Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet

Ballet and Shakespeare: what could be more perfect? Thrown in with Matthew Bourne’s skill if setting his productions in unusual settings, you have a great evening of theatre.

Bourne’s ballet is set in an aslyum, which may not be the usual setting for one of Shakespeare’s greatest love stories, but it worked. Now, I do not claim to be an expert on the deeper ideas about the interpretations but for me this was about the patients versus the establishment, and the forbidden love comes from the ‘Girls’ and ‘Boys’ being divided.

Whatever the interpretation should be, the point is the fact that this is an enjoyable production. The choreography is engaging and tells the story beautifully at every stage. There is humour, raw emotion and devastating tragedy.

The staging is simple but powerful, the stark white of the patients costumes and their ‘prison’ is a great contrast to the tale unfolding on the stage. The dark form of Tybalt casts his shadow over the lives of the patients. And a violent, heart-breaking tale unfolds.

Having seen this and ‘Sleeping Beauty’, it makes me keen to see more of Matthew Bourne’s interpretations, as he is clearly not restrained by conventions.

Have you seen any of Matthew Bourne’s productions? What are your thoughts of his style?

Theatre Club – Fiddler on the Roof

Regular readers will know that there is a tradition between myself and Mrs M, known as ‘Theatre Club’. Twice a year, without fail, we go to see a show in London as a birthday treat for each of us. As it was my birthday earlier in the summer, it was my turn to be taken to a surprise show.

And, Mrs M did an amazing job with her choice, as we went to see ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ at the Playhouse. There are so many reasons that this was a treat but mainly because I have never been to this theatre and I have never seen ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, but it has always been on the wishlist.

Wow, what a production and what a musical. It was clear before it even started that this is a musical that holds a special place in the hearts of so many muscial theatre fans. I now totally understand why; this is a show that I am not going to forget for a long time.

The songs are wonderful and I especially enjoyed hearing ‘If I was Rich Man’ performed so fabulously by Andy Nyman. The choreography was stunning, you almost wanted to join all the cast on the stage. But, for me, it is the actual tale that struck me the most. I have never seen the film or any previous production, so I wasn’t totally aux fais with the story. However, it is so emotional, the idea that the Jewish people had to fight for their traditions and culture. And, although some progress can be good, the destruction of culture and a way of life is never okay. The musical is so beautifully humourous and heart-warming that, as it reaches its conclusion, you can not help but shed a tear or two.

‘Fiddler on the Roof’ is evidence again that the most surprising subjects make the most powerful and memorable musicals. If you can find an opportunity, I would highly recommend seeing this show. Absolutely brilliant from start to finish.

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

This is a novel that I was sent in a fabulous little bookswap in the summer. Not a novel that I would have picked up myself, but that is the beauty of all these brilliant bookswaps – they invite you to read books that you may not have picked up otherwise.

‘Clock Dance’ is a great novel, almost a coming-of-age novel, but for an older character. Willa Drake has lived her life the way she feels she should. However, it has not always turned out the way it should. Her mother was difficult, she became a widow young, and she doesn’t have the relationship with he family that she thought she would and, even, should have. So, when a chance phone call leads her to be the person looking after her son’s ex-girlfriend and he daughter, her life takes a very different path.

This story is a wonderful tale that shows that you do not always have to stick to the life path you are given and that sometimes taking a chance can lead to a different outcome.

A heart-warming tale told with humour, you really hope that Willa will take the opportunities that are thrown at her and throw off the limitations that she gives herself by doing what is expected of her. The final paragraph is one of the best in a book that I have read in a while.

This will encourage me to try some more novels from Anne Tyler, as this is only the second novel I have read and, for me, it was a 5-star read.

Have you found any new authors through bookswaps?

National Read a Book Day – or Not!

Do not let the title of the blog post confuse you – I am over the moon that it is ‘National Read a Book Day’ – however, I have been thinking about not reading books. Do not despair, I am not giving up books; I could never do that. Yet, do we have to finish books that we do not enjoy or say we love a book just because everyone else does?

While contemplating this question, I have decided that life is too short to read books that you do not enjoy. Or telling people you enjoyed a book that, let’s be honest, you didn’t.

Sometimes, it really disappoints me that I have to retire a book to the ‘Did Not Finish’ pile. A recent example of this was ‘The Secret Barrister’. I was so excited to receive it in a recent bookswap and actually give it a go. However, it just was not for me, despite my best efforts. Remember, this does not mean it is not a good book – it just means it was not the book for me. I am sure, for many readers, it was the perfect book.

This is a similar idea to the #blacksheepofbookstagram created by the lovely ‘Silver Linings and Pages’ and her bookstagram account. This is based on the principle that you may not enjoy that book that everyone else in the book world seems to hold in high esteem. My recent experience of that was ‘East Lynne’, a book club read that just was not as fabulous for me as it seemed to be for everyone else. But I have finally accepted that it is okay – after all, the world would be a boring place if we were all the same.

So, as much as ‘National Read a Book Day’ is a perfect day for us bookworms, it is also okay to like what you like and not like what you don’t like!

Happy reading!

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Two Sara Barnard novels in one summer – wow – I have clearly found another author who grabs my attention. ‘A Quiet Kind of Thunder’ was another remarkable YA novel that I wish had been around when I was ‘officially’ the audience of the genre.

What has struck me over the two novels I have read this summer from Sara Barnard is that she does not shy away from tough topics, and also creates fabulous characters. Steffi doesn’t speak; she becomes anxious in public situations. She is introduced to Rhys, who is deaf. However, they really understand each other. Communication doesn’t always have to be verbal, in fact sometimes the quietest people can be the loudest. Together, Steffi and Rhys help each other grow and face the challenges of being a teenager in the modern world – and, together, they find their voice.

This is a wonderful love story for the modern age and demonstrates the positivity that surrounds someone finding the right person to offer them support. It shows that there can be hurdles and bumps along the way, but often they can make people stronger.

The most wonderful touch about this novel is the symbols with each chapter that demonstrate the numbers in BSL. It has certainly inspired me to want to learn and have more of an understanding of another language.

I can not wait to read more from Sara Barnard, as she really has a talent for creating tales that have you hooked.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Taheren Mafi

This novel has an incredibly clever title and it took me rather a long time to realise this. But when I did, it made me love this book even more.

This is a tale that may seem like a popular one for YA fiction – a love story. However, this has so much more to it. Yes, it tackles the idea of love across the cultural divide (which we all know is something that maybe we should not be facing in the 21st Century), however the journey of self-discovery on these pages is fascinating. Maybe, one who fears prejudice may inadvertently demonstrate their own?

Shirin feels that there is absolutely no need to become part of the school community. After all, they will all have made their mind up about her, judging her on her hijab. However, she meets Ocean, who goes out of his way to find out more about her – and will not give up easily. As a friendship and relationship blooms between the two, it comes to light that Ocean is basketball player and the labels the two feel they carry lead to difficult consequences for both.

A I read this book I went through all the emotions for all the characters. It is quite an emotional page-turner. You certainly feel that, by the end, Shirin and Ocean have been on quite an adventure together – and maybe they are a little happier in their own skin by the end.

Measure for Measure

Our summer trip to the RSC was to see Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse’s favourite play, ‘Measure for Measure’. A probloem play, so I am told, as it does not appear to fit perfectly into any category.

This production, by Gregory Doran, is set in early 1900s Vienn. Angelo has been left in charge of the city to deal with the brothels and low morals that the citizens appear to be demonstrating. However, is he in fact, any more morally superior than the people he is accusing?

This production was certainly played for laughs (including actors corpsing which, for me, always makes the show more enjoyable). However, what struck me through some of the action and the soliloquies is that, again, Shakespeare’s plays could have been written for the age we are living in. Are those in control really deserving? Can we believe or trust anything we are told?

As always, the production was superb. The cast engaged the audience in the tale, the set so simple but yet so versatile, and the music creating the perfect atmosphere.

Overall, a highly enjoyable, yet thought-provoking evening.

Six: The Musical

I love the opportunity to go to London and see a musical. As Miss W had mentioned that she fancied seeing ‘Six’, I jumped at the chance to plan a little trip (especially as even students I teach had been telling me ‘to see that musical about Henry VIII’s wives’).

‘Six: The Musical’ is at the Arts Theatre on the edge of Leicester Square. Quite an intimate theatre, which is perfect for this show as it is more a brilliant rock and pop concert than a traditional musical narrative. In fact, it is such a simple idea that it is incredibly effective.

The wives act out their own singing contest to allow the audience to decide who the most hard-done-by wife of Henry VIII was. Historical fact is set to amazing music to allow each wife to tell their tale, in a way that would probably suit their character if it was the modern day. The songs are catchy and the audience really does feel like it is at a rock concert.

However, what struck me the most was not just the amazing all-female production but the excellent ‘political’ statement made about ‘his-story’. All of those women are connected by Henry VIII, the man who fact brought them to hsitory. Yet they are part of ‘her-story’ and are figures in their own right, none more significant than the other but each having made their contribution. We just, unfortunately, often remember what those who write ‘his-story’ want us to remember.

This show deserves all the praise and dedicated following it has gained. And, if it is causing people to become more interested in history well, then it has done a fantastic job.

New Beginnings at Rose Cottage by Erin Green

Erin Green’s fourth novel has hit the shelves, and her first published by Headline. An exciting August publication for all, readers and author.

‘New Beginnings at Rose Cottage’ is an absolutely wonderful novel; I enjoyed every moment of this tale that was inspired by a recent trip to Brixham that Erin went on with friends (and by the end I am pretty certain you will want to visit it too).

Three women are thrown together as they each book a ‘solo’ holiday at Rose Cottage. At first they appear an unlikely trio to become friends – but they all have a strong connection: the need to find new beginnings.

They have quite some adventures as each embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, their friendships blooms and creates strong bonds that are unlikely to be broken.

The characters in the book are relateable, but my favourite of all was Benni – in fact, by the end of the book, I decided many of us need to ‘be like Benni’. She is just fabulous but, for me, certainly blooms into the beautiful butterfly she deserves to be by the end of the novel.

Erin Green never disappoints with her books. And, although I have a terrible craving for fish and chips and a seaside holiday now I have finished the book, it was a great read and I am looking forward to the next story in 2020.

Grease: The Musical

Despite my love of musicals ‘Grease’ is one that I have never seen. I’m not really sure why; after all, I was in the chorus of a school production many years ago. So, when I was given the chance to see the current touring production at Birmingham Hippodrome I thought: why not?

It really was an ‘electrifyin” production. Grease is one of those shows that has a cult following; really dedicated fans who ensure they see it every time it is on as it is a show that engulfs the audience in the nostalgia of the age of rock ‘n’ roll. As well as involving a love story which is always a popular narrative.

Let’s be honest – when the first tune is ‘Grease is the word’, you are addicted to the show. The whole performance was wonderful, high energy, colourful, and fabulous. There was even a ‘flying’ car during ‘Grease Lightin”. The whole company were great, with Dan Partridge taking on Danny Zuko and Martha Kirby playing Sandy (you would not know it is her professional debut – she WAS Sandy). However, I am not sure I have ever heard an audience get quite as excited as the moment that Peter Andre appeared as ‘Teen Angel’, a short but sweet appearance which made the audience squeal.

I really enjoyed this porduction, and the nostalgia of rock ‘n’ roll and the start of teenagers as their own group. I am not sure that the ‘love’ story is one that works for the modern age, but it is good fun and I am not sure why I have waited quite so long to see it.