Reasons why I loved Groundhog Day at the Old Vic, or, a very personalised ‘review’

I went to see Groundhog Day the Musical at the Old Vic a couple of weeks back and wrote this silly thing about it. It was originally posted on the Obviously a Hobby page, which you can find by clicking the link on the right sidebar. It allows for a lot more garish orange than WordPress does, so obviously it has my heart.


Reasons why I had to see Groundhog Day, a new musical based on the 1993 film – yes, that film, at the Old Vic in London.

1) I’ve only seen Groundhog Day (the film) once. I’m not a die-hard fan. I watched it, coincidentally, on 1 February this year, which, if you know the story is the DAY BEFORE GROUNDHOG DAY. I’m easily spooked by cult-ish films – I watched The Truman Show for the first time the week previous and am still creeped out by the story and its mass appeal – so I found the coincidence of watching G-hog Day the day before life was to be repeated over and over again as some kind of warning to get out of my room, stop watching pirated movies and learn how to play the piano or something – lest my life be stuck in a time loop forever. So that meant the film and I had a special kind of connection (I like to think, anyway) and when I heard the Old Vic were doing it as a MUSICAL, I was kinda stoked, as:

2) I love the Old Vic. I love the Old Vic because I always confuse it with the Queen Vic, the pub in Eastenders. The Gourmet Burger Kitchen in Waterloo, near the Old Vic, is also the first Gourmet Burger Kitchen I ever went to, with my friend Sam. We went to see Much Ado about Nothing in 2014 at the Queen Vic – I mean the Old Vic – when they had Vanessa Redgrave playing Beatrice. All I remember about it is that we didn’t see Redgrave – it was an understudy – and just how HIGH UP we were sitting in the theatre. And BEHIND A GREAT BIG FUCKING PILLAR, no less. All for £12! And they wonder why they struggle to get new audiences into theatres.

3) Obviously, Bill Murray. But like, not Bill Murray. Therefore: Intrigue.

Reasons why I fucking loved Groundhog Day, a new musical based on the 1993 film – yes, that film, at the Old Vic in London.

1) It was really, truly excellent. I smiled throughout this show. For the most part it was totally hilarious, but for the parts that weren’t quite laugh-out-louds, I was just sat there grinning like an idiot. I remember thinking about how wonderful it was to be at the theatre, genuinely enjoying myself. The actors all look like they’re having the best time doing it too. It has such a nice fizz to it; buckets of conviction.

2) Tim Minchin’s not bad at all, is he. I still really want to see Matilda – another musical he’s penned the lyrics for – and I might just after this. People in the audience were roaring with laughter (okay, people = me). The creative team have made a well-loved film into an innovative piece of theatre; it’s really smart and fresh but still tells the story in a perfectly different way.

3) It’s (probably) going to Broadway, and I’ve already seen it. Although the ticket cost me £12, and I sat behind another great fucking pillar, it’s still absolutely way cheaper than it’ll be when it moves to New York. It was supposed to be heading there in January, but organisers have postponed the date – hopefully it’ll stay in London for a little longer and transfer first to the West End. There were these student kiddos stood up behind me – they had an even shitter view than I did – and all they kept saying was: “I don’t even care about the fact we’re literally sitting with the top of our skulls touching the ceiling, this is AMAZING value for £10! We’ve got to see THIS for £10!)” It was lovely. It made me smile even more than I was already. When the woman who sat next to me found her seat at the beginning, she just looked at me and said ‘Fuck!’: That’s how high up we were – she swore. She then went on to drink four glasses of wine – two in the first act and two in the second – and turned out to be a real hoot.


If you haven’t got a tenner, or can’t get to London – or a ticket – in that case, watch the film on quality pirated streaming sites (or buy the DVD here).

If books are your thang, Kurt Vonnegut’s Timequake is a great book about time-lapses, if time-lapses are also your thang.

‘Tis the season, no, not that season (quite yet), but another season: An ode to autumn

This is from my 2011 scrapbook! I know right! Original images. Don't get used to it.
This is from my 2011 scrapbook! I know right! An original image. Don’t get used to it.

Happy Fireworks night. I don’t feel so firework-y tonight (long, heartfelt sigh), I’m just gonna have a huge bowl of spaghetti and read a book. I wrote this at the start of October but it’s been laying dormant until now – so sorry if it’s already a little outdated. Like, if this post was a fresh leaf when it was written in late-September, early-October, it’ll now be a mushed-up, rained-on mixture of pulp and chewing gum mashed into some pavement somewhere. Such is life. 

Look – I don’t know if it’s anything to do with the fact that both my parents were born within a week of each other at the crossover of September into October, so it’s ingrained into my DNA make-up or whatever; perhaps I’m overly sentimental for things like transitions and change and every other darned thing a writer can get sentimental about (SPOILER: everything)

Maybe it’s the familiarisation of routine that sets back in after a long summer: early nights, hearty meals, people bonding miserably over the miserable and changeable weather; maybe I’m a witch, whatever, who even cares – but autumn is my lady.

There is just something about darkness setting in earlier, leaves browning and yellowing and dark purpling, lying dead on the ground; that smell when they get rained on, get dried, and then turn into autumn sludge again. 

This season has more memories for me than any other. In the way that childhood/adolescence is often portrayed in films – hanging out with your friends all summer long, in sepia – I don’t feel as nostalgic about the summer as I do the autumn. (I spent a good few of my summer holidays as a child counting down the days until I could get back to school)

Autumn feels a lot more familiar than other seasons. Autumn and I are friendly to each other. Well, I say friendly. Ms. A.T gives me the gift of big, woollen jumpers, increased portion sizes with every meal (it’s getting colder – I need to be insulated) and this. I mean, I don’t listen to that all the time, although I wish I could say I did – but all I’m saying is autumn provides us with all the tools we need to stay in, get our heads down, and begin to create things. We don’t give it anything, we just sort of walk around in it. But thanks anyway, autumn!

Applying to online courses, looking up university degrees, pitching ideas to magazines. Maybe I link this time of year to being at school, slightly perspiring from the dusty heaters cranked up to 11.  Autumn feels pretty studious – until the clocks go back and you’re all ‘I’ll stay in Dreamland for another six or seven hours, thank you” – but there is a brief changeover period where I feel like getting my head down and getting to it.

I hope this feeling of wanting to begin new things prevails throughout the rest of my life. It’s convenient getting stuck into new projects at the start of the season when there’s stationary deals going on in every store across the world as everyone’s getting geared up for another academic year. 

Once we get into winter, every evening is a prime Netflix and chill time. And I don’t even mean Netflix and chill, I just mean Netflix and chill. Unfortunately.

Autumn, on the other hand, is pretty expectant. Suddenly, I have to face the fact that there is LESS than two months left in the year. The year! Like, Christmas, guys! Again!

And as I have to pretty much dismiss the potential of doing anything at all in the winter (hibernation, impending eternal darkness, Netflix), I always feel so inspired to spend time on my own, reading books I’ve been saving up all summer, scrapbooking everything I’ve been collecting over the last few months, taking time out to check in with myself and make sure I’m set for the long and cold winter (kind of like a squirrel collecting nuts).

As the nights get colder, it becomes way too easy to indulge nightly in mass social media-ing. I’ve recently deleted my Instagram, because although it’s great fun, it was stopping me from getting all my shit done by the time it needed to be.

[EDIT] That other girl that deleted her Instagram this week got loads of attention online, possibly because she was ‘goals’. Although she cried about being ‘goals’, so everyone was all “This girl was goals for her hot bod, now she’s goals for taking a stand on what is becoming a boring and negative daily ritual for many. The girl is just GENERALLY goals.” I deleted my Instagram and NOBODY even noticed. So I’m not goals, but I’ll do.

I thought it was about time to get rid of all those distractions as I work full-time and have so much I want to do in the evenings. The small solo projects I’m working on now may not amount to anything, but it’s not a waste of time. Use these precious autumnal opportunities to their full potential. It may be the compost that’ll turn into that good idea. Stay in for the night, turn your phone off, throw a huge jumper on, and work all the way through to the witching hour. (‘Tis the season, non?) Pritt-sticking, writing, painting, practising cartwheels: Use your time wisely, and get to it.

(Just for the archive, my first play is on in a couple of weeks (16-17 November)! I’ll probably write more about it and the process of writing it soon, when I have a few spare hours. I’m soooo proud of it. Now I just want to get started on something else! A feature film! A fashion line! A symphony!)

Thoughts on a play about consciousness. Is that a paradox? Am I even here? ~ and other things mulled over this week

I went to see The Hard Problem and took notes in the dark. Lesson learnt: Don’t take notes in the dark. When the house lights come up, you will laugh at the illegible squiggles in front of you, and sigh at the subconscious jottings of things you wrote without realising, such as ‘I’m hungry.’ Anyway, I think this is a review. Enjoy!

THE HARD PROBLEM by Tom Stoppard, Director - Nicholas Hytner, Designer - Bob Crowley, Lighting - Mark Henderson, The National Theatre, 2015, Credit: Johan Persson.
THE HARD PROBLEM by Tom Stoppard, Director – Nicholas Hytner, Designer – Bob Crowley, Lighting – Mark Henderson, The National Theatre, 2015, Credit: Johan Persson.

I went to see a screening of The Hard Problem last week at my local theatre. The problem with not being rich, famous or the holder of tickets for press night is that essentially you cannot provide ‘a scoop’ for your audience, or the 13 readers of this blog. The play ends on the 27 May, and overall I did kind of enjoy it. I didn’t regret paying for a ticket (being an ‘ex’-usher, I’d become accustomed to free theatre), but maybe that’s just because I couldn’t overspend at the interval (of which there was not one.)

I’ve seen a few screenings over the last few years and am into the idea of them. I read an interesting article in the Sunday Times’ Culture magazine this weekend by Bryan Appleyard about the lack of fair distribution of the arts around the country, as opposed to JUST LONDON. It seems, although we already know this, cause like, DUH, London receives just SACKFULS of more funding for arts/culture stuff than anywhere else – and last week’s result of an all-blue government makes me feel, a bit, well, depressed about this. It isn’t all ‘their’ fault, and Bryan even states that it was in fact under New Labour that the arts began to ‘fail’. He adds, however, that the Coalition followed with an “utter indifference.”

He goes on to say the regional arts divide is ‘intolerable’: “Residents of County Durham have paid £34m into the arts lottery since 1995, and received £12m in arts funding in return. The City of Westminster has contributed £14.5m and received £408m.” *jaw drops to ground.*

Anyway, screenings are IMPORTANT, comrades. (Interestingly, though – I managed to see Behind the Beautiful Forevers a couple of weeks ago AT the National itself for a fiver, but paid £15 to see a screening of this. So there’s that. I don’t know what I’m trying to say.)

My only beef with screenings is that we don’t really get to see it how it’s seen. It makes me think of the BBC Four ‘Go Slow’ season: (the two hour canal boat ride, a tour around the National Gallery) uninterrupted television.

With The Hard Problem, however, I found myself getting annoyed at the (otherwise skilful) camerawork. Yes, it was skilful, with great angles and high-quality shots. But for Christ’s sake, let me see! At every transition, the camera panned up to the top of the stage, so we couldn’t see the set changes. I just had total screening FOMO. I wanted to see stagehands all in black, shuffling around in darkness! Isn’t that the joie du théâtre, darling?

I spent most of the show drawing varying sizes of question marks on my notepad. Now, I know it is wrong in the ‘art of reviewing’ to strongly put forward your own opinion of something without considering different perspectives.

I was – as a reviewer – ‘supposed’ to be commenting on the position of the play within the industry, what it ‘meant’ as Stoppard’s first play at the National since 2002, Nicholas Hytner’s last work in his Artistic Directorship. But it was Olivia Vinall’s portrayal of Hilary that didn’t sit with me right.

I have to admit – that’s why I went to watch. She played Cordelia in King Lear alongside Anna Nicole Smith last year, and I wanted to see her in something totally different. (She has also played Ophelia/Juliet – the National’s babe du jour.)

She was shouty. At first I gave her the benefit of the doubt, after all, I was watching a screening and perhaps it was a problem with microphones, or her ‘projection’ wasn’t working well on camera.

But then none of the other actors had that problem and, fair enough, she had TONNES of words to say. Ophelia doesn’t say much. Cordelia buggers off very quickly. And – I know nowt about brain science, or neurology – but it just seemed like she was reeling off the words at times, just going through the motions. And shouty kinds of reeling off. Sorry, Olivia. I tuned out.

However, there were things in the play that just worked, so well, and made for most delightful watching. Much of this was down to Hytner’s directorial choices, with a particular highlight when Spike, played by Damien Molony, gave in to Hilary’s pleas and kneeled down to pray…at the light of the minibar. It was a small and simple motion but one that’s stuck with me all day. Signs of class in a renowned director who the National Theatre has recently waved goodbye to.

The set design was another highlight, and although I wouldn’t usually notice things like this, my best mate studies it at *drama school* so I like to take note and report back to him. It was very sleek and functional, not too much or too little. The lighting fixture at the top of the screen effectively represented neurons in the brain, and ‘sparked up’ at every transition, of which there were five or six. It was used to great effect too to create fireworks on Bonfire Night – a significant night for the main characters for reasons I simply CANNOT disclose for spoiler alert reasons, but yes, it was a moment where the penny dropped for me with some simple nifty lighting. A suggestion of a idea where everything clicks into place.

Interestingly, in the pre-show talk that is broadcast as part of the NT Live series, some playwright (of who I embarassingly didn’t take the name of) said you’ll spend the first third of the play wondering what the hell’s going on, the second third figuring it out, and the last third feeling moved by what you’ve seen. It did feel like that – very much so, and I’d be interested to read/see more of his plays to see if this formula rings true. (I may have misquoted the above, I was rummaging through my bag for sweets. No interval, oh, the horror.)

I’d give it three stars, but then again – was I ever even there, if I wasn’t really there? Oh, god, my head hurts.

Signing off, not in London,

T.A.L x

Give yourself a hug: Avoid spontaneous combustion, and other things learnt during the past week…

Chimpanzee Melissa huddles forlornly over her baby, shielding him from a downpour. National Geographic | December 1965
Chimpanzee Melissa huddles forlornly over her baby, shielding him from a downpour.
National Geographic | December 1965

I gave myself a well deserved hug the other day. I think I’ve been beating myself up too much about things that aren’t in my immediate control, so I wrapped my arms around myself and was like, “Thanks, me. You’re doing just fine.”

After what had been a particularly stressful day, I got home to write up something for a competition – was so not up to it – so then went out for a drive (I am still learning post-first-fail), and ended up getting so angry that Dad was like: “Slow down! You’re gonna crash into that girl on her bike!” And I was all snotty and teary-eyed like: “I don’t even care!!”

I was basically in one of those moods when you literally cannot even right now, and there was no signs of it going away.

(I have since found that when you feel so anti-everything that you cannot literally even anymore, if you listen to ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’, things seem much easier to comprehend.)

This week I phoned my boyfriend DEMANDING that he sing ‘Hypnotize’ by The Notorious B.I.G until I felt better. It worked.

The hardest thing about bad situations is that you have to feel all of the things you are feeling, even the horrible, sad stuff that you’d rather fast forward.

Caitlin Moran wrote in her Times Saturday column yesterday (2 May) that her biggest advice for teenage girls is that you “only ever have to deal with the next 60 seconds of your life.”

When someone very close to you rips your heart apart, there is no way around it. (I am reminded of the children’s book, ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’: “We can’t go under it; we can’t go over it – We’ll have to go through it!”)

It took me 18 years to realise that – and I’m no good at bottling stuff up. (JOURNAL KEEPER FOR 14 YEARS.) Cry about it, write a letter to whoever it is, trash their house minorly (make sure it’s reversible – no smashing or breaking. Trust me – I’ve KNOWN this)

Figure out how to deal with the stuff, and try it out (preferably without hurting anyone further, that can just re-lousy everything.)

Things aren’t going to be amaaaazing all the time, especially if you’re going through something that’s emotionally tough. You don’t always have to be the best version of yourself; so if you’re going through a hard time, cut yourself some slack. The happiness you’re aiming for needn’t be a constant state of ecstasy, but rather a middle-ish sort of OK. A great article about this way of thinking, written by Tim Lott, can be read here.

My biggest argument against suppressing these feelings (that make your head feel like it will pop off) is that there are ACTUAL reports of HUMAN SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION, so just take NO risks honey. It is not worth your beautiful hairdo.


I’ve been listening to Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Carrie and Lowell’ a lot recently because 1) it’s addictive and oh-so-moreish, and 2) He’s headlining at End of the Road this year.

download

I had meant to write a proper review of it a few weeks ago but have been really busy doing other general life things; now I don’t think I could serve it justice.

I wholly admit I was not a fan of Sufjan before this, so I have nothing to compare it with, or do that ever-so-important music journo thing of citing his biggest influences – cause quite frankly kiddo, I just don’t know.

All I know is that it was written about his mother and stepfather, and, after a unanimous discussion re: SS by my friends, we came to the conclusion that he could write about rotting fruit or dog shit, or BOTH, and still make it sound beautiful.

For those real-melancholic types around here, check this out:

It both slows your heart down and speeds it up. It’s a wonderful record, and apparently his best.


I went to the National Theatre last night to see ‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’ Again – this play has been on since November of last year, so I can’t say I’m bringing you cutting-edge, hot-off-the-press reviews, but I get cheap seats, and for cheap seats my friends, you must seriously book WELL in advance.

It was set in Mumbai and focused on the lives of a community living in the slums near an airport, and the conflicts they faced with police/money/each other/etc.

I took a tonne of notes, as there was a lot to take in (I felt the play was longer than it ought to have been, but the pace was still excellent) and the writing was very human – of course – as is the writing of David Hare.

For your ease, and my ease: (I don’t need to write a long review – I am now v. hungry) Some – most are illegible – of my notes are included below:

  • incredible set – reeks of money. National Theatre.
  • Meera from the Kumars? Excellent
  • Feisty female roles
  • Prosthetics – burn make up good but v. gruesome
  • shows how extreme poverty can make people lose sense of morality
  • bit on the long side?? Am i tired??
  • baddies: “let them fight among themselves, then they won’t fight with us”
  • general audience consensus- good
  • Actor playing Abdul: Very sexy

I thought it was great to see a play that took a genuinely very humorous and human take on an awful situation (one that I admit I wasn’t aware of.) One minute you were laughing at the ‘look how ridicularse corruption is, darling!’ due to the witty, observational quips in the text, and then you were covering your eyes from somebody having their eyes gauged out after stealing scrap metal.

All in all, it was clear why this play has been running for so long. And even towards the end of the run, you wouldn’t have believed it. It’s not my usual choice of theatre – but I think it’s something that will stick with me for a bit. If you want to read a proper review, please divert your browsers to the search engine, ‘Google.’


In other news, I have started rehearsals for King Lear, been accepted into the National Youth Theatre and got tickets to Glastonbury! So there’s that. Also lined up is a trip to Belgium, Belle & Sebastian next week, in three weeks, and in seven weeks (lol) and my birthday! I’ll be writing about it all.

T.A.L x

“What makes me sad, won’t make me quit”

I wrote this on the way home from London, after another (failed) audition today. I am typing it up fairly tipsy and pub-bound, so exaggerations probably will be everywhere. (I am writing this after I wrote the things below and now I am quite drunk)

Saturday 18th January 2014~~~

It has been a total rollercoaster of a day, and I felt I had to buy a new notebook and pen because I knew I would want to write on the train journey home. Although I don’t know what exactly.

I do this thing every time I get a rejection from yet another drama school where I walk around Leicester Square/Covent Garden to see that the theatre actually exists outside of stuffy waiting rooms full of hopeful and jittering auditionees. I hit a total slump earlier and nearly cried on the Tube (this is actually a way embarassing situation)- which is ridiculous as my only problem to an outsider is not getting into a highly competitive and prestigious drama school, which is so dumb.

Then I walked across the Waterloo Bridge to go to the National and buy a ticket for the matinee, I was like: I don’t care what the show is! I’m gonna be reckless!- but it was The Light Princess, which is apparently quite shit, so I just moped about in the bookshop for about an hour, recklessly spending £20 on a collection of new plays by Dennis Kelly (which is actually delicious) because I am sick of Sartre and Pinter and old men in black turtlenecks telling me my choice of speech is unusual and ‘So you say you have read around other existentialist playwrights, tell me more???’ **Obviously I only wrote that to appear like I am well-read!! Duh!*

Anyway, so I was sitting at this caff on the South Bank, obviously with a face of death, as this guy approaches me and starts talking to me. At first, I gave him no attention: You are a homeless man, I have no change because I have just spent my last £20 on this ridiculous book (I hadn’t started it yet, it is actually awesome) – please let me be etc. But then I realise he was just telling me to ‘Smile’- and of course you have to force yourself to smile, which is funny in itself, as this stranger is forcing me to do something so I laugh, and he said:

“Fuckinghell I’m homeless, and I’m still smiling!”, and I thought, “Fuckinghell he’s homeless and he’s still smiling!” He went on to say, “Whoever’s made you feel like this, just be like fuck em.” Then he walked off repeating “Do what you want to do, be what you want to be”

God that sounds like such a lie. I could literally write a book about the weird experiences I have with strangers like this AKA guardian angels sent from heaven. Over the past few months I have had a few encounters with these male angels (albeit some dirtier than others), and they’ve all cheered me up or taught me something (even if that is only – when you think you could have another few Jagerbombs, you have already had way too many and it is time to go home.)

After this man walked away, I picked up my new book and started to read it with a fresh mind. Everything that had happened to me this morning suddenly didn’t feel like an end anymore, instead it felt like a new start in the sense where I could say ‘Hey, maybe that particular course genuinely isn’t what I want to do.”

I think my main trouble recently has been trying to do everything, which has meant that I haven’t been able to do anything properly at all. There is no point being like ‘Chill! Everythin’s easy!’ unless you truly believe it, but I think come June, I can start enjoying it all a bit more, rather than going to auditions so unprepared because I had to conjugate millions of French verbs the night before. Anyway, this is not forever. Ephemeral, and all that.

The hardest thing about rejection is being told that you are not good enough at the something you have chosen to be best at. I am coming to accept that this is just going to keep happening again and again, but hopefully my journal entries will get shorter & shorter as I learn how to cope.

As long as I can cling onto the spark, and stop seeing the ‘struggle’ as so much of a struggle, things will have to gradually start heading somewhere, wherever that is. It is not a struggle really at all, it is something that I am quite sure I really want to do, and to just have the chance to try to achieve this is v. exciting.

X

Bye
Bye