Glenn Chandler discusses his love of theatre


Glenn Chandler is the creator and director of chilling new tale, The Lamplighters, being performed at the Tabard Theatre this month. Having spent years writing for television with his successful crime drama Taggart, he has now turned his hand to fringe theatre. Here he explains to us why he enjoys the freedom that the theatre allows him.


Could you explain what The Lamplighters is about?

It’s an old fashioned murder mystery with a different edge to it. It’s largely about obsession. It is a story about three former detectives who failed to solve a rather sensational murder case, and how their obsession with the case has gradually taken its toll upon their lives and ends up destroying them.

What themes does the play explore?

It’s a tale of revenge, obsession and dark deeds in the wild Cumbrian hills. It’s not really a whodunit as such. It explores miscarriages of justice; it says a few things about the justice system in this country.

Why is the play called The Lamplighters?

It was originally called “The Lamplighter”, but I thought: no, it makes more sense if there are two of them. It is to do with the mysterious legend of two lights seen luring people to their deaths. There are strange tales of lights leading travellers to their deaths across moors. In the play one of the suspects was lured to his death in a dark, cold, mysterious tarn by two lamps that he saw hanging over the water – hence The Lamplighters.

You have focussed on crime fiction a lot in your previous work (Taggart). What are your inspirations?

I have never done anything on crime on the stage before, it was all television. I’ve always been fascinated by what happens to people after a murder case, especially when a murder goes unsolved for years and people start wrestling over who did it and whether the killer will ever be found. I was interested in exploring the obsessions people have with unsolved murders. That’s certainly the angle I wanted to explore with this play.

Do you find it difficult to maintain suspense in your work?

Yes it is always difficult! You find yourself looking back a little bit and thinking: was that too obvious? Even now there are bits that are very obvious to me. But people don’t guess it – I haven’t had anybody yet say they guessed it in the first act. It does play very fair with audiences because the clues are planted along the way if one cares to pick them up!

Do you get nervous watching the show for the first time with an audience?

Yes I do. I get less nervous as it goes along. I get very nervous on press nights, hoping that things go right! I think we had a very good night. The Book of Mormon opened on the same night and we were still packed to the gunnels!

I go to every show in the first week because it’s good to keep an eye on it but there comes a moment when you have to hand it over to the actors. You have to let go of it after a while and move on to other things, which I am doing!

Why did you choose the hills of Cumbria as the setting?

I had a holiday up there and I wandered around the hills and thought this was a good place. It was very misty. All of the places mentioned in the story actually exist!

Have you worked with any of the cast before?

No, the only person I had worked with was Will Hunter, my stage manager. He worked with me on The Custard Boys but the cast were all completely new. It’s nice to work with a new cast! Sometimes it’s too easy to work with old casts.

Do you have a favourite play that you have seen recently?

Yes, I was very impressed with Bully Boy, which was on at the St James Theatre. It had Anthony Andrews playing a soldier accused of crimes committed in Iraq and I was just blown away by it. It just goes to show what you can do in a theatre with two actors, two chairs and a table. It was an amazing production! I’m very impressed by stuff like that.

Do you prefer writing for television or theatre, and why?

I worked on television for many, many years and when you come up with new ideas for television now it takes so much time to get anything off the ground. Television doesn’t take as many risks anymore. It has to be risk-free, whereas with fringe theatre you can take big risks and try new things: that is why I love the theatre!

What do you have planned next?

I have two shows planned: Killers is a one act play about serial killers and has actors playing the parts of Ian Brady, Dennis Nilsen, and Peter Sutcliffe. It’s all to do with the letters that serial killers receive from people out in the world. The play is adapted from the correspondence of Brady, Sutcliffe and Nilsen. I am taking that to the Edinburgh festival this year. I’m also directing Sandel and taking it to Edinburgh. That was a beautiful novel published in 1968. It’s now completely out of print – it costs about £400 to buy a paperback version. It’s set in Oxford in the 60s and about the relationship between a 19 year-old Oxford undergraduate and a young choir boy. It’s a beautiful love story but it will create quite a bit of controversy in the climate of today!

Anne x


Bianco stages an edgy twist on circus at the Roundhouse


Watching the performers swing lithely between the white towers of Firenza Guidi’s Bianco, one marvels at the tremendous feats the human body can perform. Loosely narrated in a cacophony of languages, around the travels undertaken in Jose Saramago’s The Elephant’s Journey, the audience is invited to travel through the visceral stages of NoFit State Circus’s exploration of the heart.

The imposing towers filling the Roundhouse (which works wonderfully as a big-top) are rarely stationary, twisting and turning, dependent upon the mood of the live band raucously accompanying the troupe’s contortions upon the scaffolding. There are moments of savage, frenetic energy involving the entire crew. There is a hectic lack of symmetry and refusal to conform to muted formality – this is what makes the show work so perfectly: a dark and edgy twist upon modern conventional circus.

Also marvelous are the familial, trusting relationships that exist between the cast. They fit together as splendidly as the shifting poles in this ever-evolving set. Although entirely dependent on one another, their individuality and rugged charisma is charming. We have a muscular yet vulnerable long-haired Tarzan flying around the room, making it look so effortless that you yearn to fly there beside him. We also have a gasp-inducing, burlesque tightrope that involves the divesting of all fakery and clothes followed by an impossible version of the splits.

NoFit State prides itself on valuing the traveler way of life: uninhibited, always on the move and maintaining a rough-and-ready community. Importantly, the company work symbiotically as (be warned!) they leap above, behind and all around. The standing audience becomes part of this living organism and you are sure to encounter hair-raising moments as you are physically manipulated around the room by these wild architects of fun.

There are moments of tranquil beauty intermixed with delightful chaos. Women glide above the audience in heavenly prisms of swirling fronds of glitter, and a picturesque rope dancer is elevated to the ceiling in a floor length white gown while scarlet rose petals cascade around her. The impact is stunning.


Nothing is more spectacular than the finale: the entire crowd is bathed in confetti as Sage Cushman writhes like a tangled snowflake above. As the show ends the troupe drag you into the centre and engage you in crazed dancing as whirlwinds of snow descend around you: Bianco indeed.

Our Rating: ****

Anne x

David Yarrow’s Recent Encounters at Eleven Gallery

David Yarrow’s photographs are striking images revealing creatures in their native habitats, in which power resonates from their eyes. Yarrow ventured to extreme environments to capture the wonderful juxtapositions that exist throughout the natural world. A photographer for nearly 30 years, his new book Encounters explores, in monochrome, an assortment of wildlife and its cohabitants, including elephants, polar bears, macaques and tribal warriors.

d. Yarrow-WhiteoutWandering through this black and white space you are drawn to the contrast Yarrow has created. There are images of polar bears trudging in the distance through a bleached out snowy background (Whiteout); the effect is so stark they could have been sketched into existence

David-Yarrow-Grumpy-Monkey-3_646x430This juxtaposes with some of Yarrow’s other works, which are so visually close to creatures you can see every pore. Grumpy Monkey, of the same endearing (but humorous) quality, is a lot more focused: droplets of water hang from his fur and his eyes look at you askance.

d. Yarrow-ElementalThe most textured of all the photographs must be Elemental. Almost uncomfortable in its proximity, the elephant’s weathered trunk looks as though you could reach out and touch it.

David__Yarrow_Omo_Warrior_582There is a general feeling of safety versus discomfort in the exhibition. One is relaxed, gazing at delightful images of apes mirroring grumpy human expressions – and yet turn across the room, and other photographs expose the harsh reality of life in the wild. Omo Warrior is shocking in its brutality: a tribesman submerged in water casually clutches a gun, and stares at you, unabashed. His eyes tell of a world Western society could not begin to understand. Covered in tribal paint, you can see even the tiny hairs on his chest.

d.Yarrow-The-Revealing-RaceThis is the closest most will come to warrior life in the wilds of East Africa. Here, Yarrow’s desire to involve his audience is most apparent.

This is not all Yarrow has achieved; his meticulous planning has meant he has been able to create affecting images that are almost unreal.

d Yarrow-WildThe beautiful Wild looks like it belongs in fantasy literature, with an elegant horse frolicking beneath the crashing waves of a waterfall. One expects to see a Tolkienian character astride its back. This awe-inspiring photo is sublime in its scope – and how different from the minutiae of the rough and piercing-eyed warrior! Recent Encounters is wonderful in its diverse depiction, showing that nature can be both harsh and beautiful in its sublimity.

Our verdict: *****

Anne x

Favourite Works of Art (part 1)

I’ve wanted to write a blog post about my favourite art for a while. I finally sat down today and made a little list, which you will see below:

picture 1

Self Portrait by Picasso (1901)

picture 2

Girl in a Chemise by Picasso (1905)

picture 3

Starry Night Over the Rhone by Van Gogh (1888)

picture 4

Peach Tree in Blossom by Van Gogh (1888)

picture 5

Branches with Almond Blossom by Van Gogh (1890)

picture 6

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt (1907)

picture 7

The Lady of Shallot by J.W. Waterhouse (1888)

What I didn’t realise, or at least had forgotten from the hazy days of A-level art, is that my favourite paintings all seem to be of the 1880 – 1907 period, which is (no, you’ve probably not guessed it, unless you did English with me at Leeds – like Anne), coincidentally, the fin de siècle, i.e. my favourite literary period. I’m pretty spooked by this. Maybe I have forgotten a lot of my art knowledge (which I like to think is at least reasonable – my parents are both artists, I loved art at school, and I did History of Art in my first year of university), but I think this is massively odd – I wasn’t as into literature when I was at school as I am now, and when I went to university, I didn’t have as much time for art – so I honestly haven’t connected the two in much of a way until now.

As I’ve already gone into, the fin de siècle is the bit at the end of the eighteenth century when people got frightened about the passing of time and basically freaked out about things like illness, religion, disease, crime, decadence, and the general downwards spiral of society. Literature took a creepy, dark turn, resulting in some of the best gothic books ever written (think Oscar Wilde and Thomas Hardy). In terms of my favourite paintings, I can see the same themes! There are depressed, blue tones in Picasso and Van Gogh, there are tragic women in Waterhouse and Picasso, and there are tons of gold and opulence in Klimt. My favourite things in art, be it literature or painting, are all present – women with a story to tell, the eery gothic, and the extravagance of gold and jewels.


Rosie x

Oblivion – Film review

Director Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion is visually spectacular. Barely a second goes by without explosions or dramatic scenes of a war-torn earth. This world, originally created in Kosinski’s mind as a graphic novel, hasn’t been inhabited by humans for sixty years due to an alien invasion. Sweeping vistas of destruction reveal why Jack (Tom Cruise) and his colleague Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) have taken to the skies for safety. It is from their cloudy haven that they attempt to fix drones sent out to recover mankind.

oblivion-cruiseShielded from the pandemonium below, they exist in a sterile environment, reminiscent of a floating iPad, pure white and meticulously clean. Jack’s romantic gesture of flowers is met with disgust at the toxins it could pollute their false utopia with. If this is an attempt at infusing Cruise’s character with charisma then it’s lacklustre. Kosinski’s aim was to keep his cast small, yet in between the fight scenes we never feel empathy. One feels no compassion for the characters even when their lives are in danger. This lack of depth means they are as anonymous and unlikeable as the mechanical drones that are constantly buzzing across our retinas.

The film is awash with technology, a forever gun-toting Cruise has a plethora of gadgets: spaceships, motorbikes, heat sensors. The filmmakers seem keen to stuff the film full of high-tech apparatus. This is a case of Cruise doing what Cruise does best: the all-American posturing hero, and unsurprisingly for an American disaster movie, despite the entire world being desecrated by aliens (resembling futuristic orcs), the only heart-wrenching memories of the pre-war world are of New York.

However, there are moments that thrill. Suspicion mounts as the audience are unable to lay their eyes on the fearsome Scav aliens for the first half. Fear of the unknown is not to be underestimated in sci-fi! Also be prepared for a tumultuous turn when Morgan Freeman, a renegade earthling, turns Jack’s world upside down with his revelations.

Sadly the film relies heavily on cliches and one-liners designed to have impact: obviously his spaceship is called “Odyssey”, and of course Jack and his wife (Olga Kurylenko) talk of growing old together beside a beautiful lake. The dialogue is sparsely predictable. Sayings are drummed into us from the offset, such as Jack’s notion of “home”. This makes it tiresome when Cruise finally pronounces  “I’m Jack Harper and I’m home”.

Our rating: ***

Anne x

Like Someone in Love – Film review

like someone in loveWe meet Akiko, a student, in a crowded bar. Despite her wide-eyed innocence and childlike demeanor, we learn that belying this façade is a secret that Akiko is struggling to keep from her family, fiancé and fellow classmates. It is at night that we meet her, and it is by night that she is pushed into a world of high-class escorts in order to pay for her studies. By the next day, we discover she is pretending that she is in love with her fiancé, Noriaki, who is struggling to control her every move by brute force and utter manipulation.

Rin Takanashi’s moving portrayal of guilt at betraying her grandmother (standing her up to meet a client) means that she falls into a “Little Red Riding Hood” role. She fails to see her grandmother because she is led astray by her pimp Hiroshi. In this case the red symbolism of sexuality is portrayed by her slathering on of brash rouge lipstick.

The film title is based on an Ella Fitzgerald song. The audience first hears this playing when Akiko enters her elderly client and soon-to-be avuncular rescuer’s apartment. Although he has hired her as an escort, Takashi has laid out a romantic meal and seems more comfortable in the dining room, adorned with pictures of his dead wife, than the bedroom. The song becomes poignant as we realise that all the characters are trying desperately to go through the motions of being in love, when really it is just a means of ridding oneself of loneliness, gaining money, or control.

Abbas Kiarostami, part of the 1960s Iranian New Wave film movement, chose Tokyo as the second location he has used outside of his home country. Scenes are predominantly set in cars, with the capitalist cityscape swirling around his young protagonist, a girl from a rural village. Characters’ reactions are refracted, reflected and highlighted through the automobile’s windows. There is a large importance placed on boundaries: frames, doors, windscreens and mirrors all act as metaphors for the blockades the characters have built up. They also add to the realism of the film; objects get in the way, blocking our view, and sometimes it is not immediately obvious who is speaking. One becomes so used to the protection these boundaries give that it is all the more shocking when they finally come ambiguously crumbling down.

Our rating: ***

Anne x