Wednesday 26 September 2012

An Evening with Brent Weeks…

Waterstones on New Street hosted this Brent Weeks reading/signing in Birmingham last night and I was lucky enough to get a ticket. If you have opportunity to go to a reading during his current tour, go! I’m not going to give any spoilers but believe me, it is well worth it.

From the moment he walked in and delivered his witty opening line to a room full of eager Brummies: “you guys look shifty”, said with a cunning smile, possibly true, Brent Weeks had our undivided attention. A brief introduction about the extract he had chosen to read and why was enough to confirm to us that he is as eloquent and humorous in person as he is in prose.

The reading itself was captivating and something that fans will not be able to experience anywhere else. This was followed with a Q&A session which revealed such vast details about the author from his writing practice, current and future projects, and the dilemma over book titles for the rest of the Lightbringer series, to what he loves about his job and why, the book trailer for The Black Prism, his definition of humour and so much more.

The whole evening was presented by someone who is clearly naturally very entertaining, playful and daring – definitely a fan of shock and awe. Weeks obviously loves what he is doing and we are set to see many more great things from his as an author. He also revealed some incredibly exciting news about his next project, which I just can’t bring myself to spoil. Go to a signing, go to FantasyCon, or if you can’t make it then keep your ears open for chatter – great things are coming!

Weeks was sociable and humble, taking time to speak to everyone who had gone to see him and was happy to sign copies of books new and old, for long time fans and some visitors who had never read any of his books. There were no airs, no awkward moments, no limitations; the whole evening was fantastic. I cannot recommend it highly enough. A great setting, an awesome chalk picture welcome and a brilliant host.

Elloise Hopkins.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Astronomy Lyrics...

“Clock strikes twelve and moondrops burst out at you from their hiding place. Like acid and oil on a madman's face his reasons tend to fly away”

Recently I have developed a bit of an obsession about the lyrics in the song Astronomy. I have the Metallica version on an album and it seems every time my conscious mind wanders, my sub-conscious mind drives my trackpad over to that song and hits play.

Yes it is a good song, originally by Blue Oyster Cult, and to be fair I’ve listened to it a lot over the last week or so and I’m not bored of it yet. But I think the reason I keep listening is not solely because it is a good song but also because the lyrics are so captivating. What is it all about?

I find the doors mirroring each other enticing, the promise of finding out where winds come from fascinating and the mysterious Desdenova just draws me away to another world. Why would a madman have acid and oil on his face? Just what does that look like? And who are Carrie nurse and Susie dear? So much incredible scope for a story is lodged in these few lines.

If you know the song or look up the lyrics you will see what I mean. Every time I decide what one part of it means I lose the thread of the last decision I made on a different set of lines. To solve I probably could Google it and find a variety of explanations and speculations. But I refuse. I wish to continue my own internal discoveries while I’m still enjoying the song.

Elloise Hopkins.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

King John, The Royal Shakespeare Company…

I had an inkling that with this being set in The Swan Theatre it was not going to be a traditional rendition of King John and I was bang on there: Pippa Nixon opened the show as the gender-switched Bastard armed with a Ukulele and a sing-along version of Land of Hope and Glory against a backdrop of giant balloons confined in netting.

From that unexpected opening onwards the play struck a fantastic balance between gutturally portrayed tragedy and random moments of bizarre genius that ranged from a wedding dance including the routine from Dirty Dancing – “do the lift, do the lift,” they chanted, and lo they did it – to King John’s demise-by-poison which included a brilliantly choreographed and performed dance to Madcon’s Beggin’. That of course came some time after John’s karaoke style Say a Little Prayer for Me which blew me away.

So certainly not traditional in any Shakespearean sense but it was a great show and I found myself at alternate moments laughing out loud at the hilarious party scenes and then chilled to the bone by the serious elements of the play and the strength of the performances, particularly those of the young Arthur and his mother.

The play lasted nearly three hours but it seemed to fly by, which I think is an indication of just how good it was. After the interval things kicked off with a bang, literally, which I wasn’t quite expecting but enjoyed nonetheless, as giant confetti burst from the gallery to cover the stage/floor and the balloons were released from their confines as you can see in the photo. It meant the second half of the play was set against a moving stage – the roaming balloons were kicked around in temper and used for emphasis, the confetti added a little more disco and the whole thing had the sense of a psychedelic 3d trip, a cultural pill with Shakespeare’s words stamped on it and an express train to run you through them. 

Alex Waldmann as King John and Pippa Nixon unquestionably stole the show, delivering powerful and physical performances that were captivating throughout. Many a time I found myself leaning over the railing from the gallery to get a closer view, anxious not to miss anything. When the Dauphin appeared next to me to deliver a series of lines it cemented how perfect this performance space was for this off the wall interpretation of the play. 

I could go on but I really struggle to translate the feelings I’m left with into a prose blog. I would be better armed with a blank wall, a set of spray cans and a ghetto blaster.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 8 September 2012

Quirky Pubs...

A pub bookshop. I do seem to have a habit of stumbling across quirky pubs in Wales and the most recent find was no exception. Tucked away out of the main New Quay village streets on the Welsh coast is a small pub which serves pub grub, decent ales and hosts a weekly pub quiz.

Nothing out of the ordinary in that, but this pub is also a bookshop. Now close to where I live there is a pub that has a library in it so you can read books when you are there or borrow and swap them. But this pub was actually a bookshop – not something I have ever come across before.

This photo shows just a small section of the books that were on offer. There were literally shelves, alcoves, walls full of books and even better they were organised by genre as you would find in a standard bookshop. Even more to my delight was that there was an entire shelving unit dedicated to sci fi and even more to fantasy – such a pleasure to see, considering these are usually relegated to one meagre shelf or even on occasion to a scruffy box or pile on the floor.

There was something very satisfying about standing at the bar and paying for books along with ordering your drinks and food. It felt like one of those moments that will stick in your memory because they are not often likely to be repeated. I was quite taken with the whole experience and now I fear that every other pub I go into is going to feel a little bit lacking on the literature front.
Elloise Hopkins.