Life Learnings of a Nonsensical Human by Jenny Foulds

Jenny Foulds has ADHD. She describes her brain as a messy bedroom. Clothes strewn all over the floor, she thinks she knows where everything is or does she? A ray of sunlight falls on the floor and for a fleeting moment, everything is in place.

Watching Jenny Fould’s play, Life Learnings of a Nonsensical Human, reminded me that life is for living. It is an, ode to joy and the complexities of friendship, queerness and raving. With great warmth Jenny looks back on her adolescence and early adulthood and explains how she came out. She remembers fondly conversations that about life, the world and the universe that you can only have at dawn after a heavy night.

She brings to life stories of sex, drugs and rock and roll with a lot of humour, tinged with sadness. She describes London as “Peter Pan land.” She says her family are “big characters with occasional loose morals.”

Jenny Foulds

When calamity strikes, she tries to befriend grief who silently watches her like a new friend. She describes herself as “un-get-able, I am a missing person… You are a message in a bottle trying to reach me.”

Jenny wants to invent a joy machine. Her play contains spoken word poetry and this ode is, to the kindness of strangers, to the heartbreak of loss and missing and finding joy in the most unlikely places. These poems are for old ravers and fun makers, for anyone who has had a best friend. This is a love letter to the sticky floors that we have danced on for all these years.

I thoroughly enjoyed Jenny Fould’s performance. She took me back to a 72 hour party I hosted with friends at University. Happy days. You can’t bottle joy and preserve it but you can be attentive to it, you can befriend it and savour it every time you glimpse it, fully alive, immersed in the moment.

Writer and performer Jenny Foulds says: “Life Learnings of a Nonsensical Human is an autobiographical adventure through my brain. My life so far. I once had a dream that I invented a machine that could find the joy in anything and the stories I tell all have an element of that through them.

“I started writing it long before my dad died last year and so the trajectory of it changed somewhat but even through grief, in the darkest moments so far, I managed to find joy in the most unlikely places and that’s what the show is about. I hope audiences can come and find some joy with me, whatever they are going through.”

Jenny Foulds (she/her) is a queer neurodiverse performance poet,writer and actress from Scotland. Jenny was the 2021 Scottish Poetry Slam Champion and was a finalist in the World Slam Championships in 2022, as well as being host and curator of the Brighton based spoken word night Rebel Soapbox.

As an actress Jenny Foulds was a series regular in Two Thousand Acres of Sky (BBC) and appeared in various TV and film roles including Rebus, Mandancin’, Taggart and The Debt Collector. She founded the street art blog Happy Graffiti, which later became a book published by Octopus Books in 2013. Life Learnings of a Nonsensical Human is her first solo show. Direction was excellent by Laura Mugridge.

You can follow Jenny Foulds on Twitter: @jennywithwords. Her show runs tonight, 25 May and 31 May at the Brunswick at 7pm before going to Edinburgh Festival. Don’t miss it.

Four stars ****

Bronte by Polly Teale

Bronte is a compelling play about the Bronte family – Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Bramwell, son of clergyman, Patrick Bronte. It’s about writing and why it matters, set between 1825 and 1855. The director, Nettie Sheridan, said: there are some difficult themes: “violence, sexual aggression, death, mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse.” Sheridan writes: “It has always been a mystery that these celibate, Victorian women, living in virtual isolation on the Yorkshire Moors, came to write some of the most passionate (even erotic) fiction of all time.”

For those of you who enjoyed reading Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, this play is a must see as the characters slip in and out of their novels. Three spinsters live with their elderly father in the Parsonage at Haworth, they appear self-contained and self-sufficient.

However, in each of them, hidden well beneath the surface, lies a tormented soul. Charlotte may be repressed. Emily is a free spirit and Anne takes longer to find her voice as the youngest child. Each of them writes about mental illness and the dark night of the soul with a perception that is ahead of their time and hardly based on their sheltered experience.

Bramwell, their wayward brother, might be the explanation. He is lost, bowed down by expectations as the only son, he is the only member of the family who glimpses freedom. Joseph Bentley plays this character with alacrity and he is responsible for most of the conflict in the play. Sibling rivalry, jealousy bordering on cruelty comes to a head during the play’s dramatic climax in the second half and it is unexpected. Bentley is a seasoned performer in the Brighton Little Theatre company with 24 shows under his belt. He has recently started directing productions.

Joanna Ackroyd acts as Charlotte Bronte and Jane Eyre. She has television credits and acted as mother in The Railway Children last summer for Brighton Little Theatre. Polly Jones brings her own approach to the character of Emily Bronte and Nelly Dean. She is very private, for her writing is catharsis. She does not seek acclaim and when Charlotte finds and reads some of her poetry, it feels like a betrayal. She is unaware of her own genius.

Lois Regan plays Anne Bronte who wrote The Tenant of Wildfell Hall which is a radical, revolutionary work and has been described as the first fully formed feminist novel, ahead of its time. Ella Jay Morley haunts the stage as Cathy and Bertha. She is enigmatic in her first production at Brighton Fringe.

Steven Adams is the long-suffering father of the Bronte siblings who quietly guides, comforts and prays for his outstanding offspring. Steven is very funny as Curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls.

You do not need to have read the Bronte’s prose or poetry to enjoy the play, although some familiarity with their work will add depth to the experience. The script, written by Polly Teale, is very well-crafted, if a little slow to start. It is excellent that Teale weaves the three great novels into the play with ease and accuracy in a true celebration of the Bronte literature. Direction by Nettie Sheridan is very good. The set is also interesting with feathers littering the stage, designed by Steven Adams.

I think this is an outstanding play that makes you dig deep into the depths of human experience and shows the power of writing and art to inspire, escape and comfort. At times, teetering on the edge of insanity, the Bronte sisters write erotically about the passions that make us human and how to manage them. The play has inspired me to read the Brontës’ timeless literature again and immerse myself in the ever-changing moods of the Yorkshire Moors. Do not miss this compelling production at Brighton Little Theatre.

Five stars *****

Hundreds of surfers against sewage gather to protest about sewage

At 11:30am yesterday morning, Saturday 20 May 2023, hundreds of paddle boarders from Surfers against Sewage and Brighton Explorers Club gathered to protest about sewage discharges into the sea.

Paddle boarders

Campaign manager from Surfers Against Sewage, Izzy Ross, said: “I am sick of water pollution. Water companies pumped sewage into the sea 400,000 times in the last year which is 820 times per day and 16,000 times in Brighton and Hove. They have failed to improve the sewage infrastructure, shareholders are swimming in millions while we are swimming in sewage. We are sick of sewage. We won’t stand for it anymore.”

Stuart Davies from Surfers against Sewage organised the event in Brighton which is part of a national day of protest against sewage. He said: “We want an end to sewage discharge by 2030 in bathing waters and a cap on CEO bonuses until this is sorted. The Government needs strong and effective regulation. There were two sewage discharges last week. People are angry and they have had enough.

Stuart Davies
Stuart Davies, Annabel, Katie Wootton and Kat

Stuart said: “It will cost the water companies, including Southern Water, £10 billion to fix the problem and consumers will have to pay for it. We need a central, coordinated plan from the water companies. Last year there was a sewage discharge more than once per week in Brighton and Hove. What we are seeing is too little, too late.”

Kat runs a charity for young people called ‘Esteem.’ She said: “Young people are going to inherit the planet. We have a responsibility to leave it sustainable for the next generation. We are nature, everything we are doing that harms the planet, is harming ourselves.”

Oliver Heath
Oliver Heath

Oliver Heath who is a surfer said: “I am a Brighton resident and long-time user of the sea where I scuba dive under the pier. I spent my life swimming in the sea without getting sick. It’s disgusting that people have been profiting from the natural resource by polluting it.”

Katie Wootton from Canada who works in a local surf shop said: “I love the sea and I want it to be taken care of for us, for children, for kitties and puppies.”

Co-organiser of Surfers against Sewage, Annabel said: “I am a swimmer and people are getting sick because of the sewage.”

Stuart said stopping all sewage discharges by 2030 was a realistic goal.

Nick Mills, Head of Southern Water’s Clean Rivers and Seas Task Force, said: “We have already made significant investment in Brighton and have made a major reduction in spills as a result of our seven-mile super sewer lying under the chalk cliffs of Brighton which transfers waste and storm water to our new Peacehaven treatment works, one of the largest and most modern wastewater treatment works in Europe. This massive infrastructure project ensures that the 95 million litres of wastewater on average per day generated from Brighton and the surrounding areas is fully treated.”

According to Southern Water: “Hidden beneath the chalk cliffs between Peacehaven and Brighton lie gigantic 150 million litre storm tunnels that can hold a full day’s long term average rain fall which helps to reduce storm overflows in the area but population growth and the effects of climate change mean they cannot always be avoided.

“This massive infrastructure project was also accompanied by two new pumping stations.

“On very rare occasions, the storm outfall at Portobello is designed to discharge flows to sea via a long sea outfall when the capacity of the Peacehaven treatment works is exceeded.

“These flows are heavily diluted wastewater, with the greatest constituent being rainwater collected by the combined sewerage system. The current operation of the overflow is critical to the performance of the drainage system, particularly with respect to protecting properties in the city centre from flooding.”

Surfers against Sewage
Surfers against sewage

Hove MP, Peter Kyle said: “The sea is at the heart of our community here in Hove and Portslade and these natural resources that are so precious to the well-being of our population and environment, must be respected. We are in a dirty water emergency, with water companies discharging raw sewage into English waterways over 1.2 million times between 2016 and 2021.

“In Hove specifically, I am in regular contact with Southern Water to try and combat this situation locally. I am now dealing with the Overflow Task Force team alongside the Shadow DEFRA team. The Government is failing to act and take the matter in hand so we must do what we can from the opposition bench.”

Peter Kyle
Hove MP Peter Kyle

‘The King’s Speech’ by David Seidler

What better day to see ‘The King’s Speech’ than Coronation Saturday? I was hooked from the opening scene of the play when a diffident Prince Albert is dressing for yet another ceremonial occasion, devoid of emotion, hopeless. Albert’s life is blighted by his stammer as he is in the shadow of his dying father and his brother. His life is one of dreary duty and painful public speaking. His wife, Elizabeth, Duchess of York (Amy Brangwyn), seeks out the help of a Harley Street speech therapist, Lionel Logue. The play is about an unusual friendship that develops between Bertie and Lionel.

The plot of ‘The King’s Speech’ is familiar to many but playwright, David Seidler, introduces a lot of new twists and some dark humour surrounding the death of King George V. We see the politicians and Archbishop Cosmo Lang involved in Machiavellian plotting as David, King Edward loses interest in the monarchy due to his infatuation with the American, Wallis Simpson.

Sibling rivalry between David and Bertie blight Albert’s life. David is always wrong-footing him with vicious ease. I wonder if Bertie’s father would have been less of a formidable presence without his brother undermining him at every turn. Robin Fry and Suzanne Heritage are in their own little bubble as David and Wallis Simpson. Yearning for influence after abdication, they could have taken Britain down a very different and dangerous path in World War II.

Bertie emerges as the rightful king and he has a lot to prove. ‘The King’s Speech’ is a delightful mix of an intimate friendship that develops between two men and a political thriller with Britain on the brink of war. Seidler brings the context of the play to life, providing insight and depth as he raises questions about what would have happened if Edward had not abdicated.

Chris Parke, as Lionel Logue, the Speech Therapist, is everything you want him to be – Bertie’s confidant, asking incessant questions to release the shame and inferiority that ties Bertie’s tongue. He is humane, incisive and persistent.

Emmie Spencer is very convincing as Myrtle Logue and introduces another subplot about belonging which is not seen in the film.

Peter Jukes comes into his own in the second half as Archbishop Cosmo Lang and proves himself to be more of a schemer than all the politicians put together in ‘The King’s Speech.’ He injects humour as Seidler allows himself some gentle digs at the Church.

However, Lewis Todhunter must be applauded for his performance. He is suave, arrogant and yet crippled by self-doubt in equal measure. While Chris Parke is steady and constant, we see many different facets of Bertie’s character. Until Bertie meets Lionel, he has no anchor which Lewis Todhunter captures with ease. No-one tells Bertie how to behave. He is a tortured soul who wins hearts. During his speech in the final scene, every face is pregnant with emotion, willing him to succeed and the atmosphere in the room is palpable.

You may already know the plot of ‘The King’s Speech’ and you may have seen the film. But go and see this fresh production written by David Seidler. It is a masterpiece and the company at Brighton Little Theatre should be rightly proud of their accomplishment.

Five stars *****