Tuesday, 16 June 2015

A Lady and her Husband

I was thrilled to be asked to write about the suffragette and social justice campaigner Amber Reeves's novel A Lady and her Husband for the brilliant Slightly Foxed—it's out now and available here and I'm tearing through it. This is Reeves, with her daughter. It's the only picture I've ever seen of her and her face is turned away, her secrets kept very much to herself. 

In other news, I do like how this review of How to be a Heroine docks a star because I've left out Anne Brontë—a very good point, and as the reviewer says, don't worry! My book on Anne is on its way.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Launching Mina hjältinnor

It's finally here! My book is out in Swedish (as Mina hjältinnor) and isn't it stylish? I love how the bookshelves are definitely Ikea, and knowing that Glaskupan means The Bell Jar.
Everything in Sweden is stylish. I got to go and launch it, kicking off in Umeå, which was pretty far north, though Sweden has a lot of north. It was too late for the northern lights (which make buzzing and clapping sounds!) but amazingly light; when I reluctantly went to bed at 11.30pm, it was still nt dark. It was Stieg Larsson's hometown, so at my event at the Umeå Littfest, we got stuck into how Lisbeth Salander is and isn't like Pippi Longstocking. And I got this T-shirt, which is about how there's more to Swedish literature than the Gothenburg Book Fair. You have to love a T-shirt that encapsulates a whole entire debate.
When I asked what the Arctic char I was eating was (apart from delicious), one of the Littfest team showed me a picture of himself holding one he had just fished; it was big. We had cloudberries (sour and sweet and lovely) and talked about Umeå's militant vegan punk rock past.

Then I went to Stockholm and (oh my God it's stylish; I felt like such a clump) met up with all at Albert Bonniers Förlag, my Swedish publishers, who are here...
We toasted the book and raced around talking about it. I even went on TV! You can watch it here if you would want to do such a thing. 

Then there was just time to go for a walk in the Djurgården, to eat the best cinnamon bun of my life
and to wander awestruck through the most beautiful public library I have ever seen.


I looked up at the wall of books and thought about how mine might soon be there too, and felt amazed.

1st June update!: I was on SVT Babel last night with Jessika Gedin and Håkan Nesser, and you can watch it here. It includes a really amazing mini-film in which I am transformed into a small blonde Swedish girl in fabulously geeky glasses. And if you'd like to read it, I was also interviewed by Pontus Dahlman in DN, and it's here; there's a picture of me literally looking through a glass darkly.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Stories matter

Sarah Agha & Gehane Strehler. Picture by Robert Workman
I wish I could dance as well as the cast of Operation Magic Carpet. (I am an extremely enthusiastic, though also terrible dancer, sadly.) There have been some really lovely new reviews of the play, from Catherine Love who says, "Stories matter. And so does this one." Of course I agree with her. And there's more too...

"Captivating"—John Nathan, Jewish Chronicle

"A well-paced play full of humour and colour, it keeps children glued to their seats"—Dunia El-Zobaidi, The Arab Weekly.

I also talked about the play on Midweek with Libby Purves.

It's on at the Polka Theatre until May 24th and I would love you to see it. Of all the plays I've written, this one probably means the most to me. Rosamunde Hutt has directed it with so much warmth and flair and sensitivity, and the cast have all brought such passion and commitment to it—and energy, which is not easy, doing two shows a day, what with the massive fight scene I threw in. Do come!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

No, this is 40

A couple of years ago I watched This is 40 which was very funny but also felt like it should be called How Not to Turn 40. I kept thinking about it in the run-up to actually turning 40, which I did this weekend. And it was lovely.

It involved salted caramel cake and lots of love (from so many people; I am very lucky), Kate Bush on repeat and dancing to A-ha (Take on Me, obvs), blowing about on Parliament Hill, finally reading Elena Ferrante (Days of Abandonment: wow), grown-up (sturdy, unsmashable) glassware, radically and controversially moving my poster of Wuthering Heights out of my bedroom (sorry, Heathcliff, but it was time), Japanese popcorn tea (surreal but very good), and watching Operation Magic Carpet with my mum and grandma (we all cried). Afterwards, there was wine and hummus in the Polka Theatre garden in an unexpected burst of sunshine, and lovely speeches, and the whole company singing Happy Birthday.
Adam Youssefbeygi, Jason Eddy, Hemi Yeroham & Sarah Agha
Picture by Bob Workman
And now the first reviews are in, and they're lovely:

"A modern story fit for the Thousand and One Nights...I definitely recommend that you take the magic carpet from Wimbledon to Baghdad"—Judith Conyers at Essential Surrey

"Joyful...with a few thrills on the way and perhaps a sentimental tear or two. There is something here to make its young audience think"—Howard Loxton at British Theatre Guide

"Highly imaginative and humorous...dealing with serious contemporary issues, such as cultural identity amongst immigrant families...a well-paced, humorous, thought-provoking, well-written and performed play suitable for all the family"—Mumsnet Merton

"Operation Magic Carpet at Polka Theatre could be the story of so many children who've been forced to leave home and live in a new country, or children born in a country foreign to their parents. Their loneliness and struggle for identity is often overlooked by adults who are trying their best to fit in...A fantastical adventure...A beautiful production with the actors being the real heroes, they convey all the magic of the Arabian Nights...exciting for the young audience and endearing and entertaining for the older ones"—Curious Mum

"Entertaining...pleasingly explores both the tension between cultures faced by immigrants and the power of story"—Susan Elkin at The Stage

"Funny and unarguably charming"—Flossie Waite at Children's Theatre Reviews

The best review of all, though, was from a small boy who, when Sarah Agha and Gehane Strehler started bellydancing on stage, got up and joined in, in his seat. Apparently he is autistic, hasn't been to the theatre that much, and just wanted to. And his dancing was one of the joyous things I've ever seen.

On top of all this, How to be a Heroine got a really lovely, considered review in the LA Review of Books (complete with another epiphany story at Top Withens).

The protagonist of Judd Apatow's film is in denial about her age—she even puts 38 on her cake instead of 40—but I don't feel that way. I'm happier than I've been in a long time. So maybe this is 40.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Knowing where you come from so you know where you're going

Adam Youssefbeygi and Sarah Agha. Picture by Bob Workman
I've been friends with Maddy Costa since we were eleven, so I jumped at the chance to have a big old chat about theatre with her for Exeunt magazine. We talked about Operation Magic Carpet and lots, lots more, and especially knowing where you come from so you know where you're going; Maddy's family are from Cyprus and her daughter is just starting to make up her own stories about her journey, as we all do, I think.

In the picture above, Yusef (Adam) and Nomi (Sarah) are seeing if a watermelon is ripe; in rehearsals, they used a beach ball, but this is much more like it. (And it is papier maché, made by the fabulous designer Sophia Lovell Smith).

Oh and here are Yasmin (Gehane) and Sinbad (Jason) buying and selling in the souq...
Gehane Strehler & Jason Eddy. Picture by Bob Workman
And here, below, are Sinbad (Jason), the Genie (Hemi) and Nomi again (Sarah) setting sail...
Jason Eddy, Hemi Yeroham & Sarah Agha. Picture by Bob Workman
which feels appropriate, because the play has just set sail and as I'm writing this now, it's having its sixth performance...I don't know why it should feel odd that it's on and I'm not there, when it doesn't feel odd not to be there while people are reading my book, but somehow it is. Odd but also very, very good. I'm excited to see it again at the weekend, and if you would like to see it too, all the details are here....and it's a seven-week run so there is plenty of time!