All posts by helzmck

24, red hair (for now) lover of Tunnock's Tea Cakes, music and friendly cats

An Incident

No one can deny that since the attacks in Paris a couple of weeks ago, walking around in Europe isn’t the same. Taking a simple commute to work or into a city you’re visiting for the first time makes you slightly more anxious, or you wonder what the latest situation is in Syria and what country the terrorists are hiding in.

My day began in Salford Quays, more specifically MediaCity, as I have training with a Northern England news channel. I’m based at home in the Isle of Man, which in comparison to Manchester is tiny in every aspect.

I have a sore foot at the moment which may sound trivial, but without going into detail I’m on antibiotics and have dressings and stitches on one big toe to haul around in wet weather. This morning it had swelled to the size of a golf ball and breakfast was eaten and I checked out of the hotel. I left my suitcase behind the counter to collect at the end of the day before Leeds later that night and began the hobble to work.

This might seem like an insignificant day so far, but a number of things happened which at the time seemed important but after one main event of the day, didn’t.

Firstly, after meeting Kate in Piccadilly for lunch, the tram I got back to Salford Quays decided not to go to MediaCity all of a sudden, meaning I was very, very late back and the soft slip on shoes I was wearing were drenched, meaning my golf ball toe was too. I arrived back in the office feeling flummoxed and useless, incomplete without the ability to move around on two feet and not wincing.

Secondly, I had paid a deposit of £50 to the hotel I stayed at for one night for ‘any extras, for security measures’. I didn’t buy any extras, and after being told this morning my bank would receive the money later that day, I didn’t see any magically appear in my account.

These are such trivial things, being late and money, compared to serious things like what happened next.

As I was watching a work mate edit on camera software, about ten minutes later a siren blared out from speakers in front. It wasn’t like a standard fire alarm, it was like a ‘something really serious is happening and we need to go’ sound. A recorded voiceover announced that an ‘incident’ had been reported in the building, and to wait for further announcement.

About another ten minutes passed of this, slightly panicked as people were saying that this alarm wasn’t a familiar one. Not familiar? Panic started to approach in my mind, and suddenly the alarm sound changed to a quicker ‘get out of here’ blare with the voice ordering us to evacuate the nearest exit.

Shaking, I grabbed my bag, laptop and coat, half wondering if this was some kind of terrorist threat or just a fire. But why incident? Why not an alarm familiar to those who worked there? I tried to avoid eye contact with people for fear of them seeing my scared face, ashamed that I was from somewhere so small for the first time in my life and frightened that there were people inside hurt, or worse.

I know it sounds like I was overreacting, but it really did feel like something horrible was going to, or had, happened. I followed people down the stairs, crying silently because I just wanted to go home, speak to my family on the phone and tell them I was alright.

Turns out when we got to ground level in the courtyard, we were told it was a false alarm. Windows had been opened in the university building next door and I felt embarrassed for worrying myself and thinking the worst. Trudging back in, I felt relieved but I still wanted to go home, my inner alarm bells had reached full capacity and drained me.

I carried on through the day, but wavered towards the end and now I’m in Leeds. I can’t seem to relax properly, despite the evacuation being false, my empathy for those who are in constant fear in areas of the world where terrorist attacks have occoured has only grown stronger than it was already.

We can’t let these horrible people, who disguise their evil behind religion, change the way Europeans live day-to-day. I don’t know the answer but something has gone wrong somewhere down the line during these terrorists’ lives and are set on their objective to destroy a free and open society in European countries – countries which have their own problems and sufferings too.

I wanted to write about how I felt today because in this century, at any moment our lives can be at risk in a number a of ways. Accidents, illnesses, terror, freak weather, earthquakes, abuse, anything can affect us no matter where we are.

The only thing you have control of in life is how you deal with everything thrown at you. I shouldn’t have been embarrassed about being from somewhere small. I shouldn’t have paid 50 pounds for what was clearly a way of making me pay when work had paid for my stay. But I’ll learn from the experiences and somewhere in the future, life will throw me a chocolate I won’t expect, but I’ll eat it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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King of Hearts – Interview with Jimmy Mac, a Simon Gordon creation

After acting in a successful Friday night performance of Invisible Chains as part of the first ever TheatreFest 15, a five-year project to promote original theatre in the Isle of Man, my inner thespian was re-awakened and I decided that I wouldn’t wait another two years to act again.

TheatreFest was incredible, not only for the originality of the three shows: Invisible Chains, a devised project revealing all aspects of slavery; For Tonight, a musical showcase about a Welsh boy and his Romani lover, and finally Jimmy Mac, a comedy musical written by Stuart Brayson about a nympho playboy whose fate is decided by the four women he’s wooed – or should I say, Mac-d.

Me and the Invisible Chains crew went to see it, and it was brill. Considering the cast only had six days to rehearse, made up of two Manxies, Michelle Jamieson (one woman show, as she was in all three!) and Kristine Sutcliffe, who was also stage manager, and two Scots – Erin Caldwell of Glasgow and Simon Gordon, aka Dundee’s Messiah (he auditioned for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar on ITV’s Superstar.)

Seeing as I’m trying to utilise my journalism degree and maybe, I hope, someone will read it and I’ll no longer have to pay myself with Tunnock’s Tea Cakes, I thought I’d ask Simon if he’d be willing to be interviewed. Being Scottish, a good trait to have, he said yes.

I managed to snag a conference room in the hotel, no bribery involved just a “is there somewhere quiet for an interview?” and it was sorted. Simon had some cheese sandwiches, which he said were “sublime” (Manx cheese is the best, of course). Friendly, very chilled with a soft Dundee accent, 25 year old Simon was cool as a cucumber and it was as if the kids party next door behind his head wasn’t audible, he was happy enough to chat to me on his first night off in a week.

H: How do you think tonight’s show went?

Simon: (mid-munch) It went really, really well. There’s a lot, if we did it again, that I would have done better, but that’s only natural with only having six days, to learn it and rehearse it. And I think what we actually achieved was pretty brilliant. It gave Stuart a chance to see his material on its feet and performed. So, yeah, I think it went really well.

H: How have you found your time here on the Island?

S: Amazing. After about three days, we all said that we would want to live here.

H: Why?!

S: Cause it doesn’t … feel like the UK. It feels like it could be, Paris, or – well, not Paris, France, or like, Spain.

H: But, it’s really cold!

S: Yeah, it is cold, but the first couple of days here, the weather was amazing. And that front out there, that monument that you’ve got, we were getting a bit of history from Michael. It’s beautiful, amazing.

H: Aw, thanks. So not everyone has just six days to rehearse an entire musical. What would you say this experience in Jimmy Mac has prepared you for in the future?

S: (pause) Wow. Well, funnily enough, today, I’ve been thinking how well Nigel has directed it. If I was the director, I just wouldn’t have known where to start. I would have had to have started somewhere, but I just would have no idea where that would be. From that point of view, it’s prepared me in that I’ve learnt a lot from working with Nigel. It’s definitely prepared me for getting thrown things at the last minute. The amount of material I had to learn was pretty incredible, it was a lot to learn, and I still don’t know if the rhyming couplet thing helped me learning it or hindered me learning it.

H: I think it sounded great!

S: Oh?

H: Honestly!

S: – Well, I loved doing it, but I don’t know if the fact that it rhymed helped it go into my memory, or if it would have been easier if it didn’t rhyme. Who knows? But it went in there somehow. Most of it, anyway!

H: What’s next for you? Is this show going to tour?

S: Stuart is very keen on it touring. I know that Tony is, too, the producer. I think what Stuart really wants to do is get it recorded. He said that Tim Rice wanted to hear the cast recording … see the book. So he’s really keen to work with Stuart again. It’d be great if it was this one. I think a tour would be awesome. I also think that it would go down really well at the Edinburgh Fringe. We’d only need six days to rehearse it, it’d be great! A really nice thought, actually.

H: What’s been your favourite part of the process?

S: My favourite part of the process was definitely just playing the role of Jimmy Mac. It’s kind of every little boy’s dream to play someone like him. Nigel just goes with whatever you do. You know, I would just throw stuff in and improvise, and there’s a lot of directors who would be really annoyed and some would say “Why are you doing that?” But Nigel feeds off of it, we bounced off each other. Nigel’s just amazing, if he can work it in then he’ll let you do it. The cast were just bouncing off of each other as well, we worked so well together.

H: You had a guitar at one point in the show, and you said that you would have actually played it if you’d had more time to rehearse. Are you a musician as well?

S: Yeah, I’m a guitarist, living in London, and I play gigs. Everyone has a guitar, don’t they? It’s kind of like an impromptu thing. If I’m at a pub, or an acoustic night and someone asks me to play a song, then I’ll usually get up and play.

H: So do you write your own stuff?

S: Yeah. No one’s ever heard it. (laughs) But, yeah, I write loads of stuff, funnily enough- I’m going to record an album with Tony. Stuart has bags and bags of material, and after the King Pit show in Newcastle, another of Stuart’s shows, we decided to record an album. We’re going through Stuart’s material and trying to decide what would suit my voice best, and try to bring something to it. Hopefully that’ll happen soon and I’ll definitely get a bit of guitar on that.

H: What kind of style do you go for, mainly acoustic or anything edgy?

S: It depends what I’m doing, cause in the show today, we were singing through some material during rehearsal in this room, and Stuart came over to me and said “Do that Michael Buble thing you can do with your voice!” So I did it and he said “Oh, that totally works for that song!” Other numbers were a bit more pop-y, and I loved it cause it’s so varied. I got to rock out as well, ‘This Time’ is such a great song.

H: I thought the song when you were wearing the star suit was really good, as it was a very quiet, unexpectedly stripped-back song and Jimmy’s always acting like the macho, playboy. So, that was great to see an unexpected side to him.

S: Aw, thanks.

H: Speaking of stars, you were in ‘Superstar’ …

S: Yep.

H: So since that time, as you’re only 25, how does it feel to be doing what you love at your age?

S: It’s incredible. I feel very lucky, I just have to hope it continues. I’ve worked for three years and I’ve worked with some amazingly talented friends who are unemployed now. It’s this industry, it’s not all about talent. If you have talent, then that’s gonna help you to get work, but there’s just so many things it comes down to. Talent is just a box on a massive list of boxes that you have to fill. And, actually, talent isn’t even a box you have to fill sometimes. Sometimes, it’s being on X Factor, having a good story. You might not have even had to have acted before in your life. I just feel so lucky to be able to be in a show like this, that’s brand new. That’s probably my favourite thing about the experience, having the chance to create something completely new – you can’t do that with a musical that’s already been performed. When I was Danny in Grease, I was taught the Walk, and everyone knows Danny. I loved playing him, but it’s a blessing to be able to interpret a character in your own way and no one can take it away from you. You are the original cast.

H: What’s it been like performing with all four girls?

S: Aw, if it went to tour, it’d be great cause I loved performing with every single one of them. I was really surprised. Krissy was doing everything, even stage management stuff. I don’t know how she did that. And Michelle, she is one to watch. She’s so professional.

H: So Jimmy Mac’s had a good experience in the Isle of Man?

S: Aw, yeah, definitely! I not only hope that I can do Jimmy Mac again, I hope that we can come back to the Isle of Man. I really want to. And the Gaiety is just one of the most beautiful theatres. You’re all very lucky to have that here.

H: Were any of your family or friends here tonight?

S: No, but it’s my gran’s 90th birthday and she said “For my birthday, I want tickets to come to the Isle of Man.” And I was like “No, gran, it’s your day, back home!” She’s having a big party tomorrow with about 60 guests!

H: Aw, we would have shown her a good time here!

S: Well, her party’s at 1 o’clock in the afternoon…having a little high tea I imagine. So, I’ll fly back tomorrow and go and see her and get my piece of cake cause, obviously, that’s really why I’m flying back.

H: The most important part! Anything you’d like to add Jimmy Mac?

S: I just couldn’t have asked for a better team and the audience were amazing. That’s so important as well especially with comedy. You have to test it out and they say that in comedy, the key is knowing your audience. I said to the cast, if we don’t get any laughs, it’s not the end of the world. We will get some, cause it’s a comedy, it’s just like a comedian testing his material. You just have to find out what works and what doesn’t.

H: It worked!

S: Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised. I had a lot of faith in Stuart’s material but he’s a very ballsy writer.

Bathroom Theatrics – A Review of Siobhan O’Loughlin’s ‘Broken Bone Bathtub’

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I was invited to watch a performance of a play which was performed entirely in someone’s actual bathroom. Keen to re-live my days as a drama student, as bizarre as it was to consider actors making themselves throw-up as theatre, I was intrigued.

It was only about a fifteen minute walk away too, so I set off to find the address, which turned out to be a lovely house, and wasn’t sure whether to enter through the front door, or through the back garden, which was lit invitingly and indicated that was the right way to go.

After ringing the front door only to be told, through mime, to go round the back way, I joined the audience in the homely kitchen, snacks galore (YAY).

We were informed that Siobhan was “ready” for us after a half hour wait, so we entered the bathroom not knowing what to expect – will there be room for us all? Towels? And, the most obvious question, will we have to avert our eyes?

Turns out Siobhan had plenty of bubbles in the bath, so nothing was seen that would cause awkwardness, and the cast which had her broken hand was propped up on the side of the tub, with herself hunched over as if in thought – distress?

The play itself is about Siobhan’s real-life experience falling off a bike after a collision with another cyclist in New York City, where Siobhan used to live but is, for the time being, touring across the globe with this play, in different bathrooms.

She interacted with us, asking us questions which sprang up randomly, like a conversation: “When was the last time you held someone’s hand?” was aimed at me at one point, which, unfortunately, was not Justin Bieber, but was my grandmother.

I found I was quite willing, after the first section of the play unfolded, to tell Siobhan and entire strangers (bar my friend) about how at my graduation in July, my granny said she was very proud of me, and recognised that she had tears in her eyes when I said that I’m grateful she was there.

Without saying anything we both knew that we wished my granddad could have been there, and I automatically held her hand to show I knew what she wanted to say. After the reflection, Siobhan highlighted how holding a hand is a very intimate thing to do between humans – we express emotion through hands to show others help, sympathy, anger, and many other expressions.

cast

Siobhan would carry on her conversation with us about how she broke her hand, which had healed but she wore a cast to represent that she really missed her hand at that moment in time. The reason she was performing in a bath was because she had to ask people to help her out and wash her hair etc.

Towards the end of the piece, you could really sense that there was a change in the room – apart from the fact that the bath water was probably getting colder – as everyone had shared experiences and a bathroom, in my eyes, was somewhere to reflect and private to the individual.

The most poignant part of the play for me was when I was asked: “When was the last time you felt really alone?” I mentioned numerous times, most recently losing friends, relationships ending, family loss, but always reassured myself that the ones who were still sticking around and spending time with me, or family that were still living, I should appreciate them and they always brought me back round.

I would recommend going to watch Siobhan’s play simply because it evokes what most of us are afraid of revealing to others, what we are insecure about, wanting to ask for help when we really need it, or simply being able to admit that crap happens and that life is unfair – Siobhan has written about a time when she felt incapable of doing what she wanted to do in daily life, but as she eventually healed she not only wrote a cracking play, but made discoveries about herself as well.

To find out how to watch ‘Broken Bone Bathtub’, visit http://siobhanoloughlin.com/

Siobhan

A Review of ‘Us’ by David Nicholls, Author of ‘One Day’ and ‘Starter For Ten’

I began reading Us due to my curiosity about whether or not it really was better than One Day, which had me re-reading a major plot element and crying for about twenty minutes, hating the author.

So I abandoned Go Set A Watchman for the moment on my trip to Stockholm (it weighed a ton) and began the story, about a forty-something scientist whose wife announces, unexpectedly, that she wants to leave him.

Us

The usual David Nicholls elements were there, but instead of shifting between perspectives like I’d loved about Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley, it was all from Douglas Peterson’s point of view. He’s witty, clearly intelligent and is likeable after the first couple of pages, although it was hard to see exactly what I should get excited about to carry on reading at first.

Connie, his artist wife, is described as incredibly attractive, who he adores and he recalls where and how they first met, and how his passion for his work impressed her.

Then, there’s Albie, or Egg as his parents fondly call him. He’s 17, an artist like his mother, and who Douglas describes as ‘constantly dirty.’ A heartbreaker, Albie doesn’t hide the fact that he resents his dad.

The main scenario is that Douglas plans a trip across Europe with his wife and son, which he hopes will win back the love of his wife and earn the respect and love of Albie. It is during the ‘Grand Tour’ that I began feeling sorry for Douglas, as his family seemed to barely acknowledge his efforts, even if he was boring them.

I struggled for some time to keep going back to the book, only because I think I placed too much expectation on it blowing me away like One Day. There didn’t seem to be any obvious twist, which Nicholls was good at previously in shattering my hopes and dreams for the characters I’d loved.

So I gave it a chance, and FINALLY, there was a plot twist, changing the course of the story and the emotional, often eye-opening aspects to life and coincidence which I’ve always found fascinating unfolded in each chapter.

catty

Nicholls’ novel is a treasure trove of how difficult relationships can be in the twenty-first century, sifting between the past memories shared between Connie and Douglas and the father’s need to feel loved by his son.

It’s also a testament to how well Nicholls can surprise the reader – placing plot twists in places when you least expect, often delivering news that’s said so casually by Douglas you always have to re-read what he said to double-check it actually happened.

Most of all, it’s definitely a book worth reading in order to remind you that not everything lasts, we all grow up and change and relationships can end, but you as a person are the only one who can be the solution to your problems.

Coincidentally, walking home today, my ex-boyfriend and I bumped into each other. I thought it was funny how I didn’t feel anger anymore, or sadness, just said Hi and then asked if everything was ‘OK’ now between us.

His response was yes, after a pause, and I nodded and smiled then walked the opposite direction, convenient as we are obviously separate now, but were once together for four years.

I shared different experiences with this person, good and bad, and have chosen not to reflect on it as regretful. So I could emphasise with Douglas in that people can be crap, but you can choose how you feel about them and who you want to be.

Yey

Florence and the Machine at Glastonbury 2015

All week I had been hearing mixed opinions about Florence and the Machine replacing Foo Fighters at Glastonbury – some thought it was a risky move and others weren’t phased, or seemed to agree with the tabloids: ‘GO WITH THE FLO.’

The only good thing about being ill on a Friday night in June was the fact that it was a perfect excuse to watch the Glastonbury coverage on BBC Three without interruption. However, as many of you will know, they only cover limited songs from each set that they choose from – Friday night’s picks were Catfish and the Bottlemen (yay), Jungle, Wolf Alice (excellent stuff), The Vaccines (tight white jeans will appear on men’s legs after this) and James Bay, who was sporting his favoured hat and one of the highlights of the night for me and proving why he deserved his Critic’s Choice Award.

I kept flicking between the TV and live streaming online, and knew it would be silly to wait until 11pm for Flo’s set. So I went onto the Pyramid Stage web cam at 10.15, eagerly watching the stage in between members of the crowd and pretended to be there, cider in hand. Cheers from the crowd at quarter past on the dot indicated that something was happening, and there she was, Florence Welch in a shimmering silver suit…and no shoes. Classic Flo.

FlorenceCoachella

The band opened with ‘What The Water Gave Me’ and it was enough to cement the fact that this band, who first performed at Glastonbury back in 2009 in the Tiny Tea Tent, were meant to step in for the Foos. I’d watched Dave Grohl live in Manchester play to us, a crowd out in the open air whilst it was raining, and thought that he would be happy for Florence and the Machine at this moment. He is one of those singers who doesn’t give a shit about what you think of him, but is also like a friend to you in his mannerisms and the way he interacts with the crowd.

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Florence interacted the same way in which Dave likes to have a conversation with the audience – she kept asking people to ‘turn to one another and tell them you love them’, and at one point asked everyone to take off part of their clothes and ‘raise it high above your head’ during ‘Rabbit Heart. She is an enigmatic performer, not a pop star but an artist in every way – using her hands to express her fondness to the crowd, all the while enrapturing everybody with her vocals during my personal favourites ‘Cosmic Love’, ‘You’ve Got The Love’ and ‘Ship To Wreck’. Florence was running around vivaciously in bare feet and it’s no wonder that her mother was terrified she would fall, who Florence announced was covering her eyes with her hands worried that she would break something.

The band’s closing song ‘Dog Days Are Over’ was a perfect ending to a perfect headliner. You could really feel the energy of the crowd and most of all, Florence’s appreciation of the moment. Aside from being one of those songs I listened to constantly on repeat back in 2009, a mere 17 year old (*sigh*) which tugs at the heart strings, the song captured the meaning of exactly what Glastonbury Festival is all about – ‘leave all your love and your longing behind, you can’t carry it with you if you want to survive.’ Put more simply: forgetting about yesterday and tomorrow and enjoying the moment – peace and love and all that.

Florence and the Machine cover ‘Times Like These’