News, Reviews & Interviews

The Lady Vanishes ~ Malvern Theatres

Star Rating: *****

Take a classic thriller written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, the film version having been directed by Alfred Hitchcock, add a stellar cast and one of the most atmospheric sets I’ve seen in a long time – what do you get? A flawless production of The Lady Vanishes.

Although I was already familiar with the title of the production, initially I was unfamiliar with the story. Therefore watching the action and mystery unfold with no prior knowledge was a real treat. The scene and tone at the railway station were immediately set and there was an overriding feel of authority and fear as Hitler’s Germany reigned supreme. The characters are introduced gradually and they all have a tale to tell, while a few characters remain vague which helps to build the tension and suspense throughout. What’s evident from the outset is that clues are everywhere and dovetail perfectly when the conclusion is reached.

The story is paced to perfection by the strong ensemble, Juliet Mills shone as Miss Froy – the lady who seemingly vanishes aboard a train to England, Lorna Fitzgerald has the opportunity to demonstrate that she is capable of extraordinary stage craft – I had known her as Abi Branning in Eastenders. As Iris, the young woman who is hell bent on discovering what has happened to Miss Froy, she couldn’t have characterised better. The chemistry and sublime partnership Fitzgerald has with Matt Barber as the unintentionally comedic Max. Barber is another familiar face from the television, having starred as the husband of Lily James’ character, Lady Rose, in Downton Abbey. While Barber remains a firm favourite of mine from the series, for as a screen actor I felt he was a joy to watch – on stage he excels further and every nuance of his performance was measured and deliberate – he certainly has hidden depths. Maxwell Caulfield possessed an eerily unpleasant quality in the somewhat pivotal role of Dr Hartz, it was really easy to dislike him and suspect him. Robert Duncan and Ben Nealon often stole the show as cricketing enthusiasts and businessmen, Charters and Caldicott. Duncan’s comic timing had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. Philip Lowrie played the fairly benign Eric, apparently trying to run off with Margaret (Elizabeth Payne) yet making a dog’s dinner of their scandalous liaison. Lowrie and Payne made a watchable and believable couple – Lowrie’s years of experience on stage and screen are obvious and I was fascinated with Payne’s stage presence and superb diction.

Antony Lampard’s adaptation lends itself to the stage, brilliantly and Roy Marsden’s direction is on point as always, he’s one of my favourite directors. You’ll be sure to become an armchair sleuth as the story unfolds, chaos ensues and inevitable tragedy occurs too.

The Lady Vanishes stays at Malvern Theatres until Saturday 23rd March, book now: https://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/whats-on/the-lady-vanishes/

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CheeseFest ~ Press Release

CheeseFest celebrating 30 Years of Wallace & Gromit is coming to Worcester.

Saturday 13th April 2019 Three Counties Showground, Malvern, WR13 6NW

We are very excited to announce that CheeseFest UK is back for 2019, celebrating 30 cracking years of Wallace & Gromit.

Join us on our grand UK tour with over 15 live dates, celebrating all that’s great in the world of cheese. Expect the most incredible melted delights and delicious cheese-based cuisine presented for your culinary pleasure by the finest fromagers from across the land.

Experience some of the greatest cheeses in the world with melted raclette, gooey mozzarella sticks, top notch toasties, and a whole host of unique slices and cheese innovations from the UK’s best traders.

CheeseFest promises to be a grand day out for all the family with a jam packed programme of feasting and entertainment hosted by the world’s most famous cheese ambassadors Wallace & Gromit. Kids can enjoy model making, life-size vehicles, film screenings of popular Wallace & Gromit movies, and a meet & greet with Wallace and Gromit themselves. Young and old, all are welcome, so don’t be sheepish – get involved! If you would like more information about CheeseFest please contact Info@cheesefestuk.com or visit our website www.cheesefestuk.com

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: www.stagerightpromotions.co.uk/our-shows/

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:

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Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels

Hard to believe it’s been 30 cracking years since that loveable double act, Wallace & Gromit first graced our screens and quickly gathered a cracking following of fans of all ages. They’re one of my favourite animated duos of all time, in fact my little family and I met Gromit at Blackpool Pleasure Beach last year! Are you a fan of Wallace and Gromit too? If so, read on!

Carrot Productions team up with Aardman Animations for Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels UK tour in Spring 2019

The 38 date tour will feature live orchestral accompaniment from a professional orchestra drawn from members of the Hallé and BBC Philharmonic orchestras among others.   

In May and June 2019, Carrot Productions will tour Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels to 38 major venues across the UK, including London’s Barbican Centre, Manchester’s The Lowry, and Birmingham Symphony Hall.

Speaking about this new venture for her organisation, Carrot Productions’ Managing Director, Rachel Whibley, said: “We are so delighted that Aardman have granted us exclusive rights to launch this tour in the UK. With six years’ experience behind us of presenting The Snowman to thousands of satisfied audience members across the country, we are well placed to deliver this wonderful Wallace & Gromit programme. It will be a pleasure to present such a high-quality show in partnership with the inspirational team at Aardman, providing huge fun for audiences of all ages”.

Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels features Wallace preparing to perform his musical masterpiece My Concerto in Ee Lad with help from his faithful companion Gromit. This interactive experience features specially created animations as well as live orchestral accompaniment and escapades from the Picture House Orchestra and presenter Matthew Sharp. The show also exclusively features a screening of the all-time classic animation, The Wrong Trousers, again with live orchestral accompaniment.

Sean Clarke, Head of Rights and Brand Development, Aardman added: It is wonderful to see Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels going on tour in 2019, the 30th anniversary year of Wallace & Gromit! Carrot Productions have produced a fantastic show, featuring live orchestral music for one of Aardman’s best loved shorts, The Wrong Trousers, and we look forward to audiences across the UK having the opportunity to enjoy this unique musical experience.”

Carrot Productions are an innovative organisation: over the years they have commissioned several new works – both music and animation – to perform alongside The Snowman. They are relishing the opportunity to cover further new ground with this ambitious Wallace & Gromit tour.

Aardman, the world famous, four times Academy Award® winning animation studio, are creators of Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, Creature Comforts and Chicken Run among others. Nick Park’s Oscar-winning The Wrong Trousers was Aardman’s first 30-minute film and is one of the most successful animated films ever made.

Presenter Matthew Sharp is an internationally renowned musician, actor, director and performer.  He is recognised as both a compelling classical artist and a fearless pioneer, with his adventures in music and across disciplines described as ‘unrivalled’ and ‘unprecedented’. Booking for the tour is now open via the Carrot Productions website https://www.carrotproductions.com/

(c) TM Aardman/W&G Ltd. All rights reserved.

Entertainment Views Interviews Star of The Full Monty UK Tour… Andrew Dunn

Dinnerladies from the genius mind of the late, great Victoria Wood remains one of my firm favourite sitcoms to this day, all these years on. The man who played Victoria’s character, Bren’s love interest, Tony – is the brilliant Andrew Dunn. Andrew is playing the role of Gerald in the UK tour of The Full Monty so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to chat to him about the show.

Thank you for chatting to Entertainment Views, Andrew tell me about The Full Monty and the character you’re playing.

If you’re familiar with the film, you’ll know the story. It’s set in Sheffield and set around six out of work steelworkers who get together to become male strippers. I play Gerald, he hasn’t told his wife that he’s been made redundant, he goes out ‘to work’ every morning – but he has nowhere to go and its all an act to keep up the pretence.

What do you think the strengths of the show are?

The subject matters dealt with are relevant today. It’s a feelgood piece of theatre but as the writer, Simon Beaufoy says, he’s amazed that it’s a feelgood piece when the subject matter is depression.

How does it compare to the movie version?

Unlike the musical version the play is just the same as the film. We have the dole queue scene where the lads start dancing to ‘Hot Stuff’ and we do the full monty at the end. There are big lights on stage which are supposed to ‘blind’ the audience at the end but there have been times when the audience haven’t been blinded by the lights!

What have audience reactions been like so far?

Well they’ve bought a ticket to see it because of what they think they’ll see at the end! We get standing ovations and the audience are always on our side. It’s a fun show to do, that’s why I’m still touring with it. The audience get into it and they follow the story to the end.

I can’t not mention Dinnerladies as I still love the sitcom now, what was the best thing about being part of the series?

All the people I got to work with, there’s one episode where I’m standing with the late Dame Thora Hird, Dora Bryan and Eric Sykes. I grew up watching them on television. People wanted to work with Victoria.

The series has maintained its popularity after twenty years….

Yes, and its been shown on Gold channel which helps. We also toured theatres with it and it was amazing to see that young children were watching it and giving us pictures they’d drawn of the characters. People still stop me in the street and quote lines from it.
I don’t think that she thought about the future but the way she wrote things meant that the humour is still there and relevant.  

Back to The Full Monty, why should everyone buy a ticket to come and see it?

It’s a feelgood piece and a great night at the theatre, come along and have a good night out!

The all-important link to check out the tour dates/venues and buy tickets to see The Full Monty, is here: fullmontytheplay.com/

Entertainment Views Interviews Star of The Full Monty UK Tour…. Amy Thompson

Amy Thompson is a household name in the Entertainment Views HQ home, as a presenter of Channel Five’s Milkshake, she is a firm favourite with my five year old son. We have also seen her in pantomime twice, where she never fails to dazzle. Amy is currently treading the boards in the UK tour of The Full Monty, I was delighted to hear that Amy had added another credit to her list and couldn’t wait to hear all about her latest role.

Thanks for chatting to me, Amy – tell me about The Full Monty and the character you’re playing.

It’s always a pleasure to chat to you, Helen. The Full Monty play is written by Simon Beaufoy, he’s adapted it for the stage and it’s based on the original movie version. I play Mandy, she’s Gaz’s ex-wife (Gaz is played by Gary Lucy). Gaz owes Mandy child maintenance money, or there’s a chance he will be stopped from seeing his son. Mandy is with a man called Barry, he’s safe and secure. Life with Barry is different to life with Gaz. There’s still love there for Gaz though, so there’s still a chance for Gaz if he can get his act together. The reason Gaz needs the money is so that he can pay Mandy, so she is definitely part of the reason Gaz and his mates decide to become strippers.

Amy as Mandy in The Full Monty (far right of the picture)

What inspired you to go for the role?

Milkshake! are very supportive of me going off to do other things when there’s an opportunity and I still film the Milkshake! at the same time. I’m a Yorkshire girl and my background is in theatre so I’m going back to my theatrical roots. The Full Monty came along and offered me the chance to do something different.

How do you feel the show translates years after the movie was released?

The subjects that are handled are still relevant today, although it’s a fun show there are many serious issues dealt with. There’s unemployment, depression, homosexuality, body image etc. From a political point of view it’s relevant too.

What’s your personal highlight of the show?

I love the fact that I get to watch the amazing Andy Dunn (who plays Gerald) on stage, that’s a highlight for me every show. He’s an incredible actor and has worked with Hull Truck Theatre, the same as me.

Does it feel strange to be on stage as opposed to in front of a camera?

Not at all, because I started off in theatre and always thought that would be where I would be working. Milkshake! came along ten years ago (in March) and I love that I can do television and theatre. I also do pantomime every year too, I played Cinderella last season.

Any particular ambitions for the future? Are there any roles you’re keen to play?

I’d love to do more theatre and get into musical theatre, which is really difficult to get into. Les Mis is one of my favourite shows. I’d like to do something different where I have the opportunity to play a variety of characters.

Last year, Coleen Nolan encouraged a group of famous ladies to bare all in aid of Breast Cancer, would you be tempted to join in if it’s organised again and they ask you?

How funny you should mention this as I appeared in pantomime with Michelle Heaton last season and she did this. She told me about what it meant to her and I’d definitely do it if I was asked, it’s for a great cause.

Amy thinks you’ll have a great night at the theatre if you book a ticket to see The Full Monty on its UK our – here’s the all important link: fullmontytheplay.com/

Lego Movie 2: The Second Part ~ Malvern Cinemas

Everything is awesome…. correction, everything WAS awesome, but there’s a sickly sweet and rather girlie influx of blocks who want to take over the world, specifically Bricksburg. Or do they? It’s time for the Lego Movie 2 folks!

Emmet is back, dreaming of owning his dream house and living there with Lucy aka Wildstyle and seemingly untroubled by the latest turn of events which is triggered by Finn’s younger sister, Bianca taking some of his Lego into the basement to play with. What transpires is Emmet and Lucy’s world colliding with a glittery universe they’re fearful of – with General Sweet Mayhem arriving to escort them to see Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi of the Systar System. The Queen wants to marry their leader, although they’re not sure who that is. Of course, Batman is on hand to offer himself as the leader and he’s having his usual ‘feud’ with Superman, a glittery Superman!

With Lucy ‘kidnapped’ by General Sweet Mayhem along with their other friends, Emmet turns his dream house into a spaceship to rescue them and is thrilled to meet Rex Dangervest who arrives to help him. As Lucy continues to resist the brainwashing she perceives to be occurring around her and wonders if she’ll ever see Emmet again – the race is on for Batman to marry Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi before Armomageddon.

There’s some top tunes, superb graphics and an extremely witty script packed full of sarcastic asides which might go over the young viewers’ heads but certainly weren’t missed by the adults in the cinema! The sequel is certainly as good a watch as the first and has something to offer all ages.

In summary… Everything IS Awesome! Go see Lego Movie 2!!

If you want to visit Malvern Cinemas, check out their listings here: www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/

Bobbi Brown Pop Up Cafe Launches in London

Many of my lovely readers and supporters live in London and the surrounding areas. I also know that a lot of you head off down to the big smoke to frequent the West End for a trip to the theatre, for a family day out or to see a gig. If you’ve followed my blogging journey this year you’ll know that I’m delighted to be collaborating with the wonderful Bobbi Brown UK and that my friends and I were treated to a magnificent make-over before we headed to the National Television Awards at London’s O2 in January.

My Make-Over for the National Television Awards thanks to the wonder of Bobbi Brown UK

How would you like to experience the Bobbi Brown magic for yourselves?

The good news is that for three days only you can drop in to the Bobbi Brown pop up cafe in Soho, where they are offering a complimentary shade-match and 7 day sample to help find your new skin-true shade, as well as a free coffee for all attendees. All the details are below so why not take a trip to see the Bobbi Brown team and treat yourself!

Where:

·         Bobbi Brown Pro Studio, 1 Poland Street, W1F 8PR

When:

·         Friday 1st March: 10am – 2pm, 2.30pm – 4pm

·         Saturday 2nd March: 10am – 2pm, 2.30pm – 4pm

·         Sunday 3rd March: 12pm – 4pm

T&Cs

·          One shade match and sample per attendee

·          One coffee per person

The Searchers Farewell Tour

Their sound is one that I’ve grown up hearing my parents play on their old turntable and one of my all-time favourite songs is ‘Don’t Throw Your love Away’, it’s in my top ten of all time best loved singles and would easily make it to my dessert island discs list! They may be a band who were formed in the late 50’s (20 something years before I was born!) but when I listen to their back catalogue of classic hits, I know I was born in the wrong era.

The Searchers topped the bill at the Sixties Gold Show which was one of the highlights of my reviewing calendar last year and it was there that they announced their intention to retire. I cried and it has taken me time to come to terms with the fact that they mean it! However, they’re going out with the biggest bang with almost all their tour venues sold out and limited seats remaining where tickets are still available.

Last night, at the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre, they played a 2 hour concert to a full house packed to the rafters with fans and it was glorious. The best atmosphere imaginable and I’m still buzzing now (and wishing I could beg a ticket to another gig before they wave goodbye on 31st March).

The Searchers have transcended decades and I’m not ready for them to retire yet!

The four-piece, is compiled of bass player Frank Allen who joined the band in 1964, Scott Ottoway who started drumming for them back in 2010, the extraordinary lead vocalist and guitarist Spencer James who has been with the band for over 33 years and the legendary John McNally who is the remaining founder member. I’m transfixed by the talent of all four of the boys, they’re exceptional musicians, however John McNally can’t help my draw my attention, especially when he plays the twelve string guitar. His witty retorts and banter with Frank Allen make for an entertaining evening too, in addition to their brilliant trademark sound and sing-a-long opportunities!

From popular hits such as ‘Walk In The Room’, ‘Sugar and Spice’, ‘Needles and Pins’ and ‘Don’t Throw Your Love Away’ to a couple of Buddy Holly tracks and a fantastic version of ‘Running Scared’, originally by the late great Roy Orbison – a concert from The Searchers is a real treat. I’m not ready for them to retire, I respect the fact that they feel it’s time, but that didn’t stop my bottom lip from wobbling once the final medley had been played.

There’ll never be another band like them, they’ve transcending decades and generations and will be missed by their peers and fans alike, I’m sure. If you can grab a ticket to see their final shows, you’ll not regret it, I promise. www.the-searchers.co.uk/dates

Spencer James from the band will be touring with a solo gig so make sure you buy your tickets for that, all the dates and venues are here: spencerjames.biz/spencer-james-solo-shows

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