Play: Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Bottom’s in the Air!


We drove over to Stratford-upon-Avon today – to The Bear Pit – to see Second Thoughts‘ penultimate performance of 2020’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was a perfect excuse to leave a bit earlier to give us time to get some retail therapy in the town!

We chose the matinรฉe performance at 2.30pm, and it was about 90% full. We ran into Ian and Ann who’d just returned from Australia and India. I’d studied the Play at school, and in spite of the excellent performance this afternoon, the story today was as impenetrable as it was when I was as a fresh-faced teenager! ๐Ÿค” OK, I got the main plot, but is it me – why is one of Shakespeare’s most popular Plays so tricky to follow? ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Performed in the Round

On a more positive note, being performed ‘in the round’ in contemporary costume with a very simplistic set made it a much more immersive experience ๐Ÿ˜

Overall then, not one of my fave Shakespeare Plays, but the contemporary twist on the Bard’s original, with its tweaks to the scenes and dialogue, supported by a really enthusiastic cast, made it a memorable performance.

The RSC: King John

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This afternoon was a unique opportunity to see Shakespeare’s rarely performed production of ‘King John’ at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon.

We met Chris and Gill at theirs and headed over to the Theatre in time for a spot of lunch followed by the performance at 1.30pm. (The lunch incidentally, was superb!)

I wasn’t familiar with this production at all, but any performance that features a live food-fight (warning those in the front-row that they ‘may not escape the fallout‘ gets my vote! ๐Ÿ˜„).

On a more serious note, it’s billed as: ‘a tale of a nation in turmoil that vibrates with modern resonance‘ and tells the story of John’s turbulent reign from 1199 to 1216. Now that sounded like something worth seeing! ๐Ÿ˜

So, what of the production itself? If you like your Shakespeare productions on traditional side, then this most definitely WON’T be the one for you. And unlike many of the Bard’s other works, there’s no well-known characters in this, nor any famous one-liners to hang onto!

But overall, none of this really mattered!

For me, although the plot was difficult to follow (no change there then!) the acting, costumes, lighting, music and stage were all definitely something to remember! Everyone gave an excellent performance, and the very wacky production design didn’t distract at all. In fact, the ‘dad-dancing’ (yes, really!), the additional short dance routines, the fight scenes and the encouraged audience participation, made the aforementioned food-fight feel quite appropriate! And yes, some the audience will have had a cleaning bill! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Quite a lot of blood too! ๐Ÿ˜ซ

In conclusion, a thoroughly engaging production but not one for the traditionalists

and maybe it was just me, but the fact that they brought on two Henry vacuum cleaners to clear up the stage during the interval made me giggle – ‘Part 1’ and ‘Part 2’ perhaps???? ๐Ÿ˜‚

Rick Wakeman on Tour (2019)

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Entitled Rick’s Grumpy Old Christmas Show, we joined our friends, Ian and Ann, for an evening of superb piano playing punctuated by Rick’s unique sense of humour. This was the last of his twelve-date tour around the UK.

Eventually, we got there!

The venue wasn’t one we’ve it visited before โ€” Warwick Arts Centre โ€” and the surrounding University Campus area is undergoing some significant rebuilding. It was therefore a slightly convoluted route to the car-park (we met Ian and Ann who arrived about the same time) and once parked, the four of us took the equally meandering walking-route to our destination!

Almost time for Rick!

Arriving just before 7pm, we had time for a good natter beforehand and to order some interval drinks. When we arrived at our seats, it was clear that tonight was pretty-much a sell-out, with extra seats added in front of us and to the side โ€” we were about five rows from the front, with an excellent view.

Rick’s Latest Album

Rick is still ‘old school’ and uses his tours, in part, to promote his latest music. This year was no different, as a few weeks back, he released ‘Christmas Portraits‘. It features pretty much all those Christmas Carols we learned as kids, played on the piano, in Rick’s unique and talented style. Listen to this Album from start to finish (we have!) and it’ll put you in the mood for Christmas for sure! ๐Ÿ˜๐ŸŽ… You can listen to samples courtesy of Amazon HERE.

Rick at his best…

Back to tonight’s event! Rick was on stage at just after 7.30pm to a very appreciative audience (judging by the welcoming applause). After a quick ‘true story’ (ahem!), he was at the piano, giving the keys a serious workout.

In addition to promoting his latest Album, he played a wide range of his back-catalogue including excerpts from Six Wives, White Rock, King Arthur as well as some more recent non-prog-rock piano-based compositions, including Morning has Broken. Nerd Alert! Across the whole evening, there were only two tunes I wasn’t familiar with. ๐Ÿ˜Ž In fact, in all the years we’ve been coming to see Rick play (we last saw him in October last year when he was at the Derngate, as part of his 2018 Tour) I think tonight, he played more music than ever before (although I might have imagined that!) ๐ŸŽน๐ŸŽน๐ŸŽน๐ŸŽน๐ŸŽน

And he was in top form! โ€” both musically and (surely his second profession) as a raconteur โ€” I don’t think I’ve heard him play better! And his humour was spot-on too! ๐Ÿ˜‚

What could possibly top last year’s ‘Black Testicles‘ joke? Well, this year for me, it was the one about the old lady breaking wind in Church! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ closely followed by the (very timely) story of the Elf, Pixie and a Fairy!

At just after 9.45pm, he played his final piece, and in return, received a standing ovation (well-deserved!). We got just a single encore, where Rick performed Life on Mars.

All-in-all, it had been a great evening โ€” Rick’s musical talents IMHO deserve to be more widely heard! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Leaving the Art’s Centre proved to be the most difficult part of the evening, as it seemed that most of the audience had parked in the same car-park as us! The congestion meant that we didn’t actually leave the multi-storey until 25 minutes after we got in the car. It was a very wet journey home, but luckily the traffic was very light. We were home just after 11.
๐Ÿ’ค๐Ÿ’ค๐Ÿ’ค๐Ÿ’ค๐Ÿ’ค๐Ÿ’ค๐Ÿ’ค๐Ÿ’ค

London Mini-Break โ€“ Day 3 (of 3): Suits you Sir!

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Our final day in London today!

Ahh, that’s better! I feel a walk down Oxford Street coming on (before midday!)

On our list today…

The Samsung Shop in Oxford Street
St. Paul’s Cathedral
A trip to the Theatre

…and knowing us, maybe more! ๐Ÿ˜Š

9.20am: We were out earlier than yesterday, but confident we’d miss the rush on the Tube. How wrong we were! It was nose-to-armpit for the whole of our journey in, and reminded us both of how travelling around the capital used to be when we were based. A sensory experience I thought I’d never have to endure again!!! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

The Samsung Shop

9.45am: Our first stop of the day was the Samsung Shop in Oxford Street – aka The Samsung Experience. It’s (apparently) the ‘Mecca’ for Samsung fan-boys and girls, and it looked very upmarket inside. I’m not a fanboy myself – far from it – I simply choose the brand that offers the best techy-spec! However, in theory at least, you can’t do better than this official shop for all your ‘bits and bobs’ for their phones. In my particular case, I’m on the hunt for some very special (and very new) wired chargers. They’ve only been around for about a fortnight, but I felt optimistic!

I already knew these two ‘species’ – Chargus Wattus Maximus Major (and Minor) were like ‘hen’s teeth’, but the official shop was bound to stock them, weren’t they?

Weren’t they???? ๐Ÿค”

Well, it turned out to be a completely wasted journey! (apart from helping me to increase my step-count for today!) As I enquired if they stocked the new ’15W super-charger’ and maybe even the ’45W hyper-charger’, the Assistant looked mighty embarrassed as he whispered “No sir, we don’t have either, and we’ve no idea when they’ll be here”.

A bit disappointing considering it’s their flagship store! ๐Ÿ˜’๐Ÿ˜’
So, what’s all the fuss about these chargers? Well, they’re both able to charge the new generation of Samsung phones from completely empty to completely full in… wait for it… just over an hour! Amazing technology, and a real life-saver if you’ve ever need to charge your phone in record time!

To add insult to injury, I was advised by the Samsung Shop to try Currys opposite or Carphone Warehouse down the road. Of course, I did, but of course, they’d not got them either! ๐Ÿ‘ฟ

On our way to our next stop – St Paul’s Cathedral – we couldn’t help admire how much better Tottenham Court Road station now looked. Very shiny and very spacious too!

St Paul’s Cathedral

10.25am: Time to forget tech for a while and concentrate on something much older. We exited the Tube at St Paul’s and headed for the Cathedral. Neither of us had been here for a good many years, and so we were looking forward to admiring this famous landmark inside and out. Once again our 2-for-1 tickets saved us a packet – Total admission price? ยฃ20 instead of ยฃ40!! ๐Ÿค‘

It didn’t disappoint..!

Superb architecture that looked like it was decorated yesterday. Beautiful!

The Crypt was just as interesting and included the resting place of two military heavyweights – Nelson and Wellington.

A quick pit-stop next to the Crypt, before heading off to our next stop…

The Bank of England Museum

11.35am: We were a little early for Lunch, so we decided to track-down the location of the Bank of England Museum – especially as it had now started raining. A short walk later (after being re-directed when we mistakenly entered the Bank itself!) we arrived at the Museum, literally just round the corner. No queues and so we were inside in the dry very quickly.

What a find this was! Five separate galleries explaining the history of this famous institution, as well as plenty of interactive exhibits to attract the young (and me too!) ๐Ÿ˜

Entry is free, and there’s plenty on show to enjoy. It’s a light and airy space with plenty of emphasis on interactivity. Want to control inflation? Check. Seen a ten-bob note? Check. Wonder how they actually create money? Check.

There is so much to see here, and it’s all presented in a clear and well-constructed fashion.

If you’ve an hour-or-two to kill and you’re in the area, then this is a no-brainer (especially if it’s raining – and it WAS.. still!).

How to combat forgery (old school!)

This had been a most delightful of discoveries – and for once, we’re so glad it started raining, otherwise we may never looked for it! ๐Ÿ˜

12.35pm: We decided to walk back towards St Paul’s where there was a Cafรฉ Rouge. There was method in our madness, as I could use the gift voucher that Sally B had bought me for my Birthday! – Thanks Sal!! ๐Ÿ˜Š

1.05pm: I think we arrived just in time! It was already 80% full when we arrived, and after we were seated, they kept on arriving! They’re obviously doing something very right here!

We were soon seated and served (a good start!) and when our food arrived, it was piping hot.

Mushroom Rissotto
Blackcurrant Crumble

We both chose from the fixed-price two-course menu. Risotto and then Crumble for me, whilst Ann opted for the Chicken and Chips followed by Chocolate Fondant Pudding with ice-cream.

It was all delicious and in spite of how busy they were, our two waiting-staff were a ‘well-oiled machine’. We left, just as the restaurant approached 100% capacity – yep, perfect timing! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

2.10pm: We took the short walk back to St Paul’s Tube dodging the showers.

3.05pm: Arrivaing back at the ibis, there was time for a couple of hours to recharge batteries (phones AND humans) before we’re out again on our way to (for me) highlight of the day – the Theatre.

Not a bad step-count for today! (Thanks Samsung!)

5.30pm: Fully recharged, we took the now well-trodden path back to Stratford Station – this time heading for Leicester Square Tube. The Theatre is right next door, so that made things easier! ๐Ÿ˜Š

The Theatre

We’re seeing tonight’s performance of The Man in the White Suit at its new home of Wyndham’s Theatre.

Those of you of a certain age will remember the 1951 satirical comedy film of the same name made by Ealing Studios. It starred Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood and Cecil Parker and was directed by Alexander Mackendrick. I love any film out of Ealing and this new Play, was going to be a real treat!

Starring Stephen Mangan, Kara Tointon and Sue Johnston Ujust until December 6th) it originally opened at the Theatre Royal, Bath in September 2019 before transferring to Wyndham’s Theatre. It’s only been running a few weeks in London, and I was eager to see how it translated to the stage. In fact, I learned later, that the original 1951 film itself was based on a Play so that makes this latest adaptation: ‘the-Play-of-the-film-of-the-Play!’

7.35pm: A slightly delyaed ‘curtain up’, but it was worth the wait. I think we were both unsure of how the film version would translate to the stage, but it worked really well. The leads all acted their socks off and although it was possible to recognise certain scenes from the film, it all felt very different – in a good way! In fact, I’d say we both enjoyed it more than the film (and I really like the film!). It was longer too at around two-and-a-bit hours. Comedically, it was much more slapstick than its on-screen equivalent – with the occasional musical break – and it all came together very nicely! The very clever set-design allowed for some extremely sophisticated configurations, and the set-changes were as entertaining to watch as the production! Superb entertainment all-round!

9.45pm: As the actors took their bows, the audience showed their appreciation with very enthusiastic (and well-deserved) applause. Being a small theatre, we were able to exit without any fuss and were soon on the Tube back to the hotel (for the final time).

“Fire in the Hold!”

10.15pm: Luckily, the Tube was much less busy than on our journey in, but a problem at West Ham station meant that we all had to evacuate the carriage whilst the driver investigated ‘an incident’. Someone had helpfully (not!) set fire to a pile of newspapers in another carriage – and then left in a hurry! Luckily, the plucky driver poked the pile with a stick and manouevered it onto the platform where it burned out. We were soon back on-board and heading for our next – and final – stop, Stratford.

10.25pm: After leaving the Station, we weren’t sure whether our shortcut through the Stratford Centre would still be open – but it was! As we we walked though, we could see why…
There were quite a few homeless people settling down inside for the night in their makeshift beds – a sad and sorry sign of this modern age!! ๐Ÿ™„

As we exited at the other end, the only thing outnumbering the tube passengers at the start of our day, was a gathering of the Met’s finest! We’ve never seen so many boys (and girls) in blue just standing around. I think there was more here than the whole of Northamptonshire’s force put together!

We quickened our pace! ๐Ÿค”

10.40pm: Back in the room! It’s been a long day for us, but it’s all been very worthwhile. We’ve packed a lot in (as we always do!) and even squeezed in some extra stuff too! Another very memorable ‘Birthday break’ – I wonder where we’ll be this time next year? ๐Ÿค”

Home by lunchtime tomorrow!

If you like to view JUST the photographs from our three-day break
they’re all HERE

Kilworth Cats!

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Off to Kilworth Theatre today with Ann, Janet, Jo and Carol to see the theatre’s production of ‘Cats‘. Am I the only person to have never a ‘Cats’ production before? Quite possibly!

Last time we were here was back in June, to see Joseph – and today was just as busy! West End quality without the prices! ๐Ÿ˜

The story, is, as you probably guessed, is about cats! But these are no ordinary felines! The Jellicle Cats appear on just one very unique night of the year โ€“ the night of the Jellicle Ball. They each they tell their stories to Old Deuteronomy, their well-respected cat-leader, who must choose one of them to ascend to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn into a whole new Jellicle life.

Thanks Wiki! ๐Ÿ˜

As always, with all Kilworth’s productions, they’re super-professional and every member of the cast looks like they’re having fun. Tonight was no exception and although we only knew a few of the tunes (all in the second-half), it was a very worthwhile experience.

And if the acting and the singing is always top-notch here, then the set design is right up there too! Kilworth’s interpretation for this production was that of an Underground Station – and it looked very (very) convincing with incredible attention-to-detail everywhere.

Being an outdoor performance, the weather that had postponed our outdoor cinema trip yesterday was on everyone’s mind. We needn’t have worried though, apart from the occasional gust of wind and a single clap of thunder (that I thought was a sound effect! Doh!), today’s matinรฉe wasn’t hindered at all.

I think overall, it wasn’t my favourite Musical (mainly because I didn’t know many of the tunes) but the sheer professionalism of all concerned – cast, crew and orchestra made it a production worth seeing. ๐Ÿ‘

It was back to ours afterwards to help with the leftovers from last night’s banquet – every little helps! ๐Ÿ˜

Joseph – And the Pub of Many Burgers

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We headed for Kilworth Theatre today to see their latest outdoor production
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Joseph

Running from 26th May until 5th July 2019, this production was back by popular demand. Given the track record here, we knew we were in for a treat!

Starring Jacob Fisher in the titular role; Carole Stennett (Narrator); Matthew McKenna (The Pharaoh) and Craig Armstrong (Jacob/Potiphar) with supporting cast: Rhianne Alleyne; Alexander Archer; William Atkinson; Ashley Birchall; Nicholas Collier; Hywel Dowsell; Nia Jermin; George Lyons; Owen McHugh; Ben Oliver; Matt Overfield; Marianne Phillips; Holly Prentice; Molly Rees Howe; Billy Roberts; Heather Scott-Martin and Lashane Williams

We picked-up Jo, Janet and Carol and enjoyed a hassle-free journey there. Thirty-five minutes later we were soon in our seats at the Bar ordering our drinks!

“Just the one to quench our thirst…”

As always with Kilworth, it was very well supported, and I think I only saw a few empty seats.

Well supported!
The Stage was set…

It turned out to be a really good performance – great songs (of course!) and great energy from all concerned – maybe a few too many sprogs in the production for my taste though! ๐Ÿ˜ The resident Orchestra were outstanding – as they always are! Boy! George Dyer and his eleven-strong band of musicians certainly knew how to belt out a tune!


Pub…

Next stop was the oft-visited Tollemache Arms in Harrington.

The Tollemache Arms, Harrington

We were early, but they were able to seat us straight-away!

Madames who Munch!

Collectively, we opted for Shared Platters to start…

Shared Platters

…and then we all did our own thing. Jo and Janet chose the Fish & Chips, Carol, the Sea-Bass and Ann, the Roast Chicken…

A Burger too far…

I chose their ‘Red Lion’ Burger – a monster of a creation, featuring TWO burgers plus about every other filling known to man including cheese, bacon, gherkins, tomato and lettuce. I can see now why the guy on the adjacent table capitulated halfway through and left with his as a takeaway! None of us could manage Dessert… not even Teas or Coffees… and that’s a first (for me!) ๐Ÿ˜

We dropped the Girls back at J & J’s and we spent the evening admiring the Garden and enjoying a rather large G&T each! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ˜Š

Cirque de Soleil – Totem

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Royal Albert Hall
Main Poster

A welcome return to the Royal Albert Hall today! After my last visit for Prog Rockers, Camel, back in September, last year, today was a complete contrast – Cirque du Soleil‘s Totem.

We picked up Janet, Jo and Carol and headed for Kettering Station and the 12.51. An hour-and-a-half later, we were taking our seats in the Hall.ย 

ย 
ย Great Seats…great view!
ย 

Ann and I had not seen anything by Cirque du Soleil before, but Janet, Jo and Carol were ‘old hands’ – and everyone else we had spoken to had said we should be prepared to be amazed!

Unfortunately, no photos were allowed of the actual performance, but take it from us –ย  it was amazing... jaw-droppingly amazing! An absolute must-see. From trapeze work that will leave you breathless; bowl-catching in a way you’ll never see again, and a woman so ‘elastic-like’ it made your back hurt just watching her – every individual performance left us with with our jaws in our laps! Add to that an innovative triple projector system that bathed the stage in various ‘scenes’, a live band and a series of vocalists who accompanied the acts, and it all added up to the most creative performance of anything we’ve ever seen anywhere.

So, be prepared for lost of surprises, a few laughs, plenty of gasps of amazement – oh, and Hiawatha on roller-skates, and a monkey in a lab coat!ย 

Just another typical Saturday night in Kensington then!
๐Ÿ˜


Two hours and twenty minutes later, it was all over – and then the fun began! What felt like half the population of the UK all heading for South Ken Tube! Wow! I’ve seen the Tube busy in my life but this was something else!

We narrowly missed our preferred Train at St Pancras, but grabbing the one just after 7pm meant we were still back in Kettering by 8pm. And that was packed too!

Yummy!

Jo and Janet had thoughtfully slow-cooked a chilli – and it all went down a treat whilst we reflected on all that we’d seen during the performance.