Exciting Times Ahead – 2018!

I did a similar post looking forward to the new year of 2017, so I thought I would follow the trend and do a 2018 one too! There’s so much I have already booked for the new year! If all goes to plan 2018 is measuring up to be one wonderful year!! Here’s what’s to come in the year ahead.

Of the many events already filling up the new calendar are two concerts to see the Liverpool Philharmonic in action.

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Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Recently whilst in town, I walked past a billboard advertising the return of a short run of Khaled Hossieni’s The Kite Runner at the Liverpool Playhouse. After reading the book and missing the first run of this acclaimed play, I just had to book tickets this time around.

Another much anticipated event happening in Liverpool in 2018 is the ticketed China’s First Emperor exhibition. Highlighting artifacts from the emperor’s spectacular tomb.

Street Art:

2018 is measuring up to be a fantastic year for street art trails. Here are just some of the Wild in Art trails I hope to visit.

We have visited the lovely city of Norwich in the past, to see their gorillas and dragon trails. From the 24th June to the 8th September 2018, the city’s streets will be graced by colorful hares in their, GoGo Hares trail.

Nottingham have an imaginative trail called Hoodwinked, this year. The sculptures in the shape of robins are an inspiring take on the Robin Hood name! I can’t wait to see them!

Also, Manchester has a swarm of bees hitting the streets this summer in Bee in the City.

These are just a few Wild in Art trails happening in 2018. Will you be going see any of them?

And continuing:

This year I will carry on with initiatives such as:

2018 is the centenary of the end of WW1.

There will be forthcoming displays of Wave and Weeping Window by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper in the NW Region. The Weeping Window will be at Stoke on Trent’s Middleport Pottery in August/September and the Wave will be at Manchester’s Imperial War Museum September/November.

Follow this link for more destinations in 2018. Will you be visiting any of them?

As yet there are no holidays planned, but I do have some ideas. I just need to book time off work and to plan them!

What events/holidays are you looking forward to in 2018?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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A Christmas Recital

progammeFriday, 15th December I treated my mum and I to a Christmas Recital at the parish church, St Bridget’s. Tickets were £5 per person. The performance was by local soprano Gussie Knopov, accompanied by pianist Per Nielsen. I think the appeal of the evening was due to following Wirral soprano Charlotte Hoather’s blog and also wanting to support local events.

The performance was at 7.30pm. We wrapped up warmly from the cold, with fairy lights flashing from darkened windows, we walked along damp roads towards St Bridget’s. The church was busy with people when we walked in.

Soprano, Gussie Knopov, a former member of the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir, has trained in Manchester and Edinburgh. In 2016 she started her undergraduate studies at the London, Trinity Laban Conservatoire.

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Gussie Knopov and Per Nielsen

Gussie was accompanied by Per Nielsen, who from his Linkedin page has an impressive CV of working at Archbishop Blanch and Liverpool Hope University. His credits also include studio recordings for National Danish Radio and Radio Three.

The programme featured songs from the stage, among them were My Fair Lady and Jesus Christ Superstar, interjected with Christmas carols such as Ding Dong Merrily on High and Oh Holy Night. I found Gussie’s diction was clearer on the more classical pieces, (showing her training in action), such as the two Schumann love songs and her rendition of Bizet’s Habanera which she chose to do as an encore.

The programme also featured Per Nielsen’s masterful skill on the keyboard. One highlight was his solo performance of Debussy’s The Snow is Dancing from The Children’s Corner. Through Nielsen’s retelling you could imagine snowflakes dancing in the air.

The interval was a bit longer than the 20 minutes billed, but there was refreshments of wine, cordial and cake to make the wait all that more sweeter.

The event was better than I had anticipated and the caliber of both performers was outstanding. Nielsen’s experience was glistening and Gussie has a bright further ahead! All the best to them both!

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Gussie Knopov and Per Nielsen

I’ve not attended events locally before but I would definitely look out for more in future.

Have you attended a similar event?

Thanks for reading,

Merry Christmas!

Christine x

War Horse – Liverpool Empire

I find it hard to write reviews as everyone’s experience is individual. However, I just wanted to share with you all what I thought of The National Theatre’s production of the 10th Anniversary UK tour of War Horse.

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I booked our tickets some two years ago after reading the book by Michael Morpurgo and watching the acclaimed Steven Spielberg film. I found the book largely more emotive than the film. Though come the day of the stage production I had somehow forgotten the plot of both book and film! I recalled battles of World War One and the part horses took in the human struggle.

Our visit to the Liverpool Empire Theatre, was not without hiccup. I thought a good 40 minutes would be enough to get us through the busy streets of Liverpool and to parking at St. John’s shopping centre. Unfortunately I had not accounted for the popularity of the Christmas market and Saturday afternoon shoppers! By 2.15pm we were stuck in traffic by Lime Street Station. The matinee performance started at 2.30pm! I began to slowly panic!

‘If there’s no parking spaces here, we’ll have to go to Liverpool One.’

‘But that’s miles away!’ I said. ‘We’ll be late.’

‘You go ahead then. I’ll catch up with you once I’ve parked the car!’

‘But you’ll miss the beginning of the show!’

‘You’ve waited two years for this,’ David reasoned. ‘It’s better if you go; at least one of us will see the start. They may not let us in until the interval if we are both late!’ I sat with a heavy heart, as rain showered down upon the window screen.

‘You don’t mind?’ I asked. ‘I’d rather both of us see the show.’

‘You go ahead.’ David was rational but my heart lingered until I handed him his ticket and kissed him good luck. The cold wind buffeted me as I stumbled through a thickening crowd. My feet splashed through puddles. I noticed the traffic in Lime Street was at a stand still, car horns blaring (as if that would help!) The stench of roasted meat from the Christmas market on St Georges Plateau was heavy on the air and made me balk. As the clock ticked I worried for David. In my rush I turned an ankle, and cried out into the cold, grey afternoon. I made my hurried way towards the theatre where I showed my ticket and then in bewilderment looked for my seat.

The Empire Theatre is a bit of a maze, with automatic doors and signs that are not very helpful. I thankfully managed to find my seat before the show started and sat hoping David would be following soon after. The lights dimmed and a young horse puppet (Joey) pranced around the stage. I couldn’t settle. Every-time I saw someone enter the shaded theatre I thought maybe it was David. However some 15 minutes into the show, after the auction scene, I saw David walk past. We laughed afterwards that he could have entered the auditorium shouting ‘Christine, where are you?’ but in reality I wondered how to catch his attention while he found a seat at the front. We sat the first half of the show separately.

For War Horse itself, the show was amazing. I thought it much better than the Lion King a few years ago. Perhaps having no assumptions of the show helped? The puppetry was superb, the story emotive and the stage production highly visual. The acting from the company was top notch and though there were no tears there was a lump in my throat at the end.

What makes War Horse a successful stage production is the multi disciplinary team behind it. From stage design to lighting effects. The score by Adrian Sutton though subtle was effective to promote emotion. John Tams’ folk songs bring the essence of rural Devon to life, (though I wasn’t too enamored with the songs within the play.) I loved the artwork by Rae Smith evoking powerful symbols of World War One. The lighting by Paule Constable was breathtaking! A scene that stood out for me was when when Albert and co. ran in slow motion towards the enemy. From the mist they emerged to run into the bullets and the shells. When the men fell one by one, it was painful to watch. It felt realistic.

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Talking about realism the puppetry by Handspring Puppet Company was outstanding. You connect instantly with Joey. Albert’s reaction to Joey is a reflection of our own. There are other puppets within the show, from swallows flying in the peaceful Devonshire sky to a cheeky goose who received a lot of laughter for his aggressive antics. But the horses is what many have come to see. The scenes of war are the most vivid and stay with you long after the show. I cried in dismay when Joey was caught among the barbed wire in No-Mans-Land. You forget that they are just puppets.

The play has the human condition at the very core. From the dogged determination of  Albert, to the sadness that drives Arthur Narracott and the despair of Friedrich Müller. Joey and Topthorn suffer in a man made situation.

If you have the opportunity to go see War Horse, then I would highly recommend it. As a spectacle it is a feast for the eyes! Don’t forget to take your handkerchief!

Have you seen the show? Read the book or seen the film? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

*Pictures taken from various productions of War Horse.

‘If…’

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‘…music be the food of love, play on,’ says Orsino from William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night; or What You Will! 

This production was the much anticipated opening play of the ‘new’ Everyman Theatre, Liverpool.

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*Spoiler Alert: If you are intending to go to see this play then don’t read on…*

It also happened to be one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, so I just had to go! I had booked the tickets since November 2013 and grown increasingly excited as time drew closer to the event, the 21st March 2014!!

Alas that date has now come and gone too readily but the memory of seeing the first performance in the new Everyman leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy!

The building itself has an organic feel to it, perhaps something to do with the bare bricks featured in the walls? I read on their website that they had kept 25,000 bricks from  the old Everyman and interposed them into the new building. The new Everyman looks crisp and clean and bright!!

On our arrival, (as I dragged David along with me) we were welcomed by one of the ushers who was smiley and helpful, pointing us to where we should go, (the theatre was upstairs!). I bought a programme, and at £3.50 seems to be the going rate nowadays.

We made our way into the auditorium and found that our seats were on the stage! I knew the Everyman had retained it’s thrust stage, (where the audience  is seated around three sides), though I thought it would be a bit like the Crucible in Sheffield, but no! The entire front row sits on the boards of the stage!! A little too close to the action for comfort? We found that that was not the case, I think we had the best seats in the house!!! 🙂 The cast utilised the space on the stage really well and we could see all that went on, not like when I went to see The Winter’s Tale in Sheffield and found that a lot of the cast stood with their backs to the front!

Twelfth Night seems to have been an inspired choice for the first performance, for a reborn theatre in a city ankle deep in culture! The play’s themes of love, loss and reunion is interlaced with an abundance of mirth!! I don’t think I have laughed so much during a performance of a play, as I did during Liverpool Everyman’s Twelfth Night! The whole cast were top notch! There were the heavy weights of TV and theatre, Matthew Kelly (Sir Toby Belch) and Nicholas Woodeson (Malvolio), but there were also, (obviously) a lot of talent from the region. With a very able Jodie McNee as a convincing Viola, Pauline Daniels as the impish Maria and Paul Duckworth who for me was arresting as the fool, Feste! Not just because he pranced around camply in heels and make-up, but because his character seemed to grow in stature throughout the play! Natalie Dew was entertaining as Olivia, her comic timing was exquisite and Adam Keast as Andrew Aguecheek reminded me of Rik Mayall in Bottom!

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Photos by James Maloney.

The stage was relatively austere. I liked the shards of glass on the floor, perhaps mirroring the different aspects of the self? I think Twelfth Night looks at the self and persona and how we project that to other people. It is highlighted by Viola’s words, ‘then think you right: I am not what I am!’ Hanging from the gantry there were orchids in flower pots and at the back of the stage there are revolving frames where foliage peeked out. 

The performance even had a pool of water in the stage floor where Viola and the captain sprung out breathlessly at the beginning of the play. A nice touch, however I think for the rest of the performance the actors were aware of the perils of falling into it. (Perhaps they could have covered it up?) Even those seated in the front row, (one even with a dislocated toe) were weary when the cast members strode between them and the pool and at other times were put on guard when Sebastian (Luke Jerdy) rode around the stage on his tandem! That said tandem almost caused a catastrophe in the final scene where Viola and Orsino, riding into the ‘sunset’ almost careered into the pool! It spouted laughter from the cast and audience alike and highlighted the knowledge that the actors all seemed to revel in the merriness of the play.

For me the first part before the interval was more enjoyable than the second. The second being more mischievous in the mockery of Malvolio. Thankfully there were no power cuts that marred previous performances! The comic element in the first part seemed riotous at times. You could tell that this was the first production of a brand spanking new theatre! With the cast singing (the songs were given a modern lilt), The 12 Days of Christmas, throwing a big present for the audience to catch and the offering of treats! It all seemed very celebratory! Even one member of the audience was caught up in all the mirth as before him was a trolley laden with jellies! Malvolio (Woodeson) shouted to the man ‘get your hands off the jellies!’ The audience member took it all in his stride and even hid his head in his shirt for shame! There was much fun and laughter to be had by all and I seemed to sit throughout the three hour plus performance with a constant smirk on my face! Even Toby Belch (Kelly) and Andrew Aguecheek (Keast) joined the audience at one stage. There were empty seats next to a lady two seats from myself. Kelly and Keast seated themselves merrily besides her asking whether the play had ‘started yet’ and it would be better once, ‘the drunks had arrived!’ The ad-lib nature of this scene was hilarious!

The play ended with Malvolio spitting out his curses for revenge, Viola and Sebastian were reunited and the lovers joined with their rightful partners! The finale was again very joyous with the cast dancing around the stage to party music. The audience clapped along and the culmination was streamers popping loudly and balloons falling from the heavens. One landed in my lap and as the cast walked off the stage, I reached out for another balloon bobbing in front of me. I forgot the seats retracted and fell back on my bottom laughing loudly!! David couldn’t help but laugh too and we walked out of the theatre, thoroughly entertained and with two balloons!

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It was the first play in the new Everyman and returning home, it was to ‘our’ home that we returned and not our parents. There had been many firsts that night!

With Malvolio’s words ringing in my ears… ‘some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.’ I wonder whether that is the reincarnated Everyman’s will, to achieve just that!

Christine Lucas 2014!