Thursday

London Wine Week starts this Monday 2 June 2014 - with chocolate and port pairing, champagne and charcuterie as well as some blinding English fizz

There's also a chance to experience 1920s music, glamour and the effervescence of Ayala Champagnes accompanied by canapés at Parliament Square.

Check out the list below to find out where, when, why and with whom you should be chinking next week.


London Wine Week 2014

ALL WEEK

The Wine Workshop
The Riedel Hub at Kingly Court, W1B 5PW
From midday

Forgotten Hospitality will be hosting drop-in and ticketed sessions all week, covering everything from weird wines to liquid lunches and late-night learnings, so be sure to check out their full schedule.

MONDAY 2 JUNE

Fast Fizz
The Riedel Hub at Kingly Court, Carnaby Street, W1B 5PW
1pm - 1.30pm
£10

To celebrate the start of London Wine Week, take 30 mins at lunch time for some speed tasting of the most divine English fizz.  Join BBC1 wine expert Jane Parkinson and taste 3 wines that show why England is now a serious wine producing country.

TUESDAY 3 JUNE

An Evening With Octavian: How to Start a Fine Wine Collection
Hedonism Wines
3-7 Davies St, W1K 3LD
6.30pm - 8pm
£38.00

Alongside champagne and charcuterie, guests will have the opportunity to compare & contrast a 2005 Château Palmer & 2001 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Chambolle-Musigny, each worth around £200 per bottle, to help you discover your own palate: are you a Bordeaux or Burgundy drinker? The ticket price also includes a Hedonism tasting card with £10 credit for sampling wines from their Enomatic machines.

Tickets are limited to ensure guests have the opportunity to speak with Octavian experts and receive tailored advice. The seminar will be led by Octavian’s strategy consultant, Louis Roederer Emerging Wine Writer, Ella Lister.

WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE

Paul A Young Chocolates and Port Pairing
Churchill’s Port House, 26 Greek St, London, W1D 5DE
6.30pm - 7.30pm
£30

Forget what you know about Port and Cheese. Once you’ve paired Vintage Port with the best chocolate in the UK, you won’t look back. Churchill’s Port House are hosting one of our more unique events at London Wine Week in partnership with Paul A Young, one of the UK’s finest chocolatier.

THURSDAY 5 JUNE

Wine Zero to Wine Hero
WSET School, 39-45 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3XF
6.30pm - 8.30pm
£20.00

Brush up on your bottle confidence with the WSET’s wine bluff to buff crash course and get yourself wine list ready in just two hours.

Whether you’re a novice or an enthusiast keen to learn more, we will get you prepped with the skills to take on the trickiest wine lists this city has to offer – from speakeasy to the Savoy.
Fizz and Frivolity: A Taste of the 1920’s with Champagne Ayala
Roux at Parliament Square RCIS, Parliament Square, London, SW1P 3AD
7pm - 9pm
£25.00

It can be said that the 1920s saw the beginnings of modern celebrity culture in Britain. Young, eclectic socialites and public figures became gossip column fodder due to their prolific partying ways. The ‘Bright Young People’ danced their cares away after the First World War, and Champagne Ayala was often in their glass.

Enjoy an evening tasting the range of Ayala Champagnes and paired canapés as we bring to life the music, glamour and effervescence of this gilded age.


FRIDAY 6 JUNE

Weird Wines – The Unexpected Hotshots
The Wine Workshop, Kingly Court, W1B 5PW
8pm - 8.45pm
£45

A look at the weird and wonderful in the world of wine. 90 minutes with eight truly unique wines - from unusual grapes to primitive production, these outsiders really have come up trumps.
Some of the most enjoyable drinking around.
£45, ticket price includes eight wines and nibbles.

SATURDAY 7 JUNE
London Wine Sessions
The Apiary, 458 Hackney Road, London E2
ALL DAY from 12pm
From £20

Inspired by London's best new wine bars, merchants, fanzines, wine writers and sommeliers Wine Sessions, taking place on the Saturday of London Wine Week, speakers will share their most interesting wines, from top-end burgundy to biodynamic thrillers with many cult producers in between.

SUNDAY 8 JUNE

Wine Car Boot
West Handyside Canopy (next to St Martins College, enter via Granary Square), Kings Cross, N1C 4AA
12pm - 6pm
£10 in Advance, £12 on the door

As the perfect end to your London Wine Week, get out in the sun and find your favourite wines for the summer from London’s best independent shops. They’ll have their five favourite wines on offer, for everyone to try, buy, taste and drink throughout the afternoon.

Taste your way out of the supermarket.

Monday 2nd - Sunday 8th June; get involved and buy your £10 wristband at www.londonwineweek.com to enjoy great wine by the glass or flight in London’s best bars and restaurants all week for just £5 each. 


London Wine Week 2014 venues include: 

10 Cases, 28-50, Albion, Almeida, Antidote, Apero, Avenue, Bar Pepito, Barrafina, Bedales, Bedford & Strand, Benares, Bleeding Heart, Boisdale, Boisdale of Belgravia, Boot & Flogger, Borough Wines, Bread Street Kitchen, Cadogan Arms, Camino, Canela, Caxton Bar at St Ermin's, Chisou, Chiswell Street Dining Rooms, Churchill's Port House, Circus, Citizen M, Copa de Cava, Cork & Bottle, Drakes Tabanco, Fino, Fish Market, Foxlow, Harvey Nichols, Hawksmoor, High Timber, Hix Oyster & Chop House, HIX Soho, Hixter, Iberica, Imli Street, Barbecoa, Fifteen, Kettner's, Kopapa, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, La Bottega, Le Secret des Rôtisseurs, Le Vieux Comptoir, L'Entrepôt, MASH, Mele e Pere, New Street Grill, Newman Street Tavern, Northall Bar at Corinthia Hotel, One Canada Square, One Kensington, Pall Mall Fine Wines, Paternoster, Planet of the Grapes, Plateau, Portal, Public House, Quaglinos, Quarter Bar and Lounge, Quo Vadis, Rivington Grill, Rotorino, Royal Exchange Grand Café, Sager & Wilde, Shampers, Shoryu Kingly, Sign of The Don, Skylon, The Ape & Bird, The Butlers Wharf Chop House, The Don, The Fulham Wine Rooms, The Gun, The Jugged Hare, The Kensington Wine Rooms, The Metro, The Providores & Tapa Room, The Remedy, The Table, The Vintry, The Well, The Wine Pantry, TOZI, Tramshed, Union Street Bar, Village East, Vinoteca, Vivat Bacchus, Voltaire, Whyte& Brown, Wine Wharf, Wright Brothers Soho.


London Wine Week are partnering with Publicity to feature all participating venues on their iPhone app. Download Publicity to find your nearest venue, see live photos and updates from other festival goers and check-in to share your own. Publicity is available for free on iPhone http://appstore.com/publicity.

London Wine Week 2014 independent merchants include: 

Around Wine, Bedales of Borough, Bedales of Spitalfields, Bedales of Leadenhall, Berry Bros & Rudd, Bluebird Wine Cellar, Borough Wines, Harvey Nichols, Hedonism Wines, La Compagnie Delicatessen, Laithwaites, Le Pont de la Tour Wine Cellar, Lea & Sandeman, Le Vieux Comptoir, Mill Hill Wines, New Street Wine Shop, Pall Mall Fine Wines, Planet of the Grapes, Roberson Wine, The City Beverage Co, The Hampstead Butcher & Providore, Vagabond, Vinvixen, Waterloo Wines, The Wine Pantry


When you're not using your wristband to enjoy £5 glasses of wine on the self-guided Wine Tours, book into one of the London Wine Week events. Here's our pick of the best. To book, head to www.londonwineweek.com/events.

Like on Facebook LDNWineWeek
Follow on Twitter at LDNWineWeek

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Saturday

Bonny Boys are Few - Brighton Fringe review 2014 by Sarah Agnew


Bonny Boys are Few, Company: Enormous Yes
Venue: The Old Courtroom, Category: Theatre
8-11 May 19:45 £10 (£8) [1hr] Plus booking fee

There are yarns and then there are yarns.  Bonny Boys are Few was certainly some tale, encompassing
a time-travelling conquistador, a misery-eating eel, and a journey from Peru to Earth’s end via a shut door in Dublin.
Across a screen at the back a flickering and faded film of a journey in a car along headland played on repeat. I loved how the rolling images seemed to give the play depth and it worked really well at reinforcing the themes of the play although perhaps it would have worked better if the colours had been more vivid.

Michael John O’Neill appeared before us dressed as a conquistador and the musical play began with part of a song about love and the scarcity of bonny boys, sung by Claire Willoughby.  Then Michael John's quest to speak to his father begins, interjected by himself and members of the cast on stage.

We move into the story of the conquistador, one of shipwreck, love and loss upon the coast of Northern Ireland during the time when ships from the Spanish Armada were shipwrecked along Ireland's coast.

Next we meet the Uncle that Michael John goes to visit, who disappears all day leaving Michael John alone in a remote house.  Michael John follows him and discovers fantastical adventures, which he recounts with energy and an immediacy that works really well.

Meanwhile we find out Claire the singer, is the moon who has been harnessed to the earth for all eternity and seeks everlasting misery of mankind.  She falls into a fit and lies on the floor before jumping up and pouncing on Michael John and pummelling him, creating a comical juxtaposition between folk lore and physical theatre.

Throughout there are songs by Chris McAteer and Matt Reganwere which were good but for me seemed to be drowned out by the synthesizer when it was used.  Michael John is a great story teller and I loved the fantastical adventures although it also felt a bit rough around the edges. The journey to the Earth's end via a shut door in Dublin (I think I missed that part) for me needed to be clearer or longer to make a better impact.

Should you go see it? Yes! Enormous Yes are challenging the conventions of play-acting, mixing it up with different media and merging fact and fiction. This is what the Fringe is about, emerging talent.

Sarah Agnew - follow on Twitter @IrishAggers

Bonny Boys are Few

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Herbie's Jazz Breakfast - Brighton Fringe Review 2014 by Sarah Agnew


Herbie's Jazz Breakfast, Company: Herbie Flowers
Venue: Brighton Spiegeltent, Category: Music
25 May, 1 June 11:00 £10 [2 hrs]

What better way to start your Sunday than a coffee, croissant and jazz courtesy of the legendary bassist Herbie Flowers and band.  Booked throughout the Fringe for Sunday morning jazz in the Spiegeltent, there are still two Sundays to go.  Herbie Flowers, the charismatic bassist and tuba player whose musical career has spanned six decades and self styled busker and improviser hosted a mid morning collection of popular jazz tunes.

Having garnered an envious amount of credits along the way, to name just a few Herbie devised the bassline for Lou Reed’s iconic tune ‘Walk On The Wild Side’, played the bass for Abba’s ‘Waterloo’ at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974; as well as Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, and Harry Nilsson’s ‘Jump In The Fire’.  In fact the indefatigable Flowers is thought to have played on over 500 hit songs, and on countless album tracks as well.

The performance began with the familiar and delightful sounds of Stompin' at the Savoy, evoking the spirit of 1930s jazz and named after the famed Harlem nightspot, the Savoy Ballroom in New York City.  In between tunes Herbie kept the vibe jolly with his easy going banter.  He introduced us to his BFF (Best Friend Forever) Malcolm Mortimer on percussion before playing more tunes. My Favourite Things and Paint it Black followed, accompanied by Paul Hart on violin. 'You don't get to hear this music every day' said Herbie.  With a few final songs, Ray Noble's composition Cherokee (Indian Love Song) and a French piece called Repartie we were done.  Flowers quipped, 'we hope to have another 280 bums on seats next Sunday'.  The audience chuckled, charmed as much by Herbie as they were by the music itself.

To find out more about this fascinating and fascinated man, check out his brilliantly candid thoughts in the notepad section of his website, http://www.herbieflowers.com/notepad.html.
To give you a flavour of what he writes here are a few quotes:
HAD A TERRIBLE CRUSH ON JUNE MANSFIELD WHEN I WAS NINE. AND EDWINA BALHAM WHEN I WAS ELEVEN.  WHERE ARE YOU BOTH? I’D LOVE TO SEE YOU BOTH AGAIN.
PASSED 11+ TO GO TO TIFFINS BOYS SCHOOL. POSH DUMP. THE PREFECTS WERE ALLOWED TO GIVE YOU THE SLIPPER. JOINED THE SCHOOL BAND ON TUBA. MR GEORGE SPRIGGS WAS MATHS TEACHER AND BANDMASTER. YOU SAVED MY BACON, GEORGE -THANK YOU.

Sarah Agnew - follow on Twitter @IrishAggers









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Friday

Ten Secret Escapes close to Ten of the Best Gardens in the World

  A couple of days ago I was sent this info and as I love gardens I was intrigued to find out which gardens they had included.  The pictures were so stunning and the list included two of my favourite places to visit, as well as two places I'd love to visit and two I'd never heard of, so I found this list pretty interesting.  With this in mind I thought I'd post it up for the weekend.

Villa Lante, Italy

One of the most stunning examples of Italian renaissance design, the Villa Lante gardens are the work of Cardinal Gambara, who had a modern taste for outdoor living and eating al fresco.



Rome city break: The Duke Hotel, Italy
From £232 / per person for 2 nights (saving £116 per person)
Offer includes two nights in a Superior room, buffet breakfast, early check in from 11am and late check out till 4pm, 25% discount on the a la carte menu at the restaurant (excluding beverages), one afternoon tea for two in the Polo Lounge, two complimentary tickets to Vittoriano Museum Art Exhibition, transfer from Duke Hotel to Piazza del Popolo (from 8am until 11.45pm) and return flights from your selected departure airport to Rome. Book by 31st May 2014. Available select dates May to September 2014. Visit http://www.secretescapes.com or call 0843 22 77 777.

Château Versailles, France

The grand home of Louis XIV, the exquisite Versailles gardens represent the heights of absolutist decadence and excess.


Hotel Montmartre Mon Amour: Paris, France
From £146 / per room per night (saving £40 / per room per night)
Offer includes accommodation in a Deluxe room and breakfast. Book by 31st May 2014. Available select dates July to August 2014. Visit http://www.secretescapes.com or call 0843 22 77 777.

The Majorelle Garden, Morocco

Wander through Yves Saint Laurent's gardens in Marrakech, containing luscious species, art deco design and a fine eye for colour and detail.



Riad Cocoon: Marrakech, Morocco
From £71 / per room per night (saving £46 / per room per night)
Offer includes accommodation in a Superior room, continental breakfast, welcome tea and Moroccan pastries. Book by 31st May 2014. Available select dates May to September 2014. Visit http://www.secretescapes.com or call 0843 22 77 777.

Ninfa, Italy

Blooming from the sacked ruins of an ancient Medieval town, these botanical gardens are a half hour drive from the capital and among the most serene and beautiful sanctuaries in the world.

For something to eat, head to nearby Sermoneta and a family run restaurant, as recommended by my Italian friend Carla who loved dining there.  Simposio al Corso, Corso Garibaldi 33, 04013 Sermoneta, Italy.



Hotel Savoy: Rome, Italy
From £86 / per room per night (saving £24 / per room per night)
Offer includes accommodation in a Classic room, American buffet breakfast and 10% discount at the Granet restaurant. Book by 31st May 2014. Available select dates June to September 2014. Visit http://www.secretescapes.com or call 0843 22 77 777.

Kew Gardens, London

The Royal Botanic Gardens features 121 hectares of gardens, botanical glass houses and a beautiful orchid sanctuary, the perfect destination for a summer stroll.



K West Hotel and Spa: Shepherd's Bush, West London
From £129 / per room per night (saving £89 / per room per night)
Offer includes accommodation in a Deluxe room, continental breakfast, welcome drink and VIP Westfield shopping pass. Book by 31st May 2014. Available select dates May to September 2014. Visit http://www.secretescapes.com or call 0843 22 77 777.

Sanssouci Palace, Berlin

Surrounding the former summer palace of the King of Prussia, Frederik the Great, the Sanssouci grounds are splayed out in an intimate Rococo style, and were counted as a rival to the French Versailles.



Adina Apartment Hotel: Hackescher Markt, Berlin
From £94 / per apartment per night (saving £122 / per apartment per night)
Offer includes accommodation in a Studio Premier Apartment, minimum two-night stay is required, breakfast, Wi-Fi access and 10% discount in the bar and restaurant. Book by 31st May 2014. Available select dates June to August 2014. Visit http://www.secretescapes.com or call 0843 22 77 777.

Dumbarton Oaks, Washington

Often featuring sculpture and artwork from a variety of famous artists, Dumbarton Oaks blends stunning natural landscaping with contemporary touches of modern design.



USA twin-centre holiday: New York and Washington DC
From £1099 / per person for 6 nights (saving £200 per person)
Offer includes three nights in a Standard room at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington DC, room-only, a bus tour of Washington DC, three nights in a Standard room at The Belvedere Hotel, New York, room-only, New York water taxi pass, Dine4Less card, return flights from London Heathrow to Washington DC, shared transfers and Amtrak train between cities. Book by 31st May 2014. Available select dates June to March 2014. Visit http://www.secretescapes.com or call 0843 22 77 777.

The Alhambra, Spain

The Alhambra fortress boasts a fabulous water garden and is considered one of the great architectural sights of Europe, celebrating Moorish art and encapsulating Andalusian history.



Malaga beach holiday: Iberostar Malaga Playa
From £399 / per person for 5 nights (saving £200 per person)
Offer includes five nights in a Double Side Sea-view room, half-board basis, return flights from your selected departure airport to Malaga, Spain and shared transfers. Book by 31st May 2014. Available select dates May to November 2014. Visit http://www.secretescapes.com or call 0843 22 77 777.

Gothenburg Botanical Gardens

Along with one the finest collections of wild collected Japanese plants in Northern Europe, the botanical gardens' greenhouses are home to about 4,000 species, including 1,500 orchids.



Gothia Towers: Gothenburg, Sweden
From £99 / per room per night (saving £80 / per room per night)
Offer includes accommodation in a Standard Premium room, breakfast and 10% off at Restaurant Incontro (food only). Book by 31st May 2014. Available select dates June to August 2014. Visit http://www.secretescapes.com or call 0843 22 77 777.

Hampton Court Gardens, Greater London

This 60 acre estate runs its beautiful grounds down to the River Thames, featuring wonderful formal gardens and species planted by the famous landscaper Capability Brown.



The Cranley: South Kensington, London
From £149 / per room per night (saving £54 / per room per night)
Offer includes accommodation in a Superior room, continental breakfast, a non-alcoholic welcome drink on arrival, champagne and Canapes between 7-8pm, daily newspaper and complimentary Wi-Fi. Book by 31st May 2014. Available select dates June to September 2014. Visit http://www.secretescapes.com or call 0843 22 77 777.
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Thursday

Jerk - Brighton Fringe review 2014 by Rosie Davis


Jerk, Company: Emma Serjeant (AUS)
Venue: Brighton Spiegeltent, Category: Theatre
15-17 May 19:30 £12 (£10) [1hr]

Along with the rest of the audience, which was unfortunately less than half of the venue’s capacity, I shuffled my bottom onto a wooden folding chair at the front row. Chit-chat was passing from person to person, until a man wearing what looked like a male flight attendant outfit gestured to look up. There hanging from the centre of The Speigeltent was Emma Serjeant. Holding onto a metal ring she was slowly lowered and from quite a height, higher than I was expecting her to be and possibly higher than she was expecting, she let go and with a massive thud landed ready to perform onto the stage. This impact was an indicator of how the rest of the show would be; hard hitting as if Miley Cyrus’ wrecking ball had swung uncontrollably slamming into the audience’s bodies catapulting everyone into the stratosphere.

From above us Emma asked the question “where am I?” This was the beginning of a story that was woven around the circus skills and apparatus that we would observe over the next 55 minutes. The music that accompanied the story added further suspense and drama and helped to illustrate the plot.

Emma plays Grace, a popular, attractive photographer that every woman is jealous of, but we learn that behind the public front is a life of cheating, cocaine taking and self-obsession. Through props and physical theatre we are taken on a journey through a life-changing moment.

At times, the audience shook when she did. The nature of the story makes this show jerky (there are many different connections to the show’s name). You will sweat with her, shake and your heart will beat faster with her. This is not a piece of ballet, this is a piece of physical theatre that will take you on a journey, you, the audience are dragged into it, you become it. This is not polished, do not expect a Royal Opera House performance, this is gritty, sweaty, I was digging my nails into my fiance’s thigh as the sound of a screeching truck was played through the speakers. Emma’s clever use of props and undeniable skill to engage with the audience will leave you talking about it to people that were there and those that have no idea what you’re on about, you will think about it while having a shower or eating your breakfast, the cogs of your brain turning as you play and rewind the show piecing the puzzle together.

Unfortunately Jerk was only on for three nights, but Emma will be returning as part of Casus, with their show Knee Deep. This is another performance that pushes physical boundaries, or the boundaries that we believe that we have. Book your ticket for this show and witness Emma’s strength and talent, before she packs up and leaves Brighton.

Catch Emma Serjeant in Knee Deep with Casus at the Brighton Spiegeltent 27th-31st May £12/£15
https://boxoffice.brightonfringe.org/theatre/6453/knee-deep

Rosie Davis - follow on Twitter @RosieDavisred


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Wednesday

Auld Acquaintance - Brighton Fringe review 2014 by Sophie Turton


Auld Acquaintance, Company: Audley + Co Productions
Venue: The Dukebox Theatre, Category: Theatre
24 May 17:00 11, £8 (£6) [1hr 10mins]

Auld Acquaintance is an astutely well-written black comedy that explores the tenuous nature of inter-family relationships - identity, loyalty, abandonment, romance, love and death form the chorus line of this five-man play.

The play is a dance of intimacy through which the complexity of the character’s relationships is effectively spun. It is Christmas but there is little cause for cheer as two brothers and their wives are forced to spend the festive period together in the house of their dying mother. Their relationships are unsteady and as such the wives are pushed closer together. The tension between them builds throughout the 70 minute performance to finally explode, as all great things should, in a kiss.

It is the dialogue that makes this play, which has already been shortlisted for the Pebble Trust Award. The characters have good chemistry, although at times it feels slightly over-acted, which I’m not quite sure was intentional. None-the-less, the over-dramatic nature of Immie Elway makes her brother-in-law, Rob Elway’s, perfectly timed retorts even more amusing.

Warren Saunders, who plays Rob, is fantastic. His character certainly has some of the best lines in the play but his dry, sarcastic take on this older brother role is what really makes Auld Acquaintance stand out as a truly impressive piece of theatre.

Audley & co., the newly established production company behind the performance, are certainly ones to watch. Their next play, ‘Tis Pity, will be running between 1st and 16th August and is a modern take on Ford’s 17th century tragedy. If it has any of the wit, energy and insight that Auld Acquaintance has, I have no doubt it too will be a huge success.

Sophie Turton - follow on Twitter @TurtonSophie

Auld Acquaintance

Auld Acquaintance

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Tuesday

Philosophy Hour - Brighton Fringe review 2014 by Amelia Charman


Philosophy Hour, Company: Philosophy Hour
Venue: Brighton Spiegeltent, Category: Literature
15, 22, 29 May 18:00 £6 [1hr]

I spent an hour in the delightful company of a variety of mischief-makers and tricksters. The 'lecture' was hosted by 'Dr' Bramwell, creator of 'The Cheeky Guide to Brighton' series, who took the audience on a journey of discovery as to the reasons why some people are born to be wind-up merchants.

Tricksters usually exist on the fringes of society, waiting for the right opportunity to unleash havoc. Comedians like controversialist Lenny Bruce, potty-mouthed Sarah Silverman and Russell Brand are today's most famous tricksters, pointing out the truth whilst laughing at the fool.

The audience travelled through time, learning about some of the first tricksters, to today's most well known, loved and hated figures, such as Noel ' bit of an arsehole' Edmonds and Bart Simpson.

The show was a brilliant end to a day stuck in a stuffy office, reminding those of us that sometimes feel lost and slightly trapped on the treadmill that there is a mischief-maker in all of us and that life shouldn't be taken so seriously.

Amelia Charman - follow on Twitter @ameliacharman1
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Monday

Come Rhyme with Me - Brighton Fringe 2014 review by Amelia Charman


Come Rhyme with Me, Company: New Writing South
Venue: The Writers' Place, Category: Literature
16 May 19:00 £12.50 (£10, £7.50 Performance only) [3hrs]

Since moving to Brighton nearly two years ago to the day, I have wanted to attend New Writing South's monthly spoken word event, 'Come Rhyme With Me'. Two years is a long time to wait, and is a reflection of just how much I procrastinate, but the wait was worth it!

Hosted by Dean Atta, the most likeable host ever, who kicked off proceedings with his incredibly moving 'I am Nobody's Nigger'. Influenced by the murder of Stephen Lawrence and his own on-going struggle with his love for hip-hop, his words made the audience open their ears and listen. I am writing this review twenty-four hours later and one line in particular is still ringing in my ears- 'Rappers when you use the word nigger, remember that's one of the last words Stephen Lawrence heard, so don't tell me it's a reclaimed word.' Dean Atta's poetry transcends colour, gender and sexuality. It's empowering.

The open mic night left the stage bare for Dionne Elizabeth to read her poem ' Rape'. Oh my lord! it was terrifying, beautiful and cathartic. Rape, or more specifically, child rape is a subject that makes you squirm in your seat and grimace in discomfort. However, Dionne's emotional performance took the audience on a journey back to their eleven year old selves, and you could feel the panic and lack of understanding about the consequences of one man's decision to rid a child of their innocence as if you had experienced it first-hand in her every breath.

For 'starters' Sabrina Mahfouz shared her views on female genital mutilation, further highlighting this international abuse of our young girls. I found Sabrina disarmingly charming on stage, and was caught off guard by her lyrical genius that flow so effortlessly.

Our 'main' meal was award-winning poet and playwright St Lucian Kendel Hippolyte, who transported us to the balmy paradise he calls home with his dulcet, laid-back tones. He read selected poems from his books ' Birthright', ' Night Vision' and ' Fault Lines.' I could have sat and gorged on Kendel's work all evening.

Paul Cree was our final serving of the night, performing poems from his show 'Tales from a Bedsit'. The highlight performer of the night, who told a really sweet story about when he fell for a girl he worked with when he lived in Brighton. His effortless rhyming flow and turn of phrase was incredible and he made it all look so easy!

My only gripe with the evening was that Dean Atta's side-kick Deanna Rodger was not there, and after spending six months searching Youtube for her after witnessing her incredible performance at Brighton's The Blind Tiger Club a year ago I was hoping to see her again.

Thankfully 'Come Rhyme With Me' is a monthly event and I am a bonafide convert.

To buy any of the books by the performers or to find out more about them click on the links below.

Sabrina Mahfouz:  http://www.sabrinamahfouz.com/

Dean Atta:  http://www.deanatta.co.uk/

Paul Cree:

Amelia Charman - follow on Twitter @ameliacharman1

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Sunday

Albert Einstein: Relativitively Speaking - Fringe review 2014 bySarahAgnew


Albert Einstein: Relativitively Speaking, Company: Tangram Theatre Company,
Venue: The Old Courtroom, Category: Theatre
15-18 May 18:00 £8 (£6) [1hr]

Expressive, verbose und German speaking. The year is 1933, location Princeton University US of A and we are students in the lecture theatre. We, the audience represent a diverse range of ages. Sat next to us was, to my untrained eye an eight year old boy who sat forward engrossed for the whole show. To our right sat a large proportion of men of mid to older years and at the front were some older ladies too. It was really great to see a show that appealed to such a varied group of people. Interestingly, I would say the audience was perhaps smarter than your average bunch. When our Professor asked us what was Nobel famous for there was a general hum of answers. Perhaps that's to be expected at a show about Albert Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. I took along my own expert, Astrophysics Al, having studied the subject at University I was interested to know what she would make of it. 'It's a very dry subject, I never laughed in any of my lectures and people laughed throughout the show, that's got to be a good thing' she said, I nodded in agreement.

Assisted by his wife Elsa, aka Jo Eagle on the keyboard Albert sang us a song about being in America ending with a medley of popular US songs. Jo's playing was absolutely brilliant and the song was really enjoyable, although the medley part less so. I think I really have a thing against medleys, so that's me not them. The energetic and charismatic Albert (actor John Hinton) encouraged audience participation and his amiable approach seemed to make the participants feel at ease. A couple of audience members came on stage to help explain Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity leading to an explanation I could grasp as well as a lot of laughs along the way. Astro Al considered the explanation as good as it can get without using equations.

Just as we had, kind of, become adjusted to Einstein's thick accent and the rapidity with which he spoke, he turns around with a cap squashing his crazy hair and starts to rap. This is actually really funny, especially when MC Squared persuades about 80% of the audience to follow the hand gestures to accompany the chorus of E equals M C squared. To watch young and old trying to grapple with this and keep up with the rap showed the audience's willingness to join in.

We moved forward in time, learning about Nobel as well as the atomic bomb when we had a song lamenting the loss of 200,000 souls, which was appropriately draped in pathos.  The show ended when we reached Einstein's death but not before we met his own talking brain puppet.  Yes that really did happen.

It's great to have such a mix of incongruous themes - physics, comedy, music and Albert Einstein, especially as it was aimed at such a broad range of people.  This is lots of fun, it's silly, informative with two great performers Jo Eagle and John Hinton.

Sarah Agnew - follow on Twitter @IrishAggers

The Old Courtroom, Brighton

John Hinton and Jo Eagle

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Saturday

Jamie MacDowell and Tom Thum - Fringe review 2014 by Sarah Agnew


Jamie MacDowell and Tom Thum, Company: Theaterland Promotions
Venue: The Warren: Main House, Category: Music
16-17 May 19:15 £11 (£9.50) 18 May 19:15 £11 (£9.50, £7.50 Student) [1hr 10mins]

Funk, soul, jazz, indie, rap and pop, it was all going off at the first show of Jamie MacDowell and Tom Thum's Air and Art five month tour. Baseball cap wearing Tom arrives on stage and begins by introducing fellow Aussie and flat cap wearing Jamie MacDowell, who starts off with the first song 'Thanks'. Then Tom brings in a beat, this turns into trumpet sounds as MacDowell continues to sing. Tom and Jamie banter and we learn Tom has just got off the plane from Brisbane this morning, he also has a cold, so fair play for making an appearance. The next song Jamie describes as a half-way, soft-rap called 'Believer'. Tom imitates scratching and Jamie 'soft-raps' reminding me of Skee-Lo's 'I wish I was a little bit taller'. Tom makes pulsating noises and deep heavy bass sounds from his throat, it sounds phenomenal and my mouth drops open.

Jamie disappears off stage while Tom takes full control and introduces us to his chaos pads, which record sounds to replay or add reverberation to his voice. From there he creates a tune called 'Ratchet face'. Boom! He has an incredible talent. Jamie reappears and plays 'Bubblegum', which has a Jack Johnson vibe about it. He then releases his mid length hair, a spotlight is positioned on his face and Tom blows a hair dryer at him, making his hair flow backward, while Jamie sings 'I will survive'. It's all very comical. Then the same is repeated at double speed, which works really well. Tom changes the tone and we're right there having a jazz moment. Trumpets, trombone and drums all making an appearance and showing his versatility as a beat boxer. Jamie comes back for 'Last parade', which starts with Tom playing the tune of 'When the saints come marching in' and finishes with a dip into funk, blending beat boxing, guitar and singing to great effect.

Next they welcome a guest Billy Boothroyd on stage with some banter which seems to break up the flow needlessly. They sing a song composed by Jamie about a friend and her coming out in Melbourne, called 'Brother'. It's a really touching song and receives a big cheer from the audience. Billy remains on stage for 'London', which I really enjoyed as well as one of their last songs 'Dear Nicolette' which has the lyrics, 'well send me down below / where all the different people go'. Jamie's singing and song writing skills are really impressive and could easily stand alone, as could Tom Thum's beat boxing. All of the original material was really good, the medleys less so but that could just be my preference. Together they make a really good, interesting and fun mix, I definitely recommend going to see them.  It will be interesting to see how they continue to develop their talents.

Sarah Agnew - follow on Twitter @IrishAggers

Tom Thum and Jamie MacDowell

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Friday

Thief - Fringe review 2014 by Sarah Agnew


Thief by Liam Rudden, Company: LRStageworks
Venue: Marlborough Theatre, Category: Theatre
13-18 May 19:30 £10 (£8) [50 mins]

So, Sailor runs on stage butt naked and stands there, with his back to us. He addresses us, You want to watch do you? he says in an unmistakable Scottish accent. His arms work at his side as he simulates relieving himself. The première of Thief had begun.

Not for the faint hearted they said, hard hitting they said, a tale of robbery, imprisonment and expulsion they said. Thief is a one-man play about a young man abused by life and intent on dishing out his own interpretation of rough justice. Dressed as an archetypal sailor, he tells us that he's been called sailor for so long that he can no longer remember his real name, symbolically representing his shattered sense of self.

The thing is with a one-man show, it can be difficult to pull off. There's only one person on stage to look at, only one voice to listen to. The skill of the writer and performer combined is to make that one voice sustain audience engagement throughout without the diversity a larger cast creates. Matt Robertson aka Sailor had a strong and emphatic delivery, which I felt was given added conviction due to his Scottish accent. He was angry, vulnerable, confused, a victim, a thief. Addressing the audience, he confronted individual members with uncomfortable truths. He was direct, unapologetic and uncompromising.

The writer Liam Rudden gave him a story that created all this, with each new revelation pulling the audience in even further. Rudden created a character whose emotions are not only acted out, but are shared by the audience. Sailor offers us a psyche that is complex, confrontational and crying with pain at the same time. It is a tribute to Rudden's storytelling ability that all of this comes alive. So powerful is this story that I have side-stepped detailing the contents because I don't want to dilute the impact. I want Sailor to tell you his story himself.

For those with some existing knowledge of the play you may be wondering why I have not yet mentioned the glaringly obvious. Robertson has the most incredible physique. His physicality forms a huge part of his performance, it is how Sailor defines himself as well as providing some great eye candy. However, for me his winning performance is testament to his acting talent and deserves credit.

As for the play, it is the best play I've ever seen at the Fringe and I'd be surprised if it didn't win some awards. Great drama has the power to inform, to move people and make shifts in consciousness. I feel this play has all this in bucket loads.

Sarah Agnew - follow on Twitter @IrishAggers

Just outside the Marlborough 13 May 2014 


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Thursday

The Ladyboys of Bangkok - Brighton Fringe review 2014 by Rosie Davis


The Ladyboys of Bangkok, Company: Exchange Events Ltd
Venue: Sabai Pavilion, Category: Cabaret
18,25, 15:30 24,31, 16:30 3-12 May, 14–19 May, 21–31 May, 19:00 & 21:45
£34 Platinum Tables, £30 Premium Tables, £24 (£14.50) Standard Tables. 
All tickets 2 for 1 on Mondays [1hr 45]

In the six years that I've had my clothes hanging up and owned keys to three different houses in Brighton, I've not once stepped into the entrance of the tent that annually inhabits Victoria Gardens, staging the glitz and glam of The Ladyboys of Bangkok.

It was my first time and I was deliberating whether my outfit should feature feathers or sequins, but I decided to go for a casual black ensemble as I didn't want to out shine the performers. It also became useful for hiding into the shadows, away from the performers gaze searching for their victims to join them on stage.

The curtains opened for the ladyboys’ brand new show ‘Red Hot Kisses’ and it was as if we were at a Kylie Minogue show (I think it was actually a Kylie song but please forgive me for my lack of Kylie knowledge); the costumes were sparkly, sequinned, there were wings of all shapes and sizes and glitter covering the figure hugging outfits. This was something that would fit well on a Las Vegas stage. As the show went on there were clever and fun comedy skits, including cheeky songs that had the crowd participating, such as ‘My Pussy’, a song about small cats, illustrated with photographs of wet, hot and bald little cats. Sak came on stage and mimed to ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’, he would stop to allow the screen behind him to part and reveal a new scene from films such as Bridget Jones’ Diary and Ghost, the latter definitely causing a wave of laughter in the audience.

There were a couple of performers that may need to practice their miming, but there was one that lived and breathed every move and lip sync, Ole. He appeared on stage as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton from Chicago and Demi Moore in Ghost. His comic timing unbeatable, the facial reactions, the lift of the eyebrow, the pout of the lips, it was the small actions that made this Lady Boy the undeniable queen of the stage. And to top it all off he presented us with the best Tina Turner impression I have ever seen in my life (and as a secret Tina impressionist myself, well after a few G&Ts, I know this)!

In the first half I sat quite rigid, I couldn't relax, one at the knowledge that at any moment I could be up on that stage, and the other that I was a part of a Carry On film. The Benny Hill music, midget being chased and dressed up as a mouse unexpectedly made me question whether this was PC (I surprised myself) for me to be laughing at this. Some of the songs were cringe worthy, but that’s personal taste, occasionally it was as if Radio 1 had been left on by mistake, but then a Dolly Parton tune would take over, and I was the first to join in.

After the interval my shoulders were back, my foot was tapping and I was singing along to the music and admiring their stage presence and timing. I was relaxed and singing along to all of the songs. This show is undeniably entertaining, the costumes are once again spectacular, the scenes are clever and there’s a song for every musical taste, but this will not be everyone’s cup of tea. However much I enjoyed the flamboyant entertainment I also felt ill-equipped to be able to understand the origins of this and felt that I was laughing at a culture I knew nothing about. I wished I had researched the entire history of Thailand and lady boys before I went to the show. But that’s me. I recommend people to go and see this once, sit back, be entertained and make up your own mind about this.

Rosie Davis - follow on Twitter @RosieDavisred
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Wednesday

Half a Cod a Day - Brighton Fringe 2014 review by Sara Harman-Clarke


Half a Cod a Day, Company: Parrabolla
Venue: The Old Courtroom, Category: Theatre
8-11 May 21:15 £8 (£6)

In Brighton’s beautiful Old Courtroom we settled down to hear a tale of the high seas. Swash buckling pirates, the mighty kraken of the deep – well actually a story much closer to home. Written by Brian Abbott, this is the story of Hastings Under Ten Metre fishermen and their struggle to fish sustainably, make a fair living and not drown under the red tape of bureaucracy.

After setting the sea faring spirit with a rousing fisherman’s jig, the players launched into their roles. Grandpa, father and son set sail to celebrate the youngsters 21st with a few beers and some line fishing – no nets for them in such a low quota boat! But alas, under attack from a legendary giant fish they use their nets to save themselves then fall under immediate attack and investigation from the French coastguard, helicopters and blinding searchlights.

With Captain Red tape, their nemesis and the surreal representation of bureaucratic fishing law, and a lawyer twisting their words all seems doomed not only for the Littleman family, but for years of fishing to come. In an emotional appeal to the jury (played by yours truly, the audience) Sonny Littleman (Darren Cockrill) so convinced me of his plight that for a moment I thought he was a real fisherman.

Thankfully for the Littleman’s it was case dismissed as surprise witness Miranda (Stephanie Lodge) was wheeled in looking a bit Michael Jackson with a blanket over her head, and took the blame for any wrongdoing. All became clear when she revealed her sparkly fish tail and red Ariel locks, and voiced her plea not only to save the merpeople, but to save the fish, to save the seas and to save our planet.

A lot of facts and figures were flung out in passionate speeches during this performance, some of which I found got lost in translation, but one message came through loud and clear – the unjustness of the situation. These men – for it is a male dominated community – work hard and dangerous hours, put their lives at risk on a daily basis, just to chuck tons of their catch back overboard, dead and useless to all.

This play may not win any Tony awards for its finesse or execution, but I certainly came away with a lot of food for thought, helped along by the sustainable sushi provided in the interval by Moshimo. It managed to avoid being preachy with humour and music, but the message was hammered home. Half a cod a day is an unmanageable daily quota which must change to secure the future of our fishermen, and the future of our planet.

Sara Harman-Clarke - follow on Twitter @SHarmanClarke


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Tuesday

Harriet Walter in new play inspired by Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time - Brighton Fringe 2014 review by Sarah Agnew


Harriet Walter in New Play, Company: MOOT - music of our time
Venue: St Nicholas Church, Category: Theatre
9 May 19:30 £15 (£12) [2hrs] Plus booking fee

It was the final movement where the violin takes centre stage playing such high notes that the violin itself seems to cry, as it soars ever higher towards celestial heights that really struck me.  In particular it was how this climaxes in a note that seems to trail off into infinity, marking the end of the Quartet for the End of Time, it is truly sensational.  After hearing this piece for the first time a few years ago I found out that Messiaen had composed this in a prisoner of war camp, which makes sense.   Messiaen had turned his harrowing experience into an enduring work of art.  Performed for the first time at Gorlitz POW camp in Silesia Messiaen is reported to have said, 'Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension.' The impact was so immediate, it resulted in his release from captivity.

With such a back story, a play inspired by this composition sounded interesting, especially in the setting of the ancient church of St Nicholas and performed by two distinguished actors, husband and wife Guy Paul and Harriet Walter.

In A Walk Through the End of Time, Harriet and Guy play an estranged couple who meet after a period of about 25 years to open old wounds of heart break and loss.  Harriet has invited her ex to go to a Messiaen concert and wants to explain why she had left him after they attended Quartet for the End of Time all those years ago.  In the background the musicians are warming up, allowing them to keep reverting back to the piece of music and its significance to them.

The themes of the play revolve around notions of freedom, time and love, mirroring the themes in Quartet for the End of Time.  Written by Jessica Duchen, this is her first play and it shows such a depth of comprehension of Messiaen's story and the composition that the play has a maturity and a well considered feel to it.  The dialogue flows and sounds convincing keeping the audience moving along with them.  Although it was called a read through, it was a performance in the sense that the story came to life.  Does freedom come from within? If we free ourselves, can we give love unreservedly?  These were a couple of questions the play considered.  The pace remained steady throughout with the ending promising hope, but there was no soaring to celestial heights, no trailing off into infinity.  Jessica Duchen is an inspirational writer and this is an engaging and thought provoking piece, I just wonder what she would do if the ending could mirror that of Quartet for the End of Time.

The second half gave us the chance to enjoy Messiaen's composition, performed by The Ether Quartet. Mandhira de Saram played the violin, Steve Dummer on clarinet, Michelle So on violoncello and the artistic director for the evening Norman Jacobs on piano.   Outside muffled by the walls of St Nicholas a couple of drunks were having an altercation.  Inside surrounded by hundreds of years of religious iconography the eight movements conceived by Olivier Messiaen were performed. 1. Liturgy of crystal, 2. Vocalise, for the angel who announces the end of Time, 3. Abyss of the birds, 4. Interlude, 5. Praise to the eternity of Jesus, 6. Dance of fury, for the seven trumpets, 7. Cluster of rainbows, for the angel who announces the end of Time, 8. Praise to the immortality of Jesus.  The mingled sounds from outside with those from within seemed a timely reminder of the harsh reality of where the music had been composed.

A sensational ending is nothing without the build up to create the final impact.  The music was well executed as it delivered the powerful ending that this piece promises every time it is performed.  I felt privileged to hear both the composition and such an interesting play alongside each other in such an evocative setting.  All of the above comes highly recommended.

Sarah Agnew - follow on Twitter @IrishAggers

St Nicholas church, Brighton

St Nicholas church, Brighton

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Monday

The Hot Potato Syncopators - Brighton Fringe 2014 review by Sarah Agnew


The Hot Potato Syncopators, Company: Theaterland Promotions
Venue: Friends' Meeting House, Category: Music
11-14 May 20:30 £10 (£8) [1hr 10mins]

Hot footed in their dickie bows and tails from Bath, three gentlemen crooning musicians jumped onto the stage with an "Huzzah!", or at least that is how it felt.  Wearing enormous smiles and vintage hair dos / moustache they looked fantastic.  Playing songs from the 20s, 30s and 40s they played well known tunes such as Keep Young and Beautiful (if you want to be loved), to funny songs I had never heard before.  Their first number began with the line Blue Skies Around the Corner with the fastest ukulele playing I have ever seen.  A succession of tunes followed accompanied by a lot of larking about on stage all done without losing their rapid pace, it was incredibly impressive.  Then Mr Moustache (Duke of Nostalgia) brought the monocle out and they began to sing, 'I'm in the mood for love' with lots of winks and significant looks to ladies in the audience.  Next Mr Teeth added his musical saw to the mix creating this wobbly sound that seemed to work well with any song.  It was all just so nostalgic, it made me wish I had lived in the 1930s.  The gentlemen sang in perfect sync to Mr Sandman as they continued their polished performance.  Come back again and again to Brighton, I say!  With the audience now beaming back at them the Hot Potatoes requested a little audience participation.  "Whistle along if you know the words" encouraged the Duke of Nostalgia, while on stage they sang, danced and carried on playing their instruments to The Sun Has Got his Hat On.  Mr Teeth juggled, Mr Moustache threw his face into a bowl of water on the floor for On A Coconut Island and Mr Maris Piper turned a pewter kettle into a musical instrument for Dig a Dig Oo.  The capering continued with a brilliant pretend ventriloquism scene.  By the time The Hot Potatoes were singing Run Rabbit Run the audience were no longer just whistling but were now in full voice joining in.  I won't spoil their finale because part of it is the surprise element, apart from to say it is a lot of fun and had everyone laughing a great deal. This fun and talented trio pulled off an inventive, clever and witty performance.  Despite their vintage dress and songs, their jokes were bang up to date and a touch cheeky, but just a touch.  The crowd enjoyed the performance so much they were cheered back on stage for an encore.  For this they chose to slow the tempo right down and played a hauntingly beautiful version of Love is the Sweetest Thing, click on the video below to have a listen.

Sarah Agnew - follow on Twitter @IrishAggers

Mr Teeth, Hot Potato Syncopators

Hot Potato Syncopators at Friends Meeting House

Hot Potato Syncopators


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Saturday

Embassy Court Tour - Brighton Fringe 2014 review by Sarah Agnew


Embassy Court Tour, Company: Bluestorm Ltd
Venue: Embassy Court, Category: Tours
10-11, 17-18, 24-25, 31 May, 1 June 11:00 £6 (£5) [1hr 15mins]

Just so you know (I didn't), Embassy Court is not actually Art Deco, it is however one of the finest examples of architecture from the Modernist movement.  Apparently this is a common mistake made by local taxi drivers and as it goes by me too.  It is also not true that the building has any connection to Hoogstraten while we're at it.

Embassy Court was designed by Wells Coates, completed in 1936 and offered very stylish living to a privileged few, with concierge and a bar on the sun terrace.  Although the original occupants could only rent the apartments, the service they were provided with included 40 staff to cater to their needs, a mail service twice daily from the lift and laundry.  It was the perfect starting off point for residents who wanted to set off on the Grand tour of Europe. They could simply cross the road to the West Pier and sail across to France.

Our tour guide was the impressively well informed Cara Courage, an Art and Architecture Consultant who winningly shared her passion with us.  As facts and figures circled around my head, the tour headed onwards to see inside one of the corner flats.  Half way up the eleven floor building we entered one of the flats to see for ourselves how Coates' Modernist vision had been realised.  To the left of the sitting room a curved-corner of glass windows sparkled with reflected light from the sea into a warm and inviting room.  The view was a show stopper.  Diagonally opposite this view our guide Cara pointed out the door we had just walked through was curved too, one of only five remaining on site and a perfect example of Coates' attention to detail.

Wells Coates it turns out had been somewhat of a perfectionist, bordering obsessive and had been involved in every detail from the style of the flat numbers to the design of the light switches, a style that has become instantly recognisable.

Ascending skywards our next stop was the sun terrace, which really did feel like we were walking out onto the deck of a cruise liner. Quite a peculiar sensation, but in a good way. The views from every angle were spectacular and I went into snap-happy heaven.

Our final destination was the rear of the building and our guide Cara's favourite view of Embassy Court. Looking upwards you can really appreciate the aesthetic value of Coates' design.  Personally though for me the views of the sea from inside were my favourite.  Embassy Court has many stories to tell including how it was recently rescued by the leaseholders as well as that of Terence Conran's involvement.  I must admit I'm fascinated by history, architecture and design so this tour was made for me, but I can't help thinking that this iconic building has the power to win anyone over.

Sarah Agnew - follow on Twitter @IrishAggers





Embassy Court, Brighton

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Friday

Bitchelors: A Work in Progress - Brighton Fringe 2014 review by Amelia Charman


Bitchelors (Work in Progress), Company: Anna Morris
Venue: Laughing Horse @ The Quadrant, Category: Comedy
30-31 May 17:45 Free, non-ticketed

The Quadrant's tiny upstairs room was stuffy and packed with Bank Holiday revellers, who congregated to see acclaimed character comedian Anna Morris's one-woman show.

An hour in her company proves that Morris is a tour-de-force, flitting between characters with ease, and always with such enthusiasm. With only four shows in Brighton in preparation for the Edinburgh Fringe this August, the show had a few kinks to be ironed out, but kudos to Morris who kept the audience laughing from start to finish. What was evident though was the originality of the characters, turning the idea of what 'woman' is on to its head and burying it in the sand.

The formidable 'Georgina the Bride' who can be found on YouTube opened the show, pleading for the audience to dig deep into their pockets and spare any change towards her worthy Bride Aid fund.

The first woman competing for the sought after prize of 'Woman of the Year' was Liverpudlian entrepreneur, Mother and wife Nina Gordon. It is fair to say that Nina Gordon really did have it all. She introduced the audience to the concept of tying children to their arms as a means to work off the baby weight.

My favourite character was Jane Dough, who on first impressions was a shy and nervous baker (bread puns!). The show took a dark turn when Jane emotionally revealed she had been lacing her sweet treats with cocaine and MDMA for the last two years.

Bitchelor Alexi Steele – feminist, loud-mouth and bitchelor stormed the stage and stirred the audience into a frenzy with her rally cry for a union for single people. There was no room at the inn for those unlucky enough to have a ring on their finger.

The undisputed winner was home counties 'Baking Bad' reprobate, Jane Dough. But the real Woman of the Year is Anna Morris for creating such an enjoyable and hilarious show.

If you're lucky enough to be in Edinburgh this summer, be sure to check out Bitchelors.

Amelia Charman - follow on Twitter @ameliacharman1


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Thursday

Bernard Shaw invites you! - Brighton Fringe Review by Sophie Turton


Bernard Shaw Invites You!, Company: P M Productions
Venue: Redroaster Coffee House, Category: Theatre
9-10 May 20:00 £10 (£8) [2hrs]

This highly intelligent one man play, devised and performed by Brighton-based Irish actor, Paddy O’Keefe and directed by Martin Nichols, takes us on a tour of the life and mind of one of history’s most influential thinkers and introduces a whole new dimension to the incredible Bernard Shaw.

It is June 2nd, 1946 - George Bernard Shaw’s 90th birthday. We are his guests, listening intently to his life reflections that are guided by questions from an unseen interviewer. This framing technique is perfect for the play’s structure, allowing O’Keefe to play himself at the beginning and dissolving into Shaw for the rest of the duration, seizing the opportunity of a lifetime to finally ask his hero all he had always wanted to know.

The play aims to discover something of the ‘Shaw behind the mask’ and explores what O’Keefe, through extensive research, deems to be Shaw’s most intimate and, at times, delicate thoughts. How enchanting it is to watch one in such awe of the mind of another take on their thoughts and characteristics with such ease. O’Keefe becomes Shaw, so much so that it is at times impossible to untangle Shaw’s own language from the lines devised for the performance.

The audience is guided through Shaw’s life. We see him as a small boy, witness his raw fear and confusion over his parent’s disinterest and neglect. We share with him the joy of self-discovery, of love and lust and longing and we laugh, as he does, at the jokes he tells.

O’Keefe’s Shaw is, at times, arrogant, as the real Shaw was sure to be, but with it he is honest and endearing. Together they are a natural storyteller, moving through ninety years of history like an elegant waltz, bringing other characters in and flinging them out, while seamlessly retaining the audience’s attention.

There is little action in the play, which mirrors that of Shaw’s great works. Instead the purpose is to explore the heart and mind of the characters and to bring them alive in the imaginations of the audience. Bernard Shaw Invites You! is an incredible achievement and to answer Bernard Shaw’s final question, yes, it is certainly worth it.

Sophie Turton - follow on Twitter @TurtonSophie
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Tuesday

Meet the Reviewers for ModernBrickaBrack of Brighton Fringe 2014

This year 200 venues across Brighton and Hove will be hosting around 750 shows over the next four weeks.  That is an awful lot of talent and far too many shows for a single blogger to cover.  So, to bring a little diversity into the mix I've asked some fellow Brighton writers to join me this month to review some shows that appeal to them as well.
With a short intro on each of us, this is what we are looking forward to over the next week and why.

Meet the Reviewers:


Amelia Charman

Amelia Charman - follow on Twitter @ameliacharman1
A Morrissey obsessed, Northern Soul enthusiast who likes to see the world speed past on two wheels. Enjoys pots of Earl Grey and talking about being a woman with women.



Bitchelors (Work in Progress), Company: Anna Morris
Venue: Laughing Horse @ The Quadrant, Category: Comedy
30-31 May 17:45 Free, non-ticketed

- A talented comedy actress, with lots of audience participation and a catchy title!


Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho, Company: Aine Flanagan Productions / Theatre503
Venue: Upstairs at Three and Ten, Category: Theatre
5-7 May 22:00 21-22 May21:30 £9.50 (£8) [1hr] Plus booking fee

- The Iron Lady fascinates me, is she a female icon or not? Who knows, but in this wonderfully quirky take on the formidable Prime Minister she stars in drag in a comedy extravaganza about homophobia, the 80's and disco.


Elf Lyons is a Pervert, Company: Elf Lyons
Venue: Upstairs at Three and Ten, Category: Comedy
10-11 May 22:00 £8 (£6.50) [1hr] Plus booking fee

- I am interested in women talking about their perverse, usually repressed thoughts, and this title really jumped out at me.
Rosie Davis

Rosie Davis - follow on Twitter @RosieDavisred
Cornish, now a recognised minority.  Loves being outdoors, wild swimming, writing, her fiancé and their dog.  Fan of the artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham.



Liz Peters: Toybox, Company: Liz Peters
Venue: Upstairs at Three and Ten, Category: Comedy
5, 26 May 17:00, 16 May 19:00 £8 (£6.50) [1hr] Plus booking fee

- She's part of the Maydays improv comedy group based in Brighton and she does Victoria Wood style stuff, so she plays the piano with comedy songs. She is very clever, very witty. She was at the Edinburgh Fringe last year and she does stuff every year with the Maydays and I'm looking forward to seeing her solo work.


Pure Holography, Company: The Holograms of Inaki Beguiristain
Venue: Friese-Greene Gallery (at Brighton Media Centre), Category: Visual Arts
3-31 May, 1 June 10:00-17:30 Free, non-ticketed [7hrs 30mins]

- I've not seen anything like this before, it reminds me of when I was a kid, so I'm quite intrigued to see what it is.  I'm quite interested in how it is created.


The Ladyboys of Bangkok, Company: Exchange Events Ltd
Venue: Sabai Pavilion, Category: Cabaret
Previews 2 May 19.00; 21.00 £10, 4,11,18,25, 15.30 24,31, 16.30 3-12 May, 14–19 May, 21–31 May, 19:00; 21:45 £34 Platinum Tables, £30 Premium Tables, £24 (£14.50) Standard Tables. All tickets 2 for 1 on Mondays [1hr 45]

- This show is meant to be good fun with lots of singing and dancing and everyone gets involved and has a good night.  It's been coming to Brighton for so many years and I've never seen it and it has become a must-see now.
Sophie Turton

Sophie Turton - follow on Twitter @TurtonSophie
A travel enthusiast who has lived in Prague, China and Sri Lanka. Passionate about Murakami, writing, reading and gesticulating. Lover of lists.



Bernard Shaw Invites You!, Company: P M Productions
Venue: Redroaster Coffee House, Category: Theatre
3-7, 9-10 May 20:00 £10 (£8) [2hrs]

- I'm interested in his philosophical train of thought. It's billed as quite a unique experience and interactive, so I'm wondering whether they can pull that off.


Movin Melvin Brown: The Ray Charles Experience, Company: Movin' Melvin Brown
Venue: The Old Market, Category: Cabaret
8-10 May 20:00 £15 (£13) [1hr30mins] Plus booking fee

- Motown music really appeals to me, I think I've got a soft spot for it because it reminds me of my dad and listening to it when I was a kid.


Auld Acquaintance, Company: Audley + Co Productions
Venue: The Dukebox Theatre, Category: Theatre
10, 17, 24 May 17:00 11, 18 May 20:00 £8 (£6) [1hr 10mins]

- When I met Natalie and heard another play she had written I was impressed by her writing skills and so it would be good to see it in action.

Sarah Agnew

Sarah Agnew - follow on Twitter @IrishAggers
Northern Irish, lover of Kemp town village, the arts and the sea. Loves quirky, last year participated in The Kate Bush experience, which involved dressing in red and dancing around a field to Wuthering Heights.


Half a Cod a Day, Company: Parrabolla,
Venue: The Old Courtroom, Category: Theatre
8-11 May 21:15 £8 (£6) [1hr30mins] Plus booking fee

- Based on the true story of three generations of Hastings fishermen, this is about a fisherman's daily quota of half a cod a day. One fisherman's annual quota can be picked up by a trawler in one day. It's a big issue and one I'm really interested in finding out more about.


Harriet Walter in New Play, Company: MOOT - music of our time
Venue: St Nicholas Church, Category: Theatre
9 May 19:30 £15 (£12) [2hrs] Plus booking fee

- For one night only it takes place in the ancient and atmospheric setting of St Nicholas church, the Norman church dating back to 1091 above Churchill Square. This is a read through of a play by Jessica Duchen, inspired by the composition Quartet for the End of Time by Messiaen. I heard this piece of music a few years ago and the ending stunned me. I later found out that it was composed in a prisoner of war camp. The Ether Quartet will play the composition in the second half.


Bonny Boys are Few, Company: Enormous Yes
Venue: The Old Courtroom, Category: Theatre
8-11 May 19:45 £10 (£8) [1hr] Plus booking fee

- Written and acted by people from Northern Ireland it is the story of a lad growing up in a boarding house over there, surrounded by surrogate father figures in the absence of his own dad. Using comedy and fable the piece merges fact with a fictional tale of a Spanish conquistador, an eel who eats misery, Harry Styles and featuring a live band, storytelling and a film. I'm intrigued.
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Monday

Nina De La Mer and Myriad Editions demonstrate the Joy of Writing Competitions

Guest Blogger and Brighton Writer Rosie Davis highlights a free event this Thursday for writers courtesy of Myriad Editions and tells us why she is passionate about the work of one of their writers.


On Thursday 8th May Myriad Editions will announce their shortlist and winner of this year’s Writer’s Retreat Competition.  The very competition Nina De La Mer was shortlisted for in 2010 with her entry 4a.m. This is where she caught the attention of the publishers and from there saw the birth of her debut novel.  Five years on she has released her highly acclaimed second novel Layla proving that entering that competition really can take you to soaring heights.   

~ Layla by Nina de la Mer ~
Having just read Layla, it is hard for me to fault with Nina De La Mer’s second novel.  A storyline that steps into the back streets and into the strip clubs of Soho with a large serving of dirt and grime. But it isn’t the sex, drugs or thread worm tablets that kept me hooked, it was the underlining plot that weaved its way throughout the hangovers and spotlights of the dance floor.  It was the feeling that Nina so powerfully manages to put across that the separation from a mother and her child is unbearable, that there is a part of you that is missing, which will never be complete until they are back, “you’re gripped by the horrible deadening of your hopes: of seeing that button nose ever again…”

In 2011 Nina’s debut novel 4a.m. was published and it follows the story of two pill popping, techno loving squaddies in Germany in the early ‘90s.  A black comedy that grabs the reader by the delicate parts with the use of the second person narrative, a clever narration that has us deep in the sub-conscious of the two male protagonists.  Layla uses the same narrative device, but this time taking us into the mind of a 19-year-old girl who has moved to London after being kicked out of her mum’s home in Peacehaven.  Set in the present day and told over one week, Layla (who is actually Hayleigh) looks at the transition from the label of teenage mother to stripper and surviving in the bitchy environment of a strip club and being cut off from her son, Connor.  The mother and son bond keeps her mind occupied every day in the most inappropriate times; “Funny how he pops into your head whenever, wherever, your Little Man, as if he was lying swaddled right there on the dance floor.”   

Nina de la Mer
Hayleigh (Layla is Hayleigh’s stage name, don’t worry it is less confusing in the book) introduces us to a mixture of acquaintances from kind souls (Ivana) to the scum of the earth (Billy), who may have been based on personalities that Nina met while researching a number of lap-dancing clubs over five years. Then there’s the mother.  She pops in and out of the story but is still an integral part as Hayleigh attempts to know more about her son and her mother’s info is kept to a minimum creating an ever-growing distance; “Telling you more by what she’s not telling you, in fact. Namely, she doesn’t give a damn.” I felt empathy, but also frustration and anger for Hayleigh, on one occasion throwing the book off the bed to stop and release floods of tears without spoiling the pages.  I refused to pick it up for another two days until I was ready to step into her world again. But this is what I want, I want to feel attached, I want to care about the protagonist, and Nina delivered this.  

As the numbers neared the final page of 269, I was sinking my nails into the bright and alluring cover, the final chapter had built up a sense of tension and I was flipping through the pages wanting to know what was going to happen, but at the end of my marathon I was denied the medal.  At first I searched the pages expecting an additional chapter, or a final conclusion like Life of Pi, but once I had come to terms with it not being there, I relished in the knowing that Nina had left me wanting more, wanting to follow Hayleigh on whatever path she chooses to take.  Nina is an accomplished writer and although the ending wasn’t what I was expecting I would recommend reading Layla and while you’re adding it to your basket, why not pick up 4a.m.  These two books compliment each other and highlight Nina’s talent and skill for taking us inside her characters minds.   

Join Jonathan Kemp and Lesley Thomson for The Joy of Writing Competitions, this free event will be held at the University of Brighton on Grand Parade on Thursday 8th May from 6pm-8pm.
Listen to the writers discuss the importance of writing competitions.
For more information visit www.myriadeditions.com.

Follow Rosie Davis on Twitter @RosieDavisRed
and Tumblr at Creat-ure-comforts
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