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Review : Styx, Second Body By Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

In the belly of one of London’s newest theatre’s, I experienced one of the most emotional and best nights of my life.

Entering the space, we are welcome to live music, played by a band of 7 – with brass instruments, electric guitars, sound scapes and a drum kit. The set basic, only light bulbs above each person and in the ceiling, and all dressed smartly but shoeless – I cannot tell you how much this minimalist band excited me – something unusual and live!

Styx is a true-life play developed by two of the band members who are siblings – there is a cross over of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice Greek myth and their own grandparents’ lives. It tackles the issues and reality of dementia, of love, of life and ultimately how memory works.

Second Body chop and change, from true recordings of their Grandmother, new and brilliant music composed, written and performed by the band on stage, spoken word and recordings from interviews with the band. While this sounds like a lot, it really works amazingly well. There is a pattern to the performance, and it felt like a dark yet humorous, genuine and unbelievably cool musical. The story is brought to us, from beginning to end, as we get to know their family, their grandparents, but with musical interludes.

Both of these are so genius-ly done that you could happily take them apart from one another and still love every second – but you don’t want to do that. It is so wonderful composed that it is hard not to love every single person, to love their family and to really see their emotion and passion for the piece.

This review feels hard to write – I could gush all day about how phenomenal this piece was. Dementia is something close to me, but even if you have never experienced this, you would have experienced some kind of grief or ending of a story – and so I would defy anyone to come away not feeling tearful, feeling welcomed and honoured in sharing their story and a warmth at how beautifully this performance is.

So enough gushing – I can only see that if you do not see this, you will miss one of the best pieces of theatre I have ever seen. Styx is unlike anything I have ever experienced before, and tantalised every theatrical and personal emotion.


Review: Rabbits In The Precambrian, Wrong Shoe Theatre By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

A philosophical play – what happens when your whole word beliefs are shattered? Who are you? What has or is your life about? Rabbits in the Precambrian tackles this thought with comedy, contemplation and interesting character development.

Wrong Shoe Theatre Company, fresh from Royal Holloway University and The Front Room Croydon’s resident artists bring the story of a group of people contemplating life and existence, with the help of a con artist Guru. It features slapstick, clever writing and a conclusive ending tying up all loose ends.

We see the differences in relationships, with the writing allowing the characters to contemplate their own worlds and interests – everyone has as big a role as the next, hitting areas not unlike a sitcom as they interweave into one another’s stories and lives.

The actors themselves do well to create their own in-depth character – two married couples, both with a lecturer half and the other a little unusual in their interests – they compliment each other but at times it feels a little like the males are very similar and the females are just the annoyed wives. Perhaps a reversal in roles could make this more interesting and balanced in the controversy of gender roles in today’s theatre.

There is a balance of slapstick humour and then philosophical discussion – both being very well done, it felt like the two still needed to gel a little more, crossing over into one another to compliment the unusual storyline.

Particularly the character of Reed, played by Liam Crocker, was excellent. He struck the right balance of hilarity to rationale – when finding out that his life’s beliefs are disproved, his downward spiral is believable, but his character is quick witted, comical and we relate to him and his disbelief of the unusual events. Moments of monologue are directed to each of us, and we feel included, the fourth wall breaking down, and it creates a nice moment between us and the character.

The Guru, while part of the main plot, is also a great comic relief. Think middle class, hipster kid, meets spiritualist. She strikes the right vocal notes for this character, making her wistful and flakey but at the same time a believable con artist.

The ending felt like a little work was needed – as a theatre creator and at times writer, ending a piece is always quite difficult and I get that once all the questions are answered, it is sometimes at a loss on how to do this; and this is what it felt like was a minor struggle at the end. While the final note hit the nail on the head, a little work on how to get there could absolutely solidify this ending.

Rabbits in the Precambrian is full of fun, comedy and rational thinking – A play definitely worth seeing and to keep an eye on through development.

Review Brightburn by Jonathan Evans

1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

A while after seeing Man of Steel and making very clear my dislike for it one of my friends posed this question for me “Is it that this is a bad movie or just that this is a bad Superman movie?” Interesting question, could it be that I’d be easier on the movie if it wasn’t meant to represent my favorite character? Well it does have Supermans name in it and the filmmakers knew that, so either way no point dwelling too much on that. But now here is Brightburn which is clearly taking the concept of the Superman origin story but pushing it through a horror filter.

Taking the concept but not having it directly be the exact thing gives the creatives the freedom to twist, reinvent and add any kind of layer over it they wish. Creatively I’m sure that’s a great luxury and could absolutely lend itself to some good stuff. But lets stay focused, we see a kindly young couple of the Breyer’s, Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman), they have a farm and are very much in love and want to start a family, it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards for them, until one night they hear a loud crash outside and go to investigate, it leads them to the smoking crater, then cuts to years later and they are now parents of a young boy (any of this sounding familiar?).

The boy’s name is Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn), he’s a shy kid, that likes to draw and gets bullied at school. He’s not what you would call the most sociable, but seems gentle and nice, except for one night when he seems compelled to go into the barn and something underneath is calling him. He also realizes that he has super strength, invulnerability, can fly and laser eyes (know of anyone else with those powers?). Underneath the barn is the pod that he arrived in years ago and it seems to send a message into his head. From here on he knits himself a red mask that resembles a gas-mask, dawns a red cape embraces the use of his super abilities.

From here on it is a series of him talking down each person that annoys him in extremely brutal and quite frankly fetishized ways. Not just due to the fact that the murderer has superpowers but that they dwell on all the gory elements we are just left to watch a series of brutal murders with the aid of superpowers

Everyone here is a very good actor, they sell the moments of leisurely downtime and humor and excel when they need to be scared. When Brandon toys with them like a cat with a mouse they are so worried about their lives and it shows. I’ve said it before but in an action movie you can have someone face down an insane threat and look cool as a cucumber doing it, but in a horror movie we need to feel the fear and one way you do that is to cleary show that the characters themselves are afraid.

There is the old saying “All power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” but I prefer how Robert Caro put it “What I believe is always true about power is that it always reveals. When you have enough power to do what you always wanted to do, then you see what the guy always wanted to do.” But maybe this is adding too much, the point is that this movie doesn’t really have any of this in mind, is it that Brandon was always a psychopath? Did the message from his ship rewire his brain to make him perform these horrendous acts? I’m not sure and I’m also sure neither are the filmmakers. I just feel like they wanted to take the concept of a character that embodies optimism and hope and put their own, mean spirited bleak icing over it.

Ultimately this is a movie without a soul and means nothing. Is about a kid who just seems to be a bad seed and because he is of a species that has superpowers can inflict his sadistic tendencies upon helpless humans, or a case of a bad seed, or the corrupting ability of power? It says nothing about why someone would be like this, about the corrupting element of power or the redemptive or limits of parental love. It wants to take a concept about pure goodness and put it own, cynical, malicious spin on it and I have, frankly, no patience or appetite for it.

Review Just a few words/Stammermouth by Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Just a Few Words/Stammermouth performed in the Seligman Theatre company in Chapter Arts Centre is one of the most poignant pieces of modern theatre that I have ever seen.

Just a Few Words is a one-man play that gives the audience a real insight into the mind of someone with a stammer. This is a show that tugs of every heartstring and plays with each anD every emotion you have. I think this is mainly due to the excellent choice of actor for this piece who was Nye Russell-Thompson. Russel-Thompson has created an insane amount of likability and authenticity to the character which meant that the audience desperately wanted him to succeed in the task at hand. At one part of the play, there is a ‘musical’ section which was very enjoyable and fun. This added to the surprising amount of comedy that was in play this about a very serious topic.

As this fondness from the audience is developed (due mostly to Russel-Thompso’s portrayal of the character) it makes the sadder sections of the play even more emotional. For example, There is a heart-breaking end to this play that had me (among many other) lost for words and there was a stunned silence for a long time after the play had finished. This end was frustrating at first however I believe the reason for its inclusion was to give a realistic message about life. This play’s main aim is to give a voice to the figurative (a semi-literal) voiceless which is very heartwarming. To see the character struggle to express what he wants to say helps create support from the audience but also brings people with speech disorders. As this show highlights the struggles of living with a stammer it is representing and empowering a group of people who often are ignored in theatre which was incredible to see.

This play fits into, what I like to call, a small theatre genre play. It worked perfectly in the compact theatre of Chapter and I believe that it would not work as well in a big theatre as, at times, feels as if the character is speaking directly to each and every member of the audience which only added to the relatability and likability from the audience. This made the play personal to each person which only exaggerated all the emotions the narrative made you feel.


This show was only an hour-long but when Nye Russell-Thompson was on stage you lose all track of time. He has you hooked every single minute he is there and you forget about time and life outside this theatre. Finally, this was another play that stripped back on all the paraphernalia of theatre and forced the audience attention to solely be on the actor on stage. There were very few movements in the show, the light placement stayed the same throughout the whole duration of the play, there were very few props (excluding the large pile of queue cards to express things when the character could not) and as it was a one-man play there was one actor , and one BSL interpreter on the stage. This made the play even more relatable to the audience but also was a more realistic portrayal of the real-life struggles of having a stammer which shows this play was well-thought-out during its development which shows the talent of its writers. I believe the reason this play fitted so nicely into the small theatre genre of plays is that it was performed in the Edinburgh fringe festival.

In conclusion, Just a Few Words/Stammermouth is an incredible piece of modern theatre that gives a voice to those who are often ignored in theatre and makes the audience feel a vast range of emotions. I hope that this show becomes even more popular and that we will see more of Nye Russell-Thompson in the future. I would rate this production 5 out of 5 stars and I would recommend this play to anyone interested in the power of theatre or anyone interested in the progression of theatre needed for it to become truly accessible to everyone.

Review: Nocturnal by Wilder Poetry by Sian Thomas

I heard of this book from a post on Central Avenue Publishing’s Instagram page:
https://www.instagram.com/p/BxKe0Mphhq1/. The look of the book, lighting, and array of stones drew me in to what it might be and what the work might be like, having never heard of the author, Wilder Poetry, nor the book itself before. Admittedly, the book sat in my wish-list for quite some time, as I was wading my way through my university’s reading list and books I had already bought in the mean time, but the minute I could get it, I did. I found out that the book was worth the wait; cover to cover I found poems I really enjoyed, imagery I thought captivating, and turns of phrase I found impeccable.
Something I loved quite greatly was the use of grey colours through the book; the blacks and whites, and the dots of silver on each cover and throughout its pages. I enjoyed that these were the only colours that were used, and that they were swapped around frequently. Black words on white pages, obviously, but also the flip-side of just that – it gives a new feeling to the book, and interesting angle is given to me, the reader, and it makes whatever poem is on the page feel much deeper and much, much more eye-catching. For example:

p23.

This is one of the pictures in the book that I loved especially, marking it with a post-it note as I so often do with poetry books. There was something I adored about the circles in the sun’s eyes, matching the longing feeling to the small piece, which is why this stuck out. Plus, “running after the moon” didn’t have to reach far to strike me as a lovely line, making me think about the way the moon follows you when you’re in the car or walking home. There was another, not unlike it, talking about dreams with a small corked bottle. Similarly made up with these white lines on dark pages, with a poem talking about dreams in the everyday lives that we have – not just isolated away in fantasy. They feel uplifting, and definitely boost the meaning of the poetry. I love the way they have a power like this, when they are just illustrations in a book, along with the words I like how it really feels like they mean something.

p22.

This is the poem the precedes the image of the sun and its poem, and it’s one of my favourites. It feels timely, while still being gentle and elegant – I am partial to books like this that quietly feed you their ideas, instead of slamming them down in front of you with force. The words in this poem, and in the wider book, are all ones I loved; the sky being very frequent, too, was lovely.
I really enjoyed this book! Wilder Poetry has a knack for writing in this particular and really lovingly articulate way. I’m glad I heard about it, and even happier that I got the chance to pick it up and read it myself.

Sian Thomas

Review: Rouge, Underbelly Southbank London, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Who couldn’t be excited by an adult only circus? We begin our night by our intro full of comedy, verbal notes on a good time and nudity – and this is exactly what we get.

Amongst awe inducing stunts, flying high in the air, balancing on unstable chairs, fire, whips, you name it, we get a show full of attitude, hilarity, tongue and cheek and lots of naughtiness. It’s true that this is a circus unlike any other.

This isn’t a show for the prudish, or the shy. The group openly admit that their idea behind the show is breaking down gender and sex roles, and so we see plenty of sexual tension between all sexes – they throughout cross gender roles, with femme and androgynous looks as well as woman taking a lead in dominance. And this shows another great step towards more open and equal performances that are popping up across the theatrical scene.  

Don’t be shocked if you fall in love with these characters – each with their own personality on show, they can be demure and intense with more serious acts but none are afraid to make a fool of themselves, taking playful approaches to S&M, hilarious dance routines with obscured faces by a lamp shade and dancing to a song stating ‘turn me on’ – at this point a light switch by their genitals can be flicked on with light blasting out. There’s no end to the inventiveness and comedy with their routines.

And of course, the more intense stunts are beautiful, well-rehearsed and stunning. The ability to make it look so easy, but with our full knowledge of the strength and skill going into these. They keep their performance faces on, even if the heat literally gets turned up as they swallow fire or keeping their head as they are swung around the room.

Rouge is raunchy, a great degree of enjoyment and certainly a brilliant night out – For ADULTS ONLY!

Rouge plays at Underbelly as part of the Southbank Festival until the 15th September.

Brush up your Shakespeare by Ann Davies

Forget revision, intense study (I remember those days well) Forget the “clipped” British film version or the American theme portrayed on Venice Beach – (seemed strange with those costumes and a “Californian Dreaming” background, unless of course, you are an ardent fan of Leonardo DiCaprio). This was a thoughtful retelling of Shakespeare’s tragic play “Romeo and Juliet” directed by Matthew J. Bool and skilfully performed by Avant Cymru.

Matthew J. Bool, Director

The Amphitheatre at Penrhys – built over 20 years ago as a Project by world wide students – became the 21st Century Globe Theatre as the area sparkled like a magnificent gem linking an intricate necklace from its vantage point on high above the two Rhondda Valleys

There was a murmur of anticipation hanging in the air; we were all seated on the amphitheatre stone steps, almost like elephants sitting on top of lollipop sticks. Sunhats, sun cream, drinks and cushions were necessities. Bird song and traffic could be heard in the far distance, then silence as we were all transported to our very own Verona high in the mountains of the county of Glamorganshire. Guitar music and song emanated from a trio of cast members as the Chorus/Nurse introduced us to the famous story.

The story is as of old, boy meets girl, they fall instantly in love but they are from opposite sides in an age old vendetta between the two families. They find themselves as star crossed lovers, marry secretly, Juliet discovers that her parents have arranged a marriage. There are fights and Romeo’s friend Mercutio is killed by Tybalt (who through the couple’s marriage is now a kinsman of Romeo). Romeo kills Tybalt and is banished from Verona.

A desperate plan is needed; Friar Laurence provides Juliet with an herbal draught which will induce a “deathly” sleep. He has promised to notify Romeo of this scheme. Juliet will awake and be reunited with Romeo and all will be well. Alas the message goes undelivered. Romeo, fearing the worst buys a phial of poison which he imbibes on finding Juliet in the Capulet Family Vault. Juliet wakes to find her beloved dead, a last kiss and using Romeo’s dagger she kills herself. The families are reunited in their sorrow.

Freyja Duggan as Benvolio was like a happy sprite, full of mischief and mayhem. Matthew J. Bool as Mercutio was like a supercharged Jack in the box, in turn volatile, serious and sensitive to the varying moods Romeo was in. As friends of Romeo, they try to lift his spirits believing that he is not in love with his present amour, Rosaline, just besotted. On a whim Romeo decides to gate-crash the Capulet Family Masked Ball thus lighting the touch paper in this conflict. Douglas Guy plays the romantic Romeo who, on meeting Juliet, played by Gabrielle Williams, believing her to be pure, dreamlike with her beautiful hair flowing like a waterfall, he loses all senses; their combined emotions wobble like a blancmange in an earthquake. There is no denying the ignition of passion, they do not realise how the situation will implode – they only see each other.

Jamie Berry, who plays Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, is steadfast and strong in his role pursuing the family feud. Romeo refuses to fight Tybalt, as a result of which Tybalt mortally wounds Romeo’s friend, Mercutio. Romeo ends up killing Tybalt for which he is sentenced to banishment from Verona. Romeo seeks the counsel of his mentor, Friar Lawrence played by Eleri Bowden who is busy as a bee reporting everything via an IPad. A secret marriage ceremony is performed little realising that an arranged marriage has been organised by Juliet’s parents to Paris, a cousin of the Prince of Verona. Juliet is in worse despair as Friar Laurence comes up with the desperate plan to fake her death.

Juliet’s Nurse, played by Menna Sian Rogers is a delight; a Valleys Mam/a “Bopa” (neighbour, not related but still an Aunt that would look out or after the children) a knot of gossip, almost supplying a comedic wordplay to the tragedy as it unfolds.

The act is set, Juliet is found presumed dead the following morning; taken to the Capulet Vault to lie in state. The uncompromising Lord Capulet, played by Shane Anderson and the fair Lady Capulet played by Rachel Pedley crumble in their anguish. Romeo, learning of Juliet’s “demise” buys himself a phial of poison for his life is nothing without her, he comes to the Vault closely followed by Paris, played by Jack Wyn White, they cannot console each other, the stakes are too high, there is a fight and Romeo kills Paris. In his grief, Romeo imbibes the poison and lies down beside Juliet.  Juliet awakes to find her beloved dead; her final act is to kiss Romeo and uses his dagger to kill herself.

It was a wordy and worthy adaption of the play. We have all grown up in the time of HRH Elizabeth II with social media fuelling the age of selfies and such emoji’s making their impact on lives.

This was what it would have been like in the reign of Elizabeth I, a play performed in the round, people eating conversing as the story enfolds. To think of it as a blank page, like a story book awaiting a tale to tell. It brought Shakespeare to life and we were all part of it. The staged fights were expertly choreographed by Jamie Berry – and when he was mortally wounded we wondered what happened to him as he disappeared into the “other valley”. We were concerned about the actors playing the main roles as they expired hoping that the sun wouldn’t cause more harm to their fatality!

We were part of it all, as a scene that has been repeated over the years with barriers such as the Berlin Wall separating East from West, the Gaza Strip. Love stories amidst the differences of creed, colour and religion.

Small sadnesses, great tragedies link us all in love. Never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo

“No legacy is as rich as honesty” – Shakespeare.

Critic Ann Davies with Director Matthew J. Bool.

A family trip to see Annie at the WMC with Tempo Time Credits by Rhian Gregory

On my Facebook newsfeed , a post from Tempo Time Credits page caught my eye. It was offering tickets to see Annie, in exchange for Time Credits.

When musical theatre offers come up with Time Credits they usually sell out super fast.

We were in the car on our way to Bristol Zoo to celebrate my partner and our son’s birthday. I thought let’s try see if I can get any! It took about 40 minutes to get through on the phone, my hopes were slowly fading. They offered 3 different days, I could only do the Bank Holiday Monday evening as my partner was working the other days. I got 3 tickets including a wheelchair space, carer ticket through the HYNT scheme and another seat. This cost me 4 time credits. (2 Time Credits per ticket, but with the HYNT scheme the carer is free).

I wasn’t sure at first who would go, myself my mum and dad (it was my dad’s birthday that day too), or myself and oldest two children. I firstly offered them to my parents. I felt they deserved a treat, and that it was my dads birthday. Cody had been to see Madagascar the musical earlier in the month, and Cerys went to see The Little Mermaid with her nan and cousin. They kindly declined and wanted Cody and Cerys to have them to enjoy.

Sunny warm Bank Holiday Monday came. May I emphasise sunny and warm, as most bank holidays are cold, windy and wet in Wales.

It was a super busy day for us all. Cerys attended her extra gymnastics session in the morning. They were celebrating their one year anniversary being open.

Chris’ sister managed to get us tickets for the Chepstow Racecourse Family Fun Day, so we went along and met up together.

From here we called in to see my dad and sang happy birthday. I would have liked longer there, was a very short visit.

Then off we went to the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay. My partner Chris dropped us off and looked after our youngest, while Cody, Cerys and I went to watch Annie.

If you are visiting the Wales Millennium Centre, or Cardiff Bay in general, there are a few places you can park. A blue badge holder can pay to park backstage, on site at the Millennium Centre. Or anyone can pay to park at the Red Dragon Centre close by. If you spend money (over £5 I believe) in any of the places at the red dragon centre, parking is free.

There is a multi storey car park close by too. I’m unsure of the prices I’ve never used it. Very slightly further away, a lovely little walk taking in some of the sites, is the Mermaid Quay 2 floor car park, and a pay and display car park near the St David’s Hotel and Spa.

My son likes to use the toilets and go straight up to our seats, even if the doors haven’t been opened to go in yet. We were outside the theatre doors an hour early, first in line! Then he asks every 2 minutes what the time is and how long is it until the open the doors and how many minutes for the show to start. I believe this is part of him, his additional needs. Still no diagnoses for him. (I know a lot of children do ask what time is it and how long etc many times, but this for Cody is different. He appears to get overly anxious, and become more unsettled if the time isn’t told and seen. I was probably asked over 20 times at least.) Cody decided he wanted to wear ear protection headphones out this evening, for the journey here and for the performance. He doesn’t always use them, only occasionally when he feels he needs to. I noticed he was tapping on the wooden side of the balcony and rubbing his hands against it to make a squeaky sound.

I felt like including this in my blog post today, because my eldest does have additional needs and requires that extra support. I’ve mentioned it a little before in my blog, in the post called ‘is it the A word?’ These behaviours stood out to me during our evening. and I mindfully notice this more and more.

We hadn’t had tea, so we were snacking on buffet style foods while waiting, mini sausages, savoury eggs and strawberry lace. What a selection!

A little bell sounded, half an hour before the start time of 7.30. Cody jumped up and down, shouting mum it’s time, get your tickets out. He ran after the usher going to open the doors. I haven’t really mentioned Cerys in this. But she was with me too. She’s quieter and more mellow. Cerys was taking it in, asking about Annie, saying she had seen the modern film version and clips of the older Annie musical film. Standing by my side, walking nicely as we go in.

A bit of background about the Broadway Annie the Musical. It was put together by a player writer named Thomas Meehan who wrote the book, music Charles Strouse and lyrics Martin Charnin. It was originally based on a comic strip called Little Orphan Annie created by Harold Gray.

Annie the musical is about a little orphan girl called Annie, who lives in Miss Hannigan children’s home. A billionaire (Mr Warbucks) invites an orphan (Annie) to come stay with him for Christmas, his love grows for Annie as a daughter and he wants to adopt her. Annie clings on to hope of finding her real parents and Mr Warbucks tries to help her. Miss Hannigan makes a plan with her brother and his girlfriend, to pretend to be her parents in order to get the money reward. They are caught out and arrested. Annie finds out her real parents are no longer alive, and Mr Warbucks adopts her.

I’m always quite contented and happy with the wheelchair space at the WMC (Wales Millennium Centre). We have always had seats in the front on the middle stalls. It gives a good view and plenty of leg space, apart from when the ice cream and merchandise cart comes around, which is very close, and lots of people nearly pile on top of you, but I can put up with that for a few minutes. I’m usually in a good mood at this stage, with being blown away with how good the first half of the show has been.

That certainly was the case with Annie. The start of the musical began in the dorm of the children’s home, the orphaned girls in their bed waking up to Molly having a bad dream and singing the first song “Maybe” followed by Miss Hannigan first entrance and then the song “It’s the Hard Knock Life”.

I was impressed by the talent of the children straight away. I wasn’t sure what to make of Miss Hannigan at this point but in a later scene with her brother and his girlfriend, their trio performance was fantastic. How they interacted on stage with their superb singing and choreographed dancing in the song “Easy Street” and “Easy Street reprise”, absolutely brilliant! They seemed to just click perfectly!

Another of my favourite moments of the musical was “I Think I’m Going to Like it Here” and “N.Y.C”. It reminded me of that ‘classic’ musical feel I get from the older musicals with the likes of Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. The variety of different types of dance including tap was wonderful to see.

My little girl said to me, before the end of the first act, can we come back and see it again mum, I really like it.

Annie, is a vibrant family musical with catchy tunes and a talented mixed cast of children and adults.

The Time Credit opportunity to pay for tickets, gave us this chance to experience and thoroughly enjoy it.

When we came out of the main auditorium, and back down into the main foyer, the Luke Jerram artwork called Gaia, planet Earth looked spectacular. It’s there from July 30th – September 1st.

When we previously saw it during another visit in day time, my children laid down underneath mesmerised by it.

Annie plays at the Wales Millenium Centre until the 31st of August.

Review of Les Misérables – the concert @ Gielgud Theatre london by Patrck Downes

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Based on Victor Hugo’s door-stopper of a novel, it follows one man’s story of survival in the face of persecution amidst social and political upheavals in 19th Century Paris.

The original London show, a collaboration between the Royal Shakespeare Company and Cameron Mackintosh, opened at the Barbican on 8 October 1985. It then moved to the Palace Theatre, when in 2004, moved to it’s current home of the Queen’s Theatre. The Queen’s is currently being refurbished, and whilst this happens, Les Mis has moved next door to the Giegud as a concert version.

Starring some of the biggest names to have graced Les Mis, this version strips back from the acting and provides some of the most powerful versions of the most famous songs in musical theatre.

From the very first bar to the last encore, Les Mis the concert does not fail to entertain, and to take you on an emotional journey a normal musical would find it difficult to achieve.

With Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean, and Michael Ball as Javert, leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is a star-studded cast that have the “miz” running through their veins. Add into the mix Carrie Hope Fletcher as Fantine (who’s previously played young Éponine and older Éponine), and Matt Lucas – probably known best for comedy with Little Britain and in Dr Who) – you have one of the finest casts to hit London’s West End in many a year.

With a musical concert, the main staging is different, and the orchestra becomes the backdrop. This also helps I feel bring a different level of emotion to the soundtrack. You feel you’re completely immersed in the sound. That together with the lighting brings this production to a different level to a normal musical.

Stand out moments for me include Carrie’s “I dreamed a dream”. You could feel she knows the character inside out so knew how to being the emotion from within the lyrics. Also, Alfie Boe’s “Bring him home”. I would say it’s one the most amazing performances I’ve seen, if I could say I saw it, as I spent pretty much the entire last 2/3 of the song with tears running down my face (damn Hay Fever).

I will admit to being not the biggest Michael Ball fan. Having seen him previously in Hairspray, wasn’t really expecting much (sorry Michael), but was pleasantly surprised. Having previously played Marius in the original production in 1985, becoming Javert certainly made me appreciate how good Michael is.

Favourite Matt Lucas moment happens when Jean Valjean comes to take Cossette from the Thénardier’s. If you know the plot, then you’d know where the songs fit and their meaning. If you weren’t a massive fan, then Matt Lucas questioning who Jean was and what’s he doing there may have just confused you a little. That aside, Matt Lucas is one of musical theatre’s hidden gems!

Your opportunity to see this amazing show is quite limited (end of November 2019), and I’m hoping there’ll be a filmed version released so more people can witness how brilliant this show is.

I went into the Gielgud Theatre as someone who’d seen the musical few years back and quite liked it. I came out as a massive fanboy. The cast, the staging, the sound – all amazing!

✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

Review by Patrick Downes

Review Booksmart by Jonathan Evans

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

From its setup and concept, Booksmart could easily be just another teen movie where shenanigans ensue and jokes are sprinkled throughout and it’s either pretty funny or a dud. But through a tightly written script, actors that have great timing and nuance and a director that knows what they’re doing and brings a few bold choices to the table it is not only very funny but one of the best movies of this year!

Opening the movie is a girl sitting in her room, in a meditating pose and listening to a motivating track, the voice tells her to believe in herself, tackle all problems in the way of her goals and to all the people that look down on her “Fuck those fucking fuckers!” we also see that her room is decorated with an assortment of ribbons, medals, and inspirational women, this is Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and this tells us almost everything we need to know about her character. Pulling up outside her best friend Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), the two greet and break into dance over a track on the radio and they tell each other that they’ve missed one another even though they saw each other yesterday. This tells us everything we need to know about their friendship.

When they get to school it is established that it’s the last day of the school year, they are about to graduate to college, and both girls are very invested in extra curricular activities. The other students are more interested in the big party that will be happening tonight as they have for most of the year. during an encounter in the bathroom where Molly flaunts her getting into Yale to the popular girl (Molly Gordon) where she learns that she will also be going to Yale and the other students that she’s looked down on are all going on to good schools.

So it is the night before graduation, Molly is shook with the realization that they didn’t have to make a choice between school and having a social life that she dedicates herself to the idea that her and Amy will be attending the big party and have fun, experience and memories before entering college.

So this is a pretty standard setup for a teen comedy. We have youths, we have a party that lends itself to the very likely possibility of something crazy happening as well as characters that want something crazy to happen. Indeed crazy things do happen and their journey to the big party is anything but smooth, but it is the fact that all the jokes themselves are funny and not predictable that make this familure road seem refreshing.

When it comes to crime movies, or mysteries, or action movies it’s a simpler thing to make the story tight. Every character and element must serve a function, like the old phrase “Never introduce a gun in Act 1 if you’re not going to fire it by Act 3.” However comedy is actually a completely different beast, it is allowed to throw in all kinds of meaningless bells and whistles for the sake of it, there can be a moment or a character that comes in briefly and never makes a return and as long as we laugh I doubt anyone would really cry fowl about it. This, however, is both tightly woven and very funny, the characters hobbies, their wild actions, things that are said in passing come back and pay-off later down the road and they are all funny. This has set a dangerously high bar for comedy with not excess fat.

Filling the directing chair is Olivia Wilde. An accomplished actor in her own right now she helms her own project. Usually, when actors take up duties on the other side of the camera their focus goes to the actors and their performances. She definitely spends time with her actors, honing their performances but she has brought a keen visual flair to this project. She has experience shooting music videoes which was most likely the biggest help. Many of the jokes play out for their visuals, there are strong, bold lighting choices and there are a few times when she lets the story play out in a purely visual way. It also comes with one of the most unique and memorable drug trip-out scene you’ll see in a movie for a while.

There’s a great use of music in the movie. Much of the songs are “Gangsta Rap” which is about seeming bigtime and bragging about all your accomplishments and worldly possetions. Whenver the girls are in their true element it kick in but they are not doping the actthat would most likely be associated with the music e.g. going into a library to study. It is the knowing disconnect but filmming it like its legitimate that makes it funny. The score adds the the over-the-top overblown ego of these characters and situations. Later on in the movie there is a more tender score to even out the bombosity.

All these laughs and shock and colors are fun and everything but unless it all means something then the movie would just be like sugar, enoyable while your having it but the sensation quickly fades away. Underneath all the swearing, crazy acts and punchlines is a story about two best friends whos lives are about to change forever and just because your outside of the normal in your school life that doesnt make you better. There’s a tender, vry honest heart beating at the center of this movie and that’s what will stick with you after you see it and keep you coming back.

From it’s vivid characters that represent some form of insecurity/stereotype, to it’s basic setup that becomes on epic quest, to generous visual flourishes and a rock solid script for all this to be built upon, Booksmart is one of this years and a few other years best comedies.