Into the Woods

The Other Emily spends an entertaining evening at the theatre with this classic Sondheim musical.

As you were all heading out into your bank holiday weekends, I ventured Into the Woods to a dark world of grimly comic Fairy tales.Who else could turn childhood favourites into (even) darker versions of the stories other than Stephen Sondheim? Woven into a modern mash up of wolves, beanstalks, bakers, and princesses, this production is a reprisal of the sell-out show in 2014, and sits easily in the round at the Cockpit Theatre. The forest floor is a generous carpet of wood-chipping, and the eerie woods of Sondheim’s imagination a set of ladders ascending into the sky, and dangling down from the beams of the theatre. I took my place with a bird’s eye view (and out of the way of any possible audience participation) and waited for the Narrator (Jordan Michael Todd) to begin the tale.Director Tim McArthur promises the audience a 21st Century twist with his adaptation, and we certainly get that. Jack and his Maw are Glaswegian Neds; the Baker and his wife are Health & Safety conscious with their hair nets and crocs; Cinderella’s Step Mother and her sisters are straight out of TOWIE; and an Irish Witch & Rapunzel battle over a Mother’s right to control her daughter’s life. Our protagonists are a parade of modern stereotypes, which proves a little gimmicky at times; the paedophilic wolf, portrayed as a wide boy; Jack’s drunk Mother lurching around with thong on display, an overwrought, coked-up Rapunzel rejected by her Chelsea Prince Charming etc.In our world of ‘more’, the characters all wish for something else to fill the void. In a nutshell, the Baker wants a child, but the Baker has been cursed by his friendly next-door neighbour, the Witch. She sends him off into the woods to fetch four magic ingredients to break the curse; a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, a slipper as pure as gold – see where they all fit in now? Cue the music.And in this production, we are treated, on the whole, to some fine performances. Aaron Clingham, the musical director, steers the discordant score through the woods with a few tonal mishaps from his singers. I was rather taken by the awkward Jack, played by Jamie O’Donnell, clambering to the top of the ladder-cum-beanstalk, plaintively singing ‘Giants in the Sky’. The stand out performance comes from the Witch, Michele Moran, who ably settles into the role of the haggard old crone whose love for Rapunzel is borderline claustrophobic. She steers much of the narrative, finally breaking the curse of the poor old Baker, to the delight of all.End of Act One, and it all looks smooth sailing – the Baker’s curse has been lifted! Little Red Riding Hood and her Granny are safely back side by side! Jack has his favourite cow and Cinders and Rapunzel their handsome princes. But wait – there’s still Act Two to go, and from the opening number ‘So Happy’ we know it’s not going to be a bunch of laughs. Sondheim’s trademark satirical voice reminds us that we just can’t stay content for long, there’s always something else we want.It’s a clunkier second act – which is partly down to the Book, and by the end of the rampage (oh, did I neglect to mention Jack’s Giantess comes down and tramples most of the ensemble?) I feel like I’ve had a fairly large dose of Medieval Morality - face your responsibilities, own up to your choices, don’t become an overbearing parent. The cast unravel a tad, spending much of the act staring up at the imaginary Giant, and the choreography of the Finale is slightly gauche. The intimate set, which worked so atmospherically in the first act, loses its magic, and when the haze from the woods rises, it left me with the harsh reality of black box theatre…I think it will take a few more magic beans for me to become a hard and fast Sondheim fan, though there will be many in the audience. As for the production at the Cockpit, the actors still have to find their footing on the wood-chipped floor and sort out a few rookie mic issues, but, with that aside, it is an entertaining watch.

INTO THE WOODS runs at the Cockpit Theatre until the 24th June.

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Talking with Andrew Hunter Murray

Andrew Hunter Murray gets up to all sorts of marvellous things on a daily basis and makes us laugh a lot. He's a QI Elf, a co-host of the No Such Thing as a Fish podcast, a writer for Private Eye, a correspondent on The Mash Report AND a founding member of the Jane Austen themed improv-show Austentatious. Below he shares some wise words and a few of his favourite things.

What did you study?

I was an English student, which was extremely good practice for what I do now - frantically reading large amounts of information before trying to explain it to other people. Except now I get to make jokes instead of having to explain the themes of The Merry Wives of Windsor, which is just as well for all concerned.

Tell us a little about your journey to becoming a writer, actor and QI elf?

By complete good fortune. I got a bit of work experience at QI just after I left university - someone introduced me to the producer, comedy legend John Lloyd, and I then pestered him until he caved and told me I could work there for a month. I spent four weeks finding things beginning with G (we were working on the G series at the time) and presented him with a dossier on Giraffes, Gemstones and Gambia. We’re now on P and they haven’t rumbled me yet.

What do you love most about your work?

When I was young I desperately wanted to find a career where I could a) read and b) write, and ideally c) make people laugh. I didn’t really think that people got to do this stuff for a living, so I’m pleasantly surprised every day to find out I’m wrong.

How do you prepare prior to going on stage / in front of the camera?

I worry, intensely, about whether the stuff I’ve got is funny enough.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

For god’s sake, if you’re wearing a suit, make sure the flaps of the pockets are out on both sides. That one’s courtesy of my mother. She did tell me something else, but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten it.

Do you have a favourite Fish fact?

After 200 episodes, it’s basically whatever we’ve done most recently. But I do have a long-held soft spot for anything involving animals on parachutes. So, for example: during the second world war, the first allied combatants to parachute into Normandy on D-Day were a few German Shepherds, who were accompanying the first party of soldiers.

Do you have a favourite Jane Austen book?

I have written and deleted my answer to this one about five times. I go back and forth between Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice. The latter is just an absolute Austen blockbuster with all your favourite hits: Persuasion is like her later prog-rock phase where all the themes are being played with greater maturity, and on weirder instruments.

Do you have a favourite writer (other than Jane!)?

Douglas Adams. And P.G.Wodehouse. And Terry Pratchett. Any of the amazing tradition of British humourists who create new worlds and then spend their lives roaming around them. But then again, if it’s Christmas and I fancy a nice murder, I won’t say no to a P.D.James, as she’s the absolute master of nasty murders by well-drawn characters.

What are you watching?

I’ve just finished Detectorists. The opening premise doesn’t sound like much - two middle-aged blokes walking slowly across a field with metal detectors, talking rubbish - and it slowly unfurls into one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking, brilliantly-drawn sitcoms you’ll ever see.

What are you reading?

I’m flipping between a very weird book of sci-fi short stories called You Should Come With Me Now by M John Harrison, and some Grade A Edith Wharton (The Age of Innocence).

What are you listening to?

The background hum of a washing machine. (A couple of my friends are so cool that they probably listen to bands with names like that. Just to be clear, this is just a washing machine).

What are you drinking?

I’ll have a half of cider, please.

Favourite word?

‘Rumble’, but only when preceded by ‘Let’s get ready to’.

Favourite animal?

My first ever pet, Lilt the hamster (1997-1999). In case you’re wondering, she’s not the answer to any of my security questions for my online banking, so good luck with that one, fraudsters!

Favourite place in London?

The water-gate of George, Duke of Buckingham, which is in the Embankment gardens. I frequently bore anyone unwise enough to walk past with me with stories about it, as my rapidly diminishing number of friends will tell you.

Favourite place in the world?

See above. And one interesting fact about the water-gate of George, Duke of Buckingham, is…no, wait, come back, this is good…

If you could have 3 people to dinner dead, alive or fictional who would they be and why?

I would have Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart, and I would make them re-enact all their scenes from The Philadelphia Story until they got angry and left.

Parallel universe career?

If I can pick absolutely anything, I would like to be doing something very very similar, please.

@andrewhunterm

At the Savoy Theatre, London: Austentatious

The podcast on tour: No Such Thing as a Fish

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Bascule Chamber Concerts

I am going to admit that I had done very little research into the Bascule Chamber Concerts. All I knew was that I needed to be on Tower Bridge at 7.45pm, that there would be 120 steps to reach the concert 'chamber',  Handel's Messiah was to somehow be involved and there would be no loos.So having made my loo stop and found the meeting place on Tower Bridge, and with a little time to spare, I had a little read of the programme.It turns out the bascules are the two 1,000 ton leaves on Tower Bridge that open to let boats under.  And the 'chamber' we were about to descend into is located under the Thames, YES under the Thames, and when it's not hanging out being a stone underground void built by the Victorians, it is filled with one of the counterweights needed to balance the opening the bascules.I have to say I am a little tired of interactive experiences in unusual places (I'm just not sure I need to eat dinner in a tube carriage, whilst someone performs Hamlet around me) and what's wrong with a concert in a concert hall? But this did sound rather exciting, and I liked the idea of listening to music performed in this grand Victorian space.So off we went down, down, down into this hidden chamber (the staircase down looked a little like how I imagine the bowels of the Titanic to look, this did nothing for my nerves), accompanied as went by some Thames themed 'music'.Now Iain Chambers and the Langham Research Centre are a composing / performing ensemble and create sounds  or ''period’ performances of electronic work by 20th century composers, alongside their own new material composed for an instrumentarium of obsolete Cold War era technology'. So for an hour we sat in this slightly chilly chamber, listening to their performance.  Two men at a table pushed things around, mixing 'river related' pre-recorded sounds (it really did look like might be decoding Cold War radio messages), whilst Kate Romano played her clarinet in accompaniment, to the music they were creating. And Kayo Chingonyi read his poetry in between the musical performances.It was an absolutely extraordinary experience, I suspect if you are one of those people who likes taking things apart and putting them back together, has an appreciation of good music, and are very open to new ideas and concepts about music, this would be right up your street.I did spend rather a lot of the time wondering if they had got their timings wrong and we were all about to the smooshed by the giant weight above our heads, as Tower Bridge opened it's gates. And you could here boats zooming past overhead, which I wasn't sure I liked (an over-active imagination - what if all the water just started to pour in..) and there was a constant drip, drip (I have no idea if this was part of the concert, or just a Victorian drip - thank goodness I had gone to the loo before). And was mildly irritated by the girl next to me who kept referring to her programme using the torch light of her MASSIVE iphone.I really enjoyed Kayo Chingonyi's poetry reading, but I suspect my music appreciation hasn't yet reached the right level to really understand what the Langham Research Centre is up to with all their Cold War technology sounds.  The Messiah did feature very intermittently and part of me just felt 'wouldn't it be nice if we were listening to an orchestra play Handel's Messiah in this quite amazing space'.The chamber itself really is spectacular, quite something to have seen. If you are interested in going to see this concert (they are only on this weekend) I would urge you to listen to some of the Langham Research Centre's previous work, just to acclimatise a little.. and do remember to go to the loo before hand.Alice xxxBascule Chamber Concerts are part of the Totally Thames Festival22nd - 24th September 2017Photos by Garbor Gergely Photography. 

'Road'

Emily 🙋

I spent some of Wednesday afternoon at a social media call for the Royal Court's newest play 'Road' 🎭. I had impulsively answered a call out on Instagram the day before, and was invited to come and take pictures 📷 of the cast.It's the first time the Royal Court has done something like this, but with my marketing hat on, I considered what a shrewd move it actually is. Free photography, free advertising and a variety of ages and demographics posting about what they had seen - odds are someone was going to see it. Ok so top dog influencers like Zoella weren't amongst us - but I'm willing to bet a couple of my cohorts were keen social media bods with sizeable followings...Not a bad idea?! 👌🏻We were shown a snippet of the action taken from the beginning of Act 2, that had not been shown to the press (this made us feel v special) 💁🏼. It was also chosen because it showcased most of the cast, to give us a good overview and variety of photo opportunities 📷.The theatres Associate Director, John Tiffany, gave a short introduction to the piece promising music 🎶, movement and most importantly chips 🍟. It did not disappoint. The stellar cast including Faye Marsay (Candice from Fresh Meat) and Michelle Fairley (GOT's Catelyn Stark) brought a fraught energy, with brash characterisations and Lancashire lilts. There was dancing 💃, boozing 🍺, ranting👄 and existential musings 👀(and that was just three minutes).The Royal Court website describes Road as a piece giving 'expression to the inhabitants of an unnamed northern road in Eighties Britain.' Focusing on the impoverished of Lancashire, Cartwright shines light on the effect of the Thatcher government and the deprivation it cased. (One of my social media colleagues did point out how timely this theme appears to be, given our own political vortex).Tiffany brings new life to the play, 30 years after it was originally staged at the Royal Court, harnessing the initial promenade style into a constant flow of energy in the more static stage set up.I may have only seen a snapshot of the play, but it definitely left me thirsty for more. See you there? 👏🏻

Emily xxx

Road showing at Royal Court Theatre runs until 9th SeptemberYou can read all about Emily and Olivia's blog take over here.IMG_1869IMG_1856Road
Photos taken by Emily 

Kiss Me

This week I had a super trip to the theatre to see Kiss Me, a play by Richard Bean, currently on show at Trafalgar Studios.Kiss Me, starring Claire Lams and Ben Lloyd-Hughes, is a love affair, an encounter between a man and a woman in the most unusual of circumstances. I highly recommend going to see it (Richard Bean also wrote One Man, Two Guvnors, so you better be quick booking those tickets.)  It's hugely engaging, gets you thinking, and is thoroughly enjoyable.In so many ways it is a modern day story - a single woman in her 30s really wants a baby, and is prepared to try new methods to achieve this.But this young woman is living in worn-torn London, post World War I.  She is 32 and has given up all hope of ever finding a husband.  She is a 'modern' woman, she smokes, she drives a lorry, and she is open to the idea of trying new controversial methods to become a mother.  The main pull being that it will allow her to bring a child into the world and keep it, without being married.Into her life steps a brooding, well-dressed, well-spoken young man, who appears more than willing to help her.  But there are some catches - she may never know his real name. Or why he didn't fight in the war. Or ever see him again. And they are absolutely not allowed to kiss.The ensuing saga, set entirely in Stephanie's bedroom in her all-female boarding house, is fraught with tension. It is awkward and shocking at points, but also incredibly tender and very funny. Stephanie wears her heart on her sleeve, she is confident, funny, sharp and assertive, but also hugely vulnerable.  She nervously chatters away and talks about herself and slowly, but surely, she encourages Dennis to open up. And Dennis who first appears to have firm views, a blinkered idea of 'love' and strict rules surrounding their relationship, softens and slowly falls for Stephanie's charms.And throughout the performance the question is always present, hovering around every interaction -  is it a baby that they both want, or is it love that they yearn for, and can the two ever truly be separated?I really enjoyed the performance, both actors were superb, perfectly setting the tone of this bizarre romance. And it is also a fascinating subject, one that is so specific to it's time, and yet still very relevant to today. And although it is set entirely around and on a bed, no one gets too naked, although maybe don't take a first date unless you are feeling really bold.... 😘Alice xxxKiss Me at Trafalgar Studios is showing until 8th July.Photos courtesy of Robert Day.

Twelfth Night by Merely Theatre

If you are in need of some post Easter holiday cheer, I highly recommend going to see Merely Theatre's production of Twelfth Night at the Greenwich Theatre this week.Merely are a repertory theatre company, meaning they put on a series of plays in rotation, performing one whilst rehearsing the other, or putting on multiple plays at once - currently Twelfth Night and Romeo & Juliet.  Classic repertory theatre produced both Ian McKellan and Judi Dench, but is a dying breed of theatre, and Merely are reviving it with great gusto.They are also a 'genderblind' theatre company (very modern), so there is no distinction as to who plays what role, boys are girls and girls are boys.  The company is made up of five girls and five boys, and male-female 'twins' rehearse the same part i.e. there is a girl and a boy both versed in exactly the parts, and for each performance they rotate, so you might get any one combination of five performers the night you go to see the play.Yesterday evening I arrived at Greenwich Theatre in a slightly bad mood - post holiday blues, a long long cycle ride all the way from Battersea via Kennington, Camberwell, Peckham, Lewisham and New Cross and most of the pollution in London, and supper eaten in about 5 minutes flat.  But after the first few minutes I was completely entranced and delighted by this charming performance of Shakespeare's comedy of mistaken identities.The five performers were absolutely brilliant.  With only a few props, this light-hearted Shakespeare play was brought to life, and I was completely gripped.  And at no point did I switch off due to heavy going Shakespearean language, it was throughly entertaining from start to finish.Particularly captivating were Robert Myles as the slimily suave Malvolio, and Hannah Ellis and Luke Barton as the merry and bumbling double act Toby Belch and Andrew Aguecheek.However, the person who really stole the show for me was Tamara Astor as Duke Orsino's not so foolish fool, Feste.  Not only did she play the wise fool charmingly, with lines delivered with perfect timing and apt facial expressions, she also sang beautifully, played the flute and the accordion, and even delivered some of her lines whilst doing a head stand.  Her character was a pleasingly calm antidote to the high-spirited mayhem created by Toby Belch and Andrew Aguecheek.It was such a super evening, Merely thank you for having me.  I didn't stay for the 'Genderblind' questions and answers at the end, as really I think the performance made the point clearly enough - the actor will make the character their own regardless of their gender.  Gender is not, not important, it just doesn't need to be the defining feature of an actors performance.It was really great fun and I may well come back and see Romeo and Juliet on Friday.Alice xxxTwelfth Night is showing this week on Thursday and Saturday at 7.30pm at the Greenwich Theatre.Romeo & Juliet is showing this week on Thursday at 2.30pm, and Friday at 7.30pm at the Greenwich Theatre.unspecified-2unspecified-3unspecified-4unspecified

A Trip to Hackney Wick & Big Guns by Nina Segal

Last Friday I took a trip to Hackney Wick to see Big Guns at The Yard Theatre, a play by Nina Segal, directed by  Dan Hutton.Big Guns is a curious play, Debra Baker and Jessye Romeo sit on a stage littered with popcorn and wrappers and speak into microphones.  Often the stage falls into darkness and sometimes they shine torches as they move about the set.  And all the while they speak to one another, building up a paranoid feeling of fear.  Three different scenarios are presented - a personal diary found and read guiltily by someone else, the blogger couple whose perfect life online is not quite so perfect offline, and the vlogger who is so deeply involved in her online life her husband is all but forgotten.  We become intimate with the characters lives - we know more than we should, and we know we shouldn't want to know more, but we also can't help wanting to know, and we know this is wrong, but still we keep watching.It certainly isn't easy viewing, there were times when I felt highly uncomfortable, others when I was completely bewildered, but Debra Baker and Jessye Romeo are mesmerising in their roles as 'fear'.  And it addresses interesting questions, particularly the paranoia of the online world, our fear of being on the brink of an unknown digital age, and the feeling of being constantly watched. And even more disturbingly the fear within ourselves that we will push a boundary just a little too far, the one we know we aren't supposed to - spending a bit too much time looking a person up on the internet, watching the video we know we shouldn't, reading the deepest secrets from someone else's diary, anonymously trolling someone on the internet because it's 'funny'.It was an enjoyable evening and I really liked The Yard Theatre - it has a great bar, and before we had a drink in Howling Hops and a burger from Billy Smokes which is just across the way (if you are visiting, Crate is also great, they do pizza and drinks with tables that overlook the canal). And it was my first visit to Hackney Wick - it's right next to the Olympic Park, we took the overground all the way there from Clapham Junction, it was a very pleasant trip!Alice xxx 

Bunny by Jack Thorne

I went to see Jack Thorne's play  Bunny at the White Bear Theatre pub Kennington, presented by Fabricate Theatre and starring Catherine Lamb.If you are looking for some mid-week entertainment I highly recommend going to see Bunny - first of all this is great pub, ideal for dinner and drinks with friends, a couple of minutes walk from Kennington tube station and this brilliant play is 60 minutes long, really manageable for on a weekday night.And the play is really really good.  I like things that make me think, and Bunny did that, at every twist and turn.  In this one man show, Catherine Lamb stars as Katie, an 18 year old living in Luton and in her last year of school.  Katie plays the clarinet in the orchestra, and has been applying to university - the first girl in her family to go to university - and she has also recently acquired a boyfriend.  Older than her, her boyfriend Abe works in Luton, grew up on a nearby council estate Marsh Farm and her Guardian reading parents are not altogether convinced by him.  The story takes place one sticky Summer afternoon after school, when Katie, quite by accident finds herself in the back of a car with two of Abe's male 'friends' chasing a boy on a bike through the council estate Marsh Farm.Catherine Lamb is completely gripping as Katie, I couldn't keep my eyes off her, waiting to find out what choice she will make next.  We follow the narrative of what is happening via Katie's thoughts - and she has a lot of them.  She bounces and leaps across the stage, this way and that, with a dilapidated sofa chair as her main prop, telling us the story, and we are with her every step of the way.  Occasionally she digresses away from the current story to tell us about her life, and these insights add an interesting depth and element to the flow of the main story.She is not a loveable character, she is brash and loud and doesn't think too much before she thinks.  Sometimes she is very very aware of what consequence her actions will have, sometimes she thinks she is in control of the situation and later realises she is in far too deep, and at other time she is hugely vulnerable.  She has the naivety of an 18 year old girl who also thinks she is street wise but definitely isn't, and whose parents are completely out of touch of what the world is like for young people her age.It was a really terrific play, and watching it in a small theatre was a real treat.  I felt as though I was there with her in Luton, experiencing the events pan out with her, judging her choices, but also wondering that, if I had been 18 and in her situation, would I have reacted differently and made different choices?Definitely do go and see it, it's a great experience and perfect for a weekday night.And if you are wondering where you have heard the name Jack Thorne before - he is the writer of Harry Potter & The Cursed Child and also of the TV series Skins.Alice xxxImages courtesy of Dashti Jahfabunny-by-jack-thorne-2bunny-by-jack-thorne-4bunny-by-jack-thorne 

Emily's Top 5 Podcasts

I thought it was about time I had some contributors on my blog, rather than just me telling you how excited I am about everything ALL the time 😘 .  The first piece is by Emily (my @thatcoat collaborator) who has very kindly written a fun post on her favourite podcasts of the moment.  I very much hope you enjoy reading Emily's recommendations.Alice xxx 💕

Emily on Podcasts

unnamed-2Hello, I’m Emily and I am delighted to be the first official contributor to Alice Frances! I am 25, I live in London and have an extensive and niche knowledge of films you have never watched. I have recently taken up cycling and am seeking treatment for my creme egg addiction.If you weren’t aware, podcasts are officially a ‘thing.’ They are literally everywhere and anyone who is anyone has one of their own. In 2013 Apple said that there were over a billion subscriptions spread across 250,000 unique podcasts in more than 100 languages, and that more than 8 million episodes had been published in the iTunes Store. Four years later, I’m sure there are a few more…I link back my love of podcasts to listening to audio books at bedtime (thanks Stephen Fry). There is just something very comforting about having someone/s chatting away while you are doing admin at home, commuting or even a boring task at work. And now we are spoilt for choice, there are podcasts that cover everything, from mindfulness to fashion, from inspiration to S&M and we can listen to our hearts content. I’m in favour of anything that makes a commute go faster or gets me away from a screen. Here are my top five:

1. Kermode & Mayo’s Film Review

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-11-29-20As a LTL – (long term listener) this was probably the first podcast I ever listened to, in an ancient form back in 2009 downloaded onto my ipod mini. It is safe to say I have been hooked ever since. Esteemed film critics Kermode and Mayo provide honest, nail on the head reviews, peppered amongst their signature ‘wittering.’ It is usually my go to before seeing a film in the cinema - the only time I have ever disagreed with their opinion was the greatly misjudged Hail Caeser! Listening to this is like having two friends chattering away in your ear, who bicker, make dad jokes and just happen to be movie geniuses. Each week brings a new guest from whatever ‘of the moment’ film is in the cinema, who expertly flog their film and provide interesting analysis of the craft and process.What To Expect: Multiple ‘hellos to Jason Isaacs,’ insightful film reviews, wittering and stellar guests.

2. Unexplained

Richard McLean Smith

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-11-29-05This eerie and intriguing podcast will simultaneously pique your interest and send chills down your spine. Picking up the threads of unresolved (and often supernatural) stories, it describes itself as being about ‘strange and mysterious real life events that continue to evade explanation.’ Exploring unsolved mysteries where the paranormal meets the real, Unexplained makes the spooky scientific. McLean Smith has a voice like velvet and his thorough research and meticulous use of sources gives the inexplicable, clarity. What To Expect: Goosebumps, cliff hangers, mystery and a narrator who will keep you coming back for more. An episode favourite: When The Light Fades 

3. You Must Remember This

Karina Longworth

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-11-28-46The podcast about the secret and/or forgotten history of Hollywood's first century. This podcast brings the golden age of Hollywood into sharp focus, with particular emphasis on its glittering starts who made their names there. The pitfalls of the studio system, the highs (often chemical) and lows of the stars, and the films that made them famous, You Must Remember This is a window into a deliciously decadent past. With an in-depth look at characters such as Carole Lombard, Clarke Gable, Judy Garland, Arthur Miller, and many many more, this podcast dives into the lives of the stars and follows them on the rollercoaster that was Hollywood at its inception.What To Expect: A no-nonsense look at Hollywood with interesting and often unexpected tip bits about your favourite forgotten stars

4. Dan Snow’s History Hit

unnamedThis podcast is like all of your school history lessons with the boring bits cut out, and a teacher who really cares about their subject and wants you to care too. Dan Snow chooses relevant, popular pieces of history and explores them with academics, from the plague to prime ministers, the Klondike Gold Rush to drugged up Nazis – there’s something for everyone. The guests are interesting, the history is presented in easily digestible nuggets and Snow’s enthusiasm about his subject is completely infectious. Look out for his total reluctance to comply with his sponsor’s requests – its very refreshing.What To Expect: To finish each episode feeling a little smarter, wish you were back at school frequenting history class and to smash the history round at the pub quiz.An Episode favourite: Blitzed: Drugs In Nazi Germany – Norman Ohler 

5. My Dad Wrote a Porno

Jamie Morton, James Cooper & Alice Levine

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-11-29-37 If you haven’t heard of, or listened to this podcast in the last year then odds are you have been living under a rock. Imagine if your Dad retired, and instead of taking up gardening or walking, decided to turn his hand to erotic literature. This is the horror that Jamie Morton faced. The result was ‘Belinda Blinked: A modern story of sex, erotica and passion. How the sexiest sales girl in business earns her huge bonus by being the best at removing her high heels.’ Instead of ignoring his fathers attempts at erotica – Morton decided to share the fruits of his labour with the world (with the help of his two best friends). Thus My Dad Wrote a Porno was born. The books decidedly unsexy plotline (about Belinda, a pots and pans saleswoman), combined with terrible punctuation, and the trios constant mocking makes for very entertaining listening.What To Expect: Anatomical inaccuracies, convoluted plotlines and laughter lines

Emily's other recommendations:

The Guilty Feminist

Global Pillage

Guys We F@#ked

No Such Thing as a Fish

Alice's Choice:

The Allusionist

download

15 minute bites of all things wordy by Helen Saltzman.  It's about language and etymology, and Helen barely draws breath whilst she fills you in on all manner of extraordinary word meanings, word history, word connections and lots and lots of word play.  It's great.

Dirty Great Love Story

Recently, I have realised that I have become very bad at using London to my advantage.  I live and mainly work south of the river (my sister refers to where I live as 'Surrey' - it's actually  Wandsworth), and on cold winter evenings, cycling into central London does not seem appealing, home and warmth and supper sound far more pleasant.However, I live in London, and this is really not acceptable, so I have been making an effort to cross over that river into London proper and go and experience some of the amazing things on offer.This week I went to see the romantic comedy Dirty Great Love Storywritten by Katie Bonna and Richard Marsh and directed by Pia Furtado, at the Arts Theatre, and it was the perfect way to cheer up a cold January evening.Dirty Great Love Story is the story of Katie and Richard who meet one night in a nightclub, spend one slightly awkward night at a hotel, and are by chance brought together again by mutual friends.  Over a couple of years, bumping into each other at parties and weddings, neither can quite decide if the other actually likes them, or if they even like each other at all.  I mean, should they be together, and could they?It's a fun, very relatable modern day boy-meets-girl story, and the characters are superbly cliché.  Ayesha Antoine plays Katie, the down to earth 30 year old who has recently been dumped and she also plays her overly posh, fun-loving friend Cece, with brilliant vivacity.  Felix Scott plays Richard, the geeky and loveable 30-something year old who can't quite believe his luck at meeting cool pretty Katie.  His rendition of Matt Priest the suave 'toff' is wonderfully over the top and skin-crawlingly good.The story is easy-going, lighthearted and believable, but what really makes this play exciting is that the entire 80 minutes is spoken in verse.  It certainly isn't too serious, at one point Felix Scott's character Rich, rhymes 'owl' 'bowel' 'trowl' and 'scowl' in four lines whilst on a stag-do - as you do. The story is really brought alive with the use of slightly strange rhyming verse and quick witted word play, and it makes potentially objectionable characters very endearing.  There is a lovely Dire Straits 'Romeo and Juliet' balcony moment too 😘.The set is simple but brightly coloured, and Katie wears a great yellow jumper (I quite want it!).It was fun and cheering, there were lots of surprisingly pleasing laugh out loud moments, and it is definitely worth a watch on a cold winter evening.Alice xxxDirty Great Love StoryDirty Great Love StoryDirty Great Love StoryPhotos courtesy of Richard Davenport for The Other Richard

Russian Dolls

This week I went to see Russian Dolls 👭 at the King’s Head Theatre 👑👨 in Islington.It was rather nice to have an excuse to go to Islington, I tend not to venture there that often but I do like it rather a lot.  It is definitely an area of London I still need to discover, I hardly know it at all.  One of my favourite things about living and working in London 🎡, is discovering new places 💃.  I have always lived south of the river 🚣 – Battersea and Wandsworth, but have worked in Covent Garden 💐, Fitzrovia 🎓, Kentish Town 🎶 and Chelsea 👸 and I always love getting to know a new place.  The initial discovery of a new and exciting place for lunch 🍝or coffee ☕️, and then getting to know the people who run the café, once your favourites have been established.  Favourites have been Spud 🍲in Covent Garden - gourmet baked potato for lunch (it has now closed, but don't worry, there are other potato selling places), Attendant in Fitzrovia – a great bacon 🐷 sandwich, Kaffeine for their banana bread 🍌 and coffee ☕️, Yumchaa for their brownies 🍩 and green tea 🍵(a superb combination) both in Fitzrovia, Meat in Tufnell Park – great sandwiches 🍞 and a bottle of wine 🍷 if you need one for dinner that evening, and Artisan du Chocolat in Chelsea for a hot chocolate pick me up ☕️🍫.  And of course Piccolo’s on Sloane Street.  If you are ever at Sloane Square need anything they seem to have it, I have begged lemons 🍋🍋 from them on multiple occasions (don’t ask) and they’ve even produced a chocolate cake 🎂 short notice for a birthday.So to Islington, where I met Nikki, and we went to watch Russian Dolls👭 by Kate Lock, at the Kings Head Theatre 👑 👨, which is through a door at the back of this rather nice little pub.The last time I went to see a play in a small venue, a friend and I made the mistake of consuming a couple too many drinks 🍷🍷 before we took our seats and we happened to be sitting on the wrong side of the stage.  Short play, no interval – and I have to say (although it was a very good performance) we spent the last 20 minutes desperately trying to decide if we could dash across the stage to the exit 👯, in between scenes.  We didn’t, but I was better prepared this time – not too many drinks beforehand.I liked Russian Dolls 👭 very much – it is the story of a relationship between Hilda 👵, an elderly lady who has suddenly gone blind, and her accidental carer, the young and very mouthy Camellia 👧(what a great name) - they initially meet when Camellia burgles Hilda.  The character of Hilda is based on a lady who lived locally in Islington – she had spent her entire life fostering children, and in the play unofficially takes Camellia under her wing.It is a clash of personalities 🙅🙆💁, between two women of very different generations living in London.  Hilda lives alone, her husband has died and she never had any children.  Although she is blind she still carries on cooking 🍝, all sorts of homemade things – lemonade 🍶, cakes 🍰and toad in the hole 🍲.  Camellia is 17 and has just left a young offenders unit, and is one of a number of children who have all been removed from their mother - she now spends most of her time with her brother’s gang, who often treat her quite brutally 🙍.  Both characters are people we perhaps push to the back of our minds too often – the homeless girl on the street, and the elderly lady living alone, with no company but her daily carer.It is a really intriguing and moving interaction between two very strong characters, the lonely, but brave Hilda 👵 who dearly wants to help Camellia, and Camellia 👧who is brash with a harsh survival instinct.  For Camellia, stealing from an old lady is just a way to ensure she gets her next meal – she has no one she can rely on, or who cares for her, except the rather strained relationship with her social worker.The story is shocking in places, and you never know what might come next.   The performances are very very good, Mollie Lambert plays Camellia 👧 and Stephanie Fayerman  Hilda 👵, the way the characters play off each other is absolutely captivating.  This unlikely relationship between two very different members of our society works surprisingly well, they are able to share things, that the other may never have achieved on their own - Camellia learns to cook🍝, Hilda gets a guide dog 🐶.  And it also puts into perspective how much has changed between generations – they are two women, living in the same city with completely different values, priorities and ideas about life, and very often they just can’t comprehend the others actions or thoughts.If you are looking for something to do today or tomorrow, I definitely recommend going to see it - Russian Dolls, King's Head Theatre 👭👨👑.Alice xxx

Grace Lightman

11393435_1441177209519048_1633894770362933073_oThis week I had breakfast with Grace Lightman, and we spoke all about what she is up to at the moment and it was super.Grace sings, really rather beautifully and in the last couple of years has gone from being the lead singer in a band to becoming a solo artist, writing her own songs.  I have a great admiration for anyone who can sing (I can't) and also for people who make a decision to pursue a career in something they truly love, that really makes them happy.Grace's voice is exquisite, and incredibly moving - and the music she is creating, her voice and the music, combined with her lyrics, is very poignant, conjuring up a sense of melancholy with a rather dreamy twist to it (listen to Black is the Colour).  It is absolutely beautiful, there is really no other way to describe it.Grace currently has silver hair, and with her big alluring green eyes, and kooky black and white outfits, when you meet her, you just know she is someone.  What I like about Grace is that she is very down to earth, she is passionate about what she does, she is confident, and she's a hard worker.  I have seen her perform, and she captivating, but actually you also kind of want her as your best friend.  She is fun and sassy, and very open to new ideas and has a wonderful  imagination.  You couldn't put her in any sort of box, but perhaps that is the perfected art of a performer.  And performing is what she loves most - when she performs 'the whole world stops', for her it is 'the ultimate state of being' - and it is something, she told me, she just couldn't live without.So after leaving a band 3 years ago, Grace realised that she needed to not only sing music, but also create it - up until this point she had only ever performed.  She began to be mentored by a song writer, spending two years learning to write songs, and meeting her current writing partner, Patrick along the way.  Grace and Patrick write their songs in the deepest countryside on a farm, in a room full of pianos, with chickens in the farmyard outside.  I love the image of Grace with her silver hair, and super outfits writing music on a farm - a chicken even features (accidentally) on one of the tracks.Grace and Patrick have hit on something incredibly special and ever since have been building an album, writing to a specific sound and visual palette - of which the first release is Vapour Trails.  Grace describes her music and image as sounding, and looking like the Twilight Zone.  We are thinking vintage sci-fi from the seventies, and I love this, for me it conjures up the image of old school sci-fi, in black, white, and silver, with lovelorn extraterrestrials lost in time and space.Grace will be releasing her first official single soon from this album, and has shot a video for this, directed by the film director Alex Lightman, who also happens to be her brother.  I am so excited to see it.And in the meantime if you would like a taster, Grace recently played a gig which was music directed by her writing partner Patrick - the line up was San Felu, Waylor and Grace Lightman.  This was her first gig with a full band, and she also sung one song with each of the other bands, I suggest you have a little listen it's all wonderful:Vapour Trails - Grace LightmanSanctuary Blues - San Felu feat. Grace LightmanHungover - Waylor with Grace LightmanSo excited for your single and video release Grace, it's going to be be magnificent!Alice xxxwww.gracelightman.comFacebook page: Grace LightmanPhotos by Dmitry Serostanov12717291_10153216869371783_8627927675988797149_n906110_1487461274890641_7992104535184984457_o12227757_10153065724111783_3708487841266401618_n

Peter Vaughan - All Over the Shop

Today I am veering from the path slightly, and will give you a detailed update of my weekend activities tomorrow.And instead, I am going back to Peter, musician and writer, who I met up with on Wednesday and to me, in my unemployed status is a breath of fresh air - I think he only asked me once how my job search is going, and instead very kindly allowed me to ask him all sorts of questions about what he gets up to.  For the record, he is completely not 'all over the shop' but he does love to use the expression 😉..So as I am writing this I am listening to Peter Charles Franklin Vaughan’s album 'The Road that leads to Love leads back out again', which is incredibly heart warming.Peter creates his own music - always melody first, lyrics second, and describes his music as 'traditionally folk'. He has recently written a song about the Thames and I really enjoyed listening to his explanation of this process. The song evolved first by creating a melody on the guitar, playing with chords and rhythm, trying to recall the sound of an English river - a recent reading of Jerome K. Jerome's 'Three Men in a Boat' was part of this inspiration. This led to further research on the Thames, and the incorporation of place names along 'The Devil's Highway' a Roman Road that ran from the bridgehead of the Thames. To Peter it is important that his music will 'translate infinitely' - it can be understood by everyone, and he always incorporates metaphors and adds an element of humour to his lyrics.I am not a particularly musical person, although I do enjoy listening (and dancing!) to music a lot, and it was really wonderful to hear Peter speak so eloquently about his process.Peter sings and plays guitar and has started performing his own music with a band - he is thinking of calling it 'Peter Vaughan & sons'. He also currently plays bass for both Lou E and Dregas. For Peter, performing live is an adrenaline rush, a chance to show off, and to make people listen to him - because if you can't say it in a song, when can you say it. I think it is incredibly exciting that he has spent the time teaching himself to create, write, and perform his own music. He only took up guitar aged 16 after hearing a friend play 'House of the Rising Sun'.Peter also writes, and recently won a prize for a short story 'Real Love' which I have just read.  It is incredibly poignant, a love letter to friends, and has a Kerouac-esque feel to it.  To me it is a quiet, but powerful homage to a new generation of artists, musicians and writers, united by a a deep, abiding friendship and mutual respect for each others endeavours.  He himself is very well read, Hemingway, Nabokov and Orwell were mentioned as people who have inspired him, along with the Albert Camus quote ' A novel is never anything, but a philosophy put into images'. We also spoke about Orwell's six rules on writing - I learnt rather a lot!We spoke about a few other things including dressing up - Peter likes to be able to laugh at his own appearance and is often changing his hair style, narcissism - he sees himself as a narcissist; his first tattoo - a memento for being part of the shoot for the band Formation's new single 'Love'. He really enjoys hosting and cooking for people (he is a vegan) and finally that he would like Daniel Day-Lewis to play him in a film about his life.Peter is one of these people who is entirely himself, and does not make any compromises. He speaks very eloquently about things that absorb him, and he is always interested in your point of view. For me it is really exciting to speak to someone who is wholeheartedly pursuing their passion, has veered from the unconventional career path, completely taken it in their stride and I am very excited for what is to come next 😊IMG_0716IMG_0715IMG_009812341547_10153601613585845_5361957211499214468_n