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.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

My week in London- The theatre marathon | LittleEllieMae

Just a day and a half after arriving back home after my trip to Disneyland, I packed my bags again and headed on another exciting trip!

I spent a week(ish) in one of my favourite cities in the world, London!
 I stayed for two nights with my three friends, Elena, Helen and Jenny then stayed an extra two nights once they left. London has so much to offer so I always try and make the most of my trips, which aren't as often as I'd like them to be!

Of course, being the theatre nut I am, I spend the majority of my time (and money) in the West End in London. I took full advantage of this trip and went to see an impressive five shows in the four days I was there.

Romeo and Juliet

Just hours after arriving in the city, we excitedly headed to the Garrick Theatre to watch Kenneth Branagh's production of Romeo and Juliet. This is my favourite Shakespeare play and we were thrilled at the heavily advertised star casting of Richard Madden and Lily James as the title roles. However, upon our arrival at the Garrick we found out the news that Richard Madden had a leg injury and would not be appearing as Romeo- his understudy Tom Hanson took his place. Admittedly we were gutted to miss Madden's hugely anticipated appearance as Romeo but Hanson proved a good understudy. Although if I'm honest, this whole show was very disappointing. Nothing about it stood out as particularly impressive to me and I felt the characters lacked in chemistry, it was as if they were literally just delivering the (obviously beautifully written) lines. The idea of setting this classic Shakespeare play in 1950s Verona intrigued me, but apart from the costumes of jeans and nightgowns/ trainers combos, this was completely dismissed and seemed unnecessary and underwhelming. I liked the idea of modernising parts of the play but random outbursts of electronica dance and booming music seemed very strange and broke the flow of the show. The only part of the show I really liked was Derek Jacobi's portrayal of Mercutio; his "Queen Mab" speech was full of energy and humour- one of the only parts of the show I felt like I wasn't waiting for the actor to finally finish speaking. He lit up the stage and added a real enjoyable aspect to the whole show, though I did question why they had chosen to cast a man so much older than Romeo himself. In conclusion, I was very underwhelmed by this highly anticipated show. I felt that it lacked in focus of its direction, there was little chemistry and I found the mumbling of many actors very off putting which is a shame! Being the most expensive tickets of the week (and worst seats), we all felt a little let down by this production. 

Les Miserables

After a disappointing first show of the week, we knew it could only get better with a trip to my favourite theatre, Queens to see Les Miserables.  Les Mis is, and will always be, one of my favourite musicals. Boublil and Schonberg's classic score never fails to give me goosebumps from the very first note- "BUM BUM DUMDUMDUMM"- and the legendary Cameron Mackintosh brings this beautiful story to life in his production. I love everything from the iconic barricade set, use of revolving turntable and costumes. This was my first time witnessing this year's new cast, with notable additions of Eva Noblezada as Eponine, Craig Mather as Marius, Chris Cowley as Enjorlas, David Langham as Thenardier as well as a brand new ensemble. The talent on that stage is outstanding and it seemed to me that every actor up there loved what they are doing and are proud of it, which is something that an audience member can definitely pick up on when watching this show. Despite the somewhat depressing death-filled storyline (which we all know and love), the energy and talent makes the whole show refreshing and uplifting. I will undoubtedly come back time and time again to see this iconic show. 

Exposure The Musical

After a fun day with my theatre-loving friends, Shaun, Em and Meg, we ventured to St, James Theatre- a small space that I've been wanting to visit for a while now. We were all super intrigued at this new British musical after hearing that Getty Images and Canon are the leading producers of this photography- focused show. Why have the world's largest photography companies invested in producing a new piece of theatre? 
I think the only way to describe this show is completely bizarre. The story is baffling and its quite a lot to keep up with as new factors are being chucked into the mix all the time- it claims to capture the seedy business of celebrity exploitation through means of paparazzi but also focuses on the father-son relationship of the leads, a relationship with a homeless girl who makes angel decorations from coca--cola cans, power- hungry sinners and everything else in between. It is a wacky concept but the music to accompany the story was good, albeit not 'stuck in your head all day' good. As a collective, our favourite line had to be "looking through a belly button window" sung by a buff-looking Jimmy in tight boxers, playing a fetus- yes, it was that strange. I really enjoyed the energetic, slick choreography throughout and the talent of the actors on stage was undoubtedly so impressive that it made the entire experience enjoyable, even if it did leave us looking at each other saying "...what just happened...?!" Its nice to experience new writing in musical theatre, especially of British origin, as its something I personally don't get to experience very often in Plymouth so it was interesting and I'm glad I went!

Guys and Dolls

I recently saw the Guys and Dolls UK tour in Plymouth, and absolutely fell in love with it so I jumped at the opportunity to see the Chicester Festival production at the Phoenix Theatre with my lovely friend Tomi who I hadn't seen in three years!! It was the perfect way to catch up. Guys and Dolls is such a classic, with every song hitting the highest of standards (and will get stuck in your head for days afterwards). Its one of the best shows to put a smile on your face and walk out the theatre on a high. Everything from the songs, the costumes and the choreography is well thought- out and so impressive. The ensemble in particular stood out to me in this show, with talent and energy pouring from the stage- its totally infectious. I was looking forward to watching Hollywood star Rebel Wilson make her West End debut as Miss Adelaide. I've always enjoyed her comedic roles in big blockbuster films so I was intrigued to see her live on stage in a classic musical. She fit the role of Miss Adelaide really well, with perfect comedic timing and a naturally funny personality, she instantly won the audience over with her charm. She throws herself into her songs and dance routines throughout the show and shows great chemistry with the other characters. However I did have to question her dodgy accent which seemed to change every two seconds which was slightly off- putting. It seems a shame that Guys and Dolls has recently become 'The Rebel Wilson Show' through an obvious publicity push during the last months of its run, as the rest of the cast brings just as much to the stage, they seem overshadowed. Notable cast members include Gavin Spokes as Nicely Nicely who brings the house down with his rendition of the head- bopping, toe- tapping 'Sit Down Your Rocking The Boat' extravaganza, Simon Lipkin makes a perfect Nathan Detroit with his cheeky charm and impressive vocals, Siubhan Harrison as the sweet, fun-loving character of Sarah Brown and Jonathan Stewart who gave me goosebumps with his rendition of 'Luck To Be A Lady' as Sky Masterson. Its such a shame that this show is closing early as it really is a gem.

In The Heights

Funnily enough, it was the last show of my hectic week that was my favourite by far. I ventured to Kings Cross theatre with a new friend from my university course to watch In The Heights. As a massive Lin Manuel Miranda fan, I was excited to finally see his first award- winning broadway musical. I managed to bag cheap £15 tickets for third row seats which was incredible. The staging is fantastic, with two platforms of seats surrounding the small stage which never feels crowded and you never feel like the actors have their backs to you. Its a totally immersive experience, especially being seated so close, the actors dance in the aisles and really interact with the audience without breaking the fourth wall which is very clever. The storyline is seemingly simple but its the explosion of energy through music, rap and dance that makes this show so special. Its latin beats are infectious, making all of the audience want to get up and dance. Paired with witty lyrics, perfect rapping and spine-tingling vocals, its everything I could want in a musical score. This whole show is just a breath of fresh air and is a totally feel- good production. I could probably gush about this one all day. The star of the show is without a doubt Sam Mackay who plays the lead, Usnavi. I was unsure of how I would find an Usnavi that isn't Lin Manuel Miranda himeself (who I've religiously watched on YouTube) but Sam is even more perfect for the role. He portrays Usnavi with such charisma and charm that you fall in love with him from the very first song. His rapping skills are some of the best I have ever witnessed and his interaction with other characters are tight and totally believable. Usnavi may be one of my new favourite musical theatre characters and that is largely down to Sam's perfect portayal. The rest of the cast were just as unbelievable: Dex Lee was the perfect 'cheeky chappy' with a romantic side in his portrayal of Benny, Sarah Naudi understudied Vanessa perfectly with ridiculously impressive vocals, Gabriela Garcia makes a great Nina, Cleve September makes an adorable Sonny and Philippa Stefani plays Daniela with so much sass its crazy. I haven't stopped listening to the songs on my Spotify playlist since leaving Kings Cross theatre and I'm already planning my next trip to see this show- I've completely fallen in love with it!

So that was my super busy week in theatre in the West End! I am so glad that I took full advantage of my trip and immersed myself in so much fantastic (and not so fantastic) theatre in the capital itself. I love the hustle and bustle of excitement in the West End- it tends to be much grander than anything I experience down in Plymouth so its nice to have a trip up now and again. I'm already compiling a list of more shows I need to catch when I'm next in the city...

Have you seen any of these shows? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @LittleEllieMae :)

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: This trip was a personal leisure trip and all thoughts and opinions are my own.