julius ceasar, bridge theatre

IMG_20180125_194606.jpgI love a good Shakespeare play. I have seen many, but I do tend to stick to the ones that I know and love. I’m slowly working my way through new ones to me – and I think the last ones for me to tackle are the historical ones, mainly because I am aware that they are going to be harder-going.

At the end of last year I saw for the first time both Titus Andronicus and Antony & Cleopatra, but there are still plenty that I am yet to see.

Bridge Theatre is a brand new purpose built theatre just on the south bank of London Bridge. I have a massive soft spot for Rory Kinnear and almost wet myself when I saw he was starring in the opening productions there – Young Marx. Tickets were booked without a thought, and I was captivated by the new shiny theatre (not to mention by the fantastic play!)

Julius Ceasar is the second production, and a Shakespeare I was unfamiliar with.  And with the amazing David Morrissey in it, I again booked straight away and counted down the months!

As we went to take our seats, I realised that Bridge Theatre has mobile seating – the layout was very different to Young Marx. This was pit-style – and surprisingly, what seemed to be like a mini-festival was going on in the pit itself. In fact a live thrash metal version of Katy Perry’s Firework was ringing out, much to the disdain of a couple of our more elderly seat-neighbours. I’d not even twigged that there were ‘promenade’ tickets available! We later realised that the ‘band’ was made up of some of the actors.

Nicholas Hynter’s contemporary staging, including the promenade audience was fantastic. Different sections appeared and disappeared, stage hands and ‘players’ were within the crowd – swiftly setting up scenes and shouting, heckling and jeering at the main actors.

It worked so well because Julius Ceasar is really about power play and the mob. David Calder swaggered around as Ceasar – commanding the crowd. Ben Wishaw’s Brutus was bookish and considering and David Morrisey as Mark Anthony was strong, loyal and  cunning. However, I was captivated by Adjoa Andoh as Cassius – dry and witty.

It was Shakespeare – brutal but flowery. However, it was also very Hynter – stunning and memorable. I highly recommend!

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tim key – megadate, arcola theatre

img_20180124_193715.jpgI’ve seen Tim Key a couple of times before, but he’s always been supporting, so I was pretty excited about seeing him do a whole show – but had no idea what to expect.

Poems – irreverent, slightly surreal, exceedingly funny poems – I guess that was what I was expecting. And he didn’t disappoint.

But this was so much more than that. There was an actual story, there were silent micro-films peppering it, there were costume changes, a bit of audience participation and just general good humour and real heartfelt laughs.

The Arcola Theatre is a great venue for this kind of comedy as it’s intimate but you can hide a bit if you don’t want to be picked out.

I’ve been recommending the show to all my mates, only to find out that the run has completely sold out. But I believe he’s going to be touring the show – so keep an eye out for dates – it’s a must-see!

Check this out for some typical Tim Key poetry. Or maybe this one for something a bit ‘lighter’!

(PS – the photo of the poster is a rolling projection, that went round about 15 shows…and that’s actually Tim Key about to walk past it! I wasn’t even TRYING to get that shot!)

bananaman the musical, southwark playhouse

PhotoGrid_1516814437606.jpgDue to being ill, I’d had to postpone our outing to see Bananaman The Musical – but it ended up being the perfect first night out for 2018.

Southwark Playhouse is a great, intimate venue which was perfect for this night of cartoon-inspired tom-foolery, caricatures, great songs, live band, and generally happy atmosphere.

The songs were upbeat and easy on the ears due to some fantastic vocalists – the space was used inventively. Places where the lack of special effects could’ve fallen flat were played for laughs to great success. The choreography was great, the acting was excellent and it brought the Bananaman of my childhood afternoons back to life.

Hurrah for Eric Wimp! See the Bananaman – first episode if you’ve never watched it before.

 

all the missing girls – megan miranda

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All The Missing Girls – Megan Miranda

I received an advance review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Nicolette Farrell has returned to her rural hometown to help her brother to tie up things on their father’s house now that his dementia has forced him to be put into a home.

It’s been ten years since she left, she now has a huge rock on her finger from her hot-shot city lawyer fiance, her brother’s wife is heavily pregnant and everything about her life feels so much more grown up.

So, it feels rather perverse when her ex-boyfriend’s young girlfriend suddenly goes missing in circumstances very similar to the disappearance of her best friend ten years ago, with an intrusive investigation that centred on her circle of friends.

We follow Nic until the day of the second girl’s disappearance, and then skip two weeks ahead when the story is told backwards day by day.

Life in a rural town is really explored well in this book, and the heat and oppression of a stifling summer mirrors the suffocation felt in a small town where everybody knows everybody else’s business.

The drip-feed of information and knowledge kept the tension high, and towards the end of the book it became a real page-turner.

However, even though I really enjoyed the story, I’m not altogether sure that the backward storytelling actually added much to it. I occasionally found it a bit distracting as I was always trying to think “Well, wouldn’t somebody have mentioned that fact the following day again?” So, an interesting concept to explore, but I’m almost tempted to read each day in the right order to make sure it makes sense 🙂

I definitely enjoyed it though – tense and well-paced.

All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda will be published on 28th June.

the girls – emma cline

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The Girls – Emma Cline

I received an advance review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

It is the summer of 1969 in California and Evie Boyd is about to turn 15. With her parents divorced, her best friend distant and the long warm days stretching ahead of her with nothing to fill them except transferring between her mother’s indifference and her father’s young girlfriend’s cool sexiness, Evie becomes entranced with a girl that she meets in town.

This chance meeting leads to Evie spending her summer becoming involved with a strange group of reckless and carefree misfits that will later be referred to in whispers as a cult. A summer that will end in horror and infamy, haunting Evie for the rest of her life.

I was absolutely blown away by this book – especially as it’s Emma Cline’s debut novel. The writing captured what I imagine to be the essence of the 60s, and what was going on at the end of the decade.

No doubt inspired by the Charles Manson and Sharon Tate story, it invokes a Polaroid photo story of coming-of-age and the passions and drive of teenagers.

It is easy to see why Evie chose the path that she did, and how easily she was influenced due to her experiences at that time.

Haunting, evocative and reminiscent of The Virgin Suicides, it is probably my favourite read of the year so far.

The Girls by Emma Cline will be published on 14th June.

my name is leon – kit de waal

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My Name Is Leon – Kit De Waal

I received an advance review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

It’s London, 1980 and nine year old Leon is proud of his little baby bother Jake. Although their mum has problems, Jake doesn’t cry much and anyway Leon always knows what to do to make him laugh and smile.

However, Leon’s dad left when his mum was pregnant with Jake, and Jake’s dad is already married – and now his mum is blaming Leon for Jake’s dad not wanting to be around.

When their mum finally has a breakdown, Leon & Jake are taken away to live with Maureen. At first, Leon is worried, but Maureen is cheerful and Jake likes her. Eventually though, a nice family come and take Jake away, and foster-carer Maureen has to explain to Leon that Jake will be living with them forever – without him.

Because Jake is a baby, and white, and Leon, nine years old, dark-skinned and troubled isn’t likely to be wanted by anyone else any time soon.

This is a poignant sympathetically written account of the difficulty of growing up when you’re unwanted and different. It tells the story of so many kids whose early years can shape the rest of their lives – no matter what direction they would have trodden their own path given the chance.

It is realistic and unapologetic for being so. However, at times it is also uplifting that there are unsung heroes out there who are making a difference to individual lives every day.

A well-written snapshot of a society we may occasionally bury our heads in the sand about.

My Name Is Leon by Kit De Waal will be published on 6th June.

shtum – jem lester

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Shtum – Jem Lester

I received an advance review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Ben Jewell is a 30-something husband and father of one. His ten year old son Jonah is profoundly autistic and him and his wife Emma have reached breaking point with him.

As they embark on a war with the local authority to gain the care they feel is best for Jonah, Emma & Ben agree to fake a separation to put them in a better position. So, Ben & Jonah move in with Ben’s elderly Hungarian Jewish father.

This brings its own problems, as Ben and his father have never really seen eye-to-eye (especially since Ben has been running his father’s business – mainly into the ground), but his affection and influence on Jonah is indisputable.

As the tribunal approaches, Ben prepares for it whilst dealing with his own domestic and work issues, and worries that everything is slowly slipping out of his control.

I have spent the last few days totally immersed in Ben’s life with the constant worry of both Jonah and his father, his fake separation, his countless visits and assessments leading up to the tribunal. The hoops he has had to jump through,  the humiliations he has to endure, the inadequacies he feels, his misguided coping method and eventually the story that brought him to where he is now.

It has been an emotional roller-coaster that I can only be grateful to have no first-hand experience of…and this book is a perfect example of why I read – I want to know more about these experiences.

I laughed, I cried, I cried some more, and I got angry. Heartfelt, heart-warming, heart-breaking – a must-read, although not an easy read.

Shtum by Jem Lester will be published on 7th April.

black widow – christopher brookmyre

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Black Widow – Chris Brookmyre

I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Diane Jager is a successful surgeon – but her words can cut as deep as her scalpel, as many found when she wrote an anonymous blog about sexism in the NHS.

With her anonymity outed rather dramatically, she has been living with the moniker ‘Bitchblade’ but now she is in real trouble. After a whirlwind affair, her husband of a few months is missing, presumed dead and everything is indicating that it is at Diana’s hand.

When her sister-in-law brings in Jack Parlabane to investigate, the nails can be heard firmly being hammered into her coffin – but is she really a murderer?

Whenever people ask me my favourite authors, Christopher Brookmyre is at the top of my list, and Jack Parlabane is definitely one of THE best crime novel characters. Although we’re seeing him at his most vulnerable in this book – disgraced, out of work and newly divorced to his beloved Sarah.

Parlabane is actually a secondary narrator to Diana in the story – her past narrative interspersed with his present investigations until close to the end, really twisting your perceptions of the truth one way and then another, leaving you guessing.

Tightly written, it is exciting, full of action, believable characters and a fantastic movie-esque plot.

Thank you Mr Brookmyre for never letting me down. I felt smug every time there was a hat tip to a previous book that I recognised.

13 minutes – sarah pinborough

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13 Minutes – Sarah Pinborough

I received an ARC copy of this book in return for an honest review.

I have never read any of Sarah Pinborough’s books before, but picked this one as it sounded like something that both myself and my 16 year old daughter could read and discuss – I read a lot of YA due to this 🙂

Teenage ‘Mean Girl’ and Queen Bee Natasha is found in the water by a dog-walker one early morning. She is revived but was dead for 13 minutes.

She can’t remember how she met her icy ‘death’, but is starting to mistrust her two closest friends who have been acting strangely around her since her ‘accident’, making her more dependent on her old geeky friend Becca. Could her friends have been attempting to kill her? Might they try again? Is she safe?

The story is told in a number of ways, mainly first hand by Becca, but also through transcripts of diary entries, counselling sessions and police interviews with Tasha. This gives the story a chance to give a multi-narrator view.

Having been one, I swear that teenage girls are one of the nastiest and hurtful groups of humans on the planet, and this book really encapsulates the underlying tensions that go on, in contrast to the veneer that they tend to show to the world.

I realised that there was going to be a twist when I got to about 80% and everything seemed to be wrapped up nicely – and it was a good one. Although I’d really enjoyed the story up to that point, it added another dimension and took it from good to great.

Well crafted characters – although almost all were completely unlikable and flawed, you really WANTED to know what happened, and what the outcome was going to be. A great skill for an author to have, and something that works really well in psychological thrillers such as this.

Beautiful cover too 😉

13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough will be published on 18th February 2016.

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