Friday 28 February 2014

Neknominations: fun, or stupid?

Last Updated: 13 June 2023

Neknomination videos have been virtually impossible to avoid on social media – if you’ve been on Facebook recently chances are you’ve seen at least one video.

This is the new online drinking game, particularly popular among students, that is currently storming social media. Once ‘neknominated,’ the participant has to down a pint (comprised of alcohol mixed with pretty much anything else the nominee has to hand). They then nominate others, who have 24 hours to complete their challenge and pass it on.

The game was reportedly started in Cambridge as early as 2008, but has since travelled all over the world, from Australia to Ireland, before returning to the UK. As it has gained popularity, increasingly bizarre videos have emerged. For example, one girl stripped off in a supermarket to do her challenge, and there have been incidences of people drinking everything from washing-up liquid to goldfish.
But is it just harmless fun?

Perhaps it started off that way, but it is becoming more and more dangerous as participants strive to make the best videos. This has resulted in people drinking often high amounts of damaging substances in harmful combinations. At the time of writing, 4 people have died in the UK and Ireland as a result of Neknominations.

But still people are continuing to do the challenge.

A worrying amount of peer pressure is involved with the game. There is a certain need to conform, and to prove yourself to others. In some circles, the more disgusting or dangerous the drink is, the more the drinker is respected.

However, some people are refusing to participate even if they are nominated. That includes me. I just don’t see the point of the game, especially when people have died because of it.

Obviously some people are more sensible about their choice of ingredients, but still – drinking a concoction of alcohol mixed with God knows what else really can’t be good for you. Some people put solid food like sweets in their drinks as well, which are just asking to be choked on.

However, not all Neknomination videos are like this. Recently a new trend of ‘Kindness Nominations’ have emerged. These are where people have been Neknominated but have decided not to participate, instead using their video for alternative purposes. One example is South African YouTube user Brent Lindeque, who used the money he would have spent buying alcohol to do something positive instead.

Neknomination videos will doubtless fall into obscurity soon enough, but videos like this just go to show how something negative can be easily turned into something positive. 

What do you think about Neknominations? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday 1 February 2014

Coriolanus at National Theatre Live: a cinematic success?

Aside from the 25th-anniversary concert of Les Miserables in 2010, Coriolanus was my first experience of seeing a play in the cinema. And did it disappoint? In a word: no. I was so drawn into the production it felt like I was actually there, and I had no problems ‘bridging the gap’ between the theatre and the cinema. I thought the play was brilliant.

All the actors played their roles well, from the hot-headed passion of Tom Hiddleston’s Coriolanus to the sly scheming of Elliot Levey and Helen Schlesinger’s tribunes. Mark Gatiss’ Menenius brought a welcome touch of humour, providing moments of light-hearted relief to ease the tension. Hadley Fraser, playing Coriolanus’ nemesis Aufidius, was another who played his part well, clearly demonstrating the changes in his character’s mindset throughout the course of the play.

The minimalist staging was an effective change to the tradition of lavishly elaborate sets often seen in Shakespeare plays. I found it a bit odd initially to have the actors who weren’t in the scene at the time sitting against the wall at the back of the stage, but I quickly got used to it.

In particular, I thought the shower scene was very effective because it showed us Coriolanus’ vulnerability. Also the effect created with the blood staining the water droplets red was exceedingly impressive visually.

One thing that did throw me a bit was the brief snatches of music in the transitions between scenes. The modern score was a bit jarring and I felt it didn’t really fit with the play at times. Similarly, I wasn’t overly impressed with the costumes. Some of the actors appeared to be wearing barely-adapted modern clothing, which I didn’t think worked well. Still, these are only minor things that didn’t detract from the overall high quality of the performance.

At the end of the play, some of the people around me in the cinema started to applaud, some didn’t, and awkwardness descended over everyone. Nobody really knew how to act. Of course in the theatre you clap at the end to show your appreciation. So why were people applauding actors on the cinema screen? In my opinion the boundaries blurred at the end. During the play you can pretend you’re in the live audience, but those imaginary walls break down when the play finishes and the audience rejoins reality.

Emma Freud’s interval interview with director Josie Rourke was interesting, if rather cringe-worthy in places. Did we really need to be reminded that the play starred MTVs “sexiest actor on the planet?”

However, the entertainment value of the interview paled in comparison with the cleaners sweeping the mess of fake blood, water, and whatever else off the stage. Granted, that doesn’t sound very interesting, but it was the topic of conversation all around me. I heard one woman remark to her companion, “I wonder how much money they waste on fake blood.”

Coriolanus: gruesomely gory, yet current, captivating, and definitely memorable.

Did you see Coriolanus? Let me know in the comments below!