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.

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.

 

“A compromise too far” – Iain Duncan Smith and the realities of being poor in the UK

In the same week as Chancellor George Osborne released his budget that saw further cuts to disability benefits while the most wealthy get tax cuts, the (now former) Secretary for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith resigned from his post, citing concerns about the juxtaposition of these unfair cuts to welfare for the most vulnerable alongside tax cuts for the most wealthy.Regardless of whether or not IDS’s resignation was out of genuine concern for the people he once tried to fool with propaganda leaflets with fake testimonials, or less savoury ulterior motives as Europe becomes a bigger issue within the Tory party and the country as a whole, it once again reminds us quite how much this Tory government, which was elected as a majority government last year after five years of a Lib Dem coalition, has waged war on the working classes and the most vulnerable in society.

The Tory myth that those on welfare for long periods of time are doing it to avoid working are generally untrue. Of course, there are people who do that and to deny the existence of such people would be a lie, but this is a tiny minority that appears larger than it actually is thanks to shows like Benefits Street and other media focus. It seems that Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne fail to realise quite how competitive job markets are, even for minimum wage positions that don’t require experience – this is something that is exacerbated by some parts of the country just not having jobs available. I was once told that I was “smart” for moving to London for university (and hopefully, after I graduate in the summer, work) because people who “can’t find jobs should move to find them” as if it’s just that easy. FYI: it’s not that easy.

Much of the reality of being poor in 2016 is not what the Conservatives or right-wing rags such as The S*n and Daily Mail want you to think. Being poor is four people living off incapacity benefit plus whatever can be brought home from a small start-up business. It’s not being able to put the central heating on when it’s below freezing because it costs far too much and we need to eat. It’s feeling awful for asking for money for basic things, and it’s having to make deals with local councils and bailiffs so they don’t take everything we own. It’s having to save for a long time to afford an electric wheelchair for my disabled mother, and even then not being able to make the necessary adjustments for her to be able to go out in it without prior help. It’s watching your parents constantly worry about how they’re going to pay the next bill. It’s the internet cutting out for days at a time, it’s the electricity going out randomly and having to rush out at 10pm because we needed the money for something else earlier in the week. And my experience is considered good compared to people who have it so much worse – nobody goes hungry, we’ve never had to rely on food banks, and we still have a roof over our head, and cuts haven’t killed anyone close to us. In recent years, my family and I have struggled a lot, but there are so many who have it worse, all of which is a result of the Conservatives putting ideology and austerity before human lives.

In his resignation letter, IDS says he is “proud” of what his government have achieved in terms of welfare. While I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the damage these cuts have done as a result of his resignation, he is no better than Mr. Cameron or Mr. Osborne. Why has it taken so long for you to find a conscience, Mr Duncan Smith? How can you in good conscience claim these new cuts are “too far” all the while still being “proud” of the cuts you and your department made that faced a UN inquiry, that have literally killed people? How can you be proud of policies and decisions so God-awful you had to lie in your literature, as if we were mindless followers who wouldn’t think twice? Where was your conscience when you cheered for policies that unfairly affected young people? Credit where credit is due: you are right – it is a compromise too far. It’s been this way for a long time. And the possibility you may be using such injustice for political gain about Europe is deeply sickening and symptomatic of Tory “who cares about poor people?” dogma. If you truly believe the cuts your government is making are unjust and cruel, its up to you to prove it. Be the change you’re telling us you want to see. Don’t let your words be in vain.

Halsey @ O2 Academy Brixton, 23/2/16

 

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Halsey at the O2 Academy Brixton.

On Tuesday, after months of waiting and planning, I finally saw Halsey. I discovered Halsey via the internet last summer, and despite her only having a five track EP out at the time, I instantly fell in love. Every song on the Room 93 EP resonated with me in various
us ways, and even outside of her music, her personal views and brand of feminism lined up with mine. In a world where bisexuals are cast aside and are rarely explicitly acknowledged and allowed to take up space, much less bisexual people of colour (Halsey is biracial also) and those who are mentally ill, it meant a lot that there was someone who was doing exactly that, and unapologetically so.

Her first full-length release, Badlands, came out just as I moved into my new flat in London, not far off starting my final year of university. I could fill this with clichés about new beginnings, but I won’t. Badlands was everything I hoped it would be and more, and although I wasn’t able to get tickets to her first two shows in London in September, I did manage to get tickets to the London show during the European leg of the Badlands tour.

Much like the album that this tour was promoting, the show at O2 Academy Brixton on Tuesday was everything I hoped it would be and more. My friend and I didn’t arrive until just before the end of the first support’s set, and although we didn’t know anything of BORNS before he came on stage, he was awesome as well. But it didn’t compare to the moment the first few notes of Gasoline played.

It’s worth noting at this point that Halsey actually fell and hurt her ankle during the very first song, but I had no idea until I saw about it on Instagram once I got home. Aimee noticed though, and when we talked about it said she just carried on. What a trooper.

Every song she played (which was every song off Badlands minus one, plus a song off that very first EP) was electric, and Halsey’s stage presence and vocal ability are both truly astounding, in the very best way. The visuals throughout the show really added to the feel of each song and the atmosphere of the show as a whole, rather than detracting from the vocals and artist’s performance, as can be the case sometimes.

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Halsey on stage at O2 Academy Brixton

My personal highlights of the show were, and I’m trying really hard not to say ‘the whole damn thing,’ were Ghost, which is arguably my favourite Halsey track, Is There Somewhere (which I totally misnamed as Let This Go the day of because I suck), and Young God, a triumphant, smoke-cannon and confetti-blasting end to what essentially felt like a spiritual experience throughout.

Right from the get-go, Halsey’s performance was exciting and memorable, and her appreciation for the people that got her to where she is was evident throughout. I’m already excited for what she does next and when she comes back this way.

Doing Things and Being and Adult

It has been a while since I’ve actually posted here. I’ve had a bunch of stuff sitting in my drafts that I’ve either really wanted to write and just haven’t had the time, or the idea has been so… meh that just looking at the title of it is kind of disheartening. But here I am! With a post that will mostly be an update on my personal life, with your (slightly irregularly) regularly scheduled rants and reviews in the coming week.

Another reason I’ve not really been around is just that I actually have a life now. I know, I’m just as shocked as you are. My final semester (eeeeek) of university started, and while I did my dissertation (albeit a shorter one) last semester, I’m still crazy busy with uni work – we have been tasked to make a ten minute short film with very little supervision from staff. In groups of three (and in one case, a group of two). So that could get interesting. Every time we think we are done editing the script (which is super cool and written by another girl who was in my screen and script class last semester), something else is pointed out to us that we should consider changing. We are *hopefully* going to look at locations next week though, so onwards and upwards!

I also have an internship now! One of my uni modules this semester is a work placement module and after a lot of applications, cover letters, emails and interviews I started one with a company based in London last week. Most of what I’ve done so far is social media and research, but I’m excited to see how the rest of the placement goes. All experience is good experience if you look at it in the right perspective.

And on top of being in university three days a week and at my internship two days a week, I also just started a new waitressing job! My previous encounter waitressing at a Thai restaurant left me (literally) shaking, crying and having panic attacks about it, and I quit very quickly. This one isn’t so bad though – being paid at least minimum wage and actually being trained has definitely helped. Also not being yelled at for not knowing exactly how that specific restaurant runs on my first day.  This Thai restaurant experience has been exponentially better. For my mental health more than anything else.

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Valentine’s Day happened too. The American did well.

So that’s pretty much it. Between balancing full-time (ish) education, essentially working two part-time jobs, having a social (ish) life and being in a long-distance relationship that is happy and fulfilling (and also a lot of hard work in terms of communication, thanks time zones), time to sit down and write anything that isn’t to do with any of those things has been rare. Now that I’m finding a balance between the four (five, if you’re counting my relationship) different things happening in my life, it’ll be easier to sit and dedicate time to writing and maybe even sift through the draft titles and decide what is terrible and what is less terrible. Maybe even read a book. Oh god, being an adult is hard and tiring.

Until next time. :*