On Hiatus from Reviewing

Hello theatre pals!

I am currently on hiatus from writing reviews until November 2022. This summer, I’m lucky enough to be performing in an outdoor production of The Wind in the Willows, touring across the UK. I will also be working on my own personal creative projects this autumn, so I will be on a break from attending shows to review until these projects are completed.

I hope to see you lovely lot in November, and I’m very excited to see what theatre you all produce this autumn/winter!

A good old catch up to 25

It has been a busy couple of weeks. I turned twenty five last Sunday, and it’s hardly an excuse but sometimes it’s a struggle to write when your mind is on seven hundred different things happening at work and in your personal life. Not that I’ve been creatively deprived – in the past few weeks I have qualified in fighting with an axe (in stage combat, I hasten to add) and I’ve submitted a project I’ve been working on for an upcoming scratch night. Little steps, I know, but it’s made me feel better about neglecting my blog.

So, it’s time for a good old catch up!

8 of 25: Parks and Recreation

I adore comedy, but I tend to be a bit fussy when it comes to the style of comedy I enjoy. I stray towards the bizarre, the surreal and the dark, but Parks and Recreation is a special kind of comedy. I discovered Parks and Recs, as I often do with American series, a lot later than everyone else on the internet. I knew the Ron Swanson memes and the Andy Dwyer gifs from my Tumblr days, but it was only when I started my Masters degree that I watched the series itself. Parks and Recs is like a sweeter version of The Thick of It in that it delves into the complex structures of the civil service, is just as absurd, but doesn’t have the swearing psychopathic poet that is Malcolm Tucker steering its helm. Instead, it has the gorgeous, optimistic, diligent and wonderful soul that is Leslie Knope. For me, Leslie is such an important female character in both film and television. She is proof that female character’s can be just as captivating without a tragic backstory or some terrible demons lurking in their psyche. Above all, she highlights that female characters can be funny, and both she and April Ludgate demonstrate the hilarity of female characters who cross into the absurd – whoever said women aren’t funny, you’re just wrong. And do you want to know why you’re wrong? Just watch Parks and Recreation and you’ll see.

9 of 25: Fantastic Mr Fox

I love Wes Anderson and I love Roald Dahl, so Fantastic Mr Fox is something of a match made in heaven for me. There is such an inherent charm to Anderson’s work; his visual style is so evocative, his scripts to whimsical, and his soundtrack choices are impeccable in their creation of atmosphere. But there is an added delight to Fantastic Mr Fox‘s stop motion animation. I’ve always found stop motion a particularly magical form of animation – the patience and dedication involved truly astonishes me, and in a sense, stop motion reminds me of the building blocks that led to the invention of film. While the story itself is something of a moral tale about arrogance, the film’s world is so captivating in the script’s humour and the warmth of the visuals. If ever I am in the mood for a bit of cheering up, I often choose to escape into beautiful world of Mr Fox and his family.

10 of 25: I Shall Wear Midnight

Now this next choice was a difficult one – difficult because I had to choose out of around 34 of Terry Pratchett’s works. I adore Terry Pratchett for his humour, his razor sharp satire and his unique flare for examining human nature. But out of all of his novels, I chose one of his last published works, I Shall Wear Midnight. The novel’s hero, Tiffany Aching, was an unexpected seminal inspiration for me. Tiffany is a tough, diligent, determined and fiery young woman who happens to be a witch – but a Discworld witch, which is very different to the witches you get in Harry Potter or in horror films. Witches in the Discworld are practical women, the wise women of a community who provide healing and help to those in need; they are much more salt of the earth than away with the fairies. I Shall Wear Midnight sees Tiffany mature from a teenager into a woman, and I read it at a time when I was transitioning from a school student into a university student. Tiffany’s strength of character was a strange support at a time when I was unsure about my future, and I can only be grateful to Terry Pratchett for a creating a complex and resilient hero in the form of a young farmer’s daughter, because heroes can come in all shapes and sizes.

13 of 25: American Gods

The first of my two picks from Neil Gaiman. American Gods is one of those books which to hold and look at in your hand is the promise of a commitment. It is something of an epic, but then again, it is dealing with an utterly massive country, rich with the cultural histories of immigrant and indigenous peoples alike. I adore Gaiman’s style of fantasy, his magical realism being evoked with a dark, self aware sense of humour; it is no surprise that he and Terry Pratchett were such great friends. I read American Gods while I was working a summer job in the States – a conscious decision I made in order to feel immersed in the world of the text. It was a decision I did not regret, as I was transported with Shadow, the book’s hero, across the great expanses of the North American continent. American Gods is a beautiful work of literature, and if you ever find yourself in need of a bit of holiday reading whilst visiting the States, I would highly recommend this epic piece of work.

14 of 25: The Dark Knight

For a number of years, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to become an actor professionally or not, but there was one film event which really solidified my desire to become an actor. That film was Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. To me, The Dark Knight is a truly great film. Many cinema snobs are unwilling to admit a comic book film can be anything but cinematic pulp, but The Dark Knight is a masterclass in plot building, pacing and acting. There is one person who in fact changed the course of my life with this film, and that was Heath Ledger. Ledger’s portrayal as the Joker is truly legendary, and I remember the feeling of utter awe and admiration I felt when I first watched his performance. The Dark Knight became one of the few films I saw over three times in the cinema because I was so entranced by Heath Ledger’s performance. He truly was an extraordinary talent, and the recognition for his performance raised the pedigree of superhero film from derivative action movies to a space where an actor can thrive and give the performance of their career. The superhero genre would never be the same after The Dark Knight, and I think the current successes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ironically owe their cinematic clout to this particular DC adaptation.

15 of 25: The Handmaid’s Tale

I’m going to do a little cheat here and include both the original novel and the Hulu series in this next choice. I first read Margaret Atwood in preparation for a stage adaptation of another one of her works called The Penelopiad. I got hooked on Atwood’s style as a result, and soon after finishing The Penelopiad, I read The Handmaid’s Tale. It truly is a parable for our times, which is honestly a very terrifying thing to say – that a book originally published in 1985 could have such relevance in 2018. While the TV series has expanded beyond the plot of the book, the series still reflects its source text’s raw sense of horror, outrage and pain. It truly is a stark and frightening reflection of what could be, and highlights the ongoing importance of the resistance to fascism which is so vital in this current political climate.

16 of 25: Othello

I didn’t always love Shakespeare – I know, shock horror! I, like many other school children, was somewhat bamboozled by the legendary status of the Bard. But that really changed as I began to study Othello in Sixth Form. I always say that a student’s passion for a subject is often impacted by the quality of their teacher, and I was fortunate enough to have an amazing English teacher during my A-Levels. This was my first experience of understanding the power of Shakespeare’s text, understanding the enormous emotional stakes at play in the raw ferocity of the verse. Othello is one of William Shakespeare’s many masterpieces, but it was the first masterpiece which made me realise the stunning genius of that country boy from Stratford-upon-Avon and his ability to empathise with those whose experiences were so different from his own.

17 of 25: Steven Universe

Another recent discovery for me, I started watching Steven Universe about a month ago after stumbling across it on Netflix. I was initially hesitant to watch it, but after reading an offhandedly praising comment from one of my favourite feminist writers, Laurie Penny, I thought I would give it a watch. Steven Universe is an example of a recent spate of powerfully written and progressive animated series which are currently being aired. Within the confines of its strange universe of sentient space gems and quaint coastal towns, Steven Universe deals with subjects like grief, consent, gender and relationships in beautifully sensitive and forward-thinking ways. Most importantly for me, though, it is a show which promotes strong women (human or otherwise) and men who support them. Steven Universe has presented some of the most beautiful iterations of same sex relationships and non-binary gender identities I have ever seen, and in my opinion, it truly is a gem of modern television.

18 of 25: The Bloody Chamber

Sixth Form (or 11th and 12th Grades in the US) is a seminal time for a lot of people, and that was certainly true for me, particularly when it came to my literary tastes. I had never heard of Angela Carter before I studied her anthology of re-imagined fairytales, The Bloody Chamber, but she has become a huge creative influence for me. I adore magical realism as an artistic device, and to me, Angela Carter is the master of magical realism – certainly in the English language, at any rate. Her dark and twisted tales in The Bloody Chamber have stayed with me since I first read them at the age of seventeen. Their potent handling of female sexuality and personhood are still rooted in my psyche, and I will freely admit that most of my writing has been influenced in some way by the magnificent enigma that was Angela Carter.

19 of 25: The Simpsons

I do have a soft spot for cartoons as you can probably tell, and my first experience of ‘adult’ animation was The Simpsons. Like many people growing up, your TV and film tastes are often shaped by your family, and to an extent this is true with my tastes. My dad loves The Simpsons, and Matt Groening’s other brainchild, Futurama, and by extension, so do I. Watching The Simpsons was like a ritual in our household, and I still associate it with being the treat after dinner which I could watch before going to bed at the age of seven. I have to admit that most of my favourite episodes originally aired in the mid-90s – in my opinion, that was when the show’s writing was at its peak, and the dynamics between the characters were still at their most heartfelt and realistic. Lisa Simpson is one of many bright and determined female characters I looked up to as a child; her intelligence and unwavering thirst for knowledge was inspirational to me. Though I think the quality of the show has dipped somewhat in recent years, The Simpsons will always have a special place in my heart, being the first show to prove to me that animation can tackle adult themes, even if it does so with a slathering of comedy.

20 of 25: Neverwhere

The second in my Neil Gaiman selection, and probably my favourite of his works. Neverwhere has an interesting history, originally beginning its life as a miniseries for television, created by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry. The miniseries is great, with a selection of familiar faces from British film and television, including a very young and very curly haired Peter Capaldi. However, I have to admit that I prefer the novel to the original TV series. There is a magic to literature which film and television can never quite capture, and that is certainly true of the dark and mysterious London Gaiman creates in the book adaptation of Neverwhere. To anyone who is familiar with London, Neverwhere is a treat of historical and regional references, and if you aren’t, the magic isn’t lost. I love dark fantasy, and Neverwhere is certainly dark but with a hearty helping of gallows humour mixed in, which, in my opinion, is never a bad thing. Sometimes you have to have a bit of humour to see you through the dark times.

21 of 25: Bojack Horseman

Speaking of humour in the dark time, another recent discovery of mine is Bojack Horseman. I will admit it took me a little while to get into Bojack – the first few episodes didn’t quite grab my attention, but I persevered with it as I knew it had been praised by critics and friends with similar tastes to me. Bojack Horseman is a very funny show but it isn’t an easy watch. For a show about a cartoon anthropomorphised horse, you wouldn’t expect it to be so hard hitting, but Bojack Horseman has some of the most devastating and cutting plot lines I have ever seen portrayed on a show. The way in which it tackles mental health, the hypocrisy of Hollywood (or rather, Hollywoo) and the acting industry is truly masterful; the episode entitled ‘Times Arrow’ will forever haunt me in the way it handle’s a person’s mind deteriorating from Alzheimer’s after a life of misery and mental illness. Bojack Horseman is a true work of art, in both its writing and animation style, and it is certainly worthy of all the praise it has received.

22 of 25: Linda

The Royal Court is one of my favourite theatres in London, and I have seen numerous plays staged there. However, there is one show in particular which I never got to see live, and there will always be a part of me that wishes I had been able to. On reading Penelope Skinner’s 2016 play, Linda, I was utterly captivated by the power of the text alone. It is one of my favourite play texts, being a standard go-to when I have to select a modern monologue for an audition. The hypocrisies of the professional world for women are laid bare, and the raw pain felt by women across generations at the sexism and misogyny they face is presented with such devastating honesty – Linda does not hold back on the power of its punches. It achieves one of the things I love about theatre; being able to hold up a dark mirror to our society and question the norms we live with on a daily basis. Theatre can be a provocation for change, and what Linda certainly is is provoking.

23 of 25: Mad Max Fury Road

I will happily admit that I do love a good action film. Sometimes, I crave a bit of mindless pulp, some corny muscle man swooping through exploding backdrops and saving the world. However, Mad Max: Fury Road is much more than a simple action movie. I saw Fury Road when it was first released which coincided with the final year exams of my BA, and in all honesty, Fury Road got me through the last leg of my undergraduate experience. I wasn’t in the best place emotionally and mentally during my third year and though it may seem strange that a film set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland could help a person get through a tough period in their life, Fury Road did just that for me. Many have said that Fury Road is Furiosa’s and not Max Rockatansky’s film, and they’re not wrong. It is precisely that reason why Fury Road had such a powerful impact on me during one of the most vulnerable times of my life. The women of Fury Road – Furiosa and the Wives – are powerful; they are powerful because they are determined to gain their liberation in the face of impossible odds. They have been abused and tortured, but they never give up, and that is something I needed to see and believe myself capable of as I completed my undergraduate degree. A bit dramatic, I know, but then again, I am an actor.

24 of 25: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

If ever I’m bored and scrolling through YouTube, looking for something other than vine compilations to make me laugh, I will usually end up watching a compilation of Brooklyn Nine-Nine Best Moments. This is a show which is both hilariously funny and brilliantly progressive. Brooklyn Nine-Nine celebrates the weird and honours the marginalised. It has one of the most diverse casts currently on television, which the actors’ ethnicities and sexualities being recognised in their characters’ identities. The humour is on the silly side of funny – I love a bit of silly – but Brooklyn Nine-Nine recognises real life issues like institutionalised racism and homophobia, and makes some extremely compelling points about such issues. It is an incredibly powerful show, demonstrating that comedy can make as powerful a point about our society’s short comings as tragedy can.

Honourable Mentions

Before I reveal number 25 of my 25 favourite things, I thought I would have some honourable mentions, because it is difficult to narrow down my favourite things to just 25 after living a quarter of a century.

They include Hot Fuzz, Gilmore Girls, Narcos, The Help, Frasier, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter, The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, Under the Skin by Michel Faber, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Nell Gwynn by Jessica Swale, Iphigenia in Splott by Gary Owen, Walking with Dinosaurs, the works of Beatrix Potter, Macbeth by William Shakespeare, Arrival, Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, Gone Girl, Dumbo and Bambi.

25 of 25: Jurassic Park

Now, this will sound very odd, but I first experienced Jurassic Park when I was still in the womb. That’s probably not a sentence you’d ever expect to read, but it is true. My parents saw Jurassic Park when it was first released in the summer of 1993 when my mother was about 6 months pregnant with me. To this day, we are convinced that my obsession with dinosaurs stems from my in vitro experience of Jurassic Park, but even if that’s not quite true, I certainly watched it enough as a child to solidify my love of dinosaurs. To this day, the special effects of Jurassic Park are breathtaking, and the plot is still a rip-roaring (pun definitely intended) adventure with a truly fantastic cast. Richard Attenborough has always been what I refer to as my ‘film grandfather’, while Jeff Goldblum has become the sex icon I never expected I needed, but by God, I did! It is, honestly, my favourite film, and if ever I’m having a sick day, I always know what I will inevitably watch while tucked up in bed trying to stave off whatever germs are afflicting me. It’s an unlikely comfort film, but it is most certainly my comfort film.

7 of 25: The Lord of the Rings

There are many reasons why we read books or watch films or plays or television. Sometimes, it’s in order to learn something new, or to engage with the cultural zeitgeist. But other times it is to escape, whether that be to escape the humdrum banality of daily life, or to escape from the stresses and strains baring down upon you. A big part of why we tell stories is for the sheer pleasure of escapism, and for me, my perfect way of achieving this pleasure is by watching Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Lord of the Rings films had a big hand in shaping my childhood. I remember seeing The Fellowship of the Ring in the cinema, mostly with my hands covering my ears because the Ring Wraiths’ screams utterly terrified me. Yet, every year I would wait eagerly for the next film to be released. The films also came out at a point in my life when my imagination got the most exercise in the school playground, and many a lunch break was spent with my friends re-enacting sequences from the films. I always ended up playing Gandalf or Gimli in these little schoolyard vignettes, which, while at the time was mortifying for a girl who desperately wanted to be Legolas, perhaps lay the groundwork for my future acting career; I am apparently a go-to when it comes to casting grotesques, hags and villains. Not that I’m complaining – I’d much rather play a dragon than a damsel in distress.

But The Lord of the Rings isn’t just a spark of playful nostalgia for me – these films hold a lot of emotional significance for me and my family. These films were a restorative escape while my mother battled with cancer during my childhood. When we watched these films together, we would be transported to Middle Earth. From the tranquil valley of Rivendell to the rolling barrows of the Shire – The Lord of the Rings were an escape from the harsh realities my family faced for a time.

Fortunately, my mother beat cancer, defeating it just as Eowyn vanquishes the Witch King in what is for me one of the most satisfying moments in cinema history. And here’s the thing – The Lord of the Rings films have left such an indelible mark upon my family that we are constantly making references. You can’t say the word ‘potato’ in our house without repeating it in Samwise Gamgee’s affected intonation. In my opinion, they are the films which have had the most influence upon my family, from our little family in jokes to our taste in decor.

Even now, 17 years since the first film’s release, they are still astounding pieces of cinema. The battle scenes are as gripping as they were when I first saw them, and the story telling is so emotionally impacting that I still burst out crying when Sam describes the wonders of the Shire to Frodo on the burning remnants of Mount Doom. The Lord of the Rings will always have a special place in my heart, and if ever I am in need of a bit of escapism on a cold and dreary day, I know what I’ll be watching.

6 of 25: The X-Files

I think everyone has something from their childhood which represents the Big Bad. What do I mean by the Big Bad? I mean something you found so utterly terrifying as a child that even now, to come across it sends a primordial shudder down your spine. Yet, you know in your heart of hearts, if you had come across this Big Bad in your adult years it categorically would not have been scary. For some, it could be a strange character from an advert, a picture in a book, an episode of Goosebumps or Doctor Who. For me, it was The X-Files.

Or, more specifically, The X-Files theme tune. If you want the definition of creepy summed up by a piece of music, just watch the opening title sequence of The X-Files; it’s like something out of a fever dream.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this show, though the love does out-way the hate – why else would it make the list of my 25 favourite things? Really, the hate stems from my abject terror of the opening titles. The X-Files began airing around the time I was born and my parents became avid fans, so when I was all tucked up in bed, ready to drift off to sleep, my parents would watch The X-Files downstairs in the living room. But here’s the catch – my father has had hearing problems for years, and as live in a detached house, we tend to have the volume turned up high on the TV. So, you can picture the scene – a young girl of only about three or four lies comfortably in bed, waiting to be swept off to the land of nod, when one of the most frightening and atmospheric theme tunes in television history comes floating up the stairs and through the open door of her bedroom. There were most certainly tears before bedtime.

I count myself lucky that one of the most scarring things from my childhood was a spooky bit of music – there are far worse things in life – but The X-Files has always had a powerful influence on me.

It has only been in recent years that I have been able to put my fears aside and watch the 90s sci-fi drama in all its glory. For me, The X-Files is all about one person, and that person is the magnificent doctor turned FBI agent, Dana Scully. Scully is something of an icon to me – though she starts out as Fox Mulder’s sceptical foil, she develops into a complex and nuanced character, which is in no small part due to Gillian Anderson’s brilliant performance. Scully, for me, is the heart of the show, much more so than Mulder. She is the lens through which the audience can view this scary and alarming world of aliens and cigarette smoking villains, conspiracies and ghouls. Being such a narrative device as a character can often be a thankless task for an actor, but Anderson brings a multi-faceted performance to the role of Dana Scully. She is a woman of action, but she is not without her flaws and faults.

While there are many elements of The X-Files I dislike – including the abduction of Scully and her resulting cancer and fertility dramas, which all felt a bit exploitative – it is still an iconic piece of television. It began for me as a nightmare inducing piece of music, but it has since become much more than that. For me, it represents the best of the strong but flawed female characters of the 1990s, and I think that’s a good enough reason to give it a watch.

5 of 25: Doctor Who

For anyone who went to school with me, this next addition to my favourite things won’t be a surprise. As I mentioned in my previous post, my father is a big science-fiction fan, and I think a big influence on him growing up was a television show which would become the longest running TV drama in history – Doctor Who.

Being a 90s kid is something of a badge of honour, but what it also unfortunately means is that I was one of a generation of kids born during the time that Doctor Who had been killed off. It wouldn’t be until I was 11 years old that Doctor Who would be reborn – or rather, regenerated – but I was a Whovian long before Christopher Eccleston blew up a department store in London and ran into Billie Piper.

Every family has their traditions, and for my family, one tradition was little me crawling into my parent’s bed at 9am on the weekend to watch the classic Doctor Who omnibus on UKTV GOLD. While my parents slumbered on or groggily attempted to get their brains functioning, my youthful imagination was being transported across time and space in a blue police box. Sure, the special effects are creaky in the old episodes, and the writers made a huge gaff with the Sixth Doctor’s characterisation – Colin Baker was essentially handed a poison chalice in my opinion – but I absolutely adored Doctor Who.

And when the series returned in 2005, my love for this jewel in British television’s crown only bloomed further. Sure, there were some hiccups along the way – I have never sighed such a deep sigh of relief as I did when Moffet stepped down as head writer – but Doctor Who has a bright future ahead of it. I am an unapologetic feminist, and I couldn’t be happier that the 13th (or 14th, if you want to be really picky) incarnation of the Doctor is being played by a woman, and Jodie Whittaker is a phenomenal talent, more than capable of taking over the reins from Peter Capaldi. I think many people forget that science-fiction is, and always has been, the haven for the ignored, the soapbox upon which the disenfranchised and voiceless can have their opinions and views heard. The backlash Whittaker received following her casting announcement made me, frankly, embarrassed to be in the same fandom as some of the trolls spewing misogynistic vitriol left, right and centre. So, to all you naysayers out there, let me direct you to ‘the library haunter’s’ (@SketchesbyBoze) perfectly phrased tweet:

And if you have no idea who the ’17-year-old girl’ is, go read Frankenstein immediately!

Doctor Who has a special place in my heart, and while I loved watching Jon Pertwee’s horrendous karate skills and Tom Baker’s whimsical love of jelly babies when I was growing up, I am excited that a generation of little girls are going to grow up watching a female Doctor. We all need heroes to look up to when we’re growing up, and it is so important for those heroes to be people we identify with, whether because of their gender, race, religion or class. So, all I can say is, go on Jodie, do us proud – I have faith that you will be a truly marvellous Doctor Who.

4 of 25: Addams Family Values

I grew up the daughter of a horror and science fiction lover, which may explain a lot about me to anyone who knows me. My father is a great fan of the dark and the macabre, the frightening and the scary – but when you have a young child, you have to find something of a middle ground. Enter the Addams Family…

Now, for my family, the ultimate iteration of the Addams Family is from the 1991 film of the same name, and its sequel, Addams Family Values. For me, Raul Julia just is Gomez Addams, and no matter what I see her in and however much time passes, Christina Ricci will always be Wednesday Addams.

Ah, Wednesday Addams – how I could wax lyrical about what a childhood icon she was to me. In fact, I got the chance to do just that on the BFI website a few years ago. I could only encapsulate my admiration in a mere 150 words, but the sentiment still remains – Wednesday Addams was, and still is, my gothic queen.

And it was in the 1993 film, Addams Family Values, that this fact was cemented for me. While I love the 1991 Addams Family film, the children (Wednesday and Pugsley) are given more autonomy in the sequel. Not only that, but the film’s villain is a work of utter genius. Joan Cusack charms and horrifies as the psychotic black widow, Debbie, and I still to this day am deeply saddened that Cusack has never really had the career she deserves. She is one of many talented character actresses who has seemingly been sidelined by Hollywood, for whatever reason – though that reason is certainly not for lack of talent.

For me, the Addams Family were something affirming for a person who had never been comfortable fitting into a mould. As a child, I had never been particularly girly, but neither had I really been a tomboy. In my teens, I cut my hair short into a pixie style, which was viewed with some casual animosity by certain people at my own and neighbouring schools. I was something of an androgyne, never one to follow a trend, and that wasn’t always a comfortable position to be in. But the Addams Family represented to me the fact that it was okay to be different, that there was nothing wrong with not being exactly like everyone else. They had the strength of their convictions to be themselves, and that, in my eyes, is a very beautiful thing.

3 of 25: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

As well as being an actor I am also a literature scholar (or as I like to call it, a qualified bookworm) having studied English Literature for my undergraduate degree. I knew, back in Sixth Form, that I wanted to study English for my bachelor’s as opposed to Drama or Theatre Studies – there was a method to my madness, but I won’t bore you with all the details. So, as I began Year 12, I did what many prospective literature undergraduates do – I started reading a sh*tton of books!

One of these books included Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which proved to be something of a revelation to me at 16 years of age. It had never been read to me as a child, and I had never taken an interest in the Disney 1951 animated adaptation, as my childhood interests drew me to dinosaurs and nature documentaries instead. So I came to the world of Wonderland a little later than most as I did my best to cover the 19th Century literary canon in the mad dash towards university applications.

In a way, I am glad that I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a mature adolescent – the Victorian prose was not nearly as daunting as it could be for a younger, less patient child, and I could enjoy the craft of the novel more as I prepared to dedicate myself to three years of literary study in higher education. The dreamlike quality to Carroll’s narrative, the strange whimsy and the earnest clarity of Alice’s character – I was enthralled by this book. There is something so unique about the Alice stories, something which has never quite been captured before or since in literature.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has inspired me as a writer and as a creative, with Carroll’s weird and wonderful characters being something of an inspirational feast for my actor’s brain. There is something irresistible about the grotesques and creatures Lewis Carroll conjures up, and even 153 years since its publication, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland still manages to captivate and inspire.

2 of 25: Harry Potter

Where would any millennial’s list of favourite things be without including Harry Potter?

Now, I could easily include both the film series and the books in this list, but in my mind, the original books had much more of an influence on me as a person than the films did. That said, my childhood was very much bookmarked by the excitement of the next Harry Potter film release. I still feel something of this excitement when I think about the Fantastic Beasts films, but Johnny Depp’s involvement with the franchise has quite definitely destroyed the innocence of that excitement. The question still weighs heavy in my heart – if Kevin Spacey could be completely edited out and replaced by Christopher Plummer in a film which was already in post-production, why couldn’t Depp’s role as Grindelwald be recast? For a start, why couldn’t it be someone more appropriate to Grindelwald’s implied nationality, like oh say, creepy Bond villain turned Hannibal Lector turned one-time Marvel villain, Mads Mikkelsen?

But I digress (and leave you with that thought)…

As you can probably tell, I am incredibly passionate about Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling is something of an inspiration to me, not just through her literary creations, but as a person; she constantly reminds me of the importance of perseverance and that failure can be the building blocks to success. She is a powerful and unapologetic female voice, and while she’s not without her flaws, she has still influenced me as a writer and creative.

Harry Potter taught me many things. It taught me that difference should be prized and valued, that intelligence as much as bravery can win the day, and that kindness can be the greatest and most underestimated power in the world. But, most importantly, Harry Potter showed me how much pleasure can be gained from reading. When I was little, I had problems with my literacy and spelling, and I do class myself as being slightly dyslexic. It has never been enough for me to require extra time in exams or such like, but even now I am still aware that I read and write slower than a lot of people.

So, when I was little, my preferred mediums for absorbing and appreciating stories was through film or audio. I listened to a lot of talking books growing up, and this included Harry Potter, narrated by Stephen Fry. Now, I think we can all agree, almost without exception, that listening to Stephen Fry’s voice is like swimming in a bath of hot chocolate or something equally luxurious. He could read me the script of one of the new Conjuring films and I’d feel safe and warm in his dulcet tones. He brought Rowling’s works to life, and as such, he made me want to read the books for myself.

Reading Harry Potter for myself was one of the first times I felt like I had been completely transported to another world. I felt the same love and contentment and exhilaration Harry felt at returning to Hogwarts after a long summer with the Dursley’s whenever I dipped back into another Potter book. Which is why J.K. Rowling’s words at the film premiere of The Deathly Hallows part 2 particularly struck a nerve: “Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” And what a wonderful home it truly is.

1 of 25: The Land Before Time

I thought I’d kick off this creative challenge with the film which most influenced me as a child – Don Bluth’s 1988 classic, The Land Before Time.

Now, to put this into context: I love dinosaurs. Not ‘loved’ – there is no past tense here, I love dinosaurs. I was one or those kids who never grew out of their dinosaur phase and I still haven’t. Whenever I am in London, I will try to visit the Natural History Museum just to see the dinosaurs. In fact, before I wanted to be an actor I wanted to be a palaeontologist; someone who studies prehistoric life. My internal struggle as to whether I chose acting or palaeontology as a career carried on right up until A-Levels, where I took Biology and Geography as well as English and Theatre Studies. Acting won out in the end, but I have never stopped loving the terrible lizards of the Mesozoic Era.

So it’s no surprise, then, that an animated film about five dinosaur friends was one of my favourite films growing up. But The Land Before Time not only had the power of dinosaurs on its side when it came to capturing my heart; it had the power of beautiful animation and wonderful storytelling too. The Land Before Time is, first and foremost, a story about friendship. It is a coming-of-age story about loss and discovery. It touches upon subjects such as non-traditional family units, jealousy, bigotry, grief and the loss of a parent, which is a potent cocktail for a youngster to take in. But Don Bluth films have a knack for dealing with big subject matters in masterfully approachable ways. Another one of his classics, An American Tail, was also a childhood favourite, and examined the migrant experience in America in the 19th Century. These films got the balance between real life anguish and captivating adventure just right, making what often seems like heavy subject matter into something palatable for younger audiences. It is important, after all, for children to learn about experiences outside of their own, for how else can we develop empathy and compassion?

The Land Before Time taught me a lot about narrative when I was little. It awakened my young imagination, inspiring me to create my own little make-believe, prehistoric worlds, and imagine new adventures for myself – which often involved me crawling around on the living room floor pretending I was a triceratops. People often asked me whether I was lonely growing up as an only child, but in truth, I never was – I would always create my own fun, often inspired by films like The Land Before Time. I suppose, in a way, The Land Before Time was what first got me into acting, just instead of pretending to be another person, I was pretending to be an ancient reptile. It takes all sorts to make a world, I suppose.

The Land Before Time is, quite appropriately, a timeless tale, and if you’re even at a loss as to how to entertain a bored little one, or you just fancy admiring some beautiful traditional animation, bung it on the TV. It really is a treat!

These are a (lot) of my favourite things…

So today it is 25 days before my 25th birthday, which for those of you with a mathematical brain may have surmised means my birthday is on October 14th – the same day as Roger Moore and Steve Coogan. Yep, James Bond and Alan Partridge are both libras – go figure.

Am I going through a quarter-life crisis, you ask? Well, I’m certainly well on the way to becoming a crazy cat lady, and I am fast realising my similarities with Bridget Jones, but instead of being eaten by alsatians, I’ll probably get nibbled on by my cat and two westies.

Turning twenty five is something of a milestone – I’m still young but I am most certainly not a teenager anymore. It’s one of those numbers which kind of ping out at you, and while I know I’m still comparatively young, physically saying the words “I am twenty five” is a bit scary. When I was little, twenty five evoked the image of a well made adult woman, living in her own house, perhaps being engaged to the person she wanted to spend the rest of her life with – I grew up in very heteronormative surroundings, to say the least. Instead, I am a single well made adult woman who still lives with her parents. But this reality doesn’t make me miserable – far from it! I only realise now how naive I was to have those expectations of myself.

Life is complicated, and life can be bloody hard sometimes. Twenty five is just a number, and while I may still be living with my parents, I am, for the most part, happy with my life. I am following a career I have always dreamed of following, and my part time job outside of acting work brings me a surprising amount of joy and satisfaction. We all develop at different speeds, and age really is just a number – life goes at a different pace for different people.

Still, as turning twenty five is something of a landmark moment in Western culture, I thought I would take the opportunity to reflect upon some of the things which have influenced me as a person and as a creative. Over the next 25 days I will be examining 25 of my favourite works of literature, television, film and theatre. I am going to try and not take it too seriously, but knowing me, I’ll probably get a touch sentimental, so please bare with!

It’s going to be a little bit funny, a little bit sassy, and probably very weird, but most of all, it’s going to be nostalgic. All I can say is, I hope you enjoy and, maybe, have a laugh or two along the way!