Southern Yacht

My little take on plus size fashion, life, travel and smurfs

Friday, 31 May 2019

The Audience at Nuffield Southampton Theatre, City

The Audience stamp image

Last night I was invited to the Press Night* of The Audience at Nuffield Southampton Theatre City, to spend the evening with the Queen and 9 prime ministers (which isn't something you can say every day). On arrival we were met with a red carpet and the royal car - I could get used to every evening at the theatre starting like this!

The Audience at NST City, red carpet and royal car

The Audience tells the story of the weekly meetings between the Queen and her prime minister. No-one ever knows what is discussed, there are no minutes or records of the meetings. But wouldn't we all love to be a fly on the wall and know what they talk about? Do they get on? Is there tension, laughs? Does she, or did she have, a favourite prime minister?

This award winning play by Peter Morgan (writer of the TV series The Crown and the film The Queen) comes to Southampton in a new intimate version directed by NST Director Samuel Hodges. The production is bought right up to date and even incorporates the very recent resignation of Theresa May.

The Audience - Faye Castelow (Queen), Sharon Singh (Equerry). Lizzie Hopley (Bobo)

With only 5 actors and a double sided stage, you feel like you're right there in the room looking over the Queen's shoulder. Paul Kemp plays all of the 7 male prime ministers and what a task that is. Quite how he shifts seamlessly from one character to the next is mesmerising. Especially the transition between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in the same scene. No fancy prosthetics are used or needed - as soon as Paul Kemp walks on (or glides, thanks to the moving walkway) he perfectly captures the physical traits of each prime minister from Churchill's bent gait to Blair's smile.

The Audience - Paul Kemp (Harold Wilson)

Likewise, with Faye Castelow who plays the Queen, no prosthetics are needed here either. From just her style of clothing, movement and speech alone you could tell the age and era of the play. Ranging from youthful exuberance during her first meeting with Winston Churchill where he affectionately calls her by her childhood name of Lilibet, through to the slower, cautious movements of a Queen in her senior years meeting David Cameron.

The Audience - Paul Kemp (Harold Wilson), Faye Castelow (Queen)

I found the scene with Harold Wilson where he tells the Queen of his decision to resign very moving. He was a prime minister I remember from childhood and I didn't appreciate fully the difficulties faced during his second term. And although we never know exactly what was discussed, I can truly imagine the conflict portrayed in the scene with Margaret Thatcher (fiercely played by Lizzie Hopley who in a stark contrast also plays the gentle role of Bobo, the Queen's nanny).

Faye Castelow conveys a true portrait of a woman dedicated to a lifetime of service despite the conflicts and doubt in her youth. Fay Burwell and Maddie Farmer who share the role of the young Princess Elizabeth portray the sense of duty through a child's eyes.

The Audience - Faye Castelow (Queen), Fay Burwell / Maddie Farmer (Princess Elizabeth)

The Audience - Paul Kemp, Faye Castelow (Queen), Sharon Singh (Equerry). Lizzie Hopley (Bobo)

The Queen's vulnerability is demonstrated during the costume changes on stage scenes aided by her equerry (Sharon Singh, the lynch pin of the whole play). With haunting music and balletic movements, the shift between scenes was beautifully choreographed.

The Audience - Faye Castelow (Queen), Sharon Singh (Equerry). Lizzie Hopley (Bobo)

The Audience is at Nuffield Southampton Theatre City until 22nd June and I would definitely recommend going. I took my partner who normally shows very little interest in politics and I could hear him chuckling away (and without giving away any spoilers, let's just say we will never forget Theresa May's moment on the stage!). There really are some laugh out loud moments.

Thanks for reading

Cathy
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*Tickets were gifted for the purpose of this review
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Friday, 10 May 2019

Welsh National Opera - The Magic Flute at The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

WNO The Magic Flute

I was invited by The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton to watch The Magic Flute* performed by The Welsh National Opera. The Magic Flute is an opera with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart that was first performed in Vienna in 1791. The Welsh National Opera's current production gives us a quirky and modern twist on the timeless story of love and friendship.

WNO The Magic Flute. Tamino played by Ben Johnson

The story starts with Tamino fighting a monster and being rescued by Three Ladies who work for the Queen of the Night. Tamino meets Papageno the bird-catcher and together they go to rescue the Queen's beautiful daughter, Pamina who has been abducted and imprisoned by Sarastro. Guided by Three Boys and aided by a magic flute and a set of magic bells, the two friends start their perilous journey.

WNO The Magic Flute. Tamino played by Ben Johnson, Papageno played by Mark Stone

We soon learn though that all is not as it seems. Sarastro is not the evil character initially portrayed and instead invites Tamino to join his Brotherhood by undergoing a number of trials. Together with Pamina they succeed and they are united in love. Even Papageno, the comical bird-catcher finds his own true love Papagena at the end.

WNO The Magic Flute - Pamina played by Anita Watson, Tamino played by Ben Johnson

WNO The Magic Flute. Sarastro played by James Platt, Monostatos played by Howard Kirk

Sarastro's guard Monostatos played by Howard Kirk is gloriously evil and judging by the applause and boos he received at the end, he relished the role and the audience loved his portrayal.

The production is wonderful visual feast. The sense of depth on the stage and the use of deceptively simple props all helped with the surreal feeling of the show.

WNO The Magic Flute - Papagena played by Claire Hampton and The Three Boys

The Three Boys are played by young singers and their self assurance and confidence shone through in whichever scene they were in. I can't imagine that singing and performing while on an elevated cycling fish was the easiest of tasks!

WNO The Magic Flute - The Three Boys

This performance by The Welsh National Opera really does change your perception of what a traditional opera is. It's a performance for all ages and I noticed both young and old in the audience. I think as a child I would have been mesmerised by the effects and costumes on stage and I hope the children in the audience were too.

WNO The Magic Flute - The Animals

This was a magical and playful performance with plenty of humour. You could hear people chuckling throughout with some laugh out loud moments. The bird-catcher Papageno played by Mark Stone had some of the best lines and interaction with the audience and even when wasn't singing, still stole the scene. Samantha Hay's portrayal of The Night Queen, as my friend commented, gave you goosebumps. Her voice was beautiful in what seemed to my inexperienced ears seemed to be an extremely difficult role to sing.

I have to admit, this was only my second opera and although it was sung in English, I did worry a little about how I would keep up and understand all that was going on. I needn't have worried though. The singing was loud and clear and above the stage there was a discreet digital sign with surtitles (lyrics and dialogue projected above a stage). Certainly for me, this really helped and meant I could concentrate on the music and the story line without worrying about what I was missing. I'm excited to explore the world of opera at future shows.

A big thank you to The Mayflower Theatre and Southampton Bloggers for the invite.

Thanks for reading

Cathy
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*Tickets were gifted for the purpose of this review.
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Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Pink Clove colour changing star raincoat


Have you ever owned anything as an adult that you wish you could have had a child?

When I saw this raincoat on It's Em's insta stories, I knew I had to have one (and that younger Cathy would have loved it and worn it 24/7).

Pink Clove colour changing star raincoat

To start with, I was looking for a new, lightweight raincoat. Something that would pack up fairly small and not be too heavy to have in the bottom of a rucksack while on holiday. I so nearly went with a floral option on the Pink Clove website but I'm glad I held out and chose this star print.

It's from the Brave Soul range and I ordered the 22/24. Definitely long on the arms and big in the body, but it gave me the extra space to wear it over a jumper - which in the British summer is pretty standard.

Pink Clove colour changing star raincoat

The stars look white with a hint of colour, but the minute they get wet, they change colour. The other half suggested using a watering can to demonstrate this for the blog photos - I'm not entirely sure he was joking so opted to wait for a rainy day instead!

Pink Clove colour changing star raincoat
Pink Clove colour changing star raincoat
Pink Clove colour changing star raincoat

It's not going to keep me super dry in a very heavy downpour, but it's perfect for a light shower and enough to keep you dry until you get under cover. Unless, if you're like me, you stay out in the rain watching the stars....

Thanks for reading

Cathy
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Thursday, 4 April 2019

The Remains of the Day at Nuffield Southampton Theatre

The Remains of the Day

I was invited by Nuffield Southampton Theatres to watch The Remains of the Day. Now, like many people, I knew the Merchant Ivory film and the book, so I was intrigued to see how it would translate to stage. Originally written by Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro, the play has been adapted by Barney Norris and is currently touring the UK

Set in the 1930's and later the 1950's, the play centres around the memories and current experiences of Stevens, a butler at Darlington Hall (Stephen Boxer). He's reserved, strict and unendingly loyal to his employer. Working along Stevens is the housekeeper Kenton (Niamh Cusack). Together, they run Darlington Hall and despite a rocky start, they soon form an effective working partnership with respect (and more) for each other. You can feel the tension and disappointment Kenton has with Stevens when he acts on a decision from Lord Darlington.

Stephen Boxer and Niamh Cusack - credit Iona Firouzabadi

Rumbling in the background throughout is the pre-war tensions of the 1930's. With political references to government and Europe that wouldn't be out of place in today's Brexit confusion (and much appreciated by the audience) you watch as the characters move inevitably towards war and the sadness of wrong decisions made.

Stephen Boxer, Stephen Critchlow, Miles Richardson, Pip Donaghy  - credit Iona Firouzabadi

Add in the fact that parallel time lines are running throughout the play you really appreciate how the cast keep everything flowing. Some play several characters and although it seems on paper that it shouldn't work, it does. Sadie Shimmin plays an innkeeper one moment, Madame Dupont the next and makes the change seamless.

Sadie Shimmin and Stephen Critchlow - credit Iona Firouzabadi

Stephen Boxer, Patrick Toomey, Miles Richardson, Edward Franklin, Sadie Shimmin - credit Iona Firouzabadi

I realised partway though that the character Stevens is on stage constantly, I cannot think of a scene which he wasn't a part of which must be exhausting for Stephen Boxer. From beginning to end, you really believe he is Stevens. The end scenes with Niamh Cusack were poignant and beautifully acted. Without giving too much away - I did have a tear in my eye.

Stephen Boxer and Niamh Cusack - credit Iona Firouzabadi

An added bonus to the evening was a Q&A with the cast afterwards. To do the play and then spend time answering questions was much appreciated by everyone who stayed to listen. It's a story that has lots of different messages and each audience member will draw from that what they want. Some will say it's a story of lost opportunities, lost love, misplaced beliefs. Others will see a political insight into the mindset of pre-war Britain and how loyalty changes over the years.

As I drove home, I was trying to think of ways to describe the evening. One word that comes to mind is elegant. It really was elegant and stylish and captured the pre-war elegance of the 1930's perfectly. The stage set was minimal but effective and even the simple act of moving props was choreographed like a ballet. As you walked into the theatre before the play started, the scene was set. With atmospheric mist and the illusion of rain on the stage you couldn't help but notice how many people in the audience had a 'wow' moment as they walked in.

Afterwards, I compared the emotions as being the same as when you finish a good book. You become invested in the characters and you feel sad at knowing your time with them is over. I wonder how Steven's story will end during the remains of his days.

*Tickets were gifted for the purpose of this review

The Remains of the Day is showing at Nuffield Southampton Theatres until 6th April 2019.

Thanks for reading

Cathy
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