West End Show: The Book of Mormon

  • Really enjoyed it!
  • It had never appealed to me before, I had assumed it would be mocking a religion, and so would be uncomfortable to watch and more cringe-worthy.
  • In fact it was… I can hardly put it into words.  Very clever, very deep.  Somehow hitting an exact mid point, so you’re mocking and you’re not mocking at the same time, you’re questioning but accepting at the same time, you’re using caricature characters, but knowingly.
  • I can’t believe that such heavy, serious issues (one in particular which a few years ago would never have been mentioned anywhere, never mind on a West End stage) manage to get tackled so frankly and openly, and yet thoughtfully and sensitively, in the context of a humorous musical.
  • It was utterly absorbing.
  • I love obviously predictable, theatrical moments.  The lights go out and you know there’ll be a surprise when they come on again – you’re not disappointed.  You know the ‘play’ the natives put on for the senior guy is going to be outrageous – it’s enjoyable to anticipate it.
  • The casting seemed spot on perfect – the young girl lead was fantastic, the way she looked and her acting in particular, but great voice as well.
  • I suppose it’s not one to take your puritanical mother to – it needs a modern, intelligent, thoughtful, liberal audience.

Marks out of ten for general enjoyment/entertainment value: 9

Bristol Zoo Gardens

  • I was lucky that I got a space in a car park nearby at 10am. But this soon closed up and at 12 when I left everything said full so I suppose I would’ve given up if I’d arrived later.
  • Generally not a very big zoo, and no ‘serious’ animals (eg elephants, giraffe, camel, zebra, tiger, bears), but very nice gardens and a perfectly nice small attraction to walk around. (Did have lions and gorillas.)
  • Two male lions in a very small enclosure exhibiting the worst type of zoo behaviour, pacing constantly up and down – didn’t look happy.
  • Also saw one largish monkey on its own, looking like its behaviour wasn’t right – it was clutching on to its leg and kept hiding its head down. Maybe it was just trying to sleep but it looked very nervous, like it was trying to avoid seeing or being seen.
  • Lots of walk-through enclosures, houses etc. Went in Nocturnal House, Reptile House, Aquarium, walk-through flamingos, walk-through fruit bats, Butterfly House.  The wallaby one was closed, the seal/penguin one I didn’t bother with – it was the furthest away and no-one seemed to be going to it.
  • Best thing of all was ring-tailed lemur walk-through enclosure where you really saw them close up and one had two little babies – I took loads of photos.
  • Several giant animatronic models of insects set around the place as a feature – was obviously popular with children.
  • A design objection I’ve come across in zoos before – you walk all round it, then want to sit in a cafe before you leave, but the only cafe is back on the other side, not near the entrance.
  • Yes I did buy a cuddly toy – a nice quality Wallaby (funny cos I didn’t see one, but something I don’t have). Also a beautiful book on primates which I shall enjoy looking at.


West End Show: Matilda

  • Took a while to get into it, at the beginning I thought it was too ‘kiddy’ and was annoyed that some of the words were unclear, but by the end, was full of admiration for the child cast.
  • Enjoyed the singing and particularly the acting of the woman in the ‘good teacher’ role – the way she stayed in character and kept appropriate expressions, eg even while dancing in the ballroom dance number.
  • Having been in a few workshops myself where they talk about ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’, I thought there were some very good examples of ‘show’ moments in her acting – simple things like keeping her hands held at her sides and hunching her shoulders to show she is timid and afraid and cowering; simple body positions and gestures can speak so loud on stage.
  • Some nice staging moments eg the ‘girl’ falling from the ceiling, the surprise lasers, the swings.
  • Music not particularly striking or memorable.
  • As with many shows (I’m becoming an expert) I thought the middle of the second act got a bit too turgid/dark/serious/boring.
  • I didn’t know the story going in and heard children talking about the fact she does magic and has special powers, so in a way was disappointed that that didn’t develop as much as expected. (I’ve read the book now – bought it at the theatre – the story in the book is more coherent).
  • In general, at the start I thought it would be a 5/10 at most but by the end I felt I’d really enjoyed it, so say 8/10.
  • Best choreographed curtain call I’ve ever seen, with the scooters – it was nice to be surprised with this simple but effective idea.

Marks out of ten for general enjoyment/entertainment value: 8

West End Show: Memphis

  • I had never seen this show advertised anywhere and I notice it’s not in the main listings for some reason; I chanced upon it when a tube station was closed once and I ended up trying to catch a bus nearby.
  • I love going into things with no idea what to expect, and other than the implications from the title and the few pictures outside, I didn’t know what it would be about.
  • I thought it was fantastic, really really good musically, a great pleasure.
  • I am obviously behind the times because I didn’t realise until afterwards that the main lead was a famous X Factor person, Matt Cardle. This enabled me to form a judgement just based on his performance, rather than having an expectation from a famous person – and I thought he was vocally and acting-wise excellent.
  • Also the main woman is very well known and previously played Whitney Houston in another musical; this gives you an idea of the type of music and the type of singing – the type of ‘modern’, jazzy, florid singing I could never do.
  • There were some ‘dark’ scenes – maybe this is a prerequisite of shows, that they can’t be all pure froth and happiness – and of course the main theme and setting were serious. But I found it all very entertaining and well done.
  • Bought the CD and have been listening afterwards.
  • Absolutely love the idea of the guy who never speaks, but then at a crucial moment (so pleasingly predictably – you’d have been disappointed if it didn’t happen!), finds his voice – and it’s a brilliant voice and a lovely song.
  • Sort of sad that it’s not a 100% happy ending, but I guess more realistic.

Marks out of ten for general enjoyment/entertainment value: 9

West End Play: The Play That Goes Wrong

  • Okay but not as funny as it could have been
  • Nowhere near as funny as Noises Off which I always remember had me really laughing – so feels like a poor copy of that really
  • Didn’t like the deterioration into slapstick eg women bashing each other over the head with tray
  • Some too obvious ‘Basil Fawlty’ moments
  • What made me laugh most? Well actually the pavement sign outside theatre with a picture of Tom Cruise (very famous actor) saying, ‘Tom Cruise will not be appearing in tonight’s performance’, ie as if it’s a specific apology for that night but of course he isn’t appearing in it anyway!
  • The funniest joke was the reference at the beginning to previous plays which were short of performers, eg the Lion and the Wardrobe (I liked that!)
  • Things I thought would happen that didn’t:
    • One of the actors refers to the time being 11pm, but the very obvious clock is stuck on a completely different time (that’s the joke).  But I was so certain that we would see the clock slowly/surreptitiously being readjusted from inside until it said 11!  (It wasn’t)
    • Another joke is that they can’t find the dog, so when there’s a dog in the script, the actors have to pretend with an empty collar and lead.  I would definitely have had a real dog appear in the curtain call at the end!  Or at least a stuffed dog!

Marks out of ten for general enjoyment/entertainment value: 6

West End Show: Wicked

  • Strong leading voices, wouldn’t have guessed that I was seeing the two stand-ins; interesting that someone can have a ‘show voice’ as well as having the high classical notes
  • Good staging/effects – the dragon, the lighting
  • Good dancing and costumes – especially the main ‘Emerald City’ numbers
  • As I’d hoped, a much more straightforward and accessible story (at least in the first act) than the book, which I found weird and dark and disappointing
  • Enjoyed not being familiar with the music, so it’s all new – not a single song I’d ever heard before
  • Music slightly atonal/’Britten’-like in places, but some wonderful affecting chords eg at end of company numbers
  • Nice how it ties in with the film towards the end, ie tin man and scarecrow
  • Best line, when Glinda is beside a semblance of the yellow brick road and says, ‘I do hope they find their way, I’m no good at giving directions’ (humorous because the song repeats over and over, ‘follow the yellow brick road’, ie the simplest directions possible)
  • Pleasing to see a large woman among the dance cast
  • Second act lost its way, too long and gets boring, story becomes unclear – what’s the Wizard’s agenda? Does she succeed in rescuing all the animals? Is she really good or evil?
  • I heard someone say afterwards, ‘I don’t understand how she died’ – you need to know the film for that, and they should emphasise the significance of water, you can miss that
  • Found the penultimate sentiment between the two women too ‘cloying’
  • Using the ‘is this a show I’d like to bring my mother to?’ test – during the first act I was thinking yes, during the second act, no – so I’ve marked it down to 7 out of 10 because the second act was too heavy/confusing and less spectacular

Marks out of ten for general enjoyment/entertainment value: 7

West End Show: Jersey Boys

  • Really enjoyed this more than expected (well, hadn’t known what to expect)
  • Great musical numbers, so many songs familiar, turned me into a retrospective fan
  • Loved the harmony piece by the piano when the fourth guy first joins them
  • Enjoyed the build up to the first solo piece – something originally dismissed which ends up being the biggest hit yet – feel-good factor!
  • Well structured story – staging was kept interesting, more drama/acting than ‘Thriller’
  • Nice touches of humour
  • I’m sure it’s trying to be authentic, but shame about the swearing which slightly jarred and made it something I wouldn’t want to take my elderly mother to
  • Loved the effect when they show the black and white film at the same time as the live action – shame it couldn’t have been the real band on the film, but probably couldn’t get permission for that

Marks out of ten for general enjoyment/entertainment value: 9

West End Show: Thriller Live

  • Not a big Michael Jackson fan but so many of the songs familiar
  • Basically it’s just a concert, not much story or drama, but that’s fine
  • Some amazingly impressive pieces, spectacular staging and ‘big’ music
  • Loved the band being revealed and joining in on stage – exciting
  • Nice variety of solo voices, maybe could’ve done with more than one female voice
  • The ‘rock’ voice (long haired white guy) was a fantastic feature and gave variety
  • Good dancing, though some of the cast caught the eye/stood out, others were just bland
  • An ending/encore that doesn’t disappoint – you think, surely we get to see the main MJ dancer again, and you do
  • Didn’t like the enforced audience participation – ‘had the audience dancing in the aisles’ isn’t quite fair as praise, when the audience have been told to stand up and dance by the cast!
  • Didn’t like the commentary/narration plugging how wonderful MJ was – unnecessary, could’ve been toned down a bit

Marks out of ten for general enjoyment/entertainment value: 9