We are sometimes asked to do reviews for venues in Nottinghamshire - these can be restaurants, attractions - in fact, anything that is a 'Thing to do in Nottinghamshire'.
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The John Wilson Orchestra at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall
1st December 2017 for the Nottingham Post
It is a delight to see the return of conducting supremo John Wilson to Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall, complete with his uber-talented orchestra and, this year, a new show ‘A Celebration of the MGM Film Musicals’.
A firm favourite with this Nottingham crowd, Mr Wilson was warmly welcomed, announcing “it’s great to be back at our favourite concert hall in the Country” before launching straight into a toe-tapping overture featuring some of the best music from the Golden Era of Hollywood musicals.
The evening’s songs took us from High Society to Easter Parade, with some mellow tunes from MGM classics including ‘The Pirate’ thrown in for good measure. The multitude of strings in the orchestra were once again enhanced by the silky voice of soloist Matt Ford and the belting tones of Louise Dearman and the addition of the John Wilson Chorus really took things up a notch this year: according to the chap sat next to me, the music was even ‘better than the original’.
John Wilson doesn’t talk much – he doesn’t have to when the incredible arrangement of the music speaks for itself. He pops up every now and again with a witticism, a piece of information about the next tune, or a reminder that tour CDs are available to buy in the foyer but it’s all relevant and served up with good humour.
There were so many highlights this evening but Louise and Matt singing ‘Anything you can do I can do better” from ‘Annie Get your Gun’ deserves special mention, with Louise hitting some very high notes! This was closely followed by the spectacular ‘Broadway Melody Ballet’ and ‘Applause, Applause’, which was the perfect hand-clapping finale and fully merited the standing ovation it received.
Turtle Bay Christmas Menu
23rd November 2017
Think of where to have your Christmas party this year and you probably don’t automatically think of Turtle Bay. With its laid-back Caribbean style, spicy flavours and banging cocktails, Turtle Bay is probably somewhere people often visit to re-live their summer holidays, not to get into the festive spirit.
So, the launch of their new Christmas menu for 2017 is pretty interesting. What on earth could this restaurant offer that would in any way fit in with the idea of a traditional festive night out? Well, to be honest, it doesn’t and, furthermore, it doesn’t even try. You won’t see a hint of turkey or Christmas pudding on this menu, making it an ideal alternative if you’re a bit fed up with the usual fayre.
Walking into Turtle Bay, which is located within Nottingham’s Cornerhouse, we were immediately transported from a rather gloomy day in the City to distant Caribbean shores. The lighting, the décor, the music, the atmosphere and the friendliness of the staff gelled together to create a warm, welcoming environment, where it would be far too easy to stay for hours – particularly when we saw the substantial cocktail menu.
After choosing a traditional Mojito, which came within a 2-4-1 offer and a Jamaican Shandy, we had a good nosey through the various menus. There is a choice of Christmas packages that you can choose from but we had pre-ordered the All-Day Festive menu, which costs £24 per person and offers 4 courses.
Hungrily launching into the Garlic ‘N’ Herb Flatbread, which was one of the 3 ‘pre-starters’, we were rendered momentarily speechless by the abundance of flavours we experienced. The stone baked flatbread was soaked in the garlic and herb butter and served with fresh rocket. Followed by the Spicy Pork Rinds with Jerk BBQ sauce (their take on pork scratchings) and the Trini Chickpeas, with were dusted with thyme and spice, Turtle Bay’s take on nibbles was pure perfection.
Starting to feel slightly full already, we moved onto our ‘proper starters’ of Duck Rolls and Garlic and Chilli Pit Prawns. Caution people – these portions are on the large side, so take your time! The Rolls were stuffed with shredded duck, sweet onion, soy sauce and chilli, along with sour orange chutney and were tender and tasty. The Prawns could have a whole page to themselves. Whole, shell-on king prawns grilled over a jerk pit and tossed in herb and chilli garlic butter, I could quite happily just imbibe a plate of these and go home happy. Without being too overboard, they were absolutely amazing – with just the right amount of spice and oozing with flavour.
We were slowing down … and the food kept on coming. Having decided to share and so try as much as we could, our first Main was the Half Jerk Chicken, which had been marinated for 24 hours and pit grilled and served with coconut rice ‘n’ peas and Caribbean slaw and a choice of classic or coconut glaze. Again, this dish was nothing short of miraculous, especially as I’m not usually a fan of Jerk Chicken! The rice ‘n’ peas were the ideal partner for the chicken and everything was succulent and cooked to just the right level.
The second Main dish was the Pit Salmon, served with a crispy skin, grain salad and tangy sweet onion chutney and green seasoning. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the salmon did not disappoint in any way. The skin was indeed crispy but the salmon was tender and the blend of flavours provided by the accompaniments was perfect.
We weren’t sure that we would actually be able to sample the puddings but, after undoing a few buttons, we resumed the challenge, going for the Caymanas Upside Down Pudding and the Sticky Black Treacle Pudding. The former was served warm, with rum caramel and vanilla ice cream - even thinking about it now is making my mouth water - and the latter with salted caramel, black treacle and vanilla ice cream. Both were totally moorish and did nothing short of tantalising the tastebuds with a wealth of different textures and flavours.
The chefs at Turtle Bay should be proud of themselves – we were served some of the best prepared food we’ve had for a long time. The portions are sizeable – if you are going for this menu, I’d suggest you don’t eat for a good few hours before and don’t plan on doing anything energetic afterwards – and £24 for such a large amount of food around Christmas time is pretty good value, when you compare it with other establishments in the City Centre.
You can find out more about the Turtle Bay Christmas menus here.
One Afternoon in Nottingham - Halloween
28th October 2017
Hubby is from up North, so he and our son Jake headed off to watch Nottingham Forest vs Hull today, leaving Evie and myself to have a girls' trip into Nottingham City Centre, something that we don’t get the chance to do very often.
First stop was intu Victoria Centre where, after the obligatory (and thankfully short) visit to Smiggle, we decided to take a closer look at the Halloween activities on offer. There were lots of little folk carrying pumpkin buckets around, eagerly searching for the stickers on the windows of participating shops and restaurants and the goodies inside. The Big Trick or Treat event is on all weekend and there is also free face painting available but, with so much else to see and do, we decided to give it a miss today.
You wouldn’t normally get me anywhere near Primark on a busy Saturday afternoon but my daughter had a giftcard to spend and there was no dissuading her. We battled the crowds and found the Beauty and the Beast accessories section which, luckily, was very well stocked and with plenty of different characters available. After snagging Cogsworth, Mrs Potts and whatever the Wardrobe is called for just under £15, we beat a hasty retreat – big tick to Primark from one very happy 9 year old.
After all that jostling, it was time for a bit of a sit-down and a fuel stop. Anyone familiar with Nottingham will know that there are literally oodles of eateries to choose from. After discounting Evie’s choice of McDonalds (on this occasion), we headed to Bills Restaurant, which is located just off the Market Square and a particular favourite of mine. The staff are always friendly and helpful and we were quickly seated and orders taken. The atmosphere is cheerful and, although the restaurant was very busy, the music was not overpowering, making it the perfect place for a relaxing chat. Evie chose the steak and chips from the kids’ menu, followed by the chocolate brownie (£6.95 includes apple or orange juice and tortilla chips with veg sticks to start) and I had the Naked Burger – no bun, just lots of salad and tzatziki for £10.50, followed by coffee (and a bit of the chocolate brownie!).
Time was ticking on for our afternoon in Nottingham, so after lunch, we popped down to the Market Square to experience the Halloween celebrations. With the UK’s biggest Ghost Train and some hideous-looking contraption that catapults you into the air, there are lots of spooky rides to have a go on and the opportunity to carve a pumpkin for a fiver. There’s even a bar if you need something to calm your nerves after visiting the Haunted House.
We had a quick chat with the lovely gents from the Original Nottingham Ghost Walk, who have been telling tales of ghosts and hauntings in Nottingham for many years. If you’re interested in getting involved, they run tours every Saturday (Jan to Nov) at 7pm from Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem and there’s no need to book. Tours cost £6 for adults and £3 for children. We’ll be doing one of these soon and will let you know how it goes.
The Verdict ...
Nottingham was absolutely buzzing today – lots of people dressed up and out for having a good time and it is fantastic to see so many venues getting into the ‘spirit’ of Halloween. The fun is certainly going to continue late into the evening and it's certainly worth a visit there if you're looking for something to do this weekend.
If you want to know what else is happening around Nottingham City Centre, please visit our What's On Guide.
1st June 2017
Revolution in Hockley at lunchtime is light, bright and welcoming. On a beautiful day like the one we visited on, it’s outdoor seating area on Broad Street is the ideal place to chill out and enjoy lunch and a cocktail or two.
My mission today, however, was to discover if Revolution is kid-friendly and able to cater for their whims and appetites. We popped down in the midst of the school summer half-term break, when boredom was just about kicking in and the kids were more than happy to try somewhere different to eat.
Arriving at Revolution right at the start of the lunch session, the restaurant was quiet and almost tranquil, with plenty of seated areas to choose from. We were greeted warmly by Matt, who swiftly took our drinks orders (top marks Matt) and handed out menus.
The kids’ menu, which costs £5.95 for a main, side, veg, dessert and a drink, has plenty of options to choose from. There are all the usual suspects that smaller people seem to like, including burgers, mac ‘n’ cheese, fishfingers and chicken goujons. With the main comes a choice of sides, plus carrot sticks, mushy peas, baked beans or cucumber ribbons.
Evie (aged 8 with a tendency to try to be ‘choosy about food’) went for the interesting sounding Chicken Lollies – which turned out to be chilled chicken breast on lollipop sticks, served with garlic bread and cucumber ribbons.
Jake (aged 12 – loves curry and already starts challenges about who can eat the hottest food on the menu) decided on the pepperoni pizza which chips – sneakily managing to not order any veg while I was distracted by the adult menu.
The booth we sat in was comfortable, with a selection of games and books thoughtfully arranged nearby – the kids enjoyed a game or two of Guess Who while we were waiting for the food. The kids’ menu turns into an i-spy puzzle, so there is colouring and a bit of detective work for them to do, which is good fun.
The kids’ portions were pretty much spot on. Jake’s pizza certainly looked homebaked, with plenty of cheese and pepperoni, on a tasty base. Evie pronounced that everything on her plate was delicious (result!) and loved the fact that she was allowed to eat the chicken lollipops without a knife or fork. The chicken was very tender and the garlic flatbread was tasty but not overpowering.
Us grown-ups fared equally well. My chicken Caesar salad was huge, with heaps of lettuce and strips of chicken. Hubby’s steak and ale pie, served with skin on chips and mushy peas, was equally flavoursome, with well cooked meat and lots of gravy.
For dessert, the kids managed to squeeze in the Fluffwich soldiers (Nutella and marshmallow in brioche, served with warm Nutella) and a portion of ice cream, before declaring themselves well and truly stuffed.
Mike and I shared the apple pie, washed down with a very nice cup of coffee. The apple pie came with vanilla ice cream and, it has to be said, is one of the nicest I have EVER tasted.
So … is Revolution in Hockley a suitable place to take kids? Absolutely yes! The menu offers excellent value for money, the atmosphere is calm and relaxed during the day and the food is very good. So, if you haven’t considered venturing into Hockley for lunch, it’s just a short walk up the hill from the Market Square and definitely worth the trip.
18th May 2017 at the Poppy and Pint
for the Nottingham Post
It's questionable whether many Notts folk under the age of 50 have heard of Dean Friedman. The American songster released four songs of note in 1977 and 1978 but has since been absent from the singles charts. He has, however, continued to write and release albums and is once again touring venues across the UK , including a welcome return to Notts pub the Poppy and Pint.
There's obviously a deep affection for Mr Friedman in Nottingham, with the venue packed to capacity. The set was simple – just the man, a keyboard, a guitar and that voice with the distinctive New York tones that thankfully has not diminished with time, particularly as Ariel has some pretty high notes.
Friedman's music is pared back and mellow, cleverly drawing on his 61 years to share his often humorous life experiences. From the laugh-out-loud 'I'm Not Sorry To See You Go', to the equally amusing 'Death to the Neighbours', the songs are emotive, entertaining and relatable.
Mixing old songs with more recent material, his relaxed performance style and rapport with the audience was endearing and very successfully added to the intimate nature of the gig.
Interspersing songs with anecdotes, including admitting how he stole McCartney's tune for 'Blackbird' but 'with humility', this evening was part gig, part 'this was my life'.
It's difficult to understand why he has not enjoyed more commercial success.
Hearing Friedman belting out 'Lydia' was a definite highlight (he can still nail those top notes) but by far the favourite song of the evening was his biggest hit 'Lucky Stars', which he saved until the end, rounding things off nicely with some very impressive audience participation.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
25th April 2017 at Nottingham's Theatre Royal
for the Nottingham Post
To be totally honest, this show is bonkers. Who could have believed that the story of Joseph and his biblical tale of sibling jealousy and betrayal could be retold with the inclusion of cowboys, Elvis and inflatable sheep (the latter who were badly behaved and refused to do their job on several occasions during the evening)?
However, combining the genius of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice and Bill Kenwright, it's no surprise that Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has been wowing audiences and receiving 5 star reviews for so many years.
Joe McElderry, 2009 X Factor winner and multi-million selling recording artist, once again dons the coat of many colours to play Joseph in this 50th anniversary tour, after a successful stint last year. McElderry's voice is flawless and ideally suited to this role, particularly for the heartrending Close Every Door, which he sings superbly and with a spine-tingling fervour and backs up with some more than adequate acting.
Lucy Kay is, quite simply, outstanding in the principal role of the Narrator. With a voice that is powerful and pitch perfect and with the ability to inject passion into every scene, she is the glue that pulls the story together, skilfully assisted by a very talented ensemble cast.
The show moves along at a fast pace, with one memorable song swiftly following another. Any Dream Will Do, Coat of Many Colours and the maddeningly catchy and comical One More Angel in Heaven are just a few of tonight's tunes that will be rattling around in my head for days to come.
The swift-footed choreography, colourful scenery and clever costume changes, blended with just the right amount of comedy, all combine to create a show that will make you laugh, cry and occasionally wonder what on earth is happening and why the Pharaoh is dressed as Elvis!
Tonight's audience, which seemed to include many die-hard fans of the show, were more than happy to join in with a storming encore of songs at the end and give the cast a well-deserved standing ovation. This really is a dream of a production and one that will leave you singing in the aisles.
22nd April 2017
After a successful couple of years’ trading in Loughborough, Dolcino brought it’s gelateria-café concept to Nottingham’s City Centre earlier this month.
Not being ones to turn down the chance to try something sweet, we popped along to meet the team and try out some of their traditional Sicilian desserts, which are made on-site, using a secret family recipe.
After a very friendly greeting from staff member Robert, we were shown past a huge array of delicious looking cakes, gelato and sandwiches and led to a bright and airy upstairs window seat, with a great view of Nottingham’s Market Square.
We quickly discovered that the menu needed serious consideration, as the range of dishes on offer is substantial and all, quite frankly, are tempting. After much deliberation and with advice from the lovely Robert, we decide to go with the Knickerbocker Glory, the Oreo Lux Freakshake and the Mini Cheeky Monkey crepe for my 8 year old daughter.
We were then shown around the restaurant by owner Francesco Arcadio, who runs the business with his wife Kirsten and their 18 year old son Sebastian. Francesco comes from a line of gelato makers and, after helping his father and grandfather to make it in Italy, he is now passing the skills down to his own son. He is warm, enthusiastic and determined to introduce us Nottingham folk to the delights of real Italian gelato – there is even a viewing area in the café where you can see the gelato being prepared and made.
Ask Francesco to explain the difference between ice-cream and gelato and you will leave with a wealth of new found knowledge. Did you know that gelato is produced at a lower temperature than ice-cream, meaning you won’t experience the nightmare of brain freeze? It’s also made with less fat than ice-cream and is churned at a lower rate, giving it a denser texture (more about the results of this later). All ingredients used in the café are locally sourced, including the milk, which comes from Rutland Dairy’s free range cows and is so fresh that you can almost taste the grass.
Now for the taste test. The desserts, which were of a decent size and freshly made to order, were beautifully presented. The Knickerbocker Glory is different to what you may be used to, with layers of thick, gooey gelato and a very tasty strawberry sauce. The Freakshake Oreo Lux is a milkshake lovers dream – not too thick and with just the right blend of ingredients. Finally, the Mini Cheeky Monkey crepe was, quite frankly, huge and well worth the price tag of £4.95. The crepe was soft and absolutely smothered in chocolate gelato and cream. We washed it all down with a cup of Dolcino’s coffee, which was smooth, rich and blended on the premises.
There is a lot of competition in Nottingham City Centre, with a huge amount of eateries vying for your business. I like Dolcino and think that they offer something a bit different. You can tell that this is a family run business, with owners who really want you to experience a piece of Italian life. There’s even a running chocolate tap, if you need a fix on top of your gelato.
To give you an idea of prices, a small gelato in a cup or cone costs £2.40, folded pizzas are £3.99 and cakes cost between £2.30 and £2.60. You can take a look at the menu here.
One word of warning ...do not over-order! Because of the density of gelato, it’s a real stomach filler and you do get a lot for your money at Dolcino!
Bubble and Treat at Clumber Park Muthu Hotel and Spa
7th March 2017
The 4 star Clumber Park Muthu Hotel and Spa is conveniently located just off the A614 with plenty of free parking and, although the road is busy, once inside you are immediately transported to a place of tranquillity.
My 'sparring partner' Julie and I were directed to the Spa, which is at the back of the hotel and felt far away from any hustle and bustle. Once there, we were warmly welcomed by Maria, who showed us the facilities and presented us with an itinerary for the day, as well as keys for our lockers.
Spa visitors are given fluffy white robes and towels to use and, suitably dressed, we ventured into the pool area and claimed a couple of loungers. The Spa has a reasonably sized pool with integrated bubble pool, a sauna and steam room, as well as a delightful outdoor seating area with sunken hot-tub. The atmosphere is calm and peaceful, helped by the view of trees and fields and the odd squirrel scampering about.
On the way to the pool we had a quick look at the gym, which is light and modern and seemed to include a lot of high-tech equipment. Not being big fans of exercise, we decided to leave this for another visit but it’s good to know that it’s there if you’re popping in for the day and fancy offsetting the relaxation with some physical exertions.
Time for treatments. I had chosen the New Leaf Skin Booster Facial, which was included within the Bubble and Treat package. In addition, we were offered the chance to book other treatments at a discounted price so, out of pure curiosity, I opted for the Hopi Ear Candles.
The treatment rooms are relaxation personified. The warm but calm décor, soothing music and muted lighting all combine to create an atmosphere of pure indulgence. My therapist, Leanne, gave a detailed explanation of what I could expect from the Hopi Ear Candle treatment, as well as the possible benefits.
Bizarre, is the first word which springs to mind – the long, thin beeswax candles were lit, then inserted into first one ear and then the other, creating a vacuum effect. The crackling which emitted from them for 10 minutes after they were lit was not exactly relaxing but certainly interesting and I couldn’t wait to see the results and how much ear wax had been drawn out of each year (sorry folks!). It turned out that this was ‘quite a lot’, so I am fully expecting my hearing to be massively improved and the circulation around my ears, head and sinuses to be stimulated.
My second treatment was the Skin Booster Facial. Now this is what spa days are all about for me – rest and recuperation. The facial is luxurious and promises to leave you with a smooth, glowing complexion in 25 minutes. I certainly felt invigorated after being pampered with a number of cleansing, toning and moisturising products. Definitely recommended.
Julie had chosen the Lime and Lemongrass Scrub for her main treatment, which she declared was fabulous and, as well as being incredibly relaxing, made her skin feel like silk. In addition, she chose the relaxing back, shoulder and neck massage which did exactly what it promised.
After some more pool time, we ventured into the dining area for our Afternoon Tea. Beautifully served, with a generous selection of very fresh sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, cakes and tarts, this Afternoon Tea included the bonus of a glass of prosecco, as well as tea or coffee. After consuming nearly the whole assortment of goodies, a rest was definitely needed. Luckily, right next to the dining area is a relaxation zone, with comfortable sofas, cushions, throws and magazines. Here, you can have a doze or just chill out and watch the world go by and we did … it was the perfect way to end our spa day.
The Bubble and Treat Spa Day costs £125 for 2 people and includes the afternoon tea, with a glass of prosecco, use of the spa facilities and gym, towels and robes and the choice of one 25 minute treatment. More information here.
Lunch at Revolucion de Cuba, Nottingham
Saturday 21st January 2017
As soon as you walk through the front doors of Revolucion de Cuba in Nottingham, you are hit with a warm, welcoming feeling. This lively bar/restaurant opened on Market Street a year ago and offers authentic Cuban food and drink, along with live music and salsa dancing, right in the heart of Nottingham City Centre.
I’ve experienced the music and slightly frenetic atmosphere of Revoluction de Cuba on many occasions during the evening and would always recommend it as somewhere to visit on a ‘night out’. However, being a parent with pre-teen kids, I wanted to check out its versatility and see whether this is a good venue for families in the daytime.
We were immediately welcomed by a very friendly member of staff, who showed us to a nice, large table by the window. Settling into the comfortable padded benches, with the added bonus of cushions, I immediately felt relaxed and ready to while a few hours away over lunch. Our drinks orders were taken efficiently and a jug of iced water with lemon and lime was provided. The children absolutely love the pineapple glasses their drinks were served in and were slightly disappointed that they couldn’t take them home!!
Perusing the Cantina menu, we could see that there was a whole host of choices, designed to suit those either looking for a light lunch or a full-on ‘Mr Creosote’ experience. We opted for the Tapas, which at £14 for 3 dishes seemed like good value and would give us the opportunity to try a few different dishes.
The kids had their own menu costing £5.95 and included a main, a side and a dessert, as well as a few puzzles and things to colour in (crayons were also provided). Jake (aged 11) chose the chicken goujons, served with skinny fries and Evie (aged 8) went for the vegetable quesadilla, served with cumber and carrot sticks.
The food was served within a perfectly reasonable timeframe and we immediately saw why they recommend that 3 tapas is plenty per person. We chose the Iberico Ham Croquettes, Chicken Quesadilla, Roasted Chorizo, Mojito Battered Prawns, Patatas Brava and Cajun Creamed Mushrooms, along with a selection of breads. The portions are generous and the food, quite frankly, is absolutely superb. Special mention has to be made of staff favourite, the Cajun Creamed Mushrooms, which were, in a word, sublime and served exactly as described. Most of the food has a little kick to it but the spices meld perfectly and nothing we tried was overpowering.
The kids’ sent back clean plates and eagerly dipped into the Tapas, as our blatant inability to finish this delicious food was a little embarrassing!
If you can make room for dessert and you really should try, your next problem is choosing between Columbian Chocolate Brownie, Churro Cheesecake or Molton Chilli Chocolate. After some discussion, we plumped for the Churro Cheesecake (costing £4), washed down with a nice cup of coffee. The kids’ choice was slightly easier and both went for the churros rather than the vanilla ice cream this time.
The churro cheesecake was a work of art on a plate. This super sweet concoction of churro sticks, stuffed full of vanilla cheesecake and topped with strawberries was the only way to finish off such a taste-laden meal but I’m glad we shared! The coffee was served with a small piece of chocolate brownie, making it the perfect solution if you can’t manage a whole pud but fancy something sweet. A lovely touch – I only wish that more restaurants could do this.
Revoluction de Cuba has, in my opinion, got the ambience spot on. The lighting is pitched at just the right level – enough so that you can actually read the menu but not glaring or harsh. This also applies to the background music – you can hear it, you can even chair salsa along to it if you desire but it’s not blasting out and preventing you from hearing what the person next to you is saying.
I have to say that I love this place. From the chilled out, laid-back vibe during the day, making it ideal for lunch out with the family, through to the upbeat intensity in the evening for the grown-ups, you can easily (and happily) lose hours here! It’s comfortable and friendly and the food is excellent, with the added bonus of being good value for money too, especially with 241 Tapas on a Sunday.
The Human League
16th December 2016 at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall
for the Nottingham Post
It’s hard to believe that The Human League released every teenager’s must-have album ‘Dare’ way back in 1981 The fans may have aged, the fashions have changed but the music still sounds as fresh today as it did during the days of lopsided hairstyles and kohl overload, when the group was selling millions of records worldwide.
This year’s trip around Europe, aptly named A Very British Synthesizer Group Tour 2016, features the band’s original member Phil Oakey, accompanied by essentials Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall and runs alongside the recent release of their 4 disc anthology.
Nottingham’s Concert Hall was buzzing for tonight’s show. The audience was suitably warmed up by opening act Ekkoes, who did an excellent job with a number of catchy tunes and certainly deserve a mention.
Enter Phil Oakey, clad in black in an outfit that wouldn’t go amiss in The Matrix and belting out Being Boiled in that deep unmistakable voice. This man has totally still got it and he’s looking and sounding pretty darned good. The audience goes wild. Everyone gets to their feet. Susan and Joanne appear to the strains of Sound of the Crowd and we are all transported back to 1981. Fabulous.
The setup was high-tec, which perfectly complemented the music, with colourful images of jellyfish, Pacman and even Donald Trump. It all added to the evening’s dynamic vibe, as Phil Oakey pounded the stage, obviously enjoying every second of this last show of the tour and the adoration of hundreds of die-hard fans, determined to squeeze the most out of every second.
A group with such longevity as The Human League will have a ton of hits to choose from and we were treated to a huge array this evening, including Fascination , Human and The Lebanon. Susan and Joanne, as always, provided the glamour, the dancing and the additional vocals that propelled the group to stardom and, quite rightly, helped to ensure that they have stayed the course for so many years.
The 1981 smash Don’t You Want Me is The Human League’s most commercially successful tune and they made us wait until the end of the night to hear it. Nostalgia swept the room in waves and the audience continued singing the chorus long after the group had left the stage. Returning for an encore, they could not have chosen a better song to end the evening with than Electric Dreams.
My verdict for tonight? It was like a great big happy Human League party in your 1980s pants.
26th November 2016 at Nottingham Playhouse
for the Nottingham Post
It would seem that the saying ‘things get better with age’ is true when it comes to the pantomime at Nottingham Playhouse. Kenneth Alan Taylor has knocked out another smasher this year with his production of Aladdin and, judging by the audience reaction, this is his best yet.
We all know the story of Aladdin. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, boy gets locked in a cave by an evil man, boy rubs a lamp and is released by the genie. Two hours later, they all live happily ever after. No wicked stepmother or handsome prince, this story is different to the usual Christmas fairytale.
John Elkington returns as the ukulele playing Widow Twankey and is quite obviously a firm favourite amongst the Playhouse faithful. Rocking a series of outlandish outfits, including a teapot, he is once again superb, interacting with the audience and highlighting that family feeling found at this theatre, especially at this time of year.
Pantomime regular Rebecca Little plays two characters this year, with her usual gusto and comedic skill. Initially appearing as WPC Pong and then as the Slave of the Ring, she is the ideal foil to John Elkington. Also retreading the boards are the lovely Danielle Corlass as Aladdin, Kevin McGowan as evil Abanazar and Jasmine White as Princess Jasmine. Although Anthony Hoggard is sadly missing from this year’s line-up, newbies Nathan Elwick and Darren Southworth are welcome additions.
The show starts off at a cracking pace, with a song and dance routine from the Disney film Aladdin. We are then introduced to Wishee Washee, played by canny lad Nathan Elwick, whose real-life Geordie roots are cleverly intertwined into the story, with plenty of Ha’Way’s and references to his accent, which are bound to increase as the weeks go by.
Not received quite so well was The Empress of China, who the audience found slightly confusing. Not sure if he was good or evil, poor Darren Southworth, who consistently looked like a bejewelled lizard, was actually booed when he first appeared on the stage but soon redeemed himself with an excellent performance
Irene-Myrtle Forrester deserves special mention. Playing joint roles of WPC Ping and the slightly hypochondriac Genie of the Lamp, Forrester is sassy, funny and has a belter of a voice. In fact, all of the show’s musical numbers seem to have been ramped up a notch this year, with the cast’s voices gelling perfectly and, ideally chosen to encourage audience participation, of which there was plenty.
The second half began with a very clever, but initially rather bemusing, fluorescent trip amongst the planets, the point of which became clear on the arrival of the magic carpet. As usual at the Playhouse, the scenery and the props are clever but the show is more about the cast and story, so don’t expect an evening of pyrotechnics and wildly expensive trickery. Who needs that when you’ve got dancing rabbits anyway?
With the usual local jokes about Beeston and Mansfield, the show dashes between street markets, caves and palaces, with boatloads of catchy songs and nods to current events – there’s even a piece dedicated to a current X-Factor contestant (no spoiler), which delighted the audience and had them shouting for a number of encores.
One of the highlights of the evening was the Egyptian scene, where Nathan Elwick really stole the show, with his moustache and his very short costume. To everyone’s amusement, we were then treated to a hilarious rendition of the Dance of the 7 Veils by Widow Twankee, followed by the Sand Dance by Wishee Washee and The Empress. We won’t forget the sight of those legs for a while!
Once again, Nottingham Playhouse has produced a show to be proud of, with a very talented cast, who certainly did justice to the story of Aladdin.
The John Wilson Orchestra
22nd November 2016 at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall
for the Nottingham Post
After the success of last year’s tour, the John Wilson Orchestra returned to Nottingham’s Concert Hall as part of a 12 date whirlwind trip around the UK. This show, simply entitled “Music from the Movies” promises musical masterpieces from across the decades and has already received rave reviews.
For this tour, the unassuming but charismatic John Wilson was joined by a large hand-picked orchestra and accompanied by special guest singers Kim Criswell and Matt Ford. The Royal Concert Hall was busy and it was encouraging to see a wider range of ages in the audience this year, with a good smattering of the under 40s.
John Wilson tripped onto his podium and the orchestra dived straight into the 20th Century Fox Fanfare, which really helped to set the scene of the golden days of the Hollywood movies. This was swiftly followed by the first appearance of Kim Criswell, whose CV is as impressive as her voice, singing “I’m the Greatest Star” from the film Funny Girl and Matt Ford, who absolutely smashed “Something’s Gotta Give”.
The music travels seamlessly between rousing and melancholy, with plenty of songs which are perfectly orchestrated and melded to ensure that the evening ebbs and flows but never falters. John Wilson is cheerful and light-footed, providing exactly the right amount of information about the music, delivered in his friendly, relaxed style, which gives him an instant bond with the audience.
At the end of the first half, John informed us that we would be exclusively treated to not one but three movements from the film The Adventures of Robin Hood – because this was Nottingham after all - a decision that went down very well with the locals.
The second half kicked off with the Suite from Gone with the Wind – all 14 minutes of it, played quite superbly by this talented team of musicians. It’s plain to see that the members of the orchestra love their job and there were plenty of smiles and enthusiasm on display during the entire performance. The backdrop for the evening was plain but, who needs frills when you’ve got so much to look at on stage. Who knew that there was such a skill to playing the cymbals – I was totally transfixed.
The highlight of the evening was definitely the arrangement of Tom and Jerry, with an abundance of ‘smashing’ special effects from the wonderful Percussion Department (one of whom was from Nottingham and received special mention). This jaunty ensemble was comedic and fast-paced and the audience loved it.
The audience was teased with not one but two encores – the first included an audience singalong with Kim and Matt and, to the majority’s delight, the second was Princess Leia’s theme from Star Wars which, in my opinion, was the perfect end to a memorable evening.
Turtle Bay, The Cornerhouse, Nottingham City Centre.
Visiting Nottingham’s Turtle Bay is like walking into a sunny summer’s day. There is a relaxed vibe that hits you when you walk into the door and you can almost hear the cocktails calling you.
We were greeted by our server, Barbara, who did an excellent job of explaining the menu and giving us her recommendations. I was with my friend Julie and my 8 year old daughter Evie, neither of whom are massive fans of spicy food. Barbara immediately suggested some dishes that were less on the fiery side for Julie and also said that we could have any sauces served separately, in case they were too hot, which seemed like an excellent plan.
With this in mind, we chose the Jerk Pit Prawns and the Jerk Chicken Wings to share as starters. The food and drinks arrived promptly and we were very pleased with our choices. The shell-on prawns, served with herb, chilli garlic butter & flatbread were, in a word, sublime. The sauce complemented the prawns perfectly and the flatbread was perfect for mopping up the residue. We chose to have the classic jerk glaze ‘on the side’ for the chicken wings, as Barbara warned us that it had a kick to it, which was a wise decision and they too, were very tasty.
Evie was provided with a children’s menu which, as well as doubling up as an activity book (as a parent, I love these in restaurants!) had plenty of options, including chicken and burgers. For her main course (costing £4.50) she chose the flatbread, topped with cheese and tomato and served with salad and a choice of fries, sweet potato mash, or rice and peas and declared it ‘absolutely delicious’.
Julie and I, again going with Barbara’s recommendations, chose the Jerk Salmon, finished with classic jerk glaze (on the side) and served with dressed salad and the Trinidad Curry Chicken – sliced chicken breast, cooked in coconut milk with mango, spices, garlic and scotch bonnet and served with a roti. We also had some Caribbean dumplings on the side, which I think are an acquired taste. The food is brought to you in slightly banged up blue and white metal dishes and bowls, which really helps to give it all a feeling of authenticity. The portions are generous and everything we tried tasted freshly prepared, with bucketloads of flavour.
Somehow, we managed to squeeze in a pudding, although choosing between rum and raisin bread pudding and Caymanas Rum Cake was tough. In the end, we went for the Rum Cake, the Banana and Toffee Cheesecake and the Dark Chocolate Brownie, accompanied by a hot chocolate and a coffee. We were glad that we decided to loosen our belts and squeeze in that final course – the Rum Cake, in particular, was something that will live in my memory for a while – moist, tasty and incredibly Moorish.
Turtle Bay has the atmosphere spot on. With music at a level that enables you to enjoy it, yet still talk to the other people on the table, well-placed lighting (no squinting to see the menu but not cold and glaring) the ambience is warm and relaxed. We did not feel as though we were being rushed by the staff and they were attentive but not annoyingly so.
Being quite traditional about my food, this is not somewhere that I would instantly think of for Sunday lunch but it is obviously very popular and for good reason.
My advice would be – don’t be put off by the spice but talk to your server and let them advise you if you like your food on the milder side. Turtle Bay in Nottingham is certainly a great place to visit if you want a laid-back meal that’s a bit different to the norm. The prices are reasonable (the Jerk Salmon was £12.50 and the desserts were £4.85). The portions are big and we certainly felt like it was good value by the time was managed to waddle to the door, back into a cold Nottingham day.
Review undertaken by Lisa, Julie and Evie.