Wednesday, 29 August 2018

THEATRE | THE KING AND I STARRING KEN WATANABE


My theatre streak continues and this time with a musical! I was super stoked to hear that the Tony award winning The King and I would be transferring to London after a successful stint on Broadway and that Ken Watanabe would be reprising the lead role (y'all know I'm the biggest fan of Inception). Despite this, I somehow completely missed the ticket release date and of course the good seats sold out in no time (I'm kind of short-sighted so I'd prefer to be sitting as close to the front as possible). Usually I'd then redirect myself to get day seats in similar scenarios but the London Palladium, where it's being held, don't offer them for some reason. I resigned myself to the fact that I'd have to settle with watching a recording when one day, out of the blue, my friend told me of an app called TodayTix. You can download it from the App Store and once you create an account, you're eligible for loads of special ticket offers at discounted prices as well as "rush tickets" which are a handful of seats selling for cheaper that go on sale every day for a performance that same night. I honestly thought it would be a bloodbath (who wouldn't want a front row seat for £25?) but I decided to give it a go one morning and lo and behold, I managed to checkout with a ticket for both my friend and I! Long story short: TodayTix is awesome and you should download it. I wouldn't say musicals are my favourite type of plays, primarily because I have a rather short attention span and would rather sentences not to be dragged out into melodious syllables but I do enjoy the odd one now and again (Phantom Of The Opera and Love Never Dies are my favourites because of that dark, forbidden romance aspect), and I am always all for Asian representation in popular culture, being Asian myself. I adore Mulan and not too long ago, also went to see Miss Saigon and Hamilton. Once again as I tend to do with most of my theatre outings, I went into The King and I without any prior knowledge of even the most basic of plots and settings.


The King and I tells a moving, radiant story of East meets West. It is the early 1860s when newly widowed Anna leonowens and her son, Louis, set sail from their native England for Bangkok, Siam (now Thailand). Anna, still grieving, has set her sights onna new adventure and taken a position as the schoolteacher for the royal offspring of the King of Siam. The King is determined to usher Siam into the modern world and he thinks Western education can be a part of that – yet, Anna is horrified at first by many of the traditions that he holds dear. Anna and the King struggle to find common ground. The King is largely considered to be a barbarian by rulers of the West, and he takes Anna on as an advisor, asking her to help change his image – if not his actual practice. With both keeping a firm grip on their respective traditions and values, Anna and the King teach each other about understanding, respect, and love that can transcend the greatest of differences. Beneath the fraught, fiercely opinionated, conflict-ridden surface of Anna and the King's relationship, lies quite a unique love story.


I felt so blessed to sit front row to witness this opulent production. Obviously The King and I is on a much grander scale than the previous two plays I watched and reviewed, with jaw-dropping props and costumes. I particularly enjoy watching the scene transitions when it comes to such productions, is anyone else with me on this? There's something really satisfying about watching pieces slide into place on the stage. I truly adored the story, the relationship between Anna and the King is charming and doesn't come off forced at all, something I'm inherently picky about when it comes to fictional romances. For some reason, I didn't find the songs as catchy and memorable as other musicals I've seen but Kelli O'Hara, who plays Anna, has such a gorgeous voice and any melody she sings comes out mesmerising. Ken Watanabe, on the other hand, unfortunately doesn't have a singing voice to match O'Hara but he's still fantastic as the King of Siam, he truly makes the audience understand why his character is the way he is plus he's funny to boot! Who impressed me the most out of the cast, were the children though. The youngest probably only four years old, not only were they so adorable that I kept letting out a loud "awww" every single time they were on stage, they're all so professional like how on earth do they remember their lines and cues? I loved their teacher/pupil relationship with Anna and those kids totally gave this musical a lot more heart. Also worth mentioning, I found the more dance focussed scenes absolutely amazing (particularly the ballet, Small House of Uncle Thomas), showcasing a lot of Thai culture and just so engrossing. One downside was that the pacing throughout the entire musical felt a bit odd, with a couple of high energy dance numbers sprinkled between a lot of standing around and slow singing. If you're a fan of musicals, Inception, if you're Asian, all or just one of the above, or you're just in the mood to be wowed, definitely look into catching The King and I before their run finishes in London. Don't forget to check out TodayTix for cheap tickets too!


The King and I is at the London Palladium until 29th September and tickets can be found here.

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Sunday, 26 August 2018

PALM HOUSE


It's been a while since I last visited Kew Gardens but every time I return, it's like the magic never wears off. If you've never been, Kew is basically a large botanical garden in southwest London (close to Richmond) that's home to over 30 000 plant species. It feels like such an oasis in the heart of the city and like stepping into a different world. One of my favourite attractions here is the Palm House, a large Victorian glasshouse acclimatised to grow all manner of tropical and subtropical greenery. Last time I shot a couple of photos downstairs so I thought I'd attempt to find some new angles on the upper floor, completely forgetting that an enclosed all-glass building in the middle of summer is naturally going to get very hot and humid. So much so that my camera lens kept fogging up every thirty seconds and my curls dropped in half that time. But I'm pleased with these shots we got! The winding spiral staircase to the top viewing platform is just so pretty, and surrounded by the towering palms, makes me feel like I'm climbing my way to a wonderland that perhaps someone like Alice could get lost in. Wearing an old Topshop dress and my trusty rose gold ASOS heels.

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Wednesday, 22 August 2018

THEATRE | THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE STARRING AIDAN TURNER


I've been on a bit of a theatre binge ever since I got back from France so apologies for posting two play reviews so close to one another. I hadn't planned on blogging about this one but had a few requests over on instagram to talk about how I found it when I revealed I was watching it so here goes! Basically I hadn't planned on seeing this play either but my friend got us day seats which was incredibly kind of her. I was quite a big fan of Aidan when he'd just been in The Hobbit but then got positively bored of Poldark so didn't think too much of it when he was announced to do theatre. I entered the Noel Coward theatre without having read any of the reviews so I didn't know what it was going to be about apart from the fact that the title kept reminding me of a play called The Cripple of Inishmaan which I saw Daniel Radcliffe in a few years back (I only just researched as I was typing this that apparently both these plays are written by the same guy, Martin McDonagh). Unfortunately not only the similar titles kept associating in my head as I was watching The Lieutenant of Inishmore but also how much I preferred the previous play. Honestly I struggle with comedies, that's the basis of it. I must have a really strange sense of humour but I always find the randomest things funny and then not understand other things that are meant to be hilarious. But I remember finding The Cripple of Inishmaan funny? Anyway we'll talk about it...


The play is labelled as a black comedy and tells the story of Padraic, a former member of the Irish Liberation Army, a paramilitary organization fighting for Northern Ireland's independence from the United Kingdom in 1993. He has a legendary, explosive, violent temper, hence why he was kicked out of the IRA for "being too mad". Never one to back down, Padraic joined the violent IRA splinter group, the Irish National Liberation Army. Padraic is a lieutenant in the INLA, and spends his time torturing those who have committed wrongs (according to Padraic's own moral code) and planning mediocre bombings of civil institutions. However, Padraic is far more obsessed with killing people and mutilating their bodies than he is with any official "cause" — for Padraic, his own whim is cause enough to wreak havoc. He sees the violence as part of his job, as sending a fax might be part of his job if he worked in an office. Padraic's one soft spot though, is for his childhood cat, Wee Thomas and one day he returns home to find out that his beloved cat has been killed. Back at home before Padraic arrives, his father Donny and Davey, a slow-witted neighbourhood boy who's been accused of running over Wee Thomas with his bike, furiously think up a plan to stop Padraic from getting angry and erm, going on a murderous rampage on the town, in pursuit of finding the killer and revenge.


Don't get me wrong, it's a funny play. But that's it really. I found it of very little substance other than all the laughs it conjured up. And there's really nothing wrong with that either. Definitely not the one if you're after a play that will make you think long after the curtains go down, but a really sharp and entertaining two hours that had the audience around me in fits. Chris Walley is particularly memorable as the slightly punk but ultimately good-hearted Davey, in my opinion posessing exceptional comic timing and a strong repartee with Denis Conway (Donny). Charlie Murphy, the only girl in the cast and who I was already familiar with from The Last Kingdom and Peaky Blinders (she's such a sweetheart irl too), is also absolutely fantastic as budding revolutionary and tomboy Mairead, all sports cropped hair with an almost innocence to her psychopathic violence. Oh and she showcases such a beautiful singing voice in this! Last but certainly not least, let's talk about Aidan. I think the problem was, just 48 hours before, I had watched someone who naturally speaks with a northern accent, put on an absolutely flawless Irish accent and act his heart out dramatically, and no matter how different these two plays are, it lingered in the back of my mind watching Lieutenant. Aidan is great as Padraic, he's able to carry the play and make the audience laugh, I mean all in all, he's a solid actor. But this performance didn't wow me and I can't help but wonder if people would be singing the same praises if it wasn't the doppelgänger of Ross Poldark up on that stage, all biceps in a tight tank top. That's the reality of it.


The Lieutenant of Inishmore is at the Noel Coward Theatre until the 8th of September and tickets can be found here

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Sunday, 19 August 2018

TRAVEL | HOW TO SPEND 48HRS IN PROVENCE


Near the end of last month, my family and I made a pretty spontaneous decision to visit the south of France just in time for lavender season. I whipped up an itinerary a mere week before we left, packed my DSLR, dad's drone and a tripod, and we were off! It was sweltering hot the time we were there but that didn't manage to put us off from enjoying the breathtaking and ever so unique landscapes of Provence. Here are some of my recommendations for making the most out of the region if you're thinking of heading there in the future.


To stay:

We based ourselves in the commune of Mane, which is a much quieter area than the famous Aix-en-Provence. It's about an hour and 15 minute drive from Marseille airport and only half an hour away from the famous lavender fields of Valensole. We treated ourselves to a stay at Le Couvent des Minimes Hotel. They are owned by beauty brand L'Occitane, whose very name I'm sure evokes the image of endless purple rows of lavender. The hotel is quite small but boasts some beautiful private surroundings so it felt like having a huge farm as a backyard and there are no cars about. It also used to be a convent, which makes the architecture so much more unique and they've done such a great job at interiors and juxta-positioning the old with the new. When we stayed there it was quiet so it was pretty much like having the hotel to ourselves. I think the guests are all super relaxed there so the vibe is slow paced and no one gets in your way. They have a restaurant overlooking their own lavender field, a L'Occitane spa, and a spacious lobby. The perfect place to just unwind under a huge tree with a drink or lay about by the pool, or if you're anything like me, turn all the quaint corners into photo opportunities.


To eat:

Less than a 20 minute drive from Mane (you'll need to drive or take a taxi because the road is super steep and winding), lies the village of Lurs. It's situated on a hilltop and there is a lovely little family owned restaurant there called La Terrasse de Lurs which serves hearty, homemade food on an open terrace over looking a breathtaking view of Provence. I had the swordfish with ratatouille and it was delicious!

If you're craving Asian food, there's a really good restaurant that does a fusion of Chinese and Thai on Rue Plauchud (unfortunately the name has slipped me but I'm pretty sure it's the only Asian restaurant in that area). One of my favourite delicacies is frog legs but not many countries have them even though it's a very common meat in Asia. France is the perfect opportunity to eat as many frog legs and escargot as you can and you'll find them cooked in both Asian and French styles in almost every restaurant you come across.

Last but not least a wander around the charming town of Mane will surely warrant a coffee stop and there are several small ones around that serve a great brew and the tables set up on the side of the street are the most idyllic setting for a sip and an instagram worthy snap.


To do and see:

You obviously cannot visit Provence in the summertime without seeing the famous lavender fields in Valensole. Prime time to visit would be in June, we went a little later in July so some of the rows had actually been harvested by then (still plenty though). There are quite a few lavender farms around this area and if you're lucky, you might also spot sunflowers growing side by side with them, so the best way to go about it would be to hire a car to Valensole so you're free to stop by on the side of the road at any time. 

Hot air balloons are also pretty iconic in Provence with plenty of places offering rides including L'Occitane at our hotel and one in Forcalquier. They operate every day weather permitting, taking off at dawn so you're able to witness the sunrise from the balloon and the rides typically last for around 3 hours.

Explore the neighbouring towns of Mane, Lurs, and Forcalquier. If you're a bit of a hiker than it's only about a half hour walk (though very steep), each commune is so unique in architecture and landscape with dramatic hills and a rich collection of monuments from the Roman Empire including Cistercian monasteries, and medieval palaces and churches. The scenery reminds me of the buildings of the mediterranean Italian countryside mixed with the cinematic inclines of Positano (I've never been to either locations bahah but they still remind me from what I've seen them to be like).



Wearing (in order of appearance):
Stevie May dress / Primark hat
People Tree dress / Aldo shoes
Urban Outfitters dress / ASOS floral headband / Aldo shoes / Cult Gaia bag
Stevie May dress / ASOS hat (old) / ASOS shoes (old)

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Wednesday, 15 August 2018

THEATRE | ARISTOCRATS STARRING DAVID DAWSON


Fun fact: the Donmar Warehouse was actually the first theatre venue in London I ever saw a play in. The production was called Red and it was back in 2009 with Eddie Redmayne and Alfred Molina. It was my first experience in such an intimate theatre (I'd previously only watched more lavish productions such as Les Misérables in Australia) and I remember feeling fascinated at being so close to the actors and seeing how they acted their socks off with such minimal props and fanfare. Naturally it's now stuck with me as my favourite theatre venue and since then I've returned to see countless plays there. Imagine my pleasant surprise and delight when the Donmar newsletter pinged into my inbox with the announcement of a production of Aristocrats with a cast that included my favourite actor, David Dawson. Okay, perhaps those were too gentle a choice of words to paint an accurate picture as I was literally bouncing off the walls of the house like a broken pogo-stick that morning. It's almost been three years since I last saw David on stage in The Dazzle, and that production has since cemented itself as my favourite play of all time. I was beyond excited to see him return to the stage and also to return to the Donmar Warehouse.


I'm not familiar with Brian Friel's work as a playwright though I've heard that another of his plays has been getting rave reviews at the National Theatre. Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to see that one though it's probably also fairer that I don't have anything to compare Aristocrats to. The play tells the story of the four O'Donnell siblings, part of a once grand Irish Catholic family, who have just reunited in their father's home of Ballybeg Hall for their youngest sister's wedding. Their father (a former judge) seems to be elderly and ill now, only his voice can be heard, full of authority but barking nonsense through the baby monitor. The eldest daughter Judith (Eileen Walsh) is the most sensible out of the four, housebound to look after their father and a woman of few words though it is later revealed that she had an illegitimate child that her father forced to put in an orphanage. Alice (Elaine Cassidy) lives a comfortable life in London with her husband Eamon, she has a drinking problem and her marriage is rather unhappy. Casimir (David Dawson), the only son, dropped out of law school and now works in a sausage factory in Germany. He constantly talks about his German wife and children though we aren't sure if they actually exist as apparently none of the family have ever seen them. The youngest, Claire (Aisling Loftus), whose wedding is what initially draws the family back together, is marrying a grocer who's much older than her. She plays piano at home all the time as she had dreamt to be a concert pianist though her father disallowed her to pursue it. The O'Donnell's past and secrets are steadily unravelled by Tom Huffnung, an American scholar who has come to the house to study the dying Irish aristocracy. 


I love seeing how the Donmar's small space is transformed with every single production and Es Devlin's stage design does not disappoint. It's simple and un-convoluted, much like I found the Aristocrats storyline to be, with a doll's house as the primary prop, a gorgeous sage green light washing over the entire stage and a back wall that gradually peels and scratches off as we delve further into the family's past, finally revealing a beautiful painting of Ballybeg Hall in it's heyday. As I mentioned, I found the play quite easy to follow even though it's dialogue heavy. The actors carry this production and truthfully they are all brilliant though I think I speak for the majority of the audience when I say that David Dawson is the stand out. I can honestly say I'm never a biased reviewer but David's portrayal of Casimir is just pitch perfect, and I feel like his character is given a lot of the dialogue and action in the play, thus effectively holding the entire narrative together like glue. He's the life of the party, recalling (imaginary?) childhood stories about their past aristocratic life, enthusiastically playing games with Claire, a constant ball of jittery energy and charm that draws the audience inwards. But the moments when Casimir breaks, we are already in too deep. Anyway, I often wonder what it's like to act with David Dawson. Every play I've seen him in, he has easily outshone everyone else on the stage with his intense performances and I truly believe that you haven't experienced acting if you haven't seen David Dawson act. 


Praises for the main man aside, I really enjoyed all the other performances too. As I said, it's a very character driven play with so many interesting personalities. I recently saw Elaine Cassidy in another Donmar production called Les Liaisons dangereuses which she was also great in. Her character here is very different though and she spent a lot of time on the side of the stage where I was sitting so it was almost unnerving for me to be just a couple of centimetres from some of her scenes. Aisling Loftus' portrayal also had me relating a fair bit to Claire, I'm not sure what that says about me as a person but a play is always more effective when you can relate to a character or two. The play is split into two parts with the second act taking a much sadder turn. I've always been a bit of a crybaby when it comes to any emotional turn out, whether it be in film, television, or theatre. In saying this, I revel and often find quite a lot of beauty in sadness, especially in art. I had expected this play to be quite somber from the synopsis and what I heard from others that had seen it before me. In the end, I didn't find it had ripped out my heart strings as I had initially assumed it would (perhaps more of a gentle tugging). It was no Dazzle in the way that it didn't actually make me shed any physical tears (even though seeing David cry as any character, never fails to trigger me). I'm uncertain whether this is because I didn't relate to the characters as much and therefore lacked the empathy to feel, whether I didn't quite catch the societal relevance of the decay of Ireland's Big Houses whilst I was watching it, or whether this production wasn't fleshed out enough in what felt like quite a short running time. Still, it's a very minor downside for me and I still enjoyed it as such that I would definitely love to see it again. Believe me, David Dawson is worth the ticket price alone.


Aristocrats is at the Donmar Warehouse until the 22nd of September and tickets can be found here.

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Sunday, 12 August 2018

LONG TIME NO SEE


I'm back! I can't believe I haven't posted on here in over a month. It feels like a huge deal to me as in the five years that I've had this blog, I've never missed my weekly post schedule even noticeably so that my consistency was once brought up in a magazine interview. However unlike me it may seem, looking back I can definitely see the signs of struggle in my previous posts and how uninspired I had become with this little corner of the world wide web. Eventually I realised I couldn't force it any longer and just decided to take a step back. I tweeted that I'd be taking a hiatus from blogging but I definitely knew I'd be back sooner than later. In fact, I'm sure many of you might not have even noticed that I'd gone, what with my instagram still up and running. In the time that I had off from here, I focused my energy into upping my photography game, finding new locations and posting daily on instagram until I curated a feed that I could say I was proud of. I've done just that and whilst I was enjoying my time on that photo sharing app, I thought to myself: do I really need to return to blogging? Is there a future in it when essentially people are micro-blogging through instagram? Do I continue to put in the effort? The answer is yes. No matter how many people say that blogging is a dying art, it was my first love and I still enjoy writing. In fact, I sorely missed it even though at the time I felt like I had nothing to write about. A month off has honestly done wonders for my mind and I feel rejuvenated and ready to get back on Adventures of an Anglophile. To kick things off I thought I'd fill you in on what's been happening with me this past month...


 ❥ I'm actually blonde now!
One consequence of taking so many photos in bulk is accumulating them and then not getting round to posting them till a little later. Most bloggers do this but then again, most bloggers don't get clocked because their hair colour doesn't tend to change every month haha. Right now I'm no longer a peach head, I had washed it all out in preparation for another colour but halfway through the process I looked at my blonde base and decided to keep it this way for a while. It's strange, I've never stayed blonde for more than a day even though I've always bleached my hair before dying it. I always just see it as my base colour but right now I'm suite enjoying the change and not having to worry about clashing anything with my bright mop. However I do still have quite a few photos with this peach hair that I'm yet to share so please bear with me.

 ❥ I travelled to the south of France
Whilst my parents were visiting me in London, we made a bit of a last minute decision to take a trip to Provence to see the lavender fields whilst they were in bloom. Not going to lie, this resulted in a manic, stress filled week as my parents agreed to leave all the planning to me and I attempted to make an itinerary from scratch. All worth it in the end though as I surprised myself by managing to not forget anything and the holiday ran pretty smoothly. I even mastered taking many of my own shots with a tripod as neither my mum or dad have the steadiest hands. I'm planning to write up Provence and Paris city guides for the blog soon so look out for that. It was also the first time in over five years that I went on vacation with my parents so that was super nice!


 ❥ I saw my favourite actor return to theatre
I'd been patiently (or maybe not so patiently) waiting for David Dawson to do another play for almost three years! It was the first question I asked him every single time we met and although he kept teasing that perhaps something was just around the corner, the time hadn't actually come till now. In my humble opinion, he really is the best actor of my generation and on the stage is where he truly showcases that. So you can be sure to expect a little theatre review on here soon but in the meantime you can check out the ones I've written on the last two plays I saw him in.

❥ I learnt to draw digitally
The future is digital and it's something I've become increasingly aware of. I'd been meaning to pick up digital illustration for years what with my predominant art background since I was a little kid, I thought it was definitely time to take a step with the world and make the move from paper to tablet. Although I had assumed it would be easier said than done, I'm surprised that I've managed to pick it up relatively quickly, even though mixing colours on a wheel and painting on different layers still confuses me.


Black Milk dress / Chloe flats

Asides from these awesome updates, there were some pretty mundane ones too. My work office moved to a different address so it was a bit of a 'mare trying to transport things on the tube in this heatwave as you can imagine. Speaking of heatwave, I wrote in my last post how the temperature had really been getting me down and how I suspected it was the culprit that forced me to take this hiatus in the first place. I'm currently typing this as rain patters on the window from outside and it's a breezy 19 degrees so I'm going to give myself a pat on the back for getting through the hottest time of my least favourite season (but let's not jinx it please). Excited to transition into autumn fashion and September is mine and DD's birthday month! Hope this past month has been a great one for you too and I'll talk to you again very soon.
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