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Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model @ Bristol Old Vic (Studio)

The basic message of this post is going to be go see this show if you can! This was one of the stand out shows at the Edinburgh Fringe that I unfortunately never got to see. Luckily the show came to Bristol from the 20th-22nd of February so I jumped at the chance to go!

Bryony Kimmings, along with her 9 year old niece Taylor, have created a truly incredible performance of discovery that looks at how young ‘tweens’, particularly girls, are targeted by the media. Having spent time with her niece over the last year, Kimmings was able to look at the world through a nine year-old’s eyes, and see what a truly terrifying prospect it presents for their future. Uncontrolled access to a virtual world where violent and sexual images are more than easy to find for their curious minds; targeted marketing telling girls that they have to be famous, attractive and sexual to be valued in the world; what the curious and sponge-like mind of a 9 year old actually perceives – all this was explored within the space of an hour through song, dance, monologue, and stories.

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What really got to me about this performance, and genuinely made me well up, was the sadness and desperation that you feel from Kimmings – she is trying to fight against a world that is not obviously going to change. Although I have always and will always advocate a feminism that allows a woman to dress and act however they want as long as it is their choice (and doesn’t hurt anyone, but that is a general life rule I feel), Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model really made me question this. The popstars that young girls look up to – Jessie J, Katy Perry, Beyoncé – almost exclusively wear tight, short, or revealing outfits and dance sexually. While this is their absolute right – women should be able to be as sexual as they choose – the way this comes across to a young and malleable mind is that the only way to be famous and successful (and as Kimmings relays in a monologue, the two are now equated more than ever in the minds of tweens) is to act in this way. The element of choice is taken out of the equation.

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I happened to be looking at dance videos on YouTube the day after seeing the performance, and stumbled across a National Dance Competition in America. What I saw really quite disturbed me – girls as young as 8 in tiny hotpants and tight crop tops gyrating, grinding on the floor and displaying their crotches to the audience and judges in a supposed ‘Jazz’ routine. If they were above the age of 16 I probably wouldn’t have a problem with any of these dance moves. But they were young children who really did not need to be dancing like that in order to win a competition. While they were fantastic at the technical jazz dance moves, these added extras seemed totally inappropriate, and born of a culture where younger and younger children are taught to act in a disturbingly sexual way. Kimmings touches on this idea – when Taylor shows us the dance she learnt to a Katy Perry song, Kimmings does the actual routine behind her, showing just how sexualised Taylor’s idols are. Similarly, the show opens and closes with a dance to Jessie J’s song Domino. At the beginning Kimmings dances along with Taylor, happy to be joining in with something that her niece loves. But at the end, after this journey of discovery, Kimmings looks on upset, as she sees how Taylor is moving and singing along to a song that is far too grown up for her young mind.

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This idea that children and tweens (a term I really dislike) need a role model that doesn’t exclusively talk about sex, fame and money lead to the creation of Catherine Bennett – a palaeontologist/ popstar who sings about the things she cares about: friendship, polar bear, the future, her neighbourhood. She is managed by 9 year old Taylor, who helps her come up with song and video ideas. She works in a museum when she isn’t singing, she likes to read and hang out with her dog Cookie, and she likes to be silly so that others know it is ok. Towards the end of Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model, Catherine is introduced to the audience, and we all join in with the actions to Animal Kingdom – this is a really fun element to the show that really showcases how great the Catherine Bennett project is. As Catherine sings Taylor to sleep, Kimmings comes out of character and speaks to us frankly, all while Taylor has her ears covered by noise cancelling headphones (which are used in the more adult sections of the performance). She laments how Taylor is already growing out of Catherine Bennett, and will soon have to face the real world, away from the magical glen they have created together. Kimmings talks about what she might pack into Taylor’s backpack so she can face this journey: feminist awareness, creativity, faith in herself. While we would expect all parents to want to give their children these tools, Kimmings reminds us that it cannot just be up to those who have produced children to take on this responsibility. We must all play a part in creating a better, safer, more equal world to which the younger generations can bring a fresh outlook, and maybe a new hope for the future.

Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model is beautiful, powerful, funny, tear-inducing and possibly the most thought provoking performance piece I have seen in the last 5 years.

Go see it if you can.

If not please support the Catherine Bennett project, and get Taylor the 1 million YouTube hits she deserves!

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https://www.facebook.com/socatherinebennett

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Comedy Night @ The Anson Rooms (UBU)

One of the first Fresher’s events this year was a comedy night with Carly Smallman, The Noise Next Door, and Mat Ewins as compere. Seeing as I hadn’t managed to get to any of their shows in Edinburgh I jumped at the chance to see them for free in the new and improved Student Union venue.

As an MC Mat Ewins does a decent job of getting to know the crowd and embarrassing enough people to get everyone in the mood for audience participation. His actual stand up got a mixed response but generally went down well – indeed one of our favourite palindrome based jokes was his!

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Carly Smallman was great – a lovely mixture of stand up and musical comedy that she tried to relate well to the student audience, despite its more adult nature. Two of her songs were absolutely perfect. Firstly “Love song to myself” which was just lovely, and I think everyone should write their own. “I’m in love with my brother” wasn’t a complete hit with the audience, I think it was a little too twisted for some sensitive freshers, but my friend and I found it completely hilarious! 

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The Noise Next Door are extremely good at what they do – improvised musical and sketch comedy – plus are absolutely lovely guys! With lots of audience participation I was nervous the sets might not work with a load of freshers but everyone got in the spirit and we came up with some hilarious scenarios for them to act/ sing out. I think I prefer the acting improv that they do, purely because it seems less set up than the songs, which while equally impressive have a very obvious structure. What I really love about the Noise Next Door is that they put absolutely everything into each scene – they aren’t afraid of any accent or scenario thrown out, they are great even when corpsing, and their dance moves are fantastically over the top.

Overall I think UBU organised a great freshers event, that for once wasn’t based around drinking!

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Edinburgh #3

The last two weeks in Edinburgh were very busy, and I’m pleased to say I kept to my promise of seeing a lot more shows! I also unfortunately succumbed to the inevitable, and got Fringe flu, but now I am back home and recovering. I have seen a really great mix of shows, so lets get on with the list:

McNeil & Pamphilon Go 8-bit – this was one of our shows that I was very excited to see. Essentially it consisted of a group of comedians playing old video games, drinking and doing forfeit challenges. Despite the fact that I am too young to remember any of the games played (the original Mario Kart, Streetfighter and Bomberman) I got really into the show, shouting and chanting with everyone else.

Ben Moor: Each of us – this is probably my favourite show of the fringe. Ben Moor is billed as a comedian, but the show is more performance storytelling than anything else. All I can really say is that Moor delivers a truly beautiful show, and I am exceedingly glad that he was selling a book of it, because there were so many lines I had wanted to note down.

John Kearns (winner of best newcomer) – I was taken to see Kearns straight after seeing Ben Moor and the contrast was staggering. Equally brilliant, Kearns’ show was a strange mixture of character comedy, stand up and general weirdness – all of which he acknowledges through the show. Even though I didn’t really understand what I had seen, I knew I loved it!

The Wrestling II – The Wrestling is a one off show where comedians and professional wrestlers actually wrestle each other. It is a weird and wonderful combination that makes for a very high intensity night if screaming and laughing.

Johnny & the Baptists – A very good musical comedy show with plenty of talent and laughs! They are also very lovely guys, which always helps.

Cariad & Paul – This improv duo (one of ours) are absolutely fantastic at what they do. Taking one word from the audience as a prompt to get the creative juices flowing, they invent a show based around the development of a few scenes over an hour. Not only does this in itself just blow my mind, but the actual scenes were also really entertaining and different enough that it didn’t ever feel like they were falling back on stock material.

Men – This play was done by TapTap Theatre which is a Bristol based theatre company. The acting and story were all very good, but I found the play in general overly sweary. It very much felt that the writer had equated anger and intensity with swear word, which I often find lessens their effect. However considering the playwright was 20 when she wrote Men I can understand this slightly immature approach to realism.

Bristol Revunions: Elegant Nymphs – One of my very good friends is in the Bristol sketch comedy group, and I was really happy to be able to see him perform! I really liked the show in general, although I think the framing device of having it be Nymphs trying to break out of their stereotype was a bit misused.

Tim Key: Work in Progress – I only saw Tim Key because I had some time to kill while my friend finished her shift, and he wasn’t sold out. I am very glad I did! The show was a mixture of stand up, weird poetry and general bizarreness (including a woman periodically appearing from a mattress on stage and dancing). It was a great show, and I would love to see the finished product.

Bo Burnham: What – I thought Bo Burnham was genius, and he is definitely in the running for my favourite show! His songs are extremely clever, his poems hilarious and his sarcastic and cynical personality really works with my sense of humour.

Take it Interns – this was a musical brought up by a student run production company (1945 productions) from Bristol. Overall I thought it was really good – the story line, following a group of badly chosen interns at an advertising company, was silly and clever at the same time. For the most part the musical performances were solid, although a few of the actors were clearly not natural singers, and some of the harmonies were not to my taste.

Peacock & Gamble: Heart-Throbs – I don’t think this comedy duo are really my thing. Although I generally enjoyed the show, their odd brand of sketch/ double act comedy didn’t really appeal to me on the night. It was really funny though to see them make each other corpse, a part of comedy shows that I often enjoy the most!

Set List (With Paul Foot, Adam Bloom, Ahir Shah, Matt Okine & others) – I really liked the concept of Set List – comedians are given random items from their imaginary set lists and have to perform stand-up about it. The only problem is that stand-up comedians aren’t known for their improv skills, so you get a very mixed bag of success. Luckily on my night a couple people really rose to the challenge, in particular Ahir Shah and Paul Foot.

Beardyman: One Album Per Hour – Pretty much all I have to say about Beardyman is WOW. Not only is he an incredible beat-boxer, singer, rapper, producer and general lovely guy – he can genuinely create a completely improvised album in an hour. It blew my mind.

Fullmooners (Paulmooners) – This was a charity gig for Paul Byrne, Ed Byrne’s brother who was very sadly diagnosed with cancer on the 2nd day of the Fringe. The Fullmooners concept was created by Paul with Andrew Maxwell and so they put a benefit gig together in just 2 weeks. It was a fantastical funny and emotional gig, with many of the comedians giving little speeches at the end of their sets about Paul.

Comedy Countdown – this show is effectively a low budget Countdown with comedians. Paper and a clipboard are used instead of letter cards, and the clock is in fact David Morgan. It was a really fun set up, and yet again, I got far too into the spirit of the game.

Ben Van der Velde: Chain Letter – My final Edinburgh show was that of my now good friend Ben. Part stand-up, part storytelling, Chain Letter is the story of his attempt to reinvent the hand written letter. It was a funny and heartwarming show that left me very happy. A perfect way to end the Fringe!

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Edinburgh #2

This week has felt a lot busier – we have finished with most of the 241 and preview deals so we are trying to get people to part with more money to see the shows – a much harder sell I’m sure you’d agree. Still I have managed to see some shows, and am still impressed with the standard:

Sad Faces… Threw a party – This is one of our shows, but I did manage to catch it and had a great time. The premise is that Sad Faces have thrown a party with the audience as the guests, and it all goes wrong! A really fun show, and you get party bags at the end.

Matt Forde: The political party – a really good satire show from an ex Labour lobbyist who does some spot on impressions!

Greg Proops (podcast recording) – although we didn’t see Proops do his proper stand up, I really enjoyed the podcast recording. He has some interesting opinions and still manages to keep the ‘show’ funny and entertaining despite the slightly odd format. Although I would still like to see his stand up, I definitely think I will be catching up on his other podcasts.
School Night (variety) – the premise for this show is very fun; various comedians come on to ‘teach’ the audience things – we had sociology, French, PE and psychology this time around, and it was really good fun!

Late Night Gimp Fight – this 5 man sketch group make such a fun, ridiculous and weird show! Normal sketch comedy is interspersed with videos made by the ‘gimps’ who help the comedians with scene changes. It is a great late night show to catch if you are looking for something a bit silly!

Hot Dub Time Machine – this is more of a club night, but I think it still deserves a mention considering its popularity. A song is played from every year from the 1950s to now. It was such a fun night; you were twisting, MC Hammer-ing and raving all in one night, it was great! I think the night travels around, so catch it if you can!

Although I have really enjoyed everything I have seen so far nothing has been particularly mind-blowing, I think mainly because I have only seen comedy shows up till now. Luckily my day off is coming up very soon, and I am planning to see a lot more theatre in the next week!

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My Latitude Experience

Over the 3 days of Latitude I managed to see 30 different acts – I definitely feel like I got my money’s worth! I managed to see almost all the acts that were on my wish list, plus a few more, most of which were surprisingly good! I thought I would give you a brief (as possible) run down of who I saw and what I thought:

Music

Bipolar Sunshine: My friend took me to see this band on recommendation from her sister – they played really nice summery indie music.

Maccabees: I have seen the Maccabees before, and they were just as good as I remember. I love their music, and live they are impeccable.

Bloc Party: I only know about 3 Bloc Party songs, and they didn’t play any of them. It didn’t help that I had a horrible migraine during their set, but I think I am just not a fan of most of their music.

King Charles: Apart from an horrifically pretentious song about Nelson Mandela, I enjoyed King Charles’ set a lot more than I thought I would, and would definitely like to listen to more of his music.

Matt Corby: This time around Matt Corby had an additional 3 musicians (playing guitar, flute, and piano) who really added to his already brilliant songs. And he is still just as beautiful, which helps.

Everything Everything: They were just as good as when I saw them at my Summer Ball – but this time with a lot more people in the tent!

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: They had so much energy! Karen O was jumping around the stage for the whole set, I got tired just watching – it was great for getting the crowd going.

Kraftwerk: I cannot say I’m a fan of Kraftwerk (unlike my parents – they were so excited) but I was so intrigued by how they were going to do a 3D concert at a festival –  I was really hoping they were just being sarcastically clever and playing on the fact that we would be seeing them in the flesh. I don’t think I was in the right mood to enjoy their set to the full, but I can see that I would like their music in a different situation.

Alt-J: I have a couple Alt-J songs that I really like (Matilda and Breezeblocks), and I really enjoyed the rest of their set! The only problem is I don’t think they should have been the headliners on the second stage. Since they only have 1 album’s worth of material, the band had to do some covers – it was a shame they couldn’t preview any new material, which I think the crowd would really have enjoyed.

Laura Mvula: I really enjoyed Laura Mvula – as did my parents – the only act I recommended that they liked, so you know she was good! I really like that she uses classical instruments to create a really unusual sound, and it helps that her voice is fantastic.

James Blake: As expected, James Blake was beautiful. That’s pretty much all I need to say!

Rudimental: They were so much fun to watch, they really got the crowd going and I was so impressed by the vocalists and the trumpeter!

Disclosure: I loved Disclosure – my friend and I danced our socks off! They have definitely persuaded me to buy their new album.

Foals: I was really disappointed by Foals. I love some of their songs, particularly Miami, This is Orient, and Cassius. They played none of these, instead playing a much newer, more rock-y style of songs, with a lot of screaming guitar breakdowns. As my Dad put it, they are trying to be a stadium band now, and this means they have lost the more delicate, picked-guitar-strings style of music that I really enjoyed. Also the lead singer Yannis swore every single time he spoke to the audience, which I found really unnecessary!

Comedy

Romesh Ranganathan: I hadn’t heard of Romesh Ranganathan, but I really enjoyed his set!

Seann Walsh: He was really great, very physical and on the ball with his observations.

Terry Alderton: I caught the end of his set getting to the Comedy tent, and really enjoyed his very odd brand of comedy.

Shappi Khorsandi: Shappi did quite standard jokes in her set, a lot of them censored because there were quite a few children in the front row! I think this was a shame because I often find her appearances on TV a little dull, and would liked to have seen her more risque side. However she did make me laugh and was generally good.

Matt Rees: Matt is a relatively new comedian from Wales – he was pretty good although I think he needs a little more refining.

Dylan Moran: I must confess I could not remember who Dylan Moran was, and so was a little confused when a huge number of people flooded the Comedy tent before his set. However the minute he came on I was incredibly pleased I had got there earlier. He was completely amazing, made me almost cry from laughing with his re-write of 50 Shades of Grey, and also managed to be incredibly insightful as well as hilarious.

Josh Widdicombe: Although I have never found him overly funny on TV, live I think Josh Widdicombe is really quite fabulous!

Joe Lycett: I was so excited to see Joe Lycett again. When I was 17, he played at a comedy event my cousin organised. Unfortunately, being under 18, my friends and I had to leave at 7 because of the venue’s licence. Unfortunately, and very embarrassingly, we were at the front and so had to stand up in front of Joe’s set, and he was great at dealing with the very odd situation! He was just as brilliant in front of a very big crowd at Latitude, and I thoroughly recommend you see him if you get the chance!

Kerry Godliman: I only caught a tiny bit of Kerry’s set, but she was really fab for the couple of jokes I managed to see.

Simon Evans: I quite enjoyed his brand of angry-old-man comedy, but my friends really disliked it, which I thought was quite interesting. So maybe not one for everyone, but I liked Simon Evans.

Nina Conti: Normally ventriloquism doesn’t really attract me, but Nina Conti does a fantastic set of routines! There is a lot of audience participation, which created loads of laughs in itself, and the personalities she gives her puppets are fantastic.

Eddie Izzard: Initially I quite enjoyed Eddie Izzard’s set, but about half way through it became very odd and my friends and I found it really difficult to follow and find funny (so we went to get dinner…) A lot of the audience really liked it though, so I’m not sure if there is a generational difference with his jokes, or if he harks back a lot to his other shows, but maybe we were just missing something!

Other

Hollie Mcnish: I’ve loved Hollie’s poetry ever since I came across her recording of ‘Mathematics’  on Twitter. Unfortunately because of a misprint in the programme I only got to see a few minutes of her Latitude set, but I thought the 3 poems I saw were fantastic!

Daniel Kitson & Gavin Osbourne: This pair were the headliners on Saturday night, who I ended up watching because my friends had gone back to their tent to get some drink and I wanted to stay in the warm. They performed an epic adventure poem set to music, which was such fun to watch – they performed it amazingly well and the story was really moving and weird at the same time.

Kevin Eldon: I randomly looked into the Literature tent while waiting for my friends and recognised the performer from Bill Bailey’s parody of Kraftwerk. On his own Kevin Eldon was amazing – completely random and weird but hilarious.

Sink the Pink: On a late night explore around the Faraway Forest, we stumbled across Sink the Pink – an amazing drag-show-come-club-night, where some of the most fabulous trannies I have ever seen played the best pop songs (including Vogue and Bootylicious) and danced in mind-blowingly high heels! It may not be for everyone, but I had a great time.

Overall, I loved Latitude. It was such a nice relaxed festival, with minimal moshing and craziness that I had experienced at Reading. Although it was very expensive – almost every meal was £7 or more – Latitude is the perfect festival to satisfy everyone’s needs – more relaxed so parents and children can enjoy themselves, but still with a fun atmosphere that young people can take advantage of without annoying everyone around them!

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Latitude

Tomorrow I am off to Latitude festival with my parents (they’re cool like that) and 3 of my best friends. I am very very excited, a) because I haven’t been to a festival since the obligatory post-GCSE trip to Reading (in 2010, it was really good!), and b) the line-up this year is really quite fantastic. Latitude is also a great festival because it isn’t just about the music (although that in itself is very enticing); there is loads of comedy, theatre, poetry, dance and much more besides to keep every culture lover happy. Safe to say, I am very much looking forward to the next few days.  I thought I would give you a little run down of all the acts I am hoping to see – I have yet to check times and things, so this is more of a wish-list than an actual plan for the weekend, but let’s hope I get to see a bit of everything!

Music: Maccabees, Hot Chip, Alt-J, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, James Blake, Grizzly Bear, Foals, Everything Everything, Daughter, Rudimental, Disclosure, Matt Corby, Clean Bandit, Sam Smith.

Comedy: Sean Lock, Mark Watson, Joe Lycett, Marcus Brigstocke, Nina Conti, Idiots of Ants, Sam Fletcher.

Other: Hollie McNish (Poet), Sink the Pink (Club night brought to the festival), Sadler’s Wells performances.

I also plan to experience some of the late night djs, and hopefully just get to see lots of fun cultural stuff going on at times when I don’t really have anything to see. If you are going/ have any general recommendations for Latitude, I would love to hear them!

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