Review: National Theatre’s Jane Eyre.

Review: National Theatre’s Jane Eyre.

I am fascinated by productions that can say so much by doing so little. The talent, the mind power, that goes into creating something so effortlessly poignant without the aid of gimmicks. It’s a rare and brilliant feat and one that consistently takes hold of my attention long after the curtain has fallen.

National Theatre’s adaptation of Jane Eyre at The Mayflower Theatre was a glowing example of that. Set on a sparse stage with a series of wooden platforms and ladders with floating white drapery as a backdrop, Michael Vale’s design was simple and adaptable. It threw all focus directly on the performance whilst still capturing a sense of childhood innocence and the passing of time as the cast darted, twisted and ran between pillars and ledges. It didn’t want for any more.

NT Jane Eyre Tour 2017 ensemble. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg (15).JPG

This simplicity wove its magic throughout the rest of the play. Performed by an ensemble of 10 (three of which were musicians),  the cast seamlessly switched between characters with an ease that made each transition unnoticeable. It played homage to their skill: every single person on stage embodied their characters flawlessly. Costume changes were carried out softly (almost eerily) in plain light meaning that for every step of the way, we as the audience were a part of the story. This clever technique pulled you in and left you feeling like you were sat right there, embedded in the script, with them.

Tim Delap (Rochester) Nadia Clifford (Jane Eyre) NT Jane Eyre Tour 2017. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg (2).JPG

The story itself was a superb balance of contemporary interpretation and staying true to the classic. Under Sally Cookson’s direction, both Bronte lovers and newbies to the tale would connect with the production just the same. I found myself almost bursting with my inner geek during the classic monologues (“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” – goosebumps!) whilst totally enthralled by the modern twists. A stand out had to be the role of Bertha, played by the exquisite understudy Dami Olukoya. Dressed in a regal red gown (the only burst of colour in an otherwise subdued selection of costumes), she had an ongoing presence in the shadows of the set. Her haunting singing voice echoed around the theatre between key scenes, a chilling reminder of her constant hiding in the darkest corners of Thornfield. Dami’s rendition of “Crazy” in the closing scenes had the whole audience on the edge of their seats… you could have heard a pin drop.

Melanie Marshall (Bertha Mason) NT Jane Eyre Tour 2017. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg.JPG

(Melanie Marshall playing Bertha)

But Dami was by no means the only stand out performance. In fact, every single person on that stage was a stand out. From the oddly endearing and mysterious Tim Delap playing Rochester to understudy Francesca Tomlinson taking on the roles of Adele and Helen Burns (amongst others) with poise and sophistication, everyone turned the script into something alive and truly intoxicating.

NT Jane Eyre Tour 2017 ensemble. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg (7).JPG

Of course, Nadia Clifford was a complete dream as Jane. Her transformation from a confused, lost and yet head strong little girl to a brilliant and spirited woman taking the reins on her life had me thinking “dear lord I want to be like her!” She embodied a powerful, feminist lead and commanded the stage. A fierce talent and one to watch.

Nadia Clifford (Jane Eyre) NT Jane Eyre Tour 2017. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg (4).JPG

Music, humour and intelligent prop use were interspersed throughout, further strengthening the unique appeal of this gorgeous production. I was captivated, from start to finish.

Nadia Clifford (Jane Eyre) NT Jane Eyre Tour 2017. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg (14).JPG

You can’t really go wrong with National Theatre. Their quirky and charming approach to performance art never fails to bring something fresh to the table. Followers of literature and the theatre alike will fall in love with this extraordinary tale, told in a timeless and unique way.

Jane Eyre is showing at The Mayflower Theatre until Saturday 13 May. You can grab your tickets here.

Photos by Brinkhoff Mögenburg

5 Netflix Documentaries To Change The Way You Think About Food.

5 Netflix Documentaries To Change The Way You Think About Food.

Since officially turning vegetarian at the beginning of 2017 (I say officially because I spent most of my Australia and South East Asia travels vegetarian before consciously cutting down my meat intake on my return to the UK) I’ve been continuously trying to educate myself on the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. Not so much to convince myself it’s the “right” thing to do, but more so to widen my awareness of the bigger picture. Because being vegetarian goes far beyond the want to “not eat animals”.

More recently I’ve been looking more into taking that step into vegan life. I suppose this conscious effort to expand my knowledge on the impacts of a meat based diet has quickly been drip fed facts on animal-based produce in general. There’s so much I didn’t realise before opening myself up to this information. So much that has drastically changed the way I look at the food I’m putting into my body.

And I will never be one of those people that preach for everyone to turn vegetarian. I will never judge anyone for eating meat and I will never intentionally make anyone feel uncomfortable for doing so.

We are all individuals. We all have our own needs and wants in life.

What I do want to do, and what I hope to do through posts on this blog, is to encourage others to simply take the time to explore other options. Even if it simply pushes your awareness… knowledge is power, after all.

Luckily Netflix features a whole host of documentaries to help you do this. The site has reams of environmental and food-based full length documentary films, and I’ve rounded up my top 4 (plus an BBC IPlayer must see – soz for the misleading title) that cover most bases and provide an insightful and inspiring insight into the world of veggie-life.

1. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

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ph cr: Cowspiracy

I couldn’t do a list and not start with Cowspiracy. This documentary totally blew me away… although that won’t come as a surprise due to its key focus on the environmental impact of animal agriculture.

Its glaring message comes down to how animal agriculture is one of the most destructive industries facing the planet. The documentary describes why it is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and virtually every other environmental ill.

It also, perhaps most surprisingly, brings attention to the international refusal amongst environmental groups worldwide to address this.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom. The documentary also rounds off with an alternative: a path to global sustainability for a growing population.

2. Vegucated

vegucated-documentary

ph cr: Plant based recipes

Vegucated follows three meat and cheese loving New Yorkers as they embark on a 6 week challenge to go totally vegan.

Compared to other vegan documentaries, it’s pretty lighthearted. Although it does give a disturbing insight into the food industry (with some pretty uncomfortable scenes) it mostly focuses on the trio’s journey as they realise that, actually, vegan life isn’t all that crazy.

They’re taken to farms (both organic and factory) and educated on the reality of animal-based food production and why it’s paramount to really think about where your food is coming from.

I’d recommend this one for those wondering how difficult a vegan transition is on lifestyle: the film shows snippets of the three as they take to family occasions, holidays and meals out. It’s these situations that concern me personally when I think of turning 100% vegan. This documentary reduced those concerns, a little at least.

A good introduction to vegan living with a strong, uplifting message attached.

3. Food inc.

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ph cr: PBS

Food inc gets down and dirty with exactly what is in our food and how little we really know about the potentially life threatening things we’re unintentionally putting into our bodies. Yes the documentary draws in on the inhumane treatment of factory farmed animals, but its focal point is the dangers of GMOs and the environmental implications of mass meat production.

It educates on the role animal-based food has on obesity, cancer and diabetes and unveils some pretty shocking facts on e-coli. Basically? It’s the whole, gritty picture.

4. Fork Over Knives.

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ph cr: The Vegan Road

Fork Over Knives is all over the health angle on meat consumption. It argues how most, if not all, degenerative diseases can be controlled (or even reversed) by cutting out animal-based and processed foods.

Like Food inc, it pulls together evidence on diabetes and heart disease presenting the case that a whole food, plant based diet could be the primary approach to treat many of the serious ailments associated with them. It follows a range of individuals with such illnesses (as well as someone packed to the brink with drug prescriptions) and tracks their health improvements as they move to a carefully controlled diet away from these food types.

It’s packed full of research and stats with nutritional scientists and pioneering researches pleading their findings and beliefs. A heavy going documentary, this is a great one for anyone looking to fully dig beneath the surface.

5. Carnage

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ph cr: BBC

Needless to say, all the above are pretty exhausting if taken in at the same time. I mean, educating yourself is crucial. And I adore it. But you can find yourself a tad deflated by the end knowing we may never find ourselves in a time when everyone is on the same page. You almost find yourself feeling defeated.

So why not end on a high? And okay, this isn’t a Netflix jobby but you can catch it on BBC IPlayer. Created by comedy hero Simon Amstell, Carnage is a mockumentary around a utopian future where society has all gone the big V.

Despite being laugh out loud funny (my favourite bit had to be the AA style meeting where everyone had to call out a cheese they had eaten in their youth whilst fighting breakdowns), the underlying message is seriously inspiring and shows a glimmer of hope for the future (albeit, the far far future…).

For something more lighthearted, this is the number 1.

Would you add any to the list? Let me know in the comments below!

Review: Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes.

Review: Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes.

In the wake of yesterday’s devastation in London, a night of pure escapism has never felt more necessary. Escapism for me comes in many forms; it could be an evening curled under the covers with a book, a walk out in nature, a few hours spent with pen and paper…

Or it could be a trip to the theatre.

I’ve missed it. My theatre fix. Since returning to the UK and, more notably, Southampton I’ve felt that side of me shift away into the expectations of 9 – 5 life. I haven’t made time for it, despite a beautiful theatre being right on my doorstep.

But when I heard Matthew Bourne was coming back to town, there really was no need to convince me.

The Red Shoes - Ashley Shaw as Victoria Page.jpg

Because Bourne is a master of his craft. Easily one of the best choreographers in the country, if not the world, his intelligent understanding of movement and the stage never fails to create something truly magical.

Unsurprisingly, The Red Shoes was no exception.

THE RED SHOES. Ashley Shaw 'Victoria Page'. Photo by Johan Persson.jpg

From the word go, the audience was captivated. You could hear a pin drop during the opening scene as Victoria Page, the girl with dreams of being the Prima Ballerina, takes to the stage with a lightness that seems to defy gravity. You simply could not take your eyes from her.

THE RED SHOES. Ashley Shaw 'Victoria Page' and Sam Archer 'Boris Lermontov'. Photo by Johan Persson.jpg

As the show developed, Bourne fans were once again reminded of precisely what it is that makes him such a pioneering figure in the dance world. He takes a classic story and turns it on its head… he makes it feel as if he wrote it in the first place. The way he drips contemporary influences, humour, darkness and sheer class to his productions turn them into a fresh tale in their own right.

His portrayal of The Red Shoes was intelligent and, despite being set in the Golden-Age, fiercely relevant. The time old fairytale of a girl’s quest to become the greatest dancer in the world before being driven to insanity from her own ambition had hints of Black Swan about it, whilst still remaining true to the story. It was bursting with possession, obsession and seduction… basically, all the sexy stuff.

THE RED SHOES. Sam Archer 'Boris Lermontov' and The Company. Photo by Johan Persson.jpg

And whilst Ashley Shaw, who played Victoria, was the one commanding your attention, the whole ensemble was flawless. But would you expect anything different from New Adventures? From her partner leads right through to the group performers, every single person was nothing short of perfection. The ease with which they floated across the stage, the precision of their movements and the effortlessness of their lifts… it was beautiful to witness and a joy to feel a part of.

THE RED SHOES. Liam Mower 'Ivan Boleslawsky'. Photo by Johan Persson.jpg

As the performance crossed from first to second half, the drastic twist in atmosphere continued to leave the audience gripped. With a dance piece, that isn’t easy. To hold the attention, to leave you begging for more, throughout that whole 2 hours requires a level of professionalism and experience we of course anticipate from powerhouses such as Bourne. Regardless, it made my love for the production even stronger.

The score was intoxicating, with new and familiar music alike bouncing throughout the theatre at the hands of a pitch perfect orchestra. That partnered up with a stunning set and clever lighting brought the whole performance full package. It was transformative, in every sense of the word.

THE RED SHOES. Ashley Shaw 'Victoria Page' and Dominic North 'Julian Craster'. Photo by Johan Persson.jpg

As The Red Shoes drew to an end, the audience erupted. Everyone from young children right through to 70 + were blown away: you could feel it. The awe, that feeling of inspiration… it was palpable.

Living away from the capital I think there’s a tendency to assume we don’t have access to world-class productions. We’re also finding ourselves in a society where staying home, particularly on a weekday, is so much easier than venturing out to try something new.

If my reunion with Southampton’s theatrical scene tonight has told me anything, it’s that we need to step away from that. We need to embrace what we have in our city with both hands and make the most of the sterling performances that grace the stage every day.

So if you’re looking for an evening of old school glamour laced with comedy, poise and the bittersweet… this is for you. But hurry. Tickets are nearly sold out and you’ve only got until Saturday. Grab your tickets here and find out more about the production on the New Adventures website.

THE RED SHOES. Ashley Shaw 'Victoria Page'. Photo by Johan Persson (3).jpg

All photo credits: Johan Persson

Review: Before the Flood.

Review: Before the Flood.

“Clean air, water and a liveable climate are inalienable human rights. And solving this crisis is not a question of politics it is a question of our own survival.”

LEONARDO DICAPRIO

U.N. Messenger of Peace for the Climate

I’d been meaning to watch it since it came out in October. Wanted to. Needed to. But something stopped me. Some niggle, deep below the surface pushing me away from it. Keeping me still, ever so slightly, in the shadows.

And now, after watching it, I know why.

I was scared.

I was scared of reality.

Because Before the Flood is exactly that. Reality. Global reality.

I pride myself on being all too aware of the critical implications of climate change on our environment. I’ve seen them firsthand diving into the grey coral of the Great Barrier Reef that once glowed in a kaleidoscope of colour. I’ve studied it during my degree. I’ve always had a deep interest in it.

The tears I wept when Trump became President (amongst SO many things) were fiercely rooted in his stance on climate change (or the “myth” of it as he foolishly promotes). The implications of his influence on public opinion and international development left me defeated and, in all honesty, despairing of the future of our planet.

Yet despite all of this I avoided the National Geographic film. Because I knew it would be a raw and frankly harrowing portrait of the damage we are all doing, each and every day.

Now I’ve seen it? I couldn’t be gladder.

I mean, yes it was raw. Yes it was harrowing. And yes, I cried A LOT.

But it was needed. It was an urgent reminder that whilst there is extreme change needed to repair the damage… it is achievable. It can be done.

And as a documentary, Before the Flood is flawless. With unparalleled direction from Academy Award winning film maker Fisher Stevens and camera work that needs to be seen to be believed, it really is a piece of film that you simply cannot take your eyes away from.

Following Leonardo DiCaprio as he travels across five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change first hand, the documentary takes you on expeditions with scientists working to reveal the reality of climate change, meetings with political leaders fighting inaction as well as the terrifying truth behind calculated disinformation campaigns led by some of the world’s most powerful figures to confuse the public about the urgency of the growing climate crisis.

It’s both frightening and inspiring in equal parts. The frank glimpse into the work being done to deny climate change is simply unbearable to accept. And yet the consistent campaigning and research to counteract that…

It’s hope. It’s something to cling on to.

Before the Flood is perfectly positioned regardless of your knowledge on climate change. And that is why I recommend it wholeheartedly.

If, like me, you need a reminder that change is possible and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel: watch it.

If you think that one person can’t make a difference:watch it.

If you’ve been pulled into the “myth” analogy and need convincing that this issue is real and it is here: watch it.

Educate yourself. Drive yourself to make some simple changes in your life for the future of our world.

*The carbon emissions from Before The Flood were offset through a voluntary carbon tax. Learn how you can offset your own carbon emissions by going to CarboTax.org.

Let’s Talk About Yoga.

Let’s Talk About Yoga.

I’ve always been someone that needs to keep active.

And I know how that makes me sound (somewhere between basic bitch and pretentious preacher). But it’s true.

When I’m committed to any form of exercise – be that competitive dance, long distance running or pole dance – there has always been a direct correlation between the sweat I’m shedding and my state of mind.

Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Yoga.”

Find Your Magic

Find Your Magic

“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

I devoured every word, the electricity spreading right through to my fingertips as I passed from page to page. Every sentence, every thought speaking to me in a way that felt so deeply personal it was as if it had been written for me and me alone.

Because she’s kind of a genius, Liz Gilbert. She says the things we need to hear. Captures it with honesty and vulnerability.

Continue reading “Find Your Magic”