What Do Your Books Say About You?

This morning, I got to do something I haven’t been able to do in a long time. I woke up on my day off, turned on the light, picked up a book from my bedside table and read. The luxury of simply reading for the love of reading is one I have struggled to find time for since university.

What do your books say about you? (I don’t mean behind you back.) The books currently sat on my bedside table could tell you a lot about me.Bookshelf


The Unknown Unknown, Mark Forsyth

Where did I get it? Received this in the post, adorned with a post-it, which read, “Thought you might enjoy reading this. Granny x” After receiving said delightful little package, I rang my Gran. She said it reminded her of my blog, the way I ramble, tangents veering off.

The tagline reads: “Bookshops and the delight of not getting what you wanted.” Do you know what a good bookshop is? Forsyth does. I haven’t been in a good bookshop since I was in New York and my wonderful aunt took me to a little treasure trove, where I discovered Verlyn Klinkenborg.

While I would happily tell you more about this little beautie, I’m concerned I might ruin the joy of an “unknown unknown.” It took less than an hour to read, and made me laugh out loud several times. Clever and witty without trying to be. Delightful in its purposelessness.

Bookmark: A page torn from my notepad at work. It is the beginnings of a short story I started writing during that last useless hour of a work day. Between half 4 and half 5, when no one really does anything but wait for the day to end. The Twilight Hour.

I have since continued writing the story on the computer at work – typing gives the impression of doing something productive – and I’m hoping to extend this into a collection of short stories. Might post a snippet on here at some point.


Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes

Where did I get it? Waterstones, Oxford.

This is one of the classics that follows you around. One of those epic, brick-like monstronsities that act as an adequate book-end until you work up the courage to dig in. Our friend Forsyth puts it thus in The Unknown Uknown:

“Tolstoy, Stendhal and Cervantes, these men follow me around. They stand in dark corners and eye me disapprovingly from beneath supercilious eyebrows. And all because I’ve never got round to reading their blasted, thousand-page, three-ton, five-generation, state-of-a-nation thingummywhatsits.

I’m taking on this monster. About 6 months in and I’m half way through. The adventures of the deluded knight, Don Quixote and his hapless copanion, Sancho Panza. It makes one giggle in a “Droll, Cervantes, very droll” kind of way. But there’s also the odd Dick Joke, which is nice.

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Cinderella Pantomime Tour – Christmas 2015

A touring pantomime of “Cinderella” around care homes and primary schools. No one could ever say this job was easy.

We played to audiences who were asleep; dementia patients, who heckled vehemently; special needs patients, who grabbed performers mid-song; crying women; cheeky men; bored carers; unhelpful carers; rude carers; delightful carers; enthusiastic carers; over-enthusiastic carers; the most noble people I’ve ever met.

We played to unimpressed pre-teens; precocious 7-year-olds; wannabe drama queens; excited children; shy children; loud children; quiet children; happy teachers; grumpy teachers;  inspiring teachers.

We had some great shows and we had some difficult shows.

Long days, difficult audiences and far too many hours spent in the car with two people I had never met before. This tour had the potential to be absolute hell. But it wasn’t.

My two fellow panto-makers made this tour a joy from start to finish. Our beautiful, honey-voiced Cinderella, Kate Izzard, and my partner in ridiculous panto crime, George Francis, brought this show to life in a way that I couldn’t have expected. No one expects fireworks with this kind of tour. Mediocre is the order of the day. But we put our heart and soul into every show, no matter how strung out we felt. Come rain, shine, or seemingly perpetual darkness, we followed our satnav to destinations unknown, put up our little curtain and jumped in front of it with verve and vigour. We brought joy to hundreds of children and residents.

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The Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Silliness with a Hint of Genius

Edinburgh Fringe flashback for you!

Update on this year’s romping coming soon!

Enjoy the Fringe everyone!

Alphabetty Spaghetty

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival: a month wherein an entire city is transformed into a performer’s playground.  Any and every free space in which an audience can be squeezed, will be squeezed. Magic, performance art, circus acts, dance, music, theatre, comedy… basically, much like Rule 34, if something exists, there will be somewhere to see it in Edinburgh.

Besides being the biggest arts festival in the world, it is also the festival of needless accessories, vibrant hairstyles and one too many piercings. If you’ve ever tried to spot an arts student on a university campus, you’ll know the kind of fashion choices I mean. It’s the kind of fashion choice that screams “I’m quirky, deal with it! And I don’t care that my interesting accessory is by all counts more of a hindrance to everyday life than it is visually appealing!” (NB: I am in no way exempting myself from this…

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Organised Spontaneity…

Organised Spontaneity: The magic of film and theatre. You organise a place and time. You arrive, buy some popcorn, take your seat and wait for something to happen…

It is a sad fact for those who devote their lives to this industry, that the magic is diminished by their very involvement in it. By knowing too much of the process, it becomes difficult to let the magic happen without analysing it.

But then, sometimes, the magic jumps right back in.

*     *     *     *     *

I volunteered to help out on a film set last weekend. For anyone reading this who assumes the words “film set” mean something glamorous and thrilling, let me dispel the illusion: this is rarely the case. Nothing extravagant, no notable names or fancy locations: a small “hipster-ish” bar not far from London Bridge, a small cast and crew, and a few friends helping out, on a cold and windy day in January.

The majority of our time was spent on the small, open roof terrace. With little to protect us from the elements and intrusive noise from the building works close by, it wasn’t the cosiest of settings. It didn’t take long for people to engage in their own personal warm-up routines between takes; what I shall refer to as The Warm-Up Shimmy soon becoming a popular choice among cast and crew alike.

The most anticipated scene to be filmed was the first meeting of two female leads who quickly fall for each other. You might have thought that the casting for these two characters would require some compatibility testing, that they should meet in advance to assure there was a level of natural chemistry before making the final decision to cast the pair. This was not the case.

Until the moment the director said “Action,” neither of these women had seen each other before. Instructed to stand at either end of the set and look at their feet, less than 10 feet from each other, but not allowed to look up.

“Camera rolling”

“Action”

One walks. The other stays still. They collide. They look up. They make eye contact. They smile…

Without rehearsing, without really meaning to, they smile. A perfect moment is created, captured on film and preserved in slow motion.

Organised spontaneity. Making magic.

And, that’s why I love acting.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Silliness with a Hint of Genius

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival: a month wherein an entire city is transformed into a performer’s playground.  Any and every free space in which an audience can be squeezed, will be squeezed. Magic, performance art, circus acts, dance, music, theatre, comedy… basically, much like Rule 34, if something exists, there will be somewhere to see it in Edinburgh.

Besides being the biggest arts festival in the world, it is also the festival of needless accessories, vibrant hairstyles and one too many piercings. If you’ve ever tried to spot an arts student on a university campus, you’ll know the kind of fashion choices I mean. It’s the kind of fashion choice that screams “I’m quirky, deal with it! And I don’t care that my interesting accessory is by all counts more of a hindrance to everyday life than it is visually appealing!” (NB: I am in no way exempting myself from this. I love a good hat.) The Fringe represents the height of individualism, collected and concentrated into a few hundred square miles of incredibly uneven ground. Seriously, there are hills everywhere and, by the end of the Fringe, your calves will be toned to perfection.

However, a word of advice: the Fringe is not a holiday, it is an expedition into virgin territory.

  • More often than not, it’s an uphill struggle.playfair sun(These are the Playfair Steps, but I assure you, they do not.)
  • You’ll experience every weather condition known to man.

playfair snow

  • It has its own cuisine and music.
  • It has its own social rules
  • …and wildlife.edfringe blog 1_2 Don’t expect to get time for yourself at the Ed Fringe either. Do expect complete strangers – I might even say “weirdoes” – to wonder up to you and wave a flyer in your face. Everyone needs to rustle up an audience, and you could be it. You will be flyered.  There is no No-Flyer Zone. Don’t resist it, embrace it. Flyerers embody the spirit of the Fringe as much as the performers. And don’t even try to avoid us, or oppose us, for we are many. The methods with which you will be harassed are multifarious, all of them geared in the hope of persuading you to take a flyer:
  1. The Flirt
    • A classic approach for sales and advertising – sex sells. The flirty flyerer will casually sidle up to you as you walk along, act cool and confident and will wait up to 5 minutes before revealing their true intentions.
  2. Hit them with Happy
    • My personal approach to flyering is most akin to this: attempting to be each individual’s Joy Bringer.  This might involve offering a free hug, a compliment, a little song and dance and generally making a fool of yourself as long as it brings a smile to someone’s face.  Some even offer free sweets to seal the deal.
  3. The Pretentious Poser
    • Take an acoustic guitar, a flamboyant costume and strike an excessively sincere pose – a flyer in one hand, your wrinkled brow in the other. This method seemed to gain popularity in the early days of the Fringe, I speculate because it is an approach that appeals to the pretentious, the posy and the lazy (three prominent characteristics of the arts community).
  4. The Nutter (ultimate confidence required)
    • For those who don’t give a flyering fringe… Definitely trying too hard with that pun.
  5. Lost the Will to Leaflet
    • Already been stood out on the Royal Mile every day for over a week, trying to palm off the same bloody pile of flyers that doesn’t seem to get any smaller?  Then this is the method for you. Be lack-lustre, dull, uninspiring and don’t you dare think about picking up a thesaurus.
  6. The Onomatopoeic Opener
    • This is my personal favourite, and a method that successfully captured my attention. Simply present your flyer and, as you do so, make a whimsical yet intriguing noise.  Silliness with a hint of genius – which should be the tagline for the festival.

Talking of taglines:

“Unboring. That’s the word you’ll find splashed over the front cover of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe programme … It’s not actually a word at all, of course. You’ll find it in the Urban Dictionary – ‘a word used by people with no vocabulary’ … Unboring is unsightly, ungrammatical and uninspiring; utterly unworthy of the Edinburgh Fringe.” (Matt Trueman, The Stage, June 26th 2014)

Unboring? No. Exhilarating, yes. Exhausting, yes. Exaggerated? Certainly not.

You should go.

Ps.  Go see my production – A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Two Tired! Shakespeare plus Scooby Doors equals an hour of hilarity you won’t want to miss!

Get tickets by clicking HERE!

Or here… https://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/event/483169-a-midsummer-nights-dream-two-tired/

…. Once a flyerer, always a flyerer.