Saturday, 25 October 2014

Review: 'Horizontal Collaboration' at the Dukes


Horizontal Collaboration
written and produced by
David Leddy
Presented by
Live at Lica: In the City on
Friday 24 October 2014 at
The Dukes
Reviewed by Lesley O'Hare





The Dukes’ Round theatre was the perfect setting for this intimate and intense piece.  A piece about power.  A piece about womanhood.  A piece about good, bad, and the muddy waters in between.

There was a strange level of tension in the room as we waited for the play to begin.  The stage was simply set; with four laptops, four glasses of water, and eight lamps adorning a long table.  Nervous energy radiated from the LICA Creative Director, Leo Burton, as he waited to introduce the performance.  This rippled through the audience, creating a feeling of receptive alertness.

Horizontal Collaboration is a unique performance every time it is shown.  It comprises four actors, and with each play four new actors are used who know nothing of the script.  The actors play four judges at a war crimes tribunal in The Hague, reading the testimony and transcripts of the witnesses to the murder of a Nigerian warlord.

The actors’ unfamiliarity with the script becomes part of the play itself, as the judges explain themselves to be stand-ins at the trial with no familiarity of the transcripts.  This helps to create intensity to the performance, as the actors are as human and as sometimes as nervous as the people behind the testimonies they read.  Occasional understandable errors in reading did not detract from the performance, but instead gave a sense of reality to the witness statements.

The four actors; Ali Matthews, Aliki Chapel, Helen Longworth, and The Dukes’ own Mia Wilson were all perfectly composed throughout and each gave their reading a sense of depth and warmth.  I also think that each actor suited the script to which they were assigned.  Judith’s testimony was read with emotion and character, while the psychologist’s transcripts were conveyed with a sense of impartial curiosity.

With the murder of the warlord, his widow, Judith K, makes a choice at odds with the traditions of her upbringing.  But this, we learn, is not the first time.  An educated and ambitious woman who conducts chemical research in London somehow was the wife of a Nigerian overlord, pressured into the marriage by her more traditional mother.  Following her husband’s death, Judith makes the choice to try and lead the people to a better, more peaceful life, rather than remarry.  As a supposedly Westernised woman who is the only member of her family never to have killed someone, is it possible for her to walk such a path?

As each transcript reveals more about Judith, her husband, their family and servants; more layers to the story slowly unpeel to an unexpected conclusion that left me unsure as to whether I should celebrate or commiserate, and with whom.

That is what makes it such a satisfactory play.  The testimonies build tension and pace even though the actors’ performances do not change.  The power is in the words themselves.  I found my ears straining although I could hear clearly, and my brain rapidly ticking trying to understand the choices of Judith and her family, and trying to work out a neat line between good and evil.

That is the ultimate strength of this play.  As Judith states, we should consider not just “why good people do bad things”, but, “why bad people do good things”.  I would certainly watch this play again to see how new performers change the dynamic, and I would recommend it to anyone who sees theatre as a means of exploring the moral maze.

Lesley O'Hare
25 October 2014

Friday, 24 October 2014

County planners postpone decision deadline for fracking applications

A commercially viable shale gas extraction field
requires 50+ wells


Lancashire County Council has agreed with Cuadrilla to defer the deadline for a decision on planning applications for shale gas development.

The council has received applications from energy firm Cuadrilla to drill, frack, and test gas flows, with associated separate applications for environmental monitoring, at two sites in Lancashire - Preston New Road at Little Plumpton (LCC/2014/0096) and Roseacre Wood at Roseacre (LCC/2014/0101).

Lancashire County Council planners had previously agreed with Cuadrilla that the Preston New Road application would be determined by 5 November 2014 and the application for Roseacre by 18 November.

The county council wrote to Cuadrilla asking for further time to receive, organise, assess, and present all the relevant information for the application to be determined by the committee. The council asked, and Cuadrilla consented, to extend the time agreed to determine the application for the Preston New Road site to 31 December 2014, and to extend the time agreed to determine the Roseacre application to 31 January 2015.

The planners have been working since the applications were received in June to consult with the public and other statutory agencies, and assess the applications, to ensure all the information needed to determine them is put before the Development Control Committee.

Public Meeting
A public meeting on fracking will be held at St John's Minster, Church Street, Preston PR1 3BT, at 7.30pm on Tuesday 4 November 2014. You can find out more at:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/frackfreelancashire

Objections
Over 10,000 objections have been lodged against the applications to date. Protest camps were set up at both sites, attracting hundreds of protesters, and demonstrations, including a tractor convoy of farmers, have taken place in Preston and continue as part of the occupation of Parliament Square in London.

Cuadrilla / Peel Energy lobby machine
On Cuadrilla's side, local business 'leaders' recruited by their Qatari-owned partners Peel Energy have been treated to briefing sessions by consultant fixers Arup at Peel Tower in the Trafford Centre.

New lobbying groups sponsored by Cuadrilla, such as the 'North West Energy Task Force' redistribute Cuadrilla-sourced publicity material as their own and imply that fracking will bring a cascade of economic benefits to the area. The 'Task Force' has yet to comment on the economic, environmental and geological impacts of the 100s of drilling wells required for economic shale gas extraction, each requiring delivery of roughly 2 million gallons of water per frak job, which must then be safely removed and stored as toxic waste.

Poulton district council was surprised to find that several councillors' favourite local charities and organisations had benefited from grants from Cuadrilla. However this appears not to have influenced their decision to object to the fracking applications.

Infrastructure Bill: fracking amendment
Meanwhile in parliament, where Cuadrilla chairman Lord Browne sits in Cabinet, the Infrastructure Bill was given a last minute amendment to allow fracking, including toxic chemical injection and toxic waste disposal under private homes and land without the owners' consent. The Bill goes to the Report Stage in the House of Lords on 3 November. A Greenpeace petition against it has over 130,000 signatories to date.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Local Cinema Round-Up for 22nd to 30th October 2014 by Peter Clarke

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day  listings of what's showing on local screens every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up, and reviews.

This is an excellent period for movies with seven new releases. Also we have a particularly full programme showing at the Vue. New releases bring family animation with The Book of Life (U), My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Rainbow Rocks and The Snow Queen (U). There is music with McBusted - Tourplay (12A). We have Disney adventure with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (PG) and comedy drama with This is Where I Leave You (15). Finally we have the supernatural thriller Horns (15).

Films making a welcome return to the screen are Frozen Sing-A-Long and Planes 2: Fire & Rescue. However, this period brings the lost of Lucy, The Equalizer and The Hundred-Foot Journey.

High culture is particularly well represented with The Royal Opera House: I due Foscari, Ballet with The Legend of Love and National Theatre Frankenstein and A Streetcar Named Desire. Also of note is the showing of Woody Allen's latest movie Magic in the Moonlight (12A).

Reviews

Annabelle
Director: John R Leonetti
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard
The film is set in California in the 1960's where a young couple move into their new home. The wife Mia (Wallis) is pregnant and has a hobby of collecting dolls. The husband John (Horton) is a medical student and he gives a creepy pigtailed doll to Mia to add to her collection. Yet the doll is possessed and with its acquisition comes a series of disturbances including slamming doors and the malfunctions of an elevator. Mia gives birth and the newborn is also threatened by these disturbances. The film is the prequel to 'The Conjuring' but was shot with limited budget. It borrows heavily from other horror movies and comes complete with cookie neighbour and helpful priest. However despite a rather stilted dialogue and lack of originality, it successfully builds suspense to become quite an effective horror movie.

Frozen
Director: Chris Buck
Certificate PG
Cast Includes Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad,Alan Tudyk, Jonathan Groff
This Disney musical animation is loosely based on the fairy tale 'The Snow Queen' who has condemned a kingdom to eternal winter. It is up to Anna (sister to the snow queen) and a loner Kristoff to undertake an epic journey to find the Snow Queen and convince her to lift the icy spell. This is a magical movie destined to become a classic. It will appeal to families and children of all ages.

Fury
Director: David Ayer
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Brad Pitt, Scott Eastwood, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf
The film was written and directed by David Ayer following extensive research, and much of the filming took place in the UK. Set towards the end of the second world war, it tells the story of Sargent Dan 'Wardaddy' Collier (Pitt) and his crew of a Sherman tank as they undertake a mission behind enemy lines. One of the tank crew was recently killed in action and they are joined by a new recruit Norman Ellison (Lerman). The film shows war thought the eyes of Ellison as he becomes brutalized as a result of his experiences. All the actors give a stunning performance in this loud and intense portrayal of the violence and ugliness of war. An authentic and memorable war film.

Gone Girl
Director: David Fincher
Certificate: 18
Cast Includes: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike
The film is based on, and is pretty much true to, the best selling book by Gillan Flynn. It is the fifth wedding anniversary of the Dunne's. Nick Dunne (Affleck) goes for a drive, and returns to find his wife Amy (Pike) is gone and the house ransacked. He reports her as missing to the police and initially he is treated with sympathy. However as time passes he becomes a prime suspect. The film is told in a broken time-line and we see in flashbacks that the marriage had started to fail. However is Nick guilty of murdering his wife? The film is a psychological thriller with the plot taking a sharp turn in the latter half of the film. This is an excellent, must see, movie.

Horns
Director: Alexandre Aja
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Kelli Garner, James Remar
Ignatius (Ig) Perrish (Radcliffe) is a small town DJ whose girlfriend and childhood sweetheart Merrin (Temple) is murdered. Ig finds himself the prime suspect with the town locals turning on him. He wakes one morning to find horns starting to grow from his temples and these confer powers. He finds people confess to him their sins and he can easily persuade others to act on their base impulses. With these powers Ig is able to seek his sweetheart's murderer and to exact a revenge. The movie is based on the novel by Joe Hill and it uses flashbacks to develop the relationship between Ig and Merrin. This is a film that breaks new ground and is difficult to categorise, being part murder mystery part religious satire but mainly a dark comedy. It is not destined to be a classic supernatural film but worth seeing. for its originality.

Love, Rosie
Director: Christian Ditter
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Lily Collins, Sam Claflin
Rosie (Collins) and Alex (Claflin) have been friends from early childhood and repeatedly become close to falling in love with each other. However every-time they start to come together other people and situations serve to come between them and they drift apart. In time. Rosie becomes a single mother and Alex in turn gets married. However there remains a spark between them - but will they ever get together? The movie is based on the 2004 novel 'Where Rainbows End' by Cecelia Ahern. The acting is first rate and the whole is a first rate romantic comedy.

The Maze Runner
Director: Wes Ball, Douglas Cumming
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Kaya Scodelario, Dylan O'Brien
Thomas (O' Brien) awakes with no memory to find himself trapped with dozens of other boys inside an enclosure with towering walls. He subsequently discovers this to be a gigantic maze. He integrates in the society of boys, becoming one of the runners, a sub group who try to map the maze and find a way out. Attacking the boys are Grievers which are giant spider like creatures who also inhabit the maze. Thomas has dreams about an organisation called W.C.K.D. and he must uncover his purpose and find a way to escape. The movie is a decent adaption of the best selling novel by James Dashner, the first in a trilogy. The acting is strong and the depiction of the maze and its grandeur is very impressive. The movie is aimed at young adults but it contains some violence and the whole has a rather joyless atmosphere. The ending was somewhat complicated, designed perhaps to pave the way for the forthcoming sequel.

This is Where I Leave You
Director: Shawn Levy
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Jane Fonda, Kathryn Hahn, Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Abigail Spencer, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver
A comedy drama with big name stars, based on the book of the same name by author Jonathan Tropper. The film is narrated through the character of Judd Altman (Bateman) who, on his wife's birthday, discovers she is having an affair with his boss. Shortly after the shock of this, his Jewish father dies. The Altman family follow the Jewish tradition of Shiva, requiring them to coming together for seven days. Hence their mother Hillary (Fonda) hosts her children Jason, Wendy (Fey), Paul (Stoll) and Phillip (Driver) for the seven days of mourning. The family prove to be very dysfunctional, each having issues to overcome and the interaction leads to effective one liners and real moments of high comedy. An enjoyable film.

What We Did on Our Holidays
Director: Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkins
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, Billy Connolly
Doug (Tennant) and Abi (Pike) are a married couple on the cusp of a divorce. Despite this, they decide to take their three children to Scotland to attend a family gathering to celebrate the 75th birthday of Gordie (Connolly), Doug's father. In conversation, the children let slip to the wider family the details of their life in London and the parents arguments. Hence tension and family feuds ensue. The characters of the film are based on the TV series 'Outnumbered' and the film is in part comedy sitcom and in part an emotional 'roller-coaster'. Despite fine acting (with Connolly in particular fine form) the final third of the film seemed a little flat. 

Friday, 17 October 2014

TalkTalk tells Council: "Our landlines don't support Lifeline services"

TalkTalk: "TalkTalk landlines
don't support these devices."
Update 20 October 2014: Virtual-Lancaster has been contacted by TalkTalk who have sent us the following statement:
"We take issues like this very seriously and are conducting an urgent investigation into this."


Temporary changes made by TalkTalk to their landline service over the weekend meant that Lancaster City Council has had to warn vulnerable Lifeline users that they can't count on Talktalk telephone lines working with their Lifeline button alarm pendants in an emergency.

Over a thousand vulnerable local people use the Lifeline alarm service, wearing an emergency button on a pendant or a bracelet (see image) that they can press if they have a fall or other emergency and need help. Most of these users are elderly and frail, many are disabled, but keen to keep their independence. Knowing that help can be summoned at the push of a button brings peace of mind, to them and to the friends and relatives who worry about them .

When pressed, the button connects wirelessly to a device that plugs into an ordinary telephone socket, which phones through to the call centre. The device has a speaker and the trained call centre operator can talk to the service user and assess their need. The call centre also keeps a list of emergency telephone numbers of relatives or neighbours who have keys and can come immediately to give assistance.

This week it was discovered that Lifelines were not working for service users whose landlines were supplied by TalkTalk. There are several dozen such service users in the area and obviously, this is a potentially very risky situation. Fortunately, the glitch appeared to be only temporary. Whatever TalkTalk had reconfigured over the weekend, they restored again. But there doesn't seem to be any way of making sure it won't happen again, or finding out when it might happen.

Trying to talk to TalkTalk isn't easy. When a member of the Lifeline staff tried to explain to TalkTalk's customer services what had happened, and the problems it raised, they simply said that TalkTalk could not support Lifeline service equipment.

This statement from TalkTalk means that Lancaster City Council has had to warn Lifeline users that TalkTalk is not a sufficiently reliable service for a Lifeline that they might need to rely on in emergencies. Their letter to their Lifeline customers who use TalkTalk reads:

"Should you wish to remain a lifeline customer, you will need to arrange to change providers as a matter of urgency.

"When you are considering another provider you will need to check that the service they provide is able to support the use of community alarm systems on their line.

"Should you wish to remain a TalkTalk customer you will need to end your contract with us."

However it can take months to change service providers. Also, changing your phone line provider is a massive hassle for people who are young and strong, never mind those who are elderly or ill.

Virtual-Lancaster called TalkTalk to find out if they even knew what was going on. Their customer services supervisor first explained to us that the problem was caused by Redcare, who, he said, had installed the devices. In fact Redcare install integrated fire alarms, and have nothing to do with Lifelines. We explained this and then had to explain again in greater detail what a Lifeline was, to a person on the other side of the world who didn't (in my opinion) speak very good English and who had clearly never heard of such a thing.

That wasn't a problem for him though, because as soon as he understood that it was a device plugged into the phone line he was back on script. "TalkTalk do not support devices made by other manufacturers. You have to go and talk to the manufacturer." We explained that the device had worked on every phone line except TalkTalk's, and that we would appreciate if they could try to find out what had temporarily stopped the TalkTalk lines from working, but he just kept repeating the same line. And that was that.

The Lifeline service told us that they had a similar problem with a different service provider about a year ago. That went differently. They were able to speak to an advisor who understood the problem and had the capability to think and make enquiries. This provider was able to ensure that the service was restored.

However TalkTalk isn't interested in finding out why their service suddenly let dozens of their most vulnerable customers down, out of the blue, potentially putting their lives at risk. And they aren't interested in trying to avoid it in future. They made that very clear, to Lancaster City Council and to Virtual Lancaster.

We're lucky in Lancaster & Morecambe, because we know this now, and we can take steps to help vulnerable people change to a better phoneline provider that won't take their money and then let them down without a moment's concern.

But there are thousands of Lifeline users nationwide who may not know yet that TalkTalk doesn't support their service and that TalkTalk reserves the right to make changes, temporary or permanent, to their landline service in the course of other operations that could cut off their Lifelines without warning at any time, leaving them isolated and at risk.

The only advice that the Council can give Lifeline users still on TalkTalk is to change providers as soon as they can and, in the meantime, to keep checking the line.


Thursday, 16 October 2014

LGBT readers invited to online survey - 21st Century LGB&T Life in Lancashire

The Lancashire Lesbian, Gay Bisexual & Transgender (LGB&T) organisation would like to research some aspects of what  life is like for LGB and / or T people in Lancashire at the moment, and so have put a survey together.

The survey is for people who identify themselves as LGB and / or T only. Lancashire LGBT would like to encourage as many people as possible across Lancashire to complete the survey as it will help to give a far more accurate picture of LGB&T need in the county.

You don't have to give any personal details - it is anonymous - and it will only take around 10 minutes to complete.  Lancashire LGBT tell us that it is really important as not only will it help the organisation understand what more work needs to be done, it will inform the decision makers in the county – for example health services, support services, police etc. about what the needs of LGB&T people are and what needs to be improved or changed.

To take the survey and also to find out more about Lancashire LGBT go to:
http://lancslgbt.org.uk/web/?p=1465