Play – ‘The American Clock’, The Old Vic, 4th March 2019

Two Arthur Miller plays in one week? Yes indeed. Not really planned, just one of those strange coincidences. What a shame that they weren’t both up to the same high standard.

Since I’ve already written a glowing review of the previous one, that’s probably already given away that I wasn’t a massive fan of this one. First of all, it’s LONG. 3 solid hours, a testing length for even the best of plays. And I certainly wouldn’t describe this as ‘the best of plays’. It has a good premise- telling the story of the Wall Street Crash and the subsequent Depression, and it’s fascinating to see the different stories being played out. I particularly liked the bit where the girl whose family owns an apartment house becomes popular as everyone wants access to somewhere to live; not to mention the most incisive line in the whole 3 hours, when a black man points out, ‘the Depression only became important when it started affecting white people’.

The staging deserves a mention- played out almost in the round and with live jazz music accompanying some scenes, it showed what the Old Vic does best in innovative theatre.

But. On the whole, I just found it confusing. I didn’t like the use of 3 different sets of actors/actresses to play the main family and I found it really odd how the story jumped around from one thing to another. I was left feeling sad, confused but not with a huge amount of understanding about the Depression.

Overall: Could have been better; a LOT better.

Play – ‘The Price’, Wyndham’s Theatre, 28th February 2019

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My friend S is my perfect sort of visitor. He gives me LOADS of notice that he’s coming, tells me he’d like to go to the theatre and asks me to do a shortlist of things I’d recommend and then we pick one in collaboration.

As usual I had plenty of ideas, but eventually our choice was the revival of Arthur Miller’s ‘The Price for several reasons. The reviews were excellent. Arthur Miller is usually a reliable choice. And- David Suchet was in it. Sure, I always think of him as ‘Poirot’, but he’s still an actor of immense skill.

And this production didn’t disappoint. Suchet was mesmerising and electric from the moment he first stepped on stage, but the rest of the cast were excellent too- I particularly liked Brendan Coyle as the hard-done-by Victor, and Sara Stewart as his wife who was so proud of her new suit. The relationship between the two brothers and the tension over the financial situation was beautifully drawn out.

A special mention must also go to the set- I’m a sucker for quirky unusual sets and this was one of the best, with a gravity-defying arrangement of furniture!

Overall: a well performed play with a very good cast; the good reviews are well deserved.

Musical – ‘Follies’, National Theatre, 18th February 2019

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Everyone who knows me knows that big slightly-cheesy musicals are my thing (I am SO EXCITED about ‘Evita’ at the Open Air Theatre this summer!) ‘Follies’ also came highly recommended by my friends K and D, so it was always a given that I’d round up a couple of other friends to go and admire the singing and high-kicks.

It probably doesn’t even need saying that I loved it. Janie Dee and Joanna Riding were spectacular as the two former-friends-who-became-love-rivals. ‘Losing My Mind’ was a haunting and fantastic song; indeed, the whole musical score was perfect, huge credit to Sondheim for not even one dud in my opinion.

But what really blew my mind was the dancing. Stunning synchrony and excellent choreography. I left wondering if I could leave my day job and retrain as a showgirl…

Overall: a beautiful, glamourous, huge show.

Exhibition – ‘Good Grief, Charlie Brown! – Snoopy & The Power of Peanuts’, Somerset House, 12th January 2019

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One of my many slightly random borderline obsessions is Peanuts. I have always, always loved these cartoons- when I was a kid and went to charity shops with my mum (which we did a lot…) the first thing I always looked for was Peanuts books and I usually found some, so I have quite a collection. They never fail to make me smile, not to mention giving me some wisdom- so I was VERY excited to see this exhibition.

It didn’t let me down, but perhaps that’s because I’m such a fan anyway (my friend K who I went with wasn’t so impressed). For me, it was a sheer joy to see some of the original illustrations, videos of Charles Schulz drawing, and to read the background behind the more controversial stories. It’s a tad pricey (well, what I mean is that I don’t get my usual 50% ART FUND discount, so I had to pay full price which I almost never do) but it was totally worth it.

Overall: Peanuts fan? You’ll love it and probably go photo mad… (click below if you want to see more of mine!)

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Exhibition – ‘Fashioned by Nature’, V&A, 1st January 2019

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Considering the IMMENSE impact this exhibition had on me, it’s astonishing that I only ended up there by accident!! I actually went to the V&A on New Year’s Day hoping to see the ‘Gingerbread Architecture’ exhibition… but sadly it was sold out. Since I was there, I made the snap decision to see ‘Fashioned by Nature’ instead (which was also on my hit list). I knew it would involve lots of lovely clothes and fabrics to look at, which indeed it did. What hadn’t occurred to me was that it would highlight to me how damaging and polluting the fashion industry is- one of the top 5 polluting industries in the world. Did you know it can take up to 700L of water to make one pair of jeans?!! And hence it led me to make a different New Years resolution from the same triad I make every single year (read more, write more, run more) and it is simply to buy no new clothes in 2019. I vaguely intended to buy fewer clothes last year, just as a money and space saving exercise, but I didn’t really stick to it- I think in December alone I bought 3 new tops, a dress, a pair of pyjamas and a pair of shoes. But now that’s it. 2019 is the year I say yes to #sustainablefashion #wastelesslovemore

Overall: You MUST see this exhibition. It’s not just about the pretty clothes. It’s about awareness… and if you’re me, it may change your life. Click below for more photos…

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Play – ‘Home, I’m Darling’, National Theatre, 17th August 2018

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I’ve mentioned before that there’s a risk when you belong to a group of keen theatregoers, that you find yourself seeing something you know nothing about. And that is exactly what happened to me with ‘Home, I’m Darling’, but luckily, it worked ENTIRELY in my favour because I absolutely loved this play.

Katherine Parkinson is a fantastic actress and I can’t imagine anyone but her playing Judy, complete with a fabulous wardrobe of 1950s outfits; she is absolutely magnetic and you hang on her every word as the story of the choices that she and husband Johnny have made unfolds. Also brilliant is Sian Thomas as Judy’s mum, reminding her that she only has the luxury of loving the 1950s because she never actually lived in it ‘everyone had to make do and mend things that were already broken’.

Overall: funny, poignant, sad and clever and Katherine Parkinson is perfect. NT run is sold out but make sure you catch the West End transfer.

Play – ‘A Monster Calls’, The Old Vic, Thursday 12th July 2018

One of the risks when you are part of a group of keen theatre-goers is that someone will message saying ‘do you fancy seeing X?’ and you immediately reply saying ‘yes’ without properly checking what X is (particularly if you generally like the theatre or if you generally agree with your friends’ taste). I’ve made this mistake before, particularly with opera (I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m not really an opera person, I’ve tried and tried but I’m not). Anyway, so that is how come I found myself on my way to the Old Vic with absolutely no idea what ‘A Monster Calls’ is about; because I like the Old Vic and my friend K (whose taste I generally trust) is similar to mine.

And in the end, it’s probably a good thing I knew nothing about ‘A Monster Calls’ because had I known it’s the story of a teenage boy losing his mother to cancer, I might well not have gone (for those of you who don’t know, I lost my mother to cancer, not as a teenager but 6 painful years ago). While it was sad to watch, I didn’t find it anything like as hard as ‘Calendar Girls Musical’ which I sat through in tears… And this stunning production had much to recommend it, from the performance of Matthew Tennyson as a wonderful Conor to the clever acrobatics and rope skills. The music really added to the overall ambience and gave a real feel of magic.

Overall: don’t be put off by the slightly sad subject matter; this is a beautiful piece of theatre.