Title: Wolf

By: Kung Fu Jesus

Released: 25th August 2014

Label: Gargleblast Records

The lyrics from Kung Fu Jesus’ first single are still swimming through my head several hours after I first gave them a listen.

The second track on the single “Wander” particularily stuck with me. “Why am I not moving faster?” is a thought that must have gone through everyone’s brain at some point, and the words are sung with beautiful reluctance over a trippy-60s backing. Overall the effect is a memorable song with a meaningful side to back it up.

Clinging to childish stories, but also about adult love, “Wolf” is a track designed for impact. It has all the trappings of a new lazy-indie anthem.

I enjoyed these two tracks. I’m looking forward to more.



I hate to be self-promoting but… #4

I have started up another blog. This one is about my experience as an autodidact (which I have previously written about for The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/feb/28/could-you-be-an-autodidact )

“The idea is that I use this blog almost as a diary, combined with creative responses to what I am reading/studying, and the way the concepts in a variety of books are connected. I’m hoping it will be an informal though intelligent space for autodidactism to be explored (SO PLEASE COMMENT ON POSTS TO START DISCUSSIONS). I will be listing and writing about the books and courses I am working through, so feel free to use this site as a source of informal reviews.”

“My education was cut short at 17 due to long term illness; something that I was devestated by at the time. My academic grades had always been pretty good, and I thought I was going to go to university when I finished school. I tried to continue my traditional studies (AS and A-Levels) from the hospital I was in for two years, but I freaked out and was only able to do some of the exams.

Since getting out I have been determined to get my education back on track; though not in any kind of traditional way. My interests are vast and unruly, and I have always wanted to learn about a wide range of subjects. Due to continuing ill health, full time education still isn’t a plausaible option; so I have decided to kill two birds with one stone by educating myself.”

Please take a look! http://diaryofanautodidact.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/hello/

The White Trail


Title: The White Trail
By: Fflur Dafydd
Publisher: Seren
Released: 2011

Fflur Dafydd has a unique, almost lyrical, writing style. Her interpretation of the Welsh legend “How Culhwch Won Olwen” is frequently murky in plot, but the flashes between time and place eventually build up to a terrifying climax. Cloning, Parenthood, mental illness, and the traps of small town life are all covered.

The protagonist- Cilydd’s- situation is devestating and confusing right from the beginning; and the surreality only builds as the text continues, making Cilydd’s life more bizarre and difficult. The story quickly turns from family drama to isolation, and eventually subverted conspiracy. The story goes on to become complex, with unexpected occurances and character developments around every corner.

As a result “The White Trail” is a surprising book, that furthers the Mabinogion tale with plenty of original material. This is the third of Seren’s Mabinogion stories I have read and reviewed, and I have to say that so far it is my favourite.


By: Bruno Neiva

Publisher: Knives, Forks and Spoons Press

Released: 2014

Bruno Neiva rips, tears and glues cardboard together to form canvas and subject matter in one go. He then makes technological, yet vaguely primative markings onto the pieces. Accompanying typewritter letters are splats and crude shapes in paint. There are also mug rings and technical drawings scratched onto the collaged surfaces.

Some of the cardboard forms are obviously made from Amazon-style packages. This could be a metaphor for the creative process- taking things in, maybe the things in the packages, and then catapulting art back into the world.

Some of the pieces, such as “How to mend an averbal.3″ use indecipherable letters, collaged together. These are an interesting comment on the limit of words as a means of communication.

Neiva’s work shows that art can be made on any surface. It holds aesthetic retro qualities alongside abstract shapes and inferences

about a baffling world.Image





Jane Pickthall and her play ‘An Illuminating Yarn’



Could you tell me a bit about your play?

It’s about a woman who has lost her job, so she’s pretty fed up with all the government cuts. She lives in a small seaside town, but it’s a bit grim. What she really wants is change- she wants the council to do the town up a bit, put lights on the pier, but they refuse.

To channel her frustration and energy she knits. She knits this series of dolls that represent what Britishness means to her. She has an idea- to put these dolls up along the pier. She ends up getting quite a lot of press coverage for this- based on the story of the Saltburn Yarn Bomber, who was in the news around the time of the Olympics.

So it’s based on a true story?

Well it’s based on two true stories. At around the same time as the Saltburn Yarn Bomber, there was somebody arrested for leaving a suspicious package in the same area. I ended up thinking ‘What if the two stories were about the same person?’

Why should people come and see it?

It has modern themes and strong female characters. It’s about friendship, it’s about mental health, it’s about what you do when your life falls apart- how do you channel your energies? And about how you cope.

Is it the first play you’ve written?

Yes. I’ve been doing a creative writing class for about five years and we do little bits of stories. So when I began another course at Live Theatre, I decided that I wanted to develop one of these short pieces into something longer. It’s been a journey for me as a new writer.

Does your play relate to your life in any way?

I work for a local authority, so yes, there are a lot of redundancies around me.

What is more important for you- character or plot?

I’m quite plot driven. I like the puzzle of working out a plot; but then I do enjoy working on characters and they are always behind the plot.

Sharon Zucker and her play ‘The Joy of Herding Cats’


Tell me a bit about your play.

As it stands right now, it’s set as a Rosh Hashanah holiday dinner. The whole purpose of the holiday is to atone for your sins from the past year, and to forgive others for their sins against you. So during Rosh Hashanah people come together and slowly the sins all come out. They admit to what they have done, and they tend to commit a few more sins on the day!

So you’re covering a lot of big themes then?

There are also some smaller themes! There is a love triangle going on. And it’s about individuals bringing their sins with them, and coming together as a group.

However it is all taking place in front of a holocaust survivor, who knows what it means to lose everything and have to rebuild their life from scratch. I thought a lot about the term ‘defiant joy’ whilst I was writing. It’s from a book called ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Victor Frankl. Frankl wrote about why some people survived the holocaust whilst others didn’t. The reason he came up with was that you had to have the willpower to try and find moments of joy, even in such a grim setting. He called this ‘defiant joy’, and I almost named the play after it. It all comes down to life being filled with suffering; then at Rosh Hashanah the book of life and death is opened, and you have to decide why you want to live another year until the next holiday.

Where did you get the idea?

Holiday dinners bring out all sorts of family dynamics. There’s just so much to play with! At first I was just writing about the fun times I’ve had at family dinners; but then I really started to think about it and how that experience compares to Rosh Hashanah as a traditionally very religious holiday. At my own family dinners there was always a lot of humour and a lot of laughter, and it covered up for a sense of sadness. Yet as the play developed I tried to look at more intense themes, to get it to have a real dramatic edge.

Why should people come and see the play?

It’s about family, and how we go through struggles in our lives, and the question of ‘What is life?’ It sounds very dramatic doesn’t it! I think we’ll see a lot of complexity within human beings, and try to understand why people do what they do. Once we understand, maybe we will be able to forgive it a little more easily.

Is this the first play you’ve written?

No. I have also written a play about post-natal depression and the breakdown of a marriage due to mental health issues. At the same time the depressed woman is struggling because her own mother is dying. The play looks at how the woman copes with raising her child, despite the condition of her mental health.

Have you ever written in other styles?

I’m starting to write a few short stories, and I write a blog which is made up of letters to my daughters about life.

Here is a link to that blog: http://mommysnotes-yaffa.blogspot.co.uk/

Chris Wilkins and his play ‘Lock In’


Could you tell me a bit about your play?

The play takes place in a pub in Wallsend that has seen better days. A man turns up with a shotgun and declares that he is hiding from the police. It quickly turns into a siege situation with a group of characters trapped in the pub. Ultimately it is a question of who is going to make it out of the pub alive.

Where did you get the idea?

There was an actual pub siege in Wallsend, about twenty years ago. It was famous locally because the people trapped in the pub during the siege continued to get drunk. They could be seen through the windows playing darts and pool. When the police eventually took them in, they had to wait until they had sobered up in the cells to question them. So it is partly based on that, and partly made-up. It’s not set twenty years ago, it just sparked from that story.

Why should people come and see it?

It’s amusing and I think it’s something people can relate to- everyone in the North-East has been in some kind of dodgy boozer. They’ll know what the atmosphere is like and what sort of thing goes on. And of course you can have a drink while you’re watching it.

Is it the first play you’ve written?

No. I’ve written a short play with similar themes of claustrophobia, it was set in an air-raid shelter.

What is it about playwriting that really appeals to you?

I enjoy the process of going through rehearsals- being able to see the actors up close and watching them change little things and add things to what you’ve written. Its adding physicality to writing. Working with a director can also add to a play.

Does your play relate to your life in any way?

No, I’ve never been in a pub siege. But I have tried, sometimes successfully, to stay in a pub after hours.

Do you think character or plot is more important?

I think the two have to be intertwined because it has to be interesting people doing interesting things.