Friday, 25 November 2011

Rehearsal Time: Dick Whittington at theTheatre Royal

Last night I had the wonderful privilege of attending the technical rehearsal of Dick Whittington before it opened tonight for the 2011-2012 panto season at Bury St Edmunds' Theatre Royal.

I've never seen a theatrical rehearsal before, unless you consider our Sixth Form school pantomime back in 1985, when I helped at our performance of Cinderella, so last night was indeed a unique opportunity to have a peek behind the scenes.  It was also the only time, as a member of the audience, that I've been allowed to keep my mobile phone on for tweeting and photos.

I soon spotted Colin Blumenau, the director. He was sat in the pit, playing very close attention to the script, while a couple of dozen people were dotted around the theatre, taking official photos, recording the performance or there simply to support the show.  I was in the delightful position of having a box in the dress circle entirely to myself, with one of the best seats in the house to watch the performance

Very soon the lights dimmed and the cast opened the show as they would normally to a packed house mid panto season. Without a houseful of children shouting in their high-pitched voices at the stage, staff and volunteers made up for it with plenty of boos and hisses and all the other traditional audience participation that becomes such festive slapstick.  It was very surreal without the kids but hilarious all the same, so-much-so that it would be such fun if they actually did switch the kids for grown-ups during the traditional sing-song set.

I always love the Theatre Royal pantomimes and the preview of this year's Dick Whittington didn't disappoint. The set and costumes were just fabulous and no-one will fail to be enchanted by the gorgeous twinkly stage during the finale.

The cast was utterly brilliant and I predict that adults and kids alike will particularly love Tommy the cat as well as Sarah the Cook, who made a very fine pantomime dame with her very elaborate bosom and equally elaborate delivery of a Winston Churchill speech.

Even though it was a technical rehearsal, it felt that it was definitely opening-ready and the highlights for me were in particular a very naughty Jamie Oliver joke, the beautiful rendition of Adele's "Someone like you" and the magical fluorescent set that accompanies "under the sea".

Last night was fun and it was great to see how the theatre is engaging with bloggers in this way and trusting users of social-media into the inner-sanctum of rehearsals, a space normally reserved for staff and volunteers.  Of course, it's great for raising awareness of the production and creates discussion on Twitter.  And so it should!  Even Sarah the Cook, aka @ does it during costume changes.

I really am in love with panto and think this production is as wonderful an addition to the theatre's repertoire as ever they have been!

"Oh, yes I do!"

And one day, when I am older, I would love to be a pantomime dame too, but only when I'm a big girl and all grown up!


Dick Whittington and his Cat will be at the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds until Sunday 15 January.  More information can be found at

For regular updates on Twitter, follow @TheatreRoyalBSE, the Dame @
or the hashtag #dickwhittingtonbse.

Sunday, 11 September 2011


On 11th September 2001 I caught the train to London in a weary state.  I was pregnant with my first baby and at 32 weeks under the advice of my doctor, I had only a few more days to go before starting maternity leave.  I was excited and daunted at the same time.

The day started like any other, joining the busy commuter train at Hemel Hempstead and travelling to Euston in a carriage where people minded their own business, either reading books or newspapers, getting on with their work or simply peering out the window. There was no chatter, just independent stillness..

From Euston station I caught the tube to Waterloo, and took a five minute walk to my office. I don't recall what happened during the morning.  It was nondescript, just another morning of juggling the regular duties of the job, together with preparing to hand over my responsibilities as research manager in a digital rights management consultancy.

But everything changed that lunchtime.

I'd met an acquaintance for a farewell lunch at a Chinese restaurant behind Waterloo Station. Her name was Sarah and she was a librarian at Christian Aid.  I don't know where she is now, but I'll never forget that it was her who I was with, when we first saw the pictures of the plane striking the first tower on Sky News, while we were paying for our lunch.

We stopped in our tracks and stared,  lost for words, at the scene we'd just witnessed and full of disbelief at the disaster that was playing out on the screen.

When I returned to the office, there was panic. One of our consultants had been scheduled to fly to the States that morning, and another was flying home.  We couldn't reach them and it was only when the office manager confirmed that their flights weren't scheduled at that tragic time, did that personal tension start to lighten.  However, nothing could remove that image of the plane flying into the tower and the hope that people were being moved to safety. 

Nobody could work, we just refreshed our Internet browsers for more news.

It was then we discovered that a second plane had hit the second tower.

From the ashes of a perceived tragic accident rose a sudden fear that this was now a deliberate act of terror.

Time stopped. 

Then my phone beeped.  It was my friend Alexa, telling me the news and to get out of London there and then.  She was a good friend, who cared.

Our Chief Executive had pretty much the same idea.  The news that we'd heard was hard to comprehend.  Two planes, two towers.  If this has been a terrorist attack, would London be next? 

We were now living in a world where anything was possible.

I can't remember what time I left the building, but I recall an urge to avoid the underground and grab a cab instead.

A cabbie stopped, but said he was off home and was only able to drop en route.  Thankfully his route took him past Euston Station.  He too was getting out of town, along with tens of thousands of commuters.  He told me how he'd come from the City, where he'd seen droves of workers leaving early in reaction.

At Euston, I headed straight for the train, aiming to pick up an Evening Standard on the way to the platform.  The guy had sold out.  When I got to the train it was full.  I returned to the main concourse deciding to wait for the next train, and watched as a new batch of newspapers arrived.   I picked one up and boarded the next train.

Like the journey that had brought me into work that morning, there was no chatter, just again a carriage of independent stillness.  However, no one was reading books or getting on with their work.  Instead, arms were spread holding papers carrying photos of the disaster that had been unfolding thousands of miles away.

I arrived home feeling sick, but with an urge to know more, spending the evening glued to the TV.  The events that followed with the Pentagon incident and the plane that was brought down by its passenger compounded the shock even more.

That evening I wept.  Our world had changed and a terror now reigned, with invisible perpetrators.  I cried for all those who had been killed and injured, who looked fear in the eye, and for all the relatives and friends who had lost those that they loved. 

I also cried for the baby I could feel kicking inside me.  I couldn't bear the idea of he or she being born into this new world.

But he was born, less than three weeks later and in less than three weeks time, he will be ten year's old.  He's lived a life that so many people had lost.

That day on September 11, is going to be etched on my memory forever.  Along with millions of others around the world, I will always remember where I was and who I was with.  It was a horror that changed the world and it should never be forgotten.

There are other horrors that still continue to play out each day.  I can't tell you where I was for each and every one of those, because they go unreported, or are just another event that adds to those that have happened before and they become invisible to our conciousness.

As I remember those who lost their lives on that horrific day ten years ago, I also shed tears for all the other innocents too who've suffered around the world and pray that hope can one day overcome evil for one and all.

September 11 and all those who suffered.  You will never be forgotten.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Cybermummy 2011: thoughts on blogging...and hair

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking at the latest Cybermummy conference, a key social-media event that attracted over 400 parent bloggers from the UK as well as some who flew in especially for the event from far flung corners around the world.

It was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends, many of whom I realise I have now known  for over four years.  It was also a chance to meet lots of new faces too, a treasured moment for someone like me, whose amount of personal time spent blogging has ironically diminished gradually year-on-year since I started in 1997.

When I began blogging, for me it was all about fun.  It was a hobby that combined a need for self-expression, sharing experiences, having a giggle about my family, my misadventures and reaching out to a community of new friends.  I certainly come from that quarter who considered blogging to be cheap therapy.

Then along came that rubbish challenge, and gawd knows how I got from there to here, but somehow blogging got repositioned.  Instead of daily updates it became a repository for heavily-edited highlights, while other activities took over elsewhere.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love all the other stuff I do and it's brought fantastic opportunities.
So as a blogger, I really, really, really can't complain!  However, yesterday highlighted just how much I miss the regular connections hat I used to have with my favourite blogs and the opportunity to be inspired by their stories. 

This is why it was so brilliant to be part of this year's Cybermummy.  The key highlight for me was to catch up with old friends and meet new bloggers. There were also so many people there whom I didn't get to meet but dearly wanted to, and am now waving from my little corner of Suffolk in hope that there will be another occasion to do so, even if I have to wait another year.

Moving onto more formal matters, I also really enjoyed listening to Sarah Brown, who helped launch the event with her keynote speech, giving credit to blogging as a means of helping to drive change.  This theme was reinforced later in the programme by activist bloggers, Sian To, Rosie Scribble and Josie George, who along with Save the Children's Liz Scarff, highlighted the vital role that bloggers have in raising awareness of life-changing campaigns, such as the successful Blogladesh and Pampers Unicef projects that were promoted last year.

When it comes to blogging, it really is an activity that can be life-changing in many ways, whether you're fighting passionately for an important issue, connecting with a community of new friends, developing your creativity or supporting your new business venture.

Bloggers can make you laugh as well as cry.  Some can inspire you to try something new.  Others help you think differently about something that you've always taken for granted.  Some bloggers touch a raw nerve, while others have the ability to help heal wounds. Delving into blogposts is like having a real-time library in your living room, that's full of drama, tragedy, comedy, practical tips and inspiration.

And this is why the closing section of Cybermummy is fast becoming a personal highlight of mine, packed with  crowdsourced blogposts that are read by the bloggers themselves, swinging the audience between tearjerking tales in one moment to stories that bring tears of laughter the next.  It's really hard to pick out specific blogposts from yesterday's session as they were all brilliant,  but the ones that moved me most were those that represented the extremes of emotion, including Nickie from Typecast's story of her baby daughter being diagnosed with cancer and the personal journey through her illness and remission. I really don't think there was a dry eye anywhere and even now as I recount the day, it's hard not to get emotional again.  Elsewhere, it was also great to hear Fi's (Childcare is fun) unusual story about her Twitter birth and the reaction from the press, who misreported the big event with a bucketload of wrong assumptions.  And as for Emily's (More than just a mother) dilemma of how to recycle a vibrator, that was hysterically funny on more than one occasion.

My own contribution to the event was sharing ideas during the Marketing your blog workshop, based on my experience of marketing my Rubbish Diet blog offline. Oh my word, doesn't that sound dry by comparison.  For anyone who may have missed that, it was about engaging with community magazines, promoting your work on local radio, pitching your ideas as a speaker for the WI and other local or national industry related events.   I just hope it made sense and that my nerves didn't get the better of me.  I must admit, not being able to find my presentation on the Cybermummy 1 laptop threw me off guard, as did the positioning of the lighting, which meant I couldn't see the audience. I'd never realised how disconcerting it would be talking to a dark room.

But what an incredible day.  Not even the technical hitch, or the train breaking down en route, could have spoiled it and I have such a long list of fantastic memories thanks to everyone I caught up with.

I'd just like to say a huge 'thank you' to the organisers of Cybermummy for having me, both as a blogger and speaker, and to everyone in the audience who listened as part of the 'marketing your blog' session.  I also want to shout 'hello' to all the bloggers who I caught up with through the day and 'sorry' to my pals whom I missed.
And finally, I would like to say a thank you to Kylie from "Not even a bag of sugar" who let me take a photo of her rather notable notebook, which I've used as the photo header of this post.  For me, of all the things you could say about the power of blogging, this captures it in one quick sentence.

As for now, I'm off to pinch myself that I really did share the stage with Sarah Brown, not at the same time of course, but even during the same morning is good enough for me.  And did I really have my hair ju-juued by Michael Douglas? That was unexpected too.  If I had the money, I'd hire that man as my hair stylist every day...yes it's this Michael Douglas, aka the One Show's very own Street Barber...he did wonders to the mop that I'd dragged all the way to London from Suffolk.  Just a shame I didn't get to him sooner.

(More updates about Cybermummy will be posted on my main blog The Rubbish Diet very soon and I promise to add some of the funnier photos I took to the Facebook page for 1000bins)

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Boom Tish, BOOM Tish, BOOM TISH

So after my premature arrival in rainy Crouch End on Thursday, I finally made it to The Music Palace, a really unusual looking building that can be found just opposite the YMCA in Tottenham Lane.

I was there for the launch of BOOM TISH, the brand new variety night.  Sadly a couple of my friends had to cancel due to illness, so after dragging myself down from the heart of Suffolk and hanging around on my own for a couple of hours, it was refreshing to see the friendly face of one of the Boom Tish founders, Nick Dear, welcoming me at the door and a real pleasure to have a pre-show catch up with my lovely pal Abi Roberts who was compering the event.

I've been to many a comedy club, usually upstairs in a pub or in a basement of a bar, but The Music Palace immediately felt like a venue that stood out, not least because it was self-contained and styled with a decent amount of theatrical bling.

And on the subject of bling, I loved the distinctive Boom Tish logo that filled the backdrop of the stage. You can see part of the design just behind Abi, pictured right.

However what I hadn't expected was that the subliminal workings of those words in bold combined with Abi's cleverly rousing routine of audience participation would have left me still muttering the words Boom Tish, Boom Tish, Boom Tish, two days later whilst writing this blimmin' blog post.

Gawd help me...brainwashed into brand loyalty after one visit!  Surely that's a PR dream!

But of course a clever logo and Boom Tish chanting between acts isn't enough to create a following.  The event itself had to be good! 
And it WAS good....or what would be more appropriate for me to say is that it was an all-singing-all-dancing blinder of a night out, with heaps of original comedy talent thrown in.

As expected, Abi was a really fabulous compere and got the audience whooped up with her one-woman variety store of impressions, singing and comedy anecdotes between each of the different acts (here's a brief vid of her intro). She definitely launched the event in style, giving a great billing to each set, a real natural, who seemlessly linked the acts together.

The line-up was made up of the very funny resident Boom Tish band, plus five acts who were each competing to return for the 2011 finale in December!

And so the stage was set for an eclectic night comprising a comedy duo, a character comedienne, a magician, an ex-Holby City actor and a sketch trio, who between them delivered performances that featured a bizarrely entertaining conjoined twin skit, "Mrs Manning's" polite attempts at a few of old departed Bernard's jokes, a sprinkling of "how the heck did he do that" illusions and closing with a touch of harder hitting  "shock" comedy and a thoroughly mesmerising and cleverly performed sketch involving fonts...

....yes that's right FONTS!  You know.... like Helvetica, Jokerman and even Dingbats!

And the winners voted by the audience... the very entertaining trio  The Real MacGuffins, featuring Dan March, Jim Millard and Matt Sheahan, who I caught on camera whilst performing the FONT sketch.

They were well deserving winners but I reckon there was also close competition from the others, especially the very versatile comedy duo Checkley Bush (Laura Checkley and Victoria Bush),  the artists behind the twins skit.

But the biggest surprise for me, was most certainly witnessing actor Duncan Pow, (whom I'd last seen in character as Holby City's reliable, faith-driven Linden Cullen),  appearing on stage with a hard hitting Frankie Boyle-esque set full of shock comedy.  I must admit that what accompanied my reactionary groans to most of the jokes was an automatic  "Eeeeeek!", which made my facial expressions temporarily resemble those of an Aardman Animations model.

When Duncan joined our group later, I asked how he came from an acting role focused on a softer, (although admittedly complicated character) such as Linden Cullen, to a stand-up routine peppered with risque material, the likes of which would most likely have caused a fictional Linden to depart all red-faced or offer the guiding hand of his Christian faith.

In his Scottish accent, he told me that he'd wanted to try his hand at an opportunity that would stretch him into an area that was the extreme opposite to that of his acting role in Holby City. I think he had defnitely achieved that.  And during our chat, he didn't show any reflection of his former Holby character or even the guy I'd just seen on stage, which I guess gives full credit to his acting skills.

But before I end up debating with myself the extent to which a comedian's set is made up of natural personality and acting talent, I'll share the other great news of this first ever Boom Tish night...and that was that it helped raise £500 for the James Baldwin Trust, a charity which supports families of those suffering from T-Cell Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma and organisations that are researching a cure for the cancer.

The Patron of the Trust is actress Tamzin Outhwaite, pictured here with Abi Roberts, announcing the winning tickets for the raffle that helped raise the much needed funds that night.

This photo was taken seconds before I'd asked my Facebook friends to cross their fingers for a pink ticket, somewhere between 146-155.  And hey presto, the magic worked.  Pink 152 was drawn minutes later for one of the top bill prizes....2 VIP tickets to the filming of ITV's Celebrity Juice in October, which left me both excited and perplexed while my Facebook pals were busy having modern day online fisticuffs over who's going to accompany me.

So for just a tenner's entrance fee it was a real cracking night out, which wouldn't have been complete without Helen O'Brien's character Mrs Manning, who made me chuckle and magician Stephen Barry, whose "fiver in a kiwi" trick was met with a standing ovation for his magical malarkey.

I wish the founders Tom (aka Baz), Nick and  Jake every success indeed.  It was a top event, supported by a packed out audience, which I couldn't help but notice was brimming with folk from the media circles, including writers, actors and presenters.  It was definitely worth trekking down from Suffolk for and even though I won't be able to make every Boom Tish, I'll be back for a few more, including December's finale!

BOOM TISH has definitely made its mark on the London variety scene.  The event is held on the last Thursday of each month at The Music Palace, N8. For more information about reserving tickets or to register your act for a forthcoming heat please contact

Friday, 27 May 2011

Budgens, Banners & BOOM TISH. A stranger in Crouch End.

It was piddling down when I finally arrived in Crouch End.

I stepped out of the oversized black cab hailed from Kings Cross, into the busy London suburb, which until then had only existed in my mind as folklore of Londoners whom I'd met on my life's journey.

"COUCH End", one friend had called it, but I can't remember if that was due to an over-abundance of therapists or a propensity of coffee mornings amongst the good folk of suburbia.  Who knows, it could have been both or indeed neither and not that either or any which way matters.  I was simply looking forward to getting there and happy to have made it, not least to escape the cabbie's tale of his "amicable then not so amicable then gawd what I'd do to her" divorce.

I'd arrived early and didn't need to be at The Music Palace until 7.30pm.  It was the much anticipated launch of the new variety night BOOM TISH, which was being compered by my very good pal Abi.

I'd wanted to explore! But two and a half hours to fill in Crouch 5pm in the rain!  I could have planned it better.   With umberella up I paid the cabbie and tottered off to discover a new land....starting with Budgens!  Thorntons Budgens -  a supermarket with so many award-winning eco-credentials my visit could have easily been mistaken for a pilgrimage.  It even sells food grown on its roof you know, which is run by the amazing rooftop community garden initiative called Food from the Sky

But all glammed up in my waist-busting corset, I was neither prepared or suitably dressed for hanging about in a supermarket despite its oozing eco'ness.  I was in the mood for food and a chance to discover the eateries.  Well at least one would do, and it was only five minutes later on recommendation of an assistant in the Oxfam bookstore, I found myself perched at a table in a restaurant called Banners, in the same spot as the legendary Bob Dylan had allegedly once parked his derriere too.

A bronze plaque proclaimed the status..

"Bob Dylan sat at this table in 1993."

I couldn't help wondering how long he'd sat there.
The walls were decorated with old posters and the rest of the furniture was as eclectic as the wall covering .  It felt the kind of place where you could comfortably lose yourself in a good book. A rare guilt-free moment to indulge in a novel without interruption and it was by no coincidence that I'd dropped into the book store first. You could call it the first step in the defence of the dark art of sitting in a restaurant on one's own. 

Refuelled by 10 well-paced chapters, a Pinot Grigio and a classic Thai Green Curry, my time as a tourist in Crouch End was quickly up.

The Music Palace beckoned.

And so did BOOM TISH.

...with some extra surprises thrown into the mix.

But all that will have to wait until next time...........for now this woman needs sleep.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Abi Roberts takes you up the Aisle...

And indeed she did Matron...with some cracking comedy and tantalising tunes, all packed into a one hour set, which was delivered with a sufficient dosage of double entendres that left the Bury Fringe audience revelling in a night of non-stop laughter.

From the moment my pal Abi Roberts entered the stage singing Chapel of Love, the scene was set for a performance that took the audience through tales of her failed first marriage, the divorce, the highs and lows of internet dating and the heights of meeting her new love.  For anyone who has experienced such chapters of matrimonial pleasure or soured love, there was something to touch the hearts and the laughter buttons of all.

But Abi does not give us a story of self-pity. Instead she delivers an uplifting routine of getting over some of life's relationship hurdles in a show that seamlessly weaves soft ballads with some real belters, glittered with sparkling impressions of Cher, Carrie Bradshaw and some truely fabulous regional accents.  All whilst getting dressed for her impending nuptials. 

Having already seen Abi Roberts perform in Leicester Square, London and in Soho's Pink Poodle Club, I knew she was great, a talented and natural entertainer, but I was still a little nervous having hooked her up with my pals at the Fringe Festival in Bury St Edmunds. Whether Bury would love her work as much as I did was the question that remained at the forefront of my mind.  It reminded me of the very first time my in-laws-to-be met my parents!

But of course I had nothing to worry about.  There was no doubt that Abi was perfect as the Fringe finale act, where she ended her show with an encore that brought the audience to their feet, dancing and applauding, whilst they joined in the chorus of Abi's anthem "Every girl should have a Gay Best Friend" with all the frivulous choreography that accompanies it.

So my job here is done.  The comedy lovers of Bury St Edmunds have fallen in love with Abi's work as much as I did a couple of years ago and the post-show reviews just said it all.  "What a stunning voice" said some, "The best night out in ages" added others and one audience member's Facebook comment just captured the evening brilliantly "Absolutely loved being 'taken up the aisle' by Abi Roberts.  What a stupendous stand up comedienne with a delightful singing voice too".

I couldn't have put it better myself.   So if you're up for a night of total cabaret entertainment with a lady who knows how to get the audience on their feet in a partying mood, Abi Roberts is definitely your gal and you can catch her on the tour that is taking her from the Brighton Fringe next week right up to this summer's Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.  Just visit for details and if you're looking for some inspiration on what to wear, the gig provides a great opportunity for hats, tiaras, fascinators and posh frocks abound! 


Well that's the Bury Fringe Festival done and dusted for this year and huge congratulations to organiser Claire Lowe and her team for pulling together a wealth of entertainment for Suffolk.  As well as Abi's gig. my personal highlights have been the entertaining comedian and broadcaster Kate Smurthwaite and Doug Segal, a fascinating mind reader who's also currently touring and is a must-see at Brighton or Edinburgh Fringe or indeed other listed venues around the country.   There really have been some great giggles and moments of awe during these last two weeks and last night's finale was simply the icing on the cake!  The events have most definitely made me want to see more next year.

So people of Bury St Edmunds, keep your eyes peeled for next year's Fringe.  It will certainly be one not to be missed.  Just bookmark and take a peek next spring to see who's going to be entertaining you next year.  In the meantime, to keep the laughter rolling, you can always head down to the Chortle Factory, the monthly comedy club at Benson Blakes' Attic Room.  Just watch this space for further details.

....and don't forget to check out my own impromptu "contribution" to comedy...helping the diva zip up her wedding dress, live on stage. Captions on a postcard please!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

April in Paris: tweeting in the company of actors

Well that was an experience and a half...and I haven't even seen the show yet.  But I want to and if it wasn't for a clash in commitments this evening, I would have been dashing straight into the pit to see April in Paris at the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds.

You see, there's nothing that quite sells a show like the people who are starring in it, and tonight I spent an hour with actors Wendi Peters and Robert Angell, who form the cast of John Godber's latest production of his well-known play for touring company Hull Truck.

In a social-media conference hosted this evening by the Theatre Royal, bloggers and Tweeters had the chance to ask the actors about their roles, their touring experience and find out more about the work of highly acclaimed writer and producer John Godber.  And what a fascinating hour it was. I certainly took the opportunity to throw in some  questions and the feedback from Wendi and Rob soon highlighted their passion about their work, and indeed this particular play about a middle-aged married couple in Paris.

I quickly discovered how Rob, whose TV credits include Waterloo Road and Brookside, has worked for Hull Truck for 23 years and in that time has performed in 28 of its plays.  Like Wendi, who is well-known for her part as Coronation Street's Cilla Battersby Brown, Rob revealed how he much prefers the stage to television and it became obvious how both have a real enthusiasm for touring.  In fact, Wendi said that stage is her first love and what appeals to her most is the freshness of being able to grab a new script, rehearse it, perform it and then move onto the challenge of the next production.

Now at risk of sounding like a theatrical heathen, I admit that I have very little experience of John Godber's work, but having recently finished a scriptwriting course, I was intrigued to find out more about his style and in particular how actors work with dialogue.

Wendi likens the fast nature of the script to a 'tennis match of lines' between her character Bet and her stage-husband Al (performed by Rob), stating that the dialogue was tricky to learn at first but having soon got into the swing of it she loves the way it flows, especially the moments that are met with laughter from the audience. She also shared how that in order to prepare for each performance, her trick is to act out the first page of the script immediately before appearing on-stage for Act I.

Rob added how he sees John Godber as the master of observation, which is demonstrated by the nature of the 'one liners' throughout his work.  He also revealed how the writer likes to make the audience's imaginations work for themselves, using the power of the lines and characterisation, with very little dependency on stage-sets.  However, with that said, regular followers of Godber's work will have a pleasant surprise when the curtain opens to the start of Act II.

So, do you see what I mean?   Hearing the the actors talk about their roles in April in Paris was like having a huge chocolate cake dangled right above your nose, without being able to grab even a small bite.   It's a real shame I couldn't make it to the actual show tonight, because having experienced the actors' passion for their play and having heard about the talents of its creator, I really now want to see if for myself.   In my very own drama-queen fashion, I suppose you could say I'm champing at the bit.

At least I've got a few days to juggle around my social diary as the play will be at the Theatre Royal until Saturday 9 April.  After that, it heads back up north to Leeds.

This evening's social-media conference was the Theatre Royal's first event of this kind to engage bloggers and Tweeters directly with the cast, and from a theatre-goer's perspective, I found it very useful.  If you'd like to find out more about what other tweeters are saying about the event or the play itself, you can do so by following the Twitter hashtag #AprilInParis. Also, if you'd like to be involved in any other blogger\Twitter events at the Theatre Royal, just drop a line to their Head of External Relations, who would be happy to keep you updated with news of future events  You can also follow him on Twitter as @ChrisGrady.  The theatre's tweets can be found by following @TheatreRoyalBSE.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a photo I took of the actors Wendi Peters and Rob Angell before they scooted off to prepare for tonight's performance.  Don't they look lovely!  Of course next time I see them, they'll probably be on stage, most likely bickering away as a bored married couple.  That's if they actually bicker.  That's one question I forgot to ask.  Oh well, I'll be sure to find out for myself on Thursday.

P.S.  On the subject of cake, you might like to know that Wendi is an avid user of social media too.  Check out her own blog over at

UPDATE: 8 April 2011:  Having been to the show and seen it for myself, I just have to say that Rob and Wendi gave a truly brilliant, bickering performance last night and I can only add to the great reviews that I've received from everyone I know who has seen this production of April in Paris.  It was an excellent production that stayed true to my expectations from the interview with the actors, with fantastic comedic moments ranging from intimate knowing chuckles to lots of laugh-out-loud moments.  So catch it while you can.  It's far too good to miss.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Hanging out at St Pancras Station

Having arrived early at St Pancras station in London, I've got some time to kill before I board a Eurostar train to Brussels and I thought I'd make the most of it by sharing some useful tips for anyone who visits the station.

Being a frequent visitor to London, my regular train from Cambridge actually arrives at King's Cross. However, I spend as little time as possible at that station, preferring to wait for my return journey just over the road at the capital's international terminal.  No doubt that will change when King's Cross completes its own refurbishment and redesign and becomes more passenger-friendly.  In the meantime, St Pancras with its open concourse, free wi-fi and a wide array of eateries is the place to be for travellers who find themselves in this vicinity.

But I'm a fussy old blogger and am not happy just hanging out in any old establishment.  One of the reasons I love this station is the place that I am sat right now:  The Sourced Market deli.

Located opposite the National Rail Ticket office and Starbucks - towards the back of the station - it's only a very short walk for the side entrance to King's Cross.  Not only does it serve great food and coffee, but it ensures that everything is sourced responsibly and in tune with the seasons.  The company also takes great pride in promoting local produce from London and surrounding counties.  It has a great mini-market for those who are in a rush to pick up something for their journey, plus an informal area to while away the time with a deli meal.

And if you're in the need to check your emails or browse the Internet, it offers a very strong signal to free wi-fi. (log onto St Pancras Wi-Fi for access).

Of course the other reason why I tend to make St Pancras my first port of call on any visit to London, is its fabulous free facilities.  It's always puzzled me that it costs 30p for the privilege of using the toilets at King's Cross, when over the road at this more modern station it's in fact gratis! 

But don't trek all the way to the more centrally located loos in the middle of station.  Instead, take my most useful top tip so far... If you find yourself in need, beat the long queues and head to the the back of the station where you'll find almost instant access to alternative facilities that are located next to Left Luggage.

You'll find they're the nearest to Sourced Market too, so you could always drop back for a coffee when passing.

It's been great having a chance to chill before getting onto the train for Brussels, but for now I have to scoot.  There's no doubt though that I'll be back at this same spot when I return tomorrow....à bientôt mes amis.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

So many distractions

So here's where I fully confess to being crap at blogging lately.   Please don't anyone mention how it's been almost three months since my last blogpost here.

How the blimmin' 'eck did that happen?  After all I used to blog all the time!

But let's see.  There was the flu, then Christmas and the most horrendous of colds and I can't ignore the small fact that it's been much easier to bung up an update on Facebook.  However, I can't blame it all on illness, festivities or the online equivalent of the local pub.  I've actually spent much of my natural hibernating time getting offline and going out and have become busier than the busiest buzzing bumblebee.

And yes, there has been opportunity to blog, but to be honest, there has been so much happening, I just haven't known where to start.  It's not so much blogger's block, but blogger's bombardment.  And the process of mental editing before fingers even touched the keyboard, finally got the better of me.

It probably all started when I volunteered my finely tweeked busy-body skills to Never Mind The Buzzcock's Phill Jupitus, where I jumped in head-first to organise the Bury St Edmunds leg of his book tour.  Yes I know...Phill Jupitus!  It was BIG news for a little blogger!  So why didn't I blog about it?  Well, primarily there was that issue of discretion but also I couldn't overcome the fear that man with the randy-sounding email address was just an imposter. And I remained to be convinced that the call from the bloke with the Essex accent was the genuine article until the big man himself turned up at the back entrance of Waterstone's.  And then I got the flu and my part in the book-tour was old news.  Great book by the it and look it up!

Waking up to 2011 in more of a back-down-to-earth manner, I decided to put my best foot forward to commit to new work projects. Even though I'm still knee-deep in rubbish issues which are even taking me as far and wide as Brussels, elsewhere, the Philanthropic Housewife within me has been busy with a new column of the same name, which shares the virtues of simply doing nice stuff.

And as for my leisure time, I began the new year with a mission to fill it with new skills.  With so much happening,  I can't even begin to find a suitable starting point for filling you in properly on my fledging flirtations with scriptwriting classes, Zumba dancing and crochet lessons, whilst travelling around Suffolk using any route but the A14.

I think it's best to leave it to my Twitter\Facebook\blogging pal Janet to bring you up to speed regarding what I got up to yesterday.  She's far more efficient at blogging, not to mention the craft of crochet!  The picture I've included is of my first attempts of juggling a crochet hook with a ball of yarn.

All I can say is the crochet needs as much co-ordination as the Zumba and that one day, there'll probably be a comedy-script hitting the BBC writers room that features both, with Phill Jupitus being head-hunted for a leading role.
And if that really does happen, I'll be sure to blog about it.