‘The Lieutenant of Inishmore’ review – Poldark’s Aidan Turner is hilarious in this bloody brilliant black comedy

Swapping the lovey-dovey vibes of Poldark for dark comedy, Aidan Turner’s latest performance is a surprising – but nonetheless refreshing – change from his role in the popular BBC period drama.

Set in the 90s during The Troubles, The Lieutenant of Inishmore at London’s Noël Coward Theatre sees Turner portray an Irish terrorist shocked by the news that his pet cat, Wee Thomas, is ‘unwell’ – to put it lightly.

From left: Chris Walley, Aidan Turner and Denis Conway. Photo: Johan Persson.

What follows is a play which is extreme in every meaning of the word – absurdist humour, blood and gore are being crammed into two intense, hilarious acts.

It’s a tone quickly established from the outset, with Chris Walley and Denis Conway delivering an incredible performance as duo Davey and Donny – one which almost rivals that of Turner.

A perfect balance between strong humour and shocking violence is struck throughout – something which is testament to Michael Grandage’s directing and ensures that the brave satire contained in Martin McDonagh’s (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) script is never once lost.

Gory, daft and extremely engaging, Aidan Turner leads a fantastic all-Irish cast in this thoroughly entertaining comedy.

Rating: 4/5

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Review: ‘TED Talks’ by Chris Anderson

Ideas fascinate everyone. For me, thought-provoking talks and television programmes create this new sense of excitement. An initial notion shared with so many others can have unlimited potential – it can spark a chain reaction of new ideas, creativity and inspiration. It’s a fascinating and mesmerising idea, and is one explored in-depth in Chris Anderson’s guide to public speaking, TED Talks.


Everyone finds at least one concept of public speaking terrifying, whether it’s remembering the whole talk, or this sense of judgement that comes from talking to a large audience. Thankfully, Chris’ experience with many TED talks has helped him to understand what works in a talk, and what doesn’t. Written in a clear path from preparation to the talk itself, the book breaks down the complex idea of public speaking into something everyone can understand. Funnily enough, accessible ideas is something mentioned towards the end of the book, and something which can only inspire a reader to share their knowledge with others.

I was only halfway through the book when I was asked to do a talk in Leeds (which I mentioned here). Whilst I hadn’t read all of TED Talks, Anderson’s passion and conversational tone in the book definitely helped when it came to the presentation itself. As well as sharing skills and advice, it’s the book’s focus on ideas which is really exciting.

In particular, the fact that we regularly share opinions and ideas with others also goes to show that this book isn’t just beneficial from a public speaking perspective (a point which is raised by Adam Grant on the back of the hardback edition). If you love sharing perspectives – be it offstage or onstage – then TED Talks is the book which can excite you, inspire you and give you the confidence to do so.

Rating: 5/5

What are your thoughts on public speaking? Have you ever seen a TED Talk? Comment below!

Liam

Review: ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ by Robert Galbraith

Sadly, I did take a huge break from reading for most of this year. From January to June it was one big preparation for my A-Level exams in May and June and so of course I had to give them my undivided attention.

But come mid-June, when exams finished, I finally started to get back into reading and chose The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith. I was still a bit busy throughout June but I finally finished the book yesterday. So for today’s post, I thought I’d review the book.

Immediately upon hearing about the book’s plot, I was intrigued since it definitely had the style of a traditional mystery/crime novel. But what made the plot unique within this genre was the diverse characters. Whilst the caring and enthusiastic Robin was a bit of a cliché side-kick for private detective Cormoran Strike, the relationship between the two as the investigation continued made both of their characters believable. In particular, though, I was drawn more to Strike’s character, whose direct and sometimes blunt attitude made him an intriguing and sometimes humorous character to follow throughout the plot.

However, whilst the two main protagonists were well-developed in terms of character, J.K. Rowling (who uses Robert Galbraith as a pseudonym for this book) once again decides to introduce a large amount of characters into the story. All these characters are well-developed and add key details to the mystery and the plot, but by setting the reader the task of remembering all of these characters, there’s a chance that they’ll get confused and probably won’t remember everything. On a separate note, Harry Potter manages multiple characters well, but as for The Casual Vacancy, I felt as though the book expected me to know who all of the characters were straight away. With The Cuckoo’s Calling being a crime novel, I expect to remember all of the characters so I can have my own suspicions when it comes to the mystery.

But in terms of the plot’s development, I must admit that the book does start at a rather slow pace. However, the book then starts to explore this style of investigation which was almost like a to-do list. Throughout the plot readers are told who Strike would interview or what he would investigate next, which for me was a good aspect of the book as it felt as though I was following the case at the same time as Strike.

Without wanting to give away spoilers, another good section of the book aside from the intriguing character of Cormoran Strike is how well the mystery is executed towards the end of the novel. The twists and red-herrings worked well and the solution was something that I have always wanted to see in a crime fiction book. But whilst the big reveal at the end was a clever, the explanation of this reveal wasn’t as well executed, leaving a few plot holes here and there.

Despite the ending being a relatively satisfying conclusion to the novel, I felt as though more could have been done by Galbraith/Rowling to ensure that the reader was keeping on top of the plot developments, so that the final twist in the novel is more of a shock. For me, part of the reason why it wasn’t a shock was because, with all the information to remember, I had forgotten certain parts of the novel that prevented me from understanding the ending completely. In summary, the plot felt a little crammed in terms of details, with the story feeling a tad over-developed or ‘busy’, lacking simplicity in areas.

Before having read the first book, I was quick to buy the second book in the series, The Silkworm. Now that I have finished The Cuckoo’s Calling, I will read The Silkworm since the plot does sound intriguing. But I hope that Galbraith’s second novel sees a limitation on the amount of characters in the plot, and that the plot itself is perhaps a bit more simplistic than that of The Cuckoo’s Calling.

With an interesting premise, Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling fits perfectly into the mystery/crime genre. Whilst the large amount of characters and an over-developed plot may put off some readers, crime fiction fans will definitely enjoy the unique investigative duo that is Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott in J.K. Rowling’s crime writing debut.  

Rating: 3 out of 5

Liam

Musical Discovery: ‘Firestone’ by Kygo feat. Conrad Sewell

Upon hearing Firestone for the first time, Kygo’s traditional style of synth melodies was catchy. However, with a lack of drums in the verses, I was put-off with the soulful feel. Instead, it became a song where the chorus was memorable, but the verses were a let down. But now, the song has grown on me, and Firestone is this week’s Musical Discovery.

As for Conrad Sewell’s vocals on the track, the song definitely has an emotive soul feel to it due to the verses being so basic and with a lack of instruments. Unlike Parson James’ soul in Stole the Show, this track has a vibrant and colourful feel to it. Also, with the track being released in December 2014, there is a possibility that it could last into summer 2015 and be a contender for this year’s summer anthem.

What do you think of this song? Comment below!

Liam

Musical Discovery: May Playlist

Over the course of last week, I’ve stumbled across lots of new music. Now, with Musical Discovery posts often going up on Mondays every week, the songs may soon become outdated if I list them one by one. So, for the first time – and as a bit of a change – here is a ‘playlist’ for May based on songs I’ve heard recently.

Can’t Stop Playing (Makes Me High) by Dr. Kucho! & Gregor Salto feat. Ane Brun (Oliver Heldens Vocal Edit)

Aside from the rather long title to this song, the vocal remix from Heldens is, in my opinion, his best song to date. Not only is Ane Brun’s vocals a good choice for the track, but Oliver’s traditional deep house synth melodies is particularly catchy on this track. A bouncy and lively dance anthem.


Hey Laura by Gregory Porter

I stumbled across Gregory Porter last week. In particular, I gave his latest album, Liquid Spirit, a listen. This track will be the first of two tracks from the album. As for Hey Laura, Porter’s soul is smooth and mellow and creates a relaxing feel to the song. As well as this, his style is also similar to the soul of Aloe Blacc. I’ve been a fan of jazz music for a while now, and with a creative and funky saxophone solo, this song is a relaxing song to listen to…


Love Again by Rae Morris (Clean Bandit Remix)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8iKciiZPiU

The song, or the music video, is yet to be released. Although the above audio is genuine, the video is unofficial.

I was fortunate to stumble across Rae Morris when her track, Closer, was played on Radio 1. Then, when Rae collaborated with Clean Bandit to produce Up Again, I realised how great the collaboration was. Now, with the two joining forces again for a remix, the result is just as good. The vocal distortion is funky, and the saxophone melody in the chorus is similar to the style of Edward Maya’s Disco Love.
Disconnect by Clean Bandit feat. Marina and the Diamonds

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hF-NJdGn_B8

The song, or the music video, is yet to be released. Although the above audio is genuine, the video is unofficial.

Admittedly, I’m not completely a fan of this song just yet. However, with the video using audio from their performance of Disconnect at Coachella, there’s a chance that I may like the song when I hear the recorded version. Nevertheless, the song has Clean Bandit’s traditional, upbeat groove and Marina’s vocals is a new style that will work well with the band.

Liquid Spirit by Gregory Porter

Alongside Hey Laura, I also gave Liquid Spirit. With a clap-along beat alongside catchy bass and horns, it’s proof that Gregory Porter’s music offers a new style of jazz. In particular, the crazy and fast-paced piano interlude creates a great dancing opportunity. As well as this, Porter’s range a singer is diverse, with the groovy vocals of Liquid Spirit contrasting the mellow soul of Hey Laura.

Which song from my playlist is your favourite? Comment below!

Liam

REVIEW: Gone Girl (NO SPOILERS)

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, is about former journalist Nick Dunne and his missing wife, Amy. The main question it asks is: is Nick responsible?

Obviously I’m not going to spoil the book, but I will offer my thoughts on the layout and plot. Firstly, the dual narrative was clever. Flynn was able to write in two different ways that clearly separate the characters of Nick and Amy and make interesting reading.

As for what made me continue reading, it was down to the fact that the real events were held from us. Nick’s perspective skips around the key moments (more on the moments after) whilst Amy’s perspective is in the past. We only know what happens at the end.

But there were a few things that confused me. The first was some of the chapter endings. Some were brilliant, but some were borderline cliché. Now, I’m not sure whether this is deliberate to make us question the facts, but I was a little confused by this.

The other things occurred nearer the end (so I’ll be careful how I say it!). The first was that there are some questions I had about the book (including potential plot holes), but they were only answered near the end. I know that’s expected, but I lost a little but of belief in the story because of the delayed answer!

Also, I felt as though the book could have ended sooner. However, the book ends in a way which means this doesn’t matter that much…

Overall, I was questioning how much the book would be crime fiction. But I’ve come to realise that crime fiction needs something on the side to work (a good lesson learnt for a young crime writer like myself!). In this case, the exploration of Nick’s relationships with Go and Amy are a nice contrast between the deep, crime chapters.

I look forward to watching the film when it is released in October this year.

Liam

Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

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This is one of those books which I stayed up late to finish. Unfortunately, I stayed up so I could finish it and get on to other books, as sadly, this book did not grip me at all.

I think with this series it had an interesting premise, with a loose psychological background. However, I feel that the way in which it was written wasn’t very enticing for me as a reader…

But don’t get me wrong, this book answered a couple of unanswered questions from the last two books. It was near the end though that I started to become intrigued, but I don’t think it was out of curiosity.

There’s also the fact that this book deals with dual narrative (one chapter Tris, the next is Four and so on). But I really struggled with this concept. After becoming used to Tris’ narrative from the last two books, I was hoping this would continue. But, in this book, I found the dual narrative confusing. I was often reading Four’s narrative and it took me a couple of hints to realise I was reading from his perspective. I think it was only at the end that I finally got used to it – which is a shame.

Overall, I’d say that it was one of those series where I had to read on because I had read the others, but other than that there was nothing else “gripping” about it. The other disappointment is that the story was great, but it wasn’t enough to intrigue me – a real shame.

Have you read Allegiant? Let me know what you thought (NO SPOILERS) in the comments below!

Liam