Good theatre warning part 1: Options by Paloma Oakenfold! 1-3 June, Rosemary Branch Theatre, Islington.

Hello folks! The review karma on this blog continues. Here is my heartfelt recommendation for Options – a play about a girl who lost her mother, is about to become a mother, is planning suicide and still manages to be riotously funny.

If you’re into funny, irreverent women, this play is for you. Martha (Emma Richardson) is exactly what the doctor ordered: refreshing, to put it mildly, like an ice bucket challenge. She never meets a thought to shy away from, she takes them all to a logical conclusion and just a bit further. (Favourite quote, when speaking to her unborn child: “You look like a satellite lost in space… crossed with a king prawn!”). There’s crudity and poetry, beauty and ugliness, and she encounters others – her lover across the class divide, her grandmother – but mostly she is looking at and understanding – herself. Believe me though, this is not a therapy play – those leave you yawning, this will make you laugh AND cry.

If that’s not enough recommendation, there is also music – Rebecca de Jouvencel has a voice like a dream, and will have you begging for her soundcloud address by the end of the night (that’s one mistake I made – must get this girl’s contact, she is brilliant!) . Paloma Oakenfold, who wrote and directed the piece, makes this a sharp, nuanced exploration of the topic of motherhood, fate, class divide and poverty. To a trained eye it is obvious the actress had a great director: she moves between scenes with utmost precision; and her comic skills are superb.

So this baby is playing for three nights only: 1st to 3rd of June. Here is the Facebook event – and if you’re London-based, you better come to see my play on the 4th, so your theatre week is planned. 😉

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I’m writing. Trying to write. Writing. Trying to. That thing I’m doing. Yes.

Yes.

So I’m waiting for ice cream van to come by my house writing and most of the time I feel blocked.

The only thing that seems to be working is telling myself: WRITE SHIT.

WRITE SOME MORE SHIT WRITING.

I’m so used to being pretty good right off the bat, that doing an ambitious project leaves me blocked. BECAUSE WHADDOYAKNOW – IT’S HARD. I’m not used to writing being hard. Writing was always… easy.

Now it isn’t. Boo-fucking-hoo.

Back to write some more shit writing. Believe me, by the time it hits the stage, it’ll be gold.

Appetite by Holli Dillon: meaningful, silent performance about love and bulimia

This is a #latereviewduetobusy, but I really want to get the message of it out, so here goes: if you’re in Brighton, you need to see this. If you’re not in Brighton, you need to go there first (by train) and then go see this –> Brighton Fringe, 16-19 May. Here is why:

I don’t know much about clowning, but I know what I like. I like: facepaint (tick), old-school music (omg, so much “tick”), translating hard topics into theatre visuals (tick!) and audience interaction (TIIICK!!!). Based on this show, clowning really does it for me: you have a clearly experienced performer, who will use sounds, but not words; the performance is thoughtful, fairly intricate, but still carries an air of spontaneity due to having improvised elements within.

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Appetite (formerly known as Appetite for Destruction) was devised by Holli Dillon and Alexander Parsonage and produced by Holli Dillon and Finger In The Pie. It chronicles Holli’s journey through bulimia in way that is simultaneously funny and touching. We laugh at her stuffing her face and spitting it into a bucket with metallic noise, laugh so hard that we may cry (possibly have cried, I admit nothing!). Her body movement is expressive; her face, eloquent; her eyebrows deserve a poem on their own. The improvised bits I mention are firmly wedged into the overall structure of the piece, and tempered by music: one of the high points came when I saw her play the audience AND hit the beats in the melody, creating a narrative that mirrored the song. This, right there, was a sign of great performance for me. (Plus, she gave me a marshmallow on a fork, I may be biased.)

The best part of the whole thing is – this was still a scratch (I saw it as part of InHouse Festival). I repeat, THIS WAS STILL A SCRATCH. Which means the level is high indeed. A 30-minute clowning performance which is compelling, immersive, easy to stage (set to tour, apparently, which is unsurprising) and immensely watchable. What more to want? Get your bad self down to Brighton, while Ms Dillon is still easy to see on cheap tickets…

Here is the trailer:

… and if this post was triggering or you need further information on eating disorder, seek help via eating disorder charity Beat, or the NHS.

How Girlfag Came (Out) To Be

So… first things first:

My play (a 20 minute version of it) will be shown during Angelic Tales New Writing Festival – in Royal Theatre Stratford East!

Died and gone to heaven, me. 🙂

Its title (if you’ve not caught it yet) is… Girlfag. Which, very likely, is what I am.

Let’s back up a bit.

Being a girl was this puzzle when I was little. I loved clothes, colours, make up. But I also got asked “do you want to be smart or beautiful?”. And I wanted both, but if I had to choose, I chose smart.

That’s when it started – a conscious rejection of everything “silly” and “girly”. Later, these were the things that I boosted – thirsty for female companionship. Then I turned to feminism. Even later, I rejected all the social norms (as much as I knew how) and tried to embrace queerdom; conversely, it turned out that I lived outside (in opposition to) my body, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

In case you didn’t know: when you don’t know your gender, your orientation, or even your body, sex becomes complicated.

And I found myself mostly attracted – to gay men. Or at least new, non-standard editions of old male product (which remains the case, still).

Writing Girlfag brought it all back. Who am I? Some days I think I long to be a boy in a dress. It feels subversive, and I want subversive. When I put on a dress, I’m a girl in a dress. Not subversive enough. But I do like dresses.

I’m not quite coming out though – I don’t need to. Most of my friends know I’m a little gender-challenged; it can be observed with a naked eye. I rock my short hair and male shirts alongside-form hugging leotards and crazy skirts. I’m coming in. Into my body. Into myself.

Trying to understand. Trying to express. But most of all?

Trying to feel.

I will not be denied all that  there is to me, in me. Not because someone, somewhere, found my wants and needs unacceptable.

And this, as much as anything, is a good fucking reason to write a play…. .

Beach, Please! How Protein World Helped Feminist Revolution

When I saw the yellow-and-grey poster on the Tube, my first thought was: I smell a troll. I didn’t yet know how right I was. Fast forward to now, and we’ve had: backlash right on schedule, backlash to backlash, ad infinitum. We’ve had comments, subvertising, discussions, #PlusSizeWars (reminiscent of #fatkini hashtag first showing up – we can’t have plus sized women in pictures, because UNHEALTHY!); we’ve had juvenile responses from the CEO of the company, who had the best time evah taking over Twitter from “the usual girl” to deal some wisdom (“Why make your insecurities our problem“, if you were wondering, translates to “Why should I take responsibility for my campaign or my words”; that’s company’s CEO, Arjun Seth, discussing eating disorders with Juliette Burton). All of this and more is raging in our public spaces, from Twittersphere to new and improved versions of the posters. Things went real, and real fast, too. Also, there were tapir pictures. Really.

Now, unless you 1) don’t live in London 2) don’t live in the UK and/or 3) live under a rock, you know what I’m talking about. Protein World created a campaign with a conventionally beautiful model, which is not exactly original or worth-remembering. It’s only one of a zillion conventionally beautiful models that I saw on my LUNCHBREAK. But they also added a slogan “Are you beach body ready”, and it seems that as a society, we are tired of getting that particular message shoved down our collective throat. In fact, if I read another article, advocating how I need to diet in advance to be acceptable to look at, I may vomit grey and yellow.

In essence, Protein World are getting a ride from sexism and patriarchy, while staunchly claiming they ran all the way and showing off their #healthylifestyle. They created an ad that is all about looks, but when criticised, they accuse you of fit-shaming. They suggest you should aspire to fitness of Renee Somerfield (the model), but 1) you shouldn’t aspire to anything you don’t want to aspire to (obviously) 2) Renee’s undeniable strength and fitness have been presented in a tiny bikini, making it no different from all other images that are about certain type of physical beauty (and how we must have it, or else the last f**kable day shall come!) 3) making fitness a requirement for the beach isn’t much better than making beach about some subjective beauty ideal. So, you know, leave the beach alone.

The company played their cards strategically, and even though they pretend to be moral champions, talking about “a healthy nation“, they’ve done so to sell; they decided to polarize their audience, not apologising for their attitude and there are voices that their strategy is working. However, what interests me is a huge wave of body positivity that happened in response to this ad.

beach body ready

These are two awesome human beings above who represent a GOOD outcome of this situation. Fiona of Escapologist’s Daughter and Tara of Zusterschap Collective put their bikini bodies where their mouth is and posed in front of the poster. Not only that, they are organising a protest/celebration this Saturday, 3 p.m., Hyde Park. Join me in praying for good weather. In fact, join us in showing the world our bodies, as they are – beach ready. Your body is absolutely welcome.

Isn’t it tiring to see – again and again – ads that make our bodies objects to sell other objects, or limiting concepts of how we should be? I love the fact that I’m attending an honest-to-god protest (and buying my first ever two-piece bikini for the occasion!). With this ad, more brazen than usual, we are taking a stand: you don’t get to define my body for me. Self-love is healthier than body-shaming under the guise of health concern. And I don’t even have to buy a protein shake.

Contact the organisers on Twitter:
@catstello
@EscapologistGl

The image was used with permission of the organisers.

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