Review – Dundee Literary Festival 2017

Last weekend was my favourite annual book festival, Dundee Literary Festival and as usual it didn’t let me down. Jam packed full of wonderful authors and glorious bookie events – it’s little wonder that literature lovers return to it year after year.

I attended this year’s festival with my fellow Chasing Timers, Sandra Ireland and Elizabeth Frattaroli, who are also huge Dundee Literary Festival fans.  Together we went to see a number of wonderful events including: New Worlds: a writing for young adults workshop with author Joan Lennon, Talk: Literature in Britain Today with Tim Robertson, Director of the Royal Literature Society, In Conversation with Graeme Macrae Burnet and Louise Welsh and In Conversation: Beyond Our Times with journalist and author Mark O’Connell.

Each event was unique and riveting in its own way. We listened, considered, debated and learned something new at every talk and discussion. As always the standard of speakers and the organisation of the event was phenomenal.

One of the best things about the festival is the sense of community there. It’s a fabulously warm and engaging event, full of friendly faces who all share the same love and passion for reading. When I first started attending book events a few years ago, I knew no one, but now I recognise so many lovely bookish people. It’s wonderful to feel part of a community that is so warm and special and welcoming.

Sadly this year, we say goodbye to Peggy Hughes who is leaving for pastures new. I’d just like to say thank you to Peggy for all of her hard work over the years, I know how much myself and the rest of the bookish community in both Dundee and around Scotland, appreciate all of your dedication. Your passion for literature has really helped the Dundee book scene come to life. We’ll miss you dreadfully, but we wish you all the luck in the world with your new bookish adventures.

Dundee Literary Festival 2017

Hip hip hooray! Tomorrow marks the beginning of my favourite bookie event, Dundee Literary Festival, which takes places in my native city.

This year’s event which takes it’s inspiration from the great thinker, biologist, mathematician and classics scholar, D’Arcy Thompson whose book On Growth and Form, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, peers inside the books and stories featured at the event, analysing their structure, form and secrets too.

Jam packed with literary stars from crime writer Denise Mina, Man Booker Prize shortlister, Graeme Macrae Burnet and Tracy Beaker author and Honorary Graduate of the University of Dundee, Jacqueline Wilson – there really is something for everything at this extraordinary book festival.

I’m looking forward to attending a number of events over the long weekend, including a writing tutorial with YA author Joan Lennon on Friday, Literature in Britain Today with Tim Robertson, Director of the Royal Society of Literature on Saturday and Beyond Our Times with Irish author Sara Baume and Journalist Mark O’Connell.

It’s going to be a fabulous few days and I’m looking forward to reviewing the events that I see, next week!

For more information and to book tickets, visit: https://literarydundee.co.uk/festival

Funbox Underwater Adventure

It doesn’t matter how many times I take my girls to see Funbox, it’s always an absolute pleasure. So when I found out that they were returning to Dundee, I knew we had to go.

This summer’s production, Underwater Adventure, sees the gang taking a voyage beneath the waves to the bottom of the ocean in a show that promised to be full of frolics and plenty of capers!! So how could we resist?

When we arrived at the theatre, it was already packed full of little mermaids and tiddlers who were hyped up and ready for the laughter and fun to begin. And they weren’t disappointed! As usual, the show included some new and very catchy tunes and some old classics such as My Father Went To Sea, Sea, Sea and The World Must Be Coming To An End – all of which were accompanied by some very funky dance moves which the children (and ahem… a few of the adults) copied with glee.

The show went down a treat with the whole audience adored Cha Cha Cha-ing along to the Funbox rhyme. As always the gang came offstage after the gig, ready to greet their fans. They are always so generous with their time posing for photographs and chatting with the kids, adding to the excitement of the day.

I can’t tell you how much I love taking my kids along to these shows. After seeing the Singing Kettle myself when I was a girl, I know how exciting a trip to the theatre can be for kids. When I take my girls along to see Funbox, I know that we’re not just having a good day out, we’re making memories that will last lifetime. So thank you Funbox. Keep up the good work!

Funbox are currently touring Scotland with their fabulously fun productions. For more information and to book tickets to see them live, visit: www.funbox.co.uk

*Disclaimer – I was provided with tickets to see Funbox in exchange for this fair and honest review.

Monstrous Bodies at Dundee Rep

Mary Shelley’s visit to Dundee in 1812, has always fascinated me. The author of Frankenstein, cited her time in the city as one of the inspirations behind her masterpiece and I’ve always wondered what exactly it was about Dundee and the Silvery Tay, that influenced her. So, when I heard that Monstrous Bodies, a play written and directed by Sandy Thomson of Poor Boy, was coming to Dundee Rep, I just knew I had to see it.

But the play is much more than just a biographical account of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin’s (Shelley’s maiden name) visit to Dundee. The 14 year olds story of living with the Baxter family, is told alongside modern day teenager Roxanne Walker’s, tale of woe. While Mary struggles to be taken seriously as a woman and a writer, Roxanne faces the humiliation of her classmates seeing her topless, after a boy she knows takes a photograph of her drunk at a party and shares it around the school.

The two storylines connect as Roxanne tries to build up the courage to face her peers again and deliver a talk on her idol, Mary Shelley. But that isn’t all they have in common. Both characters want to be treated as equals – but sadly respect for young women is hard to find in both 1812 and 2017. So sometimes you have to write your own story…

Monstrous Bodies was utterly captivating and inspiring to watch. Once again, the Dundee Ensemble cast were amazing with stand-out performances from Rebekah Lumsden as Roxanne, Eilidh McCormick as Mary, Elaine Stirrat as Liberty and Lorna Gold as Grissel. The play was supported by a host of young dancers who really brought the play to life and made the whole production vibrant and exciting to watch.

The stellar young cast, the realistic dialogue and the fact that audience members were invited to take images and videos at key points in the performance, makes this play current and attractive to young audiences as well as old.

I left the play feeling empowered with Mary Shelley’s words echoing around inside my head. “Beware: For I am fearless, and therefor powerful.”

What a message to be sending out to young women today.

Monstrous Bodies (Chasing Mary Shelley down Peep O’ Day Lane), is on at the Dundee Rep until Saturday the 6th of May.

For further information and to book tickets, visit: www.dundeerep.co.uk

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

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.