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The Light Princess - A Visual Tour-de-Force!

29 January 2014

View from my seat in the Circle Slips (SR6)
As part of my London Theatre module, I needed to see a show at the National Theatre in the Southbank and since I had just seen the amazing Hadley Fraser in Coriolanus I decided to see his girlfriend, Rosalie Craig, in The Light Princess. Scoring a £12 Travelex ticket for today's matinee, I was in for a royal treat.

Rosalie Craig (whose previous credits include Finding Neverland and Aspects of Love) was well-deserving of her London Evening Standard Theatre award for Best Musical Performance (2013). She is on the stage 95% of the time and is constantly giving 200% of herself in her performance with fabulous vocals and an adorable performance giving cause for the audience to invest in her character's happiness and sorrow.
Nick Hendrix, Rosalie Craig.ʩ Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Unfortunately this show is shuttering on 2 February so you only have a handful of dates available to still see the show. Hopefully there are plans to take The Light Princess to the States. I have seen enough Broadway shows to know when something is magical and worthy of a hearty recommendation and this show deserves five stars for its visual design alone.

True… there are some problems with the musical score by Tori Amos which is a shame considering her obvious talent as a songwriter but the problem is that there are just not enough memorable numbers. Two standouts (Althea and Better Than Good) are thankfully recorded and available on the show's website here but alas not for purchase.
Amy Booth-Steel, Rosalie Craig. © Brinkhoff/M√∂genburg
Thankfully the show's visual mastery and talented cast more than makes up for the show's few short comings. Rae Smith's design is perfectly whimsical as only a fairy tale should be. Matthew Robin's animations made me immediately think of a Disney cartoon and helped transport me into the proper mindset. And Paul Rubin's aerial effects were extraordinary -- there are no words to describe how wonderfully the acrobats (Owain Gwynn, Tommy Luther, Emma Norin and Nuno Silva) and Mr. Rubin's aerial effects and of course Rosalie Craig's performance (willingly to put her life in their hands) took my breath away with its creativity, originality and genius ability to give true meaning to the show's title character - The Light Princess.
Do you have a spare evening or afternoon this week? And you're in London? Do yourself a huge favour and go see The Light Princess. You will not regret it. George MacDonald's fairy tale truly comes to life in this magical production. It'll be a shame when it closes. I only wish I had known about this show much sooner.

A Night at the Theatre: Coriolanus

25 January 2014

Hadley Fraser and Tom Hiddleston © Johan Persson
Coriolanus, as many a fan girl and Shakespeare affectionate knows, is playing a limited run at the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden through 13 February 2014. When my friend, Heather, asked if I would like to see the show with her, I said yes for two reasons - (1) Shakespeare in the West End and (2) Hadley Fraser was Aufidius. Nowhere on my list of reasons was the desire to see Tom Hiddleston up close and personal. I had seen the first Thor film but he did nothing for me either as a performer or good looking man. It seemed like a commercial move, in my opinion, to cast Tom. But after seeing the show on Tuesday I take back all I said before. Tom Hiddleston is genius and this production of Coriolanus is the best Shakespeare I've seen!

Horniman Museum & Gardens

23 January 2014

Tuesday, my London Museums classmates and I visited the Horniman Museum & Gardens in Forest Hill, South East London (zone 3). The trek from Hammersmith, West London, was approximately an hour and ten minutes taking both tube and train (or overground).
I met up with a few of my classmates at the train station in Forest Hill and we walked up to the Horniman Museum and Gardens (approximately seven minutes) admiring the countryside village feel and the beauty of the museum and gardens. The view truly is mesmerising and it is no wonder the locals see the Horniman as a community and lifestyle "family-friendly free attraction" (see here). If I lived closer, I could see myself wanting to wander their gardens and admire the view on a warm day.
During our visit, we looked at the Natural History, African Worlds and Centenary galleries before meeting with Abigail and Georgina Pope (head of learning) in their Hands On Base. My favourite was African Worlds whilst my least favourite was decidedly Natural History which apparently is the most popular gallery amongst visitors and schools.

Mr. Horniman was a collector of insects and specimen hence the emphasis on natural history. The collection was first laid out in 1901 and has retained the Victorian facade and design which might seem foreign to many modern day museum visitors.  The taxidermy, skeletons and fossils are all lined up against the walls of glass showcases which creates distance and an impersonal wall between artefact and visitor, in my opinion. 
Another reason I am no fan of this particular gallery is for a more personal reason -- that being that I am  a creationist and a significant focus in the Natural History gallery covered evolution.  I am no stranger to exhibits on evolution but there was no room for dialogue about the possibilities of evolution vs. creation. It was laid out in a matter-of-fact way when it could have been a great conversation piece.
Moving on, I was excited to see the African Worlds gallery which is the first permanent exhibit of its kind in Britain.  The gallery was laid out with showcases being made to look like homes and a ramp to represent a village road -- very creative.  There was quite a bit about North America in the exhibit that I could relate to and helped me better understand the overall theme of African culture and labels on numerous items have both African and English translations. This exhibit was much more (in my opinion) user friendly and inviting/welcoming.
 The Centenary gallery meanwhile told the story of the Horniman collection and what has been displayed over the last 100 years as the title might suggest. For me, the layout was distracting and a bit confusion unlike the other two galleries where you followed a circular pathway throughout the rooms. There was a primary display in the centre of the room and several additional displays in the corners of the room. Also, unlike in the other two rooms where children ran freely laughing and shouting their joy, in this room a hush seemed to cover the crowd and a sense of reverence prevailed.

Finally, my classmates and tutors and I joined Ms. Georgina Pope (head of learning at the Horniman Museum & Gardens) in the Hands-On Base where we learned more about the museum and Mr. Horniman himself whose mission was to "bring the world to Forest Hill through recreation, instruction and enjoyment." Georgina also helped us better understand the continuous grant-in-aid cuts every year happening in museums throughout Britain and their acquisitions & disposal policy. Interestingly, for all of Mr. Horniman's desires to bring the world to Forest Hill, Georgina said that their visitors primarily come from the six surrounding boroughs and they receive very few tourists despite their being internationally recognised. In fact even Georgina expressed a preference for repeat local visitors versus tourists and we all sensed a local pride and ownership of the museum and gardens. It is truly a lifestyle locale with children running through the galleries, mums pushing prams, packed cafes on the premises and large school groups everywhere you turned.
Yours truly with classmate/friend Amanda S
After a very informative and education afternoon, several of us went to the gardens and explored the views before a piece of carrot cake and tea in the cafe before finding our way home with our minds full of thoughts and questions leading to further discussion on-line.

A Night at the Theatre… The Weir!

22 January 2014

Monday night was the first of a three night adventure at the West End.
Heather and I went to the Wyndham Theatre (next to the Leicester Square station) where The Weir just transferred from the Donmar Warehouse.
Wow!! What an amazing and unassuming show. (After having been to the Donmar Warehouse, I can see how even more intense this show would have been in that arena.) Brian Cox, Dervla Kirwan and the cast were all stand outs. The writing is top notch but please note that there are numerous uses of the F word so I would not recommend this show to young people and those who are easily offended by foul language. Strangely enough after seeing Mojo and Stephen Ward where there were content warnings at the box office about language, I had no warnings at this production.
photo by Helen Warner
Without giving away too many details for those who don't know the story, the play is one act taking place in an isolated Irish bar during a stormy night. In summary, four friends (played by Brian Cox, Peter McDonald, Ardal O'Hanlon and Risteard Cooper) tell ghost stories to a newcomer (played by Dervla Kirwan) but are unprepared for a chilling story as told by Ms. Kirwan during the latter half of the play.
Dervla Kirwan. Photo by Helen Warner.
The moment Ms. Kirwan stood and opened her mouth to tell her story -- you could hear a pin drop in the theatre. Heather and I were captivated. The audience was captivated. All the men deserve great praise for their performances, but without Ms. Kirwan's heartbreaking performance, the show would not be worthy of the high recommendation and praise.
Brian Cox. Photo by Helen Warner.
If I said much more about the show, there would be spoilers so I will refrain but please, if you haven't seen The Weir yet please do yourself a favour and see the show during its run at the Wyndham this winter. There is comedy, amazingly awkward pregnant pauses, drama, tears, and fabulous acting by all. Bring a tissue, a great sense of humour, and be prepared for an emotionally charged evening of good theatre.
 Since the show was so amazing, Heather and I searched for the stage door in what is probably one of my favourite alleys in London (Heather even admitted it looked like a soundstage from the old Hollywood era). It amazes me that we were one of two groups who had seen the show to wait for the cast by the stage door. They were so talented and these are not nobodies so it is amazing in comparison to the likes of Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston and Brendan Coyle.
 There were quite a few autograph collectors (apparently they bring memorabilia from movies the actors were in and ask for autographs so they can turn around and sell them) which made me quite sick to think actors have to deal with people who are just hoping to make a buck off their talent. :(

Back to the fabulous talent… I specifically was hoping to meet Ms. Kirwan (who was in the Doctor Who Christmas special "The Next Doctor" & my favourite episode of Law and Order: UK "Unloved". She was so sweet and generous with her time.
Next, Heather and I battled away the autograph hounds surrounding Brian Cox and he was so gracious to sign my programme and pose for a photo.
 Since our show was out earlier then the majority of other plays, we decided to walk across the alley and wait to see if we could spot Jessie Buckley and Jude Law at the Henry V stage door. I am going to see the closing night performance so I doubt there will be any stage door opportunities and this might be my only chance so I took it. Jessie Buckley was my favourite contestant in I'd Do Anything (Andrew Lloyd Webber's reality casting show) and the reason I bought my ticket to see Henry V.
A couple quick thoughts about this stage door experience (my first with fangirls and even more autograph seekers). The crowd must have been five people deep (Heather and I felt like sardines crushed against the barrier) and a very good looking security guard was keeping people in line. When Jessie came out, I was shocked nobody (but me) asked for her autograph and a photo. I have heard she is fabulous in the show so I am clueless why. She was sweetness itself and I told her I couldn't wait to see the show on closing night. After what seemed like a long time, Jude and another bodyguard/assistant (?) came out and the female frenzy began. A lady behind me asked if she could take my spot at the front of the queue and others jostled for position. He seemed in a hurry but graciously signed everyone's programmes and the autograph seekers' merchandise. This is above and beyond the requirements for any performer so I applaud his graciousness. Must get so tiring every night.

Speaking of which, I have a show tonight for my London Theatre module so I should get moving.


A Mad Hatter Tea Party

Well hello there! It was a dear treat having Heather W in town this past week and going on several delightful adventures with her (posts will be coming soon.. in between readings for that thing called university. lol) including a Mad Hatter Tea at the Sanderson Hotel off Oxford Street.
When we arrived our coats were whisked away and we were seated at a table for two in a long row of tables. (Has anyone ever noticed how narrow the gap is between tables?) Our table had whimsical settings - mine was of a zebra with a ball and Heather's was of a trapeze artist.
Our waitress brought out samples of the four special blends - including "Strawberries & Cream" (Heather's choice) and "Apple Pie" (my choice -- which was delightful for a cup or two but was a bit too bitter so I requested to change it up for a traditional English Breakfast tea).
Several fun touches at the table included the sugar cubes being in a working musical jewellery box similar to what we both had as little girls. Also the napkins were wrapped with a riddle and the menu was pasted into a book - ours was Our Mutual Friend. The antiquarian book collector in me almost passed out seeing that the menu was pasted into the book but the food arrived and my attention was instantly captivated.
Top tier - 'Strawberries & Cream' marshmallow mushrooms & carrot meringue in a bed of pea shoots.
Middle tier - the delicacies included Victoria sponge cake (shaped as a clock), melting mango cheesecake, and a match green tea and white chocolate mousse served in a chocolate tea cup.
The bottom tier had rolled sandwiches, savoury and sweet scones,  quiches and "drink me" potions
The savoury scones were delightful; I even received a couple extra in a takeaway bag.
The sandwiches were on the dry side… Disappointing. :(
The "Drink Me" potion was a definite highlight - delicious & fun!
Those straws were tiny!
And then it was time to dig into the cakes. Yummy!
The chocolate tea cup mousse was light and tasty -- definitely to be eaten at the same time as the chocolate tea cup blending the two flavours.
The Victorian sponge cake was perfectly moist and adorable with the clock facade.
I am no marshmallow fan but the marshmallows definitely made me think of Tara from The Bridge. Aren't they adorable?
We also had a melting mango cheesecake. Not having read the menu that clearly, it was a fun surprise when cutting into the cheesecake.
And in case you had more room in that tummy of yours (we certainly didn't) there are carrot meringues.
One thing we didn't find out about until we were paying the bill was that there was a jelly trolley with various types of jellies for your scones. Here is just one of the jelly moulds we spotted on our way out.
What a charming and delightful couple of hours we spent at the Sanderson Hotel. The tea is first rate, steep in the price but worthwhile for a special occasion or when having an out of town visitor, and the outdoor heaters meant we were completely comfortable on the patio sipping at our teas.

Check out the lovely courtyard garden we were seated in? And well you're at it, look at those beautiful mirrors in the women's loo!

Until next time, gentle readers! xx

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