28 February 2011

How to chose the right theatre show in London?

Something a bit different from my blog this week as I'm always being asked about theatre in London. There are so many shows on all the time in the West End and off West End, how can you chose the right one for you? Tickets are not cheap and you want to make sure that if you can only see one show that it really is the best. So, here are some handy headings to help you work through your choice and ideas about what's on at the moment:

1. Star vehicles
Major high profile movie stars love the tread the boards in London and we've seen Jude Law, Gillian Anderson, Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Radcliffe, Ewan McGregor, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan (together!) and, going back a bit further - Nicole Kidman, Matt Damon and John Malkovitch, to name but a few. We often have the pleasure of seeing Kevin Spacey as he is the Artistic Director of the Old Vic Theatre where he stars and directs. So you can usually find a show with a big name or two if that's what you are after. Right now you can catch Kiera Knightley and Elizabeth Moss in The Children's Hour at the Comedy Theatre and about to open is Sienna Miller in Flare Path at the Theatre Royal. Matthew Fox is also about to open. So much to see!

2. Musicals

This one is straightforward and the London stage is full of good musicals. Your main choice will be around long running favourites such as Phantom of the Opera, the Lion King, Chicago. Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Billy Elliott or some newer kids on the block such as Legally Blonde or The Wizard of Oz and Love Never Dies (also know as Phantom part 2!). Musicals tend to be on for long runs so are often easier to book in advance if you are planning a visit but they are very popular so book as early as if you can!

3. Hot tickets.

There is always a buzz about new openings or the hot favourite in town. At the moment it's Frankenstein at the National Theatre directed by Danny Boyle, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch who alternate the two lead roles each night! Tough to get tickets for but worth the effort. Hot tickets are usually for short runs so grab them fast and keep you eyes on the press for the next big thing.

4. Classics

There is always some Shakespeare to be found in London and really worth going to the Globe in the summer to see these performed in authentic surroundings. But other theatres offer the Bard and at the moment we have Twelfth Night at the National Theatre directed by Peter Hall and starring his daughter Rebecca. Classics can include Ibsen, Chekov, Wilde and Coward and currently we have Blithe Spirit (Coward) in preview. Always worth checking the National Theatre for 'proper' plays, serious and extremely high quality.
5. Off West End
There is a rich source of great theatre outside of the West End. Try these for interesting new plays and stars in the making as well as established actors. These theatres tend to have quite short runs but it is well worth checking them out and the best venues are: The Donmar (a personal favourite), The Almeida, The Bush Theatre (very small), The Lyric, Soho Theatre and the Young Vic.
For information on any of these shows or venues or to find listings try:
And of course some photos... Priscilla, The National Theatre, The Donmar and The Globe

Bye for now.

21 February 2011

Banquets, Minis and being very fashionable!

A busy and varied week in London, as always! I've picked 3 highlights to tell you about - a medieval banquet, a Mini tour and a fashion show which was part of London Fashion Week.

First up we have the Medieval Banquet which is an evening extravaganza just by the Tower of London. You go into a vaulted underground cellar and are offered a range of period costumes to dress up in (especially good for kids of all ages!) You get a meal (soup, a cold meats plate, chicken with potatoes and veg and then a fruit pie) and unlimited wine/beer while the cheery, costumed and charming staff entertain you. Sitting in your section of the room you enjoy the dancing, singing, acrobatics, sword fights, magic tricks and much more When all this finishes much more modern music takes over and you can have a good old dance. A fun night out, probably best for groups but we had fun as a two, it's a bit different, a bit silly and you just have to join in!

Small Car Big City are all about the Minis - the cars, not the very short skirts in case you think we are onto the fashion already! Rob and Oli met at an interview for a job neither of them wanted and over a consoling beer found they were both nuts on Minis and the company was born. They do tours of London in their beautifully restored Minis - see photo. We had Rob who is a real London lover and has tons of great stories to entertain his passengers as he nips around the streets of London with confident ease and the Mini lets him sneak through the tiniest gaps. We managed to see so much in our hour and I'd really recommend taking one of their tours if you are 1,2 or 3 people, we were 3 and we all fitted in just fine. (http://www.smallcarbigcity.com/). It's great fun and lots of tourists stop to take pictures of you as you whiz past. We saw a new sculpture by Lorenza Quinn on Park Lane which fitted the car theme, called Vroom Vroom (!) - this time a Fiat 500 and a huge arm which you can see in the photo. We finished in Maida Vale and dropped into Gordon Ramsay's gastropub, The Warrington, and sampled the grand decor and the amazing ploughman's lunch.

London Fashion Week 2011 is with us and I was lucky enough to be given a ticket for an up and coming pair of British Designers who work under the name of Jena Theo. London Fashion Week is when all the top designers and fashionistas from all round the world descend on London and parade around looking gorgeous! The show I went to was a proper loud, laser enhanced catwalk show with more photographers than I've seen for a long time. The clothes were remarkably wearable for one of these events with good mixtures of denim and leather on good tailoring. The crowd were of course fascinating and we particularly loved the shoes in the photo which is not a trick, they really don't have heels! The other photos show you the room and the models with their dramatic striped eye make up. All this at 11 in the morning!

13 February 2011

I've been to the top of the world!

There's been a bit of a gap since my last post due to a trip to Dubai for some winter warmth. Not too much to do there (compared with many cities) but the buildings are amazing and here are a few photos of the Burjs - Burj Al Arab with its beautiful shape sitting out on its own island and Burj Khalifa which is the tallest building in the world and amazingly elegant. We took the world's fastest lift to the world's highest viewing platform and managed to get close enough to the edge to take a picture of Dubai by night but it was a challenge to the stomach and the photos may not be a sharp as I would have wanted! Back in London it was a bit grey in comparison but there was the Destinations Travel Show at Earls Court to visit and immerse myself in a sea of tempting holidays, photos and salespeople. Just before I went to Dubai I visited the Adventure Travel Show, which is smaller but also good fun, so I'm now fully stocked with brochures and have a lengthy wish list. The travel shows are always at this time of year and in just a few hours you can travel the world - virtually- and often taste the world through great food and drink samples as well as winning some prizes. I won a small beautiful black bear from Quebec thanks to Experience Holidays (photos on request!) The big safari trucks are a dominating sight so here's a photo, along with a Canadian tepee and some amazing vegetable crafting! I love London but there are great places to be visited out there too....

One rather lovely restaurant visit to tell you all about - Gauthier Soho. I'd been there several years ago when the building housed Richard Corrigan's restaurant but since then Alexis Gauthier has moved into this Regency townhouse with his superb cooking and we had a wonderful lunch. Sounds expensive? Go for the set lunch at £18 for 2 courses and you get all kinds of extra nibbles and great chocolates with coffee. Here's the grand entrance which is so discrete that you have to ring the bell to be let in. Treat yourself while this amazing lunch offer is still there... Bye for now.