Everybody's Reading

Monday, 28 December 2015

Marianne Eloise, interviewed by Jonathan Taylor


Marianne Eloise is a Brighton-based MA Film Studies graduate with a BA in Creative Writing and Film Studies. She is a writer with a focus in film criticism and taste cultures who currently works in the media but has been a poet for several years. She also runs www.februarystationery.com and www.februaryfilmandtv.com and writes across a few mediums, including academic, poetry, prose, and journalism. Her work can be found across several websites and publications. When Marianne is not working she can be found reading, watching films, or by the sea. Her recently-published poetry collection is called Cactus.




JT: Given that your collection, Cactus, is subtitled "a collection of poems about place," I was wondering What, in particular, draws you to write about places and the idea of place?

ME: I think that I have always recognised a correlation between my environment and wellbeing. I grew up believing that the reason for my unhappiness was where I lived, and that were I to get out I would be happier. I was also fascinated by the detail in every new place I went, and became obsessed with moving to Brighton and visiting California. After I have been somewhere I feel the need to commit the experience to paper so I can’t forget it. When I moved away I started to really think about the details of my hometown and that this might be interesting to a reader, no matter how mundane or grim. I also think that our environment has a monumental effect on our wellbeing in any case, and every new place I visit is representative to me of just how far I have come from my hometown and my own misery.

JT: In one of your poems you write that "I have never truly left anywhere." Could you say a bit more about this?

ME: The poem is in part inspired by this line from a Lemony Snicket book: "What happens in a certain place can stain your feelings for that location, just as ink can stain a white sheet.” So in that poem and that line I was saying that I am so affected by place and what has happened somewhere that it always stays with me – wherever I go I carry the weight of what happened there, and no matter how long I have been gone my presence there is never completely erased. Even though I am in Brighton now, I am thinking constantly of the people I left behind at home and looking for new ways to get out and head back to California. 

JT: What kinds of poetry and poets most inspire or engage you?

ME: This is hard because while I do try to read poetry and have some poets I enjoy, such as Walt Whitman and Sylvia Plath, I take the majority of my inspiration from music and literature. With regards to my writing on place, I take a lot from Pulp and the way Jarvis Cocker writes about his hometown in Sheffield – he has said that he couldn’t really see it until he left. His commitment to writing about the smallest, darkest detail of his life in Sheffield is something that I aspire to. I also love the way that music makes words much more accessible in a way that poetry never can.

JT: Do you have an ideal reader in mind when you write? Who is the book for?

ME: I try to write in a way that is accessible even for readers who don’t usually enjoy poetry – I want to reach people who have felt the way that I have, but who might not want to read more convoluted works. I also write for people I know, in the hope that they will understand me a little more and perhaps resent me a little less for leaving the way that I did. I dedicated my book to my friends all over the world and I mean that – I would not be where I am without their support. However as I have had a poetry blog for 3 years, I would say the book is for my readers – that they can have something of mine to hold and enjoy.

JT: In the wonderful title poem called "Cactus," you write "I couldn't call myself a flower / nor a tree, yet I am so inextricably / linked to my environment / affected by the sun I receive." How do you conceptualise the relationship, in your poetry, between the narrator ("I") and the environment?

ME: I have found that as well as my relationship to a place being dictated by the people and my experiences there, I also struggle greatly with the cold and dark. As the months get warmer I am a lot happier and I find living in my own skin much easier. I thrive in a California heat, a dry environment with little rain and a lot of sunshine – hence, I see myself as a cactus. I named the book Cactus after this idea, that the narrator is a cactus and the relationship to place depends directly on how much sun and rain they receive. A cactus would not suit a wet, England winter and nor do I a lot of the time!

JT: What's your intention with the poetry collection? What are your longer term aims for your poetry?

ME: I have been writing poetry for years and have literally hundreds of poems backlogged. Some of them have been published, but I wanted to put them in a collection that I and my readers could hold, while having complete creative control over the editing and artwork. I would like to continue publishing poetry and ultimately I want to reach a wider audience, publish a larger collection, and possibly work with other writers in the future.

JT: What does poetry mean to you? Why do you write it?

ME: Poetry for me is as much a coping mechanism as anything else – I write poetry because it’s a way of expressing myself without being entirely straightforward. I like how I don’t have to be as honest as I do in diary entries or memoir but I can still say what I want to. It helps me to work through what I am thinking or feeling on my own without talking to anyone. I have always loved writing but I enjoy poetry over other forms because it is so lyrical and often easy to write and read. 

About the reviewer
Jonathan Taylor is an author, lecturer, critic and editor. His books include the novels Melissa (Salt, 2015) and Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012), the memoir Take Me Home (Granta, 2007), and the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013). He is Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Review by Lerah Mae Barcenilla of "The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy


The God of Small Things is the debut novel of Indian writer Arundhati Roy. Completed in 1996, the book took four years to write and won the Booker Prize in 1997.

Set in Kerala, India during the late 1960s where Communism, religion and the caste-system ruled people’s hearts, the story begins with the funeral of young Sophie Mol – the cousin of our two protagonists, Rahel and her fraternal twin brother, Estha. We are introduced to the loneliness of their mother, Ammu, who fled an abusive marriage, returning to an unwelcome town to live with their blind grandmother, Mammachi. There’s uncle Chacko, a Rhodes scholar with his reading-aloud voice and words of wisdom, Baby Kochamma, enemy and grandaunt to the twins and Velutha, whose caste is plagued with tragedy from the start, the Untouchable beloved by Ammu and the twins.

‘It is curious how sometimes the memory of death lives on for much longer than the memory of the life that it is purloined,’ the narrator muses. In a narrative that slips seamlessly between time and space Roy slowly unravels the web of stories  behind the night of Sophie’s death drowned beneath a background of local politics, social taboos and the wave of history. The stories move from the twins’ childhood in 1969 –  where reality blurs with the plots of A Tale of Two Cities and Macbeth, and where people read backwards and sunglasses makes the world angry-coloured –  to their present as adults, where Rahel returns home 23 years after the tragic events that separated her from Estha, the present where one is Empty and another Quiet. You wonder how the words that used to mirror innocence and child-like curiosity faded, disappeared and are now as empty and hollow as the emptiness in Rahel’s heart, the silence in Estha’s voice.

With a whimsical, almost dreamlike lyrical prose, Roy captures the children’s candid observations imbued with sad wisdom, juxtaposed by the adult’s complexity and frailties in subtle ways. The shift between time and place leaves you aching with desperation to know more, waiting anxiously for the story to unfold. The sense of tragedy plagues the words and sentences of early chapters, and Roy gives snippets, a mere glimpse at the keyhole of a door that hides a sad story. We’re drawn in by the innocent way in which the twins see the world, full of wonder and awe and magic – only to walk into the hollow cave submerged by silence and a familiar smell, ‘Sicksweet. Like old roses on a breeze.’
Past and present blend together the way you sometimes get lost in thoughts and memory and you read on in dread as the past slowly unravels, revealing roads crossed and words spoken that led to this very moment – some that began way before our two protagonists were even born. Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things will lead you to a maze of narratives and a web of characters filled with tragedy, beautiful imagery and innocent little wisdoms – the funny thing is, you willingly follow.

‘The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again… In great stories you know who lives, who dies who finds love who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again,’ Roy writes, and The God of Small Things is surely one of the books you will want to read again.

About the reviewer
Lerah Mae Barcenilla is a nineteen year old who has an unhealthy obsession with books, coffee, mythology, cherry blossoms and post-it notes. She is currently a second year English student at the University of Leicester.




Review by Siobhian Hodges of "Little Girl Lost" by Barbie Probert-Wright with Jean Ritchie

Winner of Richard and Judy's TRUE competition, published in 2006 by arrow books.



Little Girl Lost is a harrowing memoir that will never leave you. In 1945, seven-year-old Barbie is immersed in all the horrors, tragedies and hardships of war, travelling through Germany with only her nineteen-year-old sister, Eva. The thought of reuniting with their mother spurs the two girls on to walk miles in a country amidst invasion. The sight of death, the shriek of air raid sirens, and the sound of gunshots at close-range become ever-present.

It's compelling, filled with a combination of loss and charitable acts that will leave the reader in a state of awe. From the very first page you can sense an unimaginable journey awaits them. No child should have to endure what Barbie lived through, yet for so many children, war pervades. Barbie and Eva quickly adapt to being on the road. To not feel hunger is a gift; to sleep in a bed is a luxury; to live to see another day is simply decided by fate. These girls knew that more than anything, and as author Barbie Probert-Wright recites her incredible adventure, she reflects the numerous times when luck was on her side... and when it wasn't.

Little Girl Lost will have you gripped and make you think twice about your own personal struggles. It gives an insight on what truly matters and how, even in the darkest of times, it is still possible to pull through. Barbie retells her story chronologically from when she was seven years old, with equal balance of her younger voice and her hindsight as an adult. It's easy to relate to her family-oriented lifestyle, making each gain and misfortune really hit home.

A sensational book that is sure to move you.

About the reviewer
Siobhian Hodges is an MA student in Creative Writing at Loughborough University. If she’s not reading, she’s writing. If she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing. She is also currently working on a novel and sometimes writes short stories.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Review by Robert Richardson of “a token of concrete affection,” an exhibition at the Embassy of Brazil, London, 20 November – 18 December 2015

Augusto de Campos & Julio Plaza, poemobiles series, 1968 - 1974

In the early 1960s, Stephen Bann was a student at Cambridge University, and during this time he understood the importance of concrete poetry, which was then a fairly recent development in literature. From the outset, Bann's involvement included editing and writing critical articles about art and literature and co-organising with Mike Weaver, Reg Gadney and Philip Steadman the First International Exhibition of Concrete, Phonetic and Kinetic Poetry at St. Catherine’s College in 1964. His subsequent successful academic career (he is currently Emeritus Professor of History of Art at Bristol University) also continued his interest in the direction of research and writing.

The enthusiasm of those early days led to Bann’s contact with many of the most significant concrete poets, and he also acquired an incredible personal collection. From this, it is the work of the historically significant Noigandres group that is the main focus of an exhibition currently showing at the Brazilian Embassy in London, along with a selection of Bann’s correspondence with these poets. The title of the exhibition, a token of concrete affection (following the Bauhaus preference for all lower case), is from a letter written to Stephen Bann, almost fifty years ago, by poet Pedro Xisto.  

Concrete poetry became an international movement, but it sparkled away from the predictable New York/Paris/London nexus. As well as the Noigandres poets in Sao Paulo, Brazil, other leading concrete poets were Eugen Gomringer in Ulm, Germany and Ian Hamilton Finlay in Edinburgh.

The common ground was that visual/typographical dimensions to language were realised as literature, and the page became a liberated arena. This is the case with such poets as Pedro Xisto and Edgard Braga. With the work of Augusto de Campos, and especially his collaborations with Julio Plaza, there is a distinctive Brazilian approach: by combining words with a deft cutting and folding of paper, the poems are also sculptural. It is wonderful that these artworks remain so surprising and fresh.

As a symbiosis of thought and language, concrete poems are words and letters at play as never before, and a sharing of delights and perceptions. The writer and curator Bronac Ferran is to be congratulated: working closely with Stephen Bann and the Brazilian Embassy’s cultural section, she has presented this work in a way that is not only coherent, but also communicates its optimism.

http://culturalbrazil.org/2015/10/22/a-token-of-concrete-affection-visual-arts-exhibition-20-nov-18-dec/

About the reviewer
Robert Richardson is a visual artist and writer. His work is included in Artists’ Postcards: A Compendium (edited by Jeremy Cooper, published by Reaktion Books, London). He is also the co-editor, with William Pratt, of Homage to Imagism (AMS Press, New York). In 2014, his solo exhibition TextSpaces was exhibited at Eugen Gomringer’s Kunsthaus Rehau in Germany.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Karen Stevens, interviewed by Jonathan Taylor



Karen Stevens is a Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at the University of Chichester, in West Sussex.  She has a special interest in the novel and short fiction.  Her short stories have been published in The Big Issue, Pulp Net, Panurge New Fiction, Mouth Ogres, Dreaming Beasts, Fish Publishing, Riptide, Salt Publishing.  Her edited collection of essays, Writing a First Novel, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014.




Writing a First Novel is an inspiring collection of essays by a range of award-winning, established and newly published novelists. Writers generously offer their insight and advice on the joys and challenges that new authors of fiction will inevitably encounter along the way. A literary agent and a publisher add their own professional perspectives.

JT. You've edited a rather wonderful book of essays, Writing a First Novel, by many different writers. What first gave you the idea to do this? What were your aims in putting together the book, both for yourself and for readers?

KS. I’m so glad you think it’s wonderful, Jonathan. Two central aims initially prompted the idea for the book.  Firstly, as a teacher of creative writing, I spend a fair amount of time searching for illuminating words from writers on writing and was searching for some encouragement on writing a first novel. I came across much on writing fiction, but very little on the specific task of writing a first novel, which made me aware of the need for a book dedicated to this subject for both writers and teachers. Secondly, I do find that some (not all) ‘how to’ books can simplify the process of writing into a linear ‘step-by-step’ form, and I wanted aspiring writers to understand that writing – good writing – isn’t about ticking off a check list. Creation isn’t a blue print, and the writers in the collection – new, established and award winning – testify to this when they talk of the thrilling, chaotic, sometimes mystical, and often mysterious process on which they embarked.   In Hanif Kureishi’s wonderful chapter, he asserts, ‘There is a sense – there has to be a sense – in which most writers do not understand what they are doing.’ Writing a novel is the longest and loneliest journey a writer can embark upon, and I wanted the aspiring novelist to rest easy with uncertainty, to understand that this is just part of the creative process and to not lose faith, to simply keep going.

JT. What did you yourself learn from putting together Writing a First Novel?

KS. I learned so much in so many ways. I learned how hard it is to put together a collection of this type with a very limited budget.  The writers were very gracious and generous, giving up their precious time (for little payment) to demystify a process that is largely inexplicable. I learned that editing is an exacting and tough job, and I have great admiration for editors at publishing houses that spend their weeks working closely on manuscripts. As I say in my introduction to the collection, ‘Bravery’, ‘belief’, ‘confidence’ and ‘faith’ are fundamental words that run through the chapters, and I do find myself visiting the book whenever I’m riddled with self-doubt about writing. I don’t come from a literary background.  I was the first person in my family to undertake a degree. My background, I’m sure, is the root of self-consciousness, and the book has taught me that cultivating a sense of entitlement is a crucial step in writing. Jane Feaver, a contributor, says, ‘We must develop some counter-confidence that will temporarily overcome or pull the rug from whatever it is that tells you, you have no right to be there.’ Great advice.  

JT. You also write your own prose fiction, which has been widely published. How do you see the relationship between the role of editor and that of writer? What are the points of connection and differences?

KS. Having worked as writer and editor, I’ve experienced both sides of this relationship and see it as a diplomatic process in which both parties care hugely about the writing. Ideally, editing should be an organic and collaborative process. Editing is about being a good reader and understanding the writer’s vision and helping them to achieve it. The editor needs to be a diplomat, offering suggestions to editorial problems, and in doing so the writer will often come up with the right solution. For this approach to be successful, however, the writer needs to be open to having their work critiqued, and willing to engage in a dialogue about their work. In my role of editor, I’ve asked writers questions about their story and they’ve often been surprised that the information in their head wasn’t transferred to the page. As a writer, I’ve also experienced this same surprise. When writing, we’re immersed in an imaginative process that isn’t necessarily keeping tabs on the story at the macro level of such things as plot and structure. Consequently, I’m always grateful when an editor or my workshop group pulls me back from the murky depths of creativity to help me see what’s working and what isn’t.  

JT. When did you first decide to be a writer? What were the major staging posts in your development as a writer? Why write at all?

KS. Two things made a deep impression on me as a child in the 70s, and sowed the seeds of my desire to write.  The first thing happened in class at primary school, when a very clever girl read out a description she’d written of an old man. I still recall, with absolute clarity, a line she read: ‘One arm was extended.’ Wow. We were only six or seven years old at the time, and I was blown away by her sophisticated use of language and her ability to bring a person to life through only words. I can still see the old man today in his brown dishevelled rain mac and his tweed cap, his arm reaching out. A few years after this event, I secretly watched a controversial adult drama series called ‘Bouquet of Barbed Wire’ on a tiny black and white portable in my bedroom. I was captivated and shocked by the story of infidelity, violence and incest, and how it devastates a family. I felt completely lost once the series had finished, and in the playground I relived (in inappropriately graphic detail) the torrid fallout from the father’s incestuous infatuation with his daughter, only to receive confused or blank looks from my playmates. As an adult, I now see that I wanted to relive this drama because I’d discovered emotions outside of my own childish experience. This was the point when I first understood (albeit unconsciously) the power of fiction.      

Though I didn’t start writing until my late twenties on my English degree, I suppose I’ve behaved like a writer since childhood. I was always watching, listening, spying, prying, storing things in my head that I could draw on in secret stories I’d write on sheets of toilet paper. Money was very tight in my childhood (and still is). I didn’t have access to writing paper, and I suppose this is why I don’t use notebooks now for my writing. I tend to hear or see something that makes an impression on me and I store it. If it stays with me, I know it will turn into a story, or form part of a story at some point. Once I started writing on my degree, I soon realised I was writing out many things – directly and indirectly – that I’d stored since childhood. This is why I write. This is why all writers write, I think.  We need to make sense of experience. We need to express our individual take on life.   

JT. I've always loved your stories, and find them highly original, individual. How would you describe your individual style or voice in your short stories?

KS. Thank you for the compliment; it’s always nice to know that people have enjoyed the stories I’ve written, re-written, agonised over, re-written ...  How would I describe my writing style and voice?  I don’t really know; it’s difficult to say because it’s just what I do. I tend to write about characters that thirst for some sort of connection but are also aware of the fleeting nature of things, the impermanence of it all. At the end of the day, my central aim in writing is only to be as true to my characters and their situations as I can possibly be.  
   
JT. How do you conceive the relationship between short fiction and other genres (given that you've edited a book on novel writing as well, for example)?

KS. All writing explores what it is to be human and alive. Like the novel, the short story wants to give us something big but wants to do this with brevity. Frank O’Connor feels that the novel requires far more logic, and far more knowledge of circumstances, whereas the short story can have the sort of detachment from circumstances that lyric poetry has. The novel, it can be said, has an internal logic that builds, but the short story doesn’t always follow a rational pattern or allow for a moral explanation. Graham Mort argues that the reader both experiences the story as it unfolds and completes it. Not in a systematic way, in which a novel is completed, but in a speculative way that fleshes out the bones of a narrative. This is what attracts us to the short story genre, I think; its very brevity enrols our imagination.  

JT. Do you find that teaching Creative Writing helps or hinders your writing, and in what ways?

KS. Teaching Creative Writing is both a help and a hindrance. I enjoy teaching; it’s a creative act, in itself – to inspire and to stimulate creativity in others. When I see a writer finding his/her voice or getting their work published, it’s very exciting and spurs me on to keep writing too. In teaching, though, I use up a lot of creative and emotional energy because I want my students’ experience and creative work to be as good it can be. Usually, at the end of each semester, I’m exhausted and feel as if I’m stuffed full of other people’s words, and it takes a while to get back to my own words again. Reading just for pleasure helps: Richard Ford, Katherine Mansfield, Tessa Hadley and John Banville are just a few examples of writers who inspire and kick-start me back into writing.    

JT. What are your medium and long-term aims for your writing?

KS. My main aim – medium and long-term – is to simply keep on writing and meet my monthly workshop deadlines. I’m writing a collection of short stories and have some chapters of a children’s novel under my belt, and the monthly workshops help to ensure that writing remains a priority, even though I’m busy with work and children. For anyone struggling to keep a writing routine going, I’d suggest starting or joining a workshop group. Deadlines are brilliant, and it’s great to be involved with other writers who value writing.     

About the interviewer
Jonathan Taylor is an author, lecturer, critic and editor. His books include the novels Melissa (Salt, 2015), and Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012), and the memoir Take Me Home (Granta, 2007). His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Jodie Hannis reviews herself at Oxjam Leicester Takeover festival

This is not a review of Oxjam Leicester Takeover 2015. This is a review of me having a really nice time there. Part of this includes telling you about the Haunted House of Comedy and Shock! Tales tent in Orton Square.

It was a lovely tent, big enough for the sound system, artists, comperes, and at some point when vigorously encouraged, enough space for us, the audience, to sit down in it. I had been standing for quite a while at this point so I enjoyed when that happened. It was also a lovely tent because it had been decorated with big pieces of fabric, some classy bunting (not the tacky stuff that looks thin and flimsy) and even some Halloween themed fairy lights. Oh I should mention, it was on 31th October and was Halloween themed because Halloween was that day.

The Halloweening was done extra hard by the comperes for the day whose names were Jenny Hibberd and Dave McGuckin. I wasn’t sure whether to say ‘were’ or ‘are’ just then because ‘were’ makes it sound as if they’re dead now but don’t worry they’re not they’re still alive. Dave did look kind of dead because he’d put lots of white make up on. Jenny had put lots of make up on too but she didn’t look dead she looked like an evil fairy because that’s what she’d dressed up as. I really like them and they’re my friends so you can’t really trust anything I say about them but if you can, you should believe me when I say they’re lovely and very talented.

Jenny is funny and smart and runs an event called House of Verse which happens every month in Leicester. All sorts of artists make art for it and some of my favourite ones did some more art on Saturday. The first thing I saw was a band called Wiseass which made me want to start dancing straight away and I wasn’t even drunk. For only two musicians (Raj and Jamie playing one guitar and one drums) they made quite a bit of noise that was bluesy and funky and rocky. I really hope they put some of their songs on a CD or a record so I can listen to them at home. Or they could just come and play for me in my house, whichever is easiest, I don’t mind. Have a listen here:

I missed another bit of music called Velvet Exit that I wanted to hear because a restaurant that-shall-remain-nameless took an unreasonable amount of time to cook a quesadilla for me. I heard the very last 30 seconds of it and it was so good that it made me even sadder that I’d missed it. But the show must go on and the next person to show themselves was word-man Andrew Lee who I didn’t recognise for quite a while even though he’d been stood right next to me for a few minutes. His costume must’ve been good but then maybe it was supposed to be more of a disguise, either way it worked really well. It also made the words that he was saying extra creepy and some of them were pretty creepy to begin with. His performances sometimes look painfully embodied so the skeleton onesie suited him quite well. He might want to consider wearing it all the time.

Then there was more music from DJ Ninja Bob which was so good, it was one of my favourite bits of the whole day. I think I danced for half an hour without stopping. When the dancing stopped, this was the point when we all sat down for the first time. It was good to sit down after all the dancing because I was tired but I was also quite sweaty. When I stood up a bit later I noticed that I’d left a sweaty bum print which could clearly be seen on the concrete. About 5 or 6 years ago when I was younger and more self-conscious I think I would have been embarrassed about that but I liked it because it was nice to see a visual reminder of how much fun I’d been having about 20 minutes before. It was getting colder though and when I finally stopped sweating and cooled down I got a bit chilly and actually ended up colder than I was before I did the dancing. It’s funny how that happens sometimes. I don’t regret it though, I had a better time with DJ Ninja Bob than I would’ve done if I’d stayed warm at home.

It was Jack Britton who encouraged all the sitting, though I’m sure he didn’t fully appreciate my sticky situation at the time. This guy is really funny and I value his wit very highly. He managed to do a song about holding a woman hostage and it wasn’t inappropriate or offensive. I wouldn’t be able to pull that off and I’m a woman who is blonde and innocent looking. But Jack is also blonde and innocent looking so maybe he’s just better at it than me.

The next poet Stephen Thomas did a poem about being like Jesus and I guess he was quite innocent looking too. But he seemed to only want to look like Jesus for sexual gratification so maybe he’s not that like Jesus. I hope he realised his girlfriend was in the audience too otherwise that would’ve been super awkward. Ishi Khan-Jackson’s boyfriend was also in the audience. She didn’t really talk about him in her set though so maybe she’s a bit more independent and not as needy. She did talk about stealing money from charity though which I enjoyed because the whole thing going on that day was actually a big charity event which I guess she hadn’t realised.

I can’t tell you about all of the acts that happened that day because I’ve run out of space and I’m getting a bit bored of this now. But I’ll tell you about Dan Nicholas and Lewys Holt (he has more names than this but I already said I was running out of space) who did some improvised comedy. I think they were getting onto some good stuff especially when they were doing handstands. Well, Lewys was doing handstands, Dan looked like he was kind of putting all of his body-weight onto his face and neck which is probably a bad way to do it. My suggestion would be that next time they do an interactive handstand class because I would join in with that and I think Dan would learn a lot.

Maybe Dave’s next Comedy and Cocktails would be a good chance to see that. Maybe it wouldn’t but it was a good way of tying the start of this paragraph together with the end of the last one. This will happen Tuesday 1 December 2015 in Manhattan 34 at 8pm. The next House of Verse is a bit before that on Saturday 21 November 2015 at the Music CafĂ© from 7pm. I realise that it just looks like I’m trying to persuade you to come to my friend’s things and give them money because I already told you that we’re friends. That is sort of what I’m doing but I do also think you’ll have a really good time and just want as many people as possible to have a good time and feel nice about themselves.

Next House of Verse: https://www.facebook.com/events/1517285475255475/
Next Comedy and Cocktails: https://www.facebook.com/events/705619712873346/

About the reviewer
Jodie Hannis chases after words at every opportunity. If you have some, chances are, she’d like to hear them. She also occasionally runs away from ones she puts out into the world herself:
http://notsoftly.tumblr.com/

Friday, 13 November 2015

Review by Dips Patel of “Gilead, Home, Lila” a loose trilogy by Marilynne Robinson



Marilynne Robinson
Marilynne Robinson’s novels Gilead, Home and, the latest, Lila, are a very loose trilogy, in the sense that they take place in the same fictional world and involve some of the same characters.

Gilead centres on John Ames, a minister recounting his life, writing his memoirs and reflecting on his belief and faith in the face of almost constant challenges (and by that I mean tragedy after tragedy after tragedy…) and comparing his life to his close friend (and lifelong chum) Reverend Robert Boughton, another man of the cloth. (Home is set concurrently to Gilead, though it completely stands as a story in its own right.) The Boughton family form the basis of this story, the second novel in the trilogy, which centres on the return of the Reverend’s prodigal son Jack and the impact on the family his coming home has, seen through the eyes of his younger sister Glory. And rounding off the trilogy is Lila, revolving around Lila (shockingly!), John Ames' second wife he married late in life. It's about her and john's courtship and subsequent marriage, but also about Lila's life before she came to be in the world of Ames.

Gilead was written in 2004, Lila published in 2014, Home in 2008 and kicking things off Housekeeping in 1980. Just the four novels spread over 35 years (she has written numerous non-fiction essays and pieces over the years). What makes her peerless, certainly to me, is the quality of writing maintained throughout, there is no flabbiness anywhere in any book and over that long a period of time is frankly staggering. She writes with beautiful clarity and intelligence and perception of human nature it's almost illusory like a hologram or something... But it's also a warmth and comfort that settles you physically and mentally and I would say even emotionally, like when you've just had a really crap day, boss on the rampage, forgotten the pack lunch so overpriced and over-salted sandwiches here we come, driven to distraction when the office is littered with the empty husks of staplers everywhere because no-one’s bothered to put in any staples once they’ve run out, and then you have a long walk home in the freezing rain, a hundred tiny ice picks a minute stabbing you in the face as a numbing coldness seeps through your clothes, soaking you to the bone and your feet leaden weight and long since numb… But when you walk through the door, a hugging warmth envelopes you immediately, you can smell your favourite dish simmering away and waiting to be drunk after you've changed into your fave pj's and comfy slippers having had a nice hot soak in the tub, is a hot chocolate with fresh whippy cream and marshmallows! Imagine how good you'd feel then after that day and that's how it feels reading these novels: jaw-droppingly magnificent work.

About the reviewer
Dips Patel is a graduate in Graphic Design which means he can colour in without going over the lines and when he does he makes it look deliberate, cool and edgy. He much prefers fine art where the art of talking nonsense is finer still allowing him extremely moderate success in introducing his work to a wider audience. Hobbies include reading stuff, watching stuff, commendably misguided attempts at painting stuff and consuming copious amounts of coco pops, clementines, curries, cakes and cocktails, not all at the same time which is frowned upon in polite society.

Review by Robert Richardson of "The Spire" by William Golding



When he died in 1993, William Golding was in possession of major establishment honours: he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and subsequently knighted; also, in 1980, Rites of Passage won the Booker Prize. Nevertheless, he seems destined to be known for his first novel, Lord of the Flies, and its premise that civilisation is flimsy, with savagery just below the surface.

It is known that Lord of the Flies was heavily edited, and, despite its justified success for being one of those novels that seems inevitable, there is a stylistic blandness about it, and maybe this came, partly at least, from so much editing. His fifth novel, The Spire, is far more idiosyncratic and awkward: a less easy read, but this, I think, is a better fit for Golding’s ability to steer us away from the comfortable and smug.

The book is set in medieval England and centres on Jocelin, a Dean obsessed with adding a spire to his cathedral. It is third person stream of consciousness, but with the added basic device of "he thought, 'I …'" This allows Golding to write occasional passages in the first person.  With such a point of view novel, the question arises "why not totally first person?" Maintaining a mainly third person approach was perhaps a way Golding could better include very powerful descriptions, and at times the writing is impressive in its crunching poetic prose.

Other characters are, because of Jocelin’s authority as Dean, drawn into his mission from God. The result is suffering and death, and this eventually becomes his own fate. Towards the end, Jocelin asks another priest, Father Adam, to read an account Jocelin wrote immediately after what he interpreted as the divine message to build a spire. Father Adam responds to this by saying "But was this all?" and of Jocelin’s training as a priest many years before: "They never taught you to pray!" Golding’s argument seems to be one of favouring reflection, rather than a headlong rush to actions that can, too easily, prove destructive to others. Although The Spire takes place in an age long disappeared, we have only to turn on the news to see the agonies caused by obsessive and blinkered beliefs, whether religious or secular. Golding as a novelist, though, deals in ambiguity, and is challenging us with the additional position that obsession may also lead to achievements posterity will admire, like the building of a cathedral spire. 


About the reviewer
Robert Richardson is a visual artist and writer. His work is included in Artists’ Postcards: A Compendium (edited by Jeremy Cooper, published by Reaktion Books, London). He is also the co-editor, with William Pratt, of Homage to Imagism (AMS Press, New York).


 

Review by Hannah Stevens of "Used To Be" by Elizabeth Baines



Used To Be (published by Salt, 2015) is a collection packed with bursts of intense short stories, written in clean, sharp prose. The stories are immersive and gripping. I read this book in one sitting.

There is a breathlessness and urgency to the rhythms of this collection and stories are dark and full of damaged people. Most of the characters you will encounter on these pages don’t have names but in spite of this feel knowable: there are parts of me in these characters that I recognise.

The collection is punctuated with disturbing and dark description: in "Used To Be" – the title story – there is a "stomach flat as a teenage anorexic’s." In "That Turbulent Stillness" – "a hole was punched in the… day, and also her heart." In "Where The Starlings Fly" – "the sound of bickering haemorrhaged in." There is violence and wreckage in these stories but ultimately there is an undercurrent of redemption and hope: nothing in this collection is definite and, as in life, there are different and alternative endings and we can choose them.

About the reviewer
Hannah is from Leicester and is a PhD student in Creative Writing at Leicester University. She has a short story collection called Without Makeup and Other Stories (2012) and has had stories published in Crystal Voices: Ten Years of Crystal Clear Creators (2015) and The New Luciad (2015).





Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Review by Karol Valderrama of the "Reading the Body" event by Lydia Towsey and Scott Brigwood at Attenborough Arts Centre

Everybody’s Reading Festival 2015
26th September – 4th October

Reading the Body:
Attenborough Arts Centre
10am-3:30pm

When I first considered joining this event, I felt attracted by its main topic and the dynamism the programme offered.  However, I must confess I was concerned when I decided to attend, and also when I realised drawing was going to be an alternative but demanding way to interpret and read a female body.

My concern increased when I arrived, as I found out that this was a class with people who have had experience in drawing, even though I could define myself as skilled to do basic traces.  Fortunately, both Lydia Towsey and Scott Brigwood (leading artists of the event) made of the experience something welcoming, simple and significant, even before starting the workshop.  After going into the room, I was invited to grab a drawing board (the first one in my life), some graphite sticks, charcoal, chalk pastels and markers, and so explore a whole new world through white sheets of paper.

Based on Scott’s words, this was an experience of mark-making which aimed to discover the meaning of our drawings and going beyond conventional techniques.  People who attended this event had the opportunity to create a unique signature no matter the background each one of us had.  Several suggestions were given, beginning with the most valuable, I would say: obliterating preconceptions to guarantee the best “babies” ever (which was the name given to our artistic creations by Lydia).
With materials at hand, general recommendations and a naked model in front of us, the main task was simple: look at the model and draw.  It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But again, this experience was not just about conventional drawing; not just because it was NOT focused on developing a common or traditional drawing style, but also because it was NOT just about images: It was about an interesting mixture of words and images at the same time. 

Later on, instructions were given clearly and we were all ready to start.  Nevertheless, every new sheet that was taken on the board was becoming progressively more challenging, aiming to change styles, to break paradigms and to contribute from a new individual perspective.  A white sheet was not just a white sheet; it was an experience that led to feelings of freedom or chaotic emotions at the moment of completing every new drawing.  Again, this was not just drawing, as words were coming up, supplementing graphical expression; they were saying something together, so words were images, and images were sentences.

With regards to the model, her natural shape contrasted with some exaggerated poses she gave us at every stage.  What did they really aim to?  Certainly, the physical and aesthetic analysis of her, moved towards a more subjective and original reading of her movement or inactivity; a reading resulting of what she performed, combining our beliefs, multiple contexts and the way we used the given tools.  For instance, the graphite stick enhanced our drawings and it was there as the magic tool to discover what the woman in front really meant… not necessarily nudity… but multiple features or traits within our realities.  This finally became a process of extreme consciousness regarding the female representation and our unconscious ways of examining female bodies.
As it was mentioned in the information given prior to the event, it was indeed a different way to read, write and draw the female body.  Expected or not, these creations ended up being an additional way to understand ourselves via original images, as a consequence of the willingness everyone had to move further on within the experience.  Indeed, no experience was necessary; the key was to strongly believe what both artists mentioned at the beginning: Starting without preconceptions and allowing the mark-making experience to consequently see transformations at the moment of reading.

Now that the workshop is over, several questions come to my mind.  First, how did we, participants, finally understand the body we read during those hours?  How did we depict it?  Did our backgrounds and beliefs contribute to have a different or similar reading among us?  After this, I also thought and asked myself what “reading the body” means today, based on the experience.  Multiple answers could appear, for sure, and much more when visual memories swim through social networks in the current days. 

“Choose the events that might make a difference,” the festival Coordinator, Juliet Martin, stated in the foreword of the brochure.  Clearly, I did not hesitate in following her invitation and focused my attention on this particular one, identifying this as an opportunity to make a multifaceted reading, writing and representation of the female body in one same moment.  Evidently, this experience allowed us to be all readers and mark-makers with no exclusion of gender or creed, to consequently analyse this type of art freely.  We were not more than ten participants, just a few indeed, but enough people to replicate this alternative way of reading humanity in modern times. 


About the reviewer
Karol Valderrama is an English/Spanish teacher from Colombia who lives in Leicester.  She has worked in an interdisciplinary level, completing an MA in Film and Film Cultures.  Additionally, Karol is a PhD Candidate in Modern Languages at the University of Leicester focusing on Latin American cinema and gender studies.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Interview with Dan Wallbank



Artist Dan Wallbank interviewed by Alexandros Plasatis

Dan Wallbank
AP. Many thanks for creating the doodle that we use for our logo, Dan. I’ve seen you, I’m afraid, creating your doodles while at work. Why then did it take you so long to make this one for the blog, was it busy in the library? How did you end up being a doodle-maniac? Tell me about it, and, anyway, I hope you have joined the Union.

DW. I’ve always been a bit of a “doodle-maniac”! I’ve always loved to draw, and as a kid I found it a great extension of my brain, although I could never get things to look quite the way I wanted them to. I’ve always been very into comics and used to create my own – largely based around Sonic the Hedgehog, for my sins.
Punk Clown by Dan Wallbank


I could ask you, Alex, why it took so long to come up with these interview questions! Was I not second choice of artist? The Library is a great job and I enjoy it very much, but around the start of term it does tend to get just a little busy. I’ve curtailed my work drawing habits in the interests of being a good employee – I might need to change my blog title…

AP. I was a bit slow with the questions because I had to visit my auntie in Papua New Guinea. I like this project of yours, taking photos of and archiving graffiti around Leicester. Why do you do it? If those people came around your house with the purpose of covering it in graffiti, what would you do? Would you punch them and spit on them, go on, say it, what would you do?

DW. I think it’s important to say that I don’t take photographs of all graffiti, just that which I find unusual, artistically pleasing or funny. It’s a very subjective collection of work, I must admit – there are other blogs I’ve found since starting my own (such as the great http://stuffonwallsinleicester.tumblr.com) which archive less selectively. It has to be said that I don’t condone unauthorised graffiti – that just often tends to be the most interesting stuff… About graffiti in my place – well, I suppose it would depend on how funny I found the graffiti, but I don’t think I’d be a fan. I do abhor violence in all forms unless it’s part of a computer game, though, so I might challenge them to a round of Halo – and probably lose.


Graffiti in Leicester

AP. You wrote music for a wrestling league. Do you find violence inspirational? Do you get into fights? 

DW. This was one of those examples of it not being what you know, but who you know – a friend of mine used to be a semi-professional wrestler, and when one of his cohorts announced that he was setting up a wrestling league and needed walk-on music for 15+ wrestlers, he got straight in touch with me! It was interesting to me as I’m not a fan of wrestling, so I really had to study the sort of music that gets used at events in order to create the right sort of stuff. It was a real workout in terms of my creativity and I really enjoyed it.

AP. Tell me about your band, when was it formed, how often and where do you play live, do you all take drugs before and/or after gigs, but also tell me about you and how you feel being a member of this band, about things that you like and things that piss you off, about any dreams that you might have about the band’s future.

DW. In terms of bands, at the moment I only play live as part of some cover bands – Pin Up for the full band experience and Two Feathers for the acoustic side. I’m looking to form a new band, though, so if anyone’s interested…
Two Feathers

I’m literally the least rock and roll person ever, as I’m teetotal and really quite boring. My dreams for the future of any band I form would be to play in a dingy club to ten people, as I like to keep things realistic.
 
AP. We are doing very well, Dan. This is the only interview where the questions are longer than the answers. Can we listen to one of your songs now?

DW. There you are: https://soundcloud.com/peopleneedgoals/heads-up-wall-crawler

AP. Ah, lovely… You are very much into photography, and many of the photos you take are of musicians. Does being a musician yourself help you to identify the right moment to take a photo or, I don’t know, does it help in any way?

DW. It really does, but not necessarily in the ways you might expect – it’s not about feeling or mood a lot of the time so much as counting the beats and thinking about how a person is likely to move when you’re at each beat. If a song has a 1, 2, 3, 4 beat, then people are most likely to pull the best moves on the 1!

Charlie Tidmas - photo by Dan Wallbank


AP. How did the Commentary at Phoenix go? I read a very positive review about it in The New Fork Times. Was it really that good?

DW. Commentary was a real experience, and one I’m proud to have been part of. It’s an event in which comedians, musicians, dancers and poets all perform in front of a constantly-playing collection of silent footage – so there are some sections where the comedians will do new voiceovers to the films, or the musicians new soundtracks; some of the footage has been created especially for the event. It’s a really excellent show and one that the audience have loved twice now. It’s all new material every time, and the next one is February 18th – tickets are actually on sale already!

Oh, I looked up “New Fork Times” and I found a food blog – I feel you may be misleading me…

AP. There are rumours you’re about to perform your own poetry at some event with Brand Kit and Tom Bruise. Is that true?

DW. I am indeed, yeah – this is the first time I’ve ever performed poetry in earnest, and I’ve written a seven-minute long piece about two of history’s greatest inventors and their ridiculous fight. It’s really better than it sounds… It’ll be at Heard of Mouth on November 12th, which is a night run by the excellent and disgustingly talented Andrew Lee, who is also part of Commentary!

AP. Thanks for this, Dan. Can we listen to one last song now?  

DW. If you insist… https://soundcloud.com/peopleneedgoals/radio-apollo

About the artist
Dan Wallbank is a man who refuses to be put in a box, mostly because he is quite tall and won’t fit. Equal parts Clark Kent, Sylar and Jemaine Clement, Dan has turned his hand to illustration, photography, comedy, poetry and writing, but he’d probably say he was a musician, if pushed. He is 29 and lives in Leicester with his partner and they spend their time together watching endless episodes of Pointless.


LINKS
Dan’s Doodles: http://dansworkdoodles.tumblr.com
Music stuff he makes for fun: http://www.soundcloud.com/peopleneedgoals
Music he wrote for a wrestling league: http://legacywrestling.bandcamp.com
A collection of interesting graffiti around Leicester (NSFW): http://graffitiofleicester.tumblr.com and twits at @GraffitiOfLE
Photography Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Dan-Wallbank-Photography-159229184425143/
Example of his photography is the header image: http://the-grade.com/qa--spoken-word-artist-andrew-lee
Commentary - a mixture of film, comedy, spoken word, music and dance (part of a larger group) http://www.phoenix.org.uk/film/commentary/
Twitter and Instagram: @natchdan

About the interviewer
Alexandros Plasatis lives in Leicester and had short stories published in Overheard: Stories to Read Aloud (2012), Unthology 6 (2015), and Crystal Voices: Ten Years of Crystal Clear Creators (2015).

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Review by Dips Patel of “Housekeeping” by Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson is one of my all-time favourite authors. Her first novel Housekeeping was nominated for a Pulitzer. I need not say more cos that nugget speaks for itself. (She did win a Pulitzer and that was for Gilead, her second novel, more of which another time...)

Housekeeping is about the lives of and relationship between two sisters and the impact of a third woman, their aunt, who comes into their life and the effect she has on them as individuals and their relationship. Regularly charting highly in “Books to Read Before You Die,” “greatest novels”-type lists, there's no end of difficulty in recommending this novel (and author) highly enough.

You know when you stare at something long enough and then quickly look away and there's a light, negative outline shape of what you've been looking at, and it seems to vibrate and “pulse” for a while before slowly disappearing?… Well, once you've read this book it will “pulse” for years after and you'll go back to reading it again and again, each time thinking “it wasn't as good as I thought it was last time, surely not,” and then you read it and realise it was better and just keeps getting better and better… I've read Housekeeping three, no make that four times now over the years and if there is one author and one book I'd probably recommend above all others it's this one.

About the reviewer
Dips Patel is a graduate in Graphic Design which means he can colour in without going over the lines and when he does he makes it look deliberate, cool and edgy. He much prefers fine art where the art of talking nonsense is finer still allowing him extremely moderate success in introducing his work to a wider audience. Hobbies include reading stuff, watching stuff, commendably misguided attempts at painting stuff and consuming copious amounts of coco pops, clementines, curries, cakes and cocktails, not all at the same time which is frowned upon in polite society.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Review by Jonathan Taylor of "Degrees of Twilight" by Maggie Butt


According to Shelley, "poetry ... may be considered as the bridge thrown over the stream of time" - and there is certainly something peculiar to poetry about its relationship to time, something which marks poetry out - which, maybe, is part of its essence. Whereas painting and sculpture are naturally static forms, with no obvious fourth dimensions (though, of course, there are ways in which that stasis is subverted or complicated); whereas prose narrative fiction, at least in English, is naturally a linear form (in that it's read in a linear way, and set out as such, even when linearity is brought into question); and whereas music is necessarily experienced in a linear, almost narrative way; poetry is different. Often read in a non-linear way (you read a poem, then perhaps re-read it, and your eye does not necessarily move smoothly across the page, left to right), poetry is perhaps the most successful art form at capturing the complexity of time, at throwing a "bridge ... over the stream of time." Clearly, narrative prose fiction does have a fourth dimension - but, as I say, that time element assumes, more often than not, a basic linear, chronological mode, even where that linearity is disrupted.

Poetry can do something different: poetry, as Maggie Butt realises in her brilliant new collection, Degrees of Twilight (London Magazine, 2015), can simultaneously hold in its hand the present, past and future. In Butt's poetry, the reader can "listen to the future: rain-rocked, lake-like" precisely because "nothing divides the waters from the waters" - past, present, future waters all intermingle in her poems. Butt's poetry hears voices "calling down the years" from the past, watches as the present "all goes on," and foresees "futures latent as a roll of undeveloped film."

There are poems here which, to use her own words, are "forward-facing" and ones which are "backward-facing," watching the "open country of the past / spread itself far as the eye can see." And there are a lot of poems which are both: in the remarkble poem "Time Travellers," for example, "time zig-zags like a running man avoiding bullets," encompassing, as it does, scenes from a whole personal history; in "New Mothers," the mothers cry not just for present pain, but also for future "falls we can't womb you against: / the bully teachers, failures, phone calls in the night / beyond our arms," for which the mothers "paid up-front in tears"; in "Variance Analysis," a dull meeting "in a windowless room" is happening simultaneously "while the first day of spring unfurls outside; / and you are motorbiking scented country lanes / absorbing this year's deficit."

This is the poetry of simultaneity, of synchronicity, as multiple pasts, presents and futures co-exist in the same poems, sometimes even same lines. In the final poem, "Wish," the narrator poignantly attempts to reach towards a kind of Shelleyean timelessness, whereby, as Shelley himself puts it, "time and place and number are not." Here, future, past and present - the "years scampering by"- all finally seem to dissolve in the face of the narrator's wishes: "let there ever be you / let there ever be you."

About the reviewer
Jonathan Taylor is an author, lecturer, editor and critic. His books include the novels Melissa (Salt, 2015), and Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012), and the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013). His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Review by Dips Patel of "Dead Leader" by Jang Jin-Sung, and "Nothing to Envy" by Barbard Demick

And I’ve just finished reading Dear Leader by Jang Jin-Sung, which is a memoir/autobiography of a guy who escaped out of North Korea (and escape is the right word, though fleeing for his life is more apt). He was a poet/writer/musician who somehow got himself into the inner-most circle of Kim Jong-il (this circle is referred to as "the Admitted," which tells you something about the cult of Kim) and right when he was riding that popularity wave at its highest, one careless slip, one "unthinking" moment meant his life was up for grabs and escaping to South Korea (via China) was the only option.

It is an immensely affecting insight into one of the most secretive, insular countries in the world and a disturbingly intimate look into Kim Jong-il’s reign and also reveals the history of the country post WWII, the split with the South, and how the North Korea of today came into being seen not from an outsider’s perspective, but a man who had access to government documents and workings.
 
I’ve read and recommended Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy countless times and while that chronicles the lives of the ordinary Korean on the street (so to speak; it’s essentially a series of interviews with six defectors given some novelisation stylings), this gives you the chance to see North Korea from a different angle, from a real insider’s view, life in N. Korea for the privileged few and what that looks like and means. As Jin-Sung recounts his life and escape, it also reveals how North Koreans are seen and treated by the Chinese, by South Koreans and by fellow North Koreans, particularly ethnic Koreans living in China. As is the case with Demick’s book, there are several moments reading the book where I put it down, got up and walked away, got myself a brew, went for a walk, just did something to give myself some breathing space before I continued reading, as lumps-in-the-throat appear with more frequency than is comfortable and what you read becomes almost overwhelming. Yeah, I would say Dear Leader is absolutely worth reading as it is bang up-to-date (2014) and if you haven’t read Nothing to Envy (2009), that’s an essential read too!

About the reviewer
Dips Patel is a graduate in Graphic Design which means he can colour in without going over the lines and when he does he makes it look deliberate, cool and edgy. He much prefers fine art where the art of talking nonsense is finer still allowing him extremely moderate success in introducing his work to a wider audience. Hobbies include reading stuff, watching stuff, commendably misguided attempts at painting stuff and consuming copious amounts of coco pops, clementines, curries, cakes and cocktails, not all at the same time which is frowned upon in polite society.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Dips Patel reviews Justin Kurzel's "Macbeth" and writes about his "Snowtown" and Kurosawa's "Throne of Blood"

The latest version of Macbeth hit the big-screen recently, directed by Justin Kurzel (who brought us Snowtown, which if you haven’t seen is well worth catching; brutal, grim and based on a true story it’s worth bracing yourself before you press play on that one...)
I digress, back to Macbeth, this time we have Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in the lead roles. Visually sumptuous, the cinematography is exhilarating (and could easily be cast as a character in its own right) some interesting modern flourishes to the story and generally casting is spot on with Fassbender immensely affecting and pretty much perfect as the initially sceptical and apprehensive would-be king turned maniacal tyrant. My only issue with the film is, and it pains me to type this, Cotillard as Lady Macbeth. Don’t get me wrong, I love her, I think she’s a fantastic actor and has a great screen presence but a presence which doesn’t quite ring true for this role, her understated take on the character lacking any ‘theatrical’ quirks (a good thing) but also lacking (a bad thing) in that believable insidious lust for power that in my head, the character is consumed by, not just for her husband but herself. In my ever-so-humble-opinion, it’s the Lady Macbeth character that’s the driving force of the play and sadly I just didn’t get that from Cottilard’s performance, nonetheless , the film as a whole is definitely worth watching. 
Now then, for a pretty awesome Macbeth-y film I would highly recommend Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, which loosely takes the story and sticks it into a feudal Japan. Starring Kurosawa stalwart and long-time collaborator, Toshiro Mifune as Taketoki Washizu in the Macbeth role, and even given the deviations from the original source (of which there are many, including having just one witch instead of three who, by the way gave me the heebiejeebies) for the most part it’s a fantastic take on the Scottish Play. The point of me mentioning this now, sapping the last vestige of your patience is simply the performance by Isuzu Yamada, who plays Lady Asaji Washizu (the Lady Macbeth equivalent role). Creepy as hell, hugely impressive and wholly believable as the quietly Machiavellian wife whose whispering words in her husband’s shell-like unleash a murderous monster before falling to pieces as the realisation and ramifications of her machinations make themselves at home. A mesmerising, stunning and exquisitely pitched performance, well worth a peek.

About the reviewer
Dips Patel is a graduate in Graphic Design which means he can colour in without going over the lines and when he does he makes it look deliberate, cool and edgy. He much prefers fine art where the art of talking nonsense is finer still allowing him extremely moderate success in introducing his work to a wider audience. Hobbies include reading stuff, watching stuff, commendably misguided attempts at painting stuff and consuming copious amounts of coco pops, clementines, curries, cakes and cocktails, not all at the same time which is frowned upon in polite society.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Night out with the Nanna's: Alex Bliss writes about a live gig by “Nanna Radleys Band”

Night out with the Nanna's by Alex Bliss

Nanna Radleys Band
So on a Saturday night, I have a problem. I’m not much of a clubber anymore; I’m fed up of having to shout to talk to my friends, I’ve got absolutely no rhythm and I am growing ever more angry at rising cloakroom prices. I like to sit in a pub until the early hours, chatting with my friends.

But my best friend, Verity, now she likes to dance and won’t hesitate to cut into the pub conversation with a cutting, “I’m bored now.”

Some weeks ago, Verity and I were trekking through town heading to a bar (to avoid paying the cloakroom fee at the eventual club, I am wearing only a T Shirt and am freezing!), when we pass O’Neills Bar on Loseby Lane and hear Ain't Nobody by Chaka Khan being belted out. I wanted to warm up (and get a pint), and Verity spied a dancefloor…

The Nanna Radleys (a band neither of us had heard of) were playing, and your foot starts tapping (or in my case shoulders bopping) almost the moment you walk in the door.

The atmosphere was heady with pure and simple fun! There is not posturing from the band, no slightly irritating attempt to be "cool" (they just are). It is brilliantly performed covers all the way and it is clear they know their job is to entertain their audience.

I got the drinks in and Verity headed straight for the dance floor. But soon the infectious music - songs you are either guaranteed to know or at the very least sort of remember the tune - had me dancing on the edge of the crowd, clutching the drinks. The bar was packed, and all seats long claimed.

The Nanna’s (as they call themselves) are a six piece band. They are led by singers, and sisters, Lauren and Sarah Bird. Sarah has a powerful, belting voice that brims with soul and a diva presence as big and fabulous as the flower pinned to her quiff. Lauren has a sensuous voice that leads you happily to the dancefloor (shoulders bopping!) and injects excitement into the repertoire as she throws herself into a rendition of Diana Ross’ I’m Coming Out.

The rest of the band is made up of David (guitar), Glen (bass), Carlos (drummer), and Craig (keys); all (to my unprofessional yet judgmental-a-though-a-professional-eye) brilliantly talented. One really nice and quite unique point to note about the Nanna’s is the range of ages: 27 - 57. Yet their laidback camaraderie and genuine warmth can be easily felt by the crowd.

Between them, they soon even have the men dancing and you feel like they are at least partly drawn by the music and not the ladies on a Hen Night already occupying the dance floor. I soon make my way to join Verity, sufficiently embarrassing myself with my dance moves but cheered by the Hen flirting with me (I think…).

Without a doubt, the Nanna’s provide Leicester’s least boring night out. You can sit, sup and sing along or bound onto the dancefloor and enjoy the fact that it’s not sticky. Like the Nanna’s themselves, the bar was choker with different ages; this is a band suitable for all.

Verity wasn’t bored. We’re going back.

Nanna Radleys Band website: http://www.nannaradleys.co.uk/

About the reviewer
Alex Bliss is a writer and producer. He is co-director of Original Ink, a theatre production company who have supported local writers, directors and actors by producing evenings of short plays which include: Hashtag, Mashed and The Meltdown Test. He has written plays for the 14/48 at the Y Theatre and currently works in events at Curve in Leicester. He is writing the book for a new musical soon to be performed at the Sue Townsend Theatre called Madeline and Joe, which revolves around a relationship between a young couple trying to conceive.