Category Archives: Minitrue

Bulletins from the Ministry of Truth

Living in a viral world

Oh Monday, Monday, Monday, I think somebody has been telling you lies. You see it’s not November yet, it’s July. My thoughts on the charcoal grey wet invasion at the beginning of this week, definitely not the stuff that make a summer’s day. On my way to the theatre after work, I kept my sanity by listening to Grace Jones. Her tune ‘Walking in the Rain’ played in my ear as I was trying to manoeuvre along the road, avoiding splash-back by angry car drivers. Ironically, I was going to see the first show in this year’s Shiny New Festival at the home of fringe, the Lantern Theatre, Liverpool. Yet, the only thing shiny so far was the petroleum puddles on the potholed roads.

I love the graffiti that springs up around Liverpool and I was greeted by some simple Liverpudlian philosophy at the top of Bold Street that did force a smile on my frowning face.

TV Rots Yer Head

I don’t really watch a lot of television preferring to try and catch live events. The Lantern is a venue that delivers experimental, provocative and – most importantly – entertaining theatre. Thankfully, the atmosphere inside the venue that night was a hell of a lot brighter than the weather. The Lantern was buzzing and rammed full of people. Good theatre is at its best when it is relevant and rooted in the now. The festival’s opener was such a piece. Follow/Unfollow by Andrew Rimmer and directed by Pete Mitchelson chronicles the onscreen, off-screen antics of a plastic internet sensation.

Ryan Marten

Shallow vlogger Ryan Marten has a legion of dedicated fans from his social media feed, playing on his looks rather than talent. His manager, Dee, wants to make a new star of thoughtful fan Chloe, who is tired of Ryan’s sponsorship deals. The trouble is Chloe never sought fame. The hour-long play is an tense analysis of the annoying and vapid Ryan. Young fan Chloe grows to believe that she has more to offer and we witness her transformation from angry teenager to something else.

Viral fame, I would not wish it on my worst enemy!

Ryan Marten as himself reminded me of Peter Andre, for he had the same air of self-importance as that ‘star’. An excellent character portrayal that radiated a narcissistic self-love that was disgusting and ridiculous. The play opens with three screens on a bare stage, playing a montage of clips from the famed vlogger’s YouTube post. Placing the screens in isolation, out of the usual environment you would find them in, emphasises the crassness and absurdity of the clips. A techno triptych that highlights the fact the video footage is actually rubbish. When the clips are played back-to-back on a loop it is somewhat torturous. Exactly how I feel having to watch X Factor or any of the other reality TV nonsense.

The fusion of live action and prerecorded clips of Ryan – and his sycophantic fans, the Rylos – is used economically throughout and emphasises the stark difference between reality and online representations of the self. Around 20 years ago, the acclaimed writer, Dennis Potter saw the dangers of the public and the private blurring into one,

The mind and the culture, increasingly dominated, in a sociological sense by a widening technology, increasing media activity, the possibility of the public and the private collapsing into each other and of the public being defined entirely in commercial terms? It represents a really advanced shift in human culture. There was a time when you could shut out that world simply by shutting your front door, but of course that’s no longer even remotely the case.

– Potter on Potter, 1993.

What is interesting in this play is how it captures the need for validation and how easy people can become, as my brother puts it, a ‘like whore’: someone who only posts status updates to see how many likes are generated. With the disease of modern celebrity that vomits up the Kadarshians and Jordan, I do find myself yearning for old-school Hollywood Glamour, mystique and class, like that possessed by Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Katherine Hepburn. People who worked damn hard to earn their fame and to keep it. French icon Catherine Deneuve commented recently at Cannes,

There are no longer any stars, It’s the social networks that prevent people from dreaming any more about stars. Their private life is displayed constantly on social networks; and some even post private pictures of themselves. I find it a pity. Being a star entails glamour and secrecy; it’s hard to keep a degree of mystery nowadays.

Follow/Unfollow is an uncomfortable piece to watch as the world depicted is a mirror to the society we inhabit. A world of connectivity that allows us to reach people all over the world, but as much as it makes it a smaller place, the distance between people and reality is becoming increasingly bigger.

The Shiny New Festival runs until 2 August.
Follow/Unfollow will transfer to The Space@Surgeons Hall Theatre 2: 24-29 August 1.00 pm, Edinburgh

Follow/Unfollow by Andrew Rimmer.
Directed by Pete Mitchelson.
Starring Jay Podmore, Leanne Martin and Lily Shepherd.
With Ryan Marten as himself.

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Hitler is back – and going viral!

Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes

look who's back

In a world where absolutely ridiculous media nincompoops like Katie Hopkins can make a career out of being a sensationalist fascist and are lauded with too, too much media attention, it is hard not to imagine that the plot of the novel Look Who’s Back is anything but highly plausible.

When I have to come up with a solution to a particularly cumbersome problem, I often ask myself,

What would David Bowie do?
What would Kate Bush do?
What would Madonna do?

Rarely, do I think what would Adolf Hitler do? Yet this is exactly what Timur Vermes has done. The resulting piece of fiction is darkly humorous, subtly frightening and deeply disturbing.

It is summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. He is recognised of course, but not as the original blueprint of sadism, instead as being a flawless impersonator, a method actor who refuses to break character. Soon Hitler in all his ‘fuhr-ocity’ goes viral on YouTube and the madman is given his own television show. Disturbingly, the more outrageous his sentiments, the more he is given media attention.

I know Shirley Bassey is not a philosopher but she was ever so right when she sang,

It’s just a little piece of history repeated.

The story abruptly commences with the fascist dictator re-awakening in Germany and immediately thrusts the Fuhrer into the modern jungle that is Berlin. He is outraged and disgusted that his beloved Fatherland is now being run by a female of the species.

The German Reich appeared to have given way to what was called a ‘Federal Republic,’ the leadership of which resided with a woman (‘Federal Chancellor’), although men had been entrusted with this position in the past.

The changes to contemporary society and Adolf’s take on them are laugh out loud amusing. Everything from Starbucks coffee to fashion,

He had brought me a clean pair of blue cotton trousers, which he called ‘genes’, and a clean red-checked cotton shirt.

To mobile phone ringtones,

Which sounded like a drunken clown playing the xylophone.

And of course there is the pint-sized psychopath’s musings on modern technology,

The time, the stock prices of the American dollar, the temperature of the remotest corners of the earth-oblivious to all this; the announcer carried on broadcasting news of world events. It was as if the information were being retrieved from a lunatic asylum. And as if these nonsensical antics were not enough, interruptions for advertisements, as frequent as they were abrupt, declared where the cheapest holiday could be obtained, a claim, a large number of shops made in the same way. No sane person would be capable of remembering the names of these outlets, but they all belonged to a group called www.

Lest we forget, in the past people used to smoke at work, they could puff away at their desks (I thank re-runs of Colombo for this history lesson) and also drink whisky in meetings. With this in mind, it is understandable why such modern civic practices like picking up domestic pets faeces (or doggy caramel as I call it), would look positively absurd;

Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a madwoman on the edge of the park who was gathering up what her dog had just deposited.

I think what is clever about this book is it has an almost fearless approach to a taboo subject. It is controversial, and quite timely, in that it really underlines the problems and vulgarity of fame. A society that sees plastic celebrity worshipped above all else. Who cares if you have a talent unless you look younger than you did when you were in the womb? A little bit (or a lot) of a fascist? That’s okay as long as you get the ratings, conquer the Twitter stream and grapple with the Facebook likes.

This piece of literature was first published in Germany, ‘Er ist wider da‘ and is now parading the shelves of book stores in the rest of Europe. A tale that will have the Fuhrer’s ghost haunting you long after you have read it.

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A Late Quartet

It is easy to feel adrift on a tide of mediocrity at times. Easy to heed the words of Oscar Wilde when he said, ‘everything popular is wrong,’ and feel that he had a little premonition of the reality shows, song and dance competitions and CGI mega-franchises we would be enduring.

But then you happen across something so perfect for you and your tired sensibilities that you wonder what the heck the marketing department were thinking in not making the particular work obvious to you at the time it was released. Why on earth did you not know that this film existed until accidentally flicking on to it one grey afternoon almost three years after it was made? So you do a bit of internet digging and realise that there was quite the publicity round and you must have had your head in the sand to miss it.


The quartet of the title comprises Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, Mark Ivanir and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a world-renowned group marking their 25th anniversary with a performance of Beethoven’s Opus 131 String Quartet in C-sharp major. It is a famously difficult and complex piece of music, which makes great demands on the players. Preparations are interrupted as Walken’s character, a father figure to the others, announces he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. This shock news brings professional rivalries long suppressed to the surface and, as the marriage of Keener and Hoffman’s characters begins to unravel, no member of this de facto family can remain untouched by the conflict.


It is unashamedly high-brow and I suspect will reward many further viewings. The act of playing this music is a physical and mental challenge closer to what we more commonly associate with Olympic competitors. The effects of such dedication to a craft on professional and personal relationships, on family life and on the body itself – especially as it begins to age – are considered to a depth that Hollywood is often considered incapable of reaching. The women could have been defined by their relationships to the men, with Keener in particular playing daughter, wife, mother and former lover, but she is also a committed professional woman and the one trusted to carry the quartet on.

Although this film is rooted in music and the lives of musicians, there is a lot to compare with other creators, as the actors found.

‘I thought of him as papa,’ Walken said of Peter. ‘I also thought of him as an actor. And especially it all came together in that way at the end, standing on the stage, it might as well have been in a play.’

Hoffman agreed.

I know some actors, they know how to have their life, they can compartmentalise it in a way. But me, things kind of go to pot while I’m doing a show… I think that’s also to me what the film was about. Again, it takes something from you to give on that kind of level. To commit that much. What are you willing to risk? What kind of life are you willing to lead to have that? For any serious person doing this, I think that is a question you have to answer. Or at least know that it’s a question.

If those words are a punch to your gut, knowing of their speaker’s end, his performance here will leave you aching for the loss of him.


The lengths that the director, Yaron Zilberman, went to to have the performances look realistic are another act of dedication spurred by his love of music, and while professional musicians may not be totally convinced, with my admittedly amateur eyes it was possible to believe in the quartet’s abilities.


This is a beautiful film, moving around a snowy New York from rehearsal space to concert hall and auction house, with clever, well-conceived things to say about family and performance and living. The characters brought to life by an acting dream team, who are never less than a joy to watch. The effort spent in searching out work of this quality is rewarded by being able to spend time in the world it creates, the viewer leaves it reluctantly, but with plenty to think about.

Christopher Walken in A Late Quartet

As Walken’s character notes, when passing on advice he was given as a younger man to a group of music students:

I can be grateful, and so must you be… for even one singular phrase, one transcendent moment

And I am.

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Rainbow Screen

Joan Burnett has been a Trustee of Liverpool Pride since 2010 and is part of team that runs Pride at the Pictures as well as Trustee with responsibility for the Liverpool Pride volunteer team. Joan has worked in arts organisations for more than 25 years including the Everyman Theatre, Nottingham Playhouse, TATE Liverpool, LIPA and, for the last 12 years, FACT. She has a love affair with film, theatre and visual art. She firmly believes that these should be made accessible for as many people as possible.

Pride at the Pictures is all about participation! We want to make more people aware of the brilliant LGBT films that are out there and get as many people writing about them and coming to see them as possible. Anyone can write for us as long as they care about LGBT cinema – academic or not, humorous or not, our blog and database are there for everyone to get involved.

We also want to raise the profile of LGBT cinema with venues across our region and get LGBT cinema into as many mainstream venues as we can. We have support from two great cinemas already, Picturehouse@FACT in Liverpool and The Light in New Brighton and would like to see more venues join us.

ten minutes hate caught up with Joan in FACT Liverpool to discover her cultural passions.

Joan Burnett

What is your favourite piece of art?

I can’t choose just one artwork!

I love colour so probably something by one of the Scottish Colourists – I love the fact that these artists brought continental flare to early 20th century Edinburgh. They have been dismissed as merely decorative by some but I think that is to underestimate their power – I’m going to go with Cloud and Sky, Iona by S J Peploe as I love the Scottish islands and could dream away looking at this all day.

Alternatively, I would have one of Ben Youdan’s fab artworks – I really love the ones he has made based on diagrams of human organs – they are strangely moving – they definitely have a heart beat and Ben’s work is always provocative.

clouds and sky iona peploe

Music to dance to?

Hercules and Love Affair – I got into them through Anthony Johnson as I love his voice and then realised they had far more going on. It’s quite chunky to dance to. And then, ABBA of course!

A piece of Architecture that pleases you?

My favourite modern architecture in Liverpool would have to be the Everyman Theatre – it’s a triumph. It works beautifully as a theatre space, its fun and functional and I love the Portrait Wall the frieze of local people – it’s a brilliant touch and reminds everyone that arts organisations are all about PEOPLE!

A book you cannot put down?

Anything by Marilynne Robinson who I think is the greatest living American novelist. My favourite is Home, which is about families and the compromises they make, the misunderstandings they have and our capacity to learn and adapt.

A website that you visit frequently?

BBC! I love the BBC which I think is one of the two greatest things the UK has ever produced, the other being the NHS. Obviously, the other one is Pride at the Pictures, our participatory project all about LGBT film.

Favourite films? You can pick three.

Only 3?

Desert Hearts
Distant Voices, Still Lives

All films that have people’s inner experience of themselves and of change at the core and continue to move me even though I have seen them all many times.

Who do you admire?

Marie & Michael Causer Snr and Gee Walker for being so generous and open-hearted in the face of such heartbreak. To lose their sons in such horrible circumstances would crush most people, but they have risen above it and given a huge amount to people on Merseyside. They are a constant inspiration to me.

distant voices still lives

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Staunch supporters?

As you may have noticed from a recent post, ten minutes hate is aware there is an election on the horizon. And while this half of the writing team is quite relieved to be on the opposite side of the world from all the fuss, behind the scenes emails have been flying about the thorny topic of who, if anyone, to support.

My colleague, Mr Maguire, was threatening to make his decision after reading all the major parties’ manifestos. For which endeavour we must surely thank him. I can think of quite a few better ways to spend time in a favourite reading chair. Fortunately, for those of us without that level of dedication, the internet is here to save the day.

I Side With will ask you an array of questions – the answers to which can be very nuanced if you so choose – you aren’t hampered by binary responses. Then it will tell you the party that matches your views on the issues you hold dearest.

Now I would have considered myself a very disillusioned former Labour supporter. I could list everything they have done since those heady days of 1997, but like any break up, what would be the point? These days I think of them, if at all, like an ex whose number flashes onto your phone’s screen as you quietly put it down onto the table, walk into the kitchen and put the kettle on. Whatever the Labour Party had to say, I wasn’t in the mood for listening.

So imagine my surprise to finish the quiz and be told I am 84% Labour! I doubt even Ed Balls gets that much… About as Labour as it is possible to be and still I thought they weren’t worth the candle. It is almost as if there is an agenda to keep the focus on the awkwardness of Ed Miliband and away from his party’s policies. Imagine!

In a way though, the sheer abundance of ‘Ed Miliband looking daft’ photos that exist is heartwarming proof that the ruthless media operation of the Blair-Brown era has finally been laid to rest. Alistair Campbell would have ripped the still-beating heart out of any picture editor who even contemplated publishing this:

Miliband cuppa

… and there are many more examples.

Still, this focus on the leaders is itself very-unBritish. We don’t have a Presidential system, so unless you live in Doncaster North you are not actually able to vote for the poor man in the picture above. (Who among us can say that they have never suffered via an unstable cup and saucer?)

Suaver media presences have had their hands on the wheel since 2010 and look where that has got us. Simply put, we cannot let PR guy Cameron and his millionaires club cronies win again. In the words of a family member:

Public services will not survive another Tory Government.

There is now little left to cut.

As in 1945, when a vote for Labour was a vote for the NHS, so it is this time. Have Labour been awful in the past? Yep. Are they led by a guy who struggles with basic chinaware? You betcha. Am I going to vote for them anyway, in a fit of hope over experience? Yes, I am and I think you should seriously contemplate it too. The NHS needs us.

More from Mr Maguire, to follow when he has read all those manifestos…


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A bloody canvas

Pierre Lemaitre was awarded the 2013 Crime Writers’ Association International Dagger for his first outing in crime fiction, Alex.

pierre lemaitre

The follow-up, Irene, sees Commandant Camille Verhoeven – his dwarf hero and main protagonist – married and about to become a father. His life is a long sought after one of ease. The story opens with a murder of unprecedented savagery. The author is unrelenting in his description of the macabre crime scene. This is not a spoiler alert but a warning to the squeamish amongst readers.

When they arrive at a crime scene, rookie officers unconsciously look around for death. Experienced officers look for life. But there was no life here; death had leached into every space, even the bewildered eyes of the living.

The French writer paints a picture and it is a gore-ridden massacre, not so much on a small detailed canvas, more of a bold brash bloody mural. The killer’s signature style is to pay homage to the classic crime novels. The gutter press, one suspects the French equivalent of The Daily Fail or The Scum, quickly label him the Novelist.

The tale soon becomes a personal duel between Verhoeven and the sick murderer. It is a credit to translator Frank Wynne for he transfers this piece of writing from the French into a succinct and exceptionally well written piece of crime fiction.


What works about this gripping and intelligent story is the clever plot that weaves dark and comic scenes into a tapestry of realistic terror that surreptitiously wraps around the reader, attempting to choke. You share the sense of urgency with Camille and his team, to catch this serial psycho and stop him recreating tableaus from the pages of crime novels. It is an enthralling read and clearly written by a crime aficionado, as the author himself declares,

Since I owe almost everything I am to literature, it felt natural to begin by writing a novel which was a homage to crime fiction.

I recognised the first murder but could not think were from until informed it was from the cult classic, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis.


Le Maitre explains,

American Psycho was a tremendous shock to the reading public. Bret Easton Ellis raises so many moral questions with such intelligence, such skill. Though not considered a crime novel, this defining work deftly addresses readers’ ambiguity towards the very violence which is an essential, ‘pleasure’ of crime fiction. Yet many criticised the visceral brutality in American Psycho, as though the purpose of such fiction is to exercise our hyper-violent societies, but to remain within ‘reasonable limits’.

Simply, this is a pulp crime novel taken to another level. It does not leave a temporary fixture on the imagination, like some throwaway novels in this genre, so much as a dark imposing stain.

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Votes for the people, by the people

On the 27th January 2015 as I began to organise my thoughts for this piece, it was 100 days until the election. Already the bun fight has begun, cakes and pastries layered with shale gas, tuition fees, immigration and other issues. The word that seems to be repeatedly being used, issues, issues, issues. I often think it is like a schoolyard scrap, ‘My plans for the NHS are better than yours’, yada, yada, yada.

What appears to be lacking in this debate is a vital ingredient to credibility and that is authenticity. I do wish some of our politicians would take heed from the ancient poet Rumi,

If only people raised their words, instead of voice, it is rain that grows flowers not thunder.

Who to vote for at this stage is a decision of extreme difficulty. I am somewhat apathetic as I look at the parties and what they have to offer. Although I do know for certain one I am not and that is UKIP. I have no desire to be transported back to 1957.


As I drove across Yorkshire before Xmas, I was startled by the abundance of posters and paraphernalia associated with UKIP that I saw, a surreptitious malignancy that is growing. My friend drove me past rural picturesque scenes, I was immediately reminded of the scene in the magnificent film CABARET, where a young Aryan school boy in Nazi youth attire breaks out into song at a propaganda rally, Tomorrow Belongs to me.

Recently, I found myself in the jewel in the crown of Liverpool’s Bold Street, News From Nowhere. I can always guarantee finding a book that will stimulate my mind, feed my soul and challenge my way of thinking.

On this occasion, I found myself mulling over the political spectrum and how it is exceptionally difficult to see between the different policies, many of the parties seem to converge, with the deviations being unseen by the untrained naked eye. It used to be a simple battle of red versus blue, but now it is not so straightforward.

Yet people are hungry for change, for something more. I do not in any way want to start to sound like Russell Brand. I have always thought of that man as a ‘Brand’. Brand by name and Brand by nature. I still have not forgiven him for recreating the fabulous role of Arthur in the same titled film, ingeniously played by Dudley Moore, in the same way I will never forgive Nicholas Cage for remaking The Wicker Man.

So, on this charcoal grey January day, I stumbled upon a little book of wit that was published in 2010 by Mark Thomas, The People’s Manifesto. The author toured the country to find out what people really wanted out of their elected government in 2009. The book evolved from a live show and I think it is worth reading to stimulate the current political debate. Re-awaken your voting animal!

If we can just cast our minds back to 2009, the world was in the middle of an economic crisis. Banks and countries collapsed, only to then be rewarded generously for the mess of their own making. Thomas asked audiences from all over the country to voice their ideas for policies. He was working on the basis that most people often proclaim that they could run the country. The eclectic mixed bag of written forms were sifted through and then the audiences would vote on the ones that they would like to see put down into the manifesto. The result is this witty, satirical – and often surreal – call to arms.

Some of the policies are exceptionally practical. I particularly liked the proposal to cure the world from the rise of body dysmorphic disorder:


I was pleased to see that one law has actually been executed, IT SHOULD BE LEGAL FOR GAY COUPLES TO GET MARRIED. After all homosexual couples should suffer the same as married heterosexual couples, it is only just!

As mentioned, some of the laws declared are downright surreal: I do not own a dog and although doggy poop or doggy caramel as I often call it, (to try to detract from the harsh reality of canine roughage) on pavements does anger me, I feel this particular point is somewhat sadistic.


After seeing too, too many pictures in the newspapers of the elderly battered and bruised by muggers, perhaps this next rule is one that may act as a deterrent:


That would cause some surprise to hapless crooks.

There is lots of press at the moment about the minimum wage and zero hours contracts, so I do think that to state THERE SHOULD BE A MAXIMUM WAGE seems fair. Certain points make perfect sense, EVERYONE SHOULD BE GIVEN THE DAY OFF ON THEIR BIRTHDAY. If you think about it even an atheist is given the day of for Jesus’ supposed birthday, one for his death and one for the David Blaine-like trick of coming back from the dead.

My particular favourites in the manifesto are those that the author quite rightly highlights,

…are they really suggesting that managing a banking crisis, a recession, mass unemployment and a massive national debt of around 200 billion doesn’t require their full attention.

And then there is another,


I have had an innate disliking for the newspaper the Daily Fail for a long time so it was refreshing to discover my gut instinct was right. One of the papers original founders was an anti-Semite who visited Herr Hitler on several occasions and thought the little ball of fury was misunderstood! Lord Rothermere excused the stories of Nazi violence as exaggerated. Therefore, it seems only correct that:


Whilst on the subject of fascists, I liked the suggestion that ANYONE FOUND GUILTY OF A HOMOPHOBIC HATE CRIME SHALL SERVE THEIR SENTENCE IN DRAG.

I think Putin would look fabulous with a Dame Edna-esque purple rinse and a Gucci dress, being forced to sing From Russia With Love.


This Manifesto is required reading and works well with a good dosage of the only newspaper worth looking at, Private Eye. I find this satirical rag is also a great way to get a handle on a political story.

Mark Thomas’ The People’s Manifesto is an antidote to the acidic political debate that we are going to see more of until Election Day.

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