Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Theatre - The Duchess of Malfi starring Gemma Arterton

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing a production of The Duchess of Malfi in the recently opened Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the latest addition to the Shakespeare's Globe. The new indoor theatre seats 350 people with a lower and upper gallery circling the stage and a pit area constructed to imitate 17th Century English playhouses. The theatre is almost entirely made of wood and solely uses candles to light the place, so upon stepping inside it, the atmosphere was already magical. My seat was the first on the lower circle so I was at the very front of the right hand side of the stage. I'd say it was quite a good view even though sometimes you get quite a bit of the actors' backs to you, they move around the stage all the time so it wasn't a big deal. Being at the front also meant plenty of interaction with the cast as besides making eye contact with the audience, the actors often talk towards certain people in the crowd and one of them even climbed onto the wooden barriers surrounding us and made their way around everyone. As previously mentioned, six chandeliers are the only source of light; hoisted up and down in different combinations and variations to change how bright certain areas of the stage are and create the desired ambient. In one of the scenes all the candles are snuffed out, throwing the theatre into darkness, the voices of the actors amplified in the pitch black.

The Duchess of Malfi is a tragedy written by John Webster in 1612 -1613. I vaguely remember seeing a modest university production of it in Australia but it was so long ago that I more or less went into this one completely clueless of where it was going to take me. The story starts in a court in Amalfi, Italy in 1504 and as the characters take their places the first thing I'm drawn to is their beautiful costumes. Gemma Arterton as the Duchess, swans onto the stage in a regal purple Elizabethan gown, the first of her intricate costumes, complete with voluptuous skirts, flowing sleeves and a ruff collar that appears so historically accurate it brings you back in time immediately. I am a serious lover of period dressing so being so close to such detailed pieces was just heavenly for me, even the male actors looked equally majestic in an array of frilled tunics and velvet doublets, each person had on a different pair of embroidered loafers that reminded me of something Charlotte Olympia would design. I would also like to point out that the Duchess' second gown, primarily mustard yellow but made of a material that sparkled like a million tiny rainbows under the candlelight, draping pearls attached from the neckline, was my personal favourite.

Gemma Arterton gives a solid performance as the Duchess, admittedly being a feminist it really pleased me to see her completely ignore her selfish brothers' controlling ways and basically continued to do whatever the heck she wanted (probably speaking too soon as it is a tragedy). She successfully portrays a clever woman with a calm demeanour but also coming across as kind, which instantly attached me to her character. In fact the cast are all rather excellent. The Cardinal, one of the antagonists, constantly pulling plans to thwart out his sleeve, is so villainous you'd expect him to be twirling his moustache all the time and is one of those characters you almost admire for being so nonchalantly evil. Bosola and Julia provided many laughs in somewhat miserable times for everyone. I was especially impressed by David Dawson, who plays Ferdinand, the Duchess' erratic twin brother (why do I always have to be drawn to the most psychotic roles eh?) His was the standout performance in my opinion, going from a lunatic villain to a pitiable victim in an impressive range of schizophrenic emotions in his scenes. I never knew what he was about to do next and almost felt like I needed to duck behind the wooden barrier separating me from the stage whenever he drew near.

I'm not sure whether this is something typical of Shakespeare's Globe productions or if it's more of an ode to how theatre was done in the past (do comment below if you know because I'm intrigued), but all the plays I have watched at this venue incorporate some singing and dancing, and one especially long sequence at the end of the performance before they bow. It definitely enhances the overall experience and along with the harmonies that the actors sing to transition scenes, the accompanying music is all done live with a team of string instrumentalists on the top balcony. 

I left the Sam Wanamaker playhouse in a state of wonder, having experienced something very special and unique indeed. I approve of the Globe putting on more traditional little plays like this, it's a nice change from the extravaganza of the West End. 

The Duchess of Malfi is running everyday until February 16 and you can get tickets and check performance times here.

Photos 1 & 6 are official photocall images via JustFabzz
All other photos taken by me and Emily Wheeler


Thursday, 23 January 2014

Rocket Dog

Minkpink top / ASOS pants / Miss Selfridge coat / House of Harlow necklace / Celine bag / Mum's old belt / Rocketdog shoes*

Whoa I never usually wear pants! With the exception of stretchy, skinny fit jeans or leggings which I am personally a little bored of, it's hard for me to find a pair that fit both my waist and hips without gradually slithering down with every step that I take. I took a chance with this pair from ASOS though and I am so glad I did as they fit like a dream (a teensy bit loose around the waist but nothing a belt can't fix) and continue to feed my tartan obsession. I have also been loving these shoes that Rocket Dog sent me, the fringe detail is so nice and black and white shoes are always my favourite, they give such a nice contrast while still matching absolutely everything. On top of that the patent material and slight platform means it's been surprisingly ideal in the wet weather.


Monday, 20 January 2014

Looney Tunes

On my last day in Milan I visited Duomo di Milano which was the most stunning cathedral I'd ever laid eyes upon inside and out. I need to invest in a wide angle lens for my DSLR though (any recommendations?) because I couldn't fit the whole building in a frame with my regular lens wahh. There are so many shops around the area too, including the breathtaking Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which is one of the oldest shopping arcades in the world. I wore a Lazy Oaf x Looney Tunes cropped jumper that is a little on the short side but perfect for someone like me who has a shorter torso anyway. I love the bright print and also had my eye on the cute yellow Tweety one from the collection but alas it has now sold out.  I'd love to see more of Italy one day, Milan has definitely given me a taste for it. Only downside from the trip was that I came back covered in mosquito bites which I thought was strange since I didn't think they liked the cold? And insect bites take forever to fade on my skin which makes me glad that it's still winter and I can still cover them up. 


Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Film review: 12 Years a Slave (spoiler free) | Mspbandj Guest Post

12 Years a Slave: Spoiler Free Review (plot outline included) by Emily Wheeler of mspbandj

Director: Steve McQueen
Screenplay by: John Ridley
Based on the Book 12 Years a Slave, written by: Solomon Northup.

Ask anyone who has had the misfortune of conversing with me about the quality of cinema produced in the last few years, and they would no doubt reply with not much more than a groan of discontent. Indeed, I proudly hold the opinion that modern cinema, while advancing marvellously in the field of technology and special effects, is not worthy of any title other than mediocre entertainment. Many of the story lines, twists, tropes and characters being shown on the big screens these days are simply regurgitation’s of each other, differing only at face value. Every now and again however, I find myself seated not within a darkened room surrounded by a faceless, shimmering mass of strangers shifting uncomfortably in their barely cushioned seats, but consumed within the story being told, a fly on the wall left to watch in curious wonder as the world of the film unfolds around me, which is exactly how I felt this afternoon during Steve McQueen's production of 12 Years a Slave.

From the opening scene until the rolling credits I was enveloped in the fine detail, the heart wrenching emotion and the deep seated fear and anticipation of genuinely not knowing what was around the corner. I think it fair to mention I have not had the pleasure of reading Solomon Northup’s personal recount in his biography, although after my experience this afternoon, I very much plan to. The story follows Northup, brought back to life by the incredible Chiwetel Ejiofor, as he recounts the chain of events that wrenched him from his life in New York as a free man, and dumped him in the hands of slavers in the south of the United States of America in the year 1841. This alone is enough to twist the gut of any viewer, as they are forced to watch the brutality Northup experienced during the journey south. Yet it continues past these events, as Northup is sold once to the kind gentleman Ford, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and then again into the hands of Edwin Epps, portrayed by the amazingly talented Michael Fassbender, where he stays until meeting Bass, played by Brad Pitt, who is a key part in Northups liberation from slavery. The events that take place within the many years that Northup is forced to labour under first the gentle eyes of Ford, and then the cruel hand of Epps, is the focal point of the movie, produced so masterfully it’s hard to believe it was made in the modern day. 

Now, within the weeks leading up to the release of 12 Years a Slave, my friend, who I saw it with, and I had been… somewhat apprehensive. We had heard rumours and read reviews that during advanced screenings, members of the audience had to avert their eyes, cover their mouths and even leave the cinema entirely due to the intensity of what they were witnessing. This gave us the uneasy feeling of not knowing what made the experience so intense. Was it the visuals? The events? The acting? Well I can now say with perfect certainty, it was all of these things, and much more. While neither of us had to leave the cinema, we both agree that there were times where we felt strained, and deeply affected by what we were being exposed to.

Visually, the cinematography and scenery were absolutely superb, and offered a welcome break from the more violent events. Transitions ran so smoothly I hardly noticed, and the harshness of the reality factor was softened by beautiful old time architecture and luscious Georgian swamp lands. However, the effort and detail put into the locations and scenery were undoubtedly matched, and far surpassed by the visual element of slavery. Violence ran thick in Northup’s life as a slave, and was shown unmercifully throughout the film. Every blow of the hand and strike of the whip went uncensored in front of my eyes, and I witnessed naked flesh being torn open, and ripped from the bone. Had I a weaker stomach, I may have had to leave my seat. As it were, there were many times I felt my throat close up, and my mouth run dry with dread. Just as those on the screen were being torn open, I felt my own mind being exposed, and I was unable to conceal the emotion I felt, often having to stifle sobs and blink away threatening tears.

Yes, McQueen and his crew have crafted the visual aspect for this film masterfully, and there was only one composer with the experience, skill and, in my personal opinion, right, who could have created a soundtrack to compliment such raw visual power; and that composer was none other than the Hans Zimmer. As is well known, Zimmer has a history with the creation of melodies that can burrow deep into a person’s mind and memory, and he did not disappoint with his work on 12 Years a Slave. His music compliments the actions on the screens perfectly, dancing and weaving through the scenes with such beauty and grace it is almost as if Zimmer fashioned something sentient. A musical Siren, always there, just out of sight, yet entrancing and alluring, demanding your emotions do its biding, working hand in hand with the dynamics of the story to evoke in you at times the deepest of despair, and at others the brightness of hope and longing. Zimmer composed a lover for McQueen’s sorrowful story, and with it provided comfort and aide in times of sorrow, and caused devastation and anguish in the wake of its wrath.

However, as brilliantly and delicately woven the tapestry of the film was, I truly feel, with all due respect to Mr’s McQueen and Zimmer, that the real credit for stirring such an overwhelmingly emotional response form me is owed to one Chiwetel Ejiofor. Words cannot describe his performance in this piece, yet words are all I have to work with. Outstanding, astonishing, captivating… every possible positive praise is owed to this hugely talented man, and the way in which he single handedly ripped me open and bared my heart to the reality of what Solomon Northup, and thousands of African American slaves, lived through. The despair, the heart break, the hopelessness that was forced upon them, the utterly unspeakable violence that they endured… Ejiofor took it all upon himself to bring the horror to life before our eyes, and succeeded beyond every expectation. The pure emotion he was able to portray so simply and genuinely is where the intensity really tested me. More than once just the pain he showed on his face alone, without the accompaniment of lights and music, was enough to water my eyes and quiver my hand. His performance is not one I will soon forget. 

High praise is also due to Michael Fassbender, who did a marvellous job of bringing life to the unstable, unpredictable character of Edwin Epps, Solomons second slave owner. I had heard Fassbender had the role of a violent, evil man, but what I did not expect was the element of an almost guilty sympathy I would be brought to feel for him. While it is true Epps is very much a horrible man, Fassbender was able to portray him with the air of pathetic hopelessness that builds a bitter pity within you, without sacrificing an ounce of Epps’s evil nature. Fassbender toed the fine line between these two characteristics perfectly, and balanced the character of Epps very nicely indeed.

Now, despite the fact that her role could easily be considered minor, I feel a noteworthy mention of Sarah Paulson's performance as Mistress Epps is absolutely necessary. I found myself deeply admiring her for the way she was able to hold her character throughout the film, and portray the cold, merciless hatred behind such a calm and blank exterior. Paulson and Fassbender were a perfect match for each other, and worked brilliantly together to express the unseen life of the Epps's, which in turn gave reason to a lot of Edwin Epps's actions regarding Northup. The link between the three characters was extremely delicate, yet Ejiofor, Fassbender and Paulson wove it out expertly, and I fairly believe Pauslon was the anchor behind it. 

Lastly, it gives me great pleasure to extend not only my praise, but my appreciation to Miss Lupita Nyong’o, a name I did not know before this experience. With the role of Pattsie, a fellow cotton picker on the Epp’s plantation, Nyong’o honestly astonished me with her deeply moving performance. As Ejiofor had the weight of shouldering Solomons experience with slavery, Nyong’o had the responsibility to portray the lives of the women slaves in that that time, and the absolute depravity they faced at the hands of not only their so-called owners, but even some of those in their own class. The torment, the degradation, the complete torture that they went through reflected in Nyong’o’s performance masterfully, and provided a key element to the entire film. A character that could easily have been not much more than a plot device, was turned into an inspiration.

Credit is also due to Brad Pitt, Adepero OduyeMichael K. Williams, Benedict Cumberbatch, Liza J. Bennett and the rest of the cast for their roles in this marvellous production. Each character was brought to life exceptionally well, and the whole cast worked together perfectly, like matching pieces of a puzzle. 

No, its not often I am able to look back on a film and say with all honesty it was worth the time and money spent to view it, and even less often am I able to say I would do it over again. Yet now I say, with complete certainty, that 12 Years a Slave is an absolutely incredible masterpiece of a film. Confronting, stunning and emotionally demanding, it drags you head first into the year of 1841, and sweeps you along an incredible journey of strength, courage and hope in a world full of heart ache, despair and hopelessness. Truly, an experience of a lifetime.

Image credit: 1) IMP Awards 2) The Cascade 3) Hollywood Reporter

Monday, 13 January 2014

Feral Love

A simple outfit for my second day in Milan spent shopping with my mum. When I'm set to go shopping for the day, I usually opt for a smock dress and jumper combo that's easy to whip on and off when trying things on. This time though I ended up just browsing as most of the shops I passed were designer but I quite enjoy window shopping, especially when the displays are so eye-catching (hello neon pink Valentino glam lock bags, oh so cute). 

Do you guys have a typical shopping outfit?


Thursday, 9 January 2014

Stained Glass

Nishe top (sold out but more from their range here) / Primark skirt / Chloe boots

Here's an outfit I wore when I visited Milan with the family last year. I only stayed for a weekend because dad had some work there but it was still a unique experience as I'd never been to Italy before. Unfortunately the two days I was there, I seemed to have brought the rain over with me from London. Despite this I was still adamant on exploring as much of the city as I could even though I'd only packed my Chloe boots with me, which aren't the most practical in said weather conditions. I usually like to plan my outfits before I travel so I don't overpack but this time the trip was a spur of the moment thing on my dad's part so I ended up chucking in some failsafe tops and high waisted skirts to mix and match. On the first day there I ended up pairing this Nishe collared top (how cute are the heart shaped elbow patches?) with this stained glass print Primark skirt as I liked how the two patterns looked together.


Sunday, 5 January 2014


Patrick Star shirt / H&M x Isabel Marant cardigan / ASOS leggings / Jeffrey Campbell boots (similar here) / Karen Walker sunglasses

This outfit is something a little different for me (no collars say what?) but it was a glorious love at first sight moment when I saw this shirt on the 1991inc site. I was immediately sucked in to their collection as their homepage showcased a vibrant range of high quality shirts, sweaters and leggings with flashy all over print designs of pretty much everything cool you'd find on tumblr. So if you love that site as much as I do, be sure to check out their range, they constantly have new designs up and the prints are really good quality (no bleeding and none of those white patches). I particularly had to get this one as Patrick is my favourite cartoon character ever and if you already follow my tumblr you probably would have seen me reblogging everyone of those memes with this particular expression on his face. Their items are unisex so the oversized shirts are perfect to throw on over some leggings. I made it weather appropriate with the loop wool cardigan I managed to nab from H&M's last collaboration and some chunky JC boots that I've had for a good three years now (and none of the studs have fallen off, score!)

If you're on tumblr, be sure to leave your link down below in the comments. I love finding new blogs to follow!


Thursday, 2 January 2014

Painting flowers

ASOS top (sold out but similar here) / Topshop skirt (sold out but similar here) / Celine bag / ASOS rings / Michael Kors watch / Chloe boots

I've still really been loving midi skirts and this one combines two of my favourite prints; floral and tartan. Of course I paired it with a collared top (I've seen that Primark are doing almost exact ones in a myriad of colours, I want to stock up), and my trusty dusty Celine cross body bag. Speaking of Primark, last week I was unfortunately the victim of a pickpocket at the Tottenham Court Rd store, I felt someone touch my bag but when I turned around the zip was already open and my purse was missing. It all happened so quickly and I was pretty gutted at the time as I had all my cards and ID in there. But hey life goes on and things can be replaced, I'm glad that it wasn't anything more serious. Oh and it wasn't this bag that I had with me last time, I've a feeling that if it was, the thief would have been confused as to which of the three compartments to steal from... 


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

My view of the fireworks in London last night.
Happy 2014 everyone, wishing you all the best this year!
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