Server Sponsorship for Xanadu Online Theatre

Notes From Xanadu is delighted to announce that a new server for Xanadu Online Theatre has been sponsored by County Cork company ProPrivacy.  The server will enable us to customise the code for the theatre (we use open source software, in keeping with the philosophy of the arts centre), leading to a smoother and more exciting experience for both audience and performers.

ProPrivacy is a close-knit, family run data protection and cyber security compliance company based in Ireland. The company works with clientele in many sectors ranging in size, from small businesses to privacy departments in large multinational corporations.  It’s lead auditor and GDPR consultant is Philipa Jane Farley; if you think you recognise that name, you would be right – multi-talented Philipa has been writing the Farley’s Philosophy column for us since the arts centre’s launch in May 2020.  The ProPrivacy team have this to say about the sponsorship:

“2020 has been exhausting. More for some than others, but needless to say, everyone’s lives have changed in one way or another, some for the worst and some for the best. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has taken a toll on our entertainment community. It has affected our livelihoods, hobbies and the community around us.

While we may feel that we cannot control events on our own doorstep, let alone, globally, new and fresh ideas on how to charge through and grapple with such unknown times have emerged. New online businesses, video chats and social outreaches over the internet have been the new trends of the pandemic. New ways to connect with people have become a priority in a world where social distancing is now second nature.

This is where Notes from Xanadu has blossomed. Emerging from what was formerly an online magazine with Arts reviews and periodic COVID-19 articles, Notes from Xanadu transformed into a lively and active social page where artists from all walks of life could come together to continue doing what they do best even with the entertainment industry in complete shutdown.

Mary Tynan, who suffers from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, has overcome extreme personal challenges and advocates to raise awareness of this neurological condition. Mary has taken back her life in a global lockdown and created this forum for her fellow artists to have an opportunity for creativity and to take the stage once again in a transformative way over the internet. And Mary has even dusted off her old coding skills, and learnt new ones, allowing her to customise Notes from Xanadu to her high standards.

As a data protection company fortunate to be able to continue working through lockdown, ProPrivacy got to thinking about how we would be able to make a difference in this industry for which we have a great love. As we have seen the Arts take an enormous knock in this pandemic, Notes from Xanadu came to mind. ProPrivacy took this opportunity to support Mary and her endeavours to grow her platform in a small but hopefully significant way by sponsoring a server for her online theatre. ProPrivacy will continue to supply data protection and cyber security support for Mary to continue running her Arts centre with peace of mind. ProPrivacy feels incredibly privileged to be able to support a woman whose values align with that of our own, inclusive communities sharing resources to enrich those around them.”

The new theatre software is going to be built by Philipa and Mary working together, and we will, of course, share news of the development as it happens.  We live in exciting times for online arts and Notes From Xanadu and Xanadu Online Theatre will continue to do our utmost to stay at the cutting edge of the field.  If you are interested in working with us on a volunteer basis in any capacity, please drop us a line at notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com.

As of 2021, ProPrivacy are expanding their services to support small businesses through their offshoot, The Career Designer. This new line of services and digital products is informed by the company’s primary focus, data protection, privacy, and cyber security, and deals with the inner workings of starting up a business with an online first focus from scratch.

The Career Designer is to be launched within the next few months for people who want to make their ideas pay. It’s about helping people and transforming their skillset into a business, especially for those during this pandemic who are out of work or are struggling to make an income. Philipa and team want to share their many years of business experience and niche skills in an easy to understand way which can help people turn their ideas into stable and thriving businesses. They will walk you step-by-step through the process of building a business from start to finish, accounting to marketing and all the legal requirements in-between. Macro-knowledge for microbusinesses if you will, catering for business construction as well as business maintenance.

If you are interested in The Career Designer or other services offered by ProPrivacy, please visit their website, or email the team at info@proprivacy.ie.

Theatre at Home for Christmas

Fancy a trip to the theatre this December? In contrast to the usual visit to the pantomime, Xanadu Online Theatre invites you to watch an alternative Christmas show from the comfort of your own home – all you need is a computer and an internet connection.

Started in May 2020, Notes From Xanadu is, as far as can be seen, the first online arts centre in the English-speaking world.  Since its beginning, it has attracted visitors from countless countries on six different continents (we’re still trying to crack Antartica)! On 23 September, we launched Xanadu Online Theatre with a variety concert featuring artists from two different continents and three timezones.  December sees the debut performances from our in-house theatre company, with a double bill of classic tragedy and comedy: Riders to the Sea by J M Synge and The Proposal by Anton Chekhov.  Tickets are free of charge, but limited, and must be booked in advance at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/theatre-at-home-for-christmas-tickets-129660125927.  Admission is per connection, not per person, so you can have as many people watching with you as you like.  More details are available at the website at theatre.notesfromxanadu.org.

The arts centre and the theatre are the brain children of Mary Tynan, a chronically-ill, disabled creative living in the West of Ireland.  For interviews please contact Mary on notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com.

Why Lockdown has been a Lifeline for me, by Mary Tynan

Lockdown may have made life smaller for many people, but it made mine bigger.

Unlike most people, I wasn’t that upset when the first coronavirus lockdown began.  As far as I could see, it wasn’t going to make much difference to my life.  But I was wrong: it made my life better.

As a chronically ill, disabled person (I suffer from the neurological condition (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) living alone in a rural location, I had long been used to spending most of my time alone.  Many weeks, if I didn’t visit a shop, I didn’t see anyone.  And shopping was becoming harder – I had already begun the transition to grocery delivery before the pandemic.  I connected with people mostly via telephone or, more and more as time went on, via the web.

I used social media such as Facebook for two main purposes: to keep up with people that I rarely saw, such as friends from my previous life as an actor in London, and to make new friends, especially within the ME and chronic illness communities.  I joined support groups, book clubs and other interest groups; I attended and ran virtual pub quizzes and parties.  I also used the internet for solo activities, such as practising and learning languages on Duolingo, and studying everything from Archaeology to Cyber Security.  I was well-practised at living life online.  What happened early this year is that everyone joined me.

Right at the beginning of Lockdown, some friends and I decided to set up an online school.  Ar Líne Le Chéile was small, and part-time, and wasn’t intended to replace or compete with anything that children were getting from their regular teachers – rather, it was to help combat loneliness and isolation.  In this it succeeded, and our small class of primary school children had formed great friendships by the time we finished in June.  As I was already an experienced teacher, I took an active part in this, the highlight of which was the weekly multidisciplinary lesson where we made virtual visits to such places as the British Museum, NASA and the London Underground.  It was a lovely feeling to have my own class again, for the first time since 2008.  A side effect of this for me was that my old interest in coding was reawakened by a Scratch class run by another teacher (Philipa Farley, the writer of our Farley’s Philosophy column), and I ended up learning the Python programming language during the month of April when Pluralsight offered free courses for a month.

There was so much life online all of a sudden!  Musicals by Andrew Lloyd Webber and plays from the National Theatre, for example, were available to watch free of charge.  I attended an online 80s concert with a couple of friends, who didn’t know each other previously; we watched in our separate homes and chatted via text at the same time.  I joined an online choir, and played board games with friends all over Ireland via WhatsApp.

I had an online magazine, Notes From Xanadu, predominantly an arts review, which had been semi-dormant over the preceding five years.  I had written a couple of Covid-related articles, and was in the process of revitalising it.  Then I had an idea: instead of relaunching as just a magazine, why not do something novel and create an online arts centre?  I set the date for the May bank holiday weekend, and got in touch with artists of all genres.  Over the four days of the launch we had 20 different features, ranging from writing to opera (world-renowned soprano Ailish Tynan was one of our first contributors) to puppetry.  We had visitors from numerous countries on six continents, and have continued to gain new followers and artists since then.

Although I don’t generally manage to get out much, I always do something for my birthday, whether that’s a restaurant and/or pub visit, or a small party at my house.  I decided not to let the virus stop me this year, and organised my first audio-visual virtual party.  I had guests from as far apart as London and New Mexico, and we played games, performed music, chatted and generally had a “night out.”  Unfortunately, problems with internet connections kept a few people away, but the evening was enough of a success for me to decide to develop a theatre as part of the online arts centre.

On 23 September 2020, Xanadu Online Theatre was born, with a launch concert/variety show featuring artists from three different time zones, and an invited audience from countries stretching from Finland to the US.  Unlike other similar ventures that have begun since Covid 19 gave us the New Normal, which use Zoom and other such platforms, this theatre is embedded in the Notes From Xanadu website and uses the open-source software Jitsi, which very much fits ideologically with the values of the online arts centre.

As part of the launch concert, I decided to perform a short scene with an actor friend in New York, Ash Reddington, and thus I found myself practising my craft as an actor for the first time in almost 6 years.  I have since set up an in-house theatre company, and we are having our first show in December.  Thus, as a result of the virus, I find myself where I thought I would never be again – in the rehearsal room, preparing to act on stage in front of a live audience.

This is the first in a series.  Watch out for accounts of other people’s positive lockdown experience in the coming weeks.

 

Call for Actors, Writers, Technicians – Xanadu Theatre

Notes From Xanadu will shortly be opening on online theatre as part of the arts centre.  There will be an in-house theatre company associated with this exciting new venture.  At this point we are calling for expressions of interest from the following:

  • Actors: please send a CV and (small) headshot.
  • Writers: please send a CV and a short example of your writing – a page or two is fine.  We are particularly interested in developing scripts that are specifically written for the medium, ie none of the actors are in the same room as each other.  Bheadh suim againn in obair as Gaeilge freisin.
  • Technicians: are you interested in becoming involved in this emerging art form?  Please send a CV or letter detailing any relevant experience in IT, film, television or theatre.

Applications should be sent to notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com, to arrive no later than 30 September 2020.  Please note that this is a collaboration opportunity, not a job advertisement.  We are an international arts centre that offers free space to artists of all sorts, and have visitors from more than 100 countries in six continents.

Red Moon – Moonrise

Those of you who have read my reviews of The Springheel Saga (Series I and II) will be familiar with the name Wireless Theatre.  The company produce high quality radio drama, which is made available via download from their website.  If you enjoyed Springheel Jack, or if you are a fan of alternate history tales, then you probably won’t want to miss this new mystery series.

It Monday, 3 December 1979, and Eddie Sloper is getting ready to go to work.  However it is not a 1979 any of us remember.  The split that created this timeline happened in 1968, when Yuri Gagarin became the first man on the moon.  With lunar bases and the moon being weaponised with nuclear warheads, the arms race between the US and the Soviets has expanded off-planet, with the result that the doomsday clock is now very close to midnight.

Eddie works for the British Space Liaison Department and much of the action in the first episode takes place there with very convincing performances from Philip Bulcock (Eddie) and Stephen Critchlow (as Eddie’s boss, Wilkins).  However, a lot of the soundscape of the piece is in the form of news reports which fill us in on both the background history and the continuing arms crisis.  I love the little details that has been added as well, such as Sid Vicious being on trial for murder (when in our timeline he had been dead for months), and the ad for “Space Snacks,” which sound like something I once purchased in the Cape Canaveral gift shop (pizza and ice cream were the two I bought).

As usual, this is a slick production, with excellent work from everyone on the team.  In particular the music, by Francesco Quadraruopolo, and the overall sound design, by Jim Sigee, contribute greatly to the atmosphere of the piece.  Furthermore, there is a very good balance between events on the world stage and Eddie’s story, whilst his voiceover helps to bring everything together.

Episode 1 ends on a cliffhanger, with a murder which will no doubt drive a lot of the action in further parts of the series, but don’t worry, because Episode 2 is available already, so you won’t have to wait to see what happens next!

Episode 1 of Red Moon is free to stream on Wireless Theatre’s audioBoom channel: https://audioboom.com/posts/6549173-red-moon-episode-one-moonrise-audio-drama.

Episode 2 and all further episodes are exclusive to the Wireless Theatre website: https://www.wirelesstheatrecompany.co.uk/product/red-moon-phase-ii-umbra/, with Episode 3 being released in March.  The story was conceived by Jack Bowman and Robert Valentine, with the latter also writing, directing and producing.

Mary Tynan

Cover art by @arbernaut

 

Just When You Thought it Was Safe to Go Back to Victorian London

The Legend of Springheel’d Jack – Series II of The Springheel Saga

Once again, Wireless Theatre Company has produced an energising, bewitching, atmospheric piece of radio.  Opening seven years after the end of the last series, we are immediately dropped into the thick of the action and the pace does not let up throughout the three episodes.  The Doctor Who references this time seem to me more subtle, and at the same time wider-reaching.  The sound landscape played a large part in this (I’m sure I heard a tardis at a couple of points!), especially the incidental music provided by Cameron K McEwan.  Without giving too much away, much of the story revolves around a mysterious box, whose origins, it turns out, involve transwarp drive.  The box’s final destination is reminiscent of another cult classic – Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The storytelling remains first-class  Writing for radio holds its own special challenges, as the conversations have to tell most of the story, without being too obvious or lessening the impact of the characters as individuals, and this was managed seemingly effortlessly by Gareth Parker and Robert Valentine.  However, in this series, they have added the device of a narrator, who is also a character in the story (James M. Rymer, wonderfully played by John Holden White) and this proved to be very effective.  As before, the dialogue is outstanding throughout; with priceless lines such as “the tears that rolled down his cheeks behind the large false beard.”

The acting was superb.  Christopher Finney reprised his role of Jonas Smith with aplomb, John Holden White, as James M Rymer, was an excellent addition to the cast, and Nicholas Parson was wonderful as Cuthbert Leach.  However, my personal favourite this time was Josephine Timmons, as Lizzie Coombe.  She was believable on so many different levels (it was a complicated character); totally sympathetic and a pleasure to listen to throughout.  Casting was by Jack Bowman, who also had a small but effective cameo, but whose major contribution is in the production and the superb writing (under his pseudonym of Gareth Parker).  The excellent direction was by co-writer Robert Valentine, who was also part of the production team, along with Mariele Runacre-Temple.

The Legend of Springheel’d Jack is in three episodes: The Terror of London; The Carnival of Horrors and The Engine of Doom.  Each of these can be downloaded from www.wirelesstheatrecompany.co.uk.  Series III – The Secret of Springheel’d Jack – is planned for an August/September release.  I’ll be listening!

Previously published in Blogtor Who.

The Springheel Saga

Wireless Theatre Company have contacted me with the exciting information that Series Two of the popular Springheel Saga, entitled The Legend of Springheel’d Jack, will be released online on 6 December 2013.  In the meantime, here is a review of Series One to whet your appetites.

The Strange Case of Springheel’d Jack

Wireless Theatre Company’s take on the Spring-Heeled Jack story is an atmospheric, exhilarating, beguiling piece of radio drama.  The writers have taken the known facts of the case and expertly weaved them with a story of devil worship that appears to pay homage to “The Daemons” (the Jon Pertwee Doctor Who story from the 1970s).   Doctor Who influences are everywhere, from the opening music (which also strangely reminds me of “Dallas”), to Julian Glover’s participation as Lord Wayland, to the fact that the lead character is called Jonah Smith.  The eagle-eared among you will spot other parallels as you listen, but I wouldn’t want to give everything away!

Gareth Parker and Robert Valentine’s storytelling is excellent.  The dialogue holds your interest and manages to elucidate the plot expertly, whilst simultaneously depicting and delineating the various characters in a sympathetic manner.  The writing is of a very high standard throughout, with some marvellous lines and phrases which stick in the memory – my favourite being “reform bills that pass like ghosts through Parliament’s bladder!”

The writing is greatly assisted by the sound in all three episodes.  Both Francesco Quadraroupolo’s music and Andrew Swann’s sound effects help to build the atmosphere to the point where you can almost see what is going on.  I could easily imagine myself in Victorian London, and the devil worshipping ceremonies were particularly effective.  Of course, this is also largely due to the quality of the acting; the way that everything is edited together (Andrew Swann again) and the overall production values of the serial.

With a cast of 23, it is impossible for me to mention everyone, suffice it to say that all should be extremely proud of their performances.  Christopher Finney and Matthew Jure gave strong, believable, sympathetic performances as Constables Jonah Smith and Toby Hooks respectively, as did Jessica Dennis in the lead female role of Charlotte Fitzrandolph.  All of the female characters were played very well – I particularly like landlady Mrs Bairstow, played in an amusing and entertaining manner by Lizzie Goodall.  Julian Glover was a marvellously nefarious villain, and Jack Bowman did a wonderful job of portraying the evil and menacing Mr Chough.

The Strange Case of Springheel’d Jack is in three episodes: The Ghost of Clapham Common; The Crypt of Evil and The Face of the Fiend.  Each of these can be downloaded free from www.wirelesstheatrecompany.co.uk.  Further episodes are promised, which I, for one, shall certainly be on the lookout for!

Mary Tynan

First published on Blogtor Who.

Time Well Spent at Store Street

Contemporary Printmaking: From Andy Warhol to the Emerging Generation

This exhibition by Orion Contemporary combines household names with Orion’s young, emerging stable of artists to promote printmaking as an art form and celebrate the importance of the medium.  To quote Andrés Olow Clase, director of Orion Contemporary: ‘From Andy Warhol’s exceptional print of 1974 to works made in 2012, the show explores the diverse vivacity and technical skill of printmaking.’  Following the inaugural exhibition in 2011, this year’s offering includes a variety of work by Lisa Denyer, Alexander Gough, Damien Hirst, David Hockney, Max Lowry, Dénes Maróti, Will Martyr, Andy Warhol and Giulia Zaniol.

I am not going to talk about the big names here; nobody needs me to tell them about the likes of Hockney or Hirst.  Instead, I would like to focus on some of the less well-known artists.

Alex Gough’s woodblock prints of Levi Mountain are influenced by his Finnish ancestry and are imbued with strong tonal contrasts, reflecting the twilight dancing on the snow, or the midnight hue as the mid-winter landscape melts into long dark nights.  Lisa Denyer’s ‘Range’ continues the mountain theme and uses a mystical combination of silver and black to engage the eye.  William Martyr’s art deco ‘Sweet Spot’ and ‘’Time Well Spent’ employs bright, vibrant colours to excite the viewer’s imagination.  Dénes Maróti pleasantly surprised me by his range: I was startled to discover that the bold, powerful images of repetitive figures were drawn by the same hand as the delicate flower prints.  Finally, Giulia Zaniol’s ‘Angels of London’ series uses a highly advanced two-plate technique of soft and hard ground, litho colours and spitbite to create images with deep and varied tonal harmony.  The combination of colours and images manages to be both haunting and calming at the same time.  Although chromatically I think the finest of the three pieces is ‘Parliament Angels,’ the image of the solitary seraph stood staring across the Thames at the distant ‘Tower Bridge’ will remain with me for some time.

Comtemporary Printmaking opens today at Store Street Gallery.  On the evening of 14th March, Gabriel Angel Moreno, will be reading a selection of his poetry written in response to the works in the exhibition, and Giulia Zaniol will lead an informal talk on the art of printmaking on Saturday 17th March at 4pm.

Contemporary Printmaking is at Store Street Gallery, 32 Store Street, WC1E 7BS.  Opening Times: 13th March – 17th March, 11am-6pm. 18th March, 11am-4pm.  Admission Free.

Mary Tynan