Friday, 12 October 2018

THEATRE | MEASURE FOR MEASURE STARRING JACK LOWDEN & HAYLEY ATWELL


For someone who has watched countless hours of Shakespeare in her twenty odd years of life, does it come as a surprise when I confess that I am not the biggest fan of his works? Primarily it's due to the fact that I struggle a fair bit to understand the Early Modern English, seeing as English in general is already my second language. Despite this, I have aimed to learn and experience each Shakespeare play at least once, whether it be through live theatre or through the screen, and whilst the list of the ones I actually enjoyed may not be as long as my arm, Measure For Measure has just been added to it (at least this particular re-telling has).


When Donmar first announced their new season of plays (including my beloved Aristocrats), I was very interested by the advertising that Jack Lowden and Hayley Atwell would not only take on the lead roles but that they would switch roles halfway through the production. I hadn't heard or indeed witnessed anything of this sort in a play before and was looking forward to seeing how they would execute it and if it would succeed. Returning to the Donmar Warehouse so soon after Aristocrats left me in a melancholic mood for sure, after all this venue and that play became my second home for the solid two months that it was on (in which I managed to watch it eight times), and seeing the space stripped of any traces of the last production and re-decorated for Measure For Measure gave me a punch in the gut. However I was very excited to have front row seats with my friend Danielle, who is a huge fan of both Jack and Hayley, so really this play had perfect casting for her.  

The stage design is very modern with wood and marble accents that wouldn't look out of place on the front page of Architectural Digest.  Sleek steel lights also hang down from the high ceiling in a cross formation. It's a rather unexpected juxtaposition when the first cast members stride on the stage in period costumes and I was expecting this contrast to bother me for the duration of the play but surprisingly it did not. I think this is because the actors truly owned every part of the stage (something I found severely lacking in Foxfinder) and when this happens, every aspect of the production seamlessly melds into one very good story. 


Measure For Measure begins with the Duke of Vienna, Vincentio, placing the city in the care of his deputy, Angelo (Jack Lowden), whilst he takes leave on a diplomatic mission. Angelo decides to tighten the city's anti-fornication laws and when a young nobleman named Claudio sleeps with his wife-to-be, Juliet, before they are married, Angelo imprisons him and states that they will execute him as punishment. Claudio's sister, Isabella (Hayley Atwell), who is a nun, tries to save him from this fate but Angelo says he will only spare Claudio if she agrees to sleep with him in exchange. Isabella refuses, much to her brother's dismay, but in fact the Duke has not really left the city, he has disguised himself as a friar, in order to see what would happen to the city in his absence. As the friar, the Duke makes Angelo think that he has slept with Isabella, when really the woman was Mariana, whom Angelo was betrothed to but abandoned. When the Duke reveals his identity in the end, both Isabella and Mariana convince him to punish Angelo for his misconduct. Angelo tries to blame his actions on the friar, not knowing that he was in fact, the Duke in disguise. 

Compared to other Shakespeare plays I've seen, this one was short, to the point, and not difficult for me to understand. I was particularly taken by Hayley's portrayal of Isabella, it was honestly heart wrenching and her circumstances in 1604 unfortunately harrowingly relevant right now in light of the #MeToo movement and more recently and especially, the Kavanaugh case. Jack, looking a far cry from his recent roles, period pantaloons topped with an impeccable man bun, did a decent job at a corrupt figure of authority (personally would've liked to have seen Angelo played with a little more of a villainous oomph), but it's not till the second part that he truly shines. What? Oh yeah, we're only half way through this production even though the original 1604 Measure For Measure play has concluded here. During intermission, Danielle turned to me and asked, 
"Will they just run through the whole play again except with switched roles?"

"I hope not." I replied, thinking that I would most definitely get bored if that was to be the case. The stage design definitely suited the second half better, with the cast now in suits and office wear, it was clearly going to be a modernised re-telling. It did turn out to be exactly the same story, scene by scene as the first part, except it is set in present times so now you have lawyers, prisoners etc. and Angelo is now Claudio's brother, whilst Isabella is in the position of power and that is how the gender roles have been alternated. After a depressing first half for Isabella, the second part was incredibly satisfying for me as a female viewer. Again Hayley nails her new commanding role and is more than convincing as a boss babe businesswoman. I also reached the conclusion that the novice part of Isabelle (first half) and Angelo (second half) generally has more dialogue and emotional range so Jack got the chance to impress more in the second part. The whole alternating roles twist definitely works in this case and I think it breathes new life into an old Shakespeare play.


Moving on from the two leads, I mentioned that the cast own this stage and with quite a large ensemble for Donmar standards, I think that each actor does play their role very effectively. Nicholas Burns is great as the Duke/friar and I particularly enjoyed Jackie Clune's hilarious turn as a brothel owner (she even complimented my hair at stage door but she did not pay me to say that). This production is an interesting spin on Shakespeare and whilst it is essentially the same story repeated in the duration of one play, I found it neither tedious nor boring. If you aren't a fan of Shakespeare like me, I definitely recommend giving Measure For Measure a go because it's a bit of an anomaly. And if you are a Shakespeare nerd, this production is a refreshing take that I hope you'll appreciate.


Measure For Measure is at the Donmar Warehouse until the 24th of November and tickets can be found here.

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Tuesday, 2 October 2018

ALICE IN WONDERLAND AFTERNOON TEA AT THE SANDERSON


Continuing on with the birthday celebrations and agreeing that it would be a shame to break my annual birthday afternoon tea streak, I decided to try Sanderson Hotel's Mad Hatters Tea Party (this was almost last year's choice but in the end we went with Number Sixteen Hotel's outdoor setting as it was a sunny day). Joined by my close friends who weren't able to make it on the previous train extravagance, we were led into a semi-outdoor courtyard surrounding a fountain feature with flamingos in the centre. The setting was definitely dreamy right off the bat, with pink plush seats, marble tables, and a rose covered swing chair that has become rather infamous on the gram.

Once we had taken our seats, we were given a tea selection for each of our pots, every infusion tailored with a matching Alice In Wonderland character name (I chose Alice because I could never resist a black vanilla tea to go with cakes and scones). I loved the designs of the teapots and china, which I examined before our food arrived, along with the box of sugar cubes (I totally forgot to photograph but there's a video on my birthday instagram story highlights) which opens up like a music box with a tune and a rotating ballerina inside, super adorable.


As with most high teas, you get a tier to share between two people, with savouries placed at the very bottom, and sweets on top. A separate plate of scones were also included, with jam and clotted cream of course.  The finger sandwiches were delicious but mostly with different cheese fillings and to be honest I would still prefer ones that I've tried elsewhere (Sketch for example). Moving on to the second tier, I was quite amused to find some lemon cakes (Sansa would be proud) which I thoroughly enjoyed and some of the best macarons I've ever tasted (Laduree who?) You may or may not know, I'm not a big fan of chocolate flavoured things ie cake, icecream, hot chocolate (but I absolutely love actual chocolate blocks, weird huh), so those were left to be tasted by my friends, who all gave them a big thumbs up. Last but not least, an orange meringue hiding in the grass at the top and a tiny bottle of potion/juice were great palate cleansers at the end.

As far as afternoon tea experiences go, I thought this was lovely and laidback, the servers were friendly and informative and it was just a relaxing atmosphere with the chatter of fellow diners mixing with the sounds of running water. The food selection honestly wasn't my absolute favourite but I still managed to devour quite a lot, and it's definitely a must try if you're an Alice In Wonderland enthusiast!


Wearing: Hiraeth cardigan / Topshop skirt / ASOS shoes

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Wednesday, 26 September 2018

MURDER ON THE BELMOND EXPRESS


It was both my mum's and my birthday last week and before she arrived in London I'd been brainstorming what we could possibly do to celebrate in the city. I'd seen the Belmond British Pullman pop up on instagram a number of times since earlier in the year but it wasn't until much later when I was pushed for birthday ideas did I remember that my mum has this cute affinity for train rides and journeys as she was always on them as a little girl. Combined with my love for all things vintage and retro, I thought it would be perfect to book a trip for us as a joint birthday treat. The Belmond British Pullman is designed in the way of the glamorous 1920s trains (think Orient Express) with the most aesthetically pleasing golden, woody interiors and cream and green furniture. Starting from Victoria Station, they offer many different routes, destinations and packages. Whole days or half days, to castles or beaches, there's definitely an adventure to tickle everyone's fancy. As huge Agatha Christie fans and also longing to go all out with the Orient Express experience, we opted for the "Murder Mystery Lunch" which entails a five hour round trip (so we don't actually leave the train), during which time a five-course meal is served and a murder mystery story is told with live actors. You have to figure out "whodunnit" based on the clues given to you by each character, before the train arrives back at Victoria station in the afternoon. 


I was so excited on the morning of and donned this beautiful Self Portrait dress that I'd been saving for my birthday. We were running a bit late but the service at the station was great, once we checked in at the concierge, we were directed to our respective carriage and compartment without feeling rushed at all. Once I got inside, I found that I perfectly matched the green interior, something I hadn't planned at all, believe it or not. Canapes and champagne were waiting on our table and before the train started moving, the first of the actors came in and explained the initial story of the murder: her relation to the victim and her alibi. We were given a sheet to note down our findings as the journey went on and the story progressed. The train route would pass through Surrey and Kent, around to Whitstable, Essex, then back into London, so views of the green English countryside accompanied our seemingly constant flow of food. The entree was pea and ricotta soup, followed by crispy sea bass for mains (my personal favourite), Eton Mess cheesecake for dessert, finishing off with a cheeseboard and truffles. Between each course, an actor or two would come into our compartment and tell their character's story (I think there were six characters in all) and we just had to listen and take note of any clues we might find. I had previously thought I'd be no good at solving the mystery but I found myself really getting into it and analysing the tiniest things. It was a lot of fun to ponder it with mum, who gave ideas but left most of the figuring out to me. From the get-go, it seemed that the victim's new wife and biological daughter had the most motive to kill, which meant to me that they were the least likely to be guilty as per Agatha Christie style, it's always the one you least suspect in the end who actually did the deed.  I scribbled down my final answer on which character I thought was the culprit just as we whizzed back into London and one of the staff collected each table's sheets before we gathered in the main carriage to find out the solution to the mystery. It was actually such a complicated story and I didn't get most of the details and the motive right but I was surprised when they announced that we were the only team to have named the right murderer and therefore the winners for the day! Wow, maybe I should quit my day job and look into becoming a detective. We were awarded a gorgeous Bellmond British Pullman edition of Murder on the Orient Express.
 

Winning the game was definitely the cherry on top of a fantastic day. Mum and I truly enjoyed our time aboard the Pullman, as you can surmise, we found ourselves totally immersed in the murder mystery entertainment and decided all the food was absolutely delicious. I usually get motion sickness pretty easily too so I was a little apprehensive about dining non-stop on a train but it all turned out fine and I think I would've gotten carsick before feeling anything from this train, which is saying a lot.  The five hour journey completely flew by and one of the staff actually had to call me out of my reverie, announcing that we had in fact arrived as I was still sitting in awe at where the time had gone as the train slowly pulled back into Victoria Station. It was an unforgettable experience and felt like we had truly stepped back in time. I'm eyeing up some of the longer journey options now, it would be cool to ride on the train to a destination we can stop at next time.



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Thursday, 20 September 2018

THEATRE | FOXFINDER STARRING IWAN RHEON & HEIDA REED


I remember being really into dystopian novels when I was in high school, something about a strange and dangerous alternate world really fascinated me, along with the relatability of the suffering of human characters (kind of grim when I think back on it, but it's true). Unfortunately I've lost quite a bit of my reading mojo since then and it took a new play announcement lead by Game of Throne's Iwan Rheon and the promise of a dark dystopian tale to jog my memory back to school libraries and pique my interest to book tickets to see Foxfinder


Ambassadors Theatre was one of the few play venues in London that I'd never set foot in beforehand though I'd always walk past it on the way to the Donmar. On first inspection, it's built much like your traditional West End theatres, only fractionally smaller. When the curtain first opened to reveal the stage, my breath was stolen by how beautiful I found the design, a perfect bleed of a rustic house interior into a dark forest with trees bursting from the floor and reaching towards the high ceilings. Unfortunately, I soon learnt that there wouldn't be much else for me to praise beyond the set design. Foxfinder tells the story of a farmer couple, the Coveys (Heida Reed and Paul Nicchols) who fear they will not make their annual harvest quota. A "foxfinder" named William Bloor (Iwan Rheon), trained by a seemingly authoritarian government institute from a young age, has been elected to stay with them to find out if the reason behind their failed produce are "foxes". Soon after realising they've never actually even seen any of these so-called "foxes" in their lives, they start to ponder whether it's all just a government conspiracy to keep the citizens in check and also whether it has anything to do with the death of their son. 


I don't know about you, but I found the sound of that plot absolutely riveting. If that were the synopsis of a novel or film, I'd go read/see it in a heartbeat. This production however, doesn't seem to be able to execute this story to it's full potential. I found the acting rather wooden and bland across all fronts (gosh I feel terrible admitting that in writing but it's my honest opinion). Even Iwan, who I think did such a great job in GoT and Misfits, seems a little out of place as the young, brainwashed Bloor, and the gradual lead up to the questioning of his beliefs or loss of innocence doesn't pack the punch that I'd hoped for in the end. Both Iwan and Heida noticeably stumbled over their lines at least once during the play too, though it should be noted that it was still in previews when I watched it. Then again, I watch many plays whilst they are still in previews so I personally don't think this is a valid excuse. In my humble opinion, Paul Nicholls gave the most believable performance of the lot, his anguish and rage for his lost son conflicting with his logic, but it just wasn't enough to pull this production together, which is a shame as I think the story had real potential. Several times during the seemingly dragged out two hours I found myself almost nodding off and wishing it would pick up in pace and atmosphere only to finally reach a severely anti-climatic ending. 


I'm sorry for being a negative nancy but I honestly can't recommend this play however much I want to say otherwise. Maybe if you're a die-hard fan of one of the actors you could justify seeing it and on the other hand, Iwan, Heida, and Paul were all exceptionally lovely when I met them at stage door afterwards.


Foxfinder is at Ambassadors Theatre until the 5th of January 2019 and you can find tickets here.

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Sunday, 16 September 2018

YOUTUBE | MY MICROBLADING EXPERIENCE + VLOG

I got my brows microbladed and I filmed the process! Did it hurt? Do I regret it? I also answer these questions and talk about my experience and healing process.

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Sunday, 9 September 2018

MY TOP 15 PLACES TO INSTAGRAM IN LONDON

There's nowhere else I'd rather be living in this world than London. Such a diverse and beautiful city full of creativity, but sometimes it can be all to easy to fall into the humdrum of every day routine, and bow your head down as you breeze walk, especially when your commute takes you past the same high-rise apartment blocks and familiar streets.  I'm definitely guilty of this, but things do take on a completely different perspective if you merely just look up, and much more recently I have gone out of my way to take different routes and discover new places. I also find a lot of inspiration from following London travel and food accounts on instagram, plus my best friend is equal parts an avid foodie and photographer so I'm grateful that she often drags me to visit new locations. I've had a couple of questions from you guys about how I find cute locations in London to photograph and what my top places to instagram would be if you were planning on visiting and I can't believe it's taken me this long to compile this list together. I've narrowed it down to 15 spots and categorised them so hopefully it will be easier for you to plan for your next visit to the city. Without further adieu, these are my top 15 places to instagram in London:

THE CUTE CAFES AND FLORAL DISPLAYS

1. Saint Aymes | 59 Connaught St, London W2 2BB
There's not much a blogger loves more than a pretty coffee and cake situation to take a flatlay of and a gorgeous flower wall to pose in front of so Saint Aymes have very kindly catered to our needs. This cafe looks like a place Wes Anderson dreamt up and will tickle your sweet tooth with their trademark Unicorn Lattes and plenty of edible art that's almost too beautiful to eat.

2. Peggy Porschen Cakes | 116 Ebury St, Belgravia, London SW1W 9QQ
Possibly the most well known of the instagrammable cafes at the moment, Peggy's is a pink dream that not only serves cute cakes but also switches up their gorgeous floral displays every season. It does tend to get busy throughout the day and on the weekends, so best to come on a weekday and if you want a completely people free shot, be an early bird arrive five minutes before it opens.

3. Les Senteurs | 1 Elizabeth St, Belgravia, London SW1W 9PJ
Not a cafe but whilst you're at it, Peggy Porchen sits right in the corner of Ebury St and Elizabeth St, the latter being an instagrammer's dream street lined with adjacent cafes and shops, each with their own different floral decorations. Les Senteurs perfumery is one of my particular favourites with a magnificent tree (changes every season as well) that spans across their pretty blue shopfront.

4. Dominique Ansel Bakery | 17-21 Elizabeth St,  Belgravia, London SW1W 9RP
Down the street is my favourite place for desserts (though they also serve savoury food). Their menu changes seasonally but every single time I've been there, I've been blown away by the presentation and taste of their dishes. Definitely try their Blooming Hot Chocolate (permanent menu) which is fun to watch as the flower shaped marshmallow on top opens up quite like those flowering tea balls, and if you visit on a warmer day, I'm totally obsessed with their watermelon soft serve (served in a real watermelon wedge with dark chocolate seeds, need I say more?) Of course there's a vast floral display over the entrance and also a flower wall inside.

5. Moyses Stevens Flowers | 53 Elizabeth St, Belgravia, London SW1W 9PP
Right next to Les Senteurs is my favourite florist. You'll probably see me running around with a bouquet of flowers in hand most of the time and when I get them from Moyses, it would just be rude not to take a snap inside with the floral ceiling as well.

THE RAINBOW HOUSES OF NOTTING HILL

6. Hillgate Place, London W8
Basically every other street in the Notting Hill area is full of houses in a rainbow spectrum of different colours so pick your fancy but one of my particular favourite is Hillgate Place. In the springtime, most of the ones with foliage on their front will transform into clouds of purple wisteria.

7.  Sézane | 233 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill W11 2SE
French clothing brand Sézane (I'm wearing their blouse here) have recently opened their first London store and it's located in Notting Hill. There's just such a lovely contrast between their crisp white storefront and flower lined square windows so whether you're out shopping or just window shopping, be sure to grab a quick snap outside their store.

8. Wild at Heart | 222 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill W11 2SE
Right opposite Sézane is another beautiful florist. Admittedly I've never bought a bouquet from them before but only because they're a bit further away from where I live and I always fear they will wilt on my tube commute. Their arrangements are so aesthetically pleasing though and I love their turquoise bricks.


THE TYPICAL TOURIST SPOTS FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE

9. One New Change | 1 New Change, London EC4M 9AF
The elevator to the top floor of One New Change shopping centre takes you to a lovely viewing platform for St Paul's cathedral if you've previously struggled to get that dome roof into your frame.

10. St Pancras Renaissance Hotel | Euston Road, London NW1 2AR
Right next to St Pancras International is this hotel that bears a striking resemblance to Hogwarts. You might also be able to sneak in and grab a photo on their grand carpeted staircase inside.

11. Red telephone boxes | Broad Court, Covent Garden WC2B
Of course there are plenty of these iconic London telephone boxes scattered all over the city but there are five of them sitting neatly in a row in a rather secluded alley in Covent Garden and you know what that means, less people in the shot!

THE COOL GRAFFITI WALLS

12. Shoreditch | London E1 
Shoreditch is home to many awesome graffiti walls, some spanning several stories high. They get painted over regularly so do take a walk around and keep your eye out for any particular ones you may like. I'm gonna cheat a little and give you two addresses of permanent ones here, the first one being the rainbow facade of the Doughnut Time just outside Old St tube station (233a Old St, EC1V 9HE), and the second one are the infamous angel wings outside Redemption Bar (I really rate the raw vegan food this bar does too) on 320 Old St, EC1V 9DR.

JUNGLE WITHIN A CONCRETE JUNGLE

13. St Dunstan-in-the-East | St Dunstan's Hill, London EC3R 5DD
There's no aesthetic I love more than abandoned places overgrown with greenery so St Dunstan-in-the-East is possibly my ultimate favourite out of all these locations. It was once a church that got destroyed in WWII so now the ruins encase a public garden. I feel like not many people know this spot because it's in the centre of a business area and entirely hidden from the main road but it's the most beautiful surprise when you stumble upon it.

14. Kew Gardens | Richmond TW9 3AE
This is the largest botanical garden in London and currently houses over 30 000 living plants. It's a little further from the city centre but if you catch the tube, only a train line away so there's really no excuse not to visit. You'll definitely need an entire day to see everything as the gardens are so vast with many different areas inside. My favourites are the Palm House, the water lilies and the rose garden.

15. Greenwich park | London SE10 8XJ
Greenwich is quite a popular tourist location what with the GMT and the filming location for a number of famous movies but the park comes alive in the springtime and is the best place to photograph cherry blossoms in London.

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