Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Lost Boy Review

The Lost Boy is the latest production from Theatre in the Quarter. 2 years in development the play emerged from work done by musical director Matt Baker with local schools.  A play for today’s troubled times, The Lost Boy , acted by a cast of 4 professional actors and a community chorus tackles the topical issue of the worldwide refugee crisis, as well the response to the 2016 EU referendum. Tuesday’s press night began with a chance to meet the creative team as well as some real life refugee’s whose stories were the inspiration for the play. Jeff Morgan of City of Sanctuary was also in attendance, noting the historical attitudes towards refugees, pondering if they have changed over the centuries and also looking for the facts behind alarmist headlines about refugees.  Review by Rachel O Kelly :
Last night, I was invited by 'that' popular Chester based Twitter account, to attend a theatre production in the beautiful St Mary’s Centre in Chester.
Now, I have to be honest here, it’s not somewhere I had ever been to before and when I stumbled across the building I had to ask myself why? And made a promise to myself to make sure I visit again, and again.
Not only is the former church impressive from the outside, it also feels as if you’re stepping back in time as you walk through the pretty cobbled streets leading up to it. Once inside, the size of the church although impressive with its high ornate ceilings and gothic architecture, didn’t feel overwhelming or imposing. It still felt like a comfortable, inviting and intimate space, and I can see why it is so popular with theatre and musical productions both large and small.
The play was the latest production by Theatre in the Quarter 'The Lost Boy', written by Stephanie Dale, and directed by Kate McGregor. It is an emotional and thought provoking piece of theatre highlighting the current refugee crisis, and it kept me awake thinking about it long after I went to bed.
Telling the tale of Karem, a teenage boy who finds himself fleeing his home in war torn Syria. Leaving behind everything and everyone he knew and loved to be free, and to be safe. Karem is played by Andrei Costin whose performance was simply spell bounding, and whose voice simply blew the audience away.
Through Karem we hear stories of other children in similar circumstances, and what we hear and see on stage are their true first hand, personal accounts. These were their stories and their experiences, and Theatre in the Quarter worked closely alongside the charity City of Sanctuary to deliver them.
Producer Jo McLeish had said earlier in the evening at the Q&A that proceeded the show, that one of the aims of the play was to “show the human behind the headlines” and The Lost Boy most certainly delivers.
Karem is first seen hiding on the beach injured and starving, in a small, close knit fishing town that I feel I’ve been to on holiday many times before. He is discovered by grumpy teenager Maddie who is excellently portrayed by Jill McAusland, I honestly believed every eye roll, foot stamp and exasperated sigh! As well as every shoulder slump, fear of saying the wrong thing, nervous bundle of energy that was her Mum. And to every Mum of a teenage daughter I’m sure, achingly identifiable and played by Victoria Brazier.
We see that the town is in its decline. The cinema has closed down and the theatre. Jobs are scarce, money is tight and people are worried. They are desperately holding on to the past ‘the way things were’ with the rotary club meetings and the swift pint afterwards. The Christmas lights switch on and annual choir performance, and no one more so than Maddie’s Dad Frank, with a very strong performance by Jonathan Markwood.
I felt his desperation and his frustration not only his words, but he carried them with every step he took on stage. We could see felt like a failure, he had lost not one but two jobs and neither by any true fault of his own. He had a family he wanted to provide for, to look after and he simply couldn’t. When that happens it makes you afraid, it makes you feel worthless and that makes you angry and bitter, and Frank encompassed all those things.

Our Town. Pic by Mark Carline

I veered from feeling desperately sorry for him, to feeling uncomfortable and angry with his words. The blame for the town’s decline was placed firmly on the shoulders of refugees. “Coming over here taking our jobs” “Invading us” Frank cries in a march with his band of angry villagers holding placards, chanting and cheering alongside him. As if it’s almost safer, stronger to be angry about all of those things together, they don’t feel so alone in their fears.
But his fear, his unwillingness to listen, to learn and be open finally alienates himself from his wife and daughter and he finds himself alone, leaving his home and his family.  Like Karem, leaving behind those he loved and wanted to protect.
Despite Claire and Maddie being unsure at first, tentative, a little afraid. They learn about Karem, they listen to his story, they look beyond the dirty clothes, the desperation and see who he was before. I think sometimes we are all guilty of not doing this, myself included. When I open a newspaper and see the pictures of refugees in Calais, and Syria am I always really looking at the people? The individuals that find themselves there? And no, it’s not by choice, don’t listen to the crap you overhear on the Bus.

Do you? I know I don’t, not always.
That needs to change, and what the Lost Boy is trying to do is to try and change the opinion of a Frank and one of his rotary club mates. It wants to spark a conversation, a debate. It wants to challenge opinion, to open our eyes and as Jo said to show us the human behind the headline.
It achieves all those things and more in the most beautiful way. I honestly don’t think there was a dry eye in our row at the end of the show.
I have to say beyond the main cast, I could not take my eye off each and every other member of the Theatre in the Quarter team. From the choir, the young children running around, the protesters and the musicians. Each and every one played their part with such conviction, what a team.
With thanks to Matt Baker and Erin Elston, Theatre in the Quarter and reviewer Rachel O Kelly.
The Lost Boy runs until 7th May. Tickets  can be found here:

Monday, 10 April 2017

The 10 Stages of a Family Trip To Ikea

1. Preperation.

You tell yourselves you'll make a list beforehand, taking down each items product code so you can go straight through to the warehouse and not get distracted in the Marketplace.
You'll leave the kids at home, and go one evening after work. Hey it'll be nice to get out just the two of you! You laugh when your husband suggests all you'll come back with is "Candles and shit"

2. The Journey.

Childcare has fallen through so you make the first mortal mistake of going at the weekend.
You're desperately trying to convince yourselves that it "Won't be that bad" but you both know deep down it will be. It will be just as bad as you remember.

Halfway through the journey you both realise that one of you the husband  has forgotten the list of things you needed and all the product codes. You try to log in to the Ikea website on your phone but have no wifi Consider throwing phone out of window. You have the first row of 547 rows that married couples have during a trip to Ikea.

Your 10 year old looks at you with disgust when you suggest her playing in the Ikea soft play.

3. The Car Park.

Point out several perfectly good car parking spaces which your husband obviously ignores. He decides he's going to park "A bit closer to the entrance" You helpfully remind him that it's Ikea, on a Saturday and there won't be any but hey, he knows best.
He clearly doesn't because there ARE no spaces. The ones you pointed out? Have now all been taken by husbands who actually listen to their wives.
Drive around the car park 48 times. Want to punch husband in the face.

Ikea. Causing marital rows since 1987

4. The Doors of Doom

You've parked up and you walk through the sliding doors into self assembly hell.
It's rammed with couples who look like they want to kill each other because A} they have been made to come to Ikea on a Saturday or B} Because they couldn't find a parking space either.
Children are either strapped inside a trolley they're too big for OR running around dangerously close to baskets of glasses and kitchenware.

You tell yourselves it's going to be a bit like a shop raid. In and Out as fast as you can, you won't stop for meatballs or a hot dog.

5. The Cafe.

You decide food is needed for fuel. And that fuel is meatballs.
You try and find a table whilst your husband orders the food and attempts to keep an eye on your child who has disappeared into the abyss of the drinks machine.
He clearly isn't doing a good job of keeping an eye on her as you spot her mixing about three fizzy drinks together, so that'll be something to enjoy later when the buzz has worn off.

Finding a table is worse than finding a parking space and you tut loudly at people who have finished but are still sat chatting. Putting off the inevitable doom like you probably.....

6. The Showroom

You're pretty sure they design the showroom as some sort of maze to stop you leaving. Because after you've done one lap of it, you find yourselves at the beginning again and no where near the exit.
You see lots of inspirational, clever space saving and storage solutions and realise your house lacks all of them. You decide you need them all, they will make your house more organised and therefore your LIFE more organised.
Ikea has given you a bit of a spiritual awakening to be honest, your husband is just shaking his head at you a lot, muttering about how much all this is going to cost (hardly anything it's all so cheap you say) and shutting the draws that your child keeps opening to look inside.

7. The Marketplace.

It's designed basically to make you BUY stuff you don't need, but it's cheap so you find yourselves falling for it. You fall for all of it.
The first thing to go in your trolley are candles obviously, then picture frames and candle holders. Basically all the shit your husband said you were going to buy. By the time you've got to the glassware, that looks like it's been stacked to actively encourage small children to knock them on the floor, you've forgotten everything you went in there for.
You take one of those pencils and pieces of paper to note down all the clever storage solutions you are buying.

8. The Self Service Furniture Area.

You are trying to help navigate the trolley your child is insisting  they push, but actually can't because it's too heavy. At this point you are too drained to argue, the trolley is overflowing with crap that even you know you didn't need. Everything keeps falling out and you keep putting it back in, you want to punch yourself in the face and wish you'd ordered all this shit online.
You are trying to be helpful by shouting out the product codes and aisle numbers to your husband for the stuff you have no idea how your going to get home. Your husband then proceeds to not find any of them.
When he finally does, you've wandered off to the sale area and wonder if you need a sideboard with a massive scratch down the side?  When you spot the other half sweating and dragging flat pack furniture behind him looking a bit cross, you decide not to ask.

9. The Till

You argue over which till to use, then pick one that obviously is going to keep you there until closing. You also keep picking up random crap dotted around, as if you are appearing on Supermarket Sweep.
The tilling process in Ikea is more stressful than Aldi any day. You try to make sure your husband packs everything properly and doesn't smash all the glassware you didn't need into the trolley.

You ask your husband if you should get this delivered, he say's it will easily fit in the car. You think it won't. You quietly row about this under your breaths, with fake smiles on your face  until the cashier looks a bit uncomfortable.

This little trip to Ikea for a few essential bits and pieces has cost £323.95 and obviously you haven't got any of the 48 blue Ikea bags with you from home.

10, The Return Journey.

After you have navigated your way to the car, and your child has attempted to steer the trolley directly into oncoming traffic. You both look at the boot and then the trolley, and then you panic.
Your husband tries to cram everything in, using every available space.

Flat pack furniture is dangerously close to your child's head on the back seat and when you helpfully suggest home delivery again he mutters the F""" word a lot under his breath. You decide to pop to the loo and  just leave him to it.

When you return 30 minutes later as you get distracted by diam bars, he's gone.

Several sweary phonecalls later you find out that he's driven around to the exit to collect you.
You drive home  in silence, apart from your child whose fizzy drink buzz is still strong and bouncing off the car roof. Well,  if her head could reach the car roof that is. It is currently pinned to the window by a shelving unit.

You decide not to mention the fact you have now found the Ikea shopping list, and have come away without  at least 80 per cent of it.

Maybe another trip next week?