Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Dates for your Diary - The Musical "Annie" is coming to Storyhouse, Chester next March 2019!

Michael Harrison and David Ian are delighted to announce that their smash hit production of the musical "Annie" will embark on a UK tour opening at the Manchester Opera House on Saturday 9th February 2019.

Photo credit: Paul Coltas
This production recently ran for an extended season in the West End following a sell-out tour of the UK and Ireland in 2015/2016 and will open later this month in Toronto.

The tour will visit Storyhouse, Chester from the 25th to the 30th March 2019, and tickets go on sale on Tuesday 1st May.

The full tour schedule is below with further dates and casting to be announced soon at www.anniethemusicaltour.uk.

Set in 1930's New York during The Great Depression, brave young Annie is forced to live a life of misery and torment at Miss Hannigan's orphanage. Determined to find her real parents, her luck changes when she is chosen to spend Christmas at the residence of a famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. Spiteful Miss Hannigan has other ideas and hatches a plan to spoil Annie's search...

With its award-winning book and score, this stunning new production includes the unforgettable songs 'It's the Hard Knock Life', 'Easy Street', 'I Don't Need Anything But You' and 'Tomorrow'.

"Annie" has music by Charles Strouse, Lyrics by Martin Charnin and a Book by Thomas Meehan.

"Annie" is directed by Nikolai Foster with set and costume design by Colin Richmond, choreography by Nick Winston, lighting by Ben Cracknell and sound design by Richard Brooker.

"Annie" is produced by Michael Harrison and David Ian.

Listing Details

Show: Annie the Musical
Venue: Storyhouse, Hunter Street, Chester, Cheshire, CH1 2AR
Dates: Monday 25th March to Saturday 30th March 2019
Booking: This can be done online at www.storyhouse.com, by calling 01244 409113 or by visiting the ticket kiosks at Storyhouse, Hunter Street, Chester, Cheshire, CH1 2AR
(Tickets go on sale on the 1st May 2018).

Photo credit: Paul Coltas
Full Tour Dates

Saturday 9th February to Saturday 16th February 2019
Manchester Opera Housewww.atgtickets.com/venues/opera-house-manchester
On sale 1st May 2018

Tuesday 19th February to Saturday 23rd February 2019
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre - www.grandtheatre.co.uk
On sale 1st May 2018

Monday 4th March to Saturday 9th March 2019
New Theatre Oxford - www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-theatre-oxford
On sale 1st May 2018

Monday 18th March to Saturday 23rd March 2019
Bristol Hippodrome - www.atgtickets.com/venues/bristol-hippodrome
On sale 1st May 2018

Monday 25th March to Saturday 30th March 2019
Storyhouse Theatre, Chester - www.storyhouse.com
On sale 1st May 2018

Monday 1st April to Saturday 6th April 2019
Hull New Theatre - www.hulltheatres.co.uk
On sale 1st May 2018

Monday 15th April to Saturday 20th April 2019
King's Theatre, Glasgow - www.atgtickets.com/venue/kings-theatre
On sale 1st May 2018

Monday 22nd April to Saturday 27th April 2019
Bradford Alhambra - www.bradford-theatres.co.uk
On Sale 14th May 2018

Tuesday 30th April to Saturday 4th May 2019
Mayflower Theatre, Southampton - www.mayflower.org.uk
On sale 1st May 2018

Monday 13th May to Saturday 18th May 2019
Venue Cymru, Llandudno - www.venuecymru.co.uk
On sale 4th May 2018

Monday 20th May to Saturday 25th May 2019
Nottingham Theatre Royal - www.trch.co.uk
On sale 1st May 2018

Monday 27th May to Saturday 1st June 2019
Cliff's Pavilion Theatre, Southend - www.southendtheatres.org.uk
On sale 1st May 2018

Monday 10th June to Saturday 15th June 2019
New Victoria Theatre, Woking - www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-victoria-theatre
On sale 1st May 2018

Monday 17th June to Saturday 22nd June 2019
The Orchard Theatre, Dartford - www.orchardtheatre.co.uk
On sale 31st May 2018

Monday 24th June - Saturday 29th June 2019
Livepool Empire Theatre - www.atgtickets.com/venues/liverpool-empire
On sale 1st May 2018

Monday 1st July - Saturday 6th July 2019
Milton Keynes Theatre - www.atgtickets.com/venues/milton-keynes-theatre
On sale 8th May 2018

Further dates to be announced.

Photo credit: Paul Coltas
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Information written is believed to be correct at time of writing, but would always recommend visiting the companies own website in order to obtain the most up to date information.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

ComedySportz Celebrate 10 Years at Waterside Arts, Sale

ComedySportz are celebrating 10 years of competitive comedy shenanigans at the Waterside Arts Centre this month. The group, now in their 16th year, have performed regular monthly shows and are the longest running family friendly improv troupe in the North West.

For those who are yet to catch a ComedySportz show, each 'match' sees two teams go for gold with fully improvised gags, games, sketches and songs inspired by audience suggestions. It's a completely unpredictable night of good humoured fun that the whole family can enjoy, with a referee on hand to keep things moving and ensure a good clean game.

The group have now proved so popular at Sale that they've launched two brand new shows there in the last year. The first, ComedySportz 4 Tots is an hour long show that promises plenty of big laughs for little kids, with a silly story, songs and games as well as plenty of interactivity for young ones. The show has proven to be very popular, introducing kids under 6 to comedy and performance. The group then launched their improvised Pantomime in December 2017 which proved yet again to be incredibly popular. "We've earned the audience's trust to try new shows and formats and we're delighted that they've come along with us," says ComedySportz Manchester founder and performer Brainne Edge.

"We've performed shows across the UK and are regular faces at the Edinburgh Fringe. Last year we performed for Prince Edward and his family so we're not just a family friendly comedy show - we're a Royal Family Friendly comedy show!" adds Brainne. "The Waterside has been our home now for 10 years and the audience's are just fabulous with brilliant suggestions and audience volunteers."

"It's a great night and that rare family show that the whole family can enjoy" added ComedySportz player Sean Mason. "No two shows are ever the same and as we never know what suggestions the audience have in store for us, the only thing we know is going to happen is that everyone is going to have a great night out!"

To celebrate 10 years at Waterside, the group have also launched a competition asking fans under 16 years old to design their next flyer. Information on how to enter can be found on the ComedySportz website and the winner will receive a framed copy of their design, along with 4 tickets for a future show and a selection of ComedySportz merchandise. The deadline for entries is 5th May 2018 and further information can be found here: www.comedysportz.co.uk/10-years-at-waterside/

Listing Details

Event: ComedySportz 4 Tots
Venue: Waterside, 1 Waterside Plaza, Sale, Trafford, M33 7ZF
Date: 28th April 2018
Time: 3pm
Duration: 1 hour
Price: £5/£3

Event: ComedySportz
Venue: Waterside, 1 Waterside Plaza, Sale, Trafford, M33 7ZF
Date: 28th April 2018
Time: 6:30pm
Duration: 2 hours
Price: £7/£5

Tickets can be purchased online at www.watersidearts.org or via the Waterside box office on 0161 912 5616.

You can find out more about ComedySportz shows and workshops at www.comedysportz.co.uk or visit their social media channels which are:

Twitter - @comedysportz_uk
Facebook - cszmanchesteruk

*Disclaimer: Details provided are correct at the time of writing, but would always recommend visiting the companies own website, in order to obtain the most up to date information.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Dates for your Diary - LHK Youth Theatre Open Auditions - 29th April, Liverpool

Calling all Merseyside youngsters! One of Liverpool's hottest youth theatre companies are looking for the stars of their next production.

LHK Youth Theatre are holding open auditions later this month for their production of the classic musical Bugsy Malone which is coming to the Epstein Theatre this November. Please note that this is instead of the previously announced production of A Christmas Carol and Elf. 

On Sunday 29th April, male and female performers aged 6-19 are welcome to attend the open auditions which will take place at The Liner Hotel at 12pm.

There is no need to book an audition slot, registration will take place on the day; all audition material will be provided, and all applicants will be asked to sing a verse and chorus of a song of their choice. Roles for the full cast will be available.

LHK Youth Theatre is run by LHK Productions - one of the most acclaimed and unique theatre and pantomime production companies in the UK.

Formed in 2005, LHK Productions has quickly put it's stamp on the UK's theatre scene hosting countless shows in some of the biggest and most prestigious venues in the country.

LHK Productions Managing Director, Lee Kelly said: "I am very excited to welcome all of our auditionees! Merseyside has an abundance of talented performers and rising young stars, and I can't wait to see who we get walking through the doors this year!"

Do not miss this exciting opportunity to join Liverpool's renowned youth theatre company's production of this classic musical, staged at one of Liverpool's best loved theatres.

For further information about the auditions, please email jade@lhkproductions.co.uk

Audition Details

Date: Sunday 29th April 2018
Time: 12pm
Location: The Liner Hotel, Lord Nelson Street, Liverpool, L3 5QB

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Dates for your Diary - REFRACT:18 at Waterside, Sale

It feels as though we have had an exceptionally long winter this year, with all the bad weather we have recently experienced, but the sunshine is starting to make a welcome appearance and the summer holidays will be upon us before we know it.

It is great to see so many fantastic events being planned for the summer season and I was excited to read all about the line up for the Waterside Arts Venue in Sale.

Following the success of it's first ever Refract festival last summer - Waterside is delighted to announce the exciting and eclectic line-up for Refract:18. Promising ten jam-packed days of the very best in summer programming, Refract:18 is bursting with experiential performance, live music, comedy, theatre and family events inviting you to see things differently at Trafford's vibrant arts venue.

Refract:18 runs from Thursday 19th July to Saturday 28th July, bringing together a carefully curated programme, jilted from convention, for audiences of all ages. Expect the unexpected, from miniature theatre in a magical canvas dome, a pop-up cabaret club, mini music festival for kids and arts and craft meets silent disco, as well as music from British band Tankus the Henge, an immersive gig from multi-instrumentalist Minute Taker and Manchester's finest Reggae pop outfit Jeramiah Ferrari.

Kicking off Refract:18 is award-winning PanGottic's 'catupultastic' evening of clowning, contraptions, comedy and courage in Long Shot, while later in the festival Cabaret From The Shadows sees the theatre transformed into a pop up cabaret club for one night only to present this hilarious & mischevious show.

Music lovers are in for a treat with Manchester's most exciting genre weaving group - Jeramiah Ferrari. The North West based band has forged a superb reputation for live sets, fusing styles of reggae, rock, ska and pop to make a truly memorable and essential new sound. Singer-songwriter and multi-instrulmentalist Minute Taker (Ben McGarvey) also makes his Refract debut with his immersive show. Inspired by imaginative artists such as Kate Bush, Tori Amos and Bjork, McGarvey creates haunting piano songs with multi-layered ethereal vocals, distorted electronic beats and otherworldly synthscapes. Rock, funk, blues, ska, roots, and gypsy rhythms unite on stage with Tankus the Henge. Combining wild showmanship, stories of wonder and musical dexterity, this live musical experience is something to behold.

Laughs a plenty are also on offer at this year's Refract:18 with all tastes being catered for. Cabaret mayhem is guaranteed with Mother's Ruin and we will see comedy mixed with musical madness in Showstopper! - The Improvised Musical, a brand new musical created from scratch and performed live from audience suggestions.

Families with kids big and small can enjoy a bumper programme of theatre, crafts, puppetry, music and more, including Our Kids Social's Make, Do & Bop who will bring us silent disco fun to let imaginations run wild!

For arty adults with a penchant for doodling, grab a pen, or a brush and get your creative juices flowing in Overdrawn, a free and one-off interactive art event. Lovers of art can also experience re:cast - a series of art installations around Waterside's spaces during the festival.

Darren Adams, Producer of Refract and Manager of Waterside comments: "We are absolutely thrilled to present our second Refract festival bringing more artists and performers to our venue, presenting a bold and ambitious programme. Our inaugural festival last year drew in over 20% of new audiences and welcomed many of our loyal visitors to experience unexpected and innovative work. Building on last year's success we're delighted with the quality and diversity of the Refact:18 line-up."

Waterside are also offering a lucky few, the chance to join the Refraction Club to enjoy discounted tickets, special offers on drinks and other special events.

For more information please visit refract.org.uk

You can also follow Waterside on their social media channels, which can be found here:

Twitter: @WatersideArts
Facebook: /watersidearts
Instagram: watersidesarts_

Listing Details

Event: Refract:18
Venue: Waterside, 1 Waterside Plaza, Sale, Trafford, M33 7ZF
Dates: Thursday 19th July to Saturday 28th July

Day One

Event: PanGottic presents LONG SHOT
Date: Thursday 19th July
Time: 7pm
Price: £10/£8
Age suitability: 7+
Duration: 55 minutes
Details: Join us for a catapultastic evening of clowning, contraptions, comedy and courage as one man's belief in the near impossible is put to the test. Part non-verbal circus performance, part behind the scenes 'making of', Long Shot will have you on the edge of your seat. Or hiding behind it. Either way, it's going to be a blast.

Day Two

Event: Messy Play
Date: Friday 20th July
Time: 11-12 for toddlers, 1:30-2:30 for babies 3months+
Price: £5/£4 (family club members)
Age suitability: 3 months to 3 years

Event: Mother's Ruin
Date: Friday 20th July
Time: 8pm
Price: £12 (including gin & tonic) or £10 ticket only.
Age suitability: 16+
Details: Outrageous and fiercely entertaining night of cabaret mayhem. Featuring everything from comedy, music, drag and poetry, to the unpredictable.
In the Chambers

Event: Tankus the Henge
Date: Friday 20th July
Time: 8pm
Price: £10 advanced purchase rate or £12 on the door.
Details: Combining wild showmanship and musical dexterity their sound incorporates rock, funk, blues, ska, roots and gypsy rhythms and their songs tell stories of wonder and woe.
This is a standing event in the Robert Bolt Theatre

Day Three

Event: Refract Art Club
Date: Saturday 21st July
Time: 10am-12pm
Price: £2.50 or £1 for family club members
Age suitability: 4+
Details: Have fun with optical illusions. Cut out and colour a collection of optical illusions and create your own, on paper.

Event: Knaive Theatre presents War With The Newits (Preview)
Date: Saturday 21st July and Sunday 22nd July
Time: 6:30pm
Price: £12/£10
Details: Based on an original 1930's novel, set in the hull of a fishing vessel, the plot follows the unfurling of events after the discovery of an intelligent race of newts, who are shipped around the globe as cheap substitutes for human labour.
Produced in association with the Royal Exchange Theatre, Squarechapel Arts Centre and Waterside. This piece is site-specific and the venue will be announced ahead of the show.

Event: Minute Taker
Date: Saturday 21st July
Time: 8pm
Price: £10
Details: Alternative singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ben McGarvey creates haunting piano songs with multi-layered ethereal vocals, distorted electronic beats and otherworldly synthscapes in an immersive show.
In the chambers

Event: Cabaret from the Shadows
Date: Saturday 21st July
Time: 9pm
Price: £12
Age suitability: 16+
Details: Political, comic, sexy and strange, Cabaret From the Shadows is a kaleidoscope of dark comedy, satire and live music, pulling you through a crazy hall of mirrors. Tonight no subject is taboo.
Cabaret in the Robert Bolt Theatre

Day Four

Event: Artful Playground presents Minifest
Date: Sunday 22nd July
Time: 1pm and 2:30pm
Price: Free Event
Details: Minifest will have family members of all ages up on their feet having a lovely, jolly, musical party together! With original songs written especially to simulate young imaginations and encourage physical activity, played by the brilliant Artful Playground Band, you are treated to a wide variety of musical styles ranging from Rock and Roll, to Gypsy Jazz, to Rap! So bring your Mini ones and get some festival vibes - no wellies required! - and we'll do the steam train conga 'til we drop!
On the plaza

Event: Mumblecrust Theatre presents The Tale of the Cockatrice
Date: Sunday 22nd July
Time: 1:30pm and 3:30pm
Price: £9/£7
Age suitability: 5-12 years (and upwards)
Duration: 60 minutes
Details: "Deep in the vaults of an ancient priory, a hideous creature awakens. The deadly Cockatrice is born". Breath-taking puppetry and spine-tingling live music in this dark and winding fable for monster lovers young and old.
In the chambers

Day Five

Event: Tmesis Theatre presents Happy Hour
Date: Monday 23rd July
Time: 7:30pm
Price: £14/£12
Age suitability: 13+
Duration: 70 minutes
Details: The workers on Level 3 are racing against the clock to reach their quota of Smiley Faces, but are they really happy enough? A poignant, fast paced, comedy exploring our 21st century obsession with happiness and success. Can we learn to be happy? The 'happiness industry' would have us think so....
In the Robert Bolt Theatre

Day Six

Event: Superfan presents Stuntman
Date: Tuesday 24th July
Time: 8pm
Price: £14/£12
Age suitability: 14+
Duration: 55 minutes
Details: A new performance about movie violence and masculinity. It is an intensely physical, funny and tender duet by two men who wrestle with their relationship to violence - both onscreen and off. Stories of real-life experiences of violence are interwoven with exaggerated, high-octane stunt fights, movement, and (fake) blood.
In the Chambers

Day Seven

Event: Mimika Theatre presents Small Worlds
Date: Wednesday 25th July
Times: 10:15, 11:45, 13:15 and 14:45
Price: £7/£6
Age suitability: Ages 5 to 11
Duration: 60 minutes
Details: Extraordinary theatre inside a magical canvas dome. Meet five characters - a bug, a goose, a fox cub, a cat and a six year old girl - and watch their stories unfold. Unforgettable visual theatre, using puppetry, minature landscapes and original animated film and music.

Day Eight

Event: Overdrawn
Date: Thursday 26th July
Times: 7pm to late
Price: Free
Details: An interactive art event with established artists, illustrators and designers from Manchester. Expect pound portraits, calligraphy, local artists drawing live, humorous prompts and much more! Grab a pen.....we're getting creative together!
In the Chambers

Event: Showstopper - The Improvised Musical
Date: Thursday 26th July
Time: 7:30pm
Price: £18/£15
Age suitability: 12+
Duration: 90 minutes plus interval
Details: Direct from the West End, a brand new musical comedy is created from scratch at each performance as audience suggestions are transformed on the spot into all-singing, all-dancing productions with hilarious results.
In the Robert Bolt Theatre

Day Nine

Event: Make, Do & Bop from Our Kids Social
Date: Friday 27th July
Time: 10:30 and 13:30
Price: £6
Age suitability: Suitable for all ages
Duration: Each session lasts 90 minutes
Details: A two channel silent disco will have all your favourite summer time hits to set the mood with all the latest kids pop for them to bop along to. Plus, there is creative arts and craft to whisk your imaginations away to the sea-side, let your family innovation flow and your community relationships grow!
Standing event in the Robert Bolt Theatre

Event: Gag Reflex Management presents Rob Kemp: The Elvis Dead
Date: Friday 27th July
Time: 8pm
Price: £12
Age suitability: 14+
Duration: 60 minutes
Details: The multi award winning EdFringe cult hit is back. Rev up the Delta and come on a trip to a cabin in Tennessee, to witness the classic horror movie Evil Dead 2 reinterpreted through the songs of Elvis Presley.
In the Chambers

Event: Jeramiah Ferrari
Date: Friday 27th July
Time: 8pm
Price: £10 when purchased in advance or £12 on the door
Details: 'A unique force and a live sensation that never disappoints' - The Mancunion
Manchester's most exciting genre weaving group! North West based Jeramiah have forged a superb reputation for live sets, fusing styles of reggae, rock, ska and pop to make a truly memorable and essential new sound.
Jeramiah grew up on a diet of Bob Marley, The Police and Michael Jackson. Expect a great calypso-ska style dancing party at any Jeramiah Ferrari show!
Standing event in the Robert Bolt Theatre

Day Ten

Event: Tessa Bide presents Perfect
Date: Saturday 28th July
Time: 11:30am and 2:30pm
Price: £9/£7
Age suitability: Ages 5-9
Duration: 50 minutes
Details: A young boy waits for the birth of his new baby sister... He can't wait to run and jump with a new playmate. The touching story of a boy meeting his disabled sister for the first time, with puppetry, live music, animation and physical theatre from the award-winning Tessa Bide.
In the Chambers

Throughout Refract

Until 18th August
Re:cast - A series of art installations have been specially commissioned for Refract:18. Katie Nelson's and Grace Igoe's exhibition showcases new and recent ceramic work posing questions on social and political issues in the Lauriston Gallery, while other sound and digital art commissions will be installed in different spaces at Waterside from 19th July. The call out for these commissions opens on Thursday 5th April.
Lauriston Gallery and other spaces at Waterside.

Disclaimer: Information provided is correct at time of writing, but is subject to change. Please therefore visit the Refract:18 website at refract.org.uk in order to obtain the most up to date information.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

A Trip to Madame Tussauds in Blackpool - A Review

Whilst my family and I were recently in Blackpool, we were delighted to have the opportunity to visit the world famous Madame Tussauds, which is situated along the main promenade. We couldn't wait to visit the star studded attraction and get up close to some of our favourite celebrities and sports stars in their wax figure form and see just how life like they were. We had also been informed that the attraction had recently invested £1million pounds in a brand new Marvel Super Heroes area, which would allow us to come face to face with some iconic comic book legends.

The attraction itself is really easy to find and it would be very hard to miss it, whilst travelling down the promenade. There is ample parking nearby and we chose to park in the Central Car Park which cost us £5.50 for 4 hours. It is easily accessible by public transport as well, with tram and bus stops in the vicinity.

There was a small queue to enter the attraction, but this moved very quickly and the lady on the front desk was very kind and helpful in assisting us on arrival. The photo opportunities began before we had even entered the main attraction, with this fantastic ET wax figure being located at the entrance. My daughter could not resist climbing aboard the bike and it got all the children excited thinking about what other figures and characters would be inside.

Our Madame Tussauds adventure began with some well known television stars and my children took their place upon Simon Cowells couch and pretended that they were about to be told if they had made it to the X-Factor Live Finals. Riley was still a little too young to recognise any of the famous faces in this area, but Ben and Emma knew them all and moved around excitedly, patiently waiting to have their photo taken with each wax figure. My husband and I both thought that Keith Lemon was brilliant and looked really accurate. I also liked the fact that each figure had is own kind of area, background or props which made it more interesting and much more fun for family photographs.

This wax figure of Phil "The Power" Taylor was so lifelike and even on the photograph below it looks as if my son Ben is standing next to the man himself.  I was fascinated at how they are made and just how much detail is applied, it really was incredible.

Being a big fan of the outdoors, Ben was delighted to have the chance to have his photograph taken with the adventurer Bear Grylls. I loved the fact that the majority of wax figures had scenery to help you take the perfect photo and this exhibit was no exception. Featuring a specially created rock formation, it was the ideal place to grab a picture with this intrepid explorer.

My daughter Emma absolutely loved the I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here area which provided photo opportunities in abundance. You could re-create the winners walk across the rope bridge, become the King or Queen of the Jungle by sitting on the oversized throne, or try your hand at some of the bushtucker trials whilst taking a selfie.

The Sporting Heroes Academy was my favourite part of the attraction, as it had plenty of hands-on and interactive elements to enjoy. World famous sports stars in this zone included wax figures such as Lewis Hamilton, Mo Farah & Conor McGregor. My family and I are big Formula One fans and so it was great to grab a picture with the Formula 1 World Champion, as well as test our reaction speed on the Batak machine.

The Conor McGregor wax figure is relatively new to the collection, having been unveiled back in February. It is the world's first wax figure of the 'Notorious' professional fighter and he was certainly popular with attraction visitors as we joined a short queue to take a photo. I was interested to learn more about how he was created and just how much of an in-depth process it is to create a sculpture with such an accurate likeness. I had never thought too much about the making of the wax figures before, but I learnt that it actually takes expert teams of sculptors, moulders, colourists and hair stylists to work together and create the final masterpiece. This includes analysing hundreds of photos to ensure that no details are missed.

The academy area was a really inviting and colourful place and there was something fun to do for all ages. My children spotted a climbing wall game where you have to climb and reach some bats that fly onto the wall before the time runs out. You can play by yourself or with a partner and try to achieve the highest score. There was a queue for this due to its popularity, but the game and idea is absolutely brilliant and my children really enjoyed it. A seating area and drinks machine are located just opposite, so it is also the ideal opportunity to have a sit down and enjoy some refreshments whilst you wait.

Once we had tried all of the activities on offer in the Sporting Heroes Academy, it was time for us to check out the amazing new Marvel Super Heroes area, which has filled 5501 square feet of previously undeveloped space. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to come face to face with comic book and film heroes set amongst incredible artwork and scenery. My children all loved The Hulk and situated next to this wax figure was an interactive activity, that allows you to put your strength to the test and lift up a yellow taxi. Just make sure you don't make The Hulk angry!

The new area has taken inspiration from both the Marvel comics and the blockbuster films, which has allowed Madame Tussauds to create a fantastic must-visit destination for Marvel fans. It has been separated into four zones which begins with you walking through a vintage comic book store that provides an inviting walkway into the world of Marvel Super Heroes. Next we entered an ice cave, where we came across the Asguardian God of Thunder - Thor.

We then came across Colonel Nicholas Joseph Fury, who is a fictional character that appeared in American comic books. Again this wax figure was so incredibly life-like that we found it hard to believe that it wasn't a real person.

Our next stop was a visit to see Spiderman, where you could pay for a photo posing against the skyscraper background. There were several of these photo opportunities located around the attraction where you could have a professional photo taken that is then added onto a photo card. These photos can then be viewed and purchased at the end of the attraction by handing your photo card in, which will bring up all the images . These photos are optional and you are under no obligation to purchase them if you do have them taken. We politely declined and opted to take our own pictures instead. The Guardians of the Galaxy area also provided a further photo opportunity with the marvellous 10ft Groot!

Every time we thought that we had reached the end of the attraction, there would be another area for us to enjoy and we were all genuinely suprised by how large Madame Tussauds Blackpool is. As we continued our way around, we stumbled upon the cobbles of Coronation Street and enjoyed a well deserved rest in the Rovers Return with some popular pub regulars. It is a fully licensed bar, so you can purchase both non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks. The pub was very busy but we spotted both Ken Barlow and Michelle Connor inside.

After a trip to the Rovers Return, we came across some very important wax figures, in the form of royalty. We thought that the Queen was absolutely amazing and the Duchess of Cambridge looked magnificent in her sparkling gown. The dress is actually an exact copy of the stunning Jenny Packham dress she wore for the ARK charity dinner and it looks incredible.

My daughter Emma really enjoyed posing for photos with some well known music stars, in particular Olly Murs. There is a really fascinating photograph on the Madame Tussauds website here, which shows Olly's face as a before and after, whilst being transformed into a wax figure. Every single fine detail down to the beard was meticulously placed.

My youngest son Riley is a big fan of Ed Sheeran's songs, so this wax figure was one that he instantly recognised. When I asked him what he thought of the attraction so far, he gave it two very big thumbs up!

Overall we had a wonderful time at Madame Tussauds and were very surprised by how large the attraction actually was. I had wrongly assumed that we would be in and out in under an hour, but with so many photo opportunities and interactive activities to choose from, there was certainly plenty to do. Before we knew it, we had already been there for over three hours! The attraction was busy, but there was plenty of space between exhibits so this meant that there was no overcrowding. Visitors with pushchairs, or guests in wheelchairs could also get around the site safely and with ease.

I had initially thought that the entry price was quite high, but after visiting and seeing just how much is on offer, I actually think it is a very fair price for something that is unique and lots of fun. You can also save money by purchasing combination tickets that allow you to visit other attractions in the area such as the Blackpool Tower and The Blackpool Dungeon, so it is worth considering these if you are planning on visiting the area for a few days.

We would definitely return to Madame Tussauds Blackpool and I look forward to seeing what other celebrities are added to their huge wax figure collection in the future. It has been so hard to choose only a select few photos out of the hundreds that were taken, so I shall also add a slideshow of all our images in the next couple of days, so be sure to check back to this blog post soon!

Attraction Details

Attraction: Madame Tussauds Blackpool
Address: 89 Promenade, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY1 5AA
Ticket prices: Prices vary and start from £14.50. You can find all the different charges and multi-ticket options available here.
Opening Hours: Standard opening hours are Sunday-Friday (10am to 5pm) and Saturday (10am to 6pm).
Website: www.madametussauds.com/blackpool/en/
Twitter: @MTBlackpool
Facebook: facebook.com/MTBlackpool/
Instagram: @MTBlackpool

Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary admission for the purpose of writing an honest review of our experience. All thoughts, opinions and photographs are our own unless stated otherwise.

Monday, 16 April 2018

A Family Day Out at Greenwood Forest Park, North Wales

The last time we visited Greenwood Forest Park was back in February 2017, where upon arrival we were met with quite possibly some of the heaviest rain we had ever experienced. Not to be defeated though, we stayed and enjoyed some of the attractions they had on offer and still had an incredible time despite the bad weather. We promised the children that we would definitely return though on a sunnier day so that they could experience some of the other outdoor activities that were available and we managed to return last week just after the Easter holidays.

The park has gained new ownership in the form of Continuum Attractions since our last visit and so we were keen to see what changes (if any) they had made to Greenwood Forest Park, which was already a well established and much-loved environmentally friendly North Wales attraction.

As per our previous visit the attraction was well signposted from the main road and very easy to find. There is a large main car park, in addition to an overflow car park opposite that provides plenty of spaces. The first change we noticed was the new bright and colourful logo, which we all agreed looked fantastic.

As we made our way to the admission booths, we came across an absolutely stunning peacock that was roaming freely by the entrance. My children thought it was so beautiful and also found it really funny when it began to follow us.

Once we arrived at the main gates, we noticed a large blackboard sign that displayed all the events that were taking place that day along with details of where and when we could find them. We took a photograph of this so that we could refer to it throughout the day and watch one of the shows in the Forest Theatre. You can also view the daily schedule of events on their website here: What's On
Having this information online is a really great idea, as it means you can plan your day and see exactly what events are available prior to your visit. You simply select the date you are visiting on the calendar and the event list will pop up. It also states whether the event or special activity is included or if there is an extra charge, so again this helps with planning if you are visiting on a budget.

There were two admission booths, which meant that the queue to get in reduced very quickly. I noticed that there were different admission rates that vary, depending on whether it is low, mid or high season. During quieter periods some of the activities are unavailable or operate on a rotational basis and so the price for low and mid season costs less in order to reflect this. I think that this is a great idea and means that you are getting good value for money all year round, regardless of whether you visit during the quiet February half term or the peak time of the summer holidays. As we were visiting during the Easter holidays, this classed as peak time and so the entry price for an adult was £15.95 and for children aged 3-15 it was £15.40. Under 3's can enter free of charge, which I think is excellent as there is still plenty to do for the little ones.

Once inside the park, my children quickly demanded that we went straight over to the Green Dragon Rollercoaster, as this had been closed on our previous visit a year earlier. This ride is actually very unique, as it is the world's only people powered rollercoaster. This environmentally friendly ride begins by you walking up a hill to the entrance of the ride, where you then enter a lift. The power that is then exerted by the lift descending, causes the rollercoaster and platform to lift up towards the top of the track. When you then exit the lift, it is another walk back to the top, to take your seats.

The five car coaster can carry 20 people per ride and sets off along a 250 metre track. Reaching speeds of upto 25mph, it is so much fun and an ideal rollercoaster for young children. Once the ride comes to a stop, you alight at the bottom of the hill and the process begins again with the next group of passengers.

If you look carefully in the picture below, you can see the rear of the rollercoaster being lifted up through the woodland as the lift descends.

After the excitement of the rollercoaster, we noticed that there was only a small queue for the archery, so we all made our way over to this sheltered area for some bow and arrow fun. Both Emma and Ben have tried archery many times before, but this was only Riley's second time, having previously attempted it only once before on our previous visit. With the help of his dad and also the instructor, he managed to get two arrows on the board and was extremely pleased with himself. I really liked the fact that this was a covered area, as it meant that this activity can be enjoyed in all weather conditions.

Next we decided to climb up to Snowdon View which is a large wooden platform, that on a sunny day boasts magnificent views of the highest mountain in Wales. Unfortunately as you can see from the photo below, it was a bit too cloudy during our visit, however it did mean that we could see something very exciting in the distance, in the form of the Solar Splash!

Of course no sooner had my children spotted this, we were met with requests to go over to it immediately. Somehow I managed to convince them all to enjoy the other activities that were nearby first, before we took a walk over. Luckily they didn't need much persuasion, once they saw the Treetop Towers and disappeared off into the woodland playground.

This play area is huge and features a combination of timber towers, tube slides and netted walkways. There is also plenty of seating and picnic benches available in this area, so it is the ideal place for parents to have a rest or enjoy a drink whilst the children play. Riley decided that this playground was still a little too big for him and so he went to the adjacent Tunnel Warren instead, which has been designed on a smaller scale for the under 7's. Again this features lots to enjoy with tunnels, slides and rope bridges. There is bench style seating all around this play area, but if you have children in both parks, then you can sit on the picnic benches that are located in the middle and that gives you a good view of both play areas.

My children's favourite activity on this side of the park though, had to be the Great Green Run which is an awesome 70 metre sledge run, that is also the longest in North Wales. You simply pick up your sledge from the bottom of the track, carry it up to the starting point at the top of the hill and then ride at speed down the sledge run. Occasionally they spray water onto the run, which helps the sledges to run a little smoother and pick up some speed. To ensure that smaller children don't miss out on the fun, they have also created a smaller version right next to it, called the Little Green Run and Riley absolutely loved this! I will be uploading a video very soon that shows this fantastic activity, so be sure to check back to this page shortly!

We decided to make a stop at the cafe on our way over to the Solar Splash and we purchased some drinks and snacks. We had eaten a large cooked breakfast on our way to the attraction so none of us were hungry enough for lunch, however we did have a read through the menu and felt that there was plenty of choice for families, all at reasonable prices. The menu had a nice selection on offer, which varied from filled baguettes and jacket potatoes to burgers and snacks.

The children also made use of the large indoor soft play area that is within the cafe whilst my husband and I enjoyed a coffee together. We sat in the attached conservatory area which was nice and warm with plenty of seating and tables. Everywhere seemed very clean and well maintained and we enjoyed a few moments peace whilst the children burnt off some more energy.  When they returned to the table, Ben quickly spotted a dragon mascot walking around outside and so we grabbed a quick photo!

As keen as the children were to get to the Solar Splash area, we couldn't help but stop at the Magic Chair along the way. This clever trickery helps provide you with some fun photos with no photoshopping involved and the chair shrunk Emma much smaller than her five year old brother. Can you figure out how this is done?

The moment then came that Emma and Ben had been waiting for as we arrived at the Solar Splash. Believed to be the first solar powered ride of its kind in the UK, it features a large spiral water slide, along with two fast chutes that stand at the top of a 12 metre high tower. Both Riley and I decided that we were not brave enough to try this, so we stayed firmly at ground level whilst watching Ben, Emma and their Dad climb the stairs to the top. Ben opted to go in a two seater boat with his dad down the yellow spiral slide, whilst Emma chose to be a single rider on one of the open chutes. They definitely travelled with some speed and Emma went on this several times, she loved it so much. There are age and height restrictions on this and some of the other rides, so it is best to check these on the website before visiting. Details of all the rides can be found here: Activities

As we continued our walk around the attraction, we came across a new activity called Woodland Rovers, which is situated where the Donkey Rides used to be. These are a great idea and give children the opportunity to experience what it is like to drive their very own vehicle. There is an additional charge of £2 per child to try this, but my son thought it was fantastic to get the chance to practice his driving skills and manoeuvre around the course, so we didn't mind paying this small fee.

Situated near the Woodland Rovers, was also the Giant Jumper which is like a large bouncy pillow that children can jump up and down on together. Greenwood Forest Park have had the really good idea of offering specific toddler times for this activity too, so that little ones can enjoy a good bounce without the worry of being knocked into by larger children.

Next to this was the Moonkarts, which all of my children remembered from our previous visit. Riley is still a little too small to pedal around the course by himself, but they have two seater passenger karts, so Emma happily volunteered to take him around the track.

The Barefoot Trail was just slightly further down from the Moonkarts, which offers a barefoot sensory experience through different terrains including sand, bark and water. There are plenty of taps on standby for cleaning up afterwards, however we were so cold that I didn't want to even entertain the thought of taking my nice warm socks off, so we chose to give this activity a miss.

Noticing that it was nearly time for Smarty Marty's show over in the Forest Theatre, we made our way back to the other side of the park via the Crocodile Maze. This activity tested my children's problem solving skills as we had to find the correct route. I particularly liked the fact that it was designed to be both pram and wheelchair friendly.

Our last activity of the day was enjoying some comedy and magic with Smarty Marty in the theatre. There was plenty of seating for all the guests and the show was packed full of fun and laughs. There were lots of opportunities for audience participation too, with several children from the audience being invited up to enjoy some plate spinning! This was a really nice end to our day and we will definitely be returning again in the future.

Overall Greenwood Forest Park is a wonderful day out for all fun loving families with a sense of adventure. There is plenty to see and do for guests of all ages and the majority of activities are suitable for all weather conditions. Despite spending a full day here, we ran out of time to try the Den Building, Jungle Boats and the Enchanted Barn, so a return visit is definitely on the cards for the summer. If I was to make any suggestions based on our visit, it would simply be to add the option to purchase a 2nd day ticket at a discounted price. I found that there was so much to do, it would be nice to spread it over two days and I know if we were camping or staying in the area, we would definitely take advantage of a two day ticket. The park is extremely environmentally friendly, well maintained and spotlessly clean throughout, making it an absolutely lovely place to be. It is easy to see why this attraction has won the Family Attraction of the Year Award with The North Wales Chronicle for the 7th year running, as they really do provide a fantastic experience and great day out for all the family.

Attraction Details

Attraction: Greenwood Forest Park
Address: Greenwood Forest Park, Y Felinheli, Gwynedd
Sat Nav Postcode: LL55 3AD
Accessible by public transport: Yes, please see here for further details.

Opening times: Open daily 10am til 5:30pm during the main season which for this year is 17th March 2018 til Sunday 4th November 2018. Please see this page for further details: Prices & Opening Times

Entry price: Admission costs vary dependent on age/season/group size. Discounts are also available for booking online. Full details can be found here: Prices & Opening Times

Website: www.greenwoodforestpark.co.uk
Twitter: @GreenwoodFP
Facebook: www.facebook.com/greenwoodfamilypark

Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary tickets for the purpose of writing an honest review of our experience. All thoughts, opinions and photographs are my own unless otherwise stated. Attraction information is correct at time of writing, but is of course subject to change, so I would always recommend visiting the attractions own website to obtain the most up to date information.

Friday, 13 April 2018

UK Tour of The Jungle Book is heading to The Lowry, Salford on the 2nd-6th May 2018 - Competition!

Children's Touring Partnership and Royal & Derngate, Northampton are delighted to bring their new adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's family classic The Jungle Book to The Lowry from Tuesday 2nd to Sunday 6th May.

Originally written in 1894, Kipling's beloved tale will be re-imagined with a brand new score and script, exploring the universal themes of family, belonging and identity.

The Jungle Book tells of Mowgli the man cub who battles for survival in this heart-warming coming-of-age story about a boy raised by wolves in the jungle. With the help of his animal friends, including Bagheera the panther, Balloo the Bear and Kaa the python, Mowgli outwits the cruel and powerful tiger, Shere Khan, and learns the law of the jungle.

Cast includes Rachel Dawson as 'Kaa Grey', Lloyd Gorman as 'Shere Khan', TJ Holmes as 'Hiran', Avita Jay as 'Raksha', Keziah Joseph as 'Mowgli' Dyfrig Morris as 'Balloo', Deborah Oyelade as 'Bagheera' and Tripti Tripuraneni as 'Akala'. They are joined by Ruri James and Chipo Kureya in the ensemble.

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

The award winning creative team bringing Kipling's timeless story to the stage includes playwright Jessica Swale, director Max Webster and internationally renowned songwriter Joe Stilgoe.

Playwright Jessica Swale has adapted the story for stage. Her previous acclaimed play "Nell Gwyn" won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 2016.

Max Webster directed Dr Seuss' "The Lorax" at the Old Vic, which was nominated for Best Entertainment and Family Show at the 2016 Olivier Awards.

Jessica Swale, writer, said "I jumped at the chance to adapt The Jungle Book because it's such a vivid world - yet, for a writer, there's so much opportunity to imagine the jungle afresh. Part of the book's enduring appeal is that the jungle can be anything we choose. It's a playground, a school, a hideaway, an adventure, so I've enjoyed exploring what sort of place this mysterious, delightful, sometimes scary place might be - and what better way to do that than with Max Webster, one of the most inventive and imaginative directors working today."

"I loved the characters as Kipling wrote them, but wanted to find new voices which resonate now - funny, bright, dynamic voices, with a little more wit, and greater diversity, in terms of place, tone, gender and culture. It's a funny, heart-filled roller coaster of a journey which, I hope, will transport the audience right round the world and back again."

Director, Max Webster, said "The Jungle Book was an instant classic when it was written over a hundred years ago with its story of Mowgli finding his path through the jungle. Each generation has re-imagined this story as their own, and now Jess Swale brings it right up to date in a hilarious and action-packed version for the twenty first century. With wonderful songs by the jazz legend Joe Stilgoe, and packed with adventure, humour and magic this classic tale will tickle the tales of all the family. I am delighted to be working alongside Jessica, Joe, Children's Touring Partnership and Royal and Derngate to bring this vivid adaptation to the stage".

Completing the creative team is set and costume designer Peter McKintosh, musical supervision and orchestration from Paul Herbert, choreography by Lizzi Gee, lighting design by Charles Balfour, puppetry design and direction by Nick Barnes, flight direction by Kate Waters and sound design by Matt McKenzie.

Children's Touring Partnership is led by Fiery Angel and Chichester Festival Theatre. Previous productions include the award winning West End and UK tour production of Goodnight Mister Tom and most recently the UK touring production of Michael Morpurgo's Running Wild.

The show is recommended as being suitable for ages 6+.

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

Listing Details

Show - The Jungle Book
Dates - Tuesday 2nd May til Sunday 6th May
Times - Times vary so please visit The Lowry website to obtain the most up to date information.
Venue - The Lowry, Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ
Box Office - 0843 208 6000

Tickets - £17.50 - £24.50

Running time - 2 hours 15 minutes including interval

To celebrate this wonderful show, we have a fantastic competition for one lucky reader to win a family ticket to see The Jungle Book at The Lowry, Salford. Are you feeling lucky? If you would like to enter, please read the Terms and Conditions and then complete your entry using the gleam form below. Good Luck!

Win a Family Ticket to see The Jungle Book at The Lowry
Terms and Conditions
  • The prize is 1 (one) family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children or alternatively 1 adult and 3 children, but children must be accompanied by an adult.
  • The show has an age guidance of 6+
  • The family ticket is valid for the Jungle Book show only and can be used for a performance time of the winners choice between Wednesday 2nd May and Sunday 6th May that is taking place at The Lowry, Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ. This will be agreed with the winner and once a date/time has been chosen, no amendments or transfer of dates will be permitted.
  • The family ticket will need to be collected from the box office prior to the show.
  • Additional tickets can be purchased seated next to the competition tickets, should the winner wish to bring more guests than the family ticket allows.
  • Tickets are non transferable, there is no cash alternative and they cannot be resold.
  • Tickets cannot be exchanged for another show, if the prize winner is unable to attend on the available show dates between 2nd May 2018 and 6th May 2018.
  • Travel to & from the venue is the responsibility of the winner and no contribution will be made towards travel or parking costs.
  • The family ticket is valid for the date/time/venue/show specified only.
  • The winner's details shall be shared with the promoter for the purpose of prize fulfilment and It's A Family Adventure will request the winner's consent prior to sharing this information.
  • Entry is open to UK residents aged 18 years or over.
  • No bulk/third party or automated entries permitted.
  • Competition opens on 13th April 2018 and will close on Wednesday 25th April 2018 at 12 noon.
  • 1 (one) winner shall be drawn at random from all eligible entrants and shall be notified via email within 3 working days of the closing date. 
  • Due to the time restrictive nature of the prize, the winner shall have 3 (three) days to reply to the winning notification before an alternative winner is drawn from the remaining eligible entrants.