A Christmas Carol @ The Old Vic

aac-18-017A Christmas Carol is my absolutely favourite Dickens work and probably one of my favourite stories of all time. I have seen so many versions on film (my favourite of course being this 1951 version with Alastair Sim, and the most recent A Muppet Christmas Carol which *gasp* my husband had never seen) but it has been a long time since I saw a version on stage, so when I relaised that the Old Vic was repeating its hit from 2017 I bought tickets for us to see the production, which we did on 4 January.

It was totally worth it.

A Christmas Carol was written by Dickens in just 6 weeks during 1843, fueled by his rage and disgust at the poverty he saw around him and the lack of care, sympathy and, most importantly, practical help from those in society who were signifcantly better off. Or, as Dickens himself put it in a letter to a friend, the

sleek, slobbering, bow-paunched, overfed, apopleptic, snorting cattle

The staging in this production is nothing short of magical, with mince pies and satsumas being handed out as you enter the auditorium and lanterns hanging from the ceiling – I took a picture when we arrived which you can see on my Instagram feed.

The story has been re-worked but is still essentially that which we know and love, and the changes both make sense and are successful which is all that you can ask for, really. Stephen Tompkinson takes on the role from Rhys Ifans (whom I would have loved to have seen, having just caught him on TV as Hector in season one of Berlin Station) and is really very good indeed in the role. The use of music is wonderful, with everything from Christmas carols to handbell ringing, adding up to a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

It’s on until 19 January I believe, so if you get the chance do go and see it 🙂

2018 Christmas Haul

IMG_0793As is traditional around these here parts, I thought I’d pull together a quick post to boast about, sorry, update everyone on the cool books and other stuff that I got for Christmas.

Book stuff

Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking by Deborah Cadbury – “In the late nineteenth century, Queen Victoria had over thirty surviving grandchildren. To maintain and increase power in Europe, she hoped to manoeuvre them into dynastic marriages.”

The Rig by Roger Levy – An astounding SF thriller for fans of Adrian Tchaikovsky, Neal Stephenson, Alastair Reynolds and David Mitchell says the blurb.

Melmoth by Sarah Perry – “Twenty years ago Helen Franklin did something she cannot forgive herself for, and she has spent every day since barricading herself against its memory. But her sheltered life is about to change.”

A Gentleman’s Murder by Christopher Huang – “The year is 1924. The cobblestoned streets of St. James ring with jazz as Britain races forward into an age of peace and prosperity. London’s back alleys, however, are filled with broken soldiers and still enshadowed by the lingering horrors of the Great War.”

Excellent Intentions by Richard Hull – “Great Barwick’s least popular man is murdered on a train. Twelve jurors sit in court. Four suspects are identified but which of them is on trial?”

Thomas Cromwell by Diarmaid MacCulloch – how many biographies of Master Cromwell does one need? All of them!

Cassandra Darke by Posy Simmonds – “Cassandra Darke is an art dealer, mean, selfish, solitary by nature, living in Chelsea in a house worth £7 million.” A modern-day Scrooge?

Non-book stuff

The Meg – Jason Statham versus an enormous shark; I know who my money is on…

Ghost Stories Based on Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s original Olivier nominated stage production, the same team have co-written and directed this adaptation for the big screen.

Mission Impossible: Fallout – Loved this in the cinema so it had to be added to the permanent collection

The Steampunk TarotRetooling the gears of the Rider-Waite tradition, the artwork evokes the imagery and spirit of this unique visual style. Another deck for my collection.

Something 16th century? Check. At least one crime novel? Check. Something horror adjacent? Check. Tom Cruise? Check.

Well, everything seems in order here!

This Week in Books & a Non-Fiction Round-up

It’s been getting cooler and duller and lights are being switched on earlier each day so we are definitely in curling up in a chair and reading a good book season. So how did this week in reading go?

Currently reading

  • Global Crisis – I’ve not progressed this since my last post so will be making time for a few chapters this week
  • The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch – this the sixth of the Peter Grant books and I’m about halfway through; I like to read series in order of course and you will understand why I picked this up because….

Books bought

  • Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch – this is the seventh Peter Grant book and when it arrived I realised I hadn’t read the previous one; what can I say, I decided to deal with that immediately (see above)
  • Fire Lover by Joseph Wambaugh – more true crime, the story of the Pillow Pyro arsonist; I bought this because I heard the story in a back episode of My Favourite Murder and wanted to get more details
  • Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman – apparently ‘plunges us into the depths of psychological horror, where you can’t always believe everything you hear

Books finished

  • Bestial by Harold Schechter – more true crime, this is the story of one of the first known serial killers in the USA; I have NOTES so will write about this another time.

I also wanted to write up a few thoughts on recent non-fiction reads because I am a completist.

Victorians Undone by Kathryn Hughes

All about how the Victorians viewed their bodies told through five specific stories. So many fascinating details, it’s the kind of book has you reading things out to anyone within hearing distance; for example, Charlotte Bronte apparently spoke with a strong Northern Irish accent – who knew?

The final story in the book tells the horrendous murder of Fanny Adams, and the magistrate involved in the case was Jane Austen’s nephew Edward Knight, born in 1794 and died in 1879. The author makes the excellent point that although we feel the need to carve our history up and put things into boxes Edward Knight’s long life is ‘a reminder of how bodies join up the past in a continuous ribbon of experience and feeling‘; I loved that idea so much.

Unnatural Causes by Richard Shepherd

I picked this up as a sort of follow-up to the book I read earlier this year by Dame Professor Sue Black about her life as a forensic anthropologist, and she was quoted on the cover of this volume. So Richard Shepherd was one of the most senior and well-known forensic pathologists in the UK. He’s handled a number of the most significant and high-profile cases in the country, including (controversially) the Marchioness disaster, the Harold Shipman murders, and the London bombings.

This is a memoir of his life and career and the impact that his work has had on his personal life – after all, he reckons he’s carried out over 20,00 autopsies. It’s a very honest book and worth reading if you are at all interested in this subject.

The Ends of the World by Peter Brannen

We all know what happened to the dinosaurs, but it was only one of (so far) five major extinction events that have taken place in Earth’s history. A good example of popular science at its best, the author goes through the various ways life on our planet was almost extinguished via fire, ice, poison gas, suffocation and of course asteroids. He also speculates on what all of this may tell us about the future.

Hope you all have a great reading week!