24 July 2009

200 word Review: 'The Thrift Book' by India Knight

This book should carry a warning: Only to be read by people without common sense. I thought it might teach me something new about saving money, but instead I discovered there are people who know considerably less than I do. And that’s not much.

If you need India Knight to tell you how to save money, I worry for you. What’s so difficult to grasp about using leftovers, making packed lunches and holidaying in Britain? Who needs telling to mend clothes, go to their library and buy second-hand furniture?

If the blatant stating of the obvious doesn’t annoy you, Knight’s constant references to London will push you over the edge. Why wax lyrical about the Eurostar and how it’s cheaper than a train ticket to Manchester, when some readers might be in Manchester? Add to this her rather snobbish rants (the section on weddings will get many people fuming) and you may need to take deep breaths to calm yourself.

There are some useful bits, but nothing I couldn’t have found online if I looked hard enough. Flick through this and write down the books and sites she recommends, but don’t waste your time or (more importantly) money on it.

12 July 2009

200 word Review: 'Northanger Abbey' by Jane Austen

Now … I love Jane Austen, and I don’t want to betray her but … ‘Northanger Abbey’ isn’t her best work. I actually had trouble concentrating on it, which rarely happens to me.

It is the story of Catherine Morland, a na├»ve young lady on her first trip to Bath, who becomes obsessed with Gothic novels and starts to imagine intrigue everywhere. As usual, Austen’s observation of character is not only spot on, but up-to-date too – I was reminded, embarrassingly, of myself as a teenager, waiting for spectacular things to happen to me. Perhaps teenagers don’t change, or maybe it’s just me (hopefully the former!) The other characters are painted with the wit you would expect from Austen.

The plot lets her down. It takes ages for anything to really happen, with a lot of tangents along the way, and when it does happen it’s not that interesting. Austen often seemed to rush her endings by bunging a few weddings in, and this is the most rushed and formulaic of them all, which leaves you feeling disappointed.

If you’ve read the other Austen novels, then read this for completeness. Just don’t start with it, she’s got much better to offer.

Next book review: 'The Thrift Book' by India Knight

11 July 2009

The reason for my absence

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. Here's why:

Now I was meant to be posting updates on how the rehearsals went for this, but because my part isn't huge I didn't have many rehearsals for a long time, then they came in such a big glut that I had barely any free time! As you'll see, we've now done 2 out of 3 performances, and it's going brilliantly.

I've struggled with Mariana - I spent three months when I had few rehearsals trying to figure her out and going through several different interpretations, then when I found one I could engage with, the director said she'd already figured out a character for me, and it was totally different to what I'd worked out! Aargh! The final product is kind of a compromise between the two - I'm a bit of a 'thinky' actor and can't say a line in a certain tone without having a reason.  One big stumbling block was the final scene, where she confronts Angelo. Some people thought I should play her with power because she knows she'll get what she wants (i.e. Angelo will be forced to marry her). My interpretation is that she doesn't just want him to marry her, but she wants him to love her, which is something he'll never do. So playing her with power when she has no power over the thing she truly wants was a real sticking point for me. I think I've found the balance ...

The first two performances have been a blast. Nerve-wracking, yes. Exhausting, both emotionally and physically, definitely (I have to kneel onstage for about ten minutes, which is longer than it sounds!!) But the harder it is, the more fun it is, and both nights I've walked on for the curtain call with a massive grin on my face, feeling like I've given it my all, so have all the other actors, and I'm proud of what we have all created.

Last night tonight, let's hope this post doesn't jinx it! I currently have what is either bad hayfever or the start of a cold, so tonight's Mariana will be red-eyed and snotty-nosed. Ahh well, maybe that could be a new interpretation!