Posts tagged ‘learning’

October 25, 2013

A month without supermarkets.

Last month, I had a bit of a meltdown in the local supermarket. I’ve written before on the paradox of choice and how, sometimes, when faced with too many options, I go into some kind of paralysis. When forced into a supermarket, I often find myself wandering aimlessly round  as though drugged, then like the proverbial deer in the headlights, standing in front of an entire aisle of soup, unable to drag myself away, nor make a decision about which to buy.

And that’s precisely the reason that I’m quitting them. That, and the knowledge that half the world doesn’t have enough to eat and the other half, well, me at least, is deliberating over what seems like an endless variety of food.The balance is quite clearly off and it makes me uncomfortable. I want to have a better feeling about my food than I do now.

So. What to do? Well, I’m about to move to a new area of Leeds which has an array of small independent shops. I’ve just started getting a weekly veg box delivery again. And I’m determined to make the most of my allotment produce. All of these things add up to one answer. Stop going to the supermarket. See what other suppliers are out there; the Leeds Bread Co-op that delivers locally, the farmers’ market, Leeds City Markets, Handpicked Food Hall, and a myriad of other folk. I want to know where my meat comes from, try raw milk, eat seasonally, cook more, meet the people who produce the food that I’m buying and eating. I don’t want to be that person that I become when I’m in the supermarket, making choices like a zombie. This isn’t about me being a ‘foodie’. I don’t really understand that term anyway; surely everyone who eats is a foodie? This is about making more sustainable choices, being comfortable with what I’m eating and enjoying myself. Fewer, better options feel better for me than the vast warehouse-style supermarkets that just make me uncomfortable.

It’s also not an exercise in deprivation. I’m no Jamie Oliver with his unthinking ‘ buy ten mangetout from the market’ type comments. I appreciate that this is going to take more time and is likely to cost more money. I also know how completely fortunate I am. Believe me, if I worked awkward shifts or had a very tight budget, I would stay in the supermarket, without question. I am grateful that I can make this decision.  I’m also hopeful that perhaps I’ll waste less food, use less packaging and appreciate what I’m buying, cooking and eating a bit more.

So, my statement of intent: For the whole of November I  will make sure I don’t step foot in a supermarket. I’m very hopeful that my lovely boyfriend will join me in this challenge. I think he will. As long as we find a decent beer shop! Who am I kidding, I shall need that too. At this moment in time I can only think of one problem. I need fishfingers. So, I need a non-supermarket place to buy or a great recipe to make fish-fingers. Otherwise my lovely, incredibly fussy, four year old boy will starve. Any ideas on that?

During the month, I’m going to blog about the places I find along the way. I’m also doing the Blog Every Day in November Challenge with Rosalilium, so November is going to be a busy old month on Margot & Barbara. If this month works out well, then the plan is to keep going to the end of 2013. And then, who knows. Can we get through the whole of 2014 without Tesco? Sounds good to me…

 

Bloggers: Fancy joining in? Let me know, and we can link up. 

Readers in Leeds, are there any places I should try? I’m thinking of independent food growers, producers, shops, markets etc. Let me know! 

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October 11, 2013

Doing One Thing Well.

As someone who has a myriad of interests, I’m usually in the middle of several projects at once. At the moment, having just counted them out, there are at least a dozen things I’m in the middle of and that’s pretty typical. Sometimes, it works well and I feel in control and sometimes it doesn’t. Today is one of the ‘it doesn’t’ days, and I feel a bit like I’m in the eye of a storm of my own making.

For the past couple of days I’ve had a sentence running through my head, and it’s one that is anathema to a scanner, really.

“Do one thing well”.

It’s from the brilliant David Hieatt, founder of Huit Denim and the Do Lectures. Attending the Do Lectures is high on my life’s wish list. But for me, the idea of doing just one thing is a bit terrifying. I hate the thought of missing something, the chance to try something new, have a great experience or learn. Yet the self-made storm of projects that are littering both my mind and my home means that I really need to move towards doing one thing, rather than trying to do everything simultaneously.

Perhaps I can translate ‘do one thing well’ to ‘do one thing well at once‘? So, instead of trying to write, research, check Twitter, plan my allotment crop rotation, take a photo for Instagram and set up a mailing list all at once, I could commit to one thing at a time. I’m thinking of using something like the Pomodoro technique;  even I could manage 25 minutes of concentrating on one thing instead of trying to do it all together and ultimately achieving very little! As I wrote on my friend Dave’s brilliant blog the other day, although I’d really like to be accomplished at something, I have accepted that I’m not a specialist, and this is just who I am. But I still need to check myself every so often to make sure that I’m not sabotaging myself.

Although multi-tasking is often spoken of as a way in which to achieve lots, I’m not really convinced of it as a tool for me to get more done. There is a Japanese saying that springs to mind; one who chases after two hares won’t even catch one. Doing two things at once means you’ll fail at both. Sometimes, that’s a small failing. I often leave the tea-bag in my tea because I’ve been distracted by Twitter in the middle of making it. That’s bad enough. But sometimes it can be much bigger – not making progress on projects because I’m too busy ‘researching’ (looking at pretty things on Pinterest) or ‘planning’ (doodling random words in a notebook) and I am driving myself to distraction with this self-sabotage. I know that time spent enjoying yourself isn’t time wasted. But actually, getting a spike of envy by looking at the perfect home/holiday/lifestyle on Pinterest sometimes isn’t terribly enjoyable anyway!

Alongside thinking about the Pomodoro technique, I’m  re-reading the ultimate guidebook for scanners and having a look through some life-hacking and time management blogs.

But I’d also really like your tips for getting things done. What do you do to make things happen? How to do you manage your time effectively? And how on earth do I decide what to concentrate my time on?

September 20, 2013

Introduction to Letterpress.

Last weekend was one of the best experiences I’ve had for a long time. I spent two days at the West Yorkshire Print Workshop on an ‘Introduction to Letterpress’ course. I’d been waiting for it for months and by the time Saturday arrived I was a bundle of nerves. I’m not an artist of any kind and I didn’t quite know what I was letting myself in for!

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Thankfully, my nerves were unfounded, as I arrived to by met by my tutor, Nick, and a couple of other students, all of whom were utterly lovely. Nick’s teaching style was laid-back, inclusive and easy to follow and he put us at ease straight away. The facilities at the West Yorkshire Print Workshop are great – we had two print rooms and plenty of space for us to work in. The enormous ‘Imperial Press’, with the wooden type provided by Nick, enabled us to make big scale prints and the table-top Adana 8X5 presses in the other room were for smaller work. Two days later, I’d amassed a giant collection of prints, all made with the Imperial Press because I absolutely fell in love with creating images on such a large scale! The Adana can print with a far smaller type but it felt a bit fiddly for me, although I’d love to go back and have a play with it too.

Imperial Press

Modern letterpress, which has had a huge upsurge in popularity in recent years, often uses photo-polymer plates, with images made on a computer used to create brand-new plates for pressing with. However, all of the type we used was old, which gave it a wonderful tactile feel and created images that were made more lovely by their imperfections.

Things that we take for granted when typing on a computer require so much thought when creating in letterpress. Everything is mirror image, for a start, and you have to think about the spaces between rows of type (leading) and between words, so that things are readable and look correctly spaced out. All the negative space surrounding the words has to be considered and the type has to be locked into a frame (known as the chase) with leading and quoins so none of the letters fall out when you pick it up to take to the press. And this is before using tricky fonts and struggling to decide if the letter you have is the letter you think you have! No wonder that the phrase ‘mind your p’s and q’s’ came from letterpress…

I absolutely adored this course and found myself really absorbed in the process to the point where hours passed without notice. It’s a long time since I’ve felt that ‘flow’ and it was a definite sign to me that I need to spend more time with this rather challenging yet fascinating subject.

Letterpress Ink

At the end of the second day, I felt a bit like I’d only just got started and now am trying to work out how I can take this further, given my lack of any of the tools or equipment needed! I’m also looking through the list of courses at the Workshop and deciding what to try next.

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‘Never stop learning’ – detail from one of my prints.  Notice that I’ve got the ‘r’ in the wrong font! Not even trying for irony there…

For a ‘scanner’ like me, learning is truly addictive and this course has reignited my passion for study. And that’s made me very, very happy indeed…

September 18, 2013

Three Good Things: Week 9

Hello, and welcome to this week’s edition of Three Good Things!

As ever, this post is about finding the small things that make me happy and grateful for my life.

Last weekend, I did a two day course at the West Yorkshire Print Workshop, and so this week’s Three Good Things is heavily influenced by that experience…

One: Hello!

Hello letterpress print

I did loads of different prints on my course, and this one, which was the fastest to create, is a bit of a favourite. It’s a brighter lime green than it appears in this photo (taken in poor light), and will be framed to go on the wall in my new home.  I love the simplicity and the way that the old, wooden type has created imperfections in the print. To me, letterpress  (with old type, rather than new photopolymer plates) is a wonderful example of the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi; the beauty in impermanence and imperfection. I’ll be blogging more about my experiences at the West Yorkshire Print Workshop on Friday!

Two: Uppercase.

Uppercase magazine

Uppercase magazine is a visual treat every issue. The special stationery issue in this photo was the final push in my decision to sign up for a letterpress course in the first place and I read every issue from cover to cover and keep them for inspiration. They describe themselves as ‘creative and curious’ to which I’d add joyful, colour-filled and uplifting.  Even, if, like me, you’re not already working in a creative industry, it’s really inspiring. It’s definitely influencing plans I’m dreaming up for the future and I’m already looking forward to the next ‘gem’ themed issue.

Uppercase is available from loads of places, but I buy mine from Colours May Vary.

Three: Just My Type.

Just My Type

This book about fonts is my current read. I’ve loved Simon Garfield since I read his beautifully edited trilogy of books based on Mass Observation diaries from before, during and after the Second World War, and I’m loving this just as much. He has a wonderful way of taking something that could be  rather a dry subject, and bringing it completely alive. I cannot pass a poster now without wondering about the font. He begins the book by discussing Comic Sans, which feels a bit like tackling the elephant in the font room straight away and now I’ve discovered that it’s really valued by dyslexic children, I’m feeling somewhat gentler towards it! It’s a great, fun and informative book that I highly recommend. Learning more about type and fonts is a great way for me to continue my education now I’ve done my introductory letterpress course. Now I just need to decide what’s next!

Now, I recommend that you hop over to  Espresso Coco  and Tonight’s Menu to see what they’ve chosen as their Three Good Things and then share what’s been making you smile this week in the comments. Or, if you’re a blogger too, I’d love you to join in with this series on your own blog!  Just let me know you’re writing it and I’ll make sure to link up with you next week…

September 4, 2013

Three Good Things: Week 7

Welcome to this week’s edition of Three Good Things! 

Here we go…

One: Hugh’s loo roll creations!

My first good thing this week is a rather special one. Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis will remember that last week, I posted photos of cardboard owls that I’d made with my kids out of loo roll inners. Later in the week, I got a tweet from the lovely Rachel (@textilesteacher) saying that her young son, Hugh, was busily rootling around in the recycling bin looking for loo roll tubes to make his own owls.

Then, a bit later, she tweeted me these photos! How wonderful. It really made me smile. One of the nicest things about blogging, and indeed, about Twitter is the sharing of joyful, uplifting things and making new friends. I LOVED that Hugh had been inspired to make his own owls, and then he went one better and made Despicable Me minions. This was a genuine highlight of my week. Thank you Hugh, for your wonderful creations, and thank you Rachel for sharing them with me.

Hugh's wonderful creations! (photos credit: @textilesteacher)

Hugh’s wonderful creations! (photos credit: @textilesteacher)

Two: My sweetcorn.

The second thing to make me very happy this week is my long-awaited sweetcorn! Last year, the birds treated themselves to a feast of it, and so I didn’t get any to eat, but this year it’s amazing. Big, plump kernals, all the way round well grown cobs. And all with the minimum of help from me!  It’s been a tricky year on my allotment this year (and I’ll share more about this with you in another post) but this is a lovely success.

Sweetcorn

Three: A special birthday card.

Three Good Things is about celebrating the small things in life that make everyday worth smiling about, and yet the third thing to make my list this week isn’t small at all. For the past few years I have sponsored a small boy in India called Kishan through Plan and it’s soon to be his birthday. And so my third good thing this week is a birthday card. Written by me, and containing some drawings by my children, it will be on the way to India now. That my children know about Kishan and why we send money to help support him, his family and local community, is really important to me, and without wishing to sound like a spoilt cliche, now that my children are getting a bit older I hope that it helps them to understand a bit more about the world, the people who live in it and how important it is to share with those less fortunate than themselves. Kishan (who is only seven) goes to school now, instead of having to work in the local textiles factory. If that’s not a good thing, then I don’t know what is.

What are your good things this week?

September 2, 2013

Take your holiday back home…

This post was originally titled ‘how to steal things from your holiday’ but I thought you might worry I had criminal tendencies…

Do you ever come back from holiday determined to bring something home with you? I don’t mean literally stealing the towels from your hotel room, although I do admit to taking those little bottles of toiletries if they’re nice enough. We all do that though, right?

What I mean by ‘stealing’ is taking ideas, behaviours, attitudes, styles, away from our ‘holiday’ selves and recreating them in our ‘real’ selves and real, everyday lives. I’ve often tried to do exactly that. Sadly, though the idea of breakfast on the terrace every day is perfection in sunny Europe, it doesn’t translate terribly well to a wintery Yorkshire.  However, this year, I have a very good chance of recreating some elements of my holidays in my everyday life, from my city break in Paris, camping trips to Scotland and The Lake District and, last week, in a yurt in the Yorkshire Dales.

So – first up are some lovely Duralex glasses that you see everywhere in Paris. Although they’re incredibly chic, they’re also cheap, and so I can buy these and pretend that I’m drinking in some little Left Bank bistro. Perhaps I’ll insist on a return trip to Paris to buy them from Merci though?

Secondly, I can recreate the  lanterns that are used everywhere at Bivouac, adding wire to old jars and glasses, with some lace or jute string to decorate and a tea light dropped inside. I found this tutorial video, which makes them look easy! Cheap enough to amass a huge collection, these will be a glittering backdrop to the Bonfire Night supper that I’m planning. And bunting! I need more bunting in my life. I think I shall make some. It’s not hard, is it?

Tea lights, bunting and mismatched furniture...

Tea lights, bunting and mismatched furniture…

I can also recreate the style of Bivouac in other ways, using mis-matched furniture (which, with my budget, is going to happen anyway!) to give my home a lived-in, unique feel. Removing the distractions of TV, and allowing the evenings to be focussed on people, conversations around dinner and a bottle of beer sounds good too. That lack of wifi, 3G or even a phone signal at Bivouac was good for making me slow down a bit and read more. I’d like to bring reading back into my normal life too, I’ve not found the time for that recently.

Often, when I’m on holiday, I find myself eating differently. This is more noticeable, I think, when abroad, as I adopt a Mediterranean style diet, or eat more unusual food. I often choose to potter around a local market to shop for food. This is something that I’d like to bring back home to my everyday life. More fresh food, more cooking, more greens! Fewer scones, sadly, which seemed to be a staple of my last holiday…

I also tend to exercise more – swimming in a pool or the sea perhaps. Walking, cycling, even wandering around a city can be physically demanding. I’ve started swimming every week, although it’s not terribly glamorous at my local pool, it is doing me good. I’ve added hill walking to my weekends whenever I can fit it in, so it’s not just something I do when I’m away camping.

I’m sure there are other things I can add to that list, given enough time! But for now, those are the things I’m stealing from my holidays. I’m hoping that they will add a bit of healthiness and happiness, as well as making me feel a tiny bit more like I’m on holiday everyday…

What would you steal from your holiday? 

August 28, 2013

Three Good Things: Week Six

Hello! After a week of holiday, Three Good Things is back for the usual dose of positivity amidst a busy week. It’s a pretty brief post this week, because I’m still recovering from a week in a yurt (which I’ll tell you more about on Friday) and am surrounded by laundry that I really should do something about.

So without further ado…

One: Collective nouns.

The first thing bringing me joy this week is collective nouns. I know, it’s perhaps not quite what you were expecting from Three Good Things. But I love the English language for collective nouns, especially those for animals and birds. There appears to be several variations for some animals, in many cases where it’s a group in a different situation, such as a hive of bees and a swarm of bees. We’ve all heard of a pod of whales or a pack of hounds but how about a shrewdness of apes? Some other favourites of mine are a glaring of cats. A business of ferrets. A murder of crows.  And I defy anyone not to smile at a flamboyance of flamingos. If you’re ever stuck for something to do, I highly recommend looking up collective nouns. It’s most entertaining!  Here’s a parliament of owls. We made them this week out of loo roll inners. I’m becoming quite the loo roll art expert…

A Parliament of Loo Roll Owls!

A Parliament of Loo Roll Owls!

Two: Cheese!

Second up this week is a new cheese, discovered by me, and lots of other people, during a tour of the Wensleydale Creamery on our holiday. It’s called Bishopdale, and it’s a cheddar. But, oh what a cheddar. Utterly gorgeous. Sadly, only available from the Creamery shop, not even online. So, a regular trip to Hawes is going to be needed. Ah well. Any excuse for a trip to the Yorkshire Dales! Alas, I have no photo to share with you because I’ve eaten it all. Sorry about that. But you can all imagine what a block of cheese looks like, can’t you?

Three: Playmobil silo.

My third thing this week is the most utterly perfect toy I’ve ever found for my son. Like many young boys, my son is a huge fan of farms. Tractors, combine harvesters and other machinery feature high on his list of loves. But absolutely top of the list is grain silos. I know. Don’t even ask. I have no idea why.  Before our holiday last week, I told the kids that, rather than buying loads of holiday rubbish, I’d buy them one decent toy each. And my son wanted a toy grain silo. Cue a spot of panic, until I came across the Playmobil catalogue and lo and behold, a grain silo. Thank goodness for Playmobil!

Now, if this was a weekly ranting post, I’d tell you all about how it comes with a bag of teeny, tiny plastic grain that gets spilled all over the floor every time he plays with it, and that are soon to be put in the bin and replaced with red lentils that I can just vacuum up. But its not a ranting blog post, so instead I’ll concentrate on telling you that he loves his grain silo so much that he takes it to bed with him alongside his toy monkey. And that makes me very happy indeed.

Toy grain silo. Weird, but he loves it!

Toy grain silo. I know, its weird, but he loves it!

So, those are my Three Good Things this week. What are yours?

Don’t forget to visit Hello Kirsty and Mummy Plum  to see what they’ve chosen as their Three Good  Things this week too.

August 7, 2013

Three Good Things: Week Four

Welcome to this week’s edition of Three Good Things!

I can’t believe it is week four already, time really does fly…

One: Orange is the New Black.

My first good thing this week is a TV series. And when I say a ‘series’ its because I watched every episode pretty much back-to-back! ‘Orange is the New Black‘ is a show created by Netflix, which means that you have to subscribe in order to watch. But given that this series, based on a true story and set in a women’s prison, manages to be simultaneously funny, heart-wrenching, terrifying and endearing all at the same time,  it’s completely worth it. Or you could do what we did and get a free month’s Netflix trial to watch the show!  Though, we’ve ended up keeping Netflix, because it’s actually great for those of us without a TV.

I do love it when a TV show steals my heart so much that I want to completely immerse myself in it. I can’t remember the last time that happened to me. Maybe it was The West Wing?

The show is now multi-Emmy-award nominated and series two is already in the pipeline, which I’m already impatient about. Highly recommended.

Orange Is The New Black (image: netflix)

Orange Is The New Black (image: netflix)

Two: My new bag!

My second good thing this week is my new Fjallraven Kanken bag. It was a gift to me, and I love it. In my humble opinion, it’s an iconic design. It’s really simple,  with one large main section, a smaller front pocket and an extra zip-out part at the back which increases the capacity to be big enough for me to fill it with enough stuff that I can barely carry it. Each Kanken comes with a little seat pad too, which came in very handy this week when I had to wait half an hour on a seat-free platform for a delayed train…

Me with my Fjallraven Kanken Maxi waiting for a train...

Me with my Fjallraven Kanken Maxi waiting for a train…

Three: Cardboard Lions.

My last good thing this week is a cardboard loo roll. Well, several loo rolls, in fact. Covered in yellow paint and made into lions, they are the proof that I am ok at craft. And a decent mother to boot. I’m going to blog a bit more about this later on, but I wanted to share this today, because I’m really happy with how they turned out, and the kids were thrilled. The inspiration for these came from a lovely blog called  A Patchwork Life, and we are hoping to keep going through the summer holidays, with a different animal each week until we have a cardboard safari!

Fabulous cardboard lion!

Fabulous cardboard lion!

Do have a look at the lovely ‘Three Good Things’ posts from Nyssapod and A Hell of A Woman.

What are your Three Good Things this week? 

July 26, 2013

Colours May Vary, Leeds.

Those of you who know me well, in real life or through the pages of this blog, will know that I have something of a magazine addiction.

Over the past few years, my magazine preferences have shifted, moving away from women’s monthlies that make false promises like ‘A Perfect Life in 10 Easy Moves’ towards more nourishing, soulful reads like Kinfolk, Cereal, Hole & Corner,  Uppercase, Another Escape and Frankie. That’s not to say the lure of the glossy doesn’t catch me – it does every so often, but if I succumb to one of them, I’m invariably disappointed.

My love of paper and of print media, as opposed to e-books, means that I like to seek out places to find the unusual, the individual and the beautiful. I’m a big fan of Magpile, I did the Guardian Masterclass in independent magazine publishing last year (watch this space…) my Pinterest account has a special board just for magazines, and you might remember that my only Christmas blog post of last year was about Stack magazine subscriptions.

I used to spend many an hour in the now-closed Leeds branch of Borders, perusing the magazines there. I was that rare type who didn’t just spend my lunch-hour standing and reading magazines that I had no intention of buying. I was the one staggering to the cash desk under a teetering pile of unusual, often imported, magazines and journals. That they didn’t survive in Leeds is not because I didn’t spend…

Thankfully, there is now a wonderful place in Leeds where I can satiate my love of magazines and print. That place is Colours May Vary.

Located in Munro House, on the outskirts of the town centre, Colours May Vary is the kind of place that is almost impossible to find; an independent retailer with the kind of relaxed and inviting vibe that doesn’t leave you feeling that you are being watched like a hawk, or always expected to buy. And that, because you feel at ease to browse, and therefore discover all manner of awesome things, is precisely one of the reasons you do buy!

PicMonkey Collage

Some of my purchases from Colours May Vary – and coffees from Laynes!

Together with the aforementioned magazines, the stock includes a great selection of art, design and children’s books, cards, gift wrap, notebooks, and an array of other carefully chosen and ever-changing items that will basically form my entire Christmas shopping this year. I know, I know, I said ‘Christmas’ in July, but I’m on a budget, which means I’ve started my shopping already. Sorry about that.

Current stock includes books, tote bags and prints from the super talented and lovely Matt Sewell, who I was fortunate enough to meet at a recent book launch there. I am currently coveting one of his prints and hoping that if I wish for one hard enough, I might be lucky enough to get one for Christmas! There, I go, mentioning Christmas again…

The customer service is wonderful, and I’ve been able on many an occasion now, to ask for a copy of a particular magazine to be put to one side to enable me to get there and buy it. It feels incredibly responsive and makes me want to sing their praises from the highest of rooftops. The collaboration with Laynes Espresso (splendid independent coffee shop near Leeds Railway Station) means that I can get a coffee and have a quick look through new issues before buying, either from Laynes, or Colours May Vary.  As you can see from the photos, I do that quite a lot!

So, if you’re in Leeds, I highly recommend that you do go to Colours May Vary. It’s a really special store that deserves every success. I’ll probably see you in there…

As an aside, after reading Issue 17 of Uppercase, I have finally booked myself onto a Letterpress Course at the West Yorkshire Print Workshop! Very excited. I’ll let you know how I get on on…

March 15, 2013

Doctor Faustus at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Last week, my friend and occasional ‘cultural conversation’ partner Jo and I were lucky enough to be invited to a performance of Doctor Faustus at the West Yorkshire Playhouse through our friends at The Culture Vulture and we’ve been meaning to write our review ever since. Unfortunately, events conspired against us so far, but, finally, here it is. And just in time for you to catch it before it closes this weekend! We talked in the interval, and since, about the impact the play had on us, and the questions it raises about decisions, faith, morality, and – perhaps most importantly – how amazing Mephistopheles’ final costume was. I’ve reproduced some of our conversation below, with huge thanks to Jo for her fabulous contributions and apologies in advance if I accidentally shift from ‘we’ to ‘I’ continually throughout this piece …

If you’re the sort of person who likes your Marlowe and Shakespeare served traditionally, Colin Teevan’s Doctor Faustus probably won’t be your cup of tea. Personally, I’m happy for myths and legends to be re-imagined in a modern context—it replaces the natural evolution of stories that happens in oral traditions—and as the Faustus tale explores such a juicy question—what it means to lose one’s soul—it’s ripe for adaptation across centuries and continents. Luckily for both of us, we really enjoyed this version, and admire the boldness of both Colin Teevan for adapting such a well-known and loved piece of work and the Playhouse and Citizens Theatre, Glasgow for producing it.

From the Playhouse trailer,  we were expecting something much darker than the lurid show we saw.

The sense of menace came in the form of Mephistopheles (Siobhan Redmond) who, we both agreed, stole the show. Jo said that she wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see her floating rather than walking across the stage; she oozed otherworldliness. Mephistopheles’ excellent performance was closely followed by Alasdair Hankinson’s back playing Marilyn Monroe. We’ve never seen someone act with their shoulder blades before and Hankinson has set the bar high!

Flanking the main stage space with a secondary set—rows of vanity mirrors, suggesting a theatre dressing room—was a clever touch, creating a blur between audience and actor and allowing us to be in on the jokes played on Faustus—we see a male devil gleefully don a wig, veil and wedding dress when Faustus asks Mephistopheles for a bride. This distinction was played with again, right at the end, when the edges of the theatre backdrop lifted to expose a part of the Playhouse backstage area, repositioning the audience emotionally from being outsiders looking in to complicit in the scene; a small act with a massive effect.

There were a few really nice details in the piece, from a brief moment at the opening of the play when the ‘off-stage’ characters all sit up in their chairs and lean, as one, towards the action, to an Elvis rendition of Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’ in a Las Vegas scene.

Jo did have rather a WTF moment about a rabbit. In a scene of debauchery, one of the participants appears in a bunny head. Apparently, nightmarish equals giant rabbit. Cue her version of Tito’s rant about dwarves in dream sequences (Living in Oblivion). There. She’s said her piece. I’m sure she feels better now …

The language in the contemporary parts sometimes felt a bit too obvious, and as a result,  sometimes it felt as though Mephistopheles lost a little of the otherworldliness introduced and performed with such brilliance in the first acts. We perhaps didn’t need to have such blatant examples of evil in order to believe… Having said that, we did enjoy the contemporary acts of the play, and the contrast between them and the original Marlowe text; they were bold, quite fun and introduced a bit more of the conflict in Faustus’ mind.

Whenever Faustus begins to examine the wisdom and morality behind his choices he is told to ‘think on the devil’ and a distraction is created to divert him. Similarly, the heavyweight ideas in the fabric of the play disappear once the show is done, leaving behind a sense of having been thoroughly entertained.

Doctor Faustus closes this weekend, but if you get the chance, do go along to see it. We’d love to hear your views …