Ian Reuben’s Weblog

Review of Missfit Monday’s at The Troy Bar

Posted in Arts, Life, News, Reviews, Theatre by Ian Reuben on March 27, 2009

In Hoxton St in Hackney, The Troy Bar has been the venue for a series of theatre, story telling and film since February 2009, under the moniker Missfit Mondays.

This is a joint venture by Missfit Productions and Touchwaves. The Troy Bar is hosting Missfit Mondays every Monday until the 25th May 2009. The events are a platform for new writers, directors and performers to showcase their talents in theatre, poetry, story telling and film.

I saw the events staged on the 23rd of March.

The first act of the evening was an adapted excerpt from Arabian Nights with the story telling performed by Leon Conrad with Sam Fathi providing the appropriate incidental music on the Tambur and Daf – ethnic instruments of Middle-Eastern origin.

This was an interesting piece with Leon Conrad sat centre stage, performing the storytelling with much passion – similar in style to how the stories would likely have been told around a campfire at night in the desert.

It was well executed and staged and Leon Conrad was very capable of holding the audience fully engaged with his delivery, different and fun to listen to.

Following this was a performance by Jonathan Brown – this was simply outstanding! From the outset this piece was compelling. Jonathan is a consummate actor and held the audience single-handedly in awe with his amazing multi-characterisations.

There is just him on stage with minimal props, a chair with his shirt, tie and jacket on it which he gradually dresses in as he delivers a powerful performance.

His act was the first few scenes of one of his own plays called Free Beer. It is the story behind the inner workings of the mind of Bernie, a deeply “working-class” publican, and just exactly how dysfunctional this character’s personality and psyche are.

Bernie speaks to us in an (impeccably acted), grossly “uneducated”, completely convincing, ‘Jack-the-lad’ London accent. Without going into the fine detail of Jonathan’s writing, the story is both extremely amusing and profoundly sad.

In Free Beer Jonathan dissects the real immorality of the alcohol industry and the manner in which it is driven by the ‘profit motive’ of the big brewery businesses.

He explores many aspects surrounding the pub trade through the character Bernie, and also peoples attitude towards alcohol addiction, with every nuance of this issue examined with finesse and intelligence.

The character is truly despicable in his ignorance and vulgarity – even down to his dispassionate disregard for his obviously ill or dying wife Margaret and his young emotionally deprived son Teddy, who leaves a really painful impression.

I can not praise this performance enough. From the very evident skill of Jonathan as an actor to the profundity and humour of his writing.

I was not surprised to read he was a 2007 nominee for the Brighton Fringe, rightly so. This work was extraordinary and compelling and his other work will undoubtedly be so.

To find out more about Jonathan Brown visit http://www.thefathermonologues.com. A huge talent. Highly recommended.

Next up was Wrapped Up, an excellent piece of writing by Ella Simpson. The story of the break down of a lesbian relationship and the inevitable dissection that follows a ‘love-in-crisis’ that culminates in a very unconventional suicide.

Performed by Jules Ingham (Judy), Rikke Thomsen (Spanner) and Annabel Pemberton (JJ) and Directed by Erica Miller.

Again, minimal props were used on stage – a chair, bubble-wrap and a desk.

JJ, the now estranged, progressively blind ex-partner of Judy was excellent. Stuck in the Antarctic, on a charity expedition and in a situation she is clearly unprepared for, was funny and engaging. The real sorrow becomes apparent as you realise JJ has gone there to commit suicide over the rejection from her former partner.

Judy, the glamorous, self-obsessed, neurotic, prima-donna “actress” and JJ’s former partner was believable and true to form. A good performance again. She convinced me she would put her “own needs” first, irrespective of the damage wrought on her lover, which would lead to JJ’s eventual demise.

The Private Investigator, Spanner, who represents the self-reflective “other” side of Judy’s psyche was interesting indeed.

Sat at “his” desk for most of the performance, slowly peeling an apple (a reverse symbol of the title) as “he” analyses and unwraps the ‘case’ of murder by rejection with the break up of their 23 year relationship, about which this play is centred. Good directorial attention to detail, it always helps.

I would like to see more of Ella Simpsons writing. An intelligent take on the dynamics involved in the gradual deterioration of love in all it’s painfulness.

The final performance of the evening was Finding the Geocache by Rachel Barnett.

A very funny play about the ‘price of memories’ as explored via the interaction between two very different but totally believable characters; Andrew, the ‘shallow’ banker and Miles, the geek. Played by Damian Sommerland and Martin Durrant respectively.

This performance made me – and everyone present laugh a good deal. Andrew and Miles are on a GPS ‘orienteering ramble’ using a sat-nav direction finder to get from one “cache” to another. A high tech paper-chase in effect.

The actors used the whole venue space for this performance which was an excellent idea, and, technical aspects aside – the interaction of the characters was spot-on, with their true nature’s fully explored.

Andrew, the banker, remarkably finds a childhood toy he made, a clay lizard, in the ‘cache’ box and is then torn between the morality of reclaiming his toy, his memories of childhood or parting with his £200 designer sunglasses.

The rules of GPS “Geocache” require a forfeit if you take something from the ‘cache’ box. This makes for a very funny performance as Andrew and Miles struggle with one another’s perspectives which are deeply at odds. A thoroughly enjoyable and interesting play.

In conclusion I would definitely recommend these Missfit/Touchwaves nights. They are very interesting and innovative.

If you enjoy clever and entertaining theatre performance, storytelling, poetry and film then this is a fun and inexpensive evening out in Hackney. Definitely go before the end of the run on 25th May.

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Echoes by Richard N. Nash – A Review

Posted in Arts, Life, Reviews, Theatre by Ian Reuben on January 23, 2009

This striking performance, directed by Erica Miller, immediately grabbed the attention from the opening line.

The principle characters Sam & Tilda appear to be at first simply enjoying putting up their Christmas decorations, (this they are miming, but we accept that in theatre). All is not what it seems however, their frantic activity is amusing but it is also disturbing – something is wrong but it remains intangible.

The truth begins to emerge soon enough – they are both locked up in a psychiatric hospital. As this realization deepens seriousness descends on the still often amusing performance.

To add to the depth of this unsettling scene, one character is kept sat at the back of the stage throughout, silent, observing. This directorial decision to add the silent observer works well to contribute tension and a sense of ‘otherness’ about the story.

This feeling gradually becomes more intense as their audience are pulled inexorably into the madness of Sam & Tilda. Disturbing, touching and tender and even funny, the two actors proved their talent completely.

The third silent character speaks, without voice, this add to the pathos of Sam & Tilda’s situation, it is genuinely heartbreaking when it hits you full force, that they can not actually ‘hear’ this character, they are isolated in their madness.

When the third silent character, called “The Person” by the other two, enters the proceedings he instills a palpable dread. Here it seems the audience are suddenly privy to the purpose of “The Person”, he is the psychiatrist.

The climax occurs when Sam does the feared and unimaginable and speaks back to “The Person” something that he and Tilda have avoided at all costs until this point. Sam is then slowly led away from a now hysterical Tilda who is left alone without even her imaginary friends in her madness, sobbing, calling for her mother in the dark.

This production moved me to tears. Not least because of the energy and the truly convincing performances from the actors. This play gives you a sense of the tragedy and pain of madness, by adopting the perspective of looking out onto a ‘sane’ world from within the prison of your mind.

It is a shame these performances was a one off, having said that, I am not sure how often you could ask for or expect that level of commitment and excellence from your actors. It must be exhausting to play characters as highly charged and complex as Sam & Tilda. This was just a staged reading; it makes me wonder what Erica Miller could bring to a full play.

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David Davis has done the right thing.

Posted in Current Affairs, News, Politics by Ian Reuben on June 13, 2008

David Davis has definitely made the right move in resigning from the Shadow Cabinet in protest at the erosion of civil liberties by the Labour party. Gordon Brown describing this as a “stunt that has become a farce” is simply describing his own politics and his own party. He is describing his own government and their growing abuse of the people of the UK. 

This is an admirable move on the part of the former Tory MP. David Cameron is betraying his party by not supporting his former Shadow Minister and taking a stand against the increasingly blatant intrusion into our privacy and civil liberties by a government that sees its role as moral, cultural and legal dictator. Dictating without reference to the people an entire library’s worth of controlling and intrusive legislation. Orwell’s fiction is becoming fact in the UK in 2008.

I hope the people of Hull ignore the MacKenzie joke and see that for what it really is, a performance, a bad performance, very much in keeping with the sad excuse that is The Sun.

David Cameron is a real disappointment too, he definitely should have seized the opportunity and taken up the argument that David Davis is making. 

BBC coverage has not been particularly transparent either, it seems there has been a slight air of condescension towards David Davis in their News Channel broadcasts. That’s a shame and so is the official Tory line, but that’s not a surprise coming from the party that introduced the Criminal Justice Bill in the early 90’s.

Like the present administration, they too are quite keen on their own brand of ‘voyeuristic tendency’ and this perverse “population monitoring and control data” fetish all governments tend to find irresistible. It has never been clearer than in 2008 with the current depraved  behaviour of some governments around the world.

Examples can be found of critical and criminal abuse of human rights in every part of the globe, not just in Burma, China and North Korea but ‘democracies’ like America and UK and also all over Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

In obvious extreme cases and even in the more subtle and deceptive cases like in the UK, there is a general assault on humanity, human rights, freedom of thought, expression and in some parts of the world, an attack on actual physical safety and liberty. War and atrocities perpetrated by people voted into or having claimed illegitimate overall ruling power. There are few if any national governments without guilt or blood on their hands.

 

 

 

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42 days – without charge! It’s just the start.

Posted in Current Affairs, News, Politics by Ian Reuben on June 12, 2008

So, it’s happened. This utterly pointless New Labour administration have brought in a totally unworkable, unmanageable, unrealistic, draconian, Orwellian and genuinely unnecessary piece of unjust, knee-jerk, headline-grabbing legislative nonsense! 

It will be declared illegal by the European High Court, the UK House of Lords and the human rights lobby will make it the biggest waste of time in – a few days since the last biggest waste of time to come out of the UK parliament. They waste time in an exceptionally regular and methodical way, better in fact than they do any other single thing.  

1000 hours in detention without charge under new terrorism laws! Constitutionally comparable countries have nothing near this length of time without charge, in the US it is 2 days maximum, but they do have convenient  “offshore” facilities like Guantanamo to get around this…

But certainly in the European Union nothing like it exists. This is a directionless British government desperately peddling the fear of terrorism to an increasingly insecure populous, insecure because they are fed paranoia by a state that wants to know everything about everyone.

Amendment 64 to the Criminal Justice BIll on “Extreme Porn”, see the article I wrote for the New Statesman online 

:http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2008/05/extreme-rights-pornography. This article includes interviews and opinion related directly to government and personal privacy issues.

The DNA database is already well under way with millions of individuals’ genomes so far committed to government hard-drives and I am currently working on another article about the proposed government super-database of every email and phone call made within the UK.

These are actions not of a ‘nanny state’ – these are the actions of a megalomaniacal, unaccountable and intensely paranoid administration. It wants nothing less than total control over all your actions, your movements, words and as soon as technology permits your thoughts too! Not in the manner of the old totalitarian forced labour and Ministerium für Staatssicherheit police regimes.

This ‘New’ Labour [like it’s analogous monikers neo’-con, ‘new‘ world order, a ‘new’ kind of terrorist threat…] is far more subtle, cynical and manipulative than the blunt instruments of the old Bloc. Anything with the prefix “New” – watch it; it spells trouble in the form of a brand new lie!

I am not a conspiracy theorist at all, I know some of them and believe me, I am really not one! But we – the people – are really being slowly corralled into a bad situation, a very real slavery that we are encouraged to buy into! And the best way to do this is for the government to know absolutely everything about you.

The best way to know absolutely everything about you is to get you to either voluntarily or by act of parliament surrender information about every aspect of your life. The best way to do this is to put the fear of God in you with a bogus ‘War on Terror’ and then act as your benevolent protector and saviour.

Under the guise of protecting you against terrorists they can piece by piece erode every single civil liberty that once made Western Europe and the UK the envy of many other nations. 

42 days held in custody – without charge, for most people that would be enough time to go stir crazy and admit to anything at all just to get the hell out of the cell you were ‘moved into’.

If on the other hand you are a trained ‘terrorist’ or ‘unlawful combatant’ or part of any other demonized group and as fanatical about whatever cause you ‘represent’ as to be a real threat to national security then 42 days in detention will not make any difference to you or break your beliefs, but it may well strengthen your resolve to ‘fight on’. 

If I were a violent gun wielding christian fundamentalist or an equally aggressive bomb planting orthodox jew – utterly determined in my ‘religious’ fervor – locking me up for any considerable length of time is most definitely going to make me more hateful of my ‘enemies’ and more determined than ever to kill them all.

But as yet I don’t know of any radical, extremist, fanatical, fundamentalist, violent or paramilitary journalist groups. What would we blow up? The Editors desk? Who could we hold hostage? The photographers? 

By the time extremists of any denomination are at the point of violent expressions of the nature we have witnessed in their various atrocities they are beyond the reach of any preventative and punitive measures.

They are fanatics, they are pretty damned imbalanced and even if they seem like ‘nominally socialised’ individuals, that they would get on to a packed commuter train or bus and blow themselves and many other people up is a good indication they need some form of intensive therapy, some kind of professional psychiatric intervention. 

I would have thought it more relevant to use the mental health act instead of another anti terrorism act. You could hold people on an indefinite Section or a Section-2 if just for 28 days observation…

If they really are terrorists then the chlorpromazine certainly will moderate that troublesome ‘religious fervor’ and if they are mentally ill, well surely they are in the best place for them; “trust me… I’m with the government”. 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Probation Service in the UK

Posted in Life, Opinion, Personal, Politics by Ian Reuben on June 11, 2008

Unfortunately I have recently had to deal with the probation service, it is not something I would honestly wish on anyone, even leading politicians, although some of them may do well to experience first hand the vagaries of this ‘phenomenon’ they have emboldened with their legislation.

Speaking purely from and about my own personal experience, I can say that the entire system appears close to some form of meltdown. A lawyer I know has confirmed these suspicions during informal conversations with me and also believes this deep malaise is representative of the British legal system as a whole, that is; it is close to collapse.

The organization itself appears to be that only in name, from my perspective the one word I could not realistically associate with the UK probation service is organization. In a word association game it would probably go something more like, “probation service” – “derelict impunity”. 

In my case it is quite simple. They have failed to keep accurate records, the institutions they use to execute court orders have even more inaccurate records because they have languished without proper monitoring, and in turn the probation service are then glibly attempting to bring about a “fair and impartial” conclusion to a subsequent case of breach of court order that their mishandling of inaccurate records has initiated. It is quite simply astounding, staggering, unique in its stupidity.

All this at the tax payers expense not withstanding the very negative personal impact such catastrophic maladministrations can have on those people who’s lives are blighted by probation service cock-ups, of which I would assume there must be very many. 

The service is needed however. It is necessary. But as an agency of the government I believe they are starved of the appropriate resources for the job and are weighed down by a burden of such massive proportions that they can not cope. They can not cope with the frequency of serious and petty crime, the prisons, the offenders and their records that they have to process, nor can they effectively or efficiently navigate a legal system awash with mind numbing bureaucracy and legislation.

Add to this already none too hopeful set of variables, the apathy and lack of morale at grass roots level, the evident culture of protectionism, the highjacking of the legal system by quotas and targets from a quantification fixated government, the apparent total unaccountability of any in the probation service, certainly at executive and ministerial levels, and a terrible scenario begins to unfold. Too much power, no accountability, no integrity. 

 

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Journalism – where I am ‘at’ so far…

Posted in Life, Media, Opinion, Personal by Ian Reuben on June 11, 2008

It’s the summer, I had high hopes for this year but I am struggling to keep all the loose ends from unravelling into a God Almighty mess. So, what of it, 2008 thus far? Interesting, but I hope it gets a little more ‘steady’ and less unpredictable.

I have recently completed a four week internship at the New Statesman. My ‘Editor’ told me I should start a blog and that I would benefit – in my writing – by doing so. I am a trainee journalist. So, this is my first rant of many to come, I am sure. 

That internship was challenging but good fun and I would do it all again at that particular publication without any hesitation. But it is onwards and upwards and now I have some other things occupying my time, albeit temporarily. I am also wading through what appears to be the worlds most boring subject, Teeline Shorthand for journalists! 

I have a perfectly good digital recorder and I do not mind audio transcription, so why do the National Council for the Training of Journalists insist – and they really do insist – that I ‘waste’ my time learning a spurious, quasi-hieroglyphic utterly redundant form of note taking? Before PC’s, flash-memory, dictaphones and now digital voice recorders (purpose built!), then I accept; learn Teeline or Pitmans if you’re over 50, but in “tech-thousand and eight”, it is a nonsense.

The NCTJ should be encouraging the use of totally up to the minute, state-of-the-art journalistic gadgetry and hi-tech, not wasting their administrative juice on prehistoric diggery-pokery with graphite and wood pulp! Just make sure you always carry spare batteries though, otherwise the rather tenuous point of my rant comes crashing down when, unable to write Teeline and with no available batteries for your recorder, your ‘excellent interview’ turns to shit.

So, it’s off to the ‘daily’s’ in a week or two. One week at the South London Press, one more at the Daily Express, a few at the Richmond and Twickenham Times and then The Independent for a few more weeks. Each one of these placements is apparently meant to contribute to a portfolio of work experience and be assessed by the lovely people at the NCTJ [who have been singularly the most helpful people in every respect whilst on this post-grad qualification]. Work experience is a bit odd for me – I am 41 years old and have lived most of the last 25 years as ‘work experience’.

That does mean that most fellow interns are a good deal younger than myself but I am very fortunate in that – due to my gene’s – I look younger than a lot of them! Aside from the observed aesthetic there were a lot of things I had been expecting to have to do – the office tea and coffee service, the ‘do all other jobs in the office no one else wants to do’ and the endless ‘when I was an intern…’ stories from various ‘old-hands’. Seriously though, being 41 in a percieved “young and dynamic” society and changing career paths from the events and entertainment industry was a foolhardy move some may argue.

The truth is that I don’t feel it was foolhardy or even unorthodox, and I don’t ‘feel’ 41. We can take ‘feel’ to mean ‘stereotypical associations’ i.e. turning grey, bald or balding, first or second wife, two kids, mortgage, debts, back-ache, centre-spread (both definitions!), stomach and buttocks suddenly subject to gravity, sexual apathy or confusion, regret, guilt etc, etc. This list is not at all authoritative or verifiable by any reliable means but I can safely say non of the above characteristics could be a reference to me. That is also not a slight on anyone who embodies some or indeed all of those characteristics – although all of them may be a bit unfortunate.

Thus I have reached the end point of my first ever blog other than the one I had on My Space for my band Kowloon Electric Co… Well, you grow up in Hong Kong as an expat wannabe pop super-star and see what you’d come up with…    

 

 

 

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Hello world!

Posted in News by Ian Reuben on June 11, 2008

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

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