Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Hairspray At Nottingham Theatre Royal REVIEW

Exploding gloriously onto stage like a giant psychedelic sequinned-scattering party-popper, Hairspray hit Nottingham running and generating enough breathtaking energy to sky-rocket the sub-zero February temperatures all the way up to eleven and settled in to go-go on with the show which is twisting and shouting in town for a whole fabulous, flamboyant fortnight.

Addressing hard-hitting racism and segregation issues in 1960s Baltimore with unabashed full-on thunderous ra-ra razzmatazz, Hairspray is a joyous, feelgood spectacle, both fervently and light-heartedly making everything and anything seem possible.

Cha-cha-ing without putting a foot wrong or a hair out of place, and sprayed to within an inch of their haircuts, this is a one hundred percent tip-top top-notch inch-perfect cut-above show. Cast, singing, dancing and staging all bellow out QUALITY and are topped off with the roof-raising, hair-off-your-face-blowing knockout performance by the supreme and divine X Factor semi-finalist Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle together with a truly touchingly-funny double act of Nottinghamshire-bred Norman Pace and the toweringly gorgeous Matt Rixon as star-turn Tracy Turnblad's parents, awww.

Get on up, get down and get up again and shake what your mother gave you for the not-standing-but dancing ovation after the eye-popping, jaw-dropping, back flipping finale. Confidentially, we recommend you leave your calculus for the morning bus, doo-wop doo-wop a dinga linga shimmy-shimmy right on over to Nottingham Theatre Royal and spray it all over liberally at maximum volume for sensational glittery shine, technicoloured vitality and long-lasting hair-raising bedazzling pizazz (keep away from naked flames.)

Hairspray is at Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 24 February. Full details and ticket prices are available on the Theatre Royal website

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Cinderella At Nottingham Playhouse REVIEW

Once upon a time, in a magically serendipitous local Christmas fairytale, no sooner had one newly matched Royal couple visited our fair city this very week then, slap my thigh, another popped merrily right up the very next day, complete with a Meghan Markle-lookalike Cinderella in the launch of the annual Nottingham Playhouse Christmas panto. 

A beautifully charming dancing woodland creature scene with delightfully gambolling badgers, foxes and hedgehogs, a loveable Buttons and a boy-band-blonde Prince Charming rockin some damn fine duets with a genial Dandini all set the scene of cutesy panto adorableness which all suitably crazily descended into a madcap riot with the unleashing of the triple-threat-terrible-trio of the Step Sisters and their Auntie, the Dowager Duchess Devilla, deliciously-devilishly played by a raucous Rebecca Little.

And oh boy, was John Elkington doing it for himself as sensational Step-Sister Bella, whether wisecracking local gags, batting away first night glitches with a flutter of false eyelashes or belting out a bring-the-house-down torch song solo, woah!

What the show lacked in a bit of a short-changed side-step off-stage transformation scene and a royal palace ball scene that only appeared to have five guests, it gleefully made up for with great one liners and sight-gags including a brilliantly simple joke about hiding a key under a clock that was only a painting on the set, an in-out in-out screwball broken-down car comedy routine, whooped-up incongruous dance routines and local reference jokes taking the mick out of everything from Beeston to Broadmarsh all mixed together with more running gags about sponsors Nottingham City Transport than you could shake a Robin Hood Pay As You Go Card at (with another two gags guaranteed to turn up right behind -you!) All topped off with a surreal but strangely soothing tap dancing fluffy bunny rabbits number.

But the funniest part of the show was the fantastic ad-libbing by John Elkington with children from the audience brought onstage to sing along with Bella in the Songsheet Scene. And there was also a special surprise guest appearance onstage (and apparently the biggest surprise to himself) by none other than Adam Penford on his very first day as the new Artistic Director of Nottingham Playhouse.

With a glorious array of outrageous costumes, beautiful dresses, a glittering golden carriage and stunning crystal slippers to sprinkle stardust on your festive season, it's time to officially cross Prince Harry off your Christmas wishlist and treat yourself instead to a Haribo sweetie high, wave your spinning psychedelic toy windmills in the air, indulge in cathartic bellowing audience participation and release your pre-Christmas angst and/or get right into the festive spirit, Nottingham Playhouse Cinderella panto-style.

Cinderella is at Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 20 Jan 2018. Full details of show times and ticket prices can be found on the Nottingham Playhouse website

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Low In High School By Morrissey ALBUM REVIEW

So there was a time when Morrissey word association games usually went ‘Glasses! Oscar Wilde! Kittens!’…now they’re more likely to go, ‘Farage! Airport security! Italian policemen!’. Morrissey enjoys a devoted global following and yet even they are scratching their heads and wondering just how to react to all of Moz’s strangely contemptuous and ill-advised pronouncements, trying to explain it all away as Morrissey being typically perverse, not playing by the rules and refusing to ‘be nice’. 

 Anyway, what I would say to everyone- naysayer or tattooed follower (and I am in the latter camp- full disclosure here- no fake news)- just play the first track on Low In High School – My Love I’d Do Anything For You- earsplittingly loud, stomp your glam boots, use wooden spoons and saucepans as make shift drums and practice elephant style bellowing noises and forget all the UKIP silliness- Morrissey is STILL a godamn genius, I’m afraid, and you ain’t getting away from that easily. I’m not saying that the album is perfect all the way though and there are some serious horse troughs of woefulness there. For example; the weirdly leaden and rambling anti-soldier diatribe I Bury the Living. Morrissey can be brilliant on masculinity- I refer you to I’m Not A Man on World Peace is Not of Your Business- hell, I’ll even refer you to Vicar in a Tutu if you want to go back to 1986’s The Queen is Dead, but this just feels like back of a beermat writing. I don’t like the silly artwork on the cover and Who Will Protect Us from The Police is basically the same sentiment as live favourite Ganglord (which Morrissey helpfully accompanies with a montage of US police brutality).

 But I’ve known committed Morrissey despisers to hum Spent the Day in the Bed over the last few months, especially with the amount of airplay it has received (which surely even Morrissey couldn’t complain about), and All the Young People Must Fall In Love is a charming dismissal of world leaders (‘Presidents come, presidents go, And nobody remembers their name two weeks after they go’) interspersed with young love- ‘the kids around here have the best idea’. And there are many times on this album when Morrissey’s voice sounds truly magnificent- just listen to the final bars of Home is a Question Mark- he might not be breaking into falsetto anymore, but his voice has a strength and richness to it that is undiminished despite the rigours of endless touring and intermittent poor health. Second single Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up on Stage is a quirky, self-referencing exploration of how the allure of fame and adulation can make everyday life seem deceptively meaningless (‘Jacky cracks when she isn’t on stage’)-   and is another stomper. It might not have bellowing elephant calls but a killer chorus of ‘Exit! Exit! Everyone is heading for the exit!’ is guaranteed to get into your head – so take the easy way and give in.


Lyn Lockwood is a teacher and writer living in Sheffield. She has been listening to Morrissey since she first heard Reel Around the Fountain on John Peel  in 1980-something

Friday, 13 October 2017

Roxy Ball Room Nottingham REVIEW

There's a whole new ballgame in town and when we say it's called Roxy Ball Room - we don't mean you'll be needing your dancing shoes, neither.

With specially commissioned Jimi Hendrix graffiti-artwork decor, psychedelically-colourful Beer Pong tables plus pool and ping pong tables, Roxy Ball Room is like a kaleidoscopic, spaced-out-chilled-out grown-ups' playground, serving up a night of fun, games and various alcoholic concoctions.

Fast food grub is also available with the California Chicken burger our confidential fave, which washes down very nicely with a purdy pink Berry Smash, our signature cocktail of choice. Sharing trays, pizza, doughballs, mocktails and craft beers will keep you going or you can get up and go-go burn it all off ping-ponging.

Winning extra bonus points for the pretty frickin' awesome background music and outstanding service from the friendly staff and offering a wacky and welcome alternative to those too many two-a-penny sitting-in-a-corner-with-a-pint-with-nuffin-much-going-on places, confidentially, Roxy Ballroom shoots, scores and good and proper puts the ping and beer into your pong.

And you can see lots more photos of Roxy Ball Room in glorious technicolour on our Facebook page

Roxy Ball Room is at 10 Thurland Street. Full details and prices can be found on their website

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Crazy For You At Nottingham Theatre Royal REVIEW

Loaded to the rafters with lashings of classic musical numbers, Crazy For You is a hybrid-Gershwin mash-up, a let's-put-the-show-on-right-here/mistaken identity kray-zee tale, punctuated by cracking oneliners, sight gags, physical jokes and some of the most sublime stage show songs of all time.

Achingly-beautifully voiced leading lady Charlotte Wakefield delivers mesmeric crystal-clear performances of Someone To Watch Over Me, Embraceable You and But Not For Me, transcending the silly-nonsense story all the way up to top quality theatre.

But the star of the show we've all come to see is Tom Chambers' moves- and boy, does he bring them, and loads of old Hollywood-stylee all over the dancefloor - and then some. Toe-twisting and slide-gliding with panther-like grace, he swoops, he soars, he scores and he dances with alpha-male ownage, leaping onto piano tops and nimbly clambering up nervewracking ladders and high platforms, whew.

The show slowly builds and then firmly finds its feet in the Act One climax performance of I Got Rhythm, a jaw-dropping, glorious, fantastical tangle of rootin' tootin' singing and tap dancing mixed up with (count 'em) QUADRUPLE threat musicians playing their instruments right dang in the middle of it all and with Tom Chambers dexterously playing drumsticks on the upturned feet of the dancing girls, it's the show-stopping musical money-number. Choreographer, take a bow.

Looking hot but not given enough to do is the woefully under-used former Strictly winner Caroline Flack, strangely denied any kind of killer dance-routine that we all know she could pull off, no sweat. And if only we could have seen Polly's mum dance on stage!

Cray-cray and cute, plucky, screwy and sunny, Crazy For You is a tonic of fun to warm you up in this chilly season. Confidentially, we recommend you go nuts fer it.

Crazy For You is at Nottingham Theatre Royal until 7th October 2017. For full details of show times and ticket prices can be found on the Theatre Royal website

Monday, 3 July 2017

Dinosaurs Of China Exhibition REVIEW

Photo copyright Laura Patterson  ©
Nottingham, get ready to stampede from here all the way to October to the most jaw-dropping Jurassic-tastic prehistoric fantastic beasts show not only right here in town but ONLY right here in town!
Mamenchisaurus copyright Laura Patterson  ©
With exhibits ranging from the massive and mighty Mamenchisaurus right down to the adorable little Mei Long dinosaur that's actually small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, the Dinosaurs Of China Exhibition is THE world-exclusive event of the summer. Spread over the two sites of Nottingham's Wollaton Hall and Lakeside Arts, the exhibition tells the story of how birds evolved from dinosaurs and features 26 specimens, 3D mounted skeletons, detailed replicas and original fossils.

Photo copyright Laura Patterson  ©

TV presenter, renowned naturalist and lifelong dinosaur fan Chris Packham is supporting the event. "I'm tremendously excited, there are some remarkable specimens here," he told us confidentially. "They've done such a brilliant job to get these specimens on loan. For me, it's all about transforming the way people perceive these ancient animals and I think that many people still think they were relatively unintelligent, slow-moving, cold-blooded, lizard-like things. They were none of those things, they were rapid, warm-blooded, social and feathered in many instances. This is about the science, this is about the real deal. And we've learned so much more in recent years and this is a great opportunity for the public to have their impressions updated.

Chris Packham copyright Laura Patterson  ©
"I think Wollaton Hall as a venue is fantastic, I like the mix of the old and the new, I'm a museum buff and I had an opportunity to look at their natural history collection, it's a remarkable collection of bird taxidermy and other mammals too. And this is a brilliant modern exhibit, it's got a narrative to it, it's got an overall purpose and the purpose is that you come here and from utilising the space and the specimens that have come all the way from China, you leave understanding that in fact, dinosaurs aren't extinct, they live on in the form of birds which are flying around outside."

Famous for quoting Smiths lyrics whilst presenting Springwatch on television, could Chris quote any dinosaur-relevant Smiths lyrics? "Well - of course, there would be Panic if any of these things were recreated and they were rampaging around, no doubt about that," he quips brilliantly straight away. "And downstairs in Wollaton Hall, there's no doubt that if the Sinraptor got its way, then it would be a case of Big Mouth Strikes Again. I could go on forever but I won't."

Photo copyright Laura Patterson  ©

Dr Adam Smith is the curator of the exhibition and the Nottingham Natural History Museum, and, with a lifelong interest in dinosaurs and fossils, he has even been involved in the naming of newly-discovered dinosaur species "I'm the main curator and there are two of us but it was actually Dr Wang Qi's idea to do this exhibition in the first place. He's a lecturer at Nottingham University in the architecture department and his background is in how museums use space to tell stories, so when he visited Wollaton Hall, he was surprised to find it's a Natural History Museum as well and it combines his two interests. So, five years ago, he came here and said, I've got this idea and through his connections in China, he was able to bring the Chinese dinosaurs and this is where we are now. Once the project started to get rolling, we worked together to select the objects and decided on the story we wanted to tell between us. It was quite complicated to organise but it's so rewarding to see the exhibition come together now."

Dr Adam Smith copyright Laura Patterson  ©
A concerted effort has been made to keep the entrance fee to the Wollaton Hall exhibition as affordable as possible whilst entrance to the Lakeside Arts exhibits is completely free. Family-friendly events, talks and workshops will also be taking place in conjunction with the exhibition.

The Dinosaurs Of China Ground Shakers To Feathered Flyers World Exclusive Exhibition is at Wollaton Hall and Lakeside Arts right now until 29 October 2017. Full details can be found on the official Dinosaurs of China website

And you can see lots more photos of the exhibition in glorious technicolour on our Nottingham Confidential Facebook page

Photo copyright Laura Patterson  ©

Monday, 19 June 2017

Aegon Open Nottingham Women's Tennis Final REVIEW

Donna Vekic, Aegon Open Nottingham Champion,  lifts the Elena Baltahca Trophy

Advantage Vekic

The Aegon Open Nottingham final ended with cordite hanging in the air following a shock victory in three sets by Donna Vekic over Johanna Konta.

This is the third season in the event’s present incarnation with Konta having made her debut here as a wild card in 2015 ranked 147 by the WTA. In between a semi-final in the Australian Open, a quarter-final in the Olympics and WTA premier wins have catapulted her both into the world’s top ten and -  not least following an outspoken appearance on Jonathan Ross – established her as a celebrity.

Arriving now as World No. 8 and facing an unfamiliar list of entrants, Konta had made smooth progress through to the final with her play attracting plaudits for its power and fluency. Expectation therefore on Sunday for the first WTA win by a British Woman on home soil since Sue Barker in Brighton 36 years ago were high.

However rankings have generally provided an unreliable yardstick for progress in Nottingham and in the striking form of Donna Vekic, Konta faced an opponent for whom the word combustible hardly does justice.

The World No. 70’s semi-final victory over the fancied Lucie Safarova was a three-set thriller characterised by dazzling stroke play interspersed with high drama. The Croatian has a natural sense of theatre which forms an integral part of her game.

In her Saturday evening performance, this found expression in her battling an internal monologue and exhibiting an emotional range that ran from ‘Theda Bara as Medusa’ glares at officials, to full on lung-busting rants sending the crowd scurrying to their phones to consult the Croatian option on Google translate.

The stage for Sunday’s final was set suitably for a diva therefore with a picture perfect Centre Court and blistering sun substitutes for a proscenium arch and klieg lights.

At first, the action appeared to be sticking to a predictable script with Vekic losing her opening service game and her confidence struggling in the face of Konta’s rhythmic, baseline power game. The first set dashed by 6-2.

Runner-up Johanna Konta
The second set appeared to be heading the same way when Vekic suddenly assumed the role of heroic underdog. Her gunnery and radar at last began functioning with 110mph serves and huge groundstrokes finding the lines. Konta had no immediate answer. Consistency started to desert the Brit and despite some canny improvisation - a series of drop shots on key points left the Croat looking like a giraffe slipping on a banana skin – Vekic’s momentum took her through to a second set tie-break win.

The Brit seemed to recover early in the third set but ultimately it was her and not Vekic’s frustration which told; the latest in a series of poor line decisions – an unhappy feature of this tournament -  leading to a heated haranguing of the umpire.

In a final twist, Vekic surrendered a 3-1 lead with a resurgent Konta breaking serve to first level then head into a 4-3 lead but Vekic kept her composure, broke back and served out at 6-5 bringing the curtain down on her second WTA win to generous applause.

This has been a pleasing week overall benefitting from – at last! - fine weather, a condensed format integrating several titles into seven days, high-profile players, entertaining finals and worthy champions. With attendances increasing, organisers would do well to secure further marquee names next year so as to guarantee the continuing success of Nottingham tennis well into the future.


Friday, 16 June 2017

La Strada (Remastered) DVD REVIEW

What makes a classic film?  It’s old. It’s in black and white. It’s in a foreign language. It’s critically claimed to be a classic. Oscar winner, for the first Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, La Strada ticks all the boxes.

Once you get past the dubbing, something that seemed to be quite commonplace for Italian films of a certain vintage, the question is has La Strada stood the test of time?  Well there is no dressing up the story through modern eyes.  The press release states “….Mesina plays Gelsomina, a naïve young woman sold by her desperate mother to boorish strongman Zampino (an immensely charismatic Anthony Quinn) to be both his wife and performance assistant as he tours central Italy.”  I would call Gelsomina a vulnerable young woman who is sold into modern day slavery.  Zampino is called a brute and he is one.  He, as Gelsomina puts it “goes with women” and in her case whether she likes it or not.  Gelsomina ends up with Stockholm Syndrome a condition where a hostage falls in love with their captor.   However Gelsomina does ‘escape’ and finds a kindred spirit in the character called the Fool (Richard Basehart).  Unfortunately Zampino finds Gelsomina, although there still might be hope for her as all three end up in the same travelling circus.

The love triangle yields one the films funniest moments.  Having had ‘her head turned’ by the charismatic Fool a confused Gelsomina walks into a circus tent post.  Perhaps this is symbolic as the love triangle ends in tragedy.

Time passes and on the road again there is a key moment in the film where Gelsomina has a psychotic break to which Zampino responds by saying “You’re not right up here.”  This is rich coming from a man who amongst his sins has stolen from nuns who have gave him and his ‘wife’ shelter from a storm.

The film is all about Mesina whose excellent performance as Gelsomina is mesmerising even if at times Gelsomina seems a bit player in her own life.

This is a good-looking film beautifully restored with a beautiful score by Nino Rota.  La Strada is indeed a classic.  Is it a reminder that the world for women has not changed much?  Unfortunately La Strada is indeed as relevant today as it was when it was made.


D? C.I.?

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Funny Girl At Nottingham Theatre Royal REVIEW

Following not only in those formidable funny footsteps of Barbra Streisand but also famously filling in for Sheridan Smith is a serious ask spectacularly answered by the phenomenal Natasha Barnes as leading lady Fanny Brice in this delectable Menier Chocolate Factory musical revival of Funny Girl.

Nailing those legendary power anthems and sensitive numbers alike, owning and stealing every scene, combining breathtaking energy and heartbreaking pathos it's an extraordinary tour de force performance/walk in the park by a girl on fire. Confident, commanding and comfortable, loveable and huggable, this Replacement is a natural and a star.

Oh and hey, Mr Arnstein! Get a load of the former Pop Idol-finalist turned smooth-with-all-the-moves matinee-idol-heart-throb Darius! Knocking our eyes out with Hollywood-movie star looks and crooning with a voice of honeyed-velvet, Darius is an irresistible revelation and a perfectly cast love-match, oozing old-school charm and seduction, oh boy, yes siree and no kidding.

This whole show is an inch-perfect production, gorgeously-costumed, lavish and swish,
featuring a stunning dual-aspect stage with stylishly-slinky scene transitions, a tip-top top-notch cast, and gloriously glamourous dancing girls and boys and favourite highlights include the hilariously-sexy dinner-and-chaise-longue seduction scene and the beautifully and thrillingly choreographed helluva par-tay back home at Henry Street.

A delicious distraction from recent sad events in this summer of uncertain times, allow a little extra time for pre-show bag searches and for the standing ovations at the end because sassy, spine-tingling and sensational, she bangs the whole shebang! Confidentially, the joke's on you if you don't go go go and grab yourself a ticket for the hot-dang funniest gal in town.

Funny Girl is at Nottingham Theatre Royal until June 17th. Full details and ticket prices can be found on the Theatre Royal website

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Dinosaurs Of China Exhibition In Nottingham PREVIEW

Mamenchisaurus close up

Get ready for a monster of a summer in Nottingham when the once-in-a-lifetime world-exclusive Dinosaurs of China exhibition stalks into Wollaton Hall and Nottingham Lakeside Arts, grrrrr!

Featuring some of the largest dinosaur skeletons in existence and with a vast selection of genuine fossils and 3D skeletons that have never been seen outside of Asia before, the Dinosaurs of China – Ground Shakers to Feathered Flyers exhibition takes place from 1st July to 29th October at Wollaton Hall and Nottingham Lakeside Arts.

It's promising to be an amazing one-off event and highlights will include the show-stopping Mamenchisaurus  – a dinosaur the same height as three double-decker buses and the Gigantoraptor, the largest feathered dinosaur in the world. The 26 exhibits have been hand-picked to take visitors on a journey through time and show how dinosaurs evolved from ground shakers of the past to the birds we see in our gardens today. As well as 3D skeletons there will be replica and original fossils on display including two type specimens, regarded as the best examples of those species anywhere in the world.


The event will span two family-friendly sites with Wollaton Hall hosting the main exhibition over the summer holidays. The second exhibition at Nottingham University’s public arts centre, Lakeside Arts will welcome the Alxasaurus and the Dilophosaurus which together with the university's own Life Science collection will explore how dinosaurs may have looked.

Dr Adam Smith, Curator at the Nottingham Natural History Museum, Wollaton Hall said, “The exhibition is a one-time opportunity to see some of the world’s best-preserved dinosaur discoveries, and the tallest dinosaur skeleton ever seen in the UK. Many of the fossils on display have only been discovered in the past 20 years and one was named just two years ago.”

The exhibition has also attracted support from respected TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham. With a lifelong passion for palaeontology, he's keen to help tell the story of dinosaur evolution through the exhibits on show. Chris said, “The way dinosaurs have evolved is truly fascinating and I’m passionate about spreading the message far and wide. Dinosaurs have long been perceived as huge scaly beasts but now we’re finding out that this was only part of the story. This exhibition provides a real once in a lifetime chance to see some of the most exciting dinosaur discoveries in recent years and learn more about how dinosaurs actually looked when they roamed the Earth.”

Dinosaurs of China is a collaboration between Nottingham City Council and the University of Nottingham who have worked closely with the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing and the Long Hao Institute of Geology and Paleontology Inner Mongolia.

Tickets for the Wollaton Hall exhibition are now on sale. Prices are £7.70 for an adult and  £5.50 for a child. There is a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) for £22.00. Children under five go free and the event welcomes school parties at a reduced price. Entry to the Lakeside exhibition is free of charge.

For more information, please visit

Chris Packham