Monday List: RuPaul Parodies That Should Be Done

In honour of the Season 10 final four (#TeamAsia), enjoy these five suggestions for the future seasons. Got better ones? Leave a comment below!

1. Murder on the Whore-ient Express

I mean, how has thus not been done already?! Melodramatic, riddled with stereotypes and full of great costume opportunities, Agatha Christie (Hag-atha Christie? Agatha Bitchy?) is easy pickings for RuPaul and his posse. Imagine the exaggerated death scenes. So much potential for bitch slaps here.

2. PRIDE ūüŹ≥ÔłŹ‚ÄćūüĆą and Prejudice/Jane Whore-sten

Okay, so I can’t quite think of the puns, but hear me out. Again, pretty costumes. They literally have balls in these books. There is a house called “NETHERfield”. There are a wealth of ott female characters. Bendelacreme’s Snatch Game Maggie Smith shares a lot of similarities with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The Colin Firth-lake scene? I’m sure the Pit Crew would be more than happy to oblige…

3. Wuthering Tights/Jane Hair

Catherine Earnshaw is so extra, she might as well have been a drag queen. If Kate Bush is ever a guest judge (please Drag Gods make this happen), there is no question what should be the main challenge – or the lip sync song for that matter. Pit the Brontes against each other with this team challenge. Nick some inspiration for Jane’s Red Room from Christian Grey’s infamous version, and we’ll be off to a good start.

4. Great British Cake Off

Like The Bitchelor in All Stars 3, reality shows are always good fun, with a big variety of characters allowing different queens to play to their strengths and improv a bit. This one has the added bonus of being British, so we can all enjoy some terrible terrible accent attempts, and perhaps a Mary/Prue/resident older woman impression or two. And think of all the fun that could be had with the baked goods Р#DragFoodFight.

5. Fahrenheit 69 #DragDystopia

Just for the title alone…

With thanks to Sam (@SamButtler) for the punny names. 

Inspirational AF: Failure is Good for Other People

One of the great things about becoming a teacher (apart from the long holidays, 4pm finishes, and hilariously stupid responses from children) is that you start to lose the fear of being bad at something – or at least the fear of starting.

I’ve feel like I naturally stick to the things I know and love. Singing. Theatre. Books. The Leggera Padana at Pizza Express (it’s obviously the best – fight me). I love trying new things… as long as they’re already within my comfort zone.

Like any classic milennial/gen z – I fall sort of in-between generations – this is partly from a fear of failure. The British education system also encourages us to specialise, and to avoid what we’re not good at as soon as possible. This worked pretty well for me, as a freakish child who knew what they wanted to do from the outset, but with people who want to be doctors but also fancy a spot of art on the side it’s not so easy. A levels, and the way universities treat them, encourage specialism. STEM scholars in particular suffer here. A humanities student has a certain level of freedom in their choices outside of their degree subject, whereas parents and institutions often encourage STEM students to choose within only that small field. To paraphrase Paris is Burning, they demand “STEMs across the board.” And with all this specialism, this dedication to only a certain type of subject, trying new things and starting from nothing can feel pretty scary. Also no one likes being a failure, let’s be honest.

But! Working at a school has encouraged me to push past this pessimism. If an eleven year old can start learning something with so much enthusiasm, why shouldn’t I? Also, and here’s the best bit: of I fail, I’m simply being a relatable role model for the kids. There’s nothing more comforting than seeing an older person mess something up. Phew. Pressure’s off. Now they can feel better about themselves – I’ve done a good deed simply by being really quite shit at poetry writing/rounders/the floss. Give yourself a pat on the back and a gold star.

So yesterday I went bouldering, something I’ve been meaning to do for ages. I was pretty rubbish, I can’t lie (the video is my talented friend, not me. Hopefully some people didn’t read down to here and think that I’m that skilled.) But thanks to some rather determined friends I made it up six or seven routes. They were the easiest ones and I was terrified every time my feet left the ground but still. I also learnt that a lot of bouldering is sitting on the floor chatting and watching other, extremely ripped people do all the work – so it was much more enjoyable than anticipated.

To sum up: If you fail, you are doing your good deed for the day and everyone thanks you for it. Also bouldering is fun.

What to wear to the Theatre ūüé≠

When I was younger, my biggest theatre experience was going to see The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House each Christmas. In attempt to fit in with the soft, crimson velvet, the gold brocade, the shimmering crystallised ballerinas, I would excitedly shimmy into my most special dress. Usually pink or purple, usually sparkly, chosen for maximum twirling potential. As you get older, though, tip-toed swishing into a theatre in a swirl of colour and sequins becomes slightly less acceptable (at least on a Monday night at a fringe theatre anyway… I reckon Kinky Boots would love it).

Having been lucky enough to see a lot of theatre, this idea of specially choosing what to wear has become rather redundant; a bit of a waste of time. We’re not quite at pyjama-wearing level yet, but after a long or difficult day jeans and jumper seems perfectly fine. Yet last year, when I invited many of my friends to the theatre who’d rarely been before “What shall I wear?” was often the first question they’d ask.

Part of this is to do with theatre’s image problem. Spanning back from the gentleman’s boxes and the wealthy audience sitting on the stage of the early modern stages all the way to the red carpets of press nights today, there’s a sense that you go to the theatre to see and be seen. This despite the fact that there seem to be fewer and fewer intervals in which to parade your finery for the masses; and if there are lots of intervals, it’s so much of a marathon that only comfy clothing will do (looking at you Angels in America). And added to this the fact that in most theatres, we’re sitting in the pitch black for the most part anyway.

It is only to be expected that no theatres have a set dress code anymore for everyday performances. A set of rules about what to wear necessarily excludes certain groups of people, and theatre should be open to all. Plus, the production will not fail because of your pair of grubby trainers. Actors may be a fragile group of people, but I assure you, their training is sufficient that they can carry on, whatever fashion faux par glares out at them from the front row. So rest easy (unless your clothes actually smell – but that faux par is not limited to the theatre).

P.S. When thinking about clothes can be helpful:

For some reason much of the time attendees feel the need to imitate the style of the performance in their outfits. The audience for Glengarry Glen Ross at the Playhouse Theatre last year had so many suited men I wondered whether I’d walked into some sort of regional conference by mistake – and sure enough, the play itself was about as interesting. Like draws like, at least where costumes are concerned. If you want to know what a show is like, checking out the clothes of the audience isn’t a bad idea.

Inspirational AF: Pablo Neruda

I¬†love¬†Pablo Neruda.¬†His language is gorgeous. Having read an amazing, but deeply upsetting book last week, this is what I’d turn to to cheer myself up and remind myself that beauty and love exists in the world too.¬†

I don’t have time enough to celebrate your hair.
One by one I should detail your hairs and praise them.
Other lovers want to live with particular eyes;
I only want to be your stylist.

In Italy the call you Medusa,
because of the high bristling light of your hair.
I call you curly, my tangler;
my heart knows the doorways of your hair.

When you lose your way through your own hair,
do not forget me, remember that I love you.
Don‚Äôt let me wander lost‚ÄĒwithout your hair‚Äď

through the dark world, webbed by empty
roads with their shadows, their roving sorrows,
till the sun rises, lighting the high tower of your hair.

Love Sonnet XIV 

In Spanish:

Me falta tiempo para celebrar tus cabellos.
Uno por uno debo contarlos y abarlos:
ortros amantes quieren vivir con ciertos ojos,
yo sólo quiero ser tu peluquero.

En Italia te bautizaron Medusa
por la encrespada y alta luz de tu cabellera.
Yo te llamo chascona m√≠a y enmara√Īada:
mi corazón conoce las puertas de tu pelo.

Cuando t√ļ te extrav√≠es en tus propios cabellos,
no me olvides, acuérdate que te amo,
no me dejes perdido ir sin tu cabellera

por el mundo sombrío de todos los caminos
que sólo tiene sombra, transitorios dolores,
hasta que el sol sube a la torre de tu pelo.

Monday List: 5 Great Shakespeare Adaptations

I tend to think Shakespeare is best live and in a theatre – but with no shortage of screen adaptations, there are plenty of gems in there amidst the dullness of others. In honour of tonight’s broadcast of¬†King Lear¬†on¬†BBC Two¬†(9:30pm), enjoy this list of other fab adaptations of Shakespeare’s work.

  1. Shakespeare Re-Told: Much Ado About Nothing
    Re-telling Shakespeare in modern-day English, this series saw¬†James McAvoy¬†as a murderous Michelin-starred Macbeth,¬†Shirley Henderson¬†and¬†Rufus Sewell¬†as warring politicians in¬†The Taming of the Shrew, and¬†A Midsummer Night’s Dream¬†set in a caravan park. But none of those was as good as the joyous rewrite of Shakespeare’s best romcom (no arguments please) by¬†David Nicholls.¬†Sarah Parrish¬†and¬†Damien Lewis¬†are Beatrice and Benedick as broadcasters, whose bickering is too much to take for their colleagues. It’s light-hearted and funny, just as this play should be.
  2. The Hollow Crown: Richard II
    All of The Hollow Crown is fantastic; faithful to the text, beautifully shot and acted. This, the first of them, is still my favourite, partly because I love Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear, who star as Richard and Bolingbroke respectively. You can find my review from way back in 2012, when this was first aired here.
  3. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Russell T Davies)
    If you’re looking for a more irreverent take on a classic than The Hollow Crown will give you, Russell T Davies’ version of¬†A Midsummer Night’s Dream should be right up your alley. However well you think you know this story of fairies and donkey heads and lovers, the last ten minutes will definitely surprise you. It’s also as star-studded as tonight’s¬†King Lear, with¬†Maxine Peake, Matt Lucas, John Hannah, Elaine Paige,¬†and a handful of excellent young RSC/Globe actors as Puck and the lovers.
  4. Shakespeare Live! From the RSC
    Not strictly a full adaptation, but this deserves a place on this list for the many joyous excerpts from Shakespeare scenes, starring many British national treasures. The¬†Rory Kinnear/Anne Marie Duff¬†Macbeth¬†scene is so gripping, it makes the recent¬†National Theatre¬†production feel like even more of a let-down. And who can forget the hilarious ‘To Be or Not To Be?’ sketch,¬†starring none other than Prince Charles.
  5. Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luhrmann, 1996)
    The absolute classic. I was planning to just focus on TV adaptations, but I couldn’t leave this out. Flashy and over-the-top and melodramatic, this is a perfectly teenagery, stylistic version of Shakespeare’s fatal romance, filled with lustful longing. Also Leonardo DiCaprio deserves to be on every list in existence.

#tbt The History of Nutella

Did you know Nutella was originally developed as part of Italian rationing during WW2? That’s right, while us Brits had powdered banana and potato peel pie, and the Germans were literally eating people in some cases (shudders), the poor Italians were forced to eat Nutella. It’s a tough life for some.

Hazelnutty-chocolatey goodness was initially known to hungry Italians as “Pasta Gianduja”. Created in 1946 by baker Pietro Ferrero, it was developed as a way of making up for the shortage of cocoa (thanks to rationing), using the hazelnuts which grow in abundance in the northwest of Italy – Alba, Piedmont to be precise – where Ferrero’s bakery was located. Hazelnuts bulked up the limited chocolate supply.

At first, Nutella wasn’t even in the form we know and love today. It was sold in solid blocks, which one could eat a la a chocolate bar, or lay on top of bread etc. It wasn’t until 1951 that Ferrero began selling a creamy version of “Pasta Gianduja”, which he named “Supercrema”. By 1963, Pietro’s son Michele decided to revamp “Supercrema” in order to market it throughout Europe. The composition was modified again, and it needed a new name: Nutella. The first jar left Alba on 20th April 1964, and was instantly a huge success (the product, not just that one first jar). In fact, as of 2017, you can find Ferrero products in 160 countries! There is even a World Nutella Day on February 5: a day well worth remembering.

So next time someone criticises you for having Nutella on your toast (or eating it straight out of the jar, I see you), just tell them it actually counts as rationing…

Inspirational AF: Dancing with a Tea Cup

How do they do it?! This is taken from¬†DV8‘s¬†Can We Talk About This?, a physical theatre production looking at freedom of speech, multiculturalism, and Islam, using verbatim interviews and elements of dance and mime. The physical strength of the performers, and the mental strength of this interviewee, Ann Cryer (the first politician to raise issues of forced marriage in the Houses of Parliament) are both inspirational AF.¬†

Check out more of DV8’s amazing, political, exciting work here.

Quick Review: Everything I Know About Love

Quick: Combining recipes, anecdotes, advice and memories,¬†15 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About American PieDolly Alderton’s¬†memoir feels like a sisterhood version of ‘The Bible’ from¬†American Pie –¬†if slightly more mature. It’s the kind of book that speaks so eloquently about friendship, about being in your twenties, about being a woman, that it has to be shared. I have already promised my copy to several close friends.

Although the romcom-y title (and the fact that the author used to be a dating columnist) might be initially off-putting, it’s these expectations that Alderton plays off, highlighting our tendency to assume love symbolises romance, sex, a partner, forgetting the many other great loves of our lives. And yet it isn’t as wanky as that sounds.

Each bad date, or bad party, or bad night out is told in a matter-of-fact way that lets the comedy speak for itself. One particularly hilarious story, of mistaking Oxford Circus for Oxford the city, made me genuinely laugh aloud on the night tube (not by a long stretch the weirdest thing someone was doing on that carriage). Equally, the most moving passages are told with a beautiful simplicity. Alderton is great a taking a step back, and allowing the conversations, the events, the people to speak for themselves. What is also impressive is her ability to judge (others, and her own younger self) and yet do so with kindness and understanding – whilst not being one of those annoying people who far too saintly for their own good. Let’s be honest, everyone likes a good moan now and then.

What makes this memoir special is the fierce warmth of Alderton’s descriptions of her closest friends; in particular, her best friend, Farley. It helped that Farley sounds like my clone (short, brunette, fears sharks and swimming in open water); anyone, however, will find this relationship so winning, so powerfully, lovingly, uncompromisingly described, that one cannot but warm to the person describing it.

Although some of more obvious jokes are repeated one too many times (see ‘omg weddings are expensive and the people organising them are crazy’), most of the less serious chapters – the recipes, the parody letters – add a nice touch of lightness. The best bits are the lists of “Everything I Knew About Love At…17/21/25/28”; Alderton hits the nail on the head every time. (I am currently on the 25 year old stage).

Alderton has produced a funny, touching, self-aware memoir that is both incredibly personal, and intensely relatable. If we can’t have an actual female ‘Bible’ (publishers hmu), this is just as good.

Quicker: Are you, or do you know, a woman in her twenties? Do you have a best friend, or a great group of friends? Do you stress about dating and/or feeling alone? Have you had a quarter-life-crisis? If the answer to any (or all) of these is yes, you should read Everything I Know About Love.

Quickest:¬†Like Caitlin Moran? You’ll like this.

Buy it on Amazon here.

Monday List: Three Worst ‘Classic’ Books

  1. On The Road Jack Kerouac
    An ultimate classic in the worst sense of the word. One of those books celebrated for its ‘authenticity’ and ‘rawness’, whilst sticking to all the cliches of the American male-crisis novel. Although there’s no denying that the rhythm, the juvenile longing of Kerouac’s prose is sometimes exciting, and even electrifying, the flatness of the female characters cannot but make it as a whole feel two-dimensional (see Alice Walsh’s great article on this, as well as The New Yorker’s opinion piece on Kerouac’s popularity). The plot centres around men wildly thrashing out against a female domestic sphere they perceive as closing in around them, choosing escape over security for the sake, they tell themselves, of their ‘souls’. Only when this domesticity is drawn authentically does this idea become interesting; and here it is not. If you want a better book about a desperate desire for something more, then read¬†Zora Neale Hurston‘s amazing novel,¬†Their Eyes Were Watching God. Same dissatisfaction, same passion, more tenderness, thought, and feeling.
  2. Heart of Darkness Joseph ConradCover Issues: Hesperus Books | Lulu's Bookshelf
    Talking of meaningless talk about ‘souls’, step up Joseph Conrad. Reading a few of¬†Chinua Achebe‘s essays and speeches, makes this choice feel particularly righteous. This is one of those books that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, a faint feeling of disgust or frustration.¬†In 2003, Botswanan scholar Peter Mwikisa concluded the book was “the great lost opportunity to depict dialogue between Africa and Europe; I’m tempted to agree. The depiction of Congo as a place peopled with savages, with “rudimentary souls” is dangerous mythologism. But, to judge aside from the possible/probably racism, the book itself is also just a heavy, dark, intense read that, like both the others on this list, seems self-indulgent and ambiguous to the point of confusion. On the plus side… it’s short?!
  3. Wuthering Heights¬†Emily Bront√ęcovers for books: Wuthering Heights - The Mill on the ...
    You are either a Bront√ę or an Austen fan. It’s like Marmite: you can’t be both. I sit firmly on the side of Lizzie Bennett, of Emma Woodhouse, of headstrong heroines with high standards and witty narration.¬†Wuthering Heights¬†is the total opposite of this.¬†If Catherine Earnshaw lived today, she’d be the vampire friend; the one who always finishes a night out weeping at you in a corner, deliberately grinding on strangers to make her possessive partner jealous, or who just leaves you because she’s spotted some much cooler/fitter people.Image result for needy friend meme¬†The extreme emotions are too much for me (in particular love that borders on necrophilia – looking at you here Heathcliff). It’s the categorisation of this as one of literature’s greatest love stories that makes this a disappointment, as with its sister book¬†Jane Eyre. As a critique on Victorian class systems: great. As a romance: awful.