Tag Archive: Performance

Image result for a streetcar named desire theatre clwyd

‘I don’t want realism! I want magic! Yes magic!’

Isn’t that why we all go to the theatre? Escapism with a touch of magic. Well perhaps A Streetcar Named Desire wasn’t the ideal play for my Friday night escapism. Having been some years since I studied the play at university, I was vaguely familiar with the plot but the modern day production by ETT at Theatre Clwyd added a fresh new take Tennessee Williams’ classic play. Theatrical magic, yes, but a darker and more disturbing magic than I anticipated. The twisted story of desperation, pretence and vulnerability left me with a bitter taste in my mouth and provided plenty to think about well into the weekend.

Image result for a streetcar named desire theatre clwydStreetcar is the story of troubled southern belle Blanche Dubois who wrestles with her past and insecurities as she stays with her sister, Stella, and brother-in-law, Stanley. It’s clear from Blanche’s arrival that she is running away from trouble but as the events catch up with her, and she is confronted by Stanley, the plot takes a sinister turn, leading to the productions most uncomfortable sequence. The brutality of Stanley’s actions left the audience numb and it was hard to sit and watch as the set was stripped bare to reveal Blanche screaming under a burning hot shower.

Patrick Knowles plays Blanche’s attacker, Stanley. A beer-swigging lads-lad who is desperate to state his masculinity over his wife and sister-in-law. In this production, there is no sympathy for Stanley. The Brando charm has well and truly gone, and Knowles plays Stanley with an arrogance and childishness that could be found at many local boozers.Image result for a streetcar named desire theatre clwyd

The set design for this production is basic but effective. The two rooms that we see on stage provide a claustrophobic pressure-cooker for the action to unfold. The use of music is extremely effective, as distorted versions of ‘Heart of Glass’ by Blondie provide a soundtrack to Blanche’s unravelling and Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ injects a small moment of fun before Stanley literally pulls the plug on it.

The relationship between Stella and Blanche, played by Amber James and Gough respectively, seems slightly forced initially but becomes more believable as the play grows. Blanche’s fierce protectiveness over Stella is evident as she tries to convince her to leave Stanley, and it’s hard not to feel sorry for Stella by the end of the play, as she loses her sister and finds herself trapped with a violent lover.

The stand out performance comes from Gough though. The final sequence of her leaving the shower and breaking down in the apartment makes for very uncomfortable viewing and it must have been a tough place for Gough to visit night after night. As Blanche is taken away, the distorted, hazy mindset of Blanche is portrayed well by the staggered blocking of the cast and sharp bursts of disjointed dialogue. Gough plays her vulnerability and raw fear in this sequence in a way that haunts you well after the lights have faded.Related image


Image result for Aladdin the musical

A last minute dash to the West End resulted in Saturday night at the Prince Edward Theatre. Disney’s Aladdin was spectacular – a bouncy, vibrant musical and a special treat for any fan of the Disney film.

Everything from the set pieces to the costumes is big, bold, and classic Disney, screaming Disney from the moment the curtain rises. The decision to add extra characters, such as Aladdin’s friends, does sit a bit oddly at first but his pals prove their likeability during the second act.

This script fizzes with wit in moments, mostly during the Genie’s scenes, however it does feel slightly panto in parts, particularly during Jafar and Iago’s front of curtain scenes. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially given the shows target audience are children, but it does seem a bit unexpected,  when compared to Disney’s other hit, The Lion King.

Aladdin was played with heroic charm by Antony Hewitt and Jade Ewan was perfect as Princess Jasmine. Admittedly, the Genie is the star of the show. Just as the first act is starting to dip, the lamp is rubbed and out pops Trevor Dion Nicholas with his fast-firing jokes and impressive magic tricks. ‘Never Had A Friend Like Me’ is the definition of a show-stopper with an extended arrangement, extravagant tap routine, vanishing male lead, and appearing showgirls, all accompanied by a riffing genie. It’s enough to leave even the Disney-adverse humming the chorus days later.

It’s not just the Genie’s magic that adds an extra special charm to the production. There were ooohs and aaaahs a plenty when the magic carpet actually floated around the stage with not a string in sight. It took a bit of googling to discover how it’s done, but the clever use of modern tech adds a whole new world of magic to the show.

Overall, Aladdin is a dazzling diamond in the West End. A real cave of wonders.

Related image

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.

Drama and performance is a passion for me so I was really pleased when I was asked to take over the Performing Arts club. We’ve got a bunch of very talented and enthusiastic children this year, and they’ve been working super hard since January to put together a show based on (a topic of their choice) Welsh Myths and Legends.

We’ve seen everything – from costume confusion to corpsing to totally improvised dialogue! Now we’ve got two weeks left until the performance date. Rehearsals are going well but that anxious ‘oh-my-goodness-two-weeks-left’ feeling is starting to trouble me. We’ve got a child who doesn’t know how to yawn, a tyrannical barber’s wife and I’m having to give lessons in villainy at lunch time. The children have done a fabulous job at learning their lines so I’m not too concerned about that, but I am concerned about what I can do to aid their performance. They’ve worked tremendously hard – fashioning a story, a script and creating some brilliant performances – so they deserve the best support they can get. So it’s a shorter blog post from me this week, because I’m neck-deep in music-editing, prop-sourcing and set-designing.  Wish us luck!

Image result for rent 20th anniversary tour cast

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.

With last week’s sad news about the brilliant Victoria Wood, I wanted to share my top five Wood moments. Writer, actress and stand-up comic – her talent was endless and she’s a huge loss to the entertainment world.

Number 5 – Dolly thinks she’s accidentally taken Viagra.

I loved Dinnerladies when I was growing up. I would sneakily stay awake and watch it quietly in my room. I loved the relationships between the characters and, although I was only around ten at the time, I would grow up to recognise those characters in everyday life. Victoria had a skill for creating characters that were so rounded and real. One stand-out moment – and there were almost too many to choose from – is from ‘Christine’ when Dolly thinks she has accidentally taken Viagra after picking up the wrong mug of tea, resulting in a hilarious, warbling, anxiety-ridden tirade from Dolly. I have had the pleasure of knowing a real-life Dolly and I always chuckle to myself and think of her during this scene.

‘What will it do to a woman? Where will it go? What will happen when it gets down there and finds there’s nothing to pump up! It’ll be like a range rover going top speed into a cul-de-sac!’

Brilliant performance from Thelma Barlow, and brilliant writing from Victoria.

Number 4 – ‘I might have to smash your face in with a tin of beans.’

Again, from the episode ‘Christine’, this deadpan delivery from Bren stands for Wood’s talent as an actress as well as a writer. In Bren, she has created a character who we can all empathise with. She’s witty and kind but not without her faults. Bren is down to earth. Everyone knows a Bren. She mixes up words and slips in ‘do-dahs’ and ‘thingmajigs’ like so many people I know (including myself). Bren is continuously thoughtful towards others, even those we who don’t deserve it, like her mother, who constantly takes advantage of her. Bren is the hub of the canteen and an underated comedy character.

Tony: So you’re not pregnant then.

Bren: Not unless sperm can get through a sash window.

Number 3 – The Large Woman in a Cake Shop

I chose Victoria Wood: At it again to study as part of my A Level English Language course. I had to watch the DVD over and over again and write a transcript of it. It was hilarious and even though I had to watch it so many times it never got old and I still laugh about it today. I still think about the following gag whenever I go into a cake shop.

If you’re big in this country, eating is a very shameful thing. You can’t imagine this scenario in England: Big woman goes into a cake shop and says ‘I would like a cake please. It is for me. I am going to eat it myself.’ It couldn’t happen, could it? She would have to go in and say ‘Erm…can I have a cake please? Erm…a woman has collapsed two streets away and, erm, I think it’s a diabetic coma. On the other hand it could be head injuries, in which case, I’ll eat it myself.’

Number 2 – Two Soups

I don’t need to say much about this one. It’s just brilliant. Written by Wood but with cracking performances. Enjoy.

Number 1 – The Ballad of Barry and Freda

Z and I were only singing this last week. Fantastic lyrics and a very catchy tune. Be prepared to have this stuck in your head for the rest of the week. Have a listen, it’s a treat!

It’s amazing how much Victoria has contributed to the entertainment world. She has made me laugh so many times and will always be one of my comedy heroes.

This week it was announced that viewing a live theatrical production will no longer be a requirement of some GCSE Drama courses as of September.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to read that I think that’s rubbish.

How can students be expected to value and appreciate the magic of the theatre without ever stepping inside one? I go to the theatre regularly and the pre-show buzz and atmosphere is just as exciting as the performance. It’s all part of the experience.

Exam boards have said teachers may opt to show students recordings of productions instead but, in my view, that is no substitute for the real thing. Yes, recording of works released by companies such as National Theatre Live are an excellent resource for our schools, but students still need to be given the chance to witness a live performance.

When I was studying Drama at A Level, our class adored those theatre trips.  Those visits gave us invaluable insights into the workings of the theatre as well as broadening the content of our viewing. We’d sometimes organise trips between us but that would always be to see a musical, so we missed out plays. The trips organised by our tutors were always plays by the best authors and companies. Our tutors introduced us to incredible work that we might not have chosen to see ourselves. I remember seeing The Overwhelming by Out of Joint theatre company. It was such an intense piece of theatre that I still think about it today. If my tutors hadn’t organised that trip, then I wouldn’t had that opportunity. (It also featured Andrew Garfield – Spiderman!)

Those trips also gave us an excellent chance to bond as a group. We were preforming together regularly so it was important that we all got along and doing something that we all loved gave us the opportunity to get to know each other. So it benefitted us socially too!

Most importantly, watching a live production enables the craft to be modelled for the students.  They need to see the control of an actor in character, the energy of an ensemble and, most of all, the hard work that goes into a production! Recordings can deliver a shade of the emotional impact of a play but, in my opinion, nothing beats sitting in a theatre and immersing yourself into a world.

If exam boards want to cut the live viewing then surely this move is akin to training teachers without putting them in the classroom.

So regular readers of my blog will know that the theatre is very close to my heart. Last week, I came to a shocking realisation that it’s been two years since I was last on stage – that’s my longest break since I was 14! Coincidentally, I was talking to a pupil this week about their similar love of performing and it got me thinking about my early responses to drama in school. I bloody loved it. I remember taking part in several year 6 performances and then in year 7 things really kicking off when I joined the school drama club and played Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol! My whole youth seemed to have been spent on a stage so why didn’t I pursue it further?

The simple answer is – I wasn’t encouraged. My family (grandparents, aunties, cousins etc) were supportive enough, but they were always going to be, they’re my family! So even if I was totally talentless they would still support me! My parents weren’t so keen on the idea of me being involved with the theatre.  I don’t know if it was the fear that I’d turn into a fabulous, sashaying queen or the worry that I’d enjoy the dressing up too much but neither seemed fussed on my early ambition to be an actor. I was gently steered towards a ‘more stable career’.

I could see their point. The world of performance is notoriously difficult to crack and if I wanted speedy independence I was going to have to be earning as soon as I could. But I remained enthusiastic, full of youthful gusto and naivety. I wanted to be on the stage!

This whole anecdote is relevant (I promise) because my first major knock in confidence in become an actor came from a teacher. Someone whose job it is to nurture and support our aspirations. I had a fantastic drama teacher in high school. Caring, passionate and encouraging – everything a drama teacher should be. The fact she is still in touch with so many of her pupils (myself included) is a testament to the impact she had on us and she remains one of my personal teaching role models. MG was always supportive, but it was another teacher who delivered the first slap. I’m hesitant to pin the blame entirely on him, but it was his delivery of some bad news which, I will always remember, left me feeling deflated about my hobby for the first time. I realised that drama just wasn’t taken seriously. In our third year of high school we had to choose which subjects we would study at GCSE level. My friends and I had waited for this moment for three years. We’d learned a lot about the GCSE Drama course and couldn’t wait to read plays, watch performances, explore methods and ideas, and, of course, do all that whilst having a great big laugh with each other and MG. However it was not meant to be. Eight of us were shuffled into a tiny room where this particular teacher – Mr P – carelessly and tactlessly told us the drama course wouldn’t be running that year and we should chose something else. Naturally, we argued back but the decision was made. For ridiculous reasons, I had to do Business Studies instead. Skills I have never used. Two years wasted.

At a careers evening, I excitedly shared with the careers adviser (aka Aspiration Destroyer) my plans to study drama, perhaps go to stage school and follow a career in acting. She shut me down straight away. ‘Oh no, perhaps a plan B. Acting is such a difficult industry to get into. Chances are you won’t go very far. What else do you like doing?’

Needless to say I left the school absolutely crushed. By the time I left aged 16 I had been totally convinced that my beloved hobby would be nothing more than that. I stumbled into college with little confidence in my ability and barely any sense of where I wanted my life to go. It took a long time to recover from that. Thankfully, I studied Drama and Theatre Studies at A level and my passion was rekindled thanks to two dedicated and encouraging tutors. But I still didn’t quite feel confident to make that application to drama school.

My point is, our time in education should be a time where we explore ourselves and our passions and begin to establish our ambitions, but instead my time in school turned out to be very damaging to my aspirations. I was not encouraged enough. I was aware that acting was a tricky career choice but I was passionate enough to want to give it a go. Perhaps it would turn out that I wasn’t quite cut out to succeed, but now, how will I ever know? It seems a career in anything creative is deemed too risky an option by schools. The same goes for writing. I have written stories from an early age, so why wasn’t I encouraged to follow that path? I must have had some skill to have done well in creative writing projects in school, college and university so why was it that the first real push I had to follow a career in writing was when I was 21? The day my creative writing lecturer took me aside and told me to consider forwarding my work to agent will go down as one of the proudest days of my life. I’d been told my work was good before but never by someone with so much experience. He believed in me and that belief has gone a long way.  Now, as a teacher, I know how important it is to be like Mr Lecturer and MG and how damaging it can be to have Aspiration Destroyer’s attitude.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the career I have chosen, but I regularly wonder how different things could have been. I have friends in similar situations, who were dissuaded to follow their dreams and are now totally lost or totally miserable. I also have friends who have took the leap, trained at drama school and are now living in London or seeing the world. I just can’t help but envy that. Whilst I truly enjoy my day job, I live for those weekends where I can work on a writing project or sing with my friends or do impressions of Cher over WhatsApp. I love to entertain and, of course, that is partly a requirement of being a teacher!

So when a child tells me what they want to be when they’re older – policeman, dancer, brain surgeon, pirate – I tell them to go for it. I tell them that if they really want to do that then they should do everything they can do achieve it. We need to push arts in school and stop being so scared of those creative subjects. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a thousand more times. It isn’t focused on enough. Yes, literacy and numeracy and digital competency are important but so is culture and the ability to express oneself. If we don’t encourage this generation then in a couple of decades our theatres will be empty, radios will be silent and TV screens devoid of artistic talent! (I’m dramatic. It’s been proven.) Seriously, it needs to start in schools. We need to be fostering a passion for drama and the arts and supporting those with a taste for it.

EastEnders has always been very special to me. When people ask me if I like it, I say ‘No. I live it.’ For me, EastEnders is a life choice. It’s the only soap I can watch and I think of these characters like real people that I visit four nights a week. (Wednesdays are so depressing).

But enough about my love for Albert Square. This week I want to talk about something deeply moving that has come somewhat out of the blue. Amongst the high-profile storylines like Kathy’s Return, the Linda/Dean Saga and the juggernaut that is the Lucy Beale Story, something modest and almost unnoticed has blossomed into a powerful piece of drama.

I am, of course, talking about Christine.

Dominic Treadwell Collins brought EastEnders back from the brink of death by injecting a mix of believable, edge-of-seat storylines and well-crafted characters. I was a fan from the moment the Cokers arrived. It was lovely to have a ‘normal’ (whatever that is), happy couple on the square. Whilst Lin Blakley (Pam) proved her talent at the emotional stuff when it was revealed Pam had helped her son to die, I was guilty of thinking Roger Sloman (Les) was more of a comedy actor. His gurning and over the top pronunciation painted Les as a loveable misery-guts who perhaps wouldn’t be out of place in a Carry On film. Then Paul arrived and the dream team was complete. It’s great to see the grandparents-grandson dynamic on screen, having been part of that family set up myself. Although I still think we need to see more from Paul, Jonny Labey has created a loyal and confident character, who isn’t without his faults, and who has a strong, protective relationship with his grandparents, particularly Pam.

So, for months, we’ve been speculating over Les’ supposed affair with Claudette (another fantastic character introduced by DTC) and last Monday Les finally revealed to a gobsmacked Pam that he had an alter-ego called Christine. Now, I had my suspicions for a few weeks that Les was cross-dressing (I’m an EastEnders expert – not much gets past me) and I must admit I was worried. After Les’ previous comedy scenes I was worried that the storyline might mock Les and his situation. Thankfully this didn’t happen.

Instead, we got a beautifully written and sensitively performed piece of drama. The focus has been less on what Les is wearing and more on the fact he has kept it a secret for so long. Friday’s scenes were extremely powerful. I found myself wanting to skip through all the Kathy and Ben stuff (even though they have been brilliant) to get back to the Coker’s kitchen table. I felt the same butterflies as Pam as she waited to meet Christine and when she finally made an appearance I was touched by Christine’s fragility. The moment Paul walked in was truly shocking, as the scene beforehand was so engrossing the sound of the front door opening provoked a genuine flutter of panic.

What EastEnders has done is incredible. Les doesn’t want to be a woman. He isn’t transgender and he isn’t gay – he is still utterly in love with Pam. For Les, Christine is a coping mechanism. He spends his days suppressing emotion and acting in the conventional and socially acceptable male way. For Les, Christine is his chance to express his emotions. She is simply another part of Les. EastEnders are giving us a highly believable and modern storyline. I know lots of men who feel pressurised to be that archetypal male. I’ve felt that pressure myself (remember cardigan-gate?). When Les explained that he needed to be feminine in order to express his emotion I completely understood. Les has become a victim of the pressures of society that many of us feel and feels that crying or grieving would betray his masculinity, therefore he has to appear female in order to do those things. I also think that it’s refreshing that EastEnders have chosen to give this story to an older character. I know a few people who would think that only the younger generation experience this sort of crisis, and would proudly say ‘Oh, you never saw this when I was younger!’. Well, they’re wrong. And stupid.

Lin Blakley has been magnificent as Pam has tried to come to terms with no longer knowing the man she loves, whilst Roger Sloman has surprised us with a moving performance as Les and Christine. I hope he gets the recognition he deserves. I’m sure this storyline will continue along a sensitive and realistic path. As much as I understand Pam’s frustration, I really want to see Pam and Les patch up their problems. Pam is a force of support within the Square and I’d love to see her support her husband. I want to see more of Christine and I don’t want to see her used as a figure of ridicule (hmm….not happy with you, Eamonn Holmes).

Whatever happens, I hope the Cokers, all four of them, are around for a very long time.

‘Torchwood. Outside the government, beyond the police…’

Just when I thought nothing would top my Doctor Who obsession, everything changed in 2006.

I’d returned from a trip to London to see Wicked (I know….when obsessions collide!) when BBC3 introduced me to Torchwood. I loved it from episode one. As a 16 year old, I was able to look past the clichés and faux-adultness of the first series (something which is easier to pick up on when I re-watch as a 25 year old). For me it was fresh and brooding and totally exhilarating. Not only was it brand new, but it had the familiarity of my favourite TV programme. I loved them all – Jack, Owen, Gwen, Ianto, Susie and Tosh. Each in their own way.

Toshiko Sato was my favourite. Sensible and understated, she was a complete contrast to the rest of the team. Unlike Gwen, Jack and Owen, she wasn’t brash and bold. Toshiko was modest and quietly calculating. Toshiko was often the one to come up with a conclusion without getting the recognition within the team that she deserved. She was wonderfully flawed, with her insecurities and moral deviations explored in Greeks Bearing Gifts. Naoko Mori had created a classic character for me. I thought she was brilliant and quietly (and sometimes noisily) cheered every time Toshiko delivered a stinging one liner.

The second series saw a spikier Toshiko. She’d clearly had enough of Jack’s swaggering charm as Toshiko got ballsy – airing her disagreement with Jack many times. It also brought some of my favourite Toshiko moments. From subtle comedy (‘All. Telephone lines. Are. Down!’) to high emotion (Walking through the bay at the end of To the Last Man. *wipes tear*). Naoko certainly flexes her acting muscles in this series. I will never…NEVER…get over Exit Wounds. The fact Naoko did that scene in one take just proves her ability and what an asset she was to the series, and of course, Toshiko left doing what she does best; saving the world. Toshiko doesn’t do this with dazzling flare or swaggering arrogance. She does it quietly without any expectation of credit. She’s just doing her job. I need to go away and weep about this for a moment…. 

So anyway, having been such a Tosh-fan for so long, you can imagine my excitement when Naoko was announced as a guest at Wales Comic Con. I never miss WCC but this year I had no excuse – I had to be there. I’d already met Gareth David Lloyd and embarrassed myself in front of Eve Myles (and Shane Richie….but that’s another story) and this year I was given a fresh Torchwood member to meet. And by ‘meet’ I obviously mean ‘stare at with a terrified expression on my face as my best friend tries to force me to make cringey small talk’. It was Naoko Mori’s turn to get the full starstruck-me experience. What a lucky lady. The excitement I had harboured for weeks dissipated as I entered the main hall and turned to an anxious, stomach twisting panic. I could see her through the crowd, no queue at her desk. A normal person would have seized the opportunity and rushed straight over. Not me. I circled the room several times, building up the courage to go and speak to Naoko. Eventually my friend encouraged/bullied me to bite the bullet. Naoko was, of course, lovely and I had no reason to be such a mumbling idiot. She shook my hand (she touched my hand! That means we’re engaged, right?) and even rubbed my hand through her hair to prove she was ‘just normal’ (and obviously the photos look like I’m awkwardly trying to slam her head into the table. Classic.) The Q&A with Naoko and Eve Myles was hilarious. Like, actually cheek-hurting hilarious. I bet they had lots of fun making Torchwood.

So anyway, now that I’ve confessed my love for a fictional character (again) and her non-fictional actor, I suppose what I’m really trying to say is:

Torchwood writers, stop messing about.  Just bring it back.  You know it makes sense. You’d make a lot of people happy. Oh…and, even though it had its perks, we’re all willing to forget Miracle Day if you just bring back Tosh, Owen and Ianto. Just bring them back, no questions asked. It’s fine. We will forgive the lack of plausible explanation just for the chance to have another series with the full team. We miss them.

Oh and Naoko, call me.