Published – Glos Echo

Here are some pieces I had published during my work experience at the Gloucestershire Echo back in October. Enjoy!

GlosEcho - Audrey HepburnGlosEcho - Out This WeekendGlosEcho - Spotted in CheltenhamGlosEcho - What's On

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Hollywood’s Dirty Secret

From Marilyn to Meryl, Hollywood has always idolised iconic actresses in film. The industry itself hands out awards and promotional adoration, but when it comes to their pay, Hollywood seems to love the ladies a little bit, sometimes even a lot, less. Not only are women misrepresented in both film and television, they are almost always paid a substantial amount less then their male co-stars.

The issue of wage inequality is by no means a new one, or one that is solely alive in Hollywood. The subject did however become a hop topic when Patricia Arquette delivered a rousing call for equal pay at the 2015 Academy Awards.

There have been small victories since then, Charlize Theron successfully negotiated a salary rise for her role in the Snow White and The Huntsman sequel, but that seems to be a very small stone in a very large pond.

The world’s highest-paid actress, Jennifer Lawrence, made $52 million in 2015—an impressive number until it is compared to the $80 million banked by Robert Downey Jr., the world’s top-paid actor.

Lawrence may have proven herself as a box office and critical success with The Hunger Games and films like Silver Linings Playbook, but Wikileaks revealed that the actress and her American Hustle co-star Amy Adams received a 7% cut of that film’s profits, 2 percent less than the film’s male leads, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner. While Lawrence may have had a smaller role than her male counterparts, back-end compensation is typically awarded based on star power and gravitas, which Lawrence possesses on par with Bale and Renner.

It is surprising to many that this is an issue in 2016, a year when a woman is running for President in America, yet there is still so much gender injustice in the workplace, whether that’s a film set or a factory floor. It is therefore evident that this is an issue we need to discuss, and bring to the forefront, this is an issue that had been plaguing women for centuries and it needs to be stopped. Hollywood or hairdresser, we all deserve equal pay.

Oliver! Theatre Review

I love writing reviews, especially for theatre as I absolutely love it! Here is a review I wrote for Oliver! at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre back in 2014.

The plush red velvet encloses me as I take my seat in the grand circle. The giggles of excited children and smiles of expectant adults echo through the archaic space, as ushers scramble to show the last few spectators to their seats. Then the moment we’ve all been waiting for…a hush falls upon the expectant crowd as the lights begin to dim and the curtain arises as our journey into ‘Oliver!’ begins.

The Victorian set sits magnificently in the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, as it itself was brought to life in 1894. The dim stairs and tables with dashings of orphans scattered around them instantly puts the mind back to the dark days that Dickens has immortalised in his novel ‘Oliver Twist’, which has now become one of the most beloved musicals of all time.  ‘Food, Glorious Food’ is the first song of many to be bellowed out of the cast of the South Staffs Operatic Society much too the glee of the expectant audience, as the upbeat and humorous song is performed immaculately by the young cast, and so sets us all at ease as to what to expect from the entire performance.

Ben Burton makes his debut as Oliver in the famous scene where he gingerly asks for more gruel (which is surprising given that it looks like lumpy PVA glue). The young actor shines in his role as his runs circles around workhouse head Mr Bumble on stage, who makes the sea of audience member’s shriek with laughter in his attempts to catch him. The darkness that Dickens originally wanted to bring to light in the original novel is shown through the selling of this young orphan to a funeral director, and not just any funeral director – an extra creepy Victorian style funeral director. This unease is exasperated by the eerie duet sang by the funeral director and his wife, ‘That’s Your Funeral’. Mike Yardley and Sheila Wood make an excellent performance as this creepy pair, and I am only saddened when their scene is over and Oliver is sacked from their establishment, seeking slightly less depressing outcomes in London.

Here is where the fun begins. The Artful Dodger is a scruffy, pick pocketing cockney who no doubt in modern times would be the proud owner of an ASBO or three. Bouncing into the scene with ‘Consider Yourself’, this character immediately gains a bond with both Oliver and the audience. This number takes full advantage of the new London set, including old grey buildings and dirty market stalls, as it brings all that to life with the whole stage ensemble dancing and singing the colour onto the audience’s minds. This colour however soon drips away when Dodger takes Oliver to everyone’s favourite pick-pocketing crime boss, dear old Fagin.

The room the 19th century version of the lost boys are sitting in is draped in hankies, yes you heard right – hankies. These it comes to everyone’s attention is what the little criminals pinch most out of undiscerning, rich gentlemen’s back pockets. The tricks of this questionable trade are shown to Oliver in the number, ‘You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two’. This colourful performance echoes the bright, bold colours of the gentlemen’s face cleansers (advertising genius right there), draped over washing lines covering the whole top half of the stage. This burst of colour is also exaggerated by the appearance of the female lead, Nancy played by Lucy Smith. Her raggedy hair and scarlet red dress only add to her bold and unforgiving stage presence, as she takes all eyes away from any other cast member. Despite being the wife of a violent, Victorian gangsta, Nancy shows that her spirits are high with the jolly numbers, ‘It’s a Fine Life’ and her duet with Oliver and Dodger, ‘I’d Do Anything’. We then slip into the interval with the aptly entitled ‘Be Back Soon’ performed by Fagin and his loyal gaggle of pick-pocketers.

You can almost hear the last few scoops of ice-cream being devoured and the polite chit-chat coming to a close as the curtain once again is hauled up and we await the fate of our now beloved characters. Oliver soon gets caught in a sticky position in his first pick pocketing attempt and is sent to court, which once again is extra creepy due to its status as Victorian. The audience however breathe a sigh of relief when the victim of this awful handkerchief related felony is merciful on poor Oliver, and instead of prison insists he comes and stays with him, as this would help him overcome his ways more than a (no doubt creepy Victorian) prison. This resolution however does not please the dark intimidating Husband of Nancy, Bill Sykes. Andy Thomas echoes this character marvellously with his husky, cockney voice and loyal supporting actor – Bullseye the English Bulldog. The audience can be in no doubt of Sykes’s status as all round mean civilian in his brilliantly performed number, ‘My Name’. Here he softly speak-sings how even the mention of his name is enough to get what he wants as each cast member exits the stage one by one, this is very effective and would no doubt make even the butchest audience member a little uneasy. Believing Oliver will blab the secrets of the underworld he has been exposed to, Sykes and a reluctant Fagin hatch a plan to stop him.

Nancy soon shows her sensitive side when she performs the minimally staged, ‘As Long As He Needs Me’. Lucy’s performance here glows as her single spotlight shines through the true innocence of Nancy which holds the audience’s heart.  The pace of the production is soon put back into full swing as ‘Who Will Buy’ is performed showcasing Oliver’s new home with his loyal handkerchief victim. This buzz of dancing and harmonising is short lived however as Sykes kidnaps Oliver and returns him to Fagin’s handkerchief scattered lodgings. After Fagin’s cheeky solo of ‘Reviewing the Situation’ is complete, Nancy’s good heart shines through again as she puts a plan in place to sneak Oliver back to the better life he was guaranteed with the gentleman he had been taken in by, who it is now revealed (through a painting of his daughter who looks just like Oliver) is his long lost Grandfather – who knew? This plan in true Dickens fashion however is rumbled by Sykes and (spoiler alert) ends in the brutal beating to death of Nancy, which was thankfully taken out behind a large wall and so we only had screams to deal with rather than fake blood and all things gross – few. To the audiences delight however, Sykes is then shot dead by police and Oliver is after all returned to his Grandfather – do I still have your attention? ‘Be Back Soon’ is then performed by the whole cast who receive such a long chain of clapping that my hands begin to get sore, but I don’t seem to notice as I enjoyed the performance so much.

This musical really was a joy to watch and despite it sounding corny (better than creepy) really is a firm, family favourite. Ben Burton shone as Oliver and described his experience to me as ‘everything I dreamed it would be’. The whole cast came together and blended to create a beautiful picture of harsh, yet innocent Victorian life and keep audience members, young and old completely gripped throughout. If you get a chance to see this show or indeed any future productions put on by the South Staffs Operatic Society, I strongly recommend that you pick your own pocket or two, and get yourself to the theatre!

Lesley Joseph to Star in Annie at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

It’s a hard knock life sometimes for all of us. With bills to pay and clever Instagram hashtags to formulate, life can sometimes get pretty stressful. Not as stressful however it seems as a young New Yorker living through The Great Depression in the early 20th century whilst, naturally, singing about it every step of the way.

Yes, you got it – Annie. This beloved family musical is setting its sights on the Grand Theatre this April, to delight audiences with such classics as: Tomorrow, I Don’t Need Anything But You and Easy Street. The classical story is so well loved that it has been refashioned into three separate films, proving what a timeless classic it really is.

Lesley Joseph, star of Birds of a Feather, is portraying the original matriarchal villain Miss Hannigan, who runs the orphanage where Annie spends her days. After millionaire Oliver Warbucks promises to help Annie find her parents, Miss Hannigan wages a wicked plan to stop her in her tracks. During this time there will be of course plenty of singing and dancing because, you know, what is any evil plan without singing and dancing?

With its award winning book and score, this timeless tale of the search for a place to call home is one that is not to be missed this Easter. No matter who you are, you can bet your bottom dollar that this show will leave you smiling, laughing and dancing through the aisles as you cheer on the pint-sized heroine every dance step of the way.

 

Showing: Monday 4th – Saturday 9th April

Tickets: £23.50 – £38.50

Box Office: 01902 429212

Webby the Web Developing Winger

A well-built, handsome Bristolian sits before me. His muscular arms and broad physique give little away to his chosen course – computing. I think we could all be forgiven for stereotyping an IT classroom to be full with mainly glasses wearing slightly svelte gentlemen rather than big, burly pirate sounding ones like the cheekily grinning Joseph Webb I have in front of me. But although computing is his chosen career, ‘Webby’ as he likes to be known has a true passion in his life – rugby.

“I’ve always loved the game” he beams, “it was the brutality of it that I loved, the discipline”. He began playing at the age of 12 when it was played in PE at his secondary school where his love for it lead him to join his local team, Chew Valley back in his home town of Stowey, Bristol. He has created a foundation of not only a great way of getting fit, but also a vast friendship network of his fellow team mates who look out for each other a great deal on the pitch…and it seems also in the pub! “Drinking is a massive part of it and not at all why I love it so much!” His half smile insists I’m sure of more than a bit of sarcasm. “We play a match then drink to celebrate or to drown our sorrows, either way it’s nice to have the social side to the game as well as to get to play it”.

What’s so interesting about a 21 year old boy playing rugby I hear you cry? Well, Joe computes during the week, but then goes on to play rugby every weekend…back at home. Despite studying at The University of Gloucestershire, he sacrifices his student life every Friday to Sunday and takes the 50 minute train back to normality and his beloved sport. This has been a routine of Joe’s since he started his course last year, “I never planned on going home so often but I just missed the team so much and so decided it was worth it”. To me he seems as though he has practised this speech before. It appears only natural that his peers would question this decision and so he has now fine-tuned his answer. “People have a lot to say about me missing out but I don’t feel that I do at all”, he laughs as though this would be a ridiculous remark. He doesn’t seem to be phased by the criticism at all, “I’m proud to have a club that wants me back every week, a lot of people would do anything for that”.

Being a student myself it occurs to me that my parents would not be impressed by me turning up on their doorstep three days out of every week. Joe’s family it seems have a different view, “It’s lovely to know that he has such a strong connection to his home” his Dad Steve exclaims to me, “I enjoy watching him play and it’s nice to still be able to do that despite him moving away”. In some people’s opinion only being somewhere four days out of every seven doesn’t really argue the fact that you live there, but it seems that Joe is now so used to it he barely notices, “I look forward to my weekends of rugby and my other days of going out and being a normal student, I get the best of both worlds!”.

Despite perhaps being an unconventional university student in regards to city hopping in the name of sport, Joe seems to really take it in his stride. His constant ear to ear smile shows this to anyone who would want to know, “I know it may seem a bit over the top to some, but to me rugby is my first passion and so without it I would resent university for taking that away”. The University team to him just wasn’t the same as what he had already built with his Chew Valley team mates, “I tried it for a week but knew straight away that I wanted to stay loyal to the team that had made me the player I am today”. His love of the sport shines through in every word that he says, “Rugby is what I love to do and makes me so happy, I’d never give it up for a second” and with that said through such a broad smile, I hope he never does.

Woman’s Hour – Review

 

Woman’s Hour is a radio magazine programme with a target audience of women over 50. In 2006, 2.6 million people tuned in to listen to the show, 40% of whom were men meaning that it does in fact appeal to a wider audience. This listenership means that the programme is structured with: politics, debates, interviews and discussions to appeal to their desired age bracket.

The show opened with Presenter, Jenni Murray announcing the shows menu straight away. This did not appear in the order that it was played out however, which may have confused people tuning in wanting to listen to one particular segment. Jenni Murray also sighed as she read this out, making her come across as disinterested which could have been off putting to a potential listener as it suggests the programme will also be uninteresting.

The first topic of the programme was “Caring for the Elderly”, and was introduced with statistics and figures making it very information dense and therefore hard to take in. The piece began with a reporter on location discussing problems with this topic with a group of ladies who had relatives in care homes. The sound during this report echoed and so came across as amateur. Despite the nice variety of voices breaking up the report, it ran for five minutes causing interest to lapse.

This report ended suddenly and the presenter straight away introduced two interviewees, Newsnight’s Political Editor and a Chief Executive of a charity helping people care for elderly relatives. This segment included: political policies on the issue, advice for listeners and case studies. This range made for a well-rounded piece, yet it would been more interesting if there was a wider range of opinion in a debate style, rather than a discussion where all parties involved seemed to agree. This in studio interview was ten minutes long which, again, caused disinterest in listeners.

The next segment was transitioned into quickly, despite having nothing to do with the first. This connotes the variety in the show, ‘it’s a mix that maddens some’. (The Guardian. 2013. The Woman’s Hour Mix). The piece was an archive interview from 1981 of Meryl Streep discussing the beginning of her career. This was made relevant by her Oscar nomination, as the awards were taking place the week the show was broadcast. This interview was informative yet the sound quality was noticeably very different to the studio. The open questions asked made for long answers which kept the pace steady, and therefore easy to listen to. Meryl Streep even remarked, “that’s a very good question” at one point, reassuring the audience that the interview was of a high quality. The interview topic of the start of her career meant that it wasn’t out dated and still relevant to a modern audience. The promise of hearing from Meryl Streep encourages listeners to tune in or continue to listen, as she is massively famous and so pulls in a wider audience.

The only mention of other media platforms was done so by the presenter as this piece ended, suggesting that listeners can access more archive pieces by visiting the website. This also marked the half-way point of the programme, and so there was an update on what was still to come in the remaining segments of the show.

The next item of the programme was an in-studio interview with an ex-Head teacher discussing the pros and cons of the profession. This piece was kept very personal, engaging interest from the listener as it was hearing someone’s experiences directly from them, “every teacher I know…’.  The presenter kept the piece relevant to the target audience of women and ongoing topic of feminism by asking, ‘are more women suffering than men?’ Frequent listeners would have been interested by this, as the show is based around women in society and possible challenges they face in the modern world.

The final segment of the programme was an in-studio interview with a 15-year-old author. After the presenter introduced this, there was a reading from the book done by the author herself. This was a nice initial use of the author’s voice, as it showed her emotion as she read, as well as a good indication into the style of the book that was being discussed. The initial reading also made it feel more personal to a listener and was good use of radio being ‘a means of talking directly to the individual’ (McLeish, 2005, Radio Production, 5th ed, Burlington: Focal Press, 4). This topic was lighter than the previous ones and so was well placed as to leave the listeners positively, encouraging them to tune in again. There was no goodbye to round off the programme, only a short drama clip making the sign off feel slightly sudden.

The show had a good mix of topics yet was extremely interview heavy. The first in-studio interview would have held a lot more interest if done so as a debate, or had included an audience phone in. This would have created more involvement of the listener as they would have felt they had a voice and a platform to express it on with in the show. The sound quality of the report on elderly care and the archive interview was noticeably not of a good quality which is off putting to listeners, as it distracts from the content of the segments.

To improve the show there should be more audience involvement potentially through social media, as many of their target audience of over 50s are now literate online and so this would appeal to them. The first piece should also have been shorter to make for a better programme, as much of what was discussed was the repeated causing the listener to lose interest. The pace of the show was good despite the transitions from different items sometimes seeming to be rushed, the overall quality of Woman’s Hour was high as knowledgeable guests and an articulate presenter ensured a well-executed programme.

(Broadcast – .18/02/15.)

Lifting the Lid…and Letting out the Worms

‘A mock-gothic palace that is falling apart at the seams’ is one way it has been described. A ‘Victorian’s gentlemen’s club’ is another. You would therefore be prone to thinking that these voices are talking of a sordid, old brute of a building out of sync with the modern world we live in today, and you’d be right – The House of Commons.

‘Inside the Commons’ is a BBC series that gives us mere mortals a glimpse into the vast maze where our issues are debated, and decisions are made that will impact our day-to-day lives. The first episode entitled, ‘Lifting the Lid’ does just that – if the lid they’re referring to is one covering up a time portal to the days when upper-class, middle aged men in wigs made decisions on behalf of the country.

Sir Robert Rogers, Clark of the Commons is compared to ‘Dumbledore’ in his political castle, and a protector of certain traditions. He is seen sniffing snuff, which was recently supplied free to members and describes the experience as ‘invigorating’ making you question if entering the Houses of Commons is indeed like entering into the Victorian era.

Not all who spend their time among the historical walls agree with this archaic view taken upon by certain members. Sarah Champion MP, represents Rotherham fiercely and is even seen setting the first steps to change child grooming laws in this first episode. She describes question time as ‘embarrassing, juvenile screaming’ and remarks how she was once told she had ‘unparliamentarily hair’ in an environment she compared to that of a school playground.

There are 502 male MPs compared to 148 female, and only 427 seats for them to speak in. Tradition is something our nation generally upholds, with the love for out monarch and pride in our history felt by many Britons. This revealing documentary does however beg the question of is it all too much? Are our tight grips on tradition in this political sense holding us back? MPs represent us and therefore we need action, not ceremony to stand on. We now need our Members of Parliament to push forward our modern needs into this archaic system and even older, out of date building.