I was contacted by the author, asking whether I would review this book. It sounded quirky, and I’m a sucker for London-set stories, so I was happy to oblige.
When twenty-something Alison suspects her husband of playing away from home, she hires a PI to confirm her suspicions. When her marriage disolves, she impulsively decides to take a job with the same PI firm and embrace single life.
Some time later, she takes a road trip with her best friend Taron who has had her checking which areas she would most likely find an abandoned baby to give as a gift to her mother who she believes is a witch. An unfortunate series of coincidences mean that Alison and Taron become embroiled in a darker plot which comes to its climax in secret tunnels below London.
This was a gorgeous, whimsical storythat was quite magical in its own way. All of the characters were slightly quirky – including Jeff, Alison’s poem-writing neighbour who was in love with her and her psychic postman.
Some of the observations on human nature are absolutely spot on, but don’t seem at all convoluted at all. For example, “People who work in offices are crazy, and they create an environment they hate, write rules they want to break, cast each other in roles they despise.” I have worked in those offices (although luckily not in my current job!)
There’s a lovely section about having to wear buy and wear tights – something I’m sure most office-working ladies have complained about at various points in their lives. Not so amusing for men, but this book definitely isn’t aimed at them.
This is a lovely quirky little tale, with good humour, great observation, surreal twists and a little darkness. I really, really enjoyed it, and felt I’d lost a friend when I got to the end and had to part ways with Alison and her motley crew.
I really am not sure where to start with this one. OK, let’s start with the summary that I had read on it before.
A boy collects tears in carefully labelled jam jars; a girl is horrified that her best friend thinks her father is ‘hot’; a young boy bricks himself up in a Lego tower; and a young girl wears her mother’s shoes… The Fat Girl Gets a Haircut and Other Stories is an original work created and performed by a company of teenagers, with artist/director Mark Storor. Their candid tales – on themes of love, family, sexuality and religion – are revealed in 13 explicit portraits. With a live band, animation and video in a 360 degree setting, The Fat Girl Gets a Haircut and Other Stories creates a vision of the world as experienced through the prism of teenage years. Running time 1hr 15mins (no interval). May not be suitable for under 12s
Sounds rather intriguing, doesn’t it? And it was also in one of my favourite venues – the fantastic Roundhouse in Camden. What’s more, we got free tickets, which you can’t really go wrong with!
So, what was it about? I honestly have NO IDEA at all!
This wasn’t anything like what I was expecting. This was a mostly silent (apart from the musicians – who were actually VERY good, especially Gabi Froden, the singer) ‘interpretive’ telling of 11 ‘stories’. I say ‘interpretive’ because they were very open to interpretation.
I shall give you an example.
When we got in there (stage in the centre, audience all around in a circle) and the actors were standing on the arms of some of the chairs equally spaced around the circle under spotlights. When the lights went down, one of the lads started taking his shirt and trousers off, and he had a small doll strapped with masking tape to his chest. He made his way to a white plastic sheet that was on the stage and begun cutting paper, when all of the other actors picked up bottles of ketchup and sprayed him with them, until he was covered head to toe in ketchup, and unable to stand up, so he kept falling down.
He then cut off a lock of his hair, masking taped it to the doll’s head, removed the doll from his body, and sent it off in a small paper boat into the sky, that had just been drawn down by two of the girls.
That was the first vignette, and I don’t want to give too much away to people that want to go and see this, but I want to give a feel for how confused this made me.
From stuff that I had read before, I knew that this had been a long project worked on by Mark Storor and the actors (they were all young teens I believe). And that the stories were about stuff they had experienced as a kind of ‘coming of age’. I kind of thought that this first one might have been about abuse, and him trying to save his inner-child, but after that I was pretty lost.
Quite a few in the audience left during the performance, which we thought was a bit unfair – especially the ones that left when there were just two ‘stories’ to go…they had made it that far, what harm would it have caused them to stay?!
Overall, I thought it was…interesting. I wouldn’t be telling everyone to rush out and see it, I wouldn’t be telling people not to bother, but I think that they should go and see it with their minds open, and have to be of a type who is happy to see such a surreal and interpretive performance.
Oh – and we didn’t see any fat girls get a haircut!
*** EDIT *** UPDATE *** EDIT ***
Just read this: “Actor Jacob Crossley has Asperger’s syndrome and it was his experiences which inspired one of the show’s stories.
Burlesque Boy is about a teenager with an aversion to body hair who fears that everyone wants to kill him. He also has questions about his sexuality.”
well, I think my experience of the show may have been VERY different if I had known more of the stories behind each of the stories, as I didn’t get that at all from my experience, but it makes sense in hindsight.
Perhaps there should have been an explanation given out with the running order…
I read this as part of my Book Club at the Nag’s Head in Walthamstow. We had a very nice meeting last night – was good to catch up after Christmas.
It’s really difficult to know what to say about this book, because it doesn’t really feel like it’s a completed story.
It’s pretty short (only 192 pages in paperback format – although I was Kindle-ing it!) and that seems to be part of the problem. A lot of the ideas within it were really good, but simply didn’t feel like they were explored enough.
Being such a short story, it’s difficult to give a summary without giving away half the story but, it is set in Andalucia, in a village where everyone knows everyone else, and within a group of a few characters who are all ex-pats.
It centres around a 13 year old English boy who lives with his young mum. One night, a strange craft crashes into the deserted hills near the village and he makes a fascinating discovery. After the initial excitement, his mum seems to ruin his enjoyment of his ‘gift from the heavens’, using it instead to feed her own reckless lifestyle.
The story really does have it all – aliens, gypsies, ex-pats, robots, animal communication, bullying, doppelgangers and violence for example, but it feels like none of the elements are explored to fruition. This kind of left all of us thinking “Oh!” at the end and a little unfulfilled.
Worth a read just for the sheer surreality of it – I could see it being a really fun film, but again, the storyline would need to be padded out a bit!
Tonight we had to go to our ‘Parent review’ meeting. I hate the name of that because it makes it sound like we were due to be scrutinised.
Perhaps that’s what it is – maybe they make us go into the school periodically to sit on the tiny chairs, and feel like naughty school kids to make sure that we’re decent parents, take the correct amount of interest in our children and aren’t thick as two short planks ourselves in which case it would be understandable that our kids were too!
Anyway, going to these meetings is always really embarrassing as The Girl’s teachers are always really gushy about her. She has things the right way round – she is perfectly behaved with everyone. Except for us. Her teacher today said “I wish I could have a whole class of her – she’s an absolute joy to teach!” Pah…bloody sucky goody-two-shoes teacher’s pet!
So we made the right noises, I told her some of my concerns, she put them all to rest, we discussed SATs to no avail – still don’t know yet whether she’ll be doing them in 3 weeks or not, The Girl was perfectly behaved and then we walked home.
Her ‘creativity’ that she was so applauded for certainly came out as we were walking.
The Girl: I’m sorry that I behave at school but not at home. i’m going to really try to change that
Me: You said that before…in fact every time we see your teachers. You’ve never managed to change.
The Girl: We-ell…that could be because I’m a Mad Hatter
Me: No, it could be because you can’t be bothered
The Girl: No. i’m pretty sure that it’s because I’m a Mad Hatter
Me: Yes. You are a mental milliner
The Girl: What’s a mimmiler?
The Girl: Ok – what’s that?
Me: Someone who makes hats
The Girl: Ohhhhhhhhh. *then in a sing-song voice, prancing around* Look at me, I make hats. I’m a milliner. I’m so crazy. I make hats out of leaves. *pulls a couple of leaves off a nearby tree* but not this one (throwing it away) – this one is no good because it only speaks Spanish.
Now. Is it surrealism or creativity. I’m unsure.