All posts by mirandasnotebook

London Culture | The Importance of Being Earnest Theatre Review

The Importance of Being Earnest Theatre Review, Vaudeville Theatre: a dynamic production without a standout performance from Sophie Thompson.

Please note: I was given tickets to ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

At the end of May, my Dad took my Mum and me to see An Ideal Husband at the Vaudeville Theatre. We had a wonderful evening, and I enjoyed the production of the play so much that I even interviewed one of the actors, Faith Omole, on Tea & Tattle Podcast (you can listen to the interview here).

I was delighted, then, to be offered tickets to review The Importance of Being Earnest, the latest Oscar Wilde play to be staged at the Vaudeville Theatre, as part of the Dominic Dromgoole and Classic Spring Oscar Wilde seasonThe Importance of Being Earnest is my favourite Wilde play, so I was particularly looking forward to seeing it live, and I took my Mum along to watch it with me.

The Importance of Being Earnest Theatre Review, Vaudeville Theatre: a dynamic production without a standout performance from Sophie Thompson.Fehinti Balogun as Algernon Moncrieff. Image source.

As soon as the curtain went up, I realised that Michel Fentiman’s staging of the play was far from a conventional interpretation. In the opening scene, Algernon Moncrieff (played by Fehinti Balogun) is locked in a close embrace with a young man who rapidly slinks off into the wings, and the stage is dominated by a centrally hung painting depicting two naked men entwined on the floor.

Unlike Wilde’s unrivalled satirical wit, subtlety is not a notable feature of this production. Algernon is overtly bisexual, even kissing his manservant, Lane, on the lips, and the fulfilment of the physical appetites seems to be very much on everyone’s mind: cucumber sandwiches and crumpets are stuffed into mouths; Gwendoline (Pippa Nixon) all but straddles the grand piano when encouraging Jack (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd) to propose; and Cecily (Fiona Button) shares a cigarette and flirtatious glances with a gardener that looks like he wandered in from a production of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

The Importance of Being Earnest Theatre Review, Vaudeville Theatre: a dynamic production without a standout performance from Sophie Thompson.Sophie Thompson as Lady Bracknell. Image source.

It must be a challenge to bring a fresh direction to such a classic play, but I did feel that this ‘sexing up’ of the production was a little too heavy-handed, and occasionally tipped into farce rather than satire.  Despite these reservations, however, I still thoroughly enjoyed the play. It’s hard not to have a wonderful time when seeing something written by Oscar Wilde, and The Importance of Being Earnest is Wilde at his very best.

Sophie Thompson as Lady Bracknell was completely marvellous, and Fehinti Balogun and Jacob Fortune-Lloyd brought a playfulness to their respective roles that added a youthful energy to the production. I’d recently admired Fiona Button’s acting in BBC’s The Split, so it was fun to see her perform live, and she did not disappoint as an exuberant Cicely.

The Importance of Being Earnest Theatre Review, Vaudeville Theatre: a dynamic production without a standout performance from Sophie Thompson.The Importance of Being Earnest. Image source.

For me, there were two standout scenes in this production: the first when Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as John Worthing explains the circumstances surrounding his birth and being found in a handbag in a cloakroom at Victoria Station.  Sophie Thompson’s deliverance of ‘in a handbag!’ is muttered faintly, but still conveys Lady Bracknell’s utter horror of the situation. My other favourite scene was the final denouement when John Worthing’s true parentage is revealed. By this point, the cast have achieved a wonderful degree of tension, and  – despite knowing the story well – I waited in eager anticipation for Miss Prism’s explanation of events.

I chuckled my way through the entire performance, and Mum and I agreed we’d had a brilliant evening. If you’re in the mood for an entertaining, lighthearted night out filled with sparkling wit, then I highly recommend adding The Importance of Being Earnest to your theatre list.

The Importance of Being Earnest is on until 20th October at the Vaudeville Theatre. Tickets may be booked here

London Culture | Kinky Boots Review, Adelphi Theatre

London Culture | Kinky Boots Review, Adelphi Theatre

Please note: I was given tickets to Kinky Boots in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

If you’re looking for an entertaining way to kickstart a summer weekend, then a theatre outing to see the Tony Award-winning Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre would most definitely tick the box. The theatre is blissfully air-conditioned (tick), the audience enthusiastic (tick) and the whole performance is charged with an energy, sparkle and sense of fun (tick) that guarantees a terrific start to a great night out.

The original Kinky Boots film was released in 2005 and has gained a dedicated cult following. Inspired by a true story, Kinky Boots tells the story of Charlie Price, who inherits his father’s shoe factory in Northampton. Although successful for years, the family business is now floundering, and Charlie sees no way forward apart from closing up and selling, putting the workers he grew up with out of a job. He struggles with guilt and despair, until by chance he meets Lola, a drag queen with a problem: the high heels of regular women’s shoes cannot stand up to the weight of a man and keep snapping. Charlie decides to take a chance and cater to the niche transvestite market, developing dazzling (but sturdy!) boots inspired by Lola’s designs. How Charlie and the people of Northampton rise up to the challenge, not only of creating the boots, but also of accepting others for who they truly are, makes for a feel-good, inspiring story.

London Culture | Kinky Boots Review, Adelphi TheatreKinky Boots, Adelphi Theatre. Image source.

Fans of the Kinky Boots film will not be disappointed by the musical, as it’s very faithful to the original movie. Many of the film’s most memorable lines are cleverly incorporated into the songs and script of the musical, and the set designs brilliantly mimic the Price Shoe Factory of the movie. Kinky Boots is a smart choice for a musical adaptation: the simple, but heartfelt plot is well expressed through song, and the big dance numbers are truly outstanding when performed live with a West End cast. The music and lyrics are by Cyndi Lauper – an inspired choice, although I was a little disappointed that none of the songs quite came up to the ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ standard, but there were still many great tunes.

For me, the star of the show was Momar Diagne, who played Lola and brought impressively high levels of energy to the demanding role. From leading dance routines, to singing solo, Diagne never faltered. Moments of humour or pathos were injected into his performance by a mere flick of the wrist or slump of the shoulders. Oliver Tompsett as Charlie Price was also very strong, combining an authentic earnestness and impeccable slapstick comedy in his performance. The cast as a whole performed many spectacular singing and dancing routines, and by the end the entire audience was on their feet, clapping in time to the finale score.

London Culture | Kinky Boots Review, Adelphi TheatreKinky Boots, Adelphi Theatre. Image source.

Kinky Boots must close Janurary 2019, and as I said I think it would be a great choice as part of a celebratory night out (Hen Dos, Birthdays, Girls’ Night etc). I recommend starting your evening viewing Kinky Boots, then going on for drinks and dancing, as the impressive dance numbers will be sure to make you want to bust a move or two of your own, whether in high heels or not!

Tickets to Kinky Boots may be purchased here

UK Travel | High Tea at The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny

UK Travel | High Tea at The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny

Last Thursday, I travelled to The Angel Hotel in Abergavenny, Wales, to enjoy their fabulous High Tea menu in collaboration with The East India Company. Considering I have a podcast called Tea & Tattle, it’s unlikely that it would come as a shock that I adore a good Afternoon Tea, and High Tea is even better! But really, is there a nicer way to spend a warm summer afternoon than sitting on a shady roof terrace, sipping on various drinks (lemonade, cocktails, gallons of tea) and wondering which cake to try first from the piled-high plate in front of you? If so, I’ve yet to find it! For anyone who is confused, by the way, a High Tea is simply a more substantial form of Afternoon Tea and is served with a greater selection of savoury dishes.

I turned up at Paddington Station far too early, but I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to collect my tickets, and as Great Western Railway had provided me with first class return tickets for the journey, I got to spend time in the first class lounge at the station. I’d done this once before, when GWR gave me tickets for my journey to Penzance last Spring, and it was just as fun the second time around! The first class lounge is filled with comfy seats, free WiFi, newspapers and complimentary refreshments. I helped myself to tea and a couple mini croissants and thought this is the way to travel!

In what felt like no time at all, the train platform was announced, and I made my way to my seat, feeling a little thrill of excitement as I stepped into a 1st Class carriage. I found a comfy seat, plugged my phone in to charge and pulled out the book I’d selected for the journey: The Private Patient by P.D. James. Mysteries are my favourite genre of books  to read when I’m travelling, and this detective story featuring the charming sleuth, Adam Dalgleish, was satisfactorily gripping.

Countryside flashed past the windows as the train sped further and further away from London, and, after one change at Newport, I arrived in Abergavenny at about 12.45. The Angel Hotel is a 15 minute walk from the station, so I made my way there, meeting another blogger on the way who had spied me coming out of the train, and thought it likely that, given my flowery dress and overnight bag, we were both there for the same reason!

UK Travel | High Tea at The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny

The Angel Hotel is in the centre of Abergavenny, a pretty little Welsh market town, just a few miles over the border from England. As I wheeled my baggage through the big entrance doors, we were greeted warmly by the hotel receptionist and shown up to the hotel’s large roof terrace, where our tea would be served. On entering the roof terrace, I was immediately handed a glass of freshly made, ice-cold lemonade: the perfect refreshment after my train journey and walk from the station!

The different teas we’d be trying were already laid out, as were some menus so we could anticipate our meal ahead. I was astonished by how lavish The Angel’s High Tea is, especially considering the extremely reasonable £30 price tag (I shuddered to think what a similar feast would cost in London!).

I was also very impressed that every course on the High Tea menu is paired with an East India Company tea. I do think it’s lovely to be able to try lots of different kinds of tea, and it was really interesting to see which teas had been selected as a good pairing choice for each course. The East India Company had invited their Tea Master to talk us through the teas offered, as well as to give a little history about the company and the tea trade, which was fascinating.

The East India Company specialise in gin as well as tea, so after we’d finished our lemonade, we were handed a ‘Welsh 75’ cocktail (a geographically appropriate twist on the classic French 75), which combined gin with bubbles, crème de cassis, lemon juice and sugar. Delicious!

By this point, our appetites were definitely whetted, so we were all excited when the first course on the High Tea Menu appeared. To start off, we enjoyed freshly cut sandwiches: poached and smoked salmon with lemon and dill; cream cheese and cucumber; ham and whole grain mustard and egg and cress, paired with Royal Flush tea from Sri Lanka.

The sandwiches were very traditional and were extremely tasty. I also appreciated the occasional unexpected twist: the cucumbers used were pickled, and I  enjoyed the combination of both poached and smoked salmon. Royal Flush was a richly flavourful black tea, perfectly served with a splash of milk. It would be just the kind of tea I’d choose for my first cup of the day.

Next were more savoury treats: spinach and ricotta parcels; coronation chicken tarts; sausage rolls; bacon, onion and cheese quiche and finally feta, sundried-tomato and pesto parmieres. The tea served alongside was Da Hong Pao Oolong from China, a beautifully amber coloured tea that had a delicious mellow taste.

UK Travel | High Tea at The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny

I enjoyed all of the savoury course: the sausage roll and quiche were particular favourites of mine. The pastry of the sausage roll was perfectly crisp and flaky, and it was satisfyingly meaty on the inside – yum!

In between the savoury and sweet courses, we were given a palate cleanser: ice tea made with Dragon Well Lung tea from China. It was delicious! I’m not always a fan of ice tea, but this drink was heavenly! Green tea works very well iced, and some mint leaves were stirred in as well, which made the drink even more refreshing.

After finishing our iced teas, the sweets came round: raspberry cheesecake served on its own little dish, then plates filled with bakewell tarts; chocolate and nut baskets; custard slices; profiteroles; lemon and poppy seed fairy cakes; coffee and walnut cakes and lemon and raspberry tarts. The tea served alongside was Darjeeling First Flush 2018 from India.

UK Travel | High Tea at The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny

I was too full to sample everything, but I tried the fairy cake, bakewell tart and raspberry cheesecake. They were delicious, particularly the raspberry cheesecake, which was smooth, creamy and fabulously decadent.

The Darjeeling First Flush was a highlight too. It’s an expensive tea due to its rarity and was beautifully light, with fruity and floral notes – a perfect match for our cakes.

There was more sweetness to come! Individual pots of Eton Mess arrived, paired with Black Vanilla tea from Sri Lanka. Oh my, this tea was incredible! I’m usually not a huge fan of vanilla tea, but this one has converted me. I want to go to the East India Company shop in London just so I can buy some to have at home! The tea had the most wonderful aroma, and it was surprisingly sweet too, although I was assured there was no added sugar. I think this vanilla tea will be my new favourite evening drink!

Have you been thinking, but what about the scones? Never fear! They arrived, rather untraditionally served last, but definitely providing a wonderful finale to the meal (although I could only manage half of one by this stage!).

These were some of the best scones I’ve tasted, and everyone around the table exclaimed over them. Still warm from the oven, they were well risen and light, the perfect vehicle for the lashings of jam and clotted cream provided alongside.

Our tea pairing for this final course came in the form of a ‘Gin and Tea’ cocktail. We were treated to a little gin tasting and lesson as another member of the East India Company team whipped up the cocktail in front of us. I thought it was charming to serve it in a teacup, poured from a pot!

The drink was made with gin, Earl Grey tea and ginger syrup- an unusual, but to my mind successful, combination and a wonderful end to a truly dazzling spread!

After the High Tea (which had lasted the whole afternoon and lingered into early evening!), I checked into my room at the hotel. I was immediately enraptured by the blissful air-conditioning. The current heat wave in the UK means I’ve been sleeping badly for weeks on end, as my bedroom gets very stuffy, so I was extremely happy at the thought of a good night’s sleep before me!

My room was huge, with a large double bed, desk, two-seater sofa and a good sized bathroom with a walk-in shower as well as bath. The hotel had also kindly provided me with a thoughtful welcome card, a bottle of sparkling Daylesford Apple Juice and dishes of olives and almonds.

I hung up my dress for the next day in the wardrobe, applied some fresh lipstick, then went out to explore a little of Abergavenny. As it was already well into the evening, none of the shops were still open, but I made my way along to the ruined castle (just making it in before the gates were locked) and then had a wander in the gardens, admiring a beautiful display of hydrangeas in full bloom.

After my stroll, I returned for a glass of rose in the Hotel’s courtyard and a long, relaxing soak in the bath before sinking into bed for a solid 8 hour sleep. I awoke the next morning feeling thoroughly refreshed and made my way down for a breakfast of croissants with jam and butter, followed by scrambled eggs and a sausage, all washed down with orange juice and tea. The whole breakfast was very tasty, but I particularly admired the croissants, which were fresh, perfectly flaky on the outside and soft and buttery within.

I was told that the hotel runs a bakery next door, where baked goods, including croissants, are sold daily and also made for the hotel’s guests. I just had time to pop by the bakery before I had to catch my train, and was lucky enough to be shown into the kitchens to see some croissants being handmade for a second batch that day!

I was tempted to buy another croissant for my train journey, but they were sold out already. I’ll just have to go back to enjoy croissants and High Tea all over again someday!

~

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny: angelabergavenny.com

The Angel Afternoon Tea is served:

Monday – Friday; Afternoon Tea and High Tea are served in the Wedgewood room from 2.00pm – 4.00pm.
Saturday & Sunday; High Tea only (£30.00 per person); served in the Wedgewood room from 1.00pm – 5.00pm.

You can book online or call 01873 857121.

~

Specially paired Teas and London Dry Gin used in the Angel High Tea are by The East India Company.

Trains to Abergavenny run from London Paddington and may be booked through the Great Western Railway.

Witness for the Prosecution Theatre Review, London County Hall

Witness for the Prosecution Theatre Review, London County Hall

Please note: I was given tickets to Witness for the Prosecution in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Last week, I took my Mum with me to see Witness for the Prosecution at London County Hall, a short walk from Waterloo Station (and within a stone’s throw of the London Eye). We were both so excited to see this play, as we’re huge Golden Age mystery fans, and my Mum gave me my first Agatha Christie book when I was about 10 years old (it was Halloween Party – very appropriate as it features a character called Miranda, and my birthday is in October!).

Witness for the Prosecution Theatre Review, London County HallPhilip Franks as Mr Myers QC in Witness for the Prosecution. Image source.

I’d never seen an Agatha Christie play before (now I want to get to The Mousetrap too!), but I already knew the short story of Witness for the Prosecution, which Christie wrote in the 1920s, but later adapted into a play in 1953. A young man, Leonard Vole, stands accused of murdering an elderly lady whom he’d once helped and who subsequently grew fond of him, treating him like a son (and changing her will to leave him her fortune). The case against Vole seems cut-and-dried, but Vole’s defence counsel becomes convinced of his innocence, especially when the testimony of Vole’s vindictive wife hints at a possible plot to ensure her husband is sentenced…. In typical Christie fashion, there is a brilliant twist to the story at the end, which I certainly shan’t give away here, but prepare to be shocked when you see the play for yourself!

Witness for the Prosecution stands out not only for its devilishly clever storyline, but for its courtroom setting.  Everyone in the audience was clearly delighted by the fantastic way the play has been staged by Lucy Bailey at the now disused debating chamber in London County Hall, which is easy to imagine as the Old Bailey, the play’s predominant setting. A sense of occasion is created as soon you arrive at County Hall and sweep up the grand staircase to take your seat in the rows of large leather cushioned pews.

Witness for the Prosecution Theatre Review, London County HallWitness for the Prosecution at London County Hall. Image Credit: Sheila Burnett

Where politicians once hammered out political debates, Leonard Vole’s trial is staged, with legal counsels for the defence and prosecution arguing whether or not he should be found guilty of murder. The impressive setting lends to the theatricality of the cast’s performance, and the audience is made to feel a part of the play, as though we were all spectators in the gallery of a courtroom. Some seats are even positioned so that twelve members of the audience are used as the jurors, which certainly adds a piquancy to your typical theatre experience!

The cast, though small, was strong. I was especially impressed by Richard Clothier and Philip Franks, who played the part of defending and prosecuting barristers perfectly. Their cross-examinations kept the audience spellbound, and they brought a drama and flourish to their speeches that would have made Rumpole proud. Lucy Phelps played a fiery Romaine Vole, and Harry Reid oozed boyish charm as her husband Leonard.

Witness for the Prosecution is an unforgettable courtroom drama and shows Agatha Christie at her very best. I highly recommend it for a fun, different night out in London!

You can book tickets to see Witness for the Prosecution here.

UK Travel | Roses at Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent

Sissinghurst Castle Garden

My first visit to Sissinghurst, the former home of Vita Sackville-West, was during an autumn (you can read about it here). I was stunned by the beauty of the gardens and the surrounding Kent countryside then, but I’d always wanted to return in the summer when the roses would be in bloom.

A few weeks ago in June, I finally made it back, when the gardens looked at their very best. Lupins, peonies and foxgloves jostled for attention, and the air was heavy with the scent of roses, which tumbled over the pinky-brown brick walls, curved picturesquely around lattice windows and grew with bushy abandon along footpaths. Sissinghurst is famed for its roses, as Vita loved them, especially old varieties, and if you’re a lover of flowers than the Sissinghurst Castle Gardens simply must not be missed!

I found a shady nook to sit and read a new book – Vita and Virginia – which describes the complicated relationship between the two women. Virginia was a frequent visitor to Sissinghurst, and photographs of her are scattered about Vita’s incredible writing room, situated in the Elizabethan tower house that looms above the garden.

Sadly, I could only peer through some iron gates to see into the room on my way up the tower, but it looks the most glorious space, with book-lined walls, a big desk and many of Vita’s personal knick-knacks on display.

If you’re feeling fit, then it’s well worth the climb to the top of the tower to take in the extraordinary views of the gardens laid out below and the beautiful rolling fields and woods stretching to the horizon.

Vita, recalling her emotions on first seeing Sissinghurst, wrote that the house and land ‘caught instantly at my heart and my imagination. I saw what might be made of it. It was Sleeping Beauty’s castle.’

There certainly is an air of enchantment that hovers over the place; it’s easy to imagine figures from the past sprawling across the neatly trimmed lawns with their rugs and deckchairs, or leaning out of a window to admire the view.

When Vita and her husband Harold first bought Sissinghurst in 1930, it was in ruins and uninhabitable. They transformed the buildings and grounds into a place of wonder and beauty, and I feel so grateful to have been able to sit in their cherished garden and breath in the rose-perfumed air on a warm June day in 2018.

London Culture | Imperium II: Dictator Theatre Review, Gielgud Theatre

London Culture | Imperium II: Dictator Theatre Review, Gielgud Theatre

Please note: I was given tickets to Imperium II: Dictator in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Last Thursday, I settled into my seat at the Gielgud Theatre to watch one of the Imperium plays that are based on the Cicero trilogy of novels by Robert Harris and have been adapted for theatre by Mike Poulton (who was also responsible for the hugely successful adaptations of Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies).

Harris’s trilogy – Imperium, Lustrum and Dictator – follow the rise and fall of Marcus Tullius Cicero, considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and who served as consul in 63BC.  Mike Poulton has condensed and adapted the trilogy of books in to a two-part play, and each section of the play (Part I: Conspirator and Part II: Dictator) may be viewed separately as a stand alone play, although to get a full understanding of the scope of Cicero’s story, it’s best to get tickets to both if possible.

Photo by Ikin Yum. Image source.

I was given tickets to see Part II: Dictator, and I was concerned that I’d be a little lost, having not seen Part I, but fortunately it was easy to pick up the threads of the story from the beginning, and the second half of the tale is a truly gripping rendition of Caesar’s assassination, Mark Antony’s rise to power and Octavian’s scheming ambition, told from the perspectives of Cicero and his faithful servant, Tiro.

It’s the examination of Cicero’s complex personality – a mix of vanity, insecurity, profound intelligence and theatricality – and the focus on the political machinations of Rome that make these plays stand out and provide a fresh outlook on the well trodden path of Rome’s ancient history. Although Cicero’s prose had an incredible impact on the significant writers, thinkers and politicians of the Renaissance, he is a character that has been surprisingly little seen in popular culture. Shakespeare, of course, concentrated on Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, giving only a few lines to Cicero, but the Imperium plays show the vital role Cicero enacted within Roman politics.

His is a story that lends itself well to the theatre: Cicero was a brilliant performer, making his orations a spectacle that could draw a remarkable crowd, and the Royal Shakespeare Company has done a tremendous job at bringing to life the intrigues, ambitions and politics of his extraordinary career. The cast was extremely strong, and there were several exemplary performances. Critics have lauded Richard McCabe’s performance as Cicero as ‘career-defining,’ and he gave a magnificent portrayal of Cicero’s complicated character: in one moment the thoughtful philosopher, in the next a pompous and boastful orator.

Richard McCabe as Cicero. Image source.

For all his faults, however, Cicero’s utter conviction in the rule of law and his commitment to the sanctity of free politics and free speech, for which he ultimately sacrificed his life, is undeniably noble and strikes a chord in today’s world of turbulent politics.

If you fancy a memorable night involving great story-telling and remarkable acting, then I highly suggest seeing one or both of the Imperium plays, or tickets to one would make a wonderful gift for any history/politics buffs in your life. I’m now tempted to book tickets to see Part I, even though it means watching the story back to front, as I’m sure it would be wonderful!

You can book tickets to see both the Imperium Plays, Conspirator and Dictator, here.

Best Sunday Roasts in London | The Hero of Maida

Best Sunday Roasts in London | The Hero of MaidaSunday Roast at The Hero of Maida

Two questions I get asked with increasing regularity are: ‘where should I go for Afternoon Tea in London?’ and ‘which is your favourite place for a Sunday roast dinner?’

Afternoon Tea and a proper English Sunday roast are two quintessentially British meals that are delicious, steeped in tradition and certainly shouldn’t be missed by anyone visiting the UK. To my mind, a highlight of the weekend is always a roast dinner, but I’ve mainly lived in apartments with tiny kitchens, so it’s not a meal I often cook myself. Over the years, then, I’ve enjoyed tracking down some of the very best Sunday roasts in London. Many of my favourite pubs in Hampstead do an excellent roast, but a few weeks ago, when my Dad was visiting, we went to a pub in Maida Vale that soared straight to the top of my list.

The Hero of Maida is a beautifully restored Victorian pub that opened earlier in the spring, and its menu is overseen by the chef Henry Harris (formerly of Racine). The pub is a short walk from Warwick Avenue tube station, located on a quiet street in the heart of Little Venice. A walk along the canal would be a great way to work off those Yorkshire puddings after your meal!

Best Sunday Roasts in London | The Hero of Maida

Downstairs is the bustling bar – a stylish space with exposed brick accents, wooden floors and a gallery wall. We arrived on a hot day, so the large doors were thrown open to let in a refreshing breeze. As I’d booked a table in advance, we were seated in the dining room upstairs, which was quieter and air conditioned (much appreciated, as it was one of the warmest days of the year!).

We quenched our thirst with glasses of Pimms (Mum and me) and a beer (Dad) as we looked at the menu.

My Dad (who’s Canadian) makes a point of enjoying English sausages and beer whenever he’s in the UK, as he says they’re the very best! A Sunday roast is generally on his list too, so it was no surprise that all three of us ordered the Roast Beef.

Best Sunday Roasts in London | The Hero of Maida

Oh my! Aside from my Mum’s cooking, this was definitely the best roast dinner I’ve ever had! Our beef was beautifully pink and succulent, and I loved that the sides arrived served in sharing platters, so we could all help ourselves, which made it feel more like a family meal at home. The gravy and horseradish sauce provisions were extremely plentiful, with extra jugs of gravy provided, and we all got a second serving of Yorkshire puddings (beautifully light, not in the least dry). We all enjoyed the selection of sides, which were very traditional: roast potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli cheese, cabbage and roasted root vegetables.

My Dad ordered a spectacular red wine, which paired perfectly with the meal, it’s full-bodied smoothness standing up robustly to the richness of our beef.  We raised a glass to our lovely long weekend together and my Mum’s return to good health.

Best Sunday Roasts in London | The Hero of Maida

Despite feeling rather on the stuffed side, none of us could resist a glance at the dessert menu. I gave way to temptation when ‘lemon posset and blueberry trifle’ caught my eye, Mum plumped for an Eton Mess (it’s hard to resist English strawberries this time of year!), and Dad chose two cheeses as a savoury end to his meal. Dessert was just as delectable as our mains, and we lingered over our plates as we finished the last of our wine and chatted.

Honestly, that’s a Sunday roast that’ll be hard to beat!

London Culture | Tartuffe Theatre Review, Theatre Royal Haymarket

Tartuffe Theatre Review

Please note: I was given tickets to Tartuffe in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Last Friday, I went to the Theatre Royal Haymarket to watch Tartuffe, a modern bilingual adaptation of Molière’s famous 17th Century satirical play. Directed by Gérald Garutti and adapted by Christopher Hampton, this version of Tartuffe is set in modern day California. A wealthy Frenchman, Orgon, moves to L.A. with his family and there falls under thrall of Tartuffe, a trickster who uses his dominant personality and professed Christian faith to exercise an alarming power over the bewitched Orgon. Although Orgon and his mother fall entirely under the spell of Tartuffe, the rest of Orgon’s family are dismayed and disgusted by the outsider, and they seek to unmask his true nature to Orgon.

Tartuffe boasts an impressive cast, and there were standout performances from Audrey Fleurot (Elmire) and Paul Anderson (Tartuffe). Audrey Fleurot plays Orgon’s beautiful, intelligent wife Elmire. It is only Elmire that proves a match for Tartuffe, as she uses her physical attractions to trick him into compromising himself and betraying his true character. Audrey Fleurot plays Elmire with a cool aloofness mixed with sly humour; the perfect temptress as she poses artfully in figure-hugging dresses. Anderson brings an edge of menace and narcissism to Tartuffe that belies his cheerful drawl and subdued clothing. He broods over the stage from a slightly raised cube, giving him an omniscient-like presence that is felt even before he first appears.

I thought the bilingual production was the most interesting aspect of this adaptation, although I sometimes found the subtitles distracting, as it was difficult to keep my eyes on both the subtitle screen and the actors. The characters (excepting Tartuffe, who speaks only English), constantly switch between French and English. Orgon’s daughter and son, part of the more Americanised younger generation, prefer speaking English, whereas their mother and father instinctively break into French. It is a further sign of Tartuffe’s hold over Orgon that he always addresses him in English.

The use of French pays homage to the play’s influence in French culture and allows bilingual viewers to appreciate Molière’s rhyming couplets. Language, fittingly, is at the heart of this play: it is Tartuffe’s smooth talking, his ability to disarm his enemies by putting forward persuasive arguments, that makes him so dangerous. This is a play in which language is rarely candid: people constantly say one thing yet mean another. No one better than Tartuffe understands the disingenuousness of people’s words; he cannot trust Elmire’s speeches, but insists she must physically prove to him her love. Ultimately, it is not a slip of the tongue that betrays Tartuffe’s hypocrisy, but his own bodily desires.

The famous final speech by the Officer, originally a suspiciously hyperbolic monologue in praise of King Louis XIV, has been changed to reflect Trumpian America. The speech is a fantastic example of subversive double entendre, drawing wry laughter from the audience.

An evening out seeing Tartuffe at the theatre would make a fantastic start to any weekend, especially if you’re a Francophile like me!

Tartuffe is showing until 28th July at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. You can buy tickets here.

 

Annabel Bird Shares Her Secret Seven London

Secret Seven London with Annabel Bird of Bleak House London, a luxury lifestyle brand

An Insider’s Guide to London

This post is part of my Secret Seven London series, where I ask my favourite London instagrammers to share their top seven London locations that are a little off the beaten track.

London is full of beautiful destinations to explore, and I’m always so excited when I uncover a new gem, so I hope my readers will find this series as inspirational as I do! Get ready to fill your Little Black Book with some of London’s best kept secrets…

Annabel Bird’s Secret Seven London

Annabel Bird (@bleakhouse.london) with her dog, Edward

I’m so pleased that the lovely Annabel Bird has agreed to share her Secret Seven London with Miranda’s Notebook readers. Annabel is a fellow North-West London resident, and she lives in Primrose Hill with her family and beloved Welsh Terrier, Edward (who even has his own instagram account!).

Annabel is the founder of Bleak House London, a luxury online lifestyle shop that’s perfect for city-dwellers who love nothing better than planning weekend escapes to the country. Annabel handpicks and designs a range of good quality fashion and homeware products, as well as practical, but stylish accessories for your canine best friend.

Every month, Annabel and her husband send out their fantastic newsletter, The Red Book, which contains suggested walks and helpful tips for making the most of London and the surrounding countryside. You can subscribe to The Red Book here, and you can also read editions of The Red Book on Annabel’s online magazine-style blog.

I was so interested to read Annabel’s top seven London destinations, which are a brilliant mix of vegetarian-friendly restaurants and places to escape the cacophony of the city:

1/ Kenwood Ladies’ Pond, Hampstead Heath

I have been swimming at the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond in the summer for a long time, but last year I decided to swim through the winter. I’ve swam every week for a whole year now and it’s been one of the most magical, thrilling and challenging experiences of my life.

2/ The Everyman Cinema, Kings Cross

One of the reasons I love living in London is that it has the best of everything. Cinemas are no exception, and the recently opened Everyman at Kings Cross is the nicest cinema I’ve ever visited. Forget fold down-seats and buckets of Coca Cola, here you can snuggle up on a velvet sofa with your other half and drink prosecco to your heart’s content.

3/ Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

This cute little restaurant in Fitzrovia is great for us vegetarians. Sharing mezze and rose wine with a bunch of girlfriends is one of my favourite ways to while away a lunchtime.

4/ Padella, Borough Market

Borough Market is one of London’s oldest markets – it’s been there for more than a thousand years. The market is a gastronomic delight, and top of the tree for me is Padella: ridiculously cheap, ridiculously delicious, ridiculously busy. There is always a queue around the block to get a table, and I love that the restaurant shuts in the afternoon so the pasta can be made for the evening. You can’t get much fresher than that!

5/ Petersham Nurseries, Richmond

If I want a good walk and to feel like I’ve left London without actually quitting the city, I walk from Richmond to Petersham Nurseries for lunch. It’s the most beautiful garden centre you could imagine, and I am building up quite a collection of their wonderful Indian terracotta pots. Happily, the restaurant and the cafe are both dog friendly.

6/ Odette’s, Primrose Hill

Along with The Ivy, Odette’s is my favourite restaurant for those special occasion meals. It’s perfect for an anniversary, a birthday or sometimes just a random Thursday night when you need a bit of cheering up. This little Welsh outpost has the ideal mix of excellent food, great service and a lovely interior.

7/ Inner Temple Gardens

My husband works on Chancery Lane, and if I’m in town I’ll sometimes meet him for a low-key picnic in Temple Gardens. We grab a sandwich from Pret-a-Manger and sit under the beautiful trees and forget the 21st century exists.

~

keep up with Annabel’s website, bloginstagram and pinterest.

connect with me on Instagram at @mirandasnotebook and @mirandasbookcase

Note: all photographs excepting header image provided by Annabel Bird

You may also like to read my other Secret Seven London post with Talitha McQueen.

London Culture | Theatre Review of Consent by Nina Raine

consent by nina raine

Please note: I was given complimentary tickets for Consent in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

On the day Harvey Weinstein was arrested and charged with rape and several counts of sexual abuse, I sat in the Harold Pinter theatre waiting for the curtain to rise on Consent, a play by Nina Raine. Originally a sellout success at the National Theatre in 2017, Consent is now showing at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End. Since the play’s initial staging in 2017, it is not too dramatic to say that the world has changed, and Raine has reportedly been unsure of the play’s reception in today’s #MeToo era.

Consent is an intelligent, thought-provoking play with laugh-out loud witty dialogue; what makes it more provocative to today’s audience is the ambiguity Raine spins around her characters and their actions. She deliberately delves into the grey area that surrounds ‘he said / she said’ type accusations, casting the audience as judge and jury: who is to be believed? And does justice give way to whoever can spin the most convincing argument?

The play follows a group of upper middle-class barristers and their tangled love lives. At the start of the play, one of the barristers, Jake, is revealed as a serial cheater: his wife Rachel finds out, is devastated, and threatens divorce and sole custody of their child. This domestic upheaval triggers another in the lives of their friends, Kitty and Edward: old wounds resurface, and another marriage falls apart at the seams.

Whilst drama plays out in the barristers’ domestic lives, another takes centre stage in the courtroom: a woman attempts to get her assailant sentenced for rape, but her testimony is torn to shreds, leaving her distraught. Another, more murky, rape accusation is made later in the play, when Kitty accuses her husband of marital rape. Is she telling the truth, or is she motivated by a desire for revenge after his affair?

During the interval, as I leant back in my seat, I overheard a young woman chatting about one of the characters to a friend. ‘I just don’t understand,’ she said, a frown of bewilderment clear in her voice, ‘how there could be any sympathy for someone who cheats on his wife like that. Why would anyone take his side?’ She blatantly thought any signs of sympathy for a serial cheater were wholly unrealistic. Ironically, in the second half of the play, it is serial-cheater Jake who stands up for Kitty and condemns her husband’s actions: ‘if she said no, then it’s rape,’ he states unequivocally. Part of the strength of Consent lies in Raine’s ability to write complicated characters: no one is portrayed as either wholly bad, or wholly good, and sometimes unlikely alliances are formed. Rachel disagrees with Jake and sides with Edward, doubting that Kitty is speaking the full truth.

Indeed, no character in Consent is able to hold the moral high ground for long. In the play, both wives are unfaithful too, but they are motivated by revenge, wishing to wound their philandering husbands. By the end of the play, the women end up back with their spouses, having been begged for forgiveness.

Female forgiveness is a central theme to the play: Edward continually tells Kitty she must forgive him, begging her on his knees, suggesting there is no point to his remorse if forgiveness does not follow. Even the women’s seemingly unselfish forgiveness is questionable, however. Is their pardon freely given, or is their choice to give their marriage another chance born of necessity mixed with convenience? Consent illustrates how the law cannot be relied upon for justice for women. When Kitty seeks the advice of a lawyer over gaining custody of her child, she’s told that any accusation she makes of domestic abuse against herself by her husband will not be taken into account when the court considers custody matters. Her husband, however, plots accusations of mental instability, bringing up her post-natal depression to undermine her parental responisbility.

It is only the men in the play, too, that are shown as successful within their work. Edward and Jake engage in convoluted discussions at which the women roll their eyes or simply observe in silence. The men take over the stage with their linguistic fencing matches, studded with legalese, each clearly intoxicated by the sound of his own voice, and the power he has to win an argument. The women, in contrast, are either ineffectual or absent from their jobs: Kitty is on maternity leave, her friend Zara has trouble landing an acting role, and Rachel gets shushed when she tries to put forward her advice as a barrister. The lack of professional success in the women’s lives also raises the question of how much their ‘forgiveness’ is financially motivated. If they were able to easily support themselves and their children, would they be so willing to take back their erring partners?

In Consent, it is the women who are forced to compromise, whilst the men get away with their behaviour: lying, cheating, even rape. Edward does learn to say ‘I’m sorry,’ by the end (formerly he would only say ‘I apologise,’ thus admitting no personal guilt or liability), but by that point you’re definitely thinking ‘sorry’ doesn’t really cut it.

Consent is an exceptional play; it leaves you questioning your assumptions, probing your understanding of moral grey areas and asking yourself where you would fall on the sides of the arguments put forward. I would have appreciated a more empowering ending for Consent’s female leads, and I would love to see fewer plays about male barristers behaving badly, and more about female lawyers changing the world. It’s plays like Consent, however, that highlight the need for a fairer system in which women can navigate their own lives on an equal footing with men. Although Consent shows women accepting their lot rather than defying the status quo, it will hopefully inspire others to demand their right for freer choices and greater independence in the future.

You can book tickets for Consent here. The play runs until mid August.