Television Review – After nearly 2 years, Game of Thrones is back! – Season 8.01 “Winterfell”

Blimey it’s been a long wait hasn’t it?! For those of us who’ve been waiting since August 2017 to see the next chapter of this sweeping drama, this week’s return of Game of Thrones is the absolute definition of Event Television! Few shows have garnered as much critical and public praise and the anticipation for this final season is on a par with that for any huge blockbuster movie. Having had a day to digest the season opener, I’m ready to put my thoughts down on paper.

The finale saw the Army of the Dead reach The Wall, as it tumbled in to the sea in minutes thanks to the power of a newly undead dragon (RIP Viserion). The opening episode of season eight picks up not long afterwards and is appropriately named Winterfell, the focus for the upcoming battle and where most of the key characters are converging.

Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable episode, although certainly not the best this series can be, which is perhaps a testament to how good it is, I suppose.

Anyway, time to dig in to the detail!

Lots happened…….perhaps a bit too much?

For those who read my predictions post on this season, you’ll know I mentioned that I was particularly looking forward to all the reunions and although I suspected they’d happen fast, I didn’t expect so much to be crammed in to the season opener, which is also the shortest of the six episodes. Taken individually such significant moments were wonderful, whether Ayra and Jon’s heartfelt reunion, her playful catch up with Genrdy, or her coming face to face with The Hound again. We also had Theon finally stepping up and rescuing Yara, among many other story points, which I’ll get to. For me, however, it started to feel a bit rushed.

Callbacks to the first episode had me rather nostalgic!

The choice to open the episode with the arrival of Dany and Jon’s army at Winterfell made perfect sense, but what made this even more special for fans of the show was the call-backs to the very first episode. Seeing the little boy running to try and get a good vantage point to watch the Royal procession immediately had you thinking of Ayra and seeing her standing alongside, observing his excitement and perhaps also thinking back to so many years ago was quite special, particularly with the exact same music cue playing over it. It perfectly captured just what a journey these characters have been on since the story began.

Frosty receptions are always fun to see (and that’s before Jaime and Theon are thrown in)!

This is Game of Thrones so it’s never going to be fluffy unicorns and the cold of the North extended to more than the climate, with Sansa and Daenerys not exactly hitting it off and  the Northern houses, led by the always awesome Lady Mormont, less than impressed with Jon pledging himself to a foreign Queen. And I haven’t even covered Bran yet, whose whole demeanour these days is cold and detached, although I did love him greeting Jon and Dany with a “Hi, your dragon is on Team Night King and the Wall has come down.” Well played Bran! Sansa’s wariness of Daenerys is also understandable. She’s been through so much, that trusting anyone doesn’t come easily and Dany was rather aloof. I also loved Tyrion reuniting with Sansa. They had learnt to respect each other by season 4 and after all she’s been through, Sansa no doubt knows he’s a decent man. Yet, a highlight of the hour for me was Sansa being more astute than all the key players in the game, by knowing immediately that Cersei was lying!

We’ll have to see how the atmosphere thaws…….although with Theon and Jaime about to join the party, neither of whom are particularly welcome in Winterfell, the thaw may be some way away!

Bravo Theon! I’m proud of you!

It’s been an up and down journey for Theon Greyjoy and for the audience as we’ve watched him make so many poor decisions and suffer the consequences in such a brutal fashion. The inclusion of Theon’s rescue of his sister was perhaps the most surprising element of this episode for me, as I assumed that would crop up later. It was so satisfying to see and then for Theon to want to go and fight for the Starks. Bless him. I thought he’d die saving Yara, but now it seems he’s likely to meet the end of his story back where we first met him, defending the family and the lands he betrayed, which would do his storyline justice.

The Jon & Dany romance – it doesn’t do anything for me.

This is going to be controversial for some, but I have absolutely zero interest in the supposed blossoming romance between Jon and Daenerys. I think they are both fantastic characters and will clearly be a formidable team, but I just don’t buy them as a couple. Jon’s in love with her, according to Sansa. Really?! He’s known her five minutes and we already know that Dany may show outward affection and yet feel nothing, as she admitted to Tyrion on saying farewell to Daario Naharis. Having them share a moment in front of cave/waterfall, which immediately called back to Ygritte didn’t help matters either, nor does the fact that I just don’t think they have any romantic chemistry. Don’t all yell at me at once!

Dragon riding – too soon? 

We’ve all been waiting for Jon Snow to ride a dragon, but as it finally happened in this opening episode I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps it wasn’t the right time. I’m assuming the scene was partly included to provide those gorgeous aerial shots of the North, flagging that the Army of the Dead had some way yet to go before they arrive. Yet, while it was fun to see Jon trying to navigate this new experience, wouldn’t it have been much more powerful to see him climb on to Rhaegal after he discovered that he was in fact a Targaryen and son of the man for whom that very dragon was named? Oh and while we’re on the animals, where’s Ghost?!

Cersei on the rebound from Jaime and still as power-crazed as ever!

Having demonstrated how little she cares about standing together in the season finale, Cersei’s plan to assemble a stronger army, with the help of The Golden Company was achieved this week, with the return of Euron Greyjoy and his fleet. Left with no other choice to keep him on side and no doubt to try and rid Jaime from her mind, she gave Euron exactly what he wanted – herself and in a twisted way, they are probably the ideal match. If she is really pregnant (something I was never convinced about last season), it seems logical she’ll pretend it’s Euron’s now. Hard luck Jaime, although I think you’re better off out of her clutches…..which brings me to……

Don’t you dare use that crossbow Bronn!

I have always liked Bronn, who is a much more developed and entertaining character in the series than the books and he’s had fantastic relationships with both Tyrion and Jaime over the years. It was therefore incredibly unpleasant to see him seemingly accepting the job of killing the Lannister brothers with Tyrion’s “favourite” crossbow! In any other show I’d never believe he’d do it, but this is Game of Thrones, so who knows…….

The big secret is finally revealed!

We’ve all been wondering how Jon would be told the truth about his parentage. Would his friend Sam sit him down and break the news gently, rather than leaving the task to the rather emotionless Bran? Ummm…….not quite and I loved that decision. Having just learnt the tragic news about his brother (let’s face it, his father was no great loss), a heartbroken and understandably angry Sam broke the news rather more bluntly than expected. With his Queen seeming dangerous and unpredictable, Sam is fuelled by the need to have Jon know he’s the true ruler, rather than simply to tell him where he really comes from. It was the perfect way of raising the bigger question of whether Dany is the right choice to rule too, or if she is too close to her father’s dangerous tendencies. Personally, I think Jon would be the better ruler and he is always ready to sacrifice for what is right for others, rather than himself. As Sam says, would Dany do that? Probably not. I’m certainly intrigued to see how she takes the news when she finds out!

Creepy dead children…..lovely……

I remember watching episode one of the show all those years ago and seeing the dead little girl nailed to a tree come back to life freaked me the hell out! This week, we had an echo of that with poor little Lord Umber being used as the centrepiece for the Night Kings’s latest creative mural. you really shouldn’t have sent that kid away from Winterfell, Sansa! The moment he opened his eyes and screamed was so very disturbing and yet I couldn’t help focussing more on the pattern. It looked a little like the Targaryen sigil didn’t it?

Ending with a gut punch and I loved it! 

In the same way as the episode opened with echoes of episode one, it was perfectly book ended with another scene which took us straight back to the beginning, as Jaime arrived at Winterfell to come face to face with an “old friend.” As soon as Bran said he was waiting for such a person, I knew who he meant and the moment of revelation filling Jaime’s eyes was superbly played, making this perhaps the most powerful moment for me! It reminded us of just how dreadful Jaime was back then and how along the way we’ve grown to like him despite those actions. Having him see Bran again was therefore a brilliant moment for both the character and everyone watching. These two certainly have to have a chat! The big question though – did Bran stay in that same spot all night?!

So, all in all, it was an enjoyable hour of television and it’s fantastic to have the series back again, but there is room for improvement, which with five episodes to come is not necessarily a bad thing!

See you all next week!

Game of Thrones continues next Sunday night in the USA on HBO and in the UK on Sky Atlantic (at 2 am and 9 pm). You can watch two official behind the scenes look at 8.01 here: https://youtu.be/DkdbetJTZGA and here: https://youtu.be/ha8Qsx6_OBw and the trailer to 8.02 here: https://youtu.be/R6YCfVe4eR0

(All photos/screenshots belong to HBO/Game of Thrones)

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My Game of Thrones, Hopes, Fears & Deadpool for season 8!

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The time is finally here (well, for those of us in the UK who have work tomorrow, it’s tomorrow night, but that’s close enough)! After 20 months of waiting since watching the Night King bring down The Wall in August 2017, it’s time for the final season of Game of Thrones to air! I admit, I’m conflicted. I’ve been looking forward to this for so long, but now it’s here, it’s bittersweet in knowing one of the best shows on television and one that has raised the bar in terms of what television can be, is coming to an end.

I’ve been mulling over what I think will happen in these final six episodes for a long time and it’s a testament to how good the series is, that I still haven’t got a firm view about how it will all end in six weeks time. That aside though, I have come to some decisions about who I think will survive and who will perish along the way, even if I’m not absolutely sure how it will happen.

So, I thought I’d set out my deadpool here and then see how wrong I am later on!

The Dead – those who won’t come out of this alive

Let’s start will the deaths (this is Game of Thrones after all!). Some I think are more obvious than others. Some I really hope happen and others I know will make me very sad indeed.

1. Jaime Lannister

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I’m starting with my favourite character (yes, you heard that correctly). He’s had such a fantastic progression throughout the series and is by far the most complex and fascinating character in my opinion. I’d dearly love to see Jaime make it through the battles to come, but I just don’t think it’s likely. He’s been known as a Kingslayer and Oathbreaker all his adult life, so it makes sense that he’ll go out in a blaze of honour and sacrifice. Will he die protecting Bran? Get double-crossed by his sister, who kills him in anger at his desertion of her? Die in the arms of Brienne, the person who he could perhaps have actually been happy with, were this a different show? I’m not sure. I think he has more time to come with Cersei, so perhaps he’ll make it though the Battle of Winterfell. Whatever the method, I see Jaime dying and Brienne taking it upon herself to write his good deeds in the blank pages of the Kingsguard book to keep his memory alive. It makes me sad just thinking about it.

2. Ayra Stark

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If any of the Starks aren’t going to survive, my money would be on Ayra going out in a violent blaze of vengeance. There are still names on her list after all. I can see her teaming up one more time with The Hound against The Mountain, so perhaps that’s when she’ll die, or she’ll wear another face in her pursuit of justice and take one risk too many. I may not be sure how, but I’m fairly certain Ayra will be a casualty of season eight.

3 & 4. The Hound & The Mountain

I don’t see either of the Clegane brothers surviving the series. It may be too obvious to say they die trying to kill each other, but I still think this would be a fantastic way for them to go.

5. Sir Jorah Mormont

I’m amazed he’s lasted this long, but I’ve always pictured Jorah dying saving someone else and I’ve not changed my mind. Dany may be too obvious, so perhaps it’s Jon, or even Sam, who saved his life in season seven.Whoever it is, I don’t see Sir Jorah having a long life in Westeros.

6. Cersei Lannister

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I’m still not totally certain about this, as it feels far more true to the show if Cersei was to somehow make it through this in one piece, but there is the prophecy that her little brother will kill her, so I still think her days are numbered. Will it be Jaime or Tyrion, or Ayra wearing Jaime’s face? I’m intrigued to find out.

7 & 8. Euron & Theon Greyjoy

While the main action is happening at Winterfell early on, Theon has headed off to save Yara from their deranged uncle. I think he’ll succeed and finally find some peace for all the mistakes he made in the past. However, I also think he’ll die in the attempt, taking Euron with him.

9 & 10. Melisandre & Varys

These two seem destined to die, particularly Melisandre, whose ancient origins are still a mystery, but seem likely to play a vital role in the battle ahead. She also told Varys he’d die in Westeros. By the end I really won’t be surprised if they’ve each fallen, their roles finally reaching their natural end.

11. Greyworm

He was never afraid of death until he met Missandei and now they are happily together it clearly can’t last, so one of them has to die. It could be either, but I’m going to bet on Greyworm for now.

12. Beric Dondarrion

He’s lived this long for a purpose and once that’s been fulfilled, I don’t see him lasting very much longer.

13. Bronn

Who’d have thought Jerome Flynn would become such a badass?! I love Bronn and he’s had some fantastic moments. Would I love him to get his castle? Yes, of course, but I se him dying at some point.

14. Drogon

Yes, sorry folks, but I think another dragon will bite the dust and seeing as Dany is bound to be riding Drogon around, I think he’s the most likely victim.

…….and the big one

15. Jon Snow 

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As much as I’d love to see Jon survive, I just don’t think it’s going to happen, as surely one of him and Dany has to die and so many clues have been given that suggest Dany will end up having Jon’s child, that were she to die that wouldn’t happen, so for that reason alone, I predict Jon Snow being another casualty of the final battles. Maybe he sacrifices himself to the Night King to save the world? It’d certainly be an honourable exit.

The Living (because not everyone can die, right?!)

1. Tyrion Lannister

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Maybe it’s because I love him so much, but I just don’t see Tyrion dying this season and someone needs to be there at the end to help build the new world. Maybe he and Sansa find out they are actually well suited? Maybe he gets his vineyard and makes wine in the sunshine. Whatever the future holds, I see Tyrion being the only Lannister making it out in one piece.

2. Sansa Stark

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She’s certainly survived so many ordeals already, but I don’t think Sansa will die. It just doesn’t serve any dramatic purpose in my view and I admit, I quite like the idea of her and Tyrion ending up together, forging a new story for the Starks and the Lannisters.

3. Bran Stark 

I’m still on the fence about Bran, but I’m going to say he lives, to perhaps become the new watcher in the North, keeping an eye on the world of Westeros, which he is now so clearly not a part of. Then again, maybe the Night King is coming all this way for Bran and his fate is already sealed.

4 & 5. Sam Tarly & Gilly

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Ahh Sam. He’s done so well to last this far hasn’t he? Who’d have imagined how important he’d become and I can see Sam taking on the role of the most important and respected Measter in the years to come, writing down the stories of the last eight seasons, so that future generations will never forget. As for Gilly, I don’t want her to die, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

6. Brienne of Tarth

I love Brienne and as much as I’d love her to have a happy ending with Jaime, I’m realistic in saying she’ll survive to serve the new ruler and will be the one to write up Jamie’s good deeds in the Kingsguard book.

7. Sir Davos Seaworth

He’s said so many times that he’s not a fighter and is a liability in battle and yet he’s managed to last this long and I now see him making it all the way to the end of the story. To say he started off with Stannis, in what was for me one of the most dull story strands, he’s gone on to become one of my absolute favourites and if he does survive, I’ll be more than happy with that.

8. Tormund

I admit, I almost said dead and still think that’s very very possible, but seeing as some people have to make it through and I really do love Tormund, I’m going to hope he survives!

9. Yara Greyjoy

I expect her delightful uncle has removed her tongue if he’s really wanting to be cruel, but I do see her surviving the series, thanks to Theon stepping up and making up for his earlier cowardice.

10. Podrick Payne

I don’t know why, but I see Pod surviving and that’ll be fine with me.

11. Gendry

I can see the son of Robert Baratheon surviving the wars and becoming an important figure in the new world. Maybe he’ll be legitimised, or maybe he’ll just prove himself to be a strong and respected warrior. Shame I don’t see Ayra surviving too, as I always liked the two of them together!

12. Rhaegal

Surely one dragon has to survive?? I hope so, so I’m guessing it’ll be this one.

……..and the big one

13. Daenerys Targaryen

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As I’ve said before, I can’t see both Jon and Dany surviving the series, so I’ll guess that the Mother of Dragons survives and her and Jon’s child becomes the new ruler in the years to come. Mind you, this is Game of Thrones, so perhaps that’s all too happy?!

………..

So those are my predictions at this point. I’ll probably have changed my mind again tomorrow, but it’ll be fun to see just how wrong I am by the end!

As for what else I’m looking forward to this year?

Reunions!!

The biggest one for me are the reunions, which I assume will all take place in episode one. There’s Jaime and Tyrion, Jaime and Bran (sorry about pushing you from that tower Bran…!), Tyrion and Sansa, Jon and Ayra, Jon and Sam, Brienne and Jaime. As season seven’s finale proved, the interactions between all of these characters are so loaded now and these reunions will all be incredibly satisfying to watch.

Battles!!

We’ve all heard by now that The Battle of Winterfell is going to be huge! It took 55 nights to shoot, which is just insane and it’ll no doubt be an exhilarating episode to watch. Winterfell aside, there’s still the matter of Cersei and the Golden Company, so not everyone can die in the North. Will we see the survivors taking on Cersei, or will the Night King have flown over Winterfell, heading straight for the capital? Anything is possible in this show!

Mysteries Solved??

Top of these for me is whether Cersei is really pregnant, as I honestly don’t believe it. We don’t have enough time for a pregnancy to come to term, so clearly if it is true, it’s not going to end well. Next on the list is what on earth the Night King wants! Is it Bran he’s after? Did the new Three Eyed Raven change the past? Is this all his fault and the Night King is coming to set things right? He certainly isn’t desperate to sit on that uncomfortable throne!

…………

There are so many questions and very little time left to wrap all of this up, but one thing’s for certain, it’s going to be a hugely exciting and emotional six weeks!

Game of Thrones starts tonight in the USA on HBO at 9pm. Here in the UK, you can watch it on Sky Atlantic at 2 am live along with the US, or wait until 9pm Monday night. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Theatre Review – Three compelling performances from Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton & Charlie Cox in Betrayal at the Harold Pinter Theatre

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The Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End has been home to an ambitious exploration and celebration of the work of Harold Pinter over the last [6] months and last night I made a trip to see the final production in the Pinter at the Pinter season. Clearly, this is a highly anticipated show due to the casting of Tom Hiddleston, whose popularity has continued to skyrocket thanks to his involvement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and who was last seen on stage (for more than a handful of people successful in the RADA Hamlet ballot) in 20[14]’s Coriolanus and I was keen to see whether it would meet my expectations.

I admit, I struggle with some of Pinter’s work, but Betrayal is a play I genuinely enjoy and Jamie Lloyd’s production is a superbly executed interpretation of what is always an emotionally complex story, as we venture in to the lives and histories of its three characters.

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Photo credit: Marc Brenner

The story structure is also one that I find particularly engaging; the play starts not at the beginning of events, instead dropping the audience in to these lives and expecting it to catch up, which adds a very real element to the experience. Life isn’t neat and tidy and Pinter’s structuring of this play highlights that fact. It’s painful and awkward and very human.

It also quickly becomes apparent that we are seeing their lives backwards, gradually moving back through the previous nine years, pausing to witness key moments that shape their relationships with each other. It’s a fantastic way of pulling the audience in and when handled correctly, results in a much more powerful and emotional punch.

The good news is that this production delivers an incredibly satisfying and compelling 90 minutes of theatre, thanks to the combination of a simple set from Soutra Gilmour, which emphasises the raw emotions on display. There are no distractions, which means your focus remains solely on the actors from start to finish and indeed my audience last night was so engaged by the performances that you could have heard a pin drop (or annoyingly, the occasional mobile phone ring – seriously turn them off theatregoers!). It’s also wonderfully lit by Jon Clark, often silhouetting the performers against the pale backdrop in such a way that you could be looking at a wall in an art gallery and I found myself admiring the artistic choices the creative team had taken to add to the emotion. The music is also kept to a minimum, yet compliments the simplicity of the staging.

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Photo credit: Marc Brenner

The success of Betrayal depends on the strength of its three actors and each of Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox are superb at not only brining their own characters to life, but also at creating very believable connections with each other, adding to the tension and emotion of the piece and none of them stand out as the lead, each bringing equal weight to the story.

It quickly becomes apparent that Ashton’s character, Emma, is married to Robert (Hiddleston), but for a number of years until relatively recently, was having an affair with his best friend Jerry (Cox). What Jerry doesn’t realise though, is that Robert not only knows, but he’s known for some time. Over the course of the play, Pinter offers us glimpses in to their past as a trio, how they feel about each other and how that changes, how they deceive each other, sometimes in surprisingly comic ways and how they each suffer betrayal in one way or another.

Jamie Lloyd holds the tension throughout, in no small part by his decision to keep all the actors on stage for the duration, a revolve helpfully moving them around as if pieces on a game board, as their lives cross paths over the years. This staging choice also adds great weight to the betrayal at the heart of the play; seeing Emma and Jerry together, as Robert sits silent and motionless on a chair, sometimes right beside them (and in one heartbreaking instance, cradling his daughter), is a very strong image and Tom Hiddleston does a superb job of conveying Robert’s pain once he becomes aware of their deceit. The scene in which he discovers the truth is handled so beautifully, with quiet surprise and hurt, rather than anger and the combination of Jamie Lloyd’s direction and two excellent actors, truly heighten the tragedy of the moment for the audience as well as the characters.

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Photo credit: Marc Brenner

It could’ve been easy to portray Emma and Jerry as the villains of the story, yet Pinter’s play is much more complex than that, instead presenting us with people making very human choices and the strength of the performances by both Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox mean they are compelling characters to watch and over the course of Betrayal your emotions shift depending on the scene, for example, Jerry’s sense of betrayal on discovering Emma has told Robert feels very authentic, despite the fact he is just as guilty as she is!

The story structure also allows the audience to have more insight than the characters, heightening the tension in key scenes, particularly the excruciating scene in which Robert and Jerry have lunch, neither of them fully realising the extent of knowledge the other has and Cox and Hiddleston play it perfectly, as if it’s the game of squash their characters keep intending to play. Full marks also to Hiddleston’s “angry eating’ talents! This scene is also an example of how Betrayal is able to move from sadness and pain, to moments that are surprisingly comedic and indeed very much needed by the audience due to the emotional weight of the playas a whole. This again captures the realities of real life and when the story ends we are left unsure of what the future will hold for any of them. Life will go on without us there to witness it.

This is a fantastic way to end Jamie Lloyd’s ambitious season of Pinter and more than lived up to the high expectations I had. If you haven’t picked up a ticket yet, I strongly recommend you do so and quickly!

Betrayal continues at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London until 1st June 2019. For more information, visit the website. I will also be posting a separate post of helpful (hopefully!) tips for visitors coming to the show who are new to London, including places to eat, theatre information and my thoughts on the stage door. 

 

Letters Live – Union Chapel, 9th March 2019

Regular readers of my blog will perhaps be aware of my previous trips to Letters Live events over the last five years and last night I was back for another evening, appreciating the brilliance of the written word, this time back at Union Chapel in North London.

For those unfamiliar with the events, they are such a simple, yet beautiful concept. A selection of letters, some from decades ago, others from today, are read aloud by a group of actors and performers. You don’t know what letters you’ll hear, nor who will read them. Despite its huge rise in popularity, I still love that the creative team behind Letters Live don’t reveal who the performers are beforehand. The night is, after all, about the magic of the letters, letter writing and the emotions they convey. It’s not meant to be about the famous stars reading them.

The Letters of Note books

As I have done following my previous trips to Letters Live, I thought I’d talk a bit about last night’s show and set out a full list of readers and their letters (although, as Letters Live still don’t give you a list of the letters, or it seems tweet them anymore, I’ve had to rely on my notes and some online research once I arrived home to fill in the details).

Saturday night’s show included a mix of poignant and humorous letters, giving us an insight in to the lives of their writers across the decades. Taking to the stage over the course of the evening were Benedict Cumberbatch (who has been involved with Letters Live since the very beginning), Juliet Stevenson, Noel Fielding, Katherine Ryan, Thom Yorke, Lesley Manville, Jordan Stephens, Fatima Bhutto, Niamh McGrady and Denise Gough, with musical interludes by the superb Tom Odell (who also read a letter too).

Every time I go to Letters Live, there are some letters that move me a little more than others and my personal highlights this time included Denise Gough’s moving reading of Patton Halliday Quinn’s letter to her unborn daughter, which is actually a letter to all young women, from one generation to the next, Juliet Stevenson’s remarkably accurate channelling of Margaret Thatcher and Kurt Vonnegut’s letter to the world in 2088 (100 years in the future for him) (read by Benedict Cumberbatch), in which some of his concerns about our planet remain frighteningly relevant.

The event also always manages to include some truly funny moments and the funniest by far for me were Benedict Cumberbatch’s hilarious reading of Fred Allen’s letter to his insurance company, detailing a hilarious series of unfortunate accidents and Lesley Manville and Denise Gough reading both the letter to a Dublin agony aunt column and the response. They proved once again that putting things down in writing often preserves some truly wonderful gems of the past.

As well as the letters, these events also always include music too. In the past I’ve seen Rag N Bone Man, before he became the huge name he is and last night I was thrilled to once again see Tom Odell at Letters Live. He’s always superb live and it was no different this Saturday, with him performing three songs, including perhaps his best known one, Another Love, although I also loved his rendition of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’s Love Letter.

To The Letter, the other book behind these events

My one slight gripe about Saturday’s event was that there were moments when the fact we were all there for the letters seemed to be forgotten by certain performers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for comedy and adding fun in to the night, but in my view, you can do this without making it about you and there were times when Noel Fielding (and to a lesser extent, Katherine Ryan), seemed to forget this wasn’t one of his shows, repeatedly stopping mid-way through reading the letters to make a quip or give his own commentary on it to the audience. For me, it became rather tiring and took away from the letters that we were there to hear and appreciate. It’s the first time I’ve found myself thinking this whilst at Letters Live.

However, that aside, it was another enjoyable evening and I still cannot recommend these events enough. There is something for everyone and you will travel through history and emotion as you listen to words that were written, some so long ago, but which meant so much to both writer and receiver.

As happens every time I leave Letters Live, it inspires me to put pen to paper and get in touch with someone the old fashioned way and as I’ve done in previous reviews, I’ll end by encouraging everyone to do the same. You may never know how much a letter will mean to the person who receives it.

The performers take a bow at the end of Saturday’s show

Tonight’s List of Letters & Music – Saturday 9th March 2019

  • Performance by Tom Odell
  • “Ladies & Gentleman of A.D. 2088” – Kurt Vonnegut (1988) to the future (read by Benedict Cumberbatch)
  • “Dame of what?” – Doris Lessing to the Prime Minister’s office (2007) (read by Juliet Stevenson)
  • Letter from Salvador Dali to Frederico Garcia Lorca (19**) (read by Noel Fielding)
  • Letter from Calamity Jane (Jane Cannary Hickok) to the daughter she gave up (1884) (read by Katherine Ryan)
  • Letter to the Daily Telegraph regarding autocorrect and the meaning of life (2015) (read by Thom Yorke)
  • Letter from Diana Athill to her friend, regarding being unmarried (2015) (read by Lesley Manville)
  • Letter from Prince to Tom Moon at Rolling Stone magazine (1994) (read by Jordan Stephens)
  • Letter from Jawaharlal Nehru to his daughter Indira, written from prison (1930) (read by Fatima Bhutto)
  • “I write for myself & I’ll say anything I damn well please” – An angry mum’s letter to the band Green Day and their response (1996) (read by Niamh McGrady & Tom Odell)
  • An Open Letter to All of the Daughters – Patton Halliday Quinn to her as yet unborn daughter (2015) (read by Denise Gough)
  • Letter from Hunter S. Thompson replying to a complaint received by Rolling Stone magazine from a 91 year old accidental subscriber (read by Katherine Ryan & Noel Fielding)
  • Letter to Henry Miller (1934) (read by Niamh McGrady)
  • Letter from Nick Cave to a young fan (2018) (read by Benedict Cumberbatch)
  • “Love Letter” by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, performed by Tom Odell
  • INTERVAL
  • “Another Love” performed by Tom Odell
  • Letter from US comedian Fred Allen to his insurance company (1932) (read by Benedict Cumberbatch)
  • Dear Friend” – Letter from a theatregoer to Hermione Gingold and her response to “A. Friend” (1950) (read by Jordan Stephens & Niamh McGrady)
  • Letter by an Austrian to their noisy neighbours (2014) (read by Noel Fielding)
  • Letter from Simone de Beauvoir to Nelson Algren (1950) (read by Juliet Stevenson)
  • Letter to the Guardian (2016) (read by Thom Yorke)
  • Letter from Joan Rivers’ daughter, Melissa, to her mother, which was later read at her funeral (read by Katherine Ryan)
  • Letter from Yuri Gagarin to his family, two days before his 1961 space mission (read by Benedict Cumberbatch)
  • Letter to the Dublin paper, the Metro Herald, from Karen needing advice & the printed response (2014) (read by Lesley Manville & Denise Gough)
  • “P.S. This is my favourite memo ever” – Matt Stone’s memo to the MPAA regarding the final cut of the South Park film (read by Jordan Stephens)
  • Letter from Margaret Thatcher to a young girl, upset about her parents’ impending divorce (1981) (read by Juliet Stevenson)
  • Letter to the FT regarding Brexit (2017) (read by Noel Fielding)
  • “I know, Mother, I know” – Anne Sexton to he 15 year-old daughter (1969) (read by Lesley Manville)
  • Letter written and read by two young activists regarding the danger of global warning (introduced by Benedict Cumberbatch & read by the two young women who wrote it, Anna Taylor & Ivi Hohmann). This is linked to the planned walkout next week by students across the world to protest about this vital issue, that affect us all.

The wonderful books, To The Letter, Letters of Note, More Letters of Note are available through the usual stockists. For more information about Letters Live, visit the website here: http://letterslive.com

You can read my previous reviews of Letters Live events through the following links:

Television Review – Suits 8.16 “Harvey” (shouldn’t that really be Darvey)?!

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Welcome to the final Thursday in a few months that is Suits day! After six weeks, we’ve reached the season 8 finale. It’s bittersweet, as this is the last time it is a season finale. Next time it’ll be the end.

I was unsure what Suits would be like this year, with three original characters leaving the story (one at least for good), but overall, I’ve throughly enjoyed season 8. We’ve been introduced to a fabulous new character in Samantha Wheeler, have got to know Alex better, especially in these last few episodes after the silly named partner war was over, when he’s really had more of an opportunity to get involved, we’ve seen Louis mature in to the best person to lead the firm, experienced Katrina’s ups and downs as she climbs the ladder of seniority (I’m forgetting the Brian thing) and we’ve seen Donna and Harvey delve in to their emotions in new ways, both separately and together…….very together (I’ll get to it, obviously!). I’m left feeling a little sad that there’s only a finite time left with these characters, but I look back on season 8 much more positively than negatively and that’s all I can hope for with any show.

So……………let’s delve in to the detail!

Samantha’s horrifying past & it’s effect on both her and Robert 

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Over the last 15 episodes, we’ve learnt quite a lot about Samantha Wheeler and way back in 8.04 we knew she’d been through a similar experience to Louis’s mugging and that Robert helped her afterwards. This week, we were able to see just how horrifying an experience that was for her and how she did not want to be a victim, instead determined to seek her own justice when the system failed her. Katherine Heigl has really done a fantastic job with her character, so that I actually do care about her and I’m interested to know more about her (for example, we still don’t know the detail of her military service) and what was lovely about this story, was that it showed us just how special her bond with Robert is. Yes, it’s similar to Harvey’s with Jessica in some ways, but theirs is still very much like father/daughter and seeing them fighting for each other this week (as well as Harvey) was thoroughly enjoyable.

If this is farewell, then it’s been a pleasure Robert Zane

 

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(Photo by: Shane Mahood/USA Network)

I had suspected that we might be seeing the last of Robert Zane this year. Why? First, there were the story hints – his pain and shock at the sudden death of an old adversary, him stepping aside for Louis without much of a fight and this week, we saw just how much he was ready to give up to secure a deal with Daniel Hardman (half his client list and a slice of his equity stream is no small sacrifice). Then there was the fact that Wendell Pierce will be here in London from March until the end of June acting in the theatre, therefore unavailable for a good chunk of filming. Therefore, his possible departure didn’t come as a surprise.

True, it’s ironic that, had he taken Eric Kaldor up on his offer and retired, then he wouldn’t have ended up being disbarred. Honestly, I wish they’d gone with that, but I get it, the hearing scenario makes better dramatic television. Seeing another fabulous character sacrifice their reputation for Harvey (and here, Donna) didn’t sit well with me, but at least they linked this in with Robert’s need to make amends for his past. He’d already alluded to that with Louis when he admitted to being part of an attack when he was younger and had felt guilt for that ever since, which has clearly been added to by what he did for Samantha. As Alex said, sometimes you just need to take the burden off, no matter what it costs you. I particularly loved Dule Hill’s scenes with Wendell Pierce this week and his look of sadness from the stand as Robert said he was trying to make right what he did, was so lovely.

If this is the last we see of Robert Zane (I’m hoping he comes back for the end in some form), then I say thanks to Wendell Pierce for being such a wonderful addition to this show over the years. Oh……and thanks Robert, for turning down Harvey’s burger offer! We are in your debt!

A not unwelcome return for Daniel Hardman

I was never a huge fan of Hardman and the last time he reappeared I sighed. Yet, this time, I really enjoyed his meddling. He’s such a great villain and he openly loves being vindictive! His scenes with Louis and Harvey helped up the ante and through the flashback with Zane, we were able to see another side of him. By the end, I wonder if he thinks it was worth it, as what he did cost his friend his career. I assume this is the last we’ll see of David Costabile, but as we head towards the end of the series, it was actually fun this time to revisit this particular past foe.

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As for the rest……..well………

It was all about Darvey (no, not Harvey……Darvey………)

I feel as though I need to take a very deep breath before diving in to the rest of this week’s episode’s content! Where to start when I’ve been speechless for hours since I first watched it! Did it really happen? Before we get to THAT ending, there were so many other strong scenes in 8.16, all of which were written in a way that reinforced the episode’s overarching theme – that of Harvey finally opening his eyes to his feelings for Donna and of bringing these two complicated adults together, at long last! As each one happened, I found myself thinking, “Oh that was a great scene, that’ll probably be my favourite”! Special shout out to one scene in particular – Harvey Specter throwing cut glass around his office while swearing is hot as hell and he should do it much more often (plus the shocked look on Louis’s face and the guilt and pain on Donna’s as they watched were so good)!

1. It took an army to FINALLY tip the scales in Harvey’s mind when it came to Donna

After watching 8.16, it’s no wonder poor Mike, the original Darvey champion, never succeeded in bringing his pseudo parents together. He was just one man (even Rachel wasn’t as bold as him). In order for Harvey to finally wake up, it’s needed a small army. We’ve already had Scottie planting some Darvey seeds in both their minds and this week almost every character played a part in Harvey Specter finally knocking on Door 206!

Louis / Robert / Samantha / Alex and hell, even Thomas helped along the way this week and after each interaction I found myself thinking, surely this is it, this is what tips him over the edge. Harvey and Louis’s scenes this week were a pleasure (I love their bromance, I really do) and not only did we see Louis try and save his friend through his pleas to Thomas, but then we had Harvey verbalise that him telling Donna was the same as if Louis had wanted to tell Sheila. So, she’s effectively your wife, Harvey?! Plus, Louis accepted it without blinking. Oh and a side observation – did Harvey leave Louis is his home, or has Louis been taught the secret way of breaking in to Casa Specter?!

We also had Robert and Alex declare how what truly mattered was going home to the women they love. Alex, in particular, was clearly trying to hint to his friend that he should be doing the same, especially after he’d already acted as the Mike Ross of this week, by helping Donna to face up to the truth of her choices when it came to Thomas and Harvey. I loved their scene, as it reinforced everything I’ve said in the last few weeks about her reasons for getting involved with Thomas. It wasn’t really about trying to make Harvey jealous (well, not totally), it was about her trying to move on, but in that scene with Alex you could see her accept the love she has for him.

We had Thomas question Harvey about why he wanted to protect Donna. True, he didn’t say how he felt, but it was another scene in which Harvey had to verbalise how special she is to him. Thomas was then also kind enough to fill his girlfriend in on just what Harvey was willing to do for her. Hard luck Thomas, you were a decent guy, but thanks for your Darvey contribution. Maybe they’ll choose your furniture company for their wedding list in return!

And lastly there was Samantha, who was the last domino, setting off the chain reaction to follow. Having her talk about how important Robert was to her and it starting as a comparison of Harvey’s relationship with Jessica was very clever, before it shifted in to being a parallel to what he has with Donna – the person who loves him despite all his flaws and who he wants in good times and bad (including at that hearing, when he noticed she wasn’t there). It’s funny that she didn’t say anything that was more revelatory than, say, Mike has in the past, yet it was this chat that was the final lightbulb moment. Maybe it was the emotion of the day, or the build-up was finally too much, but what matters is the effect. He finally seemed to believe that Donna might love him and he wanted to find out. The fact that Katherine Heigl is a Darvey shipper herself, made this all the more fun!

2. 8.16 – the episode where Harvey Specter’s development finally all came together!!

I fully admit that I’ve been frustrated with Harvey over season 8 (although nowhere near as much as I was in 7A!) and it seemed clear to me that in order for him and Donna to finally take that next step, he needed to show her how he loved her and that he was ready. Over the course of 8.16, aptly entitled Harvey, we were treated to moment after moment of Harvey showing the audience how much he loved her, before finally showing  her too.

It started early out of the gate – after Donna’s seeming betrayal, old Harvey would have been angry and harboured resentment. There’d likely have been shouting. This time, he was controlled with her and calm. He didn’t lash out. We then learnt that as part of his plan to help save her boyfriend’s deal, he went to Travis Tanner for help! Sure, the last time he appeared he seemed to have turned over a new leaf, but still, with their history?! That’s a pretty astonishing act.

Not only that, but his love for her meant protecting her above himself was all he cared about. Seeing him go to Thomas and rather than yell at him for screwing them all over (albeit for moral reasons), to watch him calmly ask him to lie to protect Donna was stunning. It’s when I really knew he’d finally made peace with how he felt. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is (and Thomas knew that too – pity Paula hadn’t been so smart)!

And then he took those final steps in fighting for her and it was utterly incredible to see unfold!

3……….which leads us to THAT scene…….!!

I doubt many scenes would warrant their own special section in a review, but those last 2 minutes of 8.16 sure as hell do! Personally, I’d gone in to this simply hoping for progress, some admission of feelings, an emotional hug, maybe a kiss if I was really lucky. I never in a million years expected THIS! Who did? From the state of my Twitter feed, it seems no one! Darvey fans around the world seemed to sit communally with their mouths open (other than when they were shouting, or swearing)!

First and foremost – Gabriel Macht and Sarah Rafferty were superb. In a scene where not a single word was spoken, they conveyed every single emotion so clearly. The fact they are so close and have lived and breathed these characters and their relationship for so long certainly helped, but it still needs actors of their quality to bring it to life.

 

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Gabriel is a master at speaking without words and seeing the realisation dawn on Harvey that maybe Donna loved him as much as he’d accepted he loved her, was gorgeous. Then watching him literally run to her, through the firm’s hallways, in to the elevator, stumbling slightly on his way in to it, to a cab (no time for Ray here) and then the way he flew around those hallways to her door. He was a man on a mission! To follow that with such vulnerability as she opened the door (just look at his face again!) as he almost staggers in his rush to get to her, followed by such raw passion and love, all without words was magnificent work!

Sarah Rafferty is also strong in scenes where there are no words (the moment she learnt about Paula sticks out in my mind) and I loved the choices they made for Donna here – the look of tiredness and confusion as she opens the door, followed by the moment you see her understand that he’s ready and begin to smile. Yet, the best choice was the steps backwards, those slow, deliberate steps, without breaking their eye contact. It screamed: “I’m here, I’m ready, if you are too, come and show me.”

As for the rest of it, well…….. it’s possibly the sexiest television I’ve seen. I’ve joked for years how I’d love Darvey to match the passion of a certain couple in The Good Wife (I’ll say no more for those yet to see that), but I never thought I’d see it! It was perfect – initial vulnerability becoming passionate, loving, tasteful and so damn sexy! Plus, seeing Harvey let her lead him off, as if he’s in a daze was the icing on the cake! Tops marks to director Chris Misiano and the editor for all the choices made on this sequence!

Looking ahead…….

I’ve rambled long enough and I plan to write a separate post about my Wishlist for season 9, but I’ll say simply here, now that Darvey are together, I’m excited to see them navigate a personal relationship over the course of this last 10-episode season. There is so much potential for them and indeed for the other characters too (will Louis become a father, will Samantha get over the loss of Robert, will Katrina thrive without the need for sketchy relationships with the wrong men?). Whatever is to come, we don’t have too long to wait, with season 9 likely to start some time around July!

I cannot wait!

Photos: USA Network

Darvey collage: @lovedarvey

My Oscars 2019 Predictions

So, it’s almost time for the Oscars 2019. It’ll be the first night in 5 years where I don’t stay up horribly late to watch it (doing it alone is no fun!), but seeing as I’ve seen almost all of the biggest nominees, I thought I’d try and predict who will win. As is always the case with the Oscars, there are certain categories where I know my favourite won’t win, or where they aren’t even nominated!

So…….here goes!

1. Best Picture

This is an interesting one, as personally I’d have voted for Can You Ever Forgive Me, but as it’s not on the shortlist, I think this comes down to two frontrunners – Green Book, or Roma. I keep changing my mind about this. I know there has been controversy, but knowing none of that when I first saw it back in October, I really enjoyed Green Book and can see it appealing to a wider range of voters. Having said that, Roma is picking up a lot of steam and won at the BAFTAs, so it could be a groundbreaking night for foreign films in this category and also for Netflix. I’m truly torn, but final prediction is: Green Book.

2. Best Director

As much as I’d like to see Spike Lee finally win an Oscar for directing, I think this is going to Alfonso Cuaron for Roma.

3. Actress in a Leading Role

The more films I watched between October and now, the stronger the field of potential nominees in this category became. The five finalists could have been joined by Rosamund Pike for A Private War and Nicole Kidman for a truly stunning performance in Destroyer. I’m still a little shocked at how little awards attention that film received to be honest and no doubt others I’ve forgotten. From the five women nominated, my vote would go to Melissa McCarthy, who I thought was superb in Can You Ever Forgive Me. Yet, this is clearly between Glenn Close and Olivia Colman. Would I love to see Olivia on that stage? Of course, but I think it’s going to be Glenn Close’s night. She was excellent in a film that didn’t really do much for me, but seeing as she’s missed out so many times, she’ll get this to remedy that oversight.

4. Actor in a Leading Role

I’m assuming this will come down to either Rami Malek or Christian Bale. Personally, I’d give it to Bale, but I’m guessing it’ll be Malek’s night.

5. Actress in a Supporting Role

Although I’ve yet to see If Beale Street Could Talk (it’s only been out here a week and I have a cold!), I’m putting my bet on Regina King and that’s fine with me, as she’s always superb (most recently for me in Netflix’s series Seven Seconds).

6. Actor in a Supporting Role

This is a strong category too and as much as I’d be thrilled to see Richard E Grant receive this, just to see his reaction and also because he was fantastic in this role, I think it’ll be a second win in this category for Mahershala Ali and to be honest, that’s fine with me, as I found his performance in Green Book deeply moving. It stayed with me long after I’d left the cinema and he’s more than earned it.

7. Adapted Screenplay

This could go in a number of ways, but I’m wondering if this will be where Spike Lee is awarded with a win, seeing as I doubt he’ll get best director.

8. Original Screenplay

I have no idea about this one! It could be any of them, so I’m going to go with The Favourite, as it’s clearly a popular film, but one I don’t see taking home any of the bigger awards.

9. Original Song

This isn’t even a race is it? This is Lady Gaga’s.

10. Original Score

This is another category I’m finding hard to call. I loved the music in BlacKkKlansman and I’ve yet to see If Beale Street Could Talk, which I know is the favourite of many people. I’d probably vote for Black Panther, for a score that became instantly recognisable and evoked a whole culture in just a few short notes. I’ve no idea really, but I’ll go with BlacKkKlansman.

11. Animated Feature Film

I haven’t seen them all, but I’m fairly confident in saying this is going to be a guaranteed Marvel win for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

12. Documentary Feature

I’ve only seen RBG and Free Solo, so if I had to choose it would be between these two. I thoroughly enjoyed RBG, but I’m rooting for the breathtaking Free Solo. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you do!

13. Cinematography

In some years this has been more obvious to me (The Revenant springs immediately to mind) and this year I think it’ll be another win for Roma’s Alfonso Cuaron.

14. Visual Effects

I still think Avengers: Infinity War should have been in the Best Picture category. Not all films can pull off such a satisfying narrative for so many characters, but seeing as it has missed out on that, I hope it gets at least some recognition here!

15. Costume Design

My prediction here is for The Favourite, as costume dramas seem to always do well in such categories, but I’d love it to go to Black Panther.

16. Makeup & Hairstyling

This has to go to Vice, for the tremendous work helping transform Christian Bale in to Dick Cheney.

17. Production Design

I’ve no idea on the frontrunners here, but my vote would go to Black Panther.

18. Film Editing

My immediate response is that Vice should win, as so much of that film’s style is down to the editing. Yet, knowing all the behind the scenes difficulties on Bohemian Rhapsody, perhaps this will succeed in this category.

19 & 20. Sound Editing & Sound Mixing

I admit, every year I have to look up what the difference is between these two categories. Having reminded myself yet again, I’m going to say that Editing will go to Bohemian Rhapsody and Mixing to First Man, the film in which the importance of sound truly came across to me.

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As I haven’t seen any of the film shorts, it would be unfair for me to make a wild guess, so I’ll leave it at that. It’ll be interesting to wake up tomorrow and see how many I got right!

 

Tips For First Time Visitors to the Noel Coward Theatre (or London) for All About Eve starring Gillian Anderson!

As a longstanding fan of Gillian Anderson, every time she returns to the London stage is an exciting event for me and now that I’ve seen All About Eve this weekend (review will follow), I thought I’d write a similar post to my previous one for Harry Potter visitors, of some helpful tips for anyone new to the area, coming to see All About Eve over the next few months. I’ll also update it with anything significant, such as transport strikes (if any arise).

1. Getting There

All About Eve is at the Noel Coward Theatre in London’s West End. The good news is it’s very easy to get to, with plenty of transport options. The closest tube is Leicester Square (through which runs the Northern and Piccadilly lines), which is a 5 minute walk away. It’s best if you exit from that station at Exit 1 and then turn left immediately down the side of the Wyndham’s Theatre, down the narrow St Martin’s Court, pass through the courtyard in which you’ll see the theatre’s stage door (more on that later) and then simply follow the theatre building round the side to the front entrance on St Martin’s Lane (see the map below).

However, you can just as easily take the underground to Charing Cross station and then just walk the 10 mins (ish) up from there, up the side of Trafalgar Square, up the side of the National Portrait Gallery and then you’ll be able to walk straight up St Martin’s Lane (head towards the Coliseum with its revolving globe on the top of the building, as that’s the bottom of the street). Equally, walking from Piccadilly Circus through Leicester Square doesn’t take long either (although it is a bit busy with people).

There are also bus routes that go through Central London too. The theatre says that the best ones are 24, 29 or 176. My best advice is to download the Citymapper app to your phone, as this calculates the best route from anywhere in London and breaks down the options by transport option (whether bus, tube, walking etc). I live here and still use it all the time! You can also use the Transport for London website journey planner too: https://tfl.gov.uk

2. When to arrive?

You don’t need to arrive at the theatre hugely early. It’s really more of a personal preference. I tend to get to a theatre about 15 -30 minutes before the start time, so I have time to collect tickets, buy programmes and get comfortable in my seat, but you certainly don’t need to be there too early. Plus the auditorium itself won’t open until 30 minutes before the show starts. If you’re collecting your tickets, at the Noel Coward they only asked me for my name, but I’d recommend taking your credit card and order confirmation with you just in case you are asked to show it.

3. Inside the Theatre / Seating chart

The Noel Coward Theatre has 4 levels, Stalls, Royal Circle, Grand Circle and Balcony. No doubt you know where you’re sitting, as you chose your seat when you booked, but for reference I’ve included a link to the Theatremonkey website, which offers invaluable insight in to seats and their views in London’s theatres. I use it all the time! There is also the SeatPlan website, where you may find a photo taken from the seat you have booked. The theatre bars (there are 3 of them) open at 6:15 pm before an evening show and at 1:45 pm before matinees, where you can buy snacks and programmes (which are £4.50). The theatre does also have a small cloakroom, but it’ll fill up quickly, so I’d suggest taking just a small bag with you (security will do a bag check before you enter the theatre).

4. Food & Drink

Being located in the heart of the West End, there are plenty of options for food and drink closeby, with something to suit all budgets. If you just need a cup of tea and a sandwich, or snack, there’s an Eat literally opposite the theatre, with seats upstairs and downstairs (plus some handy plug sockets too for charging your phone in certain spots). There’s also a Starbucks on the street and Pret on the corner. Fast food options are also a few steps from the theatre, with both a Five Guys and McDonalds at the top of the street, as well as a number of pubs offering traditional British pub food.

If you’re looking to make a day / night of it and want a sit down meal, then there are plenty of options too. On the same street, there’s Brown’s, which offers a decent range of British classics and I love to pop in for a pre-theatre meal or drink at Cafe Koha in the square at the back of the theatre. For those feeling a bit more extravagant, there’s the seafood and fish restaurant, J. Sheekey, down the side of the theatre. I’ve never been, but I’ve heard you might spot the odd celebrity in there.

If you’re looking to go a bit further afield, Covent Garden isn’t too much of a walk and has some nice options, or Chinatown is just at the back of Leicester Square too, with some very reasonably priced options. The location does of course mean it tends to get quite busy in the area, so if you’re wanting to eat before the show, give yourself plenty of time.

5. Running Time

All About Eve has a running time of 2 hours. There is no interval. Matinees begin at 2:30 pm and evening performances at 7:30 pm.

6. Stage Door!

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My successfully signed programme!

I’ll start by saying that signing autographs is not part of the ticket price and no actor is under any obligation to sign for fans, or if they are willing, there may be performances after which it’s not possible. Therefore these tips are just a guide and there’s no guarantee Gillian will be signing after your show. I can share some tips based on my experience last night, as I’m fairly confident that on days she does sign, she’ll be sticking to this routine. The last two theatres at which I’ve seen Gillian (at the Young Vic in London and St Ann’s Warehouse in NYC), she chose to sign inside the theatre, in warmth and comfort and where the crowd could be better controlled and it seems she’s sticking to that at the Noel Coward as well.

If you are interested in getting signatures from the other cast, I’d perhaps go straight to the back of the theatre, in to St Martin’s Court and get a spot at the barrier of the stage door (you’ll see it says the theatre name and stage door above the blue door). Some of the other cast came out quite quickly on Saturday, so if you don’t do that you might miss them. Also, the stage door security did announce when Gillian had started signing, so people knew when to go and join her queue. I did that and then popped back to the stage door again afterwards too.

Gillian signing in the theatre foyer

As Gillian is signing inside the theatre entrance, behind the desk in the middle, you need to be at the front of the building for her queue. The queue will form from the front entrance of the theatre and around the side of the theatre. It may look long, but don’t panic, as it moves quickly and Gillian signed for everyone last night. The most important tip is not to lose your ticket once you’ve entered for the show, as the security were checking for tickets before letting you in to the theatre to get an autograph. They also say only show items (programme or ticket) can be signed, although I did see some who had photos they’d had taken previously (at comic con-style events) with Gillian that she’d signed for them. You only get a few moments with Gillian and no photos with her, but people who were there in pairs were able to take a photo as their friend got an autograph, or if you’re on your own like I was, I simply took a quick one from the side after I’d had my programme signed (no flash though).

Another point to remember is that she won’t be signing after any matinee performances, so if you are going to a matinee and are able to stay around until after the evening show, then try then (you’ll have a valid ticket for that day and when they don’t sign after matinees, it’s perfectly fair for you to join the queue then in my opinion)!

7. Still Looking for tickets?

(a) Official Website – There are still some tickets available, so check the website for availability here: https://allabouteveplay.com

(b) Daily Front Row Lottery – You can enter the daily lottery for the front row of the stalls via the TodayTix app. You can enter for 1 or 2 tickets and winners will be drawn at random and notified 2-4 hours prior to the selected performance. If successful, you have an hour to claim your tickets through the app.

(c) Day Seats – A limited number of Day Seats are released in person at the Box Office, every day for that day’s performance(s). Maximum 2 tickets per person, strictly subject to availability and at the discretion of the Box Office. I’d recommend getting there early to be in with the best chance.

8. Unable to come in person, but still want to see the show?

The good news is that All About Eve will be screened in cinemas in the UK on Thursday 11th April, in conjunction with NT Live. There will also be international screenings, but the details of that (it may be another date) are yet to be announced. Keep checking the All About Eve NT Live web page for more details of participating cinemas: http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/productions/ntlout34-all-about-eve

9. Unable to see the show and need to return / exchange your tickets?

According to the show’s website, tickets may be exchanged for the same production up to 48 hours prior to the performance. Call 0344 482 5138 (Calls cost 7 pence per minute plus your phone company’s access charge) and speak to one of their clerks who will exchange your tickets to your preferred performance. All exchanges are subject to a £2 administration fee per ticket. Within 24 hours of the performance tickets may be returned to the box office for resale, but will be subject to a 10% levy, and no guarantee of resale can be given. If you are contacting the theatre from overseas and cannot get through on the main box office number, call: 0207 812 7498.

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Hopefully those tips are useful! If you have any questions, feel free to ask and if I can help, I’ll certainly let you know. All that’s left to say is, enjoy your visit!!