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Thursday night saw me in West London for a musical at The Playground Theatre. It’s called Fanatical: The Sci-Fi Convention Musical and I was a bit apprehensive going in, since it was a bit of an unknown in a tiny theatre in the middle of nowhere. But it was fantastic, so much so that I’m going again, possibly twice, before the run finishes in early December.

The script was sharp and funny, the songs were great, and all the cast threw themselves into their role with tremendous enthusiasm, despite the audience being only four times their size. It tells the story of a fan convention for a fictional TV show, which bears at least some resemblance to Firefly (cancelled after 12 episodes, diverse crew on a small spaceship, with episodes where the ship runs out of gas or the raiders attack).

The whole thing was marvellous. What I didn’t expect was that it made me cry pretty much throughout, I think because I related so strongly to nearly all of the characters in one way or another, and it reminded me very vividly of a time in my life when online fandom and fan conventions provided a much needed escape and support network for me. All of that and more was very accurately portrayed in the musical, so much so that I’m planning on making myself a t-shirt for Angel 8, the fictional TV show in the musical. And also going to see the show again, of course!

Moving to something completely differently, I finished a book on the same day - Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, which gives a history of racism and race relations in the UK, talks about intersectionality in terms of gender and class, and discusses the problems with trying to have conversations about racism with those who don’t experience it. It was an interesting and thought-provoking read. I definitely benefit from a great deal of privilege in being a white, middle class person in London, and I have certainly been guilty of thinking that my country is ‘not as bad as the US’ when it comes to racism, institutional or otherwise. And that is very naive. I like to think of myself as liberal, tolerant and open-minded, but there is a lot that goes on around me of which I am unaware, and it’s good to become better educated about these things. People should read this book, regardless of their background.

Last night, we went to see Bohemian Rhapsody in the cinema and I was pleasantly surprised after reading some not-so-great reviews. I really enjoyed it, finding it by turns affecting, funny and tense. I thought all the performances were great, though Rami Malek certainly stands out as Freddie Mercury, much as I am sure Mercury himself stood out in real life. All the music was fantastic, and the story of Queen’s rise, with the intimate ups and downs of any set of family relationships made for very entertaining viewing.

On my way into town this morning, I finished listening to Lethal White, the fourth in the Cormoran Strike series, by Robert Galbraith, now also revealed as JK Rowling in her new crime author guise. I thought it was interesting, now that everyone knows it’s her, that this book was at least a third again longer than the previous three, much like the fourth Harry Potter book, which was the first released after it got really popular. So, the problems with editing Ms Rowling effectively have followed her to the Strike series. Still, I enjoyed the book overall, though it suffered from the problems I’ve had with all of them so far. The plots are interesting, I like all the characters, the writing is good - but all the relationship stuff just makes me want to scream. This one tipped towards a place I really don’t want the series to go. I desperately want Robin to kick the awful Matthew to the curb, but not because she thinks she wants to be with Strike, as I think that would be a wholly unnecessary complication in the story, which might ruin it for me completely. I won’t reveal what happens in the relationship stakes, but I will say that I will probably continue with the series when the next one comes out, as I’m still interest enough to follow the characters into their next adventure.

And the reason I was coming to town this morning was to attend a members’ viewing of a new documentary at Picturehouse Central. It was called Three Identical Strangers and told the story of identical triplets, separated at birth, who discovered each other by pure chance at the age of 19. This was amazing and fascinating enough, particularly considering the remarkable similarities between the three boys. But the story takes a sinister and tragic turn partway through, to explore themes of ethics in scientific studies, inherited mental health issues, and the differences between the three boys that are due to their very different upbringing. It was well put together, though perhaps a little forced into an intensely dramatic arc, and very emotive, with in depth interviews with many of the people involved in the story.

March 2019

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