Sheytoons at St James Theatre

I’ve already written about Ramin Karimloo on this blog – the singer who I got to know in his West End roles as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera and Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, and who has been touring for several months with his own material and and a few covers. He is also part of a musical duo with Hadley Fraser, another West End star who played Raoul in the 25th anniversary production of Phantom at the Royal Albert Hall, and Javert in Les Miserables alongside Ramin. On Sunday I went to see the two of them play the main stage of the St James Theatre in west London.

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I generally like pop music which tends to be performed in huge arenas, so it was a nice change to experience such a small and intimate atmosphere. Ramin and Hadley were so friendly and funny and had brilliant banter between themselves and with the audience – at one point Ramin even pointed out his kids, who were in the audience with his wife, as the youngest had gone to sleep – so sweet! There was a brilliant atmosphere, laid back, relaxed and cheerful.

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I enjoyed the music, which was a mixture of covers and original songs that tended towards folk, country and bluegrass. None of these are styles of music I’d normally enjoy, but my obsession with Ramin has introduced me to many songs I wouldn’t otherwise have listened to! I have to say, I do think Ramin is the more talented of the two. He has a really distinctive voice and his songs were stronger. I don’t want to offend any Hadley fans, but although he is clearly a lovely and talented guy, I didn’t think his voice was particularly distinctive and his songs weren’t as good as Ramin’s, in my opinion. Having said that, the two of them made a great pairing: they obviously get on and they sing and perform very well together.

A busy Saturday in east London

I had a very busy and tiring Saturday. I visited 11 tube stations. Eleven! And they were all in east London, most of them on the Central Line.

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I began with a visit to Bethnal Green, as I wanted to go to the nearby Museum of Childhood. I tell you what, you know you’re getting old when the toys you played with as a child go on display in a museum. I enjoyed reminiscing about the 90s and learning about toys in ages gone by – some of the dolls from a century or half a century ago were terrifying.

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I took a walk through Victoria Park; the day was cold and cloudy but I enjoyed the walk. The park was the first royal park open to the public, and it provides a much-needed recreational green space in east London. I imagine it is lovely in the summer.

My travels took me through Leyton and Leytonstone up to Woodford and Snaresbrook. The most notable part of my journey was seeing the Hitchcock mosaics at Leytonstone tube station. Director Alfred Hitchcock grew up in the area and a few years ago several mosaics picturing scenes from his films were installed in the corridor leading to the ticket hall. I had fun trying to guess which film each mosaic represented.

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Hitchcock as a child, outside his father’s grocery shop
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Hitchcock, directing
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The Pleasure Garden
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Strangers on a Train
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Psycho
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Vertigo
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Suspicion
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Saboteur
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The Skin Game
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The Birds
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North By Northwest
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Hitchcock with Marlene Dietrich
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Rear Window
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Rebecca

Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape – Royal Academy of Arts

On Friday night I paid a visit to the Royal Academy of Arts to see the Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape exhibition. I love Turner and this was the main reason for my visit. In the end there wasn’t a great deal of his work on display, or that of the other named artists. A lot of the space was devoted to artists who paved the way or who were inspired by these three giants, so I felt the title of the exhibition was slightly misleading. Still, the paintings and artefacts displayed were well-chosen and the exhibition as a whole was small enough to be enjoyed without fatigue. Highlights for me included Turner’s Dolbadern Castle, while paintings by Gainsborough and Constable, artists I’d never paid much attention to in the past, appeared in a new light for me and I think I’d like to find out more about their work.

A Winter’s Tale

It was very cold this weekend. I seriously regretted not taking my gloves when I went to Stratford-upon-Avon to see The Winter’s Tale at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I enjoyed the performance, but spent all my time outside with my hands clasped close to my body trying to keep them warm.

On Sunday I managed to tick off some more Underground stations: I stuck to the west, beginning with both Edgwares and ending with Bayswater.  I visited the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising near Portobello Road, which consisted mainly of product packaging from the Victorian era to the present day. Some of the adverts were (unintentionally, I presume) very funny, but I loved the Victorian perfume bottles – I wish you could still get bottles like that.

I went to see Les Miserables at the nearby Odeon in Whiteleys shopping centre, and as I had expected, it made me cry. Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman were both excellent, and though Russell Crowe wasn’t great I didn’t think he was as bad as he had been made out to be.