Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Bodyguard, the musical

I’m going to start by laying my cards on the table: I was not a huge fan of The Bodyguard the musical. 

What I did like and enjoy was a tribute to Whitney Houston featuring one of my very favourite voices, Beverley Knight.

I know people absolutely love this musical and I desperately wanted to feel the same way but I just didn’t. I came away happy because I saw Beverley Knight and Rachel John perform stunning renditions of classic songs. That was the part I loved.

Beverley Knight (Rachel Marron) is a firm favourite of mine, a position confirmed further when I saw her in Memphis last year. In Memphis her character, her songs and the rest of the cast were all fantastic. In this, she is one of only a couple of standouts, and the beauty of her role is not so much in the acting as it is in the music. She is a star, and she performs the role of a star well. One Moment in Time had me in tears, and I Will Always Love You was breath-taking.

Rachel John (who, in fact, was also in Memphis) takes on the role of Nicki Marron and also has a voice to remember. Run to You was a fantastic duet between the two sisters and one of my favourite moments. I’d say John was the most convincing in terms of her whole role, both the music and the acting – more so than any other cast member.

As for the rest of it? I’m not sold.

The musical is effectively the film but on stage, with a slightly simplified storyline and more songs. 

The problem is, it was made for film, and so comes across better that way. Shows like Ghost have made the leap from screen to stage and become their own entity, each fantastic in their own way. For me, this isn’t the case with The Bodyguard.

In addition to this, the acting throughout the first half of Act 1 was really flat – it felt like everyone was marking their positions and no one was fully in character. This picked up after Nicki’s first song in the club, but by then I think I had got a bit disheartened.

I found the riot scene very odd, too. It was a very stylised scene, which is fine but it was completely detached from the rest of the show. There were no other similar elements and the style was very jarring. I also thought it was actually very unclear, and I only knew what was going on because of having seen the film.

My final ‘gripe’ was the bodyguard himself. Frank Farmer is played by Ben Richards, and for me there was none of the intrigue or excitement – I didn’t ‘get’ why Rachel Marron would find him so alluring. He did the strong and silent part well, but not in an attractive or compelling way. His karaoke scene was funny, but felt like a very random scene completely disconnected from the rest of his performance, rather than it being a glimpse into the man behind the strong exterior.

I’ll round off with some more of the elements I did like, though.

The set was great in its simplicity. There were a lot of sets and items altogether, but each individual set had one clear focus point at a time, and it was immediately obvious where you were and what was happening. The screen or wall across the centre of the stage was also cleverly used, half-closed during certain scenes or opening only by sections to reveal different scenes.

I was also really impressed by the lighting. Whether it was the light streaming through the windows in Rachel’s home, or the bright flashes of the opening concert, or the softer lighting of more intimate scenes, it added character to every single scene.

I also thought the show ended brilliantly. They know their audience: people who love the film and/or love Whitney. While the emotional ending of I Will Always Love You is visually spectacular, it was a great idea to round off the bows with a ‘party’ atmosphere. The cast sing and dance to I Wanna Dance With Somebody and the audience were with them every step of the way. We were on our feet and dancing and singing, and I’m pretty sure it would be hard to leave in anything but a good mood.

And that’s the thing, I did leave in a great mood. I know I’ve been pretty negative about certain aspects, but it’s not that I thought it was awful. It simply wasn’t everything I had expected. When so many people adore it, I think I had expected to be the same.

Unfortunately, I didn’t love the show itself.

What I did love was seeing great song after great song performed by two incredibly powerful female voices. Beverley Knight and Rachel John made this show. Without their voices, there wouldn’t be much left for me to enjoy.

Friday, 5 August 2016

A Year in London - The Update

Yesterday marked exactly a year since I moved to London.

I didn’t think it would ever be a move I would make, but it has led to one of the busiest years of my life and probably the one in which I have changed and learned the most.

The move was about breaking out of my comfort zone, and throwing off the comfort blankets I’d surrounded myself with.

Without challenging myself, I was never going to overcome a lot of the fears I had built up and learned to live with.

The timings suddenly clicked. I was really unhappy in my job, living alone with the flexibility to move, and there was nothing tying me to stay in the same place.

When the job hunt began, I was offered a role at a company I’ve admired for years, which sealed the deal and to London I came.

It’s been a year of extreme highs and some very real lows, and one year on I can say it’s been one of the biggest learning experiences I’ve had.

I’m in a new city, facing ‘fears’ like the tube, living with strangers, and adjusting to a new workplace.

I’m living in a city I always thought was far too big, too busy, too fast for me.

I’ve been able to indulge more than ever in my love of theatre, seeing on average a show a month but often more.

I’ve been exploring parts of the country I’ve never been to before, not only in London but in Kent, Hertfordshire, Brighton, Canterbury…

Most people close to me (and those who have read recent posts) will know that it’s not as simple as having moved to London and everything improving as I face my fears.

Two months ago almost to the day, I completely crashed with my anxiety after a period of having done really well.

I think it was my body’s way of saying ‘Hold on. You’ve got too good at getting a bit better then pretending you’re ok. You’re not.’

I’d got really good at wearing a mask.

Yes, I’d progressed so far with my panicking and worrying, but with a lot of my issues and fears I’d just taught myself coping mechanisms and learned to hide them rather than actually addressing them.

I had to take some time off, and then slowly return to ‘normal’ life. Depression was added to the anxiety diagnosis, and I began to slowly rebuild my confidence.

It’s been hard.

Really, really hard.

I’ve had to lean so heavily on the people around me and I can’t thank them enough for the way I’ve been looked after and treated with patience and love.

I’ve been focusing on really looking after myself and actively making changes to completely overhaul the way I think of myself and the world around me.

On Monday, my counselling finally starts and should supplement the huge steps I’ve been making on my own over the past two months.

I need this person to challenge me. I need to make my brain realise just putting on a mask and ‘coping’ is not enough. I want to free myself of these thoughts that have tied my down for so long.

I want to go out for a meal and truly enjoy choosing something from the menu; I’ve not eaten properly for three years.

I want to plan a busy week without knowing I will be completely and utterly drained by the end of it.

I want to sleep better; I can’t remember the last time I had a night of unbroken sleep – over the past couple of months I’ve averaged 3 to 6 hours a night.

I want to fully enjoy everything I do without constantly checking I know the exit route, or wondering whether something is about to happen.

Most of all, I want to allow myself to just be me. To be happy. To be healthy.

This year I’ve had some of the best days ever, and some of the worst.

My feeling today, at the end of this first year, is that things ahead look good.

They look really good.

The process I’m going through right now is hard, but I’m on the path to facing and overhauling thinking that has been troubling me for three years or more.

I’ve got amazing trips away and events and plans coming up.

My second year in London will continue to see growth, and will be a year in which I learn more and more about myself.

I’m ready.

Monday, 1 August 2016

10 tips for finding a room to rent in London

Finding a place to rent can be a bit of a nightmare.

Finding a room to rent in London is on another level.

It’s definitely stressful and it’s definitely fast-paced, so almost a year after moving I thought I’d try to share some tips.
  • There are places out there. It can be very easy to panic as places move quickly and the process can be overwhelming, but people are always on the move and there are options out there if you keep calm and look properly.
  • Know what you want. Do you want an extension of university life, living with people who are also going to be your friends, or do you want a quiet place you can head home to after work or socialising? Think carefully about the type of environment you want to be in.
  • Visit multiple places. So many places look ok online, but the reality can be a different story. I saw places that looked about triple the size online, I went to a house where the other three occupants smoked and left beer bottles everywhere, I went to one house that was hidden away down a creepy alleyway I wouldn’t have felt safe in alone.
  • Know what you’re getting yourself into. What’s the agreement with the landlord? Are bills included? What’s the minimum time you have to agree to live there for, and what’s the notice period if you want to leave?
  • Live-in landlord or not? This is something I will write more about in the future, but you might want to consider this one carefully. If they do live there, you can be sure issues with the place will be fixed quickly as they live there, but you might feel like you’re invading their space, rather than living in a place on equal footing.
  • Check out the area. Think logically about where the house is based. Will you feel safe heading home alone at night? Is your commute to work doable and affordable? Are there shops and other conveniences within easy reach?
  • Use multiple sites. Don’t restrict your search – cast a wide net so you can choose the best options of everything.
  • Set up your own advert. On a lot of sites there’s the option to set up your own advert as well as browsing through room adverts. I did this and the best places I saw were through people contacting me rather than the other way round. I found these people were being a bit more picky about the types of people they wanted to live with, so both sides knew it was quite a good match before I even went to see the room.
  • Budget carefully. Think very honestly about what you can afford to spend on rent. Take into account bills and travel expenses, then add on any socialising. London is an expensive city, and you need to try and strike that balance of living somewhere that meets your needs but isn’t swallowing up every penny of your budget every month.
  • Keep calm. It’s hard, and I definitely didn’t keep as calm as I should have done. Know that it’s a stressful process but it’s doable and you will find something that meets your needs.

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