Category Archives: Review

Jane Eyre Tour

It is a reasonably well known tale, orphaned child reluctantly brought up in disdain by Aunt, sent off to an ‘educational institution’ at the age on ten. Many years later the child as an adult is a teacher in the same institution, working for bed and board, wishing for something better. She secures a post of Governess at an isolated mansion for a child, where Jane for the first time has freedom, warmth from friendship, and a sense of inner contentment. When the master returns from his travels, his aggressive demeanour, their differing stations in life, her straightforwardness, fuel a tender passion. But there is a heavy secret, locked in the attic is his mad first wife. When Jane discovers the truth she runs away from the lies and the liars as well as trying to distance herself from the distress and disappointment, however something draws her back, and when she returns she finds the mansion in ruins and Mr Rochester blinded from injuries. 

Both my sister and I had seen several adaptations of this classic Charlotte Brontë story.  As this was a National Theatre production we knew it was not going to be the traditional theatrical setting, however as we took our seats the stage was set with what looked like a grown-up sized childs playground climbing frame. Slowly the auditorium began to fill but with just five minutes before curtain up, there were still more than half the seats vacant. The complete cast of 12 took up their starting positions.  Whilst the dialogue, accents and costume stayed close to the original story, the staging was contemporary and sometimes difficult to properly grasp its concept and symbolism. The introjection of music and singing sometimes felt disconnected. By the third act seeing the quiet cast move and climb up and down the various ladders and stairs without seemingly purpose, became rather annoying and children climbing in the playground.

This in no way means the performance was bad. The actors did a brilliant job of portraying the various characters, and by far the most enjoyable was a bearded gentleman who played the part of Pilot the dog, who often raised a mild laughter from the audience with his instantly recognisable dog like antics. The actor portraying the arrogant Mr Rochester brought with it a sense of distraction, of brooding resentment of how his life had been mapped out for him by his father without making him evil or wicked.

For us the thing missing from the production was the sense of a sinister secret. In everything we have seen or read there was always a sense of foreboding, of Jane being told not to go into the attic, of sounds and happenings that indicate all is not right. There was absolutely none of this at all throughout the whole performance, only twice was manic laughter heard. For us it was a significant element that was missing.

With a mixture of live music and recorded sound effects these had a tendency to drown out the dialogue of the actors, and on occasion I felt I had missed a vital piece of information that carried an element of the story. This is not unique to this production but something I have experienced at other performances at this Theatre.


Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Books, Films, Review


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The Play That Goes Wrong

The Comley Polytechnic Am Dram group ‘attempt’ to stage the acclaimed murder mystery, the leaders directorial debut (pronounced day-boo) “The Murder At Haversham Manor” set in the 1920’s. They are excited to bring this to the stage as  their limited cast and tight budgets have somewhat hampered their past productions of James And The Peach, Snow White and a few Tall Broad Fellows, and Cat.  However not everything goes to script!

The fun starts before the start, as the auditorium is filling the stage hands are asking if anyone has seen a dog, a springer spaniel with brown ears called Winston. On stage there is a door that won’t stay closed, every time someone closes, slams it, pushes and holds it closed, it slowly opens, of course at the start of the first act it sticks resolutely shut. The mantle shelf keeps falling down and an audience member is enlisted to hold it while a stagehand gets enthusiastic with sticky tape.

From beginning to end there are numerous mishaps of physical, verbal, set and props. But stoically the play must go on. The split second timing of stunts and interaction is incredible. The whole audience were in fits and waves of laughter throughout, I am sure we drowned out the Take That gig at the football stadium. The dexterity of positioning, the glamorous fiancé of the murdered Lord, the flamboyant over acting of the lord’s Brother in Law, the faithful butler who had the difficult words written on his hand or cuff which he mispronounced (morose, as mo-rose, cyanide as Ki-an-idd, philanthropist as Philand-rope etc). The slap stick antics of trying to move the corpse onto the stretcher, or when trying haul the unconscious fiancé through the window makes you wonder why they are not covered to bruises or marks because dumbies are not used in place. 

Valiantly battling on as the stage collapses around them, we reach the denouement, the Police Inspector did it.

This absolutely is the most hilarious entertainment I’ve ever seen. I’d go again, tonight, to see it and strongly recommend you do too. To this, or any other Mischief Comedy productions, Peter Pan Goes Wrong and The Bank Robbery That Goes Wrong.  But take hankies, or a hand towel, you will be crying with laughter!


Posted by on June 16, 2017 in Life, Review


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Running Wild

Last night Big Sis and I went to see this amazing play, an adaptation of Michael Morpergo’s 2009 novel about the Boxing Day Tsunami in Indonesia in 2004.  Lily Macready was riding Oona the 12-year old elephant along the beach, but she was behaving awkwardly, wanting to turn away from the flat calm waters, her flight or fight senses took hold and she took off deep into the rainforest as the devastating wave hit the shores taking the lives of many and destroying countless buildings.  The story details how Lily learns to understand Oona and how this majestic animal protects and guides her young charge. Stumbling into the dark dangerous world of greedy gun wielding animal hunters and bullying farmers burning the forest to plant plams to make the highly profitable palm oil (used in many products from soap and shampoo to cooking oils and convenience foods). Eventually stumbling into an animal sanctuary, sunburnt, shot, dehydrated and exhausted and being reunited with her Grandma.

I was not prepared for the play to be so dark and violent in places, something which noticeably upset the young children in the audience. The plot brought attention to the environmental plight of the region, the global zealous need for commodities and the cruel lengths the ruthless go to exploiting that market. 

Oona the elephant is mesmerising, her puppeteers seemingly effortlessly bring life to this charismatic character. The orangutans were lively, cheeky and the babies (being hunted to be sold as pets) were utterly mischievous. Even the tiny details as the fire flies were completely believable. There was a palpable gasp from the audience as the tiger was carried into the hunters camp, dead, valuable as a skin, a trophy, medicine, even though earlier we had seen the same tiger attempting to attack Lily and Oona. 

I would have liked Oona’s trumpet call to be a little louder, as compared to the volume and depth of the orangutans and forest noises it was almost overpowered. Also, we did not really get a sense of time Lily was missing, whether it was a couple of days or a couple of weeks.  But none the less it was a very engaging performance.

After coming home I took a look online to see if I could find out a bit more, and ended up confusing myself further. I thought the story was based on a true life event, although there was a story of a child being taken into the forest on the back of an elephant, Michael Morpergo’s book tells the tale of a boy called Billy, yet the play is a girl called Lily.  There was very little information about what Lily had experienced, or whether she stayed in Indonesia or returned to the UK, whether her father had died prior to the holiday and whether her Mother was killed in the Tsunami, key elements in the plot.

Never the less, I would recommend going to see the performance.


Posted by on April 27, 2017 in Books, Life, people, Review


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Granny & Death & Terry & Me

It began by chance, a book sent in error from a club, a blurb that struck a chord, that became a twenty year trek through the wit, the word play, the entendres, the sideways swipe, the unobvious parody, the literal and the Literal musings of a man’s meanderings of a fantasy land. I have no idea why Sir Terry caught my imagination, whether there’s enough reality in the fantasy to hold a ring of truth or I was just entertained.

When two of his books, Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music were made into an animated series, I practically wore the VHS out watching them over and over, the colourful characters firmly in my mind I could see and hear them as I read and reread the books. The dulcet tones of Tony Robinson reading the audiobooks often accompanied sleepless nights.  Later when tomes like Hogwatch, Going Postal and The Colour of Magic were filmed, they were top of my birthday/Christmas lists, staying close to the story, capturing much of the books comedic quality without tipping over into absurdity. 

Every one of the forty-one works has had its own flavour, often parodying cliches of religion, science, mythology, folklore, business acumen, dynasties and continents or authors like Shakespeare, Tolkein, Dicken’s and Potter.  A few of his notable characters have burrowed and set up home in my psyche, Granny Weatherwax and Death being the primary.  I can loose hours perusing numerous quotes or mini scenes. Such as (in exaggerated witchy hag voice), “When shall we three meet again”, “I can do next Tuesday” replies Nanny Ogg in her West Country tone; or “On nights such as this, witches are abroad.  Well, not actually abroad. They don’t like the food and you can’t trust the water and the shamans always hog the deckchairs.” In this time of election decisions I’m reminded of Ankh-Morpork’s take on democracy, “Ankh-Morpork had dallied with many forms of government and had ended up with that form of democracy known as One Man, One Vote. The Patrician was the Man; he had the Vote.”

With the death of Sir Terry and the publication of The Shepherd’s Crown, the final novel, something had an end. I delayed reading the book as I wasn’t ready to say good bye to this comforting friend. Last week I took up the book and began. The first few chapters were pure Pratchett even if the content was the death of my favourite character, but after that the book felt disjointed and unpolished. After the epilogue Sir T’s PA Rob added a letter, he told of their working methods and how books came together, but with the last book there had not been the time to fully work on the drafts, although often the final draft had to be crowbarred from his hands as Sir T was ever quite totally ready to say it was complete and done. It’s well known that this is not his finest, but it is his last and maybe demonstrates that despite his failing mental faculties he was determined to write to the end and not leave us hanging.

Farewell Sir T, Granny and all. 


Posted by on April 22, 2017 in Books, people, Review


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The Book Thief


This read was recommended to me by a fellow blogger sometime ago and when the book was available on offer, I plumped for it.  It tells the tale of a small child growing up just outside Munich during the Second /world War.  It is narrated by the fictional persona of Death, of things that happened across a brief number of years, to her and those around her.

We have all been taught and told about the war, the battles and conflicts, the soldiers, sailors, resistance workers, we’ve seen films and television shows about war time Britain and how it affected various lives in various areas of our island.  I’ve read accounts of the occupation of Jersey but never have I come across anything relating to ordinary people living ordinary lives within Germany, during this epic period in history.

Liesel experiences a great deal of hardship, the disappearance of her father, the death of her brother, the distress of her mother, all which bring her to Hans and Rosa Hubbermann, her foster parents.  Strangers become her closest kin and she sees first hand the power of word, the unity of struggle and the erroneous understanding of a dictator.  How work became a struggle, rationing cripplingly severe, the affects of suspicion, forever being watched, every action suspicious, division within family and tragedy after tragedy.  Words are her saviour, learning to read, to write, to understand all that kept the nightmares away.

The twists, turns and fear through out the book are gripping, the people technically an enemy but really victims, just the same.  A generation of youngsters whose childhood, education, life, has been like no other.  A nation today that would be deep in the grips of PTSD. in an age where you just got on with it.

Enjoyable read, it wrong to say, it kept me enthralled, it shone a light on an area I had not thought about, it entertained and showed strength of character within these people.  It maybe a fictional story set in a real life time, but I am sure there were many people who could relate to her experiences and probably experienced worse.

I rated it 5*


Posted by on September 22, 2015 in Books, Review



Alan Cumming :: A Memoir


Rarely have I come across a book, especially a biography, that was so page turningly gripping, when I do, it stays with me after I turn the final page, there is a sense of wishing for it to continue and an astounding amount of wonderment.  This book is firmly in my top five of those books.

This is not the run of the mill celebrity life biography, the rage to riches, poverty to prosperity, violence to vindication, with extreme luck and persistence.  The book comfortably switches between three areas, “Then” is the period in Alan’s history that highlights a personal decision or illustrates a cause, “2010” the filming of his episode of “Who Do You Thin You Are?” and the “Now” the time of writing in 2012.

We all have those triggers in life, a smell, a sound, a place, that take us straight back to a memory either warm or cold.  For Alan who describes the fear and violence of his childhood as something locked away in the box in the attic of his brain, an unexpected phone call from his estranged father caused the hinges on that box to collapse and a life time of suppression had to find somewhere to go.

Walking alongside him as he discovers the history of his maternal grandfather Tommy Darling, while keeping what was bubbling and boiling in his private life, you wonder how this cheeky charming bouncy Scot can keep the smile on his face and in his eyes.

I don’t want to go into the contents of the book as it would spoil it for other readers, but this agonising memoir, part mystery, part tragedy, part history, is such a strong moving read I cannot recommend highly enough to those who like this genre.


Posted by on August 11, 2015 in Books, people, Review


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More Fool Me


After enjoying the first two instalments of Mr Fry’s biographies, and the dashed naughty cliff hanger he left at the end of the second one, I was eagerly waiting with anticipation and some degree of expectation the next thrilling missive.  When it first came out I rushed to Amazon and then headed away again, some stupidly picked price was asked, I’ll leave it on my wish list until it is well into single pounds thank you very much.

Thus Kindle told me it was what I deemed affordable and I downloaded it, fully aware of some of the non-favourable reviews I had read.  Many complained that the first 100 pages were a repeated what had been told in the first two, well that is the thing with a continuing series, if your first read is book three then you need telling the snapshot of books 1 and 2, this also helps if it has been some considerable time between reading the volumes, but if you have read them back to back or have an exceedingly good memory, the yes, the stories of expulsion, imprisonment and the anecdote of PoW and Princess Di popping round for tea, are repetitive.  And Stephen addresses this rather amusingly himself as he writes, telling the reader to move it to the —> for the new stuff.

So to the ‘new’ stuff.  This can be split into three areas.  The lecture on the history of, access to and effects of cocaine.  This was more tedious than the re-review of past books.  Okay so I did learn the origins of the word coca-cola [bet you didn’t know that the leaves of the coca plant contain cocaine, an original ingredient of said drink].  But in truth there was nothing in this section that gave insight into why this drug became a popular habit.

This was followed by an ‘extract’ from Stephen’s diary, it covered a considerable chunk of the book and seemed to be an endless stream of going to voice over recordings, writing scripts/sketches/books, bouts of filming or book signings, with smatterings of premiers and first nights attendances, before cabbing with a group of ‘names’ to some swanky eatery or heading to the Groucho Club to score some charlie, play snooker or perudo [dice game] and generally drink, drink and drink before falling into beddybies at something o clock of the wee hours.

The final section, not more than a reasonable chapter in length, seemed to be more of a musing of how he feels about himself, self loathing and undeserving, how life makes a fool of him.

The read was disappointing, but will not put me off reading the next one [if/when there is one] because it occurred to me as I was waiting for morpheus to take over, that we all have periods in our lives where we just ‘are’.  Previous to this Stephen was telling of his childhood and how his life lessons were learnt, his adolescence and forays into adulthood, his educational/talented achievements that produced a target.  This book was more about having reached the target, the maintenance and the absolute change in life style.  The diary entries were/are how it was, when your skills are in demand and your social circle are at the same level.  For many people this is the period of their lives where partners and found and ceremonies cemented before the patter of tiny feet and responsibilities change, Stephen  experienced this vicariously because it was his brother and sister and friends who were having those changes.

In all the book was not bad, it was not as expected, but it seemed to have fallen short of its potential. Of course there is also the possibility that the subject means I expected more than there was to give.


Posted by on August 8, 2015 in Books, Review



Amazing Grace

I re-watched this moving film last night.  I knew very little of this period in history, other than a couple of names and recall watching the first time because it is historical, it had Ioan and Benedict in it.

It covers the period in William Wilberforce’s life where he tries to bring through parliament the Abolition of Slavery Act, during a time when many direct and indirect industries were reaping greedy amounts of riches from the backs of Africans, shipping and sugar plantations.  As humans we rarely want to think about the full consequences that bring us what we want [how many of us could really visit a slaughter house but would clamour for a good steak or sizzling bacon, how many of us think of sweat shop working conditions but begrudge paying extra for ethically traded clothing, I am as big a hypocrite on this score as anyone].

Politics and its ugliness, it most devious and scheming thwarts attempts time after time.  We meet John Newton [excellently portrayed by Albert Finney] in his monastic years, his spirit and dreams haunted by the thousand of slaves he had on his ships, and the bodies he threw overboard.  Known to the educated as the author of the hymn, he implores and encourages Wilberforce to struggle on.

Eventually he succeeded, but only be a lighty devious means.  Often when his motion was put to the house the opposition would ensure they had all their people there ready to vote.  So, a bill was introduced by another with regard the use of ‘neutral flags’, where ships often flew them to avoid being attacked and boarded by privateers.  A boring bill, a piece of nothing, but all too late did Lord Tarleton realise that by banning the use of ‘neutral flags’ the slave ships and sugar ships could not carry their cargo safely and thus a resounding victory saw the start of this country’s abolition of slave labour.

The portrayal of these men is colourful and impressive and gives insight to the period excellently, but it is the very end as the credit begin to roll that so do my tears.  It starts with a lone piper, in full dress uniform slowly marching through the amassed company playing the haunting strains of Amazing Grace, shortly the remainder of the pipers join in, as the lone piper continues his slow march.  As the piper progresses and the camera pans back you see the drummers as the begin.  Until finally the whole band is together in harmony.  The building up on the layers is goose-bumping and to my ears no piece of music is ever as ‘right’ as bagpipes and Amazing Grace.

A blight on our countries history, one of quite a few really, but we do find enlightenment eventually.


Posted by on October 30, 2014 in Films, Review



Secrets Of The NoteBook – Eve Haas

Secrets Notebook

This is a true story of one womans curiosity about the contents of a notebook placed in her hands by her father on her sixteenth birthday, that her mother kept hidden and refused to pass to her, because no one was ever supposed to look deeper into its pages.

When Eve’s mother died the first thing she sought to find from the dressing table was the notebook. Within its pages was the snips and hints of a royal marriage that has been almost removed from every historical record [even wikipedia doesn’t mention it!], across some thirty years Eve and her husband slowly and with bravado and determination sought out more.  But this would not be easy, it was the 1970’s, they were Jews, born in Eastern Germany but by luck and skill had left before all avenues were closed, but not all did.  Eve’s own beloved grandmother “I’m really a duchess you know shhhh” was taken by the SS in Prague sadly dying of age, neglect and exhaustion enroute to Auschwitz, never knowing that the contents of the notebook would have saved her life.  Returning during the height of the cold war and communist paranoia, where at any moment they could be imprisoned without recourse to diplomatic assistance – quickly discovering their every move and word was being followed.

The inscription delicately written on the first page read “The beautiful owner of this book is dearer to me than my life – August your protector”.  August was Prince August of Prussia [1779-1843], she was thought to be Emilie Grottschalk.  It was not until their incredible luck in gaining access to the archive papers housed in the imposing Castle at Mersburg, East Germany that an incredible tale of love, persecution, social disobedience and morganatic marriage that truth is revealed.

It was a lovely read of tenacity and strength, how yet again convention and power dictated the behaviour of many, to the point that for the safety of an innocent child, incomprehensible steps were taken to hide her, that three generations later, so well hidden ancestors would be murdered.


Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Books, Review



Tess of the d’Urbervilles – T.Hardy


This is one of those books [along with Lorna Doone, Jamaca Inn, Mill On the Floss, etc] that a reader feels they should read, I can recall them being on suggested reading lists at school when we had book reports to do as term homework.  This digitised form from the original was soon winged to my Kindle for my delights.  How glad I am to have read it now and not when I was a teen, the language alone would have bewildered me.

Tess Durbeyfield is the eldest daughter of an impoverished man who in passing discovers he is the descendant from the extinct nobled family of d’Urberville’s and is referred to as Sir John, but the drunken poverty and hand to mouth existence in rural wessex barely keeps his roof leak free.  Tess is sent on a path to find an ancestor in a hope that some good fortune may come their way, whether by association or marriage.  The story really highlights the utter hypocracy of the self righteous rigidity of the social morality at that time.  A man can chase, woe, seduce or take any woman he wishes and is seen as a strong man, a manly protective fellow, but if a woman is chased, seduced and/or taken before that band of gold is on her finger she is branded for life as wicked, immoral and a blght upon the character of any man who subsequently takes to her; and that it was her fault for causing the men to do so to her.

Wronged by a man who she innocently trusted, and thrown into heart wrenching tragedy, she seeks solace, an escape somewhere where she is not known, in hard work.  Here she happens upon a better man who quickly adores her and in gentlemanly fashion courts her, she finding herself in the midst of true love relents to marry him, fretful and fearful what her past secrets would do to this pure delicate emotion.  Her salvation is hard lived, and a mix of misunderstandings, pride, undeservedness part them and the hardest of labours eek out a dire existence for Tess.  Things get worse when the fearful figure from her past reappears and twists her mind, wears down her resolve and convinces her of things he has no knowledge of.  The climax is ultimate and leaves the reader in reflection of what might have been, if only …..

The pace of the book was even until the last three or four chapters which seemed hasty, almost as if Hardy was not sure how the book would end but when he decided hurried to get there, maybe there was a publishers deadline.  Several times I felt myself wanting to scream at the focused character “Just say …..”, but as with other works, pride, fear, conventionality gag the person from speaking the truth and makes for gripping reading.


Posted by on October 28, 2014 in Books, Review