Book Review – Daisy In Chains by Sharon Bolton

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I was lucky enough to be sent an advance copy of the upcoming ninth novel by acclaimed crime writer Sharon Bolton. I confess I hadn’t read any of her previous books and was excited to add a new author to my reading list.

The novel centres on the crimes of Hamish Wolfe, a handsome, successful surgeon who had the perfect life – until he was found guilty of the abduction and murder of three women (with a fourth unable to be proven) and sent to prison. He still maintains his innocence and has found the perfect lawyer to take his case to appeal. The only problem for him is that she isn’t interested…at first….

That person is Maggie Rose, a successful barrister and true-crime writer. She keeps a low profile and a rather quiet and private life. She also only takes on cases she is certain she can win. So formidable is her reputation that when the detective who helped catch Hamish hears she is even considering taking his case, he tries to dissuade her further. Ultimately curiosity gets the better of her and she agrees to one meeting with him, but this only proves the start of their intriguing relationship. Hamish has a number of female admirers who believe in his innocence and have fallen for his charms, even from a distance. Surely Maggie Rose won’t be as naive?

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Author Sharon Bolton

This was genuinely one of the best thrillers I have read in a long long time and I flew through it. In fact, were it not for my recent holiday this review would have been posted weeks ago. It’s a novel that you cannot stop reading. It becomes addictive.

Crucially for me, the main characters are well-rounded and interesting. Hamish is an enigma of a man. Is he innocent? He seems charming and likeable, but is that all an elaborate act? As his relationship with his lawyer moves forward you see different sides to his personality and find yourself starting to like him, while feeling bad for doing so! However the biggest mystery of this book is Maggie Rose – she is a truly intriguing and brilliant character – you never quite know her story. Why did she choose this career? Who does she talk to in her house when you don’t think anyone is there? Does she believe Hamish? Does she even care either way? A woman who seems strongly independent and yet vulnerable, you are never quite sure of her agenda and that makes reading the novel all the more thrilling.

Bolton has chosen a structure which is a little different from other novels I’ve read, with some chapters taking the form of newspaper articles, letters to or from Hamish, or draft chapters of Maggie’s own book about his case, which prove an effective way of giving its reader a lot of background and additional insight in to the minds of the two main characters in a short space of time. The novel is also extremely well paced and has enough twists and turns to keep its audience engaged and intrigued from the beginning to its conclusion. Even if you guess one part of its mystery (or think you have), there’s almost certainly going to be another piece of the puzzle that will take you completely by surprise. Not all thriller writers are able to achieve this and it’s always exciting to discover a new author whose writing captures your imagination. I dare not say too much more for fear of giving anything away!

Daisy In Chains is an excellent novel and one I will be recommending to friends and family. I’ll also be adding Sharon Bolton to my list of must-read authors from now on (including her eight previous novels)!

Daisy In Chains will be published by Bantam Press in the UK on 2nd June 2016. For more information visit the author’s website here. Many thanks to Alison Barrow from Transworld Books for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review. 

 

Film Review – Concussion

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I first became aware of this film during the pre-Oscars diversity row, with Will Smith’s performance being one highlighted as overlooked. With the film not then out in the UK, it’s taken me a bit of time to be able to judge it for myself.

Based on a true story, Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian-born doctor and pathologist, who in 2002 became the focus of the greater American football-loving public when he identified the disease CTE, a discovery which had wide implications for those who play America’s favourite sport.

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Will Smith as Bennet Omalu (Melinda Sue Gordon/Columbia Pictures via AP)

Already an outsider in his workplace, Omalu is on duty when former football star Mike Webster is found dead and brought to the coroner’s office. Despite being only 50 years old and having no obvious symptoms, Webster had seemingly gone mad before his death. Perhaps due to his lack of respect for the game and all those involved in it, Omalu conducts a far more comprehensive autopsy – only to discover the shocking truth of Webster’s brain. The science points one way – playing football and being repeatedly hit in the head (in his life Omalu estimates Webster experienced 70,000+ blows to his head), at so high a g-force, resulted in killer proteins being released in the brain. In the film Omalu talks of this strangling his mind, like pouring wet concrete down kitchen pipes, which results in neurological effects that left him unrecognisable.

The resulting medical journal paper on the discovery led to great anger from those involved in the game and those who are devoted to it. Perhaps only someone who wasn’t American could be willing to have seen the truth of the risks football players put themselves through every time they set foot on the field.

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Alec Baldwin, Will Smith & Albert Brooks

The film is a fascinating insight in to one man’s brave fight to bring a truth to the public’s attention, one that they perhaps would not wish to know. Will Smith is wonderful in the role. He brings an emotional passion to Omalu’s determination to give the dead men and the science a voice. He may not have done many great roles recently, but for me this one was a very strong performance (and indeed one worthy of recognition in the nominees lists). It reminded me a bit of another character in a film this year – another principled man doing what was right, not what was easy – that was Tom Hanks’s character  in Bridge of Spies (who was another actor who missed out on nominations this year). I felt equally inspired by both characters and actors.

There are other strong supporting performances too. Alec Baldwin does a fine job as the conflicted former football team doctor, who cannot bear seeing more die and so stands behind Omalu. Albert Brooks has a wonderful role as Omalu’s boss, someone who admires his ability and courage throughout and although the plotline involving Omalu’s romance with her is less developed, British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw continues to build a strong career in her role as Prema.

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Gugu Mbatha-Raw

As a British citizen I watched the film and found it surprising that people were shocked at the likely dangers to people playing such an aggressive and physical sport. It seems logical when you think about what the body (especially the head) is put through during a game. Similar discussions have also recently started to come to the surface more in the UK too about rugby.

In the same way tobacco companies had to admit to a mistake in their view on the risk of cancer, the NFL has had to take this issue much more seriously. The film quotes a statistic that according to actuaries hired by the NFL, 28% of all professional football players will suffer from serious cognitive impairment, including CTE. It’s certainly a powerful message, although it seems quite strange that by the end of the film nothing really changes, which proves a little unsatisfying.

Will what is a religion to many Americans lose its popularity due to this film? That seems very unlikely, but it is surely vital that all those involved in the sport are given the information they need to understand the risks. All of that is thanks to Omalu’s work. Crucially too, this film will bring its subject matter to a wider public and that can only be for the greater good.

A fascinating, intelligent and well acted film; I, unlike most film reviewers it seems, enjoyed Concussion. Perhaps watching it on a plane off on holiday put me in a better mood, but despite what a lot of critics say about it, I still think it’s worth watching.

Watch the trailer here.

 

Theatre Review – People, Places & Things (Wyndham’s Theatre)

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After I was unable to see it during its original run at the National Theatre last year, it has taken me far too long to get to People, Places & Things. Before my visit last Friday, I’d heard all of the praise it has received and was wondering if this new play really was as good as everyone was saying. Could it really live up to the hype? The short answer – it is and it did. In fact, it is one of the most powerful theatre experiences I’ve ever had and is a production which will stay with me for a long time to come.

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Denise Gough & Barbara Marten

Duncan Macmillan’s new play centres on Emma, played by the superb Denise Gough (more on that later). Emma is an actress, used to lying for a living by always pretending to be someone else. Emma is also an alcoholic and drug addict, who is in a much more desperate state than she is willing to admit. At the start of the play, we see her on stage in The Seagull, while drunk and/or high. In the next moment, the period dress is ripped away and we find ourselves in a sterile whiteness, as she voluntarily arrives at a rehab centre. She isn’t planning to stay long, just long enough to detox her system and get a certificate to say she is not a danger to an employer, so she can get back to work.

Most of the play is set within the rehab centre and we watch her experiences and struggles and those of the people in the centre’s support group sessions. We see people graduate, people ejected for breaking the rules and all of the ups and downs in between, which are faced by those confronting their addictions and those who aren’t quite ready to face them yet.

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I admit it doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, but one of the most impressive achievements of Macmillan’s writing is his ability to mix such difficult issues with humour. Emma is very funny and her humour is used to offset the more difficult aspects of her life. In fact you find yourself laughing out loud at moments that are darkly funny, when you perhaps think you shouldn’t. It adds an extra dimension of realism to the play.

This is also much more than a play about addiction – it is a very modern story, which feels incredibly relevant to today’s society. We may not all have the personal experience of drug or alcohol addiction, but the sense of battling to survive in the world, to succeed and be the best you can be, through all of the pressures and difficulties you may face, is one that everyone can relate to in some way. There is a scene in the play where Emma is talking to her friend Mark and they refer to Wile E Coyote – that he can seemingly run across a vast canyon and only plummets when he looks down. The message for life for all of us was clear – “Don’t look down.”

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Director Jeremy Herrin’s production (a co-production by the National with the hugely exciting Headlong, whose past achievements include Enron, The Effect and American Psycho) moves with great pace, with occasional hedonistic music and lighting effects and some very clever methods of taking the audience in to Emma’s head as she begins to detox and Bunny Christie’s set is simple but very effective, which with the audience also on the stage (replicating the feel of the National’s Dorfman space) adds to a sense of the cast being enclosed in a confined space.

There are some strong supporting performances. Nathaniel Martello-White is very good as Mark, also at the centre for his third time. He has a lovely connection with Gough’s Emma, which feels very believable. Barbara Marten is also excellent, playing two different therapists (Emma quips that they all look like her mum) and then Emma’s mother, in some of the most powerful and emotive scenes I have seen on a stage. However, the stand out performance here is indeed that of Denise Gough, who after her recent Olivier win, is receiving all the prizes and praise she deserves for this performance.

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Denise Gough is utterly incredible. Photo by: Johan Persson

All the usual superlatives don’t do justice to her portrayal of Emma. It’s simply astonishing to watch, fueled by so much emotion and physicality. You almost forget you are not witnessing the journey of a real person, so raw and believable is her work on the Wyndham’s stage. As the play approaches it’s incredibly powerful and moving conclusion, I was rooting for Emma in a way I haven’t for any other character. You could almost get out of your seat to go and support her. It has been a long time since I’ve been quite so invested in a person on stage. The comments I’ve heard that this is the greatest stage performance since Mark Rylance in Jerusalem are not an exaggeration.

This may, on the surface, be a play on a topic you wouldn’t normally choose to see, but I cannot urge you strongly enough to go to People, Places & Things. It is a theatre production that will be remembered for many years to come and will remind you just how powerful, raw and astonishing an experience live theatre can be. Go and buy some tickets. Do it now. Right now.

People, Places & Things continues its run at the Wyndham’s Theatre in London until 18th June. For more information visit its website here.

 

 

 

Theatre Review – Sunset Boulevard starring Glenn Close

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Today was a rare treat – a half day off work to see a weekday matinee! Having missed Glenn Close on stage in New York in 2014 due to my ankle injury, there was no way I was missing her West End debut as Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical of Sunset Boulevard, a role Close is already familiar with, having played her on Broadway 22 years ago, earning her a Tony Award. With this run being so short (only 5 weeks until 7th May) I was excited to have a ticket to one of the year’s most anticipated shows.

Did it live up to my hopes? In short, yes it certainly did. I had never seen the show before, only being familiar with some of the songs I’ve heard from it over the years and decided not to read anything more before seeing the production. It is a show that I very much enjoyed and one which conjures a magic and mood of a bygone era through its story and musical numbers.

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Glenn Close returning to Norma Desmond after 22 years

The staging is very different to any other musical that I’ve seen. Described as a “semi-staged” production, there is minimal set on the large Coliseum stage, with all locations, from Norma’s palazzo on the Boulevard to the back lot at Paramount Studios existing within a metallic staircase and walkway structure. At the centre of this is the full 48 piece English National Opera Orchestra (the orchestra pit instead used for lighting and a swimming pool in Act 2). This was quite different from the usual musical theatre experience of large sets and glitz and I found it quite refreshing.

I heard some grumbling about the lack of a sumptuous set from some audience members but, in my view, this stripped back staging only added to the authenticity of Norma’s existence – in a world which is tragically quite empty and lonely and the acting and glorious score, which sounds superb from an orchestra of this quality, bring the settings to life in your mind as you watch. Projections of black and white images and video reels from the period, occasionally projected on to the safety style curtain and backdrop also add to creating a sense that this is a production from years ago.

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L-R: Fred Johanson, Glenn Close, Michael Xavier & Siobhan Dillon

As for the acting, above all this is Glenn Close’s show and she is superb as Norma, a tragic character who was once adored by so many and who cannot see that her star has faded. I couldn’t help but be moved by her and Close manages to convey over the course of the story, a woman who can be cruel and manipulative, but is ultimately emotionally fragile and vulnerable and who spirals in to her own world of the past, oblivious to the reality of how things have changed. She was certainly a character for whom I felt sadness and compassion, as it was easy to imagine myself growing older, perhaps looking back to better, happier times. In this respect Norma resonates with us all. We will all grow older and life will change, sometimes in ways we would not choose.

Also despite the passage of 20 years, Close is still able to deliver a vocally confident performance. There are times when her voice isn’t as strong as it perhaps was, but this is ideal for portraying a fading starlet like Norma. However, in songs such as the emotional “With One Look” Close’s vocal performance is incredibly powerful and I was impressed that it wasn’t overwhelmed by the large orchestra on stage with her.

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Glenn Close & Julian Forsyth

Supporting her, Fred Johanson is wonderful as Norma’s ever present companion Max, who clearly deeply loves her and out of love is (perhaps unwisely) maintaining her illusion of stardom. Johanson’s background in opera adds an extra layer of power, beauty and delicacy to his performance. I also enjoyed Michael Xavier’s portrayal of Joe Gillis. His is not an easy role, as Joe isn’t a hugely likeable character at times. You do feel sorry for his sense of being trapped by Norma’s manipulative behaviour, but equally dislike his more hurtful behaviour towards her (which is perhaps a testament to Close’s performance). However, Xavier has a charm which works well for the character, especially in the early scenes as we see Norma drawn to him and then in his scenes with Siobhan Dillon’s Betty, the woman who may come between Norma and her boy. In fact the cast as a whole is impressive and brings the show to life wonderfully in this all too short run.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed by Sunset Boulevard and if the long standing ovation given at today’s matinee is any indication, neither was the rest of the audience. Having the chance to see what will be a performance remembered for years, together with the unique experience of seeing its musical score brought to life by musicians on the stage in front of you (rather than hidden in the pit) was fantastic. For me, a musical has to have a story that I invest in emotionally, some memorable songs and strong characters. This production of Sunset Boulevard has all of these elements and I’ll almost certainly be making a return trip before it ends. If you have the chance to go, then don’t miss it.

Sunset Boulevard continues its run at the London Coliseum until 7th May 2016. For more information and ticket availability visit the official website here. It’s also worth having a look at other ticket outlets for cheaper tickets, such as the TodayTix app.

 

 

 

Happy 11th Birthday to “New Who” – My 11 farourite moments of modern Doctor Who

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So, tonight marked 11 years since Doctor Who returned to our television screens in the UK with a new Doctor at the helm and a whole new look. I wasn’t a fan back then. Sure I’d enjoyed the Paul McGann special, but that was all really. Yet, the iconic status of Doctor Who in this country meant that on 26th March 2005 I was sitting down with my family to watch its relaunch on BBC One.

Rose may not have been the best episode (it still feels incredibly cheesy to me whenever I watch it), but it was perfect for re-launching the series. The plot was bonkers, but what lifted it to a different level was the performance of its central character – Christopher Eccleston was a superb Doctor from the start. He carried a weight to him that made it plausible that he was hundreds of years old and had suffered a painful past, one which had left him scarred and angry. He held my attention from the beginning. Throw in to the mix a surprisingly (back then anyway) good performance by Billie Piper as Rose, some jokes and some glorious shots of London (I still love the Westminster Bridge moment) and the series was well and truly back.

I admit that I never expected it to do as well as it did and the fact it’s still going strong is wonderful, as it continues to excite and inspire young children. Personally, I’m still not a classic Who fan, but I enjoy “New Who” and have it to thank for introducing me to some of the closest friends I now have and that’s priceless.

So, to mark this 11th birthday (bizarre for a show that has already celebrated its 50th!), here are my favourite 11 moments from New Who. I have to say it’s taken a lot of discipline to keep to just 11! Let me know yours in the comments.

1. The Doctor sees Rose again (The Stolen Earth, series 4)

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This moment has been my favourite of New Who ever since I first saw it and nothing has quite matched it since. It’s just so perfectly executed by the cast and crew. There is no dialogue – it doesn’t need it. It just needs Murray’s music and three great performances from Catherine, David and Billie. You don’t need to have seen any of the series before to understand just what seeing Rose again means to the Doctor. It’s all right there on David’s face. Gorgeous.

2. Vincent Van Gogh sees how loved his work is (Vincent & The Doctor, series 5)

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Oh I do love Vincent and the Doctor. People may criticise Richard Curtis but he did a superb job with this episode, tackling the subject of depression with such sensitivity, while still bringing a story full of fun and humour, as well as poignancy to the screen. The moment Vincent (played to perfection by Tony Curran) sees his exhibition in Paris and hears how cherished his work is, makes me well up every time. For anyone who thinks Doctor Who doesn’t carry real weight and emotion, you need to see this episode.

3. The Doctor has dinner with Margaret Slitheen (Boom Town, series 1)

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Boom Town is a lovely, silly story from the first series and enabled Eccleston to show his ability to play comedy more than perhaps any other episode. The scene in which he and Margaret Slitheen go out to dinner and exchange threats is wonderful, as she tries in vain to kill him, foiled each time by The Doctor being three steps ahead of her! Plus the fact I’ve been able to go to Cardiff Bay and eat in that very restaurant makes it quite fun too!

4. The wall / the beach farewell (Doomsday, series 2)

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I think this moment was when Doctor Wo gained so many more loyal fans (and perhaps David Tennant too!). The story of the Doctor and Rose had been a lovely one and their deep affection for each other was always obvious and with the arrival of David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor became something more of a love story. These two people who could never really be together, who were then separated by a dimension, prevented even from finally saying how they truly feel for each other. Doctor Who’s female fanbase is very strong now and I think in part it’s due to David and Billie opening out the universe of the series with this very human relationship. Admit it, you cried at this moment too right?

5. When The Doctor finally has enough of the laws of time (Waters of Mars, series 4 specials)

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Waters of Mars was such a superb episode; so much darker in tone and allowing David Tennant to show another side of the Tenth Doctor. I could have chosen so many moments of this show, but I particularly loved the powerful moments as the Doctor walks away from the base, with the sounds of fear and dying of the crew in his ears, to then turn back. He has had enough of the laws of time and is going to finally say enough is enough. Although it’s a path we know he shouldn’t be on, you cannot help but admire the Doctor is this moment as he chooses to go back to help.

6. Fear Is A Superpower (Listen, series 8)

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As someone who always liked Jenna Coleman and Clara, the end of Listen remains a highlight of New Who for me. Hearing her gently talking to the young Doctor, to give him strength and comfort, which in turn he will give to the young Danny years later is lovely. It’s also added to by the beautiful score from Murray Gold and is a truly moving and powerful scene from the series.

7. Reunited with Donna Noble (Partners In Crime, series 4)

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Ahh Donna Noble, how we all loved her! Seeing her return in series 4 was a true treat and nothing could have been more perfect for her reunion with the Doctor than this wonderfully funny mime scene from Partners In Crime. Both David and Catherine are superb comic actors and this scene kicked off the start of the wonderful thread of comedy and fun that ran throughout this series and is something I still miss.

8. Never trust a hug (Death In Heaven, series 8)

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Peter Capaldi’s first series as the Doctor was a very strong one indeed (better than series 9 in my view). After such a brilliant series, this scene towards the end of Death In Heaven was played so perfectly by Peter and Jenna. Each character is so much like the other by this time and so good at hiding their pain from the other, pretending everything is fine. In this one moment the audience was able to see how sad and lonely each one was and how their love for the other meant that they were determined to hide it from them  so that they could be happy. “Never trust a hug. It’s just a way of hiding your face.”

9. Rory’s impossible choice (The Girl Who Waited, series 6)

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Oh how I loved Rory. He was a character who came such a long way over his time in Doctor Who and at times brought a level of emotion to the episodes that would otherwise have been lacking. The moment he is faced with the choice of which Amy to save in The Girl Who Waited was one of Arthur Darvill’s best moments. Whether to save his young Amy, or the Amy she would have become had she had the time to be lost there for decades as this old Amy had, is an impossible decision. Seeing him cry with confusion and desperation as older Amy begs to be let in to the TARDIS was heartbreaking to watch.

10. Four knocks (The End of Time, series 4 specials)

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The End of Time may have been a bit bonkers in places, but the Four Knock scene was a highlight of New Who. The sheer joy and relief on the Doctor’s face as he thinks it’s over, to be replaced so suddenly by utter horror and sadness when Wilf knocks on that door is beautifully played, accompanied by some subtle, but equally powerful music from Murray Gold. It had me in tears the first time I watched it and even now is an emotional piece of drama that the series and the actors should be proud of.

11. A hologram farewell (The Parting of The Ways, series 1)

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My final moment to mark this 11th birthday goes to the Doctor who started it all – the Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston. He has been through so much with Rose and in order to save her he does what he thinks is the right thing for her – to send her home, with this final message sent via his hologram. It’s a lovely gesture and shows a real depth to his character. It’s still a shame we didn’t get him in this role for a little longer.

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So those are my favourite 11 moments over the last 11 years of this iconic British series, one which has brought so much joy and fun to so many for over 50 years now. Thanks very much Doctor Who – long may you continue to let us travel through time and space with you!

 

 

Theatre Review – Mrs Henderson Presents

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In 2005 I saw a lovely little film with my family. Starring Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, Mrs Henderson Presents told the story of London’s Windmill Theatre, which became famous for its  nude tableau shows and which continued to provide entertainment to the troops and Londoners during World War II. It wonderfully mixed the fun and humour of Mrs Henderson’s enterprise with the seemingly needless tragedies of war.

For those unfamiliar with the film, the main character around whom the story is framed is Mrs Laura Henderson, who after being widowed has been looking for a new adventure in her later life and decides to purchase a theatre, the Windmill Theatre (just off Piccadilly Circus on Great Windmill Street) with her money. The plan is to create a Vaudeville-style revue show of various acts. However after a disastrous start, Mrs Henderson has an idea – the girls should be naked on stage, but in order to get around the strict censors they must be as statues in a museum (as tableau vivants or “living pictures”)! Needless to say the fortunes of the Windmill greatly improve. However as War arrives, the family that has formed at the Windmill must learn how to carry on in such difficult times, while facing tragedies of their own.

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Tracie Bennett, who was so superb in End of The Rainbow, is great as the playful Mrs Henderson. She is the focal point of the characters and is a mother-like figure to those working in her theatre. She also has a superb voice, which means she can deliver the songs with ease. I also enjoyed her chemistry with Ian Bartholomew as Vivian Van Damm, who helps her manage the theatre and their number acknowledging how they aren’t spring chickens anymore was fun.

Although the songs are enjoyable and entertaining, only one really stayed in my head afterwards and that’s If Mountains Were Easy to Climb, in which Emma Williams as Maureen wonderfully reflects on how life is not easy, but that we must keep going. It was certainly a highlight for me and stood out amongst the rest of the songs, which sometimes feel a bit average.

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The cast do a great job, especially the girls who bravely bare all every night and Emma Williams is very strong throughout as her character gives us an insight in to the realities war brought to those at home. The show does a great job of balancing the humour and silliness with the more serious aspects of life during that time.

I’d been curious to see how the story would translate on to the musical theatre stage and after my trip to see the show last week, although I still prefer the film, Mrs Henderson Presents the musical is still an enjoyable and entertaining outing to the Noel Coward Theatre.

Mrs Henderson is booking at the Noel Coward Theatre until 18th June 2016. For more information and ticket availability visit the website here

Book Review – The Widow by Fiona Barton

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Although I read a variety of genres, I tend to enjoy thrillers the most and after recently seeing the Twitter buzz about Fiona Barton’s debut novel, I finally picked up a copy last week. The Widow is billed as one for those who enjoyed The Girl On The Train, a description I’ve been seeing used to describe quite a few books recently and one which is perhaps a bit too simplistic. I enjoyed Paula Hawkins’ novel (review here), but equally found there were others in this genre in 2015 that I enjoyed more (special mention for Disclaimer by Renee Knight) and so I was curious to see how The Widow would compare.

The book certainly has an interesting premise, as it focuses on someone perhaps often left on the sidelines of events – the partner of the prime suspect. Here, the protagonist is Jean Taylor, a woman in her mid to late thirties, who has been recently widowed after her husband Glen was hit by a bus. However, the Taylors weren’t an ordinary couple, as a few years before his death Glen had been accused of being involved in the disappearance of a toddler, who vanished from her garden while her mother’s back was turned.

Fiona Barton’s story comfortably moves from the present day, to the time of little Bella’s abduction and the ensuing investigation and public scrutiny, bringing the events unfolding from the perspectives of key individuals rather than simply Jean’s. This works well as the reader becomes more involved in the story of what happened and who is responsible through seeing the events through the eyes of Jean, the lead detective on the case Sparkes, a reporter keen to get the story for her paper and sometimes even the mother of little Bella as well.

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Author Fiona Barton

However, ultimately this is Jean’s story. We learn how she coped with her husband’s arrest and its effect on both their lives. We also see the truth of her marriage, one that had become distant and less satisfying than it perhaps had been in the beginning and it is fascinating to see Jean start to question how well she really knows her husband and what he is perhaps capable of.

One of the aspects of The Widow that I enjoyed most was its unpredictability, especially early on. I’ve seen some reviews state that they always thought Glen was guilty. I however didn’t find that to be the case and enjoyed following the strands of the plot to see where they would finally end. Interestingly, we know from the start that Glen is dead and so, for me, it became of question of was he guilty of the crime and if so, what did Jean know and at what point. She is written as a multi-layered character. You are always wondering what she will reveal and as the book moves forward, your perception of her does start to shift. You feel sorry for her, but then you start to question what really did happen and what (if anything) she contributed to events. It’s a brilliant way of keeping the reader engaged with the story and I found it hard to put the book down once I’d started it.

Fiona Barton’s writing is well paced and contains enough little puzzle pieces that you can start to formulate your own theories as you go along. I think my biggest issue with The Widow was the approach to the ending, as it felt a little rushed for my liking. However, that aside, I found this to be an engaging and original thriller and I will certainly look out for Barton’s next novel in the future.

The Widow by Fiona Barton is published in the UK by Bantam Press and is available from all the usual retailers.

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Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book

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Theatre, arts and events in London

Vickster51Corner

Theatre, Books, Food & Film/TV reviews

Alyssa Waugh

Writer, Reader, Blogger

746 Books

Confessions of a Book Buying Addict

The Book Review Directory

Over 125 Book Reviewer Bloggers Listed

The Day - a Play

Theatre, Films, TV, Art

Cleopatra Loves Books

One reader's view

Deadline

Hollywood Entertainment Breaking News

The X-Files Truth Podcast

"The following podcast is based on actual X-Files cases." Email: XFilesTruth@live.com

WEST END WANDERER

One man's mission to dissect the latest theatre

Semi-Partisan Politics

A semi-biased commentary on British and American politics, culture and current affairs

mattsmoviethoughts

Movie and TV Reviews

Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

Life, Faith and Comic Books

Myridian Day

Reviews, Rants, Stories and Fangirling

mookology.

book + movie = mook. this is mookology.

Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)

Australia based film fans - Like Margaret and David, only so much younger

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