Yep, you heard me right. Believe it or not, I haven’t been to London or The West End since mid-February (which seems a long time for me!) so it’s fair to say I was a little bit excited to return for 3 shows in 3 days!
I thought i’d give you the low-down on what happened and my thoughts on the shows I saw!
Day 1 = Phantom Of The Opera:
I clocked off work early, and me and my mum set off on our trek to London for the trade night of Phantom Of The Opera courtesy of LTD. I was excited to finally be seeing what all the fuss over the Phantom was about!
This iconic Andrew Lloyd Webber musical recently bagged itself an Olivier Award in the audience voted category, and it’s celebrating its 30th year this year, and it’s no surprise to see why.
I had seen the film version a few months ago but despite it’s mixed opinions, I personally really enjoyed it and it made me keen to see it on-stage as I could definitely imagine it being quite a spectacle, in which I wasn’t wrong…
Read the full review here at London Theatre Direct.
Phantom Of The Opera is currently booking until the 1st of October and in it’s 30th year. ★★★★
Day 2 = Exploring London & The End Of Longing:
Me and one of my best friends (Mollie) had this booked for some time, as we’d booked to see two shows over two days and have a night in London. Which has seemed to become a near tradition with us because last year for both our birthdays we spent a day in London and saw a show, and we enjoyed it so much we decided to do it again this year. So first up for the pair of us was The End Of Longing.
To set the scene, we set off in the early afternoon and had a lovely hotel just round the corner from Covent Garden. It felt so exciting being in the centre of London and surrounded by the bulk of the West End. We could even see part of the London Eye and some other pretty buildings from our room (in which we were fortunate in getting the choice of getting a room high up so we could revel in those sights!).
Following that, once we settled into our room, we went for a little wander in the sun and enjoyed a great early dinner at Bella Italia (which is great if you’re a student on a budget, because you can request their secret student menu where you can enjoy main courses for £5!) which was on a side street of Covent Garden. We quickly followed this by a visit to one of my favourite hangouts that Mollie hadn’t seen yet, The Theatre Cafe on Shaftesbury Avenue, which I’ve spoke about before here but it’s great because every visit feels different as they’re always playing different show tunes, changing the displays or you get a different cup!
Then we dashed off to The Playhouse over at Embankment (which by the way, is a lovely area) to prepare ourselves for The End Of Longing.
We had booked this show predominately because we are both huge F.R.I.E.N.D.S geeks, and the idea of seeing actual Chandler Bing aka Matthew Perry in real life, in a play he wrote as well as stars in, was an opportunity that couldn’t be ignored.
Aside from the biased opinion of exciting casting, the story did sound rather interesting to me. In the official summary, it is described as a “sharply written and hilarious dark comedy, and a playwriting debut from Matthew Perry” and we are told to “meet Jack, Stephanie, Joseph and Stevie: four lost souls, entering their forties and searching for meaning. After sharing one raucous night together in a downtown Los Angeles bar, their lives become irreversibly entwined in a rollercoaster journey that forces them to confront the darker sides of their relationships”.
But I particularly loved the tag line as it claimed it “will make you realise that broken people don’t need to stay broken”.
While majority of this, and what I had heard from Matthew Perry in interviews, was an accurate description of the play, it was A LOT more adult themed than I perhaps anticipated. It covered a whole range of topics from friendship, love/relationships, family, jobs and addiction. It seemed to be a very modern story, that was set in LA and it was crammed with drama, emotion and comedy.
The comedy felt rather British too, it was quick, witty, silly and in some parts rude as much of the comedy came from sex-related jokes, typical friendship “banter”, relationship drama and there was lots of swearing!
While the drama was very intense, punching and emotional. It showed the truths of how destructive addictions can be and the scary side of pregnancy. In fact, I was almost in tears at one point. It was an exciting balance between the drama and comedy. The story remained fast paced with quick jumps in scenes and time too, which kept audiences interested and there was a fair balance between hearing from the four characters.
And the characters were all very different, you could definitely see mild inspiration from F.R.I.E.N.D.S in them, and simply they were four friends dealing with life in their 30s/40s. It was interesting seeing a cast of four too, all of whom were brilliant. My only critique is that while there was focus on all four characters, it all felt somewhat narcissistic towards Matthew Perry’s character, even though it kind of had to be for the story, I just feel it could have been dialled down a fraction.
But kudos to Matty because before the show began someone came on stage to announce he had laryngitis, which sent the audience into a small sympathetic panic, but we were quickly reassured that despite that he didn’t want to let us down, which was so great of him and it wasn’t even noticeable in his performance, plus he even had the heart to throw-in an ad-lib joke about it which raked in some extra laughs and one of my personal highlights from his wild extroverted character was his moments of drunken singing which were very funny.
Overall, it was enjoyable to see something different to my normal choices, that was held together by a great cast of four, and it was a privilege to see one of the cast of Friends in person too, especially in a project so close to his heart. However, it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea and I doubt I would rush off to see it again. Though I have no regrets about going!
The End Of Longing must end on the 14th of May. ★★★
Day 3 = More Exploring London & Mamma Mia!:
The last day of the London adventure was here… *insert sad faces*
We got up a sensible time, and got ourselves ready and packed up for check out and the day ahead. Then we set off towards the Bond Street end of Oxford Street and found the nearest Costa for breakfast, which was swiftly followed by a trip to the Oxford Street Disney Store and Lush, which were mildly damaging to my bank balance, but I got some lovely buys. We also popped into the big H&M for a photobooth session, which has also seemed to become a tradition with us, but it’s great to capture the memories from our visits to London.
After the shops had worn us out, we grabbed some lunch at another Bella Italia (we like to keep it cheap!) in Leicester Square and then slowly ambled to the theatre while marvelling in more sights of London in the likes of Trafalgar Square and the Strand.
Finally, the three shows concluded with Mamma Mia! in which I actually saw the show for the first time back in September 2015 and I reviewed it here for London Theatre Direct as one of my earliest reviews.
However, I loved it so much and I knew Mollie was keen to see it too, so agreed to go back to the Island again without much convincing!
While I knew what to expect this time, the bulk of my views remain the same. Though there were a couple of cast changes from my last visit, due to holiday/illness, but of course they were just as excellent, as were the rest of the cast, and you have to give great respect to the understudies. But I still especially adore Dianne Pilkington in the role of Donna, and think it’s a great shame she’ll be leaving in June.
However, this is a show that never fails to keep a grin on my face through-out (well, aside from the heartbreaking scene of Slipping Through My Fingers into The Winner Takes It All, where I cried of course) but it’s a show full of such joy and energy, there’s no denying I could see it over and over without getting bored and it’s up there as one of my favourite shows. (And I still want to be a 4th Dynamo!)
Mamma Mia! (London) is still booking until March 2017 and currently on a UK tour. ★★★★★
And like that, our London adventure was all over and we began the trek home on the route to reality… Until next time London!
But just to reminisce and let you into the adventure once more, here’s some snapshots across the three days!