The Comedy About A Bank Robbery (Sunday Matinee) @ Criterion Theatre, 17/7/16

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Image via HotelDirect

Once again, I have completely and utterly failed at updating at least semi-regularly. I want to be better. So badly. But alas, working two jobs means that free time is rare, and also that when I do have free time I am exhausted and have a bunch of other stuff to do. The only time off I’ve had recently was a few weeks ago when the American was here and even then we were super busy all week. More on that another time, though.

One of the many things we did while he was here was go and see The Comedy About A Bank Robbery at the Criterion Theatre at Piccadilly Circus. With one us being a poor student and the other a poor graduate, we were looking for something entertaining and affordable and the ‘affordable’ qualifier generally means most West End theatre productions were far out of our reach this time around. We booked our tickets on YPlan and it cost us £22 each for pretty decent seats in the stalls. So not a bad start. On the YPlan app, The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is described as:

One giant diamond. Eight incompetent crooks. And a security guard asleep on the job. What could possibly go right? Penned by and starring the Mischief Theatre Company, this is another hilarious stage show from the group behind The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong. With the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy already under their belts, this is certain to be another surefire hit. It’d be criminal to miss it. 
It’s worth noting neither of us have seen the Mischief Theatre Company’s other productions, but we were still very excited – especially the American, who really, really loves anything about an elaborate heist.
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The Criterion Theatre at Piccadilly Circus
Right from the moment we walked into the Criterion Theatre (which is absolutely stunning, btw), the attention to detail was apparent. The audio playing in the background was stylised as a 1950s radio station, which fit right in with the period it is set in (and during the interval, it even referred to the events of the first half). And right from the moment the play began, we were crying with laughter.
Bank Robbery uses puns, wordplay, physical comedy and pure genius throughout, and the entire production bursts with colour from start to finish, with dynamic scene transitions, often featuring incredible cover songs from various members of the cast. A highlight was for me was a scene where many of the actors were literally hanging on the wall in order to show a birds-eye view of the room. and the fourth-wall breaking that came along with that.
There were some truly heartbreaking scenes towards the end, however. With multiple shootouts at the end, the change of tone is drastic but believable and heart-wrenching and I loved every minute of it.
Ultimately, I went into this play not sure what to expect. I came out delighted and wanting to see more. With so much negativity in the world, we need more of Bank Robbery‘s and Mischief’s outrageous, bright and inventive brand of theatre. We need more comedy that is both simple and inventive, and this is exactly that. I’d go again in a heartbeat.

Brexit and the responses to the EU Referendum result

On Thursday, the United Kingdom had one simple question to answer: Should the UK remain a member of the European Union? And by 7am on Friday, the decision was announced: The UK had decided to leave the EU, with 51.9% of the vote. On the road to this decision, both campaigns have been confusing and spreading misinformation, and both not without their faults. However, one side had more evidence from independent and reputable sources to say that the other would be a bad idea and spoiler alert: it is not the one that won.

I’m not here to talk about the ups and downs of the campaign trails though. Rather, the public’s response once the results had been announced on Friday morning.

As you would expect, many Remain voters were angry and upset to wake up to such a result, especially voters under 25, who may now feel like the last shreds of a prosperous future has been pulled from under their feet. After six years of a Conservative government which have proved time and time again they do not care for this generation (which I am a part of), whether its the abolition of EMA, the trebling of tuition fees, the cuts to housing benefits for people under 25, or the introduction of a higher “living” minimum wage which they have been excluded from, this generation that are finishing their education and are exploring the big wide world alone for the very first time have been the ones constantly suffering throughout this government.

In terms of the EU referendum, this  initially seems irrelevant – after all, MPs from both sides of the Commons fought on each side of the referendum. But when you consider the vast majority of people under-25 voted to remain, my generation’s anger and resentment is understandable. Depending on your source, 64%-75% of young people voted to remain, whereas 56%-60% of those over 60 chose to leave. Many feel like their parents and grandparents – who are frankly not going to live long enough to feel the effects of their vote – have chosen a bleak future for them that they did not want. They are angry and they want everyone to know it.

 

However, much like anything any millennial does ever,  this was not without criticism. Many have opposed this outcry, calling it whinging and undemocratic. Many more, including a lot of millennials, have taken to the likes of Facebook to denounce the unhappiness of their peers (if I have to see anything along the lines of “everyone thinks they’re a politician around voting time” again I will scream), as if referendums and elections don’t greatly affect people’s lives. Many declare this backlash as aggressive and undemocratic, as if the campaign to Leave was a bus of honesty  it wasn’t) and as if a woman wasn’t literally killed in the name of British Nationalism during the campaign.

To me, what seems wholly undemocratic is a campaign tarnished on both sides by falsifications and the spreading of misinformation; that an entire generation’s opinion being mocked and ignored because of their alleged immaturity, as if that very generation hadn’t been researching both sides and trying to find whatever legitimate information they can; potentially getting a new Prime Minister and entirely new government that we may not get the chance to vote for; some parts of the UK such as Northern Ireland, Scotland and Gibraltar facing crisis as they too are dragged into leaving the EU against their will, for better or worse; older generations claiming they are voting out “for their children and grandchildren” when those very kids and grandkids are telling you that is the exact opposite of what they want or need; people being silenced because the vote is over and everyone should just “get over” this massive issue.

52% is a very slim margin to win by, especially with a turnout of around 70% – meaning the mandate to leave is around 36% of eligible voters. After last year’s General Election there was a lot of upset as our current Conservative government received a similar percentage. Much of the same people who were upset about that twelve months ago are the same people who listened to Michael Gove’s call to ignore the experts, who believed a Leave campaign funded and fought by many in favour of NHS privatisation would spend that imaginary £350 million a week on the NHS, who claim any rebuttal favouring a stay in the EU is a lie, even when its backed up – even when the value of our currency dropped overnight and our economy went from 5th to 6th largest in the world! But even as the Pandora’s Box of Brexit has opened, none of this has been questioned at all.

The beauty of living in a democratic society is that we are free to air our opinions and concerns, and are free to do so whatever the current political climate, without our government censoring us. While you may not personally agree with public political rants, to write them off as aggressive and unreasonable is just disingenuous. Many are even more scared of what their future holds than they were on Wednesday, and as the damage of Vote Leave’s deceitful and often factually-incorrect campaign becomes clearer, its not hard to see why. A 52% majority is barely a confident and decisive result, and a 48% minority is only just that, with a large enough voice to (hopefully) bring about some sort of positive social change, even as we leave the EU.

What this referendum has done has shown the many ways our country has fractured, and has allowed the politics of hate, fear and distrust to win. My only hope is we can rise above it, but I am not optimistic.

Reflections on University

Jeeeez. It’s been a while. The whole of May and now half of June has passed, and while I started a whole bunch of stuff here, it never really got finished. University took over my whole life for most of May, and then I was at home for the bank holiday weekend, and then I started a new summer job this month too. So now I’ve gone from university, an internship, a part-time waitressing job and very little free time to a part-time summer office job, a part-time waitressing job at a restaurant which is currently understaffed and only slightly more free time. But still not much. And most of that free time I’ve had has been spent either playing The Sims or watching Jane the Virgin. Writing has been kind of difficult – but I think I’m over the worst of it, now I’ve not had to write anything.

In between both jobs and The Sims and Jane, I’ve been thinking about my time at university – in particular, was it worth it? Did I make the right choice? How has it impacted my life? What’s changed in the last three years? When I first started thinking about it,  my knee-jerk reaction was a resounding “no.” Honestly? I don’t feel much smarter than I did at eighteen. I’m in a lot more debt, I’ve no real guarantee of a permanent job, I don’t feel any more skilled in my field than I did before and I didn’t feel I’d made all the meaningful bonds people talk about when they talk about their university experiences. Sure, I had friends, but films and television portray unversity as the time where you make so many friends who stay with you for life and, particularly in my second year, I didn’t feel like my experiences matched up to that.

I won’t lie, I was stuck in this mindset for a good few days after finishing the year. It wasn’t until after I’d been home and talked to my mother about finishing university that my mindset changed. My mum had mentioned to me that I’d never have got to spend four months in New York without going to university, which got me thinking: what else have I done that I couldn’t/wouldn’t have done without university?

Obviously, NYC is the one that stands out. But I made so many good friends on that trip, on both sides of the Atlantic, that will (hopefully) be friends for life. I first met my boyfriend when I was out there. I would have never been on a flight alone, much less a long-haul flight. I wouldn’t have had that experience of living in a different country, and everything else that comes with it, and I am grateful to my university for allowing me that experience.

Similarly, university allowed me to get out of my small, seaside hometown and live in the big city by myself. Being able to experience London and all of its offerings as a resident rather than a tourist has been life-changing, and I am forever grateful for that too. Its not common that a single person gets to live in both London and New York before they’re 21, and I’m lucky to be such a person. Big city living aside though, even mundane things like paying rent and bills was a new experience that I wouldn’t have got if I’d stayed living with my parents.

University and distance allowed me to see fully what a piece of shit my emotionally abusive and manipulative ex-boyfriend is. While ultimately I wasn’t the one to cut off contact in the end (something I’m still somewhat salty about), at the point in which all ties were cut, I was looking for any reason. In the aftermath of that, university and the indepence it has afforded me has allowed me to regain some self-esteem and confidence, and a certainty to not let any man treat me so badly again. Such awful treatment for so long as of course left its scars, but without the guilt, both self-imposed as a result of the ruined friendships, and from him for never being good enough, I find it easier to reconcile now than I think I would have in any other position. My only regret is I didn’t have a chance to do this all sooner.

And, yes, even though at first I didn’t think so, I learned a lot during the last three years, both academically and non-academically. I made two short films during my time at uni – a documentary and a comedy-drama. I successfully wrote about gender in action films and the Lego movie as a dystopian film. I researched and pitched a Black Widow film, and very well too! I’ve wrote scripts and worked in content marketing and as a result of studying, having an internship and working part-time all at once, I’m able to compartmentalise and my time management is better (professionally, at least). Even now, my summer job and my trip to Amsterdam in September is all a result of my time at university.

Everything I thought I hadn’t got out of my university experience, I definitely did get and beyond. Mia in 2013 would never have expected to achieve half of what Mia in 2016 has. To be anything other than proud and grateful would feel disingenous. I definitely did make the right choice, and the impact of my university experience is still reaping benefits, for the time being, at least.

I could still do without all that student debt, though.

 

Hillsborough

Tuesday morning I woke up to the news that the 96 deaths that occurred at the Hillsborough disaster were declared unlawful killings, and that the deaths were not the fault of Liverpool fans themselves.

I had began to write a post on how the disaster and the campaign had a profound effect on my childhood in Merseyside, but no matter how I tried, it never worked how I wanted to. That night, I saw this post on Twitter that seemed better than anything I could ever write:

For 27 years, the families of the 96 campaigned endlessly to find justice for their lost relatives. On Tuesday, they achieved their goal. Their strength and bravery was inspiring and astounding, and knowing they can begin to heal, even nearly 3 decades on, is comforting.

Two other things also crossed my mind in the aftermath of the verdict: people power works, and how awful it is that those involved in the cover-up could’ve easily gotten away with it without the strength and perseverance of those involved in the campaign.

The lies of The S*n and the Murdoch media as a whole, perpetuated by the likes of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt in recent years, put the city of Liverpool and the wider county of Merseyside on trial for nearly three decades, vilifying us and making us out to be the ones who are a danger to wider society.

The continued strength of the Justice Campaign showed the world Liverpool fans were not to blame, that the establishment set them up. Yesterday’s verdict confirms that.

The juxtaposition of this verdict and Britain should not be ignored. This verdict comes at a time were our Prime Minister recently faced questions over his taxation, where our Tory government denied thousand of child migrants safety and freedom from war, where Boris Johnson and his incompetence is still politically influential and Jeremy Hunt is still pushing his ridiculous junior doctor contracts despite opposition from pretty much everyone. A time where the Murdoch media, as well as Johnson and Hunt, ignored the verdict and refused to apologise.

Thatcher’s Britain cared little for its most vulnerable, and neither does Cameron’s. Hopefully the verdict of the Hillsborough inquest  proves the Tories aren’t to be trusted, that the Tories’ opinions of the working class have barely in the last 30 years. Cameron and his cronies, much like Thatcher and her government, will always have Murdoch rags such as The S*n and The Times in their back pockets, helping them get away with murder. However, on the other side of the coin – this verdict shows that the Establishment can be fought against, even defeated. Hopefully next time the people take on the power, it won’t take 27 years.

Why we still need Agent Carter

NOT SPOILER FREE

This month saw season two of ABC/Marvel’s Agent Carter come to an end, and despite critical acclaim and a fanbase that cares deeply for the show and its characters, its dwindling ratings have once again left its future in doubt. The show follows SSR Agent Peggy Carter (portaryed by the excellent Hayley Atwell) and what she gets up to in post-WW2, post-Captain America: The First Avenger New York City, and in the second season, Los Angeles. It’s a fun show that adds depth to the ever-expanding MCU, and as we all know Peg ends up founding S.H.I.E.L.D. and living to the ripe old age of 90-something, so why not explore Peggy’s life as society continued to change and evolve so quickly? There are so many compelling reasons for ABC to keep Agent Carter on the air, but here are just a few:

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via Hulu

1) Women, women everywhere!

A potential issue with superhero shows, or shows within a superhero universe, is that even women-fronted titles can still be somewhat of a sausage-fest. This is not the case in Agent Carter. The show consistently passes the Bechdel test, with all of the women coming from all walks of life, with varying strengths and weaknesses. The show depicts strong female bonds in the form of Peggy and Angie (and just all the girls of The Griffith in season one) and Peggy and Ana Jarvis. Two of the shows main villains, Dottie Underwood (the original Black Widow, portrayed by Bridget Regan) and Whitney Frost (AKA Madame Masque, who didn’t even wear a mask in the end, portrayed by Wynn Everett), are two of the most compelling and complex villains I’ve ever seen on television. In a society where women are seen (and often depicted) as one-dimensional and either perfect angels or devilish succubi, it’s amazing to see women, regardless of their moral compass, have particular strengths and weaknesses, and to be able to interact in a plethora of different settings all under one title. And it’s still something television in 2016 is lacking.

2) The writing is incredible.

Agent Carter is one of the best-written shows on television today. I already mentioned the women, but the men in the show are written just as well! Season two’s arc with Jarvis and Ana after she got shot was emotional, Jason Wilkes struggles with the zero matter and makes some difficult choices throughout, and even Jack Thompson seemed to grow, just a little bit. The wonderful character-building and development aside, the show’s plot throughout each season is made up of varying storylines and arcs that all come together nicely – its engaging and allows for a whole spectrum of emotion.

3) Imagine Peggy in the 1960s. Or 70s.

Peggy’s long life means there’s so much potential to see her kicking ass throughout different decades of the 1900s. Peggy was a fighter and would have definitely been a part of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and would have obviously been at the forefront of the feminist movement throughout the 1970s. Agent Carter  in other decades of the 20th century would be a stellar opportunity for exploring social issues and making social commentary – something the show has already done in the forms of Peggy and Jason – the show has proved it is willing to provide such commentary, why not take it one step further?

4) The queer potential!

Cartinelli, AKA Peggy Carter and Angie Martinelli, were, and still are, one of the shows most popular ships, with both Hayley Atwell and Lyndsy Fonseca showing their support for it – the two have a lot of chemistry, and while I adore them as friends, it would also be great to have them get together in order to explore homosexuality and/or bisexuality in 1940s America. Even Dottie, who wore Peggy’s lipsick and chloroform kissed her, has so much potential as a queer character, with some elements of subtext once her sleeper agent identity is revealed. It seems Peggy Carter has chemistry with just about anyone, regardless of gender, and I think it would be a great addition to a show which already represents complex women so excellently.

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via Yahoo!

5) “I know my value” – the Peggy Carter effect

In the season one finale, Valediction, Peggy tells Souza “I know my value, anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter” after Jack Thompson takes all the credit for bringing down Leviathan and Fenhoff. This single quote speaks volumes about Peg as a character, and sparked countless fan arts and tattoos as well as a revolution of self-love and self-acceptance among women and girls. Peggy doesn’t need a man’s, or anyone else’s approval. That’s a good message to send to young girls in an age where they’re constantly told image is everything. And any show or film or any other kind of media that promotes the message that the only opinion about you or your life that truly matters is your own, is something that is worth showing.

So there you have it – five reasons why Agent Carter is still very much wanted and needed, and this doesn’t even get into the possibility of tie-ins or other links to the MCU/Marvel universe. Agent Carter is a show that profoundly effects those who are invested, and a fanbase that is dedicated and moved by what is put on screen is one that is willing to support you throughout – provided you execute it right – making it a beneficial asset on both sides. The world needs more Peggy, there is no doubt about it.