South Africa (2008)

Driving along an open road in an open top Peugeot, the sunset blurring the horizon, Michelle and I laughed and sang along to the car stereo. The sky almost hummed with the heat of the departing day; it’s orange and blue layers bled into each other, creating a hazy snapshot of euphoria. I loved everything about that sexy blue convertible. I even loved the way the wind whipped our blonde hair, enticing the strands to dance chaotically above our heads like spiraling sunshine. I silently contemplated what I had experienced in the past two weeks. With every memory, my heart exploded into fireworks of butterflies. The fresh memories seemed to form a montage in my mind, and I felt utterly overwhelmed.

Two weeks ago I arrived in South Africa with my friend Matt, not knowing what to expect. On our first day in Johannesburg we went to the Lion Park and played with the furry bundles. Prior to cuddling the cubs, I made friends with a giraffe (the way to a giraffe’s heart is through his stomach), and just before my encounter with Geoffrey, I’d zoomed around the landscape in a safari-mobile. The guided game drive offered a wonderful opportunity to see and learn more about the wildlife indigenous to Africa. I saw zebra, antelope, hyenas, cheetahs and lions… (feels appropriate to stick an “oh my” in here)! Not bad for day one, eh? 

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On the second day we headed towards Monte Casino and to the neighbouring bird park and got up close and personal with breeds of birds I had never even heard of before, let alone glimpsed a sight of. There was a bird show in the afternoon which gave the birds their chance to shine… and to show off, the divas. Eagles, owls and parrots swooped over the crowds while flamingos strutted their stuff on stage and the ostriches tried to steal the limelight. I met Vinnie the Vulture (and I’m happy to report he was much friendlier than the vultures you see on television ripping carcasses apart). In the evening, we went to the eternally-twilight Monte Casino – one step inside and you’re at a total loss for the time of day. Quite convenient to entice the gamblers into that ‘one last bet’! These dudes know what they’re doing… 

 The drive from Johannesburg to a privately owned game farm just outside of Pretoria took a couple of hours. I had never imagined such a beautiful and breathtaking view from the farmhouse porch. Valleys twisted and scattered across the land, like panels on a patchwork quilt, and the river meandered like a snake slithering and seeking out every inch of earth. Sipping a glass of wine, I marvelled at the acres and acres of pure nature ahead of me. And, in the grand scheme of things, I felt very small. Every time I looked into the microscope I witnessed a different animal grazing among it’s natural habitat. The nature programmes on telly don’t compare to seeing these creatures in the flesh. As the sun died, the sky came to life with a breathtaking array of stars – a black blanket strewn with diamonds.

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On day four, I hopped on a quad bike (as you do!) and drove around the entire game farm. I was in the middle of nowhere. No people, no cars, no buildings, no roads, no sign of human life…The air was fresh and every breath was therapeutic, as if I had completed a full-blown detox with each exhalation (if only).  

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In the afternoon, I went for a walk with Matt, his little cousin, Jessica, and his uncle, Mark, and the two dogs. On the way to the river we had a not-so-brief encounter with a family of ostriches. Hiding in the shadows of a tree, wrapping ourselves around the trunk, we watched as Mark and the dogs did their utmost to warn the enormous birds off. All I could see through the bark were the legs of these magnificent creatures, and the odd flicker of ruffled feathers. Being me, I thought it appropriate to do an impression of David Attenborough (a good example of my inappropriate sense of humour at times of crisis!), and with my camera I filmed the ordeal.

–          “Ok, currently we are hiding in the bushes, because there are ostriches over there.  This is Jessica.  This is Matt.  And this is me.  Hiding in the bushes because of the ostriches over there…”

–          Nervous giggles.

–          “This is Mark defending us from the – oh my god, there’s a giraffe!”

–          More nervous giggles.

–          “This is South Africa.  Apparently this happens here.  Look.  Giraffe.  Look.  Ostrich.  And look, crazy dogs attacking the ostrich.  Ok and on that note, we’re going to hide a bit more.”

You can just about see the beast here:

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The video went down quite well at the BBQ (or Braii, I should say) we had that evening!

Day five consisted of more quad bike action. No narrow escapes this day – although I did fall off the quad bike into a thorn bush. It wasn’t particularly pleasant considering the thorns were approximately two inches long, and each one had stabbed me with as much vigour as the last. After de-thorning, we all examined the puncture wounds on my arms, legs and back, and one attempt after another, tried to pull a rather stubborn thorn out of my arm – which, I may add, stayed put for a further week. I suppose that’s wildlife for you! (Melman got it right in Madagascar: “Nature! It’s all over me! Get it off!”)

There was an early start the following day, as our flight from Joburg to Cape Town was booked at the crack of dawn. After landing in this new stretch of SA, we jumped into another car and headed towards Hermanus. The drive was a good couple of hours, so we made the most of the pit stops. On the first driving break, we had a wonder around a cheetah farm.

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On the second, we took a guided tour of a crocodile den.

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And at the final pit stop, we ran into a wine testing house (somewhat needed after the crocs!) and whetted our pallets with the finest African wines.

Finally we arrived at Hermanus. The next day we made the most out of the stunning weather and I made it my mission to burn to a fine crisp. Walking around the tiny village was an odd experience.  Everything was so quaint and everyone knew everyone plus everyone’s cousin once removed. Looking to the right; mountains. Looking to the left; mountains. Looking behind you; mountains. Looking ahead;  more mountains. The village pub was the only thing that turned the sparse land into a civilised community. And what a community!  I’ve never met such friendly people and felt so welcome. 

Day eight. Six o’clock am. Shark diving day. 

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I have to admit I was slightly petrified on the way to the shark diving base. And on the way to the boat. And on the way to somewhere in the middle of the ocean. Once we reached the point of no return, the anchor was released and we all scrambled to get into our diving suits. And then the wait began. The sunlight caught every particle of every facet of the waves. The sea looked like one of those disco balls, emitting light in every angle. All I could see, in every direction, was blue. I’ve never felt so small and insignificant before. The ocean always manages to overwhelm me. The captain was going through the rules; “don’t stroke the shark, annoy the shark, put your head inside the shark’s mouth, etc”, as one member of the crew worked on the bait, the “chum”. Fish oil leaked into the sea, and in no time at all the surface seemed to be covered in a thin film of oily residue. The smell of dead fish was quite potent, which did nothing to settle my nerves considering sharks have a much better sense of smell than we do. And sure enough, one popped up to say hello. And then swam back down below. I saw its fin slowly rise, breaking through the water.  The shark glided gracefully and effortlessly as it swam towards the bait. As its mouth opened the grace turned into something more sinister, and yet I felt impelled to get closer to get a better look.  It was magnificent. 

“DIVING GROUP ONE!  SUITS ON!  DIVE, DIVE, DIVE!!!”

I’m not sure what came over me but the fear stood aside and suddenly my body remembered how to function. Lowering myself into the cage, I tried to turn all thoughts of Jaws out of my mind. The water was freezing, and as it rose up to my neck, I felt each limb tighten. A vacuum seemed to take place in my lungs and breathing became an effort. Gasping and spluttering, I managed to find the handle bars and pull myself under. My blood was pumping at the speed of light, my veins were twitching and my eyes were wide and hungry for the site of the beast.  As soon as I broke through the surface to refill my lungs I heard;

 “SHARK!!  DIVE, DIVE, DIVE!””

 Taking my last breath, down I went to the bottom of the cage. And then I saw it. Two metres away, swimming directly at me, its tail fanning through the water with ease, its jet black eyes staring ahead… and just when I thought it would bump into the cage, it turned and swooped to the left, before disappearing into the depths.

 I will never forget that moment – the moment when I shared the same piece of ocean with a Great White. 

That evening we made our way to Cape Town and explored the nightlife. I’m sorry to confess that I don’t remember much about the night. All I remember is taking thorough advantage of the marvellously cheap cocktails. After significant Cosmopolitan-consumption, everything went a little hazy… but before the South African world started to spin, I remembered enjoying several bars along the marina. The bars and clubs were swarming with people from all corners of the globe, and everyone was having fun! 

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 Day nine. Table Mountain, Cape Town. This day started with a bright and early wake up call, followed by a quick bite to eat to suppress the hangover. We shared a rickety cable car with a massive group of hyperactive school kids, and as our vessel climbed upwards, the air got crisper and the chitter-chatter calmed down, (probably owing to the fact that we’d all left our courage and ability to deal with heights firmly on the ground). Suspended in mid air, I took in the beautiful sights of Cape Town. The floor of the cable car rotated giving everyone a 360 degree view on the way up.  And after a modest ten minutes, we had reached the top… we were one thousand and eighty-five metres closer to heaven. Standing on the mountain top, I felt like an angel amongst the clouds. The clouds were actually below my feet, and if I’d have made a dash off of the side of the mountain, part of me believed I could land safely in the fluffy clouds only metres away. However, I didn’t try it! Instead I got my friend to take a picture of me posing as a cloud fairy in my little cloud-like white dress.  (Yes, I’m a child at heart!) And after satisfying my inner child, the appeal of the restaurant and cocktail bar won me over, before returning to earth. The breath-taking and spectacular views from Table Mountain will definitely stay with me, and I challenge anyone to resist its charm and power. 

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On the tenth day, we were back in Johannesburg preparing for a hen/stag weekend. Matt and I parted ways, and I was left with the girls to experience South African nightlife! Having only briefly met the women I was going to be spending a weekend with, I was a little nervous, and wondered if I (or more specifically, my British/young blonde ways) could handle these South African women, because, boy, these ladies know how to party!! But they took me under their wing, and looked after me, showed me all the top notch bars, and introduced me to a ‘Hand Grenade’ (a lethal cocktail of red bull, Jägermeister, Tequila and Sambuca)… and let’s just say, it does what it says on the tin… it blew me away!

 The last few days involved recovering from the hen weekend, and catching as many rays as possible, so I could return to the UK less transparent than I was before…

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To conclude, South Africa is amazing!  Go! 

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(2008)

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Day Five in Hong Kong

Last day. Sad face.

We bid Che Ha village farewell as we pulled out of the drive and turned the car in the direction of Tai Po (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tai_Po). Without deviating too far from the point of this post; it’s worth noting that Tina’s dad is the Yoda of Parking. There isn’t much space in Hong Kong and this parking area allowed for about half inch either side of the wing mirrors. Good job I wasn’t driving: there would have been tears. And costly insurance claims. 

I failed to really take in the sites of Tai Po. My mind was in one place: my belly. We headed along Kwong Fuk Road towards [INSERT RESTAURANT HERE… sorry but it’s all in Chinese], and turned into a multi-story Yum Cha restaurant. Despite trawling Google maps, I can’t remember much about it, except it had “Great” in the title (translated for me) and a big green neon sign out front. We ate lots of mega-delicious dumplings but I couldn’t really tell you what was inside them. Most of the food we ate was white:

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With a splash of green:

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And then the fish and rice arrived (by this point, it was 10.30am – delicate tummies are not suitable in Hong Kong).

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Some breakfast, eh? Now all I get is Fruit ‘n Fibre and a crumpet if I’m lucky.

Once we had gorged ourselves fifty shades of stuffed, it was time to bus it towards Mong Kok (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mong_Kok). We had been warned to take particular care here, as per the following quotes:

“Do not take anything valuable.”

“Do not take anything you’d be upset about being stolen.”

“Only open your bag if you absolutely have to.”

“If anyone touches you, elbow them.”

“Don’t look anyone in the eye.”

“Keep your head down and walk fast.”

“Pretend you know where you are.”

“If you get the chance, dye your hair.”

“Try not to look foreign.”

Ok, a couple of those were made up… but generally, they put the fear of god into us. As it turns out, we didn’t get robbed or massacred. Hurrah. But apparently you need to watch yourself in the backstreets of Mong Kok, so I’m just passing on that advice.

There we found Ladies Market (http://www.ladies-market.hk/). Stall after stall of… well, I’ll be honest… shite and touristy tack. Ah well, I got to buy a fridge magnet and a Homer Simpson USB stick – what else do you need?

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Oh by the way. It was raining. Cats and dogs. The sticky market air clogged every pore and precipitation and perspiration leaked from every orifice. Nice.

Then we went on the walk that never ended and eventually found the Avenue of Stars. It’s doubtful you’ll recognize any of these “stars”, except maybe yours truly:

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Totally shattered, we caught the Star Ferry back for a mere 20p (http://www.starferry.com.hk/). You’ve gotta love HK public transport. Cheap and cheerful. And check out the views:

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I don’t want to go into detail about the last few hours because I’ll get myself upset. Let’s just say there was curry, wine, followed by goodbyes and tears.

Final thought:

Hong Kong is an electric city. It’s vibrant, colourful and magical. There is a fascinating array of things to do, see and explore. Despite the 6,000 mile distance, you’ll feel strangely at home. A wonderful place and I’ll be back again one day soon. 

A big ‘thank you’ to Tina and Selina for such an amazing travel experience. Yum Cha! Cheers! 

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MEATLiquor

I heart meat. I dig liquor. So a night out with the girls at MEATLiquor was  my version of paradise on a plate / heaven in a glass. While we waited for a table at the bar, we ordered Time of the Month (one of the pre-meal beverages, not a murderous mental state) and a Donkey Punch (my cocktail… behave). Despite the names, pretty delish. Then it was time for a bottle of Argentinian Malbec. I’m not a wine connoisseur but I do like those South American wines. Yummy. Before I move onto the main event, I should comment on the décor. Without sounding vile and putting you off, dear readers, the venue is like an artist’s impression of where the inside of a cow meets Sweeny Todd’s butcher shop. Clear but blood-spattered plastic dividers hang over the stairway as make-shift curtains. Dexter would be in his element. Images of wayward wolves leer down on you from the ceiling, reminding diners below that they’re all predators with undeniable carnivorous urges (except veggies, who’d be the prey, and clearly don’t belong in such an establishment – this really is no place for those who fear flesh).

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As for the food; dirty and delicious. Just the way I like it. Our grubby mits grabbed the meaty goodness from the tray (you don’t get a plate) and our gluttonous faces got a glorious greasing. (God I’m an alliteration whore).

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Marks out of 10? Nine and a half. It would get that extra cheeky demi-point if the slab of meat was a wee bit thicker. But not bad, eh? A great place to MEAT up with friends. Boom.

Final thought:

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Fails to Fly: Sweet Bird of Youth at the Old Vic

Sweet Bird of Youth is centred on a relationship solely crafted to gratify the self-obsessed needs of two lust-ers; the play focuses on the manipulative dalliance between wannabe Hollywood actor and has-been Hollywood actress. Seduced by Chance’s (Seth Numrich) youth and charm, and intoxicated by his arrogance, The Princess Kosmonopolis (Kim Cattrall) stirs from sleep and finds herself smothered betwixt the sheets, blind and bewildered. Popping pills to dull the panic, Princess (aka Alexandra Del Lago) gasps for breath in between Dyson-like gulps over an oxygen pump, and begins to remember the previous night’s not-so-brief encounter.

Self-consumed Chance Wayne has reached an uneasy and wobbly wrung on the social ladder. The twenty-nine year old heads towards the realisation that the bar he’s set for himself is too high and out of reach. The dreams he’s chased are slipping out of grasp. He becomes the essence of unsatisfied ambition. Meanwhile, as Alexandra slowly reaches acceptance that her career, her looks, her soul is fading into yet another burnt-out star, the fates change direction and she’s in for another chance. As the play goes on and the action crescendos, Princess somehow rekindles the flair of her formative years, while Chance’s youthful flame flickers, smoulders, smokes and eventually turns to ashes. 

Ultimately the play is about success, power, fame and beauty, and how these vices or virtues have the ability to stain the soul. Tennessee Williams’ story forces our youth-obsessed culture under the microscope, and cuts like a plastic surgeon into the one-dimensional and material worlds that consume, contort and corrupt lives. 

One can’t fault the acting by the leads: Cattrall and Numrich are tour-de-forces in their own right and their stage presence compels us to follow their every word, gesture and action. We are lured to follow their journey, and we witness a withered woman regain composure while a wayward lad loses his. There’s a distinct lack of chemistry between the pair, but I think that’s on purpose to account for their mechanical and maniacal lust. Much like their lives, their passion is void of meaning.

The supporting cast is generally strong, but clumsy direction results in lost dialogue and fragmented, nonsensical action. One scene in particular is totally distorted by the over-use of various amplifiers – TV screens, megaphones, crowd jeering – to the point where I couldn’t make head or tail of it. The stage combat is sometimes awkward, and there are a few dodgy choreographed fall-overs and faints.

Saying that, there are strong production values. The elaborate set and costumes all look pretty impressive, and the Hollywood casting pot has secured some of the finest talent, but money can’t act as a substitute for imagination and creativity, and because of that it lacks a special something… a certain buzz, a spark, pizzazz.

Perhaps this is due to my personal dislike of the play. The central story line is the most interesting part, but the strength and promise of this very human element is diluted by the padding and fluff that makes up the rest of the three hours.

And while I’m at it: I’m sorry, but 180 minutes is too long. It’s been scientifically proven that the average attention span can only cope with 40 minute bursts. Why force hours upon us when the whole thing could be cut by an hour without sacrificing much of the meaning?

I don’t intend to stand up against Tennessee Williams, but there’s a time and a place for certain themes, and some of the material within Sweet Bird of Youth has lost its freshness and its youth. Either the play’s reached its use-by date, or Marianne Elliott’s production does not support the themes that perhaps deserve more attention. Yes, some of the messages within the piece are ever-relevant and some of the themes are ever-present, but the interwoven political and racial components feel out of place here and superficially and poorly conveyed. I can’t work out whether this is due to the production or the play, but either way Sweet Bird of Youth doesn’t spread its wings and fly.

My interest peaked and troughed but I never really got sucked in; I just kind of bobbed along the surface. It failed to grip and excite me despite Kim Cattrall’s involvement (I’m a fan), and I left the theatre feeling rather uninspired.

Don’t Wake Me: The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong at the Cockpit Theatre

Generally, I think it would be fair to say we are an inclusive nation; the powers-that-be appear willing to implement new ways of improving access for all and there seems to be an overall openness amongst us Brits to celebrate the achievements of those who are less able than others. The London Paralympics played its part in educating Britain; however, Don’t Wake Me: The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong is a heart-wrenching and inspiring reminder that more can be done to facilitate those living with disability. 

Rahila Gupta’s true story, written as a rhyming ballad, begins with a difficult childbirth. Shortly after, the young mother is bombarded with medical jargon by a white coat with as much soul as the clinical setting. Upon deciphering the terminology and translating the unsympathetic doctor speech into layman’s terms, she learns that her new born son, Nihal, has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. As the boy grows up, his mother realises that her son’s promise and potential lies within the cage of his condition. Battling against patronising school boards, Nihal’s mother does what she can to offer him a normal life. Fighting against the ignorant masses who openly and bluntly discuss Nihal’s fate in his presence with no regards for his feelings, which they may have presumed non-existent, Gupta’s frustration becomes painfully evident but the overriding element in this piece is her love for her son. 

Rahila Gupta’s story reflects the hardship she encounters when trying to convince those in authority – educators, medics, pen pushers – that a diagnosis of cerebral palsy does not automatically result in mental and cognitive defects. In fact, her son Nihal is a highly intelligent boy with a brilliant sense of humour and a flair for poetry. He has as much right to an education as anyone else. Gupta shatters society’s delusion surrounding the concept of intelligence in the face of severe disability.

This is one of the most powerful pieces of theatre I have ever seen. This emotional roller-coaster is beautifully written in verse and yet the strength of the poetry is not diluted by the inclusion of Gupta’s factual journey, meandering through the peaks and troughs of hope and disappointment. Despite digging into the depths of her heart and sharing such a personal and heart-wrenching journey, Gupta’s skill for poetic life writing stands out as exemplary. The rhythm and pace of the language creates a beautiful and stunning array of expression. The very essence of her story is human: it is so raw and unashamedly honest. Don’t Wake Me is such a moving experience; so incredibly sad yet also funny, witty and, despite everything, light-hearted and hopeful. 

Jaye Griffiths is incredible. From the very opening sentence, you know you’re in safe hands. Not only does she play with the language and mood, and capture rapt attention with every line delivered, but she also wears her heart on her sleeve. She offers a bold and brave performance; one that is centred on complete dedication and commitment to the text. Griffiths handles the poetic language with ease and delivers the words and deeper meaning with sincere artistic and emotional integrity. It is an encapsulating performance: I could not take my eyes off her. She moves and shakes the barrier between stage and auditorium – her character’s world merges with ours on the periphery. We laugh with her, we cry with her…

Rahila Gupta shares light on an issue that many may unknowingly ignore or push aside. I am thankful to this brave writer for opening my mind and teaching me about the deeper layers of living with disability. I haven’t stopped thinking about this play and I’m sure my fellow theatregoers, those who joined together in a standing ovation at the close of the show, will be talking about this for a very long time. 

Runs until 22nd June then 5-25 August at Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Day Four in Hong Kong

The penultimate day began with a tram to Pacific Place shopping centre (http://www.pacificplace.com.hk/en/) and a quick window shop. My trembling credit card avoided my tempted paws and, thankfully, I didn’t wind up in debt. But to those who love their labels – yeah, good luck manning your unruly “ID” if you do happen to pop in (sorry – that’s my psychology A Level resurfacing).

From there, we hopped on another tram (I do love trams) and trundled along to Western Market and had a wonder around the surrounding streets (http://www.discoverhongkong.com/us/shop/where-to-shop/malls-and-department-stores/western-market.jsp). There we saw Chinese arts, crafts and fabric merchants; all huddled in a relatively confined area, all selling pretty much the same thing, all as happy and as chirpy as the next. It was an experience watching these tradesmen in action… and unlike many other markets, they didn’t hassle or haggle, no hussle and bussle. In fact, they were perfectly charming.

Now for another highlight of the holiday; namely the day I entered the realm of cool and christened my feet with Converse! And here’s the really exciting bit… they were under £30! Not bad considering high-tops retail at £45 in the UK. So yeah, you can pick up some bargains if you know where to look. 

Temple time! Navigating our way through the Soho streets, we by-accident-on-purpose stumbled across Man Mo Temple (http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/see-do/culture-heritage/chinese-temples/man-mo-temple.jsp). Built 166 years ago, the Man Mo Temple situated on Hollywood Road is a visual spectacle that features the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo). One is encouraged to  leave tributes (in other words; to light one of the free incense sticks and bow to the gods). Enormous hanging incense coils coupled with stunning gold and red décor deserves a greedy eye. There is something very subdued about this temple and I left feeling at peace (it could have been the incense dulling my overactive brain and buzzing senses though).

Here’s what it looks like on the outside (no photos allowed inside):

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For lunch, we dared enter a very, very, VERY busy Hong Kong work-lunch hot-spot and ate our goose noodles among the locals. Upon slurping the last of the broth, we were eagerly shuffled out by the waiting staff, who were evidently keen to replace us with the next dollar signs… sorry, I meant customers.

Hunger sated, we caught a bus to the village. Situated in the New Territories, Man O Sha was certainly an eye-opener to the HK way of life. Separated from the thrall of the island, the remote town did not cater to English tourism and I struggled with a basic supermarket transaction. Serves me right for being so English and arrogant to expect otherwise. Walking through the food markets was … bracing. Fish flapped, crabs crawled, lobsters lulled and chicken feet dangled and wobbled precariously. Walking past various crates of very smelly flesh (which had probably started decaying in the afternoon heat) nearly ruined me and the poor Goose I had consumed hours before threatened to rear its ugly head.

I am definitely a carnivore and nothing could come between me and meat… but that market came pretty close.

Public transport on the outskirts is pretty much non-existent, so we hopped in a taxi to Che Ha Village (stupidly cheap taxi fares by the way). There I had the best home-made dinner EVER in the history of my 27 (28 next month) years. God it was good. Look!

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And it was my first glass of wine in 4 days! (They drink a lot of beer out there…). Happy Mojo. 

After smothering myself in deet (mosquitos love me, I hate them), I took part in the world’s weirdest pyjama party and finally caught some shut-eye on a stone floor (don’t ask).

Socrates and his Clouds at the Jermyn Street Theatre

Based somewhere in Greece among three cartoon-like clouds, we are introduced to Strepsiades: father to a sod of a son, Phidippides, who gambles their limited funds away with no thought to the consequences. Desperate to change little Phiddy’s path in life, Streps meekly suggests his son attends Socrates’ Academy; a school which offers free education to those who enter its doors. Phiddy, of course, refuses to go. However, the boy’s attitude changes when his father forbids him to do so upon learning more about Socrates and his institution. Eager to continually disobey his father, Phiddy bounds off into the academic forest of fruits in a drunken stupor. Intoxicated several shades of disorderly, Phiddy misinterprets a debate centred on Reason and Persuasion and their influence on social morality, and takes the content as a misguided cue to act like even more of a bast… brute.  Subsequently, the awful offspring beats up his father and threatens a creditor. Poor old Streps blames Socrates and his school for his son’s heightened appreciation of violence and sets off to burn the academy.

Described as a “serio-comic drama”, William Lyons’s bizarre take on Aristophanes’ Clouds is neither particularly dramatic, serious, nor comic. There is an element of depth in the writing, which for the most part is pretty peppy and riddled with philosophical undertones, but the characters are cardboard cut-outs and the storyline is weak, which means the play as a whole doesn’t work. I would also have to disagree with its description as a “hearty comedy” – fart jokes, sloppy slap-stick and silly throw-away quips just aren’t my bag.

The central cast members are strong. Paul Hudson’s Strepsiades is convincingly meek and mild, and I was torn between wanting to cuddle him and wanting to slap him for being so waspish and weak. Jack Montgomery is applaudingly brat-like as the tiresome tyke, Phidippides. Alexander Andreou oozes stage presence and is perfectly cast as larger-than-life Socrates, and contributes a much-needed boost of energy.

However, none of the characters are multi-dimensional or believable. This may be intentional in light of the Aristophanic style Lyons chooses to adopt, but this approach stamps out any potential for successfully conveying the deeper meaning of the play. The characters mechanically bounce off one another, but Melina Theocharidou’s direction allows for limited organic synergy between them. Despite the slow pace and fragmented energy, the cast do what they can to keep the action moving, but the painfully unhurried scene changes eradicate their efforts and one is left checking one’s watch.

The singing and dancing Chorus interject the action in typical Greek style. The Hocus-Pocus-esque trio of street buskers break up the action to comment and forewarn; however, I found their presence rather irritating. For a start, one member of the chorus is a much stronger singer than the others, which slightly ruins the point of an ensemble. Also, their choreography, despite being slick and well rehearsed, is also somewhat soporifically simple and repetitive.

Socrates and his Clouds offers an educated insight into the questions surrounding morality, ethics, education and economics, but the style does not successively convey these more serious aspects.

http://onestoparts.com/review-socrates-and-his-clouds-jermyn-street-theatre