Flipnosis; the art of split-second persuasion – Kevin Dutton

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for ages; one of the books I’ve been saving and savouring the thought of reading.  Unfortunately, this one fell under the weight of expectation.  I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I was expecting to.

The book is about the psychology of persuasion.  It looks at the science behind why some people are better at persuading people than others.

The book uses a lot examples and stories about an interesting mixture of people; some who use their skill lawfully and others who are con-men.  There are also a lot of scientific experiments cited.  I loved reading about the people and the experiments.  They give a fascinating insight into what makes some people tick.

The model created by Dutton proposes that the art of persuasion is SPICE; simplicity, perceived self-interest, incongruity, confidence and empathy.  If you and your proposal meets these criteria you are more likely to persuade people to accept or adopt whatever you are proposing.

The book does a good job of exploring the different aspects of the model but it doesn’t really give any advice, suggestions or tips on how an ordinary mortal might improve each of these skills to become better at them.

I also finished the book with a niggling feeling that there were questions left unanswered.

If you’re going to read this book I’d suggest tackling it as an interesting psychology text-book rather than expecting it to be a self-improvement book.

Life to the Limit; My autobiography – Jenson Button

My latest 99p from Amazon choice and one that I enjoyed reading.

Button comes across as mostly being a nice bloke and someone who is passionate about racing.  He confesses to having been a spoilt, pampered child and one can see how this sometimes spills over into his adult life.

I enjoyed reading about how a driver – and it could be any driver really – starts in karting and works their way through the various stages.  I can also understand that it is a weird sort of life constantly travelling to races at weekends and can empathise with how Button struggled to be a “normal teenager”.  I guess this is where a level of natural selection occurs and separates those who are willing to make sacrifices to succeed from those who aren’t.

There is a lot of detail in the book about Button trying to break into Formula 1 and then his career.  It was interesting reading and interesting to get Button’s account of how he sees himself and my perception of him as a good driver but one who doesn’t quite have the killer instinct to be a great driver.

The key thread running through the book is the relationship between Jenson and his father.  I would say this book is Button’s way of publically acknowledging just how important his father was and how much he relied on him.  The sad part of the book is the feeling that Jenson hasn’t yet found a way to grieve for his father; he still comes across as a little boy lost.  I hope he finds it.

Overall, this is a lightweight book but interesting enough to while away a train journey.

Macbeth – directed by Polly Findlay for RSC

Macbeth, my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays and the one where I feel I haven’t seen a truly memorable production yet.

I have been looking forward to seeing this production even though the reviews in the papers haven’t been all that great; I like Polly Findlay as a director, I think Christopher Eccleston is an interesting actor and I’ve only ever seen Niamh Cusack in a read-through production before.

On the whole the stage set worked well.  It was adaptable and not too faffy.  I found the clock counting down the minutes of Macbeth’s reign a bit distracting but I really liked the Porter resetting it at the end.  I found the overhead, behind-the-perspex bit of the set way too distracting.  A couple of times I noticed that I’d missed bits because I was trying to work out who was up there and what was happening.  I feel this bit needs to be more static.

One thing I wasn’t looking forward to, having read a coupe of reviews, was the fact that Findlay has done quite a lot of playing around with the text.  As someone who knows the text reasonably well I though it might be distracting when familiar lines didn’t follow on from each other.  It wasn’t and I stopped noticing very quickly as I was drawn into the action.

Christopher Eccleston made a good Macbeth.  He was credible as soldier, insecure King and madman.  The only bit that didn’t work for me was the invisible dagger scene where I didn’t feel Macbeth was shocked to see this dagger floating in midair.

Despite the reviews, I thought Niamh Cusack was a good Lady Macbeth; an ambitious woman who wants the status promised by the weird sisters and is prepared to take the necessary steps to achieve her ends.  I thought Cusack did a good job of showing what happens to people who are too shallow to consider the consequences of their ambition and who end up falling to pieces.

That said, I didn’t think Eccleston and Cusack were particularly believable as a couple, let alone a couple who love are supposed to love each other.

It was an interesting idea to use children to play the Weird Sisters/Witches.  They looked innocent and harmless and yet, with the way they played with their dolls, they were creepy; almost like the children in horror stories who turn out to be psychopathic mass murderers!  Again, one slight distraction in that towards the end of the play, one of the girls was losing her slipper sock and I was distracted by the thought she might slip and hurt herself.  It sounds silly but costumes really shouldn’t be a distraction to the audience.

Michael Hodgson did a great job as a creepy Porter/Satan.  He was on stage all the way through the play, keeping tally of the murders and marking the countdown to Macbeth’s fall.  He didn’t appear very drunk when he delivered the knocking at the door scene and the humour was played down.  I thought this worked well for this production but I feel that if you’re playing down the humour you may as well cut the effects of alcohol section; I don’t think most people in the audience noticed it.

The end of the play and the crowning of Malcolm worked really well and I loved the way Fleance was woven into it.

The evening ended very abruptly however, with only one curtain call.  The play was very well received by the audience and I don’t think it is unreasonable for the actors to make more than one appearance to make their bow, particularly as the play finished before 10pm.  It felt a little mean and discourteous of the cast to not allow the audience to show their appreciation of the play.

Overall, I still don’t think I’ve found my definitive Macbeth but I do think I have found a measuring stick for other productions to live up to.

The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich – RSC

My first trip to the theatre in what seems like forever and the first production I’ve seen of the RSC Spring/Summer season.

The play is a comedy from around 1700 and was originally called The Beau Defeated and is about women making their own choices and wielding their own power. The play is written by Mary Rix, an almost forgotten contemporary of Aphra Benn.  In fact she is so forgotten that I can’t find any more information about her on-line so am relying on the programme notes.

Mrs Rich is wealthy but wants to improve her social standing.  Lady Landsworth has social standing but wants love.  Sir John Roverhead, Mrs Trickwell and Lady La Basset have social standing but want money.  Sir John, Mrs Trickwell and Lady La Basset think they are using Mrs Rich.  Mrs Rich knows she is being used and is allowing it to go on for her own ends.  The play ends with Mrs Rich having married a title and Lady Landsworth having found her love.

I loved the costumes designs for the play.  They immediately tell you what you need to know about the character without anyone having to spell it out.  The set design also did a great job of setting the scene too – simply and without too much faffing.

Sophie Stanton was a wonderful Mrs Rich; a restoration version of Hyacinth Bucket.  She showed her character as being both shrewd and human.

Leo Wringer and Amanda Hadingue were also well cast as the funny country bumpkins Elder Carimont and Toni, a hard act to pull off as they were almost always overshadowed by the gorgeous Lossie and Theia, Elder Carimont’s dogs!

I can’t think of anything I particularly disliked or didn’t enjoy about the play, which I think says quite a lot about it; on the whole is washed over me rather than really engaging me.  It has a good point to make about ambition being a good thing for women to have and it made that point, it just doesn’t really have anything in it that lingers in the imagination and nags to be brought out and chewed over.

If you like a colourful, fun and enjoyable night out at the theatre go to see it.  If you like something to make you think this probably isn’t for you.

But well done to the RSC for rescuing more playwrites from oblivion.  We need more Companies to do this.

Click here to find out what’s on at RSC


The Leopard – Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

This is one of those books that has been sitting on my shelves waiting to be read for years.  It’s been there so long I don’t even remember when or why I bought it.

For some reason it caught my attention when I was looking for a book to read on the train so I decided now was the time to read it.

It is about the aristocratic Salina family who live near Palermo in Sicily and is set during the Risorgimento or Italian unification.

The central character is Prince Fabrizio Salina, a middle-aged, modern-minded scientist who sees the need for change yet is too indolent and hide-bound by his family history to be part of that change.  His nephew, more like him than his own children, is in the thick of the changes and is an up and coming man.

The book shows, through Salina’s eyes, the transition of Sicily from Bourbon principality to inclusion in this new thing called “Italy”.  It tracks the transition from aristocratic rule to professional government and the rise of the middle-class. Yet Salina continues in his belief that the more everything changes the more everything stays the same.

The book wraps up with the Princes’ death from a stroke and a post-script relating what happens to the children as they grow old.

I found the book quite hard to read.  I like the fact that I now know more about the Risorgimento and the upheavals it caused in long-established states.  It was interesting to understand how the hereditary ruling class was being gradually displaced by the growing middle-class and professional class. But it was the reading equivalent of going for a walk in the midday sun in Palermo, slow and languorous!  It might have been better if I’d read it in the evening.  It certainly didn’t lend itself to waking me up on my commute. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either.

Click here to find out more about Risorgimento