Newcastle/Gateshead

We stayed in a quayside hotel by the Tyne for a couple of nights.  It is a lovely area and these shots include: the Gateshead Millenium Bridge; the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art; Sage Gateshead; the Malmaison hotel; a view of Newcastle from the Baltic Centre; and an exhibit at the Baltic which makes the the main stairwell look as though it goes on forever.

Hedda Gabler, National Theatre

We went to see Ruth Wilson in Hedda Gabler yesterday at the National Theatre.  It was easily the best rendition of Hedda Gabler we have seen.  Patrick Marber has created a modern version of the Ibsen play that retains the powerful dramatic anguish of the original text but he has also introduced far more pace and some great moments of humour to the dialogue.  It is also fantastically staged and directed by Ivo Van Hove, who was responsible for the extraordinary View From the Bridge we saw at the Young Vic a couple of years ago.

The Marber version gives Ruth Wilson the opportunity to give full reign to the wild, flirty and uncompromising elements of the Hedda character and he also turns Brack into a more sinister force.  Rafe Spall is excellent as Brack, not quite as menacing as his part in The Shadow Line but definitely in the same ball park.  Indeed, the whole cast gave great performances.  All underpinned by a beautiful incidental soundtrack that included Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley & Nina Simone.

If you can get to see this live then don’t miss out.  If you can’t, it’s being screened in cinemas nationwide on 9 March.

Camellia ‘Albert Einstein’

As I was walking round Westonbirt the other day, I saw a camellia that appeared to have a winter sprouting of Albert Einstein style hair.  On closer inspection I found that it was a Camellia Williamsii ‘Donation’.  This will have bright pink flowers by late winter but is spending early winter doing an impression of a great scientist!

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Turin Brakes@The Convent

We’ve been great fans of Turin Brakes since 2001, when we bought The Optimist on CD.  I think it remains one of the best albums of the noughties.  It was great to have the opportunity to see them perform live at an extraordinary venue, The Convent in South Woodchester.  Toy Tin Soldier, from Glasgow,  provided great support as 200 people crammed into the 18th century chapel.   Later, the Brakes played tracks from their new album, Lost Property, tracks from The Optimist and tracks from every album in between.

Their later material is less focused on the clean acoustic brilliance and powerful vocal harmonies of The Optimist but, the variety of styles throughout the evening worked really well.  Still, the highlights for us were our favourite early Brakes’ tracks: Mind Over Money, Feeling Oblivion and The Underdog.  The audience demanded and were given two encores. A fantastic performance in a mystical setting.

Prep4Enchanted Xmas, Westonbirt

Enchanted Christmas starts tomorrow at Westonbirt Arboretum and there is a mass of activity preparing stalls, marquees, decorations and thousands of lights.  It’s going to be spectacular but….don’t turn up unless you have bought a ticket in advance. Until it gets dark, it is hard to imagine how extraordinary this event is.  However, if you want an idea of just how spectacular it can be  – look at a selection of my pics from last year.  Enchanted Xmas 2015