Ghost Stories at the Duke of York’s Theatre

The Duke of York's Theatre - Ghost Stories 

Billed as “a truly terrifying theatrical experience”, Ghost Stories comes to the West End following a sell-out season at the Lyric Hammersmith.  Ghost Stories is written by two men who need no introduction in the arena of the dark and macabre: The League of Gentlemen's Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman who is best known as co-creator and director of Derren Brown’s television and stage shows. 

The play is narrated by Andy Nyman in his role as Professor Philip Goodman, an expert in parapsychology and a sceptic at heart.  He begins by essentially debunking the idea of paranormal phenomena but then intriguingly introduces the idea that not everything is as it may seem.  As he gives a mock lecture to the audience he explains that in twenty years of professional experience, he has come across only three cases that have been different enough to warrant his attention.  These are the cases that disturb, that keep him up at night.  I won’t spoil the play for you by telling you about the three cases but I can tell you there was a lot of screaming, squealing and hiding behind partners on the part of the audience.  It is certainly not advisable to hold a drink in your hands whilst watching the show.

One of the best aspects of the show was the design.  I had already noticed the dismembered leg in the foyer of the theatre and the main arena was transformed from a stately old theatre into a horror house of sorts.  There was police tape and cob-webbed gas lamps to give a truly eerie experience and the overall effect was completed by the seemingly random numbers chalked onto the walls.  The stage had a creepy veil as a curtain which had “safety curtain” painted on in red paint and green, slimy paint on the stage itself.  The set design was really good too with distorted, angular rooms, creepy forests and corridors of old asylum cells to set the general tone of fear. 

Ghost Stories is a lot of fun (if being scared and screaming out loud is your cup of tea) and I did enjoy the show.  At times however, the plot did get a little ridiculous or thin and there were certainly times when the audience was laughing or scoffing when they should have been screaming.  In a classic coup de théâtre, there is quite a twist at the end of the play and at first I felt a little bit underwhelmed by the ending.  As I sat on the train on the way home though, I came to appreciate how cleverly all the pieces fit together as I sifted through the various clues that had been left throughout the play.  Having said that, I didn’t feel that it was like watching a live horror film, as one audience member had previously stated and it certainly did not reach the levels of scariness and tension that films do.  I can imagine that it is quite difficult to portray that nail-biting, terrifying suspense in front of a live audience and I had always been sceptical about the ability to bring such a story to the stage. 

During the play, the one impression that I did have was surprise that they managed to secure a major West End theatre for the glorious summer and early autumn season as in spite of the impressive set design, this is really more of a community theatre production.  Nevertheless, if you are looking for a fun and somewhat exhilarating 80 minutes, then I would recommend Ghost Stories.  It is not the standard quality we’ve come to expect of West End shows though, so do make sure you’ve seen all of the big ones first.

Ghost Stories also stars Ryan Gage, David Cardy and Nicholas Burns and will run at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 7th November 2010.  Tickets range from £22.50 to £47.50.

A Sunset Flight on the London Eye

01 Houses of Parliament
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

Remember when I took part in the Gumtree MyCommunity contest a month ago?  (I posted my entry here: part 1 ¦ part 2).  On the evening of the prize giving, we were told to meet outside the London Aquarium.  I snapped some photos of the Houses of Parliament but could hardly bear to look behind me at the London Eye.  I had a secret hope that we were going to “fly” on the London Eye that night and I didn’t want to tempt fate.

02 London Eye
The London Eye

Imagine my absolute glee then when the nice PR people from @1000heads told us that we were indeed going on a surprise sunset “flight” on London’s most stunning attraction, The London Eye.  (No, now is not the time to be snarky about my favourite London attraction – you know how fond I am of the London Eye).

03 London Eye pod
A London Eye-pod (iPod, get it??)

There were ten blogger finalists in our pod and their guests plus staff from both the PR company and Gumtree as well as waiters from Merlin Entertainment, the people who run the London Eye.  Why waiters?

04 Champagne in the London Eye
Champagne on the London Eye

Oh, didn’t I mention that it was a champagne sunset flight?  I felt really charmed that night, I really did.

05 Hungerford Bridge and Millenium Walkways
Hungerford Bridge and Millennium Walkways

The views from the London Eye are amazing.  This is the bridge that leads into Charing Cross rail station.

06 London Eye Pod
Another London Eye-pod

The people in the other pods were really interested in us! I guess they wondered why we were so special and why we got champagne and hors d’oeuvres.  Of course, they might have just been trying to get a decent pod shot like me.

06 North - Charing Cross Station and BT Tower
Charing Cross Station and BT Tower

Looking towards the north, that is the Charing Cross rail station you can see in the foreground and the famous BT Tower in the background.  What an amazing view! I haven’t seen London like this before.

07 - East - Waterloo Station and Strata
Waterloo Station and Strata

Looking towards the east, you can Waterloo rail station (that is the wavy building on the front left).  And you can see one of my favourite buildings in the background.  Let me help you out:

07 East - Strata 1

Strata is the beautiful black and white building in the distance there.  It is situated in Elephant and Castle which is just down the road from my work.  It is the tallest residential building in London and has wind turbines in the top to offer sustainable living. 

08 South Thames River
Looking south on the Thames River

The view to the south gives a gorgeous view along the Thames River.  I am often impressed by how pretty this concrete snake of a river can be.

09 County Hall 1
County Hall

You get a dizzying view of County Hall as you begin to descend.

09 County Hall 2
Steeple and weather vane on County Hall

I think that is called a steeple.  Any suggestions?

The main attraction for me lay on the other side of the river though…

10 Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament

What a sight! If you look carefully, you can just see Battersea Power Station peaking out behind the back tower there.

10 Big Ben
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

Even with the scaffolding it was still great to see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament from this perspective.

11 Buckingham Palace and London Parks
Buckingham Palace and London Parks

The sun was setting in the west and it was burning fiercely!  I struggled to look in that direction never mind take photos!  In the photo above, you can make out Buckingham Palace in the centre surrounded by St James Park, Green Park and Hyde Park in the background.

12 Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence

I felt a bit like a spy taking a photo of the Ministry of Defence!!

11 Whitehall Court
Whitehall Court

Whitehall Court is actually quite exquisite.  I would love to take some decent photographs of it one day.

13 London Eye
London Eye

We all met up at the Slug and Lettuce for the prize giving afterwards.  I didn’t win but the excellent Jon Choo received a £500 Gumtree gift voucher for his entry on St Albans.  That was picked by the client, Gumtree and there were prizes for most comments too. 

At the end of the evening, my colleague Amana and I made our way back to Waterloo station and paused to take one last photo of the London Eye.  What a fabulous experience!

Concert Review: Green Day – Wembley Stadium, London, June 19, 2010

Green Day

California punk trio Green Day are currently on the second European leg of their 21st Century Breakdown World Tour and I was lucky enough to see them live at London’s Wembley Stadium on Saturday night.  There is something undeniably exciting about Wembley Stadium but as we took our seats at the beginning of the evening and I looked around the vast stadium, I had to wonder whether Green Day would be able to carry such a large arena.


We arrived just in time to see support act Joan Jett and the Blackhearts take the stage.  It feels strange to think that Joan Jett and the Blackhearts could be supporting another band considering how huge they have been over the years and I can remember standing on a wall with other nine-year-olds belting out “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” when it came out in 1982.  I had expected a washed out version of an aging rocker and I was absolutely proven wrong.  Joan Jett’s voice is as powerful and unique as the day she first hit the stage in 1975 and I was really impressed by her vocal range.  The highlight of the set was “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” which was followed by “Crimson and Clover”.  One of my mates asked whether the former song was a cover of the Britney Spears version and I incredulously insisted that it was not.  Confused, he asked when the Joan Jett version had come out and simply could not believe it when I told him.  Such was the power and energy of Joan Jett’s performance, assisted no doubt by how good she looks at 51, that he had not realised that these were veteran rockers. 

Joan Jett

The interval leading up to the Green Day set was quite eventful.  There was, of course, the hilarious Drunken Bunny.  Nobody knows who the Drunken Bunny is but his drunken, slapstick routine certainly helps to pass the time.  My suspicion is that all of the band members act as the Drunken Bunny, alternating between shows. 

We had taken seated tickets and were seated in the Club Wembley tier on the bend.  These are normally reasonable seats but the first thing we noticed was that there was a massive lighting tower blocking our view of the centre stage.  One tip about Wembley is that if you are unhappy with your seats or your view is obstructed, you have to complain about it on the night.  It is written on their terms and conditions and they simply do not entertain complaints written after the event.  We complained and were moved a further two section towards the front of the arena which was brilliant.

Green Day

We settled down just in time to see Green Day enter the stage.  The band opened with “Song of the Century”, running into “21st Century Breakdown” and one of my personal favourites “Know Your Enemy”.  There was a rather bizarre moment when Billie Joe Armstrong pulled up a young lad on to the stage and he latched on to Billie Joe and gave him a prolonged kiss smack on the lips.  Thankfully Billie Joe managed to disentangle himself in time for the next refrain.

Green Day certainly know how to work a crowd and the concert was one of the best displays of showmanship I have seen in ages.  Of course, it could all just be flattery as Billie Joe said that England was the greatest rock and roll country on Earth and that “we just seem to ‘get’ each other”.  Unsurprisingly, this was met by massive cheers as he shouted that Green Day are “not from California, we’re from fucking England!” 

Green Day

“East Jesus Nowhere” was on next and another fan was pulled on to the stage.  We speculated for a moment whether the band were getting fined each time they did that as London is notorious for stringent health and safety concerns.  This time it was a young boy of about eleven-years-old and I do believe Billie Joe acted out sacrificing him on stage.  Another favourite of mine, “Holiday” was on next and the stadium went absolutely crazy.

The hits came thick and fast then and my highlights were “Give Me Novacaine” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” from the American Idiot album.  Tré Cool performed “Dominated Love Slave” much to the delight of the fans and a short while later they performed one of their first hits, “When I Come Around”.  This was followed by a fabulous medley of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Highway to Hell”.

Green Day

During “Brain Stew”, Billie Joe showered the fans with a power washer before moving on to toilet roll missiles and finally firing t-shirts into the crowd.  He brought a fifteen-year-old on stage to sing the whole of “Long View” and this amusing, rather offkey performance was followed by another of their early hits “Basket Case”.

They then did their “King For A Day” and “Shout” medley which is becoming a permanent feature of their concerts with Tré Cool in drag doing something vaguely resembling the can-can.  They called him to the front for what was apparently a record of four sets before leading into another medley featuring “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” and “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction”.  After another two explosive songs, they were suddenly gone from stage. 

Green Day

A first encore is always a given in stadium shows and Green Day returned with “American Idiot” and “Jesus of Suburbia” with the crowd doing their part and going mad.  The band left the stage again only to be wooed back by a crowd that refused to believe they were gone.  It was all planned of course.  They took the mayhem down several notches and played three of their more sedate songs before sending a jubilant crowd home: “When It's Time”, “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”.

There is no doubt that Green Day managed a headline stadium gig with utter mastery and perfection and I would absolutely recommend seeing them.  My concerns at the beginning of the evening seem quite bizarre to me now and I wonder how I could have ever doubted them.  Excellent gig!

Green Day

Article first published as Concert Review: Green Day – Wembley Arena, London, June 19, 2010 on Blogcritics.

St Paul’s Cathedral and surrounds

St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral

When “Old St Paul’s” was gutted in the Great Fire of London in 1666, the task for designing it was assigned to Sir Christopher Wren.  He was also assigned the job of redesigning a further fifty parish churches that had been destroyed in the fire.  Only twelve of those churches have survived as built with a further nine being rebuilt after the devastation of the Blitz.  A handful more remain but the rest have been demolished or remain as ruins.

St Paul's Cathedral

Wren was a real master and I have really come to appreciate his work in the time that I have been in London.  I took some photos of the cathedral and surrounding areas last Sunday during the Race for Life.  I’m really happy with these photos and have finally made the decision to splash out on a new camera.  I don’t think I am quite ready for a DSLR but we shall see.

St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral St Paul's Cathedral

It occurred to me how often I photograph the outside of churches and buildings as opposed to how often I go inside them.  There is a good reason for that in summer as blue skies and sunshine can make the world of difference to photographs and why would you want to be inside on such a gorgeous day?

St Paul's Cathedral

This is my very favourite photograph of the day.  Did you know that there are strict rules in London and that St Paul’s Cathedral is one of several landmarks that cannot be obstructed by new buildings?  See: Finest views in London saved for future eyes.

St Paul's Cathedral 07

St Paul’s Cathedral was declared complete by Parliament in 1710 and was the tallest building in London from then until 1961 when it was replaced by the Empress State Building.  It was replaced as the tallest structure in London by the Battersea Power Station which was completed in 1953.

London Wall

London Wall

The area in which St Paul’s Cathedral is located is known as The City and it is where the city’s financial services are located.  It is not exactly the modern field of steel and concrete that Canary Wharf is but it is also not a place you’d expect to see some of the oldest structures in Britain.

London Wall

This is part of what remains of the defensive wall that the Romans built around their beloved town of Londinium.  The wall was built between approximately 190 and 225 CE.  Another thing that has grown in the time that I have been in the UK is my fascination with Roman history which I think I first encountered in St Albans and later in Bath.

Christ Church Greyfriars

Christ Church Greyfriars

My fascination with bombed out churches also continues.  I didn’t take too many photos of what remains of Christopher Wren’s Christ Church Greyfriars as there was scaffolding up around it.  I like scaffolding when it is up on new buildings, for example The Shard, but I tend to avoid photographing it on renovations.  The church was destroyed during the Blitz on 29 December 1940.

Christ Church Greyfriars

The Elephant Parade

Elephant Parade Elephant Parade

It seems that no post about London is complete these days without at least a mention of the Elephant Parade.  I love these little things and have to exercise great restraint when I see them!  For the purpose of this story, “exercise great restraint” is defined as “dropping everything and rushing over to photograph them”.  That is contrasted against squealing like a little girl and hugging them gleefully which is what I really want to do when I see them. Oh no! I believe the parade comes to an end today!!! It looks like you can still see them at their official viewing days at the Royal Hospital Chelsea on the 25th, 26th and 28th June and then the indoor herd is at Westfield Shopping Centre from 21st to 30th June.  And then they will all be auctioned off to new homes!

I took all of these photos while taking part in the London City Race for Life 2010.  From as little as £2 (about $3), you can sponsor me in the Race for Life to raise money for Cancer Research and you’ll receive one month’s free advertising on Emm in London!. I will feature your 125 x 125 badge in the left side bar on my PR4 blog until 31 July 2010 as well as linking to you in my thank you post. The best part is that the money goes straight to the charity and will not actually go through me.

My Southwark (part 2)

This is the second half of my little walking tour around Southwark. The first part can be found here: My Southwark (part 1). We take a walk down Borough High Street this time. One thing I have learned through this little exercise is that I need to walk east along the river to explore Southwark around the mayor's office and west from my office to explore the area leading up to Southwark Underground Station.  There is so much more to Southwark than my little walking tour but these are my favourite spots.

6. The George Inn

The George Southwark 1

Just across Borough High Street from Borough Market and Vinopolis, you will find The George Inn.  The George Inn was frequented by Charles Dickens and in fact, features in his novel Little Dorrit.  The inn appeared on the first map of Southwark dating back to 1543 and is the only surviving galleried London coaching inn.

The George Southwark 2

 The George Southwark 3 The George Southwark 4

The George Inn
77 Borough High Street
London SE1 1NH
020 7407 2056


7. The Climbers by Ofra Zimbalista

Southwark 38

If you walk a little further south down Borough High Street, you will see the marvellous sculpture The Climbers by Ofra Zimbalista.  This shows three blue men climbing up Maya House, each holding a different musical instrument.  You can find Hiba Lebanese restaurant underneath.


8.  St George the Martyr Church

St George the Martyr Church, Southwark

The earliest record of a church on this site was in 1122 but the current buildings date back to eighteenth century.  Like The George Inn, the church has strong links to Charles Dickens and several scenes from the novel take place in and around the church.  Members of the Dickens Fellowship are welcomed to the church each year for an annual service. 

St George the Martyr Church
Borough High Street
London SE1 1JA
020 7357 7331

9.  St George’s Churchyard Gardens

St Georges Churchyard Gardens - Marshalsea Prison 5

The St George's Churchyard Gardens lie across the way from the church and are interesting in and of themselves.  This was once the site of the Marshalsea Debtors’ Prison where Charles Dickens’ father was incarcerated for debt in 1824.  Seeing his father in the prison haunted dickens for most of his life and the experience dominates Little Dorrit.  The last remnant of the prison wall forms the back wall of the gardens.

St Georges Churchyard Gardens - Marshalsea Prison 2St Georges Churchyard Gardens - Marshalsea Prison 4 St Georges Churchyard Gardens - Marshalsea Prison 1St Georges Churchyard Gardens - Marshalsea Prison 3 


10.  The Shard and London Bridge Quarter

The Shard London Bridge

Well, it has been a long and exciting tour around Southwark and now we head back to London Bridge Rail Station and to The Shard.  When it is finished in 2012, The Shard is likely to be the main attraction in Southwark as it will be the tallest skyscraper in the United Kingdom.  It will stand at 310 metres tall (1,017 feet) and will have 72 floors plus 15 radiator floors on the roof.  The good news is that it will also have an observation deck at the top for tourists to visit!  The building will have a glass exterior and will be made to look like a shard of glass striking out from the landscape.  I for one cannot wait until it is finished.

The Shard and London Bridge Quarter
32 London Bridge Street

And that is the end of My Southwark!  It was a great competition, I must say, and I’ll post about the exciting prize giving next week.