Eight reasons fireworks are better than theatre

1. It’s proper dark. All the best stuff happens in the dark – gigs, sex, badgers. Lighting designers do gorgeous things on stage but it’s the grimy blackness my eyes drift to in the unlit corners. You can only get real dark like that if you fork out the extra £50 for Ikeas blackout blinds. I like my theatre with the high contrast of a Lite Bright. Darkness is damn effective.

2. It’s free. This is something you are owed for your toil, your daily grind. The municipality owes you something so here’s some sparklers. And you can see where every penny of your taxes is going as it sparkles like so much glitter across the cosmos. I want to see those ten pound notes burn!

3. All levels of access are the same. No special seats for wheelchairs, no relaxed performances, no watch with baby events. Just everyone. At once. In one big smoky orgy.

4. “My eyes!”

If you don’t want to involuntary shout this during a performance, someone’s missed a trick.

5. “My ears!”

Same goes.

6.My heart!!!

You get the picture. If people aren’t holding into their own arses in fear at some point in performance, you’ve let everyone down.

7. You can watch them from your house. Theatre Royal Stratford East got this with their Home Theatre project and there’s been a couple of other that bring theatre into people’s homes.

8. It actually does make you consider your position in the world. How fortunate we are to be in a position that screams of rockets is a siren call for fun and not real danger of your school/work/home under attack.

Katy Perry soundtrack optional.


Footloose and Facebook free – How I deleted Facebook from my life

The most recent updates to Facebook’s mobile app where it listens in to your surroundings and reports that the site was actively using members as guinea pigs to see if they could make them sad just does not feel cool.

A current Guardian survey asking the simple question “do you like Facebook?” currently has 87% or responders giving the site a thumbs down.

There’s definitely something in the air against Facebook right now. It’s time for me to go.

I’ve been using social networks since I was 11, which, by today’s standards is nothing but with my Bondai Blue iMac – a spur of the moment purchase from my parents – I was the first in my school class to have the internet at home.

I’ve moved along with social sites, from my first super cryptic username right up to delivering lectures to university students on the importance of using your real name online seventeen years later.

I’ve been making and joining communities online for a long time. But nothing has hung around me for as long as Facebook. Not Yahoo! Clubs, Neopets, Bebo, nothing.

That’s why I’m done with it.

They say that you completely renew all your body bits every seven years? After seven years on Facebook, my account just sits around getting fatter on all the people I haven’t kept in touch with and their marriages, babies and careers in far-flung places.

All it did was make me sad.

Which is weird because I’m happy with my self, babyfree status and work life.

What does Facebook offer me?

The people who I love are around me in my daily life. The people I’d like to see more of I have on Twitter or text or through the family oracle (my mum). I get lots of beautiful images and funny posts on Tumblr. Blogs continue to be ace.

My job requires me to be active on social media 24hrs a day. When I said to a friend that I had deleted Facebook, her quick response was “I think that basically means you’re fired now.” I still love social media, but I shouldn’t have to spend time on something that makes me feel worse every time I log on during the day, whose ethics I feel iffy about or stops me finding new and interesting communities to set up shop with.

This process isn’t a complete pull out. It’s mostly about freeing myself from the tyranny of the News Feed and reclaiming my privacy.
So, come with me and there’s a few things to ease you out of Facebook.

  1. Copy down all the birthdays of your nearest and dearest.
  2. If you’re an admin of organisation accounts start a new shadow account and make this new ghost-you an admin so you can still do your job. Add yourself to any Groups you frequently use (I have one that my uni class uses to discuss work, one for friends and acquaintances to arrange theatre trips and one for sharing production inspiration with collaborators.)
  3. If you rely on Facebook to know what interesting articles interesting people are posting make a recipe in IFTT that will create an entry in Feedly/InstaPaper whenever their Twitter handle posts a link.
  4. Export all your data. Facebook’s inbuilt export is bit weak in what it offers you. SocialSafe downloads every photo you’ve ever been tagged in, every message you’ve received, you’re friends list and probably a lot more that I’m not that interested in saving. The software is free for 30 days which is fine because you’re not going to need it for much longer.
  5. Uploaded all the pictures I’ve been tagged in to Blurb to produce a lovely physical book of memories that won’t get wiped.
  6. Delete all the material you’ve uploaded to Facebook over the years as some of this might still stay with them.
  7. Unlink all your applications that you allow to log in via Facebook.
  8. Here’s the tough part. Leaving. If you rely on a personal Facebook presence for work, just switch your Personal Page to a Business. If you’ve got no reason to be there, head straight for deletion. This link isn’t anywhere to be found on the actual page but here it is here.
  9. You’ve got 14 days to change your mind. But stick it out and enjoy a lighter, happier life.

Giving up Facebook is a bit like giving up TV. It felt a bit weird at first not having that routine but now it just seems such a weird thing how much of a given it is socially, how much it dominates our entertainment time, how full of rubbish it is for every little gem. I can get my gems elsewhere.

Facebook was stopping me being creative and doing the things I really enjoy. Since having no Facebook in my life I’ve painted a table, a chair, finished a knitted blanket that was wanting love for years, wrote a one-act play, gutted out all my old computer games, got some new ones, got back into the gym, filled in a sticker book which was still all procrastination for getting on with my dissertation. I didn’t feel compelled to share any of this on Facebook (but am aware I’m being hypocritical now). I was doing these things for myself, not for an audience who is only half paying attention.

I just hope others will see these actions – of someone whose job is social media – as the actions of a rat leaving a sinking ship and connect more with things they love in different places online or in the meat world.


What is theatre anyway?

Whilst working on a project, my group got tangled into a discussion of “just what is theatre anyway?”

Does the current definition cover the mixed format of productions created by theatre companies? Does it cover sound, dance, circus, music, writing? What does it exclude. What isn’t theatre?

A couple of definitions were thrown into the mix. I always like Kenneth Tynan’s definition (first brought to my attention by Mark Brown)

Waiting for Godot frankly jettisons everything by which we recognise theatre. It arrives at the custom-house, as it were, with no luggage, no passport, and nothing to declare; yet it gets through, as might a pilgrim from Mars. It does this, I believe, by appealing to a definition of drama much more fundamental than any in the books. A play, it asserts and proves, is basically a means of spending two hours in the dark without being bored. . . . It forced me to re-examine the rules which have hitherto governed the drama; and, having done so, to pronounce them not elastic enough.

This is from 1955 and I don’t reckon we’ve come much closer.

One member of the group challenged this by reminding that in the past two years little of the work she’s made has been performed in the dark, or even anywhere near that length. Instead her work has taken place on the streets, in public parks and in the earphones of audience members but it is all still theatre.

Another member of the group offered a definition of theatre as controlled by licensing laws that decide what is “theatre” and requiring a special license to host in a venue.

any dramatic piece, whether involving improvisation or not, which is given wholly or in part by one or more persons actually present and performing and in which the whole or a major proportion of what is done by the person or persons performing, whether by way of speech, singing or action, involves the playing of a role

This is lifted from the 1968 Theatres Act so we’re getting closer but still way outside of my lifetime.

As our discussions continued I lost sight of what theatre actually is. My mind swam to a definition that the only thing you could comfortably call “Theatre” is a building, with an auditorium and seats. It’s not necessarily even for live performance. The US uses “theatre” to describe a cinema.

What the heck is this thing I work in/on/with?

Our group decided that we’d like to get some more definitions of theatre and I’d like to hear yours. The closest we got is that if it doesn’t have a narrative, it’s not theatre. But I’m still not sure.

You can comment or do it anonymously in the poll if you think it’s silly or a bit bitchy.

Featured image of Whatever Gets You Through The Night from The Queen’s Hall on Flickr.

You think I’ll weep? No, I’ll not weep. I have full cause of weeping but not because of Shakespeare

I realised today that I’ve never cried at Shakespeare. My crying at some point during a production’s proceedings tends to be a given.

It’s not that I don’t like Shakespeare. Unlike many horror stories, I loved Shakespeare at school. We read Julius Ceasar and I had a major crush on Casius. Gaius/Marcus was my OTP for, like, a whole month. I still do like Shakespeare. A lot. Though I have to get myself into a certain mindset to enjoy. I’m more excited in how Shakespeare as a genre has been appropriated.

Okay, a concession, I have twice cried at a Shakespeare production but on both occassions it was more about the paralell story being told through the source text’s words.

The National Theatre of Scotland’s Macbeth, the (almost) one man show with Alan Cumming directed by John Tiffany and Andy Goldberg in 2012 had a hand clenched round my throat pretty much through out. It’s also one of the few times I’ve willingly given a standing O.

Locked in a hospital ward, disorientated and with a bloody gouge on his chest, Cumming’s character sleepwalks through Shakespeare’s text as a method of dealing with his own trauma. I was invested in “Fred”, not Macbeth.

The big tears came in the drowing of a wee wooly jumper in a bathtub, standing in for the mini-McDuffs. “All my pretty ones? Did you say all?”.  In this action, Cumming’s character is both perpetrator and victim. Though not explicit, the production gave me the feeling of  “Fred’s”  violence against his own family. Having come from his own hands, the death of his own family is heartwrenching.  An attempt at drowning himself in the same tub, and the shuddering breath of air as he fails. He’s got to live with what he’s done, not like Macbeth, who gets the easy way out of guilt by having his head put on a spike.

Going back.

I egged on my English teacher to take us to see Joe Calarco’s Shakespeare’s R&J when it toured to Glasgow in 2004.

It did drive one of my classmates to dub it “the most prentious thing she’s ever seen, all that sliding about with a red scarf”, but I loved it. I’ve got two pages of my scrapbook filled with the same press image printed in different newspapers. [I'll pop a picture of it in here later tonight].

Four Catholic boarding school boys reenact Romeo and Juliet by torchlight. Again, it was the subnarrative of the relationships between the boys that made me get my weep on. Particuarly three boys standing in booming unison as Mr Capulet against the the Walter Softy of the group as Juliet. The boy’s pushed out of the group for being a bit queer as Juliet is pushed out by her family, but is later brought into the fold of the gang. It booted out my previous OTP. I shipped the curly haired one in the blazer/The girlish one in the blazer for at least a week! Och, it’s pure dead tragic, don’t you know.

Shakespeare has made up a sizable chunk of my theatre exposure over the years, particuarly when I was starting out. But my lack of crying, something that seems to happen automatically as soon as my bum hits the seat suggests that there’s something in there that’s missing for me. I’ve been moved by Shakespeare as a genre and natty narrative tricks telling new character’s stories but seen a straight(ish) production to warm him to my heart as a “not of an age, but for all time” contemporary playwright.



Tips from Tynan

Above is a series of quotes I used to illustrate a presentation I delivered on Kenneth Tynan’s work as the National Theatre’s Literary Manager for my postgrad Debating Dramaturgy class.

They are included here on the blog just in case anyone has a passing interest or wants to join me in rolling around in Tynan filled joy.

1.  Kenneth Tynan, Letters (London: Mandarin 1995), p.294
2. Tynan, ‘The Critic Comes Full Circle’. Theatre Quarterly Vol2. No.1 1971 pp.37-48
3. Tynan, Theatre Writings (London: Nick Hern Books, 2007) p. 242
4. Tynan, Curtains (London: Longmans, 1961) p.446
5 John Elsom and Nicholas Tomalin, The History of the National Theatre (London: Cape, 1978) p.148
6. Tynan, Diaries (New York: Bloomsbury, 2001) p.46
7. Orson Welles addressing Tynan in his introductory letter to Tynan, He That Plays The King: A View of The Theatre (London: Longmans, 1950)
8. Tynan, Theatre Writings p. 239
9. Tynan, Right and Left (London: Longmans, 1967) p. viii
10. Tynan, Theatre Writings p. 133
11. Kathleen Tynan, The Life of Kenneth Tynan (London: Methuem, 1988) p.3

My theatre criticism micro experiments of 2013 – the results!

I have a curiosity about how we respond to theatre – critically, emotionally, physically, financially. My approach to theatre criticism isn’t really criticism at all.

I think that one of the reasons why I like looking at different ways to communicate my response other than straight up reviews is that we do not have a strong culture of talking about work online in Scotland. It is a little lonely. I’m not convinced there is an audience or appetite for non-professional reviews in Scotland. So rather than making the production the central focus, I look more at how my response is documented.

Heart rate monitor reviews FAIL!

I spent a lot of time researching how I could make this work but it never came through for me.

The original idea was to strap up audience members and cast members to heart rate monitors and see if there was a correlation in their physical response to performance. Could watching someone do something spectacular onstage get your heart rate up?

But first I had to make it work on myself before convincing artists to strap one on. The problem was getting a strong and consistent  3G or WiFi signal. Are theatres made out of those metal cages they put around supermarkets?! Stuffing damp paper towels down my bra to get the electromagnetic connection flowing wasn’t my idea of fun either.

You can read my first three failed attempts at http://heartoftheplay.tumblr.com


I did get some small, interesting result from this experiment. I have graphs that managed to record twenty minutes of my response at a time and you can see that there is some peaks and points I can identifying as being particularly thrilling. But the accuracy was unsatisfactory and made me more concerned with fiddling with the tech than enjoying the production.

The Royal Opera House’s experiments in the physical impact of theatre managed to achieve what I couldn’t. Though disappointed, I still think this is an interesting line in enquiry.

Theatre fees FAIL!

There was a little flurry earlier this year (again) about booking fees. I attempted to document how much of my spending was going towards additional fees on top of the ticket price through a live chart posted on theatrefees.tumblr.com This micro experiment slowly tailed off when I lost track of my spending.


If I was better at keeping track, I would have liked to look at the additional costs of theatre going broken right down; the price of interval drinks, programmes, transport times and costs.

Edinburgh Furinge SUCCESS!

During the Fringe, I sat down and put some cat pictures on a Tumblr page and called it the Edinburgh Furinge. Perhaps the most mindless piece of criticism I’ve done got the most attention, snagging 1,000 views in a day and making my Twitter feed go momentarily a little mad.

The Furinge formula was three pictures of LOLcats reflecting how I felt at different points in a production as an audience member. This was my review of Philip Ridley’s Dark Vanilla Jungle for Supporting Wall.

At first I was like

And then I went utterly

Which made me go totally

I was pleased that folk seemed to clock on quickly that the Furinge reviews were about the mad whoosh of feelings you get that render you dumbstruck, for better or for worse. This is what I wrote about it at the time.

Edinburgh Furinge Reviews is a space to catch you breath from all the #edfringe madness, look at some pictures of cats, have a wee smile, maybe get curious about a show, and then dive back into the fray.

It was fun to get acknowledged by blogs I deeply dig, see the cat reviews on venue press board and gets lots of lovely feedback. The one below made me give an extra-special hard air punch.

Vine reviews FAIL!

I only did this once, to see if I could make my two minute vlogs even shorter. It’s deleted now but you can see me making it at the start of one of my few 2013 vlogs. I didn’t like doing them. (I also fell out of love with vlogging this year but am slowly coming back to it in a slightly altered state, revisiting one production repeatedly over time in The Drowned Man memories)

Snapchat reviews SUCCESS!

This is what I wrote when to accompany the first Snapchat review for Show 1 of Secret Theatre.

 I don’t want my half garbled, misspelt thoughts on performance to last any longer in than the ice in my post show G&T. Though my opinion is as worthy as anyone else, I’d rather the lasting, Googleable totem was something more thought out.

If a picture is worth a thousands words then that’s about the equivalent of 43 tweets. Snapchat is blink-and-you’ll-miss it as theatre. If you use the screengrab feature then you’re playing the game just about as much as someone who sneaks a video camera into the stalls.

It’s a way of reinstating a little bit of that narrowcasting you could do in the early days on Twitter before my mum got an account. It’s a bit more informal. A bit less cementing yourself to one documentable standpoint. It’s a little bit less like writing an all staff email to colleagues you haven’t even met yet and a little bit more banter at the bar.

If you really want to know my opinion on a piece of work, come back to me in 10 years time. By then, theatre that stuck with me is clear in all I say and do whilst all the rest has skipped away from my heart unnoticed.

The first of the short series of Snapchat reviews was a none too glamourous selfie of my excited face surrounded by hastily drawn peas. I wish I’d saved it.

I’d like to do more. I enjoyed the Snaps I got back from people and made some new connections. However, I limited myself to only Snapping London theatre reviews and my London trips were limited this year.

If you’d like to be included in any further Snapchat review mail outs, add “evenicol”

What I want to try in 2014

Given the continued rise of Snapchat, I’d like to do more reviews on that platform. I want to try something about measuring how I applaud and I think there is something interesting that could be done with geotagging. What these things are, I DON’T KNOW YET (she says in Meg Vaughan style caps lock). Heck, after a passionate love affair with Kenneth Tynan this year (which involved me dressing up at the gorgeous KPT for a postgrad presentation. Work it, girl), I might even make a stab at some longform stuff.