Girl From Nowhere: A Review

En route to tonight’s performance of Girl from Nowhere – a one woman play written and performed by the hugely talented (and sickeningly young) Victoria Rigby at Theatre 503 in Battersea, I was disappointed to read a less than positive review about the play. Fortunately, however, it was the review and not the play that was absolute rubbish.

Victoria Rigby’s performance as Jeanie Hogan, a failed rock star in the late 60s in America – who narrates the play from her childhood bedroom against a backdrop of her mother shouting at her – was gritty and engaging. From the moment the flame-haired actress (literally) screamed her way onto the stage she held the audience rapt with her powerful stage presence. Her acting was both believable and emotive, her singing voice and guitar skills faultless. When the play drew to a close I found myself wishing it was the end of the first half rather than the whole performance.

What struck me most (and I mean this in an entirely non-patronising way-at 32 I’m hardly on the scrap heap myself!) was how ageless Rigby’s performance was. She played the part of Jeanie with a rawness that both belied and transcended her real age.

In short, Girl From Nowhere was so impressive, punchy and brave a performance I felt moved to write this review and, in doing so, attempt to discredit the review I read earlier – which, whilst not wholly negative was still, in my opinion, an unfair portrayal of a talented lady whose star must surely be in its ascendance. It’s hard enough to make it in this business as it is, so it’s only right to give credit where it’s undeniably due.

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The Dilemma of the Half-Enjoyed Book

My Kindle is telling me I’m 79% through reading my latest book, May We Be Forgiven, by A.M.Holmes. In truth, it feels like I’ve been reading it for months rather than the couple of weeks it has actually been. Why have I persevered if I’m not devouring in the way I know I would be if I really enjoyed it? For the following five reasons:

1. Guilt – Nobody likes a quitter, least of all me, so how can I abandon a book just because it doesn’t quite so perfectly suit my tastes as the one that came before it (and, er, the one before that)? It’s not fair on the book! Or the writer! Right?
2. Worry – That perhaps this book is more intelligent than my feeble mind is able to cope with (it did, after all, win a women’s fiction prize in 2013, so it must be good, right?). It is, therefore, imperative that I press on and broaden my mind! I cannot be defeated by a piece of literature that will, forever more, mock me from the dark recesses of my mind…
3. Hope – What if this story has so much more to give? If I give up now I might miss out on the best bit! A cunning twist, perhaps? (I do love a cunning twist).
4. Indifference – If I hated this book, as in really hated it for some such reason as I found the subject matter offensive, or a main character unbearable, it would be far easier to give up on it. But whilst I can’t say the story or any of the characters particularly move me, nor do they disgust or appall me. I don’t hate reading this book, I just don’t particularly look forward to it either.
5. Loyalty – I did devour her 2006 book, This Book Will Save Your Life, and so I fairly reasoned I’d enjoy this one too. At what stage do I accept she might just be a one-hit wonder where my reading taste’s concerned?

In short, it’s a dilemma of the first order. May you be forgiven, A.M.Holmes? At this stage I’m afraid the jury’s still out.

May-We-Be-Forgiven

I have to admit that today is the first day I’ve been perilously close to forgetting to post something on this blog since I started it almost eight months ago. Whilst one could argue that it’s pretty impressive I’ve managed to post something every single day for almost eight months, it could also be argued that the fact I nearly forgot is indicative of a somewhat stressed out state of mind. And that’s hardly surprising given that in three days’ time I will be moving house in London in the morning and attending a wedding in Cambridge in the evening.

Providing everything runs like clockwork – by which I mean the man with the van and our friend arrive promptly at 9am, all of the furniture easily clears the corners of the three flights of stairs it needs carrying up, nothing breaks and I remember to pack my overnight bag for the wedding before packing all of my belongings into nondescript brown boxes (which will no doubt loiter in the living room for days like a pop up shanty town) – things will be great, but there’s limited margin for error.

On another note entirely today I had my three month review at work. Fortunately my boss has seen fit to keep me on for a while longer, which means the bills in the new pad will at least be paid on time and I won’t have to sell my body on the mean streets of Stockwell to put food on the table. She was keen to point out, however, that there was some room for improvement, so I shan’t be resting on my laurels just yet. She did take me out for a nice lunch on the river afterwards though, so I must be doing something right.

Roll on Saturday, roll on the house move, roll on some time to collapse on the new sofa and R-E-S-T, because I tell you what; I’m already pooped, and it’s only Wednesday.

Bar Review: Barrio East

Last night I had my work leaving drinks at Barrio East on Shoreditch High Street. Having never been there before I wasn’t sure what to expect of my reserved area, ‘The Caravan,’ but it was everything I’d dreamed of and more.

What strikes you as you walk in the door of this South American-inspired bar is the brightly coloured lego-esque furniture in the front room. And from there onwards things keep getting quirkier, with splashes of colour just about everywhere you look. The friendly bartenders serve up an array of delicious cocktails (Top tip: Get there between 4pm and 8pm for bargain price cocktails and £5 discount on wine) as the music gets you in a dancing mood.

There are three different rooms or areas at Barrio East, each with its own distinctive style. But the one I liked best (and had, by happy coincidence, reserved for my gathering) was The Caravan. Located directly beside the dance floor, it is exactly what it says on the tin: A caravan. In a bar. Amazing. Seating up to 15 people (allegedly – though I’d say 13 tops if you want to be comfortable rather than elbowing each other in the face) it’s comfortable, wonderfully kitsch and also has the added bonus of feeling like an elevated throne from where you can look down at the drunken antics on the dance floor below with a self-satisfied smile.

An hour or so after we arrived, when we were happily ensconced in our self-styled ‘caravan of love,’ with bottles of wine and plate of nachos a plenty, the band arrived. It’s always a bit nerve wracking when a band turns up on a night out; it has the potential to either make or break the evening. But fortunately in our case it made the evening. Freddie and the Freeloaders (great name!) were just the ticket, and soon had us dancing away to their soulful tunes.

Weird as it sounds even the toilets deserve a mention in this place; when you walk in you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported to Brighton seafront at the height of summer, with rows of painted beach huts (the toilet cubicles).

In short, this place is great – a little gem that’s a big break from the norm. If you like your bars to be crazy, quirky and kitsch then this is the place for you. Once you’ve tried it no local boozer will ever seem the same again. You have been warned…

A caravan. In a bar. AMAZING.

Confession

I’ve been a busy bee setting things in motion for my impending part-time freelance career, and already the fear is being outweighed three to one by excitement. Today I had my first freelance proposal accepted – admittedly it’s only for a book review that will earn me the paltry sum of thirteen Great British pounds, but nonetheless it’s a step in the right direction. I’ve also set up a meeting with a PR agency contact on my first ‘official’ day as a freelance in April. So it’s full steam ahead with all writing-related plans and I couldn’t be feeling more positive.

Now, as it’s been a while since I posted any fiction I thought today was the day to redress the balance. This post was inspired by the current situation in Rome…

Confession

It was raining hard when Ellie arrived at the church, yet she was barely aware of being soaked to the skin. She pushed open the ancient metal-studded wooden door and, after a moment’s hesitation, pushed aside the heavy damask drapes and stepped into the darkness within.

Ever since she was a little girl she’d found being inside churches comforting. They had, she thought, a womb-like quality, providing an invisible yet protective barrier between those inside and the real world outside. Whenever she’d had problems in her life she had come here, to this very church; to pray, to repent, to seek forgiveness. Not that she’d ever been given a choice.

Today the church was silent but for the distant flapping of avian wings in the eaves. Motes of dust floated in the musty air. Ellie tread softly across the faded flagstone flooring, worn down from thousands of worshippers’ feet that had trodden this path before her own. She kept her eyes down as she passed row upon row of mahogany pews, each cradling hymn books and orders of service for that evening’s mass.

She approached the altar, too ashamed to look heavenward and meet the non-judgemental eyes of Jesus. Her knees sank into the crocheted cushion, her elbows settled on the hard wood railing. She bowed her head still further, clasped her hands together and closed her eyes, offering her thoughts to a higher being.

No priest was privy to her confession; it was witnessed only by the God she had served for all of her eighteen years. Once finished she allowed herself the briefest of glances towards her Saviour, who was but a silhouette against the wall of multi-coloured light that now streamed through the window behind.

As she rose from her knees she briefly wondered what the Pope would say about her predicament, what advice he would give from his seat in the Vatican. Would he offer her forgiveness? Would anyone?

Feeling suddenly claustrophobic, she turned and walked back down the aisle, her pace quickening with each step. She passed the parapet, pausing for a moment to remember sermons of days and years past. At the font she hesitated again before dipping her finger in the cold water and hurriedly making the sign of the cross. Then, with a final nod to Jesus, she walked to the door, pulled the damask drapes aside and stepped out into the light.

The heavy door shuddered to a close behind her with a bang that made her jump. She turned and traced the warping of the wood lightly with her finger, then laid her palm flat against its surface. A single tear escaped her eye and trailed across her cheek.

Today, she knew, there would be no forgiveness.

This would be her last confession.

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I took this photo on Charles Bridge in snowy Prague a few weeks ago.

Hot Tub Cinema – a review

The fact it’s 5pm and I can only just bring myself to write about Hot Tub Cinema last night is surely testament to how much fun was had (hint: Too much fun for a Tuesday night). What made the whole experience even more surreal was the fact the venue was located in a warehouse just a stone’s throw from my office. At 6.25pm I left work and by 6.27pm I was standing by a giant glittery Oscar statue being registered by a woman in an animal onesie.

Once inside it got even more surreal, with all the staff dressed as animals (bar one man in a tutu and wig) and most of the guests in some form of elaborate fancy dress. I’d felt embarrassed turning up with just a pair of flippers and a float as my contribution, but as it turned out they went down a treat (however, fishing a flipper out of a dirty, tepid hot tub at the end of the night was a definite low point).

Now, moving on to the facilities…There was a licensed bar serving a variety of alcoholic beverages – which you could purchase with pre-bought tokens stored in a handy wallet around your wrist – as well as traditional cinema snacks like popcorn and hot dogs. Much to our relief there was also ‘table’ service during the film, meaning you didn’t have to get out of the hot water and traipse – tipsy and sodden – over to the bar.

The only downside was the size of the hot tubs. Billed as being big enough to fit eight (though to be fair to the organisers they did say six would be more comfortable), I can only assume they were talking about eight toddlers. With six of us in it the water levels were treacherously high, and by the time eight had clambered in…well, let’s just say it was a good job we all knew one another, and that nobody was claustrophobic. Fortunately the lovely organisers allowed us to spill over into the adjacent free tub shortly after the film commenced, which made for a much more enjoyable viewing experience.

Much as I love Ferris Bueller’s Day Off it was somewhat hard to concentrate on the film given the novelty of the surroundings. At certain points in the film the staff encouraged everyone to stand up and dance around in their tubs; cue much hilarity and more than a bit of hot-tub-hopping.

With the film finished and the music cranked up to ear-splitting levels the event descended into full-scale, drink-fuelled chaos, with people leaping from one tub to the next with wild abandon. When I turned around and found myself face-to-crotch with a tub of naked men I knew it was time to take my leave and stumble back out into the real world.

To conclude with the words of Ferris Bueller himself: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I urge you, dear reader, not to miss out on Hot Tub Cinema. It’s ridiculous, but it’s an experience you won’t forget.

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My friends won’t thank me for putting this on the world wide web, but hey, all in the name of research…