CATS @ Wakefield Theatre Royal

Have you ever attended a Jellicle Ball? If not you’re missing out! Once a year all of the Jellicle Cats meet for this occasion, and this year at Theatre Royal Wakefield you have a chance to attend for yourself.

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From the moment the lights go down you will find yourself mesmerised by an all-singing all-dancing tale of various Cats. From an audience point of view, it was very easy to forget that these were actors and not actual cats that you were observing. The actors had the feline movements down to a tee, although one thing to be positively sure of is that they were far from sounding like ‘a bunch of Cats’.

CATS allows us to meet several different Cats, each with their own characteristics. Both the music and choreography allows them to explore their anthropomorphic qualities and tell their own tale. Every theatre go-er will have their favourite cat. The one that they eagerly anticipate and know all the words to their showstopping hit, the one who’s tale makes them howl with laughter or the one who’s story evokes a whole range of emotions that they can relate to.

Musical Director, Jim Lunt, did a fantastic job with the music and the singers did not once hit a wrong note. I found myself sat in awe at how much raw talent these young actors had. My favourite scene of the night was ‘Magical Mr Mistoffelees’, the song was so catchy and the Cat himself dazzled the audience with his solo dance full of jumps and turns which was accompanied by multiple fireworks. Another Cat worthy of the cream was ‘Glamour Cat’, Grizabella, whose breathtaking rendition of ‘Memory’, in the second half of the show, caused many people surrounding me to tear up. The song was performed with powerful emotion and every single note was perfect.

Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer’s performance of their self titled song was another one that had me singing along and grinning. Their song brought an air of mischief and silliness to the show which was enjoyed by old and young alike. This number was accompanied by an energetic, and in some places, acrobatic dance routine that had your eyes fixed on following these merry Cats from one side of the stage to the other.

Rum Tum Tugger also has a self titled song which describes his unpredictable nature and his love of the limelight. All of the kittens in CATS adore him and so did the audience, who loved his singing and cheeky facial expressions which portrayed his character perfectly. As well as singing about himself, Rum Tum Tugger plays a big part in the rest of the musical. Particularly as he is the voice behind ‘Magical Mister Mistoffelees’, a song about magic and intelligence.

Once each Cat has had their chance to perform, it is up to wise ‘Old Deuteronomy’ – the oldest cat of them all – to select one of them to be reborn. But who will he choose?

You still have chance to meet all of the above mentioned Cats and many many more! ‘CATS’ performed by ‘Wakefield Youth Music Theatre’ is still available to see until Saturday 5th September. Tickets are from £16, which is a little price to pay for such a ‘purrrfect’ performance.

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Lunch @ Be Our Guest Restaurant, Disney World

On our Holiday to Disney World in Florida, we ate lunch at the Be Our Guest Restaurant.

Be Our Guest is a themed restaurant in Fantasy Land based on Disney’s Beauty and the Beast film. From the outside of the restaurant you can see the Castle from the film and there are plenty of opportunities to have your picture taken in front of it by a Disney Photographer.

Due to demand and the restaurant being very popular, we decided to book a table in advance so we knew we’d definitely be able to dine there. I’d recommend booking a table as soon as you can using the My Disney Experience website as it becomes booked up very quickly.

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Once inside Be Our Guest, you are invited to order your food and drink using interactive screens within the restaurant lobby. We had already pre-ordered our food so it was simply a case of re-checking the order and then paying using our MagicBand.

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We were then free to go choose a table in one of the 3 dining rooms within the restaurant. The rooms are The Ballroom, West Wing and The Castle Gallery. The West Wing is a small room off to the left side of the restaurant. The main feature of West Wing is the Enchanted Rose which is kept within a glass enclosure and lights up. On the other side of the restaurant, The Castle Gallery features a large model of Belle and The Beast dancing. The model rotates 360° and gives a truly magical feeling to the room. We ate in the Ballroom which is the central and largest of the 3 rooms. With high, domed ceilings and animated windows that made it look like snow was falling outside, this room really made us feel like we were dining in the ballroom of a huge castle.

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Once we were seated, it didn’t take long for our food to arrive. The waiters were able to find our location using our MagicBands which I think is fantastic idea and adds to the ‘magical’ feeling. I ordered the ‘Carved Prime Chuck Roast Beef Sandwich’ whilst Ryan had the ‘Braised Pork (Coq Au Vin Style)’. Both meals were delicious and the portions were huge for the price, such good value. For dessert we ordered the ‘grey stuff’, a cupcake featuring grey coloured frosting, to keep in with the Beauty and the Beast theme.

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The decoration within the restaurant was fantastic and there was such a great attention to detail. I would highly recommend Be Our Guest restaurant as a dining suggestion for anyone’s Disney World visit.

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Amsterdam – P&O Mini Cruise

I’ve always been interested in trying new things and visiting new cities so when P&O had an offer on their mini cruise breaks, I thought why not! Costing just £102 for a twin cabin from Hull to Amsterdam, it was only £51 to explore a new city and have a weekend away.

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Our weekend started at 12:00 with a train journey to Hull, in order to catch the ferry. Once at Hull Interchange, there was a bus to take us right to the ferry terminal, which was helpful as it is in the middle of nowhere. The check in process was very much like an airport, although admittedly alot quicker! Everyone had to have their bags searched thoroughly due to not being able to take your own alcohol on board. The bag searched seemed to take longer than normal due to my boyfriend fastening his bag with every single toggle on it, and the security guard not knowing how to undo them!

Once on board, we were able to go to our cabin and leave our bags. The cabins are very basic and rather on the small side, but with so much to do on-board we were hardly in ours, it’s just a place to sleep. The cabin consisted of bunk beds which pulled down from the wall, a desk with a mirror and stool and a bathroom.

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The onboard entertainment was good with live shows, a cinema and a casino. We chose to eat a meal in the onboard restaurant which was very nice, alot better than expected. There was also a Starbucks which was open all of the time to grab a drink or snack etc. I would also recommend standing outside on the ship as the view is absolutely stunning – we also got a lovely view of the sunrise on our trip home, by sitting in the lounge on the top deck.

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Amsterdam was lovely to walk round and take in all of the sights, I liked all of the bridges and little houses. Although, I am abit disappointed to now learn that there is a Love Bridge there that you can put padlocks on, which I didn’t know when we went! As we went in November, the city was very Christmas-y  and had some stunning decorations, including a huge Christmas tree in one of the shopping center, which was nearly 3 floors high – just what you need to get in the festive spirit.

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The P&O mini cruise was great for a mini break, as you don’t actually feel like you’re travelling for ages, as you’re not cooped up in a coach/car. I would definitely recommend one, especially on their 2 for 1 deals.

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‘Pictures We Make’ @ Wakefield Theatre Royal

Pictures We Make is a dance show by Company Chameleon which explores the emotions that people experience within relationships.

The show was split into two performances which were separated by an interval. The first performance, Eden, captured the attention of the audience by beginning in complete darkness and dancers only being visible by candlelight. Two male dancers then mirrored each other’s dance moves whilst also having their own individual dance moves, this led me to believe that they were both portraying the same person but different emotions. The strong eye contact maintained with audience, paired with the eerie music made the piece quite dark as though the dancers were possessed. The male dancers were joined on stage by two ‘identical’ females and the two couples mirrored each other, showing two different sides of the same relationship. In my opinion, the only thing that detracted from the overall mood of ‘Eden’ was that during some of the delicate dance moves, the female dancer’s underwear could be seen. However, due to the nature of the costumes and dance moves, I don’t think this could have been avoided although it did sometimes avert the attention away from the strong raw emotions that were otherwise portrayed throughout.

After the interval, the second dance titled ‘Pictures We Make’ was staged. The emotions in this piece were not as tender as in ‘Eden’, with more brutal and threatening emotions portrayed. Whilst watching, I got the feeling that they were trying to display the darker side of relationships and possibly the abuse that some people suffer within them. Upon further thought, I decided that although physical violence was what the audience was presented with, it may have been used as a symbol to represent the emotional strain that can be experienced during some relationships. The advertisement for ‘Pictures We Make’ poses the question: how do we navigate from our experience and our expectations? This question is extended throughout the whole performance as it could be interpreted that one couple is symbolizing the ‘expectations’ and the other is representing reality.

As an active lover of plays and books, it is hard to not look for a storyline and to just allow yourself to experience emotions that are being displayed. ‘The Pictures We Make’ made dance performances accessible to a wide range of audiences, from dance show lovers to those who have never chosen to see a dance show before. The music and dance fitted together perfectly with the intense feelings that were portrayed, and the performers had stamina as their last dance move was just as strong as the first one. A very creative interpretation of how different people perceive the different relationships within their life.

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Grimm Tales @ Wakefield Theatre Royal

‘We have a tale to tell, A journey to take you on’ is how this musical story started, and what a journey it  was! Grimm Tales consisted of three short stories which have been adapted for the stage by Carol Ann Duffy.  The tales in order were ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘The Golden Goose’ and ‘Ashputtel’, each one with a recognizable storyline but with it’s own unique, dark twist.

The ability of the actors was incredible and each person had a part which highlighted their strengths, which became clear as the play progressed on. I was amazed at how easily the scene was set, despite the lack of props which meant that the creativity of the actors and directors had to be excellent in order to get the story across using physical theatre. Even characters that weren’t in a main role in a certain scene still had a major role to play in setting it, using both sound and visuals.

‘Hansel and Gretel’, the first story in the collection set the standard of the show very high, with an hilarious portrayal of the Step Mother. The opening tale made it clear that this wasn’t your average boring fairytale, but instead had been carefully crafted to fit the target audience with comical facial expressions and slight innuendos. A particular highlight of this story was the use of branches to create a ‘forest’ for Hansel and Gretel to walk through, which really helped to set the scene for the audience.

My favourite tale was the closing one, ‘Ashputtel’. I particularly enjoyed this one as it captured all of my favourite themes of the entire show in one short tale. The acting from the ‘Step Mother’ from ‘Hansel and Gretel’ returned but this time even more extravagant and humorous. This combined with the pantomime like acting of the ‘Step sisters’ who were excellently portrayed by two male actors made for an exceptional, modern take on this classic fairytale. The ballroom scene in this tale had the audience in stitches as the cast put their own unique twist on ballroom dancing and completely defied all expectations by raving and disco dancing whilst the prince searched for a bride!

An example of everyone’s strengths being utilized is the fact that the music is all original and written by one of the actors, Daniel Hardwick. I didn’t know this until after the show as the music was so catchy that I’d just assumed it was pre-written for them. Many cast members played their own instrument such as guitar and violin and everyone got involved in the singing and dancing. The tunes and songs in the play were still stuck in my head even days after the show, so well done to the cast for creating such a memorable show.

All in all, Grimm Tales was fantastic and judging by audience reactions, I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The cast at ‘In On The Act’ became very involved with the audience with many of the scenes containing actors running into the crowd. The final tale had the cast sharing sweets with the audience in a way which was cleverly incorporated into the storyline. Little details like this help to take away the ‘stuffiness’ which many young people associate with going to the theatre and allows them to realize that it is in fact enjoyable and entertaining for all ages. I’m glad I ‘pinned back my lugholes’ because Grimm Tales certainly was a narrative treat!

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National Media Museum, Bradford.

Last Bank Holiday Monday I embraced the great weather and took a trip to the National Media Museum in Bradford.

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The museum was fantastic and offered alot more detail and insight than I expected. I also imagined that it would be aimed more at children but it catered for everyone, more to older children/adults though due to the amount of reading.

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My favourite floor was the Television exhibition, which shows how TV programmes go from script to the screen and what happens post production. A particular highlight was watching all of the old televison adverts and how the audiences at the time responded to them. One advert for Ford was even made several years after the actor’s death, using restored footage!

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As a keen writer it is one of my greatest pleasures to discover spelling mistakes in written work such as newspapers,  books and displays.  So imagine how excited I was when I saw the sign above,  where someone had circled all of the spelling mistakes. It made my day, haha!  Why would you display it without proofreading?

All in all, it was a fantastic day out and I can’t believe that the museum is free to access. I’d happily return as there is so much stuff to take in, too much to remember after one visit. I’d highly recommend it, particularly if you’re interested in media and technology and how it has evolved.

Thanks to Ryan Fitton for letting me use his images in this post.

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The Lion King @ Manchester Palace Theatre

Last Month I visited the Palace Theatre in Manchester to see the Lion King on stage. The whole weekend was so enjoyable and definitely worth the wait since I received the tickets in January and was counting down the days until it was time to go see it!

The costumes and staging was mind blowing. The thing I like about stage productions is that you can see how much effort all of the actors put in, I think it’s easy to forget that when watching a film or tv programme. Also when watching something at the theatre you are constantly reminded that it isn’t real and this makes it easier to totally imerse yourself in this whole new world instead of falling into the ‘that’s so unrealistic’ trap that you do with film or tv. You know the story isn’t real and it doesn’t matter because it’s still spectacular!

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This is a picture of the stage before the production started, we were sat on the upper tier and considering how high up we were, the view was incredible! This is a poor picture as I was trying to take it quickly before it started. They even had a lion king themed stage curtain! To quote the people who decided to give their own running commentary throughout the whole performance, ‘it was amaaaaazing!’. The use of props and costumes within the show was really creative and some of the ways the animals were presented were so imaginative and different. The cast also made use of the whole theatre with animals running through the audience and drummers in the private boxes. With some boxes having actors in even when members of the audience were sitting in them!

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After the performance, we went to look at the merchandise stands which were surprisingly cheap compared to other shows that I’ve been to. I decided to buy this Lion King keyring so that I could have something that I’d actually use and have with me all the time to remind me of the amazing time that I had. I was going to buy a bag but I didn’t think I’d get much use out of it. However, I have just discovered that you can buy the merchandise online and the Lion King charm bracelet looks really nice.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend that you go see the Lion King on stage if you ever get the chance as it’s much better than you can ever expect. I’d also like to thank the greatest best friends ever for buying me the tickets for my birthday!

-Bethany

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The first of many… hopefully!

I always thought my first blog post would be something interesting and groundbreaking but that hasn’t happened and here I am, writing a generic ‘welcome to my blog’ post. 

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions as no one is ever disciplined enough to stick to them but I promised myself that I’d start my own blog and actually update it this year. But we’re already a 1/3 of the way through 2013 and I’m only just starting.  Why is it that I can write articles for various other websites easily and regularly but when it comes to my own I struggle for topic ideas?

I predict this website will be a mash up of various subjects and ideas until I find my own particular niche area. So expect rants, tales of busses and commuting and large amounts of rhetorical questions about life and people in general.

And there we have it – my first blog post on Bethanyjackson.co.uk!

– Bethany

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