July 2006 Blog
By Anita Chalmers
Our blogger this month is Anita Chalmers, 41, a pharmacist who works for the NHS. Anita lives with her two sons Christopher and Alex in Sunderland.
Victorian Picnic, Belsay Hall
31st July 2006
The Victorian picnic at Belsay Hall couldn't have had better weather. The dancer looked awfully hot in their full length dresses and dress suits but they gamely polka'd across the lawns in front of the Hall. We were forced to join in with the Dashing White Sergeant which took me back to school Christmas party days, but it was secretly quite good fun. There were circus workshop skills for the youngsters and Victorian music although it wasn't clear whether you were meant to have brought your own picnic or not. The grounds are always lovely for a stroll around and the highlight for me was seeing the beautiful crystal 3D horse hanging in the gallery by Stella McCartney. There were lots of other big events on around the region yesterday and I think the numbers at the Victorian picnic may have suffered a bit because of that but a very pleasant and civilised day was had by all.
Magic of the Dance, Sunderland Empire
18th July 2006
It was a sweltering 30 degrees last night at the Empire but still the Magic of the Dance was an energetic toe tapping show. How the dancers managed in thick black stockings and leather trousers I've no idea. The set was very moody and dark to convey the misery of the potato famine and the plight of desperate emigrees looking for a new life in the States. I wasn't too sure about Christopher Lee's narration - it was a bit too Lord of the Rings for me. Some of the dancing was spectacular especially the Demons who were the most exuberant performers. The tap artists were also extremely impressive and contributed some of the lighter notes of the show. The audience certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves with their rapturous applause and cries for more. The house was packed and as we left I heard numerous groups discussing the performance and how much they had enjoyed themselves. So if you enjoyed Riverdance I'm sure you will enjoy this too!
18th July 2006
If you or children love Roman history then definitely take the time to visit Segedunum. Sunday was such a glorious day that I'm sure any homesick Roman soldier would have been comforted. The bath house is awesome and brings to life one of the more pleasant aspects of Roman life. The boys were fascinated to see how the hypocaust worked and wondered why our heating system is not up to the standard. The view from the tower is extremely impressive and helps you to imagine the buildings and the life that was. In fact as with many Roman sites, I half expected a Roman soldier to come around the corner.
The open days are fantastic with the recreation of many aspects of Roman life from the instruments and music, to dyeing, to sacrifices and armour construction. The boys loved the exhibition in particular as it helped them to visualise something they've only read about in books. One word of warning though - they want me to take them to Rome next!
Taming of the Shrew, Kirkleatham Hall
13th July 2006
If Shakespeare has never made you laugh until your sides hurt then you've never seen Oddsocks' version of Taming of the Shrew. Still cleverly using the classic script but combined with ingenious physical comedy from start to finish, this is one not to miss.
Set in the gorgeous grounds of Kirkleatham Hall near Redcar and with the luxury of undercover seating, this is outdoor theatre at its very best. Even the least colourful character is turned into a hilarious and memorable comic creation endowed with a different accent, costume and spectacular wig. Not only is each player very, very funny, but they make the plot extremely eaxy to follow for every the most novice audience member. Petruchio is just the sort of amazing over the top chancer that makes his outrageously un PC behaviour acceptable and Katerina nicely tempers her final speech of submission with tongue-in-cheek physical assault on her lord and master which belies her humble words. There's lots of lively music and a brilliant sort of caravan device which when physically rotated by the cast turns into four different sets.
Wearing Glass, National Glass Centre, Sunderland
11th July 2006
I never fail to be excited whenever I visit the National Glass Centre based literally on Wearside. The exhibition we were visiting was just off the foyer in a light filled studio especially designed to capture as much light as possible to show off the glass exhibits. Jewellery is one of my passions but I am not keen on glass for jewellery as it has a much too low a refractive index to sparkle as much as real jewels and I am the sort of girl who loves a bit of glitter. It's also too heavy and too brittle. Anyway back to the exhibition. The displays were very contemporary and ranged from freakishly grotesque and impractical to absolutely stunning. Some of the necklaces looked like clusters of bladders or bizarre solar systems which would irritate in the extreme as they hung around your neck. Diane East had some fun miniature TVs with rubber in bright primary colours - strictly for the children really. For me Erica Rosenfeld's work stood out alone - it was fine and elegant. The only problem is I would need a new wardrobe to go with it! I enjoyed our visit very much and the coffee afterwards in Throwing Stone restaurant with its view out to the harbour.
Taakin' Heeds, Gala Theatre, Durham
7th July 2006
Af first glance three monologues by Geordie writer Arthur McKenzie didn't seem my type of thing but I was pleasantly surprised. The first was a very moving play about the owner of a gym and the men who worked out with him - there were quite a few members of the audience sniffing towards the end of this. The second was about a retired police officer in his allotment and his relationship with a local gangster. I must admit though my concentration lapsed a little during this one and there was some discussion afterwards about the ending of the play where my friends thought it had a completely different ending to my interpretation! The third was a very funny performance featuring a John Inman-like attendant of an underground public toilet in Newcastle city centre. A good night out, though the first half was spoilt by some very noisy members of the audience on the far side of the auditorium rustling sweets and laughing loudly during the quieter parts of the plays. The acoustics in the theatre were amazing!
Horrible Histories, Sunderland Empire
5th July 2006
Terry Deary's Horrible Histories have been turned into plays and two of these - The Terrible Tudors and The Vile Victorians - are showing at Sunderland Empire this week. At the premiere of The Terrible Tudors on Tuesday, whilst the children outnumbered the adults in the audience, there was more than enough to keep us grown ups amused. I didn't like history at school but this show really brought it to life. We all joined in the actions to the songs and it was great they had mixed stories about royalty with stories about everyday life. We enjoyed the second half more - the 3D effects were brilliant with exploding kegs of gunpowder and witches being dunked in a pond. My only complaints were that the sound effects were a bit loud and there was a problem with the distribution of the special glasses. But when we left there was a definite buzz in the air - everyone had a great time.