Review – What Fatima Did… – Derby Theatre

It’s the start of a new school year, and a group of friends take the mick out of each other as they wait for their class to start. They’re also waiting on Fatima. They take bets on when she’ll finally arrive. We don’t see her when she does. We never see her, although we hear plenty about her – because when she comes back to school after the holidays, Fatima has decided, for the first time and without warning, to start wearing the hijab.

What Fatima Did… is the second show I’ve seen at Derby Theatre in the space of a few weeks which is rammed with teenagers and, putting aside the fact that it’s making me feel old, I just want to give some space here to celebrate the absolute bloody triumph of a team who seem to know who they want to get in the door and exactly how to do it. I’ve felt this at every in-house show at Derby Theatre since I moved back last February – whenever I settle into my seat and do a quick scan around, the auditorium always seems to be full of the people who will get the most out of that show, if you judge that by the audible, tangible, laughs-and-gasps engagement throughout the evening. Derby Theatre gets its audiences.

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Review – Flight Paths – Extant and Yellow Earth

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published by Exeunt Magazine on 23 February 2019.

One of my first thoughts after coming out of Flight Paths is that it must’ve been a brilliant rehearsal process. A co-production between Extant and Yellow Earth (companies which centre the work of visually impaired and British East Asian artists, respectively), it’s a piece with a clear ethos of collaboration, showcasing aerial performance, spatialised tracking, music, projections, and integrated audio description. It also balances a lot of different narratives – the stories of the two onstage performers (Amelia Cavallo and Sarah Houbolt), audio testimony from two more (Takashi Kikuchi and Victoria Oruwari), a condensed history of the Goze (blind female storytellers and musicians who travelled medieval Japan), and all within the framework of the Japanese story of Hoichi. Layered doesn’t cover it.

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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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