February 2017 reading round-up

girl reading

Does every month fly by when you get older? I can’t remember the last time it didn’t feel that way. Time passes too fast. Then again, it’s been another reasonably busy month. I’ve kept up the running, on track to run my first 10k in British Science Week as part of Run the Solar System. Once I have the virtual race under my belt, I’ll be all set for the real thing in early May.

On the cultural front, I went to see Othello at the Tobacco Factory Theatre, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And I went to Bletchley Park, which has left me itching to learn more about life there in World War II, if I can only choose between the hundreds of books written about it over the past 20 years or so since it became public knowledge.

Speaking of science and engineering history that had been relatively hidden, tonight I watched the film Hidden Figures about black women who worked as computers at NASA in the 1960s. It’s a remarkable film, a stark reminder of how recently widespread discrimination not only existed but was the norm, and what a fight it was for talented women such as Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson to do their work every day. I now really want to read the book behind the film, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, though I understand it’s rather different, taking a wider look at the historical context and less of a personal story of those three women.

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Sunday Salon: Catching up

The Sunday SalonThis is the blog post I intended to write last Sunday night, but I was exhausted from having such a full weekend so I curled up on the sofa with a book and fell asleep. It’s not a bad way to end the week!

And what exactly did I fill last weekend with? Well, I’m going to start with Friday morning because that way I get to mention something I’m super proud of: I ran 8 km before going to work last Friday. That is the furthest I have run yet, and marks the first time I felt actually confident that I will be able to run 10 km by early May, when the Bristol race that I’ve entered comes around. (I tried to repeat the achievement this week and managed 7.5 km, which is not to be sniffed at, but slightly disappointing when I now know I can beat it!)

Last Friday night, we went with my Mum and brother to the theatre to watch the Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory production of Othello. I really enjoyed it and thought the acting excellent. The local press have been a bit sniffy, and I do agree that some of the modern touches were a misstep. But I thought the central relationships – between Othello and Desdemona, between Othello and Iago, and between Othello and Cassio – were really well portrayed.

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Sunday Salon: Long weekend of culture

The Sunday SalonTim and I have just got back from four days in London. We saw lots of art, mostly photography, hence the new purchases below. I highly recommend the Malick Sidibé exhibition at Somerset House. And I have loved Philippe Halsman’s work ever since being prompted to seek him out after reading a novelisation of his life, called The Jump Artist, five years ago.

But the eagle-eyed will spot that not all the below books are photography-related. We also bought the script of Lazarus, the musical written by David Bowie and Enda Walsh in 2015. The main reason for our trip to London was that my Christmas present to Tim was tickets to the production of Lazarus in London. It’s the Broadway transfer, so we got to see its original star Michael C Hall, AKA TV’s Dexter. That was pretty exciting.

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The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary!

Peepolykus
Bristol Old Vic, 6 May 2016

It’s probably for the best that Tim booked this without my knowledge and also that I didn’t look it up before we went, because on paper I’m not sure I would have been convinced by the concept. An uproarious, farcical comedy based on Flaubert’s tragic novel Madame Bovary, with song, dance, magic tricks, strobe lighting and adult humour. It seems so unlikely to work that I suppose it was inevitable that it actually would.

I should say upfront that I thoroughly enjoyed this. I spent a lot of the show crying with laughter. Once I got the message that this was not a serious adaptation of a serious novel, but a fourth-wall-breaking comedic homage, I settled in for some very-not-serious fun.

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April 2016 reading round-up

Hamlet-stfWhat a literary month April was! This year’s World Book Night fell on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, but the whole month has been Bard-tastic. Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory is a longstanding fixture at one of our local theatres every spring, but this is the first year we have been to see both the plays they’re producing. This season’s repertoire was All’s Well That Ends Well and Hamlet, neither of which I had seen on stage before or studied in any detail. I definitely preferred Hamlet, but I think that’s the writing more than the acting, which was great in both cases.

My reading this month has been mixed and not nearly as plentiful as March. But I did introduce a new blog feature called Hello! What are you reading? in which I ask my friends about their current reads. I’ve loved gathering their answers so far and look forward to sharing them week by week.

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Sunday Salon: All culture is here (except the bits that are elsewhere)

The Sunday SalonIt’s been a bit busy of late. This weekend I’ve finally had a chance to relax after the crazy that was last weekend. We crammed a lot of stuff into too short a time, and my energy levels are showing it. So shockingly (or not) I still haven’t written any of those long-promised book reviews. I have, however, done lots of fun cultural stuff I thought I might share.

We kicked off with a gig here in Bristol. Local rock band Reef were playing what I thought was a reunion tour, but it turns out they’ve been back together since 2010 and I just hadn’t noticed before. Still, it was a great night. Tim and I relived the Reef gig we went to together about 12 years ago and wandered home late on a balmy spring evening. Spring is teasing us with its gradual arrival this year but I think it might just have got here now.

Next up we headed to London. We spent an afternoon at the Science Museum, mostly in the Cosmonauts exhibition (which ended last Sunday) but we also caught a couple of photography shows there. All were excellent, but especially Cosmonauts, which follows the Russian space story.

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Pink Mist

Bristol Old Vic
19 February 2016

One of my Christmas presents from Tim was tickets to the play Pink Mist at Bristol Old Vic, which I knew nothing about except that it’s all in verse and was first performed last year. So it’s modern and experimental but in other ways classical, harking back even as far as ancient Greek theatre. Because this is the story of three young men – boys, really, the main character Arthur corrects himself – who go to war.

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October reading round-up

reading

Happy November, folks! Suddenly life is full of Christmas plans and all the people we promised to catch up with before the end of the year. And yet through summer I always think October and November will be quiet. One day I’ll learn!

We started the month on holiday in Yorkshire, which was lovely and relaxing and already feels like a thousand years ago. I went to see The Crucible at Bristol Old Vic, a “theatrical experience” called The Stick House in the Bristol Temple Meads tunnels (a creepy gothic fairy-tale-type story that wouldn’t be out of place in an Angela Carter novel), Salman Rushdie talking about his new book and Bill Bailey on his latest comedy tour. The large collection of tickets for stuff on the fridge is finally all gone now and I’m itching to book something in!

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The Crucible at Bristol Old Vic

BOV_Crucible

“We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!”

This classic play marks 100 years since the birth of its playwright Arthur Miller by returning to the stage of its 1954 British première (its true première was a year earlier, on Broadway). Directed by Tom Morris, artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic, the production is largely traditional, with a few unusual twists. The cast gathers faces familiar to the Bristol stage with those from farther afield, but there are no star names, which is to its credit. This play works well as an ensemble, allowing each character’s importance to the story be highlighted in turn.

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Under the Dark Moon

The Invisible Circus
Bristol Old Vic, 10 April 2015

Photo by Joe Clarke
Photo by Joe Clarke.

From the opening shadow theatre sequence, Under the Dark Moon‘s atmosphere of macabre beauty combined with the blackest humour is clear. The silhouettes of elegant dancers are chased across the stage by giants. A child won’t stop eating, becoming grotesque.

When “Old Victor”, the ringleader/storyteller (see what they did there?), introduces his troupe, he invites us – even implores us – to delight in their misfortune, to laugh at their pain and sorrow. They have suffered for their art, and he positively encourages that. One by one he tells their stories, and while there is plenty of clowning fun, they don’t shy away from plumbing the depths of human despair.

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