All posts by Polly

Review: Incident at Vichy – Finborough Theatre

Incident at Vichy three main characters: Laurence Boothman as Lebeau, Michael Skellern as Waiter and Brendan O'Rourke as Bayard.

Incident at Vichy, a one-act play by Arthur Miller, condenses and multiplies his usual sense of foreboding. It’s 1942 in Vichy France and an assorted group of suspected Jews and ‘asocials’ have been detained by Nazis in a makeshift prison. One hysterical young man has had his nose measured. The drip-drip-drip of rumours and panic start to build as the waiting game continues.

Miller’s play is a window into French deportations of Jews, which took place between 27th March 1942 and 17th August 1944. 77,000 deportees from France lost their lives at Nazi death camps or concentration camps, and 1/3 of these were official French citizens.

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Weird Theatre Facts from Around the World

Bristol Hippodrome unique venue with theatre facts including concealed water tank, sliding roof and fire damage

‘All the world’s a stage’, but let’s remember that not all stages are equal. If you’ve sat through a performance in a cramped or strangely pungent space, you’ll know it can be quite distracting (unless you’re at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in which case it can be a selling point, and the smell of damp is strangely comforting).

On World Theatre Day, it’s time to take a look at theatre facts: some of the strangest pieces of trivia from theatreland, including the playwright who became President, and the ghost who was used as a mascot.

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Review: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead – Old Vic Theatre

Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire as Rosencrantz & Guildenstern on stage at The Old Vic Theatre in period costume

Half a century after its debut, Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead returns to The Old Vic. Things may have changed around these parts in the last fifty years – off the top of my head, there’s a branch of Byron down the road, and the price of theatre tickets has increased dramatically – but this play, just like its venue, remains sharp.

It famously lifts two minor characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who we know end up dead, hence the non-spoiler-alert title, and tries to fathom how they met their fate. Was it just a case of really bad luck? Were they a bit dim? Was everyone out to get them from the start? Stoppard may not have all the answers, but he scrutinises their unfair side-lining by the Danish court, and gives them a chance to voice their side of the story. That is, if they even know what the story is. Or where they are. Or which one is which. In these ever more uncertain times, where we’re bombarded with cries of ‘fake news’, conspiracy theories and 24-hour coverage of distressing events, The Old Vic treats us to lines like ‘We are tied down to a language which makes up in obscurity what it lacks in style’. This could have easily described Donald Trump’s tweets, and not a key character’s philosophy on the language of acting.

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Review: Beginners Modern Calligraphy Workshop with Quill London

Quill Beginners Modern Calligraphy Workshop exercise worksheet and cake on table

Quill London is at the forefront of the local and national calligraphy scene, with a huge social following, a calligraphy workshop programme, pop-up projects and a physical store keeping up with customer demand.

I’ve chosen to test Quill’s entry-level course, the Beginners Modern Calligraphy Workshop (FYI, there’s no apostrophe). This is the perfect class for a novice because it’s only 2.5 hours long, so there’s no big commitment to make. The question is: can you actually pick up a new skill in less than half a day?

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Travel as a Feminist: International Women’s Day 2017

Powerful women standing back to back and wearing embroidered headbands and tribal face paint against blurred background

Happy International Women’s Day! Being a feminist and being a travel addict can sometimes cause problems, from the politics of travel safety advice to the never-ending stream of sexist travel campaigns (ahem, Air New Zealand flight safety video featuring bikini-clad girls…). However, when you dig deeper, you’ll find enlightened feminist views across the world.

Today, the International Labour Organisation published the ILO-Gallup report, revealing that 70% of women and 66% of men (from nearly 149,000 people surveyed) would like women to be paid for their work. These positive findings included support from many women in countries where paid employment is rare, such as the UAE.

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Ethical Travel Accessories for All Budgets

Stacked vintage suitcases with travel stickers, by Erwan Hesry

Ethical travel is a huge trend for 2017: in a nutshell, it means travelling in a way that consciously benefits the community or the environment as a whole (but not the thorny issue of voluntourism).

Eco hotels, local and seasonal food, independent local shops, charity initiatives, slow fashion, public transport and responsible dark tourism can all be factored into travelling more ethically.

I won’t claim to be 100% ethical when I travel, because that would be a lie. My suitcase usually contains as many pieces of fast fashion as it does charity shop finds, and I don’t turn down a meal that hasn’t been locally sourced, because life’s too short to be that fussy. Just give me a hot dog or a pastry and I’m a happy camper. That aside, I want to show that you can add some ethical accessories to your suitcase with very little effort, and on any budget.

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Mapledurham Water Mill: From Taboo Filming Location to Black Sabbath Album Cover

Mapledurham village, Oxfordshire, seen in Taboo, Black Sabbath album artwork and The Eagle Has Landed film stills

This is a post about a water mill in a cosy English village. Sounds pretty boring, right? Well, add a dose of Tom Hardy and a pinch of Ozzy Osbourne and things get more lively; Mapledurham water mill is perhaps the world’s most famous backdrop right now, thanks to TV, music and film.

The site, part of the Mapledurham Estate in Oxfordshire, was recently used as a filming location for the TV series Taboo, plus it appeared in the background of Black Sabbath’s self-titled album, released on Friday 13th February 1970. Now Black Sabbath have played their last ever gig, fans are craving a nostalgia fix.

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Three Powerful Books for Holocaust Memorial Day

Books featuring the Holocaust, including legal history and personal accounts

Today marks Holocaust Memorial Day and, for as long as I can remember, this leads to annual news stories not just about commemorative events, but about the ignorance that a lot of us have around the Holocaust and everyone affected by it.

For a prime example, see the idiotic posers at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, called out by the brilliant Yolocaust web project, which has now been taken down after mixed but generally positive feedback.

Sadly, anti-Semitism has never totally disappeared. There have been reports of Holocaust survivors being abused in the street and, in a cruel modern twist, Jewish Twitter users being targeted and mercilessly trolled because of their religion and heritage. Even Google search results have been manipulated by the far-right.

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In Praise of Unglamorous and Honest Travel Journalism

Sign factory hack joke written on road sign, photograph by Alessondra Springmann

Kathryn Flett’s searingly honest piece of travel journalism, By Waterloo Station I Sat Down and Wept, was published in the Observer Life magazine in 1997. I was eight at the time, preoccupied with buying Girl Talk magazine, so this wasn’t exactly on my radar. Thankfully she’s reproduced the whole feature on her blog, which you can read here. Quick, go and read it now, and you’ll see why it’s so legendary.

When Flett got the assignment, it was a straightforward one: review this romantic Belgian hotel package with your husband. However, life got in the way (the small matter of the marriage lying in tatters in the world’s most romantic city). This led to one of the most unflinching features ever to grace the pages of a Sunday magazine supplement. Flett basically wrote a stream of consciousness and, unusually, ‘I didn’t change a single word after I’d written it’. The feature was pure catharsis.

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2016 in the Travel Industry

Street art asking why, on wall against blue sky

2016 wasn’t exactly the happiest year on record – celebrities dropping like flies, not to mention Brexit and President Trump adding to our woes – but there were a lot of travel industry stories and trends making headlines as well. Here are some of the biggest developments from the last 12 months.

Europe was on high alert

Paris continued to mourn the victims of its terror attack, which happened at the close of 2015. Just days into 2016, the city marked a year since the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

Nice, Berlin and Istanbul sadly became newsworthy for all the wrong reasons in 2016 – Islamic State extremists struck again. These horrific acts have, of course, made people nervous about travelling, but they’ve also highlighted the scarily simple tactics terrorists employ.

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