Saturday, 12 October 2019

Theatre: Two Trains Running......

A Royal & Dergate, Nothampton and English Touring Theatre co-production

There’s a controversial new president in the White House, and racial tensions are on the rise.
It is Pittsburgh, 1969, and the regulars of Memphis Lee’s restaurant are struggling to cope with the turbulence of a rapidly changing world. The diner is in threat of being torn down, a casualty of the city’s renovation project that is sweeping away the buildings of a community, but not its spirit.
The iconic American playwright August Wilson paints a vivid portrait of everyday lives in this defining moment of American history. When Two Trains Running opened on Broadway in 1992, its legendary premiere won TONY and Drama Desk Awards. Directed by the 2018 winner of the RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award, Nancy Medina, this major revival will introduce this Pulitzer Prize shortlisted modern classic to UK-wide audiences for the first time.
Supported by the Royal Theatrical Support Trust.


Our first reaction was 'great set'. An old run down American dinner with back windows on two sides so we could see who was arriving before they came through the restaurant door. A half broken roof not only so we could be inside but showing how neighbourhood buy-up and rebuild was very close. Amongst the rubble on the roof was a red door.

The characters were very clearly defined with accents so strong that sometimes I didn't understand what they said. My friend and I both agreed that the character with  the educational disability was acted brilliantly.

However, amongst all the very heavy dialogue I never heard any mention of the new president and it's impact on these people, there was no reference to the red door. The black actors talked constantly about the white man's persecution of "niggers", a word they used so much it made me feel uncomfortable, which may have been the point.

Another odd thing is while the script often explains that the diner's jukebox has been left unrepaired for months, we frequently heard off-stage music and sound effects that serve no purpose except raise questions with the audience of 'Where is this coming from? What's it for?'

We were both exhausted and frustrated when it finally broke for the interval, exhausted by the long fusty half with the sheer volume and speed of dialogue, but frustrated because neither of us could work out what it was trying to put across or where it was going.  My friend had decided to ring her Hubby (who had driven us there) to come and collect her, leaving at half time is something I hate doing so I was going to stay to the end and ring my Hubby for my lift home.......then we found out it was a three hour play and not finishing till nearly 11pm! Life is definitely too short to put myself through another hour and a half.

So we will never know where were the two trains and were they running or not?

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Theatre: In Loyal Company.......

Hosted by Red Rose Chain
In Loyal Company is the incredible true story of missing World War II soldier and prisoner of War Arthur Robinson, written and performed by his great-nephew, David William Bryan.
May 1941. Hitler’s bombs rain on Liverpool. Local packer, Arthur Robinson, joins up becoming a private in the 18th reconnaissance division. Deployed to Singapore, his ship is destroyed by Japanese dive bombers on arrival. Arthur is declared missing. This extraordinary true story of survival is a tour-de-force war epic.


I was so moved by this play last night. An amazing powerful emotional performance about a Liverpool lad, youngest of six, going off to war in WWll. He is captured by the Japs, shares with us the horrors of Changi and is worked hard building a railway. 

Very moving indeed. Nothing on stage but him and a chair and he made about four minor costume changes, however you were drawn in to every part of his life and his emotions. He also gave character and substance to many other people that were part of his story.  

The Liverpool Blitz is scarily brought to life by powerful sound and light effects, in fact all the way through one man on sound and light did a brilliant job from a very small technical desk at the back of the room (beside me).

This was visual storytelling at its very best.

I was the first to stand and applaud, however, I'm short and from one of the raised tiers he probably didn't notice I was standing hahaha.

It was the true story of his great uncle. Afterwards I told him it was also my dad's story who had also spent nearly five years as a POW, dad had been in Changi and built the Kawasaki Railway, David hugged me!

I didn't even know about this. It was one night only and Daughter had bought tickets for her and R but couldn't go at the last minute so I went with R. 
It was meant to be eh? 

Theatre: The Night Watch.........

The Original Theatre Company and York Theatre Royal present
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

“I get hooked on moments. I can’t move forward. The mind has hooks in time, little hooks that trip you up and take you back to way back when."
Tender, tragic and beautifully poignant, set against the shadows of feats of heroism both epic and everyday, The Night Watch is a thrilling portrait of four ordinary people caught up in the aftermath of an extraordinary time. A time when hearts beat faster and life burned more brightly.
Sarah Waters’ award-winning story of illicit love and lost souls takes you from a dazed and shattered post-war Britain back into the heart of the Blitz, hurtling towards the secrets that are hidden there.


Saw this with my usual two theatre friends and we also got talking to a guy sitting beside us. None of us would say we enjoyed it. But T didn't mention leaving at the interval so not bad, just slow and stage choreography that was hard to work out why.

I thought it was really well acted by them all. With just a few deep and meaningful moments. Quite liked the scene overlaps with the lighting directing our attention.  But mostly it seemed a pointless dragging out of obvious relationships with a backwards play that ended nowhere.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Theatre: A Sidecar Named Despair........

Estranged brothers Dick & Julian never did really get on. Since the death of their father, they’ve been forced together, living in their old family home while they try and rebuild their lives and their dad's rusty old motorbike and sidecar.

Having been working in the States as an accountant, Julian has returned suddenly, and won't talk about his time there. He starts getting threatening messages, and it becomes clear that his business "associates" are not to be trifled with, and that his past is catching up with him, putting both their lives in jeopardy. It's "The Odd Couple" versus the Mob!

A black comedy with original music by Pat Whymark, featuring Julian Harries and Richard Mainwaring


A typical crazy comedy in the style we are used to whenever Julian Harries is involved. Clever songs with the two women having good voices and the men as animated backing singers. And some of the script was of the laugh-out-loud quality.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Theatre: One Man, Two Guvnors........

By Richard Bean
Based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carl Goldoni
with songs by Grant Olding

Set in the colourful underworld of Brighton in the swinging sixties. Richard Bean’s riotous farce mixes all the elements of classic comedy into a fizzing cocktail of fun. Mistaken identity, cross-dressing, physical knockabout, slapstick, mad gags and outrageous puns are shaken and stirred as Francis Henshall, cast out of his skiffle band, finds the best route to satisfy his considerable appetites for food, sex and money, to become One Man serving Two Guvnors.

This joyous updating of Goldoni’s classic Italian comedy from the 18th century, The Servant of Two Masters, has quickly established itself as one of the great British comedies of the 21st Century.


This was absolutely hilarious. Brilliant casting, very talented musicianship and amazing set changes.

The lead character Francis Henshall, played by Philip Tomlin, was an enormous task and he gave it everything, lots of dialogue, perfect timing, exhausting physical comedy and plenty of interacting with the audience. I was amazed afterwards to read it was his first professional stage performance out of stage school!

I won't mention something great about each member of the cast, although I could, but I do have to give special credit to the character Alfie, played by Richard Leeming, who literally threw himself headfirst into his part....and down the stairs many times!

A great evening and perfect for the start to the autumn season.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Time Travel and Travelling on Time.......

It's time for Daughter to be her Tudor self again, starting today (Friday 16th August) for the next 11 days. Today she left home with E and E's friend and O. O will be there till Tuesday evening and E till Friday morning.

Before they left Daughter brought R and their dog Tilly who will our guests for the duration. Tilly came with more luggage than R did.
We don't want Tilly sleeping upstairs on beds and we don't want to stress her by making her sleep alone as she doesn't do that at home, so R said she'll sleep in the office with the dog as it's downstairs and has easy access to the garden.

Her bed was installed and she promptly did a wee on the blankets  (that's Tilly not R) which immediately went into the washing machine. Guess she needed to mark her territory!
When it's not bedtime, as usual the lounge windowsill is her favourite place.

Hubby took R to her theatre duties for 4pm and another friend is very kindly bringing her home. I'm out to dinner with friends so Hubby has the evening to himself and dog duty. 

Most days when R has theatre duties we start at home packing a picnic for her to take, this was a double as on matinee and evening performance days she's there from 10:30am to 10pm.

Although Tilly enjoys free movement in our garden, which is big enough for her to have a little run around, most days Hubby has taken her out for change of scenery. Because she doesn't go out for walks off lead at all Hubby has been running with her, so hopefully getting him fitter too. 

R's friend F is also doing some of the volunteer theatre crew shifts, so her mum and I have arranged swapsies where I've offered F sleepover nights to save them being in two places at once and in return they are giving R some lifts home to save Hubby turning out past his bedtime 😉 although on "end of show party" night he did do the pickup for both girls at midnight. 

We've also had O here for an overnight Thursday and all day Friday. E also came home early Friday as she is going to the Ed Sheeran concert being held very locally to us, she also slept over so she could be up and showered at 7am Saturday as she'd arranged a lift back to Kentwell. 

Ipswich has been full on with Ed's homecoming concert. TV, radio, local paper coverage and of course everyone having an opinion on social media (always some moaners but mostly good).

E went Friday night and said it was amazing. I heard that M had taken O Sunday night and they both loved it. Daughter&M's house is only about 10mins walk from the venue so M and O have listened to it all from their garden each night. 

Today is now Bank Holiday Monday and Theatre in the Forest finished last night. R and her friend F having a free day decided to invite a few friends, from here they have walked to Daughter&M's house so they can experience the last night of the concert, in audio. 

So just Tilly to collect when Daughter gets home. Meanwhile we are both happy relaxing with the doors open and the fan on. 

Sunday, 25 August 2019

My Way (#15 )........

Over the years I seem to have developed some very definite ways of doing things and usually it's for a very good reason, HOWEVER this is a new one for me, so I thought I'd share. 

When I'm in the shower with big plastic bottles and soapy hands I found my grip was rubbish and bottles kept slipping out of my hand.

So first I looked through all the saved dispensers and pumps that I've washed and kept, but I had nothing that fitted.

Next onto online shopping and found pumps, but soon discovered there is no standard neck size to the bottles I have.
Seems the alternative is to buy new bottles with pumps and decant what we use then label each bottle and maybe colour code the labels so you can squint with soapy eyes and still dispense the right product........guess what, the cost and effort to buy more plastic to replace plastic is not helping the planet or my moral standards, so I'm not going there! 

So, I wrapped an elastic band around each bottle, making a good grip and I'm no longer dropping them, job done

What's your way?

Monday, 12 August 2019

Birthday, Boat, Broads, Buffet........

I really wanted to do something a little different for this year's birthday as we normally get together for a family meal but as we all have varying dietary needs and some fidgit if we sit still for too long it can be challenging.

I mentioned this to a friend just in passing and she suggested hiring a day boat on the Norfolk Broads! I told Hubby, Daughter and Son adding that I'd like a picnic on board and everybody loved the idea.

Early gathering at our house, which daughter called Parental HQ, then because unfortunately a few family members couldn't come, we all fitted into Daughter's car. Just under two hours to get there. The boat handover at was really straightforward and efficient. We were kitted out with life jackets and Hubby and Son got on board for a guide to what's where and how it all works. Then we all installed ourselves and our stuff and we were off.

As you can see in the photos we had a really nice boat, very well equipped with two ring burner, kettle, plenty of crockery, cutlery and tea towels and dishcloths etc, we had a loo too!

Hubby and Son were in charge for all the busy areas or tricky moorings but O took the wheel as Captain for a lot of the time and quickly got to understand the delay in reaction time when steering and the drifting just with the water movement pushing on the boat. So a happy 10 year old makes us all happy.

We really didn't know how the dog would react as on land she will often bark like mad at other dogs or people. So having never done anything water based or boaty before would she bark at every goose, swan or passing boat? No! She seemed interested in everything, constantly going from one side to the other to look out, loved getting off each time for walks and happy each time to get back on board. So well behaved, although she was kept on a very short lead the whole time.

Daughter and Son had brought so much food and a birthday cake plus candles. When we got home M joined us too and we still didn't finish off the food hahaha.

Such a lovely day with my favourite people and good weather for a fun activity. Memories to keep forever.

The rest of the photos are HERE

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Theatre: Romeo and Juliet........

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep;
the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite”
The Montague Mods are riding their mopeds, the Capulets are rocking their leather biker jackets – bitter rivals from different worlds and that’s the way its always been. But there’s one thing they hadn’t counted on…Romeo and Juliet have never been the kind to obey the rules!
Can these rebels in love ever break free from their families and create a truce between Rockers and Mods once and for all? 

This year’s marks 20 years of Theatre in the Forest and what better way to celebrate 
than with the love story that changed the world in the beautiful woods of 
Jimmy’s Farm as we take you back in time to the 1960s.


This evening performance was actually rounding off a lovely catchup day with friendKK. Friends for nearly 40 years, spending so much time together when our children were young. However now we have trouble finding suitable matching free time so when we do it's a whole day. We started at 9:30am - driving - tea and cakeing - walking and mooching - shops, antiques, galleries etc - driving - late lunching at the Artisan Smokehouse yum yum - driving - admiring beautiful landscapes - popped into her house - ending our day with the Bard - really good weather all day AND WE NEVER STOPPED TALKING hahaha

Again Red Rose Chain Theatre have a great success. All the actors were brilliant. They always stick to Shakespeare’s scrip and add. This time it was 60's music, a few song and dance routines, deck chairs and sand and audience participation panto style for the Punch and Judy puppets. The enthusiasm and enjoyment of the cast is contagious and we were well looked after before, in the interval and when leaving by the merry band of crew who are youth theatre volunteers.
We loved it and would highly recommend it.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Theatre: The Lady in the Van......

Presented by Gallery Players 

First a book, a play and then a film, The Lady in the Van tells the true story of Alan Bennett's strained friendship with Miss Mary Shepherd, an eccentric homeless woman whom Bennett befriended in 1974 before allowing her ‘temporarily’ to park her Bedford van in the driveway of his Camden home. 

For Alan Bennett charity truly began at home but little did he know that she would remain there for fifteen years. 
This wonderfully witty play centres on their extraordinary relationship, which for Bennett was a source of intrigue, frustration and compassion.

"One seldom was able to do her a good turn without some thoughts of strangulation”.

As Alan Bennett very candidly admits, he and Miss Shepherd mutually benefited from her presence; he provided her with a safe haven while she acted as his muse, providing endless humorous material with her rude interactions with the outside world.

The story is funny, poignant and life affirming.


I'd seen the film some years ago and this was an amateur production that certainly did it justice.

Two Alan Bennett's (Steve Taplin and Daren Nunn) who complimented and mimicked each other really well. An excellent way of thinking out loud by talking to each other!
And Mary Shepherd (Jenni Horne) who delivered her lines so well it was really hard to decide if she was highly intelligent or a raving lunatic.

A very clever set with a full size Bedford van not only on stage but moving around the stage too.

There were quite a few other characters supporting the whole story.