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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Keeping the magic alive...

How many of you clicked in thinking that this would be some sort of romantic blog about ways to maintain a fresh and frisky relationship? Clearly I'm not an expert on that kind of thing but I am somewhat obsessed with the world of... Harry Potter!! This week, there is a fantastic show at the Gaiety Theatre called Potted Potter - The Unauthorised Harry Experience. I wasn't really sure what to expect but myself and my friend Ruth went to see every one of the movies together so we decided to give it go.

And how happy I was that we did! From start to finish, I was pretty much moved to tears of laughter. For the Harry Potter nerd in me, there were plenty of in-jokes along with some interesting observations and opinions that might have spoiled the story for anyone who might not have read the books or seen the movies. The costumes are minimal, the set looks like it's been designed with cheap, second-hand pieces and there are hardly any special effects (apart from a very dangerous dragon in book 4 and a disco ball in book 7). None of that makes any difference however, as the 2 lads don wigs, adopt silly accents and use a wide variety of inventive props in order to convey the entire Harry Potter series (that I spent approximately 4 years reading) in under an hour and a half. It missed a lot of the important points in the stories but made up for it with audience participation in a truly magical game of Quidditch and with a fantastic finale song.

Another aspect that really resonated with me (and this may have just been the night I was there) but there were several moments where there was a spontaneous ad lib that lent a much more relaxed feel to what is clearly a highly rehearsed show. A great night for all the family, it's running until Sunday at the Gaiety, before moving down to Cork and Galway. Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook to find out future dates if you can't make these. Or try Apparating to Hong Kong in September for the next run... Can't believe I nearly got through the whole thing without a spell-related joke!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A show not to be missed!

OK, I might be somewhat biased as it is my wonderful friends in the Glencullen/Dundrum Musical and Drama Society that are putting this on but there are only 3 nights left to catch their current performance of Plaza Suite, a play written by Neil Simon. I had read the script for the show and knew it was going to be great but it is all the more hilarious when performed onstage.

Brendan Phelan has done a great job directing this play; it is a comedy in 3 acts, with 3 very different stories, all related to romantic relationships, set in Suite 719 at the Plaza Hotel. First we see a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary; or possibly not as they cannot agree on the day (or year even) that they got married. Next we have a big shot Hollywood producer who returns to the east coast to look up his childhood sweetheart for a 'catch up' and finally a frustrated mother and father who are trying to convince their daughter to come out from the bathroom she has locked herself in to marry the (supposed) man of her dreams.

For those of you who have been to any of our shows before, you will see a lot of familiar faces. For most of these actors, I think these roles are some of the best that I have seen them in. Each cast member works so well with their opposite in each act; even the smaller support roles are brilliantly cast. For me personally the show was stolen by Tom Ronayne; this might be my favourite role that I have seen him undertake. Not to mention the ever present and divine Garrett Grimes; only on stage for about 1 minute and 45 seconds and he brought the house down.

A couple of tense moments wedged between a truckload of belly laughs, this is the perfect show to lift your spirits should you require it, but a great night out even if you are already feeling good. With tickets costing only €15 (concessions available also), you should definitely get booking via the Mill Theatre and get down there before it finishes on Saturday night - you will not regret it!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Taking the next step

As many of you will already be aware, I have toyed with the idea of opening my own hostel for some time now. Even before my time in Canada, it was something that had been discussed with my dear friend Michael. We came up with the general concept of a good time hostel (that sounds a little like a brothel - definitely not in our plan) as well as the name; Hostelle Mickelena. 'Hostelle' was an homage to our friends Down Under who are constantly being ridiculed for not being able to grasp the Northern Hemisphere pronunciation of 'hostel'. Mickelena should be self explanatory; it was a very simple yet effective joining of our names.

While working in Canada however, the idea began to take more shape. I met people from all over the world who stayed in such a wide variety of hostels. Even my own experiences travelling throughout Europe had given me some insight into the way it all worked. Hostels are a viable option for many tourists - for the more independent traveller it is nearly always the first port of call - apart from those thrill seekers who are capable of couch surfing! It is also no longer just for younger backpackers. A lot of hostels will cater to any age and, due to the (generally) better value pricing options than a hotel and the general public's tendency to travel on a budget, a much wider demographic are looking to hostel accommodation while travelling.

So, I made my decision and came up with many drunken plans over my time at Global, discussing with all different ages and nationalities the sort of hostel I would open. It would be a fun place to stay, with a kitchen and a huge common area and a smoking patio on the roof and big rooms with fireplaces and personalised towels and a heli-pad and a spiral staircase leading from reception to the bar and a games room... dreaming big and a little beyond my means clearly. I do have a certain amount of practical knowledge already (who knew my degree would come in so handy?!) to go with my big ideas but where to go from there?

In reality, setting up a business is not always just a case of a (in my humble opinion) brilliant idea. It requires planning; market research, a business plan, marketing ideas, pricing strategies, budgets, financial backing, premises, design, recruitment, implementation, growing and maintaining a customer base. Not to mention actually running the feckin thing once all of these steps are accomplished, as well as the multitude of steps I'm sure to have forgotten. It's kind of like what I imagine Alcoholics Anonymous to be like; it's not only hard getting sober (depending on who you're talking to); it's staying sober that is the really difficult part.

What should the first step be? I've got the name - Mama Goose. No offence to Michael but as the nickname stuck to me in Toronto, it came to embody the ethos that I wanted to embrace at my hostel - a family-like, welcoming atmosphere that makes people feel at home away from home. Might not be the most exciting or original but I know that is what I look for when I travel. A policy I would like to continue to stick by; if I wouldn't stay there, why should I expect my guests to?

Watch this space - I will most likely be looking for lots of feedback to my upcoming posts as I struggle to get this off the ground and look forward to having you all stay at Mama Goose in the future!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

End of an Era

There is truly no way for me to put into words how I am feeling right now...but this would be a terrible blog post if I didn't at least attempt it. Global Village Backpackers, where I worked for 2 years and lived for an irrelevant amount of time, is set to close. I received a text from a friend of mine about it and immediately went to my source for fact checking any sort of news nowadays (Facebook) and lo and behold, there were several posts from friends of mine still in Toronto about it. Some of them still living in the hostel, now having to find new digs. Some who are now also unemployed. Others who simply came to the bar and found a chilled out place to hang. It is a sad, sad day.

BUT! Let us not wallow in what could have been, let us revel in what was. And what it was, to quote an anonymous review from Hostelworld last year, was 'an historic dream of a hostel'. I know people may think I am somewhat biased but I have travelled a lot, I've stayed in a lot of different hostels in a LOT of different cities and I can honestly say the GVB was one of the best experiences I've ever had. Before anyone starts rising with indignant protests, let me finish. It is by no means the cleanest hostel ever stayed in, but it is not the dirtiest. There were 2 types of people who stayed here; people who couldn't look past the faults and people who couldn't give a shit about the faults so long as the other guests, staff and the atmosphere made up for it.

Scrolling through my friends and photos on Facebook, the last 2 years of my life have been centred around that place. I can't even begin to list all of the people that I met who made a difference in my life in some way, whether they were there for months, weeks or just days. Some of them were crazies who gave us interesting stories to tell afterwards; some who were whirlwinds of positive energy who blasted through; some who were just simply the kind of people that make travelling worthwhile and who you know you will keep in touch with for the rest of your life. There are far too many for me to name personally (and I would run the risk of forgetting someone!) but anyone who is taking the time to read this will know who you are.

There were good times, bad times, happy times, sad times. I fell in love, had my heart broken, got drunk and suffered some of the worst hangovers of my life. I met some great people and I met some absolute jerks. I made friends who I know I will treasure and who helped me to learn more about myself, who I am and who I want to be. Long live the memory of Global Village Backpackers - it's been emotional.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

A Wicked Experience

I saw Wicked for the first time 4 or 5 years ago in London. I was pretty excited until I got into the theatre...then I was CRAZY excited. I'm pretty sure my friend Alan was black and blue by the time we left, the amount of times I hit him squealing 'look at this' and 'oh, did you see that?' I fell in love with the story and the soundtrack and vowed to see it again someday. Lo and behold, it comes to Ireland when I return, opening 3 weeks after I get back. Fate? Maybe. My friends had already booked tickets and I wasn't in a financial position at the time to join them so it wasn't until Christmas Day when speaking to my friend Bruce (who had gotten a ticket as a present) that I checked the and there was ONE TICKET LEFT IN THE ENTIRE THEATRE  for that same night. Fate? Couldn't deny it. It did mean that I was sitting on my own but I didn't care.

The night started off perfectly with seeing Bruce and Eugene for the first time in 18 months, a delight only heightened by my building anticipation for the show. I took my seat and allowed myself to feel that same magic I felt the first time, studying the map of the land of Oz and keeping an eye on the giant dragon suspended at the front of the stage. When the overture kicked in, I had goosebumps before a character had appeared or a word been spoken or sung. For anyone living under a rock for the last 10 years, Wicked is the back story of the Wicked Witch of the West, originally appearing in the Wizard of Oz as the evil one who kidnaps poor Dorothy and her friends in Oz. But what led poor Elpheba to become so wicked? Sometimes sad, often funny and uplifting all at the same time, we follow her journey through school up to the magical moment when she finally gets to Oz to meet the 'wonderful' wizard and her whole perspective on life changes. With witty dialogue that frequently references events in the Wizard of Oz (sometimes very subtly, catching them all is a bonus), the story moves along at a great pace with plenty of action and drama throughout.

The chorus were phenomenal I have to say; as an ensemble, they gelled together perfectly and were ample support to the principals. Their harmonies were on point, the routines were tight and they covered the stage well. I must admit, I was somewhat disappointed by each of the main characters at some point or another during the show. But just when I was shaking my head at a weak moment, they would pull it back with a burst of energy that had shivers down my spine. Most notably was Nikki Davis-Jones as Elpheba; I found her vocals weak at times and then suddenly she would hit a note that literally made me the hairs on my arms stand up. Her duets with Emily Tierney (as the high-pitched and girlishly annoying and shallow Galinda) were great - they complemented each other very well. I was a little disappointed with my favourite song 'As Long As You're Mine' between Elpheba and Fiyero - it did not have the romance or the impact that it should, although I blame this more on the staging than on the actors themselves. 'No Good Deed' alternatively, displayed Elpheba's desperation perfectly.

Having worked in amateur theatre for nearly 10 years now (wow, just realised that!), going to the theatre presents some new challenges. On the one hand, I have this extra level of appreciation for what's happening and it makes me dizzy to imagine the logisitics of putting on a show like this from a backstage perspective. But it also means that I sometimes notice things no one else would, like the fact that the guys running the moving spotlights didn't seem to care what was going on at times. The choice to use English accents was interesting but didn't really work for me, although Boq was perfect as a Scot. The costumes were inventive, the dance routines polished, the scene changes were FLAWLESS.

Despite my slight misgivings above, there is nothing quite like the first time you see Elpheba 'Defying Gravity' and Wicked is essentially an amazing story of overcoming adversity, love and above all, friendship that is always worth a watch.

Moral of the Story - Unfortunately, tickets are sold out for the rest of the run at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre but it would be a crime not to take a quick trip to London to see the resident West End production at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. A great show that leaves you with the feeling that everyone deserves the chance to fly...

Monday, 6 January 2014

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues - Worth the wait?

The first time I saw Anchorman, I was not overly impressed. It was sort of funny but a little too haphazard for my liking. Over time, I came to love it and learned to embrace the haphazard, zany and random comedy moments. Talk of a sequel abounded for quite some time and I was excited when I heard that it was finally coming to fruition. The build up was extraordinary, with promotions ongoing for what seemed like years. We Irish were subjected to many personalised promotional videos, from topics like Love/Hate to our dear Taoiseach 'Edna' Kenny, as well as an appearance on the Late Late Show (I'm sure I wasn't the only one who would have loved Will Ferrell to keep Ryan Tubridy's chair for a little bit longer). With all the hoopla, and with inital reports being quite mixed, I was very intrigued to see the next installment to make my own mind up.

No such thing as spolier alerts when it comes to a movie like this in my opinion; even if I told you some of the random twists, it would not make sense out of context...possibly not even in context. There's the traditional over-exaggerated inflated sense of self-importance from Ron, some questionable comments and actions from Champ, some more inappropriate (and some of the funniest) lines from Brian and plenty of the obscure and seemingly random from Brick. Brian did steal the show for me a little; he doesn't say a hell of a lot but he is high-larious throughout. Did I mention I might have a mild crush on Brian Fantana? Not Paul Rudd though...must be the moustache or one of my favourite lines 'I gave her a whole Brady Bunch of crabs'.

One thing that I actually really enjoyed in retrospect is the transition into 24 hour news and how the original news team bring their ratings up. Questions asked such as 'how are we going to fill 24 hours with news stories' lead to the team sensationalising stories that are not really news worthy. When Ron uses a 3 hour broadcast to cover a high speed car chase and people eat it up, it did make me wonder if that's how it actually happened. Maybe there is a real life Ron Burgundy out there to blame for the hours of drivel that we have to trawl through on TV to get to any sort of worthy programming. I probably could have googled it to find out but well, you know. Much better to print my own opinions and let some clever person point out the mistakes later!

Moral of the Story - I may have veered off the point a bit in terms of reviewing but this movie will be enjoyed far more with a few beers, or even some other mind altering substances (not that I'd know anything about that) as well as good friends with the same sense of humour as yourself. Not everyone will find it funny when Ron keeps repeating 'black...blaaack' when he meets his African American female boss for the first time. Although I certainly did ;)

Monday, 25 November 2013

Missing Hostel Life?...

I've been home for nearly 3 weeks after living in a hostel for...well, I don't feel like I should admit how long, but it was a lot longer than I would advise anyone else to do it for! There have been a few changes that I have had to adjust to, most of them extremely pleasant I must admit.

Wait, that whole bed - just for little old me? And I get wardrobes? Well, that is luxury. But how many people am I sharing with? None...that doesn't make any sense. So I can come home drunk and eat a sandwich in bed and watch Sons of Anarchy/The Office/Game of Thrones on my laptop without my earphones in and I won't bother anyone? And I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful it is not stumbling around in the dark either trying to get dressed or trying to get your clothes together to get dressed in the bathroom (whichever causes the least disturbance). This I can get used to!

Being able to leave my toiletries in the bathroom and the only thing I really have to worry about is my sister using my shampoo/shower gel. Which, let's face it, is a general fact of life anyway with siblings. Not having to wear flip flops while taking a shower is an freedom everyone should be allowed. Except prison folk...they probably deserve to be punished in this way. I also had my first bath in a year and a half, lovely stuff.

I open the fridge, see something I like and I can take it. Without having to search under a pile of unidentifiable crap for the bag with my name on it, open it and realise that someone stole my eggs (this happened TWICE). The first couple of days, I kept asking the family if it was OK for me to take things and why wasn't anything labelled with their names, room numbers and departure dates. Then I remembered that that's all irrelevant here!

The kitchen is occupied by a maximum of 3 other people at any one time. And only one, if any of those people will be cooking. We have 8 working hobs, 2 ovens, a grill, a microwave, a dishwasher. I have 5 different sized pie dishes to choose from and knives sharp enough to actually chop things with. I have not had noodles since I've been home, I don't even think there are any in the press!

Not going to lie though, I do sort of miss the constant stream of strangers coming through. It made every journey from your room an adventure - who would you see on the way back from the bathroom in just a towel? Which kitchen hogger would be using 9 pots and pans while you're trying to boil an egg? Who is talking really loudly on their mobile on the patio/in the common area? Which crazy/creeper is going to be freaking people out in the bar? And that brings me to the main thing I miss. The good old Departure Lounge, where everybody knows my name. And 2 of the most attentive bartenders I've ever had. No one makes a Gin Caesar like Buckethead and I doubt I will ever find a better karaoke partner than Staples O'Neill. Miss you boys!

Moral of the Story - next time you go travelling, make sure to stay in a hostel. All of the above points will make you glad to get home but you will never be able to replace the memories that will be made.