Bethan Hooton

Review Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty by Bethan Hooton

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On the 26th of April, I was lucky enough to see Sleeping Beauty at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. I haven’t really seen a ballet performance, besides the odd Nutcracker performance at Christmas, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I was absolutely blown away, it was incredible.

I love the Disney interpretation of Sleeping Beauty, but I think I found my favourite in this performance. It followed a similar structure, but it was so unique. The fact that the Princess didn’t fall in love with the prince was a breath of fresh air. I also liked the fact that the gardener and the Princess were already in love. It can be sluggish sometimes if you watch two characters fall in love. My favourite part would be the fact that the evil queen died before the curse came true. It was the son who made sure that it happened, and I just found it so interesting. It was different. The story was in the gothic genre and as I have studied it, I loved watching what aspects of the gothic were in the performance. It was dark and eerie. You kept wondering what was going to happen next, even though you knew how it would end up.

Ballet is such a beautiful form of dance, each move had such grace and elegance to it. I could not take my eyes off of the performers. I liked how each character had a performance that was unique to them, so you could define between each of them. As ballet is silent, the performers had to express so many different emotions through their performances and they did not disappoint! You could feel the emotions they were feeling, especially the Queens when Sleeping Beauty was put to sleep. It was almost as if you could hear the words that they weren’t saying. They are all incredibly talented.

The set was simple and sweet. There was not too much on the stage at one time, but you still got the feeling of elegance within the castle, and you got the sense that this was a gothic love story. The costumes were just incredible! They were so detailed, and unique to everyone. Each Faery had a different costume so you knew which was which. They reflected the personalities of each character, which helped you understand more about the story and what was happening. They also reflected the gothic nature of the story and the fairytale elements.

I loved this production and it definitely has inspired me to go see more ballet. Whilst it was confusing to begin with, it wasn’t long until I understood what was going on. The different interpretations were really interesting to me as both a literature student and someone who loves going to the theatre. I was left speechless when it finished. I recommend people who love the story of sleeping beauty, ballet and theatre to go see it.

(Although I do recommend not taking someone under the age of 10 as there are parts which could be disturbing.)

Review Alice in Zombieland, Gena Showalter by Bethan Hooton

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Ok I admit it, I’ve never read a Zombie book, and haven’t watched any shows about them either, except the first 4 episodes of The Walking Dead. I’ve decided that I want to make this review slightly different, so instead of reviewing it once I’ve finished the book; I’m going to review it as I read it. This way I won’t forget anything that I wish to comment on, and it’s a bit different, so here goes!

Chapters 1-5, pages 9-105.

The start of this book, hits the ground running, it sets the tone of the book and gives you an idea of what this book is going to be about – given you probably will find out about this in the description of the book, however, I went into this book blind. You get a really good feel for the characters in the first 100 pages; you get to know them and their personalities. It also makes you wonder about certain characters and whether they are who they seem. I already have some assumptions about some characters and what they’re really like. There’s not much action so far with Zombies which I’m a bit gutted about, but I’m hoping that soon there will be more action. I love the style of the book so far. I love the main character Ali, and I really enjoy her humour. I’m looking forward to the possible romance and the friendships that still have yet to be created.

Chapters 6-10, pages 106-206.

I absolutely love the characters! The main character Ali, has such an energetic personality, but still holds some sadness to it. She is witty, and more often than not will speak her mind. Her friendship with Kat is one that I envy. I also really like the ‘love interest’ shall we say, Cole. He has a shielded personality, and is very secretive about himself. The relationship between Ali and Cole is perfect, and they balance each other out. My assumptions have been verified, and the story has seriously picked up. There’s a lot of action, and background telling – admittedly it’s a lot to take in, so hopefully it’ll be explained more. The writer is telling the story really well, and the action scenes have gotten my heart to beat faster than normal. For my first zombie book, I am very impressed. I love the ‘rules’ let’s say, that explain why certain things happen or cannot happen. I’m really enjoying the plot and cannot wait to see where it goes in the coming chapters.

Chapters 11-13, pages 207-294

The one thing I noticed is that there aren’t many Alice in Wonderland references, considering this is supposed to be a re-telling of that story. The chapter titles are similar, and a white rabbit is mentioned often but there isn’t anything other than that, so far. I’m questioning whether it can be classed as a re-telling. That said, I’m still enjoying the story. I really love Ali as the main character, her personality is great! The story of the Zombies and certain characters background has been explained a lot more, and it was done excellently. There is a lot of information to take in, but it is re-enforced as the story carries on. The character relationships that have been formed has been written brilliantly, especially the rivalry between Cole and Justin. The differences between each of the characters are really intriguing and they all balance each other out. The character development for Ali has to be my favourite part in the last 100 pages that I’ve read and I can’t wait to see where her character goes.

The last 100 or so pages.

It really picked up during these last one hundred pages. A lot of secrets were revealed, and you learnt even more about the characters. Ali’s character really develops, and she comes to terms with a lot of things she beforehand had struggled with. There are some major twists and turns of events, which made it very action packed! Again, I loved Ali’s and Kats friendship, it’s just so natural and fun. They both have a wicked sense of humour and I can’t wait to see what happens to their friendship in the coming books. To be honest, I thought the major action scene, that set up the plot-line for the sequel, was very short lived, and kind of anti-climatic. Yes, it was out of the blue and surprised you, but it seemed to just breeze past. I did enjoy it though. The ending is a great set up for the sequel (which I may or may not be buying tomorrow to read ASAP). The romance was perfectly written, it wasn’t the main focus but it still had you interested in Ali’s and Cole’s relationship or lack thereof.

My overall thoughts.

Great, well developed and well thought about characters, with great character arcs and development throughout the book. Amazingly written character relationships, and rivalries. The humour was perfect and quite a few times I found myself laughing out loud. The plot arc was brilliant, and very well executed. I definitely recommend this book if you’re into Zombies, want to get into Zombies or are just looking for a new book.

Review Talon, Julie Kagawa by Bethan Hooton

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“Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing in their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they’re positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.

Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.

Solider Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon’s newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey: and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Embers bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the order has ingrained in him: and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons” – Talon, Julie Kagawa 

I read the first 75 pages of this book in about 3 weeks, and then the other 370 pages in 3 days. This was purely because of exams, and in a way I wish I had held off reading the book until my exams were over so I could devour the whole book as one. I loved it! The characters, plot and the setting. The story was told amazingly, which I’m not surprised at since it is a Julie Kagawa book! I love dragons, and this book was the best I’ve read yet! Honestly, it was slow-paced during the first half of the book, but in the second half it really picked up especially in the last 100 pages. In this book there was a lot of world building and story setting ready for the sequel. It was a great setup for the coming books. The dragon world ‘Talon’ was explained excellently, even if there are some twists and turns about it later on in the book. Whilst reading I was fully enthralled in the world, I was so intrigued and wanted to find out more and more.

The characters in this book were amazing! There wasn’t a flat character throughout the whole book. Each character was important and helped push the plot along. You could tell that each character had been well thought-out and they were all very complex. There wasn’t a single character that I didn’t like, besides possible one called Colin (no spoilers!) I loved all the different character relationships. I loved the sibling bond between Ember and Dante, and I loved seeing how that progressed and changed during the book. The friendships were really well constructed, and made me want to be a part of the world just to be involved with those friendships. I loved the banter between all the characters too, the way they all bounced off of each other. The jokes they made about and with each other. I also really like seeing the differences between Ember and Dante, and how that difference became increasingly bigger towards the end of the book. The character development in this book has to be my favourite, especially for Ember and Garret! They learnt that not everything was as it seems, and the way Julie Kagawa had their characters progress was just great. I can usually pick out a favourite character, but this time I can’t, I honestly love them all too much.

This is definitely a series that I’m going to keep up with. I’m going to get my hand on a copy of Rogue as soon as possible! I cannot wait to see how Ember and Garrets story progresses. I want to see how Dante is coping with the task his was given in the epilogue. There are just so many characters that I need to know about (Riley and Wes for example) I’ve read 9 Julie Kagawa books, and all novella’s she has written for her Iron Fey series, and this is by far my favourite book. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds!

I seriously recommend Talon, if you’re into Dragons, and Fantasy. It keeps you wondering, and the characters are remarkable!

Review One Direction Cardiff Millennium Stadium by Bethan Hooton

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On the 6th of June 2015, I had one of the best experiences of my life. I went to a One Direction concert. I had been waiting for this concert, ever since I got the tickets the day they were put on sale. I cried when I got that text from my uncle saying he had been able to get tickets! With this in mind I am going to try to keep this review as concise and babble free as possible!

The Experience: Seeing your favourite band live for the first time is bound to be  amazing. I’d been waiting for One Direction to do a concert which I’d be able to attend for about three years. So there was a lot riding on this one night. I can honestly say that it was the best experience of my life. From the moment I sat down in the line waiting to go in at 2pm until the encore and even after the concert had ended and I was on my way home, I was fully enthralled. The atmosphere of the stadium was immense! It really added to concert. It somehow made it that much better. Obviously seeing one’s favourite band live is to cause some bias towards giving them a good review; however, my mum even enjoyed the concert. She said and I quote “What an amazing experience and concert that has been” Beforehand there had been some projects set up to show Directioners support for the One Direction boys and some to even add the experience of the concert itself. These included the bandana project (you wear a bandana of a certain colour that correlates to your favourite member) and the balloon project (you threw balloons around during a certain song) this again added to the whole experience, just seeing how dedicated us fans are and how excited we were. Although social media could probably tell you that.

Support act: The supporting act was McBusted, another band  which I hold very close to my heart. Id seen them live before though, so it wasn’t anything new. That being said, I was still very excited to see them live again! They are great performers, and really added to the excitement of seeing One Direction. During their performance, they just talked to the audience, asking if we’re having fun and if we’re excited to see One Direction. They kept the energy in the room alive, and not once did it feel like they were bored, or just there because they were getting paid to do so. The only thing about the concert was in the leaflet that came with the tickets it stated that there would be two supporting acts, but there weren’t. This is neither a criticism nor flaw; however I think I would’ve liked to see another band/artist performing.

One Direction: There is a lot to say about these guys! This is about the fifth time I’ve written this section and once I literally wrote out the whole concert and commented on what happened. I’m trying really hard to keep this concise.

When the opening sequence started – which was just a mix of the songs they would be performing – I burst into tears. They hadn’t even gotten on stage. I was just so excited. They opened with a song from their newest album Four. They came on with energy and excitement and passion. It’s fair to say, their energy stayed that way through the whole concert. They are great performers, and singers. They talked to the audience, and even attempted to say “Diolch” due to the fact a lot of fans had it written on signs and they were in Wales! They asked about birthdays and asked if we were having fun. They spoke to each other and acted as friends. They messed around, and generally had a good time. They came to Cardiff knowing that we don’t hug, we cwtch. They just enjoyed themselves and that was what really made the concert. The whole time they were on stage, I was bawling my eyes out. It was such a surreal event and I loved every single minute of it. I love these boys to bits, but I loved the concert even more. To be honest, I was slightly disappointed with the set list as they had said new songs would be added, however, I still loved the concert.

Overall: From beginning to end, I loved the whole thing. The experience was amazing, and I’m still wishing that I could go back to that day and relive it. If you have the chance to go see them live, go. Whether you know every song, lyric for lyric or only know What Makes You Beautiful, either way you won’t be disappointed. One Direction put on an amazing performance and they love every minute, which is contagious and you find yourself screaming the lyrics you know at the top of your lungs, no matter how tone-deaf you are. There is only one word for the whole concert and experience: Phenomenal!

Review Dirty Dancing Wales Millennium Centre by Bethan Hooton

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On the 19th of March I had the pleasure of going to watch Dirty Dancing live on stage at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. Dirty Dancing is set in the summer of 1963 and follows Baby (played by Roseanna Frascona) who adores her father (James Coombes) and wants to eventually join President Kennedy’s Peace Corps. Whilst on holiday with her family at Kellermans meets Johnny Castle (Gareth Bailey) a dance instructor. Instantly she’s attracted, however she annoys him but when Baby takes a risk to help out one of his friends Penny (Claire Rogers) a powerful and sexy romance begins.

First thoughts: What an amazing show! I came out of the theatre with my mind racing from the brilliance of it all. All I wanted to do was talk about everything I loved about the show.

The set: The set was designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis and I must say the way the set was presented on stage was great. I loved how everything was set up, and how the scenes transitioned. The set was simplistic so you didn’t have trouble deciding where to look but it also gave the feel of a busy holiday resort. I loved the projections of scenes at the back to help pull you into the scene and help you visualise it better. I particularly liked the use of the projections when Baby and Johnny were practicing the oh-so-famous lift. With the projections it made it look like they were in a forest, in a field full of grass and in water.

Dancing: With Dirty Dancing being a musical about dancing I obviously expected the dancing to be immense and I was not let down. It was incredible, I was mesmerised the whole time they were dancing – and considering that the musical consists mostly of dancing, that was a long time! All the dancers were in sync when they needed to be and the dances just flowed. You could really tell that the actors loved what they were doing – like dancing was just second nature to them.

Acting: One thing that really stuck with me about the show was Roseanna Frasconas acting – she’s a dancer, pretending to be a girl who doesn’t really know how to dance. I can only begin to imagine how hard that must have been. When I know how to do something I want to show it off!

The other actors were remarkable as well. Each and every one of them stayed in character the whole way though whether they had any lines or not. Also hats off to Claire Rogers who sure knows how to dance! I really liked watching the background characters during the show because they just seemed to add to the story even though they weren’t directly involved in Baby and Johnny’s romance.

Lighting: I don’t really have much to say on the lighting except that it was used perfectly. I loved the use of the Disco Balls during (I’ve Had) the Time of My Life and the way they used spotlights during some of the busier scenes – it really helped you know where you were supposed to be focusing.

Overall: Dirty Dancing was sexy, fascinating and wildly amusing. Fans of the film will not be let down, and will probably fall in love with it more! I would recommend everyone to go watch it, it truly is amazing. If I had the chance I would see it again in a heartbeat. Have you guessed, I loved it!

Oh, and just remember “Nobody puts Baby in the corner!”

REVIEW The Heroes of Olympus, Rick Riordan by Bethan Hooton

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The Heroes of Olympus.

This series by far is one of the best spin off series ever.

Rick Riordan has brought so much more to the Percy Jackson world than I thought possible. He has added more complex story lines and has introduced Monsters and Gods that I didn’t know exist.

The overall plot for all 5 books is amazing. The idea of Mother Earth re-awakening and trying to destroy the Gods is brilliant. I love the way Rick introduced us to the prophecy right at the ending of the Percy Jackson series. It got me thinking about the new series. Would it be as good as this series?

The idea of bringing the Romans into this series was Rick’s best idea. He showed that there was conflict between the Greeks and Romans, and that even after thousands of years, things were not properly sorted. I really enjoy the way Rick presents us with Greek and Roman mythology. It wasn’t in huge blocks of text, but within characters’ thoughts and interactions.

I love how Rick brought in new characters, and switched to writing in 3rd person. It gives us different perspectives of the same world. How different characters reacted to finding out that they were demigods. I also like the way he changed the Point of View every couple of chapters. It gave us a better insight of the new characters and the old ones.

The thing that made this series amazing was the characters. There isn’t a useless character or a flat character (although some would argue Piper and Jason are). Each character is different has their own personality. Throughout each book, each character shows character development. I could read The Lost Hero and the Blood of Olympus and I would instantly be able to see how all the characters have changed and I love that. The characters in these books are just so memorable.

I adored the way Rick Riordan used jokes from the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series (The ‘dam’ joke from The Titans Curse). He mentioned old Monsters and characters that had not made an appearance in the Heroes of Olympus series but were present during the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series.

The way Rick wrote about all the different character relationships was amazing! He made it seem so realistic. He showed us that even in books, not everyone is going to get along. There is going to be conflict and jealousy. Not everyone is going to agree, but that’s life. Rick made the characters interact in such a way that you could relate to them, even if they were talking about how to defeat an ancient Greek Monster with Greek fire. You understood how the characters felt and you could empathise with them.

Rick has not only captured the attention of teens, but kids and adults too.

Even though, to me personally, The Blood of Olympus (the last book) was a bit of a let down, this series is by far one of my favourites. Rick has created a phenomenal world, and it will always have a place in my heart. I would recommend this series to anyone. You don’t even need to read the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series to understand what’s going on in The Heroes of Olympus (although I would recommend reading it first).

This series has made me laugh until my stomach hurts and cry until my throat is dry. It’s incredible. I seriously recommend picking up the first book – you won’t regret it!

 

Review of Romeo and Juliet, Sherman Cymru by Bethan Hooton

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Nurse played by Anita Reynolds

Romeo played by Chris Gordon

Photograph Credit Mark Douet

The production of Romeo and Juliet at Sherman Cymru was exciting and fun, as an audience member I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. The actors portrayed their characters in a realistic and comprehensible way. Even though the play was in Shakespearean English, I knew what was happening because of how the actors performed their roles, and their facial expressions. Throughout the whole play each actor stayed in character, and not once slipped up. During the Capulet’s party, I kept diverting my attention from Romeo and Juliet to see what the other characters were doing, and each one of them was doing something. Whether it be dancing or having a drink, they were never just there.

I really loved the fact that the Sherman modernized the play. The costumes and music were not from fourteenth/fifteenth century, but were from the twenty first century, which gave the play a really unique twist. The music really added something to the play, and made it much more entertaining for the younger audience.

The set was one of the best aspects of the whole play. The set designer, Kenny Miller, obviously had put a lot of thought into it. At the beginning when I saw the stage I wondered how they would show the balcony scene between Romeo and Juliet, I mean there wasn’t a balcony anywhere in sight. Well, I was absolutely amazed by how the balcony was revealed to be behind, what I thought was, just a street wall covered with posters. Absolutely amazing! The set had been so carefully designed and you could see that from the start. I loved how the Capulet’s mausoleum was right at the front, but also kind of unnoticeable until right at the end. The detail in the set design really blew my mind and I cannot begin to imagine how much time was put into creating it.

Whilst studying the play in school I didn’t really pay attention to characters such as Benvolio and Mercuito, they were just side characters. This production completely changed my mind. If it were not for those characters the play would not be nearly as excellent as it was. The actors who portrayed Benvolio Linden Walcott-Burton and Mercuito Scott Reid were incredible. I cannot believe that I hadn’t given them a second thought before. Benvolio was such a strong character. No head-turn, hand-gesture or line was unimportant. I was entranced as I watched him. I don’t cry at plays, but as I watched Mercuito die, tears came to my eyes. It was so realistic and believable! Scott Reid is a phenomenal actor and I would love to see him in other productions.

There are no words to describe how much I loved the Nurse played by Anita Reynolds. Her pink tracksuit, hairstyle and sassy persona had me enthralled every time she was on stage. I found myself just staring at the Nurse even when she wasn’t speaking, just to see the eye-roll I knew was coming.

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Romeo played by Chris Gordon

Juliet played by Sophie Melville

Photograph Credit Mark Douet

The love and angst between Romeo played by Chris Gordon and Juliet played by Sophie Melville was portrayed perfectly! I could not fault the actors at all. I love how Romeo was dressed and how Juliet was a typical teenage girl. It just added to the play and made it easier to understand.

I absolutely loved the production of Romeo and Juliet directed by Rachel O’Riordan at the Sherman Theatre. It was unbelievable! The set and music were brilliant! Each character was portrayed fantastically and I would love to see the play over and over again. If I had to choose between watching the 1996 film version of Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio and The Sherman Theatres version, I would pick the Sherman’s version without a second thought.