Friday, 8 June 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey/Further/Freed

By E L James

As my sister put it "wow, good title". And the covers are pretty snazzy too, working the moody and mysterious vibe. This is the problem: NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER.
In a post exam haze I was perusing the books on Asda when I saw the huge display dedicated to The Biggest Best Most Amazing New Blockbuster Trilogy. They looked nice easy reading for lounging around, and as a bonus they were only £3 each. Bargain.
What I should have done was asked one of my internet savvy buddies if they'd heard of them, maybe then I would have heard of the BDSM scandal surrounding the 'novels'. Although in all honesty I probably still would have read them just to see if the hype was true.
If you head over to my friend Laura's Blog you can read her review of the first two novels, I'm going to look at the third.

Basically so far, virginal Ana met screwed up Christian who introduces her into the life of Doms/Subs and they have kinky weird sex dispersed with huge arguments. In book three nothing much changes except that they are married, the arguments are louder, the danger greater and the sex... well it's still not exactly vanilla. 

As far as story lines go it's pretty much identical to Twilight; we got the marriage, unplanned/unwanted pregnancy and psycho villains who are mega evil wanting to destroy the happy couple. We even get an emergency C-Section delivery, although thankfully not via Christian's teeth. Despite this, the books are genuinely better written than Twilight, the characters are more rounded and the back-stories better planned. I like that Christian is screwed up for a genuine reason, and that he doesn't just watch Ana sleep because he's a creepy stalker (you listening Edward Cullen?), but because he was abused as a child leading to massive control issues and nightmares. And I have to say I disagree with Laura's preferring Bella to Ana. I like that Ana balances her feelings to protect and obey with an independent streak, that she insists on retaining her career and that she fights for every concession but knows how to pick her battles. I still hate that every bloody guy she meets falls in love with her, that she looks beautiful all the time and that she is given everything on a plate, but she's DEFINITELY better than dull as dishwater Bella.

As for Laura's hatred of "when the love interest is 'broken' and in need of 'fixing'", if we're honest, most epic classic heroes DO need fixing. And we love to see them change (or at least I do). Think of Darcy and Mr Thornton with their pride. Rochester's dark past. Pip's obsession with class. Gwendolen Harleth and Dorian Grey and their vanity. Alec D'Urberville and his evil intentions. Cathy and Heathcliff and their wild natures. We love and hate these characters because of their flaws which we hope can be fixed. When they can't be we get some of the best tragedies of the nineteenth century. Not that Christian is AT ALL on par with ANY of these characters, but I can forgive him for being broken, so long as it is cohesive and well written, which I'll admit, he is.

We then come to three of my MAJOR issues with the book. 
1) Jack Hyde. The villain. I'm sorry, but as soon as I read that name waaaaaaaay back in book 1 I knew he was going to be the bad guy. Not only a bad guy, but a psycho with two sides to his personality. Call me old fashioned or even demanding, but I like a bit of mystery. I don't like stock characters who are foreshadowed so far in advance that there is no surprise whatsoever. Literally, it's all in a name, especially in a series so concerned with it's meta-literaryness (yes I just made that up). The same with the pregnancy. They both state categorically on book one that they don't want kinds YET. In book two she has a minor pregnancy scare that leads to them reaffirming their earlier conversation. In book three her cancelled appointments with the doctor are mentioned several times. I swear that I realised she was going to be pregnant two full novels before the event. Seriously, there's a lot to be said for a bit of mystery.
2)The whole everyone-must-pair-up-nicely thing. Ana marries Christian. Christian's brother (Elliot) marries Ana's best friend (Kate). Christian's sister (Mia) is dating Kate's brother (Ethan). It's just too... triangularly simple. And dull. And really expected. And in all honesty James is a better writer than that.
3) The epilogue flash backs to Christian's memories. I mean, retelling the same story through his eyes? That is LITERALLY lifted from Stephanie Meyer's whole Midnight Sun nonsense.

But essentially, what Fifty Shades is is a slightly embarrassing but nonetheless ok chic lit. God knows I wouldn't want my sister/mother reading it (wouldn't that be awkward) and it isn't interesting enough that I'd recommend it. It's ok, I won't be reading it overandover but that doesn't make it bad, just a bit cliche. Like a cross between a Mills and Boon and some kinky playboy.

So Catrin Says...

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

un peu de tendresse bordel de merde

by the Dave St-Pierre Company, seen at the Warwick Arts Centre (Back before exams so you'll have to forgive the delay)

I was lucky enough to get a heavily discounted student ticket and was really intrigued as to what on earth I was going to find. Actually in all honestly I was terrified, going to see a show on my own described by critics as barbaric, horrific and offensive.

Walking in, the audience are greeted by a chirpy naked man in a blond wig chatting with the audience. Once all are seated, the cast emerge from amongst the audience, strip and proceed to climb physically over and around us. This pretty quickly weeded out a few of the crowd who headed straight for the exit, and I'll admit it made me uncomfortable. It's not often you get a strange naked man standing above your seat, his bits six inches from your nose.

But I got it.

They broke the wall between audience and actors so well that after the initial 15 minutes that most of the time you completely forgot that these dancers were naked, allowing us to see the comedy and the tenderness that infused the production. The dancing was truly beautiful, the choreography inspired changing tone in the blink of an eye.

Perhaps i appreciated it more because I was watching alone, as I could see other audience members glancing round looking for cues on how to react, worried about their partners/girlfriends/friends. My friends were confused and scathing at the idea of the show without having seen it, I can only imagine having to worry about their opinion whilst there as well as trying to figure out my own response.

The truth is that it is meant to be provocative, and clearly the media response is giving the show good publicity. There's no use pretending that the show isn't intrusive or that many people will not feel comfortable being that close to naked strangers. But for god's sake they give you every warning. The posters highlight the explicit material. I was warned by the box office upon buying my ticket. We were warned again on entering the theatre. It even had warnings printed on the ticket. Even if you miraculously miss all these hints that the show isn't PG then you can walk out whenever you want, no one is forcing you to sit there and stare at the naked dancers.

What annoys me is that I've had to spend time justifying the first 15 minutes, when the journey through the show is so spectacularly touching. I honestly have never seen such a beautiful finale as the naked performers combination of modern and ballet dancing on the water drenched stage, seeing the droplets cascading and rippling in an almost cinematic slow motion climax to the performance. So long as you trusted the company then you need never feel uncomfortable and this clearly emphasised the theme: intimacy.

I truly believe that Un Peu de Tendresse Bordel de Merde is a spectacularly touching and funny show not to be missed. The best thing I've seen all year. Thank you.

So Catrin Says x

Honey I'm Hoooooooome!

I'm back baby!
So be prepared for lots of posts over the next few weeks

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


So I've been rubbish at blogging the last few months, but I've got some reviews planned for the next few weeks/days to make up for the loss. So, to kick it all off, I was tagged in Laura's Blog for a little game so I thought I'd answer these 11 questions.

The Rules 
1. Answer the eleven questions that were asked of you by the person who tagged you
2. Make up eleven new questions and tag eleven new people to do the meme! 
3. Let them know you tagged them!

Question 1
What is your favourite thing about blogging?
As my blogs are usually about books/performance reviews, it's usually because I've got a strong opinion about them. Some I love, some I hate, but it's always nice to think back over what I thought and write it down articulately... even if its only for my own benefit.

Question 2
Who is your favourite literary hero or heroine and why?
I'm going to have to be useless and give more than one answer. When I was a child, the answer was without a doubt Sarah from Francis Burnett Hodges A Little Princess, because she's just so brave! For some reason, despite the horrible things that happen to her, I still wanted to be her, with her amazing imagination. She was basically the driving force which kept me from giving up during some pretty harsh periods in school.
Lately I love the Daughter/Servant/Mistress of the Empire novels by Feist and Wurts. You see Mara grow from a small, terrified girl who must take on the mantle of Lady of the Acoma into the most powerful political figure in the land... and it's all done through intelligence. Plotting, trading, allegiances and pacts. She suffers terrible tragedy and huge victory, and whilst she starts fighting purely for family honour, in the end she is fighting for the reformation of an entire society.
It's a pretty kick-ass story :)

Question 3 
Who is your favourite villain?
President Snowe from the Hunger Games is amazingly creepy and manipulative, possibly more so because we know very little about him and never see him take any evil actions, only view their consequences. Similarly with 1984's Big Brother... everyone could be the villain.
Also, Iago from Shakespeare's Othello. A more brilliant conniving and manipulative character has never been written.

Question 4
If you ever wrote your autobiography, what would the title be and why?
"I know how to spell intelligent" or maybe just "valley girl". I feel like they both give a pretty good summary of me.

Question 5
If you could choose any famous figure (dead or alive, past or present) to spend a day with, who would it be and why?
Nathan Fillion (from Firefly, Buffy, castle etc...)
I'm sure I can think of some ways to pass the time...

Question 6
As a kid, what did you want to be when you "grew up"?
I'm still not grown up, lets face it. For a while I wanted to be a princess (don't we all) but then I wanted to become a marine biologist so I could be like Jesse from Free Willy. Then my dad told me most marine biologists mainly work on plankton... from a lab... from a distance... :(

Question 7
What are you most looking forward to in 2012?
Living in Cardiff next year! It's going to be awesome :)

Question 8
What happened in the last dream you had? 
It was the opening night of The Night of the Hunter (review to follow) and I had a bit of a nightmare where I had gone to see it with some bully's from Maesteg Comp and one of the girls started heckling the actors and then punched one of them in the eye. It was very upsetting...

Question 9
Do you have any bad habits that you're willing to admit to?
Where to start... I bite my nails, I'm annoyingly nagging about certain places being clean and I have a tendency to leave clothes scattered around my room.

Question 10
What was the worst job you ever had and what made it so bad?
I've never had a bad job (aren't I lucky!)
however on one particularly bad shift in a pub, a guy yelled at me because he'd ordered a burger and it was made of beef, which he apparently couldn't eat for religious reasons. Essentially he didn't read the menu properly (where it said BEEF burgers in very big letters) and so shouted at me for ten minutes... grrrr.....

Question 11
Are you a practical person or a bit of a daydreamer? 
Bit of both, if I'm remotely bored I will drift of very quickly into nonsense land where I'm usually a) on some epic adventure or b) drinking a pot of tea. I will step up if there's something practical that needs doing though, whether it be fixing the electrics or cleaning the kitchen, I will get it done very fast if I set myself to it.

That's my answers done so I'm going to ask
1. If you could have your dream job, what would it be?
2. Where is your favourite place in the world (and no, your bed is not an answer)?
3. If you could have a superpower, what would you pick? (and remember, you have to live with the consequences..)
4. what is your singular favourite outfit that you adore above everything else you own?
5. What is your favourite sandwich?
6. Your most hated novel and why?
7. What would be your luxury item on a desert island? (you know the rules, no speed boats etc...)
8. Shoot, marry, shag - Russel Brand, Johnny Vegas, Justin Beber
9. Would you rather go without music or movies?
10. If you had to limit yourself to one drink for the rest of your life, what would you pick?
11. What is the most expensive item you've ever bought?

and I'm tagging 

So that's what Catrin Says today...

Monday, 24 October 2011

WUDS: The Real Thing

by Tom Stoppard.

... I thought it was excellent. Some of my friends disagreed, but I thought hat the costumes were fantastic, authentic 80s, not really bad fancy dress knock offs that are currently so popular (kudos to Becky Bailey) and the set was spectacular. I especially loved the noticeboard back wall, it's very similar to the walls in my bedroom...

Ed Davis who played Henry was fantastic, we all agreed. Somehow he seemed to become a middle aged man in front of our eyes without falling on stereotype. He embodied the part, never once appearing out of character. It was pretentious without ever being unlikeable, something quite difficult to do. Unfortunately I found Niki Williams a bit flat in comparison, but only because her counterpart was so good.

I loved the use of the balcony as what my tutor Tess would call a "discovery space", seeing only spotlit silent fragments of characters lives outside the confines of the single flat and train carriage. I thought that the conveyance of emotion without speech must have been quite difficult to portray, yet worked perfectly to break up the other lengthy scenes. What was also very clever was the smallest details, both in script and production; that Annie is starring in Tis a Pity she's a Whore and reads Catch 22 on her train journey to Glasgow. Tiny tiny details, yet wonderfully depicted.

The true joy of this play for me however was the soundtrack. I want it. The best of 80s music all the way through, heard over the gramophone and the radio. Simply fantastic. Good music, good acting and fast paced, witty writing, overall an excellent night out. I wish I could recommend you all go see the play but unfortunately it has now finished. There is another WUDS production in a weeks time of Marlowe's Faustus.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Hamlet: Derek Jacobi and Patrick Stewart BBC version

I didn't think there could be a worse version than that of Mel Gibson. I was wrong.
For one thing, this is the FULL version of the play, running at 212 minutes. However whilst this isn't a problem with the Globe productions or even the Kenneth Brannagh version which captured my interest, this production simply bored me. The props and scenery were minimal, and if you're going with that style, then you need to have really convincing performances from every single actor.
Whilst I adore Patrick Stewart, his Claudius was unmemorable, never really convincing me he was a scheming villain who killed his brother. There seemed no deep emotional involvement. Plus, he looked really weird with hair.
Horatio seemed to completely fade into the background, merely a nothing character there to prompt Hamlet, despite his having some of the deepest and most cutting lines in the play. I can't even remember what he looked like.
Gertrude did a lot of heavy breathing in a very low cut dress, this was pretty much all that stuck with me after she had died.
Now, Derek Jacobi. Perhaps I would have overlooked all these other small issues if the Hamlet had been captivating. Every... Single.... Word.... Seemed... to.... have... a... dramatic... pause. A wild flourish of arms or a drawn out siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh. It was very overacted to the point of hilarity. He also decided to stare into the camera for each soliloquy, which was quite disturbing as I was sat about a foot from the screen. Every so often I would turn back from the conversation and see a strange man staring at me intently.
My primary complaint with Jacobi however was his delivery of the To be or not to be soliloquy. This is one of the most famous pieces of literature in the English language. And I was bored. I didn't care whether Hamlet decided to be a good little prince or to throw himself from the battlements. And therein lies the issue, I love Hamlet, I love the deep introspection, the mercurial emotions, the hate, love, lust, anger and revenge that sits at the heart of the play, but if the actors aren't utterly believable then it becomes a 212 minute dirge.

Two points of mention; Laertes and Polonius were amazing, Polonius balancing the thin line between ridicule and dislike from the audience but appearing a genuine, brown-nosing drip, whilst Laertes anger added some much needed authenticity to the final acts which otherwise seemed to crawl along at a snails pace.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Hamlet: Mel Gibson style

Amazingly, this 1990 blockbuster was nominated for 2 (count them, 2!) Oscars. What the academy were thinking I'll never know, but it was probably something along the the lines of "ooh look at all the stars! And it's Shakespeare, you can't knock Shakespeare!"

The best I can say is that it was interesting.

Mel Gibson seems to have modelled Hamlet on a thug. The only way he is able to convey anger is by throwing people against castle walls, ignoring other avenues such as tone, expression or even the BLOODY WORDS ON THE SCRIPT. (I am calm, I am calm... breathe.) I'm just saying, Shakespeare has expressed the most complex emotions in beautiful, elegant and empathetic language. There's a bit more to Hamlet in my opinion than just anger.
Then there's the hair. They decided Hamlet should be blond, but in dying Gibson's hair it has gone a straw like auberny brown. Not handsome. Half the time I was concentrating more on his hair than on his words, which says a lot about his acting.

There is also a really creepy sex-like encounter between Hamlet and Gertrude (played by Glen Close) just before he kills Polonius. He's meant to be a little mad, but with the writhing and the moaning and grunting and thrusting it came off more as creepy than anything else. Plus, Glen Close takes the opportunity to neck someone any chance she gets, whether its Hamlet (too long for being appropriate, plus on the mouth), or Claudius who comes of very Henry VIII-like - loud, pompous, always carousing, eating, drinking, getting amorous or partying. The one true moment I felt was when he spoke to Laertes about his love for Gertrude, which was quiet and understated compared to the brash character we viewed for the other 2and a half hours.

I understood from the beginning that chunks of text would have to be cut to produce a Hamlet for the masses in the cinema, but I had to question which bits were cut. There is no mention of the ghost for the first half hour, the soliloquies seemed rushed or severely cut and Ophelia's gradual descent into madness and rambling folly took place in the space of two seconds. Normal. Completely bonkers. Dead. And that was the end of Ophelia.

This I felt was a shame, as Helena Bonham Carter does crazed and loopy very very well. In fact I'm stretched to remember a role that hasn't included insanity. Nevertheless, I thought Ophelia was a good representation, if severely limited in development due to lack of screen time.

What was used instead of speech was a large number of dramatic and misty landscape shots of the castle, the sea, galloping horses, dilapidated turrets, fancily dressed nobles.... It was very atmospheric and pretty, but didn't add much to the play. I personally would have favoured a bit less window dressing and a bit more acting.

With Fortinbras entirely cut from the plot, I was curious as to what would be made of the finale. I liked the fighting between Hamlet and Laertes, feeling real sympathy for Laertes as Gibson portrayed Hamlet as prancing around, using the bout for comedic effect against the deeper tensions of the room. However, the poisoning of the cup and sword couldn't have been staged in a more obvious manner. They must have thought the audience a pretty stupid bunch, needful of having the situation c-l-e-a-r-l-y and s-l-o-w-l-y explained.
As to the question of what happens to the Danish court with the massacre of their entire ruling class... unexplained. I'm assuming the country went into financial melt-down and descended into anarchy, but that's my choice.

Overall, if you want to see a GOOD staging of Hamlet, my advice would be to instead view either the Laurence Olivier, RSC David Tenant or the Kenneth Branagh versions, all of which are longer but very very enjoyable; well acted, visually pleasing and true to the text.

So Catrin Says...