Monthly Archives: November 2015

Of Mice and Men – The National Theatre Live 

  

Hi everyone! 

So this week I (and a number of students) saw Of Mice and Men in my local cinema at a screening of a National Theatre Live production. I reviewed the book recently, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to review this stage version as well. I’ve never reviewed a stage production before, so fingers crossed that this goes well! 

I just want to say how amazing the National Theatre live actually are. This production was from Broadway, New York. There was no way I was ever going to get there to see this. By having it recorded live, audience and all, then streamed back to my local area meant that we have golden opportunities on our door step to see amazing productions from around the world. Thank you! 

Here goes! 

Casting and characters:

George and Lennie were played by James Franco and Chris O’Dowd respectively. I found this casting to be brilliant. What incredibly talented actors these men are. As a lover of Chris O’Dowd I was already expecting amazing things. He didn’t fail to deliver. His every move, the twitches, the way he spoke and reacted was perfect for Lennie. I found myself unable to take my eyes off his hands. He was very much the bear like character Steinbeck created and described him to be. 

James Franco as George was interesting for me. In the opening scene when they had ran from Weed to their next ranch I found George a little too angry. I had never read into his character as angry towards Lennie. Frustrated yes, angry no. At one point in this discussion Lennie was portrayed as being terrified, arms covering his head. It was uncomfortable to see – a sure sign of outstanding acting – getting an emotional response from your audience. However, when George was protecting Lennie I was completely sold. The emotions between them felt genuine and real. The looks between the two made me feel like no one else mattered. That protection was played to perfection. 

The only let down in terms of the portrayal of characters for me was from Curley and his wife, played by Alex Morf and Leighton Meester respectively. Whilst I have no right or qualifications to judge their acting, and please don’t think I am, I expected more from the representation of them. Curley needs to be masculine and aggressive, constantly looking for a fight. I didn’t get that from this Curley. He never raised his voice or appeared to pose a threat. In fact, George appeared to have more aggression than Curley. 

Curley’s Wife was every inch the character she portrayed: beautiful, lonely, awkward and talkative. Yet, something was missing. She failed to have that power behind her to stand up for herself. In Crook’s cabin, a crucial line I was sat waiting for never came. “Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.” The one time Curley’s Wife has power, and in this production she is stripped of it. 

Nevertheless, I found casting generally brilliant. I had a view on each and every one of them. They brought the stage to life. 

Image from the Independent. 

  



Setting:

Despite seeing this in a large cinema, I’ve probably never felt so claustrophobic in my life. I went hot and my palms started sweating. The setting was really rather incredible. The intense, cramped feel was brought to life with the corregated iron and prison camp beds. When all actors were on stage, I felt trapped with them. It was unnerving but excellently done. As well as this, the brush and the river brought Steinbeck’s description to life. It was probably one of the best stage settings I’ve ever seen. It embodied the dystopian feel of this period for men in America. 

Image from backstage.com

  



Plot:

If my memory serves me well, this adaptation stuck to Steinbeck’s original text well. I only missed a couple things. The first, as discussed above, the missing quote from Curley’s Wife. However, what was impressive, the main quotes we all know and remember were emphasised to show their significant meanings. When Lennie cries out “I don’t like this place, George. It ain’t no good place. I wanna get outa here” boy did I believe it. It’s true! I wanted to be out of that trapped, imprisoned setting too. 

Secondly, I missed the emotion from Candy when his dog was killed. Yes he lay in silence, but the quote “I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog” was also missing. This quote draws parallels to the ending and it needs to be there. Whilst I felt awful for Candy, I knew that feeling came from me knowing the novel. 

Nevertheless, it stayed true to the text. They explored the themes in depth and the portrayal of the novel was accurate throughout. 

Image from ifccentre.com

  


Overview:

Overall, I found this to be an inspiring, excellent and uncomfortable production. I felt like the men must have done on the ranches – utterly trapped and alone. I had to hold back tears in the final scene between Lennie and George. The tears from James Franco didn’t help there, but again they felt real and genuine. 

Thank you National Theatre for bringing New York, and this incredible production to my door step. Magical! 

Image from Google

  

Big love all xx

Advertisements

18 Comments

Filed under Literature, Theatre Review

Daily Literature Quote 

 Hey everyone,

Reading offers solice and some well earnt ‘me time’ in my life. I’ve been trying to put into words my love of literature recently. It’s actually quite difficult to do! So, my thoughts this dark and damp Monday are neatly summed up by the one and only F. Scott Fitzgerald. I wanted to share this with my many book loving bloggers because I’m sure you’ll all agree. 

 

Thank you for making me feel like I belong. 

Big love to you all. X

10 Comments

Filed under Literature, Quotes

The Book Fangirling Blog Award 

  

Hey everyone! 
It’s been ages since I’ve completed an award or tag, so I thought I would take part in this. Thanks so much for all the nominations. I promise I will try and get around to them all – they are written on post its! I was nominated for this award by Arec from Rainy Thursdays. Thank you so much for thinking of me. 

Anyway, the rules for this one: 

  • Create a post to accept your award.
  • Add the blog award button into your post and put it on the side of your blog as a widget. Visit fangirling for the award button.
  • Answer the questions I have below.
  • Nominate between 5-10 book bloggers who you think also deserve this award.
  • Come up with your own 5 questions for your nominees


Arec’s questions:

Is there anything that makes it impossible for you to read (i.e. background noise, poor writing, etc.)?

Not really. When I’m reading a good book I just tend to get lost in it and everything else around me fades to nothingness. However, if I’m not really interested in the book I’m reading, I have been known to fall asleep. I do willingly give up reading books if I can’t get into it. Life is too short to struggle though. You could be using the time to read an awesome book instead. 


What book would you buy 2 copies for (one copy to read, one copy to stay pretty)?

I don’t have two copies of any book actually, unless they’ve been released with new covers. To that means the Harry Potter series. So lovely. If I have two copies I always donate the second to a local charity shop. I’m so proud that my books raised £106.50 last quarter. 


Do your books look nice and pristine, or well read and handled?

I’m not really bothered to be fair. I have all sorts on my shelf. I like my favourite books, or books that have pretty covers to be pristine. At the same time I’ve got books from when I was at school and that are bend and battered. I do get a bit mad when the spines are all damaged and when the cover gets bent. There was a time when I would replace the books that were damaged. Then I gave up! 


What is your biggest reading pet peeve?

When people actively go out of their way to reveal spoilers. Err hello! How rude?! With the blogging community, it’s bounds to happen, but it’s not intentional. It’s when someone knows you’re reading something, but they finished it before you, so they feel the need to tell you what happens before you get there. It’s bad reading etiquette. 


Do you have book buddy (someone you share all your reading with regardless)?

My fabulous followers! Also my friends. My friends are all readers too which is great because we all recommend different books to each other. I talk about books a lot at work as well. I’m desperately trying to get more young people into reading for pleasure. 
Thanks again Arec. This was great and your questions were definitely interesting and different! 


Charley’s questions:

  1. Which is the best book you’ve read in 2015?
  2. Is there a genre that you tend to shy away from? Why is this and what would make you try it?
  3. E-reader or paper book?
  4. What makes you love a book?
  5. Do you have a favourite reading snack? 


My nominations:

Simon @ sfarnell

The Book Club Mom

Ember @ Literary Constellation

Matt @ Matt and His Cats

Jess @ Mud and Stars
Feel free to ignore if you’re busy guys! I don’t mind. Just know I was thinking of you! 

Big love to you all X

18 Comments

Filed under Award, Reading

Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

  

Morning all! 

It’s no great secret to those who follow my blog that American literature is a love of mine. Despite it being cut from every English Literature GCSE going, I was able to teach this novella to my year 9 class last half term. What astounds me is the reaction you get from young people about the content and how people were treated during the Great Depression in America. Also, the live stream from the National Theatre Live is rapidly approaching, something I’m very excited about. Therefore, it seems to be the perfect opportunity to review this short but powerful book. 

The novella opens with vast description of a plantation and two migrant field workers during the Great Depression. The surprise at this part being that these men always travel together. Notoriously during this time, men were lonely and were forever moving from place to place, so relationships were difficult to form and hardly worth doing. George Milton is an intelligent man, but uneducated. His friend, Lennie Small is almost an opposite to him.  What has lacks in mental abilities he makes up for in strength and his large size. The men are in Soledad, meaning loneliness in Spanish, on their way to another ranch for work. 

“I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.” 

The man have massive hopes for the future, and dare I say it, unrealistic hopes for their future. They have a shared dream of settling down on their own piece of land. Lennie’s addition to the dream is he wants to tend the rabbits. Lennie enjoys touching soft things, like animals fur. However, he always kills them, accidentally, because of his strength and over petting. This dream is one of Lennie’s favourite stories. He constantly makes George repeat it over and over. 

At the start of the novella, we meet the men as they are fleeing from their current employment in Weed, California. Unfortunately they have to flee because of Lennie, who we quickly learn is more of a hindrance than a help. Lennie was stroking a girls dress and refused to let go. This resulted in an accusation of rape. George and Lennie are more than best friends. George is Lennie’s protector, despite the irritation Lennie causes him and the disruption to his life. 

‘George’s voice became deeper. He repeated his words rhythmically as though he had said them many times before. “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake, and the first thing you know they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch. They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to.'”

The men stop for the night in the brush on their way to the new ranch and make a plan in case anything should go wrong. It is repeated by George to ensure Lennie remembers. It is here we see Lennie petting a dead mouse, which George throws into the outback. 

Once the men reach the ranch and are hired, the men realise the ranch is more of a dystopia rather than utopia. The ranch is clearly a dangerous place. They are confronted by the boss, who is suspicious of Lennie (George gave him strict instructions not to speak) and then they are confronted by Curley – the Boss’s son. He’s a small but mean and aggressive person. He dislikes larger men which makes Lennie a target for his anger. It’s mentioned how he keeps a hand soft for his wife. What a charmer! Curley’s wife, who isn’t given a name, arguably because she’s a woman and Curley’s object, also poses as a problem for the men. Lennie is instantly attracted to her. Steinbeck’s description of her homes in the readers connotations of red. But equally, the description of her is one of my favourite pieces of writing. 

‘A girl was standing there looking in. She had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers.’

Contrastingly, George and Lennie meet the other ranch workers. Firstly, Candy: a kind, old, aged ranch hand, with one fully working hand, and a loyal dog. Secondly, Slim: the kind, intelligent, intuitive jerkline-skinner, whose dog has recently had a litter of puppies. The first (of many) heartbreaking scenes come from when Candy’s dog is killed for being old, smelly and useless. Candy is heartbroken and lies facing the wall in silence. His only friend, gone. Slim gives a puppy to both Candy and Lennie but it isn’t the same. 

There dream does show some sign of life when Candy offers to give the men $350 towards buying a farm at the end of the month, in return for their permission to live there. The trio are the happiest we ever see them. But, it doesn’t last for long. Curley stomps around the ranch looking for his wife, he picks on Lennie and repeatedly punches him. Lennie does nothing without George’s permission. After a moment, George tells him to retaliate. Lennie catches Curley’s fist and easily crushes it. He is immediately upset, he didn’t want to do it. A stark reminder to both Lennie and George that there’s plenty of obstacles in their way before their dream can be a reality. 

“Lennie covered his face with huge paws and bleated with terror.”

Nevertheless, George feels relaxed, since their dream is almost within their grasp. He decides to leave Lennie on the ranch whilst he popped to town with the other ranch hands. Lennie aimlessly wonders into the stable where he meets Crooks. He too is isolated on the ranch. He’s a bitter, yet educated stable buck. He’s black, so has his own room. St first he is hostile towards Lennie being there, but eventually they get along and start chatting. Candy finds them and they talk about their dreams for the farm. Crooks too gets carried away with the idea and asks if he could hoe a garden patch on the farm, despite his initial reaction of scorning the possibility of achieving the dream. 

Curley’s Wife appears and starts flirting with the men. Crooks is visibly uncomfortable with her being there. Contextually, it’s no secret that black people were not treated well at all. Curley’s Wife doesn’t get the reaction she’s looking for, so is spiteful to them, especially Crooks because of his race. She threatens to have him hung. 

“Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.”

The very next day, Lennie accidentally kills his puppy while stroking it. Lennie is upset. At this point, Curley’s Wife enters the barn and tries to speak to Lennie. It is here, because of her audience being Lennie and him only, we learn her story. She’s given room for a voice, for a second anyway. She’s incredibly lonely, Curley wants her in the house all day every day. Her dreams of becoming a movie star were crushed. She tries to talk to the ranch men to pass the time, and ease the loneliness. Lennie confesses to her that he likes to stroke soft things, so she lets him stroke her hair. She repeatedly asks Lennie no to mess it, but he doesn’t let go. She panics and begins to scream, thus resulting in Lennie yelling at her to stop. Lennie is frightened and unintentionally breaks her neck. Again, his immediate reaction is sadness. He didn’t mean to, or even want to kill her. 

‘Curley’s wife lay with a half-covering of yellow hay. And the meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face. She was pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young. Now her rouged cheeks and reddened lips made her seem alive and sleeping very lightly. The curls, tiny little sausages, were spread on the hay behind her head and her lips were parted.’

Lennie remembers the plan he and George made, and runs and hides in the brush. When the ranch hands return and find her, George realises what has happened. Their dream, or the illusion of their dream, is shattered. The men support George and keep him away so rules knows he had nothing to do with it. Curley wants revenge. He wants Lennie dead. George hurries to find him, hoping he will be at the meeting place they pre-organised. George knows that there’s only one thing he can do to save Lennie this time. 

George meets a very unhappy and worried Lennie at the spot. It’s almost a little ironic that Lennie can remember this and not much else. The friends sit together and they share the story they love: the bright future together, yet knowing it is something they won’t get to share now. Whilst Lennie tells the story, George shoots his one and only friend, in the back of the head. His death was painless and Lennie died happy. The other men, Curley, Slim and Carlson find George seconds after he spot Lennie. Only Slim realises that George killed Lennie out of love. Surely it’s better to be killed by your best friend than a mob? Slim leads him gently and consolingly away, whilst Curley and Carlson look on. The mood is subdued. The dream is over. 

“I can still tend the rabbits, George? I didn’t mean no harm, George.”

Whenever I read this novel, I feel heartbroken all over again. The themes of friendship and loneliness run parallel and throughout. This time period in America meant that the common every day working man struggled and was desperately afraid. There are lessons we can earn from this. It’s also almost incomprehensible that so much happens in such a short space of time. This is Steinbeck’s writing at its most honest and finest. 

Big love x

14 Comments

Filed under American Literature, Book review

Remembrance Day 2015

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scare heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Love and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from falling hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Always admired, never forgotten.
Big love xx

7 Comments

Filed under Poetry, Remembrance Day

Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith 

  

It was no secret that I was excited about this novel being published. Thankfully, the excitement paid off. Another gripping and highly entertaining, if not slightly creepy crime novel. Galbraith/Rowling has a way of keeping the magic alive from the first novel to the last. I love it! 

Following the success of the previous cases portrayed in the first two novels, the third begins with with the private investigation business thriving. It’s 2011 and Robin, having now completed the investigative course Strike bought her, is working as a full time investigator as well as a secretary. The longstanding tension between Strike and Matthew, Robin’s fiancé, still remains and is in fact heightened within this novel. Matthew is still ‘that guy’: the jealous boyfriend. 

“A lot of men find it hard to hear how well their other halves get on with other men.” 

The novel begins with Robin receiving a package from a courier, whose face is hidden by a helmet. The package contained a woman’s severed right leg, accompanied by a note quoting from the Blue Öyster Cult song ‘Mistress of the Salmon Salt (Quicklime Girl)’. Interestingly, this was also a tattoo that Strike’s mother had above her crotch. The link caused Strike to believe that the package had been sent by someone from his own past with a grudge against him. Strike informs the police of his 4 suspects, three of whom, he knew from his time in the SID. They consist of: a prominent gangster that Strike anonymously investigated and privately testified against, Noel Brockbank – a paedophile that he’d investigated and managed to get convicted and Donald Laing – an ex-squaddie that he defeated in a boxing match and later investigated and convicted him for physical abuse of his wife and child. The final suspect: his mother’s widower, Jeff Whittaker, whom Strike had testified against in his mothers murder trial. Whittaker was acquitted. 

“He possessed a finely honed sense for the strange and the wicked. He had seen things all through his childhood that other people preferred to imagine happened only in films.” 

The police focus their attentions on the gangster as Strike and Robin look back over the “nutters” who have sent letters, such as one woman who had written to Strike to ask for his help in amputating her own leg for personal gratification. It is in this period that the reader along with Strike learn more about Robin. She reveals her traumatic rape and attempted murder that resulted in her dropping out of university. She discovers, in an argument about Strike, that Matthew had cheated on her during this time with Sarah, a friend who constantly winds her up about Strike, causing her and Matthew to argue. Angrily, and almost predictably, she throws herself into the case. 

The police learn that the leg sent to Robin matches the recently discovered body of the would-be amputee. The body was formally identified and Robin received another package – a toe from the left foot of the same body, with more BOC lyrics. This leads to Strike and Robin leading their own investigation of Brockbank, Laing and Whittaker. However the business was beginning to suffer. The negative publicity from the receipt of the leg, the fact they seem unable to solve it yet, and the efforts Strike’s puts in place in order to protect Robin from the risk posed by the killer, jeopardise both Strike’s business and their working relationship. Strike and Robin take it upon themselves to travel around England to track their suspects. Naturally, this causes the romantic tension between the two to increase. 

“He was not a man who told himself comfortable lies.” 

The pair eventually establish the recent history and location of each of the three suspects, all amazingly are in London. The serial killer strikes twice more during their time investigating. The killer cuts two fingers off the first victim who survived, but killed the second time, thus becoming known as the Shacklewell Ripper. 

It isn’t difficult for the reader, along with Strike and Robin to realise that Robin is the target. However, Robin is seen being careful: carrying a rape alarm, never out after dark, watching an apparently empty house. Yet, the Ripper attacks and almost a murders Robin whilst she’s on the phone to Strike, on her way home after following Whittaker. 

“Strike, who had heard the testimony of Brittany Brockbank and Rhona Laing and many others like them, knew that most women’s rapists and killers were not strangers in masks who reached out of the dark space under the stairs. They were the father, the husband, the mother’s or the sister’s boyfriend…” 

During the aftermath of the attack, Strike works out the identity of the killer. But, the police officer in charge of the investigation, the same officer who had taken the lead on the Lula Landry investigation, disregards everything Strike says. He hasn’t quite forgiven Strike for solving his case and humiliating him in front of the worlds media. 

Robin takes it upon herself to take action toward Brockbank, whom they had established was not the killer, but still a criminal nonetheless, resulting in Strike firing her, both to head off the police, who has specifically told Strike to leave all of the suspects alone, and to set up the next step against the killer. Matthew is delighted. 

“She had drawn strength from everyone else’s weakness, hoping that her adrenaline-fueled bravery would carry her safely back to normality” 

Without the police, or his sidekick Robin, Strike has to find evidence against the killer. At this point, a downbeat and dejected Robin has left London for her wedding to Matthew. Strike posing as a someone from the he electricity board, manages to get into the Ripper Donald Laing’s apartment. This apartment wasn’t lived in, but was used as a store room for his ‘souvenirs’ from his attacks. The vivid description of what was hiding in the fridge actually made me heave. (Clearly a sure sign of excellent writing!) Laing returns and the men fight. Laing wants Strike dead. 

Whilst in hospital being treated for his injuries from Laing, Strike is informed by the police that as well as catching Laing, they caught Brockbank. The following day, with a little help, Strike travelled to Yorkshire for Robin’s wedding. He arrived just in time to hear her say “I do”. The first smile from her is seen, when she sees Strike. 

“He’s the turd that won’t flush,” as Strike put it to Lucy.” 

The narrative structure was different for this novel. Unlike the first two Galbraith novels, this time there was a third point of view: the serial killer. This was excellent because it meant you could build up a relationship with him, albeit a rather uncomfortable one. The added volume to Robin’s voice was also superbly done. Making her past relate to this present case meant that there was no choice but for her to be personally involved.  

Another fantastic novel, but darker than the first two. I recommend to any fan of Galbriath/Rowling and fans of crime fiction. 

Big love x

11 Comments

Filed under Book review, Literature

Autumn Trees, Autumn Leaves…

Hey everyone! 

Happy Autumn! I love this time of year. The leaves are all changing colours and drifting to the ground. It’s the perfect time for me to take some snaps from various places whilst I’ve been mooching about. I just love to hear the leaves crunch under my feet, to see the golden blanket across the floor. 

Hope you like these!  


Hull:

   

 


Stratford upon Avon:

  

  

So, get out there like I have. Enjoy the Autumn before it quickly changes to winter and it’s permanently dark. Rumour has it, there will be snow on the ground in December! 

Big love xx

31 Comments

Filed under Autumn, Photography