It started with goodbye…

2016 has already brought people such joy and anguish. We are 21 days in as I sit here and write this piece. I only just returned from my trip 10 days ago, and have been so bogged down with work that there has been no time to be here. Aside from being occupied I have been consumed by grief for the icons that have left us behind this year.

Already, in such a short space of time, 2016 has brought us tears and the realisation that the lives of those that seem so phenomenal and amazing beyond comparison, are also lives that are frail and taken away from us at any time. I feel that it has been a bit of a shock as in 20 days we have all said goodbye to huge influences in all our lives, but three in particular have struck me as particularly shocking. So today I dedicate this art post to the loss of huge talents to the world wide entertainment industry.

David Bowie

What an absolute icon! I can still remember working at the Victoria and Albert museum when the Bowie exhibition was taken down and booking its trip around the world. I believe that it is currently being shown in Rio de Janeiro, but do not quote me as it has been a while and I might not recall the dates as well as I wish.

Bowie was a huge fashion icon, film talent and a musical influence and god that evolved with time and released some of the most awesome music ever. Bands can only dream of creating the unique sound that Bowie continuously honed, and his break through musical techniques are of huge influence to the music industry. It seems bittersweet and a planned goodbye that he released his 25th album on his 69th birthday, just days before he passed away. It is with memories of his sweet voice that I whispered goodbye to his name and remembered a well phrased Bowie quote:

“… And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re going through…”

Alan Rickman

A theatrical and film icon, known for many roles but loved globally for being the unsung and unpredictable hero of the Harry Potter series, Severus Snape. Has there ever been a man who’s voice could lull me into a different Universe altogether… maybe my dad’s but not anyone else. He played a huge part of my generation’s coming of age and is such a phenomenal loss to the industry and the world and fantasies of many growing children and dreaming adults. I will ALWAYS be waiting to take a potions and defence against the dark arts class with you. Mostly, Alan Rickman, I will never forget how you forged and paved the way for so many British actors and actresses, a true talent and your grace both on stage and screen will never be forgotten. As you once said, in the most beautiful, sincere and simplistic way – Always.

Glenn Frey

Finally, but not least, Glenn Frey. This may seem like an odd one, but my mom and dad brought me up listening to the melodious and harmonic abilities of The Eagles, and I have the fondest memories of this music. This music that I still have on my car when I do long drives, this band who graces my headphones every day with some of the most iconic and legendary pieces of music. When you write a piece like Hotel California, you know you’re about to make a record that is going to be historic, just like Rumours for Fleetwood Mac and The Wall by Pink Floyd. Glenn Frey is a lyrical and musical talent that has left a great big, thundering and aching gap in the music industry and in my heart. I leave you here with some of the very best of The Eagles.

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Miss Saigon – theatre review

Miss Saigon has only earlier this year returned to the West End and has taken the box office by storm and it is already set to shut by February 2016. As the production costs and maintenance are huge and the venue is not enjoying full houses all the time it is only natural to see it go away as fast as it appeared. So before it shut, I had the pleasure of watching it on the 19th of September 2015.

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Miss Saigon is the story of a Vietnamese girl, Kim, who is working in a brothel in Saigon. She falls in love with an American soldier, Chris, they quickly get married and try to move to the USA as the troops are vacating Vietnam, but she stays behind and unbeknownst to him, she is pregnant. The musical then follows the plot to their reunion and everything that happens in the mean time, politically in Saigon, now Ho Chi Min, and to the characters’ romantic entanglements in their own countries.

Knowing the history and background of the musical, I have to give the biggest praise to the creative team! Choreography and set played with each other beautifully. One of the most phenomenal numbers The Fall of Saigon is set with a set of moveable fences that rotate and change positions as we to and fro between Kim outside the fence and Chris stuck inside. With dancers flinging themselves fearlessly at the fence to truly demonstrate the desperation and desire to escape as well as the fear of those who wanted to keep the gates shut. It was beautifully created and truly showed that not only are the cast extremely talented, but are supported by a creative dream team. From Bob Avian, musical staging, Geoffrey Garratt, additional choreography, Totie Driver, Matt Kinley and Adrian Vaux, set design; this incredible group of people enable the cast to perform in a stage that not only supports the narrative and contextualises it. they are truly able to embellish the performance and add to the brilliant production of this musical. This also shows why the production is having to shut early, as cost wise I can only imagine the rotating sets and the live helicopter must cost a fortune to uphold. Regardless, for this alone, the sheer detail, flexibility and creativity of the set, the entire production was worth watching. In my opinion, one of the best uses of space in theatre I have seen in a while in terms of stage, set and choreography design. Bravo!

Let me talk about Jon Jon Briones. Jon Jon took upon perhaps the most iconic, comedic and full character of the entire show, The Engineer. A character that does not have a name per say, but leads and drives majority of the plot by his sheer cunning and desire and belief that he will go to the USA and pursue the American dream – fantastic number by the way. He is, in my opinion, the true star of the entire cast. The small nuances that made the character and he maintained throughout the show, from small hand gestures, quick flicks of the wrist and a nasal pronunciation of only certain words.He kept the character true to his sleazy self, but always with a flair of superiority and class. Jon Jon completely captured the Engineer, his slimy, self centered egotistical ways, his way of pretending and demonstrating himself as superior but then cowering at the first sign of fear. A true talent, with an amazing set of pipes to add the mix, I am proud to say he held his own to show the performing excellence that comes from the Philippines.

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Eva Noblezada was fantastic as Kim. Kim was a character that started off for me as truly irritating. I cannot stand women that are lead entirely by men in their lives, from the Engineer, to her father, ex husband Thuy and even driven only by potentially being with Chris, the entire first act of Miss Saigon truly makes Kim for me a very difficult character to like. That being said, political context and all she was very well written and developed. In the second half, as she has grown as a mother and we are introduced to her son Tam, we begin to see that not only out of love for a man who left her, but mostly an ideal of that, it is truly the love for her son that drives her forward. This for me is incredible. There are many people, feminists, that will say she should not need this incentive to move forward, but being a mother is the one thing that truly distinguishes us from men, it is a capacity only we have and a connection that only we can have with our children. As the presence of this boy nearly brought me to tears, I was interrupted from my potential crying by my mother and sister seated either side of me sobbing and sniffling relentlessly for Tam. Noblezada, accompanied by her phenomenal, awe provoking and goosepump causing voice, took on this challenging, powerful and multi dimensional character beautifully. She embodied Kim entirely, and I had the pleasure of seeing her transform from a quiet, shy but filled with morals young innocent girl to a woman with a purpose in 2 hours. It killed me to watch Kim’s end, but it was very much where the story was leading and Noblezada showed us a fighter and warrior the entire way. Truly fantastic.

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Disappointingly, her leading man left much to desire. And I LOVE THIS! I love that this man was a failure to his first love and child, I love that this man isn’t even man enough for his current partner. I love that he is torn apart and has no clue what to do with himself, and that even in war, he was weakened by his emotions, weakened by his desire to leave and love. I think this is a TRUE character. In that this person actually lives amongst us. A man with difficulty to accept and remember the troubled past of war, and that struggles with something that was ripped out of him. I am just saddened that they cast Chris Peluso to portray the fantastically real and failed character of Chris. A nasal voice, not much in terms of delivery of character development, it is a shame that he was not left in the background as an all swinging and singing chorus member. I feel this was not the role for him because he perhaps did not understand the complexity and wonderfulness of playing a character that is so completely damaged, a MAN in theatre that is so devastatingly broken. A man who was not capable of being the hero.

I had not come across Miss Saigon in film or stage before, and although I had some idea of the type of music and setting I was so overwhelmed by how well constructed it is. It was a true delight to watch it and be able to now share with you my views. It is an outstanding piece of theatre and music and I can see why it returns to the West End regularly, in spite of how costly it is to run. A genuine tear jerker, set in the woes of war we know devastated and destroyed a lot of families, people and countries, and that today we still see remnants of it. Overall one of the most phenomenal pieces I have seen, but do not think I could go through that much emotion again on stage. Give me 5 years to recover.

Miss Saigon is set to be removed from the Prince Edward Theatre in February 2016. It would be a true shame if you did not spend 2 hours of your time going to watch this. Click here for info and ticket details.

Little Shop of Horrors… sorry I have been away

Hello dear readers, I have to apologise for my absence but it happened for a very good motive I assure you.

As a lover of theatre and the performing arts in general, I suppose it is only fit to share with you that I myself am part of an Amateur Dramatics Society, and for the last two weeks have been intensely rehearsing for the week run that has just ended of our production of Little Shop of Horrors! The 80’s rock n roll classic musical was brought to life at Woodside Hall in Hitchin, Herts, UK for a week run, and I frantically rushed from work every evening to put on my dancing shoes and become Chiffon from the Ronnettes.

So much to my dismay I have had very little time to complete articles and post them for you, but I have returned and thought I would start by sharing a bit about my love for my amateur dramatics society.

First of all for those of you who do not know Little Shop of Horrors, GO AND WATCH IT! The 1986 cult classic film is an American Rock n Roll comedy musical, which takes place in downtown skid row, where the whole community are facing poverty and as all hope seems to be fading strange happenings turn this little community’s fate around. An eclipse brings along an alien plant who will revolutionise the characters’ lives and the world. With a star studded cast of Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene and Steve Martin, it is a must watch.

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Now, onto the Hitchin Thespians.

When I graduated University in 2013 I was adamant I did not want to be a performer, as you all know I am a writer by trade and this is the area I want to pursue professionally in the arts sector. However, I cannot deny that performing has always brought me great joy.

Part of my decision to not follow this avenue professionally was the fact that I wanted it to remain an untainted aspect of my life. The fact of the matter is, I am not very confident as an actress, I am competent as a dancer but I only truly excel in singing – not wanting to blow my own trumpet, but of the three it is where my true performing talent lies. I had for very long been missing singing live, it is a true moment of freedom and ecstasy for me. I get such a high from singing and put all my emotion into it. So in late 2014 as everyone was writing their New Year’s resolutions, I decided I would find a way to get back into singing live.

I was lucky to have found the Hitchin Thespians, a drama society that focuses purely on Musicals and Choral concerts! Perfect! I did not hesitate to contact them in early January and audition and have since done a concert of operetta Die Fledermaus and a production of Little Shop of Horrors.

I am so fortunate to live in England, because here there are numerous ways and places in which you can explore hobbies and talents, and I can go on doing something that I truly love without spoiling it with industry pressures. Aside from the fact, that in a completely realistic light, I am not the obvious choice for any performer, I feel like I have found a home where I can let my performance star shine as bright as possible as well as make some incredible friends and surround myself by people from all walks of life.

I am looking forward to watching the Choir perform the Christmas Concert and try out for the next production in January.

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Rhythms of the World 2015

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Copyright: Diana Lava

I love live music. As someone who has been exposed to music from a very very young age, with my father being in a band and working every night in live gigs until I was 7, music runs in my veins and I literally do not go any point of any day without a song in my head. At this moment in time, I am writing this as my father sits having an operation, and all I am hearing in my head is Bob Marley’s ‘I shot the Sheriff’. I don’t know if there is any meaning to that. I deviate from my point. Live music is one of those experiences that only get better the more I assist to it, so naturally festival season is one of my favourites.

So let me introduce you to one of my favourite festivals ever. Rhythms of the World. I have been going to ROTW since I was 16 years old and thought that having a boyfriend in a band was the coolest thing I would ever achieve – at the time it was. He had the whole converse, studded belts, cheque shirt, black skinny jeans and properly placed fringe look going, and he even dedicated songs to me. He is an ex boyfriend, so we know he had his flaws, but it was still VERY COOL, and I can say that now, 7 years later.

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Copyright: Diana Lava

Rhythms of the World is a festival that runs over two days, its £15 each day to attend – adult ticket price – and it takes place in the Hitchin Priory. It has six stages, which is a lot for a small local festival, and much like the title suggests it features music from all over the world, with different sounds, and it even has a BBC introducing stage. It is awesome!

This year I took my best friend, boyfriend and parents to ROTW with me. They loved it. I think festivals have a rather magical vibe. Everyone seems to be having a good time and wearing what they want. Lots of food tents, hand crafts, we got feathers in our hair and some leather cowboy hats it was great. Everyone is in a good mood, no matter how big the crowd we all squeeze together to fit in one field. Garden chairs, blankets, some people with fridges, kids with small pop up tents, babies in push chairs loving their first experience of both the english summer and english festivals – the best music festivals in the world.

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Copyright: Diana Lava

ROTW this year was made even better by the fact that one of my favourite bands THE SKINTS were playing and promoting their new album.The Skints are a reggae/ska band from east London and if you haven’t heard them then you are really missing out. But I am not here to boast about or review one of my favourite bands to watch perform. I am here to tell you that in ROTW, you can go from reggae to heavy metal and screamo in the BBC Introducing Stage. The main stage varied from American Country, to Mexican, Latin, Raggae, Fusion and Bhangra Indian Music. It is spectacular! You walk around and it is an amalgamation of sound, not from just polar opposites such as hip hop/rap and rock, but also from church hyms to sexy latin music, to music that is related and has similar basics such as some african and some latin american. It is a wall of noise and madness to the hearing but it is truly wonderful. Coupled with arts and crafts, clothes and all sorts of everything tents from all over the world, with food stalls that come from as far as China, Rhythms of the World is truly the widest local festival I have ever known. I love everything about it.

I have to add, that the price also really does top it for me. It is such an accessible price, and for a whole day of music and basically backyard tanning, great junk food, booze and awesome company, you can’t really ask for more! And the porterloos were actually minimally clean! If you are a Hertfordshire person, or even Cambridgeshire/Bedfordshire which are very close, I would really urge you to come along. It is a fantastic day out for the whole family. Bouncy castles galore for kids and adults alike! I cannot wait to take my nephew next year, I think he will be absolutely buzzing on sugar, but he will love it. Am already looking forward to it. Join me.

And tell me all, what is your favourite local music festival? I would love to discover more and join you there.