Friday, 29 September 2017

Theatre 2017: Review Twenty-nine - Boudica

Boudica, Shakespeare's Globe, London. September 2017.

After two shows that I found to be shockingly bad (and another that we didn't even bother going to) this was the last chance for the summer 2017 season to redeem itself...

For the most part I think that this new play did. This was a fun  retelling of a version of the Boudica story, this one from an incredibly feminist standpoint.  While I was watching the play I enjoyed it but a week on I am struggling to remember much of the show apart from broad brush strokes.

At times it felt a bit obvious and didactic. It was also quite simplistic with characters taking just one stance each rather than being nuanced (with the exception of Boudica herself), it was also pretty bloody and sweary!

However as Boudica and the Iceni come from East Anglia this play was always going to be a hit with me as the cast didn't attempt to speak in Norfolk dialect!

The addition of the modern pop songs - the cast singing a version of London Calling at the start of the second half (as they planned the attack on London) and then I Fought the Law (and the law won) at the end - really worked for me. The ending had been a little stop/start and this coming together was a great way to finally end the show.

This isn't a perfect play but it was a nice way to end the outdoor season at the Globe after so many disappointments. I have tickets to one more play programmed by Emma Rice but I am far more excited by next season when the theatre loses the lights and sound systems and gains a new AD.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Another Blog Tour: Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar

Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar

After never having taken part in a blog tour before I now find myself taking part in two in a month!  This book however is very different to Whitstable Hightide Swimming Club in every aspect but I loved Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar just as much.

Salt Creek is a more or less uninhabited tract of land outside of Adelaide in South Australia and the Finch family have been forced to relocate their after some bad decisions made by Hester Finch’s father.

Hester is our narrator and the book slips in time from the family’s exile in Salt Creek to her later life back in Chichester, England.  At first the move to Salt Creek seems like the end of the world – the area is not easy to work or love but slowly the family adjust until slowly their world unravels again.

Set against their struggles are stories of Aborigines and their poor treatment by Australian settlers, the tales of the first settlers and the way that the isolation, heat and cold slowly drive people mad. 
The story seemed slow at first and I wasn’t too keen on the time jumps however before I realised it the book had totally wormed its way into my life and I was turning the pages like it was the latest thriller.

For me the addictiveness of this book for me came through the way Treloar made me think that I was one of the Finch family, I wasn't just reading about them - I was in their house, sitting at their table, sharing their triumphs and their pains. On putting the book down it did take me tome to remember that it was 2017 and I was in Norfolk not  1860s Australia.

Reading about the treatment of the indigenous people, and the troubles Tully faced after being adopted in the family didn't make easy reading but then it certainly shouldn't have done - this is a shameful piece of history that carried on for far too long. The point was driven home effectively by the characters being unable to see the irony of being abolitionists at the same time. 

This book deserves to do well, I felt it covered new ideas in a very compelling manner. It is long and it is slow but these things are important, and like the landscape of Salt Creek, it grows on you.

Many thanks to the team at Gallic Press for the chance to read this book and take part in the blog tour.



Friday, 15 September 2017

Theatre 2017: Review Twenty-eight - Against

Against, Almeida Theatre, London. September 2017.

Well a week on and I still don't know what to make of this play. And reading online reviews I don't think that I am alone in this.

I liked a lot about this play. The characters & the individual stories all had me captivated. The basic idea is that Luke* (Ben Wishaw), a rich entrepreneur with an interest in space travel, has received a message from God to "go where the violence is." He uses his fortune to move into communities where violence has happened (a town after a school shooting, a university with a sex assault scandal). He stays long after the mainstream media have gone to try and get to the heart of the community and encourages people from all sides of the story to talk with him and publish their tales on his website.

All well and good, but then people who don't think their stories are being told start to question and criticise and things unfold and not for the good.

This strand of the play was great but then there were the odder parts - Luke's relationships with women, the story of his father, and his business rival (definitely not Jeff Bezos & Amazon) sat oddly in the play for me and I think that the scenes with the two workers in the non-Amazon were worthy of their own play (perhaps with Luke's story as the secondary line).

I'm also not at all sure what the message of the play was - there were so many ways to read it that it left me confused.  I know that some audience thought is good but not knowing at all if it is a nihilistic play or an optimistic one is a leap too far.  I can also see other's criticism that calls it highly misogynistic on reflection many of the female characters only existed as ciphers, however I did like that the stage (almost) nudity was completely equal!

We saw a lot of Ben Wishaw in this and I do think that he held the play together, with a weaker actor I think I'd have lost patience with this play totally, where as now I am at least still spending a lot of time thinking about it even if I can't work out if I liked it!

*I am guessing that Luke is supposed to be a version of Elon Musk, especially once we meet Jon later on.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

My First Blog Tour: The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club

The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club by Katie May.

I’m really rather excited to be talking about the Whitstable Bay Swimming Club: Diving In by Katie May, especially as this is the first blog tour I’ve participated in.

The Whitstable Bay Swimming Club will be a full novel in the end but currently is being published in novella sized chunks and this first part is a real treat, I was looking for something fun and light to read to fill a break between two heavier nonfiction works and this fitted the bill perfectly.

It is a story of unlikely friendships all forged on Whitstable beach by a group of sea swimmers.  Due to the geography of the beach swimming is only really possible at high tide and so slowly people get to know each other and when their swim is threatened they are ready to fight. The friendship and tensions all seem very real, and as I was reading the book I could see them meet, sum each other up and then learn more about each other

Katie May herself says:
Meet Deb, Maisie and The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club  When I was planning The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club, I had a strong vision of Deb and Maisie, my two central characters, but little else. I knew that I wanted to write a novel about the power of female friendship, but I also knew that there needed to be a community of swimmers around them, all with different lives and problems. I wondered how I’d manage to pull this off.
 I needn’t have worried: gradually, as I wrote my book, a whole cast of characters introduced themselves and joined in with the action. Here are my favourites.
 DebI first imagined Deb when I was sitting on Whitstable beach one afternoon, and suddenly, from nowhere, a dog jumped over the wave-break and onto my picnic. He was closely followed by a woman who was at once panicked and chaotic, but warm and instantly likeable. I knew immediately that I wanted to write about her. In the book, Deb’s waited until her fifties to finally leave her bullying, feckless husband, but she’s making the most of her freedom. She has an incredible ability to get on with anybody, and can’t help trying to solve their problems, too. And yet she’s hopeless at taking care of herself, and is constantly at risk of being dragged back into her awful old life.
 MaisieIn many ways, Maisie is the opposite of Deb – poised, wise and authoritative, she always seems utterly in control. But just like Deb, Maisie is starting her life again too, running away from a high-flying career and a loveless marriage to start a new life by the sea. She and Deb meet because they find themselves swimming on the same beach each day, but they bond because they each have something that the other one needs: for Maisie, it’s Deb’s easy-going nature; for Deb, it’s Maisie’s confidence. What’s more, it turns out that Maisie is running away from more than her past life – she’s terrified of her future, too.
 Ann and EdithAnn doesn’t exactly endear herself to Deb at first. Instead, she invites herself in to the swimming club and tries to take charge. But, as time passes, it’s clear that this irritable, awkward woman is doing her best to be make friends, even if it’s sometimes rather thwarted. What’s more, she has been caring for her mother, Edith, for so long that she’s forgotten how to live her own life any more. Perhaps the High Tide Swimming Club can save both of them.
 DerekDeb’s ex-husband, Derek, at first appears to be a lovelorn fool, desperate to win back the wife he’s so mystified to have lost. But, as time goes on, we learn the reason that Deb appears to be so heartless towards him. And she’d rather let her children believe that she’s just being cruel than tell them the truth.
 BillWhen painfully-shy Bill first turns up on the beach, Deb mistakes him for a Peeping Tom, and nearly scares him off for good. But Bill has hidden depths beneath his quiet exterior. Let’s just say he becomes very important in Parts 2 and 3!
 I’d love to introduce Chloe, Cherie, Rick and Brian too, but I’ve run out of space. You can find them all, and more in The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
 Katherine May
August 2017

As this is both the first part of a story but also a complete work there are moments when you feel that perhaps things are rushing along a bit fast and simultaneously that there are too many cliffhangers or unexplained bits but just like a soap opera that it the book’s charm – you are left both satisfied but wanting more!

I’m from Kent and I do know the area the swimmers meet and the settings feel just right, and in a book where location is so important this is a real plus.  I’m not one for swimming in British seas, especially on grey damp days, but Katie May does make the water seem appealing even here and as I was reading this on a bright summer day all I wanted was to join the group, have a swim and then go to the pub with them for a cold white wine and chat afterwards!

I’m really looking forward to further parts of this book and also loving that this style of publishing is taking off, sometimes a perfect 100 page story is just what you want and knowing that there’ll be more really soon is perfect.

I hope that the other people like this as much as me and many thanks to Trapeze Books for sending me such a delight to read!

Sunday, 3 September 2017

August Reading Round Up

August saw me reading fewer books that in recent months but this was a for a great reason - Mr Norfolkbookworm and I have been on an American road trip.

We've visited Seattle, taken an overnight Amtrak train and then spent nearly 2 weeks in National Parks (Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons) with the culmination of the trip being the 2017 Solar Eclipse.

The whole trip was amazing - we did visit bookstores and I did find a theatre! The highlights however have to be the scenery, the wildlife and of course the eclipse. I can't pick a 'top' thing from our experiences and you can find my photos (edited - we took 5000+ between us!) on my Flickr pages.

Thanks to the long flights and also to the unhurried itinerary I did still read 19 books in August. It wasn't a stellar month for books but there were a few standouts...

Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar - this was sent to me for review and I loved it so much I'm part of the blog tour later in September.

Logical Family by Armistead Maupin - I've loved Maupin's books for years and the chance to read his autobiography in proof form was a great way to get over the holiday blues.  It is very frank and won't be for all but I enjoyed it a lot and was moved and amused by it.

Whitstable Hightide Swimming Club by Katie May - this was another book provided by the publisher for review and again it just hit the spot. My review will be out as part of a blog tour in September.

There were no duds in the month, and a couple of re-reads but most of the books have faded into the background because of our trip!