Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Hopeful Writing and the Future Library

A few weeks ago I had the great fortune to encounter this little gem on Twitter: Future Library. It's a fascinating artwork-in-progress by Katie Paterson which involves a forest in Norway, books and 100 years. Oh, and Margaret Atwood. Ah, yes, now we see why Sinéad is so excited.

I presume that she calls this an 'artwork' rather than 'work of art' or 'installation' because the Future Library is an ongoing, developing happening that seems to me to really touch the beauty of literature and our relationship with it and our world. A forest has been planted in Norway and every year a writer will be selected to write a piece to go into this future library. No one except the writer will know what this piece of writing is until the 100 years are up. At that point, the forest will be cut down and used to make the books on which all the writing will be printed.

The hippy in me is, of course, upset that they're going to cut down a forest, but that's a fact of book making and, I suppose, a tradeoff that I'm willing to make. The reader in me is gutted because it seems unlikely that I will ever get to read whatever Margaret Atwood will submit this year. And, at the same time, the reader in me is incredibly excited by this project.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Finding the Line

I have recently, in a fit of what can only be termed poor judgement, decided to take up golfing. Historically, golf has not been a great sport for me. 1997 brought an awful lot of tears as my poor dad valiantly dragged me around a course. He learned his lesson as we haven't been out since. Somewhere about 2002/2003 the taller half decided we should go for a quick 9 holes. We were lapped by 9-year-olds. All previous experience points to golf being similar to that year I ran track in high school: a total disaster. The only thing I mastered in track was the bit where we stretched.

I've taken a slightly different tack on golf this time around. I'm getting lessons from a local golf pro and, to date, there have been no tears. In fact, he tells me I'm a natural. What? I suppose it's in his best interest to butter me up so I keep coming back for lessons. Except, the taller half agrees. What? I suppose it's in his best interest to butter me up so that I don't return to the days of tears.

On my 4th lesson, my teacher announced that we needed to change my swing. Change my swing? Who am I, Tiger Woods? Apparently, I swing like a baseball player - ahh, that's more like it. Softball was one of the few sports where I was pretty good. Now I'm supposed to be doing some sort of wrist-flick thing that the taller half assures me is how the pros do it, that my teacher assures me will cure my tendency to go right all the time, and has, thus far, mainly resulted in me digging up a lot of grass as I drive the club directly into the ground.

When I do make contact with the ball, however, it now goes waaaaaaay left. Oddly, this is exciting because I actually feel like I have some control over where the ball is going, even if it's just that it's not going right anymore. When my teacher first switched me to the flip he said, Now, don't worry if it goes to the left, that's what we want at this point. You can pull it back in later.

It was like hearing myself teaching in a writing workshop. One of the things I always encourage students to do is to go to where they feel like it's too much and then to push just a little harder. I try to do this in my own writing as well. You can't possibly figure out where the line is unless you've crossed it. Art is all about pushing boundaries but how can you do that if you don't know where they are.

If I don't ever hit the ball to the left, I'll be forever on the right side of straight. My shots will always be just 'less right'. If I go right and I go left, then I can figure out where the centre is.

So here I am, in our not-quite-big-enough-for-sports flat practicing flipping my wrists and thinking about ways I can trample all over the lines in my writing. I'm looking for that sweet spot in both.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014


I have always had very bad luck with basil. Perhaps more honestly, I ought to say that basil plants have always had very bad luck with me, as they are the ones that end up withered and dead in my kitchen. Sometimes up to three plants in a summer. A short, British summer.

Until this year. This year I bought a little basil plant at my local supermarket and I now have a great, big basil bush. So enormous is this horticultural triumph that it garners admiration from all who visit our flat and our neighbours are complaining that it's blocking their light. Unfortunately, after a good three months of delightful growth, it appears to have aphids. Boo. Hiss.

Aphids are little bugs that love to feed on soft plants. They decimated my parsley this spring and although I got rid of them ages ago and they were outside then, they now appear to have migrated indoors to the most magnificent basil plant this side of the Thames. I caught them early, though, and I think I have them on their last exoskeleton. They have, however, already done some damage. I know in my little pseudo-gardener's heart that pruning is the right thing to do. Pruning the weakened stalks will let the plant put its energy into growing new, strong stalks that will be better able to resist aphids in the future. But my basil and I have worked so hard to get it to where it is. I worry that it will never regain its former glory.

Why all this about a basil plant? Well, because it's a perfect analogy for writing. Honest, it is.

The basil in all its wilty glory

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Talking the Talk

I'm always droning on about writers supporting one another and saying that success for one of us is success for all of us. Today, I make good on all that high-minded talk.

I am so thrilled to announce that a friend of mine has just had her first novel published to an excellent critical reception. Alarm Girl by Hannah Vincent is the story of a little girl struggling to find her place in the world after her mother's death when she and her brother move from England to South Africa to live with their father. I had the great pleasure of reading parts this book when it was still a work in progress and it was marvellous. I have been waiting for exactly two years to find out what happens to the breathtakingly compelling character of Indy. At ten-and-three-quarters, Indy is that perfect balance of innocent and all-knowing.

I won't review the book because I'm obviously enormously biased (it's brilliant!), but I will say that I think it's wonderful that Hannah is experiencing this great success. She's also a very accomplished playwright with her work having been performed at both the National Theatre Studio and the Royal Court. Just a few weeks ago, her first radio play, Come to Grief, was produced on BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Drama. It's on iplayer for the next week. Catch it before it's gone!

And so, today, it's a pleasure to send my many congratulations to the wonderfully talented Hannah Vincent. I'm proud of your hard work on your two most recent successes and I'm proud to call a talented, creative and strong woman like you both a friend and a colleague.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Where Do Poppies Come From?

Last week, the taller half and I were at the Tower of London with an out-of-town guest. It has become an annual trip because it really is one of the best tourist attractions in London. I last wrote about the Tower back in November of 2011 when my good friend was over to visit. Back then, I was singing the praises of the Beefeater tours (included in the ticket price). Now, I'm not so sure.

In January, we went with the taller half's sister and had a raging chauvinist for a guide who went beyond suggesting it was only women who would want to see the crown jewels into very uncomfortable territory about all women only loving "soft furnishings" and one very awkward joke that included the deaths of both Shirley Temple and an Al-Qaeda bomb maker. Although, the crown jewels joke seems to be part of the standard script, generally I still highly recommend the tour. During the summer they run every 30 minutes, so if you get the chauvinist idiot, just wait for the next one.

This time we went with my aunt and hopped on a tour with a lovely, very funny and not (at least not obviously) chauvinist guide. Our only complaint was his misunderstanding of the origin of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance for fallen soldiers. Odd, perhaps, for a veteran, but not so odd for British culture which tends to appropriate like crazy.

Poppies Pouring from the Tower of London - Andrea Vail, CC License

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Long List for Blog Awards Ireland 2014!

In good news: This blog made Blog Awards Ireland's long list for the Best of the Diaspora category for 2014! It's listed amongst many great blogs from around the world that represent Ireland's long history of emigration. Whatever the economic or political situation of our little island, we have always managed to export excellent writing. It's great to see that this is being represented in the world of new and social media. Good luck to all the other nominees!

blog awards ireland

Friday, 25 July 2014

The Invisible Mentor

Last night, I went to Shark Tank, a play that is a part of the International Youth Arts Festival and currently playing at the Stanley Picker Gallery in Kingston-upon-Thames.  It's a farcical look at the world of contemporary art and was written by a former student of mine, Nik Way.

This isn't so much a review of the production, because I'm obviously quite biased. It's more that it got me thinking about what it means for a teacher to see a student succeeding. I love teaching. I love seeing students learn and grow and become better writers. I like it even more when they suddenly realise they've gotten better and the leap in confidence that they have. You would think, then, that seeing a student write a play that is chosen to be performed at a festival. Watching that production which he has co-directed and in which he is acting would be the culmination of everything a teacher could want.

In some ways it was. I'm very proud of Nik. It's a good play. But, really, it has very little to do with me.

Promotional image from Nuclear Jam

Friday, 18 July 2014

We're Melting!

Yes, it is, once again, hot in London. What??? We forgot this happened. Somewhere amidst our whining about long, wet, miserable winter we forgot that we also hate hot weather. Hate. It.

This is primarily because we are so woefully unprepared for it. As I sit melting at my keyboard, various internet weather sites assure me that it is a whopping 31C in London right now. That's about a million degrees Fahrenheit. Fine, so it's only 88F. But it feels much hotter because it's muggy and my best defense against the sun and heat has been to keep my windows closed and shades down all day.

Yes, this does make me feel like I'm wasting what is obviously the nicest day of the year. And yes, I will no doubt hate myself for doing this some dark January day when I haven't seen sunshine in months.

But we don't have air conditioning. No one does. Well, my gym claims it does, but I don't buy it. The women who teach the exercise classes there are amazing. Nothing fazes them. Nothing slows them down. Except the heat today. Even in the basement studio with air conditioning, my Mexican and Kiwi teachers were struggling. Not like we were struggling, of course, but just a little bit.

Regular blog readers will know that London did not cope well with last year's heatwave. From ice cream shortages to spontaneous combustion, the city basically shut down. Here is the first "It's to hot for..." of 2014.

It's too hot for the doors at the gym.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Digital Friendships with Heroes

Just over two years ago, I decided that I needed to get my butt in gear and to tackle this beast called Twitter. It was a bit of a rough start but I seem to have rallied and am doing alright in the Twitter-sphere. I know words like "Twitter-sphere" and "tweeps"; I know to say "I tweet", not "I twitter"; and I know a RT from a #FF. I even started a hashtag project. Granted, it had minimal success, but I learned a lot. Generally, I would say that I am entirely proficient at Twitter.

I've stopped keeping track of my followers, which has done wonders for my digital self-esteem. But I still worry about what to tweet. In fact, I worry more now than I ever have before. And for this, I blame Amy Tan. Yes, Amy Tan of The Joy Luck Club fame.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Sad News for Canada Day London

This time last year, I was texting the taller half at work to surprise him with the news that we were going to see one of his favourite bands play live in Trafalgar Square. We joined the hoards of maple leaf-wearing, Molson-swilling, poutine-scarfing Canadians in the centre of London for a evening of good, Canadian music from The Tragically Hip, who were the soundtrack of my Canadian university days. We made friends with the people all around us (because Canadians are awesome, friendly and don't avoid eye contact like Londoners), saw someone from my husband's hometown and had a brilliant night. Unfortunately, there will be no reprise this year.

Last year, we thought it was sad that the Spar on Haymarket had stopped serving Tim Hortons coffee and donuts so there was no Timmy's at the celebration, but this year...oh, this year, there is no celebration at all. Canada Day International who ran the annual event regretfully announced that, due to the loss of key corporate sponsors, there would be no Canada Day in Trafalgar Square this year. You can read their full statement here, but the gist is that it's sad, but there's nothing they can do...and it doesn't look good for next year either. They don't even mention another event until Canada's sesquicentennial in 2017 (that's the 150th anniversary). Insert gutted face here.

Screen shot from www.canadadayinternational.com

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Playing with Plagiarism and Intertextuality

In January of 2013, poet Christian Ward made major news in the UK poetry world when his poem, 'The Deer at Exmoor' won the Hope Bourne poetry prize. It was rather quickly discovered that his poem bore an uncanny resemblance to Helen Mort's poem 'The Deer'. When pushed, he made the extraordinary claim that he realised he was wrong but only because he had not changed Mort's work enough. In a statement published in the Western Morning News, Ward wrote: "I was working on a poem about my childhood experiences in Exmoor and was careless. I used Helen Mort’s poem as a model for my own but rushed and ended up submitting a draft that wasn’t entirely my own work. I had no intention of deliberately plagiarising her work. That is the truth."

This seems to me, an extraordinary claim: that there is, somewhere, a line that exists where, once crossed, one has changed the work of another sufficiently to claim that it is not one's own, original work.

Monday, 23 June 2014

HCE Players Rock Dublin's Bloomsday 2014

Well I am one proud blogger. The Here Comes Everybody Players were amazing at Bloomsday 2014! So, today, I give you a retrospective in pictures (and one video clip) of the wildly successful weekend!

On Saturday, HCE Players kicked off their celebrations with Finnegan's Wake at Darc Space Gallery. Then, the performers were asked to do an impromptu performance for a Joycean pub crawl and were such a hit on Duke Street that they were asked to reprise on Sunday.

Cast & musicians outside The Bailey on Duke St.
The crowds on North Great George's Street on Sunday for 15 scenes from each of the Dubliners stories (woe be unto those who call the book 'The Dubliners') were enormous and the volunteer audience players were outstanding. Spectators came from around the world including Australia, North America and across Europe (and those are just the ones this blogger talked to) to laugh and enjoy both Joyce's work and the beautiful weather.
HCE Players & some of the audience participants on North Great George's Street
On Monday, it was a standing room only crowd at the James Joyce Centre as the group tackled Ulysses with their trademark humour and talent.

Donal addresses the standing room only crowd at the James Joyce Centre

All in all, a rousing success - let's hope they can reprise next year!

Click through for more photos...

Friday, 13 June 2014

Why Wicked Matters

My dad tells a story of one day, when I was about six or seven. He heard the television playing in the living room, despite the house rule forbidding television during the day. He came in to tell  me to turn it off, but paused when he saw me sitting on the floor crying my eyes out as I read the subtitles of an opera. He asked me what was wrong. I didn't look away from the television as I said through sobs, "It's so sad. He really loves her, but she didn't know it and now she's dead."

Moral of the story? I was an early reader. No, kidding, that's not it. You see, there are twin passions in my family. The first is stories, spoken, read, told, written, in any form we can get. The second is music; My mom sings, my dad is a talented percussionist (see him perform live in Dublin this weekend!) and my brother can basically play any instrument he's ever picked up (irritating, I know). None of us is a musical prodigy, or anything, but we can pass ourselves. So when I was six and crying in front of an opera, it was just the confluence of these two passions.

I'm still a sucker for a story told by music. I wail arias and belt out the songs of my teenage years from Rent when I'm alone in the house (poor neighbours) or driving a car. It will come as no surprise that I love living in London, so close to the West End and all the musicals. The taller half and I regularly go to the theatre and we love both straight and musical productions. Some of these, I review on this site, you can read my reviews here, but some I have just enjoyed for me.

One of these is Wicked. It's a glitzy, big budget, power musical now in its eighth year in the West End. It's the kind of musical that attracts fans at the stage door in green face paint and a queue for day-of discount tickets every day of the week, regardless of weather. In short, it's a guilty pleasure.

But I've decided that I no longer accept that guilt. I really enjoy Wicked. I've seen it three times and I'd go to see it again. It's funny, it has catchy songs and incredible costuming, but I think there's something more to it.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

SouthWestFest 2014 - Free Creative Writing Workshops! Stories of SW1 Writing Competitiong

I'm delighted to announce that I will be working with SouthWestFest this year for a series of FREE creative writing workshops and a creative writing competition as part of the Stories of SW1 Exhibition.

The two-hour workshops will run on the evenings of 24 June, 01 and 08 July 2014 from 5:45-7:45pm at the Pimlico branch of Westminster Libraries. These are low-pressure, supportive, fun workshops designed for writers of all levels. You don't need any previous experience and there will be exercises to help you get started with putting pen to paper.

Space is limited so book now by emailing: info@southwestfest.org.uk.

Participants will have the opportunity to submit for the Stories of SW1 creative writing competition, which has a £50 prize. Work will be displayed as part of the Stories of SW1 Exhibition and we hope to do a live reading at the end of festival bash!

Competition Rules:
Deadline for creative writing submission is midnight Sunday 06 July 2014
Email to: art@southwestfest.org.uk with the subject line 'Writing Entry - your name'
Writing must be sent in the body of the email - attachments will not be opened
Flash fiction must be no more than 500 words
Poetry must be 20 lines or fewer
Submission fee is £5 (for this fee you can submit up to 2 pieces) - There's only a fee to help to support all the free events in the festival (like writing workshops!)
You must include proof of payment with your submission
Paypal details are at southwestfest.org.uk/donate

SouthWestFest is a fantastic celebration of South West London, its history and the people who live, work and study in the area. The official dates are the 27th of June through the 14th of July, but there are some events on even earlier (like the first writing workshop!). Events include a comedy night, photography workshops, a parade, a comedy night and more. There is something for everyone and for all ages, so check out the SouthWestFest website or the flyers available throughout SW1. We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Another Win for Ireland

You all know I love to plug Irish literature and so today is a particularly exciting day. Eimear McBride has won the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction for her novel, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing.

McBride is a true product of Irish history and immigration. She was born in Liverpool to Northern Irish parents, but spent much of her childhood on the west coast of Ireland. She now lives in the UK.

A note to the aspiring writers, to my students and to myself on my down days: It took Eimear years to get someone to publish this. Years. As in, a decade. Hang in there and keep racking up the rejections.

So, chalk another award up for Ireland and Irish immigrants. Again, I say, for a little country we sure can churn out an impressive number of impressive artists. Must be something in the rain.

Congratulations, Eimear!

Friday, 30 May 2014

Bloomsday Festival 2014

As my regular readers will know, I love a plug for the Irish literary arts scene. For a small country, we sure produce a huge amount of fantastic art! One of our most famous exports is, of course, the inimitable James Joyce. Whether you are a devoted fan of this master of language and pusher of every boundary he could find or one of those who retreated, bleary-eyed after just the first few pages of Ulysses. Or perhaps one of his tomes is on your to-read list. Wherever you fall on the Joycean spectrum, there is a fantastic event happening in Dublin in just two weeks.

Every 16th of June, Joyce enthusiasts celebrate Bloomsday, named for the hero of Ulysses, Leopold Bloom. This year, the weekend of activities in Dublin is the 14-16th of June.

2013 Festivities - Photo credit: Mark Simpson
The Here Comes Everybody Players will be putting on three live performances over the two days that will (re)introduce audiences to selections from The Dubliners, Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake. Based in Boston, USA, the troupe is a combination of performers, scholars and musicians who merge acting, traditional music, audience participation and a love of Joyce to create interactive performances in situ. These talented performers include my dad - a fab bodhrán player! Insert proud daughter grin here. Their visit is sponsored by The James Joyce Centre Dublin and Fáilte Ireland.

Some of the performances are free, though a few do require booking, so get planning! This is just a small portion of what's happening that weekend in Dublin. It's a perfect time to visit!

This is a fantastic way to be introduced to Joyce's Dublin through his own words.

Find more about the Here Comes Everybody Players on their Bloomsday 2014 website.

Find more about all the Bloomsday 2014 festivities here.

Friday, 23 May 2014

In the Heights Rocks Southwark

A West End worthy production about immigrants? Minorities? With parts of song and dialogue in a language other than English? Sounds unlikely, but that's just what In the Heights is. It's a energetic explosion of dance, colour and young talent.

And that talent is considerable. Sam MacKay, as Usnavi, guides us through the stories of this Washington Heights corner neighbourhood with his broadway style rapping - if there is such a thing. It's more a broadway-washed Eminem than Daddy Yankee reggaeton, but it's entirely enjoyable and pitched perfectly at the musicals audience. Damian Buhagiar as Sonny, however, stole the show for me. It's hard to believe that In the Heights is his professional debut because there isn't even a hint that he might be nervous. He is perfect in his portrayal of a young man finding his voice, finding his place in the world and finding out how to survive. Plus, he's has endless energy and dance moves that manage to stand out in a production full of stand-out dancers.

Photo credit: Robert Workman

Sunday, 11 May 2014

A Thought on Mother's Day

On this Mother's Day I thought I would devote a reading-y post to my mom.

Mom and I are very different in some ways - she would hate to have to write creatively for a living and organisation is second nature to her - but we share one very important thing. One thing for which I owe her an eternal, capital lettered THANK YOU:

We share a love, nay, a passion for reading and this is truly one of the greatest gifts I've ever received.

I read in the neighbourhood of 40-60 novels, plays and collections of poetry and short stories every year. And that doesn't include the stories that I listen to on The New Yorker Fiction Podcast or the poems from the Poetry Foundation's Poem of the Day podcast or the work that I read in literary magazines, online and from my students and colleagues. That adds up to hundreds of new world, ideas, images, plays on and with language and hours of joy.

Now I spend my days reading and writing and teaching writing. I cannot think of a better job than the one that I have. I am beyond lucky and I think that much of this is due to the passion that my mother instilled in me from the very beginning.

Growing up, I always received books as gifts from my parents. Christmas, birthdays, Easter - my parents gave me the gift of fiction. It was only recently that I realised that not everyone gets a book from the Easter Bunny. When I was eight, the Easter Bunny brought me an illustrated, hard cover abridged version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It was, to say the least, amazing. And so I did what every eight-year-old does when they get an awesome gift: I brought it to school. Now parents often warn kids not to bring things that they really love into school and I'm sure my parents warned me, but I can't remember that part. What I do remember is when Tommy H. (not his real name) stole it. That's right, stole it.

My intro to the great Mark Twain. Imagine this with a bit of bunny fur in the bottom left corner.

Friday, 21 March 2014

What's the Value of a Creative Writing Degree?

On the first day of my MFA in creative writing, I entered my first workshop and looked at my colleagues, the people who would critique my work and make me a better writer. Our tutor had us go around the table and introduce ourselves. 

Hello, I’m Sinéad. My favorite book is Dracula, my favorite fiction author is Margaret Atwood and my favorite creative nonfiction writer is Bill Bryson.  I write memoir and I've been blogging for ten years. I’m interested in writing a humorous literary travel memoir.

Hello, I’m M---- and I don’t read. I don’t really write either.

WHAT? What the hell are you doing here? This guy is never going to be any help to me. Cue eye-rolling, not-so-suppressed sighing and general outrage from me. I could not fathom what this man was doing in a postgraduate writing course and I took it as a personal affront that he did not have the dedication that I did.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Let's Celebrate the Real Ireland

Last night, the taller half and I went to see the new musical, The Commitments, which is based on the novel of the same name by Irish author, Roddy Doyle, although perhaps better known from the 1991 film adaptation. After waiting at the bus stop for twenty minutes and watching the clock tick ever closer to show time, we gave up faith and hailed a cab. Our lovely Limerick driver laughed at us worrying about missing the show when we clearly had loads of time. An Irish driver for an Irish writer on the way to an Irish show the day before St. Patrick's Day. Surely, we'd be fine.

Then we sat in traffic on the Mall for ten minutes and we didn't laugh so much. Turns out, Trafalgar Square was in total gridlock as St. Patrick's Day celebrations finished up. We bailed on the cab and ended up walking the last ten minutes to the Palace Theatre. And what a walk. I wish I could say it made me proud to be Irish.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Man Inside is a Big Musical on a Small Stage

From the moment the first notes left Dave Willetts' mouth, I knew I was in for an enjoyable evening. The new musical, The Man Inside, with music by Tony Rees and book and lyrics by Rees and Gary Young is a take on the classic novella The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Limited space, sets and costumes in no way dampen the energy of this production. Even a cheesy, child-friendly lab and under-developed characters can't take too much from the talent that is clearly on show and the catchy, musical numbers. It's easy to imagine that this is on it's way to being larger production with ensemble, but, before it gets there, the ideas need more time and space to breath in this densely packed show.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Ushers Transfers to the Charing Cross Theatre

It's a pleasure to announce that Ushers: The Front of House Musical that I reviewed back in December is now playing at the 265-seat Charing Cross Theatre until 19 April 2014. Many of the same actors are still in it, including the fabulous Liam Ross-Mills. Tickets are just £15 and can be purchased online.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Mistress Cycle Forgot the Story and the Feminism

The Landor Theatre in South London is a lovely little black box theatre with the rare distinction of comfortable seating. It's currently hosting the new American musical, The Mistress Cycle, with book and lyrics by Beth Blatt and music by Jenny Giering, until the 9th of March as part of the Page to Stage series. The set is lovely, the actors talented and the music enjoyable and it starts on a promising note with correlations drawn between the current situation of 30-year-old photographer, Tess (Caroline Deverill), and mistresses from throughout history.

Unfortunately, after the opening laughs, things go downhill. Or rather, they fail to move anywhere at all. On entering, we were told the show was 117 minutes, which it, thankfully, was not. It was more like 90 minutes and it takes 30 of those before the audience even finds out what the story is. Fully one third of the musical is devoted to introducing the 'mistresses' of history all of whom are more interesting and have more interesting stories than the main character, Tess. She has to decide whether or not to become a married man's mistress, but really there's no reason for her to do so, other than he's asked her. She doesn't know him, she doesn't need him to survive, she's just hasn't had a lot of luck with dating. It is no fault of Deverill, but her character just wanders through the other women's stories like a wet dishrag.

Full cast - Photo credit Charlotte Hopkins

Monday, 13 January 2014

Keepsake Has All the Drama but No Drive

I wanted to love Keepsake, a new offering by award-winning playwright Gregory Beam, and I almost did. Keepsake is almost a hard hitting, darkly funny look at the issues confronting modern, American families. Sisters Abra and Samara are back in their childhood home to bury their father and, through their conversations and a series of well-timed and well-presented flashbacks, we learn the secrets that plague this family and how they play out in the sisters' adult lives. Beam's script keeps us focused on the home and the nuances of family life while Katie Bellman's kitchen is a perfect left-over-from-the-80s, New England kitchen complete with light oak cabinetry and a giant, American style fridge. Unfortunately, the set is the strongest element of this production, even though Dilek Rose, as Abra, and Lou Broadbent, Samara, do their best to wade through the script which goes from dull and uninteresting in the first act to wildly dramatic and unbelievable in the second.

Lou Broadbent as Samara and Dilek Rose as Abra