August saw the five-year anniversary of Lauren Kaye’s ‘I’m All In’, a poetry collection described as a ‘seductive collection of romantic and sensual poems that speak on the inevitable episodes of love, sex and relationships’. The occasion was marked on social media – at a time where artists are forced to be more resourceful than ever when the stage is taken away. As Kaye outlines in the introduction, her poetry ‘is written much how I speak’, and it is best to have seen her live or see live videos so you can then hear her voice as you read coming through the pages.
Edinburgh Fringe festival seems to get bigger and bigger each year; there are hundreds of shows to choose from and the densely-packed programme can be difficult to decipher. Here we have briefly reviewed three distinct shows from the 2019 edition, dealing with the mind, the body, sexuality, relationships and gender.
A tall hill of turquoise, gendered cooing and guffawing, chainmail crop tops, and dance-fights with mops, performed to the sound of nineties nostalgia: Lizzy Shakespeare and Michelle Madsen, together known as Bait Theatre, effectively wield experimental drama to tear through the fanciful tropes of traditional fairy-tale femininity.
The second instalment of a series of short summaries of a wide variety of performances, from the comedic to the dramatic to the bizarre, direct from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Each entry is preceded by the title of the work in question, and the venue(s) at which it is being performed as part of the Fringe.
Content warning: mentions eating disorders, sexual assault, domestic abuse, childhood trauma.
by Lewis Martin
On Sunday 6th May I attended Scratch It! hosted by Hack Theatre at the Norwich Arts Centre. Aimed at attracting new writers and ongoing projects, the evening looks to give a platform to work that is happening in the area so it can be developed and flourish. The arts varied across the evening, ranging from comedy to drama and using different styles and formats.
by Eli Lambe
In preparation for their upcoming show at Brighton fringe, Eliott Simpson and Elliot Wengler took the stage armed with their Tinder profiles – to proposition the audience for friendship. Closing a mixed bag of a night, their set contained some much needed reminders of how comedy can work without the tired, “edgy” humour that so often seems to haunt the stand-up world and which, in my mind, ruined so many of the night’s previous performances.
If you’ve seen Rosie Wilby on stage, or come across some of her recent articles, you may be aware of her exploration of monogamy and non-monogamy in relationships. This complex issue is the focus of her new book: Is Monogamy Dead? A provocative title in itself, as a book that is part memoir and part research, it succeeds in its aims to both entertain and critique traditional relationship models. As a stand-up comic, Wilby has appeared at many festivals from Glastonbury to Edinburgh, and there are many stories in the book that have me laughing out loud. Yet, as with the best comedic work, it succeeds in not only being humorous but is also delivered with real poignancy.
Life is hard. For everyone. We’re all trying to find some meaning to our lives, trying to figure out where we belong and what our purpose is. Amongst that, we see what is going on the world, either connected to us or globally. Our environment can be tough to digest.
My last article was about the cuts the government is in the process of implementing to benefits for disabled people. I spent a lot of time researching the article and it really brought me down. I already knew it was a problem and needed to be spoken about, bknowledge,ut to learn the extent of the issue and read personal experiences, made me feel hopeless. The news can easily do that. Making it difficult, not only to take control and make positive changes to our environment, but to make those changes for ourselves. It’s a trick that’s as old as the book. Since the time people were able to establish a hierarchy, those on top kept everyone else in the dark to keep them in their place. Knowledge is power. Muddy the water of knowledge, and we disengage and disenfranchise the masses.
Sean Spicer made an appearance at the Emmys on Sunday evening and an institution I hold incredibly dear to my heart almost destroyed itself. It was unexpected and extremely upsetting, but with time I think things could be alright. I am not referring to the Emmys of course, but to the tradition of satire.
Since the dawn of the Trump Era (a TARDIS-like section of time that hopefully, history will see as quite brief but which feels eternal to those in it), satire has arguably become more important than ever before. I’ve written about it a number of times for The Norwich Radical and I genuinely believe that mockery of the maniacal and mighty serves as a psychological sword and shield, at once cutting into the ego of demagogues and simultaneously protecting us from being pummelled into submission by their beliefs.
These past few years, as the Right, the Centre and, though it pains me to admit it, the Left have started to construct their own realities, satire has become more confusing as writers around the globe have all but given up trying to match the farcical nature of the world, but we still fought on under the banner of “this is not normal”.
CW: rape, sexual assault, islamophobia, homophobia
I never thought I’d start off a serious article by writing about talking during sex, but here we are. It’s a slightly awkward subject, and one that the world of comedy is not afraid to touch upon. Specifically, I’m referring to everyone’s favourite fictional radio presenter, Alan Partridge, who is no stranger to the delicate topic of conversations mid-intercourse. I’m Alan Partridge brought to British comedy a very memorable line, during a less than steamy sex scene, in which Alan asks his partner just what she thinks of the pedestrianisation of Norwich City Centre.
Aside from being a line used as a sure-fire way to detect a fellow Partridge fan, those outside of Norwich may not realise that we recently celebrated fifty years since the first high street in the city became pedestrianised, and that the debate around the motorist vs pedestrian issue continues to rage on. It is very much to this day – as Alan himself would say – a ‘hot topic’.
CW: discussion of racial slur
Twiglets, I have an unusual and likely unhealthy relationship with twiglets. Everything about them disgusts me. Their burnt and bitter flavour, their odd withered and gnarled appearance and the quantity in which I consume them. Likewise, I have an unusual and likely unhealthy relationship with Bill Maher and his show Real Talk.
by Hannah Rose
CW: mentions of sexual assault
Think of your best friend, I bet they spin a good yarn. No doubt they think the same about you. The exchange of life stories is how the finest, most novel human bonds are made. It’s within these intimate, warm spaces where the stories of our lives unfold; cementing who we are, rooting memory, making kaleidoscopes of our imaginations.
by Hannah Rose
True Stories Live is a beautifully simple idea which has blossomed since its inception a year ago. Each night promises to be engaging and entertaining, offering a storytelling space where the unexpected nearly always happens. The premise is straightforward, inviting members of the public to share their unscripted stories with an audience.
A theme is set for each night and storytellers are invited to workshops to help prepare for their performance. To date, themes have included: ‘There’s No Place Like Home’, ‘Forgive And Forget’, and ‘In Another Life’. A rich experience often including the intimate, the bittersweet and the darkly funny, drawing large audiences each time round.
“You’re not going to like that,” my partner said, when I told him I was going to see The Book of Mormon. Made by the creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, I was aware it was a controversial production. I had also seen Avenue Q, which shared the same musical composer/lyricist, Robert Lopez. I knew there might be “offensive jokes”, despite South Park always being on after my bedtime when I was at primary school; I was relatively unfamiliar with the programme beyond 10-year-olds singing about chocolate salty balls in the playground… But I had heard good things, so I asked my Gran for us to see it as my Christmas present.
After five days at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I’ve taken a pick of five Feminist pieces to review. Known for the extensive comedy programme, three of these are comedy acts, and then I’ve thrown in some poetry and theatre for good measure.
Sunday 8th February saw the launch of The Bechdel Test Fest at Genesis Cinema in East London. The test itself emerged after Alison Bechdel published a comic strip, inspired by friend Liz Wallace, where one character has a set of rules for watching a film. The criteria for passing the test are whether the film has two named female characters who talk about something other than a man. It is widely acknowledged as an extremely low bar.
Set up 30 years ago now, it seeks to address the gender bias in works of fiction; it has been found that just around half of films pass this test. With such a low bar set, the figure should be closer to 100%. This festival, led by Corinna Antrobus, puts The Bechdel Test in the spotlight, and aims to provoke discussion on gender in the film industry. In an effect to ‘reclaim the rom-com’, the launch event featured 2014’s Obvious Child and classic The Philadelphia Story — though I couldn’t stay for this part. After the first screening there was a panel discussion, including a video statement from Chloe Angyal about a statement she made that there is “no such thing as a feminist rom-com”, arguing that this is largely because society is still sexist.
I could live at Soho Theatre at the moment. In the past two months I have seen three women in comedy: Shappi Khorsandi, Bridget Christie, and Josie Long. In a recent article on puns and women in comedy, it stated ‘women are funny. End of debate.’ Or, as Josie Long put it ‘it’s like they’re real people.’ To those that don’t think women can be funny, it’s very unfortunate that your partners, mothers, siblings, and all women in your life have no sense of humour. Life must be quite dull.