Category: Reviews


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So it’s back. I always forget just how much I’ve missed Doctor Who until those opening titles of a new series roll out.  Series 10 kicked off on Saturday with the introduction of a brand new companion – Bill Potts. After the initial intro clip last year I wasn’t too sure about Bill. She came across as a bit too cartoony and goofy and I could see her being very annoying very fast. However…(wait for it….rare moment coming up) I was wrong. Bill definitely made her mark in her premiere episode – showing that she was an intellectual match for the Doctor and adding a fresh new dynamic on board the TARDIS.

Bill is a new kind of companion. She sees things from a view point we’ve not had before. (She even asks the classic question in a different way – ‘Doctor what?’) She is refreshing for many reasons but mostly because of her humanity. I loved Clara, but by the end of her run if felt like she was saying the same things over and over again. The same quizzical expression. The same sarcastic comments. The same sort of cutesiness. Bill is different. Bill isn’t afraid to call the Doctor out on his faults – which of course Clara was happy to do too – but I can imagine Bill doing it with a bit less sass. She’s honest, grounded and flawed. She’s just a bit more human! The ways she’s written comes across so naturally. Perfect qualities for a classic companion. Bill also had one of the best introductions to the TARDIS, with the lights slowly booting up as the camera pans out…..only for her to liken it to a kitchen (its’ true) and a lift (also true). In her first episode she experiences heartbreak as she is forced to let Heather go. Her strength, complexity and emotional depth in these scenes are promising. It’ll be interesting to see how her story unfolds…

One thing that did stick out as odd was the re-appearance of Nardole. Nardole seems to have just…happened! Probably due to the large gap between his introduction in the 2015 Christmas special and his more recent appearance last Christmas.  Nardole just doesn’t quite seem to work yet. Still, I’m hopeful a satisfying explanation as to why the Doctor has him sticking around will be revealed as the series rumbles on. Though at the minute it does sort of feel like Moffatt is keeping him so he can kill him off in the finale (he’s promised it will be a ‘bloodbath’.)

The Pilot demonstrates one of the shows keys themes – regeneration. Doctor Who has the gift of being able to overhaul everything once things start to get a bit stale. It’s great to keep things fresh and allow a ‘stepping on’ point for new viewers….but what about old viewers? Doctor Who has gone through a lot of changes over time, particulary since it’s return in 2005, and next year will see the show have a new Executive Producer, a new Doctor, a new look and possibly a new companion. So did we really need this new revamp so soon? Sometimes the constant changing between series’ can be off putting to those who want to immerse themselves into a story they have already invested so much in. It can be a bit frustrating when the reset button keeps being pushed. Take Capaldi’s Doctor, for instance. This is only the beginning of his third series and he has transformed so much. He’s gone from grouchy and dangerous to a wise old grandfather figure. What happened to the snarling beast Moffatt promised after Matt Smith’s regeneration? I’d have liked that process to take a little longer, to have really been explored. It’s a shame this is to be Capaldi’s last series as his Doctor hasn’t really had much chance to shine.

So, overall a good opening episode but I’m hopeful for a bit less re-booting and a few more references to the show’s history in future episodes. Having pictures of River Song and Susan on the Doctor’s desk was a nice touch. The new TARDIS dynamic is going to give us some interesting moments in the lead up to Capaldi’s exit. I think it’s gonna be a good one.

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My countdown continues! Below are my top eight most WTF moments in NuWho. Allonsy!

Number 8 – Oswin Oswald, Asylum of the Daleks, Series 7.

We kneImage result for Oswin Oswald gifw Jenna Coleman was the new companion but didn’t expect her to pop up alongside Amy and Rory in Asylum of the Daleks. OK, she wasn’t playing Clara Oswald but Oswin Oswald, who turned out to be a version of Clara….confused? Well this brings me on to…..

 

Number 7 – Clara’s secret finally revealed, The Name of the Doctor, series 7.

We’d been guessing for months as to who on Earth Clara Oswald was and The Name of the Doctor finally revealed her true identity which was…..Clara Oswald. Not some sinister force sent to destroy the Doctor or a forgotten Timelord, as some speculated, but an ordinary Earth girl. At the end of the episode she rescues the Doctor by stepping into his timeline, scattering herself across his many lives, thus explaining why she kept popping up in previous episodes. Clever! The cold-open of this episode is gasp-inducing enough with the many references to the Doctor’s past faces, but, just to push any fan over the edge, we’re then hit with the arrival of the War Doctor played by John Hurt! Boom! Fangasms all round.

Number 6 – ‘I don’t want to go’, The End of Time, Part 2

The death toll was ringing for the Tenth Doctor for what seemed like years, but on New Year’s Day 2010 the mystic Ood in the snow finally sent him to his maker. After visiting several of his favourite companions, the Tenth Doctor stumbled into the TARDIS and began to regenerate, delivering one final heart-breaking line. As with many of the Doctor’s best moments, this was made extra-special by Murray Gold’s incredible soundtrack.

Number 5 – Rose’s death, Doomsday, Series 2.

‘This is the story of how I died.’Image result for rose tyler bad wolf bay gif

Drama queen Rose sets the story off to a happy start, leaving viewers on the edge of their seats, knowing this was Billie Piper’s last episode (or so we thought). The battle of Canary Wharf with Torchwood, Daleks and Cybermen, ensured the second series ended with a bang, but the WTF moment came as Rose was sucked closer to the void opening, only to be rescued at the very last minute by her fake-Dad from a parallel universe. Sealed in Other Earth, Rose gets one last chance to say goodbye to the Doctor in Bad Wolf Bay. No one needs reminding of that beach scene. *sniff* but the Whoniverse did do a great big sigh of relief as Rose survived in another world, but technically dead in this one.

Number 4 – ‘You Are Not Alone’, Gridlock, Series 3. 

Gridlock is an underrated episode. A simple idea – The Doctor and Martha visit New Earth only to find the majority of New New York’s citizens are trapped on an underground motorway and have been for many years. It’s in this episode that the Doctor starts to reveal his past to Martha, explaining how the rest of his species were killed and he is now the last of his kind. Most of the action takes place within various vehicles, but key themes of belief and hope are powerfully conveyed. The scene where drivers take part in the ‘daily contemplation’ is very moving. It all ends with the Doctor over-riding the motorway system, freeing everyone who is trapped and allowing them to rebuild the city. He’s helped by the Face of Boe, who shares his final secret with him before he dies – ‘You Are Not Alone’. Enigmatic, right?

Number 3 – The 50th Anniversary, The Day of the Doctor, Special episode.

Months of teasers and guesswork led to this massive episode. Event television at its finest. The Day of the Doctor had lots of references to the history of the show, as well as setting up the return of Gallifrey for future episodes. Long awaited shots of the time war were spectacular and the returns of David Tennant, Billie Piper, Jemma Redgrave, Tom Baker and the Zygons satisfied viewers around the world. Throw in a secret Doctor (played to perfection by John Hurt) and an impossible choice and you have an emotionally charged celebratory episode. (Note: We also get introduced to Osgood in this episode and she is several kinds of awesomeness.)

Number 2 – Melody Pond, A Good Man Goes to War, Series 6.Image result for a good man goes to war gif

Mid-season cliffhanger alert! Professor River Song’s (AKA The Doctor’s wife) identity was finally revealed during this episode. Showing up just as the Doctor has lost the battle of demon’s run, with Amy and Rory’s new baby, Melody, being kidnapped by the genuinely terrifying Madam Kovarian, River tries to console the grieving parents. Taking a prayer leaf embroidered with Melody’s name, River explains that the name (Melody Pond…with me?) translates as River Song. Thus revealing that through timey-wimey madness she is Amy and Rory’s daughter. Despite looking fifteen years older than them.

Number 1 – Everything, Turn Left/The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End, Series 4.

Nothing can top these three episodes. This was Doctor Who at its peak, for me. The end of RTD’s era saw a culmination of plot threats and great big mega-fan-wanky (his words, not mine) finale. Turn Left was a masterpiece, re-visiting events from the last few series from the perspective of Donna Noble (in my opinion, the best companion). We also got a glimpse of the dystopic nightmare world that exists without the Doctor. (Mass-death, concentration camps, segregation…not exactly a light and fluffy episode!) The final few moments where Donna reveals she’s met Rose Tyler (‘She said….two words….Bad Wolf’) still gives me shivers and then there’s the trailer for the next episode! I don’t think I’ve ever fangirled so much over a trailer. Flashes of all the favourite characters from past seasons and spin-off shows (Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures) as well as a Red Dalek! Harriet Jones! Captain Jack! K9! All in one episode?! Christ, I was so excited. I’ve watched The Stolen/Earth and Journey’s End so many times I can almost quote it off by heart. The way all the characters play a part and threads are brought together so neatly is fantastic and a masterclass in storytelling. And then there’s that regeneration shocker! Catherine Tate is also at her peak in these episodes, proving Donna Noble is totally kick ass. By the end, you’ll be in tears.  Whether it’s at the Earth being saved (with that wonderful music), Donna Noble leaving the TARDIS in heart-breaking fashion, or just because you’re so bloody happy that everyone is together!

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Warning: Spoilers within as well as references to explicit material.

Hello. My name is RebelliousG. And I would like to share with you the most amazing show.

In principle, The Book of Mormon sounds like it should be a pretty dull show. A musical about Mormons? Really? You’d be forgiven for guessing this show is an elaborate plot to promote the religion but, for those uninterested in changing faith, have no fear. This show is anything but an advertisement. And it’s certainly not dull. With tongue placed firmly in cheek, The Book of Mormon tells the story of smarmy, self-absorbed Elder Price and his loveable, clueless fellow missionary, Elder Cunningham, as they are deployed to Uganda on a hopeless mission to convert a village of agnostic Africans.

The opening Image result for book of mormon londonnumber welcomes us to the pristine and innocent world of Mormon friends as they practise their perky greetings. It’s a full on cheese-fest that’ll win anyone round immediately. It all goes a bit pear-shaped when, after dreaming of being sent to Orlando, Elder Price is packed off to Uganda and saddled with Elder Cunningham to dampen his mood further.

This is where things get a bit….explicit. The Mormons arrive in Uganda and meet a bunch of hapless missionaries who have yet to recruit anyone to the church, but stay positive by ‘turning it off’ – a useful technique of switching off all negative feelings, told wonderfully though a big tap number. Turn it off is the definition of a showstopper. Tap-dancing Mormons singing cheerfully about turning off their guilt, grief and suppresse
d sexuality. What more could you want? It’s topped off with the quickest costume change I’ve ever seen.

Another stand out number is the ‘Hakuna Matata’-esque, Hasa Diga Eebowai, sang by the Ugandan villagers on the Elders arrival. Don’t be fooled though, the writers knew exactly what they were doing with this one. At first it sounds like the Ugandans are singing a message of jolly perseverance to an INCREDIBLY catchy tune, but the true translation of Hasa Diga Eebowai is soon revealed to the horrified Mormons as a great big eff-you to God. It then descends into a barrage of explicit insults at the ‘heavenly father’ which, annoyingly (well…OK…not really), is a bit of an ear worm. (You’re really gonna have to try hard to get this tune out of your head!) The lyrics might be enough to force even the most open-minded person to cringe but the message of Hasa Diga Eebowai is actually a powerful one. The villagers have to deal with genital mutilation, awful living conditions, the threat of a war lord and the AIDS outbreak. A powerful line from the song sums it up

‘If you don’t like what we say,

Try living here a couple days.

Watch all your friends and family die,

Hasa Diga Eebowai!’

Some people might judge this musical number as offensive and I imaginRelated imagee this is the point where people might walk out (two people did in our performance) but if you put yourself in their shoes, you can see where their lack of faith has come from. The song actually does
what theatre is supposed to – it makes the audience challenge their ideas and empathise. I loved it!

From a show that tackles topics such as rape, FGM, violence and intercourse with amphibians, it has a really warm heart. The show never cruelly mocks Mormons or their beliefs, nor does it preach to the audience. Elder Price collapses under the strain of his new environment, and even endures having his book inserted somewhere very painful in another darkly comic moment, and it’s Elder Cunningham who emerges the hero. Although he lies to the villagers and spices up the Book of Mormon by ‘taking the holy word and adding fiction’, such as threats of the fiery depths of Mordor and being struck down by Boba Fett, he gives them something to believe in which gives them strength. Whilst Elder Price might lose his faith, he, as well as the other missionaries and villagers, are given a new one. The Book of Mormon promotes the power of Belief and how, whatever you choose to believe in, it can help you through the toughest situation.  We’re also given the message to ‘take one day at a time’ and not worry about life after death.Image result for book of mormon london hasa

KJ Hippensteel was delightfully cheesy as the ‘all American prophet with the Donny Osmond flare’. It must be hard to find the balance between face-punching arrogance and endearing naivety but Hippensteel treads that fine line perfectly as Elder Price. David O’Reilly gave us some side-aching moments of comedy as Elder Cunningham and you could tell he was enjoying every minute of being on stage. Another reason the show is such is a hit is that its main characters are poignantly human and flawed. They both make mistakes, whether that’s lying or, in the words of Jesus, just being a dick. There are moments when you know you shouldn’t like them….but you still do! Alexandra Ncube is a power house as Nabulungi (or is that….Neutrogena? Or Nutella? Or Nigel Farage?), giving us some sweet moments with Elder Cunningham and tingles as she sings her heart out in Sal Tlay Ka Siti. I’ve also got to mention Stephen Webb who gave an excellent performance as the secretly gay Elder McKinley, with subtle comic timing, never over-doing it.

The show is held together tightly by an excellent supportive cast. The Mormon missionaries are a joy to watch, whether they’re tapping in Turn it Off, high-kicking in hell during Spooky Mormon Hell Dream or breaking our hearts as they prepare to leave the village after a disastrous mission. The actors playing them gave a masterclass in being a dazzling ensemble with eye popping footwork and super-quick costume changes.

So, The Book of Mormon comes with the highest recommendation. Put any preconceptions aside, they’re not needed. This is a refreshing piece of theatre that pulls out all the stops and shocks in all the right places, for the right reasons. You’ll be tittering at the dark comedy for a long time afterwards, just as you’ll find yourself singing about the most inappropriate things at the photocopier at work the next day. But it stays with you for other reasons too. Beneath all the grimness and cynicism is a very warm heart and an important message. Plus it’s got a kick-ass soundtrack.  The worst thing about seeing this show is the desperate urge to see it again!

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‘Oh, Christ. I’ve got to write a blog post about this horrendous year!’

I sat down at the laptop. Brexit. Trump. Celebrity deaths. The end of the Bake Off as we know it. Where on earth do I start?

Well…actually….I’d like to focus on the positives. Not just because doing otherwise would mean typing up a mammoth post that my wrists just can’t handle, but because somewhere in the embers of 2016, amongst all the ash, are a couple of gems.

I have to keep reminding myself that, for me, it’s been an awesome year. Yes, I may have been clutching for the mojitos and chocolate and spending too much time buried in a duvet by the time Christmas hit, but we can’t let the horrors of 2016 impinge on the good stuff.

First of all, there’s my job. Alright, I’m aware this is becoming a bit of a catchphrase of mine but, I do really love my job, and 2016 was the year I was entrusted with my own class. Every morning I wake up and get to spend time with hilarious, caring and happy people. What a gift!

2016 has also fuelled my favourite hobby – theatre. I’d gone through a very dry patch where theatre was concerned, until March when I discovered some real gems at Theatre Clwyd….and the obsession with theatre tickets began. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Little Shop of Horrors, Joseph, Be My Baby, Cyrano de Bergerac, RENT….just some of the awesome shows I’ve been lucky to see this year. Then, of course, there was the big one – London. I’m still recovering from the brilliance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Southwark Playhouse and I don’t think I’ll ever get over that conversation with Freddie Fox. (I say ‘conversation’. I did a lot of nodding.) I also (accidentally) went to my first Pride festival whilst in London. A celebration of diversity, unity and love. The perfect antidote to 2016.

In September I also took the leap and joined another local theatre group, something which I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. After a few nights of volunteering I was really taken aback by the warmth and friendliness of the place. I’m definitely hoping 2017 brings more of that.

We’ve also got to remember the laughs. In 2016, I nearly got my hand glued to a tortoise, watched my friend face-plant the gym floor, giggled through a very serious game of bingo with my colleagues and sang the national anthem in a rural welsh pub whilst my friend tried to flick maltesars into my mouth. Mix in being chatted up by a Cliff Richard look-a-like, some awful Karaoke and the quest for the perfect Celine Dion impression and you’ve got plenty to smile about! I know, 2016 was pretty awful in a lot of ways, but none of it can be changed now. When I look back, I’m going to try and remember that year for its laughs, its nights out, its nights in, the friends, the fun and that important turning point in my career. *raises a glass of wine* and now to 2017, a new year, let’s hope it’s a happy one…..

…….*watches EastEnders*…..

Oh for Christ’s sake.

The big day is over for another year. All the stress and panic leading up to it has passed and it’s now time for my favourite tradition: spending Boxing Day eating chocolate and watching films.

One day I’ll write the blog about why Christmas sometimes runs the risk of being a miserable time for me, but for now, I’d rather focus on how good this year has been. The run-up didn’t top last year, but, as I sit with my wine and chocolates and wait for EastEnders, I can say it’s been….good. Here are some of my highlights.

  • Food – My favourite thing ever. I have eaten my own body weight and plan to do so until January 1st. I’ve turned the Joe Wicks book I was given upside down until the New Year. He doesn’t need to see this.
  • TV – I bloody love Christmas TV. EastEnders is always a highlight and last nights, although lacking in the traditional misery and despair in my opinion, was a festive treat. (Disclaimer: I know I keep saying this…..but if they kill off Ronnie I just do not know what I’ll do.) Doctor Who is also a traditional treat on Christmas night at Plas G and this year’s was super (and I didn’t fall asleep 15 mins before the end. Honest.) But the best thing I’ve seen this Christmas is Deadpool. I think he’s just taken the crown as my favourite superhero.
  • Family – UNUSUAL EVENT CLAXON – This year was the FIRST Christmas in memory that we had total of……ZERO arguments. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, round of applause please.
  • Children – This year has been special as it’s been the first Christmas I have spent with my own class. Those two weeks building up to Christmas were so much fun….but you can read last week’s blog for more of that.
  • And finally……GUYLIAN SHELLS. Yes, after almost 27 years of hinting (yes, I was hinting in the womb) SOMEBODY bought me a box of Guylian shells. My favourite chocolate treat. This year Z picked up on the sublte mentions and presented me with a box on Chrismtas Eve. (and by subtle mentions, I refer to the many times I have said ‘Oh look, Guylian shells. My favourite chocolate. No one ever buys them for me so if you do, I’ll love you forever. Guylian shells. Remember. Guylian. Repeat it back to me.’­ I’m such a lovely friend to have.)

Anyway anyway anyway, I hope your Christmas has been just as enjoyable and, like me, you’re looking forward to a brand new year. Now, I’d love to write more but I’ve got some Guylian shells that are begging for my attention and a bottle of wine which, frankly, it would be rude not to drink.

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Last year I was totally won over by NBC’s live broadcast of The Wiz. In fact, I’m pretty sure I sang Brand New Day all over Christmas (complete with dance moves). So I was pretty excited when they announced this year’s live production was Hairspray – especially as I spent some time as a teenager obsessed with the show. Just to make me even more eager, Queen Kristen Chenoweth (of Wicked fame) was cast in the role of Velma.

So Friday night arrived, I’d resisted watching any clips on youtube so I could get the full first-viewing experience and the verdict was: pretty good.

There were a few problems with this production but nothing to stop it being an enjoyable bit of fun with a very important message. Firstly, some of the new dialogue seemed a bit forced and cheesy. Hairspray is a naturally funny show, but some of the new ideas made it appear like the production team were trying too hard. I also don’t think Kristen was given enough to do.  I know I’m biased (because I really do bloody love her) but she has a lot of talent and I was waiting for her to be really showcased. (Don’t even get my started on how angry I am that they cut her bow). I felt like Ariana Grande was used as the star vehicle. I’m not saying Ariana was terrible, I’m just not sure the production company realised just how much talent they had in the ensemble cast. However, the main issue with Hairspray live was the ad breaks. I honestly felt like I was watching ad breaks interspersed with bits of Hairspray. I don’t know if NBC or ITV2 were to blame but it really was ridiculous and it killed any momentum.  Image result for hairspray live

Casting Harvey Fierstein as Edna, reprising his role from Broadway, was a nice touch and I loved the little references to the Hairspray canon. (Ricki Lake making a cameo, a plumbing company named after John Waters). The final number, You Can’t Stop the Beat, is meant to have audiences dancing in the aisles (or in this case, their living rooms) and, thankfully, it did. It was definitely a high point of the show, along with anything Jennifer Hudson sang and Welcome to the 60’s.

What is most striking about Hairspray is its relevance. It’s been almost 30 years since the original movie and its themes and messages about diversity and segregation are still important. Hairspray reminds that we are all equal – regardless of race, size, gender, interests etc. – and any one of us is capable of achieving any goal. It was a much needed tonic for 2016 and, after the dreadful few months our World has had, I can’t think of a more perfect show to end the year with.

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Rent is twenty. Still brutally relevant, it’s hard to believe it was written over twenty years ago.Lucky enough to see the opening night of this anniversary performance, I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen, having only seen the film version previously. However, what I saw was possibly the best theatrical experience in a long time.

To say the cast and crew have worked hard on this production would be an understatement. It’s clear a lot of love has gone into this show and their commitment and talent oozes out of every corner – from the intricate staging and choreography to the harrowing performances from the cast.

From the opening song we are immersed into the harsh environment of the characters in a way that is almost overwhelming. The aggression of the first song gives a clear message that this is not going to be a fluffy musical. Part of the beauty of Rent is its grit and rawness. With regular references to time running out and death, it’s hard not to be moved by Jonathon Larson’s lyrics. The pain in Collins’ words during the reprise of I’ll Cover You, sung powerfully by Ryan O’Gormon, is almost too much to bear. Anyone who doesn’t feel his anguish as he belts ‘when your heart has expired’ is made of stone.

Perfectly cast, each ensemble member shone, but a special mention has to go to Layton Williams who was absolutely kick-ass as Angel. Reinventing Angel’s song Today 4 U, he slayed with sheer sass, a killer strut and phenomenal high kicks and splits. Williams turned this song into a showstopper.

Other highlights include the Tango Maureen (sharp, slick choreography), a whirlwind La Vie Boheme  and a poignant performance from Philippa Stefani as Mimi during Goodbye, Love.

In the film, Over the Moon strikes as odd and a bit jarring, but Lucie Jones totally made it work in the stage show, complete with puppets which went down very well with the audience. Amongst the tears, there are some genuinely funny moments, subtly played by the cast. (‘Hey, Mark, remember this?’ as his ex-girlfriend Maureen mimes sucking from a cows udder. A natural moment that proves just how well the ensemble work together.)

This production is special. It has stayed with me since I left the theatre in a way that not many productions can achieve. The memorable performances beautifully depicted how, yes, life is bloody hard but, somewhere, there is hope. Considering this was an early performance, the quality was close to perfection, with only a few minor glitches with sound and lighting which will no doubt be ironed out during the next performances. Rent is beautiful, harrowing and joyful all at the same time, with stellar performances from a talented cast. It fittingly celebrates the show’s legacy and that of its creator Jonathon Larsen, and is a testament to just how important Rent is twenty years on.

Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.

November 2005

15 year old G is taking part in a compilation show with the town’s theatre society. I am compering and introduce two of my friends singing a song from ‘the prequel to the Wizard of Oz.’  It’s the first time I’ve ever heard Defying Gravity and those opening bars certainly grab my attention.

‘I didn’t even know there was a prequel…’, I say to my co-host after the show. One of my friends plays a couple of songs from the soundtrack at the after party and I start to feel nauseated. ‘Oh, no, I don’t like it. They all sound like they’re on helium.’ Poor Kristin Chenoweth.

January 2006

I am obsessed. Caught in a twister of witches, flying monkeys and dramatic riffs. I have my own copy of the soundtrack and it is permanently in my portable CD player. I’m working in the evenings at my Grandad’s shop and, during quiet periods, I sneak into the back room, pinch a can of vimto and listen to more Wicked. The build-up of Defying Gravity sends tingles down my arms and I can’t get my head around how magical it sounds. I am actually in love with a song.

May 2006

I’m getting ready to leave high school and in between revisingImage result for Glinda and Elphaba catfight for exams, my close friends and I are listening to Wicked at whatever chance we can get. In the art room at lunch time. On the steps to the main hall at break. We weren’t very popular (‘-lar’) and at one point a particularly gobby girl accused us of listening to ‘goth music’.  If only she knew. (and if only I took a GSCE in Wicked)

October 2006

Wicked is coming to the UK and after months of failed pestering to family members (I even told my mum I would never expect a birthday present again.  It didn’t go down well), one of my grandparents caves and reveals she has bought tickets for me and my cousin. I have to wait 2 weeks which feels like two years. We travel down to London and I am almost sick with excitement when the cab turns the corner and the Apollo Victoria is revealed, all lit up in green. The show is amazing and, aside from a man who most definitely wasn’t Munchkin-height sitting in front of me, it’s everything I hoped it would be. Plus, I saw Idina Menzel. Bonus awesome points. A week later, I am still so hyped that I write to the cast and they reply with personalised, signed autographs.

October 2009

3 years after my first viewing, I see Wicked again, this time taking my Grandma. When the stage lights up during Dancing Through Life she looks at me with big eyes and says ‘Oh, it’s beautiful.’ Defying Gravity continues to give me chills.

October 2012

I take my mum to see the Wicked tour in Manchester. She is a life-long fan of Oz, and spots Nessarose’s stripey socks before I do. Wicked is the show that keeps on giving – there is always something new to see.

Image result for galinda gifA few weeks later, I go again with my friends from the theatre group. They’re fellow fanatics and some of them are seeing the show for the first time. We rock up wearing witches hats and sing Defying Gravity on the street outside the theatre.

October 2016

So, it’s been ten years since I first saw Wicked live. I don’t know where the time has gone, but Wicked still has the power to make me laugh, cry and send tingles down my arms
. The music is the closest I have ever heard to perfection. It can sound magically whimsical one minute, poignantly moving the next, and end up dark and bleak. It bounces from joyful to devastating in minutes and you’ll never watch that famous melting scene in the same way again. There is always another nugget of awesomeness to spot in the stage show or the soundtrack. (This weekend I noticed the opening bars of No One Mourns the Wicked and As Long As You’re Mine are almost identical! It’s taken me 11 years to spot that.)

I was never really a big fan of The Wizard of Oz but Wicked sparked my interest in a darker, twisted Oz. It was from here that I became familiar with Wicked’s source material, Gregory Maguire’s book, which I have read and written about countless times. I love the way the story links with its predecessor – from subtle nods (‘lemons and Image result for elphaba gifsmelons and pears’ ‘Oh my!’) to more obvious references, like plonking a big old farmhouse in the middle of the stage. It’s a masterclass in storytelling. One of my favourite moments is when Elphaba, wearing her pointed hat from the Ozdust Ballroom, picks up the broom she has used to barricade a door and is shielded from the cold in a black cloak by Glinda. Suddenly, in the middle of the show, everything has come together and Elphaba is the Wicked Witch of the West. My favourite scene though has to be just before ‘No Good Deed’, where Elphaba and Glinda square-off following Nessarose’s death. (‘Well, we can’t all come and go by bubble!’. Bitchy! Elphie is fierce!)

In many aspects Wicked is beautiful but visually it’s stunning. The set design is genius, with everything from the grandeur and greenery of the Emerald City to the shadowy corridors of Kiamo Ko being strikingly atmospheric. Any show that has both its leading ladies flying (via broomstick or bubble) plus a giant mechanical dragon looming over the audience is alright by me.

Wicked is not just a wonderful production, but it’s a reminder of my teenage years. It reminds me of friends near and far, and the many nights of singing around the piano. Every October, as pumpkins are being carved and witches hats appear in shops, I get the urge to belt out those riffs and melodies. It’s become synonymous with autumn.

Ten years, countless drunken renditions of Defying Gravity, dozens of re-reads of the books, thousands of soundtrack-filled car journeys and 4 official viewings and I can’t get enough. Wicked has a reference for every occasion (does anyone else blast No Good Deed when they’re angry?). Defying Gravity has to be one of the most empowering songs ever. It packs enough punch to energise you in a second.

For me, Wicked is definitely a show that will stay with me forever. It’s part of my life and it was most prevalent during the time that shaped who I am today. Ten years ago, I might have been Team Glinda (I was inconsiderate and obsessed with what people thought). In 2016, I like to think I’m Team Elphaba and I have been changed for good.

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I solemnly swear that you won’t find any spoilers in this review.

I have devoured Cursed Child, barely putting it down in the 24 hours since it arrived. Initial responses were mixed. It made me feel a lot of emotions. I felt excited on opening the beautiful golden cover. I relived that childhood delight at a fresh Hogwarts story. I felt nostalgic at the initial references to the HP world. And then I felt just a tiny bit sad.

Cursed Child is everything a HP fan could have wanted from the very first page. A fresh new story combines old with new in remarkable fashion (…….and that’s all I’ll say on that matter.)

Revisiting the much loved characters of the series could have easily been a disaster but Cursed Child succeeds on every level. It doesn’t feel forced or gimmicky. We see some familiar characters, we hear of others, some don’t appear at all. It’s all very natural and never gratuitous.

The shift in format also works very well. Though some have argued that the absence of prose diminishes the magic of the story, I think it strengthens the drama. After all, this is a story that is meant to be viewed, not read. The dialogue is powerful and true to the characters. Ginny Weasley in particular sparkles through the page with her fiery wit. The struggle between Harry and Albus is beautifully written, as is the friendship between Albus and Scorpius. The pressure these boys are under, living in their parents’ shadow, is intricately explored with plenty of thought provoking discussions.

What’s remarkable about Cursed Child is that so much has been kept secret. It’s a testament not only to the creative team but to the fan base that nothing has been revealed. The best way to read/see this story is by being completely spoiler-free, something that’s very tricky nowadays.

On closing the book, I was a bit sad. Sad that this probably is the last time we’ll see these characters, though I was so grateful to be given one last visit, and overjoyed that it was a successful one. (Though I’ve said before Rowling has the upmost respect for her characters and her work – it was never going to be a flop, she wouldn’t allow that.) Mainly, I was sad that I hadn’t waited and watched the play first. Yes, I’ve loved reading the story, but seeing it would have been spectacular. The many twists, turns and reveals that happen would, I imagine, create a truly epic performance. There were moments in this story were I had to close book and take a minute to think ‘how on earth do they pull that off on stage?’. Experiencing this live must be very special (and that’s all I can say because I promised not to spoil).

So Cursed Child is a treat for fans but my advice would be to wait it out for tickets and resist reading (but if you are impatient, like me, you are forgiven). It’s a must read, but even more than that, it’s a must see, and I’ll definitely be getting tickets.

Mischief managed.

I don’t often get to go away, so when I do I like to squeeze as many things into my break as possible and I certainly did that this weekend in London. Z and I had excitedly booked the break a few weeks ago and the countdown has been on ever since.  So, apart from the selfies, giggling, bus-singing, celebrity impressions and a near death experience at the hands of a waitress, here’s a quick run-down of what we got up to…

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Southwark Playhouse

Our journey started with spotting Joe Woolford (from Eurovision..? We only mix with the A-listers, you know) at Chester Station. It was the start of many spots. Both of us get uselessly star-struck. I become mute and frozen with fear and Z develops this faux-suave swagger and becomes a bit over familiar.

This didn’t bode well for the main event of our trip – A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Southwark Playhouse. There were two main appeals to this production which made us book our tickets a few months ago. The first was that it was a MSND, which is my favourite Shakespeare play, and secondly, it starred Freddie Fox and Maddy Hill. Well, my obsession with EastEnders obviously explains why I was interested to see Maddy but not a lot of people know about Freddie. Last year, during the run of Cucumber on Chanel 4, I had a bit of a mid-mid-life crisis. Mad busy with teacher training, I had a bit of an identity crisis when suddenly, on my TV screen, was this character that I recognised. I’ve never connected with a character so much and it made me a bit fraught to be confronted with someone I saw so much of myself in. It was bizarre and, even though I’ve bought the box set, I’m still not ready to re-watch Cucumber.  Cray-cray, right? .Anyway, mental-TV-melt-downs aside, I’d been a Freddie Fox fan ever since and I was really looking forward to the performance. The play was fantastic, possibly the best production of MSND I have ever seen. We were sat in the front row and the actors performed literally right in front of us (I had to lean back at one point to avoid being hit!). It was wonderfully intimate and a production which really grabbed the audience. There was no set, no costumes, and no lighting effects. Just seven actors and a bare stage.  Scenes were vividly described meaning the audience had to do a lot of work but it was SO effective. All the actors were incredible. I’ve got so much to say about this production I could easily write another post about it. If you’re in London this week – go and see it. To top our night off, we got to have a chat with Freddie afterwards. (Cue star-struck gawping and mumbling whilst Z takes charge of the conversation. Why didn’t I ask for a picture?!). He was very appreciative of our praise and very lovely. In the bar, we told the Director, Simon Evans, just how brilliant the play was and he humbly advised us to tell the cast. However, I wished I’d assured him that it wasn’t just the cast that was brilliant – his passion and hard work shone through so he was just as worthy of our high praise.

London Pride

The Saturday didn’t quite start as planned. I was very brave at the start of our trip. I absolutely hate the idea of the tube – being stuck underground in a crammed tin can is not my cup of tea – but I tried it for the sake of my friend. However, Saturday morning my worst fear happened. Our train stopped in a tunnel. Cue panic-stricken-G. Thankfully our stop only lasted 4 (very long, sweat-inducing) minutes but I vowed never to tube again! *shudders*

We visited King’s Cross, the Harry Potter shop and platform 9 ¾ , where we spotted our next famous face – Harriet Thorpe.

We stumbled on Pride by accident, only finding out the week before that it was even on. I’d never been to a festival like this before but I had such a great day. The atmosphere was incredible – nothing but love and enjoyment. Just what we needed. Everyone was happy! My town is no stranger to closed-mindedness, so it was fantastic to be in a place where everyone was accepted. We had an amazing view of the parade, which was so overwhelming, I cried. (Sensitive Stanley got emosh over the Orlando tribute bus – a lovely tribute.) The highlight was of course the Ab Fab float featuring many Patsy’s and Edina’s. It was lovely to see all kinds of people lining the streets – whatever religion, whatever race, whatever sexuality. We even spotted a little old (straight) couple with pride flags painted on their cheeks. Aww.

After the parade, I got to visit the Theatre Café, a place I’ve wanted to go to for years. We were lucky enough to be there during a visit from the cast of a new musical, Exposure. Neither of us were brave enough to tackle the open mic but I do highly recommend the brownies!

Our Saturday ended soggily. We’d traipsed around London – visiting all the usual landmarks (armed with selfie stick) like Big Ben, the Eye, Leicester Square, Parliament Square etc – but eventually the heavens opened and we got absolutely drenched. I’ve wanted to see Book of Mormon for a long time so we entered the ticket draw (fab idea) but that’s where our luck ran out. We left ticketless and soaked. (Also, I hate to say it, but I do feel a bit annoyed theatres can get away with charging so much for their tickets. I’m a total theatre supporter but there was no way I was paying £150 for a ticket for Book of Mormon. It’s a shame these awesome shows can’t do a bit more for their fans by lowering the price.) So, anyway, we ended up getting totally lost. The buses back to Hammersmith were diverted due to Pride so the quest to find the bus stop led us all around London (and mostly in the opposite direction to where we should have been. But we did see Kitt Harrington so all was well).  By the time we got back, we were desperate for a drink.

Shopping Sunday

After a hectic Saturday, I was in need of chilled day. We visited Holland Park (home of Edina Monsoon, darling) and the Kyoto Garden which was absolutely beautiful.  A real island of peace and tranquillity in a hectic city. We then bus hopped to Harvey Nic’s and Harrod’s where I got totally carried away collecting London-themed treats for my new classroom. Back in Hammersmith, we had dinner at Villagio (amazing carbonara) before hitting the town for a few drinks. That was the plan anyway, but we spent so much time wandering round that we got too knackered to drink and went to bed. (26, I promise. Not 66. 26.)

Monday was a rush to Euston, but we did have time to spot Matt Baker and have breakfast at Patisserie Valerie. Fabulous.

Anyway anyway anyway, a fab time was had by both. Now, back to reality….*sigh*