Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Book review: Paperweight by Meg Haston

My edition: Paperback, to be published on 2 July 2015 by Hot Key Books, 285 pages.

Description: Struggling to deal with her brother's death and a past she refuses to confront, Stevie knows she has problems. But she's still furious about the fact that she's been packed off to a health clinic, in the middle of nowhere, where mobile phones are banned and communication with the outside world is strictly by permission only.

The regimented and obtrusive nature of the clinic and its staff is torture to the deeply private, obstinate Stevie - and don't even get her started on the other 'inmates'. All she wants is to be left alone...

But as Stevie is about to find out, life is full of surprises. And she will prove herself stronger than she knows - even when her past finally catches her up in the most shocking and brutal way possible.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Book review: Only We Know by Simon Packham

My edition: Paperback, published on 4 June 2015 by Piccadilly Press, 229 pages.

Description: What is the secret of Lauren's past?

Lauren's family have moved house very suddenly, and she and her sister Tilda have to go to a new school. Lauren's determined to reinvent herself, but she's panic-stricken when she sees Harry, who she knew a few years ago. Luckily Harry doesn't recognise her, and she knows she has to make sure it stays like that.

Lauren, unlike Tilda, settles in well. She makes friends, is helping to organise the school fashion show, and has boys asking her out. But just as her life finally seems to be looking up she starts receiving macabre packages. When she gets a message: 'Isn't it time your new friends knew all about you?' she has to admit that someone knows her secret. But who - and what should she do?


Monday, June 29, 2015

Theatre review: Miss Saigon

I had the profound pleasure of reviewing the 25th anniversary production of Cameron Mackintosh's Miss Saigon when it opened in the West End last year, which was a truly epic introduction to this magnificent show. So when I was offered the opportunity to watch the tremendous musical once more, now with a partly new cast, I of course couldn't say 'no'!

I was first introduced to the new additions during their performance at West End Live earlier this month, which sounded very impressive so I had high hopes that I would love revisiting this musical. However, with a combination of not hugely impressive understudies, distant seats and perhaps too high expectations, while I did enjoy watching Miss Saigon, the production had lost some of its sparkle and I didn't fall as in love with it as I had done before. 

Set just before the end of the Vietnam War, the musical tells the story of an American soldier, Chris (Chris Peluso), who falls in love with a local bargirl by the name of Kim (Eva Noblezada) at the sleazy Dreamland nightclub run by 'The Engineer' (Christian Rey Marbella). Kim is a naive girl who has only just arrived in Saigon and she is soon swept off her feet by the all-American hero. He could've easily taken advantage of her, but Chris too falls in love with Kim and amid the horrors of the war something beautiful emerges.

Wartime tales aren't the most obvious ones to turn into glittering musicals, yet the grand scale of the stories tend to work well in the intimacy of the theatre. Just look at Les Misérables, which has recently become even more popular and even received a Broadway revival after getting an adaptation on the big screen. Miss Saigon too is a a huge-scale show that perhaps doesn't succumb to stereotypical jazzhands and feather-clad girls (although, surprisingly, both of those make an appearance) yet it perfectly fits the musical genre.

This is a sung-through show and while perhaps it takes a few moments to get used to, the incredible book and music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil and Richard Maltby Jr. create a compelling and atmospheric piece, which soon transports its audience to the heat and smoke of Saigon. The fact that the characters sing to one another, rather than talk, becomes completely unnoticeable as you're completely pulled into the world of Kim, Chris and The Engineer.
However, I admit that I was disappointed when the character of The Engineer made his first appearance on stage as I instantly knew this wasn't Olivier Award-nominee Jon Jon Briones in the iconic role. His understudy wasn't able to strike the same balance between charming and sleazy, nor did his vocal chops come anywhere near that of Briones'. In addition, while I really enjoyed newcomer Chris Peluso in the role of Chris at West End Live, he didn't give a consistently strong performance throughout the show I watched. He definitely had some fantastic moments, so perhaps he was having an off-night, but combined with not being able to see Jon Jon this led to me feeling somewhat let down by the performances.

Eva Noblezada, however, was still every bit as sensational as she was over a year ago. It's astonishing to think that she is still a teenager as her voice is powerful beyond her years and she gives a heart-rendering performance of the naive country girl who becomes a strong-willed woman with only one mission on her mind. She and Jon Jon were the irrefutable stars of my first viewing in May 2014 and on her own she still manages to carry the entire show – watching her perform is worth the ticket price alone!

And despite my disappointment with some of the cast, this is still a completely epic must-see show. If you haven't seen this production before, so can't compare performances, then I'm sure that you will be as overwhelmed and impressed by this musical as I was the first time I saw it.

It unfortunately didn't quite live up to my memories and being further back in the theatre (I was sat in row X of the stalls this time, compared to being in row H before) also detracted somewhat from my enjoyment. So my top tip for first-time attendees would be to buy seats either in the front section of the stalls or in the first few rows of the circle, as this is one show that you'd want to be fully immersed in to be able to truly appreciate the incredible emotionally engaging story and the grand scale of this epic production.

Miss Saigon is playing at the Prince Edward Theatre and is currently taking bookings until 19 December 2015. You can buy tickets here.

Theatre review: The Liberty Tree at The Cockpit Theatre

©Nick Spratling

Rosa is a call centre worker and after a particularly bad day at work - the new owners have taken away their employees' bonuses and put them on zero-hour contracts, and the one person who protests the new regime is instantly suspended - she goes to bed only to wake up in the Land-of-Do-As-You're-Told; a magical place where she meets a colourful cast of characters while she's following a road to the liberty tree, a legend which can supposedly save them all.

Sound familiar?  

The Liberty Tree had more than just strong hints of the Wizard of Oz, updated for the 21st century and with a strong political message that is. It was an interesting concept and there were some great elements within the story to support the themes, but at times it went a little over-the-top trying to convey its message, when in truth subtle hints could've been far more effective than, for example, a character going on a Tory-inspired rant. It was entertaining, don't get me wrong, but it lost some of its powerful core along the way because of it.

I also have to question the choice to make this a musical, as I felt this didn't add anything of worth to the story and the individual performances of the still quite inexperienced students and graduates were understandably not anywhere near those I'm usually spoiled with at London-based performances. Acting wise they were fine and the ensemble pieces sounded solid too, but the solo scenes definitely needed some more work. The production also needs to lose the forced interactivity towards the end, as it isn't everyone's cup of tea - it certainly wasn't mine.

However, for a musical that originated at a university and was funded through Kickstarter, they put on an admirable performance with a for the most part solid book, innovative characters and a valuable message to take away. While I wasn't blown away by the show I attended, there is no doubt that there is a lot of potential there. I hope to see the seeds of The Liberty Tree grow into something much more polished and impressive over the coming years, as it's a story that really deserves hearing and it could potentially do very well as a play in theatres across the country. 

The Liberty Tree was only running for a few days at The Cockpit Theatre in London, however you can keep an eye on the website of production company Public Domain for updates about any possible future productions of the show.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Book review: The Looking Glass House by Vanessa Tait

My edition: Paperback (proof), to be published on 2 July 2015 by Corvus, 298 pages.

Description: Oxford, 1862. As Mary Prickett takes up her post as governess to the daughters of the Dean of Christ Church, she is thrust into a strange new world. Mary is poor and plain and desperate for change but the little girls in her care see and understand far more than their naive new teacher. And there is another problem: Mary does not like children, especially the precocious Alice Liddell.

When Mary meets Charles Dodgson, the Christ Church mathematics tutor, at a party at the Deanery, she wonders if he may be the person to transform her life. Flattered by his attentions, Mary begins to believe that she could be more than just an overlooked, dowdy governess.

One sunny day, as Mary chaperones the Liddells on a punting trip, Mr Dodgson tells the story of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. But Mary is determined to become Mr Dodgson's muse ­ and will turn all the lives around her topsy-turvy in pursuit of her obsession.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Book review: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman

My edition: Hardback, published on 4 June 2015 by Sceptre Books, 320 pages.

Description: Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy. Standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend. At night Elsa runs to her grandmother's stories, to the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas. There, everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

So when Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has hurt, it marks the beginning of Elsa's greatest adventure. Her grandmother's letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones-but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book review: Lost & Found by Brooke Davis

My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 29 January 2015 by Hutchinson, 289 pages.

Description: Millie Bird is a seven-year-old girl who always wears red wellington boots to match her red, curly hair. But one day, Millie’s mum leaves her alone beneath the Ginormous Women’s underwear rack in a department store, and doesn’t come back.

Agatha Pantha is an eighty-two-year-old woman who hasn’t left her home since her husband died. Instead, she fills the silence by yelling at passers-by, watching loud static on TV, and maintaining a strict daily schedule. Until the day Agatha spies a little girl across the street.

Karl the Touch Typist is eighty-seven years old and once typed love letters with his fingers on to his wife’s skin. He sits in a nursing home, knowing that somehow he must find a way for life to begin again. In a moment of clarity and joy, he escapes.

Together, Millie, Agatha and Karl set out to find Millie’s mum. Along the way, they will discover that the young can be wise, that old age is not the same as death, and that breaking the rules once in a while might just be the key to a happy life.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book review: A Seaside Affair by Fern Britton

My edition: Paperback, published on 26 March 2015 by Harper, 448 pages.

Description: When the residents of the Cornish seaside town of Trevay discover that their ramshackle but much-loved theatre is about to be taken over by a global coffee chain, Cafe au Lait, they are up in arms. It is up to Penny Leighton to come up with a plan to save it.

Trevay soon finds itself at the centre of the universe when A-listers arrive to take part in a charity season at the theatre.

The play throws out a chance to Jess Tate, girlfriend to TV heartthrob Ryan Roberts. His career is on the rise while hers remains resolutely in the doldrums. But when opportunity comes calling, it isn't just her career prospects that are about to change...


Monday, June 22, 2015

Theatre review: The Clockmaker's Daughter at The Landor Theatre

©Poppy Carter

The Landor Theatre is a popular and well-respected fringe venue in London, yet after reviewing both Damn Yankees and She Loves Me at this theatre in a pub, I admit I wasn't wow-ed yet by the productions they put on (this may partly be due to the fact that these shows simply didn't appeal to me quite as much as previous ones that played there and I missed, such as Ragtime and Into The Woods).

However, after having had the opportunity to see new musical The Clockmaker's Daughter (for which I want to profusely thank the PR company for accommodating me well after press night) I finally get why people love this theatre so much, as it was an extraordinary production and one that deserves a long and successful life after the closure of this run next month.

The fantastical fairytale has hints of the likes of Pinocchio and Frankenstein as it tells the story of a lonely clockmaker who creates a machine that looks like a human and actually comes alive. His fabricated daughter, Constance, is an extraordinary clever being and before he knows it she can walk and talk and almost pass for an average person. However, to be on the safe side, and also partly because he doesn't want to lose her like he did his real life daughter, he forbids her from going outside. And we all know what happens when someone isn't allowed to do something...

Constance does indeed step outside of the house to explore the town of Spindlewood, but is it really as dangerous as the clockmaker warned her it would be or was he just being overprotective?

We've all seen and read endless retellings of classic fairytales such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Hansel and Gretel and Beauty and the Beast, but it is a rare occasion when a truly original enchanted tale is created as is the case with The Clockmaker's Daughter. Sure, there are hints of other famous tales woven throughout, but then the age-old ingredients to a good story such as good vs evil, prejudice and a touch of magic can only be combined so many times to create something that hasn't been done before. And writers Michael Webborn and Daniel Finn really managed to put their own spin on the themes to create their highly imaginative tale which feels like it belongs among the classics.

The music by the co-creators too, is something magical. Opening number Turning of the Key while set in the present time, manages to already transport its audience to a fantastical and adventurous place, before we've even arrived in the Spindlewood of long ago. Each of the musical numbers was beautiful, emotional and really suited its enchanted setting, but it were the group numbers such as the previously mentioned Turning of the Key and Spindlewood that were something truly special and gave me goosebumps as I watched them being performed live on the intimate stage at the Landor Theatre.

And there was not a weak link or false note among the crazy talented 20-strong cast, though there are two performances that were so sensational that they deserve to receive a special mention. First of all is, of course, Jennifer Harding who was phenomenal as the titular clockmaker's daughter. Her voice was breathtaking and on top of delivering a fantastic vocal performance she was tasked with the job of emanating the mechanical movements of a machine before she slowly transformed into a more human like being, a change which was astonishing to watch.

And secondly I'd like to mention Alan McHale who played Will, a character that strikes up a friendship with Constance. With a powerful singing voice and a mesmerising performance to match, it was hard to look anywhere else but at him whenever he was on stage. These two actors worked beautifully together and over the course of the 2.5 hour performance they managed to make the audience both laugh and cry as their story unfolded.

Those who follow my theatre reviews know that with the amount of productions I see I've become quite critical over the years and it doesn't happen often that I give a show 5 stars, however this new musical at the Landor Theatre is truly sensational and one I can not recommend highly enough, so it deserves to receive the highest possible rating I can give it.

Time might be precious, but The Clockmaker's Daughter is well worth spending yours on - book before it is too late!

The Clockmaker's Daughter is running at The Landor Theatre until 4 July 2015. You can buy tickets here.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

West End Live 2015, Saturday 20 June

West End Live is without a doubt the most anticipated weekend of the year for stagey people, showcasing some of the best of the best the West End has on offer spread out over two musical-filled days in London's Trafalgar Square. Completely for free!

While I have previously only reported about it in 2013, this year actually marked my 7th visit to the annual theatrical event (which is now in its 11th year) and the first where I had press accreditation so the quality of my pictures is (hopefully) a lot better. That way people reading this who were not able to attend might still feel like they were there – and those who did go can relive some of their favourite moments.

My highlights (as ever) were the extraordinarily catchy Jersey Boys, the totally epic Miss Saigon (which I'm visiting for review again next week) and Les Miserables, and the AMAZING Memphis with one of the last performances by Killian Donnelly before he heads off to join the fabulous Kinky Boots (opening at the Palace Theatre in August).

The whole day was once more organised fantastically by Westminster Council, MasterCard and The Society of London Theatre, the only hiccup being the heavens opening up late afternoon but that is something they have no control over and also, it wouldn't be West End Live without getting drenched!

Without further ado, click below for some of my photos of the first day of West End Live 2015. I tried to share some shots from each of my favourite performances as I wanted to keep it fair (although, admittedly, I have a LOT more photos from some shows *cough* Memphis *cough* than others) and I will do the same from the Sunday performances, which I'll be heading to later this afternoon.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Interview with author Fredrik Backman

I usually tend to stick to the same authors when it comes to book releases I want to get as soon as they're out int he shops, but I recently discovered a new writer who with his unique novels has catapulted himself into my list of favourites: Fredrik Backman. It started when I read A Man Called Ove and my love for his quirky and amazingly layered characters grew even more exponentially when I finished his new book, My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises a few weeks ago (review to follow).

So when I was contacted by his publicist with the opportunity to feature an interview with the author himself on my blog, I didn't have to think twice. My questions may be a bit a mundane and fangirly, but his answers are anything but; filled with his distinct flair for humour. Enjoy!

Hi Fredrik, thanks so much for stopping by my blog today! I absolutely adored A Man Called Ove, which was a perfect balance of humour, quirkiness and a heartwarming message. Did you deliberately put all these elements into the story to create your unique main character and his journey, or was this influenced heavily by your own humour and writing style?

It's a very long and complicated didn't really plan ahead. I just tried to tell a story that I felt something about, and then I made my best to tell it as honest and entertaining as possible. And then I gave it to my wife, and she laughed maybe three times during the entire script, and I asked where she was in the story at the time and she told me and I went back and tried to write more stuff like that. That's where the dedication on the first page of the book comes from. "For Neda. It's always to make you laugh. Always."

Ove initially came across as a stereotypical grumpy old man yet as the story progressed and we, the readers, got to know him better it became evident that there was a far more complex and surprising character hiding underneath the stern exterior. Was this something that surprised you as well? Were there things that happened either in Ove's life or to one of the other characters that you didn't expect either when you started writing the novel?

Well...that's...these are hard questions. I don't plan everything out in a novel before I write it, but I wouldn't exactly say I just sit back and wait to be struck by inspiration either. So I don't think "surprised" would be the word I'd use, because that sounds a little bit like I had quite a bit of illegal drugs in me and sat down at a typewriter and woke up the next morning at the bottom of a pile of paper and just "WOOOOO! DID I WRITE THIS?". I've heard somewhere that's what Robert Louis Stevenson did with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and I'm really happy it worked out for him but I don't really do good with drugs. I'm a very anxious guy to begin with, and I get headaches very easily.'m never really "surprised".

Wow, this answer really got out of hand. But...yeah, sometimes you take a different route halfway through a novel than you initially intended and maybe that's a bit surprising. In the first draft of A Man Called Ove the cat didn't appear until chapter 14, but my stubborn editor kept arguing that it should be the hero of the story, so in the end I changed it and wrote the cat from chapter 2. It changed the whole dynamic of the book, really, which I didn't really understand until the book was printed. So that was surprising. So yes. I should have just answered that from the beginning!

After the international success of A Man Called Ove, did you have a different approach when writing My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises?

No, because I had no idea it would be a success. Neither did my publisher. When they figured out that A Man Called Ove had started selling a lot of copies I had been writing my next novel in peace and quiet for 6 months. When they asked to see the script and I gave it to them they...well...they panicked a little bit. We had a lot of discussions about me using made up animals and swords and sending 7 year old girls to space (I didn't really, they misunderstood that part) and so on and so on. The sales department sent me a lot of emails asking me in different ways if I couldn't write an Ove 2 instead, but I kept answering "HOW!!!???".

In the end my wife told them that if they want me to behave they can't leave me alone for 6 months because then I will start having some "weird ideas", and that's why she won't leave me alone with the kids for "more than two hours, without calling the insurance company first". And by then I guess the publisher kind of realised it was too late to force me to write a new script altogether so they gave up and published the one I wanted to write.

So...your question was...oh yes! No! I didn't have a different approach with the second book, I just wrote something I liked and tried to get my wife to laugh and hoped that someone else would like it too. There's a Norwegian author called Erlend Loe who answered a question similar to this with "I can only write one book, the one I want to write". That's my general feeling. I also had some great advice from another writer when I published A Man Called Ove, which was to start writing my second novel before my first one started getting reviews. Because then I would be unaffected by them, regardless if they were good or bad. Probably some of the best advice I've ever gotten.

And what does an average writing day look like to you anyway? Do you have a strict routine or is every day different?

Noooo. I don't have routines. I have kids. And my wife has a real job with desks and power points and pants and stuff, so I'm in charge of seeing the kids to and from kindergarten and half of the time they have colds and then we stay home and watch god damn Frost a million times. So no, not that much a routine writer, I just write when I'm allowed. But what I have discovered, to be honest, is that it's not really important to set aside time for writing. It's more important to set aside time for thinking. Writing is fun, so one way or another I always find time for that.

Finally, even though My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises has only just had its UK release, are you already working on your third novel? If so, is there anything you can tell your readers about the story?

I'm working on my fourth, actually. My third one was released in Scandinavia last year. It's called Britt-Marie Was Here and is sort of a spin-off, focusing on the character of Britt-Marie who is a neighbor to Elsa in My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises. It's a lot about cleaning stuff. And football. A lot about football.

* * *

Thanks so much Fredrik for stopping by Page to Stage Reviews today! And readers, make sure you pick up his delightful novels; My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises was published in a beautiful hardback in early June and you can buy the novel from WaterstonesAmazon or your own preferred retailer, A Man Called Ove was published in paperback in May and you can get a copy from Waterstones, Amazon or your own favourite book shop!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Book review: The Doris Day Vintage Film Club by Fiona Harper

My edition: Paperback, published on 23 April 2015 by Mills and Boon, 420 pages.

Description: Claire Bixby grew up watching Doris Day films at her grandmother’s house and yearned to live in a world like the one on the screen – sunny, colourful and where happy endings with chiselled leading men were guaranteed. But recently Claire’s opportunities for a little ‘pillow talk’ have been thin on the ground.

Until she meets mysterious Dominic. Nic is full of secrets but their connection is instant. Could he help Claire finding the Hollywood ending she’s been searching for?

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book review: The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Brian Katcher

My edition: Paperback (proof), to be published on 18 June 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books, 336 pages.

Description: When Ana Watson's brother ditches a high school trip to run wild at Washingcon, type-A Ana knows that she must find him or risk her last shot at freedom from her extra-controlling parents.

In her desperation, she's forced to enlist the last person she'd ever want to spend time with--slacker Zak Duquette--to help find her brother before morning comes.

But over the course of the night, while being chased by hordes of costumed Vikings and zombies, Ana and Zak begin to open up to each other. Soon, what starts as the most insane nerdfighter manhunt transforms into so much more. . . .


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cheap London: How to see West End theatre for less!

After my first Cheap London post, titled 5 ways to go to the cinema for free, today I will be sharing some of my tips on how to see normally budget-shattering musicals and plays in London's famous West End theatre district at a fraction of the cost!

1. My ultimate tip, and the reason this post is being published this week, is the glorious West End Live, taking place the weekend of 20-21 June. Now in its 11th year, this completely free event showcases some of the best the West End has to offer spread out over two musical-filled days in Trafalgar Square. This is without a doubt the most anticipated weekend of the year for stagey people, but there is a lot to enjoy for casual theatre-goers too. And they also cater to children with fun events; so it's great for the entire family.

There are smaller similar events through the year, such as the Olivier Awards live show in Covent Garden and West End Busking, and there's even a taster of WEL in Victoria this coming Wednesday 17 June, but none are quite as spectacular as West End Live itself. This year marks my 7th visit to this glorious event and to get in the mood, have a look at my blog post of the 2013 showcase, which is filled with pictures and videos. Bring water, food, comfy shoes, a sunhat and all your stagey friends - and get ready for a brilliant West End weekend.

2. If after watching teaser performances at West End Live your list of shows and plays you REALLY want to see has grown exponentially but your theatre budget hasn't, then day seats might be just the thing for you. If you're American you may know them as rush seats instead, but basically these are tickets you can get from the box office of the theatre on the day of the performance itself.

Day seats are not a given though and each production has its own system, but it's well worth looking into it. Most of the time it's listed on the shows's website and if not, just pop by the theatre box office to ask. Examples of day seats, include £15 front row tickets to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, £25 for Miss Saigon and just £5 for lucky 16-25 year-olds for Matilda the Musical. Some theatres sell a set number of tickets, other times it's simply best available. One notable exception is The Book of Mormon, which is so popular that they have a lottery system instead (both in person and online). 

3. Under 26s aren't only super lucky with the Matilda day seats, but there are a host of offers to tempt the young 'uns to the theatre. Like with day seats the offers vary, so it's worth checking the websites of each individual theatre and/or production you're interested in, but some well-known schemes include £5 tickets with the Entry Pass at the National Theatre, Young Barbican at (you guessed it) The Barbican and £12 tickets with the Old Vic's Under 25s Club.

4. While the West End gets all the attention, if you venture to just outside the border of the famous Shaftesbury Avenue there's a host of off-West End venues that are instantly a lot more affordable. Some of my favourites are The Almeida Theatre, Southwark Playhouse, Union Theatre, Charing Cross Theatre, Trafalgar Studios, Arts Theatre, St James Theatre and Jermyn Street Theatre. And even further afield, but still very accessible from central London, are Greenwich Theatre, Richmond Theatre and New Wimbledon Theatre.

5. My final tip is National Theatre live, which isn't only a great way of seeing theatre if travelling to the West End isn't an option for you, or a production is so popular that you didn't manage to get any tickets, but you can also get a front-row, unrestricted seat to some of the best productions for a snippet of the top price you'd pay for a seat in the theatre. True, for cinema some of the broadcasts are perhaps a bit at the top end of the ticket price, but if you remind yourself that you're paying for top quality theatre, then it's really a bargain.

And my personal favourite thing about NT Live? Getting to watch a production again, even years after it has closed in London. I find it wonderful to have the chance to rewatch outstanding performances I've seen live on stage on the big screen; it makes me appreciate the art of theatre even more.

* * *

I hope you find these tips helpful, if you have your own advice to help others go to the theatre for less in the West End and beyond, then do drop a line in the comments. And if you've used any of the above to see a show or play at a more affordable price I'd love it if you could let me know about your experience as well.

In future posts I'll cover museums (some known, some not so much) and much more! If there's anything in particular you'd like me to give you some tips on for discounts or freebies in London, just leave a comment below.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cover reveal: Wickham Hall Part One – Hidden Treasures by Cathy Bramley

I don't do many cover reveals, because in between my crazy busy new(ish) job, moving house, and reviewing for other sites (such as Novelicious and Lovereading) I barely have time to keep up with my blog nowadays as it is. However, when the lovely Cathy Bramley asked me if I wanted to take part in the cover reveal for the first part of her latest serial, Wickham Hall, I just couldn't say no!

Ever since I read her delightful debut Conditional Love I have taken part in cover reveals for her novels, including Appleby Farm and the revamped Conditional Love, and she is always a joy to work with – not to mention the shiny fact that I get to see the cover a few days before its public reveal to be able to prep my blog post, which is definitely an added bonus.

And with Wickham Hall, the Transworld designer has once more captured the beautiful, heartwarming essence of Cathy's writing; it's summery, girly, incredibly eye-catching and makes me long for long country walks and a hearty pub lunch. What do you think?! 

Holly Swift has just landed the job of her dreams: events co-ordinator at Wickham Hall, the beautiful manor home that sits proudly at the heart of the village where she grew up. Not only does she get to organise for a living and work in stunning surroundings, but it will also put a bit of distance between Holly and her problems at home.

Holly loves the busy world of Wickham Hall - from family weddings to summer festivals, firework displays and Christmas grottos. But life isn't as easily organised as an event at Wickham Hall (and even those have their complications...). Can Holly learn to let go and live in the moment?

After all, that's when the magic happens...

The series will be published digitally in four parts this year and then in a complete novel both digitally and in paperback in 2016.

Amazon links to get your pre-orders in now: Wickham Hall Part One – Hidden Treasures on 25 June, Wickham Hall Part Two – Summer Secrets on 23 July, Wickham Hall Part Three – Sparks Fly on 24 September and Wickham Hall Part Four – White Christmas on 26 November.