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There’s nothing like a night at the theatre…

26 Jan

Twelfth Night

…and I’ve been lucky to have two in the space of a week! The first was in aid of JP’s birthday when I treated him to a trip to the Vaudeville to see Uncle Vanya, starring Ken Stott, Anna Friel, Samuel West and Laura Carmichael. The excitement started long before the show began with a celebrity star-spot in the theatre’s bar – none other than Jim Carter and Penelope Wilton, aka Carson and Isobel Crawley from Downton! The performance itself was thoroughly enjoyable too – despite Uncle Vanya exploring the human condition in varying stages of misery and depression in true Chekov style.

Next up was an outing to the Apollo to see Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. One word – fantastic! From the staging – you see the cast getting ready on stage and can also pay to sit in boxes on the stage – to the actors (Stephen Fry, Roger Lloyd Pack, Paul Chahidi and Mark Rylance as Countess Olivia – hilarious!), the entire production was cleverly thought out and put together. I laughed throughout. I’m ashamed to say there are a lot of Shakespeare’s plays that I haven’t read yet but I feel inspired now to dig out my complete works and give him another go. Any recommendations on where to start?

Uncle Vanya runs to 16 February; unclevanyatheplay.com

Twelfth Night runs to 9 February; apollotheatrelondon.co.uk

Salome at the Royal Opera House

6 Jun

Royal Opera House

Wow! That’s the one word I would use to describe the latest operatic powerhouse at ROH. In one intense act (no intervals here!), Strauss tells the story of Salome, step-daughter of Herod, who, on seeing John the Baptiste (imprisoned by her step-father in the palace), becomes so infatuated and obsessed that she’ll do anything to get just one kiss from him – even have him beheaded. It’s a story of lust, perversion, and manipulation, and one made ever more dramatic by the incredible performances from Angela Denoke (Salome), who literally leads the show. For not once does Denoke leave the stage or slip out of character but, instead, she is mesmorising, captivating, and, compelling, jumping from depictions of innocence to sensuality to pathos to violence with a skill that makes Salome’s actions almost understandable. With previous operas I’ve seen, it’s been all about the voice; with Salome, the acting is equally as important – and Denoke doesn’t (nor do any of the other cast members) disappoint.

The staging too makes this ROH production worth the ticket price. Es Devlin, mastermind behind the closing ceremony for this year’s Olympics, has crafted an incredibly simple, yet impressive set – I for one will never forget the symbolic ‘dance’ sequence between Salome and her step-father and, in regards to costuming, I’m not sure I’ll ever look at an ivory silk slip in quite the same way.

But words cannot do justice to what is a truly magnificent production. If you go to the theatre once this year, pay out for Salome.

Runs to 16 June, roh.org.uk

Abigail’s Party at Wyndham’s Theatre

29 May

Last week, I was lucky enough to see Mike’s Leigh’s comedy of sorts, Abigail’s Party, at the Wyndham’s Theatre in London. It’s a new production by Lindsay Posner, who recently did Noises Off at the Old Vic, and it boasts a celebrity line-up with Jill Halfpenny as the seductress and hostess-the-mostess Beverly, Andy Nyman as her over-worked husband Laurence, Jo Absolom as the seductee with a violent edge ‘Tone’, Natalie Casey as his beaten-down wife Angela, and Susannah Harker as the stereotypically, overly polite Susan.

Abigail’s Party is set in 1970s suburbia (and they’ve gone to town with the staging – think bold brown and orange prints, faux sheepskin rugs, lava lamps, and a never-ending supply of cheese-and-pineapple-on-stick canapes), but many of the themes and storylines hold true for today. Prejudices over social class come to light and you quickly realise the marital relationships are all not what they seem, as the G&Ts at Beverly and Laurence’s drinks party – the situation for the entire play – flow freely. You know the night can only end in disaster but Leigh provides enough witty one-liners and humorous set-ups that you can’t help but have fun getting there. Moreover, each of the five cast members shines in their own right. Halfpenny is captivating as the selfish, sexually-frustrated, show-off Beverly (a role made famous by Alison Steadman) and I couldn’t help but fall in love with Casey for her impecable sense of comic timing and embodiment of a trodden-down wife letting loose on a rare night out.

I whole-heartedly recommend!

Runs to 1 September at Wyndham’s Theatre, London; delfontmacintosh.co.uk

Falstaff at the Royal Opera House

15 May

Just back from a performance of Falstaff at the Royal Opera House and what a treat! It was a colour-pop sensation of impressive staging, fantastic costumes, and a beautiful score from start to finish.

It was written by Verdi in 1893, when he was in his late seventies, and tells the story of Sir John Falstaff, a portly knight with a taste for sherry, lavish feasts, and women! But when his excessive lifestyle catches up with him (and his wallet), he plots to seduce the wives of two wealthy men – with hilarious consequences. In true comic operatic style, the two women find out that they are at the heart of his devious plan and join forces to turn the tables on him.

It my be nearly 120 years since Falstaff’s debut but this new co-production by the acclaimed Teatro alla Scala, Milan, and the Canadian Opera Company, is fresh, fun, and bang on trend with its 1950s setting – think bright yellow formica and fabulous Mad Men-esque costumes. Add to that an endless amount of vintage props (many of which were sourced from eBay), fake food that looks good enough to eat, and a real horse (yes, real), and you can understand why I had to flag up the performance straight away!

Falstaff runs from now to 30 May, with a special (and free) broadcast on 15 BP Summer Big Screens around the country on 30 May. Tickets to attend the Royal Opera House may be around the £100 mark but standby ones are available for a much more affordable £15 – just get behind me in the queue; this is one performance I’d happily watch again…and again.

roh.org.uk

roh.org.uk/bpbigscreens

Happy 30th my lovely M!

11 Mar

Sorry for the lack of posts for the last week or so. Have so much to fill you in on! But, before I tell you all about my adventures of the weekend past, must just write a little note about this weekend. Have just got back from a trip home to the West Country to celebrate M’s 30th birthday (see cake below) and to mark the 25th anniversary of the Beckington Village Music Hall – a community institution!

Started M’s bday with the tastiest coffee ever and a catch up with my close friend KT in Beckington’s lovely French-inspired coffee shop Mes Amis. People come from miles around just to sample the homemade cakes and savouries so it is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area.

Then home to unveil M’s masterpiece of a birthday cake. Was so excited about giving this to him. It was made by the extremely talented Emma Morton-Turner (emmamortonturner.moonfruit.com) who made our wedding cake and she’d themed it all around his traineeship and him heading off to sea. It provided quite a talking point and when we served it up (after Wales beat Italy in the rugby, hooray!) I’m pleased to say it tasted just as amazing as it looked.

M's 30th birthday cake

M's 30th birthday cake

But the main celebrations didn’t happen until the evening when we headed to the local village hall for the last night of the Music Hall, an evening of cabaret, comedy sketches, and community entertainment that was celebrating it’s 25th anniversary. I should say here that this is more than just a village show. People travel from around the UK and queue from 4am in the morning just to get tickets. It’s an annual institution in the village and a prime opportunity for everyone to get together, have a laugh, and raise money for a good cause. And, for M, it was another chance to enjoy some cake when a surprise one was brought out in the interval complete with firework-like sparklers.

A perfect way to mark a very special day.

Happy bday M!!!

La Reve at the Cafe de Paris

26 Feb

Well, what an evening I had on Friday! Great food, great friends, and great entertainment – doesn’t get much better than that. Time Out had been running a special offer for discounted entry to La Reve with a complimentary cocktail so I’d booked up for B, A, J, K, and I to go. La Reve is a weekly night of cabaret and burlesque in the heart of London (Cafe de Paris is located just off Leicester Square, cafedeparis.com) – but so much better than I’d been expecting.

The show didn’t start until 8.30pm but seating (or in our case standing space) is first come, first serve. We nipped into Soho for a quick bite to eat – handmade dumplings, crispy pork, and an adventurous menu of drinks – at Jen Cafe then left the chaos of Leicester Square to step back into time to the golden age-style bar that is Cafe de Paris. I’m not sure what I’d had in mind when I’d first booked up but the show was so much better than imagined – a hula hooping whiz-kid, silent comic, hilarious Jessica Rabbit presenter, and fire-blazing tipple-tassing-shaking burlesque dancer. M would have loved it! 😉

Afraid to say I was so in awe of the performances I didn’t take any piccies, but check out some of the performers on YouTube (links below).

The boy with tape on his face

Craig the incredible hula boy

Raymond and Mr Timkins

Kitty Bang Bang

Billy Elliot and the Park Plaza

9 Feb

Hooray! At long last I can tick Billy Elliot off my list of must-see musicals. After wanting to see it ever since it opened in 2005, Tuesday night saw me treated to a night at the Victoria Palace Theatre in Victoria.

But, before I recount the show (which was great!), I have to tell you about the scrummy dinner I had first. I headed to the Park Plaza Hotel (parkplaza.com), just around the corner from Victoria station. It may be a hotel, and the restaurant was pretty quiet, but don’t be put off. This is one over-looked gem. Melt-in-the-mouth venison on a bed of braised beetroot with parsnip chips, and walnut ice cream were my choices and they couldn’t have been tastier. The venison was honestly some of the best I’ve had in a while. I got talking to the hotel manager while I was there and there are big changes afoot, with the restaurant about to receive a rustic Italian makeover. I’m sure it will be just as good but don’t miss your chance to experience the foodie wonders on offer now – and check out the unique artwork while you’re there. Can you work out what the poem is written on the wall?

Now to the show! If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know it’s the story of Billy, a 12-year-old boy with a passion, and talent for ballet – not an easy career path at the best of times let alone for the son of a miner growing up in northern England during the strikes of 1984/85. The music’s been put together by Elton John and the show is packed with catchy, toe-tapping numbers, as well as the obigatory tear-jerking ballads, but the real draw is the dancing. It’s energetic, jaw-dropping and creative from start to finish and the child stars are amazing; I felt exhausted just watching them and have left with that time-old urge I get whenever I’ve watched a bit of ballet – to take it up myself! Watch this space; that will be next up on the blogroll! billyelliotthemusical.com

The Madness of George III

1 Feb

Apollo Theatre, London

My mum and dad saw this at the Theatre Royal in Bath before it opened on London’s West End and told me if I ever got the chance to see it, to go. Luckily for me one such opportunity came up and, yesterday, my brother and I rendez-voused at the Apollo Theatre  to see David Haig of Four Weddings and a Funeral fame take on the role of King George.

The play, which is written by Alan Bennett, is set in 1788 and recounts the King’s first severe mental breakdown (something which has now been attributed to porphyria, a rare metabolic disorder), and the consequent threat to his reign. Watching Haig take King George from an overactive and enthusiast ruler to a frenzied and confused maniac is harrowing, not only because the treatment he receives is misunderstood and extreme (blistering and straight-jacketing) but also because Haig’s performance is thoroughly convincing. He takes you on every step of his journey into a pit of despair with a passion and attention to detail that must be exhausting – especially when you think he’s doing this day in, day out. You wouldn’t tell it though and the standing ovation he received at the end was well deserved.

Take heed of my mum’s advice and, if you get the chance to see this, go – you won’t be disappointed.

Runs to 31 March, nimaxtheatres.com

War Horse

19 Jan

Went to see this at the New London Theatre last night thanks to my lovely mum who bought me a much-hoped for ticket for Christmas. Will keep this post short because:

a) this is the sort of show that needs to be seen to be believed – it is truly amazing. For anyone who doesn’t know, it tells the story of the First World War told through the eyes of a horse and is portrayed by actors and life-size puppets.

b) there’s only one word that I can use to describe the show. Phenomenal. Truly the best performance I’ve seen in a long time and on par with the Royal Opera House Ballet’s breathtaking rendition of Swan Lake.

Book your tickets now – you won’t be disppointed.

warhorselondon.nationaltheatre.org.uk

The Nutcracker

22 Dec

I broke up for the Christmas holidays today and what better way to celebrate the occasion than with a housemate outing to The Nutcracker! The English National are back performing the one ballet that has become a tradition to see at this time of year. I’d seen it before when I was very small so was looking forward to refreshing my memory of what it was all about. I’m also a suckeer for ballet! And the ENB didn’t disappoint. J had managed to get us £15 seats in the balcony and although we were second to back row, our view couldn’t have been better. In fact, it was a treat to get that different perspective of the theatre (we were at the Coliseum) and to be able to fully appreciate the architecture of the building. I’d not booked  up much theate since moving to London because when you’re a one-income family with a mortgage budgets can be tight, but now I know that bargain seats can actually be decent, I’ll be going to the theatre more often! Waatch this space for my reviews. But for anyone who hasn’t been yet, do try to get tickets for this season’s Nutcracker. The performances were breathtaking – I’d forgotten and beautiful the choreography for this was – and the score, of course, is stunning. All ingredients for the perfect night. Click here for details: ballet.org.uk

Coliseum