Archive | March, 2011

Skins Series Finale: A Modern Midsummer Dream?

20 Mar

‘The course of love never did run smooth.’ – Lysander,  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I i 134

The love triangles, gender confusion, forest magic, lovers and happy endings… sound familiar?

The Skins Finale is an elegant twist on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, involving contemporary relationships that deny the need for the ideal Petrarchan lover or a traditional comedic ending of marriage. Franky loves Matty, Matty loves Liv (but also Franky), Minnie loves Franky, Liv loves Matty. These love imbalances mimic those in Dream. Given that Skins is a 21st century television drama, however, (and one that is not a generally romantic comedy), we are compelled throughout by the possibility that all may not be resolved. In Dream the lighthearted tone is created by a distancing from the emotions of the characters in order to poke fun at the nature of lovers. Incidentally, this is excellently done in Headlong’s new interpretation, currently touring, in characterising ‘fairy-inspired-love’ as camp and pathetic and ‘real love’ as overwrought and sincere. Instead, it is emotion that predominates in Skins.

The removal from Bristol to the Somerset countryside sets the series finale firmly in the Pastoral tradition. The characters are lost in the forest on the way to a wedding and the dualities of this forest setting are explored. The group seemingly have boundless freedom to go anywhere, to love, to drink and to smoke. However, their arrival into the forest is a forced event, when their van breaks down, which is comparable to the banishments in As You Like It. Danger exists, though no harm arrives, as Frankie nearly falls down a ravine. One may compare this with As You Like It and the near danger of starvation that Orlando and Adam suffer upon their arrival into the forest, and the laws of enclosure which set up a possible loss of livelihood for Corin. Comparisons could also be made with Hermia who finds herself lost and alone in the forest.

The fairy magic of Dream manifests in the drug-induced experience of Franky and her subsequent, quickly changing temperament. Teenage angst, a fairly tame theme nowadays, is acutely portrayed as Franky battles with the false concept of ‘normality’. However clichéd the idea is of ‘self-discovery’ during teenage years, it is nonetheless real.

Having watched many a romantic comedy, I realised a while ago what makes Four Weddings and a Funeral and perhaps also The Holiday, specifically modern, succesful comedies; marriage is denied as the ubiquitous Happy Ending. Finally, in Four Weddings it was not necessary for a marriage ceremony to signify a steady, loving relationship (though that of course depends on a belief in the unfailing power of love to transcend circumstance and last forever.) Skins deliberately subverts the marriage ending by explicitly including a ‘non-marriage’. We are not expected to believe that Rich and Grace will be always together, but the implication is that they will last a while. The event to which the programme looks forward is unresolved because they never marry. But the ending itself is ‘happy’; vows are exchanged between a boyfriend and a girlfriend; the tyranny of power (her parents) is overcome, in a brilliant post-modern twist when Prof. Blood announces, ‘I will take no further part in this ridiculous melodrama,’ alluding to the fact that actually, Skins is brilliantly, realistically melodramatic; and the relationship divides are mended. And in classic Skins style we conclude with a pissup and dancing.

Photo from the Skins Website Blog


A Modern Twist on the Piña Colada

20 Mar

This drink is perfect with or without alcohol, so is great for splitting to make two separate batches at a party. It is a creamier version of the classic Piña Colada, with grapefruit juice for an extra kick.

6 parts pineapple juice

1 part grapefruit juice

2 parts coconut cream

2 parts double cream

1 part light rum (optional)

Shake with a generous scoop of crushed ice and serve in a cocktail glass.

To crush the ice yourself, scoop into a  freezer bag, wrap in a tea towel and wack with a rolling pin. Mighty fun!

Mac Odalisque Mega Metal Eyeshadow: Peacocky

13 Mar

Mac eyeshadows are always superb, but these Mega Metal Eyeshadows are just lovely. They apply smoothly and have a silvery shimmer, though be careful to tap off any excess from your brush to avoid the colour transferring down beneath your eye. Odalisque is a silvery, fern green. It is well pigemented, but the colour is much softer than in the pan. It can be worn all over the lid with well defined eyes; I would reccommend using a black liner to create a winged line. I also think darker brights look lovely as a pop of colour in the outer corner and into the crease. If you can still get hold of this collection it is well worth a look.

Cream Blusher Comparison: Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge, Max Factor Miracle Touch and Topshop Blush

13 Mar

Cream Blushers produce a less obvious makeup look than powder blushers, though the latter tend to create a look that’s more ‘finished’. Cream blushers are ideal for minimal makeup looks and they tend to last a lot longer than powder blushers. The colours tend to look much more vibrant in the pot and change to a more natural colour when rubbed into the skin, so be careful to look up swatches or try them out yourself before purchasing.

Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge £17.00 (Blushed Rose)

A makeup staple and classic, the Pot Rouge can be used on the cheeks and lips to create a pop of colour – the perfect way to colour match. The pot rouge is matte and blends into you skin to provide a no-makeup look. The colour is very pigmented, so be careful to apply a small amount. I have dry skin and really need to moisturise well beforehand for this product to apply smoothly. I would not recommend using a powder foundation underneath the blusher. The packaging is solid, sleek and fits neatly into a handbag but it does not have a mirror.

Max Factor Miracle Touch £6.99 (Soft Copper)

This is creamier than the Pot Rouge and slightly less pigmented. For my dry skin I find this easier to blend in gently than the pot rouge, which I have to rub into my skin. The colour has a slight shimmer through it, which produces a more dewy finish.

Topshop Blush £6.00 (Neon Rose)

Technically, this a cream to powder blush, but it is useful as a comparison with the other two. When applying the blush, it turns powdery on your cheek and can therefore be applied very gently. There is not need to forcefully rub in this blusher. The colour is the least pigmented of the three, though I would not suggest this is a negative attribute. I personally prefer the lighter look that can be achieved with this blush and the price is exceptional.

Natural Light Comparison Swatches (Topshop, Max Factor, Pot Rouge)

Avenue Q Theatre Review

9 Mar

Avenue Q Rating: ♥♥♥

I went to see Avenue Q a couple of weeks ago and it was certainly worth the ticket price for the laughs. The comedy arrives principally from the fact that cute, 90s TV show style puppets (Muppets, Sesame Street), with cheesy American accents, are up to all sorts of adult activities. (This is not a show to take little kids to, or Grannie, or anyone awkward.) It is set in a down and out street in New York and the set from which the puppets emerge is ingenious. Kate Monster, the lead female, has a beautiful voice and multi-roles superbly. It is typically American, which would’ve been very annoying if it weren’t so darn funny. The puppeteering is polished, though you have to get used to the fact that the actors make no point of becoming their puppets; they are very much separate entities. There is nothing like the connection one feels with the puppets in, lets say, War Horse.

Entertaining tunes such as ‘Everyone’s a little bit racist’ and ‘The Internet is for Porn’, exploit modern-day political correctness and taboo to produce some good comedy. The humour is principally confined to the first half, however. The second half becomes plot obsessed and the love story becomes a tad cheesy.

Don’t expect a compelling storyline and do expect overacting, belted choruses and cliché upon cliché. But I recommend the show for a night out with friends to have a good laugh.

Avenue Q is touring the country until July.

Neutral Tones: Thomas Hardy

8 Mar

Hardy produced some of literature’s finest elegiac poems upon his wife’s death. His relationship with Emma, though, while she was living had been fraught with tension. This poem, even with this biographical detail, conveys a sense of a dead relationship. Note the images he repeats and the antitheses he sets up between words of opposite meaning.

Neutral Tones

We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod;
– They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.

Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles of years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro
On which lost the more by our love.

The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
Like an ominous bird a-wing. . . .

Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God-curst sun, and a tree,
And a pond edged with grayish leaves.

Hardy’s poetry often excludes the reader with private details such as ‘the original air-blue gown’ in The Voice and the ‘tedious riddles of years ago’ in this poem. This privacy makes the poem feel intimate; it has a similar effect to reading Jane Austen – as though you are overhearing a secret conversation.
The passion of love, traditionally represented by the metaphor of fire, has destroyed the landscape into a wasteland of ash. Even the ‘white’ sun has been drained of colour. They images all convey a sense of a dead relationship. The succinct repetition of these same images in the last stanza creates a neat frame with the beginning to conclude the poem.

chidden, scolded
sod, a lump of soil
curst, archaic spelling of cursed

See also: A Broken Appointment, Thomas Hardy

Frankenstein at The National Theatre: Play Review

8 Mar National Theatre Production

Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein ♥♥♥♥♥ Rating

A man emerges from a womb-like National Theatre Productioncocoon, helpless and naked. The monster is born. He grows up teaching himself to walk, run and make noises. There was an amazing moment as the sun rose, when the monster began laughing and clapping. I saw the monster played by Jonny Lee Miller and Dr Frankenstein by Benedict Cumberbatch. It was refreshing to have the story told from the monster’s point of view; Frankenstein is present for only a moment in the first half. The monster’s transformation from innocence to experience was presented like a bildungsroman. You will find the play troubles you; it is almost impossible to to decide who to sympathize with, though the monster’s original innocence is wonderfully portrayed.

No wonder the Times heralded the play with five stars: the literary allusions were plentiful. One of Blake’s pictures from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell appeared on a house; we had Milton, Marvell – all absolutely appropriate to the scientific questioning arising at the time of The Industrial Revolution and a brilliant way of emphasizing the monster’s ability to discuss and reason; conscious thought and awareness of our own death are historically thought of as distinguishing humans from animals. A National Theatre ‘classic’ moment was the arrival of a magnificent steam train on stage, with the ensemble creating the sound scape and bright lighting creating dark shadows – the grit and grime of industrialization.

The set was beautifully simple with rocky mountains about the sides and hundreds of light bulbs as an extruded chandelier flowing down above the audience to the stage, which were able to blind and create astonishing rippling light. Details such as flocks of birds flying up into the fly tower and Lake Geneva created using clever perspective all contriubute to this epic production.

Some of the dialogue in the more naturalistic scenes was shoddy, mostly due to poor scripting but not helped by slow paced, unimpressive acting by Elizabeth (Frankenstein’s fiancee) and William (his younger brother). These family saga moments seemed out of place after extravagant special effects, dramatic ensemble work and a moving score.

Nevertheless, queue up for day tickets. Today. Whenever you can go. This will be compared in stature to War Horse and the ending was certainly as moving. And listen out for the bell.

Frankenstein is at the National Theatre until the beginning of May 2011.