Saturday, 1 September 2018

The Hobby of Choice

Words have always been my thing. I learnt to talk at a relatively early stage and, since then, have barely stopped for breath. I am like a magpie for books, hoarding as many as I can and lapping up every page. I love writing and, over time, have developed new ways to engage with it in my own, private way. Language, as a means of communication, really is extraordinary and I can't help but marvel at just how wonderful it is. 

Throughout school, English was most certainly my strongest subject. I am naturally drawn to over-analysing everything, a burden that generally lends itself well to the analyse of literature and the discovery of strange, unusual ideas. I loved the creative writing lessons and was generally very confident in my ability to write to a brief or just compose freely. English was one of few lessons I continued to enjoy through A-levels and, as such, I left full-time education feeling that, when it comes to words, I know my stuff.

Recent times have challenged this notion in unexpected ways. The first two years of my degree were grounded in child psychology and sociology. For my third and final year, I have chosen to study a children's literature module, making it the first time I have dealt with reading in an academic context since leaving college and I am bricking it. 

I have read fourteen books over the past five weeks. Historically, I have been capable of reading more than this in just one week: take me camping and I'll do three a day. It's not that I rush - I am able to give a full and accurate account of what happened in the book, including attention paid to subtle details - I just love reading and am particularly fast at working my way through a novel. This summer, however, those books have felt like a mammoth task. I've found myself taking unbearably long to finish just one book, then groaning at the sight of the other thirteen lurking beneath my bed. I have scoured the internet for literature essays about each text, only to find myself completely bored and disengaged with each one. My flair for seeing the hidden meaning in texts has been reduced to nothing.

Gutting though this is, I find myself completely unsurprised. One of the biggest reasons I hated school was because it sucked the fun out of just about everything I enjoyed in life. I did not want to compose in the style of dead men so much as I wanted to listen to or play their music. In the same way, I did not want to read because I was told to but because it was what I chose.

It is amazing just how far the removal of choice can affect us, turning a hobby into a chore. The famous saying, "do what you love", is right, to a point but it omits the crucial limit of doing things how we love to do them. Although I love reading, the relaxing, other-worldly aspect of it is soon stolen by any degree of pressure of time-sensitivity, such that I just do not enjoy it as much when I am made to do it. 

Words are still, very much my thing but in the right context. What was once a love has become a temporary chore. I guess it falls to me to find my own way over that. 

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Review Day Tuesday - Every Day

Every Day - David Levithan

A is a person like no other, waking up in a different body every day and staying there for just one, 24 hour period. With no fixed gender, age or, even, location, A exists day-by-day, living detached from their surroundings and passing through various lives with preferable indifference.

That is, until A embodies the body of Justin and meets his girlfriend, Rhiannon. Suddenly, A knows what it means to love and desires Rhiannon's love in return. As every day becomes more meaningful, A has to make difficult choices about whose lives are disturbed, all in pursuit of love.

Image sourced from here.

Anyone who knows me well will be aware of my fascination with existence and all kinds of philosophical questions. I enjoy playing with such ideas in my own writing and often pay the most interest in books that explore such themes. As such, this book is directly up my street.

The story itself is almost irrelevant to its success: the concept of an existence outside of the body is interesting enough in its own right, such that the storyline is simply a vehicle for exploring it. Because of this, I did feel that the ending of the book was a little disappointing. With hindsight, I can't think of a single ending that would have been anymore satisfying a read but the fact remains that the current conclusion is a little underwhelming.

Aside from that, Levithan does an expert job of considering and challenging a number of ethical perspectives, raising questions about just what it means to be someone and drawing attention to what is left when we are without a body to define us. Every Day is therefore a novel of interest not only to young adults but to readers everywhere.

Fancy a read? Click here

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Review Day Tuesday - Shrek the Musical

Shrek the Musical - UK Tour

I have, this week, had the pleasure of going to see the musical, based on the much-loved animated classic, at Venue Cymru, Llandudno. Starring Steffan Harri as Shrek and X-factor finalist, Amelia Lily as Princess Fiona, this is a theatre adaptation of the fairy-tale story in which an ogre is sent on a quest to rescue a princess. 

Every fairy tale contains a lesson or two and Shrek is no exception: from learning that donkeys that can be steeds to the realisation that beautiful doesn't have to be pretty, Shrek the Musical shares a love of being weird, wonderful and just a little different.

I'm the kind of person who tends to know just about everything about a show before I go and see it and this was no exception. I bought the tickets as a birthday gift to a friend who adores Shrek and had first researched extensively to be sure that it was not just a glorified pantomime. 

This is, thankfully, not anything of the sort: it is an incredibly well-acted, intelligently delivered show, combining beautiful scores, belting vocals and a wicked sense of humour. 

There were some changes to the score and set-up for the UK tour. Whilst I was not especially keen on the new delivery of 'I know it's today', the dragon's song was particularly spectacular and more than made up for it. 

Special mention must go to Samuel Holmes, playing evil midget Lord Farquaad. His comedic timing was exceptional, his singing powerful and his acting impeccable. For what must be an extremely physically challenging role, he maintained an intense energy throughout. He also demonstrated a rather impressive ability to deviate from the script and respond to a little unsolicited audience participation.

Shrek is a musical fit for all ages: its warm-hearted message combined with its crude humour could fill any theatre with a warmth like no other. My only genuine complaint is that I'm not part of that party a night. 

Fancy a visit? Click here.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Top 3 Films to see this Summer

Watching films is not typically associated with summer. Unfortunately, images of summer evenings, spent watching the sun go down, friends round a barbecue, are more wishful thinking than a reality. And so, when the typical British summer begins to pour from the sky, we find ourselves running to any indoor entertainment we can find, including the cinema. Here's my top 3 picks for cinema trips this summer. 

3. The Festival

Image sourced from here.

Not for anyone who is easily offended - or below a certain age - this is the funniest film to make it to my list. The producers have made no secret of its connections to the inbetweeners, starring one of its lead actors and sharing the immature, crude vibe of the old series. In fact, the opening scene of the film features two inbetweeners actors, with the lead actor appearing to play the same character in both.

The good news is, the strangely familiar set-up is utterly hilarious and, therefore, perfectly okay. It seems somehow acceptable to market what is, essentially, the same film twice if the film is funny enough.

And this is not just funny: in a typically inbetweeners fashion, it is downright crude, outrageous, butt-wrenchingly disgusting and, somehow, brilliant. It is as shocking as it is obvious, as ridiculous as it is accurate and for that, it is well worth a watch. 

2. Mamma Mia 2

Image sourced from here.

On a more universal, and certainly more polite level, is the much awaited sequel to the original hit, Mamma Mia, based on and including the songs of ABBA. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again tells the story of Donna, from the day she leaves university to the day she christens Sophie.

Flitting between Donna's early life and Sophie's present day, the all-star cast tell a tale of love, adventure and heart-break that cuts the heart a little deeper than its predecessor.

My only real criticism of the film is the use of Cher whose role could, frankly, have been played by anyone. Her scenes did feel a little twee and unnecessary.

This was more than made up for by the sheer comedy of the film, with some stonking one-liners that left me with face-ache from all the laughing. 

If you loved the first film, love to laugh or just enjoy a sing-song, this is definitely a film for you.

1. Christopher Robin

Image sourced from here.

Taking it's place at the top of my list is Disney's Christopher Robin, by far my favourite film of the year so far. Based on A.A.Milne's original tales, the film presents Christopher Robin all grown up. Having more or less forgotten about his old friends from the 100 Acre Wood, Christopher is as alarmed as he is delighted to be greeted by none other than Winnie-the-Pooh.

Many have attempted to analyse Winnie-the-Pooh, identifying different traits in each character, interpreting the philosophy behind his famous phrases and determining ulterior motives and messages behind the writing. But all this is really rather unnecessary, for, one of the true pieces of magic behind Winnie-the-Pooh is his ability to make audiences of all ages and degrees of cynicism simply smile. 

My smile did not fade at any point from the second the film started and continued for much of the evening after it. As such, it is well worth a watch.