Friday 29 April 2016

Heartbeat - Manchester Opera House

A What's Good to Do Review

Based on The Constable novels by Nicholas Rhea, Heartbeat ran for 18 years from 1992 to 2010. With audiences regularly exceedingly 10 million viewers the show was constantly in the top five TV programmes. I was one of those millions who tuned in each week and hearing the famous Heartbeat theme instantly brought back memories of sitting in the living room on a Sunday evening with my family, watching the latest goings on in 1960’s Aidensfield. Like the Simpsons, time never seemed to pass in Heartbeat land, skirts were always short, colourful characters supped pints in the Aidensfield Arms and poachers still roamed the local estate. There was always a crime for the local police to solve and the newcomer to the village was generally involved.

Heartbeat was successful because of the combination of 60’s nostalgia, beautiful scenery, and stereotypical characters that added humour to the storylines. This production follows the same format and is instantly recognisable to fans of the show. The curtain opens to a rural scene complete with dry stone walls and with a rotating set, life in Aidensfield quite literally revolves around the pub. Video projection was used throughout the show however with the exception of the arrival of the train I felt it added very little to the story especially as much of it was obscured by the otherwise brilliant set. Much more effective were the sound effects and music that were used to add atmosphere to the story. Costumes were spot on and Geoff’s disco gear had to be seen to be believed!

Original cast members David Lonsdale and Steven Blakeley take on their original roles of David Stockwell and PC Geoff Younger and are joined on stage by a new cast including Carly Cook playing Liverpudlian barmaid Gina and Hollyoaks star Matt Milburn as village bobby PC Joe Malton. 

Whilst the first half was a bit slow to get going with the story focusing on a new jukebox for the pub and a mystery Irishman, a cliffhanger before the interval changed the tone for the second half and the plot began to unfold. Who was the mysterious Irish guest and what was he hiding? Meanwhile David and Geoff’s antics produced plenty of laughs as did David’s pet dog, Deefer who raised the biggest laugh of the night when working in the graveyard.

We really enjoyed our trip back in time and for fans of Heartbeat it really is worth a visit.
We drove to the Opera House, which is easy to find on the western edge of Manchester city centre. Like many others we parked at the nearby modern Spinningfields multi-story carpark which costs £7 if you arrive after 6pm. 

Heartbeart is at the Opera House in Manchester until 30 April 2016. For more information call the box office on 0844 871 3018.

Tickets cost from £16.90 to £41.40 (plus £4 transaction fee).

Disclaimer: We received free tickets for the purpose of this review but all words and opinions are our own.

Friday 15 April 2016

Breakfast at Tiffany's Review - The Lowry, Salford

A What's Good to Do Review

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of those famous films that everyone has heard of, even if they have never seen it. Falling into the “never seen the film” category we were looking forward to the new stage adaptation of Truman Capote’s book which has been adapted for stage by Richard Greenberg. The theatre was packed and after a slight delay, due to a technical hitch, the play began.

Set in 1940’s New York, the story revolves around young writer Fred, played by Matt Barber, and New York socialite Holly Golightly, played by Pixie Lott. Fred lives above Holly in an apartment block and whilst struggling to break into the world of publishing becomes infatuated with the young and attractive Holly who lives downstairs. Holly is a self centred character who cares little for how her actions affect those around her caring more for material things than love.

This isn’t a typical romantic comedy where boy meets girl, they fall in love, overcome a tragedy and live happily ever after. Not being familiar with the story we found the play was hard to follow at times and was very slow to get going. Whilst the scene changes were amazingly quick, time really seemed to drag and I found myself wondering how much longer the first half would take! 

The sets are very impressive, quickly switching between the two apartments, a local bar, and a few other locations. A steel fire escape easily evokes visions of an American apartment block and projections are used with great effect to change the scene, the Brooklyn Bridge working particularly well.

Pixie wears a huge number of different costumes and they all suit her role perfectly, adding to the feel of 40’s glamour. Just as impressive was the speed that she managed to get changed, returning to the stage just seconds after leaving but in a completely different outfit.
With a cast of twelve, almost everybody put on a great performance; Matt Barber, better known for his role in Downton Abbey, was a strong lead, playing the part of Fred as well as narrating the play and barely left the stage. I also liked Victor McGuire’s performance as bartender Joe Bell.

Pixie Lott, more well known as a pop singer, acted well but was let down by her accent. Often American but drifting into other accents, her voice lacked inflection and without expression it was difficult to fully get into her character. On the plus side, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is often described as a play with songs and Pixie was at least able to show off her talents with three songs, including the famous “Moon River” which were sung beautifully. 

This is a big production and so many parts worked well. The scenery, costumes, lighting and sound design and most of the acting were just right so it is a real shame that the evening was let down by a lacklustre script and a dodgy accent. At the end of the show the audience congratulated the cast with polite applause rather than a standing ovation. 

Disclaimer: We received free tickets for the purpose of this review but all words and opinions are our own.

Saturday 9 April 2016

Evening Bike Ride

Last night was a nice evening so we decided to ride to McDonalds for tea; we had a nice ride and built up a good appetite! Whilst sitting outside McDonalds, a couple of local lads appeared quickly followed by more and they were really quite intimidating. We felt quite uncomfortable sat with the boys and it has to be the quickest burger and chips we have ever eaten! We made a speedy exit and cycled back along the old train line. We had never cycled along the old railway before and unlike most old railways it wasn't especially cycle friendly. There were lots of bike barriers to negotiate which were tricky enough with a normal bike and the only way to get the tandem through was lifting it up on the back wheel. It's not a route we will be going on again but it was nice seeing where the railway went.

Amazing! Magazine Review & Competition

Luke loves reading about facts so he was thrilled when we received two copies of  Amazing! magazine to review. Amazing! magazine is a fun and educational magazine based on the primary national curriculum. Designed for boys and girls aged 7+  it covers a variety of subjects including Maths, English, Science, History, Geography, Arts and many more. Each magazine has a theme, we received the human body special and the ancient Romans special and they were both great magazines. Luke reads alone now so I don't usually read them but I had a good look at these magazines and found them really interesting and Iearnt a few things too!

The magazine is 36 pages and filled with articles that appeal to children. There are things to make, puzzles, jokes, amazing facts and even some great game ideas. I will be borrowing the games to play with the Cubs after the Easter break, they will love "Shoe In" a game where they all take off their shoes, jumble them up and then try and find them again and put them back on with the added complication of not being able to touch the shoes with their hands! It will be interesting seeing how quickly 24 Cubs can get own shoes back and the ways they do it!

The pages are colourful and full of interesting facts that Luke loved. He said he especially liked the cartoon style of the magazine and the mix of articles.

An annual subscription is just £49 for 12 issues  and if you want to subscribe you can receive a discount of 10% by using the discount code WOW10 at checkout.

I have 10 copies to giveaway to the first 10 people to email me at

Disclosure – we received two copies of the magazine in exchange for a review. All words, opinions and photos are my own.