Joan of Leeds

Christmas is the time for nativities and pantos. Most people’s engagement with theatre at this time of year involve’s attending a child’s school reenactment of the birth of Christ, or shouting ‘oh no it isn’ts’ and ‘oh yes it is’s’ at brightly clad soap stars. These are indeed the traditions of British yuletide theatre-going, but sometimes we need a break from tradition.

Breach Theatre’s new comedy musical Joan of Leeds offers exactly this, with much pomp, laughter and ferocious merriment.

Following the partially documented story of the 14th Century nun, known historically as Joan of Leeds, as she fakes her death in order to abandon her religion and pursue a life of carnal pleasure – or so the official story goes. What follows is a hilarious and raunchy romp as Joan (played by Bryony Davies) discovers herself and her sexuality through brilliant musical numbers and absurdly funny scenes.

Framed as the creation of the Yorkshire Medieval Players – a 1970s drama group with a passion for reviving the tradition of the medieval mystery play – Joan of Leeds has the self-aware comedy value of Victoria Wood’s Acorn Antiques or Mischief Theatre’s The Play That Goes Wrong. Yet, Joan of Leeds does much more than split one’s sides with the classic gaffs and pomposity of low budget or amateur theatre; it examines the prejudices and biases with which we view history.

Breach Theatre’s documentary-style theatre has highlighted a number of widely forgotten yet utterly captivating moments in history and examined them with a political eye – and Joan of Leeds is no different. Though the vampy musical numbers fill the show with an essence of mirth, there is an anger and frustration embodied in the figure of Joan. As Joan escapes her restrictive life as a Benedictine nun to become the wife of a local physician, she realises that the root of all her misery is in fact the expectations of a patriarchal and therefore inherently heteronormative society that are placed upon her. The religious dogma that trapped her in the convent was merely another product of a world that was built to restrict her as a queer woman.

By setting the show within the framework of a 1970’s play, Joan of Leeds highlights the misery of living hidden and closeted, existing as a false version of one’s self just to survive the day to day. But what is the point of merely surviving if you deny yourself the potential to thrive? The 1970s was a time of sexual revolution but that revolution could only be sparked – as all revolutions must be sparked – by a crushingly opposing norm. The 70s was a time when comedy was often founded upon outrageous racism, sexism and other generally loathsome bigotry, and yet it was also the time when some of the greatest feminist and queer literary theory was written. There were revolutions in art, music and theatre and you feel this fraught, fractious energy within the play throughout.

This tension and self criticism, along with the brilliant original musical numbers, composed by James Brewer and co-written by Ellice Stevens and Billy Barrett, is what makes Joan of Leeds not only thrilling to watch but also thought-provoking. Even in 2019, so many of these prejudices around queer history still exist and while it may not be possible to determine whether the real Joan was a queer woman, it is not possible to discredit the possibility either. To acknowledge queer visibility within history is a powerful political statement and one that needs to be made.

In these politically charged times, with a Christmas general election looming, Joan of Leeds provides a rip-roaring piece of theatre that keeps you thinking with every laugh and giggle – the kind of laughter that is fuelled by a lust for change.

Joan of Leeds performs at the New Diorama Theatre until Saturday, December 21st.

Star Rating:


The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles is perhaps one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s best known Sherlock Holmes stories. Written after the outcries of Holmes’ supposed death in The Final Problem, it gained such popularity at the time that it prompted Conan Doyle to resurrect his sleuth detective.

To this day, it is still one of the most popular Sherlock Holmes narratives, and indeed, it is one that had a formative influence on me.

Adapting a text like Hound of the Baskervilles is a challenge for any writer. Director and adaptor Louise Wallace herself says that previous stage renditions of this tale have often been performed as a farce – and it is easy to see why. Conan Doyle’s episodic structure – in part due to how the story was first published in episodes for The Strand Magazine – lends itself to the structure of a farce, with frequent changes in scene locations and characters dashing from Dartmoor heaths to gothic manor houses to the comfort of 221B Baker Street.

It is an ambitious task for any writer and director to make sense of this, what could be chaotic stage action, but Wallace manages it with a sense of focus. Changes of scene are achieved by simple set changes and clever lighting and sound designs, created with panache by Ross Lewis and Paul Olding respectively. Rather than being over reliant on lavish sets, Lewis and Olding give us the atmospheric sense of the various settings of the play, avoiding the worst aspects of frantic scene changes that a complicated set would demand.

Another challenge for a Sherlock Holmes production is the man himself. Performing such an iconic role can be extremely daunting. Like James Bond, Holmes is a pinnacle fictional figure for most English speakers. We each have our own favourite versions of the character – my own is Jeremy Brett – but Robert Finlay dons the pipe and deerstalker with ease and confidence.

Finlay’s Holmes is frenetic, impudent and bombastic but without straying into ‘ham’ territory. His performance reminds me of a fox or a cat in the way that you can see his cunning and intelligence working in an energetic and ever moving form. His rapport with Richard Chivers’ Dr Watson brought a warm buzz to the stage whenever both men shared a scene together. The sense of their long friendship, often marked by competitive joviality, was beautifully captured by both actors.

Indeed, the greatest strength of this production lies in the talent and skill of its cast. All of those involved give strong, detailed performances, with particular highlights being Tom Louis’ macho American Sir Henry Baskerville and Ian Crook’s eccentric Mr Frankland. The energy on stage was always high, keeping up the pace but never losing control of what risks being a confusing narrative.

While it was something of a disappointment that the Hound itself was never revealed on stage, and scene changes at times were conducted with awkward shufflings in the dark, the Rondo Theatre Company’s The Hound of the Baskervilles is an enjoyable show. For any Holmes fans, or those looking for an entertaining evening of classic Victorian drama, this is certainly a show to be seen and enjoyed.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is performing at The Rondo Theatre, Bath. 7:30pm, Wednesday 27th-Saturday 30th November.


Open Mic

Mental health – or to say mental illness – is a subject frequently explored in theatre, particularly in recent years. It is not an easy subject to tackle given the varying forms and degrees of mental illness; the diagnoses are so vast and interconnected that there is still so much misunderstanding around many mental health conditions. There is, even in 2019, a lot of stigma attached to the open discussion of mental ill health and a lot of fear too.

Yet, the discussion is one so exposing of a person’s inner world that it lends itself to the form of a one-person show.

Produced by Apricity Theatre, Open Mic follows the story of Lottie (played by Matilda Dickinson), a lifelong sufferer of anxiety, as she attempts to perform at an open mic night. Yet, just as she is about to perform an original song on the ukulele, Lottie suffers a panic attack. What follows is an honest and raw examination of one young woman’s experiences with her mental illness.

Hattie Taylor’s writing is one of, at times, brutal candour, shining a light on aspects of anxiety and depression in a way that I have rarely seen before. There is a starkness to the writing and how anxiety is examined – through numerous asides, dovetailed by the ‘live’ action of Lottie’s confession to the audience, we see the shades and spectrum of living with anxiety and the resultant periods of depression. As someone who suffers with both anxiety and depression, I identified so strongly with much of the imagery Taylor evokes, of swimming through the ocean of life, desperate to stay afloat and not be sucked down to the sea bottom of numbing depression.

Living with mental ill health is like a war, where you can win some battles and lose others or find yourself at a stalemate. So often, due to the traditional Western structure of many plays, this highs-and-lows nature of life with mental illness is not portrayed in theatre or film. Plays usually offer us snapshot views of the climaxes of action because those are the moments that are most exciting and (apparently) interesting to watch. What we are not given are the plateaus, the boring every day that comes in between the climaxes – the unglamorous and banal. But that is, for so many who suffer with mental illness, what we endlessly must go through and it is in those moments where I find myself most isolated.

Suicide and feeling suicidal are of course subjects that must be spoken about, but looking at the unseen and humdrum aspects of mental illness is needed too. The feelings of being an impostor, that you’re making this all up, that you don’t have it as bad as others because you don’t at that moment feel at your rock-bottom-lowest need to be spoken about too and Open Mic gives voice to those feelings. Sometimes knowing you’re not alone can be a balm for the soul.

Being the sole performer on a stage and holding an audience on your own for around an hour is a huge challenge for any actor but Matilda Dickinson faces the challenge with ease and skill. She portrays Lottie with such a sensitivity and vulnerability but also with a tremendous sense of humour. Under the focused direction of Charlotte Turner-McMullan, Dickinson switches from the vibrant, often jovial inner-life of Lottie into the retiring, mouse-like Lottie that the world sees.

The use of a microphone and lighting changes clearly differentiates the moments when we are dealing with inner-Lottie and outer-Lottie and this clever device shapes the entirety of the person we are seeing expose themself on stage. Lottie is more than just the quietly spoken, shy young woman who suffers a panic attack at the thought of sharing her creative work with an audience – she is also funny, self-critical, brutal and paradoxical. For, like all human beings, she “contains multitudes” as Lottie herself quotes from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. A person cannot solely be defined by a singular aspect of themselves. Though Lottie’s life has been shaped by her anxiety, anxiety is not who she is – it is a part but not the entirety of her.

This is a powerful production which deserves to be seen at Fringe festivals and by wider audiences. The discussion around mental health and mental illness must continue and it is shows like Open Mic that will continue this much needed conversation.

Star Rating:


Secret Cinema Presents Stranger Things

I have always wanted to go to an immersive event.

I love dressing up. I love role playing (keep your minds out of the gutter). And I love being a part of a story that is being told well.

As such, I have wanted to go to a Secret Cinema event for years. I first heard about them while I was researching immersive film events in preparation for a similar event I was helping to programme and produce. Their work has been of a consistently high standard and many of my friends have recommended their experiences from previous events.

Myself and my friend outside the secret venue

So when Secret Cinema Presents Stranger Things was announced, I knew I had to book my ticket. I am a huge Stranger Things fan and I was very curious to see how Secret Cinema would execute an event that was focused on a television series. Film is a much easier medium to translate into a four hour event purely because it is usually a singular, linear narrative that can therefore be easily translated into a theatrical event. For this event, Secret Cinema would have to translate three whole seasons’s worth (approximately twenty five hours) of content into a single evening’s long narrative.

A worthy challenge for a production company with such a sterling track record.

As any seasoned Secret Cinema goer knows, your experience begins well before the night of the event. As with their previous events, you are designated a character, and in this case your character is built around a particular genre of music which was popular in the late-70s to the mid-80s.

To keep this review as spoiler free as possible, I’ll give as few specific details as possible. The setting for the event is inspired by the 4th July fun fair in Stranger Things 3 with the collective motive of meeting for the Hawkins High School reunion of 1985. The story lines that unfold are heavily based upon the events of Stranger Things 3 and they are masterfully executed by a highly talented cast and crew.

The attention to detail on the sets and costume are second to none, and the performances given by the Secret Cinema cast of Stranger Things characters are uncanny to the original performances. Particular cast highlights for me were given by the actors who played Hopper, Joyce, Murray and Alexei – not only were their resemblances to the original actors spookily similar, but their precise character studies of David Harbour, Winona Ryder, Brett Gelman and Alec Utgoff’s performances were phenomenal.

There are so many references within the sets and performances to keep every fan happy, but even for those who aren’t too interested in the minor details, there is a lot on offer to keep you entertained. While you can participate in the event-original mystery story line, following clues across the numerous settings in the venue, you can just as equally enjoy dancing to some 80s tracks, drink some craft beer, or perform some era-appropriate karaoke.

While I only ate and drank a hot dog and root beer float, what I consumed was of a very high quality and reasonably priced (for London prices at any rate). There is plenty of different American style food stuffs available, including veggie options, and there are a selection of non-alcoholic soft drink options. Perhaps the most immersive food stuff on offer is the ice-cream from Scoops Ahoy and while I didn’t have any scoops on their own, the ice-cream in my float was of a high standard – they don’t skimp on your scoops!

Even if you come to the event at a later booking time, there is still a lot to experience, as the finale event is a 20-30 minute 360 degree sensory spectacular, combining live performance and clips from the original show. This performance in itself is worth the price of the ticket. There are plenty of West End shows that offer half the quality of the experience given by this performance for double the price.

If I were to have one criticism it would be that the event isn’t particularly friendly for people with hearing difficulties. If you want to participate in the mystery story line of the evening, make sure you are with someone who has the hearing of a mouse. Myself and the friend I went with both have minor hearing loss and it was extremely difficult to uncover certain clues as a result.

My advice for those who want to participate in the mystery story line would be to follow the clues as quickly as you can. There are time constraints as to how late you can move forward in your mystery solving whilst not missing key events taking place in the main performance areas.

This said, I had an absolutely amazing experience. It is well worth the money you spend on the tickets and given the quality of what you get, as well as how much content is packed into the evening, it is worth going more than once – which is what I am planning on doing.

Whether you’re a die-hard Stranger Things fan or not, Secret Cinema Presents Stranger Things is a fantastic evening of 80s themed, science-fiction inspired, Americanophile brilliance!

Star Rating:



It’s True, It’s True, It’s True

There has been a lot already written and discussed about Breach Theatre’s award winning show It’s True, It’s True, It’s True. First performed at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe, It’s True garnered rave reviews and went on to receive the Untapped, The Stage, and The Scotsman Fringe First Awards. There was so much incredible buzz about this show that I was delighted when it returned to the Edinburgh Fringe this year as part of the British Council Showcase.

Geographical and financial constraints had meant I couldn’t make it to the Fringe in 2018 so this year was my chance to finally see this much talked about show. Alas, it wasn’t to be in Edinburgh that I would experience Breach Theatre’s latest theatrical marvel – a clash with the show I was performing in at the Fringe meant I couldn’t make it.

But when I heard that It’s True was embarking on a national tour, my frustrations were calmed. Bristol, on a freezingly cold November evening, was to be the city of my viewing and I was prepared for something unique.

Having seen Breach Theatre’s previous works The Beanfield and Tank, I was familiar with their ‘documentary’ or verbatim style theatre. I had been moved by both pieces, the former exploring the 1985 Battle of the Beanfield and the latter examining the NASA-funded experiments conducted by John C. Lilly and Margaret Howe Lovatt to see if dolphins could learn human language. Powerful politics were in play in both of these productions but nothing really prepared me for the emotional impact It’s True, It’s True, It’s True would have on me.

Under the direction of Billy Barrett, the 1612 trial of Agostino Tassi for the rape of Artemisia Gentilescha is performed by three female actors – Ellice Stevens, Sophie Steer and Kathryn Bond. The drama that unfolds, as prefaced at the start of the show, are translated from the surviving court documents and considering that the action took place over four hundred years ago, the text sizzles with frightening relevance.

As I sat watching Artemisia Gentilesca (played by Ellice Stevens) fight within the Roman court to be believed that she was assaulted and raped by her painting tutor, I could feel this seventeen year old girl’s rage seeping through the centuries and I could feel my own anger bubbling underneath. That a woman, a girl still in her teens, should have to defend herself from accusations of promiscuity and even provoking her attack is both abhorrent and frighteningly familiar. Centuries have passed since the action of this play really took place and yet, we still live in a culture where victims are blamed for their attackers actions, a girl’s virginity is determined by the state of their hymen, and known rapists are still praised as great artists.

Artemisia must endure humiliation and torture in order for her story to be believed and the fact that she went through it all when she was so young, that she was brave enough to expose herself in a culture that was so hostile to women, is so utterly gobsmacking. She was truly a remarkable person, not to mention a talented artist, and that she sought justice for herself so ferociously should be an inspiration. As someone who has been assaulted, her strength and fire evoked incredible emotion within me.

However, it was Sophie Steer’s performance as Agostino Tassi which utterly blew me away. Tassi is the embodiment of toxic masculinity – impudent rage, a micro-managing control freak and a self-absorbed narcissist. He is spared the torture Artemisia endures to authenticate her testimony simply because he is a painter for the Pope – why risk damaging his artist’s hands with the thumbscrews, even if he is a sexual predator?

He screams and preens and shouts and show boats in the courtroom. He intimidates witnesses and he revels in questioning his victim, re-traumatising her like a cat playing with a mouse. Steer’s performance is nuanced in all Tassi’s physical ticks and explosive meltdowns. I have rarely seen such a transformative performance for Steer’s Tassi was  terrifying in its evocation of the many powerful and abusive men we see so frequently in today’s media.

Tassi is Weinstein. Tassi is Trump. Tassi is Polanski. Tassi is Rees-Mogg. Tassi is Farage. Tassi is Johnson.

Yet, this story does not end in the way one would expect. Though the last pages of the court documents have been lost it is known that Artemisia won her case against Tassi – he was exiled from Rome though the sentence was never officially carried out. Artemisia would go on to have a successful career as a painter, being commissioned by the Medici family and Charles I, and would have her own family. She would live on, survive and thrive, but her rapist never received the punishment he was due.

Such is the story for so many rape victims. So often, justice is not served, and while Tassi was found guilty the fact remains that his victim had to endure an emotionally gruelling seven month trial to secure that conviction. So little has changed in four hundred years and the anger at the injustice of that seethes through It’s True.

This truly is a piece of theatre for our times, and it is stunningly executed by a supremely talented cast and crew. Very little has changed with regards to attitudes towards rape and societal victim-blaming in the centuries since Artemisia Gentilescha took Agostino Tassi to court, but this play demands for that change.

Just as Artemisia Gentilescha demands for the truth and justice, so must we.

Star Rating:


Looking Back and Forward

New Years is upon us, and it is the season when people are reflecting upon the year which has passed and contemplating the new year yet to come. It is very appropriate, therefore, that January is named in honour of the two-faced god, Janus, who looks both before and behind him. We recall the things we have done and, for many of us, we consider how we can do better in the new year stretching out before us. Maybe we will manage to maintain our gym membership, and maybe this will be year that we finally get those shelves up in the spare room, or… maybe not.

For me, I want to reflect upon the slices of creativity I have enjoyed this past year, from films, to theatre, to books. I also want to take a brief look at what 2019 has to offer in all these realms too, so here goes nothing!

Top Book: The Passion of the New Eve by Angela Carter

I have been sadly slacking with my reading this year, much to my own distress. 2018 has been an incredibly hectic year, having begun with an Italian theatre tour where I was either too exhausted or too busy sight-seeing to get some proper reading done, or I was desperately searching for jobs between periods of manic rehearsals on the other side of the country. It’s been a marvellous year in many ways for just these reasons, but alas, my personal library has been neglected.

However, one novel I did manage to read was Angela Carter’s The Passion of the New Eve. I had received the text on my 25th birthday, being a big fan of Carter’s work already – I had studied The Bloody Chamber in Sixth Form and The Magic Toyshop in my first year at university. What prompted me to start reading this particular work, however, was a book club I had recently joined with friends from my drama school. The Passion of the New Eve was chosen as the book club’s choice of November’s theme, Feminist Science Fiction, though to me, Carter has always dwelt more in the realm of sci-fi’s cousin, fantasy.

I think the best way to describe this 1977 work is a post-apocalyptic, semi-absurdist adventure which tackles the issues of gender and gender politics in Carter’s familiarly visceral, disturbing and darkly comical manner. For me, there are many similarities in the tone of this novel to J.G. Ballard’s dystopian works such as High-Rise and Concrete Island where the post-war industrial world of the mid-20th Century begins to crumble under its own extravagance. Yet, Angela Carter’s magical realism is unique to her. Her strange and bizarre look at the world is so individual to Carter and her premature death from lung cancer at the age of 51 is one of the greatest losses to literature in recent times. The Passion of the New Eve is not an easy read, but then none of Angela Carter’s works are – it will leave you unnerved, uncomfortable and thoughtful, which to me, is the mark of the best kind of science-fiction.

Honorable Mentions:

Fleabag by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. As You Like It by William Shakespeare.


Top Film: Hereditary (Ari Aster)

I do love a good horror film but good horror films can often be hard to come by, particularly ones which strike a chord as becoming perhaps a new icon in the genre. However, when I saw Ari Aster’s Hereditary in the cinema, I knew I was watching something which stood out within the extensive genre that is horror.

I love Toni Collette, being a fan of Murial’s Wedding and Little Miss Sunshine, and I wanted to see her latest venture into what looked like a thoroughly disturbing film. Hereditary’s trailer achieved what many film trailer’s fail to do these days – entice their audience without giving away every facet of the film’s plot. It was just the right amount of frightening whilst giving very little indication as to what the plot’s ‘monster’ actually was, and this element of dreadful mystery is sustained in the film itself.

There is a sense of dread which pervades the film, fostered in part by Colin Stetson’s soundtrack. A mother/grandmother has recently passed away, and there is a moment early on in the film where you think the horror of this film lies in the realms of a haunting. However, the terrors of this film are not quite so simple or predictable. It has been called The Exorcist for a new generation, but Hereditary is a very different kettle of fish. The horror is at times all too real with grief and guilt being a centre piece of the film’s tensions, but the supernatural element delivers a resounding blow in the final act of the film. The last ten minutes of Hereditary are like a horrorfest overload of jump scares, gore and monster reveals. It does seem an awful lot to pack in to the final act, but for me it was a glorious pay off to two hours of building tension. Toni Collette and Alex Wolff give particularly powerful performances as a strained mother and son, and Ann Dowd plays a wonderfully menacing wolf in sheep’s clothing. In all, Hereditary gets right what many horror films get wrong.

Honorable Mentions:

A Star is Born (Bradley Cooper). Annihilation (Alex Garland).


Top Theatre Show: Sunrise by Jessie Cave (Soho Theatre)

Like my reading, my theatre viewing has been lacking this year. After returning from my job in Italy, I made the decision to move back home to Somerset from London. While I love my home county, the theatre scene is not as vibrant as that of London or even Manchester which has made me realise more than ever the vast disparity there is between London and the rest of the UK when it comes to theatre and other creative arts.

But I digress – my change in living conditions and financial situation limited what live theatre I was able to see. One show I was determined to see, however, following it’s run in Edinburgh, was Jessie Cave’s Sunrise. I, like many people, know Cave primarily through her performance as Lavender Brown in the last three Harry Potter movies, and this year I started following her Instagram. It was there that I became aware of Sunrise as well as her illustration business – she’s a delightful artist as well as a breath of fresh air in the world of social media where the sun always shines and nothing could go possibly wrong. What I love about Jessie Cave is her honesty; honesty about the messiness of life, honesty to herself and about her own life.

This honesty, for me, is what makes Sunrise such a powerful piece of theatre. This autobiographical one-woman show illustrates the complexities of love, the messiness of grief and the joyous, painful fractiousness of motherhood. Cave is invigorating to watch, having a natural flare for comedy but also an endearingly self-deprecating air. She discusses incredibly personal subjects with such candour and a charming sense of humour. I laughed, I cried and I was enthralled, so it’s honestly no surprise to me that Sunrise made The Guardian’s Top 10 comedy shows of 2018 – a well deserved recognition, in my opinion!

Honorable Mentions:

King Lear by William Shakespeare (Chichester Festival Theatre/Duke of York’s Theatre). When It Happens by Rachel Causer (Maiden Speech/Tristan Bates Theatre).


Top TV Series: The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)

As I have already established, I love the horror genre. I love it for the invigorating adrenaline rush that fear brings, I love it for the mystery and the tension, but I also love it for the way horror can examine the taboos of society through a lens that allows for a more general acknowledgement by the public. Indeed, Mike Flanagan reinvention of Shirley Jackson’s ghost story achieves all of the things I love about horror.

We really are living in the golden age of television, and the binge watching nature of Netflix has created a somewhat different experience of how television is watched and received. I think now audiences are more accepting and accustomed to watching long story arcs in one sitting and, in a sense, I think TV series are beginning to supersede film’s ability to examine broader plot lines because of its longer running time. Film, in my opinion, is restrictive for many book adaptations, and while The Haunting of Hill House is a re-imagining as opposed to a faithful adaptation of the original 1959 novel, it still benefits from being a TV series as opposed to a film. The subject matters and the intricacies of the plot Flanagan creates are far better suited to the format of a TV series, particularly one which can be binge watched.

Hill House uses the lens of horror to explore themes of grief, loss, mental illness, trauma and family. It is an extremely well crafted piece of drama and the cast are brilliant, with particularly heart-breaking and powerful performances from Elizabeth Reaser, Kate Siegel and Victoria Pedretti. I thought the re-imagining of the primary characters of the novel into a family unit was genius, bringing with it some brilliantly executed tropes which reminded me of ghost stories like The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist and The Conjuring. In a sense, the haunting element of the story comes from how a family is marked by a tragic event, supernatural or not, and it is the emotional anchoring of the Crain family which made Hill House so compelling to me. They are our eyes and ears in a world where ghosts are real and houses are alive, and it is their heart which makes this show emotionally impacting.

Honorable Mentions:

American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace (FX). The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu).


Looking Forward to 2019

There are many things to look forward to in 2019. The final season of Game of Thrones is on its way while the second part of the latest Avengers film will be hulk-smashing it onto the silver screen. Despite the oncoming tensions of Brexit and the underlying fear of what stupid thing Donald Trump will do next, there are things to be excited about.

Here are the books, films, theatre shows and TV series I’m looking forward to in 2019!


  • The Guilty Feminist by Deborah Frances-White.
  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.
  • Circe by Madeline Miller.


  • The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos).
  • Hellboy (Neil Marshall).
  • It: Chapter Two (Andy Muschietti).

Theatre Shows

  • Betrayal (Harold Pinter Theatre).
  • It’s True, It’s True, It’s True (Breach Theatre/UK Tour).
  • When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other (National Theatre).

TV Series

  • The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 2 (Netflix).
  • Stranger Things Season 3 (Netflix).
  • Good Omens (Amazon Prime).

Top Christmas Movies

I have to admit that I am a sucker for Christmas. It’s the time of year when the night’s are growing longer and the days are getting colder, but Christmas brings a bit of light and warmth to an otherwise desolate season. Winter has its charms, of course, but as a part time gardener as well as an actor, having first hand contact with the wintery elements makes you appreciate why a mid-winter festival was created in the first place. We need a bit of jollity in our lives at the best of times, particularly in 2018 when there is so much uncertainty around the globe.

While appropriated as a Christian festival when infant Christianity absorbed the European pagan celebrations surrounding the Winter Solstice into their own festive calendar, Christmas is my favourite holiday. It warms my atheist heart like few things do these days, and Christmas movies never fail to get me in the festive mood. So, as the big day approaches, I thought I’d do a round up of my top five favourite Christmas films!

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

There are few films which capture the madness of inter-generational family gatherings quite like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I find it rather strange including this film in my top five as I used to dread watching it when I was a child – it’s one of my mother’s favourites so we did often watch it during the Christmases of my childhood. I found the second hand embarrassment of Chevy Chase dealing with his difficult relatives as his vision of a perfect family Christmas rapidly crumbles to dust far too excruciating to watch.

The comedy is still excruciating, but my constitution for such things has improved with age and I can appreciate the intelligence of the writing and the hilarity of the performances. It’s somewhat of a nostalgic watch, casting a view into middle class America at a time when the USA was still an unquestioned powerhouse, quietly ignoring all the problems that came with that position. Nevertheless, the frustrations, the farcical and physical comedy, and the conflicts strike a chord, because while Christmas can be a time of joy and love, it can also be a time when you have to endure a great aunt’s antiquated views or a distant cousin justifying why they voted from Brexit. Family isn’t always easy and Christmas Vacation encapsulates this brilliantly.

Nativity! (2009)

The most recent addition to my favourite Christmas movies, Nativity! is a wonderful slice of British humour during the holiday period. I love director and writer Debbie Isitt’s style of comedy; she often brings out the best from her cast in terms of honest, yet hilarious performances. Martin Freeman is a master of improvised comedy and bringing a sense of immediacy to his performances – Freeman rarely ever sounds like he’s reading from a script in anything he does, and this style works particularly well in grounding the somewhat zany premise of Nativity! He is an excellent foil for Marc Wootton’s childlike Mr Poppy and, for me, it is Freeman’s dynamic with Wootton which makes the first Nativity! film so brilliant; while David Tennant (star of Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger) and Martin Clunes (star of Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?) are both fine actors, they never quite balance out Wootton’s madness like Freeman does in the original.

Pam Ferris (a firm favourite of mine) is also utterly brilliant as the headmistress, Mrs Bevan – her portrayal of an overworked, over strained headmistress of an under-performing primary school is both hilarious and painfully realistic. The child actors themselves are excellent as well, their natural comedy being captured masterfully by Isbitt and her team. It’s a rather charming film, if not erring on the side of silly – but then, I do love a bit of silly!

Elf (2003)

Speaking of silly, there are few films more delightfully silly than Elf. Don’t get me wrong, Elf is actually a pretty heartfelt story – if you think about Buddy’s story too much it is actually genuinely distressing. Yet what I adore about Elf is the celebration of difference. Buddy (played masterfully by Will Ferrell) is an outsider, both in the magical world of the North Pole and the human world of New York City. However, unlike many films where an outsider is taught to conform to societal norms (often concerning appearance or behaviour), Buddy never compromises who he is to try and fit in. He is a figure of joy and light, bringing warmth to his estranged father’s family and reminding his father that his family is as important if not more so than his career.

With some fabulous minor performances from Peter Dinklage and the king of self-deprecating, neurotic humour Bob Newhart, Elf has the usual charm of a Jon Favreau film. It is the perfect tonic if you ever feel a bit down or low at Christmas.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

In all honesty, there’s only one Grinch for me, and he is Jim Carrey’s Grinch. I grew up during the golden age of Jim Carrey’s comedy film career, so to me, Carrey is like an old friend; an old friend who I have grown increasingly distant from with the passing of time, but he is still a part of my childhood. The zany, crazed physical humour Carrey brings to Dr Seuss’ creation is something which I am somewhat in awe of, being an aspiring comic actor myself. I don’t think I or indeed anyone else could ever match Jim Carrey’s insane energy.

Director Ron Howard creates a Whoville which feels like a somewhat surrealist version of the set of Happy Days at Christmas, all of which adds to the charm of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I pine for the days of old style animation, real sets and make up special effects, and the sets, costumes and make up of the 2000 Grinch are still, for me, more magical than anything CGI or mo-cap could create.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

My ultimate Christmas film – The Muppet Christmas Carol. I adore The Muppets, having grown up in a household where my father encouraged me to watch the master works of Jim Henson and his Creature Shop – resulting in my childhood nightmares about the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal. But for me, The Muppet Christmas Carol is the perfect Christmas film. It is comedic, scary, thoughtful and heart warming. Of course the film owes its plot to Charles Dickens’ original 1843 novella, but I think Michael Caine makes an excellent Scrooge, while the familiar Muppet characters of Kermit, Miss Piggy, Rizzo and Gonzo make what could be a somewhat daunting text accessible to youngsters. Indeed, The Muppet Christmas Carol was my first excursion into the Dickensian world, a world which I have since studied at degree level.

Even now, at twenty five years of age, I can’t get into the Christmas spirit without watching Brian Henson’s directorial debut. In the past four years, it’s become a tradition in our house to watch it on Christmas Eve, and this year is no different.


So whatever your own favourite Christmas films are, I hope this year you can settle down and enjoy them over a mince pie and mulled wine or hot chocolate! Merry Christmas, folks!

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.