Friday, October 28, 2016

About the Author

Belinda has worn many hats in her life. Like Goldilocks, some were too big, some too small, and others just right.

The ‘Writer’s Hat’ fit perfectly from Day One. Belinda’s early memories of writing remain some of her most treasured: from practising her running writing in primary school and enjoying the aesthetics of the dotted lower case i’s and j’s, to sitting at her little red plastic play table completing spelling tests with her mum as she washed the dishes.

Belinda has been writing short stories and song lyrics for as long as she can remember, falling in love for the first time when introduced to the essay form in a high school English class.

Today, Belinda finds stimulus everywhere she goes, in everything she does, and in everyone she meets... which has led to the creation of this blog page: a collection of social observations and personal perplexities that surround most of us in our every day lives.

Coming from a strong media background, Belinda has worked alongside local and internationally renowned names in the television and film industries. At nineteen, she enjoyed her role as Music Buyer for a successful entertainment retailer, and later came to teach secondary school English and Media in both Sydney and Greater London.

Belinda continues to thrive on the challenge of editing her growing expanse of written work as well as that of others, which has led her to don a comfortable new hat: Copywriter. She has also had music reviews published with the UK's GIGsoup.

Belinda is a lover of pop culture, citing concerts and geek cons as a favourite pastime, openly admitting to being annoyingly analytical when it comes to watching a really good film, and passionate when discussing issues that matter.

Her guilty pleasures include Pinterest, second breakfast, peanut butter and drinking hot chocolate with a straw.

Album Review

Kestrels 'Kestrels' 

As featured on GIGsoup

Kestrels’ self-titled album reflects the band’s clever opposition to genre compartmentalisation, soaring against the breeze that is the sound of contemporary indie-rock, and landing in a sub terrain known as shoegazing: where neo-psychedelic meets mid-nineties alternative. It’s Tame Impala meets Nirvana after a curious collision with Neon Trees.

Upon first play, the unacquainted listener may describe the album as bewildering - even misleading. While guitar riffs like that in ‘No Alternative’ evoke images of an experimental garage band playing on a Sunday afternoon, Chad Peck’s almost-ethereal lead and backing vocals in ‘Neko’ offer the listener a more psychedelic experience. The apparent clash of genres works symbiotically, resulting in the Kestrels’ repeat-worthy third album.

Paul Brown’s drum-work is strong, providing a solid backbone to each track, and paving the way for the development of tone through electric guitar chords and solos. ‘Suspect’ will have listeners punching the air mosh pit-style, while ‘Neko’ instantly encourages spontaneous foot stamping and involuntary air drumming with its tribal beat.

The album lyrics are minimal, often allowing for subtle synthesizer sounds and Devin Peck’s bass to take precedence. Notably, ‘Are You Alone?’ begins with heavy, monotone guitar and bass reminiscent of The Smiths’ edgy ‘How Soon Is Now’; its dark, foreboding tone complemented by haunting lyrics in the form of rhetorical questions.

‘Lying Down’ is a calm and welcomed tribute to late nineties rock - Peck’s voice reflecting a Liam Gallagher-esque longing, responsive of ‘Champagne Supernova’. Its passivity brands this the perfect ballad for rainy a Saturday, listening while laying lethargic and languid on the lounge. And yet, Peck’s melodies often deviate from the predictable. ‘Decent of Their Last’ breaks indie convention when the lone space-like synth and constant drumbeat increasingly energise the listener, only to forcefully slow down at the introduction of Peck’s unhurried, astral vocals singing a verse that in melody and structure should be naturally contained to a chorus; this is further emphasised by awkward transitions from natural to flat throughout. The sudden chord disruption and juxtaposition of pace affects consistency, displacing the listener in the process; but this is part of Kestrels’ appeal as a musically non-conforming ensemble.

While ‘Ace’ fails to inspire, it acts as the perfect background song for the drive home after the long workday; its vocals again drawn out peacefully, and nicely accompanied by a high-pitched guitar solo echoing the mid nineties. Disappointingly, ‘Wide Eyes’ struggles to engage; its music fast-paced while the lyrically repetitive chorus highlights its problematic structure. The song plays for a short 2m 04s - an indication of the band’s possible struggle to pen effective and meaningful lyrics, instead focussed on devising an interesting blend of chords and obscure instrumental solos.

The self-titled album gives more than it receives, with ‘Temples’ generously offering listeners an escape. Peck sings “lie awake at night. It’s too late…” before trailing off into a placid, introspective guitar solo sentimental of a child’s lullaby. It is lyrically ironic that they concluded the album with this song, beautifully lulling the listener into a state of slumber. Commendably, this song persuades the listener to hit ‘repeat’ before the track’s end, perhaps due to its safe distance from the tentative subgenre and astute acceptance of conventional nineties alt-rock structure.

Overall, Kestrels’ have recorded a consistent album, though dependent upon obscure melodies and varied instrumentalism. While it may not satisfy the majority, tranquility is undeniable, making this the perfect ‘background’ album. No need for lyrical comprehension; the music itself should be the main focus when giving this album a spin.

The Kestrels’ ‘S/T’ album is out now via Sonic Unyon Records.

Friday, April 22, 2016

West End Review

‘The End of Longing’

Directed by Lindsay Posner
Playhouse Theatre, London
A Review and Essay

Matthew Perry hit the metaphorical nail on the head with his play ‘The End of Longing’, now playing at the Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End.

‘The End of Longing’ is one of the more relevant plays to be performed in modern times, successfully capturing the destructive nature of loneliness in a busy and morally hypocritical world. While overt themes of immorality such as alcoholism and prostitution act to drive the plot, the social observation runs so much deeper. It is a script that delves deeply into the complexities of life, love, self-awareness and personal transformation in a non-judgmental way.

The story intertwines the lives of four Americans in their late thirties/early forties who face individual challenges of a social and psychological nature. Jack (Matthew Perry), Stephanie (Jennifer Mudge), Stevie (Christina Cole) and Joseph (Lloyd Owen) hide behind frivolous and often insincere façades in an attempt to avoid or suppress their anxiety and self-disdain. Each character’s personal vice – whether alcohol, prostitution or pharmaceuticals – acts only to mask their deep-set loneliness and shield them from the confronting truth. These characters long to be happy; they long for acceptance, to be loved, to find peace within. Cue back to the play’s title, and you have your synopsis.

It is not the characters’ conclusive end of longing however that leaves the audience contemplating the play for weeks to come. Self-awareness is a key theme, often hindering personal progress and diminishing each character’s confidence to the extreme. The theme shines a spotlight onto Jack, Joseph, Stephanie and Stevie’s perception of self, and evokes a similar response from the audience. It is the realistic complications faced by these characters and their enduring determination to attain self-satisfaction that promotes introspection beyond the boundaries of stage.

Playwright and lead performer Matthew Perry leaves his ‘Friends’ persona Chandler Bing at the door, instead introducing himself as a loud, uncouth forty-something lacking repose. The cold open and uncomfortably bright spotlight presents Perry’s Jack as an undignified ‘brute in a suit’ with arrogance reminiscent of an entitled child from privileged upbringing. In reality, Jack is the complete opposite.

Perry’s comic timing is distinct in ‘The End of Longing’, though it is important to note that the performance is not dependent upon it. Perry’s ability to actively evoke sympathy, pity and empathy from the audience during Jack’s most selfish moments is worthy of a standing ovation - and that he and the cast did receive during the matinee performance on March 31st.

The supporting actors are outstanding in their own right, embodying their characters so completely that it is impossible to argue that Perry is the play’s sole lead. The audience empathises with these characters because they are relatable: a Stephanie or a Jack on the surface, a Joseph or a Stevie at the core.

Stevie’s neurotic, anxious ways may resonate with one’s own exhausting pursuit for perfection, while Stephanie’s secreted unhappiness and self-proclaimed ‘daddy issues’ concealed by an air of false confidence reflects a common denominator. No doubt then that Joseph’s adorable lack of awareness evokes nostalgia of simple friendships passed, while Jack’s nihilistic persona actively draws attention to our own capacity as human beings to be destructively selfish.

‘It’s the story of four broken people trying to find love, and the fact that it’s possible for people to change.’ – Matthew Perry on creating ‘The End of Longing’.

Transformation is a salient theme, presenting itself in each character in a number of ways. Jack’s transformation is most noticeable through volume and dialogue - the subtle transition between irrepressible shouting and controlled voice projection is most notable by the play’s end. Regarding dialogue, Jack’s incumbent penchant for curse words turns self-regulated following a series of adverse situations and personal challenges. It is however Jack’s enduring monologue towards the play’s end, his admission to giving in to the demon that is alcoholism that refines and defines his character. Jack no longer displays anger or rage; he no longer masks his broken identity with a verbally vicious persona. Instead, his declaration evokes a positive, heart-warming and accepting response from the audience as they are reintroduced to the man rather than the liquor-driven monster.

Stephanie’s transformation occurs through dialogue and direction, but is most notable in the use of costume and props. Upon first sight, Stephanie vivaciously introduces herself as “a whore”. Throughout the play, Stephanie speaks loudly and proudly of her profession, bragging of her sexual prowess and skills in the bedroom. Stephanie is often seen with a cell phone, haughtily scheduling clients between arguments with Jack - her cell phone acting as a symbol for her ‘call girl’ status and thus a lack of professional (and personal) stability. By the play’s end, Stephanie says sayonara to her colourful, on-trend outfits and hello to the sleek, muted shades of the corporate world. Her cell phone, no longer in sight, makes way for the accessible and reliable Apple Macbook, signifying a respectable career path, grounded lifestyle and newfound reliability. Her gaze no longer drifts solemnly to the back of the theatre, but focusses on her Macbook screen: she now lives in the present, prepared for the exciting challenges yet to come.

As a symbol of her powerlessness, Stevie’s name alone acts to portray her fragile state of mind. Without consideration, when the two women first meet, Stephanie renames her new friend ‘Stevie’ upon learning of their shared name. Stevie (meaning ‘crown’ in Greek) may possess an air of self-importance (particularly in Joseph’s presence), but her façade quickly fades when confronted with a life-changing (and life threatening) situation. Ironic as it may be, Stevie - a pharmaceuticals rep (or legalised “pill pusher”) often relies upon the products she sells to suppress her paranoia, anxiety and frustrating inability to find happiness within.

Similar to Jack, Stevie’s transformation is made noticeable in her frantic dialogue. Once seen conversing to a pharmacist erratically in the wee hours of the morning and divulging personal information in excess, Stevie later breathes a sigh of relief - one of inner-contentment – and is able to whisper “I love you” to her beau. She knows she is ‘fucked up’ and introspectively acknowledges that ‘stupid Joseph’ may not be a perfect man, but he is perfect for her. He balances her neurotic personality with his seemingly rosy approach to life, forcing her to slow down and eradicate the need for prescription pills. Through a series of adverse situations designed to challenge her mortality and emotional intelligence, Stevie changes from a hyperactive and ironic ‘realist’ to an emotionally sensible woman no longer reliant upon on the false and short-lived happiness her drugs (or therapy) provide.

In contrast, Joseph admits that he is perceivably stupid. It is his honesty and unwavering values that make Joseph the play’s most lovable and vital character, and is further ironic that he offers the most logic and sensibility throughout the play. “Life isn’t as hard as you make it out to be!” he cries in frustration at the bickering Jack and Stephanie during his time of need. Joseph might struggle to offer more than a minute’s worth of ‘material’ when emotionally interrogated by his lover’s best friend, but what the audience learns is that often in life, less is more: less self-awareness, less self-doubt, more ‘showing’ and less talking. His academic intelligence may be limited but his ability and desire to stabilise those around him is unrestricted. “He is lacking in self-awareness… It’s fantastic!” Jack says mockingly, though it is this precise quality that allows Joseph to persevere through hardship and avoid the same fate as his unfulfilled acquaintances. Joseph is the pillar of strength for Stevie, and the voice of reason to diminish ongoing volatility between Jack and Stephanie. He is their ‘emotional rock’ – despite his limited vocabulary.

“Some say that people can’t change. That’s not right. I see people change every day.” – Matthew Perry on creating ‘The End of Longing’.

Perry should be acknowledged as an accomplished playwright following his string of West End shows. His ability to create relatable characters that audiences willingly invest in is exceptional. Jack, Joseph, Stephanie and Stevie each exhibit qualities we all possess. The problems the characters face are real, and while the methods they instinctively use to resolve them are not always favourable, the journey and outcome is certainly familiar.

People are not perfect; in fact, they are incredibly flawed. Matthew Perry shines a light on our flaws as unfulfilled individuals and proves that happiness is attainable, despite the gritty path one must take to find it. ‘The End of Longing’ teaches us that, given the correct motivators, people can change.

Symbolically closing with a soft-spoken “hi”, the play’s overt message is clear: happy endings and new beginnings are possible, even in the most unlikely of circumstances. Mr. Perry captures this exquisitely, and with charming honesty in his West End play.

‘The End of Longing’ is playing at London’s Playhouse Theatre until 14th May 2016. Book your tickets now through Official London Theatre.

Written by Belinda Pearce.

Matinee 2:30pm, Thursday 31st March 2016.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

What Is Love?

Love Yourself

Yes, I've already written a blog post to lament the question what is love?' However, that particular evaluative piece acts as a textual deconstruction, focussing on the conveyance of the emotion through song, not life experience. Of late, this same question has played on my mind quite a lot - not because I am searching for the answer, but rather, because now I think I know.

Love is when you spend every waking moment with your partner, and never tire of them.

Love is identifying your partner's flaws, and accepting them as part of the complete package.

Love is when you can (and forgive me for the cliche 'rom com' scene) stare into one another's eyes endlessly and never feel the need to look away; in these moments, time stands still.

Love is when your partner makes your "heart beat faster and slower at the same time" (The Hot Chick, 2002), and you know it’s not an arrhythmia.

Love is when "parting is such sweet sorrow" (Romeo and Juliet). Your heart aches to see them sitting at the bus stop blowing you kisses and waving solemnly as the bus pulls away. You can’t bear it and you both find yourselves texting immediately to say you can't wait to see them again the following weekend.

Love is unconsciously quoting classic poetry and prose whenever your partner is on your mind.

Love is talking about the future but living in the now.

Love is following up on something your partner said a week ago, because what's important to them is important to you.

Love is about equal sharing: thoughts, opinions, compliments, domestic chores.

Love is asking them for a first kiss at the end of your third date instead of expecting it.

Love is willingly working at a relationship, but simultaneously taking each day as it comes - with ease.

Love is failing to notice that you've spent seven solid hours walking hand-in-hand, because it’s just so natural.

Love is sharing so many private jokes that you only ever seem to remember those from seven days ago or less.

Love is accepting that your partner may have a conflicting opinion on a topic, and not only respect their perspective, but empathise with it before they disagree.

Love is not only meeting your partner's family early on in the relationship, but wanting to be a part of it, too.

Love is the mutual knowledge that you will be together forever - and not being afraid to say it out loud.

Love is spending four hours reading and responding to your partner's emails each night when you are oceans apart (and looking forward to it), because it's how you stay connected.

Love is knowing you can make a fool of yourself in private, and your partner will love you even more.

Love is nurturing your partner when they are sick, fetching cups of Lemsip and tucking them into bed to sleep during the day.

Love is when your partner tells you every day how much you mean to them, how lucky they feel to have met you, and squeezing you to make sure you are real.

Love is when you can go about your career with a sense of confidence and independence because your partner boosts your esteem daily, telling you how competent and amazing you are, especially in those moments of self-doubt.

Love is complete clarity. It's not an obsession and it doesn't threaten to consume you because when in (mutual) love, there are no doubts.

Love is not singular: it is not just physical attraction, nor is it simply a companionship. Love is the inability to imagine a life without the person you want to fall asleep next to every night; the person who you know will be the perfect mother or father to your children; the one you are best friends with; and the only person you are and ever will be physically attracted to.

Love is letting your partner fall asleep on your chest, and switching Netflix programs to something they would find relaxing, even if you’re not interested in it yourself.

Love is knowing you can be yourself completely, and never doubt that you are loved in return.

Love is reading this blog in three months time, and realising how foolish it was to think I could ever define what love is, because love is infinite and ever growing.

I certainly am lucky to be in love.

Postscript: It’s ironic that only days after drafting this blog post, my blissfully happy and fulfilling relationship came to a grinding stop. The following realisation in the wake of a series of sudden and unexpected events - however crushing - is what prompted me to write this postscript.

Although romantic love may only be temporary in certain situations, love itself (regardless of the people involved) is everlasting and resonates in all of us, even in the most heartbreaking of situations. It may reside in the passion you have for your career, the potential you see in your students and the hope you draw from that, or in the safety and comfort your family provides.

What love is is unyielding - even when it seems like it's no longer in existence. What may perceivably ‘break a heart’ does not necessarily eradicate the feeling completely. That ache in your chest, the emptiness in the pit of your stomach, the numb feeling taking over your body - that is love taking a battering, and fighting back with force.

Even in the broken hearted, love is what keeps us going; a friend’s thoughtful and reassuring text, a kind letter of thanks from a student, or a parent’s warm and reliable shoulder to cry on are perfect examples of this – and as I recover from my own situation, I take strength from all three.

I've noticed that during emotional crises, we as humans don’t give ourselves enough credit. More often than not, it is the love we have for ourselves that sees us soldiering on against all odds: ice-cream and movie nights, days of solitary introspection, and allowing ourselves to cry aren't marks of weakness, but shows of strength. It is such strength, this love of self, that gets us through painful situations, even if at that time we childishly believe that all love is lost.

In hindsight, love isn't something that can be taken away or diminished entirely. Love is within us and is the flame that keeps the fire - us - going, always.

Written by Belinda Pearce

Thursday, December 24, 2015

What If?

An insight into the mind of a first-time migrant

There I sat, in a buzzing hairdressing salon one week before Christmas, staring silently at my own reflection. I was privy to the erratic movement and chatter of the clients and staff around me, but all were blurred in slow motion as I contemplated my immediate future.

A wonderfully appropriate nineties playlist echoed through the speakers in the ceiling above. I ebbed in and out of consciousness, my reflection intermittently appearing as if I were looking through the lens of a camera drifting in and out of focus. When I wasn’t lost in the evocative lyrics of songs like 4 Non Blondes’ ‘What’s Up?’ and Eagle Eye Cherry’s ‘Save Tonight’, I found myself mulling over feelings of frustration and situational isolation.

“Migration is exciting, exciting, exciting!” so anyone who has never migrated internationally will tell you. Migration, particularly for the first time, is scary as all hell. Yes, there are many attractive elements - the promise of adventure, opportunities, and immersion into a culture other than your own which brings with it an abundance of exciting experiences. Inevitable though are the insecurities and uncertainties that are all encompassing in that final month before departure.

While the psychological adjustment is a major part of migration, so too is the time consuming process of ensuring all paperwork and legalities are checked off before leaving the homeland. Unfortunately, this list is continuous and will not see completion until the day of departure (if you’re lucky).

As I mentally checked off my own ‘to do’ list, the nineties music persisted as a suitable soundtrack to my current mindset. While Deep Blue Something's 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' left me lamenting lost time with someone special, the uplifting lyrics of New Radicals' 'You Get What You Give' reminded me of my own willingness and tenacity to succeed in a foreign country; this song, in that very moment, was the life jacket to provide buoyancy while preventing me from drowning in the sea of stress I’d ultimately succumb to.

A hairdresser pulled at my strands as I sat in the obnoxiously large black chair, the intense heat of the hairdryer blowing heavily upon my face as she frantically brushed at my scalp. I used this ironic moment of solitude to introspect upon the multitude of uncertainties clouding the forefront of my mind. They ranged from the deeply personal to the highly trivial – there seemed to be no in-between. I mulled over my growing list of ‘what ifs’ until my frenetic mind had reached an unexpected level of clarity…
  • What if my money isn't accessible in the UK upon arrival?
  • What if I accidentally leave essential paperwork in Australia?
  • What if I’m not paid on time?
  • What if I can't work out the bus schedules to and from school? What if I’m late on my first day?
  • What if I can't handle the cold, English winter?
  • What if I can't find an affordable gym close to home and the lack of exercise drives me mad?
  • What if I can't find my favourite vegetables in abundance? Will my healthy diet suffer?
  • What if I can’t afford wifi?
  • What if I don't like my apartment, or I have bad neighbours?
  • What if he’s ‘the one that got away’?
  • What if I’d never misunderstood the sudden distance? Will I always wonder what could have been?
  • What if he never really cared in the first place?
  • What if my mum cries at the airport? What if I do too?
  • What if someone in my family gets sick? How will I possibly take care of them from the other side of the world?
  • What if my siblings forget about me? Will they become accustomed to life without a (present) big sister? What if they’re ok with that?
  • What if my beloved dog passes away while I'm overseas? How will he know that I never, ever stopped loving him? Will he know that I miss kissing him above the eyes and tickling his chin?
  • What if my Nan thinks I've forgotten about her because I can't afford to call? Why won't she get the Internet already?
  • What if I go weeks or months without so much as a hug?
  • What if I can't stand my new school?
  • What if my students can't stand me?
  • What if I feel incompetent, and the U.K. curriculum reads like jibberish?
  • What if I like him more than he likes me?
  • What if New Year’s Eve doesn’t go as planned, or it is cancelled altogether?
  • What if his opinion of me changes? 
  • What if my friends and I miss each other terribly? 
  • What if we don’t? Will I make new friends?

  • What if I'm unable to save money because the cost of living is too high?
  • What if my worry is in vain and I love the U.K., never wishing to return to Australia?
  • What if I forget all about New York City, and end up regretting it later in life?
  • What if leaving for London was the best decision I ever made?

Despite the ‘what ifs’, my conscience is resolute in deciding to leave Australia for the United Kingdom; this is the right move for right now.

While the underlying anxiety that comes with first-time migration cannot be avoided, the element of excitement deep within will certainly allow it to gradually subside. Wembley Stadium rock concerts await my arrival, as does Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (and the 400th Anniversary celebration). The pop culture convention I’ll be working in February will undoubtedly provide me with stories for my friends back home, whereas the cobblestone streets I'll photograph and the castles I'll explore will feed my sense of wanderlust tenfold.

The bold decision to migrate may have started as a flight response to a frustrating breakup, and the journey has indeed been time consuming and emotionally trying, but the rewards I am yet to reap are lifelong and highly complemented by my determination to make the most of what’s yet to come.

By Belinda Pearce