Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The 39 Steps

Steve and I trotted up to London recently to see a show.  The sun was shining, work was done for the day and the Big Smoke was decidedly less smoky than normal.  A meal and the theatre was the perfect outing to relax and spend quality time together.    I declared in a most determined fashion that I wanted to be entertained.  Not hard in London you would imagine but the sheer scope of options available to you does leave you feeling a little bemused on occasion.  A tiny Italian restaurant gave us the time to consider and debate our options.  We narrowed it down to two.  Then we made our choice.

Not a musical for a change but a play.
A side-splitting, blissfully funny, stiff-upper-lip-complete-with-pencil-mustache romp through England and Scotland in the 1930's as the dashingly handsome and charming Richard Hannay with a decidedly devil-may-care attitude fights off dastardly spies, despicable professors, and rotten rogues all with a distinct knack for awkward conversation with the ladies.

The 39 Steps is Olivier Award Winning slapstick humour at its finest with a twist.  A Thriller Comedy by Hitchcock, 4 actors play 139 characters in 100 minutes.  It leaves you utterly breathless with wonder.  One scene in particular left me speechless as 2 actors switched through four characters complete with costume changes in the space of seconds.
The set looks simple enough but model trains, puppet theatre and an incredibly clever and creative prop department transform the stage from London's West End to the Scottish Highlands, from train carriages to farmers huts and grand mansions, chases through the hills and dales and the bedroom of a remote hotel.  It is astounding to watch.

The actors are superb, slick, fast paced, witty and fantastic chemistry between all four.  Some of the jokes are hammered home quite forcefully but this is the nature of the play.  It is not afraid to pick itself up, shake itself off and remind the audience that it is well aware it is a play thank you very much. 

Based at The Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly it is simple to get to and just around the corner from Leicester Square.  China Town and St James Park helped to while away the time until curtain up with dinner courtesy of Piccadilly.
Tickets are ridiculously reasonably priced, especially if you go to the licensed booths in Leicester Square or purchase last minute from the Theatre Box Office.

I like to think I am reasonably experienced when it comes to the Theatre - I have seen a lot of plays and musicals and know what I like and what I don't like.

I LOVED this play.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I have heard rumours it is going on tour and coming to the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury soon.


Monday, 29 April 2013

The Millers Arms

It's been a little while since I showed you a pub.  Let me introduce you to one of my favourite hangout places.  It's already appeared on the blog once before, when my friends got hold of my camera for the afternoon!
Built in 1862 to serve the local mill workers, I hang out in The Millers Arms at least once a month.  This is the location for our Players social on the last Thursday of every month.  A chance for us to get together, chat about the latest production, catch up on gossip, meet new members and generally have a moderately nosey noisy evening together.  
It's a great choice - cask ales, a really good Chilean Sauvignon Blanc (my favourite), decent food if you are peckish and good size tables for large groups of people that they don't seem to object to you moving around as more people come and join you.  The conservatory is also really nice to sit and relax in.
The small courtyard garden is also great to hang out in when the weather is warmer!  In the meantime, the inglenook fireplace helped keep you toasty and snuggly during the ridiculously long winter we were suffering from.
Located on Mill Lane, near St Radigunds and close to the Marlowe Theatre, The Millers is also an old historic coaching inn and still runs as a B&B to this day.
Entrance is via the large double doors just opposite the old Mill where the river Stour runs through the centre of Canterbury.  The roar and gurgle of the water rushing through the sluice gates of the Mill is one of the sounds that is intrinsically linked to Canterbury in my mind, along with the tolling bells of the Cathedral and the squawk of seagulls on the University sports hall roof!  I could sit in the summer months with a cold beer and a good book and listen to the river for hours.
The Millers Arms was recently refurbished and has gone for an eclectic vintage vibe with old crates and antique photographs providing the majority of the decor, offset with ivory, vanilla and moss green walls and stained pine wood features accented by deep plums and aubergines.
Tables are large, homey and spacious and parties are welcome.   Magazines and newspapers are scattered for the patrons to use and the tables are simply decorated with small vases with fresh flowers.  Wooden chairs and leather benches are inviting and comfortable with plenty of room to go around.
The Millers feels a lot lighter and fresher than some of the older pubs in Canterbury, being relatively new in comparison.

Food is traditional and well portioned.  Ordering is via your table number - choose what you want, go to the bar, give them your order and your table number, pay and wait for your food to arrive. 
Cheesy chips are my go-to bar snack.
The L shaped bar is manned by very friendly and knowledgeable staff who are happy to offer their advice and recommendations on both your food and drink choices.
This is one of those pubs where you can pull up a chair, get in the drinks and sit and talk happily for hours on end.  The last session lasted *cough* 5 hours.
I also really like the fact you can pay for your order on card, even if it is under £5 AND still get cash back - so convenient!
For a bunch of amateur drammies, most are really camera shy.

Not these three though.  Hijacked my camera again. 
Bunch of posers!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Double Dipped

The extremely welcome emergence of spring has bought the summer planning vibe out in all my friends.  BBQ's and Beer Festival's are all suddenly within touching distance.

One friend has been particularly brave and decided she is throwing a picnic for her birthday.  This weekend.  We are still in April so I'm hoping she has a backup plan just in case the weather decides to rain on our parade picnic!

I decided to go all dippy with my contributions and whipped up two different dunkers.
Aubergine, Garlic and Tahini
Roasted Red Pepper and Feta.

Both are really easy, relatively healthy and quick.  The names are also relatively long winded so from now I will just refer to them as Green and Red.

I love garlic so I tend to go heavy.  Just tone down as much or as little as you want!

For the Green you need 1 aubergine, 1 lemon, handful of parsley, rock salt, and garlic.  I used 2 fat cloves.
For the Red you need two sweet peppers, good slug of olive oil, parsley, marjoram or oregano, garlic (2 cloves again) and half a block of feta cheese.  You could also stick a red chilli in here to pack an extra punch.  Normally I would but I wasn't making this just for me so thought it was probably best not to make people cry at a birthday picnic.
Roast the veg, peel the aubergine and chop the pepper.  Blitz to a puree with their other ingredients.
Store in airtight containers in the fridge.  They will keep well for a couple of days.
Dunk straight from the pot with your dunking implement of choice.  I favour bread sticks, pitta and crudites.

Friday, 26 April 2013

A Grand evening of Theatre

I'm still living by my "Yes" motto so on Saturday night when Matt called to say he had a last minute extra ticket to some dinner theatre in Folkestone and did I want it, it was only a short hesitation before I agreed.
I have never been to the Grand Hotel in Folkestone before.  Like its name, it is a grandiose building and reminded me somewhat of the buildings in Cheltenham.  Located on the sea front, it is a wonderful example of slightly faded Edwardian elegance, from the traditional revolving doors in deep weathered wood with worn varnish to the high panelled ceilings with sparkling chandeliers, delicate stained glass and floor to ceiling windows streaming in the light and sun from the seashore just yards away.
 It's a wonderful building, full of intricate details and hidden delights.
Whilst I had never been here before, Matt had and reliably informed me that they do a good cream tea.

While ordering pre-show drinks the bar staff gave me an impromptu history lesson on the Hotel after seeing me in full shutterbug mode.  King Edward VII stayed here on numerous occasions, with both the Queen and his intimate friend Alice Keppel.  The antics of the King and his friends resulted in their favourite room, the Glasshouse earning the nickname of the Monkey House which then led to the origin of the phrase 'monkey business'!
The hotel even has its own brand of Kentish ale. 
The dinner and play were held in the Ballroom, opened in 1909.  It had been updated with art deco features whilst retaining the soft colour palette that the Edwardian's were famous for.

I felt like I had been transported back in time, the features were stunning and the room was beautifully proportioned, with mirror strips running across the ceiling in varigated pastel shades and etched mirrors reflecting the soft lighting across the room.  The details were everywhere.
This was a very different atmosphere to the last Cafe Theatre I went to at The Parrot!

All tables had been set up facing the stage which was dressed to recreate a 1958 living room in Hammersmith.
A pianist serenaded the diners through their two course meal included with the ticket price.
Matt and I did feel slightly out of place and under-dressed.  There was a definite target audience for this production and we didn't quite fit into that category!

The play was In By The Half by Jimmie Chinn and performed by the Company of 12.  As with most dinner / cafe theatre it was a one act play and in this case was a very gentle comedy exploring the broken relationship between a retired actress and her daughter.. 
Matt had heard about the play through the Director, a wonderful woman who frequents his local pub.   She was so warm and welcoming to me and immediately demanded that I call her Auntie Maggie.
As always I don't take photos throughout the show as it is incredibly distracting for the actors involved.

Instead I made do with snapping details in the bar.
Post show we made our way back to Canterbury for a final tipple in The Phoenix, Matt's local where we chatted with Auntie Maggie about In By The Half.

Have you ever been to dinner or cafe theatre?  What were your thoughts?