Tag: theatre

‘Better than Mary Poppins!’

… exclaimed little T and her friend A, as the applause faded and the final encore was over.  “Hmm, I liked it too, but I don’t think I agree with them”. I whispered to my husband as we waited for the people beside us to move from their seats.  Having said that though, we both thoroughly enjoyed watching Wind in the Willows, the Musical.

Is it really better than Mary Poppins?  No.  But then again, I think it’s unfair to compare it to the show, the film of which starred Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke.  Everybody, well at least, most people know a few lyrics of the songs from that famous musical.  Who hasn’t heard of “Just a spoonful of sugar, makes the medicine go down?”  I bet most can sing to that.

Wind in the Willows is a new musical.  The songs are new and no one in the audience could sing to any of the songs.  The set wasn’t as grand as Mary Poppins, but boy did they deliver in performance!

The cast were superb and the actor who played Mr. Toad, Rufus Hound stole the show.  He was just fabulous, along with David Birrel (Badger), Fra Fee (Mole), Thomas Howes (Ratty), Neil McDermott (who played the Chief Weasel as a World War II era spiv), and Sophia Nomvete (who played Mrs. Otter).  In the book of course, Otter is male and has a son called Portly.  In the musical, Mrs. Otter has a daughter called Portia.

It’s a charming, lovely and entertaining show, with catchy songs and although it’s a pre-run to their West End opening, it is still definitely worth watching.  And I have no doubt that Wind in the Willows in the long run, will also be as big as any of the other West End musicals.

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Then again, if T and her friend A (who are both six), not to mention A’s sister (who is nine-years-old) think that Wind in the Willows is better than Mary Poppins, it must be true then.  After all children are known to be brutally honest 😉

You can catch Wind in the Willows at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth.  A must see!

Wind in the Willows, The Musical

“The smell of that buttered toast simply spoke to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cozy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one’s ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender; of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries.”
― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

My in-laws gave T a lovely hardbound and beautifully illustrated book, Wind in the Willows many years ago.  I think she was barely one when they gave that book to her.  Apparently, it’s a standing tradition for them to give their grandchildren a copy of Wind in the Willows.  All her cousins have them, and she has one too.

Admittedly, T is still too young for this particular book.  It’s too wordy, although the illustrations are beautiful, the paragraphs are too long for a six-year-old.  When my husband reads it to her, he abridges it himself, just to stop T from fidgeting.

Months ago, when booking our tickets to see Mary Poppins, my husband saw an announcement on the Theatre Royal website about the new musical “The Wind in the Willows”.  Downton Abbey creator, Julian Fellowes wrote the musical, along with the same people who did the spectacular musical Mary Poppins.  Excited, he quickly booked tickets for us.  And ever since then, T who loves musicals have been doing a countdown.  As of tonight, it’s only going to be one sleep left!  To make things even more fun, we are going to see it with one of T’s closest friend and her family.

This week it has definitely been all about going to the theatre for us.

Do you like the book Wind in the Willows?

The Reading Residence
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On a side-note, I’m over at the lovely blog “Little Hearts, Big love“, talking about parenting.  I know, as if I know much about it 😉  Do head over and have a visit.

Have a lovely weekend folks!

Keeping Christmas Traditions Alive

My husband and I are a couple of sentimental fools. We like routine, though admittedly we also like to break the usual by doing something different every now and then.  But mostly, we love tradition, especially the kind we’ve created as a little family.

In my last post, I wrote about going to a Christmas tree farm where we’ve been going to for the past four years or so.  It might be actually my most favourite Christmas tradition – because for me, there’s something magical about walking through pine trees and picking the perfect tree for us.

And then of course, there’s also watching a Christmas show.  We only started this last year when we went to London to watch The Snow Man.  It was an amazing show and T was enthralled by the whole experience, watching it on stage and seeing the snow man and little boy fly through the air, right in front of her very eyes, was as T would say – awesome!

This year though, we’ve decided to see one nearer to home. We chose to watch little T’s favourite  story, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter, about an hours drive from where we live.  We’re lucky we have close friends who live in the city and it was a great excuse to spend the night and catch up with them.

A Mini- Review

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed the show.  There were only a few actors who played more than one role and they were just fabulous!  They played each role really well.  I was especially impressed with the actress Katherine Senior who played Mrs. Cratchit/Mrs. Fezziwig/Fanny and Belle, for each role she portrayed, she played it like a star.  And of course, Derek Frood, the actor who played Scrooge was also superb.

While all the actors were good, sadly the set was a bit flat, especially since our good friend B (who has lived in Exeter for a long time and has seen different productions in the Northcott) said that compared to what she’s seen in the past, with lovely and impressive sets, “A Christmas Carol” was just a tad bit disappointing.  She wondered if there was any truth to the rumour that the theatre is having trouble staying afloat.  I really do hope that it’s not the case, since in spite of the setback, the play was really, really jolly good!

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When asked what her favourite part was in the play, T said that she enjoyed the bit where the phantom appeared.  She wasn’t scared at all, even in the scene where Scrooge realises that it’s actually his name written on the grave.

After the show, T had a blast playing in the University grounds.

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Especially when our good friend E, picked her up so she could slide down the bars like Riley in the movie Inside Out.

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Loved walking in the University grounds, since it is located on a hill, overlooking Exeter, it’s a perfect way to see the city lights.  Would love to visit during the day and just walk around the campus and enjoy the school grounds.

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Loved their Christmas decorations dotted all over the place.

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And as you can see on little T’s face, I wasn’t the only one who was loving every single minute of it.

If you live in the area or will be somewhere near Exeter during the holidays, come and watch “A Christmas Carol” over at Northcott Theatre, it will be running till the 29th of December.  Definitely worth a watch!  On the website, you might notice that there is a minimum age of 7, ignore it.  T is 5 and no one in the theatre asked about her age.  To be fair though, we didn’t even know about the age restriction, only noticed it on their website after watching the show when I was checking on what other shows were next on the list. I guess it’s because some children may find some of the scenes scary. Had she not been familiar with the story, I have no doubt she might have been frightened with the phantom and other scenes.

What about you? What is your favourite Christmas story?

Do You Want to Watch the Snow Man?

I can’t believe Christmas is over!  Can you?  How was it?  I’m sure everyone has had a lovely Christmas, especially the children.

Anyway, as mentioned on the 23rd we caught a short-train ride to London to watch Raymond Brigg’s The Snowman.  For those who aren’t familiar with this lovely children’s story – it’s about a boy who builds a Snowman which magically comes into life.  They then embark on a lovely fun adventure which includes flying over hills and ocean, then the Snowman takes the little boy to meet his other Snowmen friends, have a party with Father Christmas before taking him back home.  In the morning, he wakes up and finds that the snow man has melted.

Here in the UK, they show the animated film when it’s nearing Christmas and usually repeat it either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas day.  This year, we decided that Little T was old enough to be taken to the theatre.

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And since we were spending Christmas with my in-laws who live just outside London, it was the perfect excuse to go to the capital.  We decided a matinée would be perfect.

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To be honest, Little T wasn’t really that excited.  I guess in her young mind, she probably thought that we were just going to see The Snow Man on the big screen.  Since we arrived early, we decided to kill some time at the nearby Waterstones.  And their she saw “The Snow Man and the Snow Dog” (sequel to the Snowman story) soft-toy and book which she’s been wanting to have for the longest time, and to which we kept saying NO.  She already has the book you see, and we just thought that it was a waste of money to buy the book again just because it came with a toy.  Why couldn’t they just sell the soft-toy separately?  This time though, her grandfather gave her some pocket-money to spend and by this time, we’ve run out of excuses to say no.  So yes, she came away with a snow-dog too.

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How can you say no to that face?  Actually we do, loads of times.  The trick is to say it without looking at her.  If you steal a glance, you will lose.  Little T can hypnotize you into saying “yes”, just don’t look and you’ll be fine.

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Then it was time to go in.  There were of course, loads of children, even younger than little T.  It was actually like a children’s party in the theatre.

Like I mentioned earlier, little T was probably expecting to see the big screen come to life, she didn’t expect though to see characters “live”, her face lit up and broke into the most beautiful smile you’ve ever seen.  And the husband and I agreed that it was so worth braving the cold and Christmas crowd in the capital.  It was also at this point where we both decided to add this to our Christmas family tradition, go to the theatre and watch a show.

Before intermission broke out, the famous flying scene happened.  I swear all the children had their mouths open and everyone heard a collective gasp.  It was brilliant!

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While eating her ice-cream, I asked little T “Do you think it was magic that made the Snowman and the little boy fly?”  In between scoops she said matter-of-factly “No mum.  They both had strings on their backs”  (She meant wires of course).  I replied, “It’s magic T!”.  She repeated firmly “No mum.  It was string“.  End of story.  Before I could convince her otherwise, it was time for the second half of the show.

We actually expected the second half to be shorter.  It wasn’t.  There were lovely dance scenes between the Snow men, the Ice-Queen and even Jack Frost had a guest appearance, even though they (Ice Queen and Jack Frost) were not in the original Raymond Birggs’ story – it was still lovely.  However, not-so for the little ones, it was just a wee-bit-too-long.  I think the show would’ve been better if it was just a bit shorter, otherwise, it was fantastic!  Great show, good cast, even loved the additional characters like the Snow Queen and of course, the effects was just fab.  And at the end of the show, snow actually fell all over the theatre, the kids loved it!

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especially this kid.

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Then out the theatre doors we went, into the maddening London Christmas crowd.

What about you?

Did you see any Christmas show over the holidays?

How to survive watching Shakespeare in an open-air Theatre with a Three-Year-Old

I’ve always wanted to watch Shakespeare at an open-air theatre, but only got the chance when we had family visiting from my country early this month.  Since they’ve already watched “The Crucible” at the Old Vic in London, we wanted to offer them something different.  That’s when we thought of the Minack open-air theatre down in Porthcurno in West Cornwall, luckily for us, “The Tempest” was on early this month.  This theatre by the sea is probably the best place to stage and watch the play which many believe to be the last play that he wrote alone.  Incidentally, this was also the first play to be ever staged at Minack in 1932.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep – The Tempest

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Waiting for The Tempest to start.

When I saw that it was showing, I quickly booked our tickets online, hushing that nagging voice in my head that said “Are you seriously thinking of taking your 3-year-old daughter to watch Shakespeare at 8pm?!”   But my husband and I decided that yes, we were going, but not before discussing a plan.

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We survived the first half-of the play! Yay.

In case you’re wondering how we did it, here are a few tips:

1.  Explain to your little one what’s about to happen.  That you are about to watch a play (it also helps to just give them an idea what it’s also about) and should try to be in their best behavior.

2.  Don’t arrive late.  Choose your seats near the exit in case you need to do an emergency dash once your little one starts making whinging noises.  Expect that either one of you, might just not be able to watch the play in whole.

By the time I booked our tickets, only the upper seats were left, but that was fine with us, especially since we preferred to sit at the very back which worked really well for us.  This was early July folks, the heat wasn’t on yet, in fact it was scheduled to rain and the wind from the ocean was still a bit chilly. Since we sat up in the bleachers, a huge rock  shielded us from the rain and cold.  But not to worry, the theatre had surround-sound speakers so you could hear the dialogue really well.

3.  Expect to get the “Oh no” looks from people as they find themselves seated next beside you.  Yes, those horrified looks that sometimes makes me want to say “Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite.  She’s not a rabid dog“.   The woman seated beside me asked “How old is she?”  To be fair with her, she seemed really friendly, but I noticed her smile turned a bit fake when I told her little T was only three.  The couple seated next to my husband though had stony expressions on their faces, I noticed they sat with their back straight-really tense looking, I half expected them to jump at the slightest noise my daughter might make while the play was going on.

During the break though, the same woman who asked how old little T complimented her and said “She’s really good!”  My husband and I laughed nervously and said “So far so good” and crossed our fingers.

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Little T making funny faces during the break.

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“I’m a good girl!”

4.  And lastly (this is a bit of bad-parenting folks), but bring loads of sweets and treats.  The good thing about the Minack is that, since it is an open-theatre, you are allowed to bring a little picnic with you.  In fact, the couple seated next to my husband brought a hamper with them and it wasn’t a small one (as advised on their website), it was a biggish hamper.  They sat with their straight backs while sipping wine and eating strawberries, as if ready to pack-up and once little T showed signs of the beginning of a tantrum.  Luckily for everyone, she didn’t.

She was a very good girl indeed.  And remained quiet and sat on mummy’s lap and sometimes daddy’s lap wrapped up in a blanket all through out the play.  Perhaps what did the trick was that she was eating loads of Lola biscuits (party rings) and little cakes.  No she wasn’t eating the whole duration of the play which was probably a couple of hours long, probably just the first half.

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The very talented-cast of the Tempest.

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Final encore.

At the end of the day though, you of all people, know your child.  If you think your little one wouldn’t last this long and won’t probably behave watching a play, don’t take them.  It’s not fair on your child, the people around you and mostly it’s not worth the stress.  Hire a babysitter or leave your little one with a trusted friend or loved one, then go to the theatre.

As for us, we like to include little T in everything we do or it could also be, we’re just a little bit bonkers.

This post is linked-up with #countrykids.

What about you?

Have you taken your little one to see a play?