Monday, 17 June 2013

To see or not to see.

So as I've mentioned before, I'm a huge theatre fan. I've always loved acting and performing but I also love going to the theatre and also the cinema, so I thought I'd share with you some things I've seen recently as I'm trying to make the most of being home and close to London and other local theatres!

First up was the current touring production of 'Birdsong' which has come from the West End. I saw it at the Marlowe  Theatre in Canterbury and it was wonderful. The Sebastian Faulks novel is one of my favourite books and I remember reading it on holiday when I was 16 and crying by the pool! I adored last year's TV production, mainly due to Eddie Redmayne I'll admit and so I was excited to see it translated into the theatre.

As an ex-A Level drama student I'm prone to analysing theatre I'm afraid and having my friend Francesca with me who's just as keen meant we spent the interval marvelling at the set, costumes and lighting. All of which were fabulous. It has been adapted so that the main action is during the First World War with flashbacks to a summer a few years before in the same area of France. This meant the barbed wire of no man's land was always silhouetted at the back of the stage and all the action was haunted by shadows of the war. It definitely served to make the piece more powerful. There were also some beautiful performances and it was very moving, particularly the use of song and music. Definitely a production worth seeing!

Talking of must-sees, I was lucky enough to be taken by my aunt and uncle to see Helen Mirren in 'The Audience' as a belated brithday treat. And oh my was it worth the wait. She was AMAZING! Obviously we'd all seen her play the Queen before and I do sometimes feel surprised when I see the actual Queen and she's not Helen Mirren, but the ease with which she aged and skipped backwards and forwards through time was incredible to watch. It was obviously helped by the highly impressive costume and wig changes but her entire physicality and voice changed to match so well. The only thing greater than my admiration for her performance was my jealousy of the young girl (Bebe Cave I think) playing her as a child. Imagine being in your teens and sharing the West End stage with Helen Mirren: so so jealous! 

Sadly it has just finished its run but next week you can catch it at some cinemas as part of the National Theatre Live programme and I definitely would if you can! It's a very clever, very witty and ultimately a very moving play about someone who's had a constant presence in the life of the country for the past 61 years as well as in each of our own lives on some level or other. Yep I'm a royalist at heart!

My final theatre trip of the week was with my friend Vicky and was again a birthday treat, this time to see the brand new musical of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. It's still in previews but is definitely set to become a favourite I'd say! It's such a feel good story of dreams and imagination and the little boy playing Charlie absolutely melted my heart! In fact all of the children in it were so so good and I especially loved Violet's rapping and Veruca's pirouetting. The lyrics are very clever - even if some of the songs aren't that catchy - and the acting and staging full of energy as you'd expect. But it was the sets and special effects that really stole the show...

Sam Mendes has pulled out all the stops and the reported £10million budget has been put to good use to create the incredible world of Willy Wonka. I don't want to give to much away, but the Great Glass Elevator flying through a starry sky as Willy Wonka and Charlie duet on 'Pure Imagination' gave me goosebumps: absolutely magical!

Onto films. The first isn't one I've seen recently but this new film of 'Much Ado About Nothing' by Joss Whedon was released on the 14th June. I was lucky enough to attend a press screening with my uncle and so got to see this way back in January. But now all of you can go see it too! And you should, especially if - like me - you're a Shakespeare fan. This is actually my favourite Shakespeare play and I am a big fan of the Kenneth Brannagh and Emma Thomson film so this was going to have to impress! But it did. I loved the simple setting (in Whedon's own house in Santa Monica) and the relaxed feel was perfect for the story and Shakespeare's own script. I just love the fact that Whedon literally invited some friends - actors he'd worked with or wanted to work with - over for 12 days and shot a movie. The fun was infectious but it was also very clever and moving when it needed to be: a lovely version of a wonderful play!

For something on a slightly bigger scale, 'Man of Steel' is finally out! I have to admit I was slightly disappointed. Maybe it was because I didn't really know the Superman story that well but I felt there was way too much outer space alien type stuff going on and not enough of the Superman/Lois Lane romance! Henry Cavill is gorgeous as expected and there are some great bits in the middle section where we see a young Clark Kent struggling with his powers, but the final fight sequence dragged on a bit with a few too many explosions and collapses for my liking and I must say I found it tricky to take it too seriously when the antagonist was called General Zod...

Last but not least is a film I've actually already seen twice in the cinema. Baz Luhrman's 'The Great Gatsby'. I can't tell you how excited I've been for this! 

I studied the book as one of my English A-Level texts and it quickly became a favourite. 
I loved the Mia Farrow and Robert Redford film when I saw it. 
I think Baz Luhrmann's films are fabulous and 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'Moulin Rouge' are two of my favourite films.
I've thought Carey Mulligan is amazing ever since 'An Education'.
And finally, I'm in love with Leonardo di Caprio.

So yes, I was expecting a lot, expecting to love it. And I did.

All of the magic and excitement is there, with the crazy party scenes, the colours, the sounds (the soundtrack is a must have for your iTunes!) and the beautiful but tragic love story at the heart of it. I've now seen it in both 2D and 3D and I have to say that the 3D did just make it 'pop'!

If you haven't already, go see it! Fitzgerald's beautiful words are still there and I had another goosebump moment with those famous last lines and throughout you really do believe in di Caprio's Gatsby and his belief in his dream of Daisy. Visually it's beautiful, some of the acting is beautiful and if nothing else, the cast is hardly bad looking either! 

Hope you don't mind this rambly review type post, I just thought it would be nice to do something a little different!

All pictures are from Google Images.

Au revoir.

All too soon on holiday it comes to an end, and before we knew it there was one day left before the long trip north to home and work and school...oh wait that was everyone else, for me it was just more freedom! But it was still sad to say goodbye.

For our last day out we headed to Pézenas for the morning markets.

I absolutely love markets. The different sights and smells and sounds make each one unique and I love how you can have a stall selling fruit and veg right next to these beautiful woven baskets in a rainbow of colours.

We feasted on delicious salted caramel ice cream before exploring all the cute little shops tucked away down winding alley ways, including this magnificent sweet emporium!

For the afternoon we decided to take it slow and enjoy a boat trip down the canal whcih had been our neighbour for the week.

A lovely relaxing way to see the canal (much less work than on the bikes) and the perfect way to end a glorious week after all the stress and excitement of exams and the end of term!


After the epic bike ride we all woke up rather sore and achy but managed to drag ourselves out of bed and into the sunshine to explore Montpellier...

Not entirely sure what this building was but it was very beautiful and the sandstone was such a lovely golden colour in the sunshine.

Siân managed to find a statue of unicorns: her favourite!

Siân's skirt is Zara and her leather jacket is from Topshop

Montpellier is a beautiful city made more beautiful by the weather. I loved the mock Arc de Triomphe in the centre, almost felt like Paris!

We then headed to the Place Royal du Peyrou with its beautiful views from the hilltop and this stunning building fronted by a pool.

It felt like the top of the world!

Then on to the Place de la Comedie with its cafes and fountains. With the beautiful weather it felt very European and very French and we had a delicious meal in one of the nearby squares.

Our last stop before home was the botanical gardens. I wish we had more gardens in towns like this in the UK, when I was in Australia last year every city had beautiful gardens usually right in town and they were perfect for escaping during the day. 

All in all a beautiful visit to a beautiful town and a proper 'holiday' day with sunshine, good food and pretty sights!

Tour de France.

When you're on holiday laying by the pool, strolling round towns and along beaches, eating too much delicious food and treating yourself to too many ice creams just gets boring doesn't it?

No? Me neither. But my mother is a firm believer in keeping busy and so it was that we found ourselves at Fonserannes and its nine locks hiring bikes and setting off along the tow path of the Canal du Midi for an epic bike ride.

We wound our way along the tree lined tow path waving at passers by sunning themselves on the decks of their boats.

We passed through a tunnel, out the other side and were then greeted by this rather long flight of steps. We gave up hauling the bikes up in the end and went back through the tunnel and over the other side: some things are too much for a holiday and lifting bikes up stairs is definitely one of them.

Our reward for our efforts was a delicious lunch at a restaurant along the banks of the canal. I had the scallop and leek tart with a mixed salad and masses of warm crusty bread and it was scrummy!

But even better was the desert, profiteroles filled with toffee ice cream served with warm chocolate sauce, chopped nuts and chantilly cream: the perfect fuel for the long ride home!

30km later and with a very sore bum we were back in time for a crepe or two and an evening on the sofa recovering!

Carcasonne and Narbonne.

So you head down to the south of France for a break and a bit of sun and what do you get? Rain.
It looked like the sun might prevail and make its way through the clouds when we left the house, but by the time we reached the medieval town of Carcasonne it was well and truly raining. So umbrellas at the ready we battled the elements into town and took refuge with hot chocolate and chips whilst the worst of it passed.

Once the rain had calmed down a bit it was time to visit the magnificent castle. We decided we definitely felt like the Starks heading to Winterfell (casual Game of Thrones reference, I'm cool I know). It's such an impressive fortress with its towers and keeps and looks very intimidating up on the hill.

The boys tried their hands at a quick sword umbrella fight

We found a cute little place for lunch where we could warm up by a fire and block out the weather and after making the mistake of ordering the bolognaise I ended up swapping it for most of mumma's excellent steak frites! 

As we were leaving Carcasonne the sun finally came out and so we made a detour on the way home to Narbonne.

The cathedral was beautiful with incredible stained glass windows and beautiful architecture with wide sweeping arches and spikes and turrets and the sunshine only improved it.

We were home as the sun started to go down so I grabbed my camera and walked along the canal to make the most of the evening light.

Beautiful huh? 

Beziers et beaching.

Ok I've been useless at blogging but this is a massive catch up lot of posts!

Another glorious day en France.

The sun was shining so we breakfasted on fruit and pastries before heading out to explore the nearby town of Beziers.

The whole gang together

 After strolling round the town and seeing the cathedral and view from the hillsides we headed to the nearest beach to walk with the sand between our toes and run squealing up into our ankles and out again! 

Goldne sand and aqua seas made the perfect backdrop to our little photoshoot

Miles and Siân playing the part of lovers strolling down the beach

 The beach is the quintessential holiday experience: footprints in the sand, picking up the prettiest shells and we even slipped in cocktails at a beach bar! The perfect lazy afternoon.

Our exploring wasn't finished yet though! We went for a stroll along the canal in Agde before a slightly disappointing mixed seafood platter...

But onwards and upwards and we were off to Colombiers, the village we were staying in. It was full of twisting lanes and alleys with cute brightly painted doors and climbing roses up the walls. A picture postcard view of a quaint little village in the south of France.

And all the excitement went to my head and made me dizzy as I spun round and round in circles to make my skirt fly out and soak up the last few minutes of sunshine!

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