Thursday, 28 April 2016

Why You Should Vote in the Local Elections

If you’ve picked up a paper or watched the news or just spent some time on social media you’ll be very aware that this year is an election year. 

Whilst much of the coverage has focused on either the US Primaries, the London mayoral election or the EU referendum; May 5th is the day of local elections across the country. Here’s a few reasons why voting on the 5th is a good idea:

Councils are more than bins & potholes
I promise! Councils look after a lot more than you might expect; this includes care services for the elderly, services that people struggling with addiction, sexual health services, how where you live approaches environmental issues, libraries…the list goes on. If you have any opinions about any of those things, you should vote on May 5th

Councils are going to get more power
The government is really keen on devolution, or giving local areas the chance to design their own solutions to problems. This means it’s super important that you get your voice heard so that your local council looks the way you want it to.

Local elections are used to measure how well the government is doing
Local elections are generally used as a yard stick to see how well people think the government and opposition parties are doing in terms of selling their policies to the general public. Therefore if you have a message that you want to send the main political parties, this is a great way to do it.

Councillors are a lot more hands-on than MPs
Generally speaking, local councillors have a lot more contact with their constituents than MPs as they don’t have to spend lots of time in London. This means it’s a lot easier to raise issues with them, and your answers will be tailored to your local area, as opposed to national policies.

Voting is just important 
Every election cycle there is normally some high-profile person that feels the need to bang the drum about how the entire political system is flawed and that people just shouldn’t vote (looking at you Russell Brand). But by not voting you send a signal to your politicians that you don’t care and therefore they shouldn’t attempt to design policy with you in mind. By turning up to vote, even if you spoil your ballot, you're showing that you are here and care and want your voice to be heard.

I was totally supposed to publish this post before the registration deadline (#deadlaptopproblems) so hopefully you're all registered, if not you can still register for the EU referendum here. You can check your local council's website to find out about local councillors in your area. 

Monday, 25 April 2016

Thoughts On: Breakfast at Tiffany's

Breakfast at Tiffany's is one of my all-time favourite films. It's just one of those films that is just such a relaxing, easy, aesthetically-pleasing watch and obviously iconically stars Audery Hepburn; who is one of my absolute favourites. So getting tickets to see the play adaptation starring Pixie Lott for Christmas had me fairly excited.

Richard Greenberg's adaptation follows more from the Truman Capote novella rather than the film, meaning that the ending and certain other plot points vary quite dramatically from the much-loved film. For those who have no idea what the story is, the play follows Fred (Matt Barber), an aspiring writer who moves to New York and ends up residing in the same apartment block as the mysterious and charming Holly Golightly (Pixie Lott) and becomes entirely enraptured with her life.

Holly is at once charming and manipulative, funny and cruel and Lott handles all aspects of her character wonderfully; especially considering this is her stage acting debut. You also get to hear snippets of her lovely singing voice, although the songs included in the play are kept pretty short.

I didn't love how heavily Greenberg learned on narration as a device (it really slowed the pace down) but Barber's ability to monologue was pretty amazing. There were also scene stealing appearances from Naomi Cranston as Holly's frenemy Mag and Bob the Cat (seriously adorable). Nikolai Foster's direction also requires a lot of doubling by the ensemble, and there was a particularly impressive turn by Tim Frances as Holly's rich intended Rusty Trawler and an Editor that Fred desperately wants to impress.

It's a really just nice, light night out at the theatre and Matthew Wright's costume designs are lovely too. Just, like the film, it's nothing especially ground-breaking.

Breakfast at Tiffany's is on tour across the country starring Pixie Lott, Emily Atack or Georgia May Foote until November; and on in London starring Lott from June. Details here.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Clicklist #16

Some more things that I've read recently that I enjoy. Perhaps save these until the weekend if, like me, you're looking at a forecast of SNOW on Saturday.

From the Blogosphere

Rose's Nutella Martinis. Nutella. Martinis.

Amy's style is constantly en pointe, here's her week in outfits from her holiday in the Maldives which is definitely on my list of places to visit. Also I'd like summer to hurry up and get here.

How to start your post-grad life when you already feel behind. This is the article I wish I'd had when I first graduated.

Smitten Kitchen's Eggs in Purgatory.

Around the Internet
"To engender empathy and create a world using only words is the closet thing we have to magic"
Lin-Manuel Miranda's By the Book profile is wonderful. My version is a lot less eloquent.

The Panama Papers is one of the biggest international news stories of the week and is totally fascinating. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists coverage is really interactive and a very interesting insight into the lives of the crazy rich and powerful.

Women Slipping Out of Embraces in Western Art History

I found this response to Amy Schumer calling out Glamour magazine for calling her plus-sized an interesting perspective.

An eating disorder recovery cookbook 

This really cool long-read on Uggs, and how they refuse to die (My Ugg slippers are the best things I've ever owned. They're hot water bottles for your feet <3)

Tavi Gevinson and my boyf Ben Whishaw are co-starring in the Broadway production of The Crucible, and you can hear Tavi interview Ben here.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

On My Mind: The Grand Budapest Hotel

I know I'm so behind the times but The Grand Budapest Hotel is now on UK Netflix and I watched and fell in love.

The visually fun scenes and costumes.

The slightly bonkers story.

I just sat there for the film's entire running time with a massive smile on my face and wondering why it took me quite so long to get on board with Wes Anderson.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Top 5: More Podcasts To Listen To

I've done a podcast recommendation post before, but I listen to so many, and their popularity just seems to keep increasing; so I figured it was a good time to chat about some more of my favourites.

If you're female and on the internet you've probably already heard of CYG; but if you haven't its essentially a chat between best friends Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow. They chat about everything from the Kardashians and US politics to periods; and are pretty amazing career ladies in their own right (Ann's newsletter is really worth subscribing too here). They also interview awesome ladies like Tavi Gevinson, Melinda Gates and Hillary Clinton's campaign head Huma Abedin. 

The New Statesman is one of my favourite places for political journalism; it tends to be left-leaning but covers both national and international issues with opinion pieces across the political spectrum. The podcast is led by Helen Lewis, Stephen Bush and George Eaton, and they discuss current goings-on in UK politics and beyond. It's a really great way of staying updated with current affairs and getting a bit of interesting analysis on them too.

Also produced by The New Statesman, this is a show fronted by Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz that focuses on all things pop culture. From television shows to music and books, Caroline and Anna just discuss current popular items and the things that they enjoy without any kind of guilt. 

Another Round is a Buzzfeed-produced podcast presented by Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu. They discuss a range of issues around race (which is really insightful for someone who has not experienced any kind of race stereotypes), and also interview a range of really interesting people including Hamilton composer, star & the internet's current crush Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Bahraini human rights campaigner Maryam Al-Khawaja and current Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. Despite the depth of the issues covered, this is also laugh out loud funny.

This is a new podcast, but I'm including it because it just makes me so happy. I love The West Wing for all its flaws; it's such an engaging and smart show and I wish that politics was half as optimistic as the way its portrayed by Sorkin. This new podcast is basically a commentary on each episode of the show and is presented by journalist/megafan Hrishikesh Hirway and Joshua Malina, who starred on the show. I just love an excuse to revisit my love for this show; and I'm just hoping that UK Netflix will start streaming it again soon.

Apologies for the formatting nightmare on this post, who knows what Blogger is up to at the minute!

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The New York Times By the Book Tag

This tag has been circulating on the BookTube having been started by Marie Berg and the questions were just pretty interesting, and I hunted down the New York Times columns which were really interesting so I figured I'd share my answers here.

1) What book is on your nightstand right now?
At the minute, I have Why Nations Fail by James Robinson & Daron Acemoglu which I’m currently on pause in my reading as whilst the contents are really interesting, the writing is a tad unengaging and I'm finding that I need to be reading something engaging after work. Then there's Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth which is kind of a retelling of the Rapunzel story, so far it's okay; still mostly scene setting. Then I've also got a couple of magazines, Glamour as its one of the only 'women's magazine's' that I can read without feeling rubbish and then The New Statesman.
2) What was the last truly great book that you read?
‘Great’ is such a massive word! I would say that the last ‘five star’ book I read was So You’ve Been Publically Shamed by Jon Ronson which I thought was just brilliant, and prior to that was probably Animal Farm by George Orwell which is such a skilled satire. Or maybe even Quiet by Susan Cain which was so important in terms of helping me feel good about my personality but is maybe not the best-written book? Who knows-all three are definitely worth a read!

3) If you could meet any author, dead or alive, who would it be? And what would you want to know?
Argh I don’t know, I tend to avoid meeting authors because I literally don’t know what I would say to them. I’d love to just get all the biting gossip on the Bloomsbury set from Virginia Woolf or talk to Daphne du Maurier about Cornwall or even just meet Harper Lee to find out what was going on about the Go Set a Watchman drama.

4) What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
Whilst this might not be such a surprise now, I have a lot of musical theatre related books floating around. Including both of Stephen Sondheim’s lyric collections/memoirs and a Broadway yearbook. It’s a real love.

5) How do you organise your personal library?
I don’t! Sorry internet.

6) What book have you always meant to read but haven't? Anything you feel embarrassed to have never read?
There are a lot of books languishing on my TBR shelf, some of which I’ve literally had for about five years which I’m definitely embarrassed not to have read them.

7) Disappointing, overrated & just not good: what book did you feel like you were supposed to like but didn't? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
I’d say the last book I was really disappointed not to like was probably The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, because I so wanted to like it. Aside from Why Nations Fail, the last book I gave up on was Nobody Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July, which was just a little too quirky for me.

8) What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?
I read all sorts of things, anything that just has an interesting premise really sucks me in. I do like multiple narratives and a sprawling time period. And stories with a bit of a gothic vibe.

9) If you could require the president/prime minister to read one book, what would it be? I don’t feel like I’ve read enough important, message books that I feel like political leaders could really learn from, but perhaps We Should All Be Feminists by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie because I am tired of male politicians just not getting it at all.
10) What do you plan to read next?
I think Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is up next, he’s a favourite author of mine so I’m excited.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Top 5: Musicals I Missed

I recently discovered that on the Spotify app you can get yourself a one week free trial of Premium, without having to input any card details, which is the best kind of free trial. Whilst I have been using some of it to catch up on the ~current chart trends~, during the Hamilton hype I realised that I've gotten woefully behind the times on an art form that I normally was very on-top of.
Here's a selection of cast recordings that I recommend you check out; they're all on Spotify or iTunes.

Evita (2012 Broadway Revival)

Music & Lyrics:
Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice
Starring: Elena Roger, Ricky Martin, Michael Cerveris, Max von Essen & Rachel Potter
Evita is one of my favourite musicals, so really this is a bit of a cheat entry. I've loved the show for ages, since watching the Madonna/Antonio Banderas film version. It's the story of Eva Peron, who rose from being a nobody to being the wife of Juan Peron, who was the 'President' (in as much as you can be in a pretty authoritarian regime) of Argentina, and who died relatively young (not a spoiler as the show opens with her funeral).
This cast recording does have a special place in my heart as Elena Roger starred in the stage version of the show which I saw for my 13th birthday back in 2006. This is a really full recording of the show, and whilst Roger's vocals are maybe an acquired taste (she's actually Argentinian which does add an air of authenticity); Lloyd Webber & Rice are both on such great form in this show with really great Latin-inflected songs and some incredibly biting lyrics. Michael Cerveris is really good as Peron (especially in Dice are Rolling) and Ricky Martin (yes, that Ricky Martin) is actually surprisingly good too.
Must Listen Tracks: THE WHOLE SCORE (and then watch the Madonna/Antonio Banderas/Jonathan Pryce film and join me in hoping for a revival because it's been TEN YEARS GUYS PLEASE). "Oh What a Circus" for scene setting, "The Money Kept Rolling Out (And In)"/"The Art of the Possible" for the political angle, "You Must Love Me" for just being a really beautiful song

Hands on a Hardbody (2013 Broadway Production)

Music & Lyrics: 
Trey Anastasio & Amanda Green
Starring: Hunter Foster, Dale Soules, William Youmans, Jacob Ming-Trent, Keith Carradine, Mary Gordan Murray, Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone, Jim Newman, Allison Case, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Keala Settle, David Larsen, Scott Wakefield, Connie Ray & Jon Rua
Hands on a Hardbody was a pretty definitive flop when it opened on Broadway, running for just 28 performances. However, Anastasio & Green's country-infused score is really good, so I'm not entirely sure why this couldn't find an audience. It's based on a documentary that tells the real story of poor people in Texas who compete to win a truck by literally having to stand outside with their hand on it, and the last person standing wins. It's definitely one of those way too strange to be made-up premises!
All the cast get their own moments to really shine vocally, and it's just something a little different (also for Hamilton fans, Jon Rua aka Charles Lee pops up here).
Must Listen Tracks: "My Problem Right There", "Stronger", "Joy of the Lord"

American Psycho (Original London Production)

Music & Lyrics: Duncan Sheik
Starring: Matt Smith, Susannah Fielding, Jonathan Bailey, Ben Aldridge, Cassandra Compton, Hugh Skinner, Katie Brayben, Charlie Anson & Eugene McCoy
Yes, American Psycho-The Musical. Starring a former Doctor Who. I was definitely sceptical going into this album but was surprised by how much I actually liked it. It's score is very much based in the electronica pop from the 80s, and even features covers of In the Air Tonight and Don't You Want Me. It really hammers home the shallowness of the world that Patrick Bateman and his contemporaries live in. Matt Smith can really sing, and his spoken passages in this just sound so completely devoid of emotion it's definitely a little unsettling; as are some of the lyrics towards the end of the show as Bateman really descends into serial killer madness.
Must Listen Tracks: 'You are What You Wear', 'Not a Common Man', 'This is Not an Exit'

Pippin (2014 Broadway Revival)

Music & Lyrics:
Stephen Schwartz
Starring: Matthew James Scott, Patina Miller, Terrence Mann, Charlotte d'Amboise, Rachel Bay Jones & Andrea Martin
Despite loving Wicked and Schwartz's work for Disney, weirdly I'd never really decided to look at his other musical works. I'm not entirely sure what Pippin is actually about-I'm presuming there's a lot more going on off the record-but the songs are great. From the traditional 'I Want' songs (Matthew James Scott really knocking 'Corner of the Sky Out'), to a fab patter-song delivered by Terrence Mann and an ensemble that sounds incredible throughout. In a role traditionally played by a man, Patina Miller sounds great all the way through too. This was a production that was really lauded for its staging so it's great when this can transfer to a recording too.
This is probably more traditional musical sounding than the previous two shows but it's definitely still worth a listen.
Must Listen Tracks: "Corner of the Sky", "Simple Joys", "I Guess I'll Miss the Man"

Fun Home (2015 Broadway Production)

Music & Lyrics:
Lisa Kron & Jeanine Tesori
Starring: Beth Malone, Michael Cerveris, Judy Kuhn, Emily Skeggs, Sydney Lucas, Oscar Williams, Zell Morrow, Roberta Colindrez & Joel Perez
If Hamilton is this year's successful musical about an unlikely topic, Fun Home was last year's. Based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel which explores her own coming out against the backdrop of her father's suicide and discovering that he too was gay.
Kron and Tesori were the first female duo to win a Tony Award for Best Score, and emotional heart of this story just punches all the way through the score; if that's emotional highs ('Ring of Keys' or 'Changing My Major) or lows (Judy Kuhn's heartbreaking 'Days and Days' and Michael Cerveris' [again-he's just really good] 'Edges of the World'). It's really worth a listen, and its message of self-acceptance is just really important.
Must Listen Tracks: "Ring of Keys", "Changing My Major", "Telephone Wire"

I'm definitely just scratching the surface of my musical theatre nerdery here, so there is definitely going to be more posts in this vein soon!