Sunday, 9 October 2016

The Wind in the Willows The Musical World Premiere Review | LittleEllieMae

After hearing that a musical adaption of the well- loved story of The Wind in the Willows was in the mix, I was intrigued. And to hear of the legendary cast and creatives involved, I knew it should be something special. There has been a real buzz about the unveiling of Julian Fellowes, Anthony Drewe and George Stiles' creation since it was announced but I was especially looking forward to it as it has premiered in my hometown of Plymouth at the Theatre Royal.

After waiting for months in anticipation, tonight I finally saw the show at it's world premiere. I've come straight back after the show to write about it as I'm just so excited and inspired by it.  

The show has been in works since 2011 when producer Jamie Hendry first discussed the project with the talented team of Julian, George and Anthony. Tonight it finally showcased the final creation to the world and to say it was special is an understatement! 

We all know and love the nostaligic story of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, following the enchanting adventures of Mole (Fra Fee), Ratty (Thomas Howes), Badger (David Birrell), Mr Toad (Rufus Hound), friends (and enemies!). As much as I have a personal attachment to the novel as I read it throughout my childhood, I did wonder how it could be adapted to a stage musical without seeming too 'childish'... however, this production brings the classic story to life with a breath of fresh air and complete contemporary feel.

Fellowes and Stiles introducing the show on opening night
The show opens with Fra Fee as Mole, singing the opening lines to 'Spring'- a number that has a real traditional musical theatre/ choral feel to it as the ensemble begin to assemble on stage, the brilliant orchestra strikes up and the set begins to build in the background. Its a beautiful opening number that automatically gave me goosebumps and I straight away knew that this was going to be a great show.

The music, produced by composer and lyricist duo Stiles and Drewe, is some of the best I've heard in a musical in a while. The same team who created Mary Poppins The Musical, are great at conveying classic stories through a variation of music. For The Wind in the Willows, Stiles and Drewe have created a world of music inspired by the last 150 years of British songs- ranging from Gilbert and Sullivan (As If In A Dream), Flanders and Swann (The Hedgehog's Nightmare), pop/ hip-hop style (The Amazing Mr Toad) and glam rock (Taking Over the Hall). There are musical styles suited to everyone, all generations who are sure to come and see the show. The lyrics are clever, witty, very catchy and will leave you humming all the way home. You can tell that the music is the forefront of this production and it really carries the story the whole way through, moving the plot along as well as providing toe-tappingly good entertainment. 

Alongside the fantastic music, the choreography by Aletta Collins was outstanding and really pulled everything together. From the humorous hip-hop moves of Mr Toad to the more complex ensemble pieces, the choreography was truly impressive. My favourite scene of the show was 'The Wild Wooders' routine where the 'baddies' of weasels, foxes and stoats congregated in a rock 'n' roll/ bad-boy style routine with fantastic slick ensemble dance. Though it was seemingly simple, it was technically perfect and provided great visuals to a stunning track. 

The costumes and set for this show were so impressive. Peter McKintosh has designed gorgeously quirky pieces to fit the contemporary feel to this classic story. The set was so varied and it seemed like there was so much of it! In every scene, there was a new interesting piece of set to admire. From the simple river bank of the willows to the grandeur of Mr Toad's Hall- the set had a fantastical aura to it that bought the magical story to life. Additionally, McKintosh's costumes were great- contemporary pieces such as suits, jumpers and jackets were redesigned to suit the woodland creatures' personas. They were embellished with ears, spikes, tails, scales and claws. I loved them so much! 

Something that I did pick up on during this production, that doesn't usually capture my imagination that much, was the lighting. Howard Harrison was the lighting designer for this show and I loved his work in portraying the various situations of the story. From the dreary lighting of Toad's prison cell, to the fast and furious lighting of the race track- it was great. Despite the one hiccup on opening night... "Toad is standing in the dark..." 

Although not necessarily a large cast, they smashed the show. The lead characters were taken on by Rufus Hound (Toad), David Birrell (Badger), Fra Fee (Mole), Thomas Howes (Rat), Chief Weasel (Neil McDermott) and Mrs Otter (Sophia Nomvete) who were supported by a really strong ensemble. As a team, they worked really well and even though it was their first night performing to an audience, you could feel the chemistry between them which is just what you need for a heart-warming story such as this.

 Fra Fee and Thomas Howes were absolutely charming as their rodent characters and the bond between them which flourished throughout the show was completely endearing. A performance that stood out to me was Fra Fee as Mole, performing 'A Place To Come Back To' as he reflected on his home and friends. The song really tugs at your heartstrings and Fee's performance was beautiful. 

Rufus Hound steals the show with his portrayal of the bolshie but loveable Mr Toad. He is the epitome of fabulous-ness and wins the hearts of the audience with his quick wit and funky musical performances (think: glitzy suits, green moustache and some thrusting dance moves). I was interested to see what Hound would be like in a musical, having only a perception of him alongside Keith Lemon on TV, but he is perfect for this role and for this show. A fantastic performance. 

I'm pretty sure I could sit here and talk about this production all day (as with any show I love). But to witness the birth of this fantastic new musical creation tonight was something really special. Fellowes said that he hopes "people who come to see it will be cheered by it, and will walk out of the theatre feeling warmer than they were when they walked in" and I can tell for a fact that that is exactly what this production will do. It has left me on such a high and I'm already desperate to go back and see it. I have a feeling that this is something very special and this production will go far. Perfect for people young and old, into musical theatre or not- a show for everybody. I definitely recommend it!

I give this show an impressive ★★★★★.

The Wind in the Willows is at the Theatre Royal Plymouth until 22nd October then will be heading to Salford and Southampton. But I anticipate big things and a long future for this show so keep an eye out and follow its success!

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own. I will add production photos as soon as possible!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Sam Mackay Interview - In The Heights 1st Birthday | LittleEllieMae

You may have read my post on the amazing party to celebrate In The Heights first birthday last weekend and saw how over the moon I was the entire evening. To add to the excitement, I had the chance to chat to some of the cast and crew too. Here's my interview with the delightful and extremely talented Sam Mackay who plays the lead role of Usnavi. As well as playing Usnavi in In The Heights at Southwark Playhouse and Kings Cross Theatre, his previous roles include Eddie in Mamma Mia at Prince of Wales Theatre, Jimmy in Flashdance at Shaftesbury theatre and Reecey in Our House UK Tour. 

It was a pleasure to chat to Sam beforehand and he absolutely smashed the show, as per usual. He really is a gem of a performer- he puts so much energy and passion into his performance and receives nothing but love back from the audience. Usnavi is one of my favourite theatrical characters of all time and Sam's portrayal proves no exception. 

The show has been running for a whole year now, what is it that makes In The Heights so special? 

I think the show has universal themes that people connect with. At a time when there's a lot of political instability, financial instability- which are both two massive themes in the show- I think, coming somewhere and escaping to a place with a real sense of community and caring for the people around you. Its a nice new message when you turn on the TV and you see Trump with so much violence coming out of his mouth and you come here like, here is a hub of love and story of community and home. I think that's something that everybody needs in their life.I think its very easy to connect with, regardless of whether you're Latino or not, its just about community and struggling together. What's not to like about it? 

I'm still such a fan of this show. It's still crazy to me! I did this show in 2014 at Southwark- I was a fan of the show then, and I'm still a fan of the show every day. Its a piece that I love talking about and sharing it... I mean, how can you not?! The music is SO good. I think there's something in it for everyone. We've had such a spectrum of audiences- all races, colours, creeds, genders, ages- there is such a mixed audience and I don't think you get that much on the West End anymore. 

Even me, as someone who has grown up half very middle class and half very working class, I go into the theatre and I feel very {out of place}. There's a very particular type of person there so its nice that there's a break of that here. We offer very affordable prices (£15 tickets for under 25s)... there should be accessible theatre, especially for a piece like this. It resonates with people that wouldn't necessarily usually be theatre- goers but also attracts middle-class regulars too- it has classic musical theatre ballads, a very honest musical theatre structure to the show as a whole yet it also appeals to a much wider audience beyond that. 

Of course I have to ask, your boss and former Usnavi visited a few weeks ago, what was that like?!

Oh yeah... that guy! It was mental and wonderful. He's a very generous and humble man. He came over when we were at the Southwark in 2014, but unfortunately he missed it as he was writing Hamilton at the time. He came over and met us afterwards and he was very lovely about it. His parents had seen the show and they loved it. It was a big pressure with him coming in, performing this role to this guy. I was getting tweets when he mentioned me on his Periscope! I was smitten. In life I try not to idolise people, when you meet these people you realise we are all just humans. Those people I aspire to and follow in their footsteps work- wise are just like us. Lin is the depiction of a lovely human being, despite his huge success. He had lovely things to say about the show and the company. Of course it was nerve- wracking but the audience was unreal that night- it was like a rock gig or something. We hit the end of "in Washington Heights... BAM!" and it just went wild. After that, I was just like "oh cool... at least these guys think it's alright.". It was amazing. Unreal. 

Thanks to Sam for such an interesting chat. It was great to meet you! Check out the audio of our interview below:

And thanks to In The Heights for inviting Aby and I for an amazing evening of celebrations... HAPPY BIRTHDAY! 

In The Heights is running at the Kings Cross Theatre until 8th January 2017 so book your tickets now... Everybody needs to see this unreal show. Check out their website for more details:

Ellie Mae x

Monday, 3 October 2016

In The Heights First Birthday Party! | LittleEllieMae

Photo by Johan Persson
During the second week of settling into university, tackling new assignments and dirty kitchens, an email landed in my inbox one morning, inviting me to the first birthday party of one of my favourite shows, In The Heights and Kings Cross Theatre! To say it made my day (or week) is an understatement. 

My new friends Jo and Aby accompanied me to London and on Friday 30th September we arrived at Kings Cross Theatre to celebrate one year of In The Heights!

I first saw the show back in July where I completely and utterly fell in love with the whole production. Check out my initial review here. So I was beyond excited to revisit it with new additions to the company!

We arrived at Kings Cross Theatre to be greeted with a much-needed glass of wine (after driving from Cornwall to London that same morning), a programme and our tickets for the evening. After mingling with some other bloggers and media/ press, we all made our way to the impressive stage for a salsa class with the awesome Rafaella Covino (Swing & Dance Captain) and Johnny Bishop (Graffiti Pete).

Photo by Johan Persson
They taught us a routine called 'The Arm Breaker' which is featured in one of my favourite scenes in the show, The Club. Set to super fast-paced, sizzling salsa music, the choreography (like all of the dance in the show) was mesmerising. After a few attempts and support from varying members of the cast, me and Aby finally got the steps down to a T and have been salsa dancing together ever since. Look out for us to be featured in the next cast of ITH... just you wait..!

After some more wine and food, some of the cast came to chat to us as well as Simon Marlow, the production manager of the piece. It was great to talk to the company and crew, to get a real inside view of the production. Something that really struck me was the overwhelming sense of passion and dedication of this piece. Every single performer and backstage worker there were real fans of the show and its so refreshing to see people love what they do so much. I found it really inspiring.

Aby and I sat down with Sam Mackay who plays the lead role of Usnavi, which you can catch in another blog post.

Then it was show time!

From the very opening of the show, when the first beats of that hypnotic score begins to play, I am completely mesmerised.

Sam Mackay as Usnavi opens the show with the titular song, 'In The Heights' where he acts as a narrator who introduces the tight- knit community of Washington Heights, Manhattan's most vibrant community which is on the brink of change. Though Sam leads the production as the charismatic, kind of dorky, but fully loveable character of Usnavi, it is totally an ensemble piece of theatre as every character helps to carry the show effortlessly and with heaps of energy.

We follow the stories of various members of el barrio, including Nina who drops out of college, Benny who falls deeply in love, Vanessa who's running away to a new life, Daniella who is taking the next career step, Abuela Claudia who bags the luckiest/ unluckiest days of her life and of course, Usnavi whose there between it all.

Photo by Johan Persson
The engaging stories are fueled by Lin- Manuel Miranda's famous contemporary score of vibrant latin/ hip-hop infusion. Its one of my favourite scores to date and is the only music that never fails to make me cry as well as dance. I find it difficult to choose favourite songs but '96000' and 'The Club' have to be up there with some of my favourite musical theatre songs of all time, let alone just in this show. The witty lyrics alongside the sizzling hot beats make the music the pulling factor of this phenomenal show.

To complement the insane music is some of the best choreography I have ever witnessed. Drew Mconie utilises the fusion of latin and hip-hop in his choreography so well and the burst of energy and passion from the stage is infectious. Its technically outstanding and fits the story of the show so well. The ensemble are out of this world performing it.

A handful of the original cast are still performing in the show: Sam Mackay has been killing it as Usnavi since its run at Southwark in 2014, Gabriela Garcia makes a stunning Nina, Johnny Bishop as Graffiti Pete, Norma Attallah as Abuela as well as some fantastic ensemble members.

Photo by Johan Persson
Recently some new cast members have joined the family, including Arun Blair- Mangat who plays a charming Benny and Juliet Gough makes a fierce Camilla. Sarah Naudi has been with the show since its opening back in 2014 at the Southwark Playhouse and is finally playing the role of Vanessa full time. I saw her understudy the role earlier this summer and she is beyond perfect for it. She rules the stage with her confident presence and outstandingly effortless powerhouse vocals. Damian Buhagiar returns to his role as the adorable Sonny and Jocasta Almgill slays as the sassy Daniela.

All of the aforementioned cast as well as the additional ensemble and swings are phenomenal. They make the show what it is with their amazing energy and obvious passion for the show and its story.

I could honestly talk about this show all day and I am desperate to see it again before it closes its doors of el barrio on January 8th 2017. Its one of my favourite shows out there at the moment and I urge everybody to see it.

In The Heights is showing at Kings Cross Theatre in London- tickets start at £22.50, with a selection of best seats available for Under 25s at £15 per performance (AMAZING!!). Go get your tickets now!


Thanks again for In The Heights for inviting me and Aby along for this fantastic evening of celebrations. I couldn't have asked for a better evening at my favourite place.

Keep an eye out on my blog for my interview with Sam Mackay!

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: I was invited to this event by In The Heights/ Raw PR but all thoughts and opinions are my own, as always!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Summer Vintage- Inspired Lookbook | LittleEllieMae

As many of you know, I have always been (and will always be) a massive vintage fashion fan. I've been bought up, traipsing around charity shops and thrift stores and my passion for it is ever-growing. Even if I can't buy something that is original vintage, I try to mix up my wardrobe with vintage- inspired pieces. There are so many amazing vintage- inspired brands nowadays which makes it super easy to inject some quirky bits into my everyday outfits.

One sunny day in August, my sister and I decided to have a day out in Cornwall to shoot some of my favourite summer vintage- inspired outfits!

First up, we visited Antony House in Cornwall- just a hop and a skip away via the Torpoint Ferry. This is one of my favourite National Trust sites and it was in fact a filming location for the first live- action Alice In Wonderland film! I wore my Lindy Bop playsuit which has become a staple of my wardrobe this summer! This 1950s style playsuit has gorgeous floaty, pleated shorts, a red bow halterneck and the most amazingly quirky print of swimmers! I get so many compliments when I wear this outfit- with white sandals, red lipstick and cat- eye sunglasses to complete the look!

Kingsand is my favourite little seaside village in Cornwall as its where I spent a lot of my childhood. Here I shot this much-worn summer outfit. I adore the stripey tie- front tshirt from Primark with these red, frilly H&M shorts. I love anything and everything that is high-waisted as I know that it really suits my body shape, so these shorts are perfect. Paired with white Converse and of course, my usual cat-eye sunglasses from Primark.

I wear this Primark skirt all year long- in the Autumn I usually pair it with a baggy grey t-shirt but in the Summer I like to rock it with a plain white vest and my monochrome Clarks shoes. I adore full, knee-length skirts and this one is my favourite as its so versatile and easy to wear. (Plus, it was super cheap in the Primark sale a few years ago... £3!!!)

Quirky prints are obviously my thing and this Henry Holland dress is no exception. I really love the royal blue colour which pops against the lemon and lime print. Its corset- like bodice and layered underskirts make this dress super flattering to wear and I like to wear it with some red lipstick (of course) and plain shoes. 

More high-waisted goodies! This outfit consists of this gorgeous Primark collared shirt and denim shorts with copper buttons. These shorts are the comfiest I have ever owned, so they're my go-to for Summer adventures!

A girl can't go wrong with a tea dress and this is my favourite of the season. This Topshop dress has a gorgeous pastel pink, floral pattern with a flattering V-neckline and capped sleeves. Its super easy to wear this dress from day to night- just change from sandals to some heels!

So that's my array of favourite summer vintage- inspired outfits from this season! They're so fun to wear and add a bit of quirky personality to everyday dressing up.

What is your favourite outfit? Let me know by commenting below or tweeting me @LittleEllieMae :)

Ellie Mae x

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Mary Poppins UK Tour Review | LittleEllieMae

As a massive Disney geek and Cameron Mackintosh fan, I've been so excited to watch their collaboration of Mary Poppins the musical for a long time!

Mackintosh acquired the rights from Pamela Travers in 1993, leading to the world premier at Bristol Hippodrome in 2004. After a three year stint at the Prince Edward Theatre in the West End, the Mackintosh/ Disney production made its way across the pond to Broadway where it found its home at the New Amsterdam Theatre for over six years!

Now this year, this huge-scale production has embarked on a national UK tour and I was lucky enough to catch it on its tour stop at the Theatre Royal Plymouth.

I held off on buying tickets for this show for a long time, purely because of the ridiculously high tickets prices (our usual £30 seats were double the price... But a blog post on this topic will be coming to this blog soon!). However a few weeks into its month-long run at the Theatre Royal Plymouth, I kept hearing nothing but rave reviews about the show all around the city so I just had to bag myself some tickets.

We couldn't afford the standard seats which would set my sister and I back £120, so we settled for "restricted view" seats which were £27 each. This obviously meant that our view really was restricted, giving us good sight of downstage but could only see half the performances when they utilised the rest of the stage. So please do keep this in mind when reading this review!

Though I still saw the show and enjoyed it immensely!

The story is one we all know and love; Travers' tale of the magical nanny, Mary Poppins, who brings fun and fantasy to two children, Jane and Michael Banks (did you just sing their names too..?!). We are all of course familiar with the world renown 1964 film, starring the one and only Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, but the stage show follows a slightly different plot which has a bit more depth and really suits the stage. The musical hones in more on family relationships: the lack of father figure for the Banks children, how Mr Banks' scarring childhood affected him as an adult, the role of a mother and of course, how the mystical presence of Mary Poppins helps to resolve all this with help of some fantastic songs and dance numbers.

Zizi Strallen perfectly takes the lead as Mary Poppins. She appears in the majority of the scenes and really carries the whole show with her charming charisma and impressive performances. I read in an article that she brings a stronger dance aspect than previous Poppins characters due to her past dance training. Strallen seems flawless as she floats across the stage in every routine, accompanied by her beautiful singing voice and quirky personality.

Another star of the show is Matt Lee who plays cheeky chappy, tap dancing chimney sweep sensation, Bert. Despite my worries that no one could surpass Dick Van Dyke for me, Lee absolutely smashed this role. He brought a whole new dimension to Bert's character- not just a cockney- talking sweep, but a caring alternative male figure to the Banks children. His character development throughout the show is heartwarming and he was definitely my favourite character! His performance in the massive tap number, Step In Time, was one that stood out to me most. How he can tap dance and sing upside down, hanging from the ceiling, to land back on the stage and dance again straight away so perfectly is beyond me! A really really impressive performance from Matt Lee.

Strallen and Lee are joined by a large cast who help make the whole show. The ensemble is one of the strongest I've seen in a while and really blew me away with their performances. The ensemble pieces were by far my favourite parts of the show: the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Step In Time routines were incredible as the whole cast performed effortlessly, utilising the whole stage. I love it when strong individual performances come together seamlessly to create something really special.

As I mentioned, the Step In Time dance was by far my favourite part of the show. Also quite possibly one of my favourite musical theatre routines ever. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I adore a good tap routine and this one didn't disappoint! My sister said that she looked over at me during the routine and I wouldn't stop beaming... It was completely mesmerising. Matthew Bourne is one of my favourite choreographers and his work in this show is some of his best yet! The routines are so high- energy and genuinely difficult to do, so when the entire cast pull it off so effortlessly, it's very impressive.

Even though we could only see some of the stage from our seats, of what we saw, the set design for this show was out of this world. Possibly the best set design I've ever witnessed. The fold-out dolls house of Cherry Tree Lane was the staple design, full with intricate details like the stairway which Mary floated up and down throughout the show and kitchen that was home to so many magical tricks. Every set piece was beautiful and cleverly utilised on stage - the set design was one of my favourite aspects of the show and I just wish I could've witnessed it in its fullest form from normal seats!

As well as the set design, Bob Crowley has created some fantastic costumes for the production. Mary Poppins generally remains in her traditional get-up of blue and red coats, pin stripes and a twee hat. But it is the fantastical characters' costumes that really caught my imagination. In particular, the costumes from the 'Jolly Holiday' and 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' routines impressed me most- full of gorgeous bright colours, quirky design features and an array of textures. 

Overall, this was a really lovely production. Neither Disney or Cameron Mackintosh ever disappoint when it comes to large- scale, massive- budget productions. It's perfect for all the family: full to the brim with catchy music, impressive dance, fun characters and story. Though I wouldn't pay full price at £60 a ticket to see it, I'm glad I managed to see it whilst it's in Plymouth.

I give this show an impressive ★★★★. 

Have you seen Mary Poppins the musical? Let me know your thoughts by commenting below or tweeting me @LittleEllieMae :)

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own. Photos credited to Johan Persson.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Tamar Trails Blogger Adventure | LittleEllieMae

When an email landed in my inbox, inviting me to help organise a bloggers event which would involve swinging from trees like Tarzan and shooting bows like Merida in the middle of Devon countryside, of course I jumped at the chance!

Once the epicentre of the global copper industry (now part of Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site), Tamar Trails Centre is located in the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Just a short drive outside Plymouth, not too far away from Tavistock/ Gunnislake area, this exciting hotspot of adventure is tucked away in the most glorious countryside.

Tamar Trails Centre is home to the Beech Tree cafe, an interpretation area with live wildlife webcams, a meeting room and a tonne of exciting outdoor activities!. There is also 25km of trails for walkers, cyclists and horse riders that follow old mineral tramways and railways through the most picturesque Devonshire landscape.

A group of adventurous bloggers met at Tamar Trails last week, we donned our best 'outdoorsy' attire (think: fashion bloggers in the wild) and were roaring with enthusiasm for the exciting day ahead. 

After delicious pots of tea and coffee all round at the Beech Tree Cafe (the most adorable cafe, decorated with bunting, fresh flowers and chalk boards) and a good old catch up (us bloggers can talk for England...), we met with Paul, creator of Tamar Trails, who talked us through the history and future of the centre. 

We then all marched through the woods where the sun shone through the leaves and children excitedly weaved in and out the trees. We arrived at a cleared space amongst the tall trees to find two large targets against a net. A group of men dressed in tutus and tiaras (a stag-do party, we were informed), finished shooting their last arrows as we stepped up to the firing range. 

The Tamar Trails instructors made a real effort to remember our names, get to know us, and were just generally really fun! She talked us through how to use a bow and arrow for the archery activity and of course ran the health and safety regulations for the potentially dangerous practice. We were then let loose with the bow and arrows to hit the targets. Surprisingly I wasn't too bad at all! (After some initial issues: like holding the bow the wrong way round...) Our collective competitive streak led us to putting on a competition- whoever got the most points on the target wins! Despite me remaining in the lead for the majority of the game, Becca and Helen snuck up and beat me at the end, leaving me at a decent third place. 

After our super fun archery session, we made our way to the Tree Surfing high ropes course. Sporting our fetching new harnesses, we nervously climbed up a very tall tree via a very small ladder until we were suspended 50 feet up in the woodland canopy. Following the safety rules, we were securely attached by our harnesses, meaning we didn't need to worry about potentially falling (thank god!) and set off on a crazy adventure in the tree tops!

The course included tightropes, swings, bridges, ropes, zip- wires, ladders... the lot! It was definitely a challenge as it tested everyone's fears but it was great as we all worked really closely as a team to get through any nerve- wracking bits! Its a fantastic team- building and bonding exercise. And SO much fun! Adrenaline was pumping through my body for the whole hour and we all felt an amazing sense of accomplishment as we each jumped off the zip- wire at the finish point. 

Following the high ropes course, we made our way to the zip- wire. The views from the very top of the tallest tree were amazing and so were the views whilst zipping down through the trees, back to the forest floor. As you can see, I was a vision of grace and I came back down to Earth with a bump!

After an afternoon of such excitement and adrenaline, we headed back to the Beech Tree Cafe for some much needed lunch! I absolutely loved this cafe. It is very quaint in its design, the staff seemed really nice and the selection of food and drink is fantastic! All of the produce is fresh and locally sourced which is something I'm very passionate about, so was great to see. I opted for a salmon sandwich and some elder-flower fizz, followed by a delicious chocolate brownie to share with my friends. A perfect end to a great day!

A big thank you to Tamar Trails, Beech Tree Cafe and Dart PR for holding a lovely day for us bloggers! We all enjoyed it thoroughly! I can't wait to come back and visit again some time!

If you're in the South West area, make sure you check out Tamar Trails Centre as it is really an exceptionally fun day out for all! There is so much on offer for all of the family. Check out their website here.

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: I was invited to this event by Tamar Trails, Beech Tree Cafe and Dart PR but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks to Becca Jane for helping with photos. 

Friday, 12 August 2016

'Light The Lights' London Walking Tour by Shaun Nolan | LittleEllieMae

Since immersing myself in the theatre blogging community this year, I've come across several other amazing bloggers. Just a few months ago I started chatting to two other bloggers, Shaun Nolan and Em Jenkins who both have blogs that focus on similar topics to mine and we all definitely share the strongest passion for theatre!

When Shaun heard that I was making a trip up to London, he very kindly invited me for a day out and to stay with him over the weekend. What an absolute sweetheart.

Despite my family and friends' fear of my internet friends actually being catfish, I met Shaun, Em and Meg (Em's sister) at my favourite cafe in London, The Theatre Cafe. We sat drinking smoothies, surrounded by musical memorabilia and chatted about everything under the sun for nearly three hours. Time honestly zoomed by! It was absolutely lovely to spend time with my new friends, who didn't feel like new friends at all- its amazing to find people that you automatically feel so comfortable and get on so well with! 

We then made our way to the gorgeous Victoria Embankment Gardens and sat in the glorious (boiling) sunshine as we waited to meet some other bloggers and friends who would be joining us for the afternoon.

The purpose of the afternoon was to launch Shaun's new walking tour in collaboration with VoiceMap called 'Light The Lights: How Culture Defines London'. 'Light The Lights' takes you on a tour of central London, pinpointing the most precious spots of this culture- rich city including theatre, architecture and literature. I understood how hard Shaun had been working on this super exciting project so I couldn't wait to finally try it out for myself! 

We started the tour at The Black Phonebox outside Victoria Embankment Gardens, where Shaun explained the historical importance of red vs black telephone boxes that dated back to 1980s. This was the first of many fabulously quirky facts that was packed into the tour. 

Throughout the tour we explored The Underground, beautiful memorials, spectacular theatres, adorable cafes, bustling high streets and much more! 

My favourite spots on the tour were The Seven Dials, Magistrates Court, Charles Dickens Coffee House, Somerset House and Goodwin's Court.

The fact that stuck in my head the most, and really made me smile, was at the Royal Opera House where a uniquely structured bridge (its shape almost looked like a strand of DNA) connected the Royal Opera House to the Royal Ballet School. Its called The Bridge of Aspiration, aptly named to show the aspiration of the students who cross the bridge to perform their shows at the Opera House. I think that's absolutely lovely, and something I would never had known without Shaun's tour!

As someone who doesn't visit London much, and when I do I mainly stick to Oxford Street and a few theatres, it was so refreshing to get an insider's view to one of my favourite cities in the world! The facts were mind-blowing for someone who has very little knowledge of the city and I found it so interesting. This tour honestly made me fall in love with London even more, strengthening my ambitions to live there someday. Its also definitely inspired me to explore the city more, as there is so much to see beyond the tourist hotspots. 

I had SO much fun on Shaun's 'Light The Lights' walking tour. I wish I could show all my friends and family it... maybe next time we make a trip up to the city! 

The app is super easy to use and navigate around the city. All you need to do is download Shaun's tour 'Light the Lights: How Culture Defines London' for £2.99 on the free VoiceMap app, available on the app store, plug in your headphones, hit play and you're on your way!

Thanks to Shaun and all of my other lovely new friends for an amazing weekend. I'm so happy to have met such fantastic, interesting and plain lovely bunch of people. 

Make sure you check out the tour for yourself here!

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions my own, as always! Photos by Em Jenkins.