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It has been difficult to visit any venues or restaurants over the last 2 years, but it seems to be getting better in 2022.
BUT, we have all found travel to be a nightmare now as the airlines cannot cope with demand. My thoughts are with you all as you battle to enjoy a well-deserved break.
So, here is a series of reviews from the last 2 years to keep you dreaming!
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Here are Film Reviews, Theatre Reviews, Food & Wine Reviews
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There is a separate page in this section for Travel Reviews
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.
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: The Upstart Crow
February 2020 Gielgud Theatre, London
I was really lucky to get to see this in London earlier this year before lock-down started. I like Ben Elton as a writer, and this was the first time I had seen David Mitchell on stage.
A great start, thunder and lightning and Bottom is very funny. Lots of references to transgender and gay issues - "it will soon be illegal NOT to include them" in theatre productions. It is over-the-top as you would expect from Ben Elton, lots of references to cod piece danglies, and race and gender as presented then and now.
It is funny, lots of laugh-out-loud moments. Mr Whiskers the Bear is brilliant, dancing to the music, being all sad and 'folded up' when she says he has to learn to hunt and kill to be set free. Dr Hall is ludicrously hilarious as the puritanical who lusts after Kate.
The two daughters from Stratford on Avon are a bit odd as they have very broad Black Country accents far removed from the Warwickshire one. Mitchell is brilliant, perfect for the role with expert delivery "I'm not going bald, I have a long face!" Very enjoyable and a great evening's entertainment when you can actually get out there to see it.
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.
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.