Monday, 27 July 2015

Theatre 2015: Review Eighteen

As You Like It, Shakespeare's Globe, London. July 2015.

Unusually for Mr Norfolkbookworm and I we were at an evening performance for this and the first thing we noticed was the huge queue of people waiting for returns.  We're used to seeing long lines for those wanting to be a Groundling but never for seats.  I wonder if this production is more popular than others we've seen or if this is normal for evening performances.

For a play that has no real plot, that is just a sequence of events loosely tied together, I enjoyed this a lot.  The characters that were written humorously in the original (Touchstone, Audrey and Jaques) were not overblown and the Rosalind/Ganymede and Celia/Aliena beefed up their roles to match the humour which I found balanced the play very well. The male love interests in contrast did seem a little insipid and interchangeable - this was certainly an adaptation played to a comic and feminist slant.
I wonder if the director of the play also realised just how slight it is plot wise as the deus ex machina towards the end was certainly played up to be utterly ridiculous, which worked with the other staging decisions of the play.

The more Shakespeare plays I see the more I realise that the 'comedies' are not my favourite. There was nothing wrong with this one in terms of acting etc. but the slight plot made me long for some intrigue and seriousness.

After studying Shakespeare in depth I was also more bothered by the staging and extensive use of the Groundling area.  This would just not have happened at the time of the original Globe - the costumes were just too expensive to risk off of the stage, and although giving great opportunities for entrances and exits too much of the action is invisible from the Upper Gallery. A minor criticism as all of the actors projected well and I didn't miss a line of dialogue. I remain unsure about the bicycle and  the shopping trolley however.

A big shout out has to go to the Steward who was working the Upper Gallery, Mr Norfolkbookworm asked him an idle question about an instrument being played on the stage in the interval and although he didn't know the answer the steward (no name badge so I can't be more specific) went and found out for us and slipped the name to us during the second act.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Theatre 2015: Review Seventeen

Jersey Boys, Theatre Royal. Norwich. July 2015

Oh What a Night!

I've wanted to see this musical for a long time as I love the music and often have the soundtrack playing as I am walking/studying/avoiding the house work and it seemed as if the whole of Norfolk had the same idea - this booked out ages ago and the group of 5 of us were dotted around the circle rather than next to each other.  This doesn't really matter however as you shouldn't talk to the person next to you during the show anyhow!

Apart from the music I didn't know much about the story at all and I found the style in which the show was told to be both very interesting and at times slightly frustrating. Frustrating in that often only excerpts of songs I love were played and not the whole thing! The story itself hung together very well, was full of humour and sadness and at all times was really clear leaving you in no doubt who everyone was.  I also loved the way that the narrator changed throughout the show so we did get a rounded picture of the story, it really was about the Jersey Boys and not one person.

The cast were incredible and their voices so like the originals that I'd have thought they were miming if I'd seen a clip on TV.  It was an incredibly hot and humid night when we went yet they put their all into it and the singing and choreography was perfect throughout. My one possible quibble is that perhaps the writers didn't quite know how to finish the show as it did just abruptly stop, however as this gave the cast a chance to sing again it wasn't all bad. Seeing the live band throughout the show was a bonus and they deserved every cheer.

If the point of a hit musical like this is to leave you with a smile and humming the songs I'd say this was a real hit, and I think that if I got the chance I'd go and see it again in a flash.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Reading binge

Mr Norfolkbookworm and I have just spent two weeks on the Greek island of Mykonos. It was an interesting time to be in Greece with all of their financial troubles and the referendum but at no point were we ever greeted with anything other than smiles. We certainly added to the economy by eating and drinking lots of wonderful items - although we'll gloss over the sea urchins...

While we did do lots of exploring the main purpose of the trip was to unwind and spend lots of time reading.  I certainly managed this as in 2 weeks I read 23 books as well as plenty of relaxing.

  • Boston Girl by Anita Diamant - a great read all about first generation immigrants to Boston in the 1900s. 
  • Sagan 1954 by Anne Berest (tr. Heather Lloyd) - an imagined biography about the year in which teenager Sagan wrote and published Bonjour Tristesse.
  • The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend* by Katarina Bivald (tr. Alice Menzies) - a young Swedish girl visits her pen pal in the States to find she has died. Books were the link between the two and might just save the Iowan town of Broken Wheel.
  • Early One Morning* by Virginia Bailey - set in Rome during the German occupation an impulsive decision to save a Jewish boy from being deported has repercussions for decades.
  • Grey by E L James  - no words to explain why I read this.  It is dire.
  • Hearts of Stone* by Simon Scarrow - before WW2 a German boy makes friends with two Greek teenagers on Lefkas during an archaeological dig. He is posted back to the island during the war...
  • The Umbrian Thursday Night Supper Club* by Marlena de Blasi - I thought this was going to be fiction but was in fact the story of five women and their family who meet to have supper. The stories were interesting and the recipes had me drooling.
  • Let Me Explain You* by Annie Liontas - a dysfunctional Greek family are contacted by their father to say he is dying and spend the time trying to unravel their relationships with him and each other.
  • One* by Sarah Crossan - a young adult novel about a pair of conjoined twins. A bit predictable but still moving.
  • The Summer of Good Intentions* by Wendy Frances - three sisters and their families return to their beach summer home but the summer doesn't work out as planned. A good holiday read.
  • In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume - in the 1950s three planes crashed on one small New Jersey town and the novel imagines the effects this had on some of the inhabitants.
  • Anything to Declare by Jon Frost - a former Custom and Excise officer talks about some of his jobs.
  • A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson - I wasn't blown away by Life After Life but this companion novel enthralled me from the start and I liked that Teddy was a pilot in Bomber Command and not a fighter pilot.
  • The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean Paul Didierlaurent - a very odd book that I don't think I 'got'. I am still not sure if it is a dystopian novel, a love story or a fable that I missed the point of.
  • My Cousin Rachel by Daphne DuMaurier - A gripping psychological thriller, glad that a friend recommended it to me.
  • Adeline* by Norah Vincent - a novel about Virginia Woolf that probably would probably have been lot more enjoyable if I'd known more about the relationships within the Bloomsbury Group.
  • A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre - another great read about the British spying world, this time with Kim Philby as the focus.
  • The Martian* by Andy Weir - a gripping space thriller about a man left alone on  Mars after an accident.
  • Finding Audrey* by Sophie Kinsella - a young adult novel which starts quite well but by the end seems to be too simplistically dealing with mental illness.
  • Motherland* by Jo McMillan - the mother and daughter protagonists of this novel set in the 1970s and 80s are fervent communists and given the chance to visit the DDR, will they be disillusioned?
  • The Bees by Laline Paull - a fascinating tale told from a bee's point of view. Hard to explain the charm of this but I always knew I didn't like wasps!
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - a thriller like Gone Girl or Before I Go to Sleep.  I spotted the twist in this one but it did still give me nightmares.
  • The Enlightenment of Nina Findlay by Andrea Gillies - Nina is involved in a serious accident while on a Greek island but we only learn why she is there as she talks to her doctor, but is he who he seems? A bit self indulgent and also the constant Americanisms really jarred for a book that is set in Scotland as well as Greece.
Not a bad collection of books, none that I gave up on this time.  Now I have to go to the library and pick up all the books I've reserved and are now ready to read...I'll need another holiday to get through them all!

All of these books except Sagan 1954 were read as eBooks and those marked  * were proofs provided by