Young Mensa North have been making an effort to be more refined recently. Manchester in particular has a busy midweek culture scene, with many festivals and regular events occurring in bars and event venues, and there are lots of other interesting things going on elsewhere across the UK.
We first headed along to IndieFlicks, a monthly film night showcasing new material from across the globe, with a vote afterwards for the favourite. The films ranged from an Australian short about a girl who declares to her family that she is now a vegan (and the inevitable awkwardness that ensues) to a documentary from a Salford filmmaker about a Somalian refugee in Manchester. My preferred film was “The Butcher”, directed by Caspar Muller. I interpreted it as showing a young boy, Daniel, being neglected by his mother, competing with her for the attention of her new boyfriend, and ultimately losing out to her. Interestingly, others had viewed it conversely to myself, and thought the male character was Daniel’s father and the woman his new girlfriend. We can’t decide who was right, or if even there necessarily was a correct way to view it; looking back it seemed that it could have been deliberately unclear. It’s interesting to consider that one’s own interpretation of a film could be so far from someone else’s in such a binary manner. I felt that the filming and narrative complemented each other well; the relationship between Daniel and his mother’s partner is predominantly led by Daniel and the partner seemingly respects this, for example Daniel stages a play attack on the partner with a water pistol, who responds very solemnly as if actually being held at gunpoint. This is echoed in the filming; an early scene shows a bike in the foreground with Daniel starting in the background, and he runs into the front of the frame - he is leading the framing of the scene, helping us to see the child as a central character, to be taken seriously. There were also a few shaky camera moments which I saw as a representation of a child’s wavering confidence in their ability to interpret the world around them; although I concede that this may have just been lack of skill on the camera operator’s part! I’m usually impressed by works that display an understanding of characters that are not representative of the maker: authors who can write both male and female roles convincingly, portray nationalities that are not their own, and particularly who can depict children without condescending or restricting them to one-dimensional personalities.
We also attended our first comedy event as Young Mensa North, a show called “Strife in Northern Town”, held as part of the 2017 Women In Comedy Festival. I felt a conflicting reluctance to go to a comedy festival of which the main selling point was that the comedians were all female; it seems to me that this is targeting towards women specifically in order to capitalise on their willingness to be outraged at the lack of women in comedy, rather than just writing a show that is funny enough to generate success on merit alone. Perhaps I’m overthinking it. I regret my remark early on that it was interesting that there were a dozen women flitting around the venue, seemingly affiliated with this comedy troupe, yet only two of them were deemed funny enough to be allowed on stage. I accept now that it was a clever comedic technique to have multiple roles played by the same actresses, the entire show was really rather funny, and was a surprisingly astute observation of life in the North.
In perhaps our most unusual outing so far, a few of us spent an afternoon wandering around York, interviewing witnesses and suspects in a murder enquiry. There were many of these murders committed simultaneously across the UK, in conjunction with the release of the new “Murder on the Orient Express” film. In slightly disjointed attempts to dress appropriately, we donned some very 1920s and some vaguely 1920s clothing and followed an app’s directions to find our interviewees, using our little grey cells to eliminate weapons and perpetrators until we had our murderer! “Crows on the Transpennine Express”, as we called ourselves, proved to be an effective crime solving team and we came in 18th place out of around 200 - rather acceptable. The only downside to the day was the passerby who stopped us to ask for a photo of Laura and Eugene’s fabulous costumes, and told the rest of us that we should have made more effort. You can look at our photo and judge for yourselves, and I hope you’ll join us at an event soon!