Laura Denham

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Getting involved with Orbital Magazine is something you won’t regret. We offer the chance to have your work published to over 8,000 students on campus and thousands more readers online. Our ‘Careers in Journalism’ talks and weekly training sessions ensure we’re the perfect platform to launch your career in such a competitive industry. There are […]


Orbital Magazine is the official publication of Royal Holloway Students’ Union. Our 44 page magazine is released monthly and distributed to the 9,000 students around campus, as well as cafes and pubs in the local area. The magazine is comprised of ten sections: News, Comment, Features, Lifestyle, Arts, Creative Writing, Sports & Societies, Science & Gaming […]

1 in 5 students admits to taking performance-enhancing drugs

1 in 5 Students take ‘smart drugs’ every day, it has been revealed. A further quarter of all final year students have taken them to assist with study. Oxford University has the biggest problem with the taking of ‘smart drugs’ with 26% of all students admitting to having taken the ‘smart drug’ Modafinil.

However, Oxford has said that it has seen no evidence of a problem, despite reports that there is a thriving black market there, with students selling the drugs in libraries for £2 a pill. Newcastle and Leeds are close behind with 25% of their student population admitting to taking the drug. In a survey done at York University a further 79% of students said that they would consider taking the drugs for exams.

The UK is not alone in this, the US has reported a huge problem in their Ivy League colleges where 70% of students admitted to using ‘smart drugs’ for essays, and didn’t consider it cheating. Concerns have been raised, considering that it is believed that brain development continues into late adolescence, therefore there is no way of knowing the potential long term effects of using these drugs.

In addition, students main access to these ‘smart drugs’ is through the internet and therefore there is no way to know exactly what is in the drug bought. It is made even more accessible considering it is illegal to sell these drugs, but not to buy them. Some have argued that this law doesn’t represent the severe side effects which accompany every ‘smart drug’ available.

What drugs are available?

Modafinil: Is the most popular amongst students. Normally prescribed for narcolepsy, this drug prevents sleepiness in the working day. It has side effects varying form chest pain and dizziness to memory problems and uncontrollable movement of face.

Adderall: Prescribed for ADHD, the side effects can be physical, including the peeling of skin, or mental, including hallucinations amongst many others.

Over half of users report experiencing side effects from the drugs. The NUS has advised against the use of study drugs, saying that “taking drugs like these can present a risk to your health, just like anything that isn’t prescribed by a doctor.”

Many have questioned why there has been such a sudden increase in the use of ‘smart drugs’ at universities. Some argue that it is due to the pressure on current undergraduates, considering the 19.9% unemployment in 16-24 year olds and the difficulty in finding a graduate job in an incredibly competitive market. Additionally, people claim that the increase of fees in 2012 put more pressure on students to perform, hence students believe the benefits gained from using drugs outweigh the potential side effects.

The Home Office’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is currently carrying out a review of the use of these drugs in light of this recent surge in use.

Article: Corinna Taylor

Pictures: (Main); (Featured).

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Lunar Nights

In order to mark the launch of the production, Lunar nights, Drama Society put on a fantastic Masquerade ball which was great fun from start to finish. You walked in to a beautiful Founders Dining Hall, where there was a bar (always good), snacks on the table, as well as bubbles in mini champagne bottles!

Everyone looked amazing in the masks.

1981822_10152133743651773_191199870_nSome opted to use there own whilst many decorated and wore the white masks you got allocated with your ticket, which was a great opportunity to be creative. The mask decorations ranged from pink sparkles to masks decorated with lots of eyes for a more dramatic effect. The music was also lovely with the Royal Holloway Jazz Quintet playing throughout the course of the evening, keeping everybody on their feet dancing. The raffle was also a great success with a huge range of prizes ranging from alcohol to the top prize of the night, a personalized oil painting.

The event, of course, highlights one of the multiple events in the run up to Lunar Nights, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream. Set deep in the outskirts of town shaded by wood is a secret club called ‘Lunar Nights’, owned by Titania. The story begins the night before the re-launch and joining of partnerships with lover Oberon; his side of the business titled ‘Men of Athens’, a service to provide high esteemed clients with the women of their desires, no matter what. What follows is a night of fights, dance, drink and the drugging of characters by master of ceremonies Robin. You really should join the party; it is sure to be an amazing production in the hands of a fantastic cast and crew.

The show starts on Sunday the 9th until Tuesday 11th, and if the ball is anything to go by it, it is one show not to be missed!

Author: Antonia King

Who are we to rewrite Jane Austen?

Six contemporary authors have been selected by the Austen Project to ‘update’ or ‘reimagine’ Jane Austen’s timeless stories in the modern world. The Austen Project launched the first of Austen’s six famous novels, Sense and Sensibility, reimagined by the contemporary romantic writer Joanna Trollope, in October 2013. Everybody is talking about it – and everybody is asking questions. Should we reimagine Jane Austen for a 21st Century reader? Why are we rewriting Jane Austen? And indeed the most controversial question: who are we to rewrite Jane Austen?

Literary critic Ellen Moers declares that, ‘all of Jane Austen’s opening paragraphs, and the best of her first sentences, have money in them.’ Austen opens Sense and Sensibility by establishing the Dashwood family estate and relationships in a financial and social context. It is interesting that Trollope attempts to steer clear from the explicit concerns of inheritance and money, immediately immersing the reader in the ‘remarkable view’ from ‘their high generous Georgian windows’. It is all about what we can see. Money is implicitly introduced in the depiction of the wealthy and ‘spectacular’ Sussex Parkland where ‘deer decoratively grazed’. Therefore Trollope’s opening to Sense and Sensibility is more invested in setting the scene, with inheritance and wealth only being subtly alluded to.

Trollope modernises Sense and Sensibility by ‘updating’ the social and economic contexts of Austen’s world. She does this with the inclusion of laptops, iPods, cars and various other technological advances. The characters are ‘tweeting’ about their lives in the same way we might use Twitter in our everyday lives.

Regardless, Austen’s novels are undoubtedly timeless. Austen’s work is preoccupied with notions of the importance of women’s education, the position of women, love, money and marriage. All of these issues are still very relevant today. Certainly, Austen has continued to influence contemporary writers and film directors with her work. The latest contemporary reworking of Austen’s novel is the new British mini-series Death Comes to Pemberley aired first on Boxing Day 2013, based on P.D James’ best seller and thriller sequel to Pride and Prejudice.

There is no doubt the Austen Project will be a success. For instance, Helen Fielding’s successful and popular novel Bridget Jones’ Diary (1996) and its sequel are ‘updated’ or ‘reimagined’ versions of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Heartthrob Mark Darcy, Bridget’s lover and future husband, is the modern characterisation of Austen’s hero Mr Darcy.

The Austen Project has been criticised for attempting to replace Austen’s novels. However, this is not what the Austen Project set out to do. The six contemporary novels are to be in place as a tribute to Austen. A significant part of the Austen Project will also involve the re-release of Austen’s novels in print with a new front cover resembling that of the modern retelling. It is a promising way to encourage young people who wouldn’t necessarily read classic literature to read Jane Austen. For fans of Jane Austen (like myself), the new novels are a different yet fun way to engage and interact with the original stories.

I’m looking forward to the much-anticipated Val McDermid reworking of Northanger Abbey, set to be released on the 27th March 2014. Best-selling crime writer McDermid promises a thrilling read as she relocates Northanger Abbey in the 21st Century at an Edinburgh festival.

Article: Lily Waddell

Photographs: (Main); (Featured).

Samuel Beckett takes to the London Stage

To have one stellar Samuel Beckett revival is always a treat, but to have two at the same time is cause for celebration. The Young Vic plays host to Beckett’s iconic Happy Days, in which Juliet Stevenson is buried up to her waist in some sandy form of hell, whilst the Royal Court (followed by a brief stint at the Duchess) stages a trilogy of Beckett’s one-women shorts. Beckett’s writing for women has always been extraordinary, and these two productions do more than justice to his bringing poetry to ordinary people, and surreality to mundanity.

Winnie, the protagonist of Happy Days, has been called the female Lear, and though the role must be as great a challenge to Juliet Stevenson as Shakespeare’s King is currently to Simon Russell Beale, what makes Stevenson’s performance particularly distinctive is the normality which she brings to the role. She brings a strange optimism, however forced – her voice may not crack when she states with sincerity, “this will be another happy day,” but her face gives away her fear. Stevenson’s performance is delightfully girl-next-door in her ordinary mannerisms and attitude to life, and thus seems at odds to her hellish situation. Her performance and this production eloquently tackle a soul capable, just about, of coping in a living hell. Natalie Abrahami’s production features a stunning set (by Vicki Mortimer) which literalises Winnie’s hell in a striking way, and with its almost mechanical lights and sounds there is little humanity other than that brought by Stevenson. Her stoicism against her hell and inhuman life make for a fantastic watch.

However, Walter Asmus’ production of three one woman plays, with Lisa Dwan leading all – Not I, Footfalls, Rockaby – is one of the most unique evenings of theatre likely to be seen this year. They may be performed in profound darkness, but that is nothing compared to the dark depths of the psyche and soul which they plumb. Watching Dwan’s ghostly presence wander to her disembodied in Footfalls is hypnotic. The conclusion of the evening, Rockaby, has a profound sense of finality, as if in watching the deceleration of the voice we are experiencing Dwan’s final moments. The opening piece, Not I, is possibly Beckett’s most astonishing piece, in which nothing is visible but a babbling mouth with words aggressively thrown into the dark chasm of the theatre. In 9 minutes Dwan’s voice recites pages in an astonishingly rapid and violent performance.

As a sensory experience it is truly incomparable – Beckett said of the play that he wanted it to “work on the nerves of the audience, not its intellect” and it is the experience of this violent, incomparable and terrifying situation that makes this striking. Watching Winnie suffer her burial is a spectator sport, but James Farncombe’s lighting, or lack of, forces us to experience our own Beckettian entrapment. Surrounded by darkness with only a mouth permeating it, the play horrifies as a living Francis Bacon painting would. To praise nothing but the staging, however, would be to devalue three of the great performances of the year which, astonishingly, come from one performer. Lisa Dwan’s vocal, physical and emotional versatility is second to none and this showcase of her talents, once the soul has recovered from profound soul-searching, is what shines through from this evening.

Both productions make for brilliant and affecting evenings. Both actresses bring empathy and humanity to their unusual characters. Winnie’s life, as Stevenson plays it, almost feels quotidian, and what distinguishes Beckett’s one-woman shorts is their poetic inanity, which Dwan exemplifies. When compared to the enema for the soul that is Lisa Dwan’s trilogy, Happy Days comes up slightly short: Happy Days leaves its mark, but Dwan’s trilogy bores into the soul. We are lucky to be granted two such brilliant revivals of brilliant plays, with two actresses more than doing justice to one of the finest writers of the 20th Century.

Article: Nicholas Hyder

Photographs: (Main)

Creative Writing at Royal Holloway

This month Royal Holloway’s career service offers a chance to meet three distinguished graduates and students in the writing industry. Charlotte Cole met up with them to learn about their achievements…

Currently studying at Royal Holloway, Georgia Mannering published her first book Roses in November, and already has her next release of The Spotty Dotty Daffodil this spring. She speaks with The Orbital about how she achieved it all.

You’ve just written a picture book, The Spotty Dotty Daffodil, what were your influences for this?

Spotty Dotty is about social acceptance and self-confidence. I actually wrote it when I was nine (although the story was very different back then and *cough* very bad). Then I revisited it when I was teamed with Bethany Straker, a brilliant illustrator, and I rewrote what is now the final picture book. It’s the story of a daffodil who catches a cold over winter and grows covered in red spots unlike his beautiful, yellow brothers and sisters.
You are a current student of Royal Holloway, how do you balance your writing as a career and your work for a degree?

A lot of my friends here have part time jobs so I treat my writing in the same way (when I can). I’m currently in my last year at Royal Holloway and I don’t think that there’s going to be much time for writing for a while! But I can’t wait to get back to it when I finish my degree. I often find myself opening up a word document in the library when I’m supposed to be doing something else…

How did you get started in writing and getting it published?

When I finished my A Levels, I sent out a novel that I had been working on to several agencies before signing up with Creative Authors Ltd. Then in 2012, I agreed my first publishing contract. That’s a very traditional route and I think things have changed a lot recently with the rise of online publishing.

What tips can you give to other students who are interested in writing fiction?

Never give up! I know that sounds really cheesy, but I think sometimes it’s a waiting game. There are so many talented writers that sometimes it’s difficult to get recognised but you will get there if you keep trying.

With the likes of Death In Paradise, EastEnders, Holby City, Casualty and Grantchester, a new 6 part series for ITV, under her belt, Daisy Coulam is certainly a name to look out for on our TV Screens! Read on for her advice on getting into this industry.

What has been your favourite piece of writing that you have done and why?

I think, whatever you’re writing at the time – that project becomes your favourite! Whether it’s an episode of EastEnders or an original piece, you have to find what you love in it and make it yours. At the moment, I’m very much enjoying working on Grantchester. The characters are warm and complex, there’s a murder mystery element and a love story. I’m a sucker for a love story.

What is it that you did to get into scriptwriting? Was it an agency, writing competitions, work experience etc.

I knew I wanted to work in telly but wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do or what jobs there were out there. I started off as a runner at a production company, making people terrible cups of tea and photocopying. I then got the chance to script edit on a show called Where The Heart Is. For about 8 years after that I worked on various productions – either storylining or script editing. I eventually realised I wanted to be a writer and applied for the BBC Writers Academy, which sadly no longer exists. This was a three month course with the promise of 4 script commissions at the end of it. I’ve been writing ever since.

How do you know when a script is complete and ready for the actors?

A TV script will go through a number of drafts – 4 or 5 is average. It can go up to 15 or even more. At each draft you are given notes (on story/ scenes/ characters etc.) by different people: the script editor, story editor, producer, director and exec producer. Hopefully they all agree with each other… Sometimes they don’t! Only after this process can the script go to the actors.

What advice can you pass on to the students of Royal Holloway who want to pursue a career in script writing?

Write. Write as often as you can, even if it’s a load of old drivel. Someone once told me that it’s like turning on a rusty old tap; you have to let all the crud and rust run out of the tap before you get to the clear flowing water. In other words – don’t worry too much if you hate everything you write at first. You can only get better. Try looking at: and, or try entering competitions, like Red Planet ( or Channel 4 ( Failing that, just start making stuff yourself. A lot of new writers are writing webisodes for YouTube. Make contacts would be my other advice, and don’t be afraid to start at the bottom. Making people’s tea and fetching their organic tofu salad isn’t half as bad if you know it’s a step up the ladder!

With a BSc in Physical Geography with Science Communication, Esme Richardson is a senior consultant at Inspired Selection, a specialist publishing recruitment agency specialising in STM, Education and Academic Publishing. With great experience such as working with BBC for their science radio unit, Esme spoke with The Orbital about what it all entails.

What is it that your job entails?

I work on tailored recruitment for the publishing industry. My focus is on the STM and Educational publishing sectors and I work with a range of market-leading publishing clients, helping them to find the right talent for their companies. I work on a variety of roles, from editorial to sales, marketing to production and publicity to project management…the list goes on! I also attend industry events and keep myself updated on changes to the market and how this will affect the required skill sets and experience of my clients. I work with my candidates to make sure that they are getting the best out of every interview process and I am helping in any way I can to make their chances of getting their dream job a reality.

What is it that made you want a career in publishing, in particular, the sector you are working in?

I did my degree at Royal Holloway, it was a fantastic course where we were able to communicate any science, not just Physical Geography through the media. For example, during this course I created a film on the formation of Lulworth Cove in Dorset and created a 10 minute long radio podcast on the eruption of Mount St Helens in 1980 where I used drama as the medium to communicate science – it was this course that really excelled my love for all things science. In my summers at university I worked at the BBC in their Radio Science Unit where I researched new ideas for programmes such as Material World and where I wrote scripts and did radio editing – I was also involved in the recording and production of the BBC World Service Midwinter programme for 3 years running where I met and interviewed celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Michael Palin, Rolf Harris, Ralph Fiennes and James May. When I left university, I went into a sales and administration role with a local essential oils company; after 10 months I registered as a candidate at Inspired Selection and got offered the opportunity to work for them. I joined as a Junior Consultant and have worked my way up to a Senior Consultant role where I am lucky to be able to work on recruiting fantastic candidates for two sectors of publishing that I absolutely love – Science, Technical & Medical and Educational publishing. I love publishing as a sector and I love being able to find new and exciting candidates from interesting backgrounds who love it too to work within it.

Why work with Inspired Selection, and not another company?

Inspired Selection is the market leader in publishing recruitment, it has been around since 1999 and we are celebrating our 15th anniversary this year – for me there was no other choice. When I registered with Inspired Selection as a candidate I was so impressed at their passion for what they do and for the sectors, they were also hugely interested in what I wanted and what was important to me. First impressions are hugely important and theirs was a fantastic one.

What advice can you give to current students who are considering a career in publishing?

Be persistent! It’s not going to happen overnight. Do your internships, I know it seems like a long slog but being able to offer a week or two of work experience will really make you stand out and show your commitment to both the working world and to wanting to work in publishing. Finally, talk to people, build your network, the more you know about the industry, the easier you’ll find this and you never know, you might bump into someone who is able to give you a job a couple of years down the line.

Article: Charlotte Cole

Photographs: (Main); (Featured).

Theatre on a Budget

Across London there are many schemes available to students and young performers providing opportunities to experience theatre in a variety of ways. ‘Masterclass’ is run by the Theatre Royal Haymarket and brings in many celebrated performers in the theatre industry to host inspiring talks and performance workshops. The scheme is free to anyone between the ages of 17-30 and those not qualifying for free admission can pay a small sum of £10 per class or £55 for the year. A few of the many past masters include: Jeremy Irons, Joanna Lumley, James McAvoy, Ewan McGregor, and Rufus Noris.

‘Theatrecraft’ was set up by Masterclass to give people aged 16-25 a chance to gain experience in the non-performance side of theatre. There are workshops on offer to try every role available in the industry: stage management, production, playwriting, directing, design roles including stage make-up, costume, lighting and sound, wig-making, and admin roles like theatre journalism and marketing. There are also sessions giving information on financial management in the industry, the casting process and theatre tours.

Another scheme available to those keen to pursue a career in theatre or simply to enjoy it as a spectator, is the National Theatre’s Entry Pass. This is a free membership scheme which gives 16-25 year olds £5 tickets to all the National Theatre’s productions, various discounts and access to many workshops and events that they hold. Some of the past workshops included stage combat, devising, characterisation, verse speaking and set and costume design. The National Theatre hosts some of the most excellent productions in the theatre world and Entry Pass will have a number of £5 tickets allocated for every production.

The Almeida Theatre in Islington also runs a scheme encouraging people between the ages of 15-25 to get involved in theatre. It costs £5 per year to have unlimited access to every project the theatre offers. For example LAB, which provides an opportunity to work on a unique show for one year and perform on the Almeida stage, script-writing projects, masterclasses with professionals, devising projects, and reduced tickets for performances at the theatre.

Article: Olivia Penhallow

Photographs: (Main); (Featured).

Roasted Tomato Soup

Deadlines are everywhere at the moment, and spare time is nowhere to be found. It’s at times like this when you need something filling yet simple to make, and it doesn’t get much simpler than this. Roasting the tomatoes releases the flavours in a way that no amount of cooking on a hob can – and saves the effort of standing stirring a pot to boot. This warming, vibrantly flavoured soup is super healthy and also vegan, in case anyone fancies their hand at trying out the vegan experience!

Ingredients (serves 4):
– 1.5kg tomatoes, roughly chopped
– 1 large red onion (or two small), roughly chopped
– half a red pepper, roughly chopped
– 3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
– 1 litre vegetable stock
– large bunch basil leaves, torn
– salt and pepper, to taste

1. Put the tomatoes, onion, pepper and garlic into a large roasting dish. Drizzle with olive oil, then add some salt and pepper and about a third of the basil leaves, then cook for 40-50 minutes at 220°C. Take them out to stir every 20 minutes or so, just to make sure everything cooks evenly.
2. Tip the roasted vegetables into a large saucepan, then pour in the stock and bring everything to a gentle boil. Add the rest of the basil leaves and simmer for 5-10 minutes, then take off the heat and blitz until smooth.
3. Season to taste, then serve with lots of bread. Best eaten from a cosy place whilst watching the wind and rain batter the world outside.

For a plethora of culinary tips and ideas, check out

Author: Bryony Bowie

Photograph: Bryony Bowie