Taylor Swift 1989; Album Review

music

A polaroid of Swift with shoulder-length blonde hair wearing red lipstick and a long-sleeved sweater with a picture of birds in the sky. Her face is cut off by the frame above the nose and "T. S." and "1989" are written on the white polaroid frame with black marker.Taylor Swift’s new album “1989” was officially released on October 27th, and one thing is clear; she is certainly leaving her country music roots behind her. Abandoning her guitar and adding synth background music, the tone is very different to her previous albums – which already had clear pop influences. Personally, I’m not sure if this movement is a good one for her career – sure 1989 is selling extremely well at the moment, with suggestions that she might break records – but I am curious as to whether these dance tracks will have the same lasting effect as her previous songs. Regardless, whilst I much prefer the ballads of her previous albums, I still think she has some great songs on here.

Particular favourites of mine are; “Shake It Off” – a song I do think will be a lasting anthem; “Out Of The Woods” – an unbelievably catchy tune about insecurity within a relationship; “Blank Space” – which mocks the paparazzi’s hyperbolic view of her as a “man eating, jet setting serial dater”; “Style” – another very singable and sexy song about an on-off relationship.

Whilst I enjoy some of the songs on her new album, I do think that there is the danger of her becoming less original as her new sound is very similar to many other female pop artists. I am curious as to how her direction will progress after this album.

Made In Dagenham

musical, Theatre

Made In Dagenham girlsRecently I had the pleasure to see The Adelphi Theatre’s new musical, Made In Dagenham, based on the movie, which in turn is based on the Ford Sewing Machinist’s strike of 1968 which lead to equal pay for women. I had neither seen the film, nor much knowledge about the strike before seeing the musical, and my reasons for this were so that the musical could leave it’s own impression on me rather than comparing it to the film.

The sets were incredible – adding a large amount of character to the production, and making the location of each scene very clear, whilst using them very wisely. The plot was obviously a very empowering one, and it was refreshing to have themes of friendship and female solidarity rather than a romance plot – although I do like a romantic comedy it is interesting to see a musical take a different route. Although there was a sub plot based on a relationship, it was on how the strike affected the protagonist’s marriage and family – a much more intriguing and original route to go down.

Unlike some musicals, all of the supporting characters were humorous and with their own individual character. They each had some great lines, and many had a solo of some kind. Unfortunately, whilst we managed to gain an understanding of their character through their conversations, there was not enough time to deeply delve into more about them. Particularly hilarious characters were Beryl – who had the funniest lines which the actress managed to convey very well – and Harold Wilson – who was endearingly mocked, and whose portrayal was so surprising – his own musical number was particularly enjoyable. It was refreshing to have such a large number of female side characters, and the dialogue between them in the workplace seemed a very realistic portrayal of female conversation. With the current highlight on feminism, it seems a great time for this musical to come out, and it still manages to seem fresh, and was very empowering and uplifting at points.

The songs, whilst not memorable enough to become musical classics, were enjoyable, and had the same humour as throughout the rest of the musical. Particular favourites of mine were;  Barbara Castle’s solo, “Ideal World”; We are America – a solo from the American manager of Ford which mocked America and was hilarious in it’s campiness and the final song, “Stand Up” – which brought tears to my eyes.

Gemma Arteton nailed all the necessary emotions for her part; the humour, the anger, the determination, the sadness and the confusion, and whilst her accent wasn’t always perfect, this was not noticeable enough to hinder the power of her performance.

I recently watched The Shaftsbury’s Theatre’s “The Pajama Game” which had similar themes – it focussed on the worker’s desire for a raise – and whilst watching Made in Dagenham it was impossible not to compare the two musicals. “The Pajama Game” was written in the 1950s, and was under-lyingly misogynistic despite it’s seemingly feminist themes – whereas Made in Dagenham presents them with humour.

I would definitely recommend seeing this; it was funny, empowering and at points, tragic, and was a very powerful piece of theatre. The cast received a standing ovation demonstrating how it had affected all of the audience. The musical numbers, whilst very funny, did not quite have the long lasting effect of songs from Musical classics like “Les Miserables” or “Wicked”, but it was still a very worthwhile trip.

Sherlock Holmes Exhibition; The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die

Books, Classics

The world’s most famous detective, and the most prolific screen character in film, has recently been brought back into public attention through the numerous adaptations that has happened over the last few years, and with Ian McKellen to soon play the character, it seems unlikely his popularity will wane soon. The Museum of London’s exhibition is seizing this opportunity and explores the influences behind the character, and why he has managed to remain so popular for so long.

Regardless of whether or not you have read or enjoyed the short stories and books – I have only read “The Sign of Four” – if you have any interest in any of the adaptations, then I would recommend this exhibition. It is a very deep investigation of all the influences, with texts from Edgar Allan Poe’s detective stories, as well as the original Sherlock Holme’s stories themselves, and paintings of Victorian London – so that the visitors can fully emerse themselves into the routes and weather which Holmes and Watson experience. Certain points, however, seemed slightly unnecessary and long winded – two whole rooms of Victorian paintings seemed potentially slight overkill. For me, the second best part of the exhibition, was the final room when it compared the original tales with the adaptations, with montages and costumes from the various versions. (The best part, of course, was the book case at the beginning which opened when pushed – it has always been my dream to enter a secret corridor through a hidden panel in a book case, and for now, this will have to do.)

One issue with the exhibition was that it was not laid out very well – it was very popular, and the way that the displays required you to move around made it hard to see each part and to navigate the exhibition. It was also very easy to miss certain parts because of the lack of labelling, and certain parts – for instance the original manuscripts of the stories – being difficult to read, with no written transcript.

Overall, it was a very interesting exhibition that I would recommend visiting if you have read or watched anything based upon the stories.

Frieze Art Fair

art

I usually adore contemporary art, and so visited the Frieze Art Fair on the 18th October. There were some very interesting pieces, which might not be found at a more traditional exhibition – there were a lot of more abstract pieces; an art form I find very intriguing, as well as 3 dimensional installments, and paintings and photographs which were unique because of the subject. These are some photos of artworks I particularly liked which demonstrate the huge variety of work in the fair.

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Alex Prager, Untitled (Part 1)

frieze

Tomas Saraceno, NGC 5892

john baldessari koen van der broek

John Baldessari & Koen Van Den Broek – This is an Example of that; Photo Shoot (Desert with Car)

IMG_0494

David Renggli – I Love You (Blue Alorage)

However, despite the truly inspiring and innovative work, there were many pieces which were bizarre rather than exciting, and that was the issue I had with the fair. It was a huge event, and yet there were only a few pieces that really intrigued me.

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The more strange items included a collection of spidermanmemes – and although I found them very funny, I thought this perhaps belonged on a tumblr blog rather than an art exhibition.

There was also a room where the work was just variations of smiley faces, and performance art which purely consisted of people leaping about before twitching on the floor – even the performers themselves could not contain their laughter.

The Frieze Art Fair was definitely an entertaining gallery visit, and I think it was worthwhile, but it was disappointment in the lack of consistency in regards to the quality of work.

A Streetcar Named Desire

Classics, Theatre

I recently saw the a live screening of “A Streetcar named Desire” which until recently was playing at The Young Vic in London. It stars Gillian Anderson as Blanche Dubois, Ben Foster as Stanley and Vanessa Kirby as Stella.

Although I’ve read the play, I’ve never seen either the movie or any stage version. The first half of the play was not particularly overwhelming to me – it satisfied my expectations after reading the play, but it was the second half which was truly amazing. The true vulnerability of Blanche Dubois was shown to perfection both by Gillian Anderson and the director. Certain choices, such as having Blanche half dressed and with smudged make up, in the rape scene made Blanche seem almost child like emphasising the tragedy. Ben Foster was also incredible as Stanley, and the direction of the rape scene, which seemed very graphic and brutal despite very little actually being shown, was done perfectly. The whole second half, and that scene in particular, was very difficult to watch but an excellent portrayal of such heartbreaking material. Vanessa Kirby’s accent was flawed and she didn’t quite live up to the performances of her two co stars, although this didn’t much effect the power of the play.

After reading the play, although being aware of the tragedy of what had happened, I didn’t feel that connected to the characters or what was happening. The direction and the incredible acting of Gillian Anderson (I honestly can not praise her enough in this production) made this an incredible adaptation. If you can see it in the cinema, I definitely recommend it, although it is certainly not a feel good theatre experience.

Month in Review; July

Books, Film, music, Theatre, TV

Songs I’ve loved this month;

Do You Remember The First Time – Sophie Ellis Bextor (originally by Pulp)

Recently I have become a big fan of Sophie Ellis Bextor, and I especially love this cover of a classic Pulp song which she did for Britpop at the BBC.

Wasted by Tiesto

This is not the kind of music that I would usually listen to, but the tune is so upbeat that I think it’s perfect for summer. It’s especially great when combined with the very feel good music video.

Book of the month;The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion a feel good romantic comedy about a man with aspergers and his attempt to find his perfect wife. Enter Rosie, the chaotic but fun girl who is completely unlike what he’s looking for. The plot may sound cliché, but the viewpoint was very interesting and amusing as you had a glimpse into the protagonist’s ridiculously ordered life. It was also incredibly endearing to see him experience things he never expected, and his character development raises this book above your standard chick lit.

TV Shows I’ve loved this month;

In The Flesh – as I have said numerous times on this blog, I started watching this show earlier this month, and it’s since become one of my all time favourites. Although it’s about zombies, it follows very human issues, and manages to be meaningful whilst also being exciting.

Utopia – a conspiracy thriller, Utopia is about five people who take interest in a graphic novel and then start to be hunted by a secret corporation. Filled with unexpected plot twists and complicated, likable characters, who seem realistic, Utopia is definitely worth a watch.

Best Thing I Saw This Month;

Les Miserables at The Queens Theatre, LondonLes Miserables Tickets poster

Hardly a ground breaking suggestion, Les Miserables is well known for it’s great
soundtrack and epic story. All the cast are incredibly talented, and this is one of the most powerful things you can see at the theatre, so if you haven’t seen it yet, then listen to the hype, and go see it.

Top Ten Tuesday; Characters I’d want with me on a desert island

Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started by The Broke and The Brookish and this week is the ten characters we’d want with us on a desert island. I found this really difficult, because my favourite characters are often complicated and brooding, which potentially would not be a great combination on a desert island. Anyway, here is my top ten;

0e366824189373910. Finnick Odair

Finnick became victor of the Hunger Games when he was 14 and survived the third Quarter Quell as well so he’d be able to protect us from any weird-Island enemies that might show up. He also comes from District 4, the fishing district, so he’d be able to feed us, and would be good with water, enabling him to help us get off the island. He’s also absolutely gorgeous, so that might make the desert island experience slightly more enjoyable.

images9. Westley

A great duellist, climber, hand to hand fighter, as well as being intelligent, Westley would easily kill any monsters on the island, and might be able to use his experience as a pirate to get us off the island. He’s also adorable (not to mention beautiful) and the story of his love for Buttercup and his adventures thereafter would make a great campfire story.

imagesI93UA9UP8 & 7. Fred and George Weasley

So far all of the choices, whilst clever and talented, have been very serious – I love them all, but they might be slightly difficult to get along with in close proximity. Fred and George Weasley on the other hand, would “diffuse the tension” with funny quips and pranks.

ND1tsotoc6. Nancy Drew

I really struggled with this – I really wanted to include Veronica Mars, but as I haven’t yet read “The Thousand Dollar Tan Line”, I decided on her 1930s counterpart, the original teenage detective, Nancy Drew. I read some of these books when I was younger, and I don’t remember a huge amount from them, other than that Nancy was independent and highly intelligent, very helpful skills in this kind of situation. I think at least one detective is absolutely necessary on this island, after all, it could be a “And Then There Were None” situation.

mm4n5. Miss Marple

I thought really hard about this – I knew I wanted a maternal figure on my island and I eventually decided that Miss Marple was perfect. Caring, as well as a great gossip, and obviously her fantastic deduction skills would be very helpful on the island – it would be interesting to see her and Nancy work together to solve any mysteries.

4. Hermione Grangeruntitled (8)

The Golden Trio would not have stood a chance if it were not for Hermione, and I’d like to think that if we were on a desert island, she could save us too. She would definitely have something in her bag which could help us, and she’d always have a detailed plan on how to get us off the island. Of course, she’d also have several spells she could use in a case of emergency!

untitled (9)3. Ron Weasley

Maybe it’s a sign of my obsession that I have four Harry Potter characters on this list, but I love them all! I was really torn between the twins or Ron, so I decided on both. Although constantly underestimated, Ron has his moments of brilliance – after all he did survive seven years of near-death experiences. He’s also a great friend and very amusing, and having both him and Hermione on the island (without Harry Potter, the greatest cock block of all time) would be very cute!

untitled (10)2. Bridget Jones

I feel a very personal connection to Bridget; I relate to her in so many ways. I think she would be just as lost and confused on an island as me, which would make me feel better about freaking out. She’d probably handle it by singing a Madonna song (if it works in a Thai prison, why not a desert island?) and I would totally be up for that.

images2PYJ0Y911. Elizabeth Bennet

If there is ever a list about spending time with fictional character, Elizabeth Bennett will always be number one on that list. ALWAYS. Funny, independent, and with some great quips about the rest of the people on the island (even if her assumptions are not always correct) she’d be great to hang out with whilst the others work out how to get us off.