Who needs the Westend when we have all this!! (September Theatre Reviews)

Wow! What a week it has been for the theatre scene in Belfast. I have been treated to the joy of cabaret in the MAC, been through an out of body experience with Archy in the Grand Opera House and my passion for the power of NI music and arts has been reborn at the Lyric. I have been in awe of the amazing homegrown talent,those born and bred in this small island and those who have adopted us for now, somehow I’m going to sum this all up in one blog post for you dear reader, wish me luck?!

Archy in Manhattan

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Let’s start with Archy in Manhattan at the Grand Opera House. A new write by Marie Jones and directed by Ian McElhinney. Archy tells the story of a poet who is reincarnated into the body of a cockroach. It is a play which is one that needs to be seen to be believed! It’s a stripped back production with minimal lighting, projection and levelled staging being the only tools available to the actors. There is nowhere to hide and the direction is clear, the actors literally jump into your imagination. After a few minutes the audience are transported to the New York gutters and high rise buildings in this very intimate playing space. The story is hard to pinpoint a simple plot, it is about Life/death struggles, transcending, broadway rats, baby spiders, a flirty ladybird and so much more. Bonkers, humourous and bizarre but in a really good way! A very talented cast made up of some of NIs best known actors; Dan Gordon, Tara Lynne O’Neill, Abi McGibbon,Michael Condron, Katie Tumelty are lead by the talented and very energetic Matthew McElhinney.  This show was only on a short run in the Baby Grand Studio but I’m sure I can see it being reincarnated very soon.

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The World Goes ‘Round

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My love affair of Blunt Fringe Productions continues!! If you don’t know who these guys are you are missing out. They springboard actors and musicians into fully immersive and quality productions, The World Goes ‘Round  is no exception. The audience is welcomed into the Luminaire Club, a cabaret style theatre where drinks are flowing as well as dry ice and twinkling lights. The production itself is a mixture of melancholic moods, complete merriment and frivolous joy with marvellous musicals numbers! Full of memorable music, a few jazz hands and tap steps plus fantastic vocals. It filled me with pure joy! Under Rachel Logan Fee’s expert eye the fantastic cast including Aveen Biddle and Conor McFarlane from Derry and Stephanie McConville from Lurgan throughly entertain. The audience is transported to Broadway via the songs of Kander and Ebb. Highlights; the amazing vocals by Will Arundell on Kiss of the Spider Woman and the ensembles acrobatic performance on roller skates to The Rink. Catch it while you can at The MAC until 15 September.

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Good Vibrations

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Based on the BAFTA winning film Good Vibrations (by Colin Carberry and Glen Patterson). This production tells the real life story of Terri Hooley, affectionately known as the godfather of punk in Northern Ireland. It’s the story of a punk music revolution in the midst of the troubles and the stage production in the Lyric is entertaining, thought-provoking and poignant. I’m a little biased when it comes to this production knowing the fabulous director Des Kennedy since uni days but also having had a little bit of extras fun on the film, add to that I’m a punk loving girl from the Northwest so of course this was going to hit the spot. But I wasn’t expecting it to blow the socks off me!

 

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Aaron McCusker excels at portraying Terri with empathy and passion. Accompained by Niamh Perry as Ruth, their love story reduced me to tears at points. This is a casting made in heaven, the relationship of Hooley and his muse is full of ups and downs and this pair have that magic touch to recreate that special spark on stage. Add to this the fantastic multi-talented Christina Nelson, Sean Kearns (amazing portrayal of Peel), Goldie Fawn, Dylan Reid, Jolene O Hara, Nial McNamee and my personal favourite Gavin Peden (I love how quickly he transforms from sneed bank manager to punk) and we have a show easily guaranteed Westend/Broadway success.

A fantastic atmosphere and set, I felt like we re-lived the 70s movement. Rudi, The Outcasts and the Undertones are all represented with pride! And what a homage to the punk legend of Belfast the one and only Terri Hooley!! As the great man says NI is full of talent and potential we just need to remind the rest of the world.

And I think this week in terms of theatre there is no place I’d rather be than home.

Emer D xx

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Something for September: Winterfell Festival and Kildare Village

The summer holidays are coming to an end and everyone’s getting back to a normal routine but although the family hours of free time maybe reduced, I still have a few suggestions to make the most out of your weekend.

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A fan of Game of Thrones why not check out the Winterfell Festival on Sunday 16th September at Castle Ward.

Recently I stepped into the world of the Stark family at Castle Ward, Co. Down. Meeting at the Clock Tower of the historic estate in the courtyard (which was used as a film location for the popular HBO programme Game of Thrones in season one) we were cloaked and transported to Westeros. We sampled storytelling (meeting actors who play Lord Ned Stark, Lady Stark and King Robert), we ate a Game of Thrones picnic in the beautiful surroundings of the Strangford Lough (provided by local restaurant The Cuan) and heard stories of White Walkers!

Our tour guides were well informed on all the film sites and I loved checking out filming locations around the estate including Audleys Castle which formed Freys Towers in the show. We even got a chance to learn some sword skills from trained extras. Although my highlight of the day was the archery, we stood on the very spot where young Bran Stark trained with his brothers and took our shot. I was absolutely useless but it was so much fun. Big Game of Thrones fan? Or even just looking for a fun family activity then this is the day out for you. With lots of places to eat and picnic on the estate, lots of nice of forest walks as well as the beautiful historic Castle Ward. The Winterfell festival also adds a full programme of events and entertainment including theatrical performances, live jousting, falconry,archery, a medieval village and Dire Wolves (yes, you can meet the actual dogs who played Summer and Grey Wind in the TV show!)
Tickets for the festival and full information can be found at www.national trust.org.uk/winterfell

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Fancy a shopping trip for you and your little shopaholics why not visit the shopping Mecca of Ireland; Kildare Village.

Last weekend I took a Sunday day trip to Kildare Village, the outlet shopping village outside of Dublin. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised I’d be hearing a lot about this outlet but having been spoilt by BIG outlet villages in the states, I’ve never really found anywhere that compares.
However Kildare Village is one of the most picturesque outlets I have every seen, covered in blossoms and with pretty shop fronts and even prettier cafes and pop up food carts I have to say it ranks right up there with Woodbury Common in New York!! And that’s just the aesthetic!


It also has some fantastic bargains and offers to be had from labels such as Prada, Michael Kors, Mulberry,Pandora,Swaroski and many many more.With lots of fun zones for the kids including the new Imaginosity zone and I’m sure they would love a black charcoal ice cream, it’s a fun day trip for all the family.
I popped down with the #NIBLoggerBrunch crew and we all had a lovely brunch, did some painting with prosecco then hit the shops. I got some beautiful new jewellery and some of the my favourite Rituals products for the half of the price but wanted to buy so much more, I think a Christmas shopping trip maybe in order!!! Plus if you are insta wannabie this is the place for you lots and lots of photo walls. Come on you know you want to make your friends jealous!!

Want to know more about Kildare Village find out all the details here: www.kildarevillage.com
Heading from Belfast why not make the journey stress free by taking the trip with McCombs check out there day trip options at: McCombs Kildare Village Shopping Trip

Guest Review: A life to Style plus her twins check out Awful Auntie at the Grand Opera House Belfast

Last night myself and my nephews enjoyed a night at the theatre watching Awful Auntie at the Grand Opera House they loved it, highlights from them fart noises, puppets and adventures up chimneys. However there not quite at the reviewing stage yet. So thankfully the lovely Avril Keys of A Life to Style fame brought her gorgeous little twins to check it out and this is what they had to say, over to you Avril!

Emer D xx

Awful Auntie

Tonight, the twins and I were invited to review the first night of David Walliam’s ‘Awful Auntie’ so I decided to task the girls with writing the review-after all, it’s for the kids isn’t it? Well actually, it has something for all the family and there’s one joke at the end that is strictly for the grown up’s! Cue lots of confusion among the children as the adults laughed their heads off. 

Back to the review, starting with G who has read the book.

‘I really enjoyed Awful Auntie’ & my favourite character was the Butler (‘Gibbon’ played by Richard James) because he did crazy things all the time like using a lawnmower instead of a hoover and baking slippers! It was so cool how the stage moved around and the owl was very realistic even though it was a puppet being held by a lady. 
The story was just like the book which was great as I wasn’t sure how they would do some of the parts of the book like the car in the lake but they did.
I would definitely recommend going to see it and give it 10/10. If you go, bring your pocket money as you can buy an owl bracelet after!’
WritingMeanwhile K hadn’t already read the book but she wants to now!
‘I thought the show was great and my favourite character was the Butler because at the end when he was supposed to bow, he was facing the wrong way!
The Auntie was not a nice lady and is actually a man actor dressed up. She ties Stella up and is trying to turn the house into an owl museum. But she was funny too, especially when she kept slipping on the marbles and falling over. 
There are some bottom burps and one Big Bang that gave me a fright! I would give the show 9/10. I took away one mark because I thought the owl should have been on an invisible string and not attached to a lady.’
And there you go! Immediate and honest – that’s kids for you. Definitely a great show to finish off the summer holidays on a high. Starring Timothy Speyer & Georgina Leonidas, It’s on until Saturday night at the Grand Opera House and tickets can be booked on this link: goh.co.uk.
*We were guests of the Opera House for this performance but were not obliged to share a review or paid in any way/

London,lots of laughs and Les Mis…

If you had not guessed it yet, not only am I a bit of a musical fan but so are my family. This Christmas my mum decided to spoil two of my sisters and I by booking a trip to the theatre to see Les Misérables in London. It was a weekend of catch-ups, laughs, shopping and leisurely admiring the not so busy streets of London; Notting Hill and Portobello. Plus a little stressful adventure on a Boris bike but the less said about that the better, back to the theatre…

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Les Misérables opened in the Westend in October 1985,( I had just turned one) that’s an impressive run of almost 33 years and a record-breaking 13,522 performances in London alone. I have to say it’s one of my top five musicals, yet until recently I had only seen amateur productions or the star studded movie directed by Tom Hooper.

So to see the splendour of the live production this weekend, I was left reeling in awe of the staging (you have to see the barricade), the vocals, the costumes and the musical stars. I could see why the production had attracted yet again another sold out crowd.

I think Les Mis maybe a tragic tale but it is also has that uplifting feeling, that those in the right will overcome, love will overcome and though we may hit low depths in life, making the right choices we can again hit the dizzy heights. I think we all relate to Valjean as he portrays the human spirit’s triumph over so many obstacles.

In this summers casting the role of Jean Valjean was played by Dean Chisnall who hit all the right notes in my eyes, leaving the audience in tears. He embodied the secretive, humble, protective Valjean but also the powerful, courageous elements of the character. Battling with Bradley Jadens’ Javert, the self righteous guard, the two foes tell their tragic tale through hard-hitting, powerful solos and physically bowing to each other in interactions, showing who has the upper hand throughout the production.

Carley Stenson, best known for her role as Steph Cunningham in Hollyoaks, takes on the role of Fantine with grace, humility and with a gorgeous haunting vocal. The scenes of her downfall have been perfectly choreographed to see the demise and transformation of her character right in front of the audience. It would also be remiss of me to not mention my favourite character and that which resonates to me personally Eponine, in this production the part was played by Elena Skye who brought me to the edge of my seat with a quavering lip with her rendition of  On my own. 

Bringing humour and at times much needed relief, as well as a lot of colour is the master of the house Thénardier and his wife, played masterfully by Steven Meo and Vivien Parry big characters with big voices.

Supported by a fantastic ensemble this was a well turned out cast and a hardworking crew work night after night to bring this epic musical to the masses. Congrats to all involved and if your in the London and haven’t seen it yet, check it out.

Emer D xx

Mini Film Review: Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

Love Mamma Mia? Well then get ready to fall for Mamma Mia Here We Go Again. I watched the film last night and could watch it again multiple times!
Cher, plus Abba, plus cheesy dance moves and a whole host of stars what could go wrong. I loved it! I was a heartfelt tribute to the original musical/movie with a storyline which is feel good but emotional! And dont even start me on the songs! Utter genius adding Cher to the mix! If you haven’t seen it yet what are you waiting for?!!

Emer D xx

I need THERAPIE?!

Help I need Therapie!
What is your relationship with skincare…are you sensible? Do you wear SPF? Do you remove your makeup every night and cleanse,tone, moisture? I have to be honest I’m very lucky because of good genes, I have good skin I’ve never really suffered from breakouts or acne. My skin can be dry, freckled and some days I’ll even go days without makeup. So why the title you ask, why do I need Therapie? The answer my age and my vanity!
I was approached around Christmas time by Therapie Clinic to see if I would be happy to review some of their treatments. I was really intrigued by injectables; Botox and lip fillers. Who wouldn’t be, when we have the A-list running around with bee stung kissable lips and smooth foreheads. I’ve always been paranoid about the wrinkles on my forehead and my small upper lip. So I was intrigued at what could happen to me however when pursuing this option I reached a dead end.  The professionals  who always having your best interest at heart told me that because of a severe reaction to an insect bite last year I couldn’t proceed on this course of treatment without a doctors sign off. Although I was disappointed by this, I was reassured that the consultant would only carry out procedures when there is no risk and the customer would be satisfied. A big tick in my eyes.
Undeterred I had a consultation with Wendy in the Therapie Clinic Belfast to see what other ageless treatments she could prescribe. Wendy was informative,knowledgeable and she went through all my options in the advanced skin treatment range. We discussed skin peels and micro needling. She prescribed two weeks using the Image Ageless cleanser to prepare my skin, a peel to increase hydration levels and rebalance my tired skin and then a course of three micro-needling sessions to boast collagen in my skin and fingers crossed try and combat some of my fine lines and wrinkles.
So I was set and ready to go!!
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My first peel experience happened this week. I was greeted by Niamh the specialist who was to carry out the treatment she had my notes and again discussed what I wanted to achieve. She the. Let me curl up under a blankets while she lavished three layers of a vitamin C rich peel on my face. The peel didn’t stung but I could feel a tingle as it was applied it didn’t last for long and the treatment was finished within the hour. I carried it out on my lunchbreak I had minimal redness and returned to my office glowing.
The first treatment seems to have plumped up my skin and left it with a lovely moisturised texture. I had no flaking or peeling afterwards but I was told this would be normal. I look forward to my next session at the end of the month which will be my first micro-needling treatment. I’m excited to see what wonders this treatment holds and to continue this chapter…
Emer D xx
Ps Therapie currently have there Peels on for 3 for 2 a bargain!! If you want to find out more or book your own consultation you can ring 0800 012 1565 or visit Therapieclinic.co.uk.
*I have not been paid for this post I have been gifted the treatments to review.

Afternoon Tea at Roe Park Hotel

Have a special occasion? Celebration coming up this summer? Or just fancy a treat well how about one of my favourite things; Afternoon tea. Keep your brunch and your five course meals, Afternoon Tea is my favourite. With a little bit of everything sweet, plus savoury and a glass of chilled bubbles thrown in for good measure who can resist and in the opulence of the Roe Park Hotel who can say no!?

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Myself and my mum were invited to have Afternoon Tea at the Roe Park Hotel last weekend as a birthday treat for myself (let’s just say I’m 21 again!). We were greeted by some friendly, knowledgeable staff who provided a fantastic service. They did not rush us or constantly ask if we were ok but they asked for our drinks orders, informed us on everything we ate and made sure we had a very pleasant visit (even sending us home with a doggie bag of treats when we couldn’t finish everything!)

And what about the actual tea I hear you cry? Well I actually had coffee and a lovely chilled glass of Prosecco but the tea was strong and the food delicious! I should note here they provided a full gluten free menu for my mum, she was elated.


We had moreish sandwiches with salmon and cucumber, turkey and stuffing, honey mustard and ham. We had warm fresh scones with jam and cream (and debated which went first cream or jam!) And then when we’re fit to burst we delved into the sweet layer macaroons, lemon drizzle cake, lemon posset and the most amazing chocolate dessert (the chocolate nemisis)and so much more!!


It was all delicious and we leisurely talked and ate for a couple of hours sitting on a soft sofa. If the sun was shining we could  have sat in the well manicured patio but unfortunately for this one day (in the middle of a heatwave) it was raining in the North West. But as this was the only disappointment in my visit and I will be back and highly recommend Roe Park Hotel for a visit and prices are also reasonable. Traditional afternoon Tea is £19.50 per person add Prosecco for £25.00.

Thank you to Roe Park Hotel for my lovely birthday treat!

 

Emer D xx

PS Top tip if you need to walk of all the calories afterwards Roe Park Hotel is actually very close to one of my favourite beaches Benone, so why not make a day of it 😉