Review – Noughts & Crosses – Derby Theatre

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published by Exeunt Magazine on 8 February 2019.

In Rosa, the episode Malorie Blackman wrote for last year’s series of Doctor Who, the TARDIS lands in 1950s Alabama at the height of racial segregation. Not long into the episode, one of the Doctor’s friends, Ryan, who is black, notices a white woman has dropped her glove, and tries to return it to her. The woman’s husband slaps him.

I think I went into Pilot Theatre’s production of Noughts & Crosses expecting a slap – that sudden shock of something hurtful, embarrassing, and true. But this version of Noughts & Crosses doesn’t slap you, it just pulls you deeper and deeper, wrapping you up in history and the present and how things are supposed to be.

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1000 words a day

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this is a lot of words about different varieties of peaches, which made me very happy because it is so detailed and so earnest and so descriptive about the peaches, and someone wrote this, and being a writer is just the most ridiculous thing you can be

One of my aims for 2019 is to find a writing routine that works for me. I generally believe that each project will find its own way of being written, but I’d still like to form better habits around how I structure the days set aside as ‘writing days’. In particular, I’d like to feel better on those days – less worried, less stressed, less guilty – and I’d like to improve my focus. So this is what I’ve been trying during January.

I re-read Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites at the start of this year (which I’d heartily recommend if you’re looking for a good winter read), and in the author’s note at the end, Kent talks about finding herself with all the resources she needed to write, and not a clue how to go about it. So she decided to set a daily target of 1000 words. She’d sit down at her desk in the morning and, whatever happened or however long it took, she’d write 1000 words every day – with the logic that even if it was total nonsense, at least after 100 days, she’d have 100,000 words.

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Doctor Who is about family now and I have a lot of feelings

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I was born in 1991, so when I first got hooked on Doctor Who in 2005, I did what every young nu-Who fan is supposed to do to prove themselves – I bought the DVDs, at least one of every previous Doctor (and a fair few more of Five because pretty). I watched them all, even the boring bits, so I could truly understand my heritage. And now I have this old suitcase full of boxes, full of nostalgia that isn’t even within my living memory. I’ve kept them all because the stories are mostly good, because they now mean something to me, but there’s no denying that I made that investment of my time and money because I felt like I needed to qualify why I belonged.

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Review – Abigail’s Party and Abi – Derby Theatre

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published by Exeunt Magazine on 5 October 2018.

Derby Theatre’s RETOLD plays are a series of one-woman responses to classic plays – a direct challenge to a mostly-male canon, a decisive move to commission work from female playwrights, and an invitation to audiences who don’t usually book tickets for new writing. It’s a two-interval night if you see Abigail’s Party and Abi back to back, but I’d definitely recommend doing it that way. The two plays are too tangled up together for me to imagine seeing one without the other.

First up is Abigail’s Party, Mike Leigh’s portrait of social-climbing suburbia. Although it’s a slow mover to start with, once things get going it’s a tense, crackly play that carefully holds back each blow until the last possible moment. It’s not at all what I expected, having once sat through a student version that went for full-blown farce. It’s definitely laugh-out-loud funny, but the jokes are sharp and awkward; it’s a highly-strung glimpse of the 70s, but it also feels uncomfortably familiar and close.

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I went to Ruckus Retreat and was struck by lightning

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I wanted to blog about Ruckus Retreat as soon as I got back. I knew the longer I left it, the more it would feel like a dream. But here I am, a week later, waking up, struggling to keep hold of the lucid-flying-fantasy details of it all.

I’d never been on a retreat before Ruckus but I have been to conferences, workshops, festivals, masterclasses – the sorts of things you’re supposed to do as an ~emerging creative~ who’s taking their practice seriously and living a creative, art-driven life. For me, the most powerful takeaway from Ruckus is what that really means.

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‘Probably because of your acne.’

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I think I was on holiday in Cornwall when I got my first spot. I think I was about 12, although I might have been younger. I’m pretty sure it was on my chin, in the middle, right underneath my bottom lip.

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It will always upset me that one of my clearest memories of my grandpa – who was so many brilliant things, and is totally disserviced by this one moment that’s crystallised in my brain – is of him asking me, loudly, ‘when are you going to get rid of all those spots then’?

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At some point in my late teens, I noticed I had a large bump on the side of my neck, near my jawline, just underneath my ear. I asked a family friend who’s also a GP (and who’s always the best at calmly dealing with my ‘am I a freak?’ medical questions) what it was. He had a quick look and told me it was a raised gland. ‘Probably because of your acne.’

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The Best Books I’ve Read This Year (So Far)

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I make a resolution every New Year’s Eve to read more. This year I’ve had a vague ambition in my head to reach the (unlikely) total of 50 books. I’m on book number 26 and we’re definitely over halfway through the year (how did that even happen) so we’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, I bloody love a good book rec post so I thought I’d take a little look back on my faves so far BUT before I get into it, a few shout-outs to things that have helped me read more this year:

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The Party Somewhere Else

This feature by Emily Holyoake was originally published by Exeunt Magazine on 14 March 2018.



The Party Somewhere Else are a Nottingham-based collective of maverick female creatives who have just launched 
festival at Nottingham Playhouse. The group came together in early 2017 and hosted a sell-out scratch night that July, followed by a packed Open House/Open Mic in January 2018. The upcoming festival is set to be a playfully anarchic takeover of Nottingham Playhouse’s smaller upstairs spaces, and will showcase both regional and national artists, all performing work which centres the creative agency of women.

I meet with just over half of The Party Somewhere Else over two separate sessions, a couple of weeks before the festival beginsThere are 12 current members of the collective: Beth Shouler, Eleanor Field, Hannah Stone, Kate Webborn, Kath Akers, Minder Athwal, Nikki Disney, Olwen Davies, Rebecca D’Souza, Ria Ashcroft,Siobhán Cannon-Brownlie, and Tilly Branson. They cover a lot of bases, a team of producers, directors, actors, writers, designers, facilitators, and dramatherapists. It’s a group brought together by a shared frustration at the lack of representation for women, onstage and backstage.

“We were having conversations in twos and threes, and had been for about six months,” says Beth Shouler, a director and writer who has recently taken on the role of Artist Development Co-ordinator at Nottingham Playhouse. “And then we were like – you know what, we could just get together and have one conversation.”

Siobhán Cannon-Brownlie, a director and theatre-maker, says, “The Party Somewhere Else has grown out of us saying ‘this is missing’ in the theatre ecology here in Nottingham, let’s do something about that, and we’ll just do it ourselves cause we’re the ones who can.”

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Review – Doctor Faustus – Tangle Theatre

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published by Exeunt Magazine on 23 February 2018.

DOCTOR FAUSTUS by Christopher Marlowe
Presented by Tangle Theatre at The Bike Shed Theatre, 21 February 2018

Performed by: Munashe Chirisa, Joshua Liburd, Mogali Masuku
Director: Anna Coombs
Designer: Colin Falconer
Lighting Design: Hansjorg Schmidt
Sound Design: Drew Baumohl
Composer and Arranger: John Pfumojena
Producer: Deborah Baddoo MBE

It’s the opening night of Tangle Theatre’s Doctor Faustus, and I’m about to have a really Faustian experience. I go in presuming intelligence, and come out realising my complete ignorance.

Is this a Faustian experience? I’m gonna Google it to check. Because I don’t really know Doctor Faustus, but I just sort of assume that since I’ve always been a Shakespeare brat and that one time I did Schiller, there can be no verse play that would pose a particular challenge to me.

It takes five minutes of discussion with my sister after the show for her to discover that I didn’t even grasp the basics.

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Review – Split Second – Documental Theatre

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published by Exeunt Magazine on 26 January 2018.

SPLIT SECOND by Cally Hayes
Performed at The Bike Shed Theatre, 23 January 2018
Produced by Documental Theatre

Performed by: Charlie Coldfield and Georgia Fox Robinson
Directed by: Luke Jeffrey
Sound Design: Philip Robinson
Recorded by: Duncan Chave at Sound Gallery

Along the cobbled alleyway, down the stone steps, to the cellar bar decorated with curios and mismatched furniture. Towards the circle of comfy chairs snuggled into the far corner, welcomed by dimmed lights and the bright smile of playwright Cally Hayes. A chunky set of headphones each, which glow electric blue when we’re on the right channel and clamp down firmly around our ears. A thumbs up from Hayes – and we’re away.

Documental Theatre’s Split Second is a fifteen-minute radio play about a couple in crisis. They didn’t plan for a pregnancy, and now there might be something wrong with the baby. Overwhelmed by how their lives will change, they struggle to find common ground, shutting each other out but fighting to stay together. As with all of Documental Theatre’s work, the script is based on testimony and real stories, gently and sensitively fictionalised.

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