By Tony Allen
UEA’s fourth annual Working With Words conference took place on Saturday 25th February.
By Tony Allen
UEA’s fourth annual Working With Words conference took place on Saturday 25th February.
Last month saw the annual Go Green Week take place at UEA. Tony Allen looks back on the event and we hear from Students’ Union Environment Officer Veronica White to gauge her reaction to the week.
From 13th to 17th February, UEA’s Students’ Union took part in People and Planet’s tenth national Go Green Week. The idea is that various local groups take action and spread awareness around matters to do with conservation and protecting the environment.
The SU, working with University team Sustainable UEA, put on a busy programme of events to promote sustainability at UEA and attempt to gain suggestions on how to better protect the environment on campus and further afield.
On Monday, the main event was a Vegetarian and Vegan market, where hungry students could try food that is better for the planet and their bodies. The first day of events also saw a quiz run by the Environmental Sciences Society and the first in a series of relaxing biodiversity walks around campus, led by UEA wardens.
SU Environment Officer Veronica White told The Broad: “I felt that the Vegan & Vegetarian Fair on Monday was my biggest accomplishment with regards to organisation. It was the event that stressed me the most and the one that I was most pleased to see was successful. I’m happy that students got to try various vegan and vegetarian foods and I hope it opened people’s eyes to the possibilities these diets offer.”
On Tuesday, before an evening screening of Avatar, Go Green Week took over the Hive for a second day in a row, this time for a green consultation where students and staff members could learn about what is already being done and have their say, giving the SU their views and ideas about conservation and reducing environmental impact on campus.
Veronica said: “we got some great suggestions from students with regards to making the university and Union more sustainable.
“These suggestions we’re collating into themes which we can use to lobby the university to make changes – from introducing more water fountains on campus to making better use of our beautiful environment in our learning and teaching services.”
Wednesday saw a tour of sustainable labs at UEA, before on Thursday, students who missed out earlier in the week were treated to another wave of guided nature walks around the lake, and there was a zero-waste workshop in the Hive- part of the Union’s self-professed ‘Green Action Day’.
The week was rounded off on Friday by a trip to Swaffham, and up to the panoramic viewing platform of the area’s imposing wind turbine. This gave participants the opportunity to take in the views while also learning about renewable energy in the UK.
Veronica named this as her favourite event of the week, continuing: “The event which I had the most fun at was the Panoramic Wind Turbine Tour at the Green Britain Centre. I had initially suggested we organise an event there as a bit of a joke, so it felt surreal to be climbing up the turbine with a large group of students whose interests align with mine.”
Veronica spoke of her hopes that the event would continue as a fixture at UEA in future years, adding: “I hope that it is even more successful with each coming year. I believe this year was significant because I feel like Amy [Rust, Campaigns and Democracy Officer] and I really created a relationship with Sustainable UEA and members of staff on the University side of things. I hope this relationship continues to strengthen and we as a Union can work effectively with the university to create engaging events which reach a large number of students.”
She reflected on the week as a whole, saying: “People who know me well will know that I’m glad the week is over. It was a lot of work to organise and some of the logistics got confusing in the days leading up to various events, however overall I believe it was a successful week.”
Judging by the widespread positive reactions to the latest Go Green Week, it looks set to remain a mainstay of the UEA calendar.
Image courtesy of UEA SU
By Tony Allen
An important series of changes were made to the UEA Students’ Union constitution this month, regarding the leadership roles that are held by students.
Perhaps the most contentious point was the implementation of a policy to limit the number of society committee positions one individual can have to three, including one presidency. Whilst there will remain no restrictions on society memberships, the measure aims to limit the workload individuals can place on themselves and allow more students to hold committee positions.
Societies will now also require some level of gender balancing in their committee, or be required to explain themselves to the Union and gain special dispensation from Council, which is expected to be the case for certain sports clubs and other societies, for example, the Feminist society.
Proposed by Campaigns and Democracy officer Amy Rust in four parts, UEA Union Council debated each as a separate motion and passed all four of them after a long, and at times boring and bitter debate that nearly didn’t even get going.
Repeated attempts were made by some councillors to postpone discussion of the proposals, and there was a very time consuming argument regarding whether the actual byelaws being changed required a 2/3 majority of assembled councillors as opposed to the regular half of votes plus one.
So, what is the Student Leadership Review and how will it affect you?
The review’s final report aims to “improve and standardise [the Students’ Union’s] promotion of, training of, and support for the breadth of student leadership positions in the future,” and “take steps to remove barriers to involvement for students.”
The hefty document can be condensed into its four key sections and summarised as follows:
1) “Tidying up” current byelaws. This included clearing up the byelaw which had effectively banned candidates campaigning together at election times, to improve safety and encourage more people to run. This part also included a pledge to hold an annual “student leadership conference” for committee members like the one held with great success last semester.
2) This was one of the most talked-about blocks of new legislation. It requires societies to “introduce a Vice President role that is gender balanced with the society President” meaning that one of the positions must be filled by someone who defines themselves as a woman or non-binary, unless they demonstrate to Union Council that this is impractical. Furthermore, “all student opportunity groups [must] elect a first year students rep” as part of its committee- in any role. The Students’ Union has also been mandated to support the Health and Social Care Society, create a strategy specifically to help academic societies and take a closer look at training for new committee members- ideally before the summer when they officially assume their roles.
3) This part concentrated on the creation of a number of “sub-committees” on issues like ethics and the environment, education, equality and diversity, and welfare, to take some power away from the central Student Officer Committee (SOC) which was seen by some as being too centralised and powerful, reporting directly to Council. Also, School Convenors will be elected to closer connect the Union and academic societies.
4) Finally, it was agreed to allow the Union’s Trustee Board to appoint members through Council rather than election to improve its diversity. The Board’s Equality and Diversity committee will similarly be changed. Also, societies will be created for liberation, plus international and mature students to better support them and hear their views.
Reflecting on the review, Amy Rust told us: “For a long time our research has shown that students think the SU is a closed and cliquey bubble- so when some students got a motion passed on opening up our structures we got to work. Given the SU’s size, scope and ambition, we decided we should expand the number of leadership roles available to students and form leadership committees/boards for different types of student and SU functions. “In the future this will mean far more opportunities for students to get involved – from being on one of the boards that looks after the LCR or the Advice Centre, though to getting more involved in campaigns around education or student welfare and wellbeing. This is all about people who want to get stuff done being able to take up a position without having to get too heavily involved in student politics “There are also changes coming that will see far more first years involved in the SU, and we’ll be taking steps to improve equality – for example this is a University with a majority of women but 70% of our society Presidents are men, and the changes will mean that student groups involve more students from a range of backgrounds in leadership roles”
Elsewhere in the meeting, new chair Jack Lewis was elected unopposed. He coped well with something of a baptism of fire for his first Union Council in the hotseat and should be credited for not allowing the persistent arguments over majorities required to pass legislation and Trustee Board reviews to take over the entire meeting.
Seven new society constitutions were approved including Big C Cancer and UEA Movement for Justice, before the Aerial Aerobics Society’s amended constitution was also ratified.
The length of debate over the Leadership Review meant that only two of the eight ordinary motions were discussed. Both passed: a motion to pledge to diversify union staff and another to push for free contraception on campus, backed up by a hilarious (if slightly rushed) speech from Jo Swo better suited to a Carry On film than Union Council, which lightened proceedings no end.
It has been decided that the motions which did not beat the 10:30pm cut off point, like Nightline’s search for a new home and the Music Society’s dearth of space in which to store their equipment, will be debated first at the next meeting, this Thursday.
Photo courtesy of Samuel Seller at https://unsplash.com/@samuelzeller
By Tony Allen
“We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one.”
The famous couplet from Michael Rosen’s classic children’s picture book is ingrained in the memories of scores of people, young and old. Unfortunately, the recent festive cartoon adaptation leaves much to be desired in comparison to the book, mainly because it tries to deal with far too much and fails at its fundamental purpose of providing entertainment.
If you didn’t watch it then I’m sorry to have to break this to you, but We’re Going on a Bear Hunt has been tragically desecrated and I was shocked by what I saw.
If you’re going to make a children’s story ‘adult’, you have to do it properly and this adaptation, animated not dissimilarly to The Snowman and shown at primetime on Christmas Eve, is therefore never going to fulfil this task. Of course, any picture book would need padding out to fill twenty-odd minutes of screen time. But the TV version just doesn’t seem to know who its target audience is.
The whole first part of the adaptation is new, in which the parents of the family leave, and it is truly woeful. It feels as if everything added to this adaptation is a metaphor. The new hero of the story, the second eldest sibling in a large nuclear family, is let down by every independent male she encounters. Her parents desert her to deal with the mechanical ineptitude of the grandmother, even when their own children need their help the most.
Later, our protagonist’s ham-fisted elder brother fails to listen to her sensitive pleas to stay with her new bear friend and forces her away from the bear. Her brother’s unwelcome intervention leaves both girl and bear perpetually miserable; isolated and lonely with precious little hope of change.
She is also let down by her grandmother who more or less tells her that she is destined to be unhappy, as passive misery is part and parcel of life. This is despite the fact that it is her grandmother who is culpable for the root of the problems by calling away the girl’s parents and leaving her in her brother’s less than capable hands.
The animated characters are so stereotypical they may as well have come from an age or gender studies textbook. Old woman can’t manage with car. Adult children come running to help. Eldest brother takes charge. Girl just sits back and follows. Aren’t these concepts becoming a bit worn out now? The story has been changed, but it hasn’t been modernised.
You can’t help but wonder if the bear is used as an elaborate animalistic metaphor for EU economic migrants in the wake of Brexit. We are the comfortable, middle class family, and we’re happy to go and visit them in their own habitat, but as soon as they pass through the threshold of ‘our’ territory, they somehow turn into a threat that must be kept out at all costs.
While using different mediums to highlight and call out the twin scourges of the patriarchy and our dog-eat-dog, selfish, capitalist society would normally be a positive move, in a seasonal adaptation meant for children, this is somewhat excessive.
The long and the short of it is that an albeit cautionary tale of a fun family adventure is turned into one of neglect, pure and simple. Let’s not even talk about the borderline criminal treatment of the poor baby.
Of course, the original story was no bed of roses. But, crucially, the bear is never personified, and is certainly never explicitly called “friendly”- it is an unarguable adversary, not a character offered up to us as a potential ‘goodie’, that is then cruelly whipped away.
Granted, perhaps the themes I have discussed are present for those who want to find them, but in nowhere near as obvious a way. I can enjoy the book, as a form of escapism, as much now as when I was a child. I’m not so sure that would have been the case with the animated version – a thought borne out by the reactions of some bemused parents on social media.
Along with its good animation, the score, which includes George Ezra’s theme song Me & You, is one of the redeeming features of this badly planned adaptation. But Channel 4 even spectacularly dropped the ball here, overlaying their continuity announcer above Ezra’s song on the closing credits and rendering it unlistenable, consequently depriving many of the sole aspect they tuned in and sat through the soul-destroying narrative for.
The genius of the book lies in its simplicity. The repetition, the onomatopoeia, the simple yet vivid adjectival descriptions mean that it is more about the reader than the characters. Therefore, it serves its purpose as a children’s story with an intended audience of those influenced more by the Teletubbies than Karl Marx or Simone de Beauvoir. If I was Rosen, I would be ashamed to have sullied the reputation of my masterpiece twenty-seven years later by volunteering to narrate this shambles. The animation is completely devoid of joy and for this reason I would far rather any children I knew stuck firmly to the book.
All in all, the increased complexity of the screen version ruins the story. There is not even a hint of a resolution or a happy ending, either for the story or for the little girl’s future in a world where she seems fated to be controlled, cheated and denied autonomy forever. This programme left a bitter taste in my mouth, because it is a con and not what we want to see on our screens at this time of year.
But, hey, maybe I’m just overthinking things. My New Year’s resolution is to get out more…
Image from Flickr
By Tony Allen
At the Union Council meeting on the 23/11/16, a motion was carried which gained a great deal less attention than that about poppy sales on campus. It was Motion 2008: The fight for Votes at 16. Proposed by Cameron Mellowes of UEA Labour and seconded by the SU’s Campaigns and Democracy officer Amy Rust, an overwhelming majority of 75% of councillors in attendance voted to enshrine into Union policy our support for lowering the minimum voting age in UK elections from 18 to 16.
I was delighted, in my first Union Council meeting, to be able to contribute to such a significant step in the right direction. However, of course this is only the start of the hard work. The SU has been going through a tough few weeks publicity-wise, but this is truly something to smile about. Here is why I feel so strongly about the campaign and look forward to participating in any way I can:
My personal experience of electoral injustice at the age of seventeen informs my view heavily. On Friday 8th May 2015, they day after the General Election, I clearly remember sitting in my A Level politics classroom before my teacher arrived for the morning’s lesson. My class watched BBC News on our projector screen, rapt, as Ed Balls lost his seat. But by then we already knew that the Conservatives were waltzing away with a Parliamentary majority- some were delighted, others distraught.
Whatever the result of the election, it would have rung hollow for me. I was bitterly disappointed with it, but more deeply with my helpless inability to have been able to register my opinion. What could have been a brilliantly encouraging introduction to the world of politics outside the textbook for our class turned out to be little more than a damp squib.
When we next get the chance to vote in a General Election, most of us will be in full time employment (or not, as the case may unfortunately be). Mr Smith’s politics lessons, and the passion they engendered, will be a distant memory.
I hate the thought that some people who might have started the habit of a lifetime by voting when inspired by our fierce common-room debates might not bother five years on.
The global political landscape is in a period of unprecedented upheaval and most British born UEA students will have had the chance to participate by voting in the EU referendum. But we can’t forget about votes at 16 just because it wouldn’t make a difference to us any more.
That is why I was so glad that the Union Council motion passed with such a resoundingly positive vote. Even when you look at the 24% who didn’t back the motion (rounded to the nearest %), only 10% voted outright against, with 14% abstaining.
The recent NUS demonstration, attended by UEA students, has thrown the spotlight on cuts and fee rises made by the government. It’s a tragedy that many of the new intake of freshers didn’t get the chance to have their say in the election of this government who are imposing austerity on them and could continue to do so unabated for the rest of our undergraduate careers.
And you wonder why young people have a reputation for political passivity and disenfranchisement.
Scottish 16-and-17-year-olds were granted the vote in their independence referendum, by all accounts with great success. So, I’m sure they were as perplexed in 2016 as we were envious of them in 2014 that every under-18 was denied a vote on the EU. The final referendum result would probably not have changed had the franchise been extended to 16-and-17-year-olds. However, it would have gained more legitimacy in my eyes.
The flippant arguments made after the EU referendum for an upper age limit for voting are of course completely absurd. But isn’t normalised age discrimination a key excuse for failing to listen to the well-reasoned arguments of young people to extend the franchise? These things have got to work both ways.
Thankfully for the sake of sensible debate, not all arguments against extending the vote are so condescending as Julia Hartley-Brewer’s infamous diatribe in the Daily Telegraph. Dr Andrew Mycock has argued reasonably that education must be improved first.
But that would be so easy to do. Even a sixteen-year-old could probably make a good fist of suggesting how.
General Studies at A Level needed not to be scrapped, as it has been in the latest cull of so-called ‘soft’ subjects (not so, but that’s another article), but instead to be reformed to make it exciting, accessible, and more weighted towards real-life politics. Form time activities in schools need to be changed to concentrate on providing an objective, rounded political education. It’s not about ramming politics down students’ throats- we have compulsory education for a reason.
I don’t buy for one second the arguments that it would be too difficult/expensive/time consuming (delete as appropriate) to revolutionise political education in schools. Improving and standardising what’s already in place with regards to citizenship education will go a long way towards ensuring young people are equipped to use their votes.
If only our elected representatives had to appeal to voters in the traditional Sixth Form age range, then they might put more time and effort into exploring such beneficial, student-focused education reforms…
In essence, my support for votes at 16 can be boiled down to the fact that life nowadays for young people is just not the same as it was in 1969, when the most recent Representation of the People Act lowered the minimum voting age from 21 to 18.
Education is perhaps the single biggest example which cements my optimism in the ability of 16 and 17-year-olds to vote wisely and respect our democratic institution.
Arguably the biggest responsibility on teenage shoulders now is that of attaining those all-important A*-C grades in Maths and English GCSEs- necessary not only for many careers, but also for regular entry into UEA.
Aside from those GCSEs being hugely important to the individual student, the careers of teachers and school staff are on the line and effectively decided by a group of 16-year-olds and their independent decisions on whether to engage and revise. Why are our MPs’ careers any more sacrosanct than those of their fellow public servants in the classroom?
At fifteen or sixteen we choose A Levels, or other post-16 routes, that will effectively rule us in or out of particular careers. We decide where our next steps should be, and have a chance to move away from the safe confines of secondary school and pave the way for our futures. So why would we be any less able, interested or willing to decide on the future of our country too?
Image from NUS votes at 16 campaign
By Tony Allen and Olivia Minnock
As a society, Egg Box began in 2015 as the less intriguingly titled ‘UEA Publishers’. We started off having two distinct sections dealing with the experience of the professional publishing process, such as publishing the annual Undergraduate Creative Writing Anthology, self-publishing and the “fun” side of print, like holding Zine workshops.
So why Egg Box? Originally, Egg Box was an independent publisher as part of UEA’s publishing project, which worked in partnership with students to publish the annual anthologies among other works. It was run by UEA’s very own lecturers, Nathan Hamilton and Philip Langeskov, with the help of students in editing. However, they were keen to hand more of this over to students, to give us an opportunity and to breathe new life into the label.
And that’s exactly what we did.
We rebranded Egg Box, with a funky new logo and style, and amalgamated it with the original society so members could be part of both.
This also meant that we could work more closely as a society with both the professional side and the self-publishing side being sold together at markets, readings and on our brand new website! As the start of a new generation on an existing label, we’ve inherited a large following and the help of those more experienced than us. This pairs with the creativity and enthusiasm offered by students to balance out the original and dynamic with the established and respectable. We hope that this will enable us to organise more successful careers and publishing events as well as increase the sales and exposure for anyone who wants to get published!
As a society as well as a business, Egg Box publishing hopes to include each and every student at UEA who might be interested in the publishing industry. Whether you’re hoping to boost your CV and get an internship, or you’ve got some artwork or writing knocking about that you want to put into a booklet, we’re here to help.
So what are we up to at the moment? Tony, our new Union rep, explains why he loves being a part of Egg Box:
“Perhaps the best thing about Egg Box is the freedom to express yourself in print in whatever way you wish. The society as a whole produces a collaborative monthly zine on a broad theme (our first was on ‘maps’, we are currently putting the final touches to our Christmas edition). Under these themes, submissions are welcomed of any format, for example poetry, creative writing, illustrations, photography or any other type of art.
All are welcome in Egg Box, and the diversity of work produced by the society means that there is something that everyone can get involved with, be it contributing, editing, designing, marketing or selling.
In addition to the collaborative zine, and sessions to guide submissions organised by our brilliant workshop co-ordinator Emma, the society also assists people with any aspect of self-publishing and printing or preparation for a career in the industry. For example, help and advice is available for those wishing to create and sell their own publications. We regularly sell our wares, for example at the recent ‘student pop-up market’ in the Hive, and will be attending the Christmas market there too. As well as selling the collaborative zines, this is also a platform to sell individual society members’ own self-printed publications too!
A big part of our work is centred around the creation of chapbooks, containing the writing of students, and we have now also taken responsibility for editing and publishing the end-of-year undergraduate creative writing anthology. Submissions have just opened for this and we can’t wait to start sorting through them all!
The society organises lots of social events to inspire the would-be publishers and printers of tomorrow. For example, I recently took part in a visit to the On Paper festival which showcased some of the best printers and graphic artists in the world, right here in Norwich.
Egg Box enjoy collaborating with other societies too. We have recently completed a joint publication entitled ‘PROMPT’ with Octarine, the UEA’s creative writing periodical. In the past we have collaborated with both the Feminist and Creative Writing societies. If you are interested in finding out more, or your society is interested in working with us, please drop us an email to email@example.com!”
We hope to hear from you or see you at our office hours, 12.00-2-30pm in Unio every Wednesday.
By Tony Allen
Unsuitable to be a leader, or just the tonic that British politics needs right now? Future Prime Minister, or the man who could drag Labour into oblivion? The reality is, no-one will know until the next election. but here’s why I believe he is the man to lead both Labour and Britain to a better future
First and (perhaps) foremost, people can identify with Corbyn. Of course he’s not perfect. But he’s served his time in the Labour Party and has a wealth of experience to draw upon. He knows what it’s like to be a party member and little-known backbencher both in government and opposition, knowledge that could be crucial in the period up to the next election, and could well also make him a better Prime Minister. His whipping power would consequently be extremely useful in forming a stable government and party from the grass roots up.
I suppose the main reason I wanted to write in support of Corbyn is this: I am an ordinary, lay person in terms of politics. Beyond studying the subject at A Level and making use of Charles Clarke’s public lectures at UEA, like much of the active electorate I am interested but no expert. I personally feel more sympathetic towards Corbyn as a leader than anyone else in modern politics. This trend is repeated up and down the country. A sixty-seven year old man is whipping up a fervour among many people (especially the young) in Britain, so why not give him a chance?
Anyone with even a passing interest in current affairs will remember the emotion around Corbyn’s election as party leader. I myself was halfway through Sixth Form and I felt real hope after watching the results as they were announced live on TV. Labour members had not just elected a new leader, they had voted for a change in their party and a new movement.
Many people who hadn’t been for a long time were genuinely excited about politics and after the great participatory event that was the EU referendum, they could be again.
As for the criticisms of the £3 registered supporters who got Corbyn elected? Well, I see their voices as being just as valid as any regular member of the Labour Party. After all, if Labour are to be the party of the working people, they need to allow as many people as possible a say in policymaking. I can’t help but think that some critics of the Labour leadership electoral system have lost sight of what it means to be socialist at a time when Labour needs to reinvent itself, regroup and assert its position in the British political spectrum. And no-one has a mandate to lead the party like Corbyn does.
Our MP Clive Lewis is a major supporter of Corbyn, and it is unsung heroes in the party like him who hold the key to Labour’s future success, not the loud figures like Chuka Umunna seemingly interested primarily in their own interests. Corbyn loyalists withstood the tense moments when resignations were ten-a-penny from his shadow cabinet. Having remained resolute throughout that, those who remain are now perfectly equipped for taking the fight to a more obvious adversary.
Admittedly, polling isn’t always great in terms of Corbyn’s personal popularity. However, if you’d have listened to the pollsters, the Conservatives would have been nowhere near a majority in 2015 and the UK would have voted by an overwhelming majority to remain in the EU.
By Tony Allen
As a slight tangent from the series of books vs movies, I am going to compare Alan Warner’s 1998 novel The Sopranos to its musical adaptation for the stage, 2015’s Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. The play is named after the Scottish Catholic convent school the six foremost characters attend when they take an ill-fated trip to Edinburgh to participate in a televised choir competition and, like some UEA freshers, end up in a mire of sex, profanity and alcohol. Quite a bit of sex, profanity and alcohol, in fact.
It’s hard to argue that the show, adapted by Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall and staged by an experienced team from the National Theatre of Scotland, is anything other than an improvement on Warner’s novel. After all, his script reads like a what’s-what of alcoholic beverages for the uninitiated and includes pages full of quick-witted, yet not unbelievable, dialogue.
An impossible task though it is to compare the two mediums like for like, while both have the same plot, their perspectives diverge quite markedly. As Warner broadly concentrates on the settings they visit, and the girls’ resultant high-jinks, Hall’s script (perhaps owing as much to necessity, or the limitations of the stage, as much as his artistic endeavour) is much more interested in getting inside the girls’ minds and exploring the reasons behind, and consequences of, their wild actions. As such, it is a lot less throwaway and more encouraging of sympathy towards the girls.
This particular theatrical release thus differs from 99% of film adaptations inasmuch as it is in fact less visually descriptive than the novel. How so? The imagery provoked in the book is far superior to Hall’s barren staging, based on the weak idea that the girls are putting on some sort of show in their local nightclub to describe their big day out.
However, look past this dodgy premise and Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour gives Warner’s novel a striking lucidity simply not afforded by the novel. Its simplicity is the key to its success- condensing an entire novel into less than two hours of course requires serious cutting and streamlining. So, Hall has chosen to feature just the main six characters, the novel’s foremost schoolgirls who mimic those they meet over the course of their day.
And thanks to that, the girls are much more striking when they are laid bare on stage. A criticism I had of Warner’s book on first reading was the complexity of it. The list of the entire choir at the start was excessive, confusing, and left me trying to remember characters who had no relevance to the narrative whatsoever. However, re-reading after seeing Our Ladies, the novel makes far more sense, as the reader can streamline their attention on the six they have seen brought to life on stage.
When I saw the play at London’s National Theatre, it was quite a way through its run, having toured throughout the UK after its 2015 Edinburgh Fringe debut. The band and actresses were extremely well versed, each song was note-perfect and they knew exactly how to play specific lines for laughs, with a few minor alterations from the original script.
Of course, the play leaves some interesting details out. However, as I’m sure other contributors will note about the Hollywood counterparts to their favourite novels, the visual adaptation offers more memorable particular moments. For example, I doubt I’ll ever forget Dawn Sievewright as Fionnula holding the entire, sold-out Dorfman Theatre in the palm of her hand as she stood at the edge of the stage and admitted quietly, in stark contrast to her previous demeanour, the severity of the girls’ situation after everything had collapsed around them.
Some jokes went over the heads of those in attendance who clearly had never read the novel – so for context, Warner’s work provided important background for those of us who had done our homework- a commentary, if you like, on the play.
When it comes to the original idea- of course Hall germinated the seeds sewed by Warner, often borrowing particularly incisive pieces of dialogue. The vivid characterisation is the result of the novel, no doubt, but only one made me laugh out loud repeatedly. Only one brought me to the verge of tears at the end and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Only one made me feel like I might just, for a couple of hours, have attended Our Lady of Perpetual Succour School too. The book was good – but it laid the foundations for the play to be even better.
Image by Tony Allen