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‘You’re acting mad, but in fact you’re saner than I am’ – Progress Theatre presents ‘The Accidental Death of an Anarchist’

The Accidental Death of an Anarchist was performed at the Progress Thetare in Reading, 20th – 25th February 2017

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I have never heard of this play before The Progress Theatre’s production, so I was enticed to see how they would present this Italian play. Written by Dario Fo and wonderfully directed by Eva Marchetti, The Accidental Death of an Anarchist presents the audience with four police officers who were involved with the case of an anarchist suspected of bombing the National Agrarian Bank. The suspicious circumstances of what was first assumed to be his suicide, after falling from the window of his interrogation room, become clear once the case is reopened for evaluation, and the police officers in question begin to panic. This serious and heavy theme is lightened by the comedy that runs throughout – mainly through the character of The Maniac. A man known for his lunacy, having been committed to hospital sixteen times, manages to con the officers into thinking he is the Judge who shall be discussing their case. Through his discussion with the officers, he manages to unfurl all kinds of secrets and deceptions from them, as they retrace their steps from the day of the anarchist’s death, and trip up along the way…

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The main praise I have for this play is the Maniac, played by John Gonzalez. His ability to convincingly portray an absolute lunatic was wildly impressive. However, it was even more so when he slowly changed from being the fidgety and mad maniac to his character of the Judge, who manages to exert authority and control over all the other characters, and makes us question whether he is truly insane. This change is performed beautifully, as he slowly and subtly is presented as one of the only sane people on the stage, whilst chaos forms between the remaining characters. These characters would not have looked out of place in a Monty Python film (and I mean that as a compliment), with their over exaggerated reactions and their slapstick humour, overall making it a fantastic play to watch.

The Maniac was over the top and comedic throughout, proving him to be popular with the audience, which was clear from the laughter that emanated throughout the theatre during his time on stage. Gonzalez acted alongside the others smoothly and there were very few hiccups, which was surprising for their first performance and I must commend them for it.

It was beautifully staged, with two of the characters on the stage before the audience had even entered the theatre. They maintained their characters, every now and then making remarks, such as having the feeling they were being watched. The Constable, portrayed by Daniel Brown showed a notable performance as the ‘office idiot’. The Constable was certainly not the sharpest tool in the shed, clear from his slow uptake and remarks, this is particularly clear when the officers are attempting to recreate their story to the ‘judge’ as his ideas are just laughable – which is good for a comedy! Brown portrays these lines with such a straight face that it’s almost impossible not to believe this character is real – making him a hilarious ridiculous character in the best way.

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For me, the most interesting part of the play was the final scene. The Maniac presents how one decision, the decision of Maria Feletti, the reporter digging for a scandal, holds a great weight, and this play presents us with two different endings, depending on what she may decide. This makes for a captivating finale whilst still maintaining the light-hearted and comic tone until the very end. This play had me laughing throughout and kept me on the edge of my seat guessing about what really went on during the anarchist’s interrogation. The show was fun, clever and exciting from start to finish and undoubtedly enchanted its audience.

‘For the first time I’m using my body just for me and I feel like a goddamn superhero’

@GlowNetflix
Credit: @GlowNetflix on Twitter

GLOW, or ‘Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling’, as it stands for, is the newest show to hit Netflix. I saw this advertised for over a month, with two minute clips and interviews storming my social media pages and all I could think was ‘this show really isn’t for me’. I have never been interested in wrestling in the past and it just seemed a little too over the top for me. When it finally came out I casually put on the first episode…and finished the series the next day. This show was so real I couldn’t stop watching. Whilst it is fictional, the general origin story of women’s wrestling is very real and very successful!

GLOW opens with Ruth Wilder – an aspiring actress who is down on her luck. Then she hears of the audition for GLOW, directed by Sam Sylvia. We see the audition process of a group of women learning the basics of wrestling (it’s quite funny to watch at the start) and as the group gets smaller, we finally meet the women that made the cut. One of the best things about this show is the diversity in body types – we don’t just see stick thin women, but we get some curves and larger women who are confident and strong – this is a rarity in TV even now, and it was refreshing to see! Watching the women grow throughout the ten episodes made me feel so supportive that when they successfully performed some of the difficult moves I was fist punching the air and getting emotional along with the crowd and may or may not have had blurry eyes a few times…

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Credit: Cosmopolitan

Not only does this show present the difficulties women faced, particularly in the world of acting, which we see all too clearly in the opening scene, but it also shows Sam Sylvia’s struggles with his career. Despite his hard work people fail to take him seriously as a director and he struggles with creativity for his future films. In addition to this, we see the loneliness he feels and his destructive nature to push those closest to him away – the only person to become his true friend is Ruth, whose positive attitude seems to bring a little more light in to his life. This is what makes the show so real – it truthfully presents the struggles of men and women without any flowery cover – it’s raw and truthful and speaks to its audience.

Alison Brie’s performance is outstanding to say the least! Not only does she play such a strong leading female character, who pushes through all the barriers in her way and is annoyingly persistent at times, but Brie is able to portray SO many different acting talents. As her character is an actress, we see her auditioning for different roles and taking on many different characters – the main one being the Russian villain ‘Zoya the Destroya’, her wrestling persona– and she has such a wide range of abilities it is incredible to watch!  For the first time we see Brie as more of a villain than the sweet character we’re used to, and I love it.

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Credit: @GlowNetflix on Twitter

GLOW is a comedy-drama that will definitely have you laughing throughout, even during the more serious scenes – the women grow together and you go on their ride with them through all their struggles and their successes, and it’s an amazing journey to go on! Not to mention the COSTUMES! The costume design in incredible – it’s bright, it’s tight and does everything right – and the make-up and hair to go with it is just as amazing! They delved into the 80s vibe and all the incredible (and sometimes dreadful) trends that were fashionable and it works so well. If nothing else has sold this show, perhaps that will! It’s an incredible show so make sure that GLOW is on your watch list for this summer!

‘You wanted fire?’ Riverdale will give you a battle between fire and ice you won’t be forgetting in a hurry…

A review of one of the latest Netflix Originals of 2017…

In the last couple of years there has been a surge of ‘Netflix Original’ TV shows making their way to the popular website, and Riverdale is one of the latest and, in my personal opinion, the most riveting and exciting one yet. As a student, I would be lying if I said I hadn’t sat my way through the majority of these binge worthy shows like Making a Murderer, Stranger Things and 13 Reasons Why – it’s the best way of procrastinating from university essays and reading, of course! I have been impressed with all of the above shows and many more, however Riverdale is somewhat different…

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The show is narrated by the Riverdale High social outcast Jughead Jones (yes, that really is his actual name, and he has a sister called Jellybean…), and it begins with explaining what happened on July 4th Weekend. This tale is set in your classic American small suburban town, where danger is unheard of and a perfect public image is the most important part of people’s lives…On the 4th July, the show explains, someone in this town dies – although this is explained in the opening scene, I won’t discuss who this is, however I will explain that this death, initially assumed to be a mere accident, becomes a murder investigation – and the show becomes very much a ‘whodunit’ – a genre that is exciting, fast paced and has you wondering and accusing various characters throughout. This, on top of a family feud between the Blossoms and the Coopers, and the increasing amount of incriminating evidence against the Lodge family makes Riverdale an extremely exciting watch.

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(Left to right) Veronica Lodge, Betty Cooper and Archie Andrews. (Background: Josie, Jughead Jones and Cheryl Blossom)

I must commend this show firstly for the characters it portrays. Some may argue that the main characters (Betty, Veronica, Archie and Jughead) are not ‘deep’ enough – perhaps the show does not go into expanding their characters enough. However, these characters are all so very typical in any America show that there really is no need to do so. You have Betty, the ‘good girl’ – a straight A student, a cheerleader, a real ambassador for Riverdale High; Veronica, the ‘bad girl’ – she’s a new student from New York trying to fix her bitchy track record; Jughead is the social outcast who keeps himself to himself and would rather stay observing the case rather than being a part of it, and Archie, the dreamy Quarterback whose problems are far more trivial than everyone else’s (seriously, you wouldn’t believe how little he has to deal with compared to his friends). There is no need to delve deep into these characters as we know them all already – we’ve probably been friends with the same supposedly perfect characters, however, this show does give us some ambivalence. Betty, the nice girl, undoubtedly has a dark streak within her, which comes to light very dramatically, and Cheryl Blossom, whom you will certainly despise at first, is neither good nor bad – she is the most confusing and yet the strongest character of them all and you are bound to fall in love with her fire, strength and darkness throughout the show.

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Cheryl Blossom uncovering the dark truth about her family…

As any TV programme would, this show does have its pitfalls, though they are few and far between. Every now and then I would cringe at the way the teens spoke – I’m not sure if this was a little dig at young people today, focussing on how much time we teenagers spend on social media these days, or if the writers of the show genuinely think that teenagers actually speak in hashtags – but throughout the show, particularly Cheryl Blossom, the characters would say things such as ‘hashtag Riverdale Strong’. This may be an American stereotype that we in England aren’t used to, but watching the show I can safely say that it was slightly cringe to say the least. However having a slightly awkward sentence here and there is hardly a negative comment for an entire series and therefore is a very minor criticism. As well as this, there were a few far-fetched discoveries that were made by the teenagers, and it is hard to believe that four teenagers were able to find more evidence than the Sheriff or the police department, giving it a slight Scooby-Doo vibe, but then again – its fiction, and it’s exciting and hardly a criticism of the show. Riverdale is packed full of action in every minute – there were no ‘filler’ episodes, and it was by no means slow. Every episode had so many twists and turns and dramatic discoveries that I binged it in a few days and could not stop watching. I would recommend waiting for exams to be over before starting this show – you will be wondering who committed the murder and what on earth is going on from start to finish – it is certainly one of the most exciting shows I’ve watched in a long time! Make sure you catch it on Netflix soon.