All posts by Lynsey Ford

Lynsey Ford is an alumnus of Birkbeck College, with a BA in Film and Media. She contributed to Lamp and Owl throughout her studies, and was Managing Editor in her final year. Lynsey is interested in film history, literature and theatre.

REVIEW: NOW THIS IS NOT THE END @ARCOLATHEATRE

Set in modern day London and Berlin, Rose Lewenstein’s one act play deals with the pervasive impact of living in wartime Germany on Jewish escapees, from Nazi oppression through to the 21st century.

Director Katie Lewis sensitively handles themes of Alzheimer’s, the emotional impact of the holocaust, and the problems of communication between mother, daughter and granddaughter. Holly Piggott’s set consists of chairs and plain brown boxes on a wooden platform, backed by the fragmented fluorescent outline of a window, symbolising the dysfunctional ‘heimat’, or home.

In London, elderly matriarch Eva (Brigit Forsyth) is experiencing the onset of senile dementia and is moving into a care home to receive round the clock support. While looking through boxes of her discarded possessions, daughter Susie (Wendy Nottingham) stumbles upon a recording they made ten years previously documenting Eva’s experiences growing up as a Jew in wartime Berlin.

Stepfather Arnold (Bernard Lloyd) believes it unhealthy to recount painful memories and decides to destroy the tape, to the devastation of Susie. Eva shares Arnold’s reservations: ‘They’re just stories. There will come a point when nobody can remember’ – a bitterly ironic statement in light of her Alzheimer’s.

Eventually, however, Eva begins to open up to Susie. She recounts the fate of her Jewish father interned in a concentration camp, as told to her by The Red Cross, and discusses her memories of being part of the Hitler Youth Movement and her love for ‘The Blue Door’.

Susie is also trying to reconnect with her fractious, free-spirited 18-year-old daughter. As a language student living in Berlin, Rosie (Jasmine Blackborow) is far too busy fighting with artist boyfriend Sebastian (Daniel Donskoy) to notice the tensions back home. Sebastian doesn’t want her to return to London for her final year of study, and Rosie takes solace in comfort eating and binge drinking. Shifting between tragedy and comedy, Rosie laughs in drunken embarrassment at Susie’s emotional breakdown, highlighting the generational divide between mother and daughter.

Daniel Donskoy (Sebastian), Jasmine Blackborow (Rosie), Credit: Alex Parker
Daniel Donskoy (Sebastian), Jasmine Blackborow (Rosie), Credit: Alex Parker

The increasingly brittle Eva shifts from gamely demonstrating her youthful vigour to the family (at one point declaring, ‘I can touch my toes’) to frozen silence and aggression as her dementia worsens. Wendy Nottingham delivers a moving performance as Susie. She is stunned when Eva reveals that she has never loved her or anyone else, but notices her mother’s attempts at affection towards the dismissive Rosie through compliments and gifts.

Now this is not the end is thoughtful, provocative theatre, that addresses the emotional scars of Jewish war survivors, the importance of preserving history, and the power of words.

 

Now this is not the end is at The Arcola Theatre until 27 June.

King Charles III – The Wyndham’s Theatre – @DMTWestEnd

Following a triumphant sell-out run between April and May 2014 at the Almeida Theatre, Mike Bartlett’s thrilling play King Charles III comes to the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre.

With Almeida Artistic Director Rupert Goold at the helm, the cast are clad in black and white representing chess figures in a game of manipulation and subterfuge.

Opening with the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the cast of characters gather to pay their respects at a candlelight vigil, singing in unison, talking throughout the play in blank verse.

A post-modern Shakespearean tragedy is unfolding across the Royal courts and chambers of Westminster. Newly appointed King Charles refuses to sign the bill for statutory regulation of the Press, sceptical about how effective it will be in reality.

With nodding references to Hamlet and Macbeth, we see the ghostly Diana with black veil, head bowed passing through royal chambers, ruffling the feathers of Charles and an impressionable Prince William (Oliver Chris), telling them individually that they will be ‘the greatest King of all’. Steely English rose Kate, Duchess of Cambridge (Lydia Wilson) orchestrates a secret PR campaign, revelling in the flashing bulbs of the paparazzi. Only the protective, maternal instincts of Camilla (Margot Leicester) can pacify Charles.

Miles Richardson as Charles evokes sympathy with a moving portrait of a man who has waited until his sixties for the role of King, only to face opposition and a vote of no confidence from government, and eldest son Prince William who has been nominated as mediator by Kate as the go-between the palace and parliament. Unable to match the comparisons with the late Queen’s service as monarch, Charles’ emotions range from passive appeasement to blind fury at his redundancy from the role and the deception from his own family.

Comic relief is supplied by the frustrated and dishevelled Prince Harry (Richard Goulding) a club reveller and Sainsbury’s fan, who is drawn into the web of the free spirited and opinionated commoner Jess (Tafline Steen) who is a republican, blackmailed by a sex scandal. Supporting players include a bolshie Blair-ish PM (Adam James) and an oily leader of the opposition (Nicholas Rowe), who concedes Charles has no choice in state affairs.

The set design by Tom Scutt is rendered in brickwork, marked by a regal platform showing public faces peering in as the second wall of spectators to events unfolding. Goold is not afraid to have the cast members romping down the aisles next to the audience, drawing them in to the ensuing drama.

At two hours and forty five minutes long, King Charles III is an entertaining and thought provoking play about democracy, the role of the monarchy and the power of Westminster. Please do go and see it for yourselves.

Photo credit:  Johan-Persson

The play runs from Wednesday, 5th November 2014 until Saturday, 31st January 2015 at:

Wyndham’s Theatre
32-36 Charing Cross Road
London
London
WC2H 0DA

Tickets can be booked via the theatre website

 

Mary Seacole: Shining light

Mary-Seacole-Lamp-and-OwlWhen we look back at British history and ask ourselves who made a significant contribution within the healthcare profession, we remember the hard work of Crimean nurse, Florence Nightingale, The Lady of the Lamp. Florence Nightingale directed nursing programmes, tending to the British troops in Turkey at The Scutari Hospital.

Yet a key figure is missing; Mary Seacole. Who is she? Established in her own right as a Crimean nurse, assisting English, French and Turkish troops, Mary Seacole fought against sexual and racial discrimination as a black, female nurse in her attempts to obtain sponsorships to go to the Crimea to nurse British soldiers.

Born Mary Jane Grant in 1805 and raised in Jamaica, to a Black Jamaican creole Doctress and white Scottish father, Mary began practising traditional herbal medicine with her mother, who ran Blundell Hall in Kingston.

With twenty-eight years professional experience nursing soldiers, some suffering from yellow fever and the cholera epidemic, Mary had her offer to go to The Crimea in 1854 rejected by various agencies including The War Office. Undeterred, and with a fierce work ethic, Mary used her entrepreneurial skills selling condiments which enabled her to run The British Hotel close to the Crimean battle lines attending to wounded Crimean soldiers. In her lifetime, she visited Cuba, Panama and Haiti. Her role as nurse included administering wound dressings, providing hot meals, performing minor surgery sessions, buying medicine from her own funds and offering pastoral support.

As a result of Mary’s compassionate nature she became popular with British soldiers and Queen Victoria. Mary became destitute (due to the bills run up by the soldiers at The British Hotel) in 1856 and 1867. The press and general public expressed their affection and support publishing an ode to Mary. Her autobiography The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands was a best seller in 1857. A four day gala in her honour was held on the Thames with an estimated 80,000 people in attendance with the blessing of the Queen.

Since her death in 1881, Mary has been awarded numerous accolades to celebrate her achievements as a pioneer; posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 1990, she was voted Greatest Black Briton in 2004 and in January 2013 Operation Black Vote collected over 36,000 signatures, to ensure that Mary was included in the proposed 2013 National Curriculum. Numerous awards have been named in Mary’s honour including the prestigious Mary Seacole Leadership Awards founded in 1994 by The Department of Health.

The Mary Seacole Memorial Appeal Fund launched two October events during Black History month to raise the remaining £96,000 needed to complete the project.

A variety of fundraising initiatives have taken place over the last 12 years to raise funds for the memorial with great success, thanks to the generosity of the public. On Friday 10th October 2014, the event All for 1, took place, where the public donated a minimum of £1 to the memorial by texting MARY 11 to 70070. This followed the online event It takes two on Wednesday 22nd October, where a minimum of £2 was donated online .

On 30 June, a £500,000 bronze statue was unveiled by Baroness Floella Benjamin, honouring Mary’s service in nursing Crimean soldiers. The 15 foot permanent memorial, created by sculptor Martin Jennings, stands pride of place across from the Houses of Parliament in Westminster within the gardens of St Thomas’ Hospital. The treasury, under Chancellor George Osborne MP, donated £240,000 towards the installation.  A significant portion of the charity funding has gone towards creating a memorial garden, in honour of civilian and military health workers in conflict zones, who continue to dedicate their lives to nursing those most vulnerable. This includes the excellent work nurses provide by tackling the Ebola crisis.

For Vice-Chair Professor Elizabeth N Anionwu, C.B.E, FRCN ‘It has been a dream come true to see a named black woman in Britain honoured on the grounds of the famous St Thomas’ hospital.’

Why does Mary Seacole’s story remain all the more powerful in the 21st century? Mary’s tale is inspiring; with drive and tenacity she overcame prejudice in Victorian society to make a difference to those less fortunate fighting on the battle line .

As Yinglen Butt, Deputy Chief Nurse of Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and Ambassador of The Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal sums up:

‘I grew up hearing about Mary Seacole, this great nurse and humanitarian. Her legacy speaks to all ages; a message for all, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.’ Her statue is well overdue.’

 

Let future generations be inspired by her tenacity in making all things possible.
http://www.maryseacoleappeal.org.uk/

https://www.justgiving.com/maryseacolememorial

The BFI Southbank: In Glorious Technicolor

It’s Hallowe’en Eve and I am waddling along the South Bank in killer heels. With all the finesse of a giraffe, I weave through teenage witches, ghouls and monsters. All laughing, cajoling and hyper, they congregate around the London Eye like a gathering of horror movie nightmares.

I’m on a quest tonight to delve deep into the audiovisual Aladdin’s cave that is the BFI Southbank, now in its seventieth year as a registered charity.

As a former university librarian and film undergraduate, I feel like the proverbial kid in a candy store, excited at delving into the British Film Institute’s archives, gorging on the visual feast of stills, posters, scripts and plasma screens. Gothic cinema, film noir, documentaries. I love them all.

The BFI’s “Mediatheque” houses a national archive of 2,500 film and television titles from 1895 to the present day. I am told by Monica, Mediatheque’s visitor experience officer, that I can spend two hours free every day with headphones in a slick grey booth choosing titles from a database on my very own private screen. Great, I think, as I scroll down wide-eyed at the roll-call of cult classics, documentaries and comedies. I can rewind, fast-forward or pause frames. If only real life were that simple!

I am here to seek inspiration, away from the small print of dusty television books piled up around dog-eared, illegible university notes. Essay number two for Television: History and Future is looming large. This entails contrasting and comparing fictional and real families through reality TV and soap land. I need to stop thinking about pantomime baddie JR Ewing and his flamboyant stetson hats, and start focusing on material from a wider network of televisual styles.

I get distracted by the heavy stream of titles online; alternating between being teary-eyed with smudged mascara at David Lynch’s black and white cult classic The Elephant Man, then guffawing loudly (much to the disgust and heavy eye-rolling of my fellow film and media aficionados) at the deliciously un-PC Kenny Everett Christmas Show, “all done in the best possible taste!”. I am not immune to a bit of childhood nostalgia, marvelling at the short animation Mr Benn – a single guy about town who has enough time away from work to go into a magical fancy-dress shop, indulging in his own fantasy world. It’s an idea I can warm to away from early museum shifts and screaming schoolchildren in South Kensington.

Moving through the heavy glass door to the BFI Reuben Library, I am confronted with an enormous archive of film and media resources.  It has a collection of two million images, complete with scanning facilities, and a variety of databases with stills, designs and special collections on famous producers. The library is lined from ceiling to floor with encyclopaedias, directories, picture books and DVDs, with two private study areas to work on research. The only personal disadvantage as a Monday night Birkbeckette is the closure of the library on that day.

Annual membership of the BFI is £45 which includes free member-only screenings and priority bookings for all films, events and festivals. Flashing my Birkbeck ID to the box office staff, I receive my discount, paying only £7 to see Nosferatu in the studio, as opposed to the standard price of £11. Succumbing in darkness to the creepiness of the vampire, against the loud soundtrack, I know that I have got my fright for the night.

It has been worth suffering aching limbs and sore eyes, the discomfort softened by a large rosé at the  Anterim bar with soothing jazz vibrations permeating the air. All in all, this vibrant, clean and modern institution is a must for film lovers with friendly, helpful staff and sumptuous views of the South Bank.

www.bfi.org.uk