In the Heights – 18-20/09/2016

This latest trip was a birthday present from my Dad (thank you!) and I was determined to make the most of four whole days in London. My original plan was to see Kinky Boots, the new cast of In the Heights, Rachel Tucker in Wicked and then a cheeky In the Heights matinee before my train home… but when does anything ever go to plan?!

Kinky Boots was replaced by 27, a new musical directed by Sam Cassidy playing at the Cockpit Theatre, Marylebone, and then it was time to get back to the Kings Cross Theatre for In The Heights. I had mixed emotions about seeing the show with a new cast, but any doubts I had were extinguished about thirty seconds in. They are AMAZING. There is not one weak link within the entire ensemble, which is even more impressive when you consider how little time they had to rehearse the complex dance routines.

I have to mention two absolute assets to this new cast. First of all Arun Blair-Mangat, the new Benny, is sensational. His range is ridiculous, his timing is spot on, his acting is incredible – I could go on! He has such amazing chemistry with Gabriela Garcia’s Nina and he is more than a match for her powerful vocals. In three shows he never faltered, and his big note in 96,000? Wow!

The other stand-out for me was Stephanie Rojas who has taken over the role of Carla from Sarah Naudi, who is now playing Vanessa. Stephanie is a wonderfully gifted comedy actress and one hell of dancer. She has injected so much fun into the role and had me nearly crying with laughter during “No Me Diga.” She’s a brilliant find and definitely one to watch in the future.

The cast all received a much-deserved standing ovation at the end of the show and I couldn’t wait for my next Heights show two days later – turns out I didn’t have to!

Around 3pm the next day I decided to turn off my phone, have a shower and read my book for a while (I know; I’m out of control). About an hour later I turned my phone back on and all hell had broken loose. My phone was lit up with messages from my two Heights partners in crime Ann and Mandy: “Vas Constanti is on as Kevin at In the Heights tonight!” OH MY GOD! In the 45 minutes it had taken me to reply Mandy and Ann they already had their tickets sorted, and I had a dilemma on my hands. On the one hand I really wanted to see Rachel Tucker as Elphaba, but on the other hand I am NEVER in London when my favourite covers go on last minute. I didn’t want to risk waiting until the following day’s matinee in case I missed it. Sod it, back to the Barrio I go!

The show was just as flawless as the previous night. I’m so happy that Jocasta Almgill agreed to stay with the show as Daniela for two weeks, and I’ll be sad to see her leave the show on the 2nd of October. Go and see her if you get the chance!

Norma Atallah also had a really good show as Abuela Claudia – her relationship with Sam Mackay has grown so much and she acts “Paciencia y Fe” so brilliantly. Sam Mackay was as consistent as ever, putting in yet another faultless performance as Usnavi.

My personal highlight though was, of course, the lovely Vas Constanti as Kevin Rosario, (*shameless plug* read my recent interview with him here). He plays the role with such authenticity, really pouring his heart and soul into every scene. His performance of “Inútil” is done with such passion and acted perfectly – you could see the audience siding with Kevin as he tried to do what was right for his family. It’s a very genuine portrayal of the role and I’m so glad I got to see it again, even if it was all a bit last minute!

The brilliant thing about this show is you can go and watch it three times in three days and still enjoy every second. In every show I see something different and the new cast have really upped the stakes, making the show fresh and exciting. The Tuesday matinee was just as energetic as the previous two shows (and Vas was still Kevin – yay!) and before I knew it, it was time to head home. 11 whole days until my next Heights show – what am I supposed to do until then?!



An interview with… Vas Constanti

Something very exciting has happened… Theatre Therapy has officially surpassed 25,000 views! To celebrate this achievement I have decided to do something totally out of my comfort zone and conduct my first ever interview, with Original In the Heights cast member and author of the Mythvolution series Vas Constanti. Read on to find out what we can expect from his third novel, where his inspiration comes from and what it was like to perform for Lin-Manuel Miranda!

So Vas, you are part of the original West End cast of In the Heights – what first attracted you to the show?

I was convinced to do it by my agent! I’m delighted he did, this show is so special in its content. At times it fills you with joy, and then, just when you think you’re safe, it devastates you!

The show has had a very successful run with 3 Olivier Awards and 9 What’s On Stage nominations – was there a point that you knew you were a part of something special?

No, not really, everything just kind of crept up on us! We thought we were just this little show with the big heart, but the attention we started to receive soon changed all of that, and performing at the WhatsOnStage awards and the Oliviers was wonderful.

You recently had the chance to perform the show in front of its creator Lin-Manuel Miranda – what was that like? How did you and the rest of the cast handle the pressure?

For me, it was just another show. Things like that don’t bother me; he’s just a normal human being like the rest of us. Some of the cast however went nuts and the audience that night – well, I’m sure they could be heard cheering as far away as Washington Heights itself. They were amazing!

The Kings Cross Theatre is quite an unusual venue with the audience on either side of the stage – how has the show/your performance been adapted to accommodate this?

There is no room for error as at every angle you can be seen. Concentration and awareness are paramount!

As well as playing Piragua Guy every night you also understudy the role of Kevin Rosario – how do you put your own spin on the role?

I am actually now contracted as alternate Kevin. After performing the role over 120 times, I consider the role as my own when called upon. I just think of my own young family and imagine what I would do and how I would react if the circumstances were the same.

Which song is your favourite to perform within the show, and which song is your favourite to listen to from backstage?

It’s actually not a song but Kevin Rosario’s last speech. The joy within his heart is exposed and his emotions released. To listen to, well it’s “Enough.” Josie Benson was incredible and it was an honour to play her husband. She had so much passion. I loved her.

Josie was certainly incredible in her role. If you could play one female role in any musical, who would it be and why?

It would be Fantine from Les Miserables. The injustice she suffers and the sacrifices she makes for her daughter just break my heart. Finding the depth of emotion to play such a role every night would be so rewarding.

Do you have any advice for all of the aspiring performers out there?

Trust your own talent and soak up all you can regarding your craft.

What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far?

Just being able to do something I love as much as I have, is highlight enough.

You currently have two novels available to purchase on Amazon – what inspired you to write the Mythvolution series?

I wanted to leave something for my children to remember me by when I’m gone. An adult tale that would inspire them to be good people, kind and caring and interested in the world around them!

What can we expect from the third novel in the series?

Closure and revelation. The power of the Earth becomes evident as everyone is placed in peril and all we have to save us is a rag tag gang of sentient animals led by a lipstick wearing rabbit!

Intriguing! Where does your interest in mythology stem from?

It stems from reading some wonderful novels and brilliant plays and by watching the fantastical movies of the incredible Ray Harryhausen (who is the man behind films such as Jason and the Argonauts [1963] and Clash of the Titans [1981]), and of course by past holidays to my beloved Greece.

Lastly tell us a fact about yourself – something we wouldn’t know by looking at you!

I love to cook and apparently, I’m pretty good at it!


You can catch Vas in In the Heights until the 8th of January 2017 (click here to book tickets) and I also highly recommend you check out his books on Amazon! Fancy a preview? Head to the archives page to read reviews of the first two novels in the series and follow Vas on Twitter (@Vasmythvolution) for the latest updates!


Aladdin – 10/09/2016

I don’t know about you but I’m feeling TWENTY TWO! I booked these birthday tickets for Aladdin when they were first released in November 2015, so I was more than ready for this show, but nothing could prepare me for just how amazing it would be!

For my birthday I’d originally decided to do the matinee of Aladdin and an evening showing of In the Heights, but then In the Heights decided to close for the week to rehearse the new cast (how inconsiderate!) so we turned Aladdin into a day trip to save on accommodation costs. This meant getting up ridiculously early, driving to the station, getting the train to London, watching the show, getting the train back to Manchester and driving home. Never again!

We hit a few snags on the way, unluckily for us it was Manchester United vs Manchester City up North and Watford vs West Ham down South so there were LOTS of people, but we made it to the theatre in plenty of time. The seats were AMAZING – I highly recommend Row C of the stalls! I had sent Nathan Amzi who plays Babkak a quick message before the show to let him know where we were sat but there was no need – he spotted me straight away and kept catching my eye throughout the show. It’s very hard to concentrate on a show when someone keeps pulling faces at you from the stage!

The show itself was brilliant. Don Gallagher is the perfect Jafar, his “evil laugh” is spot on and he has really captured Jafar’s droll, dry delivery which is what I love about him in the film. His make-up is fantastic too and he has three on-stage costume changes within about 30 seconds, which I still can’t figure out how they do!

I LOVE the magic carpet – as soon as the set falls away and Aladdin and Jasmine started flying around the stage, you could hear a collective “wow” from the audience. I have seen the show four times now from four different angles and I have come to the conclusion that it is, in fact, an actual flying carpet. That’s the only explanation!

Three new characters are introduced to the stage version of Aladdin – Aladdin’s three friends Babkak (Nathan Amzi) Kassim (Stephen Rahman-Hughes) and Omar (played this afternoon by (Kade Ferraiolo). This trio works so well together onstage – what I love about Stephen Rahman-Hughes is that you never quite know what he’s going to do next, and he really has fun with the role. Kade Ferraiolo was a brilliant Omar and Nathan Amzi was in a league of his own as Babkak. He has some brilliant lines (and some food jokes that will make you groan) and he makes light work of the tricky choreography and ridiculously high belting he does.

My absolute favourite song in the show is “Friend Like Me.” It’s my favourite part of the original film and the stage production is absolutely spectacular. Trevor Dion Nicholas, who we stole from Broadway and now refuse to give back, is sensational and so consistent throughout. He sings, he tap dances, he does Bruce Forsyth impressions, his talent knows no bounds! When he triumphantly finishes “Friend Like Me” the audience went crazy, and rightly so! From the stage the genie laps up the applause and then says “thank you, thank you! I’d like to thank my Mother, my Father, and Alison happy birthday thanks for coming!”

… WHAT?!

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t immediately burst into tears. Surely I was hearing things? I was still shaking at the interval when I got a message from Nathan: “Did you hear your surprise?” Erm, yes!

It took pretty much the entire interval to calm myself down, and I spent pretty much the whole of the first song miming to Nathan how much I bloody love him. I was more than ready for the song “High Adventure” where Babkak, Omar and Kassim fearlessly (ahem) rush to save Aladdin from the dungeon, when the safety curtain came down. I don’t remember this part of the show? It turns out the elaborate set had gotten stuck, and it took 15 minutes to get going again. To the Prince Edward Theatre’s credit, they kept the audience informed throughout and handled the situation very well. It did cut in to my stage door time though!

The rest of the show went without a hitch, and after a cheeky “happy birthday” from Nathan during the curtain call, it was time to go. I was more impatient than ever to get to the stage door, and everybody seemed to be moving so slowly! When we finally did get out of the theatre it was pouring with rain – like that was going to put me off?!

With the 15 minute show stop and all of the glitter/make up Trevor Dion Nicholas has on I wasn’t expecting to see him after the show so I sent him a quick tweet to say thank you so much for the shout-out – thanks again Trev, you are amazing!

When Nathan came out of the stage door he came straight over and said “here, this is for you.” It was an Aladdin poster signed by the whole cast with “Happy 22nd birthday Alison” written along the top. I damn near started crying again! Instead I literally jumped on him and gave him a massive hug, which attracted the attention of every single person at stage door. Oh well! After lots more hugs and me babbling “thank you” about fifty times we both had to run for food. I was still in a bit of a daze – what the hell happened today?!

I’ve said it about a million times already on various social media outlets, but THANK YOU Nathan for going out of your way to make my birthday so special, I can’t even put into words how much I appreciate not just my birthday but everything you’ve done for me in the four years I’ve known you. You are one in a million!


In the Heights – 04/09/2016

First and foremost, I’d just like to point out that I never had any intention of going to see this cast change. When it was announced that the 2015/2016 cast would be leaving on the 4th of September I already had a show booked on the 1st of September and, in an uncharacteristically sensible move, I decided I couldn’t justify two trips to London in four days. Unfortunately the post-show blues (and the post-show Jack Daniels and coke) hit me pretty hard that night and when my friend Sarah just happened to mention that she had a spare cast change ticket, I ended up accidentally buying it. Oops.

Like most of my last-minute plans, it was a bit of a mess. I was supposed to be meeting my friends at 6pm for some food before the show, but my train decided to stop in a tunnel for fifteen minutes and I was now running late. I pulled my phone out to call ahead and apologise and a message from my friend Olivia popped up on my screen: “be warned – Lin-Manuel Miranda is IN LONDON!” If I wasn’t so breathless from speed-walking down Euston Road I would have screamed. Lin-Manuel Miranda is the creator of In the Heights and Hamilton, and is also one of my biggest literary heroes. Not three weeks ago I had lyrics from In the Heights AND Hamilton tattooed on my ankles, and now here he is, in London… surely not for the same reason I’M in London?!

Any doubts that we had over the reason behind Lin’s sudden appearance were eradicated as soon as we got to the theatre. There were cameras everywhere, several girls looked like they were going to faint/burst into tears and there was a “VIP” section cordoned off inside the theatre bar. I was in a bit of a daze – three days ago I wasn’t even going to the show, and now there’s a possibility Lin-Manuel Miranda could turn up? This kind of thing just doesn’t happen to me!

The bar itself was absolutely buzzing with excitement, and I found myself hovering near the entrance just to catch a bit of a breeze – it was boiling in there! People were still walking in to the theatre and I spotted Joe Aaron Reid, who previously played Benny, at one of the tables. I turned to point this out to my friend Karen when I noticed a shy-looking man with gorgeous brown eyes walking past. I smiled at him and he smiled back before heading over to the VIP area. “Ha,” I thought to myself, “he looked just like Lin!”



Once I’d regained my composure slightly we headed in to the auditorium. By pure luck my seat was directly behind my friends, so I leaned forward to have a chat with them. The theatre was absolutely packed except for three empty seats directly behind me. Surely not? Yep! In walks Lin and his lovely wife Vanessa and down they sit, directly behind me. This must be what having a stroke feels like.

You may have picked up on the fact that I’m quite a big fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda, so the biggest compliment I can give to the cast of In the Heights is that, as soon as the show started, I completely forgot who was sat behind me. Every single member of that cast put their heart and soul into their performance and it was the best Heights show of the fifteen I’ve seen so far.

I will forever be in awe of Sam Mackay as Usnavi. He doesn’t just act that part he really feels it; when Usnavi’s heart breaks your heart will break right along with him. He plays Usnavi with such an open and pure heart and it’s impossible not to fall in love with the character he has created. His relationship with Eve Polycarpou, who made a brief return as Abuela Claudia, is so beautiful and genuine and it was so good to have her back!

I am very sad to see Philippa Stefani go – her portrayal of Daniela is just brilliant. She is such a gifted comedy actress, to the point where people laugh in anticipation of what she will say or do next before she’s even uttered a word – she can have an entire theatre in stitches with one flick of her hair! She added so many nuances to Daniela and gave her such a fiery, feisty personality that she’ll be a hard act to follow.

All of the leading ladies were on top form – Emma Kingston belted out a riff in 96,000 that gave me actual goosebumps, and Gabriela Garcia will always be my Nina. She is a brilliant actress with one hell of a voice, and gives Nina a cheeky, flirty edge that I really love.

I was just about holding it together until Josie Benson stepped up to sing “Enough.” Josie has been with the production since it opened at the Southwark Playhouse in 2014, and she is an absolute powerhouse. Every single time she performs this song she leaves me absolutely stunned, but this last one was her best. Before she even sang her first note there were tears streaming down her face but she never faltered and belted that song out with everything she had. By the end of it I was crying too and I didn’t hesitate to jump up on to my feet for a standing ovation when she finished, as did half of the theatre!

It was during little wobbles like this that I was so thankful that Vas Constanti was on the stage as Piragua Guy – he never fails to put a smile on my face! Not only does he have one hell of a voice with a great rock edge to it (my favourite kind) he is also hysterically funny. He’s constantly adding new elements to his role that catch me off guard and make me laugh out loud, which was a welcome distraction from a very emotional night.

As the show drew to a close the reality of the situation seemed to hit the cast – it broke my heart to see Cleve September performing his final dance solo with tears in his eyes, and don’t even get me started on his line “it’s the end of an era.” That was way too close to home! I’m going to miss him playing Sonny and the relationship he has with Sam Mackay on stage – #bromance! Definitely watch out for Cleve in the future, he’s a star in the making.

After a very emotional finale (my mascara was effectively ruined by this point) the lovely producer of the show Paul Taylor-Mills gave a moving speech and then passed the mic over to Lin-Manuel Miranda. Lin talked about how part of his soul would always be with the show and how, having always been a bit of an outsider, this show had allowed him to feel included within the theatre community and this really resonated with me, as some of the closest friends I have were made through the theatre. Click here to watch the full video (all credits to WhatsOnStage) and one day I’ll be able to watch it without crying!

It was a crazy, crazy night and one that I will never forget. I want to say thank you to the entire cast and crew of In the Heights for staging such an incredible night, and a special thank you to Lin-Manuel Miranda for your incredible words and your passion and for having the determination and talent to create a show that will stay with me for the rest of my life. No pare sigue sigue!






Mythvolution Part Two – Snafu!

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends!” This phrase immediately sprang to mind when the second book in the Mythvolution series finally arrived (a bit of advice – order them both at the same time, the wait between books was torture!) I couldn’t wait to dive back in to this crazy world of legend and superstition and I was certainly not disappointed! Here’s a snapshot of what to expect in book two:

“Vincent Russell’s world is turned upside down when he and his animal menagerie learn from an unexpected source that the only way forward, is to believe in the tales of the past! Whilst they try to unravel the mystery of Creation, long forgotten identities are exposed and bonds are forged and broken. Mother Earth’s unimaginable secrets are revealed and what was once thought impossibly magical appears to become as real, as life itself! And all the while, someone and someone are just trying to rule the world!”

This novel definitely puts the “myth” in Mythvolution. Ancient legends are brought to life and are intricately woven together with the stories of our much-loved menagerie to create a series of events that will take you on an exhilarating ride with a thrilling conclusion. Through these stories we learn that we must look to the past in order to secure our future, and maybe even make some sacrifices along the way in the hope of preserving the world that Mother Earth has gifted us with.

It’s a bold move on the author’s part to utilise these ancient and revered stories, but he does it with such delicate craftsmanship and integrates them so well within his own story that you find yourself believing that his creations were always a part of the legend. It’s a very clever mix of old stories and new concepts pulled together with incredible skill – it blew my mind!

Overall I would say the second book is more intense that the first with more of a focus on the mythological, but it still holds many messages that are so relevant to how we live today. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and, as with the first, there are so many powerful, thought-provoking quotes that showcase the author’s way with words, my favourite being “remember to live your life as if bathed in sunlight, because it will always rain.”

The mystery and intricacy of the Mythvolution series has me well and truly hooked, with its subtle elements of humour and tragedy and the ever-present gleams of hope and faith keeping me on my toes until the very end. I can’t wait to see what the next book has in store for this madcap gang – bring on book three when it’s released!


Mythvolution Part One – Living the Oolaballuh!

*warning – contains mild spoilers*

You can learn a lot about people from their writing. Read any one of my blog posts and you will find that I am always honest, frequently sarcastic and prone to bouts of uncontrollable, slightly biased fan-girling. Every time I publish a new post I will turn my laptop off and hide for a few hours, because the thought of other people reading and analysing my material terrifies me! So when the lovely Vas Constanti, a very talented actor currently performing in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights in the West End, mentioned that he had written a book and asked me to read and review it, I was a little bit nervous. What if I didn’t enjoy it? It’s not in my nature to hold back my opinions, whatever they may be!
It turns out I had nothing to worry about. Just like my blogs betray my short temper and tendency to rant, you can tell this book was written by someone with intelligence and sensitivity to the greater issues that are currently surrounding us. I was hooked!

I tore through the novel in less than 24 hours, absorbing the messages behind the text and cursing when I reached the end. This book takes you on a journey that will make you contemplate evolution, spirituality, mythology, religion, morality… and rabbits wearing lipstick.

To give you an idea of the madness you will encounter, I’ve popped the official blurb from Amazon below (where you can also purchase the book in kindle or paperback form for a very reasonable price – I’m not even getting paid to say that!)

“Vincent Russell, a young socially inept geek, thought he was working on a project to help the environment; he thought the reason for his employment was his unique invention. How wrong could he be?

Behind the doors of a country Manor house, a group of micro chipped creatures with unique personalities are monitored whilst being exposed to a mysterious elixir. A chance discovery, however, forces them into a bungled breakout that incredibly, accelerates the group’s evolution. This transformation divides the menagerie in two. One group, of psychotic, yet, show-tune loving twin terrapin leadership and deadly arachnid membership, crave revenge upon mankind. The other, guided by an incredibly intelligent rabbit cursed with peculiar issues, just wants to get along.

As everyone endeavours to survive, they unravel the unlikely mystery behind their very existence in a barmy adventure that carries them far and wide across an endangered world and into realms of improbability!”

Intrigued yet? You should be! Within this book are a plethora of unique characters you can’t help but grow attached to. My personal favourites are a pigeon named Albert whose language chip is on the blink and a monkey named Hannibal who has something rather unusual lurking under his helmet.

My favourite thing about this novel is how thought-provoking it is.  A particularly inspired conversation between a monkey and a jackhuahua (google it) about mortality and the existence of the afterlife really struck a chord with me. They discuss how, when our bodies expire, we leave behind an imprint of ourselves: “this is like your spirit, a memory, a sense of what was once there.” It’s a truly beautiful exchange between two unlikely allies, and definitely resonated with me, as I am a firm believer that the ones we love never truly leave us (thank you JK Rowling for that quote). I definitely wasn’t expecting to shed a tear reading this book, but that did it!

All throughout this book there are little pockets of contemplative writing within the story that open up questions about religion, mythology and even our relationship with the world we inhabit. I was a little afraid at the beginning that I wouldn’t understand it but after the first few chapters I realised it’s not about dissecting or understanding the book but about letting it wash over you and open you up to new thoughts and ideas. Vas manages to instigate these debates without any bias which is no mean feat, especially when it comes to discussing something as subjective as religion.

One more thing I have to mention? My god this book is funny! There are some phrases in there that will make you laugh out loud, my favourite being “I’m as knackered as a wannabe WAG traipsing around nightclubs looking for a mediocre footballer with more spots than brain cells to kiss and tell on!” There are little gems like that all the way through that stop you from getting too caught up in your own thoughts and so many puns that will make you laugh in spite of yourself. (Dolphins being awkward on porpoise? Come on!)

All in all I am so glad that I read this book. It made me laugh, cry, think, hope and fall in love with a motley menagerie that had me asking questions on subjects I rarely consider. I want to say a big thank you to Vas for introducing me to the crazy world of Mythvolution – now get cracking on the next one!


In the Heights – 03/01/2016

In my defence, I never planned to see this show twice in one week. Also, technically, the shows were in different years, so the fact that I saw it twice in five days is cancelled out. Sort of.

In all honesty I had a bit of a nightmare after the first show – something along the lines of leaving my phone in a bar, running back to get it, missing my last train home in the process, and having to spend £70 on a taxi home before crawling in to bed at 3am, all before a 9am shift at work the next morning. It was NOT a great end to my night, and I didn’t want it to ruin the last time I saw the show. So I booked another ticket.

I first saw this show back in May 2014 (read my completely unbiased blog here) when it had a run at the Southwark Playhouse. I knew I wanted to see it again at some point, and the fact that Nathan Amzi would be reprising his role as “Piragua Guy” for two weeks only was an added incentive to get back to the Barrio.

The set was very different to the set-up at the Playhouse – In the Heights is currently sharing the King’s Cross Theatre with a production of The Railway Children (insert shameless plug of my blog of that show here) and so the stage is set out like a platform, with a thin strip of stage in the middle (the tracks) and tiered seating stretched out along either side of it (the platform). It was interesting to see how the set had been adapted for this unusual stage; structures stood like bookends at either end of the stage, and all of the action happened in the middle, with entrances and exits made through the functioning doors of the buildings.

I absolutely raved about Sam Mackay in my last Heights blog, so please forgive me for being a bit repetitive. This man is a magician. I have never seen anyone rap so confidently, so consistently and made it look so damn easy! I was struggling to even keep up with line after rapid line, but Sam never faltered.

There were a few changes to the cast since the last time I saw the show – Jade Ewen and Lily Frazer took on the roles of Nina and Vanessa, with Philippa Stefani stepping in as Daniela to cover a VERY pregnant Victoria Hamilton-Barritt. Each girl was an absolute powerhouse in their own way, with Philippa Stefani proving herself to be a very talented and hilarious character actress, really building the role of Daniela and making her a sassy, feisty Latina with a wicked tongue and a cheeky glint in her eye.

Of course I have to mention Nathan Amzi who was, as always, an absolute joy to watch. As versatile as ever, he danced around the stage with a huge, infectious smile on his face, never dropping a beat and producing some pretty impressive riffs in the process. It’s a shame he can’t stay in the show for longer as the role was practically made for him, but I’m very excited to see him in Aladdin in May!

But I digress – what I really love about this show is it brings to my attention things I never usually notice. The lighting is so powerful and so integral to the show that it takes your breath away – the strategic use of total darkness, with actors holding lights on the stage to illuminate their movements is just breathtaking. My favourite part is during a blackout the darkness is penetrated by “fireworks.” It really looked as though there were fireworks lighting the sky. It was magical, so a HUGE pat on the back to Hugh Hudson the lighting designer.

I also love the costumes in this show – almost everyone wears very form-fitting costumes that seem to weld to their skin, without looking cheap or unflattering. The costumes seem to move with the actors and enunciate their movement, making the choreography look fluid and flawless. Every single dance number was so tightly choreographed, so technically perfect and so full of energy it was very hard to keep still in my seat, so another huge well done to Gabriella Slade, costume designer, and the wonderful Drew McOnie for his stunning choreography.

I studied Spanish for over five years at school, from GCSE right through to A-Level, and what I love the most about this show is how true it is to the Latin culture. From the feisty, rapidly speaking women to the amalgamation of Spanish and English within a sentence, the attention to detail within this show both from the director (Luke Sheppard) and the flawless cast, and the passion with which they perform, are what really make In the Heights one of the best new musicals on the West End.






New Year, new page

After a discussion with my fellow writer and lovely friend Les, I decided to embrace the whole “new year, new page” concept – although I may have taken it a tad too literally!

I’ve decided, after much dithering and worrying, to start a new blog. Theatre was my first love and always will be a huge passion of mine, but travel is also very dear to my heart, and so I’ve started Travel Treatment – a sister blog to Theatre Therapy.

It’s a bit of a leap for me as I’ve grown very used to blogging about the theatre and it’s more than a little bit scary to be so far out of my genre, but I had to give it a go. I’ve been working in travel for the past four months now and it has quite literally changed my life. I am determined to travel the world and to see and experience as much as I can. I figured I might as well write about it while I’m out there.

My first travel blog is about Scotland, with New York and Paris to follow when I have the time to do both places justice. I will be continuing with Theatre Therapy (more consistently than in 2015!) and I am aiming for a post per month, but please don’t hold me to that as I said that last year and managed two posts in total!

Alison x


My 2015 in pictures

Following on from my 2013 in pictures and my 2014 in pictures, I thought I’d update my hideously neglected blog with my 2015 in pictures! Aside from a travel blog I wrote for work (that may make an appearance on a sister site I’m working on) I haven’t written a blog since February, so please forgive me if I’m a little rusty!

January – Not a great start!

I didn’t say all the photos were going to be positive! I started my 2015 with a VERY painful dislocated hip, pulled ligaments and soft tissue damage thanks to a walk around a lake, a rocky footpath and crappy joints. It wasn’t the best start to my year and took about four months of physiotherapy to heal, but it’s feeling strong now!

1. January.jpg

February – The Railway Children.

Still on crutches and almost permanently in a bad mood, I decided to stop sulking about my bad hip and get back to the theatre, crutches and all. Picking a theatre at the top of a cobbled hill wasn’t my best idea, but The Railway Children was absolutely magical (read my blog here) and really cheered me up, even if I was in floods of tears by the end of it!

2. February

March – The Den.

Whilst being sofa-bound with my hip I decided to be productive and plan my other half’s 20th birthday surprise. He is a massive fan of Millwall FC so I booked us two tickets for a stadium tour and managed to keep it a surprise until we got to the ground (God only knows how with my big mouth). He grinned like a five year old at Christmas the whole way round, and I actually found it quite interesting too. All in all, a very good day!

3. March.jpg

April – Michael Ball!

I’d been wanting to see Michael Ball on stage again ever since I saw him in Hairspray on the West End when I was 15. The tickets for his last concert sold out in minutes, but this time we managed to bag two, so myself and my Mum went to the Bridgewater Hall to see him – and he was incredible!

4. April.jpg

May – American Buffalo.

I LOVE John Goodman. Monsters Inc, King Ralph, The Emperor’s New Groove, the guy is a genius. He was absolutely incredible on stage (and Damien Lewis was a pleasant surprise too) and, surprise surprise, I fangirled my way through most of it. Once again I had no luck at the Wyndham’s stage door, but it was still a bloody brilliant night.

5. May.jpg

June – Lanzarote.

Finally, a holiday! My bad hip meant I had to leave my job in the kitchen (boo) so I was now working in a VERY posh Farm Shop in Keston (the cheese counter was bigger than my kitchen). It was so good to get away for a week and I even conquered my fear of open water by going into the sea – even if it was only up to my knees!

6. June

July – Start the Adventure.

After my lovely boss at the Farm Shop decided to cut my full time hours in half to give them to his son who was back from Uni for the summer, I decided to find a new job. I was at a bit of a crossroads and wanted more of a career than another cafe/kitchen job, and my Mum suggested I apply for an apprenticeship she had seen with STA Travel. A job where I can plan holidays for a living?! Sign me up!

I went for the job wholeheartedly and was convinced I wasn’t going to get it – I am very bad at interviews and I was so nervous I thought I was going to throw up, but I had to go for it, it was my dream job! I somehow made it through the interview and got a call back the very next day – I’d got the job! I cried. A lot.

7. July

August – work “training.”

Time to start my dream job! I had a day in-store to meet the team before heading up to Birmingham to start my training with 8 other apprentices. We spent 4 nights in a Premier Inn with free breakfast and evening meal, and 8 hours a day looking at maps and routes around the world and learning about all of the amazing countries that STA sends people to on a daily basis. This is work?!

8. August

September – I’m 21!

It’s my birthday! And I chose to spend it how any normal, grown up twenty one year old would – in Disneyland! We spent a whole week in Paris running around Disneyland, mostly in the pissing rain, going on all of the rides and buying way too many souvenirs. It was perfect.

9. September 2

9. September

October – New York, New York!

Oh. My. God. As if I’d not been spoiled enough in September, I was now off to Broadway! It has been my dream for years to see Aladdin on Broadway and I finally achieved that, along with a cheeky viewing of Misery by Stephen King with none other than BRUCE WILLIS in the starring role! All those years of finding the quickest route to the stage door finally paid off, as we were right at the front of the barriers when he came out. It was crazy!

10. October 3

10. October

November – Bonny Scotland.

I love my job. I was literally back from New York for less than 48 hours before I found myself on a plane back to Edinburgh for a three day trip around Scotland with 17 apprentices. It was the craziest, wettest and most hectic three days of my life, but it was incredible. We went to Fort William, Loch Ness, the Isle of Skye, Inverness and more. And the best part? Me and my crappy hip climbed down the side of a cliff to a waterfall!

11. November.jpg

December – A family Christmas.

I had the best Christmas this year. It started with a three-day stay at Center Parcs with my Mum, Auntie and Uncle. We cycled (my Uncle can do many, many things but ride a bike in a straight line is not one of them). We swam, we played Scrabble and Cards Against Humanity, we made mince pies, we ate SO MUCH food and, most importantly, we had a really brilliant time.

After Center Parcs my Mum and I had our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, opened our presents nice and early on Christmas Day and went to visit my grandparents before I headed home for my shift on Boxing Day. It was a great way to round off the year.

12. December.jpg

I hope you’ve all had an amazing 2015 – mine was a slow burner to start off with, but the last six months have been an absolute whirlwind!

I’m hoping to get back into blogging in 2016, both on here and a new travel blog that I’m working on, so watch this space for my very first post about my trip to Scotland very soon!

The Railway Children – 21/02/2015

First of all, please let me apologise for my shocking lack of posts recently. I’ve been somewhat incapacitated thanks to a dislocated hip I picked up over the New Year (I wish I could blame it on the drink but I was as sober as a judge!) This combined with the very strong pain medication I’m on has meant I’ve not been able to attend any shows recently, so this is my first show of 2015!

I wanted to see The Railway Children for two reasons. One; I absolutely adore the film (the 1970s version with Bernard Cribbins and Jenny Agutter) and two, as clichéd as it sounds, I am a railway child myself. I practically grew up on the East Lancashire Railway which runs from Bury to Rawtenstall in the North West – almost every Sunday my Grandad and I would ride the train to Rawtenstall and back, occasionally stopping for a cup of tea and a blueberry muffin at the Co-op on the way home. We also took many trips to the National Railway Museum in York, which is where the engine used in the play was loaned from, and I’ve even travelled on the Worth Valley Railway where The Railway Children was filmed. It’s safe to say I’m a bit of a geek in the steam train department!

My Auntie was my designated minder for the day (I use the word minder as I am still heavily reliant on a crutch to walk around, and people do have a tendency to ignore that fact completely and push me out of the way) and before the show we decided to visit the brand new Theatre Cafe on Shaftesbury Avenue. I won’t give away any details as I’m planning a more in-depth post after a few more visits, but I recommend that you go as soon as you can!

After a cup of tea and a scone (how British) we headed back to Kings Cross and found the theatre just behind the station, at the top of a huge gravelled hill (gravel and crutches don’t mix). We both remarked that it was a bit cold that afternoon, and we were a bit worried about freezing to our seats, as the theatre was essentially a huge tent built around an old siding in a goods yard. Once we’d collected our tickets and a lovely usher helped me down to the platform in a lift to avoid the stairs, we found that our fears were not only unjustified but just plain ridiculous.

Entering the “waiting room” was like stepping straight into E. Nesbit’s beautiful book. The entire area was furnished like a railway waiting room, with old fashioned suitcases dotted around and adverts from the era adorning the walls. As I looked around in awe I couldn’t help but notice I was the oldest “child” by around 15 years (it also slipped my mind that it was the half term so really, I didn’t think this through at all!) Seeing lots of young girls with their Grandads did give me a slight twinge as I lost my beloved Grandad four years ago, but it was also lovely to see them as happy as I used to be on my days at the railway. There was another issue – my Auntie hates kids!

As we took our seats I had a good look around the (toasty warm) auditorium. There were probably two children to every adult, all with flags and whistles from the shop in the waiting room. I must admit I was a bit wary, but every child was very well behaved throughout the show, which had just the right amount of crowd interaction and participation to keep even the youngest children engaged and entertained.

The railway children themselves, Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis, played by Serena Manteghi, Jack Hardwick and Louise Calf respectively, narrated the story as it progressed, as if they were now older and recounting the stories of their youth, with a little help from Jeremy Swift who played the lovely Mr Perks (my favourite character). The “stage” was a wooden platform either side of a railway line, with a very clever floating segment running on the rails so that the cast could be transported up and down the line as the story progressed. Of course everybody was excited to see the steam engine but they didn’t use it gratuitously, which was a relief. Whenever a “train” went past the children stood on the fence and waved, and clever sound effects combined with very convincing clouds of steam made it feel like a train really was running through the theatre. A personal highlight was when the children wave at the Old Gentleman (Moray Treadwell). The actor sat on a chair on the floating platform and literally steamed along, and it really did look like he was on a train. The children in the audience were absolutely enthralled!

I won’t even begin to try and track through the story of The Railway Children (mainly because I love it so much I can quote it verbatim) but the play was very true to the book and the film. It was particularly impressive how they portrayed the landslide that blocks the line – at one end of the stage was a bridge, used by the cast to get from one side of the platform to the other, and to facilitate the entrance and exit of the floating platform. This was then completely blocked by falling debris and panic ensued as Peter realised the 11.09 train had not yet passed through. As the children waved their flags made from red petticoats (one of my favourite moments in the film) a full-sized steam engine came gliding into the auditorium. The gasps from both adults and children were audible as the train stopped just in time and Bobbie fainted dead away on the line (full credit to Serena Manteghi for that – she was very convincing!)

There is only one problem with The Railway Children which unfortunately I did not remember until the interval – the ending makes me cry. Every. Single. Time. And here I was in a sold-out theatre full of children who clearly don’t get emotional at a mysterious figure emerging out of the fog. I was in serious trouble, especially as I knew that the quality of the acting on stage would mean that moment would feel very, very real.

I started the second act determined not to be emotionally involved as I was in the first, but that didn’t last very long thanks to the compelling story told so beautifully by the three children. As the play drew to a close and, even though I knew what would happen when Bobbie decided to go to the station alone, I could still feel the tears welling up. I was just about holding myself together until those three little words. “Daddy! My Daddy!” I was a mess.

It’s not many plays that can hold the attention of hundreds of small children for over two hours but The Railway Children did it with ease, creating pure magic on that stage and bringing to life a story that I have loved my entire life. I left the auditorium with a huge smile and tears still drying on my cheeks, and if that isn’t the mark of something truly special then I don’t know what is.




%d bloggers like this: