Irlen Ambassador Jennifer Owen, 27 from Merthyr Tydfil has taken her campaign to get Irlen Syndrome recognised in schools to a national level. Jennifer was invited to hold a Irlen Awareness’ event in Parliament after her successful event last year in the Welsh Assembly. Jennifer gives a personal response below to her advocacy activities.
Photo Credit by Up Coming
I had a meeting with my A.M. Dawn Bowden and my M.P. Gerald Jones, Dawn suggested ” We could hold an awareness day at The Welsh Assembly” I was totally shock and excited about taking my campaign called the ‘Voice for people with Irlen Syndrome’ with my aim of those living with Irlen syndrome beckcoming recognised by the NHS and in schools.
I didn’t expect my event to so be successful, Hannah and I gave our speeches about living with Irlen Syndrome and the issues we face on daily basis.
It was an amazing experience to hold an event at The Welsh Assembly and for Dawn to take forward Irlen Syndrome and the associated issues to. The Welsh Assembly holds a special place in my heart because it was the start of our campaign moving forward and that the politicians started listening to us.
Jennifer and Hannah meet Gerald Jones M.P.
Photo credit Up & Coming
Jennifer was then invited to hold a Irlen Awareness’ event in Parliament after her successful event last year in the Welsh Assembly. On Tuesday 28 March she headed up a group of Irlen representatives and supporters for the event which was hosted by Gerald Jones MP for Merthyr and Rhymney.
Hanna Miller, Irlen campaigner said:
‘It was great opportunity to go to Westminster as Irlen ambassador to campaign for the condition due to no funding for the lenses and lack of awareness in schools to have Irlen screeners in every school.’
The event started with a warm welcome from Gerald Jones MP followed by speeches from Jennifer and Hannah Miller talking about their experiences with Irlen syndrome. After that there was a discussion about the issues people with the condition are facing on daily basis – like being refused coloured paper. MP’s Stephen Doughty (Penarth and South Cardiff), Carolyn Harris (Swansea) and Chris Elmore (Ogmore) were among the politicians who came to hear the views and engaged in debate.
Jennifer said of the day: ‘Getting our voices heard in Parliament is remarkable and one that will never be forgotten because of how important the condition is. It was so important to able to educating the people in power about the way they are treating people with Irlen syndrome – as at the moment it is so wrong! I am so gratefully to my own MP Gerald Jones for hosting this event and to other M.P.’s like Stephan Doughty for being interested in learning about Irlen Syndrome.”
The event helped to raise awareness of Irlen syndrome and to educate people about the implications it can have on a person’s whole life. The campaigners hope that Irlen will be officially recognised, especially in schools where it can have a huge impact on the learning outcomes for young people.
I’m so glad I got the opportunity to go to this poetry night. I’m so glad that the Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival exists, and is doing events like these. It actually makes me unimaginably happy far beyond belief.
I spent a whole night lost in words and poetry and prose and it was so, so wonderful. I was perfectly in my element – in a cute little cafe with fairy lights, a room full of people who all share my interest, watching the sky darken around us in a room, comfy chairs, supportive people. All of it was enthralling and it just made me so, so happy.
I love to hear other people’s writing. Something about it is so soothing and comforting and soft and just so easy to fall into and gladly lose myself in. Picturing the scenes behind story words and feeling the emotion behind poetry is just such a magnificent experience, and an irreplaceable one.
It was so much fun to watch other people prep themselves and share their own writing – which I know is something incredibly personal and sometimes hard to put out there into the world. But everyone was so supportive, and that was so amazing to see.
I, myself, had reservations about reading some of my own personal writing. I was sold that I wouldn’t be reading any up on the floor that I didn’t bring any with me. I saw other people do it, and a part of me started to feel okay -nervous, but okay – with the idea of actually getting up there and doing the same. I got the confidence to read aloud, and I did.
The wonderful hostess, Alice Downing, was comforting and supportive and the perfect person, I think, to host and guide this event. I don’t think I’d have read my own work out loud if I hadn’t seen how passionate and encouraging she was to everyone in attendance.
I had such a delightful time, and I’m so thankful that I heard about these events and went to them.
I recall seeing this on the Twitter page of I Loves The Diff’, which is what got me intrigued to read it.
Alien Rain by Ruth Morgan pulled me in for two reasons. Firstly, it was more of a sci-fi novel, and as someone trying to widen my horizons when it comes to reading, this struck me as a good a place as any to go to try something new. Secondly, the book is set in Cardiff. It’s firstly set in Cardiff (but on Mars), so the names of well-loved streets and public places are used here and there, but later is set in real, Earth-Cardiff.
I enjoyed an incredible amount that the novel was set in Cardiff (both on Earth and on Mars). This is something I have not experienced before. The closest I’ve ever come has been the Welsh theme of The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, or the occasional mention of a Welsh name in the webcomic, Homestuck. I’ve never seen something be based in Cardiff so heavily – and it was wonderful to see. However, I do worry that this was the only aspect of the book that I really liked.
While the sci-fi elements of it was good, I found it a little sad to hear the descriptions of a ruined and decrepit Cardiff. After all, I live here, and it’s still bustling and full, and I like that. To hear that Animal Wall was gone, or the Museum was falling apart, or that Cardiff Castle was more ruin than attraction, was a bit disheartening to envision.
The plot itself wasn’t too bad. I liked the message that intelligence can thrive in ways other than purely academic, and with that, the message that there is worth to be found in people outside of their academic achievement. As a student currently waiting for some exam results, this was pretty nice to hear, and eased my conscience up just a little.
However, my biggest bother with this book was the presentation of some of the characters. I usually consider myself easy to please, when it comes to literature. I usually find reasons to love characters anyways. I often welcome a love interest with open arms, and usually am able to trudge through a plot even if I find it particularly difficult to, or if it doesn’t sit well with me. This book was different to that, and I got more grateful that I was nearing the end with every page flip. I didn’t mind the flowering relationship between Bree (our female main character) and Halley (the male love interest), as it seemed a simple and innocent enough relationship that I could get behind. However, it was later found that Halley initiated the characters’ friendship and by extension, relationship, on being bribed to do so for the easiness of a science experiment – so it was fake. My biggest criticism of this is that when called out on this by Bree, Halley said:
(Halley): “Bree, you’ve got…” “Don’t tell me I’ve got it wrong!” I (Bree) laughed. “I was going to say, you’ve got to forgive me.” (…) “Why should I forgive you?” “I’m the one who doesn’t deserve to be on this mission. I’m only here because I agreed to lie and cheat and spy on you for Carter. I am a liar, I’m despicable and I know I am. Still, you have to forgive me.” “That makes no sense,” I said. “Love makes no sense.”
(Halley): “I’ve fallen in love.” “Will you stop using that word?” I (Bree) cried. “No one says that word! If you think for a moment that I could ever believe what you’re saying…” “You have to,” he whispered. “Or I don’t know what I’m going to do.(…)”
There are so many things with this especially, which did shape the whole novel and the perception of it and other characters, that I found astoundingly bad.
This is a book in the YA genre. This is a genre that I continue to enjoy, because it was the one I experienced mostly as I started to really enjoy reading, and as of recent years, it’s becoming a wonderful and diverse genre, and one doing far better than it used to. This is a genre for people my age, and people younger. These scenes I have a problem with. While I was able to spot the problems, I’m not sure others would have, and it’s a dangerous line to blur for younger people.
Pushing forgiveness done out of love, when the relationship itself began on deceit is, firstly, not love. Expecting to be forgiven because you love someone, is not a reason alone to be forgiven. I do worry the author has made a mistake, consistently using “You’ve got to” or “You have to” as a way to make a male character feel far more forceful in wanting to be forgiven, and then using guilt to further this. A guilt trip into forgiveness when he was in the wrong just feels like poor writing, or even ignorant writing. People, especially recently, do not have the tolerance for this kind of characterisation and neither do I. I worry this would be behaviour people could attach themselves to and then look for – especially young girls who may enjoy the YA genre – and land themselves in a relationship where their feelings are not considered and their emotions are, effectively, abused.
This pushes the forcefulness of males which comes off very poorly. If a man was telling me I had to forgive him because he loved me I think I’d turn and run as fast as I could and for as long as I could go. This is a stereotype we need less of, as many, many people have coined on to its hindrance on men’s emotional well being, which needs to be addressed as much as hindrance of women’s chances in society, as this scene and beyond it only pushes the submissiveness of Bree, which goes against the rest of her character established through the rest of the novel. She is a character that went to great lengths and seemed perfectly capable of standing up for herself – until giving in and forgiving when Halley got hurt in a later scene, and then jumping straight back into action into her much stronger female role, which had already been established.
I’m angry. And I expected better of a book published so recently (2016), and a book written by a woman. A part of me feels let down, and I’m hoping the next book I read will bring my spirits back up.
I still give the book 2 stars. I did still enjoy that it was set in my hometown, which made it slightly more enjoyable, and on some level, I did enjoy the sci-fi story.
One Was Lost was a book I picked up because I had decided I wanted to branch out a little further from my normal cheesy YA book, or my normal poetry book. I have a tendency to stick close to my comforts in a lot of areas, including reading, and this book was able to help me breach this constraint.
I had decided to stretch out further and try my hands at a story more centred on thrill, horror, mystery, suspense. For a while now, I’ve wanted to experience a book that made my chest constrict in a funny way, in a way that made me scared. I know we’ve all had our hand at murder mysteries and crime novels and even television crime dramas or horror movies, but none of those ever seemed to settle right with me, and none of them ever seemed to really be what I was searching for. One Was Lost managed to do something that a book had yet to do for me.
Most things that I read I can usually guarantee a happy ending, or at least ones where all the characters live, save for Shakespeare’s works. Most of the time, I’m pretty much certain that’s how things will go, and I usually hope for that, too (I am guilty of really, really loving a happy and pure ending). With One Was Lost, I was less sure of this, and in turn, I hoped for it much more fiercely. I wanted it to end well so desperately and was so torn that it was the a book that just might not do that, that I felt that little constraint in my chest that I had wanted to feel. As the characters got put in more and more danger, and the likelihood of a happy ending seemed to dwindle, I got more and more entrenched in the story and more and more hungry for answers and a good ending. When there was one, I felt relief and happiness so big and all-encompassing that I was sure I was a balloon that had been blown up to bursting. It was such a wonderful feeling, another I admit I am guilty of enjoying, to watch characters trudge through the unimaginable, and come out the other side. I hope my praise can reach out to the author, Natalie D. Richards, because I am brimming with it. The feelings I had throughout my read were incredible, and something I’m glad to have experienced.
All the characters are interesting, with their own little stories that fade impact and shape the bigger, overall plot. Each of them (like our main character, Sera, and the others, Emily, Jude, Lucas) were all lovable and easy to attach oneself to in different ways. All of them had characteristics I loved, and attributes I admired, and in the midst of their heavy story, it was still wonderful to see them in my mind’s eye interacting and even laughing. A brief summary can be found on Natalie D. Richards’ website: http://nataliedrichards.com/books/onewaslost/ as this can supply an explanation and introduction to the book better than I can, as I do not wish to spoil anything.
To add to this even more, the writing made this feel even more real. It was clear and concise, and unbelievably detailed. There was a period in the text where Natalie D. Richards describe the feeling of thirst so well and so closely, that I found myself feeling thirsty and scrambling for bottles of water to get me through.
I give this 4 stars. It was a good introduction to the other aspects of my usual YA genre with a far more intriguing and mysterious core, and I did enjoy the story of it incredibly so. I very much loved it.
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke has been a long time favourite book of mine. I read it first about five years ago, and I remember reading it, loving it with my whole heart, finishing it, and instantly reading it again.
Once upon a time, I was recommended it. Someone that I knew once knew how much I loved the Professor Layton game, “Professor Layton and the Last Spectre”, as within this game there was a small gang of poor and homeless children who banded together to keep each other safe and warm who I took an overwhelming attachment to. The Thief Lord reminded them of these characters, and in turn, of me. And I could not be more grateful to have discovered a book that reminded me so much of characters I already loved, and created whole other characters who I loved just as much – perhaps more. Not only did these characters hold such a special place in my heart, they’ve stayed there undeterred for years. Even as I continue to consume new media and content and entertainment, there has yet to be something that knocks Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord from its #1 spot in my heart.
The plot is sweet, and something I loved all those years ago an equal amount as I still love it now. It is mysterious and alluring and downright fun – and to top it all off, the way it’s presented is unimaginably atmospheric, which is a factor I love an immeasurable amount. Being set in Venice, somewhere I have always wanted to go but have yet to find the opportunity to get there, it was like I got to go there for myself. And even better, it was like I got to go and I got to relive this story again and again in a place as beautiful in real life as it is in my mind’s eye.
The writing made this atmosphere even more incredible. The way Funke would describe the water and stone, the pathways and alleys, the boats and the famous buildings was mesmerising. The way it was written had a hand in shaping my own writing goals, as I also love at atmospheric touch in my own work. This has shaped me for so long and is so intrinsically a part of me that honestly I am so, so happy.
The characters are all lovely, each with their own unique personality and lovable traits. My favourites were always Prosper (our main character), Victor Getz, and Ida Spavento. I always thought, and continued to think of them, as lovable forces who would keep anyone safe – which they did. Prosper takes care of his younger brother, Bo. Victor Getz helps care for them (and the other runaway kids), as does Ida Spavento. They all just seemed like the sweetest characters, who I feel unimaginably lucky to have discovered and cherished as much as I do.
I give the book 5 stars, as it holds such an important place on my bookshelf and in my heart. It remains my absolute favourite book, and I’m sure that will continue to be the truth in the foreseeable future, and probably also beyond that. I cannot recommend it enough, especially to those who love heart-warming tale.
Hi Campbell Great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
My name is Campbell Lawrie and I am the Paul Hamlyn Club Coordinator and Drama Class Supervisor at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. This is my ninth year with the company but have been working as the Paul Hamlyn Club Coordinator for the last three years.
So what got you interested in the arts ?
In first year of secondary school my English teacher thought drama and storytelling would help boost my confidence because at the time I was quite shy. Drama wasn’t a course that was offered at my school so my teacher helped me find courses across Ayrshire – where I’m originally from. As soon as I started performing I fell in love with bringing a story to life and witnessing the effect this can have on others. I was hooked after that and knew that I wanted to use theatre as a tool to change people’s lives.
You coordinate the Paul Hamlyn Club at The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow. Can you please tell us more about this initiative and your role?
The Citizens Theatre was very lucky to be one of five venues across Britain to be gifted a sum of money to identify and tackle the barriers that local, disadvantaged people may encounter when trying to access the arts.
My role is to coordinate the different strands of work we deliver in order to do this and also to create relationships with those affected. The role is very hands on. I regularly visit groups and their members in the local community and also welcome the individuals we engage with into the theatre and gain their feedback.
The Paul Hamlyn Foundation is funding the Paul Hamlyn Clubs to “Attract and build relationships with audiences from disadvantaged groups within their local communities.” How has your organisation approached this objective?
The Citizens Theatre was originally approached because of the amount of work we were already carrying out in the local community and across Glasgow. Using the gift we were able to refocus our efforts in attracting the local community to the theatre and there are currently four different strands of work under the Paul Hamlyn Club banner helping to achieve this objective. For those who live in Gorbals area of Glasgow, where the Citizens Theatre company has been based for the past 72 years, we offer heavily subsidised tickets to those who sign up to the Gorbals Card scheme.
The area is still one of the most heavily deprived areas of Scotland and ensuring our neighbours can attend our shows is our way of thanking those who have supported us over the years. We also run a Deaf Theatre Club working alongside Inkblot Collective to deliver an accessible programme for our Deaf audience and we work with two local schools to help engage a new generation of theatre goers.
The Paul Hamlyn Citizens is the fourth strand of work. This involves visiting local organisations and charities to discuss the barriers faced in accessing theatre and inviting them to join the PHCitizens to access tickets to shows throughout the year at 50p per ticket. Our PHCitizens ambassadors are always on hand during shows and events to answer any questions or queries those attending through the Paul Hamlyn Club may have.
Have your new audiences chosen to see any specific type of work at your venue?
We have learned that our new audiences are willing to engage with most types of work because they know they have nothing to lose through attending. Our new audiences see coming to the theatre as a social event more than anything and the shows, the free interval ice-creams, the post-show chats etc are all just added extras. There is an amazing atmosphere at Paul Hamlyn events as many stay behind to discuss the shows and this in turn helps create a larger community network. In saying this, comedies and musicals, especially if they are Scottish shows, prove to be more popular than most but Shakespeare, classics and new writing still appeal and have drawn in equally large numbers.
What impact has had this project in your venue had on the larger organisation?
The impact of the project can be seen across the organisation. Every department has been involved in its delivery in one way or another: backstage have provided talks and presentations, FOH ambassadors greet and welcome the wide range of new patrons who come through our doors and one of our box office assistants is even completing Level 3 BSL. Our community work which has been aided through Paul Hamlyn has also been recognised in helping secure some money for our Capital Project. Accessibility is always at the forefront of people’s minds and this has helped emphasise our stance that we are the Citizens Theatre – we exist for and because of Glasgow’s Citizens.
In the current funding climate many venues and organisation have very limited budgets. Is it possible to share some of your learning that organisations could implement to support new audiences that doesn’t require large amounts of funding?
Funding obviously plays a huge part in making theatre accessible to all but small things like listening to your local community and sharing your resources/spaces with local organisations or individuals can help strengthen relationships. Finding out what your patrons want you to be and how else they would like to use the building is important in making the patrons feel comfortable in coming through the doors. An extension of this is having dedicated, friendly staff to welcome your new audience. We held an open day event, for example, to promote the theatre and our learning work to local, disadvantaged people.
We held workshops, talks and demonstrations throughout the building while outside a local band played and local organisations and businesses promoted their produce and work. The event cost very little because the local community were very generous in donating nearly everything we required and this in turn strengthened our network and individual relationships. I feel that a lot of the time people prefer putting names and faces to the organisation. Offering unsold tickets to your local contacts is also a good way to engage your new audience.
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision In relation to your own project are you aware of any barriers for audiences to access cultural provision.
I think the barriers faced will vary greatly depending on where you are based. The Citizens Theatre is in a highly deprived area with an extremely diverse cultural background meaning we have encountered barriers such as language, affordability and childcare. Some people also feel intimidated entering a building they have only ever walked past or think it isn’t physically accessible. We have heard that a lot of people think theatre is elitist and “not for them”. Transport and programming also come up as common answers to what stops people coming along. Thanks Campbell, finally some more personal questions. What excites you about the arts? What was the last really great cultural activity event that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
The cast of My Country with director Rufus Norris, gatherer Campbell Lawrie and some of the interviewees from Glasgow.
I genuinely get excited when a theatre show tackles social issues and politics head-on. Any piece of art that encourages debate or triggers a passionate response from its audience while also being entertaining has, in my eyes, achieved its goal. I was very lucky to have worked on the recent production of My Country by National Theatre. My role was to gather information from the Scottish people on their views on Brexit and the political climate following the Brexit vote. Listening to each person’s unique story on how they decided they were going to vote and knowing that snippets of these stories were going to heard by people all over Britain really excited me because the project, like the issue, encouraged debate but this time it was a debate between everyday people – not the media and not the politicians.
There is, on the other hand, one show that has stuck with me for ten years and remains my favourite piece of theatre – Headlong and Citizens Theatres production of Angels in America in 2007. I have no words to describe how that show made me feel but it did make me want to work at the Citizens Theatre. I guess in that way, that show changed my life.
History is definitely intriguing to me. I already love stories, and there’s no loss when they’re true stories. However, I am far less interested in history discovered through school. Since, in all honesty, exams suck the life and the fun out of almost anything. This podcast was a way for me to experience history in a newer, and definitely more exciting way. This podcast would be great for people who are casually interested in history, or a good spooky/spiritual story.
Initially, I discovered it through a separate podcast I listen to, Welcome to Nightvale. In this podcast, one of the creators discusses some information about merchandise and tours before the episode begins. He mentioned a new movement called “Trypod” – a play on “tripod” to try, well, podcasts. And I decided to take this offer up! Here’s how I’m here now. I Googled podcasts. I found Lore. I listened to it, and I loved it.
Lore was undoubtedly a refreshing listen. I was overwhelmed by the amount of stories, folklore, tales, and mystery that were open to me. I was able to learn and enjoy countless dots of history scattered through the globe with a multitude of spooky, almost scary stories, that were true.
I’ve wanted to experience scary stories for a while now. I’ve really wanted a book to unsettle my stomach and plague my imagination with fear-enduring figures. I wanted, in all honesty, to experience and good and honest horror. I never found it in books. Which, I admit, I’m quite astounded that I have yet to find this in books, because I do consider myself a person extremely susceptible to an over-active imagination after a scary story. I’m astounded that horror, any kind from any book I’ve read, didn’t would do what I thought it is all set out to: scare me.
I thought books would work, but in their place, this podcast did. There were episodes that affected me particularly. The one about the Jersey Devil stuck with me. As did one that described in unsettling and inescapable detail the ins-and-outs of lobotomy. The detail was striking, and because there was nothing else my imagination could cling on to in a way of distracting me and minimising my fears, I was stuck in the scare that I’d wanted to feel all along. Which was amazing, which was exactly what I wanted – but it was as well, of course, scary as anything.
Lore was incredibly quick and easy! As an A-Level student most of my time is focused on school work, and I have less and less time for leisure as my exams creep up on me. So, a podcast with reasonable-length episodes was like some kind of blessing. They weren’t too long, or too short. And they were great to listen to after I got home, in that short and sweet period of time with no stress; between changing into my pyjamas , having a snack, and before actually sitting down to study. Lore is great for busy people.
I’ve learned through this podcast that all the great tales have the most infuriating and unsatisfactory endings – like all good unsolved things, I suppose, but in a way that is still loads of fun.
The narration is great. It isn’t rushed, and neither is it too slow. Similarly, the music flows perfectly in time with the words and the story.
I give it 5 stars – definitely don’t miss out on this gem of entertainment.
Get the Chance have been announced as runners up in the Celebrating Diversity Award at the 2017 Epic Awards organised by Voluntary Arts. The ceremony took place on Sunday the 19th March at the Sage Gateshead as part of BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival.
The Epic Awards were set up in 2010 by Voluntary Arts, an organisation that works across the UK and Republic of Ireland to promote participation in creative cultural activities. They celebrate the amazing contribution voluntary-led creative groups make to their communities.
The Celebrating Diversity Award is selected from across the full shortlist of 32 groups by a panel of judges representing teams in each nation. This award celebrates groups that have taken an innovative approach to highlighting the positive effects that come from living in a diverse society and is something that is central to the work that Voluntary Arts does all year round. Get the Chance were unanimously praised by the Epic Awards judges for
“The project’s unique approach to encouraging a diversity of voices”
Guy O’Donnell, Director of Get the Chance said;
“Get the Chance is honoured to be selected as runners up in the Celebrating Diversity Award. We strive to reflect the diverse nature of society in our voluntary membership. We learn from our team about barriers to sport and cultural provision and seek to work together to provide responses which are representative of all citizens in the UK.”
Anyone who is anyone at least knows the main premises of the classic, Frankenstein. Depicted over the years from the original novel in films, television, even costume at Halloween by the kids that knock on your door asking for mounds of sugar.
This is what makes this production such a challenge – how do you take something so well known and turn it into something that feels fresh, new and still a surprise?
Black Eyed Theatre have gone back to basics – they have taken the story and been true, reverted back to original theatre with keeping to the era, to the proscenium arch, no audience interaction and while this sounds unoriginal, it’s actually refreshing that they haven’t decided to take some modern take or make it some metaphorical twist on the story. Sometimes, keeping to the original is extraordinary in itself.
But while they do this, they still make it original to their company – with only four members of the cast, everyone pitches in – music and sounds are made on stage with instruments, objects and their own body and voices; times when the characters are changing, this leads to a change in instrumentalists and this is done with no pause of hesitance making the doubling up of characters and the atmosphere made by sound seamless.
Each performer (except for Frankenstein) at least has a minimum of two characters to play – there’s a sense of melodrama to this as at times the gestures and characterisation are a little hammed up – this does provide a little comic relief which is helpful in keeping us upbeat and ready for shocks and surprises when we are also being drawn into the deteriorating mental state of Frankenstein but they also play each character very well, letting us forget that they are only a cast of 4.
The highlight for me, as a huge collector of and interest in, is the puppetry. How do you make a huge muscly monster of 6-7ft tall? The National Theatre Saw Benedict Cumberpatch and Johnny Lee Miller in costume and mask created especially for them each, changing the character they played each night and this was a triumph itself. Here, Frankenstein is a full sized puppet, movement and speech only being possible with a minimum of 3 of the performers. Made of rope, it has been made in such a way as to represent his strong muscular form, and with the head with moveable mouth and eyes, he is eerie, frightening and also pulls at your heart strings. One performer providing the simplistic voice, and the others providing soundscapes to represent echo and give a horror atmosphere, we are sucked in and see only a 5th member of the cast, not a puppet.
Frankenstein is clever, truthful to the novel and an inspiring approach to theatre and classic text.
As I have previously stated, Caryl Churchill is easily one of my favourite playwrights. After seeing ‘Pigs and Dogs’ a few months earlier, to hear that this production of ‘Escaped Alone’ is only 50 minutes long is not surprising. While not all her plays are so short in time in comparison to a lot of productions on the theatre circuit at the moment, there is something really clever and interesting that she is able to condense so much emotion, thought provocation and comedy in a small amount of time, with the ability to make a serious point about current times.
Escaped Alone sees 4 older women sat in a garden, talking about whatever comes to mind. In 50 minutes we hear their darkest fears and confessions, with each character being established easy, quickly and well, not only with the writing but by the performer’s abilities. We have times of conversation which borderlines Harold Pinter’s coined writing of short sentences, interruption and pause, soliloquies of the characters and what they are really thinking and feeling away from the conversation, and our newest member of the gang who had happened to stumble on this group, breaking away from the scene entirely to give us a description or perhaps prediction of how man and his obsessions and excess have impacted our World; apocalyptic in ideals, it is strangely darkly comical but also slightly frightening.
Some will recognise and feel star struck by the cast – Linda Bassett, our newbie to the group, is well known for her role in the current show Call The Midwife; Deborah Findley, the lady with an irrational fear of cats, from many roles, notably the recent The Lady in the Van and a return to The Royal Court stage from The Children back in December 2016; Kika Markham, our lady with a fear of going outside, also well versed in UK television such as Mr Selfridge and Call the Midwife; And finally our funny lady of manslaughter, June Watson, another regular to The Royal Court and of whom joined Findley in The Lady in the Van. These regulars to our TV, Film and Theatre scenes of course know their theatre, know their skills and simply comparing them from this production to former roles can see that with age, certainly comes experience. They are able to complement one another, bring a sense of naturalism and realism to the piece, so that when we have cut aways and taken from the scene to monologues, it breaks the ease and breaks this natural barrier – we are then not just listening to 4 women chatting over a cup of tea.
Again, The Royal Court never ceases to amaze. With each production, they are able to take such natural and seemly relatable texts and turn it on its head. A simple garden scene, is then punctured by bright lighting and dark and deep dialogue. It really becomes an experience, and in the context of Escaped Alone, creates uncertainty (that we welcome) as to whether parts are comical, serious, or a farce.
Churchill and The Royal Court gel together better than tea and biscuits.