Theatre review: Moments – a dark Scandinavian drama in London

Moments image
(Image: Sindri Swan)

Moments http://www.momentsplay.com/ at the Drayton Arms Theatre http://www.thedraytonarmstheatre.co.uk/theatre/visit-us/event-list/eventdetail/4958/-/- was a surprisingly harrowing drama for a Saturday afternoon in South Kensington.

This is the UK premiere of an Icelandic play originally written for radio. It is performed in Icelandic (subtitles) and English. The Icelandic language performance underlined the foreignness of the production, which is a significant element in a play that offers a cultural commentary about Iceland by Icelandic playwright Starri Hauksson.

The story highlights the toxic claustrophobia of family life in a close-knit Icelandic community and the loneliness of mental illness as the protagonist, Andri (Aron Trausti), looks back in anger and regret in the wake of a family tragedy. His self-imposed isolation brings a series of concerned visitors to his sordid apartment, but this also blurs the boundaries between his imagination and reality. Who is actually there to help and does it matter whether they are real or imaginary?

Ultimately, Andri finds a resolution, of sorts, but as this play is on for another week, I’m not including any spoilers – the plot has several interesting twists and the conclusion is not obvious, but one of numerous possibilities.

I was told that Moments is semi-autobiographical and the feeling of near reality is enhanced by flashback scenes using old family videos – actually the family videos of one of the actors – that show us images of the harsh climate and landscape of rural Iceland, where guns and hunting are part of growing up/becoming a man – and part of the catalyst for this drama.

Moments is well written, the acting is excellent (particularly Aron Trausti and Siggi Holm) and it is a thoughtful and sensitive production (Sindri Swan, Maya Lindh) that does not shy away from challenging topics. It offers food for thought and an interesting perspective on Iceland’s complex culture, contrasting Andri’s agoraphobia with the vast open spaces of the remote Northern Iceland landscapes in the videos – this is even more resonant if you have visited Iceland.

If you fancy an evening of dark Scandinavian drama – and the Drayton Arms is a nice venue for a drink/dinner too – don’t miss Moments.

Moments runs at the Drayton Arms Theatre in South Kensington onTuesday to Saturday evenings at 8pm until Saturday, 31st October 2015.

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Andrew Marr’s six rules of leadership

IMG_3509A friend invited me to Steria UK’s Great Minds dinner at Simpsons on the Strand. It was an interesting and enjoyable evening, not least because the after dinner speaker was political commentator Andrew Marr. I knew Andrew from my days as a reporter in the House of Commons. He was editor of The Independent, and we often sat next to each other in the press gallery in the optimistic early days of Tony Blair’s New Labour government. It was great to meet Andrew again 17 years later. The time gap disappeared instantly; we fell straight into conversation – about politics, of course – and he was as forthright and insightful as ever.

Andrew gave us a short talk about politics, which included six rules of leadership. Although these are derived from 30 years of observing and commentating on political leadership, they apply equally to business – or anything really. Still a reporter at heart, I jotted them down:

  1. Know what you are for. Margaret Thatcher made mistakes, but she knew what she stood for. While David Cameron is effective at running his office and getting things done, he is uncertain about what he stands for, which is why people don’t believe in him.
  2. Make enemies – at all costs! Tony Blair at one point tried to be friends with The Guardian and The Telegraph. He wanted everyone to like him. He pretended to agree with everyone, but journalists talk among themselves, and in the end nobody agreed with him. If you’re not prepared to offend some people, you will take your business nowhere. David Cameron has promised to negotiate with the EU concerning the free movement of people – a concept which is fundamental to the EU. He won’t manage it. He has to decide whether he really wants to take the UK out of Europe.
  3. Speak English! This means making sure that people understand what you mean. While John Prescott’s grammar was at best incomprehensible, we all knew what he was saying. Ed Milliband apparently has better people skills than David Cameron, but he is intensely unpopular because he avoids answering questions. This is a common trait among politicians, and it is also how they lose people’s trust.
  4. Keep people cheerful! Boris Johnson is underestimated because he plays the buffoon, but his ability to make people laugh underpins his popularity and his success. Andrew recalls watching him deliberately messing up his hair before Question Time! Nigel Farage has garnered immense support because he is likeable, even though in Andrew’s opinion (and mine) he is not a political leader because he has only one idea. Alex Salmond is another single-issue politician who has shifted public opinion (in Scotland) significantly. They keep people cheerful and that engages people and keeps their attention. Andrew asked: “Is UKIP popular because of Nigel Farage’s pint?”
  5. Practice selective deafness. This means not letting critics – or twitter trolls – affect you. John Major was famously upset by criticism and this only encouraged his detractors. This references back to points 2 and 3. If you are a genuine leader, you will know what you stand for and be able to communicate this, but this means not everyone will agree with you or like you.
  6. Get out quick! Margaret Thatcher always vowed to get out quick, but ultimately she stayed too long and faced a public humiliating demise. Tony Blair, on the other hand,  quit at the top. Many politicians are remembered for their leadership skills because they left quietly and their glory years were not dimmed by years of public failure.

Andrew’s closing words were a warning – that businesses and individuals have to get involved in politics beyond making trivial criticisms on social media and elsewhere. If we are unhappy with politicians, or the government, we should replace them. The danger is that we shall face the extreme political and economic consequences of doing nothing.

Thanks are due to Steria UK.

Robomance – a short film I wrote

A short film I wrote for the London 48 Hour Film Project 2013, screened at the Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square, London. Produced by Nude Up. Director Sam Mardon. It didn’t win any awards, but was shortlisted for best use of words.

London Legal Walk 2013 – a powerful message

Here is a powerful London Legal Walk video created by the immensely talented Jon Harman. It was a privilege to join The Justice Gap team in supporting this important cause. I appear a few times (pony tail and stripy legwarmers) and it’s pretty obvious that we had a great time. However, it’s also important not to lose sight of the need to preserve universal access to justice. This is a cornerstone of society and eroding it is an erosion of our democracy.

OK, I’ll get off the soapbox now…

Here’s a link to The Justice Gap blog on the London Legal Walk http://thejusticegap.com/News/walk-for-justice-over-500000-raised-for-legal-advice-sector/

Over £500,000 was raised for the legal advice sector.

Love is like dancing – or is dancing like love?

Pierce Brosnan once said “Love is a lot like dancing; you just surrender to the music.” –

A couple of years ago, somebody turned this into a haiku for me. Looking for something else, I came across it again. I am not sure whether it was ever published. This and a conversation on twitter about working out for body and soul got me thinking.

Most days I escape my desk to go to a dance class. My favourites are ballet and commercial jazz. They are very different. Ballet is a familiar, challenging discipline – my amateur class is a toned down version of what professional dancers do every day; commercial jazz is a tough warm-up and workout followed by an energetic dance routine generally to a chart-topping single. It’s like being in a music video! Neither of these feels like surrender although you need energy and commitment to get the most out of them physically and mentally. They are taught by former and current performers. I am not a natural performer so I like the combination of performance and safety in numbers. There are no soloists in the classes I go to! Like other aerobic exercise, dance releases endorphins and everyone leaves class tired, but smiling.

Dancing is my workout, but it is also my therapy and my release. I cannot worry about my life and work when I am dancing. I need to concentrate on the techniques and sequences and feel how they work with the music. Of course dancing means responding to music so there’s a physical and emotional release. But I see it as self-expression rather than surrender. Classical ballet to piano music feels very different from a raunchy routine to Britney Spears or Nicole Scherzinger or lyrical choreography that involves spinning and falling. My choice of class might depend on my frame of mind.

I’m not sure that love is like dancing – the comparison is just not that straightforward. At Steps on Broadway dance studio in New York http://www.stepsnyc.com/ I found another quote, this time via dance coach Peter Townsend: “Dance enables you to find yourself and lose yourself at the same time”. When you put it that way, perhaps it’s the other way around: dancing is like love.

Commercial jazz classes are taught by Karen Estabrook www.karenestabrook.co.uk at Pineapple Dance Studios, London http://www.pineapple.uk.com/

The acrobatic dance routine below is Duo Flame dancing to Nina Simone’s Feeling Good

Personal Space – a short film I wrote

I wrote this short film for the London 48 Hour Film Project 2012. It didn’t win, but it was shown at the Prince Charles cinema in Leicester Square and featured in all the event trailers. It was amazing to work with a highly talented creative team (collaboration between Motion Blurr and Nude Up Productions), experience filmmaking first-hand and then see my work on the big screen for the first time.

Personal Space is being shown at a London indy short film event and has been shortlisted for two film festivals, one in the UK and one in California.

This is my first IMDb credit as a screenwriter, which to me is a big step in the right direction. I am starting with short films and have just started work on a new project – a genre mash-up: gothic, dark sci-fi, multi-lingual … hopefully disturbing…

Justice Gap on the London Legal Walk

Here is the Justice Gap team before setting off on the London Legal Walk on Monday evening (the photo is from Gary’s photos on organiser Natalia Rymaszewska’s album). I chose this photo – there are a few – because it reflects the fun atmostphere.  

Justice_gap_team_london_legal_walk_2012

Another blogger wrote that lawyers and others walking for a good cause was not exactly a physical challenge. This is true – particularly as it was a beautiful sunny evening after weeks of rain – and there was a festival atmosphere, with people in all sorts of costumes, including policemen on stilts and these people dressed as trees (hedges?)

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As someone else wrote, the scale of the event demonstrated the solidarity of support within the sector for an important cause – free legal advice. Over 6,000 lawyers and others turned up to walk 10k around London raising £525,000 for London’s free legal advice agencies.

I took this photo of the legal crowd on the Embankment – if you look closely, you can see some of the Justice Gap team!

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It was a privilege to take part and to meet many outstanding members of the legal profession – including, of course, the Justice Gap team. Thanks are due to Amanda Bancroft and Kim Evans for organising the Justice Gap team. The post-walk drinks were sponsored by Allen & Overy.

 Jon Harman, also walking with the Justice Gap, made this video, which in just a few minutes, encapsulates the great atmosphere.

It may not have been an endurance test; and it was lovely to meet so many like-minded people – some of whom I had met virtually via twitter. But the fact that we had a fun time must not be allowed to detract from the success of the event and the importance of its cause. Thank you so much everyone who sponsored the London Legal Walk.

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