Tag Archives: RSC

The Boy in the Dress – David Walliams

Hello Lovely People!

How are you all? I hope you’re well and enjoying the weekend peace you’ve hopefully been given.

Back at work for me now and exam season is fast approaching! With the pressures and strains of every day teaching life, it is so important to me that the weekends are all about relaxing and reading. Yesterday I went to the beautiful place of York and bought a number of amazing Harry Potter products from The Shop That Must Not Be Named. Then I spent some time in York Minster. However, one other little treat was that I’ve managed to get a front row seat to the RSC’s musical of The Boy in the Dress. I can not wait. There’s information about this here if you are interested. Matilda the musical was and still is awesome, so I expect the same from The Boy in the Dress. Therefore, it’s only fitting I review the first of David Walliams children’s books with you all today.

What’s it all about?

This life-affirming novel centres around 12 year old Dennis. He lives with his father and his older brother (14) John. Dennis loves football and watching Trisha on TV but has always felt a little different to his father and brother. Their mother left when Dennis was 7 following her divorce from his father. Their father, only known as Dad, reacts to the divorce by comfort eating which consequently results in him becoming quite large.

Dennis is a very contrasting character to his brother and father, who seem more alike. Despite being the best on the school football team, he desperately misses his mother. His father believed he burnt all the photos, but Dennis found one to keep. In that photo his mother is wearing a yellow dress which comforts him greatly. It’s the only way he can still see his mother.

One day, Dennis sees the same dress on the cover of a Vogue magazine. Dennis buys this magazine from Raj, the local shop owner. But when his father finds the copy of Vogue magazine, he is furious. His brother John starts to tease him, calling him “Denise”.

Are you sure you want this, Dennis?” asked Raj. “Vogue is mainly read by ladies, and your drama teacher Mr Howerd.

Things get worse for Dennis as he receives a detention at school the same day for kicking a football through a window. Something magical happens in detention because Dennis meets Lisa James. Lisa is the most amazing girl in school. She’s pretty and fashionable and popular. Lisa invites Dennis around to her house and shows him her drawing designs for different clothing. She persuades Dennis to dress up in girls’ clothing. After wearing an electric blue dress, Lisa convinces him to go out in public, under the alter ego of “Denise”, a French exchange student with limited English.

Their first stop is to Raj’s corner shop. Naturally, Dennis is worried that he will be recognised but amazingly, he isn’t! Raj completely believes that it is “Denise”. Because of their success here, Dennis is convinced to go to school with Lisa as “Denise”.

Rules don’t apply here,” laughed Lisa. “Dennis, you can be whoever you want to be!

The school day starts well and Dennis is unnoticed. However, Lisa forgot that she had a double French period. The sheer excitement from the French teacher means the narrative splits into French, not knowing that Dennis won’t understand a work. Rather than being found out, Denis accidentally upsets the teacher by criticising her accident. She is absolutely devastated.

Things go from bad to worse as during break time, a football is flying towards “Denise”, and naturally Dennis kicks it. Rather unfortunately, he slips and is revealed to be a boy. What feels like the whole school laughs at him. He’s sent to Mr Hawtrey, the headmaster, and is expelled from school for cross dressing.

His Dad is absolutely furious and sends Dennis to his room. Darvesh, Dennis’s best friend comes round to see Dennis, to tell him that they’re still best friends regardless, but is sent him again by his Dad.

No more watching that show Small England or whatever it’s called where those two idiots dress up as ‘laydees’. It’s a bad influence.

Darvesh’s actions mean so much to Dennis that he decided to attend a very important football match against Maudlin Street, at school on the Saturday. He’s not allowed to play and can see that the team are going to suffer an almighty defeat.

Lisa has a plan and the whole team encourage Dennis to play in a dress, which he does. With Dennis back on the team, it is complete again and they come back from being 6-0 down to actually win the final.

Dennis’s Dad has never attended a football match before, much to his sadness. This time was different. It wasn’t just Darvesh’s mum cheering and hollering from the sidelines, it was Dennis’s dad too.

The following Sunday morning upon visiting the corner shop again, Raj informs Dennis that Mr Hawtrey used to come and collect the Telegraph paper every Sunday at 7am. Although recently it has been his sister, Doris. What Raj found strange was that there was something peculiar about her.

Lisa and Dennis wake up ridiculously early to see what they could find out and as soon as the clock struck 7, Mr Hawtrey arrived at the shop dressed in a skirt and blouse! With this new knowledge, Lisa and Dennis threaten that unless Dennis is reinstated in school, they will tell everyone about Mr Hawtrey’s cross dressing. The next Monday Dennis is back in school, as normal.

By the end of the novel, Dennis, his Dad and his brother are able to talk about the wife and mother who left them. Dennis and Lisa remain the best of friends, as does Dennis and Darvesh. John even decides he needs to look out for his younger brother more. Harmony is restored.

Final thoughts

This book is everything you’d hope children’s books to be like. Honest, funny, understanding and accepting. We have all felt a time in our lives where we just feel like we don’t belong. The book is an anthem for that feeling and for the reality that that is actually ok. I really think this will be an awesome production too. Its cross dressing is actually a very Shakespearean element, meaning it will be right at home in Stratford upon Avon’s RSC theatre. Children’s books really lift the heart and Walliams has a way of making us all feel like we’re perfectly acceptable as we are. After all, we all belong whether we wear dresses and kick footballs or not.

“I think all those rules are boring. About what people can and can’t wear. Surely everyone should be able to wear whatever they like?

Big love all xx

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Filed under Book review, Children's Literature, RSC

Macbeth – William Shakespeare

Hey lovelies!

Hope you’re all well and enjoying the spring sunshine which has decided to appear today. It’s been a glorious day!

Today, I wanted to take this opportunity to review one of my favourite Shakespeare plays: Macbeth. I’ve had the opportunity to teach this a lot over the years which is quite a privilege, opening the doors one of Shakespeare’s most popular psychological thrillers to the next generation.

Also, this post was prompted by managing to get my hands on a ticket to see the RSC’s new production staring Christopher Ecclestone and Niamh Cusack. It’s sold out until July so I’ve been quite lucky really. I’m so looking forward to seeing this! (Information about this production and tickets here. )

 

What’s it all about?

Set in Scotland, the play opens with three witches planning to meet Macbeth after he has finished fighting in a great battle on behalf of King and country. The audience hear how amazing and heroic Macbeth is through the Captain.

‘For brave Macbeth!’

Once the battle has finished, Macbeth and his best friend Banquo come across the witches. They offer Macbeth three predictions: that Macbeth will become Thane of Glamis, Cawdor and King of Scotland. They predict that Banquo’s sons will become king. Whilst Banquo is very suspicious about this, Macbeth is completely enraptured. He lies when Banquo later asks him about them.

‘I think not of them.’

King Duncan decides to reward Macbeth for his bravery in battle and gives him the title of Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth writes a letter to his wife, Lady Macbeth to tell her the good news. She’s just as pleased as he is. After all, it means she will get a crown too.

‘They met me in the day of success: and I have learned by the perfectest report, they have more in them than mortal knowledge. When I burned in desire to question them further, they made themselves air, into which they vanished.’

A messenger then tells Lady Macbeth that King Duncan is on his way to their castle for a banquet to celebrate. Lady Macbeth calls on the evil spirits to help her kill King Duncan. After all, that title has been promised to her husband and he is in the way!

‘Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires.’

Macbeth, however, doesn’t seem convinced. Nevertheless, he is talked into it by his wife. Alas, Duncan is killed and Macbeth is crowned king. Duncan’s sons, Malcolm and Donaldbain, flee in fear.

‘Look like the innocent flower, But be the serpent under it.’

There is a great sense of unease within Scottish society. No one quite feels safe. Yet, now that Macbeth is king, he knows that his predictions have come true. This evokes a ringing in his ears (metaphorically) about Banquo’s prediction for his sons.

Surely Macbeth hasn’t done all this work for Banquo’s children to become king? He decides that Banquo is the enemy and decides to kill him and his son Fleance. He hires murderers who successfully kill Banquo but his son escapes.

‘Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold.’

At another banquet, Macbeth believes he is going mad as, in his eyes, he sees the ghost of Banquo. He shouts out and creates a scene in which Lady Macbeth has to cover for him and smooth over alarm from the guests.

Lady Macbeth is furious. Macbeth decides to call upon and visit the witches. After all, they will tell him what happens next. Three new prophecies follow, mainly focusing around Macduff. Macbeth sinks deeper and decides to kill Macduff’s wife and children.

‘Blood will have blood.’

What is fascinating is Macbeth still believes he is safe despite the fact that the witches prophecies come true, one by one. It is Lady Macbeth who struggles immensely with guilt. She can’t stop thinking about Duncan and the other murders her husband is involved in. She sleep walks, confessing everything and dies.

‘Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’

This is the beginning of the end for Macbeth. Macduff is absolutely furious and gathers an army together to fight Macbeth. They use the branches of Birnam Wood to disguise themselves and approach Macbeth’s castle. The play ends with Macduff killing Macbeth, bringing his head in on a spear and Malcolm being crowned king. Harmony in Scotland is restored.

 

Overview

This play is awesome. It’s full of ambition and tension. The rise and fall of a character. The circular structure leads us to know that Macbeth is doomed as he is given the title of Thane of Cawdor – the original Cawdor is killed for treason. Lady Macbeth is my favourite character. She’s just incredible. She persuades and charms her husband but inevitably the guilt destroys her. I’m genuinely so excited to see this on stage. Bring. It. On.

Big loves all xx

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Filed under Book review, Play, RSC, William Shakespeare

Hello Autumn 


Hey guys! 

Isn’t this time of year just beautiful?! I really love to see all the colours and the different leaves. I love to hear the crunch under foot. I just feel like everything is more crisp and lovely in Autumn. 

Whilst I had a small window of opportunity today, I decided I needed to have a little time to soak in beautiful Stratford upon Avon. The colours were indescribable. I wanted to share this with you, in the hope that the 5 minutes you spend looking at this, you feel as inspired and calm as I did. 

*all photos are taken by myself with no filter. 


It’s the first time in a while I’ve felt calm and at ease. The fresh air always makes me feel better. Sometimes you need to just stop and take it all in…

Big love xx

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Filed under Autumn, Photography, RSC, Stratford upon Avon, UK

Shakespeare Celebrations: 400

Wow! What an incredible weekend. Firstly, my apologies for not being around, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me once I’ve told you all about this magical weekend celebrating the greatest playwright of all time.

William Shakespeare: legend. April 23rd 1564 – April 23rd 1616. 400 years since he died. Aged 52. What an inspirational legacy that has been left behind…

So, being a Stratfordian (how my students cringe when I say that!) I had to take part in the celebrations, and naturally Stratford upon Avon threw an incredible event. There was the parade, performances, floral tributes, fireworks and even a visit from royalty! The worlds media was there as was I. I feel honoured to have been a tiny part of it.

There were 10,000 of these…and everyone who littered the streets wore them. 


The parade was, dare I say it, a roller coaster of emotions. It began with the funeral bells from Holy Trinity Church and the marching of a mini coffin and floral tribute. We were to throw rosemary as it passed. The streets smelt wonderful after this. 


We had visitors from all around the world come to pay their respects. The sun was shining and the flags were waving proudly. 


There were some beautiful national dress… 


And an incredible jazz band from New Orleans… 


King Edward Grammar School opened its doors to the Guild Hall and Shakespeare’s classroom. It’s really beautiful. The picture of Shakespeare hangs proud. Such humble beginnings. 




And from past history, to making new history. Shakespeare is still inspiring millions today. A project for the children outside Shakespeare’s birthplace. 


The parade marched to Holy Trinty Church where all the flowers from the parade were laid at Shakespeare’s grave. I honestly don’t have the words to describe the smell. It was heavenly and so fittingly decorated. 


Finally, the RSC did a live production which was streamed all around the world, with a star studded cast. There was only one way to finish this off: fireworks. 


So, thank you Stratford for being so beautiful. I’m so proud that this is my heritage. Thank you Shakespeare for transforming the lives of millions by the power of the written and performed word. How staggering it is that it makes as much sense today as I did back then. But, most of all, thank goodness that things like this are still celebrated. Here’s to the next 400!


To close, one of my favourite Shakespeare quotes:

“This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Hamlet.


Big love x

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Filed under RSC, Stratford upon Avon, William Shakespeare

A Tourist In My Own Town

Hey everyone! 

You may have guessed from my previous post that it is in fact half term. This morning, as the frost cleared and the sun came out to dance along the pavements, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to play tourist again. 

Despite coming from Stratford upon Avon, it’s always changing and there’s always something new to see. Today, I decided to take a trip up the RSC tower to see the panoramic views of my beloved town. 

  

The tower stands at 36 metres tall, giving you the best views of Stratford. It’s approximately 7 double decker buses high! But, it’s definitely worth it. 

  
Firstly, my favourite view: Bancroft. The river was slightly frozen over today, but by the time I got there it was shimmering like crystal. 

  

Secondly, the contrasting buildings that Stratford embody, from the trademark black and white thatched buildings, to the new builds. 

 
Apologies for the glare, but that’s the angle of the sun for you! I love how Holy Trinity Church is peeking out towards the left hand side. 

  

Riverside: beautiful. It’s always a favourite habit of mine to have prosecco by the river at Carluccios. 

  

Finally, the obligatory selfie. Despite the sun beaming down, it was still fur coat weather. Trademark. 
  

Hope you’ve enjoyed my photos! If you’re ever near Stratford and it’s a sunny day, take a trip up the tower. You won’t regret it! 

Big love xx

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Filed under Photography, RSC, Stratford upon Avon, UK

Wendy and Peter Pan – RSC, Stratford upon Avon 

  

Happy new year everyone! 

Hope you’re all well and 2016 has started off in the best way for you. My new year started with a visit to the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre in Stratford upon Avon with my best friend to see Wendy and Peter Pan. There aren’t enough words to describe how amazing, clever, magical and funny this show is. Being the grand young age of 25 means that we got tickets for £5 too. Such a bargain! 

I should just state here that all photos used in this post are from the RSC website: https://www.rsc.org.uk/wendy-and-peter-pan/about-the-play

  


Plot:

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the title of this production is an inversion of the original, placing emphasis on Wendy as well as Peter. Ella Hickson, writer and adapter of Wendy and Peter Pan, was really clear that in the original it was Peter having all of the fun, whereas Wendy was just playing mother. She wanted to tell her version from Wendy’s perspective. 

There are many aspects that are true to the original: Peter, the Lost Boys, Neverland, flying, Tink, Hook. They have just been tweaked and changed for a modern audience. It must be noted that a modern audience is both adults and children. There is humour for youngsters and intricate plot details for the adults. From start to finish the laughter echoed from the walls from young and old alike. A particular favourite part of mine, when Wendy was teaching the Lost Boys how to shake hands and say “How do you do” Curly says: 

“How do I do you?”

Also, to differ from the original plot, Hickson invents a third sibling, Tom, who suffers from an sickness. This is where the older, more metaphorical interpretations of the novel are explored through drama. 

  


Casting and characters:
Firstly, I need to say how brilliant this production cast were. There were a range of ages within the production team as well as experience, but all were equally amazing. 

Wendy, played by Mariah Gale, was exceptional. She portrays her devotion, rejection, hurt and happiness all explicitly and effectively. She was a fabulous Wendy. Her brother, Tom, is always at the front of her mind. She’s desperate to find him, for him to be with the Lost Boys. Thus, she can make herself happy again. 

Peter Pan, played by Rhys Rusbatch, was sublime. He played the part of Pan really well, focussing clearly on how he never wants to grow up. The cheeky chappy is portrayed not only through dialogue but also his gestures. His flying, and his shadow should be praised equally too. 

Hook and Smee, played by Darrell D’Silva and Paul Kemp respectively, were the epitome of the villain character. The banter between the two was hilarious and true to the original text. The relationship was portrayed really accurately. They made me smile, but I could see the children in the audience really boo-ing them. Always the sign of a good villain. 

Martin, played by Adam Gillen, was the pirate who couldn’t ARRR. I recognised his voice, he has naturally humorous tone to his voice. (I finally remembered he was from ITV’s Benidorm!) The audience naturally feels for him because he’s quite clearly not a pirate and he’s clearly not a Lost Boy, so he doesn’t really fit with anyone. 

Finally, and perhaps my favourite of all the characters in this production, Tinkerbell, played by Charlotte Mills. A cockney, naughty pixie. Who’d have thought it?! Her one liners, her reactions, her movements were just incredible. I laughed so hard at her. She’s just amazing. 

“Oh, a little blab, did you? Lack of oxygen up there on your high horse?” 

  

Setting:

Staying true to the original, the production was set in the children’s nursery or Neverland. The nursery, with swords, beds, teddies and a mobile was really picturesque. (Image by me) Then when it came to Peter’s home, the stage came alive from the ground upwards, with Tink hanging on from a bed, a bath tub and fairy lights. Hook’s ship was also an incredible piece of craftsmanship. A whole ship on stage. Just wow! 

  

  
All in all, it was pure magic. Glitter, flying, ships and laughter. I want to see it again! It was just the best way to start this year off. 

So I left feeling like I always do, incredibly lucky to have the RSC on my doorstep at home. 

  

Big love x

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Filed under RSC, Stratford upon Avon, Theatre Review

Sunny Stratford (upon Avon)

Morning! 

I was given the opportunity this week to spend a whole day along the Riverside in the glorious sunshine, whilst waiting for my poorly car to be fixed. I decided to be a mini tourist for the day! 

It was a little trip down memory lane for me, I must admit. I took this first picture in my favourite spot along the river. It’s quite a way back along the RSC gardens, just before the Holy Trinity Church. You can just see the top of the RSC Theatre Tower in the background. I also had a friendly swan for company. 

  

From here I took a slow stroll across to Holy Trinity Church. It really is a remarkable building. There’s some work going on at the moment to help restore the roof, but it’s still stunning. Inside is William Shakespeare’s grave. It brought back some memories from when I was at Primary school, because we used to walk here for Harvest Festival. 

  
I then walked all the way round back to the top of riverside, past the RSC Theatre and the many boats. The pictures below are taken from a bridge towards the end of the river. In the first, you can see the beautiful theatre which is also having some work done currently. The second, you can see the lock and the town.

 
  
This is only a tiny part of Stratford, but it is rather beautiful in the sunshine. It passed the time quite nicely. I remember sitting under the big tree in the bottom picture, drinking chocolate frappuccinos from Starbucks when I was 16 with my friends. Various people would perform and act. I also remember hiding my umbrella in the bush at the end when the fair was in town. I did get it back at the end of the night! 

Memories are so important, and I feel so lucky to have this town as my growing up place. I hope everyone enjoys these photos! I’d love to see some of your photos from where you grew up.  

Have a great weekend 🙂

BL xx

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Filed under Days Out, Gardens, Photography, Stratford upon Avon, UK