Thursday, 25 October 2018

Review: Manon

***Contains spoilers – most of you will already know this famous story and we find it best to know the story before watching a ballet***

This week, the English National Ballet is in town performing Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon. With Jurgita Dronina as Manon, Isaac Hernandez as Des Grieux and Ken Saruhashi as Lescaut.

For those of you that do not know the story of Manon, here’s a quick summary. Young, penniless student, Des Grieux meets the beautiful Manon and they fall in love. Manon’s brother, Lescaut has other ideas and persuades Manon to choose the wealthy Monsieur GM instead. Lescaut makes a bargain with Monsieur GM but before he can introduce him to Manon, she has run off to Paris with Des Grieux. They have a passionate affair before Monsieur GM and Lescaut arrive and Manon is enticed to becoming the wealthy man’s mistress; Des Grieux is left distraught. In Act II Des Grieux is looking for Manon and is convinced to cheat at a poker game to get Monsieur GM’s Money and the lovers run off again and prepare to escape Paris. They are interrupted by Monsieur GM, a beaten Lescaut and armed policemen, panic ensues, Lescaut is killed and Manon is arrested. Act III takes you to New Orleans where Manon has been deported with other prostitutes to be sold as servants. Des Grieux has followed Manon to try to protect her but the Gaoler has taken an interest in Manon and forces her to please him. Des Griex breaks in, kills the Gaoler and the lovers flee. Lost in the Louisiana swamp, they are trapped, delirious and haunted, eventually the strain and anxiety is too much for Manon who dies in her lover’s arms.

As with most ballets, it is a simple story of love and loss which makes it fairly easy to follow what is happening which of course in ballet is portrayed only through the dance without dialogue or song. The dancing truly was mesmerising and there were some incredibly talented dancers on stage. From the leads to the artists of the company, each character was a joy to watch and they all played a critical part in the story and setting the scene.

The stage was one of the simplest sets that I’ve seen but was very effective with huge backdrops, a few props, lighting, smoke and stunning costumes. The orchestra were fantastic and as always at Milton Keynes Theatre, the sound was tremendous!

A highly recommended ballet whether you’re a ballet old-timer or a newbie, you will thoroughly enjoy it.

For tickets, head to

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Benidorm comes to Milton Keynes!

This week, MK Theatre welcomes Benidorm, bringing the Spanish Costa Blanca sunshine and the colourful characters that come with a bit of sun, sea, sand and sangrias. With many of your favourite original cast members including resident lothario come barman Mateo played by Jake Canuso, Janine Duvitski as Jacqueline, Sherrie Hewson as the Solana’s Manageress Joyce Temple-Savage and Shelley Longworth as Sam. Not forgetting Tony Maudsley as Kenneth and Adam Gillen as Liam who between them run the useless, hardly-ever-open hair salon Blow & Go.

What can I say? Benidorm is like Marmite, you either love it or hate it and, like marmite, I love it! I hadn’t actually ever seen a single episode of the ITV series (started 10 years ago!) until earlier this year, when I happened to binge watch all 10 series on catch up. There was just something about the weird, rude, slimy, chavvy, snobby, funny and nasty characters that warmed me to the show – either to laugh at or relate to!

Essentially, the show is about a run-down, badly managed “Four” Star hotel in Benidorm. The hotel’s posh manageress is up against a team of lazy, immature, party-loving staff and guests that are even worse. Desperate to keep the hotel above ground, and keep that fourth star hanging on, Joyce Temple-Savage has her daily battles with everyone. Mateo is more often found flirting with the guests than actually working the pool bar, Kenneth spends his nights partying and days hungover rather than running the salon whilst Liam frantically picks up the pieces and Jacqueline…is, well…Jacqueline and although she misses her late husband Donald dearly, she has many fond tales to tell of the Middlesborough Swingers Association. Sam seems to go out of her way to annoy Joyce and the rest of the staff either don’t speak English (much to the British clientele’s dismay) or are as much use as a chocolate teapot.

The stage was fab. It brought the set to life including the Solana’s reception, Blow & Go salon, pool side and Neptune’s perfectly! I loved the quirky little songs and dance routines in between the scenes which included a tongue-in-cheek dance about sleazy Spanish waiters for Mateo’s entrance and the brilliant love ballad by Gay Derek (Damian Williams). The only thing missing was Les (or Leslie), Liam’s Dad and Mateo’s best friend. A loveable Geordie transvestite who usually has his head together, unlike the rest of them, but he’s currently serving time for tax evasion (which those of you that watch the show will already know).

The whole cast clearly had fun on the stage and we had a great evening as flies-on-the-wall at Benidorm’s naffest hotel.

For tickets, head to