Theatre Review: Peter Pan at the Grand Opera House Belfast

Apologises on the delay with the review of this year’s Panto in the Grand Opera House. Absolutely no reflection on the production which is off to a snappy start but I ended up with a bad case of the flu and I didn’t want to write this in a flu induced haze as there are so many amazing elements to this year’s production that I wanted to do justice to. I wanted to describe the show with excitement and enthuasiusm.

Peter Pan at the Grand Opera House Belfast is charming with a lot of local influence and some fabulous West End theatrics and darlings. Peter Pan flies on stage and into our hearts accompanied by lots of up beat modern pop songs including Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit.The audience are laughing in the aisles, screaming and shouting the traditional Panto lines and are left wide eyed at the special effects especially this year’s added bonus a 3D adventure through the sea.

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Star of the show for me had to be Captain Hook, Musical stage star David Badella. Badella certainly put his own spin on the character earning a reaction of buckets full of Boos and some of the biggest applause on the night as he did things his own way. Look out for Bedellas perfectly timed solo at the end of the performance.

It would be wrong just to single out Bedella as their are so many talented performers in this production our own local superstar May McFetridge is back as the Panto Queen with her right hand shipmate Paddy Jenkins in tow. The poor front row audience got whipped into shape by Mays legendary tongue and quick fired wit and as always the duo had us all in stitches with a bit of a singalong.

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Mikey Jay Heath is a fantastic Pan soaring through the auditorium with a cheeky grin. He is joined on stage by not one but four feisty females, the ultimate girl group; Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily, Wendy and Mimi the mermaid (Claire King from Emmerdale and Coronation Street) The ladies put there differences and roller boots aside (well done Hollie O Donoghue for staying upright throughout) to help defeat Hook and save the lost boys.

Speaking of Lost Boys the younger performers from the McMaster Stage School shine in their roles. Break dancing and entertaining throughout.

Peter Pan at the Grand Opera House is the classic tale with lots of song,dance and modern gadgets. It should be a crowd pleaser for all ages with crocodiles,fairies and little breakdancing kids. I highly recommend it for a Christmas night out before the end of the run.

Emer D xx

Peter Pan runs until January 14th at the Grand Opera House in Belfast tickets available at http://www.goh.co.uk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Music Review: Wolf Alice at The Ulster Hall Belfast, November 2017

I won’t lie after last night’s gig in the Ulster Hall, I have a bit of a girl crush on Ellie Rowsell, lead singer of Wolf Alice. She is the heroic female rocker I always wanted to be in my teens, when I wished I was a combination of Gwen Stefani and Courtney Love. Last night the feisty, loud, guitarist and songstress took the roof of the Belfast venue with her bandmates Jeff Oddie, Theo Ellis and Joel Amey. I can only describe Wolf Alice live as being animated, full of angst and feral intensity they awoke my senses on a freezing cold Monday night in Belfast.

Described online as a four piece alternative rock band I feel it’s impossible to pigeonhole them into any such category, last night I think they embodied some of the punk legends which have strode the Ulster Hall stage before them. In fact bassist Theo Ellis teased with the audience more than a couple of times that he was going to smash a few guitars but never quite came to that last final blow. I also think every time I see this band I see a new side to them, I last saw them in the Californian Sunshine in Coachella in April 2016 and their sound seems to have grown in intensity since this time, or maybe it was just the smaller venue? Things can sound different in the desert. Anyway…

Touring their second Album Visions of a Life the audience cheered, stomped, sang along and bounced into a frenzy across the auditorium floor. The audience varied from hipster to old rocker and I couldn’t help but notice a couple of very animated very young little fans seated in the balcony who thoroughly enjoyed the set and where rewarded with plectrums and drumsticks by the band at the end of the show (very nice touch by Rowsell and Co.)

The band didn’t speak or interact much with the audience but they didn’t need to their music did all the work. They played a mixture of well-known hits including You’re a Germ, Beautifully Unconventional, Lisbon with lesser known hits Yuk Foo and Don’t delete the Kisses. Starting the set with Heavenward there were a lot of ebbs and flows throughout reflecting the bands catalogue of amped up snarling rock anthems and ethereal atmospheric indie tunes. Easy to see why this band are critically acclaimed and will be staying on my playlist for the new year.

Emer D xx

Theatre Review: Son of a Preacher Man at the Grand Opera House Belfast

Three generations come together for an adventure back to the 60s with the soundtrack courtesy of Dusty Springfield. It should have been an audience journey of nostalgia and great music but unfortunately this production didn’t quite hit the mark for me the storyline just didn’t make sense.

It started well we met our four main characters all talented singers and performers. Some well-known faces among the cast; X-factor star Diana Vickers, Bad Girls and Coronation Street star Debra Stephenson and Eastenders star Ian Reddington. All joined by Michael Howe who has a wealthy of theatre credits under his belt. They set out on the journey as Kat,Alison and Simon who are are all seeking unrequited love , Perfect. They feel sure that somehow this journey back into Soho of the 60s will help, unsure about this but I’ll go with it.

We meet the son of the preacher man a former shadow of his fathers legacy (Reddington) and the quirky cappuccino girls played by Michelle Long,Kate Hardisty and Cassiopeia Berkeley-Agyepong. I loved their costumes and dance moves they narrate/guide the plot and sing a lot of the Springfield songs well but unfortunately this seems to happen hidden in the background below the dialogue and action.

Here in lies my first problem we came to see a Dusty Springfield musical we want to hear her big hits being belted through the auditorium, I want to sing and clap along but instead my favourites The Look of Love, You don’t have to say you love me, I only want to be with you etc. are given no reverence and they don’t match what’s happening on stage.

The story starts to take a downward spiral when we find out about the three lovers.

Simon (Howe) is looking to find a partner whom he has had a connection with many years ago, the dance piece of the two male lovers insync with Howe was actually quite beautiful. The story lost it’s significance when the audience begin to be treated like idiots! Yes we have figured out it’s a gay relationship no need to tell us and yes we do realise the 60s was a different time. Oh and it just so happens his wife has passed away and she meant nothing to him, Ok then?!

Kat (Vickers) is pining after a hunk she found on match.com but he didn’t like her. I have to admit if I found Mike the knight perfect (played by Liam Vincent-Kilbride) online I’d probably swipe right too. He is a fireball of energy on stage, dancing and working out, don’t think I’ve seen so many press ups done by an actor on stage in quite a while, he also has a great voice and accent (when we finally hear him) which would make any woman weak at the knees.

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BUT here’s my problem with this storyline; Kat is trying to trap the perfect guy she goes a little OTT and wears a skimpy waitress outfit while basically trying to give Mike a lap dance. It made me cringe A LOT!!! I’ve seen flirtation in theatre done well, check out Legally Blondes bend and snap or even Rocky Horrors blatant physical theatre but this scene just made me uncomfortable. Washing over this, the character of Mike starts off as a nice guy,fighting from women’s rights and PC terms then all of sudden he’s in a kilt and is a money grabbing player? Eh Hello what happened??

Alison’s (Stephenson) relationship problems are dare I say it, a walking cliché, she is a widow who has recently fallen for her young student but nothing’s happened (she states!). Her school boy is also crushing on her and stalking her. She teaches him English Literature so why not add in a bit of Romeo and Juliet as well. The ending of their love story had me baffled she is pained with her decision throughout the production very very quickly herself and Liam (played by Lewis Kidd) just give up and decide to change partners, what, why?! Is it just to give the audience a happy ever after?!
Ok, so now that I have the faults with the story out of the way. I have to admit there is also A LOT of choreography in this production not surprising as Craig Revel Horwood was on direction. The cast are hard working and raise to this challenge in every scene. The songs when we get to hear them are good, I especially praise Diana Vickers for the closing track Son of a Preacher Man (loved it). The staging is pretty but the transitions a little slow. However I applaud the live on stage musicians that is no easy task.

Overall I think this productions storyline left me gobsmacked and unfortunately turned the production sour for me but I could see how much work and talent the cast have. I wish them luck for the rest of the run. If you go and see Son of a Preacher Man I would love to know your thoughts, from the audience reaction on the night I attended it seems to be a marmite production your either gonna love it or hate it. Let me know where you stand.

Emer D xx

Son of a Preacher Man runs until Saturday 25th November at the Grand Opera House Belfast tickets available at http://www.goh.co.uk.

 

Theatre Review: Hairspray at the Grand Opera House Belfast

You can’t stop the beat… or the fantastic cast of Hairspray the musical at Grand Opera House Belfast this week. Hairspray is infectious, it’s cheesy and it’s just one of those fabulous feel good musicals. You can’t help but sing and dance along. The tunes get stuck in your head for weeks and you are green with envy at the cast members as they strut their stuff on stage.

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If you don’t know the story of Tracy Turnblad where have you been?! Hairspray is the story of a big girl (curvy, plus size whatever label you want to use) with big hair in Baltimore in the 60’s. Tracy is inspirational she wants to achieve her dreams to dance on national TV, she wants to win equality and like most teenagers she wants prince charming to come and sweep her off her feet. I first encountered the tale through the movie adaption in 2007 and immediately fell in love with the charm, the show tunes and Zac Efron’s Link Larkin. Hairspray got a Live TV debut last year by NBC with a host of stars but regrettably this was the first time I got a chance to see the musical onstage.

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The stage show adds some much more depth to the characters and so many more elements of talent. The actors are all in their own right triple threats, they dance, they sing and they truly entertain. This latest touring production courtesy of Mark Goucher, Matthew Gale and Laurence Myers is sure to put a bounce in your step and I smile on your face.
The show is staged with moving red brick houses and projected scenery this means that the stage space is left somewhat clear for the real action; the dance. Choreographed by Drew McOnie the dancing is fast paced, practised and seems to come easily to the performers. I was in awe of the talented Lyton Williams’ energetic performance as Seaweed as well as the twists, tumbles and grooves coming from the ensemble.

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Rebecca Mendoza as Tracy is loveable, courageous and thankfully in tune throughout the production not an easy task when you throw in some rapid costume changes and a lot of choreography. Her parents Edna and Wilbur played by Matt Rixon and Norman Pace are hilarious and brought lots of comedy and heart to the piece. Tracy’s best friend Penny played by Annalise Liard-Bailey was perfectly dim but delightful and Edward Chittick’s heart throb Link captured a young talented Elvis wannabe. However for me the vocals which stole the show came from Brenda Edwards who played Motor mouth Maybelle. Her soulful tones sang right into my heart and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this production of Hairspray it was colourful, comedic and popped right off the stage. The audience sang along and rewarded the company with a standing ovation and rounding applause which was deserved. I left humming the tunes and wanting to get my hands on a bedazzled 60s dress. Congratulations to all involved.
Emer D xx
Hairspray The Musical runs until Saturday 4th November at the Grand Opera House Belfast tickets are going fast but if you want to snap up the last few remaining pop over to http://www.goh.co.uk.

Film Review: Happy Death Day

Happy Halloween, as it’s one of my favourite days of the year and it’s based on being scared by ghosts and goblins I got out of my comfort zone for this one. With thanks to Paramount Pictures and Movie House Cinemas I was invited along to see Happy Death Day, this year’s slasher  movie perfect for Halloween.

The premise: Tree Gelbman is a blissfully self-centered collegian who wakes up on her birthday in the bed of a student named Carter. As the morning goes on, Tree gets the eerie feeling that she’s experienced the events of this day before. When a masked killer suddenly takes her life in a brutal attack, she once again magically wakes up in Carter’s dorm room unharmed. Now, the frightened young woman must relive the same day over and over until she figures out who murdered her.

Now the trailers for this one looked liked I could survive through this film, hopefully without a panic attack or a blood curdling scream (not from the screen from me!) I’m seriously a big scaredy cat and I’m glad to say as I sat with apprehension in my cinema seat I was quickly put at ease.

The story is the usual, bratty American college kid who has been a jerk to everyone, realises her error but is it too late, has her muderous fate been sealed. In the process she has a boy meets girl experience. I have to say it was entertaining, it wasn’t horrifying or too blood curdingly.  It reminded my of the scream films from the 90s mixed with the Groundhog Day there where a few moments of suspense and jumping out of your seat but these quickly dispersed in a full screen in nervous laughter.

So overall without spoiling the film I enjoyed Happy Death Day and think it’s the perfect Halloween treat for all (note it’s a 15 cert as it has some strong language and sexual innuendo) . It’s playful and silly with likeable characters and even a few life lessons.

Perfect choice if you fancy a cinema outing today.

Emer D xx

Careers advice at 33:Inspiration,Determination and Creativity

Inspiration,determination and creativity are three big words in my life right now and at times I’ve been lacking in all three but this week I met an NI artist who has rubbed shoulders with a genius and has worked with some of the most creative beings in the world. So here comes the next chapter of this blog section…

Lets pick up where we left off last time I had  just started my life working freelance full time . I am a creative person and I’m very adaptable to different business needs but the highs and lows of freelance work  has made both my work life and personal life unsteady, it had started to effect my confidence. Having no one to fall back on financially (bar my fabulous parents) and missing the feeling of having a team behind me became very isolating. So the past few months I’ve been seeking roles to either compliment my existing freelance existence or something full time which feeds both my creative and business side.

Low and behold I came across a role which was full time and feed into my artistic passion and business experience/achievements. I fit the job description perfectly as if the role was made for me. The application was one of the easiest I could complete (I have completed hundreds at this stage) as I ticked all the boxes and thankfully I got the interview. Past and present colleagues gave me glowing references and I was determined this was the job for me.

Unfortunately the interview panel didn’t feel the same. I thought my assessment, presentation and interview had went well with a few moments of nerves and apprehension (I hadn’t done very many interviews in the past six years!!) but I wasn’t the right candidate for the position. But it’s another learning curve, I have the experience of that interview under my belt and I am thankful that I was seen by the team (maybe I’ll have an opportunity to try again at this one!)

Anyway I have since got another freelance project and a little part time job and it hasn’t stopped me searching for the perfect position. However I had started to doubt a career in the arts, it is such a small niche in Northern Ireland. I had been looking further a field as well but with no joy. I had hoped as I’ve been an active adovocate of theatre, film  and have worked in the sector since I graduated it wouldn’t be so hard (After all I now  have almost two decades of experience behind me plus a degree and a postgrad!). I needed inspiration, I need to hear it is achievable, I needed to hear all my hard work wasn’t a waste of time. Then I met Chris Sutton.

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I was invited to a conversation with Chris Sutton at the MAC theatre Belfast. Chris is from Belfast studied fine art at University of Ulster and now works full time on image making and fashion consulting. He has worked with Dior, Chanel, Fendi, W Magazine, V Magazine, Interscope Records to name a few. He discussed his career and how the past decade has been a whirlwind of directors, stylists and artists across the scope of fashion and the entertainment industry, including Nicola Formichetti, Nick Knight, Steven Meisel, Steven Klein and Patti Wilson. His collaborations with musical artists have included Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj and the Scissor Sisters. He even provided fashion direction for Marilyn Manson, how many people can put that on their CV.

Chris is inspirational, he’s from home, he’s basically my age and epitomises grabbing an opportunity by the horns and making the most of it. Don’t ask how or why just make it happen. He has made so many advances in his career and has continually evolved. He has grown in his life to make choices that work for him. He has been through so much in such a short space of time but he’s not afraid to go back to making tea if it gives him the opportunity to learn and develop from a genius. He’s been at that point in life where you survive on very strong coffee alone, something I know only too well. He made me think that we can’t be restrained from experience and life. We can learn from our surroundings and if someone gives you an inch take a mile. It’s unbelievable what can happen with a bit of cheeky charm. Just ask him what he said to Jerry Hall!!

He made me feel like working in the arts is achievable there are many barriers (yes I could fill another blog post with those) but it’s more about what you want to do and how you go about it be determined,be inspired, show your creativity and don’t take No as the final answer.

So let’s continue this work life and fingers crossed maybe I have that big break coming right around the corner.

Emer D xx

PS Thank you Chris Sutton and Chris Love for inviting me to take part in a Conversation with Chris Sutton, I throughly enjoyed it. If you want to know more about Chris check him out on http://www.chrissuttonstudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

My Top 3 alternative adventures to get up to at this year’s West Coast Cooler Belfast Fashion Week…

West Coast Cooler Belfast Fashion week kicks off this Thursday 26th October and there is so much to see and do. There are the usual designer, boutique and high street shows which are certain to give you lots of inspiration for your Autumn/Winter wardrobe but did you know there is also a lot of fun to get up to away from the catwalk  as well.My top three things to do this year are…

1. Eating sushi off a models chest.

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Yup you read that right, all of our dreams to be Samantha from Sex and the City may come true.This year Belfast Fashion Week have been teasing  on Instagram that  this certain dream will become a reality at this year’s Sushi Saturday. However if you would rather just have it on a plate don’t worry Zen restaurant will also serve a delicious Asian afternoon tea with a refreshing West Coast Cooler while Fashion week director Cathy Martin gives her directors cut of the catwalk shows. Sounds like a perfect Saturday to me.

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2.Getting to pick the minds of some highly intelligent,confident and amazing women.

The F Words: Fashion,Fitness and Food event is a brunch with a spectacular bunch of Wonder Woman. The constant professional  model,estate agent and blogger Tiffany Brien, The body building Yogi Kim Constable and The Hormone Health Coach and Gluten Free Fi Maria Rafferty will all be on hand to inform and answer questions. Plus it’s happening in Belfast newest hotspot Babel  rooftop bar at  Bulitt Hotel. I recently checked this place out, the food and cocktails are amazing!!!

3. Do a good deed for the day.

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Style Sunday is a dedicated to Action Cancer. Think  an amazing raffle with exquisite prices plus a four course fashion lunch from James Street South.  Added bonus there will be a a runway fashion show and a makeup session with professionals from Illamasqua. Plus you will be doing a good deed for the day.

 

Im hoping to fit in at least one of these activities and one of the shows next week but what will you get up to?!

Emer D xx

For full details on all shows and to get your hands on some tickets go to http://www.belfastfashionweek.com or call 02890421509.

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