Back On It.

Well hello blogging world! It’s been a while. A year and a half, to be precise. But I’ve decided I want to start blogging again. Why? Because I have a busy mind that almost never stops thinking about anything and everything… And I need somewhere to share my thoughts. Usually, that platform for me is YouTube. But I have way more thoughts and topics I like to talk about than can potentially be made into YouTube videos. So I need a simpler, quicker option. Plus, I actually enjoy writing. You know, considering I studied Journalism and all that. It’s a given.

So, I hope you give me a second chance and follow my blog posts. That would be very lovely. You can expect a variety of posts on here… From reviews, to travel photos and random funny or deep thoughts that pop into my head. I hope you enjoy what you read, and please feel free to leave comments as they’re some of my favourite things in life. Yes, even negative ones. I like conversing with people. Right, I’ll end this before I get carried away, as I can easily see this ending up as a 5-page blogpost, and erm… No one wants that from a ‘Yey I’m back’ post. Thanks for reading. Until next time!

BAFTA Rising Star Nominees Revealed

The nominations for the BAFTA EE Rising Star Award were announced this morning and include: Dane DeHaan, George MacKay, Lupita Nyong’o, Will Poulter and Lea Seydoux. This award, which is the only category voted for by the public, acts to identify young new talent destined for future film stardom. 

British actor, Will Poulter who was recently in the Hollywood film ‘We’re The Millers’ and is set to appear in ‘The Maze Runner’ this summer said: “It feels unbelievable and sort of strange to be nominated. But I’m so grateful and I’m here amongst some friends as well which makes it even more special. George and I used to act together at school”.

George MacKay who starred in the musical film “Sunshine On Leith” last year, said working with the film’s director Dexter Fletcher, was a “wonderful process.” He continued: “I learnt to really throw myself into things and feel more comfortable about my singing, too”. 

This year’s nominees were selected by a group of jurors. Amongst them was film critic Mark Kermode who described the awards as “a kind of rival to the Globes and the Oscars”. He said this award is very important because of “the public interest and industry significance” it has. Previous winners of the award include Juno Temple, Kristen Stewart and James McAvoy. 

To vote, go to: http://www.bafta.org/film/awards/ee-rising-star-award-2014,4043,BA.html

The winner will be announced at the BAFTA awards ceremony on 16th February, 2014.

Newsies on Broadway – Review

During my short trip to NYC last month, I saw 3 Broadway shows. ‘Newsies’ was the second and the one I knew least about. I’d never watched the Disney film, had no knowledge of the cast or score and didn’t have any idea about the plot. I decided to go see it for the simple reason that it had got incredible reviews and I fancied seeing a new show. So I entered the Nederlander Theatre on West 41st Street with little expectation… only to come out thinking I’d seen one of the best shows I’ve ever seen!

And here’s the main reason why. I like dancing in shows. And ‘Newsies’ has a LOT of dancing. And GOOD dancing, too. As soon as I saw the first big dance number in the show, I thought to myself “no wonder why they won best choreography at the Tony’s last year”! The choreographer, Christopher Gattelli has created fun and exciting routines that completely grab the audience’s attention from start to finish. There is so much going on in some of the ensemble scenes, from pirouettes to backflips to dancing on (literally ON) newspapers, that it’s impossible to take it all in with just one visit. I personally felt an urge to watch back each dance number as soon as it was over, to try and notice new details and spot new moves I had missed the first time. The choreography alone is worth seeing ‘Newsies’ for. It helps that the cast consists of very strong dancers. The talent on stage during the big ensemble scenes is overwhelming. Each and every cast member has exquisite dance abilities that come together to create a visual spectacular.

But the talent doesn’t end in the ensemble. The lead characters, particularly ‘Jack Kelly’ (played by Corey Cott) are also highlights in the show. Corey who has made his Broadway debut in ‘Newsies’ shows the right amount of confidence, vulnerability and hopelessness as ‘Jack’ – the leader of a group of newsies (paperboys) who decide to go on a strike to protest against the increase in newspaper prices. The plot mainly revolves around this Newsies strike, showing the frustrations and camaraderie of the boys as they try to win against New York World publisher (Joseph Pulitzer). One of the other main characters, ‘Katherine Plumber’ (played by Kara Lindsay) stands outs partly due to being one of the few females in the show, but also because of her sweet yet determined personality in the role. ‘Katherine’ is a young journalist who decides to take the newsies strike as her opportunity to gain experience as a reporter and write a story that would help her journalism career. Kara and Corey have great on-stage chemistry as their characters start to develope a unique friendship in the show. The audience quickly warms to their cheesy but witty conversations and of course, there’s a typical Disney ‘moment’ towards the end of the show where their relationship reaches a new happy level. Some may find it too predictable, but I found it touching and beautiful. I knew it was going to happen, you can guess that from the moment ‘Katherine’ meets ‘Jack’. But it was still enjoyable to watch and added to the ‘magic’ of a musical produced by Disney.

Perhaps, what I found most fascinating about the show, is that the plot is actually based on a true story. There was in fact, a real strike in New York in 1899 where paperboys (or Newsies as they call them in America) of that time decided to protest against Pulitzer and ask for better living conditions. Now I’m not gonna reveal whether or not they won, you’ll have to watch the show to find out 😉 But it’s interesting that so many Americans connect with the show because of that historical accuracy. Obviously, I didn’t even know about it before I saw the show, so I can’t relate – but as I watched other audience members in the interval, I could tell many were discussing the serious aspect of the strike conveyed in the show. It reminded me of how I feel about one of my favourite musicals, ‘Billy Elliot’ which is also about a true strike. But one I actually know about. It’s definitely a heart-warming show whether or not you care about the 1899 strike, though. It’s a classic underdog vs. bad powerful guy story and it’s told in a beautiful way.

The songs are as good as everything else in the show. With a memorable score by multiple Tony-winning musical genius, Alan Menken, it’s not surprising that I left the theatre humming the melodies. It’s also not surprising that I bought the cast recording immediately after I returned to London and that the songs all have over 50 ‘play counts’ on my iTunes already! From energetic catchy tunes such as ‘Carrying the Banner’ and ‘King of New York’ to goosebump-inducing ones like ‘Once and For All’ and ‘Santa Fe’ to sappy romantic tear-jerkers like ‘Something To Believe In’ – the show covers them all.

Overall, ‘Newsies’ was undoubtedly the best show I’ve seen this year. It’s rare to get a huge desire to see a show again WHILST you’re still in the theatre watching it. But 20 minutes into Newsies and I KNEW I’d have to come back to see it again at some point. It’s one of those shows that keeps you mesmerised from the start and makes you want more. It also has a good message, for anyone that cares for that kind of thing. It’s uplifting and fun. With an incredibly talented young cast. And a good story. Definitely worth a watch if you get a chance. I know I’ll certainly be seeing it again as soon as I can get myself back to NYC!

Here’s a video of some of my thoughts on the show, if you care to watch that too! 🙂

The Importance of a Good Cast

On Tuesday, I went to see a show I’d vowed I’d never see again after my first experience of it back in 2010. ‘Mamma Mia! the Musical’ has been a huge success in London since it opened and particularly after Meryl Streep’s performance in the award-winning Hollywood film of the same title. I however, have never been a fan of it. I watched the movie a couple of years after it came out, and got so bored I started doing SuDoku puzzles on my phone 5 minutes into it and didn’t stop until it was over. I then decided to give the theatre production a chance, thinking it may change my mind. That was yet another failed attempt, as me and my mum sat in the Prince of Wales theatre for three painful hours, counting down the minutes until the show would finish and we’d be free of what I then called a ‘rubbish’ show.

So why did I go back when I knew I wasn’t going to like the show? Dianne Pilkington. She’s a theatre performer I’ve loved seeing on stage since 2007 when I first saw her as ‘Glinda’ in the musical Wicked. Her performances have continued to amaze me since and I feel a certain loyalty to her to go see her in all the shows she does. And when she announced she was going into Mamma Mia, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of excitement. I also immediately knew that I’d definitely be going to see her in it.

So back to present – as my friend and I headed to the Novello Theatre (Mamma Mia’s new home), I felt a strange blend of thrill and curiosity. Would Dianne be able to change my mind on a show I’ve always strongly disliked? Would I have to take back all I’ve thought and said about Mamma Mia after seeing her in the role of ‘Donna’? Or even (and this scared me the most) – would I leave the theatre tonight, feeling the same disappointment I did when I saw the show three years ago? With all these thoughts occupying my mind, we entered the theatre and took our seats in the restricted area of the dress circle.

The show started predictably bland as I’d remembered – ‘Sophie Sheridan’ singing a mediocre rendition of ‘I Have A Dream’ and I started thinking I’d made a mistake coming; why had I chosen to put myself through this show again?! Fast forward a few minutes, Dianne has made her first entrance on stage, a massive smile has made an appearance on my face and a confusing desire for the show to never end has overtaken me. I looked at my friend who was grinning as widely as myself and felt an utter wave of happiness pass through me. I was enjoying this. I was actually genuinely enjoying Mamma Mia!

She of course then left the stage after her first scene, but it was already done. She’d worked her magic. All my negative feelings towards the show had disappeared and I was determined to enjoy the rest – even the scenes which did not include Dianne.

And that’s exactly what happened. The next 2.5 hours were some of the best times I’ve ever spent at the theatre. The permanent smile on my face never faded as I endorsed myself in the beauty of Abba’s music and appreciated the show for what it was. A simple but fun way of escapism. I was enjoying it so much that I honestly couldn’t believe when the show came to an end. How had time passed so quickly when it was the exact opposite the last time I was here? I wanted this unexpected joy to continue, so encouraged my friend to stand with me at the end as we danced and cheered through the ‘Dancing Queen/Waterloo’ medley after curtain call. It was amazing. I literally felt on cloud nine. Part of my delight was of course from having just watched some incredible performances, but another was due to the fact I’d managed to surprise myself. I couldn’t believe it! I’d seen Mamma Mia! and had actually loved it to the point where I wanted to come back and see it again as soon as possible! WHAT?! On my first visit in 2010, I’d disliked it so much, I remember actually considering leaving at the interval. And here I was now, instantly wanting to make a third visit to the show!

What made this sudden new view on the musical possible for me? One person, essentially. Dianne Pilkington. She has a special ability to really engage the audience and fully entertain them. Her comic timing is sublime and her voice absolutely stunning. Combine that with the legendary songs of ABBA and it should’ve been a closed case from the start! I was never going to NOT enjoy one of my favourite performers singing some of my favourite songs of all time!

So despite the weak plot, pointless choreography routines, and banal characters, I enjoyed Mamma Mia! this time. I still wouldn’t class it as a great show, but my experience on Tuesday taught me one thing: a good cast, especially a good lead cast member can make a big difference. The ‘Donna’ we saw in 2010 had an irritating voice that ruined ABBA songs for me and my mum, her acting was mediocre and her chemistry with her on-stage daughter (who was equally as bad btw) was non-existent. Dianne on the other hand, was everything a leading lady should be. Of course as a dedicated fan of hers, I’d say that – but watching from the dress circle, I could see nearly the whole audience and they seemed to be loving Dianne’s performance just as much as I was. She’s almost single-handedly responsible for the fantastic evening I had. But it’s also down to the rest of the cast who gave a very fresh and energetic performance.

The three facts at the start were: 1) I love ABBA’s music. 2) I love Dianne Pilkington as an actress, and 3) I dislike Mamma Mia! the Musical.

On Tuesday night, the result of those three facts revealed that theatre is unpredictable and that’s what I love about it. Fact number 3 still hasn’t changed, but I now realise that even really terrible shows can become enjoyable if the right performer is in charge of them. So it’s always worth giving shows a second chance. I now can’t wait to go back to Mamma Mia! and see Dianne’s incredible take on ‘Donna’ again!

Broadway Hit ‘Book of Momon’ Hits London

[View the story “‘Book of Mormon’ Hits London” on Storify]

Stolen Phone Experience

Texting has become one of the most popular methods of communication in recent years. With the introduction of smart phones, it is not surprising that so many people are constantly texting or playing on them even when they are in the middle of doing other work. Almost everyone has a phone these days and they are not afraid to use them at any possible moment. But can being on your phone all the time have consequences?

It was a cold Monday afternoon, and as usual, I was in a lecture at The London School of Journalism, patiently waiting for it to end so I could go home. Normally, I take my time leaving after a lecture, often leaving the building with some of my fellow students. But that specific day, I had an important phone call meeting at 6pm and wanted to make sure I got home in time. The lecture was meant to finish at 4:30, but to my delight, our lecturer dismissed us 10 minutes early. Trying to take advantage of this, I immediately put my coat on and left as soon as possible. I am fairly sure I was the first student out of the classroom that day.

Once I’d left the building and was on the pavement, I took out my phone and rang a friend. The walk from the school to the station takes about 15 minutes and I spent the first five minutes of it on the phone to her, arranging plans to meet her the next day. After I’d finished the call, I started checking my texts, twitter, email, facebook as I walked. I’d received a text during the lecture from another friend and decided to reply to it. I had my phone in my right hand, casually walking down the road with my head down as I typed when all of a sudden, I realised I no longer had a phone.

There was a moment of confusion, then shock, as I discovered there was a guy standing next to me, too close for my liking, looking at me. Before I had a chance to decipher his face properly and understand exactly what had happened, he cycled off. He went to a smaller street (Biddulph Road) to the right of the main road (Elgin Avenue), and it took me a couple seconds before I decided to run after him. In my always optimistic attitude, I was trying to convince myself that I could catch up with him and ask him to give it back. Stupid of me. Of course, there was no way I could reach him as he cycled away faster and faster. There were only a few men, builders, in the middle of that street. They looked like they were on a tea break. I tried to tell them to stop him. Shouted out “please stop that guy, he stole my phone!”, but it was clear they couldn’t understand my words through shocked and scared breaths. The thief heard me calling out for help though, and after a quick glance back started cycling even faster, disappearing from my view before I knew it.

I stood there, in complete shock. I’ve always been extremely careful with my phone, it almost never leaves my hands or my pockets. I couldn’t believe what had happened. I briefly explained to the builders what had happened, hoping they could help me. But my real help arrived when a lady walked up towards me. She seemed to be in her mid-thirties and was pushing a push-chair with a baby boy in it. She’d been walking down Biddulph Road towards Elgin avenue (and therefore me) at around the same time the robbery happened. So she’d seen the thief. She stopped when she saw me standing there in fear and I quickly told her what had happened. “That guy on the bike stole my phone!” I said. She said she’d suspected something was wrong by the way the guy kept looking back and was cycling so fast and genuinely apologised for not having tried to stop her. This surprised and comforted me. I had not expected her to stop him. But it was nice to hear she really seemed to care. I asked her if I could use her phone to ring the police – she did it herself. She had a very old phone, one that only has basic functions, so it took a few minutes – but soon I found myself on her phone, talking to a woman from the police force near Maida Vale. I explained what happened, told them exactly where we were, and she said she’d send a police car within the next five minutes. I spent the waiting time, chatting about the incident to this kind lady who had helped me, telling her how surprised I was to find my phone stolen in an area which is known as one of the better parts of London. She said sadly it is not uncommon for such robberies to occur there. She was a local, but her accent was Australian. As we were talking, I could hear her baby cry and I felt guilty for making her wait.

Once the police car arrived, I thanked the Australian woman numerous times and went inside the car. The next 20 minutes were spent talking to two policemen about the incident, as I desperately tried not to cry. They were extremely helpful and made me feel at ease, one of them even made a couple jokes trying to take my mind off the main problem. They asked me if I could describe the thief and I soon realised that I couldn’t. In that quick moment of shock, all I’d seen was a guy with dark clothing and a dark hat. Having spoken to the Australian lady before though, she had told me that from what she had seen, the thief was black and looked about 17. I could not be sure of course, but I trusted her and told the police what she told me. They also took other details, from my name and address to the background image of my stolen phone. At one point, as I was recounting what had happened, I told the officers I blamed myself for texting whilst walking. One of them responded: “It’s good to be careful on the streets, but it’s not your fault. You can’t expect people to never use their phones in public and to live in fear. People need to live in a place where they feel safe enough to use their own belongings in public if they need to”. That made me feel better. Though, I was still annoyed at myself. During my conversation with them, I discovered that these ‘snatching phones out of hands’ robberies are very common in London. They have become increasingly popular in the past eight months and the target areas are the streets near tube stations, regardless of the ‘niceness’ of the area. It is advised to try and avoid having smart-phones on display near stations and in the event that a robbery does happen, it is strictly advised to not run after them. Again, I felt stupid. I was determined to chase the thief and get my phone back and the only thing that stopped me was the realisation that it was impossible. The police however, told me that it can be dangerous. “Some of them carry knives and aren’t afraid to use them if they have to” he said. After spending 20 minutes in the car and exchanging all the necessary details, the policemen dropped me off at the station and I faced a long and lonely tube journey home.

It was the hardest 30 minutes I’ve spent on the tube. I had no phone, I was worrying about my safety (all my personal information had been on my phone) and was desperate to talk to someone I knew. When I got off my stop (Victoria), I quickly ran to the O2 store to get my phone blocked before anything. For some illogical reason, I expected everyone to be sympathetic and support me, so found myself annoyed when the O2 staff took their time and helped very little. Eventually, I got the phone blocked though and went home. As soon as I got home and saw my mum, the tears started. I have no idea why, I wasn’t exactly upset about the loss of the phone itself. I think it was just shock and trauma. And I was just relieved to finally be in a safe environment with people I loved.

A few weeks have passed since the accident, and I now luckily have a phone again (I was insured) and have finally started being able to walk down Elgin Avenue without constantly looking around me. I still feel very wary when I’m in Maida Vale though, and the walk to and from school has felt different ever since. I now make sure I always walk with a friend, even if I’m in a hurry to get home. I am also overly careful of taking my phone out in public, to the point that some of my friends are now complaining that I take ages to text them back! But I’d rather be safe than sorry. It was just a phone, but it taught me a lot. The thief is unlikely to be found and punished, but the experience made me realise how dangerous every day life can be. But more importantly, it made me realise how kind people can be in times of danger. I will never forget the Australian woman who initially helped me calm down, and am forever grateful to the comforting policemen who knew exactly what to say to make me feel relaxed. The next time you see someone walking in a street with their phone in hand, look out for them and don’t give thieves the opportunity to do this again.

Lift (Soho Theatre) – Musical Review

‘Lift’ is a new musical by Craig Adams and Ian Watson, currently playing at the Soho Theatre in London until Sunday, 24th February, 2013.  In the video below, I shared some of my thoughts on this clever, thought-provoking show.

The Impossible – Film Review

‘The Impossible’ directed by JA Bayona, tells the true story of a Spanish family’s experience of the 2004 tsunami that swept through Southeast Asia, affecting the lives of many people in Thailand and the Philippines, and killing an estimated 220,000. The family consists of Henry Bennett (Ewan McGregor), his wife Maria (Naomi Watts), and their three children.
The film starts with the family flying to Thailand for the Christmas holidays and shows us the ordinariness of their relationships together; The kids argue on the flight, the wife repeatedly asks Henry if he turned off all electricity devices before leaving and the youngest son comes to his mum crying that he’s scared of flying. All regular things you would expect from a family, and this immediately allows the audience to connect and relate to the Bennett family. The tsunami happens a few days into their holiday – they are at the beach, the three boys playing in the pool with their dad as the mother sunbathes, when something suddenly goes wrong. Before they know it, the tsunami has struck and they are separated, desperately fighting for survival.
The scenes following are terrifying and uncomfortable viewing for many people. Most shots were filmed in Thailand and they give the film an authentic feel. The camera bobs in and out of darkness, in and out of water, as Maria struggles for breath. She finally find a palm tree and clings to it hopelessly, screaming for help as she finally spots her eldest son, Lucas (Tom Holland), floating in the fierce waves. From this point on, the film is hugely carried by Holland and Watts. Tom Holland’s acting is sincere, as 11-year-old Lucas tries to protect his injured mother. During every moment, his facial expressions and emotions in his eyes convey more than words could. His extreme fright is clear as he attempts to deal with the pain and devastation. 
Tom has a touching rapport with his on-screen mother. There are some incredibly acted scenes from the pair throughout the film. Naomi Watts gives possibly her best performance to date. She shows the agony, pain and desperation of a loving mother in a tragic situation. Her sense of caring due to her character being a doctor, results in her asking Lucas to go around and try and help anyone who needs it – something that Lucas finds difficult to do but attempts out of love and respect for his mum. 
Although the majority of the story is focused on Lucas and Maria, gradually the audience find out about rest of the family and their fates too. Despite not featuring in the film much, Ewan McGregor’s acting as the father is exceptional as he desperately tries to put his family back together. There is one particular scene in which his extreme pain and worry finally explodes into an outburst of cries. To watch a grown man cry like that and not find it heartbreaking is impossible. The two youngest sons show the innocence of childhood as they try to comprehend the tragedy of the event, forced to mature quickly and look after each other. 
Overall, this is a heartwarming story about never giving up. It reminds us of the true kindness of humanity in times of fear and loss. The Bennett’s story of love, determination and bravery is emotional but inspiring.  

‘Life of Pi’ – Book Review

‘Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel tells the story of a 16 year-old Indian boy called Pi Patel, who survives 277 days in the Pacific ocean with only a tiger as company. The book is divided into three segments. The first part is about Pi’s life prior to the ship sinking incident – it gives readers a chance to learn about his character and his interests and dreams as he was growing up. The second section and the longest is completely focused on Pi’s journey to survival and the challenges he faces, with the third section giving readers a glimpse of Pi’s take on the story after he is saved.

With such a basic ‘plot’ if you can even call it that, it would be easy to assume it is 300 pages filled with pointless paragraphs – but despite the odds, ‘Life of Pi’ manages to captivate readers early on, and it is at no point a tedious read. Every page offers a new challenge, surprise or suspense. Pi’s relationship with the tiger is a fascinating aspect of the story. Having been warned about wild animals by his father from an early age, it is gripping to see the change in Pi’s attitude towards the tiger as he is forced to spend nearly a year with it. He starts off thinking like any other human would – “what is the best way to get rid of the tiger before it gets rid of me?”. He soon realises that in fact, to survive this lonesome journey, the tiger is his only hope and he must do all he can to keep it alive. For anyone interested in animals and their strange unique human-like behaviour, this alone provides enough thrilling information to justify reading the book.

However, the real point of the book is to show Pi’s personal journey as he goes from being a young innocent child to being forced to put his uncommon beliefs into practice and growing stronger in his faith in God. It could be argued that this book is somewhat controversial, especially the first part which portrays Pi as an enthusiastic believer in three religions: Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. But the protagonist’s religious comments never feel condescending or alienating to readers with opposing views. An atheist could read this novel and enjoy it just as much as a Hindu, Christian or Muslim would.

Yann Martel’s strong narrative and detailed descriptions give such a vivid and dramatic feel to the story, that the almost impossible survival of Pi becomes believable and admirable. It is a thought-provoking book that not only touches on the importance of strength and hope, but also presents well-researched facts and practical instructions on how to fight till the end, should you ever find yourself in a similar situation as Pi Patel.

‘Les Miserables’ – Film Review

Being a musical theatre fan, it was inevitable I was going to join the ‘hype’ about the ‘Les Miserables’ film. Well, I saw it a few nights ago and here are my thoughts.