Small Island at The National Theatre, London.

At three hours long this could only have been an epic evening. It certainly proved to be with this outstanding production of Small Island. I have recently read the book so I knew the story as it unfolded on the stage and the time needed to tell this tale was definitely three hours. I would happily have stayed for more.
The story begins in Jamaica in the early 1930’s but moves rapidly on to World War 2 in England, post war back in Jamaica and then back to England via the Empire Windrush ship.
The first half of the show is very funny and endearing as you get to know the characters and their back stories. The second half moves on to how the arrival of the Windrush generation on British soil impacts on all concerned. At times the second half is an uncomfortable watch as it is very verbally graphic and factual of the way many people from the Caribbean, having been invited to Britain to live and work in the Motherland, were racially abused and treated in an appalling way. This play is very powerful theatre. It makes you smile, it makes you laugh and it makes you cry but most importantly it makes you think.
Small Island is on until August 2019 so if you get a chance to see it you won’t be disappointed.

Dead dog in a suitcase – The Lyric, Hammersmith.

Last minute booking and costing £18 for end of row J in the stalls (seats next along were £39!) I was a bit worried this might be an evening of a restricted view? I booked last minute because my son had to see it for his A level drama so I figured which ever seat had the best view would have to be his! Having read the synopsis and learnt that this was a modern take on The Beggars Opera, I also concluded that was unhelpful as I have no idea of that story either 🤣. Anyway you can see from my photo that we had a fab view of the curious looking stage set. What was to follow could only really be described as hilarious bonkers! A mixture of puppetry, musical, pantomime, love story and lessons in morality, this great show was excellent entertainment from start to finish. The best way I can think of to describe it is what I would imagine a David Walliams book, brought to the stage, would be like if he wrote one in the style of his children’s books, but for adults. That is not a criticism but a compliment. This show was brilliantly performed with over the top characters both hero and villain and even a bit of nostalgia with Punch and Judy thrown in for good measure! You really have to see it to understand what I mean. There was one scene near the very end when I am not quite sure what happened but it was loud, dramatic, interactive and dark and certainly had everyone sitting up in their seats. On at the Lyric until next weekend and then off to Bristol for its next run, if you can get a chance to see it, it is definitely is worth a night out. Madness from beginning to end.

100 Club, Oxford Street, London.

I don’t know how or why I haven’t visited 100 Club in Oxford Street before. This tiny venue is exactly the kind of gig space I love and looking at their back catalogue they have hosted some great names. It’s a simple place, a stage, two bars, a sound desk and the loos. We paid £10 a head to see ‘Senser’ and not surprisingly at that price the gig was a sell out! Senser have been around a long time and this was reflected in the ages of the crowd who probably averaged at 40 + However their massive sound and energy had the crowd moshing madly and I fear there are going to be quite a lot of middle aged men waking up tomorrow wondering why they ache so much! What I love most about going to any live music event (as well as the music of course) is people watching. It’s great to see friends interacting with each other, dancing and singing or in this case moshing and stage diving with no inhibitions but just enjoying the moment.

Wong Kei, Waldorf street, Soho.

This restaurant has not changed since I first visited in the late 80’s. Serving authentic Chinese cuisine in basic but comfortable surroundings there are no heirs or graces here! You sit where you are told even if this means you share a table with strangers. They only take cash so make sure you’ve visited the cash point before you arrive. But the food is well cooked, piping hot and extremely fresh. On the edge of London’s China town there are many other Chinese restaurants very nearby which may offer a more sophisticated experience. However it is worth giving Wong Kei a go. If you love Chinese food you won’t be disappointed.

Gillray’s Steakhouse at The Marriott Hotel, County Hall.

Gillray’s Steakhouse is in the Marriott Hotel which in turn is inside the stunning County Hall building. This building, opened in 1922, is beautiful with oak panelling and grand pillars and now houses several different entertainment spaces including the London Aquarium and the London Dungeons. The Marriott is entered through a very grand court yard and there are plenty of door men to point you in the right direction once inside.
On our arrival at Gillray’s we were asked to wait in the bar as our table wasn’t quite ready. This wait ended up to be 40 minutes which would have been quite annoying if they hadn’t served us complimentary drinks throughout which was a nice touch. Once our table was ready we were seated with a fantastic view of the river and the London Eye. I would say however that although tasty, the food wasn’t outstanding and I have definitely had better. For a 5 * hotel I would have maybe expected a bit more finesse and I do wish if pudding is meringue that it’s is not described on the menu as pavlova! (They have clearly never tasted a real one!) That said the service was good with polite, attentive staff and the evening enjoyable and at £28 for three courses and a glass of fizz another culinary bargain!

All My Sons…Arthur Miller at The Old Vic.

Another fantastic play by Arthur Miller at The Old Vic. The stars of this one are Sally Fields and Bill Pullman plus Jemma Coleman for good measure. I was a bit worried, as it was Bank Holiday Monday, that only the understudies would turn up, but happily everyone was on the stage as expected. I’ve decide that what I like about Arthur Miller is that his plays are about normal folk living normal lives. All the dramas that he depicts could be a difficult chapter in anyone’s life the world over. This play, written in 1947, shows that the only thing that really changes throughout time is the date on the calendar. People are still people and their loves and lives and losses continue to be so similar throughout history. I loved some of Sally Fields’ one liners that only a mother would say and the bitching behind backs verses the sweet words spoken to faces was classic neighbourhood gossip, opinion and survival. This is a really good play and definitely worth a watch but unfortunately for anyone reading this who fancies it, it’s already a well deserved sell out. Sorry!

Hair-50th Anniversary tour.

HAIR is a musical sensation that 50 years ago created controversy as it flooded the stage with hippy culture of free love, drugs and commune living. Returning now in different times, this musical no longer shocks as it once did, allowing the audience instead to embrace the energy and talent of the cast, all of whom are outstanding as individuals and as a well choreographed family. The story is simple and those who say they don’t understand what is going on are maybe looking too deep. It is a group of young people sharing short stories about themselves, sharing a few trippy drug fuelled moments, loving peace and one another and ultimately having to make a stand for or against the Vietnam war. The whole cast are on the stage through out the show. The music flows endlessly into each new number, with each song having a strikingly individual rhythm and beat. The choreography is busy and captures your eyes as you track the cast across the stage. The music at times fills every inch of the theatre and vibrates through the floor and shakes you in your seat. This is a touring musical, (Dartford this week) and is far reaching from Edinburg to Brighton but it is, without doubt, a London West End worthy performance and production. I did not know what to expect but I was blown away by this explosion of musicality. And a special shout out for Daisy Wood-Davis who is sensational as Sheila and pictured here with her very proud Mum! This show is fantastic!!!!!!

10CC at The Royal Albert Hall.

In 1982 I went with a group of school friends to The Fairfield Hall’s in Croydon to see my first ever gig, 10CC. The opportunity to go to see the band again thirty seven years later, with two of those original school friends, was a chance too good to be missed! The Royal Albert Hall is a venue built for music, as well as being a beautiful building. With numerous bars that are well staffed, queuing for a drink is quick and painless (another liquid dinner, are we bad?) and the many toilet cubicles in the Ladies are a very pleasant treat! With an auditorium of comfortable seats, with a perfect view throughout, this is however, more importantly, a great theatrical space.

There are a lot of bands at the moment who are making a come back. Grabbing the opportunity, even if they are in their 70’s, to tour one more time. And why not, if they’ve still got it, flaunt it. But there is one thing the fans want to hear when they see their old favourite bands and that is ALL the old songs…allowing the audience to relive some classic moments and double whammy if they can do that with some original friends.

Thank you 10CC for doing just that!!! What a fantastic night when apart from one new track (which was actually really good) the set list was every 10CC track you’d hoped to hear. 10CC are still a quality, extremely talented act! Excellent musicians on guitar, drums and keyboards along with strong vocals and that unique 10CC sound. It never ceases to amaze me how I am able to sing nearly every word of music from my youth but can’t retain more than two words from a new track heard on the radio this morning!!! Great gig, great company, great memories and a great song-a-long 😉, nothing else needed.

The Price-Arthur Miller at The Wyndham Theatre.

The Wyndham Theatre is a cosy little theatre that in recent years has been beautifully restored and offers fantastic views of the stage throughout. We paid £12.50 for back row of the balcony and with only four rows in total, this has to be one of the best back row of the balcony seats in London. The cosy theme continues into the Ladies and I did have to reverse into the toilet cubicle as it was so narrow! However that actually adds to the charm of the building.

Anyway now to the play……we went to see David Suchet and were not disappointed. He was brilliant as an old American Jewish secondhand furniture dealer, negotiating to buy the whole contents of a loft apartment from two estranged, but during the play reunited, brothers. That is basically the story line which in itself doesn’t sound that exciting, but it was amazing how captivating the banter between the characters became as they shared memories of their past and present lives and once David Suchet joined the stage, how laugh out loud funny his dialogue and comedy timing was. An American play obviously means American accents which can sometimes be hard to follow in a theatre environment on British ears however the four English actors did a great job and the dialogue remained clear throughout. My only criticism was that the second half didn’t live up to the humour of the first and kind of went on a bit and although it didn’t loose it’s way, it did make me glaze over a couple of times! But I think that is typical Arthur Miller rather than any criticism of the actors who were all superb. Definitely worth the £12.50 we paid.

Helix at the top of the Gerkin.

I have been up a few of the high rise restaurants in London but Helix at the Gerkin, with its domed glass roof that blends you into the sky, has to be the best view so far! Don’t forget your photo ID to get you into the building and you definitely need to book, but once you enter the lift and begin your ascent, the rest of the experience is fantastic. Up to the 34th floor to the cloakroom and then one more lift to the 39th. As the doors open the view engulfs you and with most tables situated alongside the windows there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Three courses and a glass of fizz for £40 is slightly dearer than our usual meal deal bargains but the food was amazing, especially the deconstructed cheesecake which was the nicest dessert I have ever tasted. There is also a bar up a short flight of stairs which you can book into if you don’t want to eat and this too gives the same spectacular view. All the staff are polite and friendly and the whole evening was a lovely experience. Helix definitely feels a little bit special so a highly recommended night out.