[Guardian Books Blog] Can the newspaper novel survive in the internet age?

I’ve got my first piece up on the Guardian books blog:

In a world of declining newspapers, is there any future for the newspaper novel? I recently stormed through Michael Frayn’s satirical 1967 newspaper novel, Towards the End of the Morning, and Nick Davies’ scathing study of how reporting works now, Flat Earth News. For the press, dawn is closing time, when the final edition has been printed and the hacks can go to bed – so Frayn’s title is a reversal of the usual metaphor: the end of the morning implies more of a shutdown than a rebirth. The novel, with its warm satire of the gentlemanly dissolution of the newspaperman in the fading days of old Fleet Street, makes a tender record of a deeply flawed but somehow loveable industry – before colour printing, before Wapping, and back when TV had only just begun to threaten the papers’ ownership of the news and comment business.

Read the rest at The Guardian…

Family Pages: Grooving On Up

Something for the Venue family section.

Grooving On Up

Many parents dream of a big night out, but once you’ve booked a babysitter, nightlife can be a disillusioning experience. If you want to hear the tunes you love but you don’t fancy a theme night, if you want a friendly crowd but not too friendly, if you want to dance but you need to be up bright and early with the children, there isn’t that much out there. So what do you do when you’re not ready to give up nightlife, but the nightlife isn’t making the effort to keep up with you? If you’re a Groovy Mama, you stop waiting for the next wedding or birthday to bring the party to you, and you make your own. Continue reading

Theatre Review: Romeo And Juliet

Originally published in Venue, issue 829. Venue’s teaser for Globe Touring’s upcoming performance of A Winter’s Tale in Bristol describes the show I review below as “triumphant”, so apparently my editor would have bumped the final score up by a star.

Globe Touring: Romeo And Juliet

The play might have a rep for romance, but the love story is the palest part of this outdoor Romeo and Juliet. Alan Morrissey and Dominique Bull in the leads come off second best to the physical comedy of their respective foils – a dashing, clowning Mercutio in the shape of Nitzan Sharron, and Marsha Henry’s bawdy, bustling nurse (although by casting the one black actor as a big smutty servant, the production picks up an unsavoury tang of Gone With The Wind). An emphasis on broad comedy and low violence keeps the play brisk and sharp, even though the lovers’ lack of spark means you occasionally forget just why everyone is rushing headlong to the crypt.

After nightfall, the production picks up atmosphere for the last two acts. The staging (featuring a VW Camper and two strings of fairy lights) becomes transformative in the dark, and the venue – an old bowling green, sunken and secluded – comes to life. The leads’ awkward imitation of teenage infatuation gives way to a much more satisfying portrayal of desperation, and the pall-bearing finale is almost a tear-jerker. But so long as you remember the umbrella and the picnic, there’s really no need to cry.