A lifestyle blog all about Birmingham, UK.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

REVIEW: Festive Menu at The Lyttelton Arms, Hagley

FINALLY being able to blast All I Want For Christmas is You at least 34 times a day, cosying up on the sofa to watch The Holiday (Two words: JUDE LAW) and being genuinely ecstatic at the thought of opening at least three new pyjama sets on Christmas morning; it’s safe to say the festive season is back and is it just me, or is it bigger than ever? 

As much as I love Mariah Carey and the love of my life (apart from my Fiancé) Jude Law, one of my absolute favourite aspect of Christmas is getting all dressed up and heading along to a restaurant to try out their festive menu. Because let’s face it, the festive menu is always the very best one they have! So I was delighted when I could put aside my Greggs Festive Bake aside for an evening, and head along to check out what The Lyttelton Arms, just down the road from me in Hagley, is offering festive menu enthusiasts this year.

When we first sat down, we were treated to the restaurant’s Christmas cocktail. You know me, I love Christmas, but I love cocktails more! The Sipsmith Bramble Royale was a total dream; spiced bramble gin topped with Prosecco, which was, of course, super tasty and the perfect start to the meal.

We quickly moved onto the food, and I was really impressed with the festive menu, with something for just about everyone. The menu includes Salmon Fillet, Steak, and of course, a full blown Christmas dinner with Turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings. 

For starter, I went for the Smoked Salmon and King Prawn Pot, which was topped with Devon crab crème fraiche and served with ciabatta. It was divine, and an incredibly generous portion. My guest went for the Deep-Fried Brie, coated in panko breadcrumbs, with a spoonful of spiced fruit and sloe gin chutney. Again, another very happy guest! 

For mains, I went back and forth for as long as I could between two dishes; the Roast Turkey (God, I do LOVE Turkey) and a Vegan option of Slow-Roasted Tomato and Almond Bake. I eventually went for the Bake, ultimately deciding to save my beloved Turkey for Christmas Day, but I was so glad I did. It was absolutely delicious! It was packed full of flavour, and was topped with beetroot, carrot, spinach and roasted celeriac. It was actually one of the best main dishes I’ve had in a very long time.

My guest opted for the Maple Pork Belly and Pig Cheek (it just SOUNDS festive doesn’t it?), which came accompanied with Dijon chive mash, cavolo nero, crisp prosciutto and red wine and sage jus. To say they absolutely devoured it would be a total understatement. Both main dishes came served with seasonal vegetables, including carrots, potatoes and of course, sprouts – it is Christmas after all.

Desserts was another difficult choice, and with it being a festive menu, there’s the usual suspects; Christmas Pudding, Blackcurrant Mousse and so on. But I actually went for a non-sweet dessert, because I believe at Christmas, you’ve simply got to eat as much cheese as possible. So I did. I went for the Cheese Board, which came with a wide selection of British cheeses and mixed seed biscuits, grapes, celery and chutney. It was gorgeous, totally indulgent and again, incredibly generous. 

My guest opted for the equally delicious Warm Chocolate Brownie, which came with Belgian chocolate sauce, honeycomb ice cream and a brandy snap crumb. I also enjoyed a beautiful Hot Chocolate to end the evening perfectly. 

This wasn’t my first visit to The Lyttelton Arms, and one of the aspects I love most about the restaurant is how cosy it is, with the perfect combination of traditional, countryside décor alongside touches of uber modern and fun décor. It is a very welcoming restaurant, and the staff, especially on this occasion, were absolutely lovely. There was a few teething problems with the festive menu, as it was its first night, but we were kept in the loop and nothing ever took too long. 

The only aspect of The Lyttelton Arms is as soon as you walk in; there is a notice stating how visitors must be dressed to be able to enter. I understand fully that the restaurant is trying to keep it as sophisticated as possible, but I often feel that these signs can be very alienating. However, the restaurant is still a lovely place to go, especially for a special occasion.
The festive menu is also very reasonable considering the amount you get. The Indulgent Festive Menu, which me and my guest enjoyed, costs £34.95 per person, and that includes a glass of Prosecco on arrival. The ‘Extra Special’ menu has a whopping five courses, and is £49.95 per person. 

I can’t recommend this menu, and restaurant, enough. If you’re looking for a place to catch up with family and friends over the festive period whilst enjoying wonderful food and drink, head along to The Lyttelton Arms. 

The Lyttelton Arms: 9/10

*DISCLAIMER: I  was fortunate to be asked along to the venue to try the festive menu in return for a blog post. I didn't pay for the experience, but left a tip and paid for travel there and back. I was not expected to write a good review, I genuinely enjoyed the experience.


Friday, 6 December 2019

REVIEW: Peter Pan, The REP Birmingham

I’ve had the total joy of enjoying The REP’s Christmas shows for the past three years, and there’s one thing I always say to someone heading along to the show; always expect the unexpected. The REP has such a fantastic way and process of putting on shows that take a production, spin it on its head, make it modern, inclusive and totally creative, that I can’t wait to shout about them to everyone around me. 

This year’s is no different. Peter Pan – Reimagined, which takes to the stage until January 19 2020, is a modern take on the classic story. Forget the grand Georgian home in London, this show is set in a block of flats in Birmingham. Forget the homely, welcoming family, this show is based on kids living with a foster carer. 

Wendy and her little brothers were separated from their mother, and are currently living with Jess, who is trying her best to look after them all. Wendy has taken on the role of the protective mother to her brothers, and struggles to trust adults as they have always let her down. One night, the boy who never grew up, Peter Pan, gives Wendy the chance to escape to a magical world, Neverland, which is full of fun, energetic, and mischievous Lost Children. 

However, Neverland is also home to naughty mermaids, a hungry crocodile and of course, Captain Hook. The story follows Wendy and Peter Pan desperately try and save themselves, her brothers and the Lost Children from Hook, whilst the audience learns about why the children are lost, and what they wish they could have from a family. 

What makes this story so different from the original though is that this story is much less about Peter Pan himself, and so much more focused on Wendy, making it a refreshing, feminist reimagination. From the very start of the show, the audience becomes involved in Wendy’s story, desperate for her to feel like she can just be a kid again, and not always have to be the one looking after everyone else. Wendy has so much sass, but watching her enjoy herself is truly heartwarming. A particular moment where Wendy has to think good thoughts to be able to fly actually brought a tear to my eye, it was such a beautiful aspect of the production.
And yes, the cast very much do fly! With the help of ‘shadows’, which we are introduced to at the beginning and by the end we barely notice, many of the cast members fly, bounce and swirl across the stage, making the production so magical and fun. 

The set is a star in itself, we go from Jess’s flat in Birmingham to urban Neverland, to the Lost Children’s home and to Skull Island, with so much ease. Every single aspect of the set is so creative and imaginative, with my favourite touch being the crocodile being made of car tyres, making each scene a total feast for the eyes, with the audience constantly noticing cool creative touches throughout the production.  

It didn’t stop with the set either, there are so many sides to this show that make it so cool, fun and different from the original. Instead of soft, gentle songs, what we would expect, the audience were treated to group dances and a rap, where the whole audience got involved. There was also a real feminist edge to the show, which pleased many audience members, as well as a handful of Birmingham references that we all absolutely loved, of course!

Every single cast member was full to the brim of talent, comedic timing and enthusiasm. Peter Pan, played by Lawrence Walker, was just brilliant, by being frustrating and cocky, yet fun and loveable. The uber talented Nia Gwynne takes on the role of both Hook and Jess, and was excellent at both roles, however her take on Hook was fascinating, bringing a humble touch at times to the traditionally evil role. However, the star of the show was Cora Tsang, whose take on Wendy was just beautiful and so relatable, she is definitely a star in the making and I can’t wait to see what she does next. 

The production may be a modern twist on the classic story, but the festive message remains the same; the importance of family. How we all need to be looked after from time to time. Home is where you feel safe and secure, but that home can be anywhere, and your family is who you love. I can’t recommend this show enough. It is creative, so much fun, and full of life and imagination. It’s not a panto, its better!

Peter Pan: 9/10

*I was gifted two press tickets to enjoy this production from The REP Birmingham in return for a review on this blog. 


Sunday, 22 September 2019

REVIEW: Wayland's Yard Brunch, Birmingham

Wayland's Yard is my favourite place for Brunch in Birmingham. From the wide range of drink options, to the infamous Eggy Crumpets and Baked Eggs, the cafe-restaurant is fresh and cool, with modern twists on classic dishes. Since it opened in early 2018, I've been there countless times, always desperate to try something new on the menu.

So I was over the moon recently when they asked me along to check out the brand new Brunch menu, so I took along three others with me to try it out!

The menu includes The Wayland's Originals; Eggy Crumpets (Egg dipped crumpets, halloumi, avo, shrooms and spinach - and you can add the likes of chorizo, bacon and sausage), One Pan Hash (with either Chorizo & Halloumi or Halloumi & Mushroom) and Brunch Baps. There are also Brioche Bap's, with fillings including sausage, bacon, mushroom or halloumi.

The menu also boasts a huge range more of options on their new menu, including a selection of Oats dishes, Avo Smash and Vegan Avo Smash. There's also a huge range of egg options; Benedict Pico de Gallo, Eggs Aussie, Eggs Royale and the delicious Baked Eggs. There's also a 'Proper Brunch' section, including Wayland's Big Brunch, Fry Up, Veggie Brunch and Vegan Brunch.

We grabbed a drink before sitting down to choose our Brunch dish. I'm actually not a fan of coffee - which is a shame as there's so many coffee options in the cafe! So whilst the others went for lattes and cappuccinos, I went for a good old cup of tea. But it still came cool and modern, with a big grey teapot and a mini jug for the milk - so cute! I also just had to enjoy a pastry with me tea, so I tucked into a Pain Au Chocolat!

For mains, me and one of my guests went for the Florentine Pico de Gallo, which came with spinach, poached eggs, avo, salsa, toast and herby hollandaise. It was absolutely delicious, and super tasty, and just looked gorgeous. In fact, that's one of my favourite things about Wayland's Yard - the way that they actually dress the dishes! It's not an expensive place, but they make them look amazing, which just makes the meal a bit more special.

One of my other guests had one of the Wayland's Originals - the Eggy Crumpets, which they loved and really enjoyed, and my other guest had the Veggie Brunch (Grilled mushrooms, smashed avo, spinach, fried/poached eggs, halloumi, smokey beans, pan fried potatoes and sourdough toast).

Me and my guests absolutely loved our couple of hours at Wayland's Yard, and all really enjoyed our dishes. The brand new menu is so impressive, with so many options for all different tastes. I can't wait to head back soon and try out even more! Next on the list - Wayland's Big Brunch! 

Wayland's Yard is open every day and is located just a stones throw away from Snow Hill, and you can check out the very impressive menu here

*Me and my guests were gifted our brunch dishes from Wayland's Yard in return for a review, but we did pay for all drinks and pastries. 

Thursday, 12 September 2019

REVIEW: 9 to 5 The Musical, The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Bright pink outfits, pushed up bras and a whole lot of sass; I tumbled out of bed and stumbled along to 9 to 5 The Musical this week, which is currently bringing a whole load of shoulder pads, colour and absolute joy to The Alexandra Theatre. 

Admittedly, 9 to 5 is up there with my favourite songs of all time, and the film is absolutely hilarious. So when I saw last year that the musical was coming to the West End, I had my fingers crossed that it would eventually make its way up to Birmingham – and it has! The show began with a few words from the Queen herself, Dolly Parton – unfortunately on a screen – and it started with a bang. 

9 to 5 The Musical tells the story of three workmates who are working in a man’s world. Violet Newstead is a strong, independent woman who is just trying to do the best for her teenage son since her husband passed away. She trains all the men in this boys club of a business, but never gets offered a promotion, and she’s sick of it. Judy Bernly has never done a day’s work in her life. But after she divorces from her husband because of him running off with his secretary, she has to find herself and discover who she truly is. Doralee Rhodes is the super sweet secretary who is much smarter than she looks, with a whole load of country girl sass. 

 The three women all have one thing in common though; their hatred of their sexist, egotistical and downright disgusting boss Franklin Hart Jnr. They kidnap him, before managing to completely transform the office, and a visit from the CEO finally gives the girls the good news they need. 

I have to admit, I was incredibly surprised at how talented the cast of this show are. They are all absolutely outstanding. TV personality and musician Louise Redknapp takes on the role of Violet Newstead and completely makes it her own. The role suited her to a T, and along with a stunning selection of outfits and super cool songs, she was perfect for the character. West End star Georgina Castle takes on the role of Doralee Rhodes, and she was just fantastic! From the hair to the voice, she was the perfect woman to take on the role made famous by Dolly and I highly expect to see her become one of the biggest West End names. 

The role of the naïve yet adorable Judy was taken on by Love Island winner Amber Davies. Admittedly, I am a massive Love Island fan so I was so excited to see what Amber would be like on stage and my god, what an absolute superstar. Amber’s voice is just something else, as is her acting and amazingly, her comedic timing! If you think Amber is just another reality TV star then you couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, she is a trained musical theatre professional. The girl has bags of talent, and so much to give. Good on her for following her dreams, and I can’t wait to see what role she lands next as she has a very bright future ahead. 

One of the highlights of the show for me just had to be the humour. The show is absolutely hysterical! I was in fits of laughter throughout the production, and with a few sly digs here and there at no other than Donald Trump, the jokes were timely and fun. Another highlight had to be music itself of course. The show is jam packed with show stopping hits, from super fun and fiery songs like ‘Hey Boss’ and ‘One of the Boys’, to emotional numbers like ‘I Just Might’. My favourite song just had to be ‘Get Out and Stay Out’, sang by Amber Davies. I actually had tears in my eyes! It is an incredible song and really shows the audience the journey that Judy has been on. 

The set is also very cool and VERY 80s! From the office to Frank’s house, the set changes are quick and smooth, without too much distraction, and the costumes also offer a glimpse into 80s fashion, with a lot of colour and powerful suits! 

I absolutely LOVED 9 to 5 The Musical. It is lively, fun and incredibly funny; a welcome distraction from the stress of everyday life. However, underneath the hilarious moments, there is a real story there following women just wanting to be treated with more respect, and less like silly girls, in the workplace. Although I am glad that we’ve come on leaps and bounds since the 1980s, we still have much more to go and I believe more productions showing stories like this, with strong female characters, will help remind women that we have so much more to give, and we deserve respect!

9 to 5 The Musical: 10/10

*I was gifted two press tickets to enjoy this production from The Alexandra Theatre in return for a review on this blog.  


Sunday, 1 September 2019

REVIEW: Dining like it’s 1989 at Café Rouge

As much as I love shouting about the range of independent restaurants across the West Midlands, one of my favourite chain restaurants is Café Rouge! From the food and drinks to the décor, the French bistro always feels so homely and welcoming to me. So I was delighted when they asked me along to check out their ‘Dine Like its 1989’ Menu, which they recently brought back into the bistro across the UK to celebrate its 30th birthday this year. 

Out of the three Café Rouge’s in Birmingham, I headed along to the restaurant on Brindleyplace to check out the menu. Upon arrival, me and my guest enjoyed a glass of Prosecco each, before settling down to check out the menu from 30 years ago. The menu included pastries, baguettes, steak frites and quiche. The menu wasn’t large, but actually, I really liked how there was just enough, as sometimes I think a menu can have simply too much to offer. Simple always works!

I started off with a Pain au Chocolat – my favourite pastry – and it was of course, delicious. Other pastries on the menu included Croissants and Pain aux Raisins. For main, my eyes went straight on the restaurant’s infamous Steak Frites, which are 35 days aged Black Angus steaks. All Steak Frites dishes came accompanied with either fries or house salad, or an upgrade to sweet potato fries for just £1.00. The sauces available for the dishes were Peppercorn, Bearnaise, Roquefort and Merlot Gravy. Me and my guest both went for the Bearnaise, and as we were particularly peckish, we went for fries and house salad!

As well as my glass of Prosecco, I enjoyed a HUGE glass of my absolute favourite cocktail Aperol Spritz alongside my Steak dish. As there wasn’t a dessert option on the 1989 menu, me and my guest chose two desserts off the main menu. I went for Beignets, which was a selection of mini doughnuts with cinnamon sugar, which comes with a choice of salted caramel or dark chocolate sauce. It was absolutely delicious and the best way to end a beautiful meal.

The prices on the 1989 menu were the same as 30 years ago, which means it was a total bargain*, with pastries costing just 95p, Steak Frites being £7.95 and a glass of wine for just £3.75. One of my favourite things about Café Rouge though has to be the décor; it is just such a classic restaurant with so much warmth and cosiness, as well as sophistication and cool design. The staff also just absolutely make a restaurant, and those at the Brindleyplace venue were incredibly welcoming and helpful.

I absolutely loved trying out the 1989 menu, it was such a fun experience and me and my guest had such a wonderful evening. From the Steak to the Doughnuts, from the staff to the décor; I think the concept of the 1989 menu was so clever, and unlike anything I had seen before. What a way to celebrate their birthday! However, the normal menu is, of course, full of so many options too and if you’re yet to step foot into a Café Rouge, I absolutely recommend it! 

Cafe Rouge: 10/10

*I was fortunate to be asked along to the venue to try their 1989 Menu in return for a blog post. I didn't pay for the experience, but left a tip and paid for travel there and back. I was not expected to write a good review, I genuinely enjoyed the experience.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

REVIEW: Noel's Bar and Restaurant

Blush pink, gold statement pieces, sleek and contemporary features - it's fair to say Noel's Restuarant and Bar, set in the idyllic location of the canal opposite the likes of The Mailbox and The Cube, is one of Birmingham's best new gem's. With gorgeous modern and stylish decor, alongside a menu to take you from lunch into night and a cocktail menu that dreams are made of, this venue is one you should absolutely be booking a table at your earliest convenience. 

I recently headed along to the restaurant with a guest on a Wednesday evening to try out the venue's 2 For 1 Pizza and Cocktails menu, which runs from 12pm until 7pm every Monday to Friday. 

The cocktail menu boasts a huge amount of gorgeous cocktails, some classic and some new and exciting options. I went for my favourite cocktail, a Bellini, which comes in four different flavours; peach, raspberry, strawberry and passion fruit. I went for the Strawberry, and it was delicious and very refreshing! My guest went for a Pornstar Martini, which was also very tasty and was a modern twist on the classic drink. I also had a scan over the venue's other drinks menu's, and they have a huge amount of choices, especially Wine, so I will definitely be returning to check them out.

We started the meal with a selection breads and olives. The pizza menu includes everything from Margherita's, Mexicana's and Calzone's. However, I just had to go for the Salmone e Stracchino! Salmon is one of my favourite pizza toppings, so I was over the moon to see this on the menu. The pizza consisted of mozzarella, smoked salmon, spinach, creamy Italian cheese and rocket salad. It was absolutely delicious, and was also a very generous portion. I did order a side of Mac & Cheese, not expecting such a big dish. Fair to say I was well and truly stuffed by the end of the meal! My guest went for the Gamberetti e zucchini, which consisted of mozzarella, prawns, courgettes and lemon dressed rocket - she loved it!

As the experience was gifted*, I didn't have to pay for the meal. However, if I'd had have paid, the pizza would have come to £11.50, and the cocktail £7.95. However, with the 2 For 1 special, both mine and my guest's meals would have come to a reasonable amount, considering the quality of the drinks and the size of the meals.
The decor was by far my favourite part of my experience at Noel's. It is just gorgeous, in fact, it is a Millennial dream; all the 'in' colours at the moment; blush, gold, deep reds, forest greens; it was beautiful and such a light, clean and airy space. There is a bar area separate to the restaurant area, which was equally as beautiful. It would have been nice to see some outdoor seating, but I think by the design of the windows that these may open up to bring the outdoors in, but don't take my word for it! 

Considering me and my guest spent around 2 hours at the venue on a Wednesday evening, it was a little busy but not packed, as expected during the week, which was pleasant. I imagine that it is much busier on a weekend, being in such a sought after area of the city. But the vibe of the venue was lovely; the music was cool and relaxing and the staff were very friendly, keen to please but not overbearing.
Me and my guest had a wonderful time at Noel's Bar and Restaurant. I am keen to head back on a weekend to see if the venue is any different then, and of course to try out a dish or two from their normal menu, as the pasta dishes in particular looked divine. I'd also like to head along just to try more of their drinks menu and to sit in the bar. I am very much looking forward to heading back!

Noel's Bar and Restaurant: 9/10

*I was fortunate to be asked along to the venue to try their 2 For 1 weekday offer in return for a blog post. I didn't pay for the experience, but left a tip and paid for travel there and back. I was not expected to write a good review, I genuinely enjoyed the experience. 


Sunday, 14 July 2019

Birmingham Cocktail Weekend: My Top 5 Cocktails

Birmingham Cocktail Weekend returned this weekend – AKA one of the very best weekends going in Birmingham! 

The event, which is celebrating its fifth birthday this year, is the perfect excuse to try cocktails from a wide range of venues across Birmingham. And at just £4 for a cocktail, it’s also fantastic value for money. 

Venues taking part in the weekend were across the city, from The Mailbox, to Brindleyplace, Colmore Row to the Jewellery Quarter. Venues included Be At One, Birmingham Hippodrome, Malmaison, Dirty Martini, Fumo, The Edwardian Tearooms at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Nocturnal Animals, The Canal House, Hotel du Vin and many, many more. 

I headed along on Saturday afternoon, and picked up my wristband* from the hub in The Mailbox, and got moving! Trying out different cocktails is by far one of my favourite things to do, so to combine that with the chance to explore all kinds of venues across the city, is the ideal way for me to spend a weekend! 

Here’s five cocktails from Birmingham Cocktail Weekend I loved the most… 

‘Swallows and Glamazons’ from Gas Street Social 

Gas Street Social is one of my favourite bars in Birmingham, so this had to be the first place I headed to. Gas Street Social’s signature cocktail for the event was the ‘Swallows and Glamazons’, which was an absolutely delicious mix of White Rum, Aperol, Rhubard and Pineapple. The cocktail even came with a temporary Gas Street Social tattoo and there was actually a tattoo application station in the bar! I loved this cocktail, however the venue was so busy that I wasn’t able to get a seat so unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay as long as I’d have hoped! Cocktail was super delicious and tasty though, and I love ANY drink which has a splash of good old Aperol in! 

AC Hotels Birmingham
Unfortunately I didn’t catch the name of this one – but it was amazing! The cocktail came with a marshmallow on top which we had to dip into the cocktail, which then dissolved and made the cocktail sizzle and sparkle, which really made the drink much more of an experience and so fun! The cocktail tasted like bubble gum and was so tasty! I had also never stepped into AC Hotels, and it was absolutely gorgeous, definitely a hotel to keep in mind for the future. 

‘Citrus Canal’ from The Canal House
The Citrus Canal from The Canal House was one of the most unusual cocktails I have ever tasted! It was a mixture of Jameson’s and Tribal Pale Ale, which is a combination I never thought I’d try. It was really cool and unique. However, it tasted much more like beer than a normal cocktail, and unfortunately, I do like a sweet and fruity cocktail and this was more like having a pint. Saying this though, I still enjoyed it as it was so different! The Canal House is also up there in my top five favourite bars in Birmingham, so I love any excuse to head along there. 

‘Unlucky For Some’ from Arch 13
I absolutely love Arch 13! It is my favourite bar in Birmingham, so I simply had to go there and see what they had going. Arch 13 have the most wonderful staff, a super cool layout, a great selection of drinks and bar nibbles, and a wide range of brilliant board games to play whilst you drink! So I picked up the game of Scrabble to play alongside ‘Unlucky For Some’ which was my dream mix of Elderflower, Aperol and White Wine. This cocktail was by far my favourite of the day. It was fun, fruity and super refreshing and tasty. It was also a very generous cocktail in a huge glass! 

‘Braveheart’ at Pub du Vin
I ended my day at Birmingham Cocktail Weekend at Pub du Vin with the ‘Braveheart’ cocktail. The ‘Braveheart’ was an incredible combination of Glengoyne Whisky and Honey Session IPA. I am actually a huge Whisky fan, and the combination of the super sweet IPA too was the perfect mixture, and I absolutely loved it. It was also my first time at Pub du Vin, as I normally end up staying upstairs at Hotel du Vin. However, it was such a cool and relaxed place with plenty of comfy areas to sit back and relax with my cocktail! 

Find out more about Birmingham Cocktail Weekend here

*Wristbands for the event cost £10. I was gifted two Wristbands for this event, but I purchased all Cocktails with my own money.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

REVIEW: Educating Rita, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Educating Rita is, by far, one of my favourite plays of all time. I absolutely adore Willy Russell’s work; his way of putting working class stories onto the stage is something I have always admired. 

Having spent four years of my life in Liverpool, and being a working class girl myself who never quite felt smart enough to go to University (still did though – maybe I was inspired by Rita herself?), I connect with the storyline of this play so much that when I left the theatre after the production, I felt like my heart could burst. 

Willy Russell’s hugely successful play premiered in June 1980 at The Warehouse in London, before becoming a film starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters – arguably the role that made her a household name. 

It follows the story of Frank, a down and depressed university lecturer who finds all his happiness at the bottom of a bottle. To pay for his drinking ways, he takes on a student through the Open University. Enter Rita, real name Susan, who is desperate to learn everything – really, everything – about English Literature quicker than you can say Charles Dickens. 

Rita, a working class Scouser, never cared much at school, because it wasn’t cool. But now late twenties, married and with a husband desperate for children, Rita realises that there has to be more to life. Applying for the university course is so much more than just learning academically, she’s on a mission to discover her true self. 

The play follows Rita’s insecurities, that she’s not smart enough or rich enough to study, turn into confidence, and knowledge. The charismatic, charming pocket rocket becomes smart and has intellectual conversations. At first, Frank loves seeing this side of her. He knows his work is actually working. 

However, over time, as Rita becomes more confident in her abilities, Frank becomes bitter and mean, not wanting to lose the one thing keeping him alive. 

 There’s just the two of them on stage for the whole show. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, it always shows just how much talent there is on stage when just two people can keep the audience interested and engaged in their story.

Now, the talent! The role of Frank is taken on by Stephen Tompkinson, one of the country’s very best actors. He makes this role his own and it suits him to a T. His character goes from incredible highs to sudden lows throughout the play, and it just shows how much of an outstanding actor he is to be able to make the audience believe that he really is going through these emotions.
Rita is played by Jessica Johnson. What. A. Star. I absolutely adored Jessica’s take on this role. She did it absolutely perfectly. From the accent to the characteristics she has definitely picked up from Julie Walters role, she was just ideal for this role. She was able to make the audience completely fall in love with her, making us belly laugh as well as wiping the tears away. But the combination of both Stephen Tompkinson and Jessica Johnson was the perfect match. 

The set was simple but very effective, and Patrick Connellan’s design was filled from top to bottom with books – essentially my dream room – with mess scattered around the room and hidden bottles to show the issues Frank is facing without being too obvious. 

Another aspect of the show that I loved was the costumes, which showed the transition of Rita without being too noticeable. Rita goes from wearing heels and jumpers at the beginning to fun and stylish dungarees and jeans throughout the show, again showing that she was keen to reinvent herself and start again. 

Educating Rita made me feel so many emotions, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the stage for the whole show. It was hugely enjoyable, funny, heart-warming and I left feeling so inspired – and desperate to dig into a good book! It is a fantastic production, and a wonderful way to spend an evening. 

If you get the chance, you should absolutely go and see this show! 

Educating Rita: 10/10 

*I was gifted two tickets to enjoy this production from Wolverhampton Grand Theatre in return for a review. I was under no obligation to write a good review.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

REVIEW: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – Birmingham Hippodrome

I’ll be honest, Any Dream Will Do is by far one of my favourite songs of all time. In fact, there’s not many songs from the musical that I don’t absolutely adore. As a child, I used to watch Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat on a weekly basis and it’s the show I’ve seen the most on stage. It’s colourful, whacky, packed full of fantastic numbers and is a fun, family friendly show. 

 Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat was the first musical written by duo Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber back in the 1970s. Five decades later, the musical is still going strong, being the longest touring show in history. But being the musical that launched the careers for the likes of Jason Donovan, Philip Schofield and more recently, Lee Mead. 

So the big question of the night was always going to be if Union J’s Jaymi Hensley was going to be the next successful Joseph. 

Taken from the Book of Genesis, the story follows Joseph, a talent young man who has been gifted the talent of being able to tell those around them what their dreams mean. Being the most successful son of Jacob, who is father to 11 sons, Joseph’s brothers grow incredibly jealous who eventually sell their brother into slavery after Jacob gifts Joseph the most beautiful technicolour coat. 

 Joseph ends up in Egypt, where he ends up in jail before his luck strikes in his favour and becomes a personal assistant to the Pharaoh. Joseph eventually reunites with his family, but not before teaching them a lesson or two. 

The production is packed full of a hugely talented cast, who were all absolutely fantastic singers, which of course really helps the show as every single inch of the script is music. Union J’s Jaymi Hensley was absolutely incredible as Joseph; he was enthusiastic and simply made the role his own. I was absolutely shocked by his beautiful voice. I think being in a boyband, I didn’t expect his voice to be as good as it was. But it was simply stunning, and also very good at acting naïve, scared and incredibly powerful. 

One part of the musical I have always loved in Joseph is the Narrator role. This time, it was taken on by Trina Hill, who was absolutely brilliant with a fantastic voice and so much charisma. The real stars of the show though were the fantastic children’s choir, who sat on the stage for the whole show and sang along to every word of the musical. They were absolutely adorable, and so very talented.
The sets were fairly simple but anything over the top really wasn’t needed. Scenes flowed very easily and there wasn’t too much of a gap between them. The biggest highlight of the show was of course the music, which was so nostalgic and brought back so many wonderful memories. 

Alongside Any Dream Will Do, the musical also included all the hits, like One More Angel in Heaven, Go, Go, Go Joseph and Jacob and Sons. 

One of the only issues I faced with the production was that the sound at times was really off. At times, I could barely hear the person on stage, and then other times it was just far too loud. This didn’t make it any less enjoyable, but I do hope the crew picked up on this too! 

Overall though, the show was incredibly enjoyable, super fun, enthusiastic, and such a wonderful and nostalgic way to spend an evening, and we can absolutely expect to see Jaymi Hensley take to the stage in more productions in the future! 

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat: 8/10 

*I was gifted two tickets to enjoy this production from Birmingham Hippodrome in return for a review. I was under no obligation to write a good review.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

REVIEW: Calendar Girls The Musical at Birmingham Hippodrome

The story of the 'real' calendar girls is one that has inspired me for so many years, and in fact, I've been fortunate enough to enjoy the original version a couple of times. It is a story which I completely love, but I did question how music would play a role in it. Calendar Girls The Musical, written by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, is based on the original motion picture and is everything I wanted it to be, and more!

The production, which is currently on stage at the Birmingham Hippodrome, follows the story of a group of middle aged women who are part of their local Women's Institute (The WI) and is set in an idyllic village in Yorkshire. I've always had a love for the WI, especially after finding out that my Great Nan was her local WI Chairwoman, and anticipate that it is something that I will most likely join later in life!

After one of the women, Annie, has to suffer a huge loss after her husband sadly passes away, the group decide to raise money for a new sofa for the hospital in a totally unique way; a nude calendar. The idea proves controversial in their little sleepy village, and each woman has to deal with their own issues and insecurities before finally deciding to strip off all for a good cause. 

It really is a beautiful, heartwarming story that always manages to completely fill my heart with joy. But with the help of a wonderful selection of songs to go alongside the story, the production is really brought to life and the music helps bring a whole new element to the show.
Let's face it, Gary Barlow simply doesn't write bad songs, and the ones in this production are simply fantastic, my favourites being Yorkshire, which popped up throughout the show, as well as the beautiful Sunflower and What Age Expects was both catchy and inspiring. 

The production is packed full of amazing talent, and so many well-known names. Stand out performances came from Sarah Jane Buckley, whose portrayal of Annie was just incredible, Sue Devaney, whose role of Cora was absolutely hysterical and Lisa Maxwell, who made the role of Celia her own. Other cast members included the wonderful Lesley Joseph, who played Jessie the ex-headteacher, the fantastic Rebecca Storm, who played Chris and Julia Hills who did a brilliant job of playing the quiet yet fiery Ruth. 

Other stand out performances included extraordinary young talent from Isabel Caswell, who played bad girl turned good Jenny and the absolutely hilarious Danny Howker, who did an absolutely fantastic job of Danny. In fact my favourite moment of the show was when Danny sang 'Hello Yorkshire, I'm a virgin', absolute comedy gold. 

However, all of the casts voices were incredible and were a huge pleasure to watch. 

The set was simple yet effective, with the roaming hills of Yorkshire always in the background. The scenes flowed smoothly without an issue and a lot of the acting seemed much more natural than an average play. 

The production has the fantastic ability to make you belly laugh with absolutely hysterical moments and scenes throughout, as well as make you hold the tears back and send you on a rollercoaster of emotion. By the end, I was wiping away both happy and sad tears. The show is incredibly life-affirming, and leaves the audience with such a positive feeling. 

I absolutely adored this show. It was such a pleasure to watch and hugely enjoyable. From the story to the cast, this new adaptation with the added bonus of a wide selection of fantastic songs is simply brilliant, and it can't be missed!

Calendar Girls The Musical is on stage until Saturday 8th June. 

Calendar Girls The Musical: 10/10


Thursday, 18 April 2019

Thinktank launches new Planetarium

Birmingham's Thinktank museum have launched their new and updated Planetarium to the public. The updated Planetarium, which is now 4K, offers the public a brighter and much sharper image, with crystal-clear surround sound - a total transformation from what the space used to be,

Thinktank's Planetarium is the only one in the West Midlands, and boasts the very latest video technology to create a truly immersive experience.

With a huge dome on the ceiling, by just looking up you can experience the universe and various planets with the help of Thinktank's staff who are on hand to answer any questions you have as well as telling you exactly what to look out for.

I was really fortunate enough to head along to experience the new Planetarium recently, and absolutely loved it. Space is always something that has totally fascinated me, and I was really glad to see that the space isn't just targeted towards children, it is interesting for both a young audience, and those a little older!
As well as heading around the globe, we also had the opportunity to see what the sky would be like 12 hours in advance, choose which planets we wanted a closer look at (we chose Saturn, Jupiter, Venus and Pluto) and learn so much about the night sky, what to look out for at night and stars. We also had the opportunity to learn about star constellations and how to find star signs in the night sky, as well as finding the North Star, and seeing just how many satellites there are floating around above us.

This was all down to the help of the Thinktank's staff, who are not only very experienced and know exactly what they are talking about, they are also incredibly passionate about it, and it helps get those taking part in the session to get enthusiastic about it all too!

The new Planetarium also offers a wide variety of shows for the public to attend, which allows you to travel through the human body, dive under the ocean, shrink to the size of an atom and allow yourself to be immersed completely in music and light.

Thinktank planetarium will also often run special events soon to support significant events. Events in the past have even included evening astronomy talks, solar observing and even theatrical productions.
Planetarium shows are £2.50 per person per show in addition to admission price. Annual Pass holders can enter for free but must book a ticket. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket desk on arrival. Find out more here
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