MCM Comic Con ~ Birmingham, NEC

Tis the season! Autumn geek heaven for my family and I…

Which basically means photographs with awesome cosplays, hearing amazing panel talks with stars of the small and big screen, plenty of gaming opportunities and of course that all important C word… Crimes of Griswald? No, CHRISTMAS. If Santa should be directed anywhere to fulfill my Christmas wish list, it’s Comic Con. Mission completed!

This time we mixed it up a bit, spending Saturday being led by our 4 year old, doing what he wanted to do and the Sunday enjoying the convention the way we wanted to – as much as the 4 year old would allow!

MCM know how to do a large-scale Comic Con and the Cosplayers were out in force, we felt under-dressed for not being in costume. So many fandoms represented by attendees, the atmosphere was buzzing and footfall appeared to be on the up.

Here are 4 year old Connor’s highlights of the Saturday:

  • The Grinch ~ The Grinch is on trend again this festive season with the new animated movie having landed on the big screen. I was already a fan of the original film starring the incomparable Jim Carrey, however the smallest member of our family is now taking an active interest in the character. You can imagine his excitement when early in his comic con experience he was confronted with a giant snow globe featuring the miserly green creature! The queues were never too long for this festive treat which meant we were clambering in beside the Grinch and getting covered in snowflake-like paper on both days of the con. Great fun!
  • SPIDERMAN! ~ suspended from the ceiling and hanging upside down. Not the real thing but close enough and a feature which held Connor’s interest and helped him to know where about in the hall he was too.
  • Storm Troopers ~ we always have to make a beeline for UK Garrison if their members are not already marching towards us. Connor’s main request of the weekend was that he saw and high fived the Storm Troopers and located Chewbacca. His wishes were granted and the traditions of MCM Comic Con were upheld!
  • Super Mario ~ Nintendo were a prominent feature in the gaming areas and extremely attractive to our young lad, especially given that he’s newly discovered the Wii.
  • TOYS ~ the temptation to pick up everything in sight and within reach at the numerous stalls was almost too much for a 4 year old convention attendee to cope with! Overwhelmed sums it up and had we not already got Christmas covered, we could have easily done ALL the Christmas shopping in that hall and had a very happy believer on Christmas morning after Santa had done his job.

Here are the highlights from a 39 year old and 46 year old who are old enough to know better but would rather not(!):

  • Talks/Panels ~ so many to choose from and plenty of different stages with something going on over the weekend. We particularly enjoyed listening to and learning from the talented artist, Mark Kistler who taught us how to draw a cartoon fish. On the main stage there was a Star Wars panel and the wonderful Mary McDonnell was also a star feature.
  • Cosplay ~ there seemed to be an increased number of costumed attendees and the sheer attention to detail that goes in to some of the cosplays is nothing short of incredible. There are some super-talented super-fans out there.
  • Props ~ props from our favourite movies and television shows are always a winner and you can always rely on UK Garrison to recreate memories from Star Wars. The Cybermen were also fascinating to look at, that’s the closest I’ll ever be getting to one at any rate!
  • Christmas Shopping ~ my husband pretty much got Christmas wrapped up for me – everything on my wish list was on display at the wide range of stalls and all budgets were catered for too. From commercial to rarer items, if you have a Christmas list from a geek, Comic Con is the place to shop at.

Do you want to see what all the buzz is about? Then why not check out MCM’s website and book tickets for one of their many awesome events next year: MCM Comic Con

 

 

 

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Dr Hook Starring Dennis Locorierre ~ Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Dr Hook are continuing to tour into 2018 – all information can be found here: Dr Hook Tour Dates

Star rating: *****

Dr Hook are a band who’s music has stood the test of time regardless of the various incarnations that have taken place as the years have rolled by. Dennis Locorierre remains at the helm, his voice in as fine a form as it has always been in and he has a fantastic band behind him, all of whom are exceptional performers and musicians in their own right. Together they provided us with a varied evening of music that the majority of the packed house were familiar with and there was a good bit of banter from Locorierre too.

When I think of Dr Hook I immediately recall ‘Sexy Eyes’, ‘Better Love Next Time’ and ‘Sylvia’s Mother’. However, their back catalogue boasts other incredible hit songs such as; A Little Bit More, When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman and Sharing the Night Together. To experience these hits live is special, to see Dr Hook sing live is akin to listening to one of their albums. In fact hearing their music in a concert setting makes them sound even better if that were possible.

One of the highlights of the evening for my husband and I, personally was ‘Shine Son’ which neither of us had heard before, as parents to a small boy ourselves, the lyrics resonated. What’s true of this song and indeed each of Dr Hook numbers is that there is always such an intricate yet basic story at the heart of each one. Ballad, rock, country – they do it all and their ability to switch genres so extraordinarily is commendable.

A special mention must go to ‘Freakin’ at the Freaker’s Ball’ which was certainly a crowd pleaser!

Symphony Hall was rocking with fans of all ages in attendance and an electric atmosphere. Go and see these guys on tour if you can, it’s understandable as to why most of their tour dates are sold out. Dennis Locorierre has stage presence to rival his peers and his vocals are out of this world.

Disney On Ice Passport to Adventure ~ Arena Birmingham

Disney On Ice is on UK tour with Passport to Adventure – click here for tour dates and to book tickets: Disney On Ice

Star rating: *****

Disney is a firm favourite in our household and having been to Disneyland Paris this year (third time for my husband and I, first time for our three year old son) Disney on Ice seemed like the ideal outing to keep the magic going until we can return to the place that our boy can’t stop talking about!

What the Passport to Adventure show brings you is four different films brought to life by incredible ice dancers in character costumes. Providing the ‘narration’ are Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck and a hapless Goofy who delighted our child with his antics. It’s a non-stop cornucopia of Disney hits and scenes played out in the most extraordinary style.

The shows we were treated to included: The Lion King, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid and Frozen. We were also joined by Judy Hops and Nick Fox from Zootropolis, before the main event – they were getting us all on our feet in a Fit to Dance session. Which is a brilliant idea and was embraced by all in the arena.

The Lion King featured some exceptional skating, with jumps, tricks and one skater in a Pumba costume – no mean feat! Peter Pan included flying in their section, naturally, as well as another member of the cast in a cumbersome outfit – dressed as Nanna the Dog. The Little Mermaid showcased superb ensemble dances with ‘Under The Sea’ being a particular favourite, plus there was a giant Ursula taking up the rink as she glided out in a clever move. Frozen remains as popular as ever, and what better show to perform on the ice than Frozen? It’s where Olaf belongs isn’t it? Even if he is still singing about ‘Summer’! Of all the tales told, I felt that the setting, scenery and stunning performances provided us with the perfect finale.

We can’t wait to return to Disney on Ice, next year and see what Mickey Mouse and his friends have in store for us. It’s such a fantastic family fun event and one of the highlights of our year.

Shane Filan ‘Love Always’ Tour ~ Town Hall Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Shane Filan is on UK Tour and you can catch him at any of the venues on this list: Shane Filan Tour Dates

Star rating: *****

Well-known as the frontman of boyband, Westlife, Shane Filan is currently on a solo tour off the back of his new album ‘Love Always’ and he was certainly well received when he appeared at Town Hall in Birmingham last night.

The excitable crowd were entertained with a selection of original solo numbers having opened with ‘When You’re Looking Like That’, my personal favourite which is a great upbeat song and had the audience on their feet. It set the tone for the evening.

Supported by a four piece band, we were treated to some amazing cover versions: Eternal Flame, Uptown Girl and Hey Now Hey Now (Don’t Dream It’s Over) to name a few. He offered the right mix of slow ballads and numbers we could all get up and dance to.

Considering that he is so well know as a boyband singer, he held the stage brilliantly as a solo artist. I’m a self-confessed Westlife fan anyway, but what stood out for me last night was the overall format of the concert and the verve of the atmosphere that Shane created effortlessly. His popularity never wanes and his fan base remains as strong as ever. The defining moment for me was ‘Beautiful In White’ which is my all-time best loved ballad and one of my over-riding memories of the evening.

Catch Shane Filan on tour while you can, I’d go back to watch him again if I could!

Reviewed by Guest Reviewer: Jenny Woodward 

Texas on Tour ~ Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Texas are on a worldwide tour and dates can be found here: Texas Website

Star rating: *****

Texas punctuated my teenage years and their classic hits have followed me into my twenties and thirties. The opportunity to see them in concert was one I clutched with both hands and to coin their lyrics, the entire two hour gig ‘touched my inner smile’.

The band have a new album out called Jump On Board and I think it showcases some of their best work to date – however if you’re off to see one of your all-time favourite bands live on tour, you want the old hits in the mix too. I am happy to report that I was not disappointed, with Ms Spiteri bounding onto stage and kicking off with ‘Halo’, I think that memory will stay with me for a long time to come. The classics kept on coming, from more recent track ‘Conversation’ to one of my personal highlight ‘Summer Son’ and of course they had to play ‘Black Eyed Boy’. To hear the band live is akin to listening to one of their albums and none of their unique sound is lost. Symphony Hall lent itself superbly, the acoustics were absolutely perfect and the full house were mostly on their feet from beginning to end.

Classic tracks aside, I loved ‘Midnight’ from their latest album, it’s catchy with all of the elements that Texas are renowned for. It’s easy to spot a Texas song a mile off, yet they are all so markedly different.

Spiteri has a down to earth warmth and engaged brilliantly with the audience, more than happy to She’s a natural comedian as well as an exceptional vocalist and guitarist – and she certainly knows how to make you feel as if you’re part of the ‘family’.

There were encores, many encores and two hours flew by in the blink of an eye. With mostly original material in the set, I was quite satisfied – but when they do a cover, they REALLY do a cover. Suspicious Minds blew me away, it rivalled Elvis (and it’s not often I say that).

I’m still buzzing from a night of music de force from a band who have enjoyed twenty successful years, here’s to the next twenty and many more amazing concerts from them.

 

Wresting MaNia ~ Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham

Wrestling MaNia is coming to Edinburgh Fringe from 5th – 18th August 2017 at Silk and you can book tickets here: Wrestling MaNia

Star rating: ****

Ben Pountney and Alex Brockie

It’s Wrestling MaNia’s big night and they’ve sold loads… well a few… a couple of tickets so their audience awaits! However, there’s one snag, the big names who had top billing are stuck waiting for a broken down minibus to be fixed and John (Alex Brockie) is left with little choice but to utilise a box of costumes and the handful of people he has with him. They’re the ones who were deemed not important enough to travel to the venue by minibus. Aided and hindered by the hapless Phil (Dean Hubbard), who is on a mission to seek out suitable music and equipment to play it on but would rather get his hands on a sandwich – it’s a race against time to get the show on the road.

Showing a hilarious and madcap insight into backstage chaos at a wrestling show, Wrestling MaNia is a well crafted comedy script with a strong cast playing the range of vastly different characters. As well as the man in charge, John, who’s manipulative, self-indulgent and bordering on desperation and Phil, all he wants is a sandwich, there’s Kyle (Adam Ravenscroft) who is the only member of the ensemble willing to work for free and delighted to be doing so. Kyle, we gather, is not the sharpest tool in the box and he’s victimised by The Mark (Ben Pountney), nobody loves The Mark more than The Mark does and he stalks around backstage (in his pink outfit) putting his crotch in everyone’s face! It’s no surprise that he is not a favourite of the token female character, Becky (Kaitlin Cole) who huffs, folds her arms and raises her eyebrows at every given opportunity – although she soon has her moment of glory when she meets The Mark in the ring.

The cast work well as an ensemble, individually they have each embraced the ‘character’ in their character and it shines through. The Mark couldn’t help but stand out, the role is supposed to do just that, Ben Pountney could not have put more into that performance, he really is one to watch. Equally, Adam Ravenscroft was a revelation as Kyle, giving a physically visual performance as well and using body language to convey his character’s traits. Alex Brockie was kinetic to watch as John, I felt every emotion that he was going through, in contrast, Dean Hubbard was superbly laid-back. Kaitlin Cole was also excellent, playing Becky as one of the boys while simultaneously commanding their respect.

It may have been slightly slow to get started but the momentum of the piece picked up brilliantly until audience members were almost literally rolling in the aisles and clapping enthusiastically midway through the performance. Catch it in Edinburgh, it’s definitely worth a punt.

MCM Comic Con, NEC Birmingham ~ March 2017

Be sure to visit http://www.mcmcomiccon.com for the forthcoming dates and venues of the 2017 conventions and book in advance if you can, always worth it!   

Comic Cons are the highlights of our calendar every year here at Break A Leg. Yours truly is a Whovian, Star Wars fan and a gamer (when I get the time!) so these events are my not so guilty pleasure. Equally, my husband and son are also geeky and we are always impressed by the number of guests, variety of stalls and abundance of talks we can attend throughout the weekend. Here are a few reasons to love and get yourself to a Comic Con, especially an MCM-hosted one! Plus some highlights of the weekend:

UK Garisson ~ The UK Garisson are a continued delight and highlight for me at all Comic Cons, my little boy immediately looks for them upon arrival and excitedly high fives various Storm Troopers. This time, the group have out-done themselves, the sheer number of costumed members was incredible and the photo opportunity on the stairs outside the halls (as seen in the featured photo) was a moment I will never forget. It actually brought a tear to my eye, I admit it! What UK Garisson does for charity is commendable and they never fail to put a big smile on people’s faces, whether it be making small children happy or us big kids.

Cosplay ~ I love that so many people dress up at Comic Con now that we who aren’t costumed look like the abnormal ones. Attending Comic Cons is tempting me to cosplay and I don’t think it will be long before all of the Break A Leg family are indulging. Watch this space! However, applause to all of the fantastic costumes that were on display and had been lovingly put together by attendees. A shout out to one lovely girl who was dressed as Belle, too – she stole my little lad’s heart, and he almost stole her rose, oops! I am a member of the MCM Comic Con Facebook group and I see the progress that some people choose to share when they’re in the process of making their costumes. It is fascinating and quite a skill.

Panels ~ There was a wide variety of talks available to attend in the Theatre this time. The inflatable auditorium was clearly feeling deflated elsewhere! Red Dwarf are always a popular panel and they were followed by Starsky and Hutch and a special panel for the Keith and Paddy Picture Show where Keith Lemon told the gathered crowds all about the upcoming comedy series that he has undertaken with Paddy McGuinness. Sunday saw Michael Landes and Billie Piper take to the stage (not together… but there’s a thought…). I saw Michael Landes talking on the MCM Buzz stage on Saturday and he was a great guest, embracing the fans and he would have happily stayed chatting all day. The Allo Allo panel on the MCM stage was also a brilliant session, Kim Hartman, Arthur Bostram, Guy Siner and Richard Gibson delighted fans with talk of the series that was and still is so loved. It was emotional to hear about their fond memories of the late Gordon Kaye.

Merchandise ~ The range of merchandise improves every time. Although I tend to find that it’s even better in November when the stall holders are pulling out the stops for potential Christmas shoppers. I personally like Funko Pops and geeky jewellery and I can find both in every nook and cranny, which keeps me happy and my husband looking decidedly worried! I hope that there will continue to be such a great array of stalls and that November makes Christmas shopping all the easier for my husband! Prices at this Con seemed to be reasonable across the board, too – plus if you hang around on the last day, reductions tend to happen…

Family Fun ~ Most of all, I recommend Comic Cons as a family fun day. Everybody in the Break A Leg family enjoys these events and we all get something out of it. Yes, merchandise I my case! MCM do host large scale ones, but I find that I get the most out of the biggies. It can be as pricey as you make it, however if you’re likely to be tempted to make purchases, go equipped with a full wallet!

 

 

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.

http://craftspace.co.uk/

https://macbirmingham.co.uk/

 

Spotlight On… Kevin R McNally

May’s Spotlight On……

***Kevin R McNally***

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Kevin – as a fellow Brummie, my first question is whether you have any allegiance to a Midlands football team? If so, which one? (dare I ask?)
I don’t really follow the footie. I have a Chelsea mad son who takes care of that for us. But at school, ‘who do you support?’ was a question that, if not answered right, could result in a kicking. Where I lived the Blues was a safer answer than Villa.
What are your earliest memories of growing up in Birmingham?
Extreme poverty, really. We lived in a two up two down terrace on Lauden Road ( gone now) near the City ground. Out door loo and the London train running past the end of the garden. No fence, different days.
It has not escaped my notice that you have a fascination with astronomy, what piqued your interest in this area and do you still indulge in your interest?
Yes I do. It was the late Patrick Moore who had a tea time astronomy show for kids. I remember the theme tune which was Jupiter from the Planet Suite by Gustav Holtz simultaneously sparked my interest in classical music. With the help of Moore’s book “‘O’ level astronomy” I managed to be one of the first to sit that exam and pass with an A. I met Sir Patrick at the BBC a few years before his passing and managed to thank him.
With an impressive film career under your belt, including all of the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ films, I’m sure our readers will be pleased to know that you’re filming the fifth instalment at the moment. Did you think that the films would carry on for this length of time when you first started and are you enjoying donning the whiskers to become ‘Mr. Gibbs’ again? (I presume the whiskers are back!)
I obviously had no idea the series would last this length of time but I am thrilled it has. As to the whiskers… where would Mr. Gibbs be without them.
With regards to your television career, many of our readers may not know that you appear in a series called ‘Turn’ in the USA. Can you tell me a bit about the show and the character you play?
It’s a period drama about Washington’s Spies in the Revolutionary War (or War of Independence as we are taught to call it.) I play a Judge loyal to the crown in Setauket Long Island while my son is secretly a spy for Patriots. Season two is airing in the States right now.
Moving on to Theatre, I’ve seen you tread ‘the boards’ before (‘Boeing Boeing’ in 2007), have you any plans to appear on stage, again and is there a role that you’d particularly like to play?
I am very keen to return to the stage after a two year absence. As to roles. I’ve learnt it’s the one you didn’t think about that works best.
Last year you recorded ‘The Missing Hanocks’ for BBC Radio 4, are there any plans to record more and what was it like to effectively step into Hancock’s ‘shoes’?
Yes. We are recording five more when I return to the UK then taking the experience of seeing a live recorded show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. I was daunted stepping into his shoes. I am after all a lifelong fan, but the show has mostly been received well and the experience has been hugely rewarding.
You’ve worked with many well known actors and actresses throughout your career so far, who has been your favourite co-star? Is there anyone that you’re keen to work with in the future?  
The answer to both questions is Phyllis Logan.
Just one look at your CV shows what a varied and successful career you’ve had to date, what are your future ambitions?
More of the same but I would like to add a space film and a western.
The saying goes ‘Never Meet Your Heroes, they’ll only disappoint’, who are your heroes? Have you met them? Did they disappoint?
On the whole, no. But they tend to be unconnected with my profession. Some musicians, scientists etc.
If you could have a dinner party with five people (dead or alive), who would you choose and why?
I figure a night out with Marylin Monroe, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart and Buster Keaton at Musso and Franks in Hollywood would be a pretty cool night out.
Favourite Things (quick fire questions):
Favourite song?
‘If I loved you’ from Carousel
Favourite composer?
Elgar
Favourite author?
P. G. Wodehouse
Favourite restaurant?
Peter Luger’s in Brooklyn
Favourite way to spend a weekend? 
Quietly at home with my wife, a few friends and an excellent Piedmontese white wine.
If you want to see ‘The Missing Hancocks: Live in Edinburgh’ you can find details and purchase tickets by following the link below:

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