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Saturday, 18 January 2014

End of an Era

There is truly no way for me to put into words how I am feeling right now...but this would be a terrible blog post if I didn't at least attempt it. Global Village Backpackers, where I worked for 2 years and lived for an irrelevant amount of time, is set to close. I received a text from a friend of mine about it and immediately went to my source for fact checking any sort of news nowadays (Facebook) and lo and behold, there were several posts from friends of mine still in Toronto about it. Some of them still living in the hostel, now having to find new digs. Some who are now also unemployed. Others who simply came to the bar and found a chilled out place to hang. It is a sad, sad day.

BUT! Let us not wallow in what could have been, let us revel in what was. And what it was, to quote an anonymous review from Hostelworld last year, was 'an historic dream of a hostel'. I know people may think I am somewhat biased but I have travelled a lot, I've stayed in a lot of different hostels in a LOT of different cities and I can honestly say the GVB was one of the best experiences I've ever had. Before anyone starts rising with indignant protests, let me finish. It is by no means the cleanest hostel ever stayed in, but it is not the dirtiest. There were 2 types of people who stayed here; people who couldn't look past the faults and people who couldn't give a shit about the faults so long as the other guests, staff and the atmosphere made up for it.

Scrolling through my friends and photos on Facebook, the last 2 years of my life have been centred around that place. I can't even begin to list all of the people that I met who made a difference in my life in some way, whether they were there for months, weeks or just days. Some of them were crazies who gave us interesting stories to tell afterwards; some who were whirlwinds of positive energy who blasted through; some who were just simply the kind of people that make travelling worthwhile and who you know you will keep in touch with for the rest of your life. There are far too many for me to name personally (and I would run the risk of forgetting someone!) but anyone who is taking the time to read this will know who you are.

There were good times, bad times, happy times, sad times. I fell in love, had my heart broken, got drunk and suffered some of the worst hangovers of my life. I met some great people and I met some absolute jerks. I made friends who I know I will treasure and who helped me to learn more about myself, who I am and who I want to be. Long live the memory of Global Village Backpackers - it's been emotional.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

A Wicked Experience

I saw Wicked for the first time 4 or 5 years ago in London. I was pretty excited until I got into the theatre...then I was CRAZY excited. I'm pretty sure my friend Alan was black and blue by the time we left, the amount of times I hit him squealing 'look at this' and 'oh, did you see that?' I fell in love with the story and the soundtrack and vowed to see it again someday. Lo and behold, it comes to Ireland when I return, opening 3 weeks after I get back. Fate? Maybe. My friends had already booked tickets and I wasn't in a financial position at the time to join them so it wasn't until Christmas Day when speaking to my friend Bruce (who had gotten a ticket as a present) that I checked the and there was ONE TICKET LEFT IN THE ENTIRE THEATRE  for that same night. Fate? Couldn't deny it. It did mean that I was sitting on my own but I didn't care.

The night started off perfectly with seeing Bruce and Eugene for the first time in 18 months, a delight only heightened by my building anticipation for the show. I took my seat and allowed myself to feel that same magic I felt the first time, studying the map of the land of Oz and keeping an eye on the giant dragon suspended at the front of the stage. When the overture kicked in, I had goosebumps before a character had appeared or a word been spoken or sung. For anyone living under a rock for the last 10 years, Wicked is the back story of the Wicked Witch of the West, originally appearing in the Wizard of Oz as the evil one who kidnaps poor Dorothy and her friends in Oz. But what led poor Elpheba to become so wicked? Sometimes sad, often funny and uplifting all at the same time, we follow her journey through school up to the magical moment when she finally gets to Oz to meet the 'wonderful' wizard and her whole perspective on life changes. With witty dialogue that frequently references events in the Wizard of Oz (sometimes very subtly, catching them all is a bonus), the story moves along at a great pace with plenty of action and drama throughout.

The chorus were phenomenal I have to say; as an ensemble, they gelled together perfectly and were ample support to the principals. Their harmonies were on point, the routines were tight and they covered the stage well. I must admit, I was somewhat disappointed by each of the main characters at some point or another during the show. But just when I was shaking my head at a weak moment, they would pull it back with a burst of energy that had shivers down my spine. Most notably was Nikki Davis-Jones as Elpheba; I found her vocals weak at times and then suddenly she would hit a note that literally made me the hairs on my arms stand up. Her duets with Emily Tierney (as the high-pitched and girlishly annoying and shallow Galinda) were great - they complemented each other very well. I was a little disappointed with my favourite song 'As Long As You're Mine' between Elpheba and Fiyero - it did not have the romance or the impact that it should, although I blame this more on the staging than on the actors themselves. 'No Good Deed' alternatively, displayed Elpheba's desperation perfectly.

Having worked in amateur theatre for nearly 10 years now (wow, just realised that!), going to the theatre presents some new challenges. On the one hand, I have this extra level of appreciation for what's happening and it makes me dizzy to imagine the logisitics of putting on a show like this from a backstage perspective. But it also means that I sometimes notice things no one else would, like the fact that the guys running the moving spotlights didn't seem to care what was going on at times. The choice to use English accents was interesting but didn't really work for me, although Boq was perfect as a Scot. The costumes were inventive, the dance routines polished, the scene changes were FLAWLESS.

Despite my slight misgivings above, there is nothing quite like the first time you see Elpheba 'Defying Gravity' and Wicked is essentially an amazing story of overcoming adversity, love and above all, friendship that is always worth a watch.

Moral of the Story - Unfortunately, tickets are sold out for the rest of the run at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre but it would be a crime not to take a quick trip to London to see the resident West End production at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. A great show that leaves you with the feeling that everyone deserves the chance to fly...

Monday, 6 January 2014

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues - Worth the wait?

The first time I saw Anchorman, I was not overly impressed. It was sort of funny but a little too haphazard for my liking. Over time, I came to love it and learned to embrace the haphazard, zany and random comedy moments. Talk of a sequel abounded for quite some time and I was excited when I heard that it was finally coming to fruition. The build up was extraordinary, with promotions ongoing for what seemed like years. We Irish were subjected to many personalised promotional videos, from topics like Love/Hate to our dear Taoiseach 'Edna' Kenny, as well as an appearance on the Late Late Show (I'm sure I wasn't the only one who would have loved Will Ferrell to keep Ryan Tubridy's chair for a little bit longer). With all the hoopla, and with inital reports being quite mixed, I was very intrigued to see the next installment to make my own mind up.

No such thing as spolier alerts when it comes to a movie like this in my opinion; even if I told you some of the random twists, it would not make sense out of context...possibly not even in context. There's the traditional over-exaggerated inflated sense of self-importance from Ron, some questionable comments and actions from Champ, some more inappropriate (and some of the funniest) lines from Brian and plenty of the obscure and seemingly random from Brick. Brian did steal the show for me a little; he doesn't say a hell of a lot but he is high-larious throughout. Did I mention I might have a mild crush on Brian Fantana? Not Paul Rudd though...must be the moustache or one of my favourite lines 'I gave her a whole Brady Bunch of crabs'.

One thing that I actually really enjoyed in retrospect is the transition into 24 hour news and how the original news team bring their ratings up. Questions asked such as 'how are we going to fill 24 hours with news stories' lead to the team sensationalising stories that are not really news worthy. When Ron uses a 3 hour broadcast to cover a high speed car chase and people eat it up, it did make me wonder if that's how it actually happened. Maybe there is a real life Ron Burgundy out there to blame for the hours of drivel that we have to trawl through on TV to get to any sort of worthy programming. I probably could have googled it to find out but well, you know. Much better to print my own opinions and let some clever person point out the mistakes later!

Moral of the Story - I may have veered off the point a bit in terms of reviewing but this movie will be enjoyed far more with a few beers, or even some other mind altering substances (not that I'd know anything about that) as well as good friends with the same sense of humour as yourself. Not everyone will find it funny when Ron keeps repeating 'black...blaaack' when he meets his African American female boss for the first time. Although I certainly did ;)