OBSESSION // HAMILTON

Album Artwork

Hamilton: An American Musical Image c/o: http://www.hamiltonbroadway.com/

As a History student, it’s kind of expected that I would be interested in things like period drama, historical fiction, retellings of the past… which is all true. The inaccuracy sometimes pains me, which is the double-edged sword of studying History, but it’s one of my great loves. That being said, when Hamilton first came onto the off-Broadway stage, I didn’t pay it much attention. I had spent so much time reading about the American political system, I reasoned, that there was no point in looking into this new, edgy interpretation of the founding fathers. But then, one day on Tumblr, everything changed.

I was reading a quote, and I had no idea where it was from. The lines read “I’m past patiently waiting, I’m passionately smashing every expectation, every action’s an act of creation”. I thought it was a motivational quote from one of the study blogs I followed! But it was a line from Hamilton. Scrolling through that blog led to more quotes, gif sets, stills, and a video of a young Lin Manuel Miranda performing the first song of the musical, Alexander Hamilton at the White House for President Obama in 2009. I was hooked.

For those of you who have managed to escape the hype that has spread across the world, Hamilton is a musical about one of the founding fathers of the USA. Alexander Hamilton was a revolutionary who fought in the war at the side of George Washington, and became the Secretary of the Treasury. He created Wall Street, negotiated the location of the capital, and founded several of the long lasting institutions that make up America today.

The musical incorporates rap and hip hop music as well as a diverse ethnic cast to, as Miranda put it, represent America today in a story of America in 1776. The musical swept the Tony’s, nominated for a record 16 awards and winning 11. It’s sold out in the States until next year, and is set to come to the UK in late 2017. I honestly can’t wait!

I think the retelling of Hamilton’s story is fundamental to understanding the state of America today. Miranda has managed to engage people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities in the life of the forgotten founding father, and reengage people with Broadway. Through complex interwoven musical motifs and expressive lyrics, even just listening to the Official Soundtrack makes you fall in love with the flawed but phenomenal creators of the USA, and gives you a wealth of history many people wouldn’t actively seek out. I certainly can reel off more key dates to the formation of the states than I could before I listened to the soundtrack!

Not only is the soundtrack available, but Hamilton truly harnesses the power of social media and thrusts the musical even further into the future, whilst remaining accurate to the past. Every day, new footage from behind the scenes or the Ham4Ham shows outside the theatre is released on YouTube and Snapchat, and there is constantly an active engagement with the fans. It’s refreshing to see a musical reaching out to the younger generations, diversifying their cast and making sure that no one feels left out. To be quite honest, I don’t think I can ever see George Washington as a white man again, and Hamilton will always be Latino to me now. They have made sure to embed Hamilton into the very heart of the USA just as his story will always be at its foundations.

Although I have the songs memorised, I have refrained from watching the bootlegged recordings of songs from the show. I really respect that Miranda has asked not to be bootlegged, and I can understand that it’s his baby, it’s his brainchild, and he should have that request upheld. I hope that Hamilton will continue to lead the developments in West End and Broadway and swiftly record and release a more affordable and accessible version of Hamilton online, something that is only really available for the long-running money-raking shows like Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. If Hamilton continues to make the show accessible and in touch with the younger, less wealthy generations who want to watch musicals but can’t afford to or can’t get to New York, it will no doubt remain one of the most popular musicals of the twenty-first century. Plus, who can get enough of Leslie Odom Jr. and Daveed Diggs?

 

Cover Image courtesy of https://feministspectator.princeton.edu/2016/02/24/hamilton/ 

 

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BOOK REVIEW // Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

It’s a book series which has been around for over twenty-five years. It’s a hugely successful TV show with a cult following. It’s falling in love with Jamie, the daring ginger Highlander. It’s Outlander.

When I saw that there was a new show airing on Amazon Instant Video called Outlander, I wasn’t too concerned with watching it. Instead, I continued binge watching some terrible cop drama… until an advert for Outlander popped up. I was transfixed. I watched it as it aired, and became so enthralled with the historical fiction, the clothes, the accent, the acting, that I went out and bought a copy of the book upon which it was based, by Diana Gabaldon, also published as Cross Stitch in the UK.

The Outlander book series is most certainly a behemoth. The books are around 600 pages each and are filled with details about the Highland way of life, interspersed with Gaelic and absolutely riveting in the fact that time travel is involved. I mean, I’m personally not a fan of the time travel trope, but Gabaldon makes it work. She really makes it work.

Outlander is the story of Claire Randall, who journeys to Inverness with her husband, Frank, after the Second World War to get to know each other again. Whilst there, Claire finds herself transported through a stone circle to 1743, a time very different to her own. With no apparent way to return to Frank, or her own time, Claire embarks on a journey full of excitement, terror and the occasional bout of compassion.

As I said, I read the book after watching the TV show. I honestly believe that made it slightly easier to read, because I had a visual picture of 18th century Scotland, I had images of the characters, and a pretty good grasp of the accent, so it wasn’t as foreign as it might have been pre-show.

Image c/o Starz Outlander

Image c/o Starz Outlander

Having said that, it did differ from the TV show in ways that most adaptations do – there was more detail in the book, the Gaelic was harder to read as it wasn’t phonetic, there were things that were altered for ease of watching because some descriptions are hard to take to the screen.

Since reading the first book and falling even more in love with the Scottish tale, I’ve gone out and bought the rest of the series. Personally I find them easier to read on the Kindle because then I’m not constantly checking how far through each book I am, but you might feel satisfaction with a book that size.

Overall, I think that Outlander is a challenging but rewarding and truly enjoyable read. It fits into so many genres I can’t even list them all, and the added bonus is that Sam Heughan brings Jamie to life so well! I can’t wait to finish the series and continue with the TV show. If you’re looking for something with a bit of a bite to read over the summer, there’s nothing better than Outlander!

Verdict: Although I love the book, it is tricky to read and it takes a while to immerse yourself in the history of Scotland unless you have a background in it.

Verdict: Although I love the book, it is tricky to read and it takes a while to immerse yourself in the history of Scotland unless you have a background in it.

BOOK REVIEW // A Court of Mist and Fury, Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury - click the image to go to Amazon

A Court of Mist and Fury – click the image to go to Amazon

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court, but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.
Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future, and the future of a world cleaved in two.
With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.
In my eyes, there hasn’t been a more anticipated book release in the entire year. The sequel to Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses, her latest book series, has been the holy grail of new publications for me in 2016, and might not be topped.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge Sarah J. Maas fan. I think all of my friends have had to sit through my inarticulate babbling about how much I love the Throne of Glass series, or listen to me whinge about finding ACOTAR two days after it was released, reading it in a day before realising that it was a year until the next book. But A Court of Mist and Fury has certainly lived up to the expectations we all place on our favourite books.
 
A Court of Mist and Fury is set around three months after the final chapter of the first book. Developing on from the harrowing (yet phenomenal) climax, we see how Feyre copes with the events of ACOTAR, and all of our beloved characters return. Plus new favourites.
 
As I’ve said, I had ridiculously high expectations for this sequel. I adored most of the characters in the first novel, and had a ton of hopes for their developments, but Maas exceeded these dreams and added in some truly unexpected plot twists. Flawlessly written, I was sucked back into Feyre’s world once more, and I’d be happy to stay there.
 
We learn more about the history of Prythian in this novel, and as well as having a shocking finale (I mean, seriously?!), Maas was able to set up the third and final book in style. I don’t know if I can wait until next year to finish the series… I might have to sell my soul.
 
Sarah J. Maas has clearly developed since her first book was published in 2012. Throne of Glass, while thoroughly riveting, showed signs of immature writing and a gratuitous fulfilment of YA tropes. Don’t get me wrong, I am YA trash and will read the fantasy genre no matter how badly written, but through the sequels and the new series, Maas has come into her own and excelled to the forefront of her field. Both of her series have transcended the Young Adult category and become thrilling books no matter your age or gender, most of all ACOTAR.
 
One thing which I find particularly important in the ACOTAR world is the way that the females are written. Call me a flag-waving feminist, but I love being able to read a sex scene from a female perspective without it being a religious experience or a way to further the plot. In ACOMAF more than the first novel, Feyre is shown to engage in sexual activities for her own enjoyment, with someone she views as an equal rather than a pseudo-authoritative figure, because she wants to.  Sex is used in some cases, as it has been throughout history, as relief, power, blackmail… but never to put the female protagonist in a vulnerable position. Maas has recognised the bodily autonomy of her main character and proclaimed it to the world. All of the female characters are flawlessly written, whether they’re evil or good. It’s interesting to see the way that the different women, with their varied histories and life experiences, interact with Feyre. No character is two dimensional or a plot-device – the only character I would accuse of being a plot device being a minor character who appears for five minutes but may become more important in Book Three.
 
Truly, this is one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had the pleasure of getting my hands on. I’d saved a gift card from Christmas with the specific intention of buying ACOMAF and it most certainly was worth it. I can’t wait until September, when Empire of Storms is released (TOG Book 5).
 
verdict 5 of 5

INTERVIEW // Princess Ida

I spoke to Katie Lockwood and Aled Jones about the upcoming Gilbert and Sullivan production, Princess Ida.

Many students don’t know Gilbert and Sullivan, so can you tell us a bit about the men and the shows and why the society is what it is?

Aled: Gilbert and Sullivan were Victorian composers who were famous in their day because there wasn’t much going on in the way of entertainment thanks to the war.

Their productions were essentially farcical comedies of sorts in the style of light opera called operetta,

so they aren’t meant to be as serious or tragic as opera but they are a bit more old-fashioned than musicals.

Katie: The reason why Gilbert and Sullivan is so good is because it’s clever, but it’s funny. The words we say are a very different style but it’s still understandable, but the whole air that goes along with it is really enjoyable.

Aled: It’s like Shakespeare; at first glance you can’t make any sense of it and then you read into it and you can see that it is very funny. Ida has very witty dialogue, and phenomenal music.

Katie: That’s one of the reason why we do it, we love musicals but G&S are more fun to tackle – the harmonies and the songs are so complex and intricate and so much more challenging to do so it sounds great. Some of the tongue-twisters leave no room to breathe!

Photograph courtesy of Beth Atkinson

Why should students see Princess Ida?

Aled: Opera is now seen as a dying art. It’s a magnificent thing to see but it’s become less popular. They’re much more challenging than a musical but they only really become enjoyable when you’re exposed to it more often because then you understand it.

Katie: And the chorus in G&S is so crucial, without it the shows would be boring.

In lots of musicals the chorus is an added extra but in G&S they’re a core focal part of the performance.

Why did you choose the suffragette theme for the play?

Katie: It was our director’s idea. She (Nicola Wilkes) thought it would be a really good idea to set it in a different era because it’s usually set in Medieval Hungary, and they usually have those fairy type dresses and it’s all very light-hearted.

Aled: It also shows that G&S can slowly acclimatise to different times, because most of it is set in specific time periods which is one reason why they aren’t as popular today – most musicals set their productions in modern day or thereabouts which is obviously difficult to compete with.

Katie: Also because it is set in a university so you can actually make it more about the education side of things and you can add in much more small details that you couldn’t necessarily do if it was all light-hearted medieval.

In ours, with costume and stuff, we’re using the graduation robes and hoods.

It’s just brilliant.

How challenging has it been so far and what challenges do you envisage in the next couple of weeks?

Aled: Unbelievably!

Our biggest challenge to date has been choreography.

Katie: We’ve got a lot of dance in the show. Usually we have a bit of dance but the main emphasis on singing, this year though we decided to make it more visually appealing. This year we have a ballet troupe who do their own dancing.

How much preparation goes into the show before the rehearsals start, or do you have a core idea and then adapt it as rehearsals go along?

Katie: So the committee get elected at the AGM and they decide what show they’re going to do, and then they search for the creative team. When the director came in for an interview, they had to tell us all of their ideas, and that’s where the main body comes from. Our director came in with so many new ideas back in May, and of course we got a say because we chose them, but the cast didn’t start rehearsing until October. Over the summer the show gets choreographed and staged and things like that, obviously they can’t do everything because they don’t know what set we’re getting or who we’re going to have, but they do think about it a lot and they mind map a lot of it. They do a lot of hard work before the auditions even start for the show.

How are the cast managing with the show?

Katie: We have so many rehearsals, but I think at the minute things are going really well. Some people thought they couldn’t dance, but they’ve proved that they can!

Aled: We’ve had a few very stressful rehearsals.

Katie: So many people doubted their abilities! I don’t actually have that much dancing to do, thank goodness.

Photograph courtesy of Beth Atkinson

How relevant are the shows in the modern times and are some of the themes just going to live forever?

Katie: It’s kind of feminist but is it? Is it too far? Is it not enough? It’s definitely interesting because it’s something that’s still going on – should women and men be different categories or are they all the same? It’s just so funny that it’s not meant to be taken seriously, but at the same time the themes are still relevant, they can’t be obsolete.

Aled: You do have to take it as a pinch of salt because it is a parody not a political statement. It is so much fun, but it’s not designed to have a political impact.

Katie: The characters are so exaggerated and fun to perform, that you physically cannot take them seriously. They’re so different because so musicals or operas are just a love story and there’s not much going on other than that! Should we get together, shouldn’t we…

Aled: There’s a lot of standing and pouting involved!

Katie: These performances, the G&S shows, have actual intellectual ideas.

What else do you want people to know about G&S, about Ida, about anything?

Katie: We’ve got a really talented cast, and we have so much fun doing it, and the reason why we do it is because we enjoy it so we want people to come and enjoy it with us! People should start coming to the theatre more often! People should extend their range, so they should include Gilbert and Sullivan.

Aled: There’s no point in doing a show if you don’t love it, and we really do!

Katie: There is the student standby price:

if you buy tickets on the day, they’re five pounds for students!

It’s really worth it.

 

Photograph courtesy of Beth Atkinson

The cast of Gilbert and Sullivan are excited and passionate about the show, and it’s going to come across in their performances as always. Princess Ida will be running until Saturday 13th February, and is well worth seeing.

PRODUCT REVIEW // BIODERMA MICELLAR WATER

Micellar water is taking the international beauty world by storm. It’s been a staple of the French skincare regime for many years, but is only recently making waves in the international community.

pinterest review post 2

The name ‘Micellar Water’ refers to the way in which this product cleans the skin – the micelles found in the water attach themselves to the oil and dirt on your skin, clearing them away. Whilst gentle and soothing, this method provides a powerful and effective cleanse, good enough to even remove eye makeup.

The nature of micellar water means there is no need for toner, and it never contains alcohol meaning it’s not harsh and can be applied around the eye area. It’s perfect for travel, when you aren’t able to access your full makeup bag, and I use it as part of my daily skincare routine.

Before I bought Bioderma’s Créaline TS H2O micellar water, I had researched a lot of different micellar waters including La Roche Posay, Vichy and Dior. There are a lot of top-brand, expensive products, but makeup artists and celebrities, but most importantly the women of Paris all swear by Bioderma. I bought two 500ml bottles in March 2014, as well as a 100ml travel size bottle, and I’m only on the second bottle now!

bioderma ts

Bioderma does a wide variety of micellar waters for all skin types. I use the Sensibio range for sensitive skin, but they also target dry, oily or combination skin. The price varies, depending on whether you buy normal or sensitive, large or small, the usual variety.

I’ve been using it as part of my skincare routine since I bought it in Paris in March, and it’s done wonders for my skin. It doesn’t irritate like most cleansers do, so I use two cotton pads to take off old makeup and make sure there’s no residual dirt, then moisturise and put my makeup on. It’s the same at night; two cotton pads, night cream and sleep. It’s such an effective and simple product that it makes life so easy, especially as I’m usually in a rush to get to lectures or to work!

As a comparison, I tried Garnier’s Micellar for a month, and although it was still an effective cleanser it was still an irritant and wasn’t as good as Bioderma. I suppose that, by virtue of it being French, Bioderma is going to be a very tough product to beat! The only temptation to switch to Garnier was that 400ml only costs £3, whereas Bioderma’s 500ml costs nearly £9.

On my holiday, I took the opportunity to widen my Bioderma experience by purchasing the travel skincare pack pictured below. It includes the travel size micellar water as well as three new products which I shall review as I test them.

bioderma set

Overall, I gave Bioderma’s Micellar Water 4/5. It cleanses, soothes and hydrates the skin in a gentle and effective fashion, and works perfectly in my skincare regime as an alternative to the harsher, soap-based makeup removers. However it takes multiple uses to completely remove makeup and clean the skin, proving that to me it cannot be used as a standalone cleanser. It is undoubtedly invaluable as a travel piece and as part of my routine!

verdict 4 of 5

Do you have a favourite micellar water? Do you use it or another form of cleanser?