Category Archives: Literature

Review Robinson: The Other Island, ‘Give It a Name’ by Eva Marloes

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

In the 300th anniversary of the publication of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Robinson. The Other Island offers a multilayered way to rethink the book. Director Mathilde Lopez and John Norton, Artistic Director of the company Give it a Name, blend Robinson Crusoe with Michel Tournier’s Friday and convey a somber mood through an original sound experience, devised by John Norton and Jack Drewry. The play unfolds in our heads as we listen to the sounds, words, and music with headphones. Robinson is more than a play; it is a shared and intimate experience of reading and reflecting on solitude.

The Robinson Crusoe of Robinson. The Other Island (played by John Rowley) suffers a maddening loneliness alone on the Island, but lonely is also Bianca (played by Luciana Chapman), who reads Defoe’s and Tournier’s books. Bianca is alone in her flat, eating microwavable meals, trying to work out how to fix a leaking tap, hiding from her father, and yet seeking a connection with him. As Bianca reads about Robinson in our ears, it is also us who experience loneliness. Isolated from other members of the audience by headphones, yet establishing a connection with them as we watch and listen together. The drama is at times broken by the lively and funny interventions of book clubbers talking about Robinson Crusoe into the mics of Robinson and of Bianca. It is effective, although on opening night there were perhaps too many voices, rather than the one or two during rehearsals, thus losing intensity.

Robinson Crusoe’s misogyny, racism, and colonialism are not brushed under the carpet but take centre stage. They are tackled with humour, puzzlement, and even violence. At the words ‘I bought me a negro slave,’ Bianca gets angry in her anger she becomes Robinson. She orders to fetch the Governor’s coat (Robinson’s), smokes, and reads the horrendous passage where ‘negroes’ are things, tools of work, lesser humans. The colonial racism is juxtaposed with Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘Whitey on the Moon,’

The 1970’s that contrasts the power of white man colonising the moon while black people have no money to pay the doctor’s bill. Bianca takes up a plank of wood and attacks Robinson breaking into the world she is reading about.

Bianca and Robinson interact only slightly. It is a dance of two lonely people seeking connection and forgiveness. Robinson is shown in his humanity: lonely, resourceful, exploring and observing the island, fighting against his destiny, and begging for forgiveness. A soft music creates intimacy. Bianca and Robinson sit together playing with dough like children and like children the audience listens to the voice reading the book. In the week when Jean Vanier, the founder of the community L’Arche, died, Robinson reminds me of his teaching on loneliness:

‘Loneliness is part of being human, because there is nothing in existence that can completely fulfill the needs of the human heart. … It is because we belong with others and see them as brothers and sisters in humanity that we learn not only to accept them as they are, with different gifts and capacities, but to see each one as a person with a vulnerable heart. We learn to forgive those who hurt us or reject us; we ask forgiveness of those we have hurt.’

Robinson is a meditative piece that stimulates thought and nudges us slightly towards compassion.

The production plays at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff and then tours.

Review Robinson: The Other Island, ‘Give It a Name’ by Rhys Payne

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Robinson: The Other Island, performed by the ‘Give It a Name’ theatre company at Chapter Arts Centre in Stiwido Seligman, follows two people who are stranded in two completely different worlds. This stage play is based heavily on the Novel ‘Robinson Crusoe’ by Daniel Defoe which was done in an intriguing and exciting way.

The first thing I noticed when I entered was the studio was that there were headphones on all the seats which at first made me apprehensive as I thought the use of headphones would be a distraction but in fact, it actually really helped with the creation and development of the play itself.   The concept of this play was that Bianca played by Luciana Trapman wanted to escape the modern world through the ‘portal’ of the pages of the three-hundred-year-old book. At the same time, Robinson Crusoe played by John Rowley is trying to escape the island which was clear within the play itself.

Rehearsal images by Jorge Lizalde

The two contrasting characters, the modern day young woman and the shipwrecked old man, provide the perfect contrasts which allowed the audience to easily follow the story and portrayed the area, date, and context of where each ‘part’ was taking place which was cleverly done. As an audience member, we can see the staging being built in front of us which only added to the immersive-ness of the play. The company had engineered the headphones so the audio is split between the left and the right ear which means you can be apart of both of the ‘worlds’ at the same time. While we could hear the calming reading of the book from Bianca in one ear we could also the sounds of the stranded island (e.g. sea noises, voices, etc.) This was done to illustrate the fact that when a person reads a book it helps build a visual picture of what is being described in the book. Due to this the audience is an external third party, we can see Bianca reading the book and the story being created in front of us. This was a really ingenious concept from the director Mathilde Lopez. As a literature fan I could easily recognise and relate to this. The use of headphones made this play unique, modern and contemporary.

Robinson Crusoe was clearly shown as a shipwrecked man and was based on the description as described in the book. The character did look as if he could have been shipwrecked and his voice suited the role perfectly. The character, however, did have some problems. The first time we encounter the character was at the beginning of the play when he delivered a speech about laws and legislation of the new island. However, this speech was done on top of a step ladder into a microphone, which was done facing away from the audience. It may be a personal opinion but having a speech done away from the audience and not being able to see the actors face is confusing for the audience especially considering the headphones make it had to locate where the sound is coming through. After this, we walked across the stage to collect props which sort of detached the character from this the deserted island. The stage could have done with an exit from one side of the ‘stage’ to the other. As Robinson, walking across the stage distracted the audience that could have been avoided. This collecting props was a problem throughout the play. As the prop table was sort of on stage we could hear all the rustling and banging which broke the calmness and soothing-ness of Bianca’s voice.

The actress who played Bianca had a very calming voice. The almost whispered tone was really soothing through the headphone which was really nice for the audience. Her voice was almost ASMR like which was very nice. However, this character was very relatable. She was portrayed almost like a teenager who experiences the struggles of the modern world. Due to this she does use swear words which clashed with the ASMR voice used while reading. This was a little confusing but the actress used two distinct voices for reading (which was the ASMR style voice) and a normal conversation voice she used when chatting to her father etc.

A really nice touch was that when her phone was ringing we could actually see the screen on her phone that told us someone was ringing which was really cool and helped to add to the realness. In conclusion Robinson: The Other Island was an intelligently designed show which was contemporary, unique and unlike another play I have seen before. If you are interested in plays and wonder how theatre can evolve in the future then I advise you to watch this production, it is not to be missed! I give this play 4 out of 5 stars as it showed me a side of theatre I never knew existed!

Review ‘Some Pink Star’, Sophie Essex, review by Lois Arcari

Sophie Essex is a powerhouse of Norwich poetry. Often seen promoting events on the Norwich Poetry Group on Facebook, and manning the monthly Volta open mic nights at the Birdcage Pub. I eagerly awaited the chance to see her poetry stand out on its own. Her new chapbook ‘Some Pink Star’ explores the physical embodiment and embroilment of relationships. She uses sparse, purposefully disintegrated poetry to muster up a sense of confusion, and ‘bruises’ her poems with dark themes blithely explored. Manipulation, coercion, romantic apathy and disgust sitting alongside more ‘docile love’ (as described in Bubblegum, one of the best poems in the collection.)

Her writing shines when she lightly employs the contrasts in her work. The use of colloquial language in the middle of more philosophical writing gives an earthier, characterised feeling to poems that might otherwise remain too stylishly vague. Essex knows how to construct such short poems well, but there are moments where it seems she’d be better served by a larger variation in length. 

While Vanilla Sky is frustratingly brief, Violet Volcanoes, just a page over, uses its form to perfect effect. 

The brevity is best employed to make her heady metaphors pack more weight, anchoring them in something real. Otherwise they can sometimes overlap each other too voraciously. It’s hard to separate what differentiates the better dreamy poems from the ones that leave your ‘head in the clouds.’ But the difference is palpable. Another problem is that sometimes the sexuality seems a little too on the nose, the contrast between sugary sweets and sex too sickly a simile. But again, when grounded in her techniques of repetition and invoking the so called ‘real world’, they shine. 

These poems also have an oral texture, reciting themselves in your brain as you read them. There’s a great well of potential, especially with the longer form poems that manage to sustain the delicate balance of liminal and localised. Also worth mentioning is the sheer insight into human character she manages to serve. While the collection seems to have a more thematic than narrative thread, the human aspect to the poems manages to be both relatable and insightful.

All in all, however, it’s a collection of brilliant, often piercing lines – which aren’t always best served by the poems around them.

Review Saethu Cwningod/Shooting Rabbits, PowderHouse by Eva Marloes

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

‘If I Can Shoot Rabbits, I Can Shoot Fascists,’ is the strapline of the first play by PowderHouse in association with the Sherman Theatre and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru. It comes from the Manic Street Preachers’ song ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next,’

This in turn is inspired by the involvement of Welsh volunteers in the Spanish Civil War. The play Shooting Rabbits seeks to evoke the experience of a young Welshman travelling to Spain to fight against fascism in the 1930s while seemingly hinting at a similarity between fighting the authoritarian oppressor in Spain and the strife of Irish, Welsh, and Basque nationalism, given a new life by Brexit. Such an unwieldy subject matter could only fail on stage, especially when it is conveyed through a stream of consciousness dramaturgy that leaves the audience confused. Nonetheless the play succeeds in capturing the ambiguity of any proclamation in the name of ‘the people.’ 

Production Images credit Studio Cano

Shooting Rabbits co-directed by Jac Ifan Moore and Chelsey Gillard begins with a Northern Irish actor auditioning for a role in Wales. The casting director asks him to do a ‘more Irish’ accent, meaning one that is from the Republic of Ireland. The director expresses sympathy with the Irish, ‘Solidarity with you,’ ‘Wales stands with you,’ ‘Your people.’ The ‘solidarity’ is borne of the alleged ‘shared struggle’ against the ‘neighbours across the borders.’ The actor, played by Neil McWilliams, launches into a tirade questioning the very premise of ‘the people.’ Who are his people? Republicans, Nationalists, the IRA, Unionists, the DUP? The reduction of the heterogeneous reality of a country to one group betrays not just an ignorant and condescending attitude, but one that delegitimises whoever does not fit the image of the country, a country that is always an ideal, never a complex reality. This is nowhere more evident than in the impassioned and seductive speech of Francisco Franco performed by Alejandra Barcelar Pereira in Spanish. It appeals to the defence of the country and faith in the country, but it is a country that repudiates all those who do not abide by the script.

The appeal to ‘the people’ is a dangerous weapon that is wielded against the very people it professes to protect. ‘The people’ erases people as a heterogeneous empirical reality, disregards and delegitimises theirs diversity, their different perspectives, lifestyles, values, customs, and, above all, their overlapping identities. This is what the European Union aims to promote: unity in diversity. That is why Catalan, Basque, Scottish, and Welsh nationalist movements, to name a few, are often supportive of the EU. Thus, the EU does indeed undermine the nation state, conceived as a unitary and homogeneous entity, by giving voice to communities inside nations and across them. Today, the EU is embattled, but the crisis is not a battle between fascism and liberal democracy; rather it is more the result of established structures and politics being out of step with contemporary society and economics. That is why it is risky to draw any comparisons between today’s crises and the 1930s, as Shooting Rabbits seeks to do.

Shooting Rabbits is at its best when it exposes the naivete of the romantic ideal of fighting against fascism and of claiming to represent a ‘people.’ The young Welshman in 1930s Spain does not know what to do and begs to be told what to do. In front of the horror of the civil war, the volunteers of the International Brigade repeat that it was not meant to be this way. The play makes fun of political divisions and polarisations that create enemies. It is evocative and exhilarating. It is acted beautifully in Spanish, Basque, Welsh, and English by Alejandra Barcelar Pereira, Gwenllian Higginson, and Neil McWilliams, and it is supported by the music performed live by Sam Humphreys. It is also a missed opportunity. Shooting Rabbits flounders due to a superficial historical analysis and a stream of consciousness structure that disorients the spectator instead of bringing clarity.

Review: Every Word You Cannot Say, Iain Thomas by Sian Thomas

Iain Thomas is my favourite writer. Author. Poet. He honestly seems to be an advocate for self-love, for loving others, for recognising good from bad and good from great, for love, full stop. He seems to be an advocate for enjoying whatever it is you find in this world that you enjoy. I enjoy his work, more than I’m sure any language can help me spell out, and yet each time I try.
On my bookshelf, there is: I Wrote This For You, I Wrote This For You And Only You, I Wrote This For You Just The Words, I Wrote This For You 2007-2017, How to be Happy (Not a Self-Help Book. Seriously.), and 300 Things I Hope. And somewhere on my makeshift bookshelf because my real bookshelf is far too small for my wants, is I Am Incomplete Without You. I’m excited to add Every Word You Cannot Say to either of the shelves. I literally find myself unable to say that there’s any other author out there who I have followed this closely, for this long, and been so consistently delivered greatness on simple pages between a simple cover by.
I knew it was coming, the release of this book, and like many I did have to wait my turn to get it. When I did, I was in Waterstones, halfheartedly hoping they would have it (I was not convinced that they would). And I saw it, all the way down the bottom, way to one side: bright blue, jutting out, so different to the greys and blacks and whites (and one bright yellow) that I had grown used to associating Iain Thomas’s name with. I snatched it up and gave it the common flip through, and I loved the look of it and the feel of it and the way it felt exactly like all the other books of his I’ve read: like it was sure to give me something amazing. Which it did.
I ate this book up. Read it quick, flicked through again for an age, put sticky notes on the pages of my favourite pieces, used a highlighter on the ones I really didn’t want to part with. Like on page 131, “There is no register in the sky keeping track of whether or not you got angry as many times as you were supposed to. / You get to decide what eats you up. / And you have no obligation to kindness. / You can be kind as often as you want. / Kindness is not a currency, and if you treat it like one, then that is not kindness. / Within you, there is all the kindness you will ever need.” Or, page 80, “Maybe, in the story of your life, someone has written: / You cannot say why you loved them. / Only that you did. / Only that you don’t anymore.”
This book felt so new, and so fresh and different, somehow, from the other ones, despite still creating a warm and homely feeling in me as I read it, exactly like all the others had. I loved that, that kind of feeling from these books and these poems in particular, I always believe that that is irreplaceable – after all, I haven’t experienced it anywhere else or with any other author. I loved that there was playing with form, structure, even colour of the text. The drawings peppered throughout were lovely, and always in the right places.
I wish this is what all poetry did, that this feeling I got from this book is what I got from each one. I know that would make these books less special, but like I said: Iain Thomas really seems to be an advocate for love. I’m almost convinced he’d understand. And even still, this is one slice of favouritism I am not entirely ready to give up. This is why I gave it five stars. I always will.
Iain Thomas has a real skill here, an honest craftsmanship that I wish I could come close to. Some days, I try to (see: the centos I submitted to university groups, just so I could spill out a fraction of what I feel for this writing when it was my turn to talk).
I love the book. I knew I would.

Siân Thomas

Review The Patient Assassin, Anita Anand by Judi Hughes



10 April 2019 saw the centenary of the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab, an event that I had never heard of until I read Anita Anand’s insightful and brilliantly written book The Patient Assassin published by Simon & Schuster.

I really appreciated her fascinating account of events that gave me knowledge of a part of British history that I hardly knew existed. Put simply it’s about an heroic deed that avenged a horrific act, but it is so much more than that.  

I knew little of any of the history of British rule in India despite growing up in Leicester, a city where people from many parts of the Indian subcontinent live. I went to school in the 60s when the history I was taught was very white, very British and full of propoganda. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to find out more about the dark past of British Colonialism.

The book is set during the rule of the British Raj and concentrates specifically on the intriguing life of Udham Singh, from his experience of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 to his death by hanging for the assassination in London of Michael O’ Dwyer, the former lieutenant governor of the Punjab in India, in 1940. Udham, with his eye constantly on the prize, lived his life in many places, with stolen identities and in subterfuge for over 20 years until he was able to accomplish his goal.

I can’t tell you more because you have to read the book to discover this well told story which affected so many lives, meticulously researched and brought to life by Anita Anand.

This story for her has a personal perspective as her grandfather survived the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh. At her own admission she struggled to distance herself from it, yet she wrote it with a graceful objectivity that allows the reader to hold final judgement. Anita Anand is an accomplished author who I had only known previously as the presenter of Any Questions. I highly recommend this book and will definitely be moving on to more of her works. @tweeter_anita congratulations on  this great book.

Review Hellboy (2019) by Jonathan Evans

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Remakes and reboots are a bit of a tricky subject for reviews. Reviews themselves should be relative not absolute but you still need to take into account better or worse movies within the genre or subject matter. We have a new Hellboy movie that is not a continuation or has any involvement from what Guillermo Del Toro started back in 2004 when it must also be noted there were far fewer Superhero movies. A movie that carries the same name as the original has to stay true to the spirit and tone of what it is adapting or remaking while still distinguishing itself. It’s a delicate act, but some have done it right.

What helps Hellboy be distinct is Hellboy himself. He has an obvious, distinct visual to him but also his mentality, he is essentially a blue-collar Superhero. He wants to do the job in as short a period as possible, then kicks back and watch the latest sports game and enjoy a beer. When he goes in and investigates and it turns out there’s a monster his thoughts are “Ah hell, this is gonna take a bunch more hours.” One of the strongest elements of this movie was the casting of David Harbour, he comes with a deep voice, dry humor and a nonchalant attitude that fits for the character and this world. 

Anyway, the movie kicks off with an opening voice monologue spoken by the character Trevour Bruttenholm (Ian McShane). About the old days in King Arthurs time when an evil witch Vivian Nimue (Mia Jovovich) was about to unleash demons upon the land but was betrayed by her own witches and King Arthur impales her and cut her into pieces, but she does not die, so each of her body parts is sent far away to be hidden. While this is playing out it is in black and white except for anything that is red and a few swear words are thrown in. It sets up the movie as a whole well, some sort of cool stuff, a bunch of violence and a few swear words in the mix in an attempt to be cool.

Apart from Harbour, McShane and a few others in the background, these are bad actors. Well, not so much as they are bad but these are bad performances. I’ve seen some of these actors in other things and know they’re capable, but they do not do their best work here. Their line delivery is flat and unenthusiastic. Perhaps this is a case of the director not spending enough time with them, or they were uninvested in the material I don’t know and at this point, it doesn’t matter, we have two actors doing a good job and the rest just don’t care. 

Speaking of line delivery something went wrong with recording during filming or during ADR because we can hear all the actors reading their lines crystal clear. You would think that this would be good but there’s no leveling going on. If a character is in a close-up or far away it’s still like they are right next to us and rings of artificiality. Maybe if they had some supernatural, all-powerful specter on screen speaking then there would be a reason for this but for every character, it is one of those finer details of post-production that goes a long way if you do a good job on, which they haven’t.

Special effects do not make a movie but they are needed so you believe something is really there. These are terrible special effects. Whatever digital company did these effects are not up to scratch, they are poorly rendered and obviously artificial that this whole movie could be mistaken for coming out in the early two-thousands. There are a few effects where they linger on them for a long time so you can get a good long look at it as if they were proud of it, but it reeks of fake.  Even then some of this could be forgiven if you cared about the people/demons that were within the scene, but we don’t, it’s the worst kind of narrative, where you aren’t invested, nothing clever is happening and so it’s just stuff happening on-screen.

Editing is one of the most essential elements of movie making. It is what defines it from theater or literature. It is the art of taking the raw footage and carving it into something defined and with shape. Timing the cuts right and sometimes not cutting so you can let the actor’s expressions really sink in and to mood resonate. This is neither of those. What has come with the fast format of digital is the ability to cut willy-nilly and go crazy without thought or reason. The editing within this movie is a mess, they cut and cut not because one thing leads to another but because they want to keep the audience paying attention and think that by editing it within a blender is the way to do that. this isn’t cutting the footage, it’s hacking at it so now you just have a mess.

If you are going to compare this movie to Del Toro’s movie then Del Toro is the winner. If you let this movie stand on its own then it still isn’t very good.  It is still unique amongst the now much more crowded competition of Superhero movies but even then they are of a much higher quality.

Review Shazam! by Jonathan Evans

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

What world am I living in? If you wound the clock back to 2012 and say that there’s a new DC cinematic universe coming and Batman and Superman will be the disasters but Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and now Shazam! will be the winners of the bunch, I’d have looked at you like you were bonkers. Yet here we are, a movie about a beloved character from the comics that I’d thought would never get his own movie and if he did it would be forced through that dark or complex filter that DC movies seem to put most of their characters through. I am so happy this is not the case and we’ve got what we got.

Side note, this character was referred to as “Captain Marvel” for a long time, but due to legal reasons, it has been changed to Shazam which adds a whole lot of complications to it. I guess obviously if this movie was out and Captain Marvel that would lead to a very confused audience, both in the movie theaters and in the comic stores.

The setting is not of the dark gritty crime-ridden streets of Batman, the high tech science fiction of Superman, the mythological scale of Wonder Woman but a realm of magic, as in true fantasy magic, wizards, words, robes, and staffs. This gives the character and now the movie it’s own unique tone and personality to distinguish itself amongst its competition.

Our tale begins on a dark snowy night where a little boy is in the back of a car and his father is driving and elder brother is in the front.  The elder brother and father clearly get along and care very little for him. But suddenly the little boy is transported to a deep cave with statues and an old man with a long beard, covered in long robes and holding a staff. This old man is a wizard (Djimon Housou) that offers this little boy great power, but the statues (that represent the seven deadly sins) tempt the boy to take an evil eye, this was a test and he has failed so he is cast out. Back to his old, loveless relatives.

We are then taken to years later and a little boy is at a carnival with his mother, trying to win him a toy tiger. She can’t win the tiger but does get him a compass. While walking through the crowd the two get separated, the boy is taken in by the police and his mother never comes for him, he is alone. Skipping again to years later, now present day and the boy has grown up a few years into an early teenager and his name is Bill Batson (Ashner Angel), he’s been in and out of foster homes for years always looking for his mother. Now he is in Philadelphia and put into another home. This one of the Vazquez, who have adopted many foster children. One of which is Freddy (Zack Dylan Grazer) who requires a crutch to walk but certainly never lets that get his spirits down. 

Now in the present, the little boy in the car has grown up to become Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong). he has been searching for years for a way to get back into that mysterious realm of the wizard, fortunately for him he has now found it and takes the dark power for himself, unleashing the seven deadly sins from captivity and upon the world. So now we have our villain!

So, in his desperation, Billy Batson is taken to the cave and offered the power f the wizard known as Shazam! The powers are mean to be bestowed on a person with a pure heart but Billy is simply a good enough person. So when he speaks the wizards name a bolt of lightning hits him and he is transformed into a full grown man in his very own super suit, light up logo, cape and everything.

It is the casting of Zachary Levi as Shazam that is the cornerstone for the movie’s success. He is so unashamedly a big kid, from his energy to his broad expressions you believe that there is a child working this adult body. 

This movie takes place in the winter and within the gray streets of a city, but it is the characters clothing that makes them pop. Each character has their main color, Billy is red, Freddy is blue, another is purple, another is green and the villain wears black. This is a color move and a stylized superhero one so naturally, people are color-coordinated.

So now that he has been granted the body of an adult and has superpowers what to do now? Test them out! In a montage set to Queens Don’t Stop Me Now where Billy along with Freddy test out his new body and see what its capable of. This sequence is for the audience to learn what powers Shazam has too as well as a simple serving of fun. These are children that have been handed these amazing abilities, of course, this is how they’d go about it.

This movie knows what it wants to be. It knows that it wants to tell a superhero story from the perspective of a child that isn’t taking this all too seriously so neither are the filmmakers. It knows to insert it’s tongue firmly in its cheek. However, this is probably the movie the be the most emotionally heavy, some filmmakers believe that dark equals emotional, it does not, something does not have to be dark it just needs to mean something of great importance to the characters and for you to be able to connect to it. If it’s all dark then it’s just unpleasant, but with the right amount of balancing between colorful and heavy emotional moments, then you have a truly whole experience.

As a fan of Superman and Batman, I am saddened by them getting poor treatment movies, but they have already had their good treatments and left their cinematic mark. It is time for new characters to get their time in the sun and for people to learn about their unique mythos and characters. I wholeheartedly embrace the renaissance of the underdog superheroes getting the treatment they deserve. This movie is fun, dark, emotional and well crafted, like an Ablin movie at their peak.
R

Review Pet Sematary by Jonathan Evans

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Grief is a powerful emotion. It can cause the most crippling loneliness and make us seek out all possible alternatives to fill the gap that is left when a loved one is gone. But what would it take to bring something back and if they do come back, will they ever be the same? This is the main theme running through Pet Sematary, one of Stephen Kings most acclaimed and celebrated works.

Like nearly all horror movies this opens with a family, in a car, moving to a new home. There is the father Louis (Jason Clarke), his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz), daughter Ellie (Jete Laurence), son Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavourie) and cat Church, these are the Creeds. They are moving away from the city to Maine where life is less busy and simpler. They arrive at their new home and take it in along with the forest behind it, that is cut short when a speeding truck rushes pasts them.

One day while walking through the forest they hear a bang of some kind, then they see children walking inline, one has a little drum, they all have masks of animals on and one is pushing a wheelbarrow with a dead dog in it. They follow the children and see that a few trees have a spiral carved into them and they come to a place called “Pet Sematary” where the local children bury their departed pets. This is when we also meet Jud (John Lithgow). An old man that lives in the house next to them, he’s lived around here all his life and knows about some of the ancient traditions and lore of the land. He quickly becomes a friend to the family.

One day Jud needs to have a private word with Louis, Church has been killed in a road accident. They decided to keep it from Ellie deciding to tell her that he ran away. They go to bury him amongst the other pets but Jud says he knows a better place to bury him. So they climb a wall of trees behind the cemetery, walks through a swamp and climb up to a hilltop where he tells Louis to bury Church and mark it with stones. The next day Louis and Rachel tell Ellie about Church but she says he hasn’t run away, he came back yesterday, he’s in her closet right now, which indeed he is.

We learn that, for whatever reason, when you bury something in that hilltop they come back. There are ancient folklores about a creature called the Windego and other stories and theories but it doesn’t matter, the cat has returned, but not the same, more violent. And so begins the whole macabre affair and the ultimate sentence of the movie “Sometimes dead, is better.”

This is a world of old, dark trees, where mist rolls in and things can emerge and disappear within it, where much is primitive so crosses and signs are held together with knots. it invokes an ancient, ritualistic atmosphere to the whole movie. But keeps it’s shaping simple so they are easily recognizable and can become symbols for the movie.

King wouldn’t be so celebrated if his work didn’t have some kind of merit. He has produced his share of goofy or even not very good products but he is still undeniably a man of talent. He works best when he creates characters with deep emotional problems and a situation that highlights human insecurities and layers it with something supernatural. This is such a material.

As an adaptation, I cannot speak for because at the time of writing this I have yet to read the book. However, I don’t believe this is a detriment to my ability to review the movie. A product should be able to stand on its own, a novelisation of a play should be perfectly enjoyable as it is and not have to depend on its source material. This is a complete story as it is, there may be more details in the book and it may, in fact, be the more well crafted and better version of this tale or maybe the movie improves upon it, I don’t know but either way, it doesn’t matter.

Ironically I recently reviewed Us and wrote about how horror at its best is not like a hatchet but like a scalpel. Well, I would say that there are moments of shock within this movie and they did indeed make me jump with fright. This isn’t the worst thing but it won’t age the movie well, shocks work once and maybe two more times after initial watching but after that, you know what’s coming and can prepare yourself for them. What lingers with you in horror movie, or really just movies in general, is the buildup and the unseen and the feeling of dread and anticipation before anything happens. This has those and they rely upon what the characters have said, the sound and the unseen before something comes out of the dark and goes bang.

This is a horror movie with a chilling concept at its center, some creepy visuals and terrifying moments, other times when it just goes all out and yells at you with something gross on-screen. King fans will either like it or nitpick the way the material was handled. But from the acting to the production, to the sound and even the ideas that fester within you afterward, I say this is a solid piece of work.

Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster, Battersea Arts Centre by Tanica Psalmist

The production Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster is triumphantly spectacular! featuring an abundance of sensory flows from different types of beatboxers’ who all ecstatically project an aura of an overwhelming system, which conveys power and pain. Compellingly taking our ears through motions as their voices effortlessly, vigorously exploit numerous of in-depth frequencies from low to high simultaneously. Several of the beatboxers fluidity hypnotised us through their radio waves, leaving memorisation as they mind-blowingly touched on elements affiliated with political, mental and emotional conflict.

The beatboxers collectively integrated upbeats. In beat we witnessed a fusion of music genres from their voices alone, whether it be House, Funk, Blues, Motown or Pop this crew had it down to the ‘T’. Their music chords impressively merged heavy deep drums, string instruments and much more.

Incorporating Mary Shelley’s original, which was reimagined with soundscapes, sonic trickery and songs. To the counts within their musical flow, their vocal chords went to the rhythms of 1,2,3,4 but automatically speeded up to their heartbeats chanting 2,4,6,8. This soon boomed to a higher frequency as they began harmonising, synchronising, fluctuating and exploiting various other musical genres. The energy in the space became immense, especially when the space effectively transitioned into the vibes of an electrifying gig. 

Frankenstein had six acts in this play, all playing to their individual strengths whether it be singers, rappers, poetic essences and of course beatboxers; Frankenstein had it all! This production visually moved brains, you could feel the creatives hearts race, pumping to the counts of 10, 20, 30, and 40. Their sounds enhanced colourful patterns of different worlds colliding; projecting cinematic sounds of life and power whilst they embraced an emotional energy, triggered by a world we all know so well, as we become witnesses to the power of monsters all around us, strengthened by voices empowering them. 


The light moods had sparkles, gloss and smoke, the colours resembled energy, fire and enjoyment. This factor helped increase vibrations of radio-waves as they got even deeper into how to make a monster. The artistic designs were radiating meaning you couldn’t help but glance with amazement! 

Overall, Frankenstein gives you high adrenaline. A breathtaking, unforgettable and exceptionally enjoyable production! A fantastic experience for all to see, featuring beat box battles, audience immersive orchestra and childrens participation! A must see meticulous show with a talented team, you will not be disappointed!