Monthly Archives: March 2012

Leeds Pub Quizzes: Dock Street Market

When: Mondays at 8pm

Where: Dock Street Market, Dock St, Leeds

The cost of a round: Bizarrely, licensing problems meant there was no alcohol on sale that night, so alcoholic drinks were purchased from the off licence. Soft drinks are £1.50 but the most popular menu items are the teapot cocktails, which range from £12 to £16.50.

The quality of the crisps: Kettle Chips, usually a very respectable choice but they’d sold out of salt and vinegar which was very disappointing.

The cost to enter: It’s free!

The questions: Eight or nine rounds of six questions with standard subjects such as sport, general knowledge, geography and literature. Musical intros are NOT my strong point, but luckily my friends are slightly cooler than I am so all was not lost. The questions started easy in each round and got significantly more difficult; a nice balance, I thought. They did tend towards the kind of question where you either know it or you don’t, rather than the type where you can make an educated guess or where you’re racking your brains for half an hour because you know that you know it. I don’t know which is more frustrating, though!

The experience: This was different to your average pub quiz because Dock St Market isn’t a pub, really; it’s more like a college café that happens to stay open at night and serve booze. It was quite chilled out with a friendly crowd, and it’s quite a small venue so it felt pretty cosy. It was a nice change of atmosphere, really. The drawback was the limited seating. We were lucky to get a table! But, you can’t penalise a place for being popular, so I’d just advise getting there early. The quizmaster spoke clearly, which is a huge plus for me, and it was all quite light hearted and laid back. The food is delicious; one of us who hadn’t eaten ordered a goat’s cheese salad which was just incredible. The game of bingo in the middle is inspired, and very rowdy, although I do apologise for the false alarm when I claimed I had a full house. I didn’t. With prizes for team names, the quiz, a bingo line and a full house, it’s fairly hard to go home empty handed, although we managed it.

The verdict: Overall I had a cracking night. Dock St Market has a great atmosphere and is really friendly and fun, and the bingo game added a nice twist to the evening. 4.5/5

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Mary Shelley at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

Not only am I a bit of a bookworm, I’m quite stubbornly feminist, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to go see Shared Experience’s new production, Mary Shelley, at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. The poster, featuring a dishevelled Kristin Atherton as Shelley staring insolently into the camera, sparked in me a curiosity about this woman, who at just 19, wrote a haunting, classic novel about man’s fascination with creating life.

From the very opening scenes, all eyes are on Atherton, who plays a vibrant, irrepressible Mary, full of dreams and aspirations, and nursing a fervent admiration for the mother she never knew. She’s energetic and wilful and smart, as one would expect the offspring of the feminist and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft and the radical political philosopher William Gibson to be.

The setting is fairly domestic, to begin with: Mary, her half sister Fanny and her step sister Claire are reunited when Mary returns from a visit toScotland. The house is all abuzz with news of a visitor: the young, handsome, Percy Bysshe Shelley, who admires Godwin’s politics and wishes to help him out of his debts. Of course, we all know what happens next: Mary and Shelley fall in love, and despite Shelley’s wife and children, decide to go away to be together. When Godwin’s lack of support becomes clear, the pair are forced to run away in the dead of night, taking Claire with them.

It is in the crucial scene where Godwin tells Shelley that his running away with Mary is impossible, that we see his struggle. Years earlier he wrote freely about the affairs his wife (Mary’s mother) had, and then went on to encourage Mary to read all about them. Yet faced with this real, liberal daughter, a product of the upbringing he gave her, willing to run away with a married man, we see how much society has worn his ideals down. He is more sensitive to the pressures of society, and the realities of business than Mary ever will be. He shuts Mary out of his life, and refuses to have any more to do with her.

After this point, Mary seems to fade into the background a little. Perhaps because we never see her talking to anyone outside her family, she seems to lose some of her spark. Poverty and motherhood have matured and changed her. She becomes eclipsed by the other dramas happening around her, and we get caught up in the stories of Claire and Fanny. Claire is played marvellously by Shannon Tarbet – she’s flighty and bubbly and incredibly self-possessed, Meanwhile Flora Nicholson’s Fanny is perfectly kind, gentle and proper. Fanny is overshadowed by both her sisters, and as she becomes increasingly torn between the two halves of the family she almost becomes invisible. I felt for her the most. Her story is the least well known, but it’s the most relatable and the most human, and it’s so sad.

The set is limited but inventive. Shelves packed with books dominate the stage, and a long dining table at the front serves whichever purpose it is called upon for: it is at various times a bed, a boat, a desk or a gravestone. The oversized, eclectic furniture and the imposing bookcases give the whole stage a gothic feel that matches the story so well.

At just about three hours, this isn’t a short play, but it didn’t feel anything like that long. I was completely absorbed in the story and the characters all the way through, which is very rare for me. I never watch a film all the way through, and even at good plays I’m generally clock watching towards the end.

Not everything was perfect; there were moments that rang slightly false, and I would have liked to see a little more of Mary and Shelley falling in love, as it was all a bit sudden for my liking. Regardless, I’d give this a hearty five stars, and recommend it to anyone.

Mary Shelley is at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in the Courtyard Theatre until 7th April 2012.

 

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Joan Miro at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

As I’m sure you’re aware thanks to my enthusiastic tweets, a couple of nights ago a whole bunch of lovely Leeds bloggers and tweeters were invited to Yorkshire Sculpture Parkto see their latest exhibition: a collection of Jean Miró’s sculpture.

I’ve never been to the Park in the dark before, largely because my main purpose for visiting is generally a lot more picnic related than not. In fact, until a year or so ago I genuinely believed that there were about 30 sculptures in the Park, that never changed, and that was it. But, I live and learn, and I won’t make that mistake again!

After a little welcome chat, we were led through to the Underground Gallery, where most of the collection is housed. We were lucky enough to be given a general overview of the works by Clare, the head curator, who gave us a fascinating insight into Miró’s life and work.

The pieces are as varied as they are surreal; according to Clare, he worked with two different foundries simultaneously, leading to two very distinct types of sculpture. One type is huge, inky black, smooth and so shiny you can see your own, dull reflection within it. The pieces are like cartoonish, obese versions of their subjects: men, women, birds. A few have violent lines gouged into them which look as if they’re done on the spur of the moment, in a sudden, quickly forgotten moment of rage.

In stark contrast are a number of pieces splashed with the brightest of reds, yellows, blues and greens. They are found objects and pieces of junk, brought together into totems resembling an approximate human form – so much taller and spindlier than their shiny black counterparts. One of the galleries had a quote on the wall from Miró, saying: “For me an object is something living. This cigarette or this box of matches contains a secret life much more intense than that of certain human beings.” I could easily see this in his work as he plastered together objects like taps, sponges and cans to make sculptures of the female form.

Finally are a series of raw bronze works, which are smaller and distinctly overpowered by the others. Like the totems they are made from various objects cobbled together, and despite the lack of much finishing, a few of the pieces struck me as remarkable tactile. One had strips of bronze at the back that looked so much like soft, malleable strips of leather in the way they hung that I had to clasp my hands together to keep from touching it.

The curator told us that Miró wanted art to be part of people’s everyday life. Many of his pieces are in major cities, and he lived in the country for most of his life. His work reflects his love of the land, so it was odd really to see so many pieces all in this industrial warehouse style gallery. It felt like the pieces were too big for the rooms; there was too much vitality in them for them all to be cooped up together. I really wanted to see the pieces that were outside, where I felt the setting would be more fitting for the majesty of the larger pieces. Unfortunately, by that point it was far too dark to see them; all I could see were dark shadowy shapes. I can’t wait to get back there to have a good look!

I was left feeling curious about Miró, a man who saved his most ambitious ideas for his latest years. Who wouldn’t want to know more about a man who refused to identify as a Surrealist, so he was free to experiment as much as he wanted with other styles, who wanted to find a way to make four dimensional paintings, and who wrote about the possibility of gas sculpture? His work is colourful, playful and fun, but in the gouged grooves and garish faces is a hint of the depression that he suffered throughout his life.

If you want to find out more about that man, the exhibition is on from 17th March 2012 until 6th January 2013. More info is here.

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