In the Night Garden… Live

Star rating: *****

My five year old boy has been brought up on Cbeebies’ In the Night Garden, Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy, Makka Pakka and the Pontipines as well as the Tombliboos and Haahoos have all be regular features in our living rom over the years. My boy is no stranger to that particular television show and also no stranger to the theatre, so although he’s on the cusp of beginning year one at primary school, this combination of an old favourite appearing on stage delighted him.

The packed house were equally delighted it seems as children of varying pre-school ages took in what might have been their first theatrical experience. What better place to start a child off with experiences of live shows than with their TV heroes.

The show could well have jumped out of the television screen and onto the stage at the Birmingham Rep, it was that well done. All the popular characters are there either as large as life or in puppet form. The little boat starts us off with Igglepiggle on board and the story we follow takes the same format as an episode takes. Igglepiggle meets Uspy Daisy, Makka Pakka is on hand to wash Igglepiggle’s face and the Pontipines and Tombliboos are going about their business as usual. All of the action is played out against a fantastically versatile set which recreates all the well-known scenery from the TV show. The puppeteers do a superb job and their engaging, smiley and expressionful faces lend themselves brilliantly to the genre of the production. They work as a tight knit team and it’s a like watching a well oiled machine in progress.

The magic of theatre is all around, never more so than when both the Ninky Nonk and Pinky Ponk make their respective appearances, the latter in a spectacular way!

Joy on the faces of young children in a theatre is one of the best things ever and if you have a youngster you’re thinking of bringing to the theatre – if they live this show already they will adore seeing it live. Book now: in-the-night-garden-live

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Beecham House ~ Feature Article

The ‘Delhi Downton’ has closed its doors, which means that Sunday nights will be a little dull now that Beecham House is no longer filling a prime time spot. However, the good news is that its available to purchase on DVD. Did you watch the series? What were your thoughts? Were you as gripped as I was? Here’s my review of what became a must-watch for me:

Photo Credits ITV

Gurinder Chadha’s Beecham House grabbed my attention from the opening scene, it was fairly obvious that one of the main actors in the show was not going to die – however the fact that John Beecham (Tom Bateman) was shot in opening scenes had me on the edge of my seat from the outset. Three years later and we see that Mr Beecham has not succumbed to his wound and arrives at a spectacular Delhi Mansion with a half-cast baby in tow whom he appears paternal towards. In India in the late 18th century, the period in which the series is set, France and England were battling it out to reign supreme. This historical undercurrent runs through the whole series.

Beecham certainly appears to have an eye for the ladies, and he’s already been established as a heroic figure having saved a group of rich Indians from bandits in the opening sequence. His past career involves working for the East India Company where his brother Daniel (Leo Suter) is still a Soldier – however what he’s looking for now is to trade.

Beecham is also keenly aware of his mother’s imminent arrival, the bold and forthright Henrietta Beecham who has travelled all the way from England to stay at Beecham House having not seen her son for years. Lesley Nicol plays her and is predictably superb as the meddling matchmaker. Bessie Carter (daughter of Jim Carter (yes that’s Mr Carson from Downton Abbey) and the multi-talented Imedla Staunton) plays Henrietta’s companion, Violet and she’s got her heart set on a proposal of marriage from Beecham – although that does not appear to be forthcoming. Especially as he also has another beautiful lady on his radar, Governess, Margaret Osbourne (Dakota Blue Richards).

The scenery is breath-taking, the costumes are eye-catchingly spectacular and the casting is on point. Twists, turns and all the ingredients for a watchable period drama and its easy to see why the Downton reference is made. Enjoy it, it’s a treat indeed.

Here are a few words from cast members Tom Bateman and Lesley Nicol:

Tom Bateman

What attracted you to the role?

For me it always comes down to script and characters. I was sent the first three scripts and I really wanted to know what happened next. I got very invested in all the characters. There’s a great line that John says which is, ‘I’m not here to build walls’ and I thought the idea of working with two very different cultures would be very interesting.

Why is John Beecham so appealing to play?

I’ve never played a character with so much weight to him, and that appealed to me straight away. My characters are normally quite energetic, but John is very strong, quite hard and you don’t really know who he is at first. He internalises, he’s a man of mystery. He’s got a baby but there’s no mother and he doesn’t tell anybody anything about that, which instantly makes you think something’s going on because otherwise why wouldn’t he just tell people who the baby’s mother is? He’s inherently a very good man who’s trying to do the right thing, but he’s been through the wars. He’s also very forward-thinking. He left the East India Company because he didn’t agree with the way they did things which, at the time, was very bold. A lot of people just went along with it and didn’t question it but he refused to be part of it. For someone to stand up against the norm makes them very intriguing to me.

Is the series an ensemble piece?

It’s called Beecham House and there are quite a few Beechams – me, my mum, my brother, plus the wonderful Bessie [Carter] who plays a family friend, [Violet Woodhouse]. There are lots of other characters associated with the house, who are inspiring to work alongside. What I loved about it was that we all had great stories. Even characters who have slightly smaller roles in terms of being on screen, they have a falling-in-love story or a political story. Every moment they appear is very rich. Nobody was sitting there going, ‘I wish I was in it a bit more’. It was wonderful.

What’s John’s relationship like with his family?

He’s being pulled in lots of different directions by lots of different people: his mum, his brother, a love interest or two! Just give the guy a break! He starts the series on his own, and by the end things have changed a lot. He thought he’d lost his brother forever, he hadn’t seen his mother for years, he was very independent, then they all come together again.

What do you think viewers like about period drama?

They look beautiful, they’re very rich in composition. You’re instantly in another world. And horses! You don’t get to see horses that often. But for me, the reason I love filming period dramas, is that they instantly make you act differently. People don’t talk about their feelings as much. They don’t say, ‘Oh, I really fancy you’. And you don’t touch each other. So you have to find another way of expressing those feelings which is really fun. There was a scene in Vanity Fair in which Olivia [Cooke] and I can’t say how we feel, because it wasn’t done, but my character is going to [the Battle of] Waterloo and it was so rich and dramatic. You’re torn between what you want to say and what you’re allowed to say. And it oozes sexiness because you’re watching and going, ‘God, just kiss her!’ It’s like Mr Darcy and Lizzy Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. You know they’re going to get together but it takes six hours of anticipation to get there.

Lesley Nicol

What was it about the character of Henrietta that attracted you to the role?

It was a number of things, actually. I was very attracted to the fact it was a different kind of role for me. This character gave me something meaty and very different from what I’ve been doing. I absolutely love India. I did a movie there ten years ago called West is West, so to go back was a huge draw. Gurinder was another big draw and I knew they were getting top people on board for cast and crew, and it’s ITV primetime, so what’s not to like! It was a lovely thing to land on the doorstep.

Who is Henrietta?

She’s John’s mother. On the face of it she’s a very respectable, god-fearing, upper middle class woman, very conservative. She comes over to India on a very long boat trip with her companion Violet who’s played by Bessie Carter. They have this hideous journey and when they arrive they’re completely poleaxed because everything is so foreign to them.

What’s Henrietta’s relationship like with Violet?

Well Violet is unmarried and desperate to find a husband. She’s the daughter of a dear friend and so Henrietta asked her to come along as her companion and Violet does that very well. They play cards together and have a very good relationship. But the bottom line is that Violet does want a husband and as far as Henrietta is concerned, John is a very good-looking and a kind man with a certain amount of wealth with an amazing house, so she’s very much hoping to position John and Violet together so that they eventually get married and come back to England.

It appears that John has secrets at Beecham House?

When they arrive they’re introduced to Margaret Osborne [played by Dakota Blue Richards]. They don’t know who Margaret is but she looks very settled in his company and they think, ‘hang on a minute!’ So they’re not very nice to Margaret. Then other women turn up and there’s a baby and they’re very confused about who’s who and what’s what.


Is John pleased to be reunited with his mother?

They haven’t seen each other for 12 years so he’s totally different from last time she saw him. He’s older, wiser. She has two sons and they’re both in India. There’s definitely a base love that they all have for each other. But Henrietta is challenging, there’s no doubt about it, and he’s not been quite ready to tell her everything that’s going on in his life when she turns up. She has to try and deal with all of this information and she’s not easy to be around because the whole experience has thrown her so much.

What’s happened to John’s father?

He was a bad’un and got taken to Australia. He was a gambler and a drinker. He gets mentioned occasionally but he’s absent so there’s a sadness there because she was left on her own which was awful in those days. Her brother took her in, then he died. So that’s one of the reasons for coming to India, as she’s all alone.

What are Henrietta’s character traits?

She is tough, but she’s from a very narrow world. And suddenly she’s in a household with dozens of servants, the food’s all wrong, she gets bitten by mosquitos, she will not wear anything cooler even though it’s baking hot. It’s a different religion, it’s all completely foreign to her. But what’s nice about this character and the arc of her journey is that she does learn and adjust.

Did you do any research into the politics of the time?

I did actually because I didn’t know this period. It’s earlier than I’m used to. I read quite a lot, I did a bit of digging because I wanted to know what it would have been like for her. There weren’t many white women in India at that time. The white men often formed liaisons with Indian women so Henrietta was the outsider in every sense really. I found the political element quite fascinating. About the East India Company and the corruption and the bad behaviour of that time. John Beecham is trying to form a business, but he finds it hard because everyone is terribly suspicious and there are people trying to derail him. But what I like about this series is that all the characters are on a journey. Henrietta and Violet are. The staff in the house are because they have this man turn up who they don’t know and it changes their household completely. Everybody is having a major shift, whoever they are.

Beecham House is drawing comparisons with Downton Abbey, partly because it’s about the servants as much as the landlord of the house. What do you think about that?

People are comparing it but I don’t think it’s any more comparable than that really. It’s a different period, a different country. It’s a house with servants and people upstairs but it’s a whole different tone, a whole different feel to it.

Make sure you get your hands on a copy of Beecham House on DVD, it’s gripping viewing and was released on 22nd July.

Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom Live ~ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Star rating ****

Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom has long been a television favourite of my 5 year old son’s so the opportunity to see the characters brought to life on stage was too good to miss.

With a set which was instantly recognisable as the famous Little Kingdom and most of the popular characters acting out engaging stories for the small audience members – it is a great introduction to theatre for young ones. All of the characters are played by actors which was a big draw for my little boy, although he did enjoy the transition to puppets later on in the story. Gaston the ladybird was quite realistic too as he was ably manoeuvred around the stage by his cast-mates!

Ben, Holly, Nanny Plum, King Thistle, The Wise Old Elf and Lucy are all at the heart of the tales. There’s a story about Gaston’s cave and Nanny Plum’s on her tooth fairy mission, meanwhile there’s King Thistle’s birthday party to plan! There’s plenty of audience participation and we’re still singing some of the songs at home now.

One criticism would be that the characters are not voiced by the original actors, and this was spotted by several audience members including my son. Nanny Plum is usually voiced by the same actress as voices Miss Rabbit in Peppa Pig, so her voice is distinctive.

However, if your child loves the show on TV then make sure you book your tickets to see Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom open up before your eyes, it’s a treat! Ben & Holly Live

BBC One’s ‘Baptiste’ Released on DVD

The Missing’s Julien Baptiste returns in the titular role of a new six-part drama for BBC One

French detective Julien Baptiste, who first appeared in The Missing series one and two, returns in the titular role of a new six-part drama for BBC One. Starring Tchéky Karyo, Tom Hollander and Jessica Raine.

“Never-quite-retired detective and erstwhile beekeeper Julien Baptiste is a character very dear to our hearts. After seeing him brought to life by the incomparable Tcheky Karyo in The Missing, we always knew we weren’t quite ready to let him go if the right story presented itself. We’re glad it finally did, and hope people enjoy seeing Baptiste take centre stage in his show as much as we have.”

Julien Baptiste is staying in Amsterdam where his daughter has recently had a child. Forever under their feet and restless, he is invited to meet up with old flame Martha Horchner, the chief of police in Amsterdam. But this isn’t a lunch to catch up on old times – she wants his help to find a missing girl, Natalie, the niece of Englishman Edward Stratton. She believes the case is connected to a Romanian sex trafficking gang. It’s vital that they find her.

Julien meets up with Edward and they begin their search, but it’s not long before Julien realises that all is not as it seems. Why does nobody want to talk about the missing girl? Who is the man following Celia, Julien’s wife? What is the connection between the case and the transsexual brothel, whose owner has sent someone to follow them? Who is the mysterious woman, Kim Vogel, who helps the sex industry girls and tells them that Natalie has run away to Germany?

As Julien starts to uncover some of the truths behind the lies, he realises there is more to this case that meets the eye. By the time Baptiste becomes aware of the danger that he has been drawn into, Julien’s own family are in mortal danger and Julien is caught in a trap.

Baptiste is a nail-biting ride full of twists and turns, where nothing and nobody are as they first seem. Amsterdam is both the backdrop and a veneer, and Julien Baptiste must search its narrow alleyways and its basements and canals, to uncover the dark side of the city.

Did you watch this fantastic drama? As a Jessica Raine fan I was hugely eager to see her in a new role and this one absolutely suited her – what a superb character for a great actress to get her teeth into. Here’s an interview with Jessica Raine which has been provided for re-publication by the BBC Media Centre.

Tell us about Genevieve’s character – what is her background story?
Genevieve is an officer at Europol, heading up a team trying to get enough evidence together to nail a gang called the Brigada Serbilu, which concerns itself with human trafficking. She’s quite blunt and tactless and rubs people up the wrong way when she’s first introduced in the series, but she’s incredibly focused and determined to get the guy she needs to get. It’s a scary focus, as she doesn’t care how she treats everyone else.

What is Genevieve’s relationship with Julien?
When Genevieve meets Julien you feel like she’s really marking her territory. She’s a little bit patronising and you feel like she’s definitely overriding him with the decision-making. She wants him out of the way even though she respects what he’s done in the past. Genevieve doesn’t have much time for Baptiste at the beginning, however, as the series progresses I think she really becomes much more respectful of him and his methods and they become quite close by the end, which is a great journey to play.

What is Genevieve’s relationship with Edward?
With Edward, Genevieve is constantly trying to persuade him to do what she wants and doesn’t really think about what the consequences are for him. To her, he is someone who’s in way over his head – but she also sees him as an opportunity. It’s an opening for her that she hasn’t had before with this case, so she has to get him onside. But she is also quite irritated by him, so it is quite a fractious relationship – which has been really fun to play with Tom.

What’s it been like filming in Amsterdam and Belgium?
I’ve loved it. I’ve had a week in Amsterdam but didn’t get to see much of it because we were working all the time. Antwerp I’ve become really familiar with and I love it, the people, the shops and the art as well as the food! I just absolutely adore it to be honest. I want to come back. I can understand why people come out here and live here. It’s just amazing.

What’s it like working with Tom and Tchéky?
Great. They’re so different. Tchéky is so unbelievably French, and I mean that in a really lovely way. He’s very philosophical about things. He’s great to act with. He’s always very present. Tom is loads of fun to work with. He’s done his research, he knows what he’s doing and then just sort of let’s rip on a scene, which has been really positive.

Get your hands on a copy of Baptiste on DVD here:

National Television Awards 2019 – Musings of an attendee…

Another National Television Awards ceremony has passed and it was an interesting, slightly controversial star-studded evening.

As an entertainment blogger with big love for all things telly and a working relationship and indeed friendships with a few familiar names from the small screen, I like to attend the awards whenever possible. I was a regular attender of the National Television Awards during the good old days when the Royal Albert Hall was the venue for the event. This year saw my third visit to the show since the move to the O2 and the extortionate charge to meet the celebrities on the red carpet came into being.

I’m often asked if it’s as good to be there as it looks on the telly and whether it’s worth paying for a ticket to go etc. The honest answer is that you do get a better view on your television at home, however I also believe that everybody should experience it at least once. Had the ceremony and set up remained the same as during Sir Trevor McDonald’s tenure – then I wouldn’t have hesitated to recommend that everyone with a passion for television pays a visit and indeed for a ticket, if they can. Every trip to the O2 for me has been widely different, however what stood out this time was the number of people in the audience who were going in and out of the auditorium at regular intervals and not during commercial breaks. This was disruptive to the evening itself for us members of the public. It’s no mean feat going up and down those stairs all the time either, they must have had a great workout!

The basic charge before fees for a red carpet ticket which includes a seat at the ceremony itself is £120. Prior to the move to the O2 it was free to attend the red carpet before and after the ceremony. There was a degree of scrambling which was kept under control by stewards, however on the whole it wasn’t a bad experience and helped to build up the excitement and anticipation before we piled into the venue itself. During commercial breaks inside the Albert Hall the nominees would make their way over to have photos with us and sign autographs too. It felt like we were all in it together, actors, crew members, directors, producers and us, the viewers.

As it’s an awards ceremony voted for by the public, back in those days it truly felt like the public got something back for supporting the various television shows. If you didn’t have an opportunity to see your favourite celebrity before the show or during, there was always a good chance that you would meet them afterwards. Indeed I was able to arrange to meet friends who were nominated and we’d easily find one another amongst the throng. On all three occasions that I’ve been in the audience at the O2 it’s been impossible to meet any nominees in my social and working circle.

So why the big change? Security risks are heightened of course due to a vast number of reasons and social media and all its pitfalls have also added to the mix. There are a few ‘fans’ out there who troll celebrity social media accounts and they could be loose cannons on occasions such as these I expect. It’s such a shame though because the event which I have always loved being a part of now feels like an us and them situation – those who are on TV versus those who aren’t. Separated and kept under lock and key by more security staff than you can shake a stick at – and you’d be wise not to shake a stick or you’d find yourself back on the tube before the stars were in their seats. Which wouldn’t be difficult! At the Royal Albert Hall the nominees were always seated well in advance of the show going live. At the O2 it’s almost more entertaining to watch the celebrities being herded in, rather like cats, than it is to watch the show. As you will no doubt have spotted on your screens this year, they are seldom in their seats ahead of the show being broadcast.

Although there is a notable barrier between Joe public and the television greats, there are a handful of stars who like to boogie with the warm up man and get the crowd ready to party. This year Brendan O’Carroll and Jennifer Gibney aka Mrs Brown and Cathy Brown were having a dance and cheering with the audience before Dermot came on to do his thing. Last year we had Ruth Langsford and Alison Hammond strutting their stuff. The various television theme tunes are blasted out and we can see footage from the red carpet to spark our enthusiasm. It’s after that I feel the show becomes something of a damp squib.

The positive side of the night for me personally is that I go with friends and we have a brilliant time. This year we were treated to a ‘red carpet’ make over by Bobbi Brown UK in John Lewis and Partners, Oxford Street ahead of the show and spent our time enjoying a good catch up. It is what you make it, and if you want to spend the big bucks to meet the stars on the red carpet, the opportunity is there. It’s not what we’re keen to do but it would certainly be an experience not to be forgotten I’m sure. You can book tickets for next year so if you feel it’s time to see what all the fuss is about and see the inside of the awards for yourself, book now: www.nationaltvawards.com/

Photo Credits: National Television Awards/ITV

National Television Awards 2019 – My Highlights

The dust has settled on another National Television Awards – the free bar for the nominees and their plus ones has been pounded, the ticket holding members of the public have finally felt able to put their shoes back on (I saw many a fellow attendee with sore feet, clutching their inappropriate choices of footwear in their hands!) and the winners are all admiring their spectacular trophies I expect. Did you vote in this year’s National Television Awards and did your favourites win?

Here’s what I thought of the various outcomes and I’ll let you in on who I had my money on in each category too… (when I say money, I do mean Monopoly cash – just so you know and so my husband doesn’t fly into a blind panic if he reads this!)…

Factual Entertainment: Paul O’Grady: For The Love of Dogs

I voted for this show, I think its stood the test of time and like many members of the British public, I love animals and want to see them living their best life. Paul is an inspirational guy and as a presenter with such as passion for dogs, the combination couldn’t be better. A much deserved win!

Quiz Show: The Chase

Another show I voted for, I love Bradley Walsh as a presenter, I think the banter between the various chasers and the contestants is good entertainment value and I think the format is very watchable. It has long been my favourite quiz show. Happy viewer and voter!

New Drama : Bodyguard

Of course it was, and of course I voted for this. BBC One has needed a gripping drama of this quality to up its game with so many channel choices out there. Richard Madden was a top choice to take the title role and I will never forget the first episode, edge of my seat and almost on the floor! An unsurprising winner.

Drama Performance: Richard Madden

Did I vote for him? Why yes you nosy devils, I did indeed! He’s not been on my radar before Bodyguard but he’s on it now and will remain so for a long time to come. A humble winner who couldn’t have been better cast in such a prolific role, long may Madden reign!

Talent Show: Strictly Come Dancing

Yes I voted for Strictly! It’s one of my all time favourite shows and I thought last year’s was one of the bet years they’ve had so far. They seem to be able to do no wrong as they also won last year. I’m just gutted that none of the judges made it to the shortlist this year.

Comedy: Peter Kay’s Car Share

If I had been putting money on National Television Awards winners I’d have been steaming ahead by now as this was another of my choices. Peter Kay developed a comedy in Car Share that we’ve not seen anywhere else and it never failed to tickle me. The episode featuring the monkey will be a memory I’ll always laugh out loud at. It was the last time that the show would be eligible as it has come to a close now, so it’s lovely that they won and great for Peter Kay too as he’s been off the scene.

Newcomer: James Moore

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so elated when a winner has been announced at this show. James Moore has been such a terrific addition to the Emmerdale cast and I wouldn’t have voted for anyone else. He made a fantastic entrance to claim his trophy and he’s raising the profile of actors with a disability. I hope he stays in the soap long enough to be in the running for a best actor award in future years.

Daytime: This Morning

I think I’d be hard pushed to think of a better winner, This Morning trumps all the other nominees every time and was naturally on my radar to vote for with Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford being two of my all time best loved presenters. I do wonder if the public vote for it just so they can watch a hungover Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby the next morning though…

TV Judge: David Walliams

I have to admit that I failed to vote in this category when the shortlist was announced as I wanted Shirley Ballas from Strictly Come Dancing to be in the running. David Walliams is extremely entertaining but his choices of act on Britain’s Got Talent to go through are usually slightly off the wall and not necessarily the same choices I’d make. So although he was probably one of the best shortlisted nominees in that category, I was a bit disappointed. Sorry! It also broke my winning streak, but then I was never in the running for this one with my beloved Ms Ballas out of the picture!

Drama : Peaky Blinders

I didn’t vote for the show, I’ve never watched it, however I can see why it won as I know the following are strong and committed. I had a dilemma as to who I voted for as I support Casualty and the cast, but I adore Call The Midwife, so I was torn. I went with the latter but all my work colleagues went with the former!

TV Presenter: Ant & Dec

I voted for Bradley Walsh, let’s get that out there straight away before I dissect this controversial little nugget. Had Dec been available to vote for by himself in this category, I might have considered voting for him. Ant very graciously and rightly announced that the award belonged to Dec so no hard feelings as far as I’m concerned. The public awarded it to them and assuming the vote counting was correct, that’s the end of it. I’m pleased for Dec.

The Bruce Forsyth Entertainment Award: I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

Yes, a worthy winner and the one I voted for. I’m back in the game! However, I have to admit it would not have been my choice in previous years. This year the king of jam roly poly, Harry Redknapp made it unmissable for me and I really enjoyed the combination of Dec and Holly Willoughby, which I wasn’t sure would be the best before the show started. Worthy winner!

Serial Drama Performance: Danny Dyer

My vote went to Emmerdale’s Emma Atkins however it was a tough decision and I had considered putting my vote Mr Dyer’s way. He livens up Eastenders that’s for sure and the recent storyline he’s been at the centre of has had me glued. So although Emmerdale’s Charity Dingle pipped it for me personally when it came to voting – Mr Dyer was never far from the radar either.

Serial Drama: Emmerdale

They’re on a winning streak as they won last year too. Coronation Street received my vote this year however Emmerdale were always a close second. All the soaps have upped their game at some point over the last twelve months and should all be congratulated for hard work, excellent episodes and continually entertaining us. Well done Emmerdale, with all the episodes you lot churn out you deserve the recognition. For a full list of winners and more highlights check out the official website for National Television Awards and you can also book tickets for next year’s show: www.nationaltvawards.com/

Photo credits: BBC and National Television Awards Official Website

Highlights of 2018

I’m late with last year’s highlights but suffice to say that 2018 was a fantastic year for shows of all genres. A great mix was on offer for Entertainment Views to attend and there have been so many wonderful memories made along the way. Here are just a few of the stand-out opportunities I had…

Iolanthe (ENO)

Gilbert & Sullivan’s operettas have been on my radar for years and I’ve watched many of them, however I had never seen Iolanthe nor the wonderful ENO performing one of their famous operettas. So – the chance to see Iolanthe performed by the ENO at London’s Coliseum was too good a chance to miss. With Yvonne Howard giving an outstanding performance as the Fairy Queen and a cast de force, all I can say is bring on its return! Iolanthe Review

Hotel Transylvania 3

What a movie! My movie of the year for sure! If you’ve never seen the other movies in the franchise it doesn’t matter, you can dive into this one and soon get the gist of the hilarious plot and get to know the madcap characters. A great film for grown ups as well as kids.

Falstaff (Garsington Opera)

Opera is one of my new loves and Falstaff was one of my first experiences of a non-operetta style. It starred Yvonne Howard who (as you already know) is one of my all-time favourite performers and Henry Waddington was exceptional in the lead title role. Garsington offers beautiful surroundings and a unique setting – I hope to return this summer.  Falstaff Review

Falstaff by Verdi;
Garsington Opera at Wormsley;
13 June 2018;
Sir John Falstaff – Henry Waddington;
Conductor – Richard Farnes;
Director – Bruno Ravella;
Designer – Giles Cadle;
Lighting Designer – Malcolm Rippeth;
Movement Director – Tim Claydon;
Photo credit: © CLIVE BARDA/ArenaPAL;

Coventry Comic Con

One of my favourite Comic Cons returned for its second year and it was a glorious set-up as expected. Plenty of stalls, activities and cosplayers as well as a great spacious layout. Our who family love this one and can’t wait to go again this year. Coventry Comic Con Review

Blood Brothers

I adore Blood Brothers, it’s one of my all-time favourite musicals and for the past couple of years one of the best actresses (in my humble opinion) has been playing Mrs Lyons and understudying the role of Mrs Johnstone – the brilliant Sarah-Jane Buckley. I was lucky enough to see the show a few times in 2018 and look forward to seeing it again this year, although a few cast changes are afoot… Here’s one of my latest reviews: Blood Brothers Review

This Morning Live! 

I am a huge fan of This Morning and for those who know me well, you’ll be aware that I am also a massive fan of Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes. In Birmingham we’re really lucky to have the This Morning Live! show at the NEC and it was a superb experience. From shopping to cooking masterclasses to meeting the presenters themselves (I only managed to meet Alison Hammond this time around but she is amazing and so lovely) – I couldn’t recommend the show more. This Morning Live! Review

Sixties Gold Show

I’ve long been a fan of The Searchers and I’ve supported them on solo tours on many an occasion – however this was the first Sixties Gold tour I’d been to. It was one of the biggest highlights of my reviewing year and I’m really looking forward to the next one. It was such an amazing night, buzzing! Sixties Gold Tour Review

BBC Good Food Show

I’ve been interested in going to the BBC Good Food Show for years, I finally grabbed the opportunity to attend their winter show and it was everything I hoped it would be! I’m looking forward to attending the summer show this year. BBC Good Food Show

Claire Richards solo gig

I adore Steps, I have so many favourites from among their epic back-catalogue, however I am also loving Claire Richards as a solo artist. She’s got such a powerful voice and her versatility knows no bounds. A superb gig at Birmingham Town Hall showcased her talent, the album is out very soon and my review of her gig is here: Claire Richards Review

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Malvern Theatres)

Malvern Theatres has long been top of my list of midlands-based theatres and their production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a brilliant cornucopia of mad-cap stereotypical panto antics. Su Pollard was a revelation and stole the show. A well deserved five stars! Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Review

The Future of Entertainment Views

On a final note, I wanted to update all of my valued readers and subscribers on the direction that 2019 will most likely see my small corner of the internet, taking. You can find a bit about this particular rambling on my https://entertainmentviews.co.uk/about/ but I wanted to use this post to chat a bit more about blogging and me. As an established blogger juggling a young family as well as having a bash at hanging on to a day job too, I’m often asked all of the questions I’m about to answer…

When

In 2013 I branched out as an independent theatre blogger, reviewing shows at the local theatres I’d built up a relationship with on behalf of an established review site which sadly no longer exists. Break A Leg Review was born at around the same time as I discovered I was pregnant so my progress was slow to begin with, although I kept up with it as much as possible. I worked full time in a day job with the NHS and my morning sickness was as backwards as I can be, in that it appeared in the evenings!

Where

I was reviewing in and around the West Midlands as that’s where I’m based and I had managed to secure a place on press lists at most of the theatres that I frequent. In 2015 I was lucky enough to connect with London theatres and due to suggestions from the various people I was interviewing, meeting and liaising with – I added movie and television reviews to the mix as well as music too. My blog took off in ways I could never have imagined during that year.

Why

I made the decision to reach out to London theatres (and many other venues around the UK) as well as add other types of review to my blog because I had become a mum in 2014. That’s the quick answer. Becoming a mum changed my life in thousands of ways. To begin with, I was so consumed by the tiny little boy in my life that I considered giving up my blog. However, having returned to my day job on a part time basis while I searched for a different career that would suit motherhood and the juggling, I was considering blogging and therefore working from home, as a viable option. I ended up in another NHS job working unsociable hours instead, however so draining on my mental health was this new job, that it became even more of a goal to be able to work from home.

How

I took yet another NHS job to keep the bank account happy and which made my mental health happier (for a limited period of time!) and worked hard throughout 2016 to try my hand at other things such as social media management and website creations. I might have been working part time in the NHS but with my other work (blog included) mounting up – it felt like the right time to take the plunge and work solely from home. Timing was good as 2017 was my little boy’s last full year at nursery before he started school in 2018.

And…

Truthfully, it worked for a while and was even enjoyable at times. I branched out into entertainment PR and dabbled in many areas. However, what I learned was that working from home and making a career out of blogging is not my thing. I still love to blog of course, but I don’t want my blog to be the be all and end all. The family dynamics change once your little one goes to school too. I found I couldn’t just pop off to London and I didn’t want to. I lose 6 hours a days for 5 days a week of my lad’s company during term time and I love being able to drop him off at school and pick him up. The smile on his face when I’m waiting at his classroom door is more moving than any theatrical performance I’ve reviewed.

What’s Next?

2018 saw me start another job with the NHS (it’s what I know!) and that works at the moment. I like leaving the house to go to work and although it’s been a slightly awkward transition for my boy as he got used to me being at home, we’re all getting on with it.

2019 sees me being less of a critic and more of a cheerleader as I share all my positive experiences with you. I also have a few new ventures on the horizon which will hopefully help my much-desired career changes to take shape – but at the heart of everything are my boys – my husband and my son.

Have you tried to combine blogging with parenthood and career juggling? I’d love to hear about your experiences too! 

Two Doors Down ~ Series Four Episode One

One of the best television comedy series is BACK, which means that BBC Two is the place to be at 10pm on a Monday night! Two Doors Down is unmissable comedy and a fabulous way to kick-start January.

The series kicked off in hilarious style with Beth (Arabella Weir) and Eric (Alex Norton) supposedly off out for a romantic meal to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary – however unbeknownst to them their son Ian (Jamie Quinn) has arranged a surprise party in their home. Co-hosted and catered by Ian’s over-eager partner Gordon (Kieran Hodgson), all the gang are there to celebrate the occasion. The gang being neighbours; sloshed Cathy (Doon Mackichan) who’s taking every opportunity to steal kisses from an unwitting Gordon, Cathy’s husband Colin (Jonathan Watson) is on hand with his usual selective blindness to his wife’s shenanigans, newer neighbours Alan (Graeme Stavely aka Grado) and Michelle (Joy McAvoy) are also present – the former in his own bubble of inappropriateness while the latter is both bewildered and ever-more assertive. Christine’s also there of course, plus her trifle which is her idea of a suitable anniversary gift as she had the tins of fruit cocktail doing nothing!

There’s a brilliant game of Mr and Mrs – cue the theme tune – which has been created by Gordon and is ever so slightly sabotaged by Beth’s unwillingness to answer all of the questions he has prepared as well as Michelle’s interruption with her own question. With the wedding theme at the heart of the topic, Cathy is pushing everybody’s buttons in her usual way, sniping at Michelle unnecessarily and causing awkwardness between Ian and Gordon when she asks Gordon if he would say yes to a proposal of marriage from Ian. Awkwardness aside, it was a pleasure to see the lovely, easy chemistry between Beth and Eric, perhaps demonstrating why they’ve been married for thirty years.

The episode is peppered with dirty dancing from Cathy and Colin, frequent demands from Christine for the trifle to be eaten and uneasiness from Michelle while Alan has no fear of making his opinion known, happy to declare that isn’t interested in Beth and Eric’s wedding album.

Two Doors Down so far seems to be living up to its reputation for brilliant observational comedy, cringe-worthy moments and fantastic characterisation. Long may it reign!

Christmas Guide 2018

Christmas is nearly here! 5 sleeps away to be exact, and everyone in Britain is saying ‘how is it Christmas next week?’. If you’re anything like me, you wonder where all the time you had to organise yourself has disappeared to. This coming from a part time day-job worker who has been buying her son’s Christmas presents gradually since the summer… What I was unprepared for, was the introduction of all the extra festive chaos presented when your child becomes a school-goer. Just you wait, if you’ve not experienced that joy yet!

My Christmas gift guide this year is all about movies, television boxsets and the gift of theatre. I’ve picked out a variety of genres to suit as many tastes as possible and focused on buying for adults – who are often the more difficult to buy for after all!

TV Boxsets

Versailles

Complete series 1-3 – not only ideal for fans of the series but also if you’re aware of the show and haven’t been able to catch it (which is why i would be the perfect gift for me!). You can’t beat a binge-watch and with it’s its historical background, stellar cast and stunning locations, it promises to engage even the most skeptical viewer. King Louis XIV is at the heart of the story as his supporters turn to traitors and the court of Versailles is under threat.

Buy your copy on DVD here:

The Windsors

In my humble opinion this is one of the best comedies on television at the moment! The casting alone is so extraordinarily spot on, you can’t fail to be entertained by Harry Enfield’s hilarious Prince Charles impersonation and the recent introduction of Meghan was the cherry on top of the wedding cake. The DVD offers series 1-2 as well as Christmas and wedding specials. It’s a brilliant ‘send-up’ of the royal family and wouldn’t go amiss in my Christmas stocking this year!

Buy your here:

Plebs 

I was introduced to Plebs fairly late into the second series and I am a self-confessed pleb-aholic now! The DVD boxset offers series 1-4 so it’s a must for fans of the series or as a way of introducing a Plebs ‘virgin’ to the show. The premise revolves around three men who want to get laid, hold down a job and climb the social ladder in ancient Rome. It’s a laugh-a-minute comedy and the cast, which changes sightly as each series progresses – is essentially a mash-up of all your noughties sit-com favourites.

Grab a copy for your stocking:

Movies

Hotel Transylvania 3

My movie of the year! It might be pitched as an animated film for kids but there’s more than enough comedy content in there for big kids too. Of the three movies in the franchise so far, this is by far my favourite and it’s a non-stop cornucopia of spooky holiday fun. Watch it, odds on you’ll be dancing in your seat by the end.

Buy a copy here:

The Greatest Showman 

This is the greatest show, by all accounts! Certainly one of the hits of the year and huge credit must go to the extraordinary talents of Hugh Jackman, a better leading man you could not wish for. The songs are all hits in their own right now and it’s surely one of the most watchable movies we’ve been treated to in a long time. Get your hands on a piece of the action and watch it over and over by getting your hands on a copy here:

Santa Claus The Movie 

I had to include a Christmas movie in my Christmas gift guide and they don’t come any more festive or classic than the epic Santa Claus The Movie. It’s still a magical film to watch all these years on and has stood the test of time. The only difference is it’s rare to see someone drinking full fat coca cola in this day and age! The movie is available on blu-ray and it would be a welcome sight underneath our tree this year. I’d also quite like one of those elf carvings courtesy of Patch (Dudley Moore), but I’m not going to push it!

Purchase your copy here:

Theatre Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

The gift of theatre is always a good alternative idea if you’re in doubt and although the cost of tickets has hiked of late – there are plenty of offers to be had, especially at this festive season. The Phantom of the Opera has been resident Her Majestys Theatre in the heart of London’s West End after more than 12000 performances to date. The good news is that you can be in the audience for one of the many future performances and there are special offers available via our ticket shop! The Phantom of the Opera

Wicked

The back-story of the Wicked Witch of the West has been so popular in the West End that over 9 million people have watched it in the capital city. The Apollo Victoria Theatre is a beautiful venue and you can be one of those million theatre-goers flocking to see the award-winning show, check out the available tickets here: Wicked

Company

Not only would Company tickets be a brilliant Christmas gift idea, it’s our show of the month!

A sublime cocktail of an entertainment you’d be mad to miss’ – Daily Telegraph

With an exceptional list of musical numbers performed by an incredible cast, you really would be mad to miss it. Save up to 60% on tickets too! Company

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