NT Live: ‘The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time’

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8/10

Marianne Elliott’s adapted stage play from Mark Haddon’s world acclaimed novel of the same name; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time tells the story of an autistic fifteen year old boy named Christopher Boone who attempts to solve the mystery of who killed his neighbour’s dog Wellington. Deciding to document his finding by writing a book about it Christopher unknowingly upturns his entire world which sparks his very own journey to the most disorienting place in the UK; London. Although the narrative focuses around Christopher and his autism, the play does not turn his disability into a commodity but creates an awareness of it by putting the audience through what he experiences. Rather than completely focussing on autism, the play’s main themes consist of the relationships surrounding Christopher and how they breakdown and rebuild.

The set is cleverly built as a box that represents Christopher’s mind processes, with words and numbers appearing on areas of the stage at several moments during the narrative. Additionally, light and sound is used to a great effect as a means to portray how autistic people can become confused and disoriented throughout. This is presented even more so through a form of physical theatre whereby the actors all carry, push and spin Christopher around during times of confusion and panic accompanying the routine with flashing lights and general loud noises from his surroundings such as trains halting and snippets of advertising while at the train station. However, sound was also used to a great effect when there was none. The silence made for more emotional scenes which also created a disturbingly awkward atmosphere after the volume of noise recently heard. Once again, these scenes allow the audience to connect to Christopher as well as emphasise the impact these scenes have on him.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time only consists of 10 cast members on stage that play a variety of characters, however the audience forgets this as the entire cast act their numerous parts realistically. Moreover, the audience themselves are thrown into the mystery of who killed Wellington and are deeply immersed into the mind of Christopher Boone as he travels through busy, loud places such as the London Underground to be able to notice the same actor play a different part. Luke Treadaway especially must be applauded for his excellent portrayal of Christopher as he does not simply present himself as the stereotype of an autistic boy but creates his own individual form of autism to a great quality.

Despite dealing with a rather heavy topic, the play also contains some light heartedness through its self-awareness as a play, with parts where Christopher claims something different happened than what the audience just witnessed on stage. However, there are a few comments that Christopher makes which leave the audience considering if it is alright to laugh since his autism is the crux of the humour. This is what makes The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time so significant though as the play relies on these social uncertainties to create a thrilling yet unconventional and informative stage play that leads the viewer into seeing the world from the eyes of an autistic fifteen year old.

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Harvey Milk Day

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With the elections for European parliament taking place, it seems that a number of people may not be aware that today is also Harvey Milk day in California. The day commemorates the Gay Rights activist Harvey Milk who persevered in being elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 after three unsuccessful attempts and has been penned as the first openly gay man elected to public office in a major city. Although today is not a state holiday in California the day is celebrated by schools as well as the gay community.

After being assassinated by a Dan White, disgruntled city supervisor, in November 1978, Milk is considered both an influential figure as well as a martyr for the gay rights movement in America, despite his limited time in office, having served only eleven months in political power. Since his sexual orientation was prone to hate crimes that were inadequately responded to by the police, Milk put a lot of importance on the sense of community especially in his neighbourhood; the Castro District. By opposing the closure of an elementary school in the area, Milk showed how a neighbourhood mainly derived of homosexuals had the potential to welcome everyone, as the closure would mostly have affected the heterosexual community in the area. In doing so, Milk helped in proving that all sexualities could exist in harmony as well as show that a gay man was just as willing and capable to campaign for a better society.

Nearing the end of his short political career, Milk made one of his most important messages which still echoes to this day. He emphasised the importance of making gay people more visible. He suggested that by doing so, years of discrimination and violence towards homosexuality could finally end. Milk hoped that ‘every professional gay will say ‘enough’, come forward and tell everybody…’ to prove that homosexuality surrounds all lifestyles and should be treated as something which does not affect one’s ability to work or maintain a sense of professionalism. Most importantly, Milk wanted to express how gay people are in essence no different to straight people and shouldn’t affect community spirit.

By attempting to change how gay people were perceived by society that made leading a homosexual lifestyle dangerous, and sponsoring a civil rights bill that outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation, Milk is a true hero that gave his life for an improved society, not only for the gay community but for the entire city. His courage in standing up for his cause and persistence in being voted into power is admirable despite the number of death threats he received and the loss of his boyfriends; Scott Smith and Jack Lira. These losses can be put down to Milk’s perseverance to succeed in politics. Milk never stopped believing in his dream of unity and neither shall we; let his actions never be forgotten by commemorating him on this day, every year, not just in California but worldwide.

For more information on Harvey Milk & Harvey Milk Day please visit the Harvey Milk Foundation

Why Watch… ‘Bones’

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Similar to the layout of CSI, the TV series Bones (created by Hart Hanson) follows the socially inept Forensic Anthropologist Temperance ‘Bones’ Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and Special Agent Seeley Booth’s (David Boreanaz) relationship as they solve crimes ‘in the field’ under Federal jurisdiction; Brennan uses her brain and science while Booth uses his heart and gut. It is based loosely on Forensic Anthropologist, writer and Bones producer Kathy Reichs’ series of novels. Brennan is a headstrong female who uses her supreme intelligence and her work colleagues or, as Booth names them, ‘Squints’ at the Jeffersonian Institute Forensic Sciences Department and the Medico legal lab to aid the cocky Booth in arresting the guilty. However it is not just the crime that draws the viewer in but the sexual tension between the 2 protagonists as well. That is not to say that the murder is not interesting but that the show has a number of layers than just any crime series. The realistic cadavers come in all shapes and forms; one of the most gruesome being a man who has been encased in bleach for a weekend. Yet, the programme is one that attention must be required since the case moves along fairly quick and the use of scientific names for the anatomy of the skeleton makes it difficult to understand at all times. Due to the science and hard to pronounce body parts, the actors must be praised for remembering how to pronounce certain words also it should be acknowledged that this show is not for everyone. However anyone can understand the drama within the show if not the crime.

Every episode has fitting songs which compliment the series well and aids in highlighting how the episodes deal with different issues; both social and personal. The pilot episode for example, deals with the political issues surrounding American government; Booth hesitates to question the senator because of the position of power he holds, even claiming that if he wasn’t the senator he would be searching his house for the murder weapon straight away. Clearly, the most significant impact Bones attempts to portray about our society is the amount of crime being committed in the USA. Hart Hanson is evidently attempting to mix crime with drama and in this case it bodes well for him; the series has currently finished its 9th season and is still as popular as ever.

If you want a crime series which delves into personal relationships first and solves crimes second then Bones is a must see series for you additionally since it has something for everyone it is a perfect balance between drama and crime which will leave no one unhappy.

Movie review: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’

8/10

After the events of Avengers Assemble, Captain America (Chris Evans) has returned to the big screen with a new threat to fight. But this time, it appears to be much closer to home than alien invaders: the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division (S.H.I.E.L.D) appears to be under threat from an organization from Captain America’s past.

After Head of S.H.I.E.L.D Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is violently attacked, and Captain America (AKA Steve Rogers) is brought in as the last person Nick saw. As a result the hero becomes a wanted fugitive for holding valuable information on the attack on Fury’s life, thereby asking the question: who can you trust when you are dealing with a secret organization?

The Winter Soldier does not simply follow the patriotic superhero, but also centres around Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and newly introduced superhero Falcon (Anthony Mackie). Similar to most Marvel films, the movie focuses heavily on how the characters associate with one another. This is seen through how Captain America must learn to trust Black Widow, who has her own questionable morality and ‘secret agent’ status to follow in order to discover who is behind the infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D.

So, where does the Winter Soldier come into play in this story? The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is an elusive Soviet Agent with a metal arm, who is thought by most to be a ghost story due to his ability to remain off the radar and keep his identity hidden altogether. However, this threat is very much alive and extremely dangerous, having already crossed paths with Black Widow and outmatching her once before. With his super strength, skilled fighting skills and expertise with any weapon, the Winter Soldier is just as powerful as Steve Rogers and has been ordered to kill both him and his allies.

It must be acknowledged that although parts contained oversimplified explanations in order to keep the most idle audience following the plot. Hayley Atwell’s portrayal of Captain America’s elderly love interest Agent Carter was excellent; without explicitly stating so, it was evident that she suffered from some form of short term memory loss, which was both moving and treated with respect.

Moreover, the film balances action, emotion and humour fairly well without ruining the overall espionage theme that is similar to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In this sense, Captain America: The Winter Soldier differs from the other Marvel films that have recently been released, as it attempts to take more of a realistic approach to the story.

Although this film may not fit into Marvel’s original paradigm, this movie is worth seeing if you are interested in unfolding ‘Phase 2’ of Marvel’s cinematic universe, since much happens that will be of importance in the future. Additionally, this film allows those unfamiliar with/uninterested in the superhero genre to find something of interest through its spy-thriller register.

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Why Watch…‘Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’

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With the completion of Marvel’s ‘first phase’ comes the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division’s (S.H.I.E.L.D.) very own ‘spy-fi’ series that exposes Marvel’s ideology of how superheroes would actually be viewed in our ‘normal’ lives.

Following the events of Avengers Assemble, the much loved Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) from several of Marvel’s films returns with a new ensemble of agents, consisting of the hot-headed yet loyal Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) and Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), the cold veteran agent with a haunting past. With the help of bumbling S.H.I.E.L.D. scientists Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and the rebellious ‘civilian’ hacker Skye (Chloe Bennet), the team are tasked in tackling alien phenomena and organizations globally.

The series largely focuses on the criminal organization ‘The Centipede Group’, who are researching into creating their own super-powered soldiers (inspired by Captain America) and its multiple operators, such as the Clairvoyant and the ‘Girl In The Flower Dress’.

It must be mentioned that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. does not require watching all the Marvel films created recently, however there are several connections that make the narrative easier to follow if one is already aware of what has happened. One such example is guest appearances such as Samuel L. Jackson (as Nick Fury) and Cobie Smulders (as Maria Hill).

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If you want to delve deeper into Marvel’s cinematic universe, or desire an action-packed spy drama with a difference, then Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is perfect. Moreover, it would be valid to posit that future releases from Marvel will most likely reference back to the series, thereby giving motivation to any possible future viewers of Marvel films to watch them now.

Movie review: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2′

6/10

The wise-cracking webhead returns in the next instalment of the latest adaptation of the Marvel comic classic, with Andrew Garfield continuing his role as the young, fun-loving superhero. This time round, director Marc Webb, seems to have taken a different approach to the web-slinger and has focused heavily on his alter-ego Peter Parker’s social life, most importantly his on again/off again relationship with Gwen Stacy (in spite of a promise he made to her late father to keep her safely distant from his vigilante deeds).

Unlike its prequel, which centred around Spider-Man’s origin story and Dr Curt Connors/The Lizard,The Amazing Spider-Man 2 focuses mostly on the origin of the super-charged Electro. Jamie Foxx’s electrifying performance as Electro (AKA Maxwell Dillon) brought to life a clever depiction of the super villain with an obsessive disposition that had yet to be seen in the Spider-Man canon.

Despite this, the film suffers from the same curse that struck Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 as it recklessly forces the Green Goblin, a complex criminal genius worthy of his own movie, in towards the final fight scene. In doing so, there was no time to give one of Spider-Man’s favourite antagonists the screen time they deserved. Additionally, Rhino is unworthy of being mentioned as one of the key villains, disappointingly used as a simple cameo despite the theatrical trailers portraying his appearance as one of the major fight scenes.

As if to rub additional salt into the wound, the film’s post-credit scene, as is expected from all Marvel films, seemed less to do with adding to an overall Marvel story in a clever teaser-like-manner. It had blatantly inserted a trailer for X-Men: Days Of Future Past instead. This left one feeling cheated having already watched a vast portion of the overall credits, after a series of disappointments, for a simple theatrical trailer that added very little excitement for the upcoming film.

For the fans, the movie seemed to fall short of expectation, leaving them wanting more, especially with the action one expected. However, for those who want to see a film that will entertain for a few hours and who don’t officially follow the Spider-Man canon, then The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does its job. It must be said that although the film seemed unfulfilling, it was simply because the trailers promised more than it actually gave which became more evident as the film continued.

It is suggested that if you go to see the film, then you should forget what the trailer asserts and expect a decent, well-acted and entertaining film which attempts to move away from the typical superhero blockbuster film, replacing the emphasis of action for how being Spider-Man affects Peter Parker’s relationships with others, both socially and romantically.

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Tonight Matthew, I’m gonna be…’ – The lack of contemporary Role Models in a celebrity-crazed Culture

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What has happened to us when we find ourselves ogling celebrities and ignoring those that actually make a huge difference in the world? Where are the people that value the importance of individuals like Harvey Milk and Tony Benn rather than Kim Kardashian and Kanye West? Celebrity culture seems to have replaced any ambitions society may have once had and although the celeb life may be intriguing, putting them on a pedestal does not help progress our society but arguably regresses it instead.

Tabloid newspapers have concerned themselves so much with the Katie Prices of the world for so long that they have lost sight of the politicians, scientists, writers and so many more which have all contributed in developing the culture we live in now. Where would we be without the fairly unknown Willem Kolff who created the first artificial kidney dialysis machine thereby saving so many lives? As it has always been with humanity, we have forgotten to respect and look up to those that have given things we take for granted today; women’s rights, penicillin and the light bulb just to name a few. The examples I have given are evident proof of how the media are so preoccupied with the easily disposable star that it has become nearly impossible to name a contemporary celebrity worthy of aspiring to. Malala Yousafzai, the girl who stood up to the Taliban or even Dan Savage and Terry Miller who independently created the ‘It Gets Better Project’ into a worldwide movement are the sort of people we should be aspiring to and praising rather than the random celebrity who occasionally supports a humanitarian cause.

Celebrity used to be reserved for those with a skill that we, the adoring audience, saw as worthy to look up to but somewhere between two world wars and the creation of the internet we lost the true meaning of what it means to be a celebrity. Most celebrities today can be seen as leeches, suckling off of the working man, becoming rich for very little reason other than because we allow it. Perhaps it is time we brush the sparkles from our eyes and take a hard look at the kind of people we let reach fame.  Reading stories about a 19 year old Canadian that speeds at 136mph in a Lamborghini and a 27 year old actor who dons a paper bag on his head claiming he is ‘not famous anymore’ is getting tiresome and, with an entire business based around the celebrity industry such as the paparazzi, it is sadly becoming too frequent in the news. Are these the kind of people that we want our future children to aspire to be like? Where have all the true inspirational role models gone?