Thursday, 23 November 2017

Review: 'Into the Woods'

by Douglas James

Warning: SPOILERS below!




Another year, another massive PGS musical. And it’s another cracker. A brilliant showcase of talent from the precision and unfaltering job done by the techs, the wonderful soundtrack from the orchestra and the singers, the incredibly directing and of course the superb acting. I was lucky enough to get the view from the backstage before I saw the play, and the Into the Woods cast runs like a well-oiled machine or a new engine, or an Olympic runner… or… you get the picture. Just a quick warning to those who haven’t seen it yet and plan to, spoilers ahead, come back when you’ve seen it!




Into the Woods was a play written by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim and combines a whole bunch of fairy tales into one story. You’ve got Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Rapunzel and more. It plays with the idea of all of this happening in the same world, and the story not ending when it seems like it does.

It starts off by introducing all these characters in a lovely song and follows the Baker (Joe Brennan) and the Baker’s Wife (Poppy Goad) through their quest to find ingredients for a potion that would allow them to have a child. Luckily enough, these ingredients were essentially found in Jack’s cow, Red Riding Hood’s cape, Cinderella’s slipper, and a bit of Rapunzel’s hair. Throughout this, problems arise, as they always do, and one of these problems is the relationship of the Baker and his wife. This bond between characters was superbly acted, not only showing strain in their relationship, but also almost managing to convince even me that they had been married for a couple of decades, through just simple looks, gestures, and through brilliant comedic timing from both, really bringing the musical alive. Unfortunately, once the potion is taken and everything seems fine, we realise that everything… well… isn’t. In a disastrous turn of events for our brave heroes (and villains), the giant (you know, the one that Jack slayed) had a wife, and she comes down to ground level looking for revenge. The fairy tale characters start arguing, the Witch (Loren Dean) tries desperately to keep control even without her powers, they accidentally kill the apparently touchless Narrator (Daniel Hill) in a brilliant twist where they all turn on him and the giant’s wife steps on him, and the Baker’s wife gets a bit too friendly with Cinderella’s Prince (Barney Carter) and then dies herself. I know, utter chaos. In the end, the witch storms off, so Cinderella (Cordelia Hobbs) gets some birds to blind the giant who is then tricked into falling into pitch and killing it with Jack (Saskia Quarrie-Jones) and Red Riding Hood (Tillie Moore, Jazzy Holden and Sofia Callander). Whew. I mean, I didn’t even cover everything in that, just the Baker’s story really. This is a play that is filled to the brim with characters and story, and immensely complicated musical that was done marvelously and without fault.


From the completely batty but brilliantly funny grandmother played by Susie Shlosberg to the scarily vicious wolf played by Ben Cranny-Whitehead with a worryingly hungry obsession and the strict but worried and loving mother of Jack played by Emily Whitehead to the Stepmother and two Stepsisters played By Alex Dassow, Jean-Mickael Hopkinson and Oliver Saunders that added hilarity and fantastic comedy moments to some scenes. I feel like I’ll always be disappointed when seeing another Stepmother in another play, as no one does it quite like Alex Dassow. And those were just the side characters, the ones who didn’t quite make it into the band of heroes, or the ingredients for the potion. Cordelia Hobbs gave an outstanding singing performance as Cinderella, and Daniel Hill brought on a story like presence on stage whenever he walked on, until he’s squished of course. Speaking of squish and presence, the often difficult-to-master Witch was perfected by Loren Dean, whether the spotlight was on her, or she was just behind everyone being creepy. Supported by the rest of the cast and their terrifying reactions to this devilish creature, the Witch changed from the scary villain in the first half to the merciless and cunning leader of the group of fairy-tale characters. I didn’t think it could get any worse until the giant played by India Stewart-Evans turned up and boomed her commanding voice throughout the theatre looking for Jack. Jack was brilliantly played by Saskia Quarrie-Jones, who managed to superbly capture the care-not boyish attitude of the giant slayer.



Portsmouth Point Interview with Terry Waite

Loren Dean, Shree Patel and Ellie Williams-Brown interview Terry Waite, during his recent visit to PGS.  Thank you to Maxim Meshkvichev for kindly transcribing the interview. 



Former hostage, Terry Waite, visited the last week to speak to Sixth Formers during the day and a packed theatre of parents in the evening.  Speaking about his work with Hostage UK and his time as a negotiator, which led to his kidnapping, completely absorbed both audiences.  His warmth, resilience and humour shone through during his talk as he described the worst parts of his work and time in captivity, the endless waiting and uncertainty. In between his talks, he kindly gave up more of his time to be interviewed by Portsmouth Point editors Loren Dean, Shree Patel and Ellie Williams-Brown.

When you were initially taken hostage, did you always have hope for your release?

You never know, well of course you hope that you will return home but you never know. And in those situations when you’re taken you think that perhaps, it will be over in a week then the week goes to a month, and a month goes to six months, six months goes to a year and a year goes to two years. And after a while what you do is learn to live for the day. You learn not to think too much about the future and live for now. Because you’ve just got no idea what is going to happen.

Was there ever a point where your hope was diminished or lost?

Not hope diminished, but there was a point where I thought that death would be better than what was becoming a living death. And that was right towards the end when I got a very bad bronchial infection, where previously I had kept as well as possible. It was a viral infection which meant I couldn't lie down, I was sleeping on the floor but I couldn't lie down on the floor, I had to sit up with my back against the wall, day and night. Now I remember thinking then that death would be preferable to what was becoming a living death. Though somehow I felt that I wouldn't and shouldn't give up, and I didn't give up. And I’m glad that I didn't, and kept going.

How did you feel or adapt when you returned home, after so many years in captivity?

Well I was elected to a fellowship in trinity hall Cambridge and I went to Cambridge and I put down on paper the book I’d written in my head previously [in captivity], which was a book called taken on trust. And at the time I didn't think it was a therapeutic exercise, but I think it was. I think by putting down on paper, and managing the experience, was a wise thing to do. You know the old theory is that if you’ve had a traumatic experience and you bury it then it will undoubtedly involuntarily make a reappearance in later period of life and often cause you disturbance and difficulties. If you manage it, I think writing and putting on paper that book id written in my head, ‘taken on trust’, was a way of managing the experience and I did that, as I said before, in Cambridge.



Do you think that doing these talks also act as a therapeutic experience like writing the book did?

Yea, I don’t think as much now. They may well be, but I’ve never consciously thought they were. The reason one is glad to talk is that I think it helps a lot of people in the understanding of people in hostage taking today, and some of the difficulties that can be experienced in trying to negotiate the release of the hostages. But also, the survival in solitude, which is an extreme situation, but as I have often said, from extreme situations you can take understandings that are applicable to normal life for example, anger, you feel anger. Well, everybody feels anger, but somehow, in that situation, you have to be able to control and manage it, rather than be managed by it. Or absence of any external stimulation, well there are people who I think of someone like Tony Judt, a great historian and writer and who developed a motor neurone disease, and right until the end, even though he was paralysed, continued to be creative in his writing. An extreme situation, but I can somehow empathise with that because, having been in a situation where I had nothing, I had to learn how to be creative. So I think you can inspire people to utilise fully their ability to be creative by doing various talks.

Touching upon that anger again, how do you feel towards your captors now and Oliver North as it was that misunderstanding which could be thought to have led to you being taken hostage?

Is the Definition of Celebrity Changing?

by Mark Docherty


This week saw the beginning of the new series of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, as the nation can finally get their teeth into some high-quality television each evening.  However, when the lineup for this series was published online, I began to question whether the word celebrity had a new definition.  Among the contestants this year are the wife of a footballer, a Youtuber, and a Made in Chelsea star.  While there are always a couple of less well-known contestants on celebrity programmes to make up the numbers, it is interesting to see that they now outnumber ‘real’ celebrities much of the time.

Once upon a time, to be known as a celebrity one had to have won Oscars or played international sport, but now it seems it is enough to upload videos to the internet or be filmed watching television.  Gone are the days when the likes of Andrew Flintoff and David Haye would compete in the jungle; instead fans must make do with Lady Colin Campbell and Jack Maynard.  I wouldn’t call myself an expert on celebrity culture, but I wouldn’t put a socialite or someone with 1.2 million Youtube subscribers on the same level as a former England cricket captain or an ex-world champion boxer at two weights. Therefore it begs the question: what, now, are the requirements to be considered a celebrity?

Recent years have seen an increase in the number of reality stars who have gone on to become celebrities.  Many of the original cast of Geordie Shore have earned celebrity status, while most of the contestants from Love Island are now fairly successful with lucrative branding deals or modelling contracts.  As well as Georgia Toffolo from Made in Chelsea, Love Island’s Mike Thalassitis was lined up to appear in the jungle this year.  Interestingly, it seems that appearing on a reality TV show is now the best way of securing a place on a celebrity reality TV show in future.

It cannot be denied that successful reality shows are watched by millions of of people, thus making the stars well known to a significant proportion of the population, although it has to be questioned whether the work they put in to gain celebrity status matches up to that of successful  men and women in more traditional professions.  However, if the definition of celebrity is somebody who is well-known (which it is according to the Oxford dictionary) then enough people watch reality TV shows for their stars to be considered celebrities.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Examining Hamilton-Vettel: Was 2017 a Truthful and Honest Representation?

by Lewis Wells


(source: BBC)


We’d been waiting for this for a while.
Lewis Hamilton vs Sebastian Vettel. Mercedes vs Ferrari. Germany vs Italy.
Two contrasting personalities, nationalities, backgrounds: yet the same level of status within the F1 community, one might argue. Both with an astounding collection of world championship titles each, as well as wins, pole positions, but essentially their trademark approaches, comments and behaviours. What a pity it took so long for such a fight to occur. Up until now, a direct fight between the two has not taken place, for the coincidental reasons of representing different teams, at different times of their evolution, thus the possibility of being competitive can be quite vague.
As both assertive, in-demand and ‘controlling’ drivers, having both Hamilton and Vettel on the same team remains a distant dream. Yet as they both commit their futures to both Mercedes and Ferrari respectively, and as they remain the most financed, structurally supported, and most recently successful teams, it is likely 2017 marks the start of a new F1 era, not just a blemish on the competition.
Character
For anyone unfamiliar with the general mindsets and characters of the two drivers, allow me to digress into their key traits.
Hamilton is driven by the efforts, sacrifices and adversities his family overcame to put him where he is today. His social media portfolios are evident of his commitment to the continuation of thanking those who support/ have supported him. Thus so, his repetitive radio messages during races, of which seem scripted or naturally built in even, (Thank you so much for all your hard work back at the factory!), or our constant reminding of his boxing ring episodes in childhood, or karting scenes, gives the impression of an extremely emotional and highly motivated individual. That being said, we are reminded that he does not love F1, and how he longs for a post-racing career in the musical industry, or potentially within fashion, film, or all of the above! His affiliation with high profile celebrities has commanded him a level of popularity not seen since that of Michael Schumacher.
I personally believe he enjoys F1 as an outlet he can always rely on, and always have with him, alongside his other excursions. In my opinion, his partying and controversial off-track choices are paramount to the stability of his character on-track and although seldom supported by former drivers and many journalists, he continues to perform. He was set on achieving the 2017 title ever since he lost it to mechanical failure. Knowing that he was capable of a greater fight, Lewis committed himself to maximising every opportunity this year, regardless of its perceived value, as hindsight can be a tricky concept.
Vettel, a German who idolised Michael Schumacher, is less revealing of his childhood and journey towards F1, yet he remains appreciative and humble. He does indeed love F1, and speaks very highly of his love of racing, period. He lives in the countryside in Switzerland, and is often quoted mentioning the love he possesses for his family and his vehicles, for which he has BMWs, Mercedes, Ferraris, but also a secondary admiration and collection for motorbikes. His life is primarily orientated around his career, and thus one may argue has fewer outlets of release and enjoyment outside of his family sphere, compared to Hamilton. How do we know? For he “sees no point” in Social Media, thus we are left to develop our opinions from his sole appearances and interviews, trackside.
His defeat this year did not warrant any emotional outpour, instead a reaffirming commitment to establishing future dominance. He was aware he was set to lose the title, many weeks prior to the eventual result. He also assures himself that, “not many have achieved what I have already”, referencing his 4 consecutive world titles, and thus possibly believes the fate of his year has been down proportionally to between himself and the team, which I will explore later.
Composure
Hamilton is naturally quick. He is the sport’s most successful polesitter, commanding an astonishing 72 pole positions, and his recollection of track qualities is evident from his firm questioning in Driver Q&A sessions, “Why has this changed?”, “Can we drive there?”. It is clear he relies more on his natural-born traits and values of bravery, commitment and practise to deliver his performances. Thus, we have seen the occasional disadvantage in his psychological mindset, as he constantly thinks of the other driver, the competitor, and seems unable to find “the zone” which renders these disruptive thoughts null and void. When displaying a particular emotion, it is evident from his body language, tone, rate of answer and engagement with fans.
He is clearly very dynamic. He arguably had the upper skill when battling Rosberg 2014–2015, yet this fell to Rosberg during 2016. He picked himself up psychologically to enable him to physically defeat Vettel in 2017.
Vettel is logical, mathematical and inquisitive. He is very repetitive in his style, his approach in terms of braking and acceleration are signature. He is always asking for ways to improve, for the data and evidence, knowing where he fell short and reaffirming his absence of perfections. It is true that, his expletive-laden rants on the radio are as a result of his large fondness for winning and delivering for his team. It is perhaps here where, like Hamilton has in the past, slipped up in terms of maintaining a calm, collected approach to driving, regardless of the difficulty one has encountered, or is encountering.
He is always joking, shaking drivers’ hands, never boosting himself onto a pedestal. He is always humble of his successes, and seeks to make civil relationships with those around him. Yet he lost this year. Does he need to find something else, that winning edge? Or does he need to “get into his head”, as Rosberg told F1 Racing Magazine regarding Hamilton, of his own reformed approach.

Winter Wildlife in Portsmouth

by Tony Hicks






'Notre Dame' and the Shifting Meanings of Literature

by Ellie Williams-Brown


Notre-Dame de Paris is a love letter to the Notre-Dame cathedral, and yet it is more commonly recognised for its themes of equality and deconstruction of prejudice. If discussed today, due to adaptations and pop culture, people will focus on how the story highlights the barbarism of those in power and the need for progressive societal change towards acceptance. If the story is to remain relevant, as the original purpose has been met, this is necessary, especially as the reinterpretations can be just as valid as the original intent. The shift of this view can be placed down to adaptations, and society's changing needs. It is amusing that the shift of what people see in the book would not necessarily upset Victor Hugo, but may have been encouraged by him especially with the themes of socialism running through his later works - such as Les Miserables.

Notre-Dame de Paris (‘Our Lady of Paris’) is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in Paris. Constructed in 1163, because the previous cathedral for Paris was considered too shabby. It was consecrated in the 1180s, even though construction did not finish until 1345. The cathedral is an engineering marvel, with its flying buttresses, naturalist sculptures and exquisite stained glass making it one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and one of the most famous church buildings in the world.

Before the publication of Notre-Dame de Paris the cathedral had fallen into disrepair. The Huguenots had vandalised it as they deemed it idolatrous; the 1793 French Revolution damaged, plundered it, and used it for the atheistic state-sponsored religion, the Cult of Reason, who also threw the Fête de la Raison inside. This was essentially a giant party to insult both the deposed King and the Catholic Church. Later, the statues of the Kings of Israel, which feature on the outside of the cathedral, were executed as they were misinterpreted for the Kings of France. These accumulated to mean that by the 1830s, the cathedral was immensely damaged - Notre-Dame had been destroyed by the ravages of time, changing government and a general lack of disregard. It was at this point Victor Hugo decided to write on it as a point of interest and research.

Through this research Hugo fell in love with the building and decided he needed to write a story to draw public interest and make them fall in love with this piece of architecture, just as he had. With plays such as Cromwell and Hernani he was established as a successful playwright and essayist, already the figurehead of the Romantic literary movement. This meant in 1828 Hugo was entrusted with a sizeable advance of 4,000 francs and a demand that his novel on Notre-Dame would be completed by 1829. As many authors often do, Hugo blew the advance and put off the novel by retreating to plays, where he was more comfortable. In a slightly questionable decision, Hugo decided to sell the stage rights to a different publisher, which his original publisher discovered, leading to negotiation which resulted in the novel’s deadline being pushed back to December 1830. However, in the early 1800s, France was averaging about one revolution per month, and in 1830 the July Revolution occurred, delaying the deadline once more, allowing Hugo to finally finish the novel on January 13, 1831.



Through the novel and subsequent activism Hugo saved Notre-Dame and woke people up to the historical and architectural marvel in their midst. Notre-Dame de Paris meant there was a huge renovation in 1845, making Notre-Dame the tourist attraction we see now. Lending Hugo a key role in establishing the concept of historical preservation, which would only take hold in Europe and America after World War Two.

Friday, 17 November 2017

The Truth that Lies Beneath

by Imogen Ashby


I've recently been looking into the 'Art of Medicine', exploring medicine through different forms of media, My most successful yet (and most fun and difficult as she wouldn't stop moving..) was painting my sister and my hand.



Photography: Thursday's Sunset

by Tony Hicks













Rooftop Sunset, Sunday:



Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Autism in Girls

by Eleanor Barber

Many people associate boys with autism, and there are around three times as many boys diagnosed with the disorder than girls. Some studies have theorised that this is because girls are protected from autism due to the fact that girls diagnosed with autism tend to be more severely affected than boys diagnosed with autism. However others believe that autism is under diagnosed in girls, due to the way it presents itself, particularly in girls with average intelligence.

Both girls and boys with autism often have restricted interests, however the restricted interests of girls are seen as more socially acceptable. Whereas boys with autism may obsessively play with trains or cars [moving parts tend to be more standard interest in autistic boys], girls with autism may obsessively collect shells or feathers [these are seen to be more arbitrary than trains so don’t bring up warning signs in teachers or parents]. Because of gender differences girls are more likely to be chatty, and less disruptive than boys, however this is true for both autistic girls and neurotypical girls, so these are hard to see the differences.

Some girls with autism seem to have good social skills. However for many this is exhausting as its like “having to do maths all day”. For many girls the social world of other girls is completely bewildering, as girls tend to have much more tighter social groups than boys. Some girls deal with this by making the same social interactions, as if they are in a play, once they believe that they have perfected a specific skill. Some researchers theorise that girls are better than boys are hiding their symptoms, especially in structured environments, like doctor or psychologist visits.

Due to boys being diagnosed 3 times the rate of girls, boys are routinely used in studies about autism, rather than having a mix of girls and boys. This means that diagnostic tests are done towards boys rather than girls, which causes more advanced tests to be focused on boys rather than the girls. We are currently trying to characterise girls with autism by studying girls who were diagnosed according to boy centric criteria. This causes more and more girls to be pushed out of diagnostic in their early years, as many girls with mild autism are diagnosed 2 years later than their male autistic peers. However due to recent questioning of the difference of girls and boys in autism, researchers are more actively trying to get girls in their studies.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Far from the Fireworks: England v Argentina

by Tom Cracknell

Eddie Jones 
As both teams emerged from the Twickenham tunnel fireworks signalled the start of England’s Autumn internationals and the beginning of a highly anticipated match between, the favourites, England and, the underdogs, Los Pumas.

Last Thursday, the highly anticipated starting XV announcement made several changes to the establishing face of England rugby with two of the star performers, Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje being left out the match day 23. Eddie Jones making these changes based on his own “gut feeling” and firmly showing us and the players he is willing to make changes and no one’s place is guaranteed. This followed Jones’ earlier decision to leave out open side flanker James Haskell from the training squad stating that “At the moment he is just not playing well enough but the door’s not shut on him”. However, these notable absences gave others an enormous opportunity to cement a place on Eddie Jones’ radar. Most importantly the inclusion of Sam Underhill, Ellis Genge, Harry Williams, Sam Simmonds (replacement for the injured Tom Curry) and Alex Lozowski to the match day 23.

A brisk November afternoon and 81,623 fans greeted the players on their entrance to the pitch. England’s public intentions to topple the mighty All Blacks looming over them and further increased their pressure to perform, however the disjointed and fractured game which followed hardly displayed any of the fireworks and execution needed and served merely as a harsh reminder how far they must still go before managing to eclipse the number one, the All Backs. By half time the scores were England 14-3 Argentina. The first half saw a distinctly average performance from England although with a sour taste of tries being missed, meanwhile Argentina’s goal-kicking and overall discipline was ringing in their ears. Reflection on the half time statistics showed no distinct advantage to either team, a fair reflection neither team reaching their marks, although ‘gainline successes’ weighed in England’s favour (32 to 18). The second half followed with moments of anger and frustration from the players and Eddie Jones, being caught expressing these feeling on camera, and the occasional moment of brilliance for example Hernandez’ pass at 64 minutes. The final passage of play brought to an end by a knock on by Launchbury marked the conclusion to a dominance lacking performance by England who were far from up to full speed. The second half also saw a slightly improved end to Argentina’s game with one long attack allowing them to finally overcome the England defence who otherwise were not threatened. However, the win was masked by a few grimaces and disappointed faces with a mixed bag of emotions going into next week’s class with Australia.