Set aside time. Don't rush. Take a room at a time and methodically clear it out.
Drawers, cupboards and surfaces - each item should be assigned a place. If it doesn't have a place, it's clutter.
If you don't use it regularly or absolutely love it, throw it away.
Think about the sort of body that you want. Make a list of the food that will help you achieve that body.
Organise what you want to eat in advance and buy complete meals, not snack foods.
List all the items that you need and shop for only those items.
Live in the present, not the past. Don't let any more clutter into your house.
Volunteer rather than waiting to be asked.
Take a risk - such as working abroad for six months.
Strike a balance between confidence and over-confidence.
Be visible rather than reticent.
Request a pay increase rather than assume one.
Focus on your successes rather than your failures.
Network, network, network.
Seek out a mentor, someone who will champion you. People love to give advice.
Dress for the job you want. Buy a new suit if you are going for a more senior role.
Listen to your children for what they say, not what you think they say. They are changing rapidly and you should be open to their new thoughts and ideas.
Be forgiving. Mistakes in early adulthood are not signs of indelible character flaws, they are par for the course in a transition period which is becoming more extended as society becomes more complex.
Recognise the difference between loving support and over-involved fixing. They will gauge their limits by learning from their own experiences.
Humiliation is the greatest threat to the child/parent bond. "I told you so," or "Why can't you just grow up?" may seem like mild expressions of exasperation, but they can chill your young adult child to the bone.
Encouragement from parents is never wasted. "You're not a disappointment. I know this is a difficult phase, but you will find your feet," will uplift a flounderer, whether they acknowledge it at the time or not.
Be clear and consistent about finances. Gifts should be made in the context of trust and appreciation, not as bail-outs for irresponsible debts. Help your child structure the repayment of a loan, but do not make it go away.
Tolerate returns home. When young people make false starts, they need to retreat before they try again.
Let them go and they will come back - that is the paradox.
1. Bat Out of Hell The Musical – London Coliseum
Andrew Polec, as Strat (leader of ‘The Lost’, a collective of young rebels) leads a ridiculously talented cast with flair, energy and intensity. Polec’s vocals are outstanding, his stage presence amazing, and he was conspicuous by his absence whenever off-stage.
2. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Apollo Theatre
Hilarious and hard-hitting in equal measure, this is a great British musical not to be missed. I don’t like this show. I love it.
3. Barber Shop Chronicles – National Theatre, Dorfman
Filled with laugh-out-loud humour as well as food for thought, this electrifying and magnificent production is theatrical heaven from beginning to end.
4. Hamilton – Victoria Palace Theatre
The hype is justified, and the running time felt considerably shorter than it was. Hamilton is an extraordinary show with a diverse and talented company. I was encouraged and exhilarated by this slick, energetic and relentlessly compelling musical.
5. 42nd Street – Theatre Royal Drury Lane
It’s unlikely to win over anyone who wouldn’t normally enjoy a musical theatre production. As Marsh himself puts it, “Musical comedy – the two most glorious words in the English language!” But for those who like a classic, feel-good musical that will have them leaving the theatre with a smile on their faces and humming memorable tunes, a trip down to 42nd Street is worth every penny.
6. The Life – Southwark Playhouse
The whole cast are well-drilled by veteran director Michael Blakemore, and the show is clearly influenced by more than one well-known musical theatre show […] what a magnificent and sensational production this is.
7. The Phantom of the Opera – Her Majesty’s Theatre
After more than 32 years in the West End, The Phantom of the Opera continues to sound marvellous… Enchanting as ever, it remains vibrant and beautiful, and in fine form.
8. Angels in America – National Theatre, Lyttelton
I saw it in the cinema as part of the NT Live broadcast series before I saw it at the National Theatre itself. The screenings expose the set design flaws, as the cameras couldn’t zoom in on characters as they would normally do, given the number of split scenes in the play, and panoramic views consequently required. An extraordinary experience.
9. Hamlet – Harold Pinter Theatre
These sofas, these business suits, these sliding doors. It’s all bound to annoy the purists to high heaven. No matter. This is a surprisingly warm and inviting production, and a welcome addition to the many versions of this timeless play.
10. 31 Hours – The Bunker Theatre
An admirable play with compelling performances, this intriguing and informative production doesn’t apportion blame or offer tidy solutions to a persistent problem. The script is poetic when it wants to be, other times flowing between characters so much it requires impeccable timing and pacing, which this cast possesses in abundance.
11. The State of Things – Jack Studio Theatre
A joyous final number sends the audience out with cheerfulness, even if all the ends aren’t tied up, loosely or otherwise. The script is tasteful and imaginative.
12. Henry V – Southwark Cathedral
I wasn’t prepared for… quite how different and spellbinding this production was from any other Henry V I’ve seen before… Powerful and poignant.
13. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – Harold Pinter Theatre
The narrative unfolds over just one night, and this production is so intense and absorbing I found myself willing both the ‘interval’ of 15 minutes between Act 1 and Act 2 as well as the ‘pause’ of just five minutes between Act 2 and Act 3 to end.
14. Dick Whittington – London Palladium
…the most astounding scene for me was Sarah Fitzwarren (Gary Wilmot) naming all (as far I could deduce, anyway) of the stations of the London Underground network in a patter song that thoroughly deserved the sustained applause it received. Oh yes, it did.
15. Fingering A Minor on the Piano – Soho Theatre
This is a compelling and passionate show, as much of an education into what’s really going on in the healthcare sector today as it is a fun-filled hour of hysterical anecdotes.
16. Ugly Chief – Battersea Arts Centre
All things considered, this is a witty and spirited play, and I’d happily see it again. As for Mike Melody, he couldn’t help but spot this reviewer scribbling away into a notepad, and was confident enough to tell the press night audience I’d give him “all the stars”. How incredibly perceptive he is.
17. London Musical Theatre Orchestra: A Christmas Carol – Lyceum Theatre
I wonder if this production could become a regular seasonal feature, building on previous performances year after year, as The Snowman does over at the Peacock Theatre. A marvel and a delight.
18. Rachel Tucker – Shoreditch Town Hall
Flanked by dozens of youngsters from the Stagebox Musical Theatre Choir (who stood in the aisles waiting to come on as Tucker sang ‘Children Will Listen’ from Into The Woods – make of that what you will), this was ensemble singing and dancing at its finest.
19. Response 2 Power – The Old Red Lion Theatre
It is quite typical for curated events like these to have mini-plays of varying quality – here, however, each of the shows offers plenty of food for thought, and are presented with relish, delight and commitment by eager and passionate performers in this lively and intense production.
20. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Jack Studio Theatre
Equally humorous and mysterious (or, to quote the show, “simply ridiculous”), this delightful production is nothing short of a tour de force.
Impose a 15-minute cooling off period during which you try the steps below. If you still feel like eating after 15 minutes you are free to do so. The enforced break is enough to stop a pattern of automatic eating.
Brush your teeth. This can get rid of the imagined taste of what you are craving, and drink a large glass of water. You may just be confusing thirst with water.
Analyse your craving. Do you feel fear, anger, tension or shame? Recognising the trigger can relieve the craving.
Do something about the feeling or trigger. Instead of procrastinating and carrying the burden of this problem around with you, think of some way to move toward relief.
Exercise - this can help to boost serotonin levels, improves your mood and suppresses appetite.
There’s a scene in the Broadway musical Ragtime where one character, after a sharp intake of breath, says to another: “Well”. The woman says it so often the man with whom she is conversing with is compelled to point it out. She says it, or so she claims, when she can’t immediately think of anything else to say. Such was my initial response to the 2017 VPA Productions pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk. Well.
But a post-show meal at the Pizza Express in Gerrards Cross town centre, followed by a train journey back into London, provided sufficient time for further reflection. It certainly has all the ingredients of pantomime, and does better than this year’s glitz and glamour panto at the Palladium at calls and responses. Proceedings did, perhaps, get rather more anarchic than was intended, but either despite or because of the chaos (or maybe it was a bit of both), it’s got plenty of heart.
A baddie is doing well as a baddie when he elicits boos from the younger members of the audience unprompted. Christopher Howland’s Fleshcreep is a paradoxical success in being good at being bad. The whole cast shines, really, and this extends to an ensemble of child performers, who show much promise. There were technical hiccups which precluded us from hearing every line, but the audience willed them on anyway, and thankfully they didn’t seem too fazed by the, ahem, challenges of live performance.
Jamie Stewart’s Silly Billy was so endearing I still find it difficult to picture him as the baddie that he was in previous VPA pantos (this being my first one, y’see). Most vocally impressive were Rebecca Gilliland as Princess Jill, and Harry Jones in the title role, the former reprising a number from Michael Webborn and Daniel Finn’s musical The Clockmaker’s Daughter, and the latter knocking out a polished rendering of ‘Giants in the Sky’ from Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods. Elsewhere, a number of chart music songs were convincingly woven into the narrative, and kept the cosmopolitan audience entertained – and even I recognised a version of Bruno Mars’ ‘Just The Way You Are’.
More might have been made of Nigel Garton’s character name, King Willie (Elaine Paige ‘chasing after Dick’ – as in Dick Whittington, the 2017 panto over at the London Palladium, being a case in point). The dialogue is kept distinctly family-friendly (absolutely, positively no uncomfortable in-seat shifting from mums and dads here). And Garton’s King is delightful, even if I couldn’t quite shift Michael Jibson’s King George III in Hamilton out of my line of thinking.
It’s a faithful, traditional version of Jack and the Beanstalk, with no plot surprises to report. As I say, it was all there: the ‘parish notices’, the children brought on stage, the invitation to the audience to join in a well-known chorus, the wedding finale. Dame Trott (Ian Parkin) makes scene entrances with increasingly outlandish costumes as the show progresses, and some projections prove useful in helping to establish a scene’s location. The on-stage beanstalk, due to something somewhere not working as it should, was unceremoniously bundled off-stage in a manner that threatened to redefine the meaning of ‘inconspicuous’ (Who cares? It’s panto!), but this is more than made up for in the fun and amusement to be had watching a cast clearly enjoying themselves and making the most of this boisterous seasonal experience.
A quick Google search of the word ‘animus’ brings up the following definitions: 1) hostility or ill feeling, 2) motivation to do something and 3) in Jungian psychology, the masculine part of a woman’s personality. The word animus isn’t spoken in Animus, but all those definitions are suitable for Charlotte Donne (at this performance, Molly Osborne: the role is shared with Claire Keenan) in this student production. There’s a perennial ‘problem’ with student productions, simply that all characters, irrespective of what age range they would reasonably be expected to be, are performed by students.
This is less of an issue here, with significantly older characters being relatively minor roles, or otherwise off-stage altogether. It’s a bold move for any theatre to take on a new musical, and bolder still to entrust the performing of it to people still in training. But if any of these performances came across as more than a tad stilted, I suspect this has more to do with the eighteenth-century setting and the airs and graces with which the wealthier classes were expected to display (at least in public), than anything else.
The process of making some working class characters assume the role of establishment figures (for reasons explained in the narrative) provides a source of amusement in an otherwise largely dark plot. Compulsory education in Britain was still more than a century away, so not being of noble birth often meant limited vocabulary, summarised best in a line from one of several prostitutes: “What the f*ck is ‘vulgarity’?” Probably the best musical number of the evening is led by their pimp, Fanny Penhaligon (Simone Sullivan).
In terms of the story, well, we’ve been here before. The lead character is wronged and sets about obtaining justice. The term ‘justice’ should really be interpreted as ‘revenge’. Some truths are revealed a little too late, and too many people than were strictly necessary have lost their lives. Sweeney Todd, anyone? There are twists in the story, a few of which were predictable, the rest unexpected.
The opening number, ‘The Last Good Man in London’, goes at quite a pace. Some choruses and verses later on go faster still, calling to mind ‘Getting Married Today’, from another of Stephen Sondheim’s musicals, Company. A couple of ensemble numbers are jaunty and celebratory, and show some excellent choreography (Fabian Aloise). But, the story being what it is, the song-and-dance moments are quite rare. The ‘I wish’ song, ‘Capable’, demonstrates Molly Osborne’s clear and compelling vocal as Charlotte Donne; shortly thereafter, Harvey Westwood as Joe Grey, a self-confessed thief, commands the stage with a persuasive presence, and a sublime voice to boot.
Still images projected help to provide a sense of time and place of any given scene. The staging is arguably a little too spartan, but then again, the stage is never busier than it needs to be, and this production seems to rely on the music, book and lyrics to advance the story rather than visual effects. Some inventive lighting (Malcolm Richards) portrayed a harrowing early scene very well. The pace ebbs and flows, as many a good musical does, allowing for a range of human passions and emotions to be expressed.
A considerable amount of new writing tends to be condensed in such a way that the show does not require an interval, or otherwise it comes across as containing songs and dialogue that pad the show out, extending its running time unnecessarily. Animus is neither of those things, and the running time, just a touch over two and a half hours, flew by. A complex plot with a beautiful score.
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.