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Singin’ In The Rain Theatre Tour 2014 – Review

What a glorious feeling, as one of Hollywood’s best-loved musicals tours the UK following its run in the West End.

It’s 1927, and Monumental Pictures will never be the same as they face the inevitable switch to talking pictures. Silent star Don Lockwood (played by James Leece) is betrothed to the insufferable Lina Lamont (Coronation Street’s Vicky Binns), according to the gossip magazines, but in reality he can’t stand her. One night at a post-premiere party, he meets wannabe stage star Kathy Selden (the charming Amy Ellen Richardson) and the rest, as they say, is history. Staying loyal to the  movie in most ways, with a few original touches, the show is pure joy and escapism with a seamless production.

From the minute the curtain rises, cast and crew give their all as people, sets and 12,000 litres of water make their way on and off the set. Did I mention the water? For this production, the (theatrical) heavens open and a special slatted stage drains the water back into a specially made tank – after Don splashes around in it, of course.

The design is sumptuous and a colourful array of suits, fringed dresses and furs shimmy around the set, which transitions with an ease that is the envy of anyone who’s ever worked in theatre. We’re also treated to multimedia display as the hilarious scenes from doomed picture, The Duelling Cavalier, are shown on a suspended screen.

Of course, the most joyful aspect of the show is the musical numbers and the exceptional dancing that accompanies it. The Broadway Melody scene is wonderfully executed, with hanging neon signs and light-up pavements complementing the sequence perfectly. The band, cleverly elevated at the top of the set so as not to get wet, create a spine-tingling atmosphere as Don, Kathy and Cosmo perform the tap sequences with flair. Stephane Anelli is a close match for Donald O’Connor as Cosmo, who is incredibly agile, energetic and hilarious as the role demands.

Also on top comedic form is Vicky Binns as Lina, who summons all her sass to simultaneously annoy and tickle the audience with her antics. Though she shouts a little, she’s spot on physically.

By the end of the evening, we were grinning from ear to ear (and many in the front rows were still laughing from being splashed) as we left the theatre on a high. A combination of winning performances, stunning design and classic, joyful musical numbers results in a truly uplifting and memorable show. It’s in Bristol until the 9th of August – don’t miss it!





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Le Week-end – Review

Qu’est-ce que vous regardez le week-end? I stumbled upon this 2013 gem from Film4 during a leisurely Sunday stroll through Netflix, and was pleasantly surprised.

Married couple Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsey Duncan) are on their way to Paris for a weekend of nostalgia to celebrate their anniversary. They’re used to each other and their roles – “You’ve got the Euros” - and hopeful that the trip will present an opportunity to rekindle the fire.

Their illusions are swiftly shattered, though, as their hotel from a previous visit disappoints and a call from their grown-up son brings them back to parent mode. It’s clear that Meg has different ideas about their impending retirement – whilst Nick wants to talk about redecorating the bathroom, she’s dreaming of life in Paris – “Why would anyone want to live anywhere else?”

As Meg and Nick explore the city, spending too much money and attempting to rejuvenate their marriage, new possibilities are opened up and many an old wound picked. When they bump into Nick’s university friend Morgan (Jeff Goldblum on top form), tension and unfinished business builds to a subtly acted climax.

Both Duncan and Broadbent play repressed English dissatisfaction with panache as their relationship dynamic shifts and they finally voice deeply buried feelings. Despite the romantic setting there’s not a hint of cliché and, under the direction of Roger Michell, it’s a sharp but warm lesson in growing old together. As Nick deftly points out, love can be hating someone one minute and adoring them the next – but no matter what, you always want to be by their side.


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Top 10 films of 2014 so far

Happy Friday moviegoers!

The Guardian has published their top 10 movies of the year so far – do you agree with their choices? How many have you seen?


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Waiting for Waiting for Godot/Kamchatka – Review


This double bill of original comedy places the audience firmly in the moment, offering a dose of pure escapism.

Potted Plant theatre company, a relatively new pairing of old friends in the South West, have brought to the Bath Fringe Festival a quirky and absurdist mix of previously performed material and a new piece on its first outing. Both plays have a spontaneity and pace that almost seems improvised, throwing you into the middle of a situation with no long preamble.

Waiting for Waiting for Godot finds two young actors waiting to rehearse a production of Waiting for Godot. The director hasn’t turned up and the two young men become increasingly frustrated with their wait, resorting in a peek at the directors’ notes. They don’t like what they find and what ensues is a comedy of one-upmanship, with each trying to convince the other that they are the better actor.

There are peaks of energy that would command a much bigger space – however the fact that the performance takes place on a pub’s basement stage is all the more fitting. Several acting clichés are played out fantastically – procrastination, vocal warm ups (“TENNIS! TENNIS?”) and bragging about being on Casualty all provoking knowing smiles in the audience. It’s good fun with a dark, philosophical edge and certainly warmed up a small audience for the second half of the evening.

Waiting for Waiting for Godot

Follow Jamie and Ben on Twitter: @PottedPlantshow

Kamchatka, a piece on its first public outing, finds two very different characters in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic America. This is for you to decide though, as the entire drama plays out in a living room (or cell?) around a complex board game. Tolstoy, a redneck in a string vest, is contemplating the lack of meat on his ribs, appearing to have once belonged to a dead man out in the hall. Glen, a nervous old man with a large beard and cowboy boots, is trying to explain how the board game works once again. The men are quite obviously trapped, both looking like they’ve not left the room in some time.

As the two attempt to understand each other, and the game before them, dark comedy and satire is peppered with political and social comment. Who are these people, and how did they get here?

It’s an absurd delight with real potential – the venue is limited but the duo make the most of it and as the drama reaches a peak, there’s a palpable tension in the room. The American accents need work and the sound of thudding feet in the pub overhead were a little distracting. But with more support, this company will go far.

Waiting for Waiting for Godot / Kamchatka is at The Assembly Inn, Bath on Friday 30th May. Get your tickets here.


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A Long Way Down – Review

This bittersweet story of four suicidal outcasts in London has been adapted from Nick Hornby’s novel for the screen.

It’s New Year’s Eve and, at the top of the most popular suicide spot in London, disgraced TV star Martin (Pierce Brosnan) is contemplating making the jump before being interrupted by three other would-be victims. They’re promptly put off the act upon learning that they’re not a lone and, perhaps out of desperation, agree to spend the next six weeks helping each other live.

The four misfits – media disgrace Martin, lonely single Mum Maureen (Toni Colette), failed musician JJ (Aaron Paul) and confused daddy’s girl Jess (Imogen Poots) – form a somewhat dysfunctional family, trying to turn the press attention into a life affirming story and, failing, escaping to Tenerife on holiday. Ultimately their mistakes, insecurity and past creep up on them, and the four unlikely friends’ loyalty is tested.

With a superbly mis-matched cast and great locations, A Long Way Down hits most of the right notes. One of the key challenges of book adaptations is pacing: as a result plot developments come thick and fast. Voiceover monologues are sometimes too sentimental for characters we’re not yet under the skin of, but it’s a sweet story that will leave you smiling.

Verdict: try the book if you want to be moved!


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Subject to Terms

How your caveats look to a consumer – and how to reduce them

This morning, I received an email from my mobile phone provider, promoting a new service that allows your data allowance to be shared across several devices.

The key message was simplicity: one plan, one bill. The email wasn’t very long, and had several calls to action – a button to find out more and a button to log in to your account. Overall, a great example of customer communications.

But then came the caveats.

Twice as long as the email itself, the terms and conditions laid out all terminology, criteria and limitations of the plan. In doing this, the key message of the promotion – simplicity - was contradicted. Of course, many services are subject to lengthy terms and conditions, but are made available when we’re further along in the customer journey, for example if we have clicked through to a dedicated webpage, or enquired through customer services.

But if you really must detail your terms outright, here’s a few ideas to minimise them:

> ‘Subject to terms and conditions of service: click here to find out more’ Or something to that effect.
> Use your measurement tools to find out who opened and/or clicked through the email. If they did, send a follow up email with more information about the product, and either detail or link to the Ts&Cs.

How do you handle your caveats?

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Great Expectations- Theatre Review



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