Monday, 6 July 2015

TEDx HAPPENED!


You may have noticed me on Twitter speaking about TEDx. Well, it happened, and it went really well.
TEDx is an offshoot of the TED talks, where a collection of speakers come and do short talks on a subject of their choosing. The x marks the event as independently organised. One of my friends, Tanya, decided we should do a TEDx event. She looked into getting a license, she got one, and plans started being made.
  


We had a mix of students and external speakers and performers, all covering a range of topics.


NON PRATT, author of TROUBLE and REMIX, talked about how we condition generations into genders.
SARAH SKY, author of the JESSICA COLE series, gave us a quick tour though female spies, past and present.
The A LEVEL DRAMA group did part of their performance of Monsters, revolving around the killing of Jamie Bulger
SHONA DIXON analysed  the response to Ebola.
DR GEORGINA NEALL talked about, among other things, how she balances studying, working, and raising four children.
TOM POLLOCK, author of THE SKYSCRAPER THRONE series, examined the media's role in creating fear in the masses.
GABBY WASSER told us about how mushrooms can help, heal, or bring about an apocalypse
CHARLOTTE SPRUZEN was one of two explaining the science of science fiction, looking at how time travel would theoretically work.
SONDER, a band made up of two students, played two songs.
SARAH RABY BUCK gave the second science of science fiction talk, explaining how biochemistry could work on other worlds.
NATALIE RUSSO talked about the importance of language and why it's not too late to learn a new one.
JEANNIE GALSTON , ex Miss Universe, told us what it was like to be a model in the days before Photoshop.
NAFEESA MOHAMMED performed some of her work (she's an amazing slam poet) and what poetry means for her.
I, NINA CRISP, did a talk about why you should diversify your reading. What else would I say?
REBECCA JURDON summed up very eloquently the failings of an exam orientated education system.


All these talks will soon be available on YouTube, so if you missed them and want to see them, or if you want to relive them, you can! I'll link them when they're available.


We had a selection of world food, both main and desert. The highlights were the  cupcakes. We sold books, both the authors' and some diverse ones I highlighted in my talk.


We also had plans to have a bloggers' alley, but it didn't work out because we forgot that devices need to be registered to the school's WiFi system to work, and that the council's service blocks all blogs anyway. Still, it was brilliant to see FAYE (A Daydreamer's Thoughts) and FIONNUALA (Books for Birds).


Thank you, everyone who came and supported us, especially all our external speakers and bloggers who came from a long way away! Also, thank you all the people who worked hard on making TEDx Beaconsfield High a thing. It was brilliant.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Theatre Review- Luck of the Draw

Title: Luck of the Draw
Writer: Michael Smith
Director: Matthew Dye
Performed by: Renegade Theatre Company and VF
Cast: Neil Brown, Claire Deards, Tom Hurst, Niven Willett, Grace J. Willis, Hayley White, and Zac Abbott 
Seen at: Duke Street Theatre
Review:  Six friends, getting ready for a night out, with Papa John's pizza, waiting for the lottery results, and plenty of alcohol. It's funny, it's dirty, it's crazy. But then there's an accident which throws suspicion into the group, and by the end, the night has gone horribly wrong.
I wanted to see this because I love the  Renegade Theatre crew, and this was being advertised as a black comedy, which is definitely my cup of tea.
The humour was just as good as I'd hoped. Yes, you can think badly of me at laughing at various parts of it, because, as I said on the night, the majority of jokes are centered around things that cause people to go to hell (the effect of sexual favours for animals on a career in TV, potential necrophilia, what appeared to be multiple stabbings whilst everybody panics (I'm not sure about that one, I was laughing too much)) but at the time, in context, with the characters and the delivery, it was perfect.  I also enjoyed the running gags- it's a menorah is probably one of Tom's greatest lines. 
The writing, despite the mild bigotry that came in-character from some, is excellent. It's sharp and funny. Relationships and characters are established really quickly. The cliffhanger before the interval is huge, and act 2 went in millions of directions, expected and unexpected, bringing in things you thought were throwaway lines but turn out to be very important indeed.  I didn't really enjoy Neil's philosophising in act 2, though, but the poignancy of the phone call was a poignant breather before...everything else. 
The cast was brilliant. Everybody was completely in character, and they complemented and interacted with  eachother like a real group of friends would. The improvisation especially was on point (I only saw one show, but I heard an usher saying he noticed some parts improvised. The Star Wars lines between Grace and Tom! Perfect!)
The set and tech is very different to Spring Awakening. It's just a mess. There's nothing else to call it. Reflecting Niven's personality totally, made with little details like a Katy Perry poster and a full book/dvd case where you sat close enough to be able to see some titles.   I love how completely versatile Duke Street Theatre is, and how well they transformed the space for Luck of the Draw.  

Overall: Strength 4.5, just a 4* to a fast, funny, filthy show that I wish I'd seen multiple times. 
Links: Company

*If I hadn't had other theatre reviews with ratings, this would have probably been a 5. However, the last two shows I reviewed with a 5 were on a level that transcended every single expectation and left me breathless in awe, so that's my standard of strength 5 theatre shows.  The problems of having a numerical rating system that you can't extend upwards!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Book Review- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

So, it’s Pride Day, or whatever you call the day where really major cities hold their Pride celebrations, being the last weekend of June and thus commemeorating the Stonewall Riots. It’s also the day after the Supreme Court of the USA announced it’s a constiutional right for all people regardless of gender and sexuality to get married if they choose, and states can’t deny this. YAY!! In celebration, here’s a book I read for Faye’s LGBT Readathon and really enjoyed!


Title:  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author:  Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Series:   N/A
Published:    February 2012 by Simon and Schuster
Length:  368 pages
Source: borrowed from friend
Summary : Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Review: 1987. Two very different boys meet and form a friendship. Together they have fun, navigate their teenage years and, learn things about the universe and themselves.
I've had this on my to read list for ages, because it's on many people's lists of brilliant gay teen novels, and it's been hard to find (I don't think it has a UK publisher). Yay for friends who bother buying things off the internet instead!
This is one of those quietly brilliant books. I'm not always into discovering who you are type stories, but I liked this one.
My favourite thing was watching the friendship between Aristotle and Dante grow. It's organic, full of setbacks, but ultimately endures. It's a beautifully close friendship and love, and it just makes you smile for them, because it's the kind that makes you think they're soulmates, and makes it natural for things to progress at the end, but it would be OK even if it didn't because some kinds of bond are so profound they don't need anything else but if there is then that's fine too.
Close second is all the family relationships going on, from the easiness with Dante's father (who is a generally awesome person) to the awkwardness surrounding Aristotle's imprisoned brother.
Then there's  the development of Aristotle and Dante, Dante knowong what he wants, Aristotle figuring it out. They learn a lot, they go through a lot with and without each other.
Also, the final feeling the book left me with. It's not loud happiness, like Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, another gay story I got through quickly and loved. In Aristotle and Dante,  it's more a quiet kind of contentment, that everything's been resolved, that the future will all work out.
This is all becsuse of the writing (OK, all books are what they are because of writing, but here I want to make a point of it). It's narrated by Aristotle, and we see  Dante directly from his letters. We get all of Aristotle's thoughts and questions and emotions and view of the world and it all comes together into a story that feels real and full.

Overall:  Strength 5 tea to a tender, gentle story about many forms of love.



Thursday, 11 June 2015

Book Review- I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Title:   I’ll Give You the Sun by
Author:  Jandy Nelson
Series:   N/A
Published:   2 April 2015 by Walker
Length:  416 pages
Source: library
Other info:  Nelson has also written The Sky is Everywhere
Summary : Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.
Review: Jude and Noah are close twins, both aiming to get into art school, both falling in love. Then their mum dies, and the bond breaks.
From everyone else's reviews, I was hoping I'd liked this. The first chapter starts well, introducing us to a thirteen year old artist who frequently envisions paintings in his head. We learn of his aim to get into art school, an aim shared by his twin sister. The second chapter is narrated by said twin, age 16, frustrated with her art projects, and frequently referring to the advice her grandmother gave her. From then, I don't really know.
It's hard to get in to. Literary-wise, I appreciate the character consistency of painting titles and advice. Reader-wise, I found it annoying. It also took me time to work out  the  thing with Grandma and ghosts. Was it supernatural? Was it Jude's personal beliefs? I knew nothing about this book before I started beyond the near universal love from bloggers. It was quite confusing.
I didn't connect properly to the characters. This  then had a knock on effect on my overall experience of the book.
I didn't mind reading about all the interactions between Jude, Guillermo, and Oscar, and Noah and Brian. But I just didn't really care. Also, if you asked me to describe chronologically what happened, I would be totally unable to do so.
To be honest, I only had three reasons to keep reading this. One: because so many people enjoyed it, and I felt I needed to persevere. Two: I really wanted to know why Noah hadn't made it into the art school, when from the (admittedly biased because it's narrated by him) first chapter. Three (when we found out why): It was so far in to the book I may as well finish it.


Overall:  Strength two tea to a book I was hoping to enjoy, but sadly couldn't.



Sunday, 10 May 2015

Theatre Review- Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, performed by Smooth Faced Gents

Title: Titus Andronicus
Writer:  William Shakespeare
Director:  Yaz Al-Shaater
Performed by: Smooth Faced Gentlemen
Cast:  Ariane Barnes, Olivia Bromley, Anita-Joy Uwajeh, Ely Condron, Lia Burge, Ashlea Kaye, Helen Coles, Emma Nixon
Seen at:  Greenwich Theatre

Review: Following a bloody war with the Goths, Romans return home with prisoners but without an emporer. Titus Andronicus is appointed, but he refuses. Saturninus is appointed emperor, and he says he wants to marry Titus’ daughter, Lavinia. Lavinia and her lover/Saturninus’ brother object, so Saturninus takes Tamora, the queen of the defeated Goths, as his empress. Throw in her two sons, her lover, and her desire for revenge (fair enough, considering within the first five minutes of the play, her eldest son is cut up, despite her pleadings), and you have Shakespeare’s bloodiest play... here performed with an all-female cast and a lot of red paint.
I was very excited to see this. I read Titus a few years ago, and wondered how it could be done on stage what with...everything. I saw a cinema screening of the RSC production where they did it very realistically, which was pretty good. And then I saw this.
Everybody has the same costume as a base-black trouser, white shirt, and braces. Coats and props are used to differentiate major characters from eachother, but  even without these, you can tell when people are playing different characters.
 This was cast perfectly! Ariane Barnes is a strong Titus, being the right mix of funny  in some places and and emotional in others.  Anita-Joy Uwajeh plays Aaron with a distinctive style that I couldn’t pin down but which one of my friends said was mythical and magical. Elly Condron is Lavinia, who makes you form an emotional connection with her depsite her losing her tounge about a third of the way through ,and having what seems like quite a few of her lines cut. Olivia Bromley’s Tamora is coldhearted, but you can feel the power coming off her.  Everybody was very talented and embodied their character(s) wholly, changing styles as they changed character, especially considering Helen Coles and Ashlea Kaye’s characters were completely morally opposites (Chiron and Lucius for Coles and Marcus and Demetrius for Kaye). And on a less serious note, Lia Burge’s  Saturninus telling Emma Nixon’s Bassianus  “Sir, you are being very short with us!” was wonderful.
They kept the tone right. From my reading of Titus, I enjoyed the humour (and it does come thick and fast, with Shakespeare taking the sass levels high), to contrast with the horrors that the play contains. It comes through in this play, but as I said, it allows suitable tenderness in the scenes with the Titus family, completely in contrast to Aaron’s casual attitude to demanding a hand in return for the exchange for sons, the moments when Titus suggests names of Lavinia’s attackers, and the background Goths passing round Aaron’s child and their different attitudes to him while serious things happen in the front.
I am completely in love with this staging. There’s white screens, behind which the characters change (sometimes), and  paintpots at the front. The strictly held colour scheme of black, white, and red, with silver and brown accents, and the replacement of knives and swords with paintbrushes and rollers made it look a bit surreal, which allowed them to do all kinds of gory things on stage. It was a brave decision to do Lavinia’s mutilation on stage, but they made it work so horrifyingly well. Accompanying music was provided by the actors singing, and they did it very well, holding their lines while also effecting scene changes and such, although it did seem a little random, only happening at some scenes and not others. 
It’s very fast. I think they cut about an hour’s worth of lines, which is a shame, especially when Lavinia and Bassianus had brilliant lines before they lost the ability to speak, but it was still easy to follow and enjoy, and we kept some very good monologues.
There could be  political/feminist discussions over having an all-female cast, especially considering there's only three canonically female characters, and the really terrible fate of one of them. I'm not going to discuss that, because regardless of their gender, all eight actors conveyed the characters and made them real. 

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a slick, brilliantly acted performance. Can’t wait to catch the Smooth Faced Gents  (possibly again in Titus, definitely again in Othello) up in Edinburgh!



Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Blog tour for CHOPSTIX by A. T. RAYDAN

Today, the blog tour for Chopstix by A. T. Raydan. It looks like a fun read, and I'm hoping for a bit of Chinese mythology to come in the book later... For now, here's a blog post by the villains, the Chi.

Welcome to the House of Chi

Who are we? We are the faceless shadows in the darkest night, the formless shape caught in the corner of your eye, the uncanny feeling you’re being watched when no one is around. We are the House of Chi, but you can think of us as the Gatekeepers.

Chi is natural flowing energy that flows through your body, the life force that keeps you conscious, keeps you breathing. Chi surrounds you in every aspect of life. The House of Chi lay at the source of this energy.

We are governed by the mantra: Preservation, Protection and Purification. Our “members” span across the globe, we are open to people from all walks of life. There is no country, no city or town that is hidden from our influence. 

Our history is shrouded in hidden mystery, many have sought to uncover the secrets of The Chi, but in order to know our past, and you must become part of our future.  However, I must warn you, membership is eternal; those that join cannot escape their duty without facing the ultimate punishment. 

We have many tasks and purposes, which you learn when initiated. But for now know this, we will recover the ancient relics from the City of Jade, as is our ancestral right. Only a fool would dare get in our way.

Chopstix by A.T Raydan is published by Unique Inspiration (paperback, £6.99). Available online from Waterstones here and on Goodreads here.

NEXT STOP:  Read about the fire that changed everything for Chopstix on Teen Librarian
YESTERDAY’S STOP: Nayu’s Reading Corner asks Chopstix Author A.T. Raydan all about her new book.


About Chopstix: Wendy Wu is an ordinary teenager, with a secure home and caring parents who worked hard running the family’s successful Chinese restaurant. Other than the occasional encounter with the bullies at her new college, Wendy could honestly say that life was good.  
When out of the blue fate delivers Wendy a cruel blow, her life is turned upside down. Shaken by grief Wendy retreats in to her room, struggling to come to terms with terrible events that destroyed all she held dear.  With her parents gone, it is her Aunt Daiyu who she turns to for support. 
Why could Wendy always sense when danger was near?  Why did she suddenly feel she had to save people under threat?  Aided by her aunt, Wendy uncovers a mystical side to herself she never knew she had, and an ancestral secret that will change her life for ever…