fringe and other things

You might not hear much from me for the whole month of August unless it’s via blog post. That’s because I’ll be in the deep sandpit of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, reviewing and writing a show. This blog will have *a lot* more posts published on it by the end of the three and a half weeks. Obviously, in this time I’ll be writing my reviews really really quickly and I hope this makes me a better writer but it might not. So this is just a blog post setting up the month, and letting everyone know what to expect. It’s gonna be a little bit stressful, a lot of fun, and my shoulders will not relax below my chin until I am in my own bed at home.

If you’re in Edinburgh anytime from the 3rd – 26th come say hi, message me, we can meet up and chat about theatre or life or anything you want really because I can imagine this stuff gets very stressful. Totally just add me on facebook or dm on twitter if you need a break (even if you don’t know me). My email is in the ‘about’ section of my blog so you can do that too. We can read zines in a park or a cafe if it rains and we don’t have to have a Big Discussion if you’re feeling weary, I know I will be.

If you’re not going to Edinburgh, which of course many of you aren’t, that is also cool! Feel free to read my reviews but also I don’t mind if you want to put me/my blog/my twitter on mute for a while. I know the FOMO is real, I’ve had it for the past three years about this god forsaken festival. Also, I realise some of you do not care about Edinburgh fringe at all.

Something else I’d like to quickly say is that I’m not going to do any kind of star rating reviews. It’s something that I have never done on this blog and I will continue to not do it. I’m writing with the Network of Independent Critics for the first week and that means many posts in not many days, but I will try my very best to consider each and every show as if I had a month to get my thoughts out. Go follow their twitter account @NICritics for updates on my reviews and all the other amazing critics involved.

Finally, here are some completely unrelated Edinburgh things I am enjoying (completely unashamedly stolen from Florence Bell’s blog post)

1.   Glass Animals released a new video and it’s my favourite song from their new album; Agnes. I also saw them live on Sunday and it was a m a z i n g. Read the description for this video please, it is the definition of suffering for your art and what that means.

2. There’s a collective/magazine/art thing I’m involved in called the Roundtable Journal and I’ve been asked to join the ‘RT Collective’ which is basically a network of artists that embody what the journal is all about. Honestly, I was flattered and their first issue – self, art, and femme is what I feel most passionate about exploring in my artistic work (not theatre). Check out their stuff if you want to. I love their aesthetic and its super beautiful and empowering work.

3. The Incredible Jessica James

My very close and wonderful friend Izzy texted me 5 minutes into this film saying ‘watch it do it right now i don’t care what else you are doing’. I trust her judgement and so while eating three adult size portions of pasta I switched on the Netflix original film. It’s fabulous. Jessica James is a struggling playwright in New York who is recovering from a break up (that she initiated). It’s a lovely portrayal of identity, womanhood, theatre, love, and humour. I cried like three times.

Cover Photo by Prue Stent (www.pruestrent.com) featured in Roundtable Journal

 

What I Resolve to do

a list of things I resolve to do, to be, to remember. perhaps they will be kept, perhaps they will not. i hope that they will be. i think they will make me a better me

  be kinder than you have to be

be plentiful with kindness. it is the most powerful revolution. educate instead of dismiss

  discover each day

the days ahead may seem full of darkness but each day brings new light, a million new and wonderful thoughts, a million possible antidotes

  breathe a little more

it can feel claustrophobic in our echo chambers sometimes. it’s okay to breathe, to be peaceful, to open yourself

  complacency is not the answer

apathy feels like the only way to deal with the worst parts of the world. instead speak up, march, love radically, fight back 

  allow risk and allow failure

kindness is not just towards others, but also towards yourself. with risk comes failing. allow yourself to make mistakes. 

  care more

it’s alright to care about someone, something, anything. and it’s okay to care too much. 

  worry less

no one can see your tummy hanging over your jeans. if they can they shouldn’t care. you are not your flaws. 

  take pride

it’s okay to stand up and be proud! you are smart and hard working! your outfit is really cool today! that was a kick ass piece of toast you just made! 

  love those who love you back

someone who doesn’t love you in the way you love them is not worth crying over. there are others who love you more than they do and you don’t even know yet. 

  its okay

it’s okay to forget about your resolutions. it’s okay that you felt jealous of your best friend, you’re over it now. it’s okay to fall over now and again. it’s okay to admit you’re wrong. it’s okay to call people out. it’s okay to ask the question. it’s okay to know the answer. it’s okay to feel bad and it’s okay to feel good. 

Only Heartbroken Women are True Artists

‘women in music are allowed to be singer songwriters singing about their boyfriends . if they change the subject matter to atoms , galaxies , activism , nerdy math beat editing or anything else than being performers singing about their loved ones they get criticized’

Björk recently wrote a powerful Facebook status welcoming the winter solstice and damning the misogynistic music industry. In her post she talks about how her recent DJ set was reviewed compared to how her male peers were reviewed. A large majority of the reviewers said she ‘hid behind the desk’ and was not really ‘performing’, a criticism that, yes you’ve guessed it, her male counterparts did not receive. I don’t think she was surprised by this. No working female artist is surprised by misogyny anymore, it’s kind of a given, and at first I sadly kind of saw it as non-news. But after I read her status, I started to think about it differently. She was saying that women are often not legitimised in their art form until they are heartbroken.  As women, ‘if we dont cut our chest open and bleed about the men and children in our lives we are cheating our audience .’ And I think this is actually a really pertinent issue which we don’t think about enough.

It took me less than two minutes to think of recent examples in theatre. It took me another thirty seconds to think of some examples in art. This is something I haven’t thought about properly until right now and it’s now all I can think about. Because it’s not just about sexist reviewers. It’s about how we (or don’t, in fact) legitimise female performance.

To start – Yerma. I kind of feel like I can’t really pass judgement on this one because I didn’t see it but I read a lot of reviews on it and also I know the play. Billie Piper is one of the hottest picks of 2016 for all the ‘Best Female Performance’ awards. It’s widely agreed she gave a stunning performance as a woman heartbroken for her non-existent child, her lost lover, her neglectful husband. So many of the press photos surrounding the show were of Piper sprawled on the floor, broken and maddened with grief. I have no doubt she gave a wonderful performance, but I think it’s worth asking, as Björk does, whether we gave it more thought, more visibility, because she was so brutally torn apart by love and by men. Or perhaps this was not the reason why we legitimised it more, but it was a certainly a factor in why the performance was so well-received. There was a small backlash about the sexism of the play but widely it was dismissed because it was a good show, right? And that’s what the original story was, so it’s not like someone’s written something new and sexist, they’re just reviving an old sexist thing. Anyway, not the point, the point is we put, are putting, Piper on a pedestal because of her performance of heartbreak. It’s the same problem with the Medea’s, the Ophelia’s, the Blanche DuBois’s – according to our view of the great roles for women, we are only really performing when we’re broken.

It’s not just theatre. It’s in music, art, poetry – nearly every art form has this problem when it comes to legitimising female voices. In art, take Marina Abramović, one of the artworld’s strongest, most controversial figures and yet her most watched Youtube video is when she breaks down in tears in front of her ex-partner – Ulay. It has 14 million views where her other videos, where she talks about her art, have at most 500,000 views. She is one of the artists I respect most and yet that was how I first heard about her. When I was in sixth form I ran a workshop based on her practices in class for about an hour. I would say one of the only times everyone was really moved and engaged was when I talked about that video and her release of emotion. It really saddens me because her art is above everything about control and her most infamous moment is a loss of control.

This obsession with heartbroken women rears it head again in the poetry we read. Sylvia Plath is one of our most celebrated female poets, and one of our most infamous. Again I knew about her relationship with Ted Hughes and the nature of her death and heartbreak before I knew about Tulips, now one of my favourite poems. She is recognised because of her tragedy, not only her illness but the relationship with the men in her life, she was broken hearted because of Ted and because of her father. And, if you think this is exaggerated at all – I googled ‘great female poets’ and one of the first names to appear was Plath, and alongside it were her main ideas and themes – ‘Death, motherhood etc’. Whereas when I googled ‘great (male) poets’ the first to appear was Wordsworth whose main themes couldn’t wait to announce themselves – ‘Nature, the self, the body’. Notice a difference?

I could honestly go on about this for pages and pages, there are countless examples in all the art forms. I do think a lot of people will disagree with this but it’s just what I’ve been thinking about. Do we legitimise the performance of female heartbreak, of the broken and grieving woman, over other kinds of female performance? Do women need to bleeding and crying to be considered worth hearing, watching, or reading?

I want you to prove me wrong, I really do. But just before you jump on this, I think it’s worth asking whether these were just coincidences or whether this is something we need to think about.

Björk certainly thinks we do but she also wants us to move forward into a more positive and inclusive 2017. I want that too.

Don’t Give to Charity

In order to install a supply of clean water to a primary school in a landlocked Southern African country, the first thing to do is to create a trench. To start this trench, a pickaxe must be yielded above one’s head and slammed into the dusty and regrettably very hard ground. This creates a tiny hole that acts as the start to your supply of water. At first it seems futile and discouraging. The hole is very small and the pick axe is very heavy and the sun is very hot. But then, as you continue to wield the unruly pick axe and bring it down into the unrelentingly tough ground, a bell sounds. You put the pick axe to one side and look around at your co-workers who have similarly been pounding a huge tool into the dirt and you smile. Children begin to flood out of classrooms and you rush towards them as they rush towards you. Tiny hands grab onto your arms and smiles are so wide that the pickaxe is put to the very back of your mind.

It is very easy to sit on your sofa at home and give £100 to Comic Relief when Jonathon Ross says something amusing on television. It is of course valuable, but it’s really easy. It is also, I have noticed, very easy to sit back on your sofa and be cynical about people who go to the aforementioned primary school to install a water supply. I know it’s easy because I did it – I was cynical and I believed, in my comfortable way, that this was simply another way for middle class British kids to feel good about themselves. Looking back on my cynical and smirking self, I’d say that actually it isn’t always about us.

If we had just pitched up in a small South African village without knowing anything about the school and in a white saviour way were convinced that what these kids need is a new mural and better chairs, whereas what they actually needed was a clean drainage system, but just went and did it anyway then yes, there is very good reason to be cynical. But I think there is far more merit in appreciating a new culture, immersing yourself in an environment that is new but no less worthy of recognition than your own, and taking advantage of the horrific wage gap in our current global economy by doing what we can for a school that we’ve had connections to for a while.

I’m not trying to prove anything with this splurge of thought – just articulating something that I would have said to some of the responses I got when talking about this trip. And in regards to the title – don’t give to charity, be the charity.

Inspiration

1. Poets

Having complained about the A-Level syllabus, I do have to credit it for introducing me to some of my favourite literature. Ted Hughes’ Crow poems are crazy and surreal and completely up my street. He was an asshole but he was a talented one and he had some very interesting ideas about the poetic form and how it translates feeling. His essay ‘Words and Experience’ is thought-provoking and a little bit mind-blowing. He questions how we can possibly attempt, as artists, to recreate an emotional experience exactly. He suggested we could write a whole book about the way in which someone walks away from you and still never capture that split second experience. I don’t know about you but that is something that I’ve never been able to articulate before and I love and hate Hughes for doing it.

2. Art

Hopper, de Chirico, and Ernst are all artist who currently have my attention. I’ve always loved Dali but there is something about the immense silence which these guys can evoke which is so incredibly awe-inspiring. The colour, the atmosphere – everything about their work speaks to me and I love it. I could stare at it for hours on end and never be bored. Hopper is probably one of my most favourite artists – he evokes a sense of place, time and emotion that is so exact everytime, and so satisfyingly aesthetic.

3. Summer

Some pictures that are getting me excited for summer 🙂

4. People

People inspire me all the time, every day but the last two weeks have brought a truck full of new friends and experiences. That isn’t to say the old ones aren’t still inspiring me though – in fact I’d like to start with someone who’s been inspiring me for years. Well, actually my whole life. When someone is away a lot, like my dad is, you come to really appreciate their presence and cherish what they have to say and he does make it easy by saying some pretty cool stuff. I don’t think I’d really be doing any of the things I am today without him and that’s great. Also, he’s pushed me to do new stuff and meet new people, which leads me on to last week. I traveled up to the blistering north to NSDF (National Student Drama Festival) not really expecting much, but I came away with some of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I met some of the most wonderful and considerate people – shout out to the guys who hung out in the Noffice – who have completely reinvigorated my love for theatre and the arts and sparked some wave of passion in me that I was convinced was being crushed by A-Level syllabuses.

 

 

Change of Scene

Hi. Hope it’s alright but this blog getting a bit of a revamp. I’ve read all the wiki-how’s on the best way to have a successful blog and I know you’re meant to be as narrow as possible, but I’ve realised that this is my outlet rather than anyone else’s. So I’m now going to use this platform, my platform as just that. An outlet. I’ll still review music because I love it, but I’m also going to publish my poetry, theatre reviews, photography and life updates if and when I feel like it. In a way it’s going to be so much better than before because I’ll be passionate about doing it again. Enjoy. Or don’t.

Thanks.