Sensational 60’s Experience ~ Malvern Theatres

I always say I was born in the wrong era, I was brought up listening to the hits of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s courtesy of my parents’ excellent taste in music. One of my all-time favourite hits from the 60’s is ‘Out of Time’, one of my all-time favourite bands is The Searchers and I love The Fourmost and Herman’s Hermits. So, the Sensational 60’s Experience was certainly the show for me!

Chris Farlowe

The evening was jam-packed full of hits from the golden era when, in my humble opinion, music was at its best – The Fourmost opened the show and immediately set the one for the evening. The packed auditorium were singing along from the outset and the band were a joy to hear. The Swinging Blue Jeans also offered plenty of opportunities for toe tapping and swaying as we were treated to Hippy Hippy shake amongst other hits. Herman’s Hermits epitomise the 60’s for me, ‘Into Something Good’ is one of the ultimate feel-good songs, such a bouncy tune and I’ve been singing it all weekend. I couldn’t wait for Chris Farlowe to appear, he’s got a dry sense of humour which appeals to me straight away. His voice is incredible, rivalling any of the young stars who are up and coming in the noughties and when he completed his set with ‘Out of Time’ it made my year. Mike Pender topped off the night, singing all the famous tracks from the back catalogue of my favourite band, The Searchers. It was a treat to hear the former voice of The Searchers singing his way effortlessly through all of my best loved songs from ‘Don’t Throw Your Love Away’ to ‘Needles and Pins’.

In the second half, a 60’s tribute band called New Amen Corner – they played their own set before becoming the backing group for Chris Farlowe and Mike Pender. Their sound – classic 60’s and they’d be as engaging in a concert of their own, they really brought the house down.

Overall, it was a night to remember, the finale was a sight to behold and I can’t wait to see the show again. Go and see it at a venue near you:

CDs are available from most artists at on the night, however you can also check out these links for a range of albums available to purchase online:



Broadchurch Series Three, Episode Four ~ Review

Broadchurch is building its final storyline up achingly slowly and this week saw Trish (Julie Hesmondhalgh) revisit the scene of the crime! It doesn’t shy away from tackling the grit of the topic, David Tennant still hasn’t smiled either! I still maintain that Hardy is one of my favourite characters that Tennant has played. Here are my highlights of this exciting instalment:

Reliving it ~ Trish relives the night of the fateful party and we get an insight into the set-up too. A great flashback scene which shows Ian (Charlie Higson) to be in the drunken state that he had already declared to Jim (Mark Bazeley) that he had been in. The party itself isn’t that harrowing, however when Trish is outside and lies down on the grass, listening to the flowing water – as much as she can recall floods back. Smells in particular seem to trigger thoughts of the night she’d rather forget.

What’s on that laptop? ~ We discovered who was behind the rogue text message, Ian’s partner has been thrown into the mix. However, what is on that laptop that he wants cleared? I can’t stop linking him to the rape – and the laptop debacle is adding to my suspicions.

Broken marriage ~ I expect that the Latimers’ marriage is not supposed to be linked in with this plot at all, it’s just a continuation of life in Broadchurch. I find I am extremely interested in what led them to split up, though. Was it only Danny’s death – come on, I’m nosey, tell me more!

Fishing Net ~ Games on the beach bring to light that the net they are using is the same as the fishing net that Miller (Olivia Colman) and Hardy have already taken samples of. Is that opening up more possibilities? I immediately suspected Ed (Lenny Henry) once that little nugget of information cropped up, but I have no particular reason for pointing the finger at him. Brainstorm moment!

Suspect ruled out (or is he) ~ There is finally a lead and it’s Jim who is confronted as a result of some of the tests that have been carried out. This appears to be a dead end when he reveals that he was the man Trish slept with the morning of the party. His and Cath’s (Sarah Parish) marriage is not a marriage in the true sense of the word, so he’s been getting his kicks elsewhere. However, this provides an alibi yet doesn’t rule him out I my mind, easy to say that the results are thus because he was with the victim during the morning of the attack.


Torcher Chamber Arkestra, Craftspace ~ MAC Arts Centre, Birmingham

Torcher Chamber Arkestra was curated by Craftspace at MAC Birmingham and took place on 2 and 3 September 2016.

Torcher Chamber Arkestra sounded like an interesting concept on paper, combining fire, glass, music and electronics. Craftspace curated this piece as part of the MAC Arts Centre Craftspace Curates programme.

The line-up for this orchestral collaboration included Carrie Fertig, Alistair MacDonald and Stuart Brown. I felt that the introduction they gave was informative and fascinating, there was obvious passion for the experience we were about to receive and the younger members of the audience were excited to learn that they would be allowed to handle some of the instruments the end of the show.

The lighting was atmospheric, despite the fact that being a relaxed performance, we did not have the full effect. It was quite something to watch Carrie blowing the glass to make it into one of the instruments. I enjoyed the scientific element to the arrangement and it created a diverse dynamic, too. Listening to glass being utilised so beautifully as percussion was an innovative idea and all the more intense, I found, if I closed my eyes.

The use of technology to create echoes and extensions of the sounds produced was well placed and added an additional dimension to the collaboration. I particularly took pleasure in the water aided section and felt that this took on a score all of its own.

I highly recommend keeping an eye on what Craftspace has to offer, if this particular production is anything to go by, there will be some amazing efforts coming up in the future.


Present Laughter ~ Malvern Theatres

Present Laughter’s tour finishes at Malvern Theatres on Saturday 20th August.

Star Rating *****

Noel Coward’s plays are my self-confessed guilty pleasures, their wit, charm and farcical qualities never fail to bring a smile to my face. The plots are usually predictable, as is most definitely the case with Present Laughter, which arrived in Malvern this week on the final leg of the UK tour it has been embarking upon. Still, this is a five-star production, in my humble opinion and deserves a West End transfer.

Samuel West and Daisy Boulton as Garry and Daphne

Garry Essendine (Samuel West) is a bumptious, self-obsessed performer (Coward is in fact taking the Michael out of himself with this role), he has a bevy of beauties at his beck and call who all claim to have lost their latch key. Whatever happens in the mad-cap world of the glory hunter, he’s not satisfied and perpetually lonely. His secretary, Monica (Phyllis Logan) is used to the comings and goings of young ladies and responds to her boss in a no-nonsense and sarcastic manner, which he undoubtedly deserves. Loyal to the last, though, she is quite taken aback by the arrival of the manic Roland Moule (Patrick Walshe McBride) and takes on an almost Joyce Grenfell style quality when he is let loose in his idol’s office. With young Daphne Stillington (Daisy Boulton) and Joanna Lyppiatt (Zoe Boyle) who is married to Garry’s Producer, Henry (Toby Longworth) both making their intentions abundantly clear, Essendine’s life is already farcical enough. Add his ex-wife, Liz (Rebecca Johnson) to the fray, whom he has never divorced from and who continues to have control over his career, at least, and there’s a recipe for disaster. Did I mention that among his household staff there is a mad Scandinavian Housekeeper, Miss Erikson (Sally Tatum) who doesn’t appear to do much around the place other than ‘bum’ cigarettes!

Phyllis Logan 1
Phyllis Logan plays Monica

Not a weak link is present among the cast and there are solid performances throughout. With Samuel West and Phyllis Logan being the instantly recognisable names among the throng, I anticipated a certain standard from them. Phyllis Logan shines on stage as much as she does on-screen. Yes, she is vastly experienced, but let us not forget she has had a lengthy break from treading the boards. She plays comedy and deadpan brilliantly and convinced me that she still has a few tricks up her sleeve where her ability to take on completely different roles, is concerned. Her facial expressions, alone speak volumes, and that is a skill, particularly putting that across in a large auditorium. Samuel West gives a show-stopping performance in the leading role, he is a tour de force. It seems that when you think he’s given the role all he can give it, he takes it up another notch, an inspiration to watch. Taking the star names out of the equation, I felt that the show belonged to Rebecca Johnson, Daisy Boulton and Patrick Walshe McBride. They all connected perfectly with their characters, Johnson was a superb match for West, bringing the right mixture of assertiveness and heart to Liz. Boulton was outstanding as the smitten Daphne, simpering and silly in equal measure. Walshe McBride is a name I will be looking out for in the future, he brings a Frank Spencer meets Basil Fawlty meets Little Britain element to the role of Roland and I felt that he played him as the least predictable of Garry’s ‘fan club’. Sally Tatum’s comic timing as Miss Erikson did not go unnoticed, either, it was spot on and imaginative.

This is a seamless production performed on a spectacular set and not to be missed, definitely one of my must-sees of 2016. Book your tickets here to catch it in Malvern:



Spotlight On… Anna-Lisa Maree


*** Spotlight On… Anna-Lisa Maree ***

She’s a multi-talented ‘Theatre Fairy’ and also known as Twinkle 🙂 – Anna-Lisa Maree filled me in on her hopes, dreams and what led her into her varied career.

You’re experienced as an actress, a writer and company stage manager, which one came first and do you have a favourite of the three ‘jobs’?

I performed in my first professional production when I was 8 years old, it was Oliver at York Theatre Royal and little did I know then that Bill Sykes (Andy Serkis) would go onto be a Hollywood superstar! I’m pretty sure that he can’t believe that the youngest girl in the workhouse has become a Company Stage Manager, but as the saying goes ‘that’s showbiz’! My first insight into the world of Stage Management was in the Summer of 1995 when I spent a season in London with the National Youth Theatre.
I then studied for a BA Hons Degree in Stage Management at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, back in the days before it became ‘Royal’ and that was my spring board into the professional backstage world.
In truth I’m a bit of an ‘All Round Theatre Fairy’ as I’ve also worked extensively as a Head of Wardrobe in the West End, and toured nationally and internationally.
As a writer I have written comedy for numerous artistes, as well as having two of my own plays ‘`Casting The Villain Aside’ and ‘Blast From the Past’ in the London Short Play festivals. I was also the first person to ever put an original full scale musical into the Paradise room on Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
Ultimately I am so appreciative that I am able have such a diverse career in the industry I love and in the words of Mary Poppins, “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun!”

What are your most memorable moments as an actress, as a writer and as a company stage manager?

As an 8 year old in Oliver I used to insist that before rehearsals or going to the theatre that my Mum made my hair look like Nancy’s. In 1988 having a hairdo that made your head look like a pineapple was the height of cool in my opinion! Ten years later I crossed paths with Nancy once again on a work placement at the New Theatre in Cardiff and confessed all. Linda Dobell was a wonderful actress, director and choreographer. Sadly she is no longer with us but to me she will always remain a childhood inspiration as ‘ the lady who I wanted to be like when I grew up’.

Writing-wise I have written several pieces that I have been proud of my most recent short play Blast From The Past was perhaps the piece that is my personal favourite. It was a pleasure to give a well established actress the opportunity to play a part that she would never ‘normally’ have been considered to play. Transforming the lovely Judy Buxton into a Northern single mother who would not have been out of place as a guest on Jeremy Kyle was perhaps one of the greatest highlights of my career to date!

Finally as a Company Stage Manager it would have to be the rapport I have with younger company members I have so many treasured memories from shows gone by. Currently I am CSM on Panto at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon and I asked our wonderful ‘Twinkle’ and ‘Sparkle’ teams to create their own individual dressing room door signs. I mean, doesn’t every door deserve to be adorned with a sparkly star with the occupants name on it? Well it certainly does ‘on my watch!’

Any particular theatres that you favour and why?

I have toured the UK for so long now that there are numerous theatres that I enjoy returning to time and time again, although if pushed it would have to be the Grand Theatre in Blackpool. On my last visit I happened to mention in passing during Act 1 that I was a bit hungry. I really didn’t expect a crew member to go out in the interval and bring me back a pizza, but they did and for that reason alone the Grand wins first place on my most favourite theatre poll! Oh and incidentally that theatre has a pineapple on the very top of it ….just saying!

Who inspires you as an actress and as a writer?

Without hesitation, on both count it’s Derren Litten (Creator and writer of ITV’s Benidorm) I am truly in awe on his ability to write wonderful comedy and balance it so beautifully with just the right amount of empathy. I have been lucky enough to meet him twice this year and he is such a lovely man . . . . I’m now just waiting for my cameo in the show!

If you weren’t working in ‘show business’ (for want of a better phrase) what do you think you’d be doing?

 I would be a teacher at a Steiner School, it’s an occupation I have seriously considered.

What are your future aspirations?

I tend not to look to far into the future as I like to appreciate the ‘Here and Now’. I would however like to see the shows I have written travel further on their journeys and also create new vehicles for some of my immensely talented friends in the industry.

If you could host a dinner party and invite five guests (alive or dead) who would they be and why?

Heston Blumenthal: having spent all day in the kitchen creating the evening’s wonderful concoctions it would only be fair that he should stay for the party!
Bobby Crush: no one tinkles the ivories quite like Bobby, so that’s the evening’s entertainment taken care of!
Jon Curry: he was a ‘Borrowed Angel’ who returned home far too soon, so any opportunity to see him again would be grasped immediately!
Con O’Neil: I have yet to see him do anything where he isn’t utterly brilliant and what a gorgeous voice, he could make any topic of conversation sound wonderful.
Su Pollard : absolutely no explanation necessary.

Favourite things (give me your first reaction to these questions):

Favourite food?
A black forest Hot Chocolate from Costa – more commonly known in my world as a Panto breakfast!

Favourite play?
Absurd Person Singular

Favourite pantomime?
My life! 

Favourite actor or actress?
I couldn’t possibly answer this question without offending a multitude of incredibly talented people in my life!

Favourite landmark?
Little Marton Mill in Blackpool, everytime I see that windmill I smile because I know I’m only moments away from my ‘spiritual home’.


GUEST BLOG! ~ Author, Rob Sinclair joins us for his Blog Tour publicising ‘Rise of the Enemy’

Rise of the Enemy HiRes 8389261

We are delighted to be participating in author, Rob Sinclair’s Blog tour for ‘Rise of the Enemy’.

In 2009, Rob’s wife challenged him to pen a ‘can’t put down thriller’. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Rob picked up the baton, or pen, and ran with it, writing the hit thriller Dance With The Enemy.  

Thus Rob’s Carl Logan thrillers were born, featuring the story of the embattled intelligence agent on his adventures and trials around the world.  

Rob now splits his time between writing and working as a forensic accountant for a global accounting firm.  Originally from the North East of England, Rob has lived and worked in a number of fast paced cities, including New York, and is now settled in the West Midlands with his wife and young sons.  In his free time, Rob enjoys watching thriller movies and TV series, a big source of inspiration to him, as well as watching football, keeping fit and reliving his youth by playing with his young sons.


Here’s a blog from the man, himself with some excellent pointers on how to write a good action scene, if anyone should know – Mr Sinclair should!

How to write a good action scene

All of my novels have a big emphasis on action. It follows directly from the types of books that I love to read and the movies that I watch. The key to action scenes, obviously, is to make them dramatic! Sounds simple, but there’s a bit more to it than that. 

A really good piece of writing advice that I heard is “write the slow stuff fast and the fast stuff slow”. It’s a great way of thinking. Action scenes are by their very nature supposed to be fast and frenetic. But don’t rush them. I think it’s really important to slow the scene down, to show the reader exactly what is happening. “Show don’t tell” is an age-old adage always worth remembering when writing such scenes. I love the quote by Anton Chekhov which captures this sentiment perfectly: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” And this is absolutely essential when writing an action scene, when you’re trying to slow the scene down and show the reader everything. So don’t just write “Johnny stabbed Vinny in the gut”. What was really happening in that scene? Describe the people, their movements, the looks on their faces, the smells, all of the things that are necessary to put the reader right there in the scene. So what was going through Johnny’s mind as he plunged the razor-sharp blade into Vinny’s abdomen? What sound did the knife make as it pierced the skin and sliced through flesh? What was the look on Vinny’s face and what pained noises escaped his lips? 

With all that detail, though, what you can’t do is to bore the reader, or drag things out unnecessarily. You have to make it exciting. You want the readers on the edge of their seat, totally gripped, in suspense for what is about to happen. Using lots of sharp, punchy language always helps. Short sentences and paragraphs. It creates the sense of pace even though you’ve slowed the scene right down. As a very general rule I always like to keep sentences below 25 words. Don’t ask me why, it’s just a habit. I’m sure there are plenty of sentences in all my books that exceed 25 words, but I analyse each and every one to make sure I’m happy with the exceptions. And I always cut them down whenever I can. For an action scene, I trim them down even further. You want a nice staccato rhythm. Boom. Boom. Boom. Imagine the heart beat of the protagonist. That of the reader too. Make the words fit that rhythm. The pace quickening as you go. Building to a crescendo. All of the excitement. All of the drama. All of the blood. The sweat and the tears. You reach the climax… 

And then you’re done. 

Press return. Start new chapter. Nailed it. 

Look out for our review of ‘Rise of the Enemy’, coming soon!

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