Review: Tell Me On A Sunday, Caird Hall Dundee

Tell-Me-On-A-Sunday-2011

I’ve seen a lot of musicals – Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Guys & Dolls and Les Miserables – just to name a few, but I’d never seen a one woman musical before. So on Monday night when I made my way to the magnificent Caird Hall, a theatre that has been graced by everyone from Bowie to the Beatles, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Starring West End star and former I’d Do Anything winner, Jodie Prenger, Tell Me On A Sunday tells the story of a young English woman’s emotional journey to find perfect love in the big apple.

The show, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black features some of the duos finest songs including Take That Look Off Your Face and Tell Me on A Sunday, both of which Jodie and her spectacular voice, performed superbly well.

But surprisingly it wasn’t the stunning musical score that was the highlight for me, it was Jodie’s superb acting skills. Her performance was captivating and she pulled off this one woman show with ease. I found one scene where the lead (and unnamed) character had her heart broken, particularly moving. Jodie’s eyes glittering in the darkness just about pushed me over edge but thankfully, she pulled me back up again before I officially slipped into emotional wreck mode! After the show, Jodie came back out with the musical producer of the show, to perform a few more songs and to answer questions from the audience. Out of character, Jodie was every bit as warm and funny as any leading lady and it was clear that she has all the talent and stage presence she needs, to be entertaining audiences for a very long time to come.

Tell Me On A Sunday is touring the UK until the 8th of June. Visit: www.tellmeontour.co.uk for details.

Review: Funbox, Superheroes Show

super_centre_image1-730x453While I’d love to be all cool and pretend to be indifferent, I cannot lie – I am a huge Funbox fan. I love them because they are keeping all the traditional songs and silliness alive for my two girls. I love them because, when I tell my kids that we’re spending the afternoon in their company, they light up like little Christmas trees. But mostly I love Funbox because they are just really, really brilliant at what they do.

So it’s fair to say that we were all a little bit excited as we made our way to see their Superheroes show in Dundee’s Whitehall Theatre. When we arrived to a theatre packed with little superheroes, my little Supergirl and slightly bigger Animalgirl, were more than ready for the laughter and fun to commence. And it certainly did! As usual, the show included some new and very catchy tunes, some old classics like The Quartermasters Show and Little Bunny Fou Fou as well as lots and lots of laughs including a hilarious and slightly awkward incident when Kevin and Bonzo met for the first time!

As always the gang came offstage after the gig, ready to greet their fans. They are always so generous with their time posing for photographs and chatting with the kids, adding to the excitement of the day. As I watched my two girls cuddling Anya and giggling along with Gary and Kevin, I just knew that meeting the gang, was something that they’d always remember. Funbox have helped to create a special memory for my kids that will last a lifetime. And because of that, I’ll love them forever.

Find out more about Funbox and their current Scottish tour on their website: www.funbox.co.uk

Horrible Histories: Incredible Invaders – Theatre Review

Horrible Histories - Birmingham Stage CompanyWhen it comes to TV, there aren’t many programmes that all four of us enjoy, but the one programme I can always guarantee will entertain my three year old and seven year old, at the same time, is Horrible Histories. The fact that that my husband and I absolutely love it too is an added bonus! Filled with catchy songs and gruesomely horrid historical facts, it’s the one show I can let the kids watch without feeling guilty! So when we heard that the Horrible Histories theatre show, Incredible Invaders, was coming to Edinburgh Playhouse, we were all very excited to check it out.

Written by Terry Dreary, the bestselling author that penned the original Horrible Histories book series, Incredible Invaders tells the story of the UK. Lead character Mavis, played by Hannah Boyce, is a Briton who is desperately trying to avoid a life of slavery at the hands of dastardly interlopers. On her journey through time, Mavis meets everyone from the rotten Romans, the smashing Saxons to the vicious Vikings and finds how their invasions shaped the Britain, we know and love today.

In classic Horrible Histories style, Incredible Invaders is a fantastic mixture of history and hilarity. The small and extremely talented cast, from Birmingham Stage Company, had the audience on the edge of our seats throughout and we spent the hour and a half show, howling with laughter and joining in! The second half, which featured 3D special effects, had the whole audience screaming and ducking as bloody heads and rabid dogs came flying our way, which only added to the great excitement.

We had a splendidly horrid time at this wickedly funny and gruesomely educational show and would highly recommend it.

Horrible Histories is currently touring the UK with their two shows Groovy Greeks and Incredible Invaders. Please visit: Barmy Britain for more information.

Interview with Tammy Cohen

WSWB hi-res coverThere is nothing I like more than sitting down to read a good psychological thriller. Having read Dying For Christmas by Tammy Cohen previously, I already had high expectations for her latest novel When She Was Bad, but I’m happy to say that she completely smashed them! This novel isn’t just great, it’s flipping brilliant!

After devouring my copy, I caught up with Tammy to ask her a few questions about her magnificently gripping novel…..

When She Is Bad, is a delicious psychological thriller (which I seriously couldn’t put down), set in the workplace – a rarity in fiction! Can you please tell me why you decided to set it there? Have you had any bad experiences of working is that sort of environment?
Thank you! To be honest the workplace setting came about principally because I’d done three domestic thrillers in a row and needed to do something completely different. And obviously workplaces are a great setting for thrillers because we spend so much of our lives there and yet often we hardly know our colleagues. And when you factor that in with all the office politics that invariably goes on at work, you end up with a bit of a tinderbox situation – and as a writer all I had to do was toss in a lit match. And you guessed right about the personal experience. Many years ago I worked in a magazine office where the boss, like Rachel in When She Was Bad, operated a divide and rule system of management and pitted us all against each other. It was such a miserable experience, I’ve never forgotten it.

Every one of the characters in When She Was Bad is flawed, something that is also echoed in Dying for Christmas. Can you tell me the reason for this?
I never set out to create flawed characters, only real ones. To be honest, I always write characters I consider to be fairly normal so it always surprises me when readers talk about how flawed or unsympathetic they are. I’m starting to feel I have much lower standards than everyone else! As a reader, I’m always more intrigued and engaged by the complicated characters than by the straightforward nice guys and girls. It’s clearly a flaw in my own personality!

The novel is a real page turner! How much planning do you have to do prior to writing to create such a gripping novel?
The writing world is split between those who plot and those who don’t. I belong in the latter group, although I often wish I didn’t! I usually start off a book with an idea of the nub of the story – a spurned woman who stalks her ex lover’s family, a couple caught in the middle of their best friends’ increasingly acrimonious divorce and, in this case, a bullying boss introduced into a previously harmonious workplace. Once I’ve got that nugget at the heart of the book, I sit down and start writing until gradually the characters emerge, and they in turn propel the plot forward. It’s a very panic-inducing way of writing and quite often I’ll get to the middle of a book and completely freeze, not knowing which direction it should take. I’d love to be able to sit down with a stack of post its and a white board and plot out a whole book before writing the first sentence. I think that must give you a really enviable sense of security. But unfortunately it’s not the way I work.

You’ve recently turned your hand to thrillers after previously writing contemporary fiction which focused on relationships, under the name of Tamar Cohen. What made you decide to shift genres?
After three books that were classified as dark, contemporary women’s fiction, I was starting to feel constrained by constantly questioning the authenticity of what I was writing: ‘is this how most people would react? Can readers identify with this?’. There was always an invisible line I couldn’t step over. With crime, I can cross that line, push the boundaries. It’s no longer about what most people would do but rather what one person, often one very abnormal person, might do. It’s no longer about what’s probable but about what’s possible, and that’s very liberating.

Do you have a writing routine that you can tell me about?
When my children were younger I had a strict routine that was dictated entirely by childcare and I was actually very productive because I knew my time was limited so I had to focus., but since they grew older, I’m a lot less disciplined. Now I get up and answer emails and engage in social media, often for hours, lying to myself it’s all work – yes, even watching that video of the dog with the box on its head. Then I’ll take my own dog for a walk. So by the time I actually sit down to write it is often mid afternoon, which means I’m quite often working late at night. Like now!

Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?
Only to write, and to keep writing, even when the nasty little voice in your head is telling you it’s rubbish. Write through the doubts. You can always edit at the end. And never think you’ve left it too late. I was forty-seven when my first novel was published, and it completely changed my life.

Your previous career was in journalism. How does that influence your writing?
Being a journalist means that I’m used to writing to deadline, and I’m not precious about my writing. Most novelists end up being on a book a year contract and that means you can’t be too much of a perfectionist – at some point you have to let your book go.

Can you please tell us about your favourite books and authors?
My favourite book is always the last one I read! I read loads but I’ve got a terrible memory and often forget books instantly I’ve read them. However there are some standout books that have really stuck with me. Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith, Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin, Louise Doughty’s Apple Tree Yard. Over the last few weeks I’ve read a few great books that are due out later this year, like Louise Candlish’s The Swimming Pool, Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me, and Sabine Durrant’s Lie With Me.

Can you tell me about what you are working on now?
I’ve just written a first draft of a book that is in a totally different genre to anything else I’ve done, but as I still haven’t read it through and don’t yet know whether it will ever see the light of day, I think I’d rather keep it to myself for now. But I’ve another psychological thriller to write next, which is where my heart really lies, so watch this space!

When She Was Bad is published by Black Swan and is available to buy right now!

Theatre Review: Little Red and the Wolf at the Dundee Rep

Little Red newStepping into the Dundee Rep to see Little Red and the Wolf was like stepping into a fairy tale. The theatre had been completely transformed into a magical wood, where mischief and mayhem lurked around every corner. Doing away with the theatre’s traditional seating, the action all takes place on set. Perched on our plastic chairs and floor cushions, we were so very close to the action, that we felt completely immersed in the experience the whole time.

Sitting waiting for the show to begin we were greeted by the cast who were mingling amongst the audience. Meeting Granny Island from Katie Morag (Annie Louise Ross), who plays the part of Little Red’s Granny, was a particularly special moment for my two girls who were rendered speechless for the first time I can ever remember. But also seeing the rest of the cast including the beautiful Little Red (Marli Siu) and the very charming wolf Lyka (Cristian Ortega) up close, was also very lovely.

When the play began, it was clear that this was going to be a very special production indeed. Filled with laughs, suspense and plenty of scary moments, Little Red and the Wolf had the whole audience on the edge of their seat.

Superbly acted, the concept of Little Red and the Wolf is very clever, completely turning the traditional fairy tale on its head. Watching the production I experienced the whole range of emotions. One minute I was rooting for characters and the next I was jumping out of my seat. During one particularly touching scene I may or may not have shed a tiny little tear or ten. As the mother of two girls, I was particularly pleased to see a feisty and very clever Little Red, who makes a fantastic role model for children everywhere.

My girls too absolutely loved it too and were completely mesmerised throughout, being so close made them feel like they had really been part of something very special. On leaving one wanted to become a wolf and the other an actress – so I think I can safely say the production made a big impact. All in all Little Red and the Wolf is an absolutely spellbinding production, which is not to be missed. Little Red and the Wolf runs at the Dundee Rep until the 9th of April.

To find out more and book tickets, visit the Dundee Rep’s website: www.dundeerep.co.uk