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The Blog is in sections on Film Reviews, Theatre Reviews, Food & Wine Reviews

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There is a separate page in this section for Travel Reviews

Film Reviews

August-September 2019

Film: Yesterday

An unusual venue this time – on holiday in Malta when the film ‘Yesterday’ was released on 28th June 2019 so took the opportunity to spend the afternoon in the cool of the cinema the next day. It is a good film based on an interesting concept of what the world would be like without the Beatles songs. Lots of mixed reviews for the film, but we found it very entertaining. Great casting of Himesh Patel as Jack and Lily James as Ellie, and all supporting actors fitted their roles perfectly. We liked his introduction to “Let it Be” 3 times for his parents, and Ed Sheeran had some great one-liners.

Such an exciting atmosphere at the final Wembley gig, and an impressive crowd outside The Pier. We enjoyed the story, the music, and the characters so agree it is a feel-good film. We both disagree with one reviewer who deemed it “charming but empty”, presumably because there was no blood and gore, violence, or close-up filming of sex activities – don’t need to see it just want to know if they are going to get it together! But if you like the Beatles songs and want to go along with a sort of fairytale “what if…” scenario, it is worth going to see.

Film: Rocketman

Brilliant casting, especially when you see early photographs of Elton John next to Taron Egerton’s portrayal in the film. Funny and moving, I just wanted to hug him. I know there is some question about accuracy in some parts of his life, but I believe the underlying issues of limited affection or understanding from his parents comes out clearly, and we all loved his Gran!

Impressive talent, of course, and his ability to copy/play by ear at such an early age. Personally, I don’t care if he (or anyone else for that matter) is gay, but I don’t need to see a bedroom scene to show that. Mind you, this applies whether it is heterosexual or same sex - I don’t need to watch in detail as I have a fair idea of how it all works by now. I can describe the cinema wallpaper in detail during this part of the film, so I can see how they could cut the scene altogether if necessary.

Excellent performances, outrageous costumes, all the songs we know and love, and very touching final scenes with input from Elton himself. We were all glad to see he has finally found love and affection in his life.

Theatre Reviews

November 2019

 Live theatre HD broadcast Madama Butterfly NY Met - at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Saw this in Aberystwyth Arts Centre as an afternoon showing the week after the original live broadcast. £16 with a free tea/coffee in the café.

One of my all-time favourites, with a box of tissues of course, is Puccini’s Madam Butterfly. I have seen lots of different versions, the best ones before this from Welsh National Opera and the one set in the 1950s just after WWII, but this was certainly the most visually stunning yet.

The most striking features are the stage entrances as characters emerge from behind centre stage, elaborate costumes silhouetted against a coloured lit panel. Sliding panels move to change parts of the scene, moved by shadowy figures all in black, their faces also covered. A most unusual feature is the little boy, Butterfly’s son, in this production a life-size puppet. Definitely creepy at first, especially as this is the filmed version so we are very close to each character, but by the end we all loved him! He was manipulated by 3 figures so cleverly, subtle movements of his head and hands giving such a realistic impression of him gazing at his mother, playing with toys, sleeping with his head in her lap.

The humming chorus gets me every time – tissues at the ready – and by the time Butterfly’s final aria arrived we were all in bits! The other characters were also brilliant – Suzuki the maid, Sharpless who is clearly alarmed at the attitude of Pinkerton, and Pinkerton himself. The audience already hates him by the end of the first act, so smug and self-centred, but a wonderful performer.

It is a tragedy with no let-up and no happy ending, but Puccini’s score covers the whole range of emotions. I know I will see other productions of Madama Butterfly in the future, but for now this is my favourite.

Live theatre HD broadcast

Turandot – Met Opera screened at Aberystwyth Arts Centre 18/10/19

HD recording of live performance of Zeffirelli’s awesome production at the Metropolitan, this one in the afternoon in week following the performance. As always, this is one of the best ways to experience opera on a grand scale when you cannot see it in person.

This was the first recorded performance of the 2019-20 season, and with two Interludes is a big sitting, but these repeat showings during the day at Aberystwyth Arts Centre include a free tea or coffee in the £16 ticket (and the bar is open all day too!). The beauty of HD recordings is the unique opportunity to her from individuals such as Maestro Yannick Nezet-Seguin. He was so enthusiastic during the interview with opera singer Angel Blue (she is starring in Porgy and Bess later in the season) as this is the first time he has conducted Turandot, and is very excited about the role of the Chorus which he loves to feature.

He believes that Puccini wanted to show exotic settings for his operas, but also “tenderness” emerging for the characters although personally this isn’t the element that comes to mind in the cruelty of Turandot! There is also the issue of it being unfinished when Puccini died so it was completed by Carlo Gozzi.

It is a big production, wonderful stage set and sumptuous costumes. Leading characters played by Roberto Aronica, Christine Goerke and the superb Eleonora Buratto as tragic Liu were breathtaking. A lovely production and can’t wait to see the next HD screening of Madame Butterfly in November.

Live theatre: Fiddler on the Roof, Playhouse Theatre, Northumberland Ave, London WC2N 5DF 16th October 2019

This exciting stage show is on at the Playhouse Theatre between Charing Cross and Embankment underground stations so is easy to find. I was inspired to book a ticket after seeing an excerpt on Facebook showing the young men dancing at the wedding feast balancing wine bottles on their heads! And I wasn’t disappointed.

The seat in Dress Circle was 6 rows back so not a bad position with full view of the stage though not the cheapest at £45. I love to see how set designers create a space that reflects the atmosphere of the play and accommodates scene changes. This was a great scene, crowded rooftops and the over-riding feeling of “grey” poverty, the cold sadness of leaving their homes, yet a lively bustling scene of the marriage celebrations.

Powerful voices and superb acting from every member of the cast with exciting dance routines. It was fascinating to see how the two groups of young men danced according to their different traditions. It is a moving, sometimes funny look at family and love, tradition and beliefs, and the impact of forced expulsion from their homes. Clearly, it still resonates with the world today.

Live theatre: 9 to 5

Having seen the original film many years ago, we were not quite sure what to expect from a musical version but were not disappointed. An excellent show at the Savoy Theatre in London, even from the Grand Circle in “the gods”. Superb dancing routines and powerful voices – sound levels a bit too intense from where we were so the words were not always clear, but not a big issue really.

It was funny seeing Dolly Parton on film introducing the show and at the end – “if you liked it, please tell everyone. If you didn’t, then keep your mouth shut!” The afternoon performance was brilliant, the theatre nearly full and a very appreciative audience.

Loved the bad boss man, brilliantly played with a strong voice and some interesting moves, especially references to S&M (or M&Ms as Judy says). We also loved the typical ‘inhibited’ lady from Admin, in love with the boss, with her spectacular dance routine and fascinating costume! Altogether an entertaining show, perfect performances from all the cast, and well worth a visit to London.

Live Theatre: Faust

Another entertaining live broadcast from the Royal Opera House shown in cinemas around the world. Not such a big audience here in Theatr Mwldan Cardigan, West Wales, but you still get the atmosphere and reaction from the Live audience on the recording. This is not an opera I have seen before so I wasn’t sure whether I would enjoy it, but this version set in 1870s Paris is a classic.

Basic story of Faust who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for youth and power, and to seduce the young and beautiful Marguerite. Perfect casting was Mephistopheles (Erwin Schrott), a brilliant performer both in lighter and darker moments with twinkly eyes and a naughty, smiling face even when being interviewed in the interval. Apparently, lots of Tweets were being uploaded saying how much everyone was in love with him!

Faust and Marguerite are a beautiful couple before the interval although you know it won’t last. It is a long performance, especially when in a local cinema, so you might need to bring your sandwiches. But the printed synopsis helps to set the scene as the action unfolds on screen. This is an ideal way to bring a moving, spectacular performance to a much wider audience than would otherwise be possible. Looking forward to the next broadcast.

Live theatre: The Taming of the Shrew

Even if you have seen the Taming of the Shrew before, it is definitely worth seeing this version from the Royal Shakespeare Company. I have seen the TV version with John Cleese (inspired casting!) and a favourite was the more romantic ballet version, but the RSC is full of surprises.

Same storyline and character names but genders are “flipped” (the Director’s term). Now it is a powerful matriarchal society and Katherine the shrew, and the younger sister, is played by a man. It does take a little while to get the hang of Katherine being a man and still called Katherine, but the acting is superb.

It is a cruel story in places, of course, and it is primarily about convention and power within a marriage. However, these themes have been interpreted as a ‘play within a play’ where the couple agree to be seen in public as the shrew tamed, yet in private they are an equal couple. On the other hand, many see it just as an abusive relationship where Katherine becomes a subservient chattel.

Whichever you choose, this performance was an interesting study of marriage contracts in the wealthy classes with some real laugh-out-loud comedy moments throughout and brilliant casting. It was definitely a memorable performance, especially as a live broadcast with additional opportunities to hear the Director and main characters discuss the play, and for a unique view of how they work in the wig department and with costume design.

Live theatre: The Merry Wives of Windsor

This is THE way to see a performance at The Globe in London. As a live broadcast, in this case to 350 UK cinemas, you get to see so much more than if you were there. You see the audience piling in to The Globe, first of all the ones standing just in front of the stage – not sure what you can actually see from that angle – but watching in your local cinema, comfortable seats and no rain to worry about as it is an open-air venue, you get a fantastic view of the theatre itself. There are always interviews with the actors and close-up shots during the action. At only £13 a ticket without the travel and overnight stay in London, it is an ideal option (although I quite like the overnight stay in London).

This version is set in the 1930s and discussions during the Interval outlined how they decided the fashion focus of the 30s with real links to ideas of the 16th century, and how they then chose to keep to Shakespeare’s use of words.

Falstaff fancies himself as attractive to two wealthy wives, but they soon realise his game and play tricks on him. Some great performances, as always, especially the neat French doctor with a strange accent and use of phrases (think Ello! Ello!)/ two servants trying to move the linen basket with Falstaff in it/ and Falstaff spurting out a mouthful of beer over the audience at the front of the stage. We loved the lady who put her anorak hood up, and later how they all put their hoods up in unison as he emptied water out of his shoe!

It is a funny play, fast-paced with lots of action. Pearce Quigley is very funny as Falstaff, explaining some of the old words as an aside to the audience but also saying how he had to develop the knack of talking directly to the audience. Occasionally the accent and speed of the speeches confused me, but mostly it is easy to follow what is going on. The whole point about a performance at the Globe is the interaction between audience and actor, even before the play starts as The Windsor Locals mingle with people and entertain them – a magician, a washer-woman and a 1930s band. 

Food and Wine reviews


Sekura Teppinyaki Japanese Restaurant, Golf del Sur, Tenerife

Down on the coastal promenade near to the Agua Marina Golf Hotel is the Sekura Teppinyaki restaurant serving excellent Japanese food. Some friends who had been to the restaurant before recommended it and we were definitely not disappointed.

There is a wide menu to choose from, but our group of 4 chose the Teppinyaki dishes. Spectacular preparation of food on a large hot plate with seating around, you can see how expert the chef is. He is a great showman, especially chopping up the egg at super-speed and the large burst of flames. The food is super fresh and tasty without being too spicy and the whole experience is very enjoyable as several groups together watch in awe.

The second time we went, we tried the tempura dishes, my favourite, and were certainly not disappointed. If you are staying in this area, this is an eating-out experience to put on the to-do list. 

Tall Ship Dining Experience, San Miguel Marina, Tenerife

This is certainly a different dining experience on a traditional wooden tall ship nestled in the shelter of San Miguel Marina along south coast of Tenerife. It is billed as a culinary journey, an opportunity to sample 12 courses with dishes inspired by “People we’ve met and ports we’ve visited”. The menu covers a fascinating range of foods all prepared on board by the owner.

We started with Moroccan ‘tres colores’ dips with olives. Next came a large platter of bite-size pieces of deer, boar, bull salami-style meats; Italian Serrano ham stuffed rolls; small creamy-cheese balls; rich mushroom-filled balls deep fried; Spanish green pimientos sprinkled with flavoured rock salt. As you can see from the photograph, there was more than enough to keep you going while the next course was prepared. She did say there would be gaps in service every now and then as the food is freshly cooked, so plenty of time to work through the first litre carafe of white wine (each carafe after this one is 14.50€).

The French vichyssoise soup was thick and creamy, delicious with crumbled blue cheese, quail egg and a swirl of crème fraiche. It is a fascinating old ship, has taken part in the Tall Ships races and regularly sails to further destinations with 3 crew. Clearly, it needs a lot of maintenance and upkeep, so the dining experiences help to generate funds to keep it going.

Back to food with Alaskan salmon followed by a fragrant jasmine rice with wild mushrooms. The refreshing small glass of granita can be made with rum or gin mixed with ice-cream, lemon and cream. Surprisingly, two more meat dishes next. We are not generally keen on rabbit or veal, but both were an interesting mix of texture and flavor. We finished with pears in red wine and ice-cream and our second carafe of wine, red this time, now approaching 11pm.

Overall, it was a very pleasant evening sampling lots of dishes we wouldn’t otherwise choose. Dining is outside on the foredeck so if you get a bit chilly, there are some lovely fleecy blankets to snuggle into. It was an unusual dining experience that was worth trying, and very easy to book online and pay through PayPal.