Posts Tagged ‘drama’

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

I spent a weekend at the world’s largest arts festival and over 3 days managed to squeeze in a hilarious cross-section of the event’s 2700 shows. Across the month of August Edinburgh’s labyrinthine bars, pokey comedy clubs and shoebox theatres host an array of emerging, acclaimed and (occasionally) questionable comedy talent. The atmosphere is brilliant as hundreds of entertainers and thousands of merry-makers flock to Edinburgh’s beautiful, grey-stone surroundings.

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Our first show of the weekend, Liam Williams ‘Capitalism’, was undoubtedly my favourite. Rather than the lefty, anti-establishment polemic the title led us to expect, Williams’ self-effacing and uniquely fragile show explored themes of mental health, aspiration and England’s dwindled world cup hopes hilariously. Capitalism was one of 360 shows featured on the ‘Free Fringe’ that runs off audience donations collected at the end of the performance. The calibre of entertainment on the Free Fringe is amazing and seating space often limited, so make sure you arrive at the venue early especially if a show has been hotly tipped.

Also really enjoyed the sketch comedy duo The Pin at the Pleasance Courtyard – a bustling fringe venue with outdoor bars and seventeen stages. Ben Ashenden and Alexander Owen should win prizes for the use of an OH projector in their show (a stand-up trend that can be really annoying); they seamlessly chat to their past selves in London on a time-looped video link. The Pin is a really slick sketch comedy with some of the funniest audience participation I’ve ever seen (props to my friend Kate for narrating the murder scene like a pro) and the duo’s performance more than lives up to their long list of endorsements.

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Oscar Jenkyn-Jones’ debut solo show, Thomas Pocket Presents: Me (Oscar Jenkyn-Jones), is a bewildering, character-based lark and the only performance that made me cry with laughter. The surreal ramblings of Jenkyn-Jones’ unabashedly weird persona, Thomas Pocket, are perfectly crafted observations of not much in particular that, at the same time, seem bizarrely poignant. Thomas Pocket is the kind of show it would be great to go back and watch again, to see the level of improv involved and how much it develops over the festival.

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To Be Or Not To Be: The process of Adjustment.

Coincidentally about three weeks ago I was asked by the Guardian Newspaper to have a telephone interview about my experience of going through the adjustment process – to me this eludes to the fact it’s a hot topic at the moment. This is no bad thing.

For those that haven’t heard about it before (and I must admit before I chose to go through it myself, I wasn’t entirely sure what it was), adjustment in the simplest terms is the opposite of clearing. It’s designed for people that get a higher set of results than they are predicted, enabling them to get into a university which requires a higher set of grades.

Like many of you I spent countless hours trawling through university prospectuses and  websites adding up UCAS points (which at the time felt like the DaVinci code) in order to work out which uni’s I could feasibly apply too based upon my predicted grades. I had my heart set on attending a London uni, which made my decision making slightly easier as I had a smaller selection to choose from. Queen Mary had always been at the back of my mind for a number of reasons – the location, the course and the fact I was well aware that for drama it was the top of it’s game. However back then, during my A-Levels I was stuck in the mentality “rather be safe than sorry”, at the time the grade requirements for my course were 320-340 (AAB/ABB), I chose not to apply because I didn’t want to be disappointed, furthermore my predicted grades were BBB so it was unlikely I would even receive a  conditional offer. With all this in mind I considered a place at Queen Mary to be just a pipe dream.

Stress!

Stress!

As results day drew nearer and nearer I began to consider my options carefully – planning for the best and the worst scenarios. I saved various clearing number’s in my phone. By this time I had confirmed Roehampton as my firm choice and I was happy with it however QM was always sitting there in the back of my mind. I vowed to myself that it (by some miracle) I met the requirements for Queen Mary I would ring up and try to apply through adjustment.

For me the strange thing was I hadn’t actually been informed about the adjustment process at school. We’d had assemblies on clearing and taking a year out, it wasn’t until I did a bit of digging on the internet that I even realised there was such as thing!

I got my results and I was happily surprised, I had exceeded expectations. I immediately got on the phone to the Queen Mary admin team, they were incredibly helpful, they talked me through the adjustment process. Explaining that I would be put through to the School of English and Drama admin team, then a module director (in this case Nick Ridout) would interview me over the phone.

Eventually, to my delight, I was offered a place at my dream university. Nick Ridout gave me his telephone number and told me I didn’t have to decide straight away. This was such a lovely and important piece of news. I needed to take my time to decide as there was now a lot too consider. I decided to take a day off work and visit the university.

I fell in love with the campus and it’s little quirks – the canal, the grave yard, the sculptures, therefore chose to accept my place. Quickly my UCAS offer was changed over, all I had to do was log on and accept it. The same with student finance, I just had to swap the institution.

Jewish Graveyard on Campus

Jewish Graveyard on Campus

My only issue was having no set accommodation. I was quickly entered onto a waiting list, however I was told it was VERY unlikely that I would receive campus accommodation.  This news was extremely daunting, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to do a flat share, in East London, with strangers. Eventually I got a phone call from Nick Ridout, informing me that I had been put on a list of people to be put forward for campus accommodation. Albert Stern House was the halls that was set aside for people that had got in through clearing and adjustment. Later that week I got my accommodation offer through and I knew I was off to QM for sure. I was over the moon!!

Overall my experience of adjustment was a good one. I can genuinely say that taking the risk and going through the process was the best decision of my life. But my main message is that people shouldn’t feel locked in or trapped by applications they made on UCAS.

It really is true that universities want you as much as you want them!

End of a successful first year with my best friends and flat mates!

End of a successful first year with my best friends and flat mates!

Hello . . .

My first blog post! I guess I’ll just make this a quick introduction. I’m Sami, and I’m a sophomore at Lafayette College in Easton, PA. I row and I’m attempting to make my comeback in football (aka soccer) after my untimely retirement two years ago. I’m studying History and Drama, and back home I also minor in Geology and help with Studio Art classes.

Today is Wednesday, which means I don’t have any classes. Wednesday afternoons are basically set aside for the sports clubs to train, and normally I would be at the London Regatta Centre right now however I’m sick once again and I’ve decided to rest a bit. Also, I’ve got concert tickets for Walk The Moon at Scala London tonight, and I do not want to miss it! Living here is great – I really miss being in a big city. I’m originally from Singapore, but I moved to the states when I was about 7 years old – hence my obvious American accent. I actually moved to Easton, PA and haven’t left since . . . so basically coming to London was my big escape from the town!

As far as classes go, I’m really enjoying the classes I took, especially for this term. I’m taking two final year history courses: Cold War America and Film History of Post-War America. My drama course is a Group Practical Project and it has been amazing so far! It’s a lot of fun, and we’re putting on a performance in May for it. I’m looking forward to the rest of term too – especially for the Boat Race in March! Then training week in April, maybe a bit of travel, and finals in May! I’ll be going back home in August just before my junior year starts.

Spring Semester starts!

When first considering destinations for a Study Abroad semester, I’d looked to Japan, France, Ireland… before my lecturer in Melbourne suggested Queen Mary. Mistakenly thinking that a foreign language country would offer a richer ‘cultural’ experience, I couldn’t have been more wrong now that I’m immersed in the theatrical wonderland that is London town.

 

However, the basis for my lecturer’s recommendation was never purely cultural. Rather, when seeking advice for my Honours thesis last year, I was directed towards the work of QMUL’s Jen Harvie – specifically Theatre and the City (Palgrave Macmillan 2009) – which related winningly to the focus of my studies. Whilst I’m eager to engage with further practice-based theatre courses, Queen Mary’s academic reputation was the strong point of this recommendation, and solidified my decision to list it as my first preference.

 

The recommended read: Jen Harvie’s Theatre and the City

 

You can perhaps imagine, then, how it feels this week to have started a module taught by Jen Harvie, namely Offstage London (DRA333), which explores “the political and artistic aims and effects of non-theatrical performance in the twentieth-century and contemporary urban environment” and seems pretty perfect now I’m (very luckily!) connected to the urban centre of Europe’s creative pulse. The Theatre Studies department at Melbourne always drew us towards exploring new dramaturgies and performative cultures, so this module is exactly my cup of tea. View the module description here if you’re likewise inclined.

 

I’m also quite thrilled to be undertaking the Dramaturgy and Translation module (DRA306), taught by Maria Delgado and Sarah Grochala. Having always approached theatre from a writer’s perspective, the chance to collaborate in an intensive scriptwriting module is so exciting, to say the least. Added to this is the incredible wealth of industry and academic experience of both lecturers: Maria as a critic and reader of new writing for a number of major theatres – including the Royal Court and National – alongside her editorship of Contemporary Theatre Review and broad theatre industry involvement; Sarah as a staged playwright in both Australia and the UK and reader at Theatre 503.

 

For obvious reasons, I’m secretly hoping that none of them see this post. Fair to say though that for all my earlier destination dilemmas, I’ve found myself welcomed into an immensely dynamic department of academically-engaged creative practitioners. It might well be timely to send a thank you email to my lecturer in Melbourne…

 

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