Archive for October, 2010

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Lingua Franca heads overseas

Wednesday, 27 October, 2010

Chris New and Nathalie Walker in the Finborough production of Lingua Franca

Peter Nichols’s Lingua Franca, last seen at West London’s Finborough Theatre, is heading to New York as a part of the Brits Off Broadway season at 59E59, November 9-28, 2010. Cast at the Finborough included Chris New, Rula Lenska, Charlotte Randle and Nathalie Walker.

Not sure how the Americans will take to this tale of hapless English teachers in Florence during the 50’s. The fact that it is a sequel to Nichols’ successful Privates on Parade might give it a bit of credibility, but the play’s key idea (which seemed to be that the Americans are taking over the world) hasn’t really come true and despite some good performances, it remains a production characterised by energy rather than excellence.

(c) Brent Crude 2010

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Momma Holmes’ Stuffing and Gravy Mince

Friday, 22 October, 2010

A pre-show feast

My mum used to make this for me and my three brothers as a quick and nutritious dinner during the winter. The smell reminds me of being back at home all those years ago when the family still existed as a single unit, all under the same roof. Cooking this recipe always makes me smile.

This recipe is also perfect for pre-show feasting! Its mix of veggie mince and wholemeal spaghetti provides energy enhancing carbs whilst not lying too heavy on the stomach!

Ingredients;

A handful of veggie mince (frozen Quorn mince is my recommendation)
Half a tin of marrowfat peas
Sage and Onion dry stuffing mix
Veggie gravy – Bisto is a good choice
Garlic pepper
Wholemeal spaghetti

Method;

  • Boil the water for the spaghetti, add a pinch of salt and place the spaghetti into the pan – leave this to cook whilst you make the mince mixture
  • Heat a pan with a touch of water and add the veggie mince, leaving for a couple of minutes to start to cook
  • Add a small cup of warm water and stir in 2 large spoonfuls of the gravy mix – keep stirring until there are no lumps (apart from the mince and the peas of course!)
  • Add a large sprinkle of stuffing mix, some garlic pepper (to taste) and the peas and leave to heat for 7-10 minutes
  • Drain the spaghetti, and place on the plate. Pour the mince mixture on top and serve! Voila!

This recipe is great as a winter warmer and because there’s no dairy (so your voice won’t be affected) and the ingredients aren’t too heavy it’s a great meal for scoffing just before a high energy musical performance or audition.

Add a few dashes of Worcester sauce or Tabasco for an extra kick.

(c) Vicki Holmes 21 10 2010

Photo (c) Thejase 2010

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Beef & Bean Burritos With Re-Fried Beans

Friday, 22 October, 2010

Claire Lyons likes it hot

Serves 4

Ingredients
500g lean mince meat (organic/free range)
1 tbsp of olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 250g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 250g tin of mixed beans (berlotti/kidney, any kind you like)
1/2 tsp of cumin
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tbsp tomato purée
250g of medium cheddar cheese, grated
8 tortilla wraps (or 4 large ones)
1 250g berlotti beans
2oz (1/4 cup) milk
Salt and pepper

Claire Lyons (c) Andrew Brucker 2010

Heat the oil in a skillet or heavy frying pan, add the shallots, garlic and chilli and cook until shallots are golden • Meanwhile empty the tomatoes and their juices into a saucepan and heat gently. When shallots are golden add half the mixture from the skillet to the tomatoes. Also add the cumin, chilli powder, tomato purée and mixed beans, simmer for 10-12 minutes while meat cooks • Cook the beef at med/high heat on the skillet with remaining shallots, garlic and chilli for about 12 minutes or until meat is thoroughly cooked through. Heat tortillas in the microwave for 1 minute (or in the oven at 150 degrees centegrade) to soften them • Meanwhile taste the sauce if you’d like it hotter add another 1/2 tsp of chilli powder and season with salt and pepper. Add the meat mixture to the sauce and stir to combine • Place 3 tbsp of the meat/sauce onto the first tortilla. Then top with the cherry tomatos and a tbsp of cheese and tighlty wrap into a burrito (a rectangular parcel, closed on all sides). To ensure the cheese melts put the burritos into a pre-heated oven of 150 degrees for 5 minutes. Make the re-fried whilst they’re in the oven

For the re-fried beans
Empty drained berlotti beans into a separate pan and mash them with a potato masher. Cook at a med heat for about 3 mins, constantly stirring them to a paste. Season with plenty of salt and a little pepper and gradually add milk. Stir vigorously and continue to cook for 2 more minutes

Serve Burritos with refried beans, fresh guacamole and a salad of gem lettuce and sliced tomato.

(c) Claire Lyons 21 October 2010

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Tomboy versus Princess

Monday, 18 October, 2010

An Actor’s Confession

 

Vicki Holmes, actor. (c) Diego Indraccollo 2010

 

I’m your typical tomboy. A good old fashioned Lincolnshire lass with a passion for the beautiful game I spent many a Saturday afternoon at Blundell Park watching the Mariners with my Dad, my brothers, my father’s close friends, and their sons.  Aged 7, I climbed my first tree and by the time I started secondary school my wardrobe was packed full of football shirts (various seasons and teams) and cargo pants.  I only attended my own parents wedding ceremony on the agreement that I could wear my DM boots. I was blissfully happy with life – my clothes were there to keep me warm and comfortable and not much else.

Cue curves. Quickly and with absolutely no warning (rather rude, I think you’ll agree!) a teenage body emerged. Hips. Breasts. An actual waist! Boys stared and I stared back. This wasn’t the plan! How could I become a famous footballer when the mere thought of running, jumping and diving made me blush? The t-shirts got baggier and the frustration grew. This wasn’t good enough anymore. For the first time in my life I wasn’t content with my looks – I wanted to look pretty but I couldn’t bear flashing the flesh. My sporty wardrobe was gradually replaced with mismatched and rather random articles of clothing that could quite frankly be described as bloody awful.  Needless to say my heart jumps into my mouth every time the old family album is produced. What this time? The days of the dodgy perm? The “gothic” phase? How about the time I dyed my hair orange? That’s always good for a laugh! I needed to find my new identity – and fast.

Unfortunately this didn’t happen as quickly as I’d have hoped. I longed to look like a girl but had no idea how. Such a huge male influence in my life had made me strong, confident and individual but it also made me unsure and uneducated when it came to things like hair, make-up and clothes. This continued into my late teens and even into my early twenties with many a scathing comment about my mismatched outfits and my unexplainable adoration of the colour brown. Yes, brown. Brown boots, brown tights, a brown dress, and on a cold day a brown hat. I loved brown. My hair was brown so surely the colour must suit me- right?! A flat mate of mine once begged me to let her give me a makeover and one hour, three costume changes and a nasty burn from a set of GHD hair straighteners later, I politely thanked her for her hard work and proceeded to shower and change back into my regular wash of brown comfort before daring to take a step out of the front door.

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to be feminine. I longed to be feminine. I wanted to wear pretty dresses and talk to boys. I wanted to be the girl in the bar with the perfect hair. I was a slim size 8 with a young and feminine face but I felt an allegiance to my sport, to my boyish energy and to that little Lincolnshire tomboy who knew exactly who she was and what she wanted to be. If she saw me stood there, as this arkward twenty year old who refused to pull her hair out of her face she’d laugh. Giggle at me for caring so much and urge me to go back – slip on the old Spurs shirt, Grimsby Town shorts (you need to represent your local team AND your Premiership team) and Adidas jacket. Don’t wear high heels, they hurt! And definitely don’t waste an hour every morning choosing outfits and applying make-up! She’d think I’d gone mad. She’d have had me committed, wouldn’t she?

Heading off to drama school certainly didn’t help matters. Suddenly I found myself on the funky streets of London – everyone knew how to style themselves to perfection. The outfits draped over the bodies of Carnaby Street and Covent Garden were perfectly put together… and if they weren’t, they clashed boldly with an almost arrogant confidence – “This is me, whether you like it or not”. All of my time was spent with trainee actors who oozed confidence and style. Nights out were painful with each and every female member of my year group offering me advice which I was too embarrassed and stubborn to take. Cue the reoccurrence of the brown dress and boots combo for every party.

I tried to find my inner fashionista during my first few years in London. I bought outrageous clothes and took a pair of scissors to them all. I cut, I sewed (albeit not very well!) and I even glued but there was no heart in it. The outfits turned into half-arsed, tacky looking Blue Peter projects and this, for a short while, was what I thought made me “individual”. Of course it didn’t, it just made me look like a crazy student with a distinct lack of style and an obvious lack of funds. It may seem like I’m being hard on myself but I can assure you I’m not. I was confused, young and dumb and it shows all too prominently in our old family photos. Friends and even boyfriends have guffawed with laughter at outfits my early twenties and I turn beetroot red every single time the old photo albums are pulled out. Cringe.

For casting purposes whilst studying at Drama School we were constantly asked to define ourselves, to pin point who we were and be proud of it, but I had no idea who I was. I’d long since given up playing football after a barrage of lesbian jibes and I hadn’t ran or swam for months so even my “sporty spice” persona had become void. This had also led to a recent bit of weight gain which brought on a further drop in confidence. Great stuff! We had every type of girl in my year – the hippy girl, the model, the princess (oh, how I longed to be the Princess!), the diva, the boob-job, the girl with the eating disorder and the sporty chick. I was none of these. I was possibly the least memorable member of Italia Conti’s class of 2008 and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. And in June 2008 I did.

There it was. My identity epiphany! I’d spent years considering how I was labelled and viewed by others and because of that I’d been terrified to take risks. I was scared of other peoples comments and preconceptions and most of all, I was scared of standing out and scared of blending in. I was a young woman in one of the most competitive professions in the whole universe and I was scared of being different! Ridiculous. What sense did that make? So I started my slow search for Vicki. I avoided meeting up with any members of Italia Conti face to face for a few months and I met new friends who didn’t know me as arkward, shy Vicki. I started running again and cycled to and from work every day, gradually slimming down to the size I had been pre-Conti. I also met Troy – A confident Australian with an open heart and an open mind who pushed me when I needed pushing and was my shoulder when I needed support.

I started to buy clothes because I liked them and banned the sentence “that wont suit me” from my vocabulary. My new mantra became “if I like it, then it’s my style”. In Australia, early 2009, I discovered the maxi dress which covered enough skin to make me feel comfortable but with a feminine and floaty edge. And now I live in them, with flip flops and a flower in my hair in Summer and cute ankle boots and a woolly hat in Winter. Christmas 2009 and a role in Dick Whittington at the Gala Theatre was my first introduction to a real costume designer. Tony was there to make me look good on stage and that’s exactly what he did. He told me which colours suited my hair type and skin tone most (blues and purples) and which didn’t (yellows and – you’ve guessed it – brown!). I learnt that spending an extra forty minutes putting an outfit together was okay… it didn’t make you a diva and it gave me a chance to mix and match my wardrobe on a trial and error basis. My outfit choices became more bold and most of the time more feminine and soon picking a set of clothes for the day became second nature. I became confident in how I looked and confident in who I am and it turns out I’m still quite sporty. When how to dress stopped being my main concern I began to take up more of the hobbies I’d left behind. I joined a local ladies football team and bought a new bike as well as registering for the marathon and starting training. These things were me through and through! It turns out my little tomboy was still inside, kicking and screaming and dying to get out but now she was older, she wore pretty dresses and got a kick out of scoring goals AND wearing that perfect pair of heels (but not at the same time). She loved running on the treadmill and running to the shops. Who’d have thought? My tomboy and my Princess weren’t enemies, they were best friends. In fact they’re actually the same person; they’re me. Me when I’m happy and relaxed and all grown up.

As I sit here right now as a twenty-four year old actress, writing this piece I realise that I’m not playing to any kind of stereotype and maybe not having a label has been, and is, a good thing. I’m simply Vicki and none of my fashion alter ego’s (the tomboy, the princess, the sporty one, the rocker) could exist without each other. So I guess what I’m saying is this mish-mash of personas is just me and if you don’t like it… well…. I’m afraid I don’t really care.

(c) Vicki Holmes, 15 October 2010

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Floating, by Hugh Hughes

Friday, 15 October, 2010

Child-like energy

Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival 2010 – Smock Alley Studio, Exchange St Lower, Temple Bar, Dublin 2 – 6.00pm on October 14, 1.00pm matinee on October 16-17 (all shows 90 minutes)

 

This zany and whimsical, yet highly entertaining and engaging show consists of the unflappable Hugh Hughes – and his able assistant, Sioned Rowlands – telling the magical story of how Hughes’ native island of Anglesey floated away from its ancient mooring off Wales into the Atlantic Ocean.

Hughes’ exuberant manner is reminiscent of a show for children, but somehow avoids being patronising, even though most of the audience are adults.  Perhaps this is because of a certain wicked wit that sparks occasionally through the joyful and overwhelming positive style of both performers.  Hughes’ style is not unlike that of a standup comic, interacting fearlessly with his audience – although he doesn’t fall into the standard format of buildup and punchline but adopts a storytelling approach.

The show makes fun of theatre’s pretensions at subtlety, by explaining everything up front, even to the extent of listing the sections of the show on a board, setting out all the backstage mechanics and at one point discussing a trip to the dressing-room for a lost prop!

While this lack of pretension is refreshing at first, at one stage in earlier part of the show it feels as if he is ‘overexplaining’ and he should simply get on with the story of Anglesey’s extraordinary voyage, which is a strong enough storyline on its own.

Once the main story begins, the full gamut of multimedia presentations and special effects are used to delightful effect, animated by the boundless energy of both performers.

The rural innocence of Hughes’ Anglesey origins permeate the show.  However, his attempt to leave the island is the immediate cause of its departure from the Irish Sea, to prevent him from escaping.

This brings us to the central theme of the show, which is the paradox of being connected to one’s birthplace, but also disconnected from it once one’s own identity is established – a conclusion that Hughes characteristically sets out in a matter-of-fact manner at the end of the show.

Cast Credits: Performers – Hugh Hughes, Sioned Rowlands.

Company Credits: Created by – Hugh Hughes and friends; Artistic Associates – Shôn Dale-Jones, Jill Norman, David Pagan, Stefanie Müller, Richard Couldrey, Alex Byrne, Guy Myhill, David Ralfe, Rich Rusk & Dante Rendle Traynor; Production and Technical Manager – Tom Cotterill; (following names for Hoipolloi): Artistic Director – Shôn Dale-Jones; Associate Director – Stefanie Müller; Producer – Simon Bedford; Finance Manager – Sylvia O’Dell; Development Associate – Rachel Parslew; Theatre Producers – Emma Dunton, Roger Nelson; Intern – Richard Watson; Press Agent – Nancy Poole; Production Photography – John Baucher, Geraint Lewis & Jaimie Gramston.

(c) Colman Higgins 2010

Reviewed 14 October 2010

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L’effet du Serge

Thursday, 14 October, 2010

Communicating through eccentricity

Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival 2010 – Samuel Beckett Theatre, Trinity College, Dublin 2 – 7.30pm (75 minutes) 3pm matinee only on October 17 – October 13-17

 

Serge, the central character (played by Gaetan Vourc’h), is an eccentric man living alone, for whom the highlight of the week is a visit by one or more of his friends on Sunday, when he performs a short and bizarre show (often involving special effects of some kind) for ‘one to three minutes’, after which the person gives a brief opinion of the show and leaves.

Serge’s very bland existence outside of his shows makes his quirky sense of creativity all the more fascinating, once it emerges.  Quesne is able to hold the attention with very ordinary moments, using silence effectively.  Vourc’h’s performance is close to clowning, as Serge calmly accepts the strange creations of his mind.

Serge’s character is highly ritualistic before and after his shows – always the same three drinks on offer, always bringing people in through the door rather than the patio, always offering to take his visitors’ jackets and offer them a seat.  His life is quite controlled, almost obsessively so.

It is almost as if his only way of communicating with other people or expressing himself is through his short shows each week.  At one point, there is a wonderful moment of frisson between him and a young female visitor, but his limited communication skills let him down.

His ‘audience’ of friends are almost as fascinating, as their reaction to his shows moves from astonishment to mild amusement.  At times it has the immediacy of reality TV, watching the reactions of ordinary people to strange stimuli.  There are strong elements of the ‘comedy of embarrassment’ in their reactions – without being cringe-inducing.

Quesne’s practice as this show tours is to combine both his regular performers and local volunteers among Serge’s ‘audience’.  This is a wise choice, as each nationality reacts in different ways to the same stimuli, making it easier for the real ‘off-stage’ audience to relate to the ‘on-stage’ audience’s reaction.  It appeared as if the local volunteers did not know the content of each of Serge’s little shows in advance, so spontaneous were their reactions.

Cast Credits: Serge – Gaetan Vourc’h; Other performers – Isabelle Angotti, Rodolphe Auté, Fiona Curry, Christine Kostick, Juno Kostick, Jeremy Robert Kemp, Mick O’Rourke, Emilie Rousset.

Company Credits: Conceived, directed and designed – Philippe Quesne.

(c) Colman Higgins 2010

Reviewed 13 October 2010

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Parkour – L’art du déplacement

Thursday, 14 October, 2010

The art of movement

Getting from A to B

Parkour, l’art du déplacement (the art of movement) started in France.  The basic principle is to get from A to B by the quickest route possible – whether by jumping a gap or vaulting a wall.  I became interested when a friend asked if I wanted to go to a freestyle adult gymnastics session.  Some guys there were doing Parkour.  I had never done anything like this before and one of the guys taught me some of the basic moves – the different types of vaults and precisions.  By the end of the session I was worn out, but I really wanted to be able to do what they were doing.  So I went back to the next session – and from then on I haven’t stopped.

When I moved to London I found a Parkour club and continued to train.  After a while I started to train outside, and very quickly found out that it’s completely different to training indoors.  Everything is harder and rougher, and if you fall it hurts more.  You find yourself holding back; your mind takes over.  When I train outside, I’m always thinking that everything is concrete: if I don’t make a jump, there’s going to be pain.

Through Parkour training my strength, balance and confidence has greatly improved.  Balancing may sound easy, but once you get on a rail that is rounded or smaller than width of your foot – and there is a 4-metre drop on one side – everything changes.  There are different kinds of moves.  Precisions are moves by which you jump from wall-to-wall or rail-to-rail.  Kongs are basically vaults; you go over the obstacle.  Precisions teach you to control your body when you land.  You have to have quite good co-ordination.  Kongs are great – sometimes you feel for a split second as if you are flying.  Palm spins and wall runs are fun too.

There’s always a rush of adrenaline between taking off and landing.  Once you have taken off, there is no going back – so you need to land the move.  Whereas indoors you can move the distance of the jumps to your level of ability, outdoors you can’t move a wall or rail.  When you stick a landing or successfully do a move it’s a great feeling of achievement.  You feel happy, especially if it was a first attempt.

When you fail and fall, the best – and hardest – thing to do is get up and try it again until you can do it.  Once you can do something, it’s good to repeat it 10 times.  This makes the move stick in your mind.  That way, your muscles get used to what’s required – a kind of muscle memory.

Parkour can be dangerous, particularly if you fail at a Kong, palm spin or precision which is beyond your ability.  To try things you need to be confident – in yourself and that you will be able to do it –  and commit 100 percent.  So far, I’ve not had a serious injury.  My foot slipped on a wall once – it wasn’t a very high wall, maybe just smaller than waist-height.  I fell backwards and landed on the floor; I came down hard on my hand and cut it.  I got up and attempted the move again, but afterwards all the bad scenarios went through my mind.

The best clothes to wear are loose, things which let you move freely.  The best shoes are generally running trainers – they have the best grip, and grip is crucial for a good landing.  Shoe soles wear down quite quickly – all that running, jumping and landing – so you end up buying new trainers often.

Parkour is becoming more popular with all age groups, young and old, round the world.  It features in many TV programmes and films – particularly in the opening scene of James Bond Casino Royale.  I’d love to be able to be a take Parkour to the next level and be a stunt double.  That would be the most amazing thing to do!

(c) Lauren Bettyes 14 October 2010