“An exceptionally fine piece of poetic writing, beautifully crafted and wonderfully performed. This is one of those rare theatrical experiences that I will never forget. It deals bravely with a challenging subject while never failing to be first class theatre. I was spellbound from the beginning to the end.” Chris Green, board member Courtyard Arts Centre, Hereford, former Director of The Poetry Society
The Magnetic Diaries is a poetry-play, written by Sarah James, directed by Tiffany Hosking of Reaction Theatremakers with the main character Emma, performed by Vey Straker.
The script is based on Sarah’s Forward Prize highly commended collection and was selected for the Saturday night of the 2015 Write On Festival at The Courtyard, Hereford. The production’s 2016 ACE-funded tour included performances at Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Bristol Poetry Festival, Hereford’s Chapel Arts Centre, FEAST festival at Malvern Cube, mac birmingham and London’s The Vaults. It was also a Highly Recommended Show at Edinburgh Fringe 2016, where it had a two-week run at Aviary at ZOO Venues.
Synopsis: A narrative of love, lust, betrayal and depression, The Magnetic Diaries re-envisages the characters and storyline of Gustave Flaubert’s masterpiece Madame Bovary in a contemporary English setting. The modern-day heroine, Emma Bailey, battles with romantic idealism, illusions about love, a stifling middle-class lifestyle, boredom and depression.
Moving lyrical fragments and crafted poems from Emma’s diary are set alongside the voices of her doctors and emails from her husband Carl. But will modern medicine save Emma and her family in the wake of adultery and neglect?
As part of ‘The Magnetic Diaries’ tour, Sarah also ran a series of From Pain to Poetry/From Anguish to Art workshops, not just using writing as therapy but also looking at how personal experiences (even if painful) can be shaped into a polished piece of poetry/prose.
Prize-winning composer Joanna Karselis’ score for the 2016 ACE-funded tour of The Magnetic Diaries can be sampled and purchased here.
‘Highly Recommended Show’ rating on Fringe Review:
“…Vey Straker (Emma) doesn’t miss a beat in this demanding and ambitious piece; a committed and focused performer…”
“The poetry is divine. Rich, complex, visual, flowing and tumbling out with power and aliveness, gathering images of microscopic and sometimes delightfully unexpected detail (The chimney coughs… ), sliding us into the uneasy and intense experience of the world seen through a depressive.. ”
“I would recommend going to see this show; the subject is raw and intensely moving, the whole production has been produced with care and professionalism, and the poetic language is boldly breath-taking. A thought provoking approach to the dramatic monologue.”
Didi Craze in Fringe Review – the full review can be found here.
“Through its poetic script, The Magnetic Diaries shows how wondrous and creative life can be despite living with depression, but also how exhausting and relentless.” Helen Babbs, The Sick Of The Fringe – full article on this Edinburgh Fringe performance here.
Another review picking up on the play’s structural design and the differing perspectives between Emma and Charles can be enjoyed here. It also hints at the Romantic versus Realism worldview elements/illusions that remain very relevant in today’s television/film/celebrity/marketing-driven society more than 250 years after Flaubert wrote Madame Bovary.
Edinburgh Fringe audience reviews can also be found under the reviews tab here.
“THE Magnetic Diaries is an incredible piece of work: a long poem, essentially a one woman play, a tour de force of modern times, a contemporary tragedy with one dominant, inspired yet unhappy voice…
The main character, Emma, played brilliantly by Vey Straker, was the only character on stage. All other characters were off-stage voices: from the dry tone of the doctor to the hurt, confused questions from a husband severely challenged by the serial adultery and alcoholism of his depressed wife.
This, then, is a play about depression; it’s about being self-absorbed and intensely alive at the same time. Emma is both those things…
That weird set, with those step-ladders and the plank, is a feature of Emma’s universe: her inner life which, at times, is simply everything to her. She climbs those ladders, she takes up her Magnetic Diaries and she sets them down again. There’s simply no space for anyone else, not even for her little daughter, Beth.
At times, Emma is not a likeable character. Even when magnetic pulses are passing through her head, as part of the therapy, it’s difficult to really like her. This, I think, is part of the plot. Her depression is the plot, in that we start to care, despite ourselves.
It is hard to see how anyone so beautifully alert to the everyday could ever be so depressed. A train “angles its snout through daisied fields and wounded earth”. Emma observes how “we race the shadow selves trying to pass us”…
…the streams of powerful language and the insights at her command provide much-need evidence that unique, challenging voices can still find a place in modern English poetry and theatre.” Gary Bills-Geddes, Worcester News and Ledbury Reporter, full review of the Ledbury Poetry Festival performance here and here.
“I really recommend seeing this astonishing play. It is an incredible, intense performance that discusses depression and the space that creates within a marriage. The narrative is told through carefully articulated poems that focus on tiny moments that are illuminated through Sarah James’ highly polished language selection. Each word of this play is honed for precisely the right image. The theatre company and actor produce an emotional, unforgettable experience.” Ruth Stacey, Mermaids Drown
The full marketing brochure including more reviews, audience reaction and minimum playing space can be viewed here: The Magnetic Diaries marketing pack. Any venues or festivals interested in featuring The Magnetic Diaries in their programming can contact Sarah on sarahaleavesleyATyahooDOTcom.