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This show opens with a voiceover warning people of a nervous disposition that platforms and white lycra are worn during this production. This somewhat sets the tone for the whole show – humour, colour, energy and of course some terrifically ABBA-esque costumes.

The storyline is simple enough – Sophie Sheridan and her mother Donna live in Greece. Sophie is getting married and wants to meet her father…the only problem is that she doesn’t know who her father is out of three potential candidates, so she invites all three without her mother’s knowledge. Naturally, chaos ensues as past memories are raked up. And when you throw together Donna’s best and oldest friends Rosie and Tanya, three men who have no idea why they have been invited to the wedding, and a host of young men and women, there is bound to be action, raunch and a little romance…

Accompanied by some of ABBA’s best known and loved songs – including Super Trouper, Take a Chance on Me, Lay All Your Love On Me, Money Money Money, Does Your Mother Know? and of course the title track – this is such a fantastically feel-good show that it did not surprise me one bit when there was a standing ovation at the end, with audience members dancing in the aisles.

Helen Hobson was great as Donna, and Gillian Hardie and Emma Clifford were wonderful as Rosie and Tanya respectively. In the performance I saw, Sophie was played by first understudy Blaise Colangelo, who was ideal for the part – so loveable and sweet. The three possible fathers were Sam played by Jon Boyden, Bill played by Christopher Hollis, and Harry played by Jamie Hogarth. Their three distinct characters were portrayed excellently.

I don’t see how anyone could fail to enjoy this show, and the beaming faces on the audience as they left the theatre were testament to what a wonderful time everyone had. If you get chance to see this production, do yourselves a favour and buy some tickets!

 

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Rachel and Jack met just a few months ago, but fell head over heels in love almost immediately, and are now expecting a baby. Then Rachel spots an email on Jack’s iPad, which causes her to question their relationship and slams home the fact that there is so much that they don’t know about each other and their past lives. She suspects that there is something bad in his history and goes on a hunt for the truth

As Rachel’s interest in the secret in Jack’s past turns to obsession, it becomes clear that she has a secret of her own, and both secrets could cause their fledgling relationship to crumble.

I really enjoyed this book. There is a dual storyline – the present day, and a year ago. In actual fact, not a lot actually happens in the present day storyline, which is largely concerned with Rachel’s search for the truth about Jack, and the toll it takes on their lives, while she also tries to come to terms with her own guilt about her history. For the reader, both Rachel’s history and Jack’s history are drip-fed throughout the book. If I’m honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought about the ending (no spoilers here), but I think it was probably the most realistic ending for the storyline that preceded it.

Overall, I think this was a well written book – it certainly kept me hooked throughout – and I would definitely be interested in reading more by this author.

 

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This book revolves around Greg and Zoe Milton, a once-gorgeous couple who are upset with the way they have let their weight creep up through the years, to the point where they are both severely overweight. (Bear with me here, this is NOT a fat-shaming book, and if it were, I wouldn’t be giving it the time of day!) When they enter a radio competition to lose weight – named Fat Chance – they embark on all manner of diets and fitness regimes in their attempts to shift the pounds. This book is their diaries, with each chapter a new diary entry, and the narration alternates between Zoe and Greg.

There’s no doubt that there was a lot of humour in this story, and also a lot of poignancy – both diaries touch upon the fact that even though they are heavier than they used to be, they are still the same people, but yes – society does treat big people differently. Cruelly sometimes, thoughtlessly often, and sometimes downright patronisingly. Overall though, this is a comedy, and the descriptions of Nick’s unfortunate exercise attempts (wait until you get to the treadmill scene!!) and Zoe’s increasingly bizarre diets (I’d never attempt the cabbage soup diet in the first place, but if I had ever been contemplating it, this book would have put me right off!) are indeed funny.

Where I felt let down, was in the one area that wouldn’t have mattered if I had actually read the physical book of this, rather than listened to an audiobook version. The narration didn’t quite click for me. Napoleon Ryan was fine as Nick, but Heather Wilds as Zoe seemed to constantly place emphasis on odd words, and would randomly pause in the middle of a sentence. I did unfortunately find this somewhat off-putting and I think that some of the humour got lost in narration.

Overall though, it’s an enjoyable book and I would probably listen to more by Nick Spalding (or physically pick up one of his books).

 

The Butler (2013)

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This film is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, who served as a butler in the White House, working for seven Presidents. In this film, Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) serves eight Presidents, against a backdrop of the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War, among other famous American events. Quite simply, it is an amazing and moving film, in part due to the uniformly brilliant cast. Forest Whitaker never disappoints, and Oprah Winfrey is superb as his wife Gloria. There are some odd casting choices – I couldn’t imagine John Cusack playing Nixon I heard that he was in that role – but it worked. The film combines one man’s personal journey, walking a fine line between supporting his oldest son, who is determined to fight for equal rights, no matter what the cost; and working at the White House, where such subversiveness is frowned upon. Amongst the Presidents he works for are JFK, the aforementioned Nixon, and Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman). The film shows how the job takes it’s toll on Gaines’s family and causes conflicting ideals in his mind.

I loved it – go watch it, I don’t think you will be disappointed!

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Year of release: 2013

Director: Lee Daniels

Writers: Danny Strong, Wil Haygood

Main cast: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Lenny Kravitz, Cuba Gooding Jr, Clarence Williams III, David Oyelowo, Colman Domingo, Robin Williams, John Cusack, Alan Rickman, James Marsden

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With This Ring (2015)

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In this TV movie, three women attending their friend’s wedding on New Years Eve make a pact that by the same time next year, they will all be married – or at least engaged. Each of them has their own romance dilemma – Trista (Regina Hall) has just hooked up with her ex-boyfriend and everyone but her can see that she is too good for him; Viviane (Jill Scott) is still in love with her ex-boyfriend. They have a son together and she decides that if they can’t make it work out this year, then she is going to give up on him and find someone else; finally, there Amaya (Eve), who is involved with a married man and determined to get him and his wife to split.

I enjoyed the film, largely due to the charisma of the three leads (especially Hall and Scott). Yes, it’s predictable – or at least Trista’s story is – but on a Friday night after a busy week, a romantic comedy with some poignant scenes, is exactly what this viewer needed.

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Year of release: 2015

Director: Nzingha Stewart

Writer: Nzingha Stewart

Main cast: Regina Hall, Jill Scott, Eve, Deion Sanders, Stephen Bishop, Jason George

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A made-for-TV rom-com, starring Stefanie Von Pfetten and (surprisingly) William Baldwin, as a divorced couple who reconnect as friends and decide to try and set each other up on dates. But – of course – fate has a different plan in mind for them. Utterly predictable, but not unpleasant for it. If this is a genre you enjoy and you don’t mind knowing how it will end practically as soon as it starts, this is quite an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half. The film borrows fairly heavily from You’ve Got Mail – which in itself was a remake of The Shop Around The Corner – and it doesn’t have the star quality, or any kind of quality of those two films, but it does have a charm all of it’s own, and I quite enjoyed it on a lazy Friday night after a busy week.

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Year of release: 2017

Director: David Winning

Writers: Neal H Dobrofsky, Tippi Dobrofsky

Main cast: William Baldwin, Stefanie Von Pfetten

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This is the follow-up to the huge success Kingsman film. Eggsy is now a fully fledged member of the secret agency and in this instalment, has to do battle with an evil drug dealer named Poppy (Julianne Moore). Channing Tatum pops up in a surprisingly funny role, and it’s great to have Mark Strong back as Merlin. As the poster shows, Colin Firth is also back as Harry, involving a rather amusing explanatory back story, and Halle Berry and Elton John (yes, you read that right) provide good support. Elton John is actually pretty hilarious and one of my favourite things about this movie. What really made it for me was having one of my all-time favourite actors, Jeff Bridges play a great (although too small, in my opinion) role.

Just like the last one, the plot is preposterous and entirely unbelievable, but there is so much fun to be had, that I just didn’t mind. The film never takes itself too seriously either which really helps. The reviews of this sequel have been less kind than the reviews of the first film, but if you did enjoy that first one, then I suggest you give this one a try too.

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Year of release: 2017

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Writers: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Mark Millar (comic book), Dave Gibbons (comic book)

Main cast: Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Elton John, Pedro Pascal

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