Category Archives: London

London Culture | Misty Theatre Review

London Culture | Misty Theatre Review

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

I had tickets to see Misty last Friday at Trafalgar Studios, so I invited a friend along to see it with me. I’d heard rave reviews about Misty, which has opened in the West End following its sell-out success at the Bush Theatre, so I was looking forward to the evening.

Shockingly, Misty is apparently only the second play written by a black playwright ever to have been produced in the West End. It’s essentially a one man show, written and performed by Arinzé Kene. What struck me most forcibly about Misty was the sheer power of Kene’s performance; he seems to give the show every part of his soul, as well as his considerable physical energy. I was awed by the sheer stamina of such a performance, which sees Kene singing, rapping, raging, crooning, wrestling with giant balloons, playing multiple characters and displaying a surprising knack for physical comedy. The play is a curious mix of gig-theatre and performance art, and it’s a credit to Kene’s talent that he manages to pull it off so convincingly.

London Culture | Misty Theatre ReviewArinzé Kene in Misty. Image © Helen Murray.

Misty is structured as a play within a play:  Kene is writing a play that exposes the social and racial prejudices that he witnesses in modern day London. But his rap about a confrontation gone wrong on a London bus is interrupted by some of his friends. They don’t like the play.  You’re selling out, they chastise him, creating content that feeds to the ‘angry black man’ stereotype that white people expect to see. His play is nothing but ‘a modern minstrel show,’ they cry in disappointment.  Kene argues that he has the right to tell whatever story he wants to tell; he speaks eloquently on the importance of being able to simply make art, to speak the truth as he sees it, as he’s experienced it. Why can’t his story just be a story? Why must it be labelled before the ink of creation is even dry?

If more plays were put on like the one he’s writing, Kene argues, then he’d go to the theatre more often. ‘Who gives a f*** about Shakespeare?’, he jeers, hammering home the point that much of what is shown in West End theatre falls short of representing  a wider audience. And yet, Kene also seems to play some homage to Shakespeare, with his use of the mise-en-abyme technique, that brings Hamlet  to mind. And just as Hamlet soliloquises on the deeper questions of life, so does Kene reflect on what it means to be an artist, specifically a black artist. It’s clear, too, that Kene shares with Shakespeare a love for word play. His lengthy monologues are superb, often nothing short of poetic, and they morph into song, into rap, into lyrical speech with expert ease. Kene’s aim may be to subvert and justly challenge the traditional theatre scene, but he shows how inspiration may be drawn from many sources, both traditional and non-traditional, to create drama that speaks of the moment.

London Culture | Misty Theatre ReviewArinzé Kene in Misty. Image © Helen Murray.

Along with the script, I was also impressed by the staging of Misty. For a minimal set, there was brilliant use of audio and video recordings and dramatic lighting to add interest and further dimension to Kene’s performance. Balloons are used as a powerful visual motif throughout the play: Kene blows up a balloon and then watches it deflate, like his ego, crumpling under criticism. At one point, he becomes trapped within a gigantic balloon, struggling to escape, just as he battles with the questions – what kind of play should he write? And how should it end?

Although, as I said, Misty is essentially a one man show, credit must go to Shiloh Coke and Adrian McLeod who play the drums and keys throughout the play, as well as taking to the stage for their parts as Kene’s friends. Coke and McLeod delivered their lines with a subtle humour that sparked a great deal of appreciation from the audience, and I thought Shiloh Coke’s performance was especially memorable.

Misty is an exciting, thought-provoking play that makes for a memorable night out. It’s showing until 20th October, and tickets may be purchased here.

St Jude’s ‘Nature Table’ Exhibition at the Town House in Spitalfields

St Judes 'Nature Table' Exhibition at the Town House in Spitalfields

I’m such a big fan of the artwork of both Emily Sutton and Angie Lewin, so I was very excited when I heard about the current exhibition of their work in collaboration with St Jude’s at the Town House in Spitalfields. The exhibition, ‘Nature Table,’ is on until 30th September, and I recommend seeing it as quickly as possible. Not only are the artworks spectacular to view in person, but the Town House in Spitalfields is a marvellous destination in itself.

The Town House is located on Fournier Street, a particularly beautiful and historic street in East London, featuring many original Huguenot houses dating from the early 1700s. The streets surrounding it, especially Wilkes Street and Princelet Street, are also well worth a stroll.  Be sure to bring your camera, as the area is instagram gold!

This was my first visit to Town House in Spitalfields, and I was amazed by how lovely it is. The shop is a treasure trove of carefully curated books, ceramics and other collectables. I loved the bookshelf stuffed with Persephone Books and all the beautiful autumnal displays in the shop.

Mum and I made our way through to the exhibition space at the back, and there were lucky enough to meet Angie Lewin in person. She was so lovely and friendly, and it was wonderful to be shown the artwork by one of the artists herself! There were so many gorgeous prints and originals, as well as new fabrics, on display by Angie and Emily. The exhibition is definitely a feast for the eyes, and I was especially taken with Emily Sutton’s new ‘Q is for Quince‘ print and Angie Lewin’s ‘The Gardener’s Arms‘ linocut. I wish I could have taken them home with me!

St Judes 'Nature Table' Exhibition at the Town House in Spitalfields St Judes 'Nature Table' Exhibition at the Town House in Spitalfields St Judes 'Nature Table' Exhibition at the Town House in Spitalfields St Judes 'Nature Table' Exhibition at the Town House in Spitalfields

After enjoying looking at all the artworks, we decided it was time for a cup of tea and slice of cake. The Town House has a small kitchen downstairs and a seating area in their tiny garden:

The garden was rather damp after a recent downpour, so we decided to head down to the kitchen, which has a long wooden communal table that we were lucky enough to have to ourselves.

I don’t think I’ve ever sat in such a charming kitchen before! Vintage copper moulds hung around the oven and a large table in the middle of the room was crowded with a range of cakes and biscuits to tempt customers.  A cherry bakewell tart, fresh from the oven, was placed at the other end of our table to cool, its delicious aroma blending with the other baked goods in a way that made our mouths water.

St Judes 'Nature Table' Exhibition at the Town House in Spitalfields

I went for a pear and almond cake, which was moist and utterly delicious, along with a pot of tea, and my Mum chose a rose and cardamon cake that was also exceedingly tasty. We could have quite happily stayed in that snug place all afternoon, and now I’ve discovered such a charming spot, I’ll definitely be returning very soon!

Read more details of the ‘Nature Table’ exhibition here.


London Culture | Little Shop of Horrors Theatre Review

London Culture | Little Shop of Horrors Theatre Review, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Please note: I was given tickets to ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I had such a fun night out last Monday! I was given a couple of tickets to see Little Shop of Horrors at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, so I invited a friend along with me to see it too. The show started quite late (7.45pm), so we met first for a  carafe of wine and some tapas at the Providores and Tapa Room on Marylebone High Street, which was a 20 minute walk from the theatre.

I’d actually already tried to go to Little Shop of Horrors earlier in the month, but unluckily it poured with rain halfway through the show, so I had to have my tickets rescheduled. Fortunately, this time our luck held, and we had a summer-perfect evening ahead of us. Although I’ve lived in London for many years, I’d never experienced outdoor theatre in the city before, and I was awed by how beautiful the Open Air Theatre at Regent’s Park is. Fairy lights glittered in the trees above our heads, and champagne fizzed at picnic tables where visitors had pre-ordered hampers to enjoy before the show, or during the interval.

We were soon making our way to our seats in the impressive open air stadium. I was worried the seating might be rather uncomfortable (I thought we could be sitting on the grass, or at best on benches), but it’s actually fantastic with proper chairs and seating areas that all have an excellent view of the stage. The set looked fabulous with the trees and plants of one of London’s prettiest parks making an impressive backdrop.

London Culture | Little Shop of Horrors Theatre Review, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Little Shop of Horrors is certainly an appropriate musical to stage outdoors, as it tells the story of Seymour, a young shop assistant at a flower store in a rundown district of New York City. He discovers an unusual plant (which he names the ‘Audrey 2’) that soon draws the attention of the public and the media, much to the delight of Seymour’s boss, who cashes in on the increased exposure and consequent surge in sales. Seymour is indifferent to his sudden fame, but he’s delighted to have caught the attention of his colleague, Audrey, with whom he’s secretly in love. Unfortunately for Seymour, there’s just one problem: the only thing that keeps his precious plant healthy is fresh human blood….

I must admit that Little Shop of Horrors has the most bizarre plot line I’ve ever encountered,  which I think is fairly impressive for someone who loves both ballet and opera! ‘Can this really be happening?’ flashed across my mind more than once during a production that is as far from a typical love story as you can possibly get (I don’t want to ruin it, but let’s just say, there’s no Hollywood ending to this tale). Triffids have nothing on the Audrey 2! What makes Little Shop of Horrors great is that its strangeness is equally matched by its hilarity. The cast of Little Shop of Horrors at the Open Air Theatre had the audience laughing throughout the production, and there were stand-out performances from Marc Antolin (Seymour), Jemima Rooper (Audrey) and Matt Willis (Orin, Audrey’s abusive boyfriend).

A fabulous energy and pace ran throughout the entire performance, culminating in one of the best finales I’ve seen, complete with huge green balloons and confetti showering down onto the audience. Little Shop of Horrors is over-the-top, but in the best way possible. Both my friend and I agreed that it was the most brilliant night out, and we talked about the show the entire way back to the tube. The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is definitely on my list for next summer too!

Little Shop of Horrors is showing at the Open Air Theatre at Regent’s Park until 22nd September. Tickets may be purchased here

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

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.

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 ( 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.