Bonfire Night Fun

 

Remember, Remember the fifth of November, Gunpowder, treason and plot. Bonfire night is one of my favourite nights of the year, I love the chance to get wrapped up in your new Winter woollies, watching the sky light up with the most beautiful fireworks, keeping warm around a bonfire, whilst filling my face with hotdogs and hot chocolate. In general, I am not a fan of the great outdoors once Summer is ended, but for Bonfire Night I will make an exception.

During my childhood it was the norm to have a bonfire and fireworks in your garden, with Catherine Wheels tied to fence posts, bangers that made a lot of noise but did very little else, and everyone, including the nans and grandads and the smallest of children, holding a sparkler. If you are going to enjoy fireworks in your own garden, you need to look for a reputable supplier of safe fireworks from a company like Let’s Party Fireworks, who offer high quality fireworks like fountain fireworks, which are less noisy than regular fireworks, but with all the colour and sparkle, making them great if you have small children.

Health and safety implications, and the importing of so many unsafe fireworks has led to a rise in the popularity of organised firework events. There are so many lovely, organised displays that often tie in the fun of the fair, food stalls and fireworks that are really exceptional in their size and style, that it is now a whole family event to go to a real bonfire display.

I usually attend the bonfire at my son’s school, we’ve been for the last five years and it is always a great, professional display which also raises a lot of money for the school. If you are still looking for an organised display that is local to you, a good online search should help point the way to many displays in your area.

If you are going to a bonfire and fireworks display this year, there are a few handy tips that you can use in order to make your night go with a bang. The first is that you wrap up accordingly. The weather might be pretty mild for November, but once the sun goes down, it can be pretty chilly. Hat and gloves are a must, with leather gloves being a great idea if you are the sort of person who gets ketchup everywhere. Another way to keep warm and snug is to get there early to grab a spot near the bonfire – just head any safety signs and don’t get too close. Bonfires and firework displays are fun for all the family, but they can be very loud, which can be quite frightening for younger children (my boy is almost 9 and is still quite wary of the big bangs). For very young children ear protectors can be a sensible way to enjoy the lights and avoid the bangs.

Whatever you decide to do this November 5th, have lots of fun and, most importantly, stay safe.

Beauty and the Beast casts a spell at the Birmingham Hippodrome

One of the most beloved of all fairy stories proved to be equally as enchanting when performed as a ballet, when Beauty and the Beast weaved it’s spell at the Birmingham Hippodrome last night. The latest production by the Birmingham Royal Ballet told that age of told of love conquering all with a mixture of menace and charm, and with an ending that was sublimely romantic.

The story is the one we are all familiar with, an angry violent Prince is transformed into a beast by a woodsman disgusted by his bloody pursuit of a vixen. Meanwhile, a down-on-his-luck merchant, faced with baliffs and creditors, is waiting for a fleet of cargo ships that are suddenly seen on the coast. Promising to bring his avaricious elder daughters all manner of jewels, his youngest, and favourite daughter Belle wants nothing more than a freshly picked rose. But the merchant’s journey turns from joy to fear when he is first robbed during a storm, and then gets lost. Finding himself in a strange house, he is fed by unseen hands and then roused to sleep. On waking, he discovers his cargo has been returned, and rushes home, but not before plucking a rose for Belle. Unfortunately the rose belongs to the strange, angry beast-like Prince, who demands Belle in return. The rest of the story is, as they say, well known history.

The lead roles are all uniformly excellent. Delia Matthews makes an enchanting Belle, her lightness of step and gentle mannerisms contrast markedly with her elder sister’s, who are all rapid movements and flouncing steps. The use of white costumes for Beauty mean she is an ethereal, pure presence who quite literally lights up the stage. In contrast, the Beast (Tyrone Singleton) is a dark and brooding presence. His frustration, virility, anger and menace is tempered by his gentleness towards beauty, and is able of showing both sides to the Beastly character. He is genuinely frightening when he attacks Belle’s father, and yet heartbreaking when he is dying from lost love. One scene in particular that stays in your mind is when he shields his face from Belle after seeing her beauty, it shows the Beast’s vulnerability and is quite beautiful and poignant.

The supporting cast are also superb, from James Barton who is hilarious as the piglike Cochon, courting both of Belle’s sisters in the funniest scenes.  Yaoqian Shang as Wild Girl, protecting the Beast who once tried to kill her when she was a the vixen is just lovely, especially when she takes on the mannerisms of the vixen, all coquettish and light of movement. Marion Tait is once again hilarious, this time as ‘Grandmere’, adding laughs to the wedding scene, which, in itself is one of the most delightful set pieces. The Raven, and the Birds of the Air, were also truly wonderful in the scene when they were transferring Belle to the Prince’s castle, there are elements of a Busby Berkley chorus line in this dance.

A mention must be made of the set, which is almost a character in itself. Constant scene changes are flawless, and the dark, haunting castle is awe-inspiring in the way it helps to create the mood. The Royal Ballet Sinfonia were also on top form, capturing humour, heartbreak and love with ease.

If you like your ballet dark, but with a sprinkling of humour, and a truly happy ending, then Beauty and the Beast is definitely one not to miss.

Beauty and the Beast runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 2nd March. Click here for ticket information.

Ghost The Musical – Beautifully Heartbreaking

It is one of the most iconic movie love stories and translates beautifully onto the stage. Ghost The Musical may well be the best show you can see to open 2019 theatre season. Hauntingly beautiful, spine-chilling and heart-breaking, Ghost, which is now showing at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, paints pictures that linger in the memory long after it’s emotional finale. In short, it is a memorising piece of theatre.

 

The story is true to the film, Sam and Molly are the young couple with a perfect present and a promising future. All this comes to a sudden and violent end when Sam is murdered, seemingly in a mugging incident that goes horrifically wrong. This was the first sign of the awesome special effects that impressed throughout the musical. Sam leaves his body and runs across the stage, whilst his actual body remains on the floor. I know this film well, but even so I actually thought Sam was chasing the robber, until I glanced across the stage. Very clever and effective.

There are many more fabulous visual effects to come. The Subway pays a huge part of the movie and this is superbly conveyed through the visual images and props that are projected onto the stage. Equally impressive are the special powers of the ghosts to jump through walls and make things move by themselves.

Ghost The Musical is first and foremost a romance, and a weepy at that. But is also has great scenes of humour, and these are the ones featuring the fake spiritualist Oda Mae Brown. Portrayed hilariously by Jacqui Dubois, Oda is a powerhouse who just dominates every scene she is in. The Rita Miller bank scene is worth the admission fee alone.

The performances are uniformly excellent. Niall Sheehy is very good as Sam, you feel his frustration and pain at every turn, whilst Charlotte-Kate Warren is simply brilliant as the heart of the musical, the grief stricken, vulnerable Molly. Molly’s song ‘With You’ was an emotional high point of the first half.

The iconic Unchained Melody is used throughout the musical as a recurring motif, it signifies love and promise, terrible loss and grief, and finally the pain of final goodbyes. It retains the power to reduce even the most hardened people to tears, and typically Ghost the Musical ended with many of the audience reaching for the tissues. Beautiful, tender and tragic, Ghost the Musical is one thing you must see year.

Ghost the Musical

Wolverhampton Grand

Until Saturday 26th January

Click here for ticket information.