AN OPERATIC WEEK

Aroldo

It really does feel like I am spending all my time in a theatre. And it’s marvellous.

Yes, I am aware of how much energy is sapped and how I feel so unfit because my limbs ache when I do the usual daily walking et cetera – but these are the risks I chose when I desired to be a performer. My entire schedule is squiffed towards what I can do whilst I am confined to a green room and dressing room.

Well, ‘confined’ is perhaps too strong a word. But it does mean that the stage takes priority when it comes to working out how my week goes this week. I have responsibilities, and there is no way I will not uphold them.

One thing I know – or I like to hope in any case – is that the final photos will be glossy and glorious. Working on such a big stage with proper lighting and management leads to some great I know because I’ve seen it on the monitors.

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If my phone had not given up on me/y’all, I would happily have shared more photos on my Instagram… Instead, here’s a blurry-as-shots-come webcam photo of my as an Essex girl just before Friday’s dress rehearsal.

The opening night is tomorrow and I’m as worried as the obsessive perfectionist. I feel like I am aware of the little pieces that need tweaking and the acting and singing that I could be pushing myself to make even better. We had some costume adjustments for the final act – which, without giving away too much of the artistic direction – is a complete u-turn from the previous three acts, visually and socially. For anybody who knows the history of Verdi’s opera Aroldo and its previous manifestation as Stiffelio, they clue is in the additions Aroldo made on Stiffelio.

But anyway, this means that costumes have had to be changed, and with that comes an uncertainty about whether they will be there in time, whether – and, of course, whether I will have time to acquire the necessaries of my own costumes. Most have been provided, but then there are the little things that one needs to consider. For instance, in the first act, the ladies wear a lot of makeup, and of course I am set constantly wondering if what I have done is enough or even correct.

But we continue on. There is time. Even with the opening night coming up, I still have time before the performance itself to do a final costume check, tune myself up, and go back through a listing of the dance moves. Those crazy dance moves…

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There are still tickets left if you’re around in London the 20th-25th March (ie. Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday this week), 7pm at Stratford East Royal Theatre. You can get tickets here:

http://www.stratfordeast.com/wh

Beautiful People: H’s Cathy

*gasp* What is this, an actual Beautiful People post on my blog in 2016? I know, I’ve been as lax in keeping up with the writing tag as a printer sans ink, partly because I’ve not tackled any new big novels for a while and instead have been trying to focus on the importance of editing. But since I’m working on it at the moment, about two years from its conclusion, I thought we’d revisit my Steampunk novel H, a tale of ghosts, Italian tribes, and dirigibles.

what is beautiful peple about

Beautiful People is a monthly segment focusing on the fictional people of our novels with the intent of uncovering their little tidbits that although may not come into fruition or play in the novel, round the character into more than a paper cutout. It is hosted by Cait at Paper Fury and Sky from Further Up and Further In.

So, let me once again, introduce you to the lovely, yet audacious, Miss Cathleen Cattoway, betrothed to Squire Alexander Sterling. Or so she hopes…

PAPERFURY

  1. How did you come up with this character?

Horology - CathleenLike most of my character creation, I don’t recall coming up with Cathleen Cattoway specifically. I know I wanted a female main character to look through, someone with brown hair and eyes as a template for her appearance. Confident and not docile to the sexism of the day, but not someone who liked mechanics. Her name was something of a pick-out-the-hat, as I tend to do. It stuck, thank goodness.

  1. Have they ever been starving? Why? And what did they eat to break the fast?

Totally boring here, but no. She’s had to be self-sufficient, and she has been hungry, sure, but never starving.

  1. Do they have a talent or skill that they’re proud of?

Linguistics. That is, the study of language structure. Cathy’s particular speciality comes from translating Latin and Greek, and so she is fascinated by how different languages use different syntax to create different meaning. This also helps her pick out when people are not being so truthful—as she is more likely to hear the false way they are using language.

4. List 3 things that would make them lose their temper.

People thinking she has to need help.

People stopping her from reaching her potential or helping others.

Liars, because she can read them more easily than most.

5. What is their favourite type of weather? Least favourite?

Does nighttime count as a weather? I guess that’s cheating. 😛 Cathy’s favourite time of weather would be blue skies, though not too hot. Her least favourite? Thunderstorm rain.

  1. What is their Hogwarts house and/or MBTI personality?

I went with Hogwarts house because, although I’ve done numerous Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator tests and read loads on my own type (INFJ here 😀 ), I’ve not had the time to read that much into other types. Since INFJ’s are the rarest, even if my characters do share my attributes and interests, I don’t think if they were to do the test, they would come out so.

I’d say Cathy’s a Ravenclaw. She’s not brave enough for a Gryffindor, is too frank to be a Hufflepuff, and honestly, I see very few traits of hers as Slytherin-y. She aspires to not aspire.

  1. Are they more likely to worry about present problems, or freak out about the unknown future?

Well, Cathy would consider the two irreparably linked – her present problems are the small cogs in the machine of the unknown future; if there are present issues, that means that the future is not going to be set out the way she would like it to be.

  1. What is their favourite drink?
Your average Google stock photo

Tea. Definitely. Just your average India Leaf tea, though she was recently introduced to lemon Green tea, and she rather liked it.

  1. What is their favourite colour? Least favourite?

Her favourite colour is a rich maroon or burgundy. She likes the rich reds that can be transformed to taffeta fabrics. Her least favourite colour…I’d say that would be black, simply because it lacks texture and the potential to see other colours through it.

  1. What is a book that changed their life?

Wow. Now that’s a loaded question. I mean, I don’t have a favourite book, and – as Cait herself would say – I am a feelingless Vulcan, whose life has very rarely been changed by a single book, so I don’t know where to start with Cathy. What springs to mind would be the first book she translated: a series of poems in elegiac couplets by Catullus, one of a group of Roman writers known as the ‘new poets’. She would’ve been inspired by the way the poetry is clever and full of imagery – yet, also is poetic in the sense that it does not stick to the poetic boundaries English is forced to.

What about you? Are you in the deep depths of editing at the moment, or have you just started making a new book baby? Let’s chat 😀

Photo of the Week: Smooothh

In which I again try and do all of the arty things. This is from Friday’s girl’s night, where, having made my way almost through the entire menu, I decide to try the make-your-own smoothie. With raspberry and lime. It was sweet and sharp. and I liked it. This is my classy social life now. 😉

On a less classy note, the second drink is a mix of cider, beer, and grenadine, known in Reading as a Snakebite. There was no blackcurrent or lime that normally goes with it, so grenadine, my new favourite syrup did for the time-being.

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‘Heaven Sent’ Review with Nevillegirl

This series 9 of Doctor Who, I’ve been part of the review team over at Nevillegirl’s blog. Last year, we did a similar system, and one of the episodes I’ve been reviewing this year has been episode 11, Heaven Sent.

doctor who heaven sent poster

Wow, that’s was one wild ride of an episode. I had a lot of thoughts and a lot to say about it with Nevillegirl:

Alex: I liked this episode a lot. Although it was Doctor-heavy, it didn’t feel that way. I love the visual setting, the CGI of the castle turning. The inside of it was skipped over, but I think this leaves more room for viewer imaginations to create more of this world… if you can call it a “world,” as such. The conflict/threat to the Doctor was tangible. Personally, I felt for him, and this made the episode all the scarier. Capaldi subtly showed the fear. Again, great acting!

Alex: However, I think there were a few predictable elements in the episode, particularly the Doctor loop. We’ve had episodes before – I don’t know if they were written by Moffat or not – where the Doctor has been setting himself up; and that’s something I like to imagine (and write) in temporal fiction.

Engie: I loved this episode. No, wait – I looooooooooooooooooooved it. PETER CAPALDI IS SUCH A GREAT ACTOR OH MY GOD. And I was so pleased to see that my prediction came true!

To read more of this review, find it at Nevillegirl’s blog, Musing From Neville’s Navel.

10 Reasons I’m Thankful For Blogging

In which Engie explains why she is thankful for blogging. I don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving, but I have a lot of American friends and love this fun holiday.

Musings From Neville's Navel

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Instead of my usual “I’m thankful for my family and my health and my cat” post on this day, I thought I’d try something different! I thought I’d make a list of ten books I’m thankful for, but… apparently I did that last year! SO I’M MAKING A TOP TEN LIST OF REASONS I’M THANKFUL FOR BLOGGING.

1. It’s an easy, comfortable form of expressing myself 

I’m introverted and shy – I don’t have much to say to anyone IRL until I get to know them well. I stumble over my words, or get embarrassed and forget what I was going to say. But online my thoughts just come POURING out and I’m not nearly as awkward! (I hope!)

2. More specifically, I can fangirl! 

Blogging has given me a way to discuss my interests – especially those related to books, movies, and TV shows – that I…

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Photo of the WeeK: Dinos

I took so many photos this week, though most of them running jokes, rather than pieces one could consider art. Nevertheless, I had fun doing it, and I had a set of photos to choose from.

Here, Nino, my crochet yellow dinosaur, learns about her ancestors (or, at least, their eggs) at the Natural History Museum in London. then, being the modern dino she is, she takes a ‘selfie’ with them. 😀

AlexB_NinoDinoEggs

Chilli Sweet Potato Fishcakes

The great thing about fishcakes is that their integral recipe and cooking is the same, but one can experiment with different fish and different spices or veg to get completely different flavours and a dish to suit many palates. Because sweet potato is a warm, flavoursome starch anyway, it pairs well with medium-heat chillies that don’t overpower the soothing flavours of the potato. Plus, sweet potato is filled with nutritional vitamins, so it can be perfect for young mouths that have a picky side. (I should know!)

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Ingredients:

Two Haddock fillets

One large red chilli of medium heat

An onion

One sweet potato

An egg

Plain flour (for dusting)

Pepper (and salt if desired) for seasoning

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Cut the sweet potato into even-sized chunks of medium size. Bring a half-filled pot of water to the boil. When the water is boiling, cook the sweet potato chunks for about 2 – 4 minutes to soften them.

Rub the haddock (both sides) with pepper and/or salt and/or a light seasoning of your choice. Stronger spices like turmeric or cumin might add too many flavours to the fishcakes, so I kept from adding anything more.

Put the fish into a colander and cover with foil. I used pre-smoked haddock for an additional layer of flavour, but any haddock would work here. Turn the heat in the pot down and heat the fish over the sweet potato for 8 – 10 minutes or until both the fish and the potato are cooked. Once cooked, remove the fish from the colander and set them aside; and drain the potatoes in the colander, then return the potatoes to the pot and leave them to steam dry for a minute.

Mash the sweet potato in a bowl. Now some recipes encourage mashing around the sides of the bowl to help the mash cool, but I found that moving the potatoes and fish from bowl to bowl was enough to help it cool, so I could mash straight away.

Remove any skin from the fish and flake it into the mash. With a dash more pepper/chosen light seasoning, start to mix the fish and the potato together.

Dice the onion and the chilli, and fry together in a pan for about four minutes, or until the onion is browned and fragrant. Put the pan aside to cool. If the onions and chilli don’t cool, there is no issue but with the possibility of them being too hot to handle when hand-mixing/folding the fishcake mixtures.

Once cool or when ready, add the onions and the chilli into the bowl fishcake mixture. Crack an egg into the mixture. This acts as a binding agent for the fishcakes. I suspect it could be left out, particularly with the softness the sweet potato gives to the cakes, but you might be left with crumblier mixture. Then by hand mix the fishcake ingredients, making sure all ingredients are folded in. Have fun doing this. 😉 You will get messy hands.

Mould the fishcakes into flattened spheres of about two cm thick. I dusted a plate with flour and dusted both sides of the fishcakes individually. I believe this helps the final browning, but is by no means necessary to the fishcakes. Transfer to an oiled frying pan to cook. For efficiency, I used the same pan in which I fried my onions earlier. Now I managed to fit all of my fishcakes in a medium-large sized frying pan. I didn’t plan for my mixture to make four, but since it did, I wanted to be able to fry them altogether to save me time. However, if you have the time, I wouldn’t recommend this, particular for thicker fishcakes, as it is difficult to flip them or check sides when the cakes are rubbing shoulders.

Cook until each side of the fishcakes are browned, and serve immediately on a bed of salad. Or wait until they are cool and freeze/refrigerate until later.

Enjoy! ^_^

Doesn't look very glamorous, but it was certainly yummy.
Doesn’t look very glamorous, but it was certainly yummy.