Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Disney Dress | LittleEllieMae

I had been planning my outfits for my trip to Disneyland months beforehand. What better place to channel your inner Dis-nerd than The Happiest Place on Earth itself?! 

I absolutely love DisneyBounding (definition: when Disney fans dress up as contemporary versions of their favorite characters. It's basically closet cosplay at its finest.) and I sported looks of Minnie Mouse and Cinderella (check out my blog post here). But its also nice to wear some other Disney inspired items too. 

The lovely team at Bonne Chance Collections got in touch when they heard about my trip to Disneyland and very kindly sent me their new Disney inspired dress!

I've been such a fan of Bonne Chance's clothes for a while now. I'm constantly scanning their website to catch any new releases. Honestly, I'm completely obsessed. They have such a range of gorgeous dresses and two-pieces with a vintage vibe and the most beautiful, quirky patterns. 

My dress was perfect for the lovely sunny day I spent in Disneyland Paris. I've fallen in love with the pastel yellow mini Mickey Mouse print and its over-sized crisp white collar. The perfect subtle Disney outfit.

I styled the dress with some white frilly socks, converse shoes, pink cat- eye sunglasses and of course some pink, sparkly Minnie Mouse ears! 

I am so happy with this outfit! I absolutely loved skipping around the park, releasing my inner- five year old self, dressed in the cutest dress ever.

Thanks so much to Bonne Chance Collections for kindly sending me the dress! 

Also a big thank you to my best friend, Becca, for shooting some photos with me in front of the gorgeous Sleeping Beauty's castle on our trip!

I had the best time!

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: This dress was kindly sent to me by Bonne Chance Collections however all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Disneyland Paris 2016 | LittleEllieMae

As every other eighteen year old flew off to alcohol fueled clubbing holidays in Ibiza/ Magaluf/ wherever after finishing school, my friends and I jetted off to good ol' Disneyland to celebrate ourselves. 

Myself and my four best friends visited Disneyland Paris for three days. We are all major Disney nerds so we were super excited and skipped around like five year olds the whole time.

It was my second time visiting Disneyland, I first visited last Halloween (read about that trip here!) so I knew what to expect this time around and mentally made note of everything I wanted to get done! It was really nice to visit during summer compared to last autumn as the park looked extra beautiful in bright sunlight every day. 

Similarly to my last visit, we were lucky enough to meet some of the Disney characters around the park. This is one of the highlights of Disneyland for me as its such a fun, interactive experience. Everything seems truly magical when you're there, including the characters!

We waited around the Pirate Ship and met the cutest Smee from Peter Pan. Although these characters don't talk, they have so much personality and Smee was an adorable bumbling character. 

We are all massive Disney princess fans so when we bumped into Belle and Adam (Beauty and The Beast) we were over the moon! Its rare to catch sight of Belle in her ballgown and Adam so we were extra excited- they were very lovely and completely flawless. So dreamy!

My six year old self would be bursting with joy as I met Jessie from Toy Story. My Jessie toy was my favourite growing up and I even had a fancy dress costume like her outfit. She was so cute and lovely to meet. 

I'm not a massive superhero fan but I do love Spiderman so it was awesome to meet him and of course do the 'spidey- pose' with him.

Its fair to say I have a massive crush on many Disney characters but Aladdin is the top of that list (along with Hercules, obviously). So I was super excited (and slightly flustered) to meet the man himself. He was very sweet and took the time to remember each of our names and give us big hugs. 

We obviously spent lots of time going on all our favourite rides in the two Disney parks too! We were a little disappointed to find that Big Thunder Mountain was closed for reconstruction but instead made the most out of all the other rides- Space Mountain, Peter Pan's Flight, Ratatouille and Crush's Coaster being my favourites!

The top right photo really shows how much I enjoyed Space Mountain the first time, haha! But I ended up going on it three times!

A lot of Disney shopping was involved! I was particularly drawn to the adorable toys but sternly told myself that I didn't need to buy any more (sigh).

Here's a little haul of what I did buy! I mean, who doesn't need a Jack Skellington shot glass?! In love!

As we shopped throughout our trip, my friend, Jenny, adopted a love for the array of Disney hats on offer. Each shop visit resulted in a new hat and of course we captured the moment. I promised Jenny a special feature on my blog, especially dedicated to her impressive hat collection. My favourite has to be the Captain Jack Sparrow look and of course her signature Mickey Mouse baseball cap.  

At 11PM every night there is a spectacular light/ firework/ water show called Disney Dreams and it is without a doubt one of the most fantastic spectacles I have ever seen. Even though this was my fourth time watching the show live, it still gets me every time and I end up bawling after watching it. Its so breath-takingly beautiful and I get so caught up in the magical moment!

The show is recorded on YouTube and I most definitely recommend you take a look:

We also caught some other amazing shows like the Disney 4D Short Film Festival, Stitch Live, Mickey and The Magician, Frozen Sing- A- Long and Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular! They were all fantastic shows full of action, fun interaction and powerful performances. 

I had the best few days ever. The whole time I was completely beaming with joy to be surrounded by so much Disney magic with some of my favourite people in the world. We had so much fun together and its been the perfect trip before we all head our separate ways as we leave for university in September. I couldn't ask for better friends. 

Disney will forever hold such a special place in my heart and this trip will also.

I already can't wait to visit again!

Keep an eye on my blog for further Disney blog posts and also my Twitter and Instagram for constant Disney spam!

Ellie Mae x

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

My Week at Young Critics On The Edge 2016 | LittleEllieMae

I've been extremely fortunate over the past year to have some incredible experiences within theatre. Since deciding that this is indeed my 'life calling', I've thrown myself head-first into every opportunity I can. 

Through my work in the Young Reps groups at Theatre Royal Plymouth, I was forwarded an email about an exciting new opportunity with Young Critics On The Edge programme. I've never seen myself as 'a critic', and I've only just started recognising the fact that I am 'a writer' really but thought it looked fantastic. I applied just before the deadline, using my James II review from my blog on the application. A few weeks later I was notified that I had been successful and would be representing England as Young Critic!

Straight after my long weekend in Cardiff, I traveled straight up to Birmingham to meet the other Young Critics and facilitators. There were twelve Young Critics that took part in the week: two from Scotland, two from Northern Ireland, two from Republic of Ireland, two from Wales, two from Birmingham and two from England! From the very first evening we met, the whole group gelled amazingly well. Its so rare that you meet a group of strangers that just works, but we were so lucky that we got on really well. We all shared an obvious passion and interest for theatre as well as other things (food, crosswords, hula hoops)

Young Critics On The Edge is a collaboration between Barnstorm Theatre Company, NAYD (National Association for Youth Drama) Ireland and Mess Up The Mess, Young Critic’s Wales in conjunction with the Symposium strand of the ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016. It revolves around On The Edge festival which is presented by TYA-UK and TYA-Ireland. It is the ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering 2016, hosted by Birmingham REP.

The programme was aimed at young people, aged 18-25, who are interested in watching theatre, discovering how and why theatre is made, and learning how to critically discuss, analyse, and review Theatre For Young Audiences. 

Over the week we took part in numerous workshops, led by the amazing Alan King and Anna Galligan, with the aim to improve our critical analysis skills of theatre. 

The week started off with some physical warm- up/ ice- breaker exercises- something that I was initially a little uncomfortable with, as I'm not a performer myself I sometimes find it difficult to put myself out there (especially if the people I'm surrounded with are performers, therefore generally more outgoing than me). However, I very quickly came to the realisation that nobody actually cares if you look stupid or do something wrong. The environment was very open and comfortable to be in so I quickly adopted a 'can-do' attitude and decided it was best to just dive in with all of the activities throughout the week. The whole week was a fantastic experience for me to put myself out there and come out of my shell a bit which was nice, and something I really needed at this time. 

All of the exercises had a great purpose; teaching us listening skills, clear describing skills, objectivity and subjectivity skills, discussion skills. Not only was everything very enjoyable, it felt like we were learning really valuable lessons, which is essentially why we were there. 

Throughout the week we had the chance to watch four shows too. Boing!, Brush, The Hamilton Complex and Broke 'N' Beat Collective. The shows were all theatre for young audiences, which is something I personally don't have much experience of, so it was very exciting to experience. Before all of the shows we discussed the background of them so we went in with a basic foundation of the company, the story and aims etc. After the performances we would have some super in-depth, interesting discussions on what we had watched, following helpful steps of analysis including initial reactions, stand-out moments for the audience, questions, answers, justifications and opinions. We also had the chance to meet some of the makers, including one of the producers of Boing! and the artistic director of The Hamilton Complex which was super interesting and helpful to ask any questions we had, especially about the production process. 

Boing! is a beautiful show aimed at 3+ year olds by Travelling Light Theatre Company and Bristol Old Vic. It follows the simple story of two brothers on the most exciting night of the year, Christmas Eve. Chaos is created with gorgeously choreographed movement/ dance sequences, hilariously witty comedic timing and clever interaction with the audience. I enjoyed this show immensely (possibly even more so than the sea of children in the audience) and would happily watch it again and again. Full of energy and charm. 

Brush is an inventive show aimed at 4+ year olds by Brush Theatre, direct from Korea. Live music, dance, puppets and on-stage painting brings to life an interesting story but loses narrative development throughout I think. I really enjoyed the concept and think it has great potential, but needs some development to become more engaging for younger audiences. 

The Hamilton Complex is a completely innovative show aimed at 13+ year olds, by HETPALEIS and Sontag (Lies Pauwels) from Belgium. This show is intense in every aspect. It conveys physical, visual and philosophical views on the most intense years of a teenage girl's life. It has no set narrative, but portrays snapshots of situations of a thirteen year old girl's life, full of uncertainty, change, fun and individuality. As I said, its completely intense and requires all brain power to soak it all up. I came out of the theatre feeling slightly confused but nevertheless enjoyed it immensely. Its designed to make you think, for sure. 

The Broke 'N' Beat Collective is a thought-provoking, clever and beautiful show aimed at 13+ year olds by 20 Stories High and Theatre- Rites. It incorporates the art of hip-hop, beat-boxing, puppetry, dance, song, spoken word and technology. Its the most relevant and poignant show I've seen in a long time and really hit me hard. The talent on stage in the gig- like format is undoubtedly mind-blowing, utilising several art forms to create really touching stories that will resonate with young audiences nation- wide. As a group of Young Critics, this is the show that got us all really buzzing and we couldn't stop talking about it for days. Absolutely mesmerising. 

We also had the opportunity to present our findings of the week in a seminar on our last day. The auditorium was filled with delegates who came to hear all of us talk in panels about our experience of the week and the shows we watched. Public speaking is always a challenge for me but I'm so glad that I did it!

It was a fantastic experience to see such an array of shows. I was taught how to go into each performance with a critical eye and open mind which is a skill that I will keep forever. I definitely think that all of the work we did over the week has already helped me immensely in terms of my writing. I'm so grateful for the amazing workshops and shows that we had the chance to witness. 

I don't think the week would've been as memorable as it was without this fantastic group of people. We were essentially a bunch of strangers that became amazing friends in just a few days; going for drinks, dancing, staying up until 3am chatting and drinking tea. The group are not just amazingly talented individuals, but fantastic people that will hold a special place in my heart for a very long time. 

On The Edge festival is beyond fantastic. It brings together a wealth of talent from all over the globe, showcasing some really enjoyable and innovative work for young audiences. The week was truly inspiring and I would love to carry on my work with the programme in the future. 

Thank you so much to all involved!

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: I was selected to represent England as Young Critic at On The Edge Festival 2016 but all opinions and thoughts are my own. Photos credited to Alan King. 

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Updated Billy Elliot UK Tour Cardiff Review | LittleEllieMae

If you keep up to date on my blog and social media, you will remember the period of me falling completely and utterly in love with Billy Elliot when it premiered the UK tour in Plymouth back in February. I saw the show five times during its run in Plymouth, including its dress rehearsal, press night and closing night- as you can see, I quickly became super attached to this production. Check out my first review of the tour here.  

Myself and one of my favourite fellow theatre blogging friends, Megan, experienced real post- show blues once the tour moved on from Plymouth. Being the theatre nerds we are, we decided that the only cure would be to book tickets to see the show again. :) 

On Saturday 2nd July we hopped onto a train to Cardiff, Wales to catch the matinee performance! I have visited Cardiff a brief couple of times in the past, but it was so nice to properly explore this time around. Me and Megan fell in love with the idyllic Cardiff Bay where the gorgeous Wales Millennium Centre theatre was situated across the road from the harbour. 

Credit to Megan Hilling
It was really interesting to compare the production from its first ever performance to being on the road for a good five months. Its obvious that it has definitely found its feet now; everything about it is slick and the actors seem completely comfortable and at home in their roles. Its stronger than ever before. 

There were a few tiny changes that I noticed since its first run; including slight random costume changes for a few ballerinas and miners and possibly a few minor orchestral changes I noticed too.

Matthew Lyons played Billy at this performance. I couldn't get over how much he has improved since first seeing him perform back in February. He seems so comfortable in the role now, strolling effortlessly through the long show. I noticed that his vocals in particular have improved massively, his rendition of 'Electricity' bought me to tears. He is full of cheeky charisma and outstanding talent, making the perfect Billy. 

Bradley Mayfield has only very recently joined the cast as Billy's bold and hilariously camp friend, Michael. He has settled into the role amazingly well, giving such an impressive performance. Bradley lights up the stage with perfect comedic timing and his tap skills during 'Expressing Yourself' are particularly outstanding. 

Italia Ross plays a hilarious Debbie and is accompanied by the rest of a fantastic young ensemble of ballet girls. 

Credit to Billy Elliot Musical Facebook page.
A stand- out performance of the whole show for me is Scott Garnham as Tony, Billy's older brother and face of the miner's strike. I've seen Scott in this role all six times I have watched this production now and each time his performance truly blows me away. I couldn't think of an actor more suited to this role. Before, I had never been a fan of the character of Tony as he was usually played so aggressively, a somewhat 2D character who seemed almost dead behind the eyes to me. However Scott's portrayal changed my whole opinion of Tony; he brings so many new sides to the character- he is not just an aggressive miner anymore, he is full of passion, humour, charm and heart. He is a fantastic example of a triple threat performer as he shows his slick skills in acting, singing and dancing throughout the show. Tony's character development is one of my favourites in the show as he progresses from an angry, aggressive, downhearted miner to a supportive big brother and son with a whole lot of heart.  A truly impressive performance from Scott Garnham. 

Credit to Billy Elliot Musical Facebook page.
Annette McLaughlin never fails to bring me to tears with her performance as Mrs Wilkinson. Starting the show with a fabulous explosion of energy with her performance of 'Shine', she develops the character with great humour and passion and ends with a heart- wrenching, tender moment between her character and Billy. She portrays this dynamic character perfectly. 

Credit to Billy Elliot Musical Facebook page.
It is no doubt that the ensemble cast is what makes this show what it is. This ensemble is the best I've seen in a long time, helping to develop this poignant story as miners, policemen, parents, 'scabs', and even dancing dresses. Each member brings energy and personality to the stage, not to mention the outstanding vocals and dance performances. 'Solidarity' is one of my favourite theatrical routines ever, and this is fueled by the fantastic performances of the ensemble. 

Credit to Billy Elliot Musical Facebook page.
Other creative aspects of the show tie everything together perfectly. 
Nicky Gillibrand provides fantastic costumes, staying very true to the 80s inspired fashions including leg warmers, dance leotards, suit skirts and of course lots of miner's all-in-ones. Each costume is individually constructed to outwardly express the character's personality- "Who the hell cares if you put on a dress..?!"

Rick Fisher provides some of the very best lighting design that I've seen in theatre. A full variety of lighting is used throughout the production, ranging from glitzy, colourful lights in 'Expressing Yourself' to beautifully simple use of shadows during Billy's tender moments of contemporary dance. The lighting is used to its full potential to effectively portray the full spectrum of emotions and situations of the narrative.

Ian Macneil has created the iconic set, providing a simple yet beautiful array of backdrops to the story. The attention to detail is amazing, with use of exact replicas of contemporary props such as 80s kitchen products and magazines to portray the era effectively and believably. 

Credit to Billy Elliot Musical Facebook page.
Of course, Elton John's music is utterly stunning and is the icing on the cake to this loved production. From the very first note of 'The Stars Look Down' to the end of the finale, I am covered in goosebumps as the score is so emotive and touches me every time I hear it. The amazing pit band, under the direction of Patrick Hurley, convey this beautiful score perfectly in this touring production. 

One of the main aspects of this show is obviously the dance and the choreography (originally by Peter Darling and tour associates Ellen Kane, Alison Levenberg and Glenn Wilkinson) is revolutionary for theatre. It encompasses ballet, tap, hip hop, jazz, acrobatics, and even folk dancing. Everything about this show comes down to the choreography and it is nailed down to a T. 

Credit to Billy Elliot Musical Facebook page.
As you can see, I could probably talk about this production all day. I've become hugely attached to it, from watching it grow from its production and rehearsal stage to its touring life. Its quickly become one of my favourite shows of all time as it portrays a beautifully emotive story that I can completely resonate with, full to the brim with outstandingly talented performances. I obviously give this production a perfect ★★★★★.

Make sure you catch Billy Elliot on its national tour all around the UK. Its currently showing in Cardiff, with its next stop in Dublin later this month. Check out for more details.

Have you seen Billy Elliot the musical? Let me know what you think by commenting below or tweeting me @LittleEllieMae :)

Ellie Mae x

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