Tuesday 18 July 2023

Talking at Night by Claire Daverley book review: A Captivating Journey into the Depths of Human Emotion

embraces the honesty of life, presenting stories that feel authentic and sincere"

Talking at Night by Claire Daverley
Published: 6th July 2023 by Michael Joseph

Talking at Night by Claire Daverley is a beautifully quiet treasure of a book, taking readers on a heartfelt journey, through the complexities of human relationships. Daverley's storytelling is absolutely exquisite diving into the world's of her characters, leaving readers teary eyed and filled with a whirlwind of emotions.

The characters in Talking at Night are expertly crafted, with each one feeling genuine and relatable, baring their fears, insecurities and dreams for all to see. Daverley skilfully delves into their minds painting a picture of their struggles and victories. The protagonist, Rosie's, path of self discovery is captivating and truly inspiring while the supporting characters add a level of richness and depth that elevates the narrative and fully engages the reader.

The novel embraces the honesty of life, presenting stories that feel authentic and sincere. It beautifully showcases the significance of "normal" lives reminding us that they hold just as much magic and worth as those portrayed in larger than life media tales.

One of the books highlights is the interweaving of dual timelines featuring Will and Rosie, the leads. This technique enriches the plot and offers a reflection, on how our past shapes our present and future.

Daverley's poetic prose is another strong aspect of Talking at Night. Her use of words is incredibly powerful and she manages to captivate readers, by immersing them in the emotional world of the novel, never shying away from tackling difficult subjects. The exploration of themes like love, loss, forgiveness, and redemption are so thoughtfully handled, making the novel resonate on a profound level. The vibrant descriptions enable readers to feel the characters happiness and sadness as if they were personally involved resulting in a reading experience that's reminiscent of watching a film. Fans of Love, Rosie and Me Before You will certainly enjoy this tale.

My only slight reservation is that, in a few instances, the pacing felt slightly off and there was a slight lag. However, this is a minor flaw which doesn't really detract from how strong this book is, and in some ways could be seen as reflection of life and the up and down pacing of the real world off the page.

Talking at Night is an exceptional work of fiction that should be celebrated for its thought-provoking themes, remarkable character development, and lyrical prose. Claire Daverley has crafted a tale that tugs at the heartstrings and lingers in the mind, making it a must-read for anyone who appreciates a deeply moving and immersive literary experience. I wholeheartedly recommend this novel and hope that it will stay with you long after you've turned the last page.

Reviewed by Olivia Mitchell

{AD PR Product- book gifted in exchange for honest review}

Monday 17 July 2023

Diva Exhibition at the V&A Museum Review: A Majestic Showcase of Feminine Power and Artistry

a treasure trove of memorabilia and artefacts, breathing life into the stories of these extraordinary divas"

Victoria and Albert Museum 

The newest exhibition at the V&A, Diva is an absolute treat, immersing visitors in the captivating world of awe-inspiring women who have enchanted us with their extraordinary talents, strength, and charisma.

From the moment you step into the exhibition hall, you truly feel a part of the glamour and empowerment. Split into two acts, the first being historical context of diva’s and the second focussing on the modern day artists, this enchanting journey through the lives and legacies of iconic divas is really awe-inspiring.

The curation of Diva is exceptionally well done. Skilfully interweaving various disciplines such as music, film, fashion, and photography as well as showcasing objects alongside outfits to tell personal and intriguing stories. The exhibit creates a multi-dimensional experience that effortlessly transports visitors into the captivating world of these remarkable women. Every display is meticulously crafted, capturing the very essence of the divas, their defining moments, and their profound contributions to popular culture. With 60 costumes and 250 items spanning from the 19th century to today, there is so much to take in and a number of highlights to be found throughout. Some personal favourites included the various Bob Mackie designs, which are accompanied by original artwork, Elton John's Louis XIV-inspired 50th birthday party look and the fringed black dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot in 1959.

The exhibition is a treasure trove of memorabilia and artefacts, breathing life into the stories of these extraordinary divas. From the elaborate stage costumes that exude the flamboyance of performers like Madonna and Lady Gaga, to the intimate handwritten letters and personal diaries that offer a glimpse into the private lives of divas like Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin, each piece on display serves as a testament to their unrivalled greatness.

What sets the Diva exhibition apart is its unwavering commitment to highlighting the immense cultural impact of these trailblazing women. It delves deep into how these divas challenged societal norms, shattered glass ceilings, and emerged as symbols of empowerment for generations of women. Through interactive displays and thought-provoking installations, visitors are invited to reflect on the ongoing struggle for equality and the profound power of self-expression.

The audiovisual elements of the exhibition are incredibly effective. As you stroll through the halls, you’re treated to a symphony of iconic performances and interviews playing on large screens, perfectly complementing the visual feast before you. The accompanying soundtrack, carefully curated from the divas' most unforgettable hits, transports you through time, allowing you to immerse yourself in the journey.

The meticulous attention to detail in every aspect of the exhibition is truly praiseworthy. From the thoughtfully crafted lighting and set design that immerses visitors in a captivating ambiance to the informative plaques offering historical context, the Diva exhibition ensures an enriching experience that not only entertains but also educates about the indelible impact these women have made on the world.

The V&A Museum has truly surpassed expectations with the Diva exhibition, serving as a remarkable tribute to the enduring influence of these extraordinary women. Whether you're an avid fan of a specific diva or simply intrigued by the diverse tapestry of female talent, this exhibition is an absolute must-see. Be prepared to be dazzled and inspired by the unwavering spirit and artistic brilliance of the divas who have left an indelible mark on our cultural landscape.

Seamlessly weaves together art, history, and music, paying homage to the iconic women who have redefined what it means to be a diva, this exhibition is a must visit. Get ready to be enthralled, uplifted, and deeply moved by this extraordinary showcase of feminine power and artistry.

Reviewed on Thursday 13th July by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Anna Gordon

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}

A Strange Loop at the Barbican review: An Unflinchingly Honest Journey of Self-Discovery

a deeply relevant and relatable experience for audiences of all backgrounds."

A Strange Loop
Barbican Centre

A Strange Loop at Barbican is an absolutely remarkable production that pushes the boundaries of theatre and delves deep into the complexities of identity, self-worth, and the human experience. From the moment the curtains opened, I was captivated by the raw and unapologetic exploration of the protagonist, Usher’s psyche.

This is a show which is really reliant on a united and strong cast and thankfully the performances throughout are super strong. The entire cast deliver powerful, emotionally charged portrayals. Due to the nature of the show, it may not directly resonate with the audience but the cast do an astounding job of making you feel for Usher’s story and really connect on a profound level. Each actor skilfully brings their character to life, blending humour, vulnerability, and intense introspection in perfect harmony. The energy on stage is infectious, and you really find yourself absorbed in the story.

The writing by Michael R. Jackson is truly effective. With a script that flawlessly combines witty dialogue, thought-provoking monologues, and catchy musical numbers to create a narrative which effectively mirrors the issues broached throughout. A Strange Loop tackles themes of race, sexuality, self-doubt, and societal expectations with unflinching honesty, making it a deeply relevant and relatable experience for audiences of all backgrounds.

The staging and set design (Arnulfo Maldonado) are brilliantly executed, utilising minimalistic elements to create a visually striking and versatile backdrop for the story. There are times when the stage feels underused but toward the end of the musical, it’s really stretched to its limits and is so impactful. The imaginative use of lighting (Jen Schriever) adds another layer of depth to the production, enhancing the emotional impact of each scene.

Furthermore, the direction by Stephen Brackett brings out the best in the cast and the material. The pacing ensures that every moment lands with the intended impact, at times causing a collective gasp from the audience. Brackett's vision seamlessly integrates the music, choreography, and storytelling, resulting in a cohesive and thought-provoking theatrical experience.

While A Strange Loop may not resonate with everyone, it has the power to profoundly impact those who are open to engaging with challenging themes. This production serves as a powerful testament to the transformative nature of theatre, as it encourages introspection, sparks meaningful conversations, and fosters empathy among its viewers.

If I were to have any reservation in giving it a perfect five-star rating, it would be that the complexity of the narrative and the rapid pace of the production might make it slightly difficult for some audience members to fully grasp the subtleties of the story. However, I firmly believe that this should not dissuade anyone from experiencing this groundbreaking piece of theatre during its limited run.

A Strange Loop at Barbican is an audacious and unforgettable production that dares to push the boundaries of what theatre can achieve. In just an hour and forty minutes, it fearlessly challenges societal norms, delves deep into internal struggles, and ultimately celebrates the triumphant journey of self-discovery. Prepare to be moved, thoroughly entertained, and enlightened as you embark on this hypnotic exploration of the human psyche.

Reviewed on Thursday 13th July 2023 by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}

The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium review: A Delightfully Nostalgic Experience

a visual spectacle that fits so well with the whimsical and well-loved world of Oz"

The Wizard of Oz
London Palladium

Magic, wonder, and unforgettable melodies reign supreme as you step into the mesmerising world of The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium. This enchanting production, a transfer from the Leicester Curve, weaves a delightful experience that is sure to captivate audiences of all ages.

Thanks to Nikolai Foster’s direction, once the curtain rises you will find yourself immersed in a world of imagination and fantasy. The detailed costumes, effective sets and strong video effects seamlessly blend together to create a visual spectacle that fits so well with the whimsical and well-loved world of Oz. The semi-modern, steampunk aesthetic lends a unique twist to the classic tale, infusing it with a fresh and vibrant energy.

The cast of The Wizard of Oz delivers exceptional performances, breathing life into the beloved characters with charm and charisma. Dorothy, portrayed by the stunning Georgina Onuorah with innocence and determination, effortlessly captures our hearts as she embarks on her journey to find her way back home. Joining Dorothy on yellow brick road are three iconic friends she makes. Searching for courage, the Cowardly Lion is played superbly well by Jason Manford, who is perfectly evocative of Lahr in the film but with a spin of his own that really works. Looking for a heart the Tin Man is oiled by well by Ashley Banjo who creates some really brilliant moments; the vocals aren’t as stellar as they could be but his dance skills and charisma more than make up for it. Completing the quad is Louis Gaunt as the Scarecrow searching for a heart, who is utterly charming and a real triple threat. The chemistry between the group is well portrayed, however on stage you don’t feel as a strong of a connection to their journey and never root for them quite enough; their story is enjoyable but not as emotionally intense as it could be.

The other supporting cast members shine in their respective roles, each bringing their own unique flair and personality to the story. Christina Bianco’s Glinda and Dianne Pilkington’s Wicked Witch of the West are throughly entertaining, if a little underdeveloped but both provide some of the stand solos of the show. The musical numbers in The Wizard of Oz combine Andrew Lloyd Webber's new compositions with the beloved songs from the classic film and while Webber's additions may not steal the spotlight, they seamlessly blend with the original score, enriching the overall experience. The familiar melodies of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and ‘Follow the Yellow Brick Road’ undoubtedly take centre stage, evoking a wave of nostalgia and bringing smiles to the faces of the audience.

This musical really does exactly what you’d expect it to in telling the story which so many love. All the classic moments are featured and there are also some fun things to spot such as Ozified show names (West Witch Story, Margaret Hamilton etc…) a hidden Olaf and some swanky costumes which are truly Ozian. However, act two is a little bit lacking as a whole, with the video aspect which is so effective in act one, becoming gimmicky and a little basic, especially when showing the wicked witch’s army and the flying monkeys. Moments which could have been really awe-inspiring are instead brushed over and there’s never a true wow moment.

A way the production does soar is in how it pays heartfelt homage to the original book by Frank L. Baum, incorporating references that will surely delight fans. The inclusion of Dorothy's return to Kansas in her Oz dress adds a touch of nostalgia, serving as a loving nod to the source material. These thoughtful gestures elevate the production, reminding us of the timeless charm that made the story a classic in the first place.

It’s not a faultless show but The Wizard of Oz offers a delightful escape into a world of fantasy and adventure. With its talented cast, striking visuals, and heartfelt nods to the original, this production is well worth seeing. Whether you are reliving cherished childhood memories or experiencing the magic for the very first time, this show will transport you to a place where dreams come true and a trip to Oz should definitely be part of your summer plans.

Reviewed on Wednesday 12th July 2023 by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}