Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

I’ve been wanting to reread some Roald Dahl books ever since the centenary celebrations of his birth back in September last year. Having seen the musical version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last autumn I decided to choose it as my first reread.

Charlie Bucket’s family are poor, and can only afford to give him one chocolate bar a year on his birthday, so when the owner of the local chocolate factory, Willy Wonka, starts to give away golden tickets for a tour of the factory in his chocolate bars, Charlie’s odds don’t look good. However, through a stroke of luck, he manages to get his hands on a precious golden ticket and goes on an adventure to meet Willy Wonka with his Grandpa Joe.

It’s a very easy and fun read full of the Roald Dahl wit everyone knows and loves and his characterisations are fantastic, and I particularly loved Grandpa Joe. It was a lovely nostalgic read as I’ve loved the story since I was little, and I’m looking forward to rereading more Roald Dahl and revisiting some other childhood favourites.

Colossal

Colossal is a comedy science fiction movie. When Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is thrown out of her boyfriend Tim’s (Dan Stevens) apartment due to her persistent drunken behaviour, she moves back to her home town and catches up with a childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). When they see a giant beast attacking Seoul in South Korea on the news, Gloria starts to see patterns with her own behaviour. Is there a link between her and the robot?

This is meant to be a comedy but I didn’t find hardly any of it funny. Anne Hathaway gives a good performance but her character started to frustrate me at times. Not as much however, as the two lead male characters who are both consistently horrible to Gloria.

I knew this would be a silly story going in but I was hoping for a bit more comedy.

The Light Fantastic – Terry Pratchett

This is the second published novel in the Discworld series and it picks up immediately from where The Colour of Magic left off. It describes the continued adventures of the wizards Rincewind, Twoflower and of course the Luggage.

I found this much easier to follow than its predecessor, The Colour of Magic because there are far fewer subplots. It’s a great light hearted fantasy story, and very humorous and witty.

Apparently the Discworld series gets better and better as it goes along. I’m looking forward to reading more and discovering for myself!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Wales Millennium Centre

The National Theatre’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has been a huge success since it opened at the Cottesloe Theatre in 2012. It has won Olivier Awards, moved to the West End (where it closes this month), opened on Broadway, won a Tony Award and embarked on 2 UK national tours. I have seen this production a few times, through NT Live and also in London and when it visited Cardiff previously. It is without a doubt one of my favourite things I’ve seen on stage.

It is based on the 2003 novel by Mark Haddon, which tells the story of a boy called Christopher, who has Aspergers Syndrome, as he sets out to solve the mystery of who killed the dog next door. One of the clever things about the production is the way that it presents Christopher’s inner monologue. Christopher talks to the audience but his teacher, Siobhan, also reads extracts from the book that he is writing, and there are also a few instances of breaking the fourth wall.

Another innovate element of the production is the way it overwhelms the audience’s senses so that we have an idea of how Christopher feels when he goes outside his comfort zone, such as to the train station or on the tube. Lights, projections and loud sounds are used incredibly effectively.

The ensemble in the production play several different characters such as Christopher’s neighbours and passengers on the train or tube. In this production Lucianne McEvoy played Siobhan, and Scott Reid was fantastic as Christopher.

The fact that I’d seen the play before did nothing to wane my enthusiasm for this production. Very funny but also emotional. Brilliant.

Outlander – Diana Gabaldon

Outlander is the first in a series of historical adventure novels by Diana Gabaldon, set in Scotland. Claire Randall is on holiday with her husband when she is suddenly thrown back in time to the Highlands in the eighteenth century. There she meets Jamie Fraser, and romance ensues amid the danger.

This was a fun read, and although any synopsis might sound cheesy it is better than it sounds! I’m not very knowledgable at all on the history of Scotland during the Jacobite risings so it was interesting to learn more about that period. It’s an impressive first novel, but it is quite long and I found it dragged a little occasionally. I was also surprised to learn that there are 8 novels in total so far – I’m not sure whether the plot is strong enough for that many books, but I will probably read the next in the series at some point.

Casanova – Northern Ballet – Cardiff New Theatre

Casanova is a new ballet by Kenneth Tindall, which tells the story of the legendary Giacomo Casanova’s life which was full of scandal and seduction. It documents his religious beginnings and his multiple careers as a gambler, writer and musician.

As is expected from Northern Ballet the dancing was brilliant and beautiful. The set was also very clever, particularly the use of lighting to depict columns in a church or cathedral, which was very atmospheric.

My only criticism would be that the narrative wasn’t clearly defined. Although I managed to follow the plot in general there were some things that I missed, and only realised after reading a synopsis online afterwards. However, the ballet more than lived up to Northern Ballet’s high standard of productions.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead – Old Vic

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead is not an easy play to summarise! Two minor characters from Hamlet question what they are doing, why they are there, and where they are going. Scenes from Hamlet are slotted in throughout, and in between their philosophising the title characters play coin tossing games and word games, while becoming increasingly aware of their own mortality, especially due to their encounters with a group of travelling players.

I’d been curious about this play for a while and I was not disappointed. It is witty, at times moving and very funny. The staging for this production was quite bare, with mostly just a curtain across the stage used for scene changes, or sometimes as a half curtain as a divide between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and the action of the story of Hamlet.

The performances were all strong. Daniel Radcliffe was bewildered and likeable as Rosencrantz, the quieter of the pair. At times I felt that he didn’t project his voice as well as the other actors – this is only a very small criticism as I didn’t miss anything he said, and it may just have been that he was meant to be the quieter character, or that he was struggling a little with his voice that day! Joshua McGuire was also very good as the livelier, bossy and more talkative Guildenstern. David Haig was excellent as The Player, the impresario of the travelling group. The comedic timing was perfect by all throughout.

I not only thoroughly enjoyed the production but the play itself. It’s very clever, especially as Tom Stoppard was so young when he wrote it. I look forward to seeing it again at some point, as I feel it’s a play where you notice something new each time you see it, but I think this production could be difficult to beat.