Goes To Paris by Paul Gallico, Flowers for Mrs Harris is about a woman who sees a Dior dress and decides that she must have one. That is essentially a very barebones synopsis. But, oh my goodness, it is so much more than that! It’s funny, moving and gives you hope – all dreams are achievable. Mrs Harris is a cleaning woman in post-war, austerity era London who, after seeing a Dior dress in one of her clients’ homes, embarks on a quest to own one herself. She saves up enough money, after a few mishaps, to fly to Paris and purchase one. By the sheer force and wit of her personality, she makes a difference not only within her own life, but the various lives of others. After years of feeling alone after she is left widowed after the Second World War, she realises that she is not quite so lonely after all. It is a sentimental fairytale of never giving up hope and not letting life’s obstacles stand in your way. Through hard work and a good heart, Mrs Harris achieves her dream. Seriously, there was not a dry eye in the house by the end! I even shed a few tears myself!

It is an outstanding production. Writer Rachel Wagstaff and composer/lyricist Richard Taylor bring together Mrs Harris’ quest with humour and heart in a whirlwind of emotions. Seriously, there are a lot of feels in this production! Make sure you take your tissues. The music is stirring and fits with the overall production beautifully.  There are never songs just for the sake of them; they always bring something to the action on stage and move along the production succinctly. The actors themselves are all brilliant and embody their roles so so well! The casting is perfect and this production seemed to have been made for them – much like a Dior dress! I bet the costume department had a whale of a time with all those dresses! I was very jealous of the actors who got to wear some very gorgeous Dior dresses – would have liked to have worn a few myself! The revolving stage allows for quick and slick set changes which never overpower the action on stage. It looks stunning as well. By the end, the stage is literally alive with colour as Mrs Harris learns of the good she has done. As Daniel Evan’s final production as artistic director of the Crucible, he certainly goes out with a standing ovation. 
Unfortunately, my flowers have died!
And I don't think a penny would bring
them back!

If you want to see a fairytale, plenty of gorgeous dresses or just to have a good cry, then seriously, go see this play! It’s on until the 4th of June at the Crucible – more details can be found here.

Also I have recently got Twitter, so if you want to give me a follow for more random theatre trips, Live for 5 news or just me ruminating about life, then here you go: @nicola_wallace5

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The James Plays: The Prisoner, The Innocent and The Glam Rock Star

Its been a while but, in between all the work and the dissertation which is now finally finished, I went to the theatre to see three plays in a day. The James Plays.

This trilogy of plays has been billed as “Scotland’s answer to Game of Thrones” and it is certainly as binge-watchable! Though we only had to wait a few hours for the next instalment, not years. The plays start off with a young James I who, after been kept prisoner in England for 18 years, has to unite the families of Scotland and prove himself as king. The drama and familial relationships develop over 3 generations of the Stewart family who seek war with other countries, with other families and finally with their own family. It was really easy to be absorbed into their world; the contemporary language removes the barrier so often felt with Shakespeare’s history plays and brings to life stories that have been left out of the literary canon. The writing was witty, funny and developed the relationships between the characters – both romantic and platonic alike – fully.

The James Plays
The plays gradually become more stylised in their medieval settings with sets and costumes. By the final play, the medieval world was only invoked by the dipped hems of the back of the ladies’ dresses and the men’s jackets. Though contemporary elements were peppered throughout all the plays – modern shoes in the first play and jeans in the second – creating the sense that these medieval kings and queens were perhaps not so different than the audience. We were lucky enough to be able to watch the first play seated on the stage which was just a brilliant experience! It made the whole play much more intimate, as it would, and made the audience feel like they were part of the action with the actors walking past you every so often. There were muttered expletives and secret glances which could only be seen and heard from the stage seating, and now I can say I had a front row seat to a monarch’s coronation! That totally counts, right?

Ready for the first play!

The first James play is all about political intrigue. The Scottish King James is released from an English prison after 18 years and he must prove himself to the powerful families of Scotland who are not happy that he has returned and reclaimed the throne. There is a battle sequence whilst James’ wife, Joan, gives birth in the midst of it all and a giant sword that drips (or rather, sprays) blood. This first play was action packed, bloody and full of betrayals.

A very sunny Lyceum for part two!
It’s a testament of a good actor who can go from making me dislike him to finding him adorable in a matter of hours, so congratulations Andrew Rothney! The play follows James II (as it would) from his childhood and shows how he grew to become king. It mainly concerns itself with James’ and his childhood friend’s, William Douglas, relationship, rather than politics on a grander scale. The giant sword was now a flame thrower which echoed the destruction of James’ own childhood – his father being assassinated, becoming king at the age of 6 and being a pawn in the other families’ games – which continued to haunt him into his adulthood. This was very well done through the repetition of nightmares that brought the audience through his early days as king to his taking back of power succinctly. Also, he spends much of the first act in a box, if you like that kind of thing.

The end of the final play
What is there to say about the final James play? Wow. The three words I would use to describe it would be flamboyant, camp and tight trousers. He was easily the most dislikeable of all the James’ but definitely the funniest. There was a change in tone in this final play as it became softer and more about how his wife, Margaret, was a better ruler than he was. James III was like a glam rock superstar who was afraid of ever growing old. And I now want a choir to follow me round all day to announce my presence!

So, if you want to see a guy swinging an axe in close proximity to you, a football game on stage, bagpipe and accordion renditions of Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams and The Human League, or just men in kilts, then these are the plays for you!

Don't forget! You can still sign up for Live for 5 tickets on line - just click here to start! And if you want to see The James Plays, here's the website to find out where they are touring. 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Yet Another Week at the Theatre

Sorry for the late post; work and the flu has pushed me back a bit! It has been another busy week in my theatre life as I have managed to fit in 3 shows into the week and have had the life changing experience of queuing up for tickets when the new season has gone on sale.

The Crucible all lit up!

Last last Thursday I managed to get a public dress rehearsal ticket to see The Nap, which I was incredibly happy about because I had missed out on the Live for 5 tickets for the previews. The Nap is a comedy-thriller about snooker written for and about The Crucible. Sounds like a weird concept, I know, but I thought it was hilarious! The plot revolves around the up and coming snooker player, Dylan Spokes (played by Jack O’Connell), who is blackmailed by a local gangster, Waxy Chuff (played by Louise Gold), to throw a frame. It also starred Mark Addy (Atlantis and Game of Thrones) and Ralf Little (The Royle Family), which, you know, I was very excited about. Richard Bean, the writer, also wrote One Man, Two Guvnors and that farcical humour also carried over into The Nap. I mean it was completely crazy but fabulously so! And hey, I got to see a snooker game at the Crucible (that totally counts, right?) so not a bad evening all in all!

New look tickets for a new play!

My next trip to the theatre was to see the Northern Ballet’s Swan Lake. This was the first ballet I’d seen live (I’d seen the Northern Ballet’s version of 1984 on BBC Four a few weeks prior) and I really enjoyed it. It was pretty mesmerising to see the dancers’ strength to be able to lift, contort and hold themselves in positions that seemed pretty uncomfortable to be in, and make it all look so easy! Not going to lie, I was a little bit jealous – I’m not a dancer and have no natural grace! I knew the music of Swan Lake and, thanks to Black Swan, I thought I knew the story, but Northern Ballet’s adaptation was updated and brought the story out of its mythological context and into a more human realm. They’d set it in an Edwardian New England and this setting worked really well with the Wilde-ian nature of the homoerotic subplot. It certainly felt more human with the exploration of themes like unfulfilled desire and loss and grief. And of course, the music was superb! I do enjoy a bit of Tchaikovsky! I really enjoyed it all and I will definitely be going to the ballet again (providing I can get £5 tickets of course!).

As an ambassador for the Crucible, I worked the NT Connections festival which was all about new writing for young actors. This was a really good opportunity to highlight the Live for 5 scheme and talk to young people who may not necessarily have known about it (although it was slightly terrifying having to talk to lots of people!). The NT Connections festival happens all round the country so if you’re interesting in writing, performing or just watching, take a look at the website here.

Queuing for new season tickets was stressful. That’s it. We got there nice and early – 45 minutes before the box office at 10 to be precise! – and still managed to end up queuing for an hour and a half! It had recently been announced that Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart were going to be performing No Man’s Land at the Lyceum in Sheffield. That’s what everyone was queuing for, including us! However, we wanted the Live for 5 tickets and this put extra pressure on us. We scouted out the queue and quickly realised that we were the youngest there but there was still quite a lot of people before us in the queue. A couple of days before, Live for 5 tickets became available online and, as the clock struck 10, we realised that this might be our only option to get these tickets. Thank goodness for that! If we had waited it out, those tickets would have been sold out! After logging in and waiting in an online queue for 10 minutes, the tickets we wanted were ours! I think the woman at box office was slightly surprised when we asked for the James Plays tickets rather than No Man’s Land, though we then did ask to pick up those tickets. So a stressful morning but well worth it in the end!

Just some of the next lot of tickets!

So yeah, you can now sign up and buy Live for 5 tickets online so literally no one (as long as you’re aged 16-26!) has an excuse! Click here to set up an account and make sure you include your date of birth so that every time you log in, Live for 5 tickets will automatically be available for you.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Happiness is a blanket scarf

Hello one and all! I’m not sure if my title will turn into a weird metaphor by the end of this post but for the moment I mean it very literally. If you know me, you will probably know that I basically show no emotions and that it’s actually very hard for me to show that I’m happy. But how can I be sad when I have a scarf that is a blanket? That’s basically the pinnacle of life right there. Anyway, I digress. The point of this post is to give you a bit of background.

So much happiness!
So I’m a painfully shy introvert who tends to remain quiet in any social situation – this much pretty much everyone knows about me and I am always faced with such questions like “Why are you so quiet?” or “Are you okay? You look upset/angry.” The only answers I can give to these are “That’s just my personality” or “That’s just my face – I generally look like I have no desire to be near people even when I’m actually enjoying myself”. It’s just the way it is and unfortunately, when it is brought up, it does make me very self-conscious and ultimately I clam up even more. What you may not know is the fact that I have struggled with depression and social anxiety since I was about 11. I’m still not great at expressing this to even my closest friends, even though I have got so much better in the last few years, so it would appear that the only way I can actually talk about this is through this blog post, mainly just to avoid the embarrassment of actually talking about myself to other people. I hope that, by writing this, people don’t feel like they have to tiptoe round me, I would just like to make everyone aware of something that I internalise quite a lot. I appreciate a lot of people will feel very different to how I feel so this is just my experience and I don’t want to come across selfish or anything.

I was bullied a lot throughout primary and high school and even a bit in college. I mean, this isn't the entire reason for my depression, I reckon some of it is just my personality and the way I'm wired anyway, but it certainly contributed. I don’t think I really realised I had depression until I was about 16/17 and had put my entire experience down to just being a teenager which probably stopped me from getting any help sooner or at least expressing how I felt. I always felt like (and still do sometimes) I didn't belong anywhere. My depression, coupled with social anxiety, has sometimes left me feeling isolated, unappreciated and in constant need of someone to tell me that I am enough and that my friends do actually like me and don't think I'm a burden. I just never seemed to quite fit in, and so I turned to literature – books, film, TV and music – as a way to escape. I still do this to an extent, it is one of the ways that I find happiness. I mean this love of literature has basically shaped my entire life – I'm doing an English Literature degree and I have an offer for a Creative Writing MA – and yes, sometimes it is hurtful when people belittle me for choosing to do an Arts and Humanities degree but I know that this was always going to be the path that I took. Literature has really helped me through some pretty dark times of my life and, as I would like to be a writer, if I could help and offer just one person a way of escaping then it’s all worth it, isn't it? In a way, I don’t know who I would be without my depression, it has come to shape me as a person but I have got better in the last few years and, although the scars will probably always be there, I'm slowly becoming the person I actually want to be.

Anyway, sorry for the slightly longer post and it’ll be business as usual next time as I have a few theatre visits lined up, and, as I said before, I hope this post doesn't change anyone’s opinion of me or make it seem like I'm selfish or anything.

The NHS website has some pretty useful information about depression and there’s a self-check tool there too, as well as links to various charities that offer help.   

Monday, 22 February 2016

The Trip to Ireland

Way, way back in November, my flatmate Megan asked me if I wanted to go to Northern Ireland to spend the weekend with her and her family at her home for her birthday. Any normal person would have thought great, a holiday after January exams, but for me, it was a Big Deal. I had never set foot in an airport, never been on an aeroplane and never been abroad (although that one is still true). You know that icebreaker that tutors always like to play – tell us your name and an interesting fact about yourself – well those were always my go-to! But finally, after much cajoling from Megan and my parents, I decided that well, it couldn't hurt to go to Ireland on a plane and at least I would be with someone who knew what they were doing. So the day of the flight came round, I had had a really bad night’s sleep and was sick with nerves, but I managed to get to the airport in one piece and I hadn't burst into tears, which was always a bonus! I managed to rally after a very sugary drink from a cafĂ© and was feeling a bit more up for it by the time our plane was due. But then disaster struck! Our plane had been delayed by an hour and a half due to bad weather which just meant that I had more time to worry! But after much support from Megan, I was slightly calmer by the time we could board the plane.

Made it onto the plane in one (not weeping) piece!

This being my first ever flight, I’m going to bore you with the details of my actual experience of flying – not that there are too many, it was a pretty straightforward flight and nothing went wrong! My head swam a bit because of the air pressure and I never really got the hang of how the seatbelts worked (I will admit, Megan did have to help me out once we got to Ireland!) but other than that, flying was a pretty fun experience! It was cloudy and we were just flying over sea so there wasn't that much to see but it was still fun seeing all the boats and the earth from above! Obviously it was a perspective I had never seen the earth from! Other than that, I suppose flying is pretty much the same as travelling on a train really, just a tad faster! The flight back, however, was less of a fun experience. Once again, our flight was delayed and the weather could have been better. There was some turbulence which wasn't the greatest and not going to lie, I’ll felt a bit sick. At least, since it was night-time, the lights of the towns were pretty and I managed to get some reading done so it wasn't a complete write-off! And we got back in one piece!
Genuinely terrified about being blown into the sea!

The wild Irish sea at the Giant's Causeway

Walking the Walls at Derry
The Dark Hedge
I had a fantastic time in Ireland and being by the sea when the weather was so wild was a new experience for me. I'm from a landlocked county and have only been by the sea in the summer so it was great to see it so completely crazy! And it was great just seeing new places and having a Game of Thrones tour of Ireland from my wonderful friend and her family! Definitely worth getting on a plane for!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

My Week at the Theatre

So this week has been very busy for me! You'll be getting any other post soon about my recent trip to Northern Ireland but for now, I'll tell you about my immediate trip to the theatre tonight. Also check out the new Sheffield Theatres website which is very colourful and full of jaunty angles! It's much easier to navigate and soon there will be the option to buy Live for 5 tickets online.

The Crucible and the Lyceum

Tonight I went to see King Charles III at the Lyceum. I'm going to say straight off that I'm still not entirely sure if I enjoyed this play. I mean, it’s a really clever concept but it felt a bit jolted. The premise of the play is a pretty simple one: it revolves around the immediate aftermath of the Queen's death and how Charles can prove himself as a ruler. But it is executed as if it is a Shakespearean history play, though set in the future. The writing is very much in that Shakespeare mode - blank verse and iambic pentameter. It was incredibly self-consciously Shakespearean and I felt as though it was a mixture of Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and Richard II. It certainly wasn't what I was expecting, even though I'm not sure what I was expecting. The main theme was personal and national identity as all the characters try to work out who they are within the public and private spheres. The set and the acting were very good, I'm just a little unsure of the concept as a whole. This show is a touring production so is only on at the Lyceum for a couple more days. I would definitely recommend seeing it if you want to see a play that will make you think and it is a fabulous play to analyse! And for £5 (if you're 16-25) it’s worth it. If you can't make it to Sheffield, the next performance is on at Brighton Theatre Royal.

I will update this post at the weekend after I have been to see Waiting for Godot at the Crucible, but make sure to get your Live for 5 tickets for this weekend if you are at all interested!
Waiting for Waiting for Godot

So Waiting for Godot is one of those plays that most people have heard of but not many have seen performed. It’s one of those standard GCSE/A-Level texts which might put off some people because they’ve studied it to death, though may never have had the chance to see it live. Honestly, I think these sorts of texts are better to see live rather than reading them in a classroom because then you can catch the humour in the text and different theatre interpretations are always useful to help analyse the text. I find that Beckett – being an avant-garde writer – is more interested in exploring theatre rather than narrative and this was portrayed through the use of a very stark and minimal set – it seemed very post-apocalyptic. The plot is very minimal too and I think best summed up by the critic Vivian Mercier: "Waiting for Godot has achieved a theoretical impossibility—a play in which nothing happens, that yet keeps audiences glued to their seats. What's more, since the second act is a subtly different reprise of the first, Beckett has written a play in which nothing happens, twice". The plot itself is literally two men waiting for the unknown Mr. Godot and waiting in vain. The plot is so incredibly frustrating because they do not remember anything and so a lot of the speech is repeated in a slightly different way or at slightly different times. The acting was very good – Lorcan Cranitch and Jeff Rawle, who played Vladimir and Estragon, were on stage all the time and kept the audiences’ interest, even with the very minimal plot, through their humour and constant back-and-forth lines. I would definitely recommend seeing Waiting for Godot to everyone because it is a funny play, just don’t expect to understand it! Because Beckett was good friends with James Joyce, I think anyone doing the Modern Literature module this semester should definitely make the effort to go to see it because it is a great way to ease yourself into the crazy world of modern lit! And Live for 5 tickets have been extended to all performances so no one has any excuses not to go see it! Waiting for Godot is on at the Crucible until the 27th of February.  

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Oh Sew Fabulous

Hello again!

Sorry for the brief hiatus, my life has recently been taken over by exams and essays! But now that I am so very almost free (and whilst we all wait for the new theatre season to start again), I will share with you a few projects I have started which I hope to get back to before work overwhelms me once again.

Back in the summer, I started sewing little plush dolls as a project to keep me from going completely crazy. My mum taught me how to sew when I was very young and since then I’ve only ever sewn if a piece of clothing needed a bit of alteration done to it. These dolls were my first proper BIG project I’d completed and I’ve just kind of kept going with it, although without the help of a sewing machine (I hope to get one soon!). A couple of years ago, I went to Comic Con with my friend and we saw these plush dolls of pop culture figures, which were totally cool but pretty expensive! A year later, the idea popped into my head that I could make her a Harley Quinn plushie (she loves Harley Quinn!) for her birthday at a fraction of the cost. So I did my research, bought my materials, made a pattern, made a trial run out of an old pillowcase and then actually started making her. All in all she took about two weeks to make, giving me plenty of time to send her off to my friend who (I hope!) was pretty happy with Little Miss Harley Quinn!
Little Miss Harley Quinn

So that’s the story of how I got into sewing again and since then my collection of sewing paraphernalia has grown (sans sewing machine) and I started work on a plushie of Jon Snow, who has been regularly mistaken for Jesus. He’s taken me a little bit longer to complete, considering I started him back in Freshers’ Week and I haven’t had the time to pick him back up since, but now is that time! He’s mostly complete, just missing his cloak and Ghost, so I’m hoping that won’t take too much longer to do. I’m not sure where he’ll go once he’s finished but for the moment I think I’ll keep him on my desk and he can just chill with his very dour expression. As for my next projects, I think the Fellowship of the Ring is next on the list! I’m not really sure where all of this is going but it’s become my hobby, which is nice because I’m not a hobby kind of person! I hope that one day (once I buy a sewing machine) I can actually start making clothes and costumes and things like that, but, for the moment, sewing plush characters to stave off mental exhaustion is enough for me.  
Jon Snow knows nothing because his brain is literally toy stuffing! 

Everything I need to sew!

Thanks for reading and check back here very soon for some more theatre exploits!