A lifestyle blog all about Birmingham, UK.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

REVIEW: 84 Charing Cross Road, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre


It is ironic that I picked up 84 Charing Cross Road in a little bookshop. I remember sitting in the shop, which was full of every single book you could possibly imagine, reading the first few pages and instantly buying it for a tiny 85p.

Since then, I have read it time and time again, and have fallen more in love with the totally charming story every time. So I was over the moon to finally see the stage adaptation at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre. 

The stage adaptation of Helene Hanff's classic novel 84 Charing Cross Road is a truly heartwarming story that follows a transatlantic friendship between New York writer Helene and Frank, a London bookseller.


The production, just like the book, follows the letters written between the two. Starting with Helene asking for incredibly specific books, the letters soon become about the two's totally different lives, and learning everything there is to know about each other. Other bookshop workers soon start writing to the infamous Helene too, eager to find out more about each other.
The play is based on the extraordinary true story of the remarkable relationship that developed over 20 years, which shows a snapshot of Britain from the post-war 1940’s to the swinging 60’s. From discussing every book you can imagine, through to holidays and careers; Helene and Frank could easily pass each other in the street, but they bond in such a remarkable way that its hard not to hope throughout the play that they will finally get the chance to meet.


85 Charing Cross Road has a stellar cast. There are only several actors on stage, but those taking on the two main roles are acting royalty. Taking on the role of sweet and charming Frank Doel is Clive Richards and making the role of the strong independent woman Helene Hanff her own is the incredible Stefanie Powers, known for various roles on Broadway and her best known iconic role opposite Robert Wagner in Hart to Hart. 

The set was the favourite part of the production for me. Split into two sections, one side was Helene's cluttered work space in her New York apartment. The other half was the London bookshop itself, and the letters sent to each other were read out loud, allowing the audience to see the correspondent's reactions to each section of the letter, which gave the production a whole new depth and the set really helped make the play such a success. 


The set made me glow with happiness, as it took me right back to the bookshop where I indeed purchased my copy of 84 Charing Cross Road all those years ago.
For me, there has always been something so endearing and romantic about writing letters to each other. In a world where we can now contact someone the other side of the world and have a reply on our screens within seconds, it made me long to go back to a time where writing letters were such a necessity in life. 

For me, the production was absolutely everything I wanted it to be. It was the most charming play I have ever seen, and I couldn't wipe the smile off my face for the whole show. The small sections of music in the play also brought something totally new to a story I already know well, and I really appreciated the different touches in the production that helped bring the story from the pages of the book to the stage. 

84 Charing Cross Road is on stage at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday, June 2nd. 

Rating: 9/10
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Monday, 28 May 2018

Dippy arrives in Birmingham



The event that Birmingham has been waiting for has finally kicked off - Dippy has arrived! I was fortunate enough to head along before it was open to the public, and I can confirm that the wait has been worth it!

As part of Dippy on Tour, Dippy is taking up residency in the Gas Hall at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery until Sunday 9th September. This is the only chance to see the 292-piece skeleton on display in the Midlands. 


90,000 tickets have already been booked to see Dippy in Birmingham. A limited number of walk up slots will be available every day for visitors without a ticket, but as the exhibition is expected to be busy, visitors are advised that there may be queues.

Dippy is part of a wider exhibition on display throughout the Gas Hall which explains how Dippy might have been the end of the line for herbivorous dinosaurs but the meat-eating dinosaurs continued to evolve. 

Bringing Birmingham’s colourful bird collection back to BMAG for the first time in nearly 20 years, the exhibition shows the amazing diversity of modern birds and how they evolved to become one of the most successful groups of animals inhabiting almost every part of the world from the oceans of Antarctica to tropical rainforests. 


Dippy on Tour: Natural History Adventure has been brought about by the Natural History Museum. Made possible by close collaboration with a wide range of institutions and organisations across the UK, this three-year tour aims to introduce 1.5 million people to the awe-inspiring exhibit.
The excitement and adventure goes beyond the walls of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. There will be a wide array of natural history related events and activities hosted at other venues around the West Midlands. From Wolverhampton to Coventry and Shropshire to Warwickshire, visitors are encouraged to explore the natural history adventures taking place in their local area. 


Throughout the exhibition Dippy’s presence will be felt throughout the museum, with lots of fun related activities to enjoy. There’s the Dippy family room, Dino Dig, curator’s tour, crafts and trails throughout the school holidays, and there will also be a Dino Children’s Menu in the Edwardian Tearooms.
To guarantee entry, free tickets must be booked here
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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

REVIEW: ART, Birmingham Hippodrome


Named one of the most successful play ever, ART, now on stage at Birmingham Hippodrome, has been packing in audiences for over 20 years; and it's no surprise why this play is such a success.

With laughter hitting the audience from just a few seconds into the play, the play guaranteed comedy and it certainly succeeded, with tittering from audience members turning into full blow belly laughing within minutes which continued throughout.


The concept behind the story line based on the friendship of three middle aged men is simple, but incredibly clever and very interesting. The most eccentric of the group, Serge, spends a whopping £200,000 on an all white modernist painting. It is essentially a white canvas, with a few lines here and there. His close friends Marc and Yvan are totally baffled by his extravagant purchase. But with an argument starting about a painting, brings huge fights about each other and makes each cast member question why they were all friends to begin with. 


Throughout the play, the audience soon realise that the play, written by Yasmina Resa and translated by Christopher Hampton, is very much less about the art, and more about the art of friendship itself.

The production has a stellar line up of established actors of both stage and screen. Just three actors take to the stage for the whole play, but it simply doesn't need anymore, especially with the excellent talent of three of the UK's most loved actors. Nigel Havers takes on the role of eccentric Serge, alongside Denis Lawson, who makes the role of super opinionated Marc his own and Stephen Tompkinson, whose role of Yvan was a highlight of the play.


One of the highlights of the play for me was the mini monologues that took place throughout the show, which gave the audience an insight into what each cast member was really thinking, and also allowed us to have much more of a connection with the production. The set was incredibly simple and very rarely changed, but it worked very well and meant that the whole play was all about the actors talents and the huge laughs they created.

Each actor, who we all recognise from our TV screens, was absolutely brilliant and captured each member of the audience. However, the highlight for me was definitely Stephen Tompkinson's role of Yvan was phenomenal, with his rant about his upcoming nuptials having each member of the audience in fits of laughter. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the play, I did feel like at times it was quite hard to keep up with. Despite this, it is a genuinely hilarious play that I totally recommend. 

ART rating: 7/10  

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Sunday, 20 May 2018

BBC Good Food Show to make summer return to Birmingham + WIN tickets to the event!




The ultimate foodie event BBC Good Food Show is returning to Birmingham for its summer event next month. 


BBC Good Food Show, which comes along to Birmingham's NEC twice a year, is a hugely popular event, and if you want to have an idea of just how good it is, take a look at what I got up to at the winter event here.

Taking place over four days, the BBC Good Food Show and BBC Gardeners’ World is coming to the NEC from Thursday 14th - Sunday 17th June and with one ticket, visitors will be entitled to enjoy both events.

As well as 500 exhibitors to go and have a good look at, there will also be a star-studded line-up of some of the country’s favourite gardeners, chefs, experts and bakers. 

The line-up includes BBC Two’s Gardeners’ World lead presenter Monty Don plus co-presenters including Carol Klein, Adam Frost and new to the Show this year, Mark Lane and Arit Anderson. Fellow television personality Alan Titchmarsh also joins the team on Friday. 

At the BBC Good Food Show, firm favourites Mary Berry, James Martin, Tom Kerridge, Michel Roux Jr. and many more will be cooking up a storm on stage in the Big Kitchen, with plenty more chances to see them around the show. 


This year’s BBC Good Food Show sees the return of a selection of fantastic shopping areas including the Producers’ Village and the Drinks Emporium.
New to the 2018 Show is the Eat Well zone, showcasing the best in vegan and vegetarian products, with expert advice and recipe ideas at the Show’s Summer Kitchen stage. 


Stepping outside, you’ll find the Show Gardens and top shopping for your garden. The Made in Birmingham garden will feature a railway embankment plot with allotment, wildflower meadow and a working steam engine with Pullman Dining carriage. 

The Wyevale Garden Centres Solutions Garden will display stunning best practice ways to deal with common issues such as soil types or shady areas; the Tesco Every Little Helps Garden offers up ideas for small changes that can make big differences; the Beautiful Borders will be full of small space ideas, plus much, much more. 

Whether inside or outside, you’ll find the best in cooking and gardening inspiration with live demos, Q&A’s, talks and plenty of advice. Plus, the chance to chat to a whole range of artisan producers and gardening experts. 

Fancy going along the event? Well, I have two sets of tickets to give away! I am running the competition on my Twitter and Facebook pages. 

To enter via Twitter, simply head here. To be in with a chance of winning, follow me on Twitter and Retweet the pinned post!

To enter via Facebook, head here. To be in with a chance of winning, like my Facebook page and share the pinned post!

The competition will end on Monday, 4th June at 9pm. Winner will be announced on Twitter and Facebook on Tuesday 5th June.

Please read the competition's T&C's before entering:

T&Cs:

1. The event runs from 14-17 June, at the NEC Birmingham 
2. Only valid on Thursday, Friday or Sunday; no Saturday admission 
3. Prize includes 2x entry passes – no travel, expenses or accommodation is provided 
4. General admission tickets do not include a seat in the Big Kitchen. Big Kitchen seats are available to purchase on the day for £3, subject to availability 
5. Not all celebrities appear on all days 
6. To enter via Twitter, you must have followed @bethaninbrum and retweeted the competition tweet to be entered
7. To enter via Facebook, you must have liked the @BethanInBrumBlog Facebook page and have shared the post
7. Giveaway ends 9pm on June 4th
8. Winners picked at random and will be notified by message on Twitter or Facebook after 7pm on June 5th
9. Contact information will be supplied to third party who will post your winning tickets directly to your home address 
10. The prize is for 2 pairs of general admission tickets, so there will be 2 winners 
11. Prize cannot be swapped for cash or sold on
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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

REVIEW: Crazy For You, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre



Toe tapping, high energy and super glam; if feel-good, classic musical theatre is right up your street, get ready to fall in love with Crazy For You. Now on stage at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, the show brings a a handful of new elements to the classic production and feels like a huge breath of fresh air. 

Crazy For You, with music and lyrics by the legendary Gershwin brothers, follows the story of Bobby, the son of a wealthy New York family who is yet to achieve anything in life, but dreams of being a Broadway star. He is tasked with leaving his fiance of five years and to close down failing theatre in Deadrock, Nevada, but in the process falls in love with the only girl in the town - Polly. But of course, the course of true love never did run smoothly - but in true musical theatre style, there is a magical happy ending. 

The production has a stellar cast, including Strictly Come Dancing star Tom Chambers, who took on the lead role of Bobby, Scouse siren Claire Sweeney, who embraced the role of Irene and West End star Charlotte Wakefield, who was simply made for the role of Polly, as well as a hugely talented ensemble. 


In fact, talented would be a total understatement with this ensemble as, unlike any other show I have seen before, they also played every single instrument on stage as well as taking on each of their individual characters. This added a whole new dimension to the production and made it super fun.
The show isn't all about the instruments either, the production is of course known for its fantastic score and variety of songs. From the upbeat Things Are Looking Up and I Got Rhythm to the more emotional numbers, including Someone To Watch Over You and But Not For Me, were performed brilliantly and had members of the audience toe tapping and singing along. 

However, although the singing was simply sublime, the dancing was on a whole new level. With top class tap dancing from Tom Chambers, and with the magic of the 1930s ensemble with their incredible outfits, the dancing took the show from good to hugely entertaining and completely brought the stage to life. 


The set was fairly simple, which gave more attention to all the other aspects of the show. However, it successfully took us from glamorous Broadway to the forgotten town of Dead Rock without any complications.
The cast were absolutely fantastic, and it was hard not to completely adore the total sass and effortless sex appeal of Claire Sweeney, as well as the hugely talented Tom Chambers, whose dancing completely owned the stage and comedic timing was hilarious. However, for me, the star of the show was the absolutely fabulous Charlotte Wakefield. Her portrayal of Polly Baker was so energetic and fun, yet she also helped to bring the emotion to the show and the role simply made for her. 

Crazy For You is musical theatre at its very best, a classic production with a modern touch or two and endless fun guaranteed. It is on stage at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday, May 12th. 

Crazy For You: 8/10
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