Friday, 25 October 2013

The Memory Lives On : Cats 2013 UK Tour

So, last night I was walking through a rather drizzly dull Bristol city centre with my Mum in a sparkly black dress. We were already full of food from Wagamamas and as we passed faceless commuters rushing to catch their bus home we were on our way to the Bristol Hippodrome. Why? To fulfil a 16 year old dream I've had, to see the musical Cats live on stage! 

Selfie before we left. 
Walking through those miserable, cold streets I felt like a firework I haven't felt such intense excitement in a long time I felt like I was going to explode into bright colours, or something equally dramatic

I should probably start with the beginning of this story, the time I was first introduced to the effulgent poems from T S Eliot's 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats'. I was in primary school and my teacher at the time (who happened to be an old theatre actor himself) read some of the poems in english class. I was in awe and immediately went to the town library to get the book out to read myself. In the end I think it turned into the book I rented from the library the most, every few months I got it again. It was the same year that my teacher invited me to join the theatre company he ran with his wife. I ended up spending alot of my youth in that company, 'Break-A-Leg' joining both the acting and dance classes for years. This was my first exposure to Cats the Musical. We preformed 'Macavity' as part of a Cabaret performance when I was 7 and that was when my Mum bought the film version on VHS, as it happened to also come out that year. 

Was it Mungojerrie? Or Rumplteazer?
I was entranced. Ever since that day I vowed to see Cats live one day no matter what. With the same theatre group I went on to dance and sing in various Cats acts, though sadly never the whole musical. My love was sealed.

Magical Mr Mistoffelees!
A few months ago I was casually browsing our local theatre, the Bristol Hippodrome, for performances (I went to see the comedian, Bill Bailey, for the second time in September) and there were those iconic yellow cat eyes staring back at me. I looked at performance dates and immediately ran downstairs to my Mum to ask if she wanted to go as part of her 50th birthday presents from me. I actually squealed one the booking was confirmed and ever since I've had excitement building, I've read my copy of OPBoPC so many times I almost know it word from word! And last night, was the night!

Outfit I wore. Forest Green Blazer, Sparkly Black cut Out Dress and Floral Tights.
I could hardly sit still as we took our seats (great seats in the Grand Circle) and viewing the junkyard set I was practically buzzing! The lights dimmed and the music began to swell and I could feel tears pricking, here I finally was 16 years later fulfilling the dream of a theatre lover. 

View from our seats!
The performance itself was flawless, in all honesty I'm still in awe of the dedication of the cast and crew to bringing the world of the Jellicle Cats to life. The singing and dance routines were flawless and I loved the little quirks of personality the actors have brought to the characters. I know the songs so well I was miming along with the cast totally enthralled. 

Grisabella The Glamour Cat.
I don't think a smile left my face the whole time. I can't even pick out a standout performance, everyone was so perfectly cast and really gave their performance, no matter how small all their dedication. The special effects were in time and spot on, the live orchestra gave the music flair and made the performance even more magical. I feel like I'm running out of adjectives to really describe my experience but it was unreal. I've been to many fantastic theatre productions before but this one meant so much to be I don't think I could fault it if I tried! I extend all my thanks and admiration for all the cast and crew who have worked to make this tour as special as it has been. Thankyou for fulfilling my dream and going beyond all my expectations; I'm still spellbound!

Demeter, Bombalurina and Jennylorum.
Cats is a show that has it all; memorable musical hits, beautiful ballet and gymnastic inspired dance routines, feline acting and pizazz! Faithful to the original poetry Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic score leaves you feeling breathless and wanting more; wanting to explore this mysterious world of the cats further. This is a show that I recommend to anyone, even people who do not enjoy the theatre because you will love this show. I'm hoping they do another UK tour in a few years so I can take my niece as she would be equally enthralled as I was as a young child.


Remaining tickets for this UK/Europe tour can be found here.
Images bar my own are all from the current UK/Europe Tour and found on the official Cat's website found here.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Northern Ireland Adventures: Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

Northern Irish countryside is beautiful. 

It's been a while but I'm back with a new instalment to my Northern Ireland Adventures series.

Me in what was a dressmakers house from the early 20th century.

It was back in mid August that Jonathan woke me one Sunday morning to tell me we were going to the Folk and Transport museum for the afternoon. It's been on my list of places to visit as we pass it regularly travelling between Bangor and Belfast so I was pretty excited! The museum is in two parts and to get to the other you have to cross a bridge to the other side. 

Victorian Pharmacy.

We decided to start with the folk part of the museum and we had the chance to look around their buildings, all from around Northern Ireland and depicting a range of periods from the late 18th century until the early 20th century. You start with a urban setting with several buildings from Ballycultra including a school, bank and shops. 

Ballycultra residential street.

As it was a Sunday it was quiet and not all the demonstrations were open which was a shame but I still enjoyed walking around these buildings taking in the musky smell of old wood and the places were practically tingling with history. As a huge history buff being able to walk into places like this, places that actually hold so much history literally takes my breath away. I feel privileged to generally live in a society that treasures its heritage. 

Me exploring an Orange Order hall.

Moving on from the urban area we explored the 60 acres which hold rural buildings including farmhouses, a blacksmith, an Orange Order hall and watermills. Walking along the dirt paths really helped with the atmosphere of the place as well as the various farm animals - including a HUGE bull we nicknamed Thor!


 We also got to meet some horses, donkeys, chickens and a sow with her newborn piglets! Being a big animal lover this really enhanced the atmosphere for me as you were able to go right up to the animals to say hi. It was also great for children, who may never meet animals like this in their day to day life. 

Making friends with the local horses. 

It was a bit of a trek but it being an overcast day meant we didn't get too hot and I managed the walk with my walking problems. I liked how everything was spread out so you could try and get a feel for the isolation these villages would have been in apart from trips to market towns. 

A widows single roomed cottage which she lived in so her son's family could have the farmhouse.

Most of the buildings were either working buildings like farms or watermills or were small lodgings that normal families would occupy. This really is a museum that celebrates the normal person. 

Once we made it back to the car we crossed over to the transport museum. This museum is in two parts with a short walk between each building. The first building we entered included the steam train collection. Ireland, like the rest of the UK were able to access the railway transport system very early in its development. Although routes were smaller than those on Britain they were vital in the development of Ireland's economy and trade position. Goods and people could travel the country with ease and speed opening up a new world to the everyday person. I enjoyed being able to climb aboard some of the trains and carriages as well as all the old posters and train time logs. 


We moved from the trains upstairs to enjoy their Titanic exhibition. Before the opening of the Titanic Museum last year in Belfast this used to be the only place to see artefacts and glean information about the doomed ship which was built in the Belfast shipyards. Despite going in thinking I knew alot about the ship I learned several new things and we enjoyed the interactive rivet game (Jonathan beat me!). The exhibition was on the small size, just one room, and it's made me more excited to eventually visit the Titanic Museum. It really is one of those events in history that's able to grasp your imagination full force. Downstairs held the museums collection of cars, including a DeLoren and an authentic 1960's bright orange Beetle. 
Action shot of Jonathan playing the rivet game!
Moving to the second part of the Transport Museum revealed the aviation history, this part of the museum felt a little neglected and lacked the detail of the previous building. I enjoyed seeing the various horse drawn carriages and cabs but there was little in this museum to really grab anyones attention in my opinion. Luckily it was almost closing so it was a good thing we didn't stay too long there. This, for me, was the only downfall for the museum and some serious thought and vision needs to be applied to that part, of course though I appreciate money for museums is a huge issue and funding changes requires alot of donations and government funding. However, it's something I can look forward to seeing in the future. 

Exploring the carriages.

I'm really looking forward to our next adventure, not sure where we'll be exploring next but it's sure to be fun!