Lochhead displays her mastery of comic theatre with Thon Man Moliere

Liz Lochhead’s tragicomedy Thon Man Moliere, which just ended its run at the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, proves yet again that the writer is one of the greatest artistic talents Scotland has produced over the last century.

The poet and playwright has never ceased to shock, intrigue and entertain audiences with her work. Her latest stage production does all three, featuring fierce acting talents, garish outfits, hilarious jokes and a touch of incest. Oh, and a few c*** words thrown in for good measure.

Set in Paris at the time of Louis XIV, the play focuses on the King’s theatre company, and, in particular, one of Lochhead’s heroes and main influences, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin de Molière, who writes brilliant comedies for the stage. Played exuberantly by Jimmy Chisolm, the audience follows gleefully as the character continually gets himself into ever-more despairing mishaps.

While Moliere may be the focus, Lochhead has ensured a feminist message still shines through her strong female characters, particularly Madeleine Bejart, played by the effervescent Siobhan Redmond. She effortlessly portrays the strong but more subdued counterpart to Chisolm’s Moliere, and communicates wordlessly the struggles of motherhood, pain of lost love and the upsetting realisation that life hasn’t quite worked the way she expected.

At times the plot appears to get a little lost while switching between the stories of individual characters, but this actually adds to its charm as a tale, first and foremost, about the chaotic nature of a theatre company family.

Thon Man Moliere reminds us that the incredibly talented Lochhead is still very much a presence on the Scottish theatre scene, and will not be forgotten about any time soon.

First Official Fantastic Four Teaser Trailer

The first teaser trailer for the new Fantastic Four movie was released a few days ago. Now I adore all things superhero-related. I read comics as a kid, was addicted to Buffy, Angel and Smallville, and have eagerly anticipated each Marvel release as it’s been announced. The latest success came in the form of Guardians of the Galaxy, which I absolutely loved.

And I have to admit, I am a little excited to see the Fantastic Four film when it eventually arrives on our cinema screens. But there are a few things that irked my Marvel-loving brain when I watched this trailer.

1. Is it too soon to be releasing a Fantastic Four re-make, with a whole new cast? It might have been a fair few years ago, but it seems only yesterday Jessica Alba and company were making the promotional rounds for, admittedly, one of the worst Marvel adaptations ever made. The sequel was marginally better, but only because it included the Silver Surfer, one of the best comic book characters ever created. However, just because it wasn’t all that good, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be left alone for just a little bit longer. There’s currently an annoying school of thought in the film industry that superheroes should be capitalised on as much as is humanly possible, while they are still popular.  It is an irritating trend that I hope fades soon.

2. While the first trailer has been released, we won’t actually get to see the film for another six months. Look Hollywood, I know you want to make tons of money from superheroes, and that you want to have a big build up to this movie, where you release lots of trailers, clips and interviews with actors who ‘accidentally’ reveal plot details, in order to do. But here’s the thing, six months from now, when this movie is actually available for me to watch at my local cinema, I might not even bother. I’ll have had enough of the waiting and the taunting, and, frankly, I will just want it to be over. I know that this is how Hollywood works, but I think the industry should have a good long look at itself, and consider changing its ways.

3. What made the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers so great? The fact that they don’t take themselves too seriously. They are injected with enough humour to make them enjoyable to everyone. Too many thrills and not enough laughs can destroy a movie like this. And the teaser trailer is ridiculously dark. There’s not an ounce of funny in that entire thing. This may not reflect the entire film, but then isn’t that what a trailer is supposed to do? I just hope Miles Teller will bring some of his charisma and natural comedic ability to the role, to lighten the mood a bit. Otherwise we could be facing another not-so-good Fantastic Four movie that is forgotten about and re-made in a couple of years.

Have a look at the trailer and let me know what you think in the comments section below.

My Graduation Day

I was attempting to get to grips with video and audio editing, and feeling a little nostalgic, so I decided to work on a little project to remember my graduation last June. It’s really just a bunch of photos set to some Primal Scream music but feel free to post any comments/criticisms in the section below. Ta.

P.S. I know it looks really cheesy, but just wait until your graduation day. It’s one of the best, and saddest, days you will ever experience.

The Five Devastating Consequences of No Longer Having a Valid Student Card

For many years you will curse your student card for the terrible Dracula-esque photo that was taken on a dreadful hangover, and the fact it means you actually have to study. But when that fateful day of expiry comes, there will be a number of awful consequences.

1. No more Topshop discount

Or New Look. Or Urban Outfitters. Or anywhere for that matter. You can also kiss goodbye to student lock-ins. While the odd ten or twenty percent off a new pair of jeans might not have seemed that much over the years, it becomes increasingly hard to justify a spending spree without saving some pennies. Soon you’ll be raiding your mum’s 80s wardrobe in a desperate attempt to update your style.

 regina george ugly skirt

In the words of Regina George “that is the ugliest effing skirt I have ever seen.”

2. Goodbye to cheap lunches

Going to uni and the thought of having to cook for myself was terrifying. But I, along with every other student, soon discovered the perk of 2 for 1 and 50% off deals, which meant you could score a great lunch for a fiver (as long as you avoided sides and only drank tap water). But all those great deals on the SR app disappear when your student card expires, meaning you actually have to cook for yourself. ALL. THE. TIME.

 Jess crying

WHY GOD WHY???

3. Paying a lot to get in da clubs

Aside from the fact that you are now probably working and therefore cannot go out mid-week to get super steam-boats on £1 spirit-mixes and have to splash your cash on expensive weekend nights out instead, you also have to start paying full price to get in. I was always too drunk on entering clubs to remember flashing my student card, but it turns out it cuts the entry fee in half. I mean that’s the cost of at least two drinks. No wonder adults stop going out past the age of 25.

 Ross giving the finger

Eff you nightclubs!

4. Free McDonald’s cheeseburgers are a thing of the past

A little known secret always spreads like Chinese whispers through starving students stumbling home from a drunken night out. If you buy a regular McDonalds meal and show your student card, YOU GET A FREE CHEESEBURGER! HALLELUJAH! However, once your student card expires you can no longer take advantage of this generous offer and are left begging the fed up cashier for a few extra chips. It turns out a regular meal just isn’t enough anymore.

 please sir

“Please sir, I want some more.”

5. You can no longer access the library

No I’m not a weirdo who misses the smell of books or studying alongside thousands of other crazed students trying desperately to memorise their textbooks. The library was one of my least favourite places as a student, as it was for many people. However, on those freezing cold winter days when you were forced to spend any time in your flat wrapped up in thermals, trackies and about 5 jumpers, the library became a safe, warm haven for you. Even if you just went to watch the episode of Dr. Who you missed on BBC iPlayer. Without that haven you might have to, god forbid, turn the heating on in your flat. Or go to a coffee shop and actually pay for something. Of course this won’t apply if you’ve moved back home with your parents – but then you probably have a bunch of other problems to deal with.

 Luke Skywalker freezing

You. In your frozen flat this winter.

So if you are a graduate and are yet to land your dream job, then these problems are likely affecting you too. The only solution I can offer is to try scraping off the date of your student card and still passing it off as valid. But if it gets refused, it will probably be the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you. Ever. I know from personal experience.

-Claire Flynn

An Ode To My Bed

“When am I in my element?”

That was what I asked my boyfriend after I spotted this writing competition advertised on The Debrief. I had been mulling it over for a while and couldn’t decide whether it was writing, playing guitar or exercising (to be fair that was one was definitely a stretch – I hate the gym) and I wanted a second opinion.

However, he didn’t agree with any of my suggestions and instead replied “in bed.”

Those of you raising your eyebrows and wondering whether the rest of this article will be devoted to praising my sexual prowess, don’t worry – it’s not. That’s not what he meant. I know because when I smiled and winked at him, he swiftly added “and not in the dirty way.”

So after a fairly extensive argument, I conceded that being in bed is actually when I am most in my element. Whether it’s sleeping, reading or watching episode after episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a cup of tea and a jumbo bag of salt and vinegar crisps, my bed is my favourite place to be and I could genuinely spend all day there. But couldn’t everyone? Apparently not.

My boyfriend, for one, is insanely active – when he’s not too busy with his medical degree, he’s at swimming training, 5-a-side football or the gym, and rarely takes the time for a duvet day or even a lie-in. And one of my former flatmates gets up at 7 am every morning without fail, including on a Sunday. I swear the only time I witnessed her sleep in (until 9) was the morning after she drank a bottle of tequila and attempted to make-out with a stone pillar.

So maybe I enjoy my time in bed a little too much. But, despite the fact that in the digital age it is possible to do virtually any task from your bed provided you have a laptop/smartphone/tablet, I don’t actually spend all my time there. Even now that I have a home-based job, I make myself get up and work at the kitchen table. I go out and see friends, shop and even force myself to the gym from time to time (that really is a struggle though). No I’m not showing off about the fact I do stuff – my point is that, while my bed remains my one true love, I’m constantly forcing myself to live out of my element, because, in all honesty, life in the comfort zone must get dull after a while.

While my rant about how much I love my bed was not riveting enough to win 850 squids, you can rest easy knowing that if I had won, it would have all been spent on new blankets, my Netflix subscription and a shit-ton of salt and vinegar crisps.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Joel Kramer (flickr.com/photos/75001512@N00/)

Top Ten Ultimate Horror Movies

***Warning- this post contains spoilers***

With Hallowe’en fast approaching, I thought it was about time to draw up a list of the ultimate horror movies to stick on the DVD player this weekend. While big-time horror movie buffs will advise every cult movie from the obscure to the downright disgusting, I (as someone who only enjoys a scary film from time to time) will be focusing on the classics- those that exploded onto the mainstream movie scene with a pile of blood, guts and high-pitched screams.

10. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Fulfilling the compulsory sci-fi selection, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a superbly creepy depiction of an alien takeover. With an all-star cast, including Leonard Nimoy and Donald Sutherland, the acting is also much better than many horror movies. Ultimate scary moment: Donald’s Sutherland shriek at the end… obviously.

9. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

What would a horror movie list be without a film about a group of horny teenagers getting picked off one by one? Nightmare on Elm Street is one of my particular faves (I dressed up as Freddy Krueger for Hallowe’en when I was ten). Despite its cheesy 80s nature, it still delivers a whole lot of scares. Ultimate scary moment: the death of Glen a.k.a a young, hot Johnny Depp- he was just too beautiful to die.

8. Paranormal Activity (2007)

This series has its lovers and its haters but if I can say one thing for the first film, it does make you jump right outta your skin. I swear your heartbeat only just regulates before the next scare causes it to Usain Bolt its way out of your chest. Ultimate scary moment: where do those footprints in the flour come from?

7. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Definitely the best of the werewolf genre, the story of the man that finds himself acting a bit weird around the full moon before full on changing into a fuzzy killer is humorous, thrilling and terrifying all in one. Ultimate scary moment: the first time he changes into a werewolf- it literally looks like every vein is about to pop out of his body.

6. Saw (2004)

While this series definitely got dragged on for too long (apparently they’re thinking of making more – WHY?!) the original premise was brilliant and executed expertly in the first film. It manages to deliver 1001 different shocks, and it’s all (mostly) filmed in one dingy bathroom with like two guys and a saw? Incredible. Ultimate scary moment: when the guy saws his fricking foot off with a handsaw – again, pretty obvious.

5. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Is it not every mother-to-be’s nightmare that she will give birth to a monster? Well if it’s not it will be after watching a pregnant woman slowly discover she is giving birth to the devil incarnate. Ultimate scary moment: the raw liver scene – all that needs to be said.

4. The Exorcist (1973)

Disgusting and terrifying, this depiction of a young girl possessed by an evil spirit and the priest that tries to save her has branded itself on the brain of everyone who has ever watched it. Ultimate scary moment: the scene of the possessed girl masturbating with a crucifix is probably the most awful thing that ever made it onto the big screen.

3. The Wicker Man (1973)

Okay I can handle monsters, gore and suspense but human ritual sacrifice and a messed up cult led by Christopher Lee (one of the creepiest individuals on the planet) is something that gives me nightmares. Plus it’s set in Scotland (where I live). A clever but massively disturbing suspense ridden thrill ride, which ends in devastation. Ultimate scary moment: the appearance of people in creepy animal masks, which triggers the realisation that he won’t make it off the island.

2. The Shining (1980)

Absolute classic starring Jack Nicholson who suffers from a case of the crazies after too long spent alone with his family in a hotel. Based on the Stephen King novel, the movie exudes supernatural elegance and psychological trauma. Ultimate scary moment: HERE’S JOHNNY!!!

1. 28 Days Later (2002)

Some might consider it a travesty that I’ve picked this as my number one over others but hear me out. Directed by Danny Boyle, one of the best guys ever, it is the most stylishly executed zombie apocalypse movie of all time. From fantastic acting to gory yet subtle special effects, the film becomes believable and downright terrifying. It manages horror without the over the top nature of so many in the genre. Ultimate scary moment: when a drop of infected blood hits the dad in the eye and he zombifies right in front of his teenage daughter- heart-breaking yet petrifying.

Disagree with my list? Feel free to post your favourite horror classics in the comments section below.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Giuseppe Broccolo (flickr.com/photos/gibro)

How Can We Eliminate Disadvantage in Education?

It’s graduation season and across the country students are leaving the realm of education behind, dressed in flowing black robes. For those graduating from a top university, it is likely to be one of the proudest days of their lives.

However, recent research may put a damper on the celebrations as it has been revealed that a child’s background can be a bigger deciding factor than their academic ability in how likely they are to get into top universities. A study suggests that around 2000 of the brightest but poorest children miss out on places at top universities. Even the highest performers may lose out to less-able but better-off pupils. Labour MP Alan Milburn claims we are “wasting young talent on an industrial scale.”

Disadvantage within the education systems across Britain has been widely examined and criticised in recent years. There has been much concern over the gap between deprived and better-off children, which can often become further and further exacerbated as they make their way through the schooling system.

While the problem has been identified, a solution has not.

It has been asserted that the education we receive in the first five years of our life is vitally important in our later academic achievement. A focus on preschool education, therefore, is an excellent way to develop children’s educational skills from the beginning allowing them an advantage in later life, possibly allowing them to attend a top university.

What do you think? How are we best able to eliminate such disadvantage in our schooling system to ensure children get to the universities they deserve?

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Richard Lee (https://www.flickr.com/photos/70109407@N00/)

Is the Rise of E-Books Detrimental to Children’s Education?

A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers has suggested that the E-Book will outsell print by 2018. According to the research, 50% of the UK population will own an iPad, Kobo, Kindle or similar e-reader device by 2018. It seems the allure of being able to cart around all your favourite books in a small, lightweight object has won over the pleasurable, but impractical, old-fashioned way of lugging around hard-copies in your backpack.

I, personally, still refuse to turn to the dark side and begin reading novels or short stories or even poems off a Kindle. I am too in love with the notion of sitting down with a paper book and turning the pages with my hands. However, I have, finally, accepted that for many people using an electronic device is a far easier way to read and many will see it as the natural progression of the writing and publishing industry.

In any case, it is undoubtedly better for people to be reading off a screen than not reading at all.

The one real area of concern I have, as do others, is the effect of the e-book on early years reading and education. As it becomes more popular it is likely parents may abandon trips to the bookshop or library in order to fill up the bookshelf, and simply read bedtime stories from an iPad.

Now reading to your child from any medium is great for their development. Plus these devices often have interactive settings, making the stories more entertaining and appealing for young kids.

However, the National Literacy Trust have recently come out with statistics that indicate that the printed word is still better than the electronic one in terms of early years literacy education. As early years education has been proven to be increasingly important, parents should be aware of this fact.

So while reading to your child in any ways is an excellent way to spend time together, it might be worth continuing to make the odd trip to the library to pick out a book for bedtime.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of unten44 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/unten44/)

Flipping Fairy Tales

Disney’s latest blockbuster Maleficent starring Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie is causing a bit of a stir amongst the masses by alleging that one of the most terrifying creatures in children’s stories is more of a victim than a villain.

Flipping fairy tales and children’s stories has become pretty fashionable in recent years, with several films and books looking at them from ‘the other side’ portraying the bad guys as not that bad and the good guys as not that good. Wicked began the trend with it’s opening assertion that ‘No One Mourns the Wicked’ before explaining the true, rather devastating, story of the Wicked Witch of the West. And let’s not forget about Disney’s latest success story, Frozen, which transformed the infamous Ice Queen into a loving sister who was oppressed by her parents and terrified of her own powers.

Part of me is irritated by this latest trend. When I was younger the appeal of reading and going to watch films, plays and pantomimes was the knowledge that you would have a good guy to support and cheer for and a bad guy to hate and jeer at. It was simple. It taught me that there are always going to be villains, but that there will also always be heroes to defeat them.

But a much larger part of my recognises that this is a silly way to see it. These reformed stories convey that, most of the time, the bad people haven’t been bad their whole life and the way they have turned out isn’t necessarily their fault. They also show that good people aren’t perfect, and can have far darker sides. They reveal that while the hero defeating the villain is necessary, it is not something we should all be entirely happy about.

In life, people that you love will let you down and those you hate may be the ones to come through for you in the end. It doesn’t matter how much you don’t like someone, you will never relish their downfall, for they are a human being too. These lessons are ones we should be teaching children. While they are confusing and, perhaps, not as satisfying, they will prepare them for later life.

For while we may enjoy teaching our children stories of monsters, we should try to remind them that monsters were once people too.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Global Panorama (https://www.flickr.com/photos/121483302@N02/)

Nationalism and Diversity is Needed in our Reading

I’m going to go against the grain here and say I can, to an extent, understand Michael Gove’s recent encouragement for the GCSE syllabus to focus more on English novels, despite the abuse he has received for the action. Growing up in Edinburgh, I was always a little annoyed at the fact we got very few Scottish texts despite the plethora of excellent Scottish authors out there. We got Tennessee Williams, J. D. Salinger and Seamus Heaney but rarely Robert Louis Stevenson, Liz Lochhead or Lewis Grassic Gibbon. I wound up doing my Advanced Higher dissertation on William McIlvanney and I chose Scottish Literature over English Literature in my first year of University, feeling that my studies had otherwise been absent of a nationalist influence.

So if there is a consensus that teenagers in England are not reading enough English literature then it makes sense to alter the syllabus to focus on English authors, poets and playwrights, right?

The problem is, along with everyone else, including Meera Syal, one of the new English authors on the syllabus, I do find the exclusion of certain American authors strange and rather hard to comprehend. While I always felt a bit miffed at the lack of Scottish texts used in my school, it did not stop be from being devastated by the demise of the delicate Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’ To Kill A Mockingbird, touched by the journey of the lost Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye and falling in love with the noble ideals of Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.

These varied texts were so important in my teenage years, that I cannot imagine school kids going through high school without reading them, particularly those interested in studying literature to a higher level.

While I understand the desire for nationalism in syllabuses, there is also a need for diversity in our reading, especially in our younger years. We should offer our children and teenagers a variety of literature from different authors with different backgrounds, to afford them the same pleasures we had from reading our favourite books for the first time.

-Claire Flynn

-Image courtesy of Netzanette (https://www.flickr.com/photos/netzanette/)