The things I think about when brushing my teeth…..

I’m currently having this feeling with a Virginia Woolf classic… I can appreciate it is a beautiful piece of work but I just can’t get myself excited by it. Yet giving up on a book feels like the worst crime!

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I studied English Literature at uni – lots of books, lots of reading. I did pretty well at it. And yet, sitting on the side of the bath the other morning, brushing my teeth and struggling to shake off a thick fog of tiredness I thought: ‘I’m not sure I’m actually all that good at reading’.

Because you see, since Christmas, I’ve been trying to read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I’ve made it to page 438 out of 650. The Daily Mail calls it ‘Dizzyingly, dazzlingly good’.

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But if I’m honest, 438 pages in and I just wasn’t feeling dazzled. Granted there’d been sections that had really captured me, but past the half way point and ploughing on was beginning to feel like a struggle.

Tipping point for me was the evening I took the book in the bath with me. I read a couple of pages, tossed the…

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DANCE THAT TAKES YOUR BREATH AWAY..

National Dance Company Wales (NDCW) are well renowned for their intricate, slick and dynamic work.  An award-winning company, their pioneering work is challenging and thought provoking; exactly how contemporary dance should be.

Today their Spring Tour visited Sherman Cymru, and I was lucky enough to be able to experience their beautiful work.  For me, contemporary dance is up there as a favourite form of art.  I love the way it challenges expectations, using the body in a divine way that seems utterly impossible.

Of course, the production did all this and more.  Kicking off with Mythology,  the dancers performed as a community, delicately bringing their separate movements and motifs together as one to create a unity.  The dance gradually built up in a frenzy of movement; you almost didn’t quite know where to look.

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But then as the dancers drew together, and the individual movements bounced off one another, they created something truly amazing.  In a split second you could see exactly what Shropshire was aiming to do with his choreography; creating something all-together greater through the sum of its individual parts.  

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He likens this to the culmination of the company over four years, together creating a vision and a philosophy of movement.  A true testament to the power of the company and the journey it has taken to become an internationally recognised dance group.

Mythology was powerful and consuming; accompanied by a Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together, an avant-garde composition for piano, jazz ensemble and spoken word, it was clever, expressive and deeply reflective.

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The Seek To Find The Happiness They Seem was totally different.

Whilst Mythology was an ensemble of manic yet controlled group work, this piece was a simple and moving duet between two exquisite dancers.

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An effortless portrayal of the inner world between couples and individuals, the dance told a classic story of dislocation and separation within a relationship.  With a single spotlight on the dancers, it begins reflecting an apparent closeness, with intimate movements and a breathtaking closeness of bodies.  Despite the beautiful accompaniment, it was as if the room was completely silent; eerie almost.  You felt you could have heard a single pin drop… as if had you made a noise, the movements would have stopped.

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It was as if you were peeking through a key-hole at this unraveling relationship, watching an initial intimacy turn to loneliness.  Both dancers were superb; their movements were smoke-like, floating across the stage and into your sub-conscious.  It was mesmerizing.

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Closing with my highlight of the evening, Water Stories was sure to be the crowd pleaser.  This piece focused on the magical waterscapes of Wales, creating a poetic and spine-tingling world of movement on stage.

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The costumes perfectly complemented the allusion of lakes, waterfalls, reservoirs… the gentle yet powerful fluidity of water.  This, alongside the dancers effortlessly flowing movements, made the piece incredibly believable.  Even for a non-contemporary mind, the subject matter was shouting out.

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Every dancer had the opportunity to shine.  Whereas I can normally focus on one performer and (secretly) pick my favourite, the choice was far too rich here.  Each individual was exceptional, taking dance to whole new levels.  The flexibility and strength of everyone on stage was jaw-dropping.  Throwing one another across the stage as if made of feathers, sinking in and out of the most stunning holds and stretches, whilst remaining in an ethereal state made this piece hypnotic to watch.

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During the dance projections of enchanting Welsh waterscapes were presented to the audience, allowing a literal representation of the very abstract movements.  It was a delightful touch, and a charming way to draw the topic, movements, music and costume in harmony with one another.

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I found myself wishing this piece would never end.  It was sublime, with some of the most exciting and natural lift work I have seen in a dance production.  I loved the attention it paid to every performer, and the variety of pace, power and emotion it reflected.

This was the first time I had seen NDCW.  After tonight, I will absolutely be following their journey and their performances, and cannot wait for their next visit to the city.

If you find yourself on their touring remit, I urge you to introduce yourself to their spell-binding work.  You will not be disappointed!

Was ever man so proud as is this Coriolanus?

Keen to see the top London shows but don’t have the means to get to the Capital? Here’s a great post about National Theatre Live…

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And there should be an immense sense of pride from all involved in the Donmar Warehouse’s production of Coriolanus, brought to cinemas and arts centres all over the world thanks to National Theatre live. What an excellent production.

One of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, Coriolanus is set in Rome where duty calls on the hero as a defence mechanism to protect the city. But the aftermath of what should be full of glory and gratitude, does not play out as planned, and the second act is full of anger, banishment and tragedy.

The ensemble work within the cast alongside the intelligent and effective staging provides an intense and gripping production; emphasised especially by the brilliance of Tom Hiddleston in the lead supported by an excellent cast. The Donmar Warehouse in London’s Covent Garden is showed off to it’s full potential through the brilliantly clever design and the presence of the…

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WISHLIST TITLES: TAKE TWO

After being on a bit of a reading rampage this weekend, I realised it made no sense to do two separate posts about the two books I finished in the past two days (so many twos!).  So after thinking of the ways I could roll the reviews into one, I actually started to question the way I present book reviews.

And alas, an idea struck me.  I always hesitate with book reviews anyway (so dubious to give too much away, whilst keeping the main elements of the plot evident), so have decided to start formatting them slightly differently.

I may decide a few weeks down the line that actually this sucks, but for now let’s give it a go.

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak

Rating: 5*

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Perfect for: The reader that is enchanted by the written word and loves a good cry

If you liked: The Boy in the Striped pyjamas and anything by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, this is the one for you

I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages; in fact, when I was a lot younger I did give it a go… I just couldn’t get in to it.  But picking it up now took me to another world, full of innocence, history and magical passion.

The story follows Liesel, a girl from Nazi Germany, and her experiences throughout the war.  With unexpected twists and surprising additions to the cast, the historical context of the tale draws you in from the word go.

Narrated by death, you would expect this to be a dark novel; you may think that is where we draw the similarities with Zafon.  But no, it is deeply touching and intensely moving.  The similarities come from the role of words and books for the characters, and their power to transform lives.  A huge plus for the avid book lovers out there.

Full of the most endearing and heart-rendering characters I have ever found in literature, The Book Thief is quite easily one of the most delightful books I have ever had the pleasure to read.  From start to finish, the words spun like gold off of the page.

Final thought: Read the book before you see the film!  I am incredibly nervous about whether the film will capture the essence of the story.  Only time will tell!

Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson

Rating: 3.5 *

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Perfect for: The thrill seeker

If you liked: Gone Girl then you will absolutely adore this.

Christine is a 47 year old woman.  Every day, she wakes up and has no idea where or who she is.  No, it’s not a case of wine-head (guffaw guffaw); Christine suffers from anterograde amnesia.

An interesting subject even without the twist.  This psychological thriller delves into the idea of your history being re-written, and who we can really trust.

Reminiscent of Gone Girl (in the way that I nearly screamed when the twist unveiled itself), it’s a real page turner.  Incredibly clever and intricate in its plot, I finished this in a day. It was that gripping, there was no way I could put it down.

The structure of the book is integral to the pace and mystery surrounding the story.  It is what makes it such a spine-tingling read.  For me, it actually topped Gone Girl; a stunning debut novel for SJ Watson.

Final thought: This, I believe, is going to make a corker of a film.  If they do it right, it’s going to be something spectacular.

PREVIEW: NDCWALES EXCITE THE CAPITAL..

This month the awe-inspiring National Dance Company Wales (NDCW) will be returning to Sherman Cymru with a triple-bill of dynamic dance and classic Welsh talent.

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The award-winning contemporary dance company are taking their ever intelligent and inspiring work on a tour of Wales and England, with a one-day stint at Sherman on 10 February.  This season’s programme features the work of world-class choreographers and promises to be a mesmerizing and intoxicating series of dance.

The intriguing triple bill includes:

Stephen Petronio; Water Stories

In an exclusive premiere of his latest work for NDCW, Stephen Petronio teams up with Grammy-winning composer Atticus Ross (who created the score for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as well as the original visual design work of Matthew Brandt.  A delightful combination of sound, movement and sight, Water Stories portrays the magical and abundant waterscapes of Wales.

 Lee Johnston; Purlieus and They Seek To Find the Happiness They Seem

Working with the talented lighting designer Joe Fletcher, Lee Johnston presents two beautiful pieces of work.  Purlieus explores the intricate relationship between movement, light and animation in a bid to fully immerse both audience and performer in an overwhelming experience.  They Seek To Find The Happiness They Seem focuses on choreography, lighting and costume to evoke visions of dislocation and separation in relationships.

 Stephen Shropshire; Mythology

Stephen Shropshire’s captivating Mythology promises to capture and astound the audience.  Accompanied by Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together, an avant-garde composition for piano, jazz ensemble and spoken word, this piece promises to attack the senses and absorb its audience.

Tickets are £15 – £22 with under 25s half price.  Book your tickets here.