I’ve been pretty terrible at blogging recently, and of all the blogs this is the one left to the bottom of the pile. But I wanted to start trying to blog more here, do more of a diary style update, pulling together some thoughts on films, books, theatre and such. I saw a weekly round up work well on another blog, so thought I’d give it a go.
I was lucky enough to be invited as part of my other blog, Full to the Brum, to see Miss Saigon at the Birmingham Hippodrome theatre and I thought I’d do a little write up about it here too.
Set in Vietnam, Miss Saigon tells the story of a doomed romance between a Vietnamese women and an American male soldier during the Vietnamese war in the 1970s. It’s a show based on the Puccini opera Madame Butterfly, where the geisha is instead a Vietnamese girl who works in a bar. Despite being one of the longest-running shows on Broadway, I knew little about the plot of the musical going in, but the production is a blistering and absorbing portrayal, heavy with emotion and utterly captivating.
The love story between American soldier Chris and Vietnamese village girl Kim is ultimately a tragedy, wrapped up in the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War. I found the moral complexities of the play something that were often overshadowed by the spectacle of the show, but I’m not convinced a lesson in ethics is what the writers were going for. It’s an intense and epic show with high drama, brash colourful sets and at one point a full-sized helicopter on stage – it’s very go big or go home.
The latter portion of Miss Saigon looks at the cost of war, both to the people left behind and the Bui Doi children born from American soldiers’ liaisons with local women, but it felt a bit lost in the onslaught of the striking scenes and dramatic first half. Chris, whose judgement of his fellow soldiers’ use of local women who are trying to survive a war during the early part of the play, falls apart when faced with the moral dilemma when he returns to Vietnam some years later. Rather than allow for moral ambiguity, the play seems to sweep this up quickly into a tragedy, which makes it hard to feel its poignancy.
Miss Saigon is a show I’m glad I’ve seen, and the production was certainly high-octane and did a great job with the source material on offer, but it left me with a lot of questions. The production itself was one of the most visually spectacular I’ve seen and for that reason I think it’s a show to see at least one, but the play itself feels very much of its time and I wonder how well it will stand up as the years continue to pass.
As mentioned, I was initially invited to go and see the production to test out the Miss Saigon inspired menu that the theatre’s restaurant, The Circle, offers. I really like the idea of a themed meal to go along with the show and it’s a really nice way of bringing the whole thing together with the flavours and inspiration of the show translated onto the plate. Normally I’d just head for somewhere nearby and grab something quick, but I really like the idea of making a proper night of it and going for a nice dinner too. If you’d like to read what I thought about the food, you’ll find it over here.
I love living in a city for so many reasons, but one of which is the richness of live street art and music that you can stumble across – sometimes it’s part of a festival and sometimes it’s just because. Last night whilst I was ambling around the city centre, trying to decide what I should do for dinner, I spotted three people setting up equipment for a gig. It’s not uncommon to see people playing around this area in Birmingham, but usually it’s a soloist with maybe a single amp, mic and possibly a guitar; a drum kit and enough kit for a full gig is quite unusual. That, and the make up of some of the band, made me want to stick around to find out more. Plus, I still hadn’t decided what to have for tea.
Unsurprisingly it turned out they were a rock band, and the man in front of me was right in his assertion they looked like they were going to be worth sticking around for. Once they’d told the group of bemused onlookers who they were, I did a quick online search and turns out StOp,sToP! have quite the following. I stuck around for a few songs, ignoring my rumbling tummy, and thoroughly enjoyed their rendition of Proud Mary in particular.
In a week when terrible things have happened in our fellow second city, armed police patrol the streets and trains, we’re told trauma centres are on high alert, and the country’s threat level is raised to critical, a rock band plays a free gig in Birmingham city centre. It feels ridiculous and defiant, and as the crowd sung and danced along, it felt like the right.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to the press screening of Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes ballet, on behalf of Polaroids & Polar Bears, a local arts and culture magazine.
I naively assumed it was about the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale about the girl who wears the cursed red shoes and didn’t bother to look anymore into it because I was supposed to go with my mum and I figured she’d know. Only she cancelled on me as she had a meeting, so I ended up going with my friend Ian. Turns out it’s based on a film, which I’ve never seen – but my friend Louise has righted that by getting me a copy for my birthday.
Anyway, if you want to read my thoughts on the ballet, head over to Polaroids and Polar Bears!
There’s something about the crisp winter darkness and the sparkle of lights that feel magic, hopeful. And the Magic Lantern Festival being held at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens didn’t disappoint. I loved the creativity, weaving round the path seeing the different stories and the simplistic fun of a Saturday night that involved soya lattes and toasted marshmallows, rather than crowded bars and badly poured drinks.
I hope it returns next year…
I’ve decided to do Blogmas this year!
Well, kinda, I’m doing my version of Blogmas. For those of you who don’t know, Blogmas is a thing where bloggers, or vloggers (aka vlogmas) try and blog/vlog every day in the run up to Christmas. I’m not really sure why, but there’s loads of things like Blogtober and Blog Every Day in May and I think bloggers just like a challenge.
But, knowing how long it takes to blog for me on my main blog, I figured I’d do a type of Blogmas, but make it more about gift giving…or rather comment giving. You see, I always like it when people leave comments on my blog posts, and I’ve been finding that it happens less and less these days, although I know people are still reading. So this time I’ve decided that for every day in the run up to Christmas, I’m going to post a comment on at least one blog post I read that day. I guess it’s more like Blog-advent. It’s simple, it takes a couple of minutes and hopefully it’ll make people smile, the way it does me, when they notice someone has posted.
I’m expecting I’ll mainly post on fellow Brum Blogger posts, but that’s not a rule of my Blogmas challenge, any post I fancy counts but it has to be a blog…and unlike my advent calendar chocolate, I can’t save up the comments and blast a bunch in a day.
To keep me accountable, I’ve made up a quick image (using a creative commons image from Dineshraj Goomany), and will be linking back to the posts below. Now that I probably will do in batches!
Day 01 – Jess from Jess & Josh Cook explain why she/they are doing blogmas
Day 02 – Jamie explains how to make an amazing sounding Nutella hot chocolate
Day 03 – Rebecca’s experience at the Festive Gift Fair 2016 at the NEC
Day 04 – getting some inspiration for 29 ‘to-dos’ before you go on holiday
Day 05 – checking out the five types of gin you might not know on Sally’s blog
Day 06 – reading about Elizabeth’s wedding dress shopping, because pretty dresses
Day 07 – embracing festive books and snacks because it mentions Nightmare Before Christmas
Day 08 – a really honest post about how to keep going when it feels like life is against you
Day 09 – Bullet Journal Christmas planning at Delightful Planner
Day 10 – Poppybead Creative’s year in photography
Day 11 – how Iman from And Then She Said organises her spices
Day 12 – Reading about Becky’s experience at the Blog at the Beach event hosted by Ice Lolly
Day 13 – Rosalilium’s November self-care favourites – an idea I adore!
Day 14 – Tashpantz’s CLC World competition
Day 15 –
Day 16 – Charlotte’s vlogmas day 15
Day 17 –
Day 18 – Sam from Thoughts on Tombs’ Series that went downhill
As someone who quietly kinda loves Halloween, but isn’t so keen on having to dress up, I was excited to hear Waterstones Birmingham had arranged a witch-themed author talk and singing for the night itself – authors Laure Eve, and Katharine & Elizabeth Corr.
The topic was firmly on witches, feminism and friendship, with the authors dressed up as witches from cult films like The Craft (Laure) and Practical Magic (Katharine and Elizabeth) and host Jamie as Maleficent, plus a few of the audience had dressed up too – I’d come from work, so it was just some novelty skeleton earrings for me.
I’d finished The Graces by Laure Eve a couple of days before the talk and was interested to hear more about the book. Laure talked about the idea that witchcraft in popular culture like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Craft, and indeed her own novel, gave ‘ordinary’ girls the chance to be something more, something powerful, and why witches seem to have a feminist and outsider appeal to them. It paralleled an article Laure has written for Buzzfeed, which is probably a better read than my memory.
Both The Graces by Laure Eve and The Witch’s Kiss by Katharine & Elizabeth Corr all have strong elements of friendship about them. I haven’t read The Witch’s Kiss yet, but this was certainly something I found interesting in The Graces, which was more of a focus than the romantic element of the story.
Laure, Katharine and Elizabeth all talked about the research that goes into writing novels about witches, with Katharine and Elizabeth’s novel focusing quite a bit on anglo-saxon witchcraft, but all authors admitting that their computers’ search engines are rather colourful.
The talk ended with a series of questions about Halloween, with some general fingerling about Halloween, witches and suitably spooky reads, which means I’ve added even more to my ‘to read’ pile, including Cell and The Sun Dog by Stephen King.
Both The Graces and The Witch’s Kiss have sequels coming out next year; roughly February for The Witch’s Kiss and September for The Graces.
And then I got my books signed…