Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Sound of Music national Tour 2015. Review of show at Milton Keynes Theatre on 27 May 2015.

Where do I start with a review of the sound of music?  Who hasn’t seen this film and adored it?  It is a part of my childhood, and even as an adult there is video footage of my sister and me singing ‘so long, farewell’.  (Which will never see the likes of YouTube!).  I have never seen it on stage before and was interested to see how it works.

Well the first thing to say about this show is the sets.  Whoever designed the sets is very very talented.  They are really amazing and you realise this within the first 10 minutes of the opening scene.  The songs are not in an expected order.  I did not expect ‘favourite things’ to be sung with Maria and the Mother Superior nor did I expect Do-Re-Mi to be the first number with the children.  The lonely Goatherd was sung during the storm which again I didn’t expect but I still really enjoyed the performances.
The children are involved throughout the whole of the show and were really the stars of the future.  Absolutely outstanding performances with their acting and singing.  Liesl (played by Grace Chapman) was especially outstanding for me.  She completely captured the innocence of that difficult 16, going on 17 age.  I enjoyed her performance very much.  I also enjoyed the performances of Max Detweiler (played by Howard Samuels) and Frau Schraeder (played by Sarah Soetaert).  They gave some light entertainment and humour and also sang two songs that are not in the film.  Sarah especially impressed me with every mannerism and movement fitting the character.  Absolutely fabulous performance!  Mother Superior played by Jan Hartley also needs a mention as do all of the nuns. Absolutely terrific.

This showing offered us Lynden Edwards as Captain von Trapp.  He seemed a bit nervous at first but soon settled down into the role.  And of course, how do I talk about Maria who is played by Danielle Hope.  She is well known for winning the Over the rainbow show to find a star for Dorothy.  Danielle is a natural onstage and her acting is superb.  I did feel a little sorry for her having to wear such a dreadful wig (which makes her look like Jane Horrock’s from Little Voice) but she made Maria her own so much we almost forgot about the wig.
I was singing along to all the songs we know and love – this is a joyous musical and a good time is guaranteed.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Tomorrow land – A world beyond anything I could imagine!

Let it be known I am a dreamer.  I love Disney cause it takes you to another world.  As a child I was often told off in class cause I was such a dreamer with imagination.

Many films that try to deliver a future world are a disappointment.  This is different.  This is a gem of a film. This film will inspire.  This film will give a new generation hope.  This film will give those of us a bit older than that the spark of dreaming that is knocked out of you as an adult.
This film made me feel like I was 12 years old again and that anything is possible.  That my wildest dreams are my future.  Remember your dreams?  Before the reality of being a grownup sets in? Well this film works in so many ways…I really believe in it.

The story starts with a young boy called Frank who is a dreamer.  He wants to win an invention competition but gets more than he bargained for when he is given a pin (or badge as we say in the UK).   The pin is a way to a new world.  Tomorrow land.  It is every bit as exciting as you would imagine it to be. Especially for Frank, the dreamer.
Then we meet Casey.  A bright teenager who is an optimist.  How can we fix the world?  It’s a good and valid question but one that her teachers don’t seem to want to answer.

If you wanted adventure in your life – this film is a roller coaster of adventure.  Casey finds a pin and realises what it offers.  A glimpse of another world.  Another future.  She goes in search of another pin and finds a sci-fi shop. I like this shop.  Any geek would. It is full of star wars memorabilia (is this because Disney own the new Star Wars franchise? ) The woman has her hair like Princess Leia and there is R2D2 and Han Solo frozen from The Empire Strikes back. (I really want one of those in my hallway!)  Athena saves Casey from the shop and drops her off at Frank’s house.  I love Frank’s house.  This should be a ride at Disney cause it is just amazing.  Who would think that sitting in the bath would be an escape route from robots!
Frank is played by George Clooney and I can say this is the best part he has had since Doug in ER! You can keep The Descendants and Burn After Reading – this is my kind of film and I enjoyed his role.  Hugh Laurie (another doctor actor) plays Nix. I am not sure if he is an intentional baddie or just misguided, but he does it very well.  The girls hold the film together. Both Casey, played by Britt Robertson and Athena played by Raffey Cassidy have charisma on the screen and make you want to watch them. This really is girl power in action.

Basically the film is about saving the world.  Of course it is.  But we know it’s gonna have a happy ending.  Why? Well one – It’s a Disney film. And two – Frank and Casey are talking at the beginning of the film to introduce it.
I am an optimist.  I am a dreamer.  I loved this film with all that I am and if you still have a spark of that dreamer spirit left in you…then like me you are waiting for your pin to be delivered any day now…


Friday, 8 May 2015

Not from me - but Ange Chan's feelings on the election result

The General Election results are clear
"The Tories will govern for five more years"
I personally feel utter devastation
And fear for the future of our great nation
Their party promise was twelve billion to slash
No thought for the nation's welfare, when asked
Public services cut to the core
You can't take nothing from nothing no more
An increase in fracking and ruining our land
More food banks for living fist to hand
More 'jobs for the boys' in financial quarters
More hardworking families lives are slaughtered
Poverty will increase, and riots will follow
I fear for our youth and all their tomorrows
Cash for peerage and zero hours
Whilst the NHS declines like milk that sours
Nurses, Firemen, Teachers, Police
Will continue the threat of being fleeced
Advantage taken of their chosen vocation
Whilst they toil and sacrifice for the good of the nation
Failure to curb the banking excess
We're facing a future of pure bleakness
Inequality rising 'tween rich and poor
We can't take this rubbish any more!
Protecting paedophiles without a thought
Armed forces left with no support
Pension retirement age has risen
Working for longer is now a given
Royal Mail sold and other assets
Just PFI in another facet
Voter apathy spoilt our chance
And now we'll be led a merry old dance
Our nation is already on its knees
Five more years? Do me a favour! Please!

If you like this, Ange has already two books out and her first novel is due out any day.

It cannot be true. Who voted Tory?

I was always taught not to discuss religion and politics.  It was to avoid heated debates or even arguments as people have strong feelings on these subjects.  However I have woken up this morning to the news that the conservatives have a majority and will be in power for another five years. I cannot just sit here and not speak up anymore.

This is the first election in my life that I have actively promoted voting for anyone who would help to get the Tories out and especially Labour as it seemed the only real option in England.  And Labour was the only party to actually knock on my door and spend time discussing my opinion of the issues.
Don’t get me wrong; I totally respect the democratic system and the fact people can choose to vote for which they think will benefit the country the most.  But looking at the evidence, how can those who voted Tory really understand what they have voted for?

I have worked in the charity sector since 2002.  So I have seen how charities function under both Labour and Conservative governments.  Let me say this loud and clear.  The conservatives have made people’s lives worse.  I have worked with those with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, Mental Health issues, visual and sensory impairments, long term illnesses and terminal illnesses.  I have personally seen and heard the stories of how people are truly suffering under the coalition. Some were so desperate they were on the phone to us for hours, crying and not knowing where to turn.  No wonder some chose to take their own lives. It is a heart-breaking situation.
Two of the charities I have worked for have folded recently under the coalition.  This is due to a lack of funds – and not because the work is not required.  With the social services departments under more pressure than ever and unable to provide the correct level of support, the vulnerable in our society really do need a voice.  I have always felt strongly about everyone needing an advocate now and again and working in this field has given me a real sense of job satisfaction.  The reason I think there are a lack of funds for charities are complex but a few suggestions are as follows:

·         The Big Society – yes remember that?  How people were going to give their time for free to help others?  Well all those volunteers need training, guidance and sometimes a DBS check (that used to be a CRB).  Volunteers do need managing.  We do not want to go back to the 1970s where no one was checked and we leave the vulnerable open to abuse.

·         Children in Need / Lottery – these are charities but exactly what do they do?  They get your money off you very easily because they are big and promoted on national TV.  But they don’t deliver any services other than distributing your money.  So now all those small local charities that used to get your money do not get it.  They struggle to shout about the good work they are doing.  And most cannot afford a professional fundraiser.  So the big charities get bigger and the small charities fold.

·         Austerity – yes people are poorer. People struggle to eat.  Struggle to buy their kids new shoes.  People are struggling.  So we cannot expect them to give to charity when they cannot afford to eat.  The British are some of the most generous people in the world for giving to charity but if they can’t afford to do it – who will?

I have personally been made redundant twice in the last two years.  Working in the charity sector means there is always a lack of money.  The money has to work twice as hard to make a difference.  I still feel passionately about helping others, but even I have to pay my mortgage.  I will take a job wherever I can get one – but my heart lies in the charity sector.  If you are a charity who needs an experienced and passionate volunteer manager – contact me!
But this blog is not about my asking for a job.  It is about those who need our support and compassion.  The conservative party lack compassion and really only care about the rich getting richer.  They are happy to watch people live on the streets as they cannot afford their mortgage or high private rents.  They are happy to take benefits off of those who cannot work to the point of starvation.  They are happy to watch people go to food banks.  Is this a Britain to be proud of?  Is this Great Britain?  It’s not great at all!

And finally when you thought things couldn’t get worse, Katie Hopkins will not be leaving the country as Labour didn’t win the election.  She is a good example of what is really wrong with the attitude of those who voted for the conservatives.
Today is a day that I am truly disappointed in those who chose not to vote.  Anyone who says ‘one vote won’t make any difference’ are so wrong.  We need change.  We need everyone to help us make this country a place where people want to live.  A place to be proud of.  A Great Britain.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Who is your favourite hero from the Avengers team? Avengers - Age of Ultron review

So who is your favourite hero from the Avengers team?
Is it Iron man who has all the gadgets and is rich and clever to boot.  (not unlike Batman!).  Or is it The Hulk who is sensitive but can be strong when needed.  We have Thor – a god from another dimension with a big hammer.  That must impress you surely? Or do you prefer Captain America – a real man with enhanced Strength.  There is also the Black Widow –  A deadly and beautiful assassin and of course Hawkeye, who is fast and accurate with his arrow.

Luckily you don’t need to choose when watching an Avengers movie as they all feature.  Personally I have always had a thing for Robert Downey Jr (who is on my list – hope he is reading this!).  But I can’t say I am not attracted to Thor.  I don’t like men with long hair.  I don’t go for blondes. But he is so polite and lets be honest – has more than his fair share of testosterone.  The Hulk – well I don’t know what it is but in several interviews I have found myself more and more attracted to Mark Ruffalo – no real idea why other than he has a winning personality.  Captain America – well to be honest I don’t like this superhero.  It too …erm…American. It says look at how wonderful America is. That doesn’t translate well to the UK.  But Chris Evans is very easy on the eye.  Jeremy Renner is traditionally what I would go for in looks but as a superhero he just doesn’t do it for me.  And that leaves the stunning Scarlett Johansson who most men and women would find attractive, but I also love her for her sassiness and confidence.
That probably doesn’t help you at all with your own decision about who is your favourite superhero, but let me tell you this about the new film.

It’s about AI. No not Al but AI – Artificial Intelligence.  It has two new people with extraordinary powers being introduced in this film.  The story is predictable but at least you can follow it.  So all good so far.  Hawkeye is featured a lot more in this movie and the love interest between The Hulk and Black Widow gets interesting.
In theory this film should have it all. So what was it about the film that I wasn’t convinced about?  Well what exactly was in the mission in the opening scene and what were they after?  What was that big metal looking dinosaur?  Why did they have Loki’s Scepter?  What is actually inside the Scepter?

I love a film about AI.  It excites me.  It could happen.  Okay not today, but its almost our touchable future. I like Ultron.  I know I shouldn’t but I do.  I didn’t understand why he wanted humans to ‘evolve’ or die. It never really made sense to me.  Why didn’t Jarvis have a bigger influence on Ultron?  I felt the film never really answered all my questions.  If you haven’t seen the film yet I sound like I’m rambling, but once you have seen it you may well ask the same questions.
So go and see the film.  And enjoy the action.  Try not to think too much about the storyline.