Keeping up with the Jonses

Ah summer. A wonderful time you spend living back at home with your parents, with no student loan (not as if I get enough anyway but hey ho), working shifts in part-time jobs which keep you sane from your mum moaning that your suitcase is making the hall look messy, but also driving you insane because the customer you’ve just spent 20 minutes looking after left the store without making a purchase, and barely giving you a smile or a ‘thank you’. But never-the-less, a time that must be celebrated, and me and Kim did that in the only way we know really – with cocktails, food and theatre. But this time we did it all at once!

 

The immersive experience is one many a theatre-goer is apprehensive about, myself included. The thing about it is you never know what to expect. Are you meant to be nervous going into it? What shocks should you prepare yourself for? Well in this case, more splendour than shock. As I entered the Jonses house through a fridge door in a small building in Islington, I was met with the scene of a giant pantry, which led me into a dishwasher, where I ate a dishwasher tablet – not a flash tablet fear not, if I did that I doubt I would be alive to write this post. No, it was a sweet macaron, in the shape of said tablet. It tasted fabulous – and I could have eaten about 5, but I suppose a greedy 19-year-old student would have spoiled the effect of the magic. From here, we met Mr. Jones – a strapping fellow bathing in a tub of rubber duckys. He gifted us with our second cocktail of the experience – a concoction of gin, citrus and cream all mashed together in a toothpaste tube. Even for me, the most seasoned of gin drinkers, you could only handle it in small doses, which was not very well thought out as the whole affair went warm after a short time and was definitely inedible in that state. Having met Mr Jones, we were welcomed into the laundry room – floor strewn with duck feathers as we engaged in a whole group pillow fight, before being welcomed into the sound room, where there was without doubt some shameless product placement going on – you could not miss the well-placed “Bang and Oulfsen speakers” line in that script of you tried. And having been let into the ‘garden’ to finish our drinks and discuss our experience, the real consideration began. Without doubt the acting was good – the characters were deep and strong enough to allow the audience to infer a clear backstory from them (clearly Mr and Mrs Jones had a troubled marriage) but that illusion was broken the second we saw a second Mrs Jones. Rookie error on the productions behalf, almost definitely. It most certainly raised the question of how much can art cross with business? Although the wow factor of the whole night was undeniable – the sheer amount of ‘in your face’ branding was a feat that just didn’t feel or sit right in the event. It felt like it ticked all the right boxes of its commission, there were feminist quotes on the wall of the kitchen “A woman’s place is wherever she wants to be” and frequent ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ on the tour, but as it ended, on reflection there was only a certain amount of possible critique on the story and characters available. The story only went as deep as the fact that Mrs Jones was having a party, and you were invited – and the characters said enough about themselves to leave very little to the imagination. We went to see theatre, and theatre we got, but what we got most was passive-aggressive sales techniques and bribery, through novelty sweets and cocktails in toothpaste tubes.IMG_5788

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I did it!

 

By the age of 19 I have conquered many great feats. As a baby I learned to human, as a child I learned the world. As a teenager I learnt that growing up wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and as a young adult I have been tested to the limits – with exams, coursework and tedious study. But it paid off, cause I made it to university. And to top off that – I completed my first year! I survived freshers (just about), learned how to London (in my own unique little Northern way) and, quite possibly the most important thing, how to find theatre tickets on the cheap. And having seen countless shows, fallen victim to many an odd cooking experiment and made the best of friends, I can proudly say – after submitting my final essay and celebrating Summer Ball, that I did it! I did a whole year at drama school, university – in London! And for that, I am proud. And very, very excited for a long summer – and second year!

Brexit.

I’m going to be honest.

I’m still struggling to get my head around this.

Being stuck between a very liberal arts university, and the metropolitan city of London and a conservative family in a rural village in the North.
I could see the frustration at the lack of control, and feeling so isolated from where decisions that affect their lives are being made, whether that be Brussels or Westminster. I could see people who I had gone to school with lapping up what the media were saying about huge waves of immigration and lack of control. Someone I spoke to wasn’t even aware they voted (or could have voted) For their MEP (Member of European Parliament) and this was the part that was frustrating. All the rhetoric on both sides of the debate was negative, either how awful and uncontrollable the EU is, or how awful it will be when we leave- rather than explaining that Cornwall got an average of £60 million a year funding, and Wales had several millions given to projects listed below and the North East has benefitted from more funding than any other region since 2007. And the government has said there is no way this level of funding for culture projects, research funding and infrastructure development is essentially lost. It seems bizarre to me that the areas who benefit the most from being in the EU voted to leave, and this was a failure of the remain camp as they went for ‘project fear’ over ‘project value’.

 

The other thing of note this referendum to me was the voter turnout. A National high of 72.2% (compared to 66.1% for the general election in 2015) lifted my spirits beyond belief as a high turnout suggests to me that people are actively engaging in politics and voicing their discontent. However what really really bugged me was the low turnout of young voters. 36% of 18-24 year olds. When you compare these turn outs to that of the Scottish referendum in 2014:  75% of 16 and 17 year olds voted, compared with 54% of 18-24 year olds and 72% of 25-34 year olds. The turnout in all three groups is markedly lower than the estimate for 35-54 year olds (85%) and those aged 55 and over (92%). Although the youth vote is still low compared to older generations, I feel allowing 16 and 17 years olds to be engaged responsibly means that not only are they included in the rhetoric of the campaigns (It’s their futures more than a pensioners after all) and this would produce a higher turnout for future elections because it wouldn’t feel so alienated- the difference between 36% and 72% turnout for 18-24 year olds goes to show that by actively engaging young people can be critical to the result of the election. What the best way to get more people involved in politics is difficult- introducing compulsory politics, or dedicating time to exploring politics and philosophy in schools seems impossible to me when you realise the poor amount of well taught citizenship anyway (Just in my time at secondary it went from a dedicated lesson time to being slotted in occasionally during 20 minutes of form time.) Online voting is another option to increase turnout, though the logistics and cost of this make it unlikely.

 

There are other things I’d want to touch on but I’m trying not to get frustrated. I’ve left links to interesting articles and where I got my information from below.

Thanks for reading this, and good luck.

 

Arts response: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/jun/24/arts-hit-back-at-brexit-i-feel-nothing-but-rage?CMP=share_btn_fb

 

Who gains from Brexit?:

http://indy100.independent.co.uk/article/show-these-charts-to-anybody-who-thinks-brexit-was-a-victory-for-decent-ordinary-people–WJbuGa0yBb

 

Don’t tar everyone with the same brush:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/27/dont-blame-babyboomers-brexit-generation-voted

 

How the country, and families have been divided:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jun/27/brexit-family-rifts-parents-referendum-conflict-betrayal

 

References:

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/brexit-cornwall-issues-plea-for-funding-protection-after-county-overwhelmingly-votes-in-favour-of-a7101311.html

 

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/politics/19-things-european-funding-done-10939396

 

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/revealed-how-much-eu-funding-7789224

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-david-cameron-wales-eu-funding-no-guarantee-warning-eu-referendum-a7109636.html

 

http://blogs.ft.com/ftdata/2016/06/24/brexit-demographic-divide-eu-referendum-results/

http://www.ukpolitical.info/Turnout45.htm

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/24/how-did-turnout-affect-the-eu-referendum-result/

 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/28/young-people-bad-voting-millennials-eu-vote-politics

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/events/scotland-decides

 

http://blog.whatscotlandthinks.org/2014/12/many-16-17-year-olds-voted/

-Kim

West End Live!

West end live! A wonderful event, combining our two favourite things – theatre and free stuff. Kirsty finished work at 1:30 and we arrived at the queue at roughly 2. The queue stretched halfway around Trafalgar Square – but moved quickly enough for us to gain entry to the event soon enough for us to hear the end of Jersey boys and the vast majority of Thriller live. It was incredible – 2 shows I had never seen before but was greatly curious of, and I was loving it. There was an atmosphere which only the British theatregoer could create – the most discreet excitement yet the upmost politeness, no one could possibly complain in any crowd. We experienced questionable survey taking, marking answers we answered incorrectly, an unfashionable move which we picked up on in the greatest haste. To reflect on traditional, British theatre could there be anything more so than Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘The Pirates of Penzance’. Kim fell in love with the music, I fell in love with the man singing it. Then came the English National Opera – a spectacle that must be seen live to gain it’IMG_5453s full impact.
I was too eager to hear anyone perform anything Hamilton related. I waited. I waited patiently – all day through to the second day, which unfortunately Kim was too ill to attend (fear not though, she is all cured. Flu is a bitch) but I conquered the event alone. And that was the day that my wish came true. West end gospel choir performed – they walked on the stage with a confidence I had not seen in any other act, no other performer held this level of excitement over nerves of their small show. And I reckon – I do, I do, that this was due to their knowledge that they were about to perform Hamilton – an American musical that tells the story of 18th century America in a raw, unique way only Lin-Manuel Miranda could have created. They knew they were ready to perform. They even knew what the audience didn’t – that the lead performed in Lin’s other musical hit – In The Heights – were to perform this legendary shows score alongside them. And that confidence was obvious – that confidence shon though, from the second they set foot upon stage. The second they smiled I danced – the minute they moved I was elated. The mood was beyond compare. We were the people who had wanted – waited for this revolutionary musical to embrace the score of a show that not only told history, but changed it. The predominantly non-Caucasian casting. The first mix of traditional song and rap. The first (in my opinion, at least) mix of applied, educational, theatre with mainstream Broadway fame. And when they sang I smiled – a big deal for some people. I smiled in many areas of knowledge – one of which I was listening to the future, but the other in that other people were being introduced to the future of what theatre should be – inclusive, educational and appealing to people.

But to extend my writing on this event beyond purely Hamilton (which is something I have been told I have to do) I am happy to reflect on some of the great performances that came before my Hamilton extravaganza. Several performing arts schools and troupes performed. Having looked at these groups when I was young as the ultimate goal for myself. There was no doubt that these kids were talented – one young girl even managed to complete her show wearing only one shoe, but the content of these productions was rather questionable to the DATE (Drama, Applied Theatre and Education) of us. Yes there was attitude, yes there were adult themes, but what really was getting to us was the skimpy costumes and noted lack of diversity within the groups. This just highlighted the necessity for change within the industry. But West End Live – long may it continue!

Anything that promises us free stuff – Long may you continue!

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