An Evening with Aggers and Tuffers

a-t-banner
Source: http://www.simonfielder.com/aggers-tuffers

 

For anyone who is obsessed with cricket like myself, or even just an interest in the sport, an evening with two sporting greats is not something that should be missed. If unaware, both Jonathan ‘Aggers’ Agnew and Phil ‘Tuffers’ Tufnell were well-known cricketers and retired decades ago. They are key figureheads of the game in terms of cricket commentating and personality.

Upon arriving at the theatre it felt rather strange. This was the first time I have been to the theatre and not seen a musical. Not only that, the audience was mostly men, a surprise – I think not! I do want to acknowledge there were women there! This completely changed the atmosphere, especially as it just felt so middle-class. I still, to this day, do not understand why. Many turned up in their suits and cricket ties! I was the youngest person there I could see by at least 10 years, but then does this matter?

I sat in stalls, right in the middle, which was by far the best seats I have ever had! Strange when only paying a little more than £20. Furthermore, any profits were going to the Professional Cricket Association (PCA) Benevolent Fund. This in short helps current and past players with support when misfortunes happen (if interested in finding out more see the video here). It is a very worthwhile charity. The staging was very simple, a table with two chairs and a projector screen behind them, but then what else would you expect.

The first half was simply about their anecdotes from not only in their playing career, but some very recent. It seemed like they had a tale for just about anything! Ranging from Aggers selection as a commentator of horse riding at the Rio Olympics to how Tuffers on an Ashes Tour ended up in a psychiatric ward. I cannot remember the last time I had laughed so much! Best of all, it was cricket humour!

Although you knew there were several of these performances over the country, they still personalised it, for example Hampshire is the local county team and referred to rising stars such as James Vince and it never felt scripted. It was simply fantastic! Some of the parts I remember most was how Tuffers had a hand gesture for just about everything, even dance moves for some, which I still do not understand till this day how he made them so funny. But then he is a born entertainer as was shown in his TV appearances in Strictly Come Dancing, I’m a Celeb etc., which, to note, stories were mentioned about!

On a few occasions, they used the projector to show various clips, mostly showing both their ‘moments to shine’ shall we say! I can remember listening to a commentary recording where Aggers had made some reference without realising and continued to go on digging a deeper hole, which was just hilarious! Being younger than the average audience member, some of the stories were before my time with players mentioned that I had heard of, but knew little about. I still enjoyed it!

As the second half approached, people had submitted topics/questions they wanted answered. Being as keen as ever, I had submitted on Twitter earlier! This went on for the entire second half and made you feel involved. The topics/questions were varied ranging from who should bat at number 3 for England to whether they agreed with Charlotte Edwards being forced to retire from the England Women’s team. It was so nice to hear the views and opinions from the professionals.

All in all, I had an amazing time! It was something different that I couldn’t recommend highly enough to anyone with an interest in cricket. It was a relaxing environment with such a nice bunch of people who share the same interests as you. You can only feel at home! Both Aggers and Tuffers have a way with the audience that simply does not for a moment leave you uninterested. Furthermore, it was cheap ticket and the proceeds go to a worthwhile cause! A win win in my books!

Review: Mary Poppins (UK Tour) – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton (14/06/2016)

017
Source: http://www.marypoppins.co.uk

Mary Poppins was a favourite of mine as a child, hence I was looking forward to see the musical on tour! After their recent award (Best Regional Production – What’s on Stage Award), my expectations had risen, but strangely they were not high. Mary Poppins is about the Banks family and a nanny they hire called, funnily enough, ‘Mary Poppins’. The family unit has become dysfunctional and it is up to Mary Poppins to show them what they are missing out on – not forgetting the many adventures she, Bert (her friend) and the children have throughout.

Mary Poppins (Zizi Strallen) was portrayed perfectly! Her sense of love and seriousness was clearly apparent and even when she was talking and singing, it just sounded right – even her walk seemed elegant as it should. The vocals were powerful! Bert (Matt Lee) was strange for me. Being a big fan of the film, I was comparing him to Dick Van Dyke. With the huge age difference, I found it odd, but he still put across a very warm and humorous character although at times it did feel as though he was trying too hard to be funny. Being a big name though, he certainly delivered! I must note his tap dance routine was amazing!

The children, Michael (Harvey Shoesmith-Dean) and Jane (Lucy Simmonds) Banks were phenomenal; I could not fault them! Their vocals and speech in general were very clear, whilst hitting all the notes. The dancing was great too! Mrs Banks (Rebecca Lock) and Mr Banks (Milo Twomey) had a slow first half (the script did not give them enough time to expand), but they both came to life in the second half! Mr Banks, though, was unable to convey the anger he shared at times. Mrs Banks personally was the back bone to the musical. Upon finding out she had played Mary Poppins in the past, it was evident her experience brought so much more to the show than just her role!

The evil Miss Andrew (Penelope Woodman) was spectacular! She was the first person ever to intimidate me at a theatre, by which other musical ‘bad guys’ had failed to do. Mary Poppins is of course well known for its songs. This is probably the only musical where I knew all the songs prior. Every single musical number lived up to its name. Perfectly executed! The pit band were exceptional. Sitting in balcony, for the first time I could them throughout the show! Seeing how hard they work, somehow managed to give me more respect for them than I already had!

The choreography was straight forward but affective (not implying it was easy or that I could do it!) in comparison to some of the other musicals I have seen. But then it was what the show needed! With some very clever prop designs (Bank’s house), it was a great visual aid and added a lot of life to the show. It was very impressive seeing Bert walk up to the stage ceiling and bought a surprise factor to the show! One of the biggest surprises for me was the differences in story line between the film and musical such that adventures were cut short etc. This was not in any way a deal breaker, just unexpected. The show came to an end after Mary Poppins flew through the audience all the way up to the balcony. It was stunning and left me in shock!

The best way of describe Mary Poppins is the Taylor Swift of musicals (anyone that has seen her live knows she puts on more than just vocals, but a real show). In other words, Mary Poppins was more than just a show! It manages to take everything that step further. It is the only musical to make me feel like a child as well as an adult. The cast were fantastic and brought back many childhood memories. It offered something for the adults and children without any compromise. I just cannot believe how low my expectations had been. It certainly blew those out of the water! A masterpiece with nothing else like it!

 

 

 

Review: Guys and Dolls (UK Tour) – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton (21/05/16)

guys-dolls-arch-large_trans++sVM7UHbcrdI4c2ZHgN_rRgfjLmBLDAylER6aLDk8aFs
Photo Credit: Paul Coltas

Upon finding out this well-known musical was touring near me, I knew it was something I wanted to see. Before attending, I had no knowledge prior! Guys and Dolls is a musical romantic comedy, where the unlikeliest of people fall in love. The story itself is about Nathan Detroit, who needs a venue for his illegal floating crap game. In order to find somewhere, he needs money. He bets with Sky Masterson that he cannot take Sarah Brown (missionary), to Cuba for dinner, since it is seen as impossible. During the bet, they both start to fall for each other despite the problems they have on the way.

At the start, I felt lost and confused by the storyline. Although this was due to my lack of prior knowledge, I felt that it could have been more informative. The pace though was very good. Nathan Detroit (Maxwell Caulfield) was a sneaky, deceiving yet likeable character, offering a lot of depth to the story. Although he was played very well, I found myself thinking about the other characters far more in the end.

Miss Adelaide (Lucy Jane Adcock) was different. Being engaged to Nathan for 14 years probably said enough, but was, at times, both annoying and comical, with moments of what can be considered as a female stereotype (quick changes between anger and forgiveness etc), not that I am saying these are true! But then this was Adelaide! Seeing her role increase in depth was great and with time, you respected her more.

Sarah Brown (Anna O’Byrne) was the star of the show! Her vocals, although not what I was expecting, were flawless! Being a missionary, she had very strict morals for herself. When her mission was not going to plan, she let her hair and went to Havana with Sky, where you saw a completely new side of her. This was great for the audience as you saw her come of her shell. It was portrayed perfectly! Sky Masterson (Richard Fleeshman) was a wealthy gambler who, with time, you find out is more of a romantic than expected when he fell for Sarah, which was evident when revealing his real name to her!

Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Jack Edwards) and Lieutenant Brannigan (Anthony McGill) both brought a lot of heart and soul to the show, which made a huge impact! The ensemble were fantastic! The shear amount of energy required was staggering especially with acrobatic-like routines. I am not normally someone to notice choreography, but throughout I was left in disarray! It was exquisite!

When Sky and Sarah jet off to Havana, it brought a nice change of scenery and even dance routines! It was here the romance began! The love story was my favourite part of the show! They were unlikely lovers, but it proved that love happens in mysterious ways! When she found out this was all about a bet, she was convinced it was wrong and backed off. When Sky proved his love, you felt such warmth and, of course, a cheeky smile! Their passion was exhilarating!

The pit band were absolutely phenomenal and at the end, the musical director (Andy Massey) was presented to the audience. It was nice to see the pit band given their rightful recognition. With the songs in general, I left the theatre with nothing playing in my head, which was strange. They were certainly good, but not as appealing to me as other musicals. The show ended on two marriages: one being Sarah and Sky and the other Nathan and Adelaide. It was the perfect ending, which meant I was smiling for what seemed to be a disturbing amount of time!

Guys and Dolls is a fantastic musical that offers a huge amount of romance and humour, which is very appealing. The cast were terrific and there was never a point where I could not feel the emotions! Although the songs may not have quite been for me, they were still very enjoyable! It finished in the way you wanted, with happiness! There was never a boring moment!

Review: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (UK Tour) – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton (26/04/16)

BAT_Salford_500x411_NEW
Source: http://www.thelowry.com/event/breakfast-at-tiffanys

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a play with the addition of songs. It’s most known for the 1961 film starring Audrey Hepburn. I admit a play was not something that I would normally consider, but I fancied a change partly because I have not been to the theatre since February! Breakfast at Tiffany’s is about a young writer ‘Fred’ and a girl ‘Holly Golightly’ who lives on the floor below. Holly is an enigmatic, glamorous and charming girl who has no job, but spends time with wealthy individuals. She is the kind of girl that every guy falls for, including Fred. She wants to marry someone with money, but over time she starts to fall in love with Fred. Unfortunately, some of her past catches up with her before she properly falls for him.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s has a good following, particularly from the older generation – I was the only person I could see under the age of 40 (of course this is not a problem!). Holly Golightly (what a name!) was played by the award winning Pixie Lott. Whenever I see a big name, I am never sure if they were casted due to talent or by, as my friend calls it, the ‘bums on seats’ approach. The role of Holly is a demanding one, requiring huge amounts of energy and maintaining a high pitch American accent. Amazingly, she prevailed and did an excellent job. Although her voice was required to be high, I found it to get slightly annoying at times, but this is not her fault.

‘Fred’, despite the audience never being told his real name, was played by Matt Barber. His stage presence brought huge amounts of life to the show. With very quick and clever changes from character to narrator, he was perfect in conveying basically the whole storyline. As the show went on you could only like him more. He had very lovable qualities, including loyalty, as seen at the end of the show when kept his promise to Holly about finding her cat and looking after him. It was a shame the character was not opened up more in the script.

There were various plot twists throughout, involving pregnancy, miscarriage and the downfall of Holly. These kept my concentration and focus going! There were three songs: ‘Moon River’, ‘People Will Say We’re in Love’ and ‘Hold Up My Dying Day’. Pixie Lott performed all these songs to the highest calibre! These said a lot about the character that the play could not convey, whilst also slowing the pace. The end of the first act ended with the huge news that Holly is married. This left me in slight shock and an immediate sense of confusion, needing to see how this would progress. The props and backdrops were visually stunning, in particular how they reinforced the idea that Holly lived below Fred by the fact any scene in her apartment, had his apartment above. ‘Doc’ (Robert Calvert) was Holly’s husband. After Fred was told, they went to a bar and talked. This scene was extremely informative about Holly’s past and helped answered a few of the many questions I had. Doc was portrayed brilliantly and the scene itself was full of emotion, which at this point was very needed, also slowing down the pace and allowing me to take a breather!

The cat (Bob the Cat), who’s technically Holly’s, was very well trained, especially in one of the scenes when he was placed (on purpose) onto the stage and ran off to the side, rather than anywhere! Even whilst on stage, he remained still in both Holly and Fred’s arms. The bartender, Joe (Victor McGuire), was easy going and brought new energy to the mix. The show ended on somewhat of a dilemma. Holly has taken off to Brazil and Fred had not had any real contact with her. In the back of his and the audience’s minds, you know she is okay, but of course you could see his difficulties letting go.

All in all, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a fast-paced play with lots thrown at you, but with enough slowing songs and scenes to keep you going. The storyline had me hooked and, with the addition of big plot twists, often led me to the edge of my seat. It may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly was mine, despite having never seen anything like this before. I now have to go the rest of my life without knowing what happened to Holly Golightly!

My ICC T20 Cricket World Cup 2016 Team of the Tournament

 

ICC-T20
Source: http://twenty20wiki.com/

After the T20 Cricket World Cup 2016, the ICC released their team of the tournament which, I have to admit, I did not agree with and so wanted to make and write about my own. So here it is:

 

Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh)

Quinton De Kock (wk) (South Africa)

Virat Kohli (India)

Joe Root (England)

Jos Butler (England)

Shane Watson (c) (Australia)

Andre Russell (West Indies)

Mitchell Santner (New Zealand)

Mohammad Nabi (Afghanistan)

David Willey (England)

Samuel Badree (West Indies)

12th Man: Ish Sodhi (New Zealand)

 

  1. Tamim Iqbal – He was the leading run scorer of the tournament with 295 runs and one of two players to make a century (103*). He was highly consistent with an average of 73.75. With such consistency, he was one of the best batsmen in the tournament. He even had the most sixes, with 14.
  2. Quinton De Kock (wk) – He is the first choice keeper and opening batsman of South Africa, so I picked him for mine. He was consistent with the bat, with 153 runs in 4 matches and a good strike rate of 142.99. He scored in every game and was able to score off the opening bowlers.
  3. Virat Kohli – He was named player of the tournament and it was clear why. He had more fifty’s than any other player with 3 and an amazing average of 136.50. Not only that, he scored 273 runs (highest runs in Stage 2/Super 10). India’s top order was not in particularly good form and it was frequently left to Kohli to see India through, which he did.
  4. Joe Root – He was the back bone of England’s batting with an average of 49.80 and 249 runs in 6 matches. He showed tremendous consistency and that he is a top player in the world in all 3 formats. He did not only star with the bat, but in the final picked up 2 wickets in his over.
  5. Jos Buttler – He scored 191 runs in 6 matches with an average of 47.75. He had one of the highest strike rates with 159.2, meaning he was someone who really took it to the bowlers. He was extremely useful at picking up the run rate and I cannot recall a score of less than 20 from him, again showing consistency.
  6. Shane Watson (c) – He is the one of the best and most experienced all rounder’s in all formats. He averaged 48 with the bat and took 5 wickets at 20.60 with an economy rate of 7.35. He actually retired from International Cricket after the tournament, which saddens me considering I was a big fan of his, and he has been the heart of the Australia team for quite some time! He will captain my team with all his experience.
  7. Andre Russell – He is another all rounder. He averaged 30.33 with the bat and has a strike of 142.18. In terms of bowling, he took 9 wickets and had an economy rate of 7.87. He was the West Indies death bowler who handled those handled high pressure moments, like bowling the final overs.
  8. Mitchell Santner – He is a left arm orthodox bowler who was extremely affective with getting wickets and slowing down the run rates. He took 10 wickets in 5 matches with a economy rate of only 6.27. Not only that, he is an all rounder who may not have scored many runs, but with how New Zealand were playing and his bowling, he was not required!
  9. Mohammad Nabi – He bowls right arm off breaks and took a staggering 12 wickets (highest of any player) with an impressive economy rate of 6.07. Furthermore, he was handy with the bat, scoring 52 against Zimbabwe.
  10. David Willey – He was the pick of the English bowling attack attack by not only opening the bowling, but he seemed to always pick up early wickets, taking an impressive 10. Being a left arm swing bowler, he had a lot of success swinging it into the right handers and with his swing being late, he was a handful!
  11. Samuel Badree – You could argue he was the best bowler of the tournament and a big part of the West Indian success. For a right arm leg spinner to open the bowling is strange. Despite this he took 9 wickets with an outstanding economy rate of 5.39.
  12. Ish Sodhi – He is right arm leg break bowler who took 10 wickets with an economy rate of only 6.1. He showed real consistency and success for New Zealand. As much as I would like to put him in my starting 11, I would have too many spinners.

 

I wanted to end with honourable mentions: Jason Roy was great throughout, and in particular his 78 for England to advance them to the finals. The only reason he did not make the first 11 was that he was out for a duck in the final. Another mention goes to Chris Gayle, who made a century against England for West Indies, which was incredible and undoubtedly the best innings of the tournament. Unfortunately, this was his only good score. Finally, Mohammad Shahzad for Afghanistan in Stage 1 was easily a top two batsman with Tamim Iqbal and showed Afghanistan to be a force not to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, when he came into Super 10/Stage 2, he was unable to replicate to the same extent.

My ICC T20 Cricket World Cup 2016 Overview

West Indies Final
West Indies Winning Celebrations (Source: http://www.icc-cricket.com/world-t20/news/2016/news/94586/west-indies-v-england-icc-world-t20-2016-press-conference)

Since the ICC T20 Cricket World Cup 2016 finished not long ago (as a write this) and the fact that I wrote a blog earlier with predictions (see here), I thought it would be a good idea to give an overview of what happened, how close my predictions were, who performed and underperformed and so on. The outcome of the tournament, as I am sure most of you are aware, was West Indies beat England in the final. The full results were as follows:

1st West Indies

2nd England

3rd – 4th New Zealand and India

5th – 6th South Africa and Australia

7th – 8th Sri Lanka and Pakistan

9th – 10th Afghanistan and Bangladesh

11th – 12th Netherlands and Zimbabwe

13th – 14th Oman and Scotland

15th – 16th Ireland and Hong Kong

To find out the format of the tournament see here. In my predictions, I was correct in picking Bangladesh and Afghanistan to make it into Stage 2. Then I had England, South Africa, India and New Zealand making the Semi-Finals, where the only difference was I picked South Africa instead of West Indies. Finally, I had India winning the Final against South Africa, which I got completely wrong. All in all, I was happy with how close I was and clearly my logic for the most part paid off!

The final was very close, which required the West Indies to get 19 runs off the final over, which for any team is no easy task, besides Carlos Brathwaite who decided to hit the first 4 balls for 6 to win! Both teams prior to the tournament were probably not expected to reach the final and it was nice to see something different! Both teams played extremely well throughout the tournament, beating very strong teams on the way, so it was well deserved and it gives both the teams some credibility that, England in particular, they were starting to lose.

The biggest let-down for me was South Africa. They have been a top T20 team for quite some time and I was shocked when they did not advance through to the Semi-Finals. In terms of the players, some performed very well like Quinton De Kock and Imran Tahir, but more than half did not perform as well as they should have such as AB De Villiers and Francois Du Plessis. I am sure they are highly disappointed, but then I guess what is in their favour was the two best teams in the world were in their group. I still expected more and believed they could have gone further.

New Zealand in the group stage were amazing! To win all their games was impressive especially in what I considered to be the toughest group. I was very surprised when Tim Southee and Trent Boult (two well known and brilliant seamers) were not picked for any of the games, which at the start I did not agree with. They went with a spin heavy approach which clearly worked out in their favour. Some very clever captaining. Their bowling attack in the group stage was unmatched. It was a surprise to me when they lost to England in the Semi-Finals. I thought they were unstoppable. It seemed their batting may have let them down. I always feel for New Zealand, as they have a habit of coming out strong and falling in the final moments like they did before in the ODI World Cup 2015 final.

Bangladesh and Afghanistan came into the World Cup with little to no expectation on their shoulders. They were the underdogs. Although they both did not go far, they proved to the world that they are both very good teams and can put on a show even against the best. If you look at Afghanistan, they are the only team to have beaten the champions, West Indies. A great achievement for any team! A lot of their games I saw were close. A few players had breakout tournaments as well and are starting to become more well known and considered some of the best players in the World like Mohammad Shahzad, Mohammad Nabi and Tamim Iqbal.

It was Oman’s first World Cup. Although they did not make it through, they put on a fight and did very well for themselves. I fully expect in the future to see them go further in the future as they have a lot of talent. The West Indies are the first team to win the World Cup twice. It was made even more special when the West Indies’ Women won their World Cup as well! Congratulations to them both!

The tournament itself met all my expectations and more. I was glued to my twitter feed keeping up with the scores and there was so many memorable moments that I personally will not forget for a while. I can only imagine the emotions all the players will be going through and how privileged they must be to have been a part of it!

Joining a Choir and My First Concert

12873548_10153708946818863_923846199_o
For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed singing (which I am sure those I live with know only too well!). Looking back now, I cannot believe I never considered joining a choir or even something singing-related. Maybe at the time it was ‘not cool’ to join to a choir and you were given a label if you did. This of course, could not be further from the truth and now that I am older, I can see this. I joined a choir at my university called “Jazzmanix”, which you may be surprised to hear is pop and gospel, despite what the name suggests! I actually had no idea this society ever existed until I attended their Winter Concert with a friend.

After watching the show, I was blown away! Everyone in the choir had a smile on their face and it was evident how much enjoyment they received from this. Furthermore, I liked the type of songs chosen. That night I sent an email to the society asking about getting involved. They replied with dates of rehearsals which I later attended. Since I had never done anything like this before, I had little to no idea if I was a tenor or bass. Luckily one of my friends knew all about this and gave me a vocal range test for which I passed as a tenor!

From the first rehearsal I attended, I knew that this was for me. Everyone I spoke to was super-friendly and almost straight away, friendships were made! Rehearsals were once a week for two hours. In this time, we learnt ten songs, which for someone without any prior singing experience was difficult to grasp the correct singing keys, but over time, this became easier (hugely thanks to the musical directors). Less than two weeks ago we had our Spring Concert at Beaulieu Motor Museum (Hampshire). This was probably the best day I have had at university and one of the best experiences of my life!

12033141_1208444609166965_7303699031429809749_n
Jazzmanix Performing at Beaulieu (Photo Credit: Becky Griffin)

We had two concerts (matinee and evening). The evening show, in particular, was absolutely amazing and I could feel that not only myself, but everyone was giving it their all. The environment was full of energy. We delivered and the audience seemed very happy with it as well! I felt very happy and fortunate enough that some of my family and friends came along to support me! It was nice to share this experience with them and it will always be a topic of conversation in the future.

This was not in actual fact my first show with Jazzmanix, as the society had celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, in which a reunion concert was held to a very small audience for which past and present members came together to perform. I do not count this as a proper concert, so the Spring Concert was really my first! The day itself was not only amazing due to the performance, but throughout the day I got to speak to several other members that I had not spoken to previously, which was great and once again new friendships were starting to form!

The day after the concert, I found myself feeling the ‘Blues’. What I wanted to do more than anything was to go back and do it all again! Even now I find myself still listening to the ten songs on shuffle, whilst singing the harmonies etc. I am sure my housemates are sick of these songs!

All in all, joining Jazzmanix has been one of the best decisions I have made and my only regret is that I did not join earlier! I know that I have made some really good friends and that the great memories will keep on coming. There is something really empowering about singing; it allows you to express yourself in a way that nothing else can. For me, it has the potential to brighten up my day and when singing in a group, my happiness doubles! I know that the concert will forever be a memory, and I am really looking forward to the Summer Concert!