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.