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Gin Workshop With The Botanist

A couple of months ago, I had a glorious evening trying out The Botanist's new summer menu, so I was delighted to be invited back to join in with their gin workshop. I immediately knew this would be right up my pal/former housemate Polly's street, and we both walked into the event expecting all good things, but not really knowing what the evening would entail.

Using Mobility Aids When You Have An Invisible Illness

[I wrote this piece for The Huffington Post's new 'EveryBody' campaign; see the original post here!]
“What happened to you, then?”
There’s no ideal time to acquire a long-term chronic illness, but becoming disabled halfway through your undergraduate degree has to be up there in the Least Convenient Life Situations list. Adapting to the student experience whilst learning to live with a painful and debilitating neurological condition isn’t a walk in the park, especially when your illness is invisible. At times, looking like every other person around me was a blessing, but more often than not, it led to some really problematic encounters. Like others in my situation, I’ve experienced all the usual judgments: people telling me I don’t look ill, I’m too young to need a seat on the bus, I shouldn’t be so lazy... the list goes on. Sadly, I was prepared for these comments. Those with invisible conditions have been facing these attitudes for years.
What I wasn’t prepared for was facing similar situations once I became a wheelchair user. Accepting that I needed a mobility aid at the ripe old age of twenty was difficult, but I naively consoled myself with the thought that at least now, maybe people would take my physical health needs more seriously. What didn’t cross my mind at this time, however, was that the person sat in the wheelchair still didn’t look ‘ill enough’, to satisfy the curiosity of the general public. During my first trips out of the house with George (the wheelchair; you always have to name the wheelchair), I was hyper-aware of the people around me. I felt people’s gazes on me as they slowly looked me up and down as if trying to identify my ailment, and I felt their shock and disbelief as I crossed my legs and they realised that no, I wasn’t paralysed. The thing that really baffled them the most though, and continues to baffle people today, was when I stood up from my wheelchair to transfer to a seat. The impulse to make light of it and exclaim ‘I’m healed!!! It’s a miracle!!!’ tempts me every single time.

FRIENDSFEST: Sheffield 2017

[I wrote this pretty lengthy blog post over the course of a couple of weeks, in between university deadlines and other commitments, with an extra helping of brain-fog. It's not my best ever piece of writing and I debated not posting it at all, but I hope any fellow die-hard Friends fans enjoy it regardless!]

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of the TV show Friends. I've been obsessed with that programme ever since I first saw an episode aged 12, and it isn't often that a day goes by where I don't watch at least one episode. I can quote whole chunks of dialogue by heart, answer more random trivia questions than anybody I know, and I relate to Chandler Bing on a spiritual level.

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical: Theatre Review (York Fringe 2017)

Photo Credits: Geraint Lewis

Expectations: 4.5/5
Reality: 5/5
Chronic Illness Friendly: 4.5/5 - This is a good one for chronic illness sufferers. No strobe lighting or special effects, and a really nice concise run time of 70 minutes! A tad loud and shouty at times, but aside from that it's a nice, safe choice for those with health concerns. 

I said on my social media that I wasn't going to review the York Fringe shows I saw, and I lied; after experiencing Showstopper's performance yesterday, I just knew that I had to do at least a quick review of it.

Put simply, the Showstopper team rock up to a venue, have a chat with the audience and improvise a 70 minute musical on the spot, based on the audience's suggestions. People are invited to suggest random locations and titles, and vote for their favourites, and then choose five existing musicals for the performance be inspired by. For their early York Fringe show which I attended, this essentially led to a musical based on the Galapagos Islands, following the early work of Charles Darwin, inspired by the songs of Kinky Boots. And they even got a Love Island reference in. Believe me, it was a classic. 

And here's the thing: the consequent musical, improvised on the spot by six cast members with minimal costuming, props, set and lighting, created a performance better than some of the scripted and choreographed shows I've seen in my time. It ran coherently as a story, engaged the audience, made reference to current affairs and even had consistent literary themes running through it. I'm not joking, the cast and crew involved are so talented that it's actually slightly depressing. For the cast to so easily keep track of the story, bounce off of each other's performances and improvise entire lyrics of songs at the drop of a hat, time and time again, it's almost incomprehensible to me. And the fact that they were so clearly enjoying themselves and at times holding back the laughter, made it that much more joyful to watch. I'm convinced that they must have the best job in theatre; if I could sing, act, improvise or indeed, stand up for more than a few minutes without passing out, I would be begging them to let me be a part of their group. The musicians and tech team so seamlessly play off of what's happening on stage that you almost forget that they too have no idea what's coming next: basically, the entire performance could pass as a finished show in its own right. 

I think you have to see Showstopper for yourself to really get how impressive the whole spectacle is, and that's why I wholeheartedly recommend that you arrange to see one of their shows: you just never know what you're going to get, and that's the beauty of this concept. Go and take a look at their schedule here. Go on, do it now. I'll probably see you there. 

What We Wished For: Theatre Review

I reviewed this performance for Broadway World UK: read my critical review here!

Expectations: 2.5/5
Reality: 4/5
Chronic Illness Friendly: 4.5/5 - No strobe lights! One flickery lighting moment with torches, and one jumpy moment. Aside from that, this one's a nice, safe choice for those with chronic illnesses/sensory issues.

I absolutely loved being back at Sheffield Crucible Theatre to review this performance. It's honestly one of the most beautiful, intimate theatre settings around and I have so many memories of performing there myself. And What We Wished For is likely going to become a new addition to my positive memories of the place; this performance completely exceeded my expectations.