Sunday, 25 May 2014

Gove Away

Michael Gove is the Secretary of Education in the UK, and is one a one-man mission to reform the British education system; his latest idea being to scrap all American Literature from the English Literature GCSE syllabus, including works like To Kill a Mockingbird, and Of Mice of Men. Gove’s reasoning is that he wants British students to study more works by English authors, preferably 19th Century, like Dickens.

Before we get into the main issues, I would like to point out that the furthest qualification I have in English Literature is a GCSE, much unlike Gove’s Oxford degree in the subject. However, as you may tell by this blog, I am an avid reader, and off my own back I have read Shakespeare to Austen to Orwell.

I didn’t study any American Literature during GCSE English GCSE, living out Gove’s dream. I read Romeo and Juliette, An Inspector Calls, Jane Eyre, and Lord of the Flies. I did not enjoy any of them, yet this is the proposed syllabus Gove is insisting upon. Meanwhile, I watched other classes study Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird and discuss how interesting they found the story, which resulted me in picking up the books myself.

To Kill a Mockingbird was an extremely important book for me personally. It was the first book I had read which really tackled race in a real world setting, and although it wasn’t a true story, I knew it reflected the attitudes of the time. I remember having to Google the significance and symbolism of the novel because I knew it had so much more to offer, and I really wish I had an opportunity to study it at school. Most importantly, I can’t think of a single British classic that deals with race in the same way. And that’s why a variety of books is important, as great as British Literature is, not everything is covered in the same way.

Michael Gove is out of touch with the current situation that the average student lives in. Not everyone is a privately-educated, Oxford-bound student. The vast majority of students need to be engaged with literature by letting teachers having a variety of choice to make the decision of what is the best book for their class to study. I knew people at school who didn’t even read the books at GCSE, getting grades off a mix of Sparknotes and highlighted quotes. Instead of talking about the 19th century, we need to be engaging teenagers with familiar themes that they can relate to, whether it be the inequality of the Deep South, or the financial turmoil faced in Steinback’s novel. A mad wife in the attic is the least of anyone’s concerns.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

1984 (play)

“Comrade Number” is printed on each ticket. The play runs for 101 minutes. So far, so symbolic.  But anyone who has read 1984 knows that there is more to the book than symbolism and plot. The novel’s intention was to make you question the world we live in, to disturb you far past the conclusion of the book; and in Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s adaptation, they have ticked all the boxes to satisfy both fan and newcomer of Orwell’s famous dystopian love story between Winston and Julia.

This co-production between Headlong, the Almeida, and the Nottingham Playhouse has opened its doors to the West End, and you are initially greeted by a shabby stage, with files stacked up the sides and a dimly lit corridor behind it. Then there is the elephant in the room. When I say elephant, I mean the giant screen hanging from above the stage, a reminder of the ever-present voyeuristic government, through which you become the voyeur yourself, gaining glimpses into what goes on behind closed doors. But in true Orwellian fashion, nothing is as it seems, and the extent of Chloe Lamford’s insane set design only becomes apparent at the climatic end. Sound and lighting throw you further into Orwell’s terrifying world, the soundtrack being jarring buzzes and helicopter noises, combined with blinding flashes and blurring smoke, keeping you fully alert and uneasy.

1984 is as shocking and brutal as the book it is based upon. The cleverness in the play lies in the way we are presented the story. Instead of creating a direct word-for-word adaptation, Icke and Macmillan have approached it with the appendixes of the book in mind. We are first shown a group of scholars studying Winston’s account from the future. Was he real? Is he reliable? What can we believe? Initially it was confusing, but after looking at the questions they were asking, it is a perfect example of the themes that run through book. Doublethink, witnessing one thing, but choosing whether to believe it or not. In turn we become one of them, witnessing the play but having to make our own choice whether to believe in its current significance. We live in the age of information, but how much of it can we believe? Has anything been doctored like Winston did to so many articles? Suddenly a play set in an alternate past becomes alarmingly timeless.

Cleverness aside, the play would have not had the same impact without its outstanding cast. Sam Crane made a nervous Winston, full of fear but never wavering in his beliefs. Hara Yannas portrayed a passionate Julia, rebelling in secret through sex, whilst Tim Dutton’s master-of-disguise O’Brien lulls you into a false sense of security.

1984, the novel, was a response to the Stalinist era that Orwell was witnessing, but 1984, the play, reminds us of the continuing relevance of the story. It will shock you, frighten you, and ultimately make you question the world you think you know.

Rating: 9/10

Monday, 5 May 2014


So you may have noticed that this blog has been abandoned for a while. Four months to be exact. You may have also noticed that that it’s been given a makeover. Or you may not have noticed either of those things, but just keep with me.

When I first started this blog, over a year ago, it was a bit of a mess. It was a combination of disjointed science articles and book posts, and then evolved into a book and film blog. Don’t get me wrong, I want to keep it like that. To an extent.

The reason this blog has started to decay was because I had a moment of writers block. And I realised why. I love books, I do, and I love talking about them on my YouTube channel. I find it far easier to talk about books than I do with writing about them, not to say I don’t enjoy reading book blogs. I’ve seen a few book bloggers start YouTube channels and make “personal” videos, where they discuss things that matter to them aside from books, and I’m going to do the reverse here.

So this blog is getting a revamp look-wise and content-wise.

I called myself “Rachael Reviews All” for a few reasons. One I read and review all genres of things, that’s something I stand by. But also because I am interested in lots of things. I study science, I’ve studied art, I like to keep up with current affairs. And so I want to review the world we live in. Not literally, I’m not going to be posting a rating system of politicians (although that may be useful).

If you watch my channel, you would see I like to do discussions. So you can expect a lot more of that on here. But what else? Honestly, I don’t know. Science posts, social commentary, fashion, books and arts, anything. Although it does sound like I’m running my own newspaper…

In the sixteenth century there was a group of people called the Renaissance men, a group of individuals who were interested in a variety of subjects, the most famous of them being Leonardo di Vinci, who made advances in everything from science to art. I love the idea of living in a time where people aren’t segregated into categories, you’re either an artist or a mathematician. I want to write about everything that interests me, and I hope you’ll find bits of it interesting too.

I hope you stick around.