The Gruffalo on tour – A review

As one of the best loved children’s books, Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo has enchanted children – including ours – for many years.

So when I heard it was coming to Cardiff’s New Theatre, I made sure booked tickets for a family afternoon out.

We took our seats in front of the deep dark wood and waited for the show to begin. Performed by a small cast, we were soon introduced to the book’s well-known characters – mouse, fox, owl and snake.

The well-known words of the story were woven into narrative and jolly songs. A particular highlight for me was the Madness-style song by Fox, which featured Madness-style choreography too.

The rapport between the cast was a pleasure to watch and the audience participation was pitched just right. Children were encouraged to speak the words from the book and to fill in the gaps. They helped the mouse by roaring and sitting with pin-drop quietness at the right times.

The snake had many of us – including the narrator – in stitches with his flamboyant performance. The owl worked well as a military-style character ordering poor mouse around before she outfoxed him.

Both of our children were asking for the Gruffalo and what a delight when he took to the stage in a costume of soft layers studded with purple prickles all over his back. He even had the poisonous wart at the end of his nose.

At 55 minutes without an interval, it was a fun telling of the Gruffalo tale at a good length of time for young children. The cast and songs brought fun to the stage in an imaginative telling of Donaldson’s classic tale.

The Gruffalo is on tour across UK theatres until January 2018. Find out more here.

Blogger note: We purchased our tickets and the venue was unaware I would be writing a review.

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Funny Girl – A review

Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of the theatre and shows of the musical variety. It stems from a  musical childhood, years of singing lessons and performing on the stage at school. A time where I didn’t believe – I knew – I was going to play Eponine in Les Miserables when I grew up.

So when I heard the award-winning West End production of Funny Girl was coming to Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre with its star Sheridan Smith I had to get tickets.

The musical tells the tale of singer and comedian Fanny Brice and her rise to fame from Brooklyn to Broadway with Sheridan in the starring role.

Apart from being introduced to Funny Girl through Rachel’s love of it in the TV show Glee, I knew very little of the show, its plot or score.

But Funny Girl had me hooked from the opening number. Sheridan fizzed with wit, energy and sparkle as she stepped on stage, setting the comic tone with her offbeat dancing.    

She soon showed she was much more than a slapstick comedian though with her confident and skilled vocals. And she brought a real depth to the role, meaning you were laughing along one minute then feeling her vulnerability the next.

Although Smith was the standout star, this wasn’t a one-woman show. She was supported by a talented cast of singers, dancers and comics who held their own. The score was melodic, filled with catchy and memorable numbers.

The set was simple, but effective. The vanity table with its trail of lights where Fanny finds herself reflecting and preparing to step into her stage self; the theatre backdrop to which the actors at times perform; the poker table at which her mother and friends gossip and tussle over games of cards.

And the costumes added to the storytelling. We see Fanny transformed from a comic figure in oversized bloomers in scene one to a woman with tailored, shimmering dresses as her star ascends. 

But as her career flies, her husband’s wheeler-dealing leaves him out of pocket. We see their marriage crumble slowly as he relies on Fanny’s money and can’t bear to do so.

As he walks away, and a heartbroken Fanny summoned the energy to perform for her crowd, I was done. I started to tear up. 

And as Sheridan owned the closing bars of Rain on my Parade, I got to my feet like the rest of the audience. A well-deserved standing ovation for a show – and star – that shone.


Funny Girl finished its run at the Wales Millennium Centre on Saturday 8 July. 

Details of forthcoming tour dates and venues are here.

Pride and Prejudice at the Wales Millennium Centre

As an English Literature graduate, and a huge theatre fan, I was more than a little excited when I found out Pride and Prejudice was coming to the Wales Millennium Centre.

I was also a little nervous. I love the Austen novel and have enjoyed many TV and film adaptations of it over the years (Colin Firth in a wet shirt anyone?) so I wondered how the story would translate on stage.

Those fears disappeared as this lively production swept us away to the world of the Bennet family and Mrs Bennet’s scarcely hidden ambitions to marry off her five daughters.

Seasoned actors Felicity Montagu and Olivier award winner Matthew Kelly were marvellous as the Bennet parents and set the comic tone of the production, which brought the wit of Austen’s writing and characterisation to life. Montagu is a brilliant choice for schemer and walking hyperbole Mrs Bennet, whose wild emotions and reactions led to many a laugh.

Tafline Steen made a lovely Lizzie fizzing with life, forthright opinions and a quick wit. Her knowing looks to the audience made us feel included. It was great to see Lizzie played with such enthusiastic charm.

Benjamin Dilloway was a good Mr Darcey playing the perfect snob at the outset but growing in compassion and self awareness as the play and its plot unfurled.

Another stand out was Steven Meo as Mr Collins, the simpering and snobbish clergyman so desperate to be accepted in higher social circles. His slapstick and comical take on Mr Collins added to the show’s light-hearted feel.

The clever revolving set was simple yet visually effective transporting us between the Bennet household, balls and Pemberley.

I enjoyed little touches such as the letters being delivered by the sender and the dance scenes in which so much of the flirting and verbal sparring happened.

Overall, this was a delightful production that proved Austen is as brilliant today as ever.

I’m looking forward to the same company bringing Jane Eyre to the Centre in the summer.

Did you see Pride and Prejudice during its time at the Wales Millennium Centre? If so, what did you think? 

Blogger note: I bought my ticket for the show and the centre was not aware I was reviewing the show.

A jolly holiday with Mary Poppins in Cardiff

Mary Poppins was my favourite film as a child without a doubt. From Julie Andrews’s pitch perfect voice to the mixture of animation and real life actors to the wonderful score and storyline, it was a film never far from our video player (I grew up in an era of VHS). 

So when I heard that Mary Poppins was coming to the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, I snapped up tickets as quickly as I could. 

We saw it last night and from the moment the curtain lifted, the show was a delight. Colourful sets, distinctive choreography and Zizi Strallen’s perfect Poppins – as well as that brilliant score – created a fun family show.

Strallen’s vocals were spot on and she was supported by a talented cast. Highlights for me included the chimney sweepers’ fancy footwork in Step in Time and the Jolly Holiday imagination scene, which transformed the stage into bright bursts of colour.


Although it featured the most well-loved narrative of the film, it also had its own identity with new characters and songs. I particularly liked the increased focus on Mrs Banks. The Votes for Women sash was gone and replaced with a more in depth look at the pressures she felt, including a strong addition to the score, Being Mr Banks

It was a joyous show made all the more joyful for having many children in the audience. The young girl sitting behind me was singing along word for word at times clearly transfixed by the performance.

There are some further bits that add to the magic and wonder but I’d rather not spoil it for those of you who aren’t in the know. But let’s just say it’s as magical onstage as it is on screen. Bravo!

Have you seen Mary Poppins on stage? I’d love to hear what you thought of it.

Mary Poppins is at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 14 January 2017.