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Archive for May, 2017

Black Swan Green is a fictional village in Worcestershire where in 1982, 13 year old Jason Taylor lives with his parents and sister. This book, narrated by Jason, tells the story of a year in his life. It’s a tumultuous year – Jason is clearly intelligent and sensitive,  but he’s also a young boy with a stammer, picked on at school and unable to pick up the subtle hints of disharmony in his parents’ marriage.

But Black Swan Green is also a very funny book, in parts anyway. Jason is an engaging narrator and entirely believable. The events he describes are things that we will all be familiar with and take on huge significance in a young mind. It’s less of a flowing story, more joined up snapshots of a year in the life. Each chapter concentrates on a different main event, but they all string together nicely.

I felt for Jason, partly because he was so believable. I wanted him to be able to go to school without fear of what the bullies would do next (and boy did I want those bullies to get their comeuppance). I wanted him to get the girl, to overcome his stutter (or more importantly overcome the misery it caused him). The other characters are beautifully drawn as well – I enjoyed the chapter about his visiting cousin Hugo – handsome, charming and loved by all, but who’s true colours are revealed, to Jason at least.

As someone who was also a teenager in the 1980s, this book resonated with me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend it for it’s humour, truth and beautiful writing.

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There can’t be many theatre goers who have not at least heard of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical Evita, which tells the story of Argentine First Lady Eva Peron. And surely any musicals fan worth their salt knows the shows most famous song, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. I saw my first production of this musical back in 2013; I went to see it pretty much on a whim and was absolutely blown away by it, so when I heard that another production of the show was touring, I just knew I had to see it.

In this particular production, Emma Hatton – fresh from the West End production of Wicked – takes the title role and Gian Marco Shiaretti has been making waves with his excellent performance as the cynical narrator Che.

However, during the performance that we saw, Che was played by understudy Matias Stegmann – and he certainly did not disappoint!! With arguably the largest part in the whole play, tasked with relating Eva’s story to the audience while maintaining a healthy cynicism about how effective she actually was in her role of First Lady, Matias Stegmann radiated star quality – he had a beautiful voice and the charisma required for the role and I will be looking out for this actor in the future.

Emma Hatton as Evita was also superb throughout – her voice is second to none and her rendition of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina actually moved me to tears. This is the song that the audience was waiting for and she did not disappoint – as she stood on the balcony ready to begin, you could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium. What pressure!! I must also mention Sarah O’Connor, who played Juan Peron’s girlfriend (ousted when the social climbing and ambitious Eva came on the scene) and who performed the beautiful Another Suitcase Another Hall wonderfully. Such a sweet sweet voice – another one to look out for in future. Kudos also to Kevin Stephen-Jones as Juan Peron. Peron himself is actually not a major role in the play, but Stephen-Jones nevertheless stood out in the part.

With beautiful music and a stellar cast, this show is one to look out for – if you get chance, I highly highly recommend that you go and see it!

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Click here for my review of the 2013 production of Evita

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After four years of dating with no proposal, Anna (Amy Adams) is fed up of waiting. So when boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) is working in Dublin during Leap Year, she decides to take advantage of an old tradition and travel from Boston to Ireland to propose. But the plane gets diverted and she has to rely on surly Irishman Declan (Matthew Goode) to get her to Dublin. Although they detest each other on sight, she needs the transport and he needs the money, and well…you can probably guess the rest…

Okay, so lets be honest – the ending of this film is pretty predictable. You only really need to read the synopsis to guess how things turn out, and that is usually the case with romantic comedies. But in this case, the journey – both for the characters and the viewers – is so much fun that you just don’t care. Personally I loved this movie. I thought it was genuinely funny – there’s lots of slapstick humour and physical comedy – and there was genuine chemistry between the two main stars. I’ve read other reviews of this film and it does seem to be something of a Marmite movie, where people either love or hate it, and I definitely fall into the love territory. The comedy moments were genuinely comedic and the romance scenes were genuinely romantic. Amy Adams is adorable as Anna, in a role that could have just been plain annoying but in which she injected enough sympathy to make us actually like this young woman. Matthew Goode was also excellent as Declan – his accent slipped a couple of times, but only a couple.

If you like rom-coms, I would highly recommend this film. Give it a go, I doubt you will be disappointed.

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Year of release: 2010

Director: Anand Tucker

Writers: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont

Main cast: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott

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This book introduces The Honourable Phryne Fisher, Lady Detective – except to those of us who discovered Phryne through the television series adapted from the books. Having loved the show, I decided to start reading the books and see how they compared.

In this first Miss Fisher novel, Phryne catches a thief at a dinner party and a couple there are so taken with her quick thinking and detection that they ask her to travel from her home in London to her native Australia; they believe that their daughter Lydia is being poisoned by her husband and wish Phryne to investigate. However, when Phryne arrives she discovers that things are far more complicated than they first seem, and also gets involved with tracking down an illegal abortionist. Busy she may be, but our indefatigable detective also manages to find time for a fling with a Russian dancer!

This book was highly enjoyable in many ways – Kerry Greenwood has an amusing turn of phrase and is very good at picking the humour out of any situation and relaying it to the reader. Given the subjects covered in the book, this is no mean feat! In all honesty the plot is a little bit clunky and gets a bit tied up in itself – it felt like there was maybe a bit too much going on, and the poisoning case was actually less interesting than the search for the illegal abortionist. However, it is the first book in the series and does a good job of introducing us to several characters who (as viewers of the show will know) become regulars in the storylines; Phryne’s maid Dot; the two cab drivers Bert and Cec; and of course Detective Inspector Jack Robinson – although for those viewers liked me who adored the chemistry between Phryne and Jack, well sorry to disappoint but there is absolutely no romance between the two in the book series, and Jack is actually very different to his on-screen incarnation.

Phryne Fisher is a delightfully almost-but-not-quite over the top creation, with charm and more than a touch of impish sauciness. Based on the first book, I can only say that despite it’s flaws, I’m really looking forward to reading more in the series.

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