Thursday, 19 November 2015

Sleepless Nights


Everyone loves it, and the health and wellbeing benefits are well-documented.

But I’m just a bit rubbish at it.

I’ve never been a big sleeper. For as long as I can remember I’ve been an early-riser. Even if I’d had a late night, I’d be up bright and early.

That in itself isn’t a problem; I’m a real morning person, and find my mornings to be so productive.
However, as the years carried on, and as times became a bit tougher and my anxiety began to make itself known, any chance of a good sleep BEFORE the early wake-up went out the window.

That’s when being an early riser becomes a problem. Because even if I hadn’t calmed my thoughts enough to fall asleep until 3am, I’d be wide awake at 6am.

Once or twice, that’s ok. But when you’re going night after night after night of between three and five hours of sleep, it starts to take its toll.

I know some people can barely function without a full eight hours of sleep, and that’s definitely not me. I sometimes look back at periods where my sleep has been particularly bad and wonder how on earth I was still functioning, turning out a high quality of work at school and university, or doing full working weeks.

There comes a point though where you can’t keep that up. Even if you CAN function, it’s not healthy.

It catches up with you.

My immune system definitely suffers when I’m sleeping badly, and I can be much more emotional too. You can also see it in your appearance – my skin and hair are just more lacklustre, and I don’t look ‘myself’ to those who know me well.

And where’s my sleeping at now?

It’s up and down. But it’s not great.

And I’m all out of sync. I’m exhausted at 7pm, but wide awake at 3am. So yes, on the nights I sleep throughout that time I’m getting a good amount of hours. The problem is, that period is certainly not unbroken sleep, and I usually wake multiple times.

I’ve tried the usual tricks, like a dark room, at the right temperature, not surrounded by electrical devices. I’ve tried to do calming things before sleep. But I’m still just not very good at it.

So this is going to be my new focus. I want to make my sleeping pattern a bit more ‘normal’, and improve the quality of my sleep. I just know that with how bad my sleep is currently, upgrading those nights to proper nights of sleep will do me the world of good.

My first step is not letting myself doze off straight after getting in from work, I’m going to try and stay up a little later, and not let myself get up when I wake up at 3am feeling like it’s 9am.

And after that… I’m not sure yet.

It’s going to be a process.

But that’s what I’m working on.

Let me know any tips (not of the medication variety, please).

Here’s to getting some good nights of snoozing!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon has made it into my list of Top Five Favourite Musicals.

Possibly even my Top Three.

I was blown away by the originality, comedy, music and cast of this phenomenal show, and I’m going to attempt to sum up why.

A religious satire, The Book of Mormon is the story of two young Mormons, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, during their mission trip to Uganda. Whilst in Uganda, they attempt to introduce the people they meet to Mormonism, whilst also going on personal journeys, questioning and learning more about their faith.

Firstly, let’s establish the fact it’s from the creators of South Park – if you’re not up for that sense of humour, there’s no point booking a ticket. Is it sometimes crude humour? Yes. Does it push the boundaries? Yes. Do you sit there thinking ‘I shouldn’t be laughing at this’? Yes. But is it clever, satirical and absolutely hilarious? Yes, yes and yes. It’s offensive, but it’s universally offensive; every character is a parody, and all groups are laughed at.

I want to focus another moment on how clever the book and lyrics are of this musical. The humour is so well crafted, and there are so many cultural references and one-liners that minute after minute of the show if funny as it is gripping. Story-wise, it’s great, and character-wise, I was hooked.

I also loved that the writers’ passions for musical theatre came through – so many songs allude to or parody songs from other musicals. Some are very obvious, such as a certain Lion King favourite, and some are more subtle, such as nods to Wicked’s Defying Gravity and even The Sound of Music’s I Have Confidence. If you don’t know and love lots of musical soundtracks inside out, you will still love the show. But if you DO, it just adds a whole other layer of appreciation for the skill of what’s been created.

‘Hello’ sets the scene for the rest of the show to perfection. I love how the layers build as more and more boys join in, and the uniform grins of the men on stage left me confident from song one that we were in for a treat.

Nic Rouleau played the role of Elder Price with a commanding air of confidence, and delivered obnoxious line after self-obsessed line brilliantly. As he began to doubt himself, we as an audience were with his every moment, and ‘I Believe’ was a real stand-out moment of the show. The balance of heart and humour in this song is spot-on. ‘You and Me (But Mostly Me)’ was another of my favourites, and Rouleau’s voice does songs like this justice.

Beautifully complimenting Rouleau is the other half of our main duo, Brian Sears as Elder Cunningham. How anyone could fail to fall for this bumbling, socially awkward, desperate-to-please boy is beyond me. Cunningham gets some great one-liners, and his story of growing up and realising his own self-worth is a touching one.

The other cast member I want to mention is the stunning Alexia Khadime, who plays the role of Nabulungi. Her voice was fantastic, and she portrayed the youth and innocence of the role convincingly. ‘Sal Tlay Ka Siti’ was a powerful ballad, and showcased Khadime’s voice well, and I can’t review this show without mentioning my absolute favourite song: ‘Baptize Me’.

Khadime and Sears stole the show with this duet, where Cunningham is welcoming Nabulunghi into the church. The connotations throughout were hilarious, and the wordplay was done so cleverly. They acted the song with such passion, and it needed to be done with confidence to pull off the humour! I’m not going to say more than that, as you need to see it to fully appreciate it, but let me tell you I can’t get it out of my head, and I still laugh every time I hear it.

I could go on and on, but really my message is clear: get a ticket. I was so impressed, and cannot get the songs out of my head. A fantastic musical. 

Changing my TV Habits

I’m changing up my TV habits.

The thing is, I realised fairly recently quite how many hours I spend watching TV shows and it is honestly shocking. It’s my default to ‘put something on in the background’, and whilst I still do this with YouTube videos or music, there’s more of a feeling of being able to dip in and out of things.

A TV series is a commitment.

Once I’m into a programme, I need to watch every episode. I need to know when the new season starts. I need to watch the latest episode before anyone on Twitter spoils it for me.

And the problem with Netflix is there’s always a new series to watch. And all of the episodes are ready and waiting. Binge-watching has almost become a sport.

The release of a new season of Orange is the New Black leads to the update tweets of how many episodes people have stormed through by the end of the first morning. And it can be hard to turn down that temptation when the next episode is all cued up and ready to go.

You don’t even need to move; it autoplays in fifteen seconds.

A few months ago, I looked at the amount of TV shows I was watching or waiting to return. And I looked at the shows I had started watching on Netflix to fill in the gaps between episodes of shows I had to wait a whole week to see the next episodes of. And the amount of hours that viewing time adds up to is just ridiculous.

So I then thought about which of those TV shows I actually love, and look forward to, and which I watch because I’ve got into the routine of doing so, or even more commonly, because I was bored.

And again, I was pretty shocked.

And I cut back.

I’ve not quite cancelled Netflix. I’m just finishing one show I’m watching currently, but then that’s it.

And when it comes to TV shows running in ‘real-time’, I’d say I’ve cut back what I watch by about four-fifths. And I still watch plenty!

I think what I’m trying to say is that I’ve been doing some re-assessing of how I’m spending my time.

And I spent a lot of hours mindlessly watching things I wasn’t even fully engaged in.

I’d rather use that time to do something else, thanks very much.

Have you done anything similar, or are you a TV fiend?

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Musical

Growing up, I loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I loved the book. I loved both films (although I have more love for the original).  And so when the stage show began I was a little apprehensive. It hadn’t been long since I’d seen Matilda, which was so incredible I didn’t want to risk seeing a Roald Dahl show which just didn’t quite live up to expectations…

However, my parents and sister went to see it, and I got a bit jealous hearing them going on about how much they’d loved it. So I booked my seat.

Let me start with what I enjoyed. The show is incredibly true to the book. The visual effects are fantastic. The set is stunning.

The characters were larger than life, just as in Dahl’s stories, and the five children in particular carried this off very well. I had a soft spot for Verruca Salt, because she’s always been my favourite, horrible child. The story is the one we know and love, with no attempt to embellish or alter. This I was happy with, as I’d have been a bit heartbroken to have the story altered. I know some stage adaptations do vary slightly, and it works well, but this was one story I didn’t want to be touched. The overall feel of the show was as if you were watching the book come to life, which is exactly what the show needed.

The visual effects were great, and I’m sure it was no mean feat figuring out how to do it all! Mike TV did shrink, the glass elevator did fly, and even little Charlie’s letter to Wonka flew away above the audience.

The set was brilliant. The Buckets’ house filled the stage, complete with huge double bed for the grandparents, and featured a little bedroom for Charlie at the top of the stairs. Wonka’s factory rooms cleverly occupied the stages within seconds when needed, and the edible room with the river of chocolate was intricately designed. I particularly liked the use of the ‘television screen’ box for the segments about each of the children as they discovered their golden tickets.

So why do I sound a little, well, underwhelmed?

After all, have I not just listed lots of things that impressed me?

Well, yes. But I still left feeling a little flat.

And this is in no way down to the actors; the acting and singing was great.

Nor was it down to the set; the stage looked incredible.

Nor was it down to the telling of the story; it was the story we all know and love.

What let me down was the musical. The musical as a whole.

Because I felt like it was a fantastic SHOW. But NOT a fantastic musical.

Had it been a straight play, I think I would have raved along with everyone else.

But as a musical?

Put it this way: there was no stand-out song.

I’m sure plenty of people will disagree, but for me personally none of the stand-out moments were anything to do with the music.

And that’s surely one of the biggest components of a musical?

I couldn’t name any of the songs.

I didn’t come away with any songs repeating in my head.

And for me, that’s the true fun of a musical, when every element pulls together, seamlessly linked by a fantastic soundtrack.

Without that fantastic soundtrack, I just can’t rank Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a show I loved.

I liked it. But I didn’t love it.

I’d love to know what you thought?

Wednesday, 4 November 2015


A month or so ago, my parents came to visit London and we wanted to see a show. I quickly suggested Memphis, having been tempted by all the posters dotted around the Underground, and we weren’t disappointed.

The show opens as it means to go on, with a radio DJ welcoming us into the lively Downtown, at Delray’s club. Cue shock as Huey (Matt Cardle), a white man, enters this club on ‘the dark side of town’, soon winning over their trust singing about his love for ‘the music of my soul’ – what was, at the time, referred to as ‘race music’.

Set in Memphis in the 1950s, the show is set against a backdrop of extreme racial tension, challenged by the growing relationship between Felicia, a promising young singer, and Huey, an aspiring radio DJ. What follows is a beautiful story both of a fight against racism, a love story, and a story of family loyalty, all taking place among the vibrant Memphis music scene.

The music of this show is simply stunning. I’ve listened to the soundtrack countless times since seeing the show and would rank it as one of my favourite show soundtracks (and believe me, I’ve seen a LOT of musicals!) Particular favourites are ‘The Music of my Soul’, ‘Love Will Stand’ and ‘Steal Your Rock and Roll’.

We were lucky enough to go whilst Beverley Knight was still playing as Felicia, alongside Matt Cardle’s Huey. Knight, firstly, was as brilliant as I had expected her to be. Her voice is just phenomenal, and she handled the character of Felicia so delicately, playing her more ‘sassy’ and her more emotional scenes beautifully. Rolan Bell, too, who played Felicia’s brother Delray, had an exquisite voice - so deep and distinctive - meaning I can’t stop listening to ‘She’s My Sister’.

The absolute stand-out of the show, for me, was Mr Cardle. We all know he can sing, from his X Factor days, but I had no idea what to expect from his acting. Performing with a faultless accent throughout, he presented the wacky, at times uncertain, at times naïve, but always passionate Huey to perfection. His dance moves were full of enthusiasm, and it was totally believable that this was a character who just loves and adores music.

The rest of the cast were all fantastic singers, of course, but the dancing was my real favourite – routine after routine, from the most tightly choreographed to those appearing more ‘freestyle’, were so high-energy, and there wasn’t a cast member who was only half-committed.

The story of ‘Memphis’ had numerous unexpected twists, and was a full-rounded story taking the audience through every emotion in the book. My mum was sobbing, and she’s not someone that cries at t show or film easily! We felt every emotion, from elation to sadness to horror to sympathy, and I would have watched it again the very next day if I could.

I recommended the show to so many people, and am gutted it has just closed. I hope it will tour, or be revived, as it would be such a waste to lose a show of such quality, which appears to have been loved by audiences and critics, alike. 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Hello, November

Where did you come from?

I feel like we only just welcomed in October. Seconds later, it was gone.

This year has absolutely flown by. Everyone’s saying it, and I’m going to say it again.

I can’t even think what happened in October. I know over the past few months I’ve been to the theatre a lot, as anyone who knows me or follows me on Twitter will know.

I’ve been working.

I’ve been continuing to get into the swing of London life.

I’ve been seeing friends.

I headed home for a weekend to see my dad for his birthday (I’ve just got home, he was a Halloween baby!)

 Just getting on with day-to-day life really.

The days are strange at the moment. When I look back, time is flying by, but the days themselves whilst I’m in them seem to stretch on forever. I think the clock change definitely played a part in that, as last week I was completely out of sync.

Let’s just chat about the clock change for a moment: I’m not a fan!

The weather affects my mood hugely. Last Monday, I was genuinely feeling like I could cry. Just because it was just pitch black outside. When the days begin in darkness and end in darkness, I feel like I’m running out of time, like I have zero time to do anything at all.

And I don’t like the dark. I’m not afraid of the dark, as in I don’t sleep with the lights on or anything, but I don’t like it being dark outside. Everything seems a little more uncertain. I’m very on edge. I’m not a fan. And commuting home seems more stressful in the dark!

I’m hoping that the Christmas lights switch-on on Oxford Street (where I work), which I think is around now, might help with that.

Instead of thinking ‘it’s so dark’, I can think ‘I’m so excited about Christmas, aren’t the lights pretty?’

And on that note: I’ve done my Christmas shopping!

Well, not all of it.

But as I was heading home for the weekend, I thought I’d get my mum, dad and sister sorted so I could take them home on this trip and leave them there, rather than try and carry them with all the clothes and other things I’d need over the Christmas period when I head home in December!

So big tick for my organisation there! I did get some funny looks clutching my Christmas wrapping paper at Westfield in October but hey, at least I won’t be running round like a headless chicken on December 24th

I’m sure you’ll be a great month, November.

I’ve got a couple of theatre trips planned. Cinema trips. Food plans. Shopping plans. Plans with friends and family. In fact, it’s an action-packed month according to my diary!

Here’s to a good one.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Eating Italian

It’s no secret that I love Italian food. It’s always my default, and especially when eating out there just seems to be something for everyone.

Here’s a rundown of three places I’ve loved eating at recently.

Spaghetti House

Spaghetti House have numerous locations across London and I’ve been consistently impressed. I’ve found there’s occasionally slow service, but the quality of the food is brilliant.

On this particular visit, we sampled the garlic bread (the best I’ve had anywhere), a burger and chips, and classic tomato and basil spaghetti.

With pasta made fresh and beautiful ingredients, this is a chain I know I’ll keep returning to.


I stumbled across L’Ulivo on a day out with my parents, and it turned out to be a great discovery. We went at a late summer’s lunchtime, and sat outside near busy Leicester Square.

Although the service was a little slow, the meals were delicious. My pasta was full of perfectly roasted vegetables, my dad’s pizza was beautifully cooked, and mum was certainly happy with her huge portion of spaghetti Bolognese.

This made a lovely alternative to always heading to the chain restaurants – much as I’m a fan, it’s nice to try somewhere new!


A personal favourite. It’s that bit more special than a couple of the other well-known Italian chains, but still reasonably priced and with a lovely atmosphere. I’ve visited multiple times and always found the staff to be really friendly.

On one pre-theatre visit with my parents (we were off to see Memphis), we ended up getting just the meal we needed.

After burgers and pizzas, my parents enjoyed mini desserts with their coffees, which is always a good alternative to having to buy a huge dessert.

Where are your favourite Italian restaurants in London? I’m on the hunt to discover many more!

And what’s your favourite cuisine?

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