J is for Janice

J is for Janice From the day she was born, Janice was given everything she wanted. She didn’t need to cry for too long before either her doting father or loving mother would be at her side, fussing over her with reassuring words of comfort and kisses on her forehead. From this moment on Janice knew that she was a very special person and because of that she could have Read more

I is for Impossible

I is for impossible. Having blown out her one hundred candles, with a slight relieve that her dentures didn’t come flying out covering the butter icing, Alice was quite exhausted and glad to be back in the solitary of her room, where she lit up a stogie and sat back in her chair. As much as everyone had made a great fuss over her centenary birthday, with just as many making Read more

H is for Hipster

H is for Hipster. The reason the new eatery stood out so much to Donald, was its choice of setting up shop in a part of town where the most exotic experience to be had was a mangey charity shop for a local cat charity. But that’s how these Hipster cafe’s start isn’t it, they move into a place with low rent and once they are established others move in. Read more

G is for Glenn

G is for Glenn. I’ve always loved horror stories. Skeletons have been at the forefront. I had a full size paper, glow in the dark skeleton and then a bit later the poster on the opposite side of my bed was of a skeleton on a motorbike, which I thought was great! I think i got it after seeing th esketon riding a motoabike in the Hammer Horror, Doctor, Terrors, Read more

F is for Fur

F is for Fur. Roger lay in bed, every time he opened his eyes the room span madly making him shut his eyes tight again. Downstairs he could hear the others getting on and knew that he too had to get up. Ever so gradually, Roger held both hands tight round his face as he lifted his head off the pillow. With his eyes still tightly shut he made the familiar Read more

Life is a Pantomime Old Chum.

Okay, first up I’m going to refrain from saying any of those well worn phrases from pantomime land  and just get on with the blog.

(reader’s voice) “Oh no you won’t”

Peter Pan Panto

Oh Yes I will!…Bugger!…..It’s that time of year again where men dress and women, women dress as men and someone warning that ‘It’s behind you”, nope not a regular Saturday night out in Brighton, but Pantomime season is upon us once again. With this in Mind, the Brighton Writer invites you to peep behind the curtain on a couple of the characters that have become two of the mainstays in pantomimes, the Dame and the Fairy Godmother (in a variety of guises) and to see where they are playing over the next few weeks across the South.

 

Every year there is reports of the decline of the pantomime. This year is no different with reports suggesting there is a decline in women taking on the role of the principle boy. In reality, pantomime has always been an evolving production, adjusting to the trends and fads of the day, but always keeping an eye on the traditions of pantomime, including: gender swaps, good battering evil and a rapturous group sing-a-long at the end of the show. Although some characters may come and go, for now the two cornerstones of this years show are the Fairy Godmother and Dame.

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There is nothing like a dame, and in particular a pantomime dame. For years the pantomime dame, played mainly by a man, has been a dominate figure, maximising the role through outrageous dresses, extravagant expressions of emotions along with having some of the best lines in the show. When you learn that before the pantomime dame, the main role was taken by the harlequin and then the clown, such attributes make perfect sense that they should be the show stealers. However, the other main character vying for our attention in many of this years pantomimes is the fairy princess, (which traditionally is played by a woman) whose main weapon of mass “look at me look at me”, comes down to her super sweet attitude,  a heart bigger than a shed load of care bears and customs so glittery that even Sindy would get glitter envy, Hey! What’s not to like?

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These main characters continues dominate many pantomimes as there role is to act as the glue for the whole production, standing as they do between the goodies and the baddies and are given equal pegging in this years round upon pantomimes on show throughout out the south coast in the coming weeks.

This year we have a fair few familiar favourites popping up, including the most well known dame in panto-land, Widow Twankey, in Shoreham-by-Sea’s production of Aladdin. This particular dame first hit the stage in Convent Garden’s 1813 under the name Widow Ching Mustapha. Gradually the name evolved into the more familiar Widow Twanky, which itself comes from the Chinese province of Tuan Ky (or Twan Kay). her original role was as a taylor, but that role changed to a washer woman, given the charter lots of scope to get a bit messy with soap and suds, and one made popular in the past by many including, Les Dawson, Danny La Rue and John Iman.

Worthing are rolling out the Pantomime favourite, Jack and the Beanstalk, where the traditional dame is John Imna as widow twangynamed, Dame Trot. way back when this dame was known as Dame Durden, Mrs Simpson and even Mrs Halleybutt, but in most productions the name Dame Trot is the one most used. Now, there are times when you think, do I really need to know this, but here goes. The word trot comes from the 18th-century slang word for vagina, which somehow or other then got turned to mean ‘old hag’. Don’t have a go at me, i’m just reporting the historical facts.

Close to the knuckle humour has always been part of the pantomime, allowing the adults to get into the fun, while such naughtiness goes over their siblings head. That is unless you are going to Brighton’s alternative pantomime, Cock Robin and his Very Merry Men, produced by the brilliant Brian Ralfe, (who has been producing Brighton’s Alternative Panto for the past 11 years), while Andrew Stark returns to writing/producer duties in this years pant. The other great thing about this particual production is you get Maid Marion played by Lee Tracy, a nurse (Phil Harlequeen) and Wesley Sebastian in the duel role of Fairy godmother and fortune teller. If you think you have grown out of pantomimes, this is one to get you back in the mood.


1476584_10202845181760777_155006876_nElsewhere, Cinderella is playing in both Crawley, Working and Brighton. Crawley has Stephen Mulhern dominating all of the publicity, with little said about the supporting cast, and Working has the brilliant Dave Lynn and Miss Jason as the ugly sisters, while the Brighton’s version which, unusual for pantomimes, has a near all female cast in their production of Cinderella. In this production, as in the original Brother Grimm tale of the same name, it is the fairy godmother who steps into the role of the pantomime dame, although early pantomimes of Cinderella only had the wicked step mother and not the now traditional ugly sisters in place. According to Peter Lathan’s book, “It’s Behind You, The Story of Panto” the (un-ugly) sisters made their first appearance in Rossini’s opera, Le Cenerentola (1817) under the names Clorinda and Tisbe. Since then they have been a mainstay in the Cinderella story and are always known to the cast and crew as “The Uglies” with topical names of the time, which in the past have included, Pearl and Dean (1970’s cinema fans will get that one), Posh and Scary (girl power!) and most recently the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury has caused outrage by having their ugly sisters named, Beatrice and Eugenie… I wonder if those sisters will be wearing ‘that’ fascinator?

Cinderella, Brighton

Back to the Brighton production at the Emporium their ugly sisters are names the less contentious names, Init and Thou (which the Brighton Writer rather likes!). Lucy Bundy, better known on the Brighton Fridge scene as Fake Bush, appears (in a flash of glitter perhaps?) as the Fairy Godmother at the Emporium, Brighton, Charlie Dimmock is appearing at the Worthing Theatre production of Jack and the Beanstalk as Fairy Organic (What is the betting that get’s mispronounced before the pantomime season is over?) Meanwhile over in Hastings, Sheila Reid, (aka ‘Madge’ in the ITV sitcom Benidorm), stars as Fairy Bowbells in the White Rock Theatre’s pantomime, Dick Whittington.

So there you have it. In no time it will be 2014 and before you know it, it will be pantomime time all over again.
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“Oh no it won’t!”
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Over the Rainbow (Fund)

Over the last few weeks there has been much to celebrate and remember within the LGBTQ community, which is really important to make note of.

This year while waiting (and waiting) to get into this years  Brighton Pride, I heard a lot of people complaining about how long it took to get into the event and the price of tickets. 

To be fair, those organising the event had to ensure security me suers were in place, so long queues were inevitable. On the plus side of things, the sun was shining and once inside the park there were just about every kind of visual entreatment you could possible wish for. Personally, I thought the early bird ticket price of £9.00 was a bargain

More importantly and something that many people perhaps are unaware of is £1.00 from each ticket was ring-fenced for the Rainbow Fund which, along with a host of other individuals and groups including: Bear-Patrol’s, ‘Bear Weekender’, Legends, Tony Chapman, Queens Arms, A-Bar, Charle’s Street, David Raven, James Ledward, The Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus and Many more helped raise over £41,000 for local HIV/LGBTQ charities.

For the uninitiated, The Rainbow Fund was initially set up by Gscene’s James Ledward and Paul Elgood to help fund the development and construction Brighton’s AIDS Memorial, with local artist Romany Mark Bruce giving all his time for free in creating the finished piece.

Since then, The Rainbow Fund has been the hub for excepting donations which in turn are given out as grants to local LGBTQ/HIV charity organisations, who each apply via a vigorous process ensuring the funds are used to help benefit the individual groups maxim potential in all areas.

This year The Brighton Writer attended The Rainbow Fund annual awards ceremony, hosted by the irrepressible Lola Lasagne aka Stephen Richards, along with many familiar faces from Brighton, including, Gary Pargeter (Lunch Positive) James Ledward (Gscene) Cllr Bill Randall, Deputy Mayor of Brighton & Hove, David Raven and Romany Mark Bruce, Jennie Castell, Davian Sparkle, David Harvie (Brighton Bear Weekend) and Philip Marini (Rainbow Fund) who were all on hand to present the grants to the following organisations.

Allsorts – £5.000 For a youth engagement worker to support the Transformer Group for young Trans* people.

Clare Project – £4,640 to extend their psychotherapy and speech therapy sessions Trans* people.

Brighton Gems – £4.000 towards support cost for befriending & support work for older gay men.

LGBT community Safety Forum –  £7.000 towards hate crime advocacy.

LGBT Switchboard – £2.500 towards clinical supervision for counsellors.

Lunch Positive – £7,000 towards food, venue hire and lunch club running cost for people with HIV.

MindOut – £7.000 towards peer support groups and housing advice for people with mental health issues.

IMG_0050Peer Action – £5.000 for health and wellbeing activities for those living with HIV.

 

 

 

 

Sussex Beacon – £4.000 towards a new occupational therapy project.The remaining funds were earmarked for a feasibility study to develop a funding needs assessment of all LGBT organisations, the service they provide and their future grant needs.

Individuals from each of the groups took to the stage to talk a little about how the grants awarded their group is so important and what a difference it will make in the coming year.

 The evening was a great success and an important event to remind us all that although the queue at Pride was a little tedious, by buying our ticket we each contributed in helping some amazing LGBTQ/HIV groups continue in making a huge difference to many people all year round. 

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The Brighton Writer’s contribution to the Brighton Graphic Novel

Over the last year a group of volunteer writers and artists have been working on individual projects for QueenSpark books latest project, Brighton, a Graphic Novel.QueenSpark Books

At the beginning of the year, QueenSpark Books invited submissions for the lesser known historical events to be put into a fictional story.

The Brighton Writer’s submission was a tale called, Dead Famous, about one young man’s desire to be famous, being granted by a couple who’s knowledge of Brighton’s murderous past, who were only too willing to help.

However, at the second group meeting, QSB’s mentioned that there were no tales representing the LGBT community and would anyone like to change their story line. As a tumble weed blew across the room, I volunteered, thinking my story could be used for another project, more of that in an upcoming post.

Given the limited space in which to tell a story, I quickly decided to write a story around gay men. I tried out several ideas, a jaded young queen on the scene time traveling back to the clubs of old, to gathering stories from the scene and turning these in to a running strip.

Taking a step back, the idea of using Brighton drag artist came to mind, as visually they make great visual character’s for the graphic novel. From this, the ideas came thick and fast. Thinking of the 1970/80’s show, Charlie’s Angels, I created, Brighton Angels, with David Raven aka Maisie Trollette, Dave Lynn and Stephen Richards aka Lola Lasagne as the three main angels.

Mr. david Raven, aka Maisie Trollette

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After setting up meetings with David, Dave and Richard, I formed some questions, ranging from their previous jobs, how they got into becoming drag artists, the creation of their characters, who had influenced them and how their chosen career had changed their lives. It was during these interviews that I got given some essential information that helped me create my ideas.

Rough Sketch by artist,  Emilie Majarian for QueenSpark Books upcoming graphic novel, Brighton, a graphic Novel

Rough Sketch by artist, Emilie Majarian for QueenSpark Books upcoming graphic novel, Brighton, a graphic Novel

For example, Lola lasagne first hit the scene with her trademark Marge Simpson wig, but as Stephen Richards told me, “It was too big for some of the smaller nightclubs, so it had to go.”

It was with my conversation with Dave Lynn that he said, Lola’s the one for false nails, I can’t get on with them, tired it once and they ended up all stuck to my pants when I went to the toilet.”

I also leant that Dave Lynn uses false breasts (nicknamed chicken fillets) as part of his act, while Maisie Trollette, prefers a flat chest. Lola wears short skirts, Dave Lynn, likes a slit up the side of his, as does Maisie, along with his feather boa and elbow length gloves. All these little details had to be listed, along with photos of each character; all of which was to be passed on to my artist partner, Emily Majarain.

And so the project was on it’s way. Within each fame I had to source photo references for Emily, detailing what was in each frame, positioning of characters, objects and colour scheme. To help, I also created my own storyboard.

Next came choosing some historical events.

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Russia’s LGBTQ Comminity, You Are Not Forgotten!

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Although it is still frustrating that the big news corporations still hold the capital on what they decided to be newsworthy, Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like have paved the way for all of us to exchange a much wider selection of  news, views and the occasional skateboarding cat. Despite the numerous chances for any of the main channels to show the brutality many of Russian’s LGBTQ community are facing. For the last few weeks there has been no reports on the draconian law Putin passed, stating that it is against the law to promote homosexuality in  any form. It seems only that the major news channels are only giving a small snapshot of this problem, referring to the Human Rights Act, when the brutality the LGBTQ Russian community is facing is not being fully addressed. Read more

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Russian LGBT Commuinty, You Are Not Forgotten!

russia-gay-pride[1]

Although it is still frustrating that the big news corporations still hold the capital on what they decided to be newsworthy, Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like have paved the way for all of us to exchange a much wider selection of  news, views and the occasional skateboarding cat. Despite the numerous chances for any of the main channels to show the brutality many of Russian’s LGBTQ community are facing. For the last few weeks there has been no reports on the draconian law Putin passed, stating that it is against the law to promote homosexuality in  any form. It seems only that the major news channels are only giving a small snapshot of this problem, referring to the Human Rights Act, when the brutality the LGBTQ Russian community is facing is not being fully addressed

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There could be an argument made that the fact the Russian Government are not the only country in the world to have such draconian laws passed against people who do not identify as heterosexual, when so many other countries have used homosexuals as scapegoats. In the past anti-homosexual legislation has been used as a smoke screen to try and appease the masses about their countries catalogue of economic failings. ‘ In the UK, we only have to look back to 1988 and see just how backward thinking our own Conservative Government was with their introduction of Clause 28 as a way of trying to divert the general public from the disastrous economic situation at the time.  Back then, with no internet to help, it took a team of feisty lesbians to invade the BBC newsroom to make the dissatisfied voices of the LGBTQ community to be heard.

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What is really exciting here and now is the way many of people are taking to the internet to help the Russian LGBTQ community, who are being silenced through a mixture of legislation, intimidation and force a loud and clear voice.

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It is without doubt that President Putin and his team of advisors truly believed that they could carry on attacking a minority group and no one outside of their jurisdiction would much care and in turn make a little fuss. After all, for the last few years they have allowed the Neo-Nazi faction within Russia to thrive and commit random acts of brutality on anyone who tried to hold a peaceful Pride March through the city. More recently there have been widespread reports of similar right-wing groups luring young gay men to a meeting place. Once captured, these groups then record themselves sexually torturing and humiliating these young men. The recordings are then posted on the internet along with the young men’s personal details and contact address. This has led to one of the victim taking his own life. Another report to come out of Russia was about a gay man who was raped with a beer bottle and had his head smashed in with a rock. Apart from the outraged reports in the LGBTQ press, such acts of violence have had little impact on the main news channels and so the brutality continues, thrives and now it has reached the point where the torture and murder of someone over their sexuality is practically sanctioned by law.

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What the Russian bureaucrats hadn’t quite banked on was the backlash from Russia passing these anti-gay laws, while also preparing to host the Winter Olympics in 2014. This has been were the online community has come into its own. Not a day passes without another thread being uploaded detailing the rise and rise of online petitions against the Winter Olympics being held in Sochi.

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Stephen Fry is well known to have thousands of followers on twitter, so when he posted an open letter to the Olympic Committee, comparing Putin to Hitler. The  news of the plight of the LGBTQ community in Russia reached a mass audience which the main news corporations could not ignore. On Friday there was a small mention on the main news channels about the growing dissent, mainly focusing on the safety of LGBT athletes and their supporters competing in Russia Winter Olympics.

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This in turn forced the Russian Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko to public say, “Calm down.” (who does he think he is, Michel Winner?) He went on to say that no LGBT athlete would come to harm while visiting Russia. A u-turn of what has been previously said from Russian officials. What the news channels have also conveniently left out of their report is the comment made by Alexander Mikhailov from Siberia’s Zabaikalsk region.

“I want to call on people to get a healthy perspective of this disgrace (homosexuality). Our district needs a law that would give troops the right to grab gays on the street and drag them to the city square, where Cossacks would whip them,”

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A few years ago, none of us would have hoped to believe that we the LGBTQ community would have the equality rules being passed through government. Positive change is happening in the UK, with the public opinion turning against the views of the dinosaurs still roaming around the back passages of Parliament and the House of Lords. Thanks to social media the homophobes views are being exposed and in turn the voice of the dissident is gathering memento.  As a community we can pull together and help combated the hate and ensure the Russian LGBTQ community can in turn make a difference. At the time of writing this, the BBC lunch time news has mentioned the human rights laws being broken in Russia; our voice of protest is getting louder, let’s insure it becomes too loud to ignore. Post a message of support to the LGBTQ Russian Community. Comment and repost news reports about the brutality the LGBTQ Russian community are facing. sign the petition below. together we will bring a positive change and stamp out homophobia.

http://chn.ge/13jhR37

– See more at: http://www.thebrightonwriter.co.uk/?p=2008&preview=true#sthash.Y6EzClwq.dpuf

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Countdown to Brighton LGBT Pride.

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In just over a month’s time, Brighton will be awash with people from all over the LGBT community, celebrating what is set to be a fantastic LGBT Pride. With this year’s theme, Gay Icons, expect the parade to be filled with troupes of’ Marilyn’s; both seven year itch and 80’s icon variety, along with a few Madonna’s, Divines, and a smattering of Diana’s; Dors, Rigg, Princes.   

 

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Cresting Wave of Gay Lesbian Marriage Equality

Last week saw the breaking news that the US Supreme Court abolished the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In a nutshell, the act made it legal for other American states to not recognise same sex marriages. This has now paved the way for gay and lesbian American citizens to have the same equal marriage rights as their straight counterparts. This is excellent news and once again shows the there is a real movement toward equality gays and lesbians across the world.

 

 I imagine Fred Phelps and his follows Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, went into over drive and no doubt blamed the recent heat wave and subsequent bush fires on this court decision. Of course we have our own set of loonies this side of the pond; a prime example comes from a group who have demand the right to a  ‘Straight Pride March’; come on guys, this tired old protest has been around for years and each time has been shot down as being ridiculous. You just have to turn on the TV or step into the street to see straight people rejoicing in their heterosexuality without fear of persecution.

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At present there are over 76 countries where it illegal to be gay, with some counties introducing some truly Draconian laws;  including Russia who have recently made it illegal to even express any form of homosexuality, with President Putin proclaiming the act is to protect children. Such arguments were rolled out during Thatcher’s government used when they passed the much hated Clause 28, which in turn caused more harm than good, with young LGBT people afraid to ask for support, while ingrain the believe in others that to love someone of the same sex was wrong. Thankfully there is a changing tide, and counties like Russia whose views on homosexuality are being seen as increasingly outdated. Equality for all is not going to happen overnight, but progress is a cresting wave.

http://youtu.be/CnOJgDW0gPI

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The Long Winding Equality Road to Same Sex Marriage and Beyond.

Equal Marriage Bill On 27 July 1967, a bill was passed in the House of Commons, legalizing homosexuality between two men, over the age of 21, in private, with the proviso that when in public, homosexual men should:

“Show their thanks by comporting themselves quietly and with dignity… any form of ostentatious behavior now or in the future or any form of public flaunting would be utterly distasteful… [And] make the sponsors of this bill regret that they had done what they had done” (Lord Arran)

Although the bill was greatly received by gay men in the UK, the fact that the age of consent  was unequal to their heterosexual counterparts, gay men still encountered discrimination from their family,  in the work place and on the streets if they were identified as being gay.  

Since then, the road to equality has been long and slow but over the last few decades positive changes in the law have been made: from homosexuality no longer  being classed as a mental illness, (May 1990), civil partnerships rights for gay men and lesbians (December 2005),  same-sex couples given same adoption rights as heterosexuals, (June 2005), and most recently  the passing of the equal age of consent, act to 16 for homosexual and heterosexuals  (June 2008). Read more

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Equality Tidal Wave

Zachary QuintoA couple of weeks ago, I found myself watching the Jonathan Ross show, (not a regular habit as I find Ross’ style of interviewing a bit crass and a very self-absorbed). However, on this occasions I was pleasantly surprised to listen to the actor Zachary Quinto, (Star Trek, Heroes, American Horror Story) talking about being a successful actor in Hollywood, while being open and proud about being a gay man. Quinto spoke most eloquently about his need to come out two years ago, after hearing about a rash of young American teenagers had committed suicide because they were bullied for being gay. Read more

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Film Review: The Reader

reader1[1]Having read and given out thirty copies of Bernhard Schlink’s novel, The Reader for World Book Night, I grabbed a copy of the film adaptation to see how it translated to film. With director, Stephen Daldry (The Hours, Billy Elliot) at the helm, I sat back knowing the film was in safe hands. The lighting and stage sets pulled the viewer in as the short love affair between 15 year old Michael (David Kross, War Horse) and his older lover Hanna (Kate Winslet).

As in the book, the film takes it’s time to establish the intense relationship between the two leads, while hinting at Hanna’s dark past and the inner secret she is holding deep inside herself; which will ultimately bring devastation and misery to both Michael and Hanna’s lives.

Years later, Michael attends a court hearing, were a group of former women guards from the SS are on trial. Michael is horrified to discover that his former lover is one of those accused of the compliant murder of fifty women and children burnt to death in a church.  

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As the trial continues, Hanna’s secret is revealed to Michael, leaving him with the dilemma of exposing Hanna’s secret to save her from a life sentence, but in doing so would reveal his illicit love affair. Both Hanna and Michel are too ashamed to share their secrets, and in doing so, both are trapped in a life which imprisons one physically and the other, mentally.  

Ralph Fiennes bookends the film as the older Michael, but it is Winslet who truly captures the audience’s imagination as Hanna, a villain and victim uncomfortably rolled in one leaving the viewer questioning their feelings on the rights and wrongs of Hanna, her actions and the prison society built around her.Kate-in-The-Reader-kate-winslet-4097214-1430-782[1]

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