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Posts Tagged ‘growing up’

Anything from the Mischief Theatre Company is worth watching, and after this got postponed twice due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I was really looking forward to finally getting to see it (and finally getting back to Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre, which is one of my favourite places).

If you’re familiar with the Mischief Company’s work, you’ll know that the usually play a group of amateur actors who stage plays that go disastrously wrong, and they have had huge success. A few years ago they wrote a straightforward comedy (The Play About A Bank Robbery) which was extremely funny. Groan Ups has all the laughs and gags you would expect, but there is a surprising tenderness and poignancy in it as well.

We first meet the main cast of five as a group of six year olds at school together, and we can see their early personalities which become more developed as they get older. There’s the precocious, spoiled Moon (played by Yolande Ovid), who spends more time with her au pair than her parents. There’s sensitive Archie (Daniel Abbott), the new boy in the class. Katie (Lauren Samuels) is a worrier and a hard worker. Spencer (Dharmesh Patel) is the popular lad who is not exactly academic. And Simon (Matt Cavendish) is the object of their teasing (and sometimes out and out bullying). After the first part where each child describes their weekend and naively talks about things their parents have done or said without understanding the adult implications of such words and actions, we next meet them as teenagers, where we can see deeper friendships having formed, crushes develop and their adult futures loom. In the final stage of the play they are adults who have left school, but return to the building for a reunion.

There’s a lovely running physical comedy gag about the school hamster, and a fabulous turn from Jamie Birkett as Chemise, the lady who Simon brings to the reunion. The small cast was rounded out by Paul Brown, who played another former schoolboy at the reunion. (Brown was understudy to Killian Macardle).

The sets were fantastic – all set in one classroom, but in teh first part, the doors and furniture were huge, helping to give the impression that the cast were little children. By the time they return for the reunion, the furniture is child sized.

I loved the show; it was so clever, so funny and very sweet. Everyone in the audience seemed to be having a great time and laughing a lot! The whole cast was great and I highly recommend going to see this if you get chance.

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New York in the late 1960s, and the four young Gold siblings – Varya, Daniel, Klara and Simon – are on their way to see a mysterious fortune teller who is said to be able to tell you the date you will die.

The novel then follows each sibling in turn, starting with the youngest (Simon) and ending with the oldest (Varya) as they grow up and live their lives, and how the prophecy each received affects their behaviour and choices. Simon moves to San Francisco to find love and adventure, Klara becomes an illusionist and magician but is a haunted soul. Daniel tries to make his place in the world a worthy one by becoming an Army medic, while Varya turns to science.

I’m not going to reveal spoilers here as this book deserves to be read with no idea of what’s going to happen. But it’s fair to say that if you knew the date you were going to die, would it affect the way you chose to live? And would the prediction you had received become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Anyway, I loved this book. I felt that each character was brought to life beautifully and was entirely believable. The four lives were very different, but the human emotions and feelings were so well written and described.

Despite the subject which was at times fairly heavy, the book never become clogged down or difficult to read. I enjoyed Simon’s section a lot and was sorry when it ended but then Klara’s part was just as good. The same with Daniel and Varya, both of whom could be difficult to like at times, but never difficult to invest in.

All in all, an excellent read, and I will definitely look out for more books by Chloe Benjamin.

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Caitlin Moran describes how she grew from an unconfident, awkward teenager into a happy and successful woman, using her own experiences as starting points for expounding her views about a variety of subjects – all to do with being a woman (obviously), what it’s like to be a woman, and how the world treats women.  She describes herself early on as a “strident feminist” and reminds the reader of this throughout the book.

I had high hopes for this book, having heard so many good things about it, but within about three chapters, I was ready to throw it up against the nearest wall.  However, by the time I reached the end of it – once I start a book, I have to finish it, no matter how much it’s annoying or boring me – I realised that I did enjoy certain parts.  The book is a collection of Moran’s own personal opinions, some of which I agreed with and some of which I didn’t.  That didn’t bother me; after all, it’s good to hear different opinions to your own.  What did bother me though was the way that Moran seems utterly dismissive or scornful of anyone who doesn’t hold the same views.  It seems at times as though her opinions are outright facts, and if you don’t agree with them, you’re wrong.

I didn’t like the way she was apt to say things such as there were no funny women at all between Dorothy Parker and French & Saunders, or that women have “done f— all” for the last hundred years.  Really?  REALLY?? And there are contradictions too – in one chapter, Moran explains why she hates strip clubs, why they’re the scourge of the earth, and bad for women in general.  But a few chapters down the line, she is happily off to a sex club with Lady Gaga, where Gaga ends up wearing just a bra, knickers and fishnets.  Moran also dislikes music videos where women prance about wearing next to nothing.  I agreed with all her points, until she explained why when Gaga does it, it’s okay, because it’s not provocative or sexual, rather it’s part of some feminist agenda.

I’m not overseen on the overly jokey, make-a-witty-comment-about-everything type of narration, but when Moran becomes more serious, I enjoyed reading what she had to say.  The chapter on overeating made some serious points, and was clearly told from personal experience.  There is a chapter on abortion where the author describes her own decision to have one, and gives her reasons behind not just her personal choices, but her beliefs about the subject in general.  I agreed with her points, but whether you agree with her or not, she was eloquent and sincere.

The penultimate chapter was also very enjoyable, and made some pointed comments about why women feel the need to go under the knife or the needle to look eternally youthful.  If Moran had maintained this more balanced and reasonable tone throughout the rest of the book, I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more.  I liked her sentiment that people should be proud of being feminists, and that equality is good for everyone, but I think maybe style is just not for me.

Generally I’d have to say that this was a very mixed bag for me.  Some parts I liked a lot, some unfortunately really annoyed me.

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When 19 year old Ruby decides that she has had enough of her life in London, she runs away to her grandmother Iris’s home in Cairo.  As Ruby falls in love with Cairo, Iris is in ill health, and fears that she is losing her memories of wartime Egypt and the soldier she fell in love with, who lost his life in World War II.  As we learn the story of Iris and Xan Molyneaux, we also see Ruby growing up, forming a relationship of her own, and bonding with her grandmother.

I really enjoyed this book.  As well as being a retrospective love story (which is wonderfully told), it is also a story of Ruby’s journey, from a troubled and thoughtless teenager, to an intelligent and compassionate young woman.  The story deals with love and heartbreak, fear and memories, and in particular, how the memory of a certain time in life can affect all that comes after it.

Cairo is vividly brought to life – both in the modern day, and during World War II.  It was very easy to imagine how Ruby felt when discovering the city for the first time – while making a parallel journey in which she discovered much about herself.  Reading the book made me want to visit Egypt for myself.

The love story between Iris and Xan is passionate and beautifully told, and never spills over into over-sentimentality or ‘cheesiness’.

All of the characters were entirely believable – more so for not being perfect.  They were well fleshed out and easy to invest emotion in.  The writing is beautiful and flowed easily.  I will definitely be seeking out further work by this author.

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I like Nick Hornby’s books as a rule, and this one is no exception, although having watched the film based on it, I will forever see Hugh Grant as Will.  (For fans of the film, it may be worthy of note that there were some big changes to the storyline in the transition from the page to the screen).

The story concerns Will, a 36 year old man who has never really grown up and accepted responsibility in any form, and the friendship he forms with 12 year old Marcus, who has probably had to grow up far too quickly and take on more responsibility than a boy of that age ever deserves. While Will’s life revolves around women, looking good and listening to the right kind of music, Marcus finds himself taking care of his emotionally fragile mother and dealing with being an outcast at school. Circumstances cause their two lives to collide, and just maybe they can both learn something about life from each other.

Nick Hornby has an easy writing style, which flows well.  He brings his characters to life, and I felt that both of the main characters – and the lesser ones – were well rounded.

There’s humour running throughout the book, but it also takes on some tougher issues.

All in all, definitely worth reading.

(For more information about the author, please click here.)

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