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Life – it gets busy, full of complicated tasks. Leaving us – parents, short of time to concentrate on our most precious assets -our kids. After having prepared and passed all of her exams, my eldest deserved a reward. She had read so many classic books, even if they were tedious and boresome at times for her young acquisitive brain. She prefered more action-p

acked and light reading like the ones by David Walliams. Hence, she was excited, to say the least when I announced that I am taking her to see one. “Billionaire boy” was one of the books she read. I, on the other hand, was a little sceptical, to be frank. As my reading taste lies within the classics category.

The bestselling children’s author David Walliams and the award-winning Birmingham Stage Company have teamed up again for a brand-new production of Billionaire Boy. This is their third collaboration after the Olivier Award-nominated Gangsta Granny and acclaimed Awful Auntie productions. Billionaire Boy started life as a David Walliams novel for children in 2010, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, and was filmed for the BBC in 2016.

Billionaire Boy tells the story of Joe Spud, who is twelve years old and the richest boy in the country. He has his own sports car, two crocodiles as pets and £100,000 a week pocket money. But what Joe doesn’t have is a friend. Being bullied at posh school and having no friends, made him unhappy. So he decides to leave his posh school and start at the local comp. But things don’t go as planned for Joe and life becomes a rollercoaster as he tries to find what money can’t buy!

He tries to hide his dad’s wealth. He gets along with one of his classmates until his habit of buying everything and everybody takes the better of him. Trying to pay the bullies, who bully his only friend, Joe ends up losing him too. His efforts of appearing like any other child nullifies when his dad delivers his homework in a helicopter. Thus leaving him without any real friend. And making him miserable again.

The production is full of funny moments. The songs, the dances and the humour intended for us adults keep it all entertaining. My daughter liked the scenes with Mrs Trafe’s abominable food. The cockroach cake, non- baked potatoes with slime on it, with added ear wax as an extra flavour anyone? We both liked the teacher songs and were singing and referring to them on the way back home. “Don’t run, walk”, “You are not shaming yourself, but the whole school”,  “if you have got something to say, say it to everyone in the class” 🙂

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Joe comes to senses after finding out the new boy was actually paid to be his friend. He tries to run away. I am glad Walliams brings this issue up. Having a preteen, I can see this easily happening. Thus us parents, we need to spend a lot of time and effort trying to connect to our kids. Meeting their basic needs of love and being there for them through rough and good times. As everything seems so big in their eyes at these hormonal times. I discussed this point with my child and was glad that this prompted the conversation. We came to an agreement and sealed it with a nice song from this show.

After finding out his dad is completely broken, Joe who was at Raj’s at a time rushes back home. To make sure his only parent, his dad is ok. He forgets his bitterness, his disbelief of dad’s new girlfriend who only is there for the money. Joe only wanted to see his dad and be there for him. This is another good point to stress with kids. When times get rough, the most important thing is a family. If one is in good health, the rest will follow.

Seeing his dad calms Joe. Dad says he can take his things from his room while other things are being repossessed. Joe runs into his room and comes back with the only thing behind his back. The loo roll rocket that his dad made when they did not have anything. This goes to show again, that best things in life are free. We have to remember it. Being there for our families and kids, making the best of what we have got is far more valuable in their eyes than millions worth sports cars or pet crocodiles.

2. Billionaire Boy Live On Stage by Birmingham Stage Company. Photo by Mark Douet 650A9990

Billionaire Boy is adapted and directed by Neal Foster, designed by Jackie Trousdale, lighting by Jason Taylor, sound by Nick Sagar and music by Jak Poore.

I and my daughter loved this production. We came out rich in a happy experience and covered important topics with my preteen. Thus it gets double 5*s from us.

Billionaire Boy is suitable for ages 5 +

Book online at http://www.orchardtheatre.co.uk

 

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It is hard knock life!

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I took my 10-year-old daughter to this musical. Before coming we watched the movie together and we were singing the songs from it for days. We could not wait for the day to come and see the musical. Finally, the day arrived. We left the younger siblings with their dad and off we went on a mother-daughter date. Upon arrival the theatre was buzzing, lots of girls came dressed as Annie. The excitement in the air could be felt easily.

It started in the flat of Miss Hannigan, old 30s style rather tatty decor. The girls who were preparing to go to bed – were in rags too. After being told off by Miss Hannigan the first song “It’s hard knock life” came. We were taken how the young girls could sing such high notes. We could feel their anger and disappointment. Craig Revel Horwood was barely recognisable under his make up, but boy was he good!? After seeing him being a judge in “Strictly come dancing” for years, I wanted to see him on stage. This dream came true and he delivered on it! I didn’t know he could sing, act as well as he dances- he was  flawless.

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As the scene is set in the 1930s, all of the actors were wearing beautiful clothes from those times and embalming our hearts with exceptionally choreographed dances/ songs. We both liked their costumes, their moves and we sang along together the songs. We laughed, we cried, we enjoyed the whole show. The homeless of Hooverville saddened us. But the moment Annie met her dog, the whole audience melted. The songs and the dances of “NYC” were personally one of my favourite ones.  This musical has two parts of one hour with one intermission in the middle. But it is so engulfing we have not felt how an hour went when first curtains drew. We quickly grabbed our drinks, as we didn’t want to be late for the second part.

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The second part, where one gets to see the president Franklin D Roosevelt. His cabinet and how optimism helped overcome what was an economic disaster. This staying optimist was one of the key messages that my daughter liked. I hope she keeps this and looks at a brighter side of things. I thought I may sing the song “Tomorrow” whenever she starts to get overwhelmed.

“Annie” is a must-see musical for every child that complains about their lives nowadays. This musical was originally written about the Great Depression. How the US’s banking system collapse lead to millions of people being left on the streets, starving, resulting in numerous orphans. Annie was one of them. Today’s interpretation makes one think of what’s happening in the world, how a refugee would feel abroad left without any relatives or parents. Thus, this musical opens one’s eyes to the emotional and psychological turmoils of a struggling young person. Who is facing those hardships due to political instability in his/her country. My ten-year-old was in tears, she said she was sorry for all the irrational drama and that she appreciates, even more, everything she has. Besides the song “You’re never fully dressed without a smile” is another good one remember. As a smile can save the world.

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It is amazing the number of songs, music, dances and text the cast had to learn to perform in this musical. One can see and feel their professionalism, dedication, military work done behind to achieve such a pristine show. It received standing ovations at the end. We both loved it, came out inspired, singing the songs and retained the message of being positive and appreciative of everything we have.

A brilliant musical about a young orphan girl with optimistic views, which led her to a bright future.

“Annie” the musical gets 5*s from us!

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Is it this time of the year again? We always look forward to the festive pantomime of the year. This year – The Orchard Theatre Dartford presented “Aladdin”. When I saw that Marti Pellow will be starring, I knew we won’t be let down. We booked our tickets and started the count down.

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The theatre seats were packed, no wonder given the cast, Ricky K, David Robbins to count a few. I was looking forward to the singing of Marti Pellow, who has achieved some of the UK’s biggest number one singles.

Straight from the beginning the show was full of magical moments. The kids were engulfed by jolly music, colourful characters of goodies and baddies. The nine year old, the four year old and the baby were all mesmerised. We didn’t feel two hours pass! The props were fantastic, one feels that a lot of money and creative thinking was put into the process of production. The jokes Ricky K, acting as Wishee Washee was throwing at audience, had us in stitches. The tongue twisters, they were saying with Marty Pellow, were long. We could not believe they could pronounce such long tongue twister sentences in one breath. We tried to say out couple of those, we could only get couple of words, let alone sentences.

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The “Aladdin” panto was in my opinion very well staged. There were lots of connotations of it coming from famous “1001 nights”. The famous compilations of tales created in Asia and travelled through the Great Silk road. Thus it hit home for us. We were really glad to understand and recognise the costumes, the storyline. I was proud to say to my children, that “1001 nights” consisted of more than 260 tales. It is more than “Chronicles of Narnia”, “The Lord of the Rings” and Harry Potter books combined! There is a fascinating fact for my bookworms! The costumes the dances ranged from China, Russia, Egypt and more. This was one of the best family time spent together. Ricky K’s humour, David Robbins’ colourful costumes and wigs were a highlight of the show too. We enjoyed singing together, recognizing the top hits and dancing together. We were belly laughing to the jokes and adults enjoyed the subtler ones. The show included the audience from start to finish, so there was plenty a chance to participate. The 3D effects were a great bonus in the second part of the show and made the trip on a flying carpet realistic. This was one of the best family time spent together.

“Aladdin” gets all of the five starts from us!

 

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Attention! Attention! Do not say that you did not hear and do not miss this opportunity!

Number 1 pre-school show on BBC iplayer with over 250mln requests, Bing, goes to theatre! Calling  all Bingsters!  Bing  and  his  friends  are  going  on  tour  in  the  first  ever  Bing  stage show- “Bing Live!” will  visit  The  Orchard  Theatre,  Dartford,  on  Wednesday  25  July  as  part  of  a major  UK  tour  in  2018.

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Are not we all lucky to have Bing Live! on stage and oh so close to home. I have jumped on this opportunity to book my tickets and thus I had a very powerful tool of negotiation with my toddler for a FORTNIGHT NOW! Talk about ruling the parenting thing (at least for little while), she has become an image of perfection since hearing about www.bingliveshow.com .

There is no parent who doesn’t know about Bing, the show that we all relate to, albeit it is calmer, quieter version of our everyday parenting struggles. It’s  no  coincidence  that  watching  Bing  and  Sula  squabble over  sharing  a  balloon  or  dropping a  just-baked  cake  sees  the  average  parent  wondering  if  the  show’s  producers  have  been eavesdropping on their parenting lives. For as well as 23  writers,  there  are two  Montessori teachers,  four  education  experts  and  child  linguists  working  on  each Bing  script.  Their  aim  is to  create  a  programme  that’s  just  as  likely  to  teach  parents  a  patient  way  to  help a  toddler through  their  tantrum  as  it  is  to  give  that  child  some  quiet  time  in  their  day.

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Join  Bing,  Sula,  Coco  and  Pando  as  they  learn  how  to  tell  stories  by  pretending,  dressing -up  and  singing  songs.  Flop and  Amma  are  there  to  help,  but  in  this  magical  world  of  make-believe  things  don’t  always  go  according  to  plan… The  CBeebies  favourites  are  brought  to  life  in  a  brand  new  stage  production  full  of  fun,  laughter,  music  and  magical puppetry.   Bing  Live!  is  the  perfect  first  theatre  trip  for  pre-schoolers  and  their  families. Going  to  the  theatre…it’s  a  Bing  thing!

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The  series  has  won  an  International  Emmy  Award  in  the  Kids’  Pre-School  category  in  2016,  a  Writer’s  Guild  Award and  a  BAFTA  nomination  for  Best  Pre-School  Series.  The  animated  series,  which  saw  Mark  Rylance  make  his  children’s  television  debut  voicing  Flop,  is  produced  by  Acamar  Films.

With  Bing Live!  brought  to  life  by  magical  puppetry, producers  turned  to  Tahra  Zafar  –  the animatronics and costume maestro whose career has included  working  with  the Queen  on her  first  ever  acting  role  (at  the  2012  Olympics’  Opening  Ceremony) as  well  as  blockbuster shows  from Harry  Potter  and  the  Philosopher’s  Stone to Star  Wars  VII.

To  book  tickets  or  for  more  information  visit orchardtheatre.co.uk  or  call  the Ticket  Office  on  01322  220000

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Every little girl has heard the Cinderella story, but seeing it on stage is another level of excitement. My children were besotted when I announced that we were going to see “Cinderella” on stage and write a review for it.

When we arrived at Orchard Theatre, Dartford, the whole theatre had been transformed into a magical enchanted land. There was a castle right in front of the entry. The boys were getting the light sabres, the girls were getting the light up tiaras and wands.

The theatre was full to the bream and I wasn’t surprised, as the show has a great line up. Starring Louie Spence as Dandini, Michelle Collins as The Wicked Stepmother, Jayne Wisener as Cinderella and Phil Butler as Buttons, don’t miss this year’s unmissable Christmas treat packed full of laugh-out-loud comedy, stunning special effects, beautiful costumes and plenty to boo and hiss at.

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The show has started and from the first seconds, the magical appearance took the audience by surprise. The fun and laughter are there from the beginning to the end of the show. There were lots of subtle jokes for the adult audience, so there was not a moment of a bore for anyone! Thus we can confidently claim this show is for the whole family to enjoy! There won’t be a single yawning adult in view! The music, the singing, the dance, the costumes and the exquisite decorations are out of this world. The beautiful setting is truly glamorous and once Cinders steps into a royal ball, you would feel yourself in a true palace! We really liked the positive message it gave throughout the show – that one needs to keep dreaming and impossible becomes possible!

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Cinderella lives with her Wicked Stepmum and two ugly stepsisters. Not only they are ugly, but they are not blessed with brains either. So the children enjoyed their funny costumes all along the show. Buttons works at the Hardup Hall, where Cinderella lives. He is secretly in love with Cinderella and waits for a suitable moment to let her know of his feelings. But Cinderella is too busy, being torn between the ugly stepsisters and the Wicked Stepmother. Sometimes she goes to the woods to meet her lovely animal friends, that’s where she meets her destiny. But she thinks her love is a servant of a Prince Charming and falls in love with him. Louie Spence, who plays Dandini, is Prince Charming’s dance teacher. And he pretends to be Prince Charming in the woods, thus he is chased by the ugly stepsisters and the Wicked Stepmother. The real Prince Charming gets to know Cinderella and says he will send her the invitation to the royal ball.

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Once the invitations to the Royal Ball arrive, the Wicked Stepmother makes sure that Cinderella doesn’t have a chance of going. So they go to the royal ball, but without Cinderella. Then the Fairy Godmother appears, but before helping Cinderella she tests her kindness again. After that she lets her know her true personality and gets ready Cinderella for the royal ball with the help of Buttons. Cinderella arrives at the ball, beautiful than ever, in a beautiful carriage, spends the whole evening with the prince and leaves hastily when the clocks strike midnight. The Prince looks for her, having only a glass slipper. The news travels fast and the ugly sisters lock Cinderella in a cupboard. Buttons comes to help, and Prince Charming finds his beloved Cinderella. The next funny part is the part of Louie Spence and Phil Buttler, before the sumptuously glamorous royal ball. The Wicked Stepmother and the ugly stepsisters are sent off in a funny way referencing to Strictly Come Dancing and The Eastenders. And the show ends with a huge celebration. There are numerous tricks and use of little explosives so those with younger children may like to prefer back sits. We thought all of this usage of pyrotechnic effects brought the show’s level to the land of magic.

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If you want to feel the festive cheer and the enchantment of this time of the year, this is the show to see. Cinderella is an awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, fairy magic sprinkled, yet funny festive show not to be missed! It gets all of five stars from us and we totally recommend it! While watching this panto – you shall go to the royal ball!

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Autumn 2003, it was a cold Swiss autumn, my landlord who was from England invited me to watch a Riverdance on TV. It was Michael Flatley’s show and I was impressed. I had a dream since then to watch the Irish dance on stage. Roll on 14 years and the dream came true. We were once again in Orchard theatre for the dance show – “Spirit of the dance”. David King the producer of the show, created “Spirit of the dance” being inspired by Michael Flatley in 1996. But the “Spirit of the Dance” is not just Irish dance. This show includes Irish, salsa, flamenco, ballet, ballroom, tap, street dance, and more.

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Two tired adults on a weekday night, we did not know what to expect. From the first chords of the music and the scintillating moves, we knew we were in for a treat! Watching the clever incorporation of Irish dance with some modern hits and ballet, I couldn’t help to think why it won nine global awards. The Irish dance, the team spirit, the quick costume changes, the unanimous moves and the dancers energy was charging the whole audience. We could not believe their stamina. I loved when they came out without any music and tap danced. This showed how good they were and the rapport with audience was great. We were helping them to recreate the clap music and everybody quite enjoyed being part of the show. The likes of flamenco and street dance were unexpected but really well received.  This has inspired us a lot. We won’t just look at after school tap dance, ballet and the likes of it – as just a recreational pass time. “Spirit of the dance” shows how energizing is a great dance show!

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The show is on till 16th of September 2017 at Orchard theatre. It is a great opportunity to catch the breath-taking show, especially if you or your family are interested in some of those dances.

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Being a Londoner we are always on a lookout for a special place. We have recently been to a culinary express to India through Hankies café. What is this place do you say? Being in heart of Soho and a short walking distance from Leicester square and Piccadilly square – Hankies is very well located. It is quite easy to spot when you reach “The Queens” theatre where they show “Les Miserables” you have almost reached Hankies. You now know the landmark next to it and won’t miss it. This is a good fact to hold on to if your group consists of tired children and parents with buggies and you don’t want to wander around looking for a place to eat. Its location means you can go and grab something quick or explore their a la cart menu for a full meal, before any West End show. The cosy environment with bar stools in front and a seating area at the back of the place – take into account the needs of different diners. Besides Hankies is one of the few places in China town, which is not Chinese or pizza for a change. “Hankies” is a casual Indian street food restaurant serving Indian Tapas since last eight months and specialises in serving Roomali Roti. A classic Indian roti which is hand spun till it’s thin enough to read through, cooked on a burning hot Roomali Tawa and folded into ‘Hankies’.

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Upon arrival, we have been greeted by a very friendly Asish, who helped me fold my buggy and to store it away. Having two children – the first thing they needed is the use of facilities. Hankies cafe is linked with the Piccadilly hotel, which means one can use their spotless clean toilets. My only concern was going down the stairs with the children, but later I found out there was a lift to reach WC too. Afterwards, we sat looking at the menus. They had a-la cart menu, kid’s menu and drinks menu. Both of the children ordered different things from the kid’s menu. The elder one went for grilled chicken tikka, aam gur ke kheer – Indian rice pudding and a juice. The younger one was not keen to excite her taste buds much, so she ordered fish and chips, kulfi ice cream and juice.  Once kids were sorted, it was our turn to order and boy was it difficult! The menu was bursting with flavours and just the names of the dishes were so inviting. After long deliberations  – the three adults -we ordered Bhindi bhel, dahl phuri, Hankies dal, pumpkin paneer, chilli lamb chops, fish tikka, keema kaleji, egg and crab gotala, chicken dhaba . For dessert, we ordered aam gur ke kheer, gajarela, homemade kulfi pistachio ice cream.

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While we were waiting for our food, we asked Asish and chef Manoj to explain us the food we were going to have. The passion they have for food they are cooking and the willingness of inviting the crowds of London to a gastronomic journey to India are unbelievable. Listening to them you realise, here at Hankies cafe the food is cooked with passion, all the spices are mixed here to please a rather neutral palette and not to be too fiery hot. The freshness of the food is guaranteed as everything is cooked from scratch here. No prepared, pre cooked ingredients – everything is cooked fresh from the minute you order your food. The children menu was thought through too. Kids do not like too spicy a food mostly, so the “grilled chicken tikka” was soaked in spices overnight and then thoroughly washed. So the little people wouldn’t be met with burning sensation but taste the flavour of the spices. My usually very fussy and reluctant to eat anything with a hint of spice elder child loved her chicken tikka, which was served with apple chutney with a side of beetroot/radish veggie swirls. This is a good way of starting introducing the children to the world of spices and other flavoursome cuisines. We have also ordered a blueberry lassi, which we all liked.

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Those meat lovers and culinary delight seekers like myself are in for a treat here. I was not a fan of Indian food, so it is difficult to sway me to go back to an Indian place for another meal. But the dedication of the staff, their love and devotion to the food they make elevates your dining experience to another level.  Their willingness to explain you every new fusion -explosion your taste buds are going through leads you appreciating the food more. You almost hear the hassle and bustle of busy Delhi streets with every mouthful of delightful Indian tapas at Hankies. We loved all of the food we were served. Do not be fooled with the tapas size small bites. They come with the relishes, raitas, kachori poppers and roomali roties and while you are taken on a gastronomic journey your stomach gets pleasantly full. I personally loved: bhindi bhel, chilli lamb chops and aam gur ke kheer.  Bhindi bhel is an unexpected dish with rice puffs, veggies and such a subtle delightful spice mix. I can not believe one can transform simple rice puffs to such a great culinary height.  Mexican food meet Indian fusion gave incomparably tender chilli lamp chops, the avocado relish on a side was la cerise sur le gateau! The caramelised mango rice pudding “aam gur ke kheer” was a really good dessert to finish off the culinary journey to Indian street food. I never liked rice puddings, but now I can say that I am a convert. The children liked their home made kulfi ice creams, particularly pistachio one was a hit.

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By this point, I was thinking of grabbing a coffee. The masala coffee on the drinks menu was promising, so I  ordered it. Can you imagine having a coffee with cinnamon, pepper, cardamom and coffee? Masala coffee is all about rich flavour and a pleasant scent. Move over other coffee chains, I know where I will be taking my fix next time I am around the corner. In conclusion, Hankies cafe is a great place to come and taste Indian street food tapas. A place to take your family and your friends on a culinary express to India in heart of London.

hankiNo need to queue in famous chains when you can get such a good quality, fresh food in a cosy cafe. The food, the dessert, the drinks are all a la hauteur- bravo! The price may be a little on a pricier side, but one gets filled quickly. To me, the quality was comparable if not better to some high chain restaurants. I will be going back there with my friends and family! The food was just right, not excessively spicy, yet flavoursome. What not to like, even writing this review my mouth is watering at the thought of this little place I have discovered and happy to share about. Go on try yourselves- you can thank me later.

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