National Theatre Live: Twelfth Night at Dundee Contemporary Arts

I’ve been loving the National Theatre Live’s recent run of broadcasts at DCA. From No Man’s Land starring Ian McKellen to Hedda Gabler starring Ruth Wilson, the live transitions have made the National Theatre’s work so much more accessible and affordable to people all around the globe.

Last week’s broadcast was Shakespeare’s timeless play Twelfth Night, starring the comedic actress Tamsin Greig. I’ve recently become a fan of Shakespeare’s comedies, after thoroughly enjoyed the Dundee Rep’s production of Much Ado About Nothing last year, so I couldn’t wait to see the Twelfth Night brought to life on stage.

The play begins with a ship wreck which separates twins Viola (Tamara Lawrance) and Sebastian (Daniel Ezra). Viola is washed up ashore but Sebastian is missing and presumed dead. Determined to survive on her own, Viola steps out to explore a new land and reconstruct her life in a way that will honour her beloved brother. What follows is a hilarious whirlwind of madness, passion, mistaken identity and unrequited love, taking places within two rich households nearby.

I was surprised by just how fresh and current the play felt – despite it being well over 400 years old. It just goes to show that the best writing, never really ages! This version, directed by Simon Godwin, also has its own modern twist with Tamsin Greig playing the character of Malvolio, the head servant in Olivia’s a household – a part that’s usually reserved for a man. This clever twist worked well and only highlighted how the themes of Shakespeare’s plays are just as relevant today, as they were back then. After all love is love, no matter what form it comes in. This superbly acted production was warm, funny and emotional all at once, and was an absolute pleasure to watch.

The National Theatre Live will be broadcasting more theatre events throughout the spring and summer including Obsession, starring Jude Law, Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf, starring Imelda Staunton and JM Barrie’s boyhood classic, Peter Pan,

For more information about National Theatre Live productions coming to Dundee and to book tickets, please visit: www.dca.org.uk

*Disclaimer – I was provided with a ticket for this showing of the Twelfth Night in exchange for this fair and honest review.

 

Interview with scientist, children’s author and illustrator Dr Ana Isabel Ordonez

This month we chat to scientist, children’s author, illustrator Dr Ana Isabel Ordonez to find out about the inspiration behind her work…

Your children’s books feature a whole host of animals including Aye Aye and Roibeard the Giraffe. Can you tell me what the inspiration for the characters was? 

Most of my characters emanate from a poignancy, animals are poignant; usually this emotion becomes so compelling that I feel obligate to write, the same way some people feel compelled to talk to someone when going through weird places. When I read back over my work I can see how it’s me who’s writing but that each bit of writing personifies a different angle of my character and a different time too.

What has the response been like to the books? 
The response has been very good! People seem to really enjoy them. Hopefully animals like them too! After all we’re all just evolved monkeys really, aren’t we? I’m kidding…almost…

Your books have a strong message about animal rights and the importance of their natural habitat. Is this something that you have always felt passionate about?

Animals are losing rights and sadly future generations won’t have the opportunity to see the animals that we do today.  We have a lot to learn from animals, they are often much wiser than us. While humans like to believe that it’s love that makes the world go round, it’s the connection between human beings and animals that’s important. It’s that relationship that makes our time on earth joyful.

Do you have a writing routine that you follow?

I’ve always felt that I’m somewhat of an instinctive writer and illustrator. I’ve had no formal training, all of my knowledge about technique, form and meter I’ve conquered through studying the great writers, poets, and by reading their work time and again.  As writer and children illustrator it’s important to remain unrestrained, staying formless and inhabited in both style and utterance. I write from 4am to 9am without stopping – I need calm and reflection from what I experienced during the hours I’m awake. I also sleep a lot – up to 9h a day, but always in small fragments. Gosh I sound a bit like a lazy cat!

How do you spend your time when you’re not busy writing?

Being! That’s a big job! I spend my time having the courage to be myself! But aside from that, I travel and go biking, swimming and walking. I also enjoy reading a lot. Sometimes I simply do nothing – that’s something I’m becoming an expert in! It’s not easy to stay in the “emptiness of nothing” but nowadays I can spend hours just watching my pet turtle running about!

What are your favourite children’s books?

Wow that’s a tough question to answer! But I do like the work of Horatio Alger, Bernard Ashley, Aesop, Charles Dickens, Nicholas Stuart Gray, Roald Dahl, La Fontaine, Pavel Bazhov, Andrei Platonov, Jules Verne, Antoine de St Exupery, Aleksei Tolstoi…. the list is endless.

What inspired you become a writer?

I’m not sure if one becomes a writer. Life has drawn me in lots of different directions. On one hand, I’ve always been attracted to science, with its truth based on facts; but on the other hand, I am fascinated by ethics and the surreal.  Writing for me has always been about exploring most harrowing themes of human, animal, insects, minerals, music, poetry experience, irrespective of topic but keeping the wonder alive.

                       Aye Aye in space!

I self-publish my work, which I love because nobody tells me what to do! I have a great distribution worldwide but I’m always looking at new ways of doing things too. I like to explore new universes, I don’t like the sense of permanence. Every day is a teared up page of an infinite book.

Do have any further books in the series planned?

Yes, I’m working on a new story about Aye Aye and her pet Euricoty. The book is filled with lots of fun, laughter and a bit of naughtiness! It’s good to be naughty sometimes!

We look forward to reading more about Aye Aye and her adventures very soon! 

Review: Death of a Salesman – Dundee Rep

Death of a Salesman wasn’t a play that I was really familiar with up until Saturday night. After skipping my highers at secondary school to go straight to college (and then on to university) – I never did study Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer winning play. It’s something that’s I’ve always been eager to rectify, so when I heard it was coming to Dundee Rep, I just knew I had to see it.

Told using a combination of flashbacks, dreams and present tense action, Death of a Salesman is a heart-breaking tale of how the death of a dream can affect a man and his family. Starring the wonderful Billy Mack, the play is about a 63-year-old travelling salesman named Willy Loman who is struggling to make ends meet. Haunted by his dreams of making it big, he finds himself at the end of his career, broke and feeling redundant. But no matter how low he feels, Willy always holds on to the hope that he can turn things around. Too proud to consider any other kind of career, Willy believes that charm and hard work are all that you need in life to succeed.

With beautiful performances from Billy Mack, Irene MacDougall as Willy’s long suffering but loving wife Linda and Laurie Scott as his youngest son Happy, the production is just stunning to watch. But for me it was Ewan Donald’s tremendous performance as Biff, Willy’s eldest son, that made this show truly spellbinding. The scenes between Willy and Biff are just electrifying to watch, with the actors capturing the intensity of this complicated father and son relationship, just perfectly.

Death of a Salesman is directed by Joe Douglas and is showing at the Dundee Rep until Saturday the 11th of March. For further information and to book tickets, visit: www.dundeerep.co.uk

*Disclaimer – I was provided with a ticket for this showing of Death of a Salesman in exchange for this fair and honest review.

National Theatre Live – Saint Joan at Dundee Contemporary Arts

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to see the National Theatre Live production of Saint Joan at Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA). The production, starring Gemma Arterton, is an updated version of George Bernard Shaw’s classic 1920s play.

Set in France on a revolving boardroom filled with hedge fund managers, the play tells the story of Joan of Arc: daughter, farm girl, visionary, patriot, king-whisperer, soldier, leader, victor, icon, radical, witch, heretic, saint, martyr and woman.

The play opens with the shocking news that hens have stopped laying eggs, leading to a crash in the stock market. The hedge fund managers are understandably worried but then a local farm girl called Joan arrives, boasting about her ability to speak to dead Saints and Angels and tells the men that God is on her side. She asks them to let her take control of the army so that she can drive the English out of France. Of course, she’s immediately met with ridicule, but then she does something amazing – she asks the dead saints to help her get the hens laying eggs again. When it works – she’s suddenly someone to be reckoned with.

While Gemma Arterton’s performance is wonderful as the feminist farm girl turned visionary, the modern setting with all its technology and gadgets left me a little bit cold. Personally, I would have preferred a more faithful adaptation of this play, but I still enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about Joan and her amazing strength and conviction.

My next visit to the DCA will be to see the celebrated play Hedda Gabler, written by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. Starring the amazing Ruth Wilson – it’s a National Theatre Live production, not to be missed!

For more information about National Theatre Live productions coming to Dundee and to book tickets, please visit: www.dca.org.uk

*Disclaimer – I was provided with a ticket for this showing of Saint Joan in exchange for this fair and honest review.

Review: Amadeus, National Theatre Live at DCA, Dundee

Having loved my first National Theatre Live experience, I was really looking forward to returning to Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) to watch the latest NT production Amadeus, last week. The stunning show, starring Lucian Msamati and Adam Gillen, tells the story of Salieri, a celebrated composer who is thriving in the beautiful city of Vienna. But when musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart comes to town, Salieri’s whole world is rocked to the core.

Envious of the attention that the young Mozart is receiving, Salieri gets to know the composer and is stunned by his extraordinary talent. Consumed by jealousy, Salieri starts to plot Mozart’s downfall, ensuring that he will never receive the recognition that he deserves during his short lifetime.

The cast, which included the wonderful Karla Crome as Mozart’s wife Constance, was absolutely magnificent and brought the whole piece to life. Written by the English playwright Peter Shaffer, Amadeus is filled with drama, suspense and outstanding music, provided by a live orchestra who were very much part of the production. The packed audience at the DCA, were all absolutely riveted and on the edge of their seats throughout.

For a second time, the magic of the National Theatre was absolutely transmitted through the screen, making it feel like you really were there! Being able to grab a drink from the lovely Jute Café Bar at half time, also really added to the whole theatre experience.

With more National Theatre Live events due to be screened soon, including the award winning plays Saint Joan and Hedda Gabler, I’m looking forward to returning to the DCA for my next dose of culture!

For more information about National Theatre Live productions coming to Dundee and to book tickets, please visit: www.dca.org.uk

*Disclaimer – I was provided with a ticket for this showing of Amadeus in exchange for a fair and honest review.