The Umbrella Organisation

The Umbrella Organisation

May the power of the brolly live on!

Londoner. Gandhian. Tatchellite. Sherlockian. Campaigner. Theatre (esp @NationalTheatre), film & TV geek. EQView Writer.



The blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one's deepest as well as one's most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person — having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
- Dinah Craik, in A Life for a Life (1859)

THT Direct, Terrence Higgins Trust
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THT Direct
THT Direct Stall in the Marketplace, THT Staff Conference, London, Wednesday 29 October 2014

THE best stall at the Terrence Higgins Trust Staff Conference was ... THT Direct.

THT Direct is the free and confidential helpline service you can call for any questions on HIV or sexual health.

I am a volunteer on THT Direct. I really enjoy the work and it is genuinely some of the most rewarding work I have ever done.

You can read more about THT Direct here:

Fagburn - Interview
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My EQView feature this week was a tongue-in-cheek interview with the enigmatic Fagburn, creator of the blog about gay men and the media, politics and gay culture.

My EQView interview with Fagburn is here:

Cut and pasted from the EQView website:


The enigmatic Fagburn, creator of the renowned blog which critiques gay men, the media, politics and gay culture, here shares his outlook on life, motivations, and future collaboration with Fracking for Gays BP.

EQView: Choose five words to describe who you are and what you are about/stand for.

Fagburn is a blog about the media (1), gay men (2/3), politics (4), and culture (5).

How did your blog come about?

I was trying to come up with ways to save my home for abandoned labrapoodles, and thought starting a left-wing gay critique of the media, politics and culture would get the money rolling in.

What did you set out to do when you started writing your blog? What was its purpose?

An increasing sense of utter despair when reading the reporting of gay news stories; so much of it is nonsense, which, in the age of the internet, is quite easy to check in five minutes.

I have an old-fashioned and dull obsession with things like truth, fact-checking and evidence, so thought I’d document these failings, as well as documenting the things that are good and great and funny.

Has the blog achieved this/delivered on this vision?

Evidently not.

Has anyone you respect ever fallen out with you over something you have written on your blog?

Not that I can think of. Various ‘gays of note’ have followed me then blocked me on Twitter, but then so has Melanie Philips.

The bigger the head, the thinner the skin…

How would you like the blog to develop going forwards?

I’m working on the Fagburn 2015 Awards – where anyone who pays £4,500 for a table at the awards ceremony gets a prize.

What do you love and hate about writing as an activity?

Love? Communicating my thrilling thoughts and ideas to the world!

Hate? The realisation no-one actually takes much notice.

Any new projects in the pipeline that you want to tell us about?

Please contact my new corporate sponsors ‘Fracking For Gays BP’.

What motivates you?

I wake up every day and wonder why bother. You tell me.

What are your passions in life?

My mum and my sister, my late friend Peter Burton, and my boyfriend, Tom. I’d be dead, if it wasn’t for them.

[Pause while Gwyneth Paltrow comes on and cries...]

Name the three gay men whom you most admire and why.

I tend to be fascinated by pretty horrible people, straight or gay. Peter Cook, Mark E Smith etc. The – living – gay men who regularly bring me the most pleasure are:

Eddie Mair, cause his sardonic (piss) take on Radio 4’s current affairs programme is the second highlight of my day;

David Sedaris, the American essayist, I love his delight and detail on the absurdities of modern life, and how we go bumping along trying not to get ground down by others’ idiocy;

Tom Daley, you may not have heard of him. He is a very promising 10m solo platform diver. I’ve been raving about him for years – but thought it best to keep it quiet till he was legal. He is aesthetically quite pleasing, I have heard, but I mainly love the way he always looks so happy. As a devout miserabilist, I find this – genuinely – life-affirming.

Is there a particular event in gay history that speaks to your heart? What is it and why is it special to you?

There were many uprisings in Paris in the late 19th Century against men being forced apart from their boyfriends in prison, and a clamping down on cruising grounds. Because we were fleeting figures, little is know about them, but hurrah for these spontaneous ejaculations of rebellious joy.

What do you have against the lovely Peter Tatchell?

I don’t. There is much to be admired about Saint Peter, but I don’t think anyone should be above criticism. As I’m sure he would agree.

How would you describe your politics?

Libertarian communist. Pragmatic utopian. Lunatic fringe. GSOH. XXVWE.

Name your favourite places to go and things to do in Brighton?

Going and sitting on the beach, as the tide comes in/out, and watching the sun come down, and thinking about things is good therapy.

I also like charity shopping on St James’s Street and London Road. Queen’s Park, looking at the duck pond.

How do you want to be remembered? What do you want written on your gravestone/in your obituary?

I’d be quite happy being forgotten, to be honest, and embrace my own insignificance. Not having a Napoleon-complex.

If not, can I have my corpse burned on one of those burning Viking norse longship things? Where all my ex-boyfriends have to queue up and throw themselves on it.

You can find Fagburn’s blog here:

Random Image that I Love courtesy Gay Star News
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World Mental Health Day 2014: Rethink's Can You Tell? Mental Health Project
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Today was World Mental Health Day and EQView ran a host of features on mental health issues. My contribution to EQView's mental health coverage was a reflection on my involvement with Rethink’s Can You Tell? project which challenged stigma and discrimination around mental health issues.

My EQView feature for World Mental Health Day on Rethink's Can You Tell? Project is here:

Cut and pasted from the EQView website:


Rethink Mental Illness is a charity that believes a better life is possible for millions of people affected by mental health issues.

Over the last year, I was involved with Rethink’s Can You Tell? project, funded by Time to Change. In this article I look back on my involvement in the project and reflect on what we achieved and what I learnt.

Can You Tell? was a photo exhibition challenging stigma and discrimination around mental health issues. The concept for the exhibition was Can You Tell? who has a mental illness just by looking at them? It featured five large portraits of people from all walks of life with different experiences of mental illness. The exhibition aimed to show visitors that mental health issues can affect everyone, and people live with mental illness and also recover from mental illness and move on with their lives. Talking helps reduce stigma, and Rethink campaign volunteers were an integral part of the exhibition, engaging with visitors to the exhibition to share their own experiences of mental health issues face to face.

I was on Rethink’s Can You Tell? Steering Group and I was a campaign volunteer at five Can You Tell? events – the Lambeth Country Show, Brighton Pride, Chelmsford High Street, Peterborough’s LAMMA show, and the Whitgift Shopping Centre in Croydon.

I had a very positive experience at all the Can You Tell? events and taking part in the events, working with the Rethink team and the other volunteers, made me much more confident about speaking out on mental health issues and challenging mental health stigma and discrimination.

I have always been very open about my mental health issue, and happy to share my experiences, with my friends, family and work colleagues. But I have never before spoken to members of the general public about these issues. I was very nervous before my first event (Lambeth Country Show) and I found it very hard initially to approach people and to engage them in conversation. But it got easier as the shift went on and as I got used to approaching people and talking to them.

Each of the events was different – I went to a London fair, a Pride event, a High Street, a farmers’ market, and a shopping centre. Some events were easier than others. It was very easy to talk to people at Brighton Pride – LGBTQ people understand stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination, and many are actively involved in campaigning activities, so they understood very quickly and easily who we were and what we were about. But we were received positively everywhere we went, and people were much happier to talk to us and spend time with us than I had assumed they would be.

The surprise event for me was Peterborough’s LAMMA show – the farmers’ market. The majority of visitors to the show were farmers, men, self-employed, working the land, and living in rural communities. I am a woman who has always worked in the public sector in office jobs, and I have only ever lived in big cities. Would I be able to talk to farmers and find a connection? The answer was yes. I was surprised at how many farmers were happy to stop and talk, speak about mental health, and share the difficulties they were facing and the pressures they were under. We were able to have many meaningful conversations on a day when I really didn’t expect to.

By the time I got to my fifth event, I was very comfortable approaching people and confident about talking to them about my own story and experiences, the Can You Tell? campaign, Rethink and Time to Change. Taking part in the Can You Tell? events equipped me with the confidence and the know-how to speak out about mental health issues to a much wider audience.

People’s response to the exhibition and to us at the events was very positive. People were very keen to talk to us, to listen to our stories, and to share their own experiences with us. They were particularly interested in learning where they could go to access further help, support, information and advice.

I believe the Can You Tell? project made a real difference, because by sharing our stories and our experiences, others affected by mental health issues – either personally, or as a carer, relative or friend – knew they were not alone; there were many others facing similar issues; and they could be directed to sources of help, support, information and advice. It showed people with mental health issues could get better and recover, and return to being full and active members of society.

My involvement with the Can You Tell? project, both as a Steering Group member and as a campaign volunteer, made me realise first-hand the benefits of being open, and speaking up about, mental health issues. Its Time to Talk. Its Time to Change.

Further Information:

Can You Tell? project on the Rethink Website:

Rethink Website:

Time to Change Website:

Sign up to become a Rethink campaign activist here:


The Imitation Game, BFI London Film Festival
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I am VERY excited that my first foray into the BFI London Film Festival this afternoon is to see The Imitation Game, with Benedict Cumberbatch playing Alan Turing :)

Without a shadow of a doubt, THE best film I have seen in years - and I see a lot of films!

You can read my EQView preview of the BFI London Film Festival here:


To Kill A Mockingbird - Review
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To Kill A Mockingbird is a stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s very popular and much loved Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, which has become a classic of modern American literature. Set in the Deep South, in the fictional town of Maycomb, it examines a small-town community, its people and its attitudes in great depth, honing in on the issue of Race. Overall I thought this stage adaptation was excellent. I can't give a production higher praise than to say it stayed true to the novel, brought it to life, and recreated the whole world of the novel on stage. This stage version of To Kill A Mockingbird really captured the spirit of the novel and I loved it. Highly recommended. Must-see!

My EQView Review of To Kill A Mockingbird is here:

Cut and pasted from the EQView website:


To Kill A Mockingbird is a stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s very popular and much loved Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, which has become a classic of modern American literature. Set in the Deep South, in the fictional town of Maycomb, it examines a small-town community, its people and its attitudes in great depth, honing in on the issue of race.

I booked to see this production because To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favourite novels of all time and it really speaks to my heart. There are three main reasons why I love the novel. First, it is told entirely from a child’s (Scout’s) point of view – so you see the events unfold as a child sees them and experiences them. Second, I find the character of Atticus Finch truly inspirational. Atticus follows his conscience, stands by his principles and does what he believes to be right. Atticus is a character I aspire to be. Third, the novel reveals and exposes the deep racism that ran through society in the Deep South at this time, infecting hearts and minds.

I was really looking forward to seeing this stage adaptation because I value the work of the Open Air Theatre’s current Artistic Director, Timothy Sheader, who directed this production. I loved Sheader’s Open Air Theatre productions of Lord of the Flies, The Crucible and Into the Woods, and so I was looking forward to seeing what he had done with To Kill A Mockingbird. I was not disappointed!

This stage production has the most inventive opening I have seen for a long time. The actors were dispersed amongst the audience, on all levels, on all sides. At the beginning, one after another, they got up and stood on their seats, with the novel in their hands, and read a few sentences from the novel, setting the scene. Once they had all read a section, they got down, and walked towards and onto the stage. I thought that was a very effective opening as it knitted the actors and the audience together as one body at the start, and drew the audience into the world of the play right from the off.

When you arrive at the theatre, all there is on stage is a tree. When the actors get onto the stage, they each take a piece of chalk and draw some of the set onto the floor of the stage. What you have at the end of five minutes is a map of the street where the Finches live, with the road, its houses, and arrows pointing to the town, the jail, the dump, the school etc. This was a stroke of genius.

The production is very true to the novel and I liked the way that, throughout the play, actors would be carrying the novel in their hands and reading selected sections direct from the novel.

The first half hour, before the key character Atticus Finch arrives onstage, introduces us to the real stars of the production – the child actors playing Scout, Jem and Dill – and perfectly recreates the street that Atticus and his children live on, the characters that inhabit that environment, and the town of Maycomb which is their home. The first half of the play is light in tone, and focuses on the characters of Scout, Jem and Dill, and the adventures they have in their Summer holidays when school is out.

But even in the first half, we the audience are made aware that dark clouds are gathering, and trouble is brewing, because we hear of the arrest of Tom Robinson, the trouble this brings to his family, and we learn that Atticus has been chosen to defend Tom.

After the interval, a fair proportion of the action takes place in the courtroom, and the audience becomes the jury. You are very much a part of the packed courtroom that hot and fateful day in Maycomb and you bear witness to the court proceedings. As such, you get to experience the trial first-hand, see the effect on each of the key characters, and experience its repercussions.


Music is an integral part of the production and I enjoyed the way songs were woven into the fabric of the story throughout the play. The live music really added to the atmosphere, as it was effective in setting the scene, and conveying the emotions felt by the characters at that point in time.

The ensemble acting was very strong across the piece, with many actors taking on multiple roles, and special mention has to be made of the three child actors playing the central parts of Scout, Jem and Dill. These are major roles in the production, the production hinges on their performances, and all the child actors were just brilliant – and very natural too.

Overall I thought this stage adaptation was excellent. The cast brought the novel vividly to life on the stage. All the nuances, all the key scenes, all the characters, were faithfully presented. I can’t give a production higher praise than to say it stayed true to the novel, brought it to life, and recreated the whole world of the novel on stage. This stage version of To Kill A Mockingbird really captured the spirit of the novel and I loved it. Highly recommended. Must-see!

I would like to close with one of my favourite quotes from the novel, featured in this production, which is a piece of advice that Atticus gives to his daughter Scout,“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

To Kill A Mockingbird played at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park in Summer 2014 and is now on a UK wide tour, which will conclude with a run at the Barbican in London in June and July 2015.

For more details about the production and to book tickets follow the link below:

Exploring Dartmoor: On the trail of the Hound of the Baskervilles
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Grand Hall, Dartington Hall
Photographer: Rakshita Patel

As you value your life or your reason keep away from the moor
- The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Last month (19th to 21th September 2014) I visited Dartmoor for the first time in my life, the setting for the Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles. I visited with The Sherlock Holmes Society of London and we stayed at the very elegant Dartington Hall (see photo above). More details on our weekend can be found here:

We visited Postbridge which is the nearest match to the village of Grimpen in the novel, where Dr Mortimer lives and where Dr Watson posts his regular letters to Holmes updating him on the latest happenings at Baskerville Hall.

Photographer: Rakshita Patel

During our stay, we had a couple of sightings of the elusive Hound!

Hound of the Baskervilles, High Moorland Visitors Centre, Princetown
Photographer: Rakshita Patel

Sandwich board for the sandwich van, Hound Tor
Photographer: Rakshita Patel

I wanted to close with one of my personal highlights of the trip (non-Sherlockian) which was this Henry Moore statue which was to be found in the gardens at Dartington Hall:

Henry Moore statue, Gardens, Dartington Hall
Photographer: Rakshita Patel

Henry Moore statue, Gardens, Dartington Hall
Photographer: Rakshita Patel

BFI London Film Festival - Preview
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My EQView feature this week is a preview of the BFI London Film Festival. I explore the Festival and explain why Londoners who have never been should give it a whirl!

My EQView preview of the BFI London Film Festival is here:

Cut and pasted from the EQView website:


The BFI London Film Festival is the UK’s largest public film event and it opens on Wednesday 8 October 2014. The festival runs for 12 days and the programme includes 248 feature films and 148 short films.

As someone who loves films truly, madly and deeply, the London Film Festival is one of the highlights of my yearly calendar. I wanted to write about why I love the festival from the point of view of someone who is passionate about film.

The London Film Festival was established by a group of film critics in the early 1950s. Their aim was to create a new film festival aimed at the general public, to give audiences a chance to see films that would not otherwise appear in British cinemas. To begin with, the films screened as part of the London Film Festival were the best of the films that had already been screened at other European film festivals, including Cannes and Venice. The original ambition is what makes the London Film Festival unique – this is a film festival designed for, and aimed at, the general public, not the film industry.

The BFI London Film Festival in now in its 58th year and, whilst much has changed over the years, it remains first and foremost a film festival for the general public, where film audiences are given a chance to see a whole range of films which may not otherwise get a UK release.

The London Film Festival has grown hugely in size and status over time, and it now screens world premieres and is attended by large numbers of film professionals and journalists from all around the world. Its Opening and Closing Galas are world premiere screenings taking place at the Odeon Leicester Square, and are major red carpet events attended by the film’s cast and creatives.

As a lover of film, what I value and appreciate about the London Film Festival above all else is that it gives me an opportunity to see a whole range of diverse films which I would not get the chance to see otherwise. That often includes smaller independent UK and US films, European and World cinema, documentary features, and classics.

The other aspect of the London Film Festival that I truly value are the post-film Q&As with directors, writers, and actors, often impromptu; and the extensive programme of talks, lectures and masterclasses that run alongside and complement the festival. Attending these Q&As and events really deepens my understanding and appreciation of film and film-making and I enjoy hearing directors, screenwriters, and actors talking about their craft.

It is really difficult to choose a few films to highlight from such a wide-ranging and diverse programme but I have chosen to focus on the Opening and Closing Night Gala films and films I have booked to see. This makes for an eclectic selection.

The Opening Night Gala is The Imitation Game, a powerful drama exploring the life of Alan Turing. Turing cracked the German naval Enigma Code and was instrumental in helping Britain to win the Second World War, and he is the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. The screenplay alternates between three significant periods of Turing’s life: the nerve-wracking daily race against the clock as the team of code-breakers at Bletchley Park work to decipher the seemingly impenetrable code; the interrogation of Turing after his arrest in 1952 for ‘gross indecency’ which lead to his devastating conviction for the criminal offense of homosexuality; and flashbacks to school days and his intoxicating friendship with a boy named Christopher. The film features a stellar British cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Rory Kinnear and Charles Dance, and is very hotly anticipated.


The Closing Night Gala will be Fury which skillfully and fluently blends the human drama of war with powerful and dynamic action sequences. Set during the last months of the Second World War, when the Allies are making their final push into Germany, a battle-hardened sergeant (Brad Pitt) commands a Sherman tank on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. The crew are still reeling from the death of a comrade in a recent battle. The tension mounts when Norman, a new recruit with no training, joins them as the replacement driver. The battle sequences, witnessed through the eyes of the innocent rookie, are terrifyingly real.

I have booked to see eight films as part of the London Film Festival (including The Imitation Game), all of which I am very excited about seeing. I am featuring them to give readers a flavour of the richness and diversity, the depth and breadth, of the films on offer.

Dancing Arabs is an adaptation of Sayed Kashua’s semi-autobiographical novel. Eyad is a teenager and the only Palestinian in an Israeli boarding school. We follow Eyad as he contends with racism and embarks on a cross-cultural romance.

Something Must Break features Sebastian, a shy transgendered teen, whose world is rocked by the arrival of an alluring young man named Andreas. This film is a coming-of-age tale, a love story and a reflection on the body and what it means to forge your own identity.

Guidelines is a feature-length documentary which takes an in-depth look at a high school in Quebec. The film reflects on modern-day teenage existence and the rules by which young people govern their lives.

Catch Me Daddy focuses on Laila, a 17-year-old young woman, on the run with her boyfriend Aaron on the Yorkshire Moors. She is fleeing her traditional Pakistani family but men are fast on her trail. The film explores issues of family dynamics, race and class.

Difret (meaning “courage” in Amharic) details the traumatic experience of a 14-year-old Ethiopian girl accused of killing a man who raped her and facing the death penalty. On hearing about her case a courageous lawyer decides to defend her – at great risk to her own career.

The Face of an Angel tells the story of London-based director Thomas Lang who travels to Siena in northern Italy to work on his latest movie based on the trial of an American student charged with the murder of her British housemate (the film is inspired by the real-life case of Amanda Knox).

Excuse My French is a coming-of-age tale about a young Egyptian Christian boy, Hany. Following the sudden death of his father, Hany and his mother are forced to swap their privileged lives for a more modest existence, and Hany has to attend a rough state school. When he is assumed to be a Muslim, Hany goes along with the deception for fear of being bullied by his classmates, already mistrustful of his formerly rich background.

I will be reviewing those films that inspire and move me so watch this space!

Given that finances are very tight for most people at the moment, including me, I would argue ticket prices for the London Film Festival are very good value for money. Whilst tickets for the Gala screenings can be expensive (£32 for the Opening and Closing Galas, £26 or £20 for the other Galas), tickets for the other screenings are reasonable (£16 or £12.50 depending on the venue) and weekday matinees at all venues are just £9. Public booking is now open and a returns queue opens 30 minutes before each screening at the Box Office at each venue.

If you are based in and around London, and you have never been to the BFI London Film Festival, I would highly recommend you give it a whirl and go and see a film that you would not normally see. I am fairly certain that once you have tried it out, you will become hooked, and will keep returning year after year. That is what happened to me!

The BFI London Film Festival runs from Wednesday 8 October to Sunday 19 October at 17 venues across the capital.

Follow the link below to explore the full programme and book tickets for the Festival:

The Riot Club - Review
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My EQView feature this week is a review of The Riot Club, a new film based on Laura Wade’s highly successful stage play Posh, which takes a long hard look at the attractions and dangers of being part of an exclusive inner circle at Oxford University.

The Riot Club is worth seeing because it explores the eternal moral dilemma of how far you would go to be part of the in-crowd and climb the ladder of popularity, success and power. However, the piece has lost a lot of its power and impact in its translation from stage to film and is only a shadow of its former self. The stage version is a much stronger and more powerful piece that truly shocks and hits home.

My EQView review of The Riot Club is here:

Cut and pasted from the EQView website:


The Riot Club is a new film, based on Laura Wade’s highly successful stage play Posh, which takes a long hard look at the attractions and dangers of being part of an exclusive inner circle at Oxford University.

The film opens by sketching out a brief personal history of the infamous Lord Riot, an 18th century aristocratic reprobate, explaining how The Riot Club came to be founded in his honour. The Riot Club was to comprise the brightest, the boldest, and the best men that the University had to offer, and was limited to just ten members.

We then cut to the present day, and undergraduates arriving at Oxford University on the first day of term, either as freshers or returning students. Through their eyes, we get an insider’s view of the prestigious University, steeped in centuries of tradition. The film focuses on two freshers in particular – Miles and Alistair – because The Riot Club has a couple of vacancies and they are the ones who will be chosen as its newest members.

As viewers, we see and experience The Riot Club predominantly through Miles’ eyes. We see the attractions of The Riot Club for Miles, being part of the most exclusive club in town, with all the privileges and opportunities it brings. We witness the selection and initiation process that Miles has to go through, trial by fire, and his sheer elation and joy when he succeeds in getting into The Riot Club. And then we are with him every step of the way, on the night of his inaugural dinner, when we realize that The Riot Club has a far darker side, because those born into privilege can choose to use their power for good or evil.

I would be doing EQView readers a disservice if I did not talk about how the film compares with the stage play, Posh. I saw Posh a few times and I thought it was an incredibly powerful piece of theatre that really packed a punch. The writing was sharp as a pin, it had a hugely talented ensemble cast and, as the evening unfolded, the actors lured you into their shiny world and forced you to experience its dark side, no matter how much you wanted to look away.

I felt this piece lost a lot of its power, its impact, and its ability to shock, in its translation from stage to film. The stage play only really has one location (the pub on the night of the dinner), whilst the film has many, making it less claustrophobic. The play takes place over one night and the tension rises, reaching a crescendo, whilst the film has a much longer timeframe. These changes made the film less dark and shocking than the stage version.

The characters are a lot more developed and rounded in the stage version, much more nuanced because each character contains elements of light and shade. This makes them more credible and believable, and forces the audience to seriously confront and think through the choices and dilemmas placed before them.

The addition of an extra female character, Miles’s girlfriend Lauren, adds in a superfluous love story and lessened the impact of the film because it took you away from being fully immersed in a male-dominated male-orientated world. I felt it diluted the film’s power.

In summary, a film worth seeing because it explores the eternal moral dilemma of how far you would go to be part of the in-crowd and climb the ladder of popularity, success and power. Would you, like Faust, sell your soul to the Devil? However, the piece has lost a lot of its power and impact in its translation from stage to film and is only a shadow of its former self. The stage version is a much stronger and more powerful piece that truly shocks and hits home.

The Riot Club is out in cinemas across the UK from today.

Pride - Review
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My EQView feature this week is a review of Pride, a British film set during the 1980s miners’ strike, telling the true story of how a group of London-based lesbians and gays lent their support to the striking miners in Wales. It shows how two very different communities got to know one another and realised that what they had in common far outweighed their differences.

If you want to go and see a film that is intelligent, entertaining, uplifting, inspiring and a lot of fun, I recommend you go and see Pride!

My spoiler-free EQView review of Pride is here:

Cut and pasted from the EQView website:



Pride is a British film, set during the 1980s miners’ strike, telling the true story of how a group of London-based lesbians and gays lent their support to the striking miners in Wales, and how two very different communities got to know one another and realised that what they had in common far outweighed their differences.

The film focuses on how the lesbians and gays decide to show their solidarity by raising money to support the miners through the tough days of the strike. They form the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group (LGSM) and begin collecting money in earnest and with real passion.

One of the founding members of the group is Mark Ashton, who is young, attractive, energetic and charismatic; a born leader. He firmly believes that oppressed minority groups should show solidarity for each other, and support one another, as it is only by working together that they stand any chance of overcoming their common foes – the Thatcher Government, the police and the tabloid press. Mark’s zeal is a force to be reckoned with and he is able to overcome most of the obstacles in his path.

We see Mark inspire others to want to help the miners – the founding of the LGSM group – and we see them raising lots of money. The group are undeterred when the Union is reluctant to accept their money, and they decide to choose a Welsh mining village and donate their money direct. The miners invite the group to their village to thank them for their support and their money and this is when the two groups of people start to get to know each other. The key to the film lies in the scenes where the two groups of people are interacting; whether this is when the LGSM are visiting the Welsh village, or when the Welsh miners and their wives come down to London.

The focus of the film is showing these two very different groups of people meeting each other, getting to know one another, understanding each other, and realising how much they have in common.

Pride is a very funny film, packed full of humour, ranging from gentle light-hearted touches, to caustic one-liners, and big set-piece scenes with laugh-out-loud moments. It is also a heart-warming film because its focus is on the support and compassion people can, and do, provide for each other in times of need.

I was profoundly moved by some of the individual stories told within the film. One of the fictional characters is Joe (George MacKay), a young gay man, not yet out to his family, nicknamed “Bromley’ by the group because that is the suburb where he lives. You follow Joe’s personal journey from his first attendance at a Pride march at the start of the film, to being actively involved in LGSM, and becoming a key member of the group – its official photographer.

The other individual I wanted to highlight was Gethan (Andrew Scott), another founding member of the LGSM group, a gay man in a long-term relationship who runs the gay bookshop. Gethan is Welsh but has not been back home for 16 years, because when he came out he was rejected by his family, including his Mum. So he escaped to London and has not been back since. For him, returning to Wales is bittersweet and I really felt for him. I was touched by how the community welcomed him, and how much this meant to him, and was profoundly moved by the scene when he takes the opportunity of being back in Wales to try and reconnect with his Mum. I challenge even the most hard-hearted of people not to shed a tear at this point!

The film has a star-studded cast of British actors – as well as those named above it also includes Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton and Paddy Considine. Pride features a very talented ensemble cast, all of whom create fully-rounded and engaging characters whom you genuinely care about. And it was very pleasing to see as many strong women characters featured as men, both in the LGSM group and in the Welsh mining village.

Pride has been very well received and successful in a number of countries outside of the UK because it is primarily a film about people, which everyone can relate to – you don’t have to be LGBT or a miner to appreciate it! It is a mainstream film with universal appeal.

If you want to go and see a film this weekend that is intelligent, entertaining, uplifting, inspiring and a lot of fun, I recommend you go and see Pride!

Pride is out now in cinemas across the UK.

The Picture of John Gray - Review
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My EQView feature this week is a review of The Picture of John Gray, a new play about the true life story of John Gray, the man who inspired Oscar Wilde's most infamous creation, Dorian Gray.

My EQView review of The Picture of John Gray is here:

Cut and pasted from the EQView website:


The Picture of John Gray is a new play by C.J. Wilmann, telling the true life story of John Gray, the man who inspired Oscar Wilde’s most infamous creation, Dorian Gray. The life story of the real John Gray proved to be as intriguing as that of the fictional counterpart.

The play opens by introducing us to Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon, a gay couple, friends of Oscar Wilde, in their shared home, The Vale. It is clear from their conversation and interaction that they are a well-established couple, completely comfortable and at ease in each other’s company. Much of the play’s action takes place at The Vale where Ricketts and Shannon regularly host open evenings for their friends.

The play is set around the time of the publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and tonight Ricketts and Shannon are expecting John Gray, one of Oscar Wilde’s new lovers. John Gray arrives and immediately makes a very strong impression. He is young, attractive and striking, and he knows this very well. Gray is very pleased with himself, with his new found fame, and his role as Wilde’s muse, describing The Picture of Dorian Gray as a marvellous book.

However despite Gray’s enthusiasm, The Picture of Dorian Gray has been savaged by critics and reviewers, and described as nasty, poisonous and immoral. Ricketts and Shannon are concerned about the repercussions of the novel’s publication, fearing it may lead to a witch hunt. Wilde’s celebration of homosexual love in the novel has left them feeling exposed, vulnerable and afraid.

Time passes, Ricketts and Shannon are hosting an evening of poetry recital and are expecting Oscar Wilde and his new lover, Lord Alfred Douglas or Bosie. It is here that John Gray, no longer Wilde’s favourite, now a poet, meets Andre Raffalovich, a writer and reviewer. They get off on the wrong foot. Gray, stung by Raffalovich’s previous criticism of his work, refers to him as an “ugly French Jew”. But when Gray reads one of his new poems, Raffalovich changes his opinion of Gray’s work and, as the evening progresses and they talk, Gray changes his opinion of Raffalovich. A spark is ignited between the two men which will burn for a long time to come.


In this scene we meet Bosie for the first time. He is supremely confident, a larger than life character whose persona dominates the room. Wilde is being threatened with blackmail and, whilst this strikes fear into the hearts of the others in the room, Bosie is confident Wilde will win the day, and anticipates a time when homosexuals will not have to hide but will be able to love openly. When Bosie performs a powerful reading of his poem about “the love that dare not speak its name”, a heated debate is born between Bosie, who wants to shout his love from the rooftops, and the others who counsel caution, as public declarations of homosexual love will bring down the full force of the law, making everyone’s life very difficult.

By now Gray and Raffalovich have begun a relationship and are very much in love. When Wilde is arrested, Raffalovich proposes that they leave for Europe because it is only a matter of time before the Wilde trail and investigation leads to Gray. Raffalovich describes this as a holiday, but Gray is more accurate when he says they are fleeing the country to avoid persecution and prosecution.

One of the most powerful and deeply moving scenes comes after the interval. Time has moved on, Gray and Raffalovich are safe in Berlin, and they are happy together as a couple. But they cannot be open about their relationship as society would not accept it, making it untenable. Gray speaks to Raffalovich and confides that they cannot go on as they are, as they continually have to hide their relationship. If found out, they would have to flee, and they would always be outcasts from society, never accepted, because their love is perceived as a sin and is legally a crime.

Gray says he wants to do something meaningful with his life and has decided to dedicate his life to serving God. He is leaving for Rome to train as a Priest. His faith and his Catholicism have always been an important and integral part of his life and the one person who has stood by him through all of his troubles is Jesus Christ. It is heartbreaking to see a young couple, in love and happy, torn apart simply because society cannot accept them as they are, and this scene is painful and brutal to watch. It is heartbreaking.


The play shows some of the long-term repercussions of the publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray and the trials of Oscar Wilde. For all homosexual men, the threat of persecution, prosecution and conviction became a real and present danger. Many young men had to flee the country to escape being caught in the net, like Gray and Raffalovich, whilst those who stayed like Ricketts and Shannon had their livelihood destroyed, as no one would buy their art any longer because of their association with the disgraced Wilde.

Towards the end of the play, we see Ricketts and Shannon on their last day in The Vale, as they have been forced to sell up and move out as they can no longer afford the property. However, they do host one final meeting, inviting Gray to The Vale as he travels through London on his way up to Edinburgh to take up his new post as a parish priest. They invite Raffalovich along too in a last-ditch attempt to bring about a reconciliation. They want Gray and Raffalovich to realize what they are giving up to live apart from eachother.

The play has an unexpected and uplifting ending. Time has moved on, Gray is a priest in Edinburgh, and he is back together with Raffalovich, who helps him with the running of the Church. They are together and are happy – an ending I would not have imagined possible in the Victorian era.

Although Wilde’s novel and his trial did bring about difficult times for the people featured in the play, both couples (Ricketts and Shannon, Gray and Raffalovich) are together at the end of the play, sharing a life together. It is good to know that it is possible for love to survive and overcome the harshest of climates.

The Picture of John Gray tells the true life story of John Gray, the man who inspired Dorian Gray, and explores Gray’s life journey from Oscar Wilde’s Muse, to Poet, to Priest. The play focuses on his relationship with the love of his life, Andre Raffalovich. Gray’s life story was fascinating, because by the end he manages to reconcile his faith and his love for another man, and live a life of integrity where he can be true to himself.

There were five young actors in the play and they were all exceptional. They crafted complex, fully rounded and totally believable characters, strong and independent, all of whom you could empathise with. And they worked together very well as an ensemble.

The set design was simple yet effective. I loved the black and white painting of a young attractive man’s face in profile which extended across the full length of one wall. It made you feel as though you were in an artist’s studio and was a clever reference to The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Overall, an excellent new play, featuring very strong and succinct writing, and telling a relatively unknown, and yet very significant and fascinating life story, superbly acted by a very talented group of young actors. Without a doubt, one of the best fringe productions I will have the privilege of seeing this year.

Finally, I wanted to say something about the venue. This was the first time I had been to The Old Red Lion Theatre and I loved it. It is small and intimate so you are always very close to the actors. In the case of this play, you felt as though you were in the sitting room of The Vale and this really drew you into the action of the play. This theatre proved to be the perfect setting for this play.

The Picture of John Gray played at The Old Red Lion Theatre in London from 5 August until 30 August.

I interviewed the playwright of The Picture of John Gray - C.J. Wilmann - for EQView here:

Night Moves - Review
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My EQView feature this week is a review of Night Moves, a new film which shines a spotlight on Green activism and one specific act of ecoterrorism. The film explores the aftermath of the act of ecoterrorism and looks at its far-reaching (and unintended) consequences.

My EQView review of Night Moves is here:

Cut and pasted from the EQView website:


Night Moves follows three Green activists as they plan, prepare and carry out an act of ecoterrorism. The film then examines and explores the aftermath of this action and the far-reaching consequences for all concerned.

Night Moves stars Jesse Eisenberg (Josh), Dakota Fanning (Dena) and Peter Sarsgaard (Harmon) as the three Green activists. As a viewer, you gradually get to know them as people over a period of time and this means you genuinely care about them. You have a lot invested in what happens to them and what becomes of them. Will their plan work, will they succeed, will they be caught, and, ultimately, what price will they pay?

I loved the film’s pacing. It takes its time and is a slow burn, steadily ratcheting up the tension. Night Moves is the name of the boat the activists buy (an integral part of the plan) and it is at night that they carry out their act of ecoterrorism, under cover of darkness when their actions will hopefully be hidden and pass unnoticed. The fact that it is night-time significantly increases the tension and the drama for the audience.

The film considers what constitutes a successful ecological or environmental campaign action. Is it about making a big statement/gesture and grandstanding or is it about gradually changing behaviour and delivering results by educating and empowering people to live a more ecologically and environmentally friendly lifestyle? What is the best way to effect lasting change?

I valued the fact that the film did not stop with the act of ecoterrorism, but went on to examine its aftermath in-depth, exploring the far-reaching consequences of the group’s actions on themselves, their friends, and their communities.

The act of ecoterrorism is targeted against property not people and no one is meant to get hurt. But even when no harm is intended, people can and do get caught in the crossfire and become collateral damage. As the full horror of the aftermath emerges, the lives of all three protagonists start to unravel.

All three activists attempt to return to their normal day-to-day lives. They each have their own way of dealing with what they have done and they are affected in different ways. But they are all damaged by the experience and pay a heavy price for their actions, especially in terms of their conscience and their peace of mind. Guilt is a very heavy burden to carry around if there is no one you can talk to and it can eat you up from the inside. The film looks at the effects of guilt and the psychological damage inflicted on the three activists.

The film is stunning to look at, in terms of the scenery and the landscapes featured, which is fitting for a film about Green issues and the environment. The film very much places human beings in the context of the landscapes and the geographical spaces that they occupy, and looks at how human beings interact with their environment.

Night Moves made a profound impression on me. It engaged my brain, and I am still thinking about the film, and the issues it raises, a long time after seeing the film. Night Moves makes you think seriously about how far you would/should go to achieve certain campaign objectives, and opens your eyes to the many unforeseen and unintended consequences of an individual’s/group’s actions. Dropping a small stone in a big pond can cause ripples that reach far and wide.

To summarise, this is an intelligent, thoughtful and thought-provoking film, utterly compelling from start to finish, which will haunt you for a long time to come. Food for the brain.

Night Moves is currently playing in UK cinemas.

NT Live: Medea, National Theatre - Thursday 4 September 2014
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Medea gets its NT Live this week and it will be broadcast live from the National Theatre in London into cinemas across the UK and around the world.

Cut and pasted from the National Theatre Website:


Medea is a wife and a mother. For the sake of her husband, Jason, she’s left her home and borne two sons in exile. But when he abandons his family for a new life, Medea faces banishment and separation from her children. Cornered, she begs for one day’s grace. It’s time enough. She exacts an appalling revenge and destroys everything she holds dear.

Helen McCrory returns to the National to take the title role in Euripides’ powerful tragedy, in a new version by Ben Power with music written by Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp.

The trailer is here:

For full production details follow the link:

The NT Live website, where you can find out more information about the production and also find your nearest cinema showing NT Live, is here:

Information on Medea via NT Live is here:

I will be watching Medea via NT Live at the Stratford East Picturehouse.

Finally, I wrote an in-depth feature on NT Live for Vada Magazine which can be found in the two following places:

The Picture of John Gray - Meet the Writer - C.J. Wilmann
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My EQView feature this week is on The Picture of John Gray, a new play about the true story of John Gray, the man who inspired Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray. I interviewed C.J.Wilmann, the playwright of The Picture of John Gray.

My EQView interview with C.J. Wilmann is here:

Cut and pasted from the EQView website:


The Picture of John Gray is a new play, currently playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre in London, exploring the true story of John Gray, the man who inspired Oscar Wilde’s most infamous creation, Dorian Gray.

I saw the play recently and I thought the writing and the acting was exceptional (review to follow). It made me want to find out more about the play and so I interviewed C.J. Wilmann, the playwright, to find out how and why he came to write the play.

EQView: When and how did you find out that Dorian Gray was based on a real person (John Gray)?

C.J. Wilmann: My dissertation was on the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray. Whilst studying for my dissertation, I found that Gray would get a brief mention in most books on Wilde but it was rarely more than a few paragraphs or footnotes. I’d already seen the film “Wilde”, in which Gray features briefly, but the character was so bland, I’d completely forgotten his part in the film. I soon discovered the real person was far more interesting.

Why did you want to bring John Gray’s story to the stage? What do you find interesting about John Gray and his life story?

At first I was fascinated by Gray from a Wilde point of view. I found it so bold and inspiring that Wilde would use the name of one of his lovers for the titular character in a novel that espoused a homosexual way of life, at a time when such a way of life was illegal.

As my research developed, however, I realised that the relationship between Gray and Wilde was far less interesting than Gray’s later relationship with the real love of his life, Marc Andre Raffalovich – and I soon realised it was this story that I wanted to tell.

What are the key themes you are hoping to bring out in the play?

This isn’t something that was in my thoughts when I was writing the play. I just wanted to create interesting and honest characters. I knew, from that, a story would emerge that would ring true.

On reflection, I’d say the most important theme in the play is friendship, and the idea of friendship being the key ingredient of love – but that’s just a personal opinion.

How and why do you think John Gray’s story is relevant to a modern-day audience?

To write a play that isn’t relevant to the present day, you’d have to do something seriously, seriously wrong. It’s a love story – but an unorthodox one – and that will always be relevant.

What do you see as the key similarities between John Gray and his namesake? What do you see as the key differences?

At the time the novel was written, John, like Dorian, was impressionable, naive and recently discovering the homosexual undercurrent of Victorian London. Beyond that, not too much. John certainly becomes his own man.

Oscar Wilde is absent from your play. Were you tempted to include him in the play and why did you resist that temptation?

There were lots of characters I considered including but Wilde was never one of them. It’s John Gray’s story and Wilde on stage would have been too distracting.

Plus my impression of Wilde differs greatly from the generic idea of him and there’s simply not enough time in a play to contradict the generic impression of this hugely famous figure and also tell another far less famous man’s story.

What reaction/reception has the play received to date?

Thankfully, it’s all been incredibly positive- reviews, tweets, comments after each show, and the sheer number of people coming to watch it.

The biggest compliment I’ve had is the cast and crew who are working on it. They’re all incredibly talented and they wouldn’t be involved if they didn’t believe in the play.

What next for The Picture of John Gray?

It’ll be on again. I don’t know when or where but it’ll definitely be on again.

What next for C.J. Wilmann?

I’ve been working on another play for the last 2 years, alongside writing The Picture of John Gray. It’s nearly ready and hopefully it’ll get a production next year.

The play is excellent and it is now in its final week so I strongly recommend you catch it while you can!

The Picture of John Gray is playing at The Old Red Lion Theatre in London until 30 August.

Follow the link for more information:

Outings - Review
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My EQView feature this week is a review of Outings, a new show premiered at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, featuring true-life coming out stories from LGBT men and women around the globe. It explores how they came out and what effect it has had on their lives.

My EQView review of Outings is here:

Cut and pasted from the EQView website:


Outings is a new show, premiering at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, featuring true-life coming out stories from LGBT men and women around the globe.

The show is inspired by Tom Daley and opens with an audio recording of Tom Daley’s coming out video. Tom speaks of his happiness and contentment now he is in a relationship with another man. This makes an effective and uplifting opening, ensuring you engage with the piece right from the outset.

On the surface, Outings is a very simple show. There are four performers, plus a different guest star every day, recounting true-life coming out stories from LGBT people. But its simplicity is deceptive because it takes real skill to weave together such a complex, varied and wide-ranging collection of stories into a coherent whole.

The main body of the show is ordinary LGBT people from around the world telling their stories of how they came out and the effect it has had on their lives. The performers have the scripts in hand but the piece is very much performed and acted on stage, rather than just being read, and a lot of movement is incorporated into the piece. Performing the stories really brings them to life.

One of the stories that really moved me was that of a young man who came out to his doctor and his parents at a time when homosexuality was still regarded as a disease, something that warranted psychiatric help and may even consign you to a “loony bin”. He describes the horrific process he was put through in an attempt to “cure” him and his story is heartbreaking.

Another powerful story is not a first person coming out story, but the story of a wife of a closeted gay man. She describes the two of them living a life in the shadows, hidden away in the dark, not in the closet, but in the cupboard under the stairs. She explains how she feels and how her life changes when the light finally pierces through the darkness and her husband comes out and leaves her to pursue a relationship with another man.

On the day I saw the show the guest star was, unbelievably, Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho (currently starring in her own drag comedy cabaret show about gay rights, the 80s, and disco). The guest stars are used to recount the high profile media coming out stories, including Peter Wildeblood, Harvey Milk, Boy George, Justin Fashanu and George Michael. It was disconcerting, but incredibly empowering, to see and hear Margaret Thatcher delivering Harvey Milk’s speech about the importance of coming out to everyone you knew as a means of changing hearts and minds.

The staging is simple but powerful. I liked the Rainbow coloured scripts and the backdrop which was a noticeboard, also Rainbow themed, containing snippets of coming out stories and photos of gay rights campaigners like Peter Tatchell and Sir Ian McKellan. These light touches all added to the ambience of the piece.

This is a very topical piece, coming at a time when LGBT rights are advancing rapidly in some countries, making it easier to come out; and regressing in others, crushed through state-sanctioned homophobia, making it increasingly difficult and dangerous to come out. The piece shows you can only be free and open and honest if you are “out” and highlights why we should be supporting people to come out and creating an atmosphere where it is easier to do so.

All credit to the writers Thomas Hescott and Matthew Baldwin for choosing and presenting such a rich and diverse selection of coming out stories in an engaging and accessible way. The piece flowed along beautifully, at a quick pace, with never a dull moment. The stories were, in turns, comic, funny, moving, sad, heartbreaking, uplifting and inspirational, and each and every one made an impression and moved me profoundly.

I was interested in all of the stories told on stage and the time just flew by. I was so engrossed I would very happily have stayed on to hear more and, of course, the mark of a truly successful show is to leave your audience wanting more!

Outings is playing at 1pm daily, at Fringe Venue 14, the Gilded Balloon, until 25 August.

Follow the link to the Outings website:

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