strange_complex: (Vampira)
[personal profile] strange_complex
Yesterday I travelled all the way down to London Town to see a play - or, more precisely an immersive theatre experience - in the company of Andrew Hickey, [twitter.com profile] Extinction65mya and [twitter.com profile] karohemd. While my book and film reviews are both backed up to the tune of at least a year each, which is incredibly frustrating, no such self-imposed tedium applies here, so for once I can have the job of writing about something I have experienced fresh from the delights of the thing itself. Hooray!

So basically The Soulless Ones is the latest venture from the new(ish)ly revived Hammer company, and consists of a play about vampires which takes place across multiple rooms in a mid-Victorian music hall. Opening and closing scenes book-end the story, and are played out to the full audience in the main music-hall space, but for most of the evening different actors play out their own story-lines in an extensive series of parallel scenes, all happening simultaneously in different parts of the building, and moving around from one to the other. It is up to the audience to follow the actors according to personal preference, or simply wander around the building at will, meaning that each individual audience member will see and experience different things depending on where they went.

Given this expectation, of course, the story is deliberately constructed to ensure that no one scene (apart perhaps from the opening and closing ones) is utterly crucial to the production. So the experience is more about seeing the different characters unfold than about a plot in the traditional sense; and indeed about exploring the richly-dressed settings and soaking in the atmospheric sounds and smells. It's also important to understand the difference between immersive and interactive theatre in this context: this was the former, rather than the latter, meaning that the audience occupied the same spaces as the actors but were 'invisible' to them and instructed at the start to take it all in silently. No-one watching was going to find themselves a victim of the vampires, and nor were we to try to speak to them or join in on the story.

There is various documentation of the play around the web, of course. The official production page is here, and I also found useful reviews from Den of Geek, The Guardian and The Telegraph. I've used those, along with my own experience and what my friends reported having seen after we came out, to compile the following overview of the story, characters and settings as I experienced them. I'll also be sharing this with said friends, and would very much love them, and anyone else who has seen it, to comment with anything extra that I didn't catch (I know there were some characters I barely saw all evening), or correct anything I've misremembered or misunderstood (hey, there were cocktails...). Obviously, it will contain spoilers, so I have used cut-tags with a view to both that and length.

The opening scene )

The characters and scenarios which unfolded from there )

The various settings )

The closing scene )


What I actually thought of it all

In essence, I absolutely loved it. A huge amount of thought must have gone into constructing it all so that the different scenes fitted together effectively, with characters coming in and out of each other's storylines at the right times, even from completely different ends of the building, and all of the disparate parts adding up to a coherent whole no matter how the audience experienced it. The set-dressing was particularly wonderful. I wish I could have had the chance to walk around it all without the story unfolding at the same time, so that I could scrutinise every single detail at my leisure, but then again I certainly had more control over what I was looking at than is the case when watching a film or play, in that I could go into any room I chose, stand wherever I liked it in and look at whatever I liked while the action went on. I could sit on one divan while Mara was bewitching St Clair on another, or peer closely at the satyr-herm in the graveyard (which made me think a lot of The Marble Faun), which was very exciting.

Layering the story on top of all of that really did feel immersive, as though I were standing inside the world of a Hammer film. I'm sure regular readers will realise how amazing that was for me! The story really did feel Hammer-ish, too - suitably gothic in content and atmosphere, and with nice little nods to their back-catalogue such as Carmilla being the last of the Karnsteins. The characters themselves seemed well-defined, with just the right amount of back-story and conflict between them for the audience to take in across the two hours of the show, and the acting solid throughout: sometimes (necessarily) a bit projecty and theatrical, especially in the larger scenes, but impressively naturalistic and intimate when the smaller scenes allowed the scope for it as well. I think a lot of credit also belongs to the behind-the-scenes team handling the music, lighting etc. in each room, and indeed quietly staffing the corridors to make sure people did not get too lost or confused or wander into places they weren't supposed to go.

It looks like the production has been a success: it's certainly garnered lots of media coverage, the performance we attended looked to be sold out, and the official production page is currently bearing a banner proclaiming that the initial run has been extended for an extra week. The fact that it is presented not just as a play called The Soulless Ones, but as an individual production by 'Hammer House Of Horror Live' also rather strongly suggests that they are hoping they will be in a position to do more. Certainly, I will be keeping my eye out for further productions, and strongly urge any fans of Hammer, gothic horror or immersive theatre experiences to catch this one while you still can.

On Trigger Warnings

Oct. 22nd, 2017 12:52 pm
miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
I see the Grauniad have seen fit to publish yet another wilful misunderstanding of the purpose of trigger warnings today, this time from David Mitchell.

Trigger Warnings are there to give people extra information about the media they are consuming. It's like when the continuity announcer says before the showing of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that "this film contains strong language and scenes that some viewers might find upsetting". It's not censorship to allow people to make a free and informed choice about their media consumption.

The purpose of a trigger warning is to be courteous to people who have PTSD. It's not saying "do not read this". It's saying "if you read this, be mentally prepared to see something that might trigger PTSD flashbacks".

If you really think that allowing people to make an informed choice about something that could cause them a panic attack is a bad thing, then I think you are an inconsiderate, thoughtless arsehole. Sorry.
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
... However, as it is for publication in Liberator, you'll have to wait to read it :þ

Once Liberator has landed on doormats I'll put the review up on Goodreads and link to it here. But if you want a little spoiler, although I had some criticisms I genuinely quite enjoyed it, and will definitely buy his next (if he ever writes another).

Damp kitty weather

Oct. 21st, 2017 05:33 pm
primsong: (rain tree)
[personal profile] primsong
Looking out the window at my firs swooshing in the autumn-leaf-speckled wind, the bamboo bobbing along in agreement off behind them. Rain spatters on the windows and overhead I can hear the occasional thump-bumble-bumble of pinecones rolling down the slope of the roof.

Pi Cat literally is on a heavy rotation schedule from becoming lightly dampened on her all-weather pillow outside and being inside where there is always the potential for kitty treats if she's lucky. She peers at us through the sidelight on the front door (aka "the catwindow") and goggles in the bevel so it looks kind of crazy, signaling she'd like the door opened pretty much every time she catches anyone's eyes.

Time to get out "the cat towel" - an old towel that serves to mop wet paws and dry off a wet kitty when she comes in during the rainy months.

The Blood is the Life for 21-10-2017

Oct. 21st, 2017 11:00 am
miss_s_b: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
strange_complex: (Dracula Risen hearse smile)
[personal profile] strange_complex
I am very happy indeed a) that this book exists and b) that I managed to bag one of the original print run of a mere 600 copies for only £35 last year. It now goes for upward of £150 on eBay... The publishers' page is still up, though, and includes several page images which indicate what the book is like: basically a pictorial record of the seven Hammer Dracula films which have Christopher Lee in them (so not Brides or Legend), covering cast pictures, production documentation, behind-the-scenes pictures and publicity material. As such it is of course an absolute treasure-trove.

I'm fairly familiar with the publicity photos and posters, but even they are wonderful to have in high-quality printed form. Meanwhile, the really exciting content was the production documentation, including letters, set designs, pages from shooting scripts etc. From these I learnt several things which I had not known before, such as how the various sets for Dracula fitted together. I had long realised that Harker's bedroom and Dracula's crypt in this film must be essentially the same set re-dressed, because they share the same curved, pointed arches along one wall. However, I never realised before I saw the set drawings in this book that this is actally because they both make use of the area glimpsed between the very same curved, pointed arches in the dining room after they had been blocked off by book-cases to create the library set. (I.e. they are slotted into the shadowy space from which Valerie Gaunt's vampire woman first appears when Harker is in the dining room.) Nor did I know, as correspondence with the censor for Risen reveals, that the name of the Monsignor's niece in this film was originally to have been Gisela. The switch to Maria in the final film was of course a sound move, since it is more familiar to Anglophone audiences, as well as accentuating her virginal purity and connection with a Catholic clergyman. Meanwhile, Gisela did not go to waste: the name was repurposed for the unfortunate girl found in the bell at the beginning of the film, whose coffin Dracula goes on to steal once he has been reawakened from the icy stream.

vlcsnap-00015.png

Also very illuminating were Terence Fisher's hand-written notes on Jimmy Sangster's original script for Dracula 1958. They're written on plain pages, rather than on the script itself, so you can't see what Sangster actually wrote - only Fisher's reactions. But that is enough to make it very clear that Sangster's first draft must have included far more scenes from the original novel than ever made it into even the shooting script, never mind the film. Scenes or characters which Fisher is reacting to include for example Harker in an inn before he ever reaches the castle, the three vampire brides, the 'child in a sack' scene, Harker gashing Dracula in the head, the Demeter, Renfield and Quincy Morris. And what Fisher is saying about them includes things like "cut", "keep till later?", "new character unexplained and uninteresting", "make it a pre-title sequence?" etc. This is absolutely revelatory, because the standard line until now has always been about how the efficiency of the script reflects Sangster's instinct for what could be achieved on a small budget. But I now see that his original draft must actually have followed Stoker's novel fairly closely, while most of the credit for that ruthless efficiency really belongs to Fisher.

In between the images runs a concise and generally useful supporting text from Kinsey, but I was struck by the fact that he doesn't always seem to recognise the full value of the material he himself is presenting. So, in spite of having treated us to Fisher's observations on Sangster's first draft, he still reports the usual story about how Sangster "was given Bram Stoker's novel to adapt, which he achieved again within Hammer's modest budget" only a few pages later. I spotted a couple of mistakes, too. The double-page spread on Francis Matthews in Prince calls his character Alan (rather than Charles), while a similar spread about Patrick Troughton as Klove in Scars claims that he passed on the mantle of Doctor Who to Tom Baker (not directly!).

That is to quibble, though. On the whole this is an absolutely superb collection which huge amounts of work must have gone into, and which I am certain I will keep returning to over the years. Three thousand cheers that my favourite films in all the world have received this splendid tribute.

The Blood is the Life for 20-10-2017

Oct. 20th, 2017 12:00 pm
miss_s_b: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
miss_s_b: (feminist heroes: Sarah Jane Smith)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
... and while not everybody on these two playlists fits the definition of feminist or metal (especially not metal, TBH) I would say that these two spotify playlists are the place to start:

Emma Jay Olsen's Angry Feminist Playlist
and my very own Ladies Who Rock

But in terms of feminist metal bands, you can't go far wrong with:

Hysterica (esp Heels)
McQueen (esp Not For Sale)
Wicked Wisdom (esp You Can't Handle)
Halestorm (esp Rock Show - principally because I've never heard anything capture that feeling better)
In This Moment (esp Comanche - we've took all we can and we won't take any more)
and of course
Skunk Anansie (esp Rise Up)
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Not much to report back, really. It was the debrief meeting. It was mostly us examining the things you lot had reported back to us.

I fed back all the things that you folks asked me to feed back in this and this post; pretty much all of them were received loud and clear. Especially popular was [personal profile] hollymath's suggestion that we put "would you benefit from step-free access" rather than "are you a wheelchair user" on Speaker's cards; this is definitely going to be done, hopefully for spring, but if not then for next autumn.

I've been given more work to do, which is mostly my own fault for volunteering to sort shit out. Nick Da Costa and I have to redesign the end of conference survey, so if you have any specific ideas about that do let me know. Is it too long, too short, too fiddly, etc? What questions do you think should be asked, and which ones do you think should be retired? As usual, I can;t promise to act on every suggestion, but I promise to at least read and respond to every suggestion.

Specifically regarding the app, which I know a few of you talked about: there was a feeling that we've sunk a lot of time and effort into the bespoke app, and it gets better every time - which it definitely does - and the developer is very responsive to requests for changes, so Grenadine is not going to fly. The specific comments about line numbers and clock hiding and too much nesting are definitely going to be fed back to the developer, so if those aren't sorted out for Spring you can take me to one side, spank me, and call me Gerald.

I'm going to go get a well deserved drink now.

FCC Meeting 19th October 2017

Oct. 19th, 2017 06:19 pm
miss_s_b: (Politics: Goth Lib Dems)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
I'm attending this meeting right now, by dialing in to the phone conference machine in the middle of the meeting room.

It's interesting to note who has a clear speaking voice and who doesn't. No, I couldn't possibly name names :P

Will report back on actual happenings later...

ETA: Have just been christened The New Gareth Epps due to my scathing comments about real ale provision; I'm taking that as the compliment it was doubtless meant to be

The Blood is the Life for 19-10-2017

Oct. 19th, 2017 11:00 am
miss_s_b: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Yorkshire)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
So, my friend made a game. It's a classic point and click adventure in the style of things like Monkey Island. You click on things, you talk to characters, you solve puzzles, you win the game. Except... I thought Monkey Island was dead boring. This is not dead boring. I've even played the tutorial through three times, just to see what the different answers do, because it's so laugh out loud funny.

So yes, I'm slightly biased here because the game is made by someone I know, and is set in a fictionalised version of a town two train stops away, and my daughter voices one of the characters (look out for small child of indeterminate gender Little Bilge)... but this is the most fun I've had playing a game in ages. It doesn't try to screw you for more money, it doesn't make you do stupid repetitive daily tasks, it doesn't rely on ninja reaction times. It's happy to just make you laugh and warm your heart. In times like we are going through now, that's more valuable than diamonds.

Honestly, guys, you know I wouldn't bullshit you about anything involving money, I'm from Yorkshire.

Go buy Yorkshire Gubbins. You won't regret it.

The Blood is the Life for 18-10-2017

Oct. 18th, 2017 11:00 am
miss_s_b: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_s_b

Kindle Update Update

Oct. 17th, 2017 04:11 pm
miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Books)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
I totally can see the light when it's turned to "off", i.e. when the light meter is set to 0, but only really notice it a lot at night. You guys who claim you can't see it are either lying, or my eyes are freakish. Frankly, I think it's probably the latter, given how often one of my boys complains they can't see the dogs when we are walking them after dark and I can see them perfectly fine.

Happily, Andrew's explanation of how the light works was spot on, and it doesn't bother me like a glowy phone or computer or TV screen. To give you some idea of how Lorca-ish my eyes are, though, I have it set to 2 when I'm in bed, and 5 in daylight. It goes up to about 30, by the looks of it (haven't actually counted).

I'm really REALLY happy with the cover I got for it, which is incredibly thin and light, but still feels sturdy. It also has the autowake function, which is handy. I would genuinely rec it to anyone who has a papperwit of the requisite size (that's pretty much all of them less than 5 years old).

I think I am also going to quickly get used to having Goodreads integration, which my old Kindle was too ancient to support.

All in all, I think I made the right decision. Thanks to those of you who helped by voting and commenting and things.
miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
... it's because the boundary commission have released their finalised report into the boundary review, and hardly anybody is happy about it. The vast majority of politicians, you see, wanted the boundary review to advantage their party and shaft their rivals. The boundary commission, meanwhile, have been scrupulously fair, and tried quite hard to advantage nobody and shaft nobody.

Now, there is a school of thought that this doesn't matter a jot because it'll never get past parliament, requiring as it does far too many turkeys to vote for Christmas. I, for one, think that would be a shame, if only for my little home patch.

The proposals for Calderdale are basically what I would have done, were I the boundary commission. A lot of my fellow Calderdale politicians will doubtless be pissing and moaning about various bits1, although having read the report, the Tories will probably be the least annoyed of us. Here are the things I am pleased about:
  1. The two constituencies make geographical sense, for the first time in my lifetime.

  2. The town I live in can no longer be almost completely ignored by three of the five active political parties in the area.

  3. We have not created a complete dead zone for the Lib Dems in the constituency I live in, which is what would have happened had the commission accepted the Lib Dem proposals2.

  4. The constituency names, while not the ones I suggested, follow the same logic3
All in all, I'm quite happy. So here's hoping the turkeys do, for once, vote for Christmas.



1I know a bunch of my fellow Lib Dems are annoyed we haven't got a winnable seat out of it, by putting all the wards with Lib Dem councillors into the same constituency. To which I would say: did you see our vote share at the last general election? And also combining wards where we have councillors is not the only way to get a winnable seat. Look at the demographics...
2Calderdale Lib Dem membership is divided pretty much half and half, which it would not have been under the proposals the party submitted. While it will annoy EVERYBODY who wanted to be in the mythical winnable seat, gives us two live constituencies to fight for, instead of one with pretty much every Calderdale activist except my household in it.
3I wanted Calderdale East and Calderdale West and they've gone for Upper Calder and Lower Calder. I can live with that. It's miles better than their initial suggestion of calling my seat Halifax, when it only had half of Halifax and two towns that are not Halifax in.

The Blood is the Life for 17-10-2017

Oct. 17th, 2017 11:00 am
miss_s_b: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_s_b

Our survey says…

Oct. 16th, 2017 09:32 pm
miss_s_b: (Pratchett: Nanny Ogg)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Obviously for data protection reasons I can't go into much detail about the responses FCC got to the end of conference survey, but I do want to highlight one small area:

The impressive number of you who said Glee was the best fringe event, and the smaller but still impressive number who said we were the best thing about conference full stop, and the hardy few who said the best way to improve conference would be to have more Glee, and the one dear sweet soul who said Glee was their main reason for coming to conference?

I am genuinely touched and I love you all. Thank you. It makes it absolutely worth trying to chair a debate with a hangover and a sore throat first thing in the morning after. You guys rule.

♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
[personal profile] nanila
We took the children to their first ever live rugby match on Saturday after attending Rugby Tots. Keiki is still enamoured of it after six weeks. Humuhumu has realised that she would quite like to do rugby as well and so she is now signed up for the class immediately after his. This brings her class total to three: swimming (Fridays), rugby (Saturday) and gymnastics (Sunday), thus cementing our status as Parental Taxi Service for the next thirteen years or so.

Anyway, the weather was unseasonably mild and sunny and we were sat in the stands next to a lovely group of Brive fans. They tempted the children to cheer for their side with flags. We accepted gracefully and offered them Haribo, which they took, so I'm counting that a win for Anglo-French relationships. Especially since Worcester won, which was definitely not a given considering (a) their early performance, including some dire kicking and (b) the fact that they're pretty much always near the bottom of the Premier league table.

The children loved it, although keeping them engaged did involve bribery with Lego and chips (not at the same time). Afterward they opened the pitch to the children to run around, and then the players came out. We got the Worcester players to sign one of the Brive flags which they did without rancour. It was a superb day out and we were all pleasantly worn out at the end of it.

IMG_20171014_213740_494
[L to R: G. Milasinovich (prop), me, Humuhumu, Keiki, P. Humphreys (wing)]

+3 )
miss_s_b: (Mood: Brain Hurts)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
I just got around to filing all my paperwork from Bournemouth conference, and I realised that I'm not going to be able to fit any more into that lever arch file:



This means that paperwork from the three meetings I have remaining to attend this year will need to go in a new file. This displeases me; I wanted to be all neat and do a file per year.

* grumpy face *