Category: Reviews


Image result for How not to be a boy In the last year I’ve been lucky enough to experience two works of art that have really ‘spoken to me’, having never really understood the phrase before. The first was the touring production of Rent in October 2016 (after which I spent several weeks sobbing). The second was How Not to Be A Boy by Robert Webb.

I knew from pre-publicity that this book would be right up my street, and I was correct. Not only was the main thread relatable, but How Not To Be A Boy is beautifully and passionately written by Webb. I absorbed this book. It was actually ‘unputdownable’.

How Not To Be A Boy is Webb’s memoir with a focus on the pressures he encountered to conform to society’s ideas of masculinity. Webb writes honestly about his upbringing and childhood, and with hindsight is able to identify some of the dangerous messages he was given which effected his adult life. It begins with his closeness to his mother and difficult relationship with his father, and ends with his modern day struggles to steer away from following his father’s path.

Webb’s discussions on gender go beyond the ‘blue for a boy and pink for a girl’ debate, and he relives insightful anecdotes, (some warm, some hilarious, some tragic), in a way that had me unable to resist the urge to fling my hands in the air and shout ‘Amen!’.

Webb talks about the patriarchy, and how the rules and gender stereotypes created by society are damaging to both women and men. A striking moment is when he talks about how ‘clever’ boys and girls are viewed by society. He notes how when labelled ‘clever’, girls have to respond with how hard they’ve worked for it, whilst boys are expected to shrug it off, as if it all came naturally. If you’re a boy who does well at school, excuses have to be found for this ridiculous behaviour, and often you’re labelled with having no common sense. ‘He’s a clever lad, no common sense though.’ (How many times did I hear that growing up?)

A common thread throughout  is of males suppressing their emotions. One of the most heart-breaking parts of the book comes at the mid-point, where Webb tells of the loss of his mother. Webb writes about his grief and suffering so eloquently that it’s frustrating to comprehend why we are constantly told to ‘man up’ and hide our true feelings. We’ve all had experiences with this, to various degrees, and it’s important that Webb highlights the problem in his book. With almost three quarters of suicide victims in the UK being male, it’s of vital importance that we breakdown the ‘man up’ culture and talk about our problems, as Webb does in university. The patriarchy strikes again by enforcing a false notion that only females open up and talk about their feelings. What a dangerous message. Webb talks candidly, and admirably, of his battles with suicidal thoughts and his subsequent therapy sessions, in a way that may give hope to many.

How Not To Be A Boy also brings to light just how old fashioned words such as ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ are. As Webb explains, all they do is conjure up archaic stereotypes which, in 2017, are unnecessary. He describes masculinity as a repressive process which needs to be recovered from and explains how the term only really means ‘not being a woman’. Why not a woman? Women are strong, brave, loving, thoughtful, sensible, loyal, trustworthy and millions other admirable adjectives so….why do we have to avoid being like that? Why do we need these words?

The restrictions that we live under should be blindingly obvious, but Webb unmasks these hideous stereotypes with flair and style, adding his own thoughts, warm humour, and prompting many outbursts of ‘YES!’  from this reader. In an era where people are angry at clothes shop for removing labels, and the walls of gender stereotyping are being slowly eroded, How Not To Be A Boy is essential reading and a book I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

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Right, it occurred to me that this year I have seen a lorra lorra theatre and, ridiculously, have only written about a few shows. So to catch up, this week I’m giving you four fast reviews for the productions I missed, but really did deserve to be talked about…..

Wonderland, Venue Cymru, LlandudnoImage result for Wonderland the musical

I’ll start with Wonderland because it’s got a bit of a tragic story.  I saw this in Llandudno in June and it was spectacular. Wonderland is the familiar story of Alice given a modern twist. Alice is a 40-something divorcee with a teenage daughter who enters Wonderland via a dodgy lift in her apartment block. She doesn’t take the trip alone as she’s joined by daughter Ellie and awkward love-interest Jack. Whilst in Wonderland they’re encouraged to go through the looking glass, a magical archway that exposes the other side of their personalities (cue Alice becoming stern and sensible and Jack transforming into a confident charmer.)

Wonderland boasted many memorably songs, particularly ‘Through the Looking Glass’ and ‘Finding Wonderland’, sung with passion and energy by a very talented cast. Rachael Wooding was a powerhouse as Alice, revealing Alice’s faults and insecurities poignantly. Bree Smith gave a cracking performance as the sassy Queen of Hearts, slaying with her performance of ‘Off with their heads’. Ben Kerr and Francesca Lara Gordon were also brilliant as the March Hare and Mad Hatter, giving us refreshing twists on the classic characters. The set pieces were gorgeous, fully immersing into the crazy world of Wonderland where anything is possible. Most striking was the way the famous tale of  Alice was re-worked into a modern setting, giving the characters (particularly Alice) a bit more depth along the way. Wonderland was a work of art and must-see, modern musical.

However, just a couple of weeks after seeing Wonderland, the tour was cancelled due to problems behind the scenes. There’s plenty of speculation online, but, whatever the reason, it’s a great shame that the hard work, commitment and talent of the cast and crew will go unseen.

Les Miserables, Queen’s Theatre, London

Image result for les miserablesThis was a bucket-list show that lived up to all of my expectations, and beyond. The star of the show is its musical score and I was not disappointed to hear Claude-Michel Schönberg’s music played by a live orchestra. ‘At the end of day’ saw the full cast launch into action with breath-taking harmonies whilst ‘Do you hear the people sing?’ gave the audience goosebumps you could strike a match on. Simon Gleeson was made for the role of Jean Valjean, whist Hollie O’Donoghue was perfect as Eponine, giving a beautiful performance of ‘On My Own’. Katy Secombe and David Langham stole every scene as the dastardly Thenardiers, providing much needed comedy amongst all the tragedy! The revolving set works really well, seamlessly taking the story across France and through the ages. The battle sequence in the second act is particularly stunning, with tense performances (and gun fire!) keeping the audience well on the edge of their seats. At one point it took all my will not to cover my eyes. The deaths during this battle scene are especially heart breaking (no spoilers), and many gasps were heard as the barricade revolved to reveal the true carnage. Les Miserables remains packed with emotion throughout and it ends in spectacular fashion with the beautiful finale. There’s no question as to why this show has been around for so long. It’s a must-see and a show that I’m sure I’ll revisit.

Don Juan in Soho, Wyndham’s Theatre, LondonImage result for don juan in soho

Sex, drugs and David Tennant – what’s not to love? Though, admittedly, the main pull to this production was, initially, that is starred a certain former Time Lord, I was pleasantly surprised to find a sparkling script and stellar performances waiting for me at Wyndham’s Theatre. Updated to 2017 and relocated to Soho, Don Juan tells the story of a privileged, hedonistic party-goer as he sleeps his way around London, picking up plenty of hookers and cocaine along the way. David Tennant was, of course, fantastic as the titular bastard, unleashing his inner-Russel Brand and being fantastically horrid to every other character, including his loyal aid, Stan, played excellently by Adrian Scarborough. The relationship between Stan and DJ is surprisingly endearing, though Stan, on the edge of a breakdown, is desperate for DJ to pay him so he can retire, he can’t help but stay by DJ’s side. Don Juan in Soho is strikingly contemporary, with references to the ‘strong and stable’ government we find ourselves trapped under today as well as several witty remarks about American politics. DJ deliciously berates the world we live in, stating social media, fake news and lying politicians as factors of a crumbling society in one passionately performed monologue that had the audience on the verge of shouting ‘Amen!’. DJ tries to explain to Stan that life is all about pleasure – shamelessly seducing the chavtastic Lottie (a brilliant comic performance from Dominique Moore) in a hospital whilst simultaneously trying it on with grieving bride Mattie in one ridiculously outrageous scene. Don Juan in Soho was theatre at its best as it forced the audience to think before they left their seats. It was engaging from the first moment, topical and surreal, and definitely one of the best plays I’ve ever seen.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Venue Cymru, Llandudno

Image result for the curious incident of the dog in the night-timeA really touching story told in a refreshing, and visually brilliant, way. Christopher finds his neighbour’s dog has been killed and takes it upon himself to solve the mystery. His mission sees him uncover a family secret, which in turn takes him to the terrifying world of Central London. Scott Reid was phenomenal as Christopher, giving a truly powerful performance, particularly as Christopher’s condition begins to take control. The modern and tech-heavy set pieces drew us in to the story using clever effects (a green box giving the effect of a football match on TV, a remote control train bringing London to life before our eyes) to add an extra fizz to the already sparkling performances. Surprisingly, Christopher has uncovered the culprit by the interval, leaving the second act to explore the secrets of Christopher’s family and the effects his ‘behavioural problems’ have on his loved ones. Anyone who doesn’t feel prickly-eyed throughout Act 2 is incapable of emotion. The emotional energy of the performances is sometimes borderline unbearable, and the sequences in London are also quite overwhelming, as we experiences flashing lights, loud noises and almost nightmarish scenes, we’re forced to view the world from Christopher’s point of view. This is a play that will stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre.

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‘Darkness, grief and unspeakable sorrow.’

Well…not quite. Darkness, yes, but there were plenty of laughs at the WMC in Cardiff on Friday night. I’ve been reading a lot on twitter about The Addams Family musical so I was really excited when, by pure luck, I bagged two tickets for last Friday.

As the orchestra struck up the familiar theme tune, what was initially clear was just how well cast this show was. Samantha Womack is a perfect Morticia – cool and sultry throughout – whilst Cameron Blakely makes a terrific Gomez. Both actors have sizzling chemistry together (proven with a sexy tango) and match each other with each witty punchline. They both resurrect these iconic characters perfectly. Perhaps surprisingly, ‘Love’ is a key theme of this production, most prominently the love between a family, and Blakley shows Gomez’s love for his daughter,Wednesday, beautifully, particularly during the song ‘Happy/Sad’, where he reflects on the memories he has of his young daughter, such as the first time she set fire to the Jehovah’s witness, evoking the dark humour we associate with the family.  (Another example, when Alice asks if the Addams’ have a little girls’ room, Gomez responds with ‘We did, but we had to let them go.’)

At first, Wednesday’s (Carrie Hope Fletcher) change of character is a bit awkward, but all becomes clear when Wednesday belts her showstopper number ‘PRelated imageulled’, explaining that her change is a result of her love for Lucas. As the show progresses, it becomes clear Wednesday’s sadistic side is still lurking as she tortures her brother and gets very excited about potentially shooting Lucas in the head with her crossbow (all in the name of love, of course).

Valda Aviks was also fantastic as Granny, particularly during her ‘Full Disclosure’ speech. It was a smart move to address the ambiguity around Granny’s connection to the family from the cartoons and movies, by having Morticia refer to her as Gomez’s mother before Gomez retorts with ‘My mother? I thought she was your mother?’.

 

Les Dennis gave a great performance as Fester and his story thread of being in love with the moon was typically ‘Addams’ and, at the end, quite sweet. Dickon Gough also deserves a mention for his scene-stealing performance as Lurch. Lurch doesn’t speak but became a clear audience favourite thanks to Gough’s comic timing and surprising hip action in the finale number. (One complaint – where was Cousin itt?!). The main cast are supported by an excellent cast of ancestors, complete with choreography reminiscent of Thriller.

As well as the familiar quirky characters, the show boasts a catchy score. Andrew Lippa nails the new music and each number feels very natural to the characters. In particular, the opening number ‘When you’re an Addams’ is a definite ear worm and the final number, ‘Move towards the darkness’, will haunt you after you leave your seat.

What’s also impressive is the way the gothic Addams mansion is brought to life on stage via moving staircases and hidden entrances. The suspended moon above the Addams family home creates an eery and dramatic scene.

Overall, The Addams Family is a treat for theatre fans with a gorgeous score, fantastic visuals and a stellar cast.

Watch the opening number here

Watch the trailer here

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Image result for 42nd street londonI had an unexpected and very last minute trip to London last week.  Amongst the walking, talking and dining, I found myself at the Theatre Royal for a surprise tap-dance down 42nd Street.

I had very few preconceptions about the show, and I didn’t really have time to consider it too much, but I knew I was in for an old-fashioned, high-kicking performance. Four rows from the front, I had perfect seats (courtesy of TodayTix rush tickets) which gave a great close-up view of the stage.

The shows standout quality is its sheer spectacle. The sets and costumes are absolutely dazzling and during several musical numbers it’s hard to be anything but totally absorbed. The lights, moving set pieces, harmonies….It really is mesmerising. During one sequence a huge mirror is lowered to firstly, reflect the audience, and then tilted to show the dancers lying on the stage floor carrying out a very intricate synchronised sequenced. It was so impressive even the mirror got a round applause!

Tom Lister and Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson gave great performances as theatre producer Julien Marsh and clumsy chorus girl Peggy Sawyer. Sheena Easton was also brilliantly bitchy as the acerbic actress Dorothy Brock. I really enjoyed Jasna Ivir’s performance of Maggie Jones, delivering her witty one-liners with perfect comic timing (On musicians ‘Let’s just say they’re in a pit… and there’s a reason we keep them there!’)Image result for 42nd street london

Musically, the show boasts lots of catchy numbers, many of which I wasn’t familiar with until I’d seen the show, but caught myself humming many times since. ‘Go into your dance’ and ‘42nd Street’ are big tap numbers that get the audience going, but it’s ‘The Lullaby of Broadway’ that really steals the show. Ear worms a-plenty in this show!

The overall plot, a chorus girl getting her big break in a huge Broadway show, is a bit flimsy in parts, particularly some of the songs in the ‘Pretty Lady’ musical (What is the plot of that show?!), but that doesn’t distract from the energy and passionate performances of the cast.  42nd Street is a spectacular night out of good old fashioned West-End magic.

Watch the trailer here

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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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