Shrek The Musical arriving in Coventry soon

Shrek The Musical arriving in Coventry soon

Shrek, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Brandon Lee Sears (Donkey) and Antony Lawrence (Shrek) in Shrek the Musical Photo by Marc Brenner.

Shrek The Musical comes to The Belgrade Theatre from 30th January until 4th February, as part of its UK tour and features all the classic characters from the Oscar®-winning DreamWorks animated film and the iconic songs and story from David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori’s original musical.

Leave your troubles Far Far Away and come join the adventure as Shrek and Donkey endeavour to complete their quest of defeating the dragon and saving Princess Fiona. Featuring fabulous songs including ‘I’m A Believer’, ‘Big Bright Beautiful World’ and ’I Know It’s Today’.

Shrek, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Shrek the Musical. Photo by Maidwell Marketing.

The official Dreamworks production barrels into the Belgrade Theatre with a Shrek-tacular principal cast line up including Antony Lawrence (The Lion King, International Tour, Mary Poppins, UK Tour and Matilda the Musical, Cambridge Theatre/RSC) as Shrek, Joanne Clifton (Strictly Come Dancing, ITV) as Princess Fiona, James Gillan (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Apollo Theatre) as Lord Farquaad, Brandon Lee Sears (Dreamgirls, UK Tour, Be More Chill, Shaftesbury Theatre and Come From Away, Phoenix Theatre) as Donkey, and rising star Cherece Richards (Once on This Island, Regent’s Park Theatre) who is making her debut in a principal role as the Dragon.

The ensemble cast of Shrek the Musical are Leo Abad, Scotty Armstrong, Imogen Bailey, Jabari Braham, Georgie Buckland, Natasha Cayabyab, Mark D’Arcy, Jonathan David Dudley, Remi Ferdinand, Sonny Grieveson, Edward Leigh, Bethany Kate, Jessica Lim, Andile Mabhena, Bronte MacMillan, India Thornton. With Talia Duff, Gabriela Gregorian, Rory Shafford and Jamie Jonathan completing the full line-up.

Shrek, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Brandon Lee Sears (Donkey), Antony Lawrence (Shrek) and Joanne Clifton (Fiona) in Shrek the Musical. Photo by Marc Brenner.

The creative team who have joined forces to re-create the world of Shrek the Musical includes director and choreographer Nick Winston (Bonnie and Clyde, Arts Theatre; Beauty and the Beast, UK tour), co-director Sam Holmes (Club Tropicana the Musical) and set and costume designer Philip Witcomb (Bonnie & Clyde, Garrick Theatre; Jack & The Beanstalk, Everyman Theatre Cheltenham).

The further creative team includes Lighting Design by Ben Cracknel, Sound Design Ben Harrison, Projection Design by Nina Dunn, Puppet Design by Jimmy Grimes with casting by Jim Arnold.

Tickets available to book here

Deliciously spooky cocktail recipes to try at home, courtesy of 44 Cafe, Bar and Bistro, in Leamington

Deliciously spooky cocktail recipes to try at home, courtesy of 44 Cafe, Bar and Bistro, in Leamington

Halloween, a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve, is a holiday observed on October 31st, the evening before All Saints’ (or All Hallows’) Day – and associated with all things spooky – but why?

The celebration marks the day before the Western Christian feast of All Saints and initiates the season of Allhallowtide, which lasts three days and concludes with All Souls’ Day. In much of Europe and most of North America, observance of Halloween is largely non-religious.

Halloween had its origins in the festival of Samhain among the Celts of ancient Britain and Ireland. On the day corresponding to November 1 on contemporary calendars, the new year was believed to begin. That date was considered the beginning of the winter period, the date on which the herds were returned from pasture and land tenures were renewed.

During the Samhain festival the souls of those who had died were believed to return to visit their homes, and those who had died during the year were believed to journey to the otherworld. People set bonfires on hilltops for relighting their hearth fires for the winter and to frighten away evil spirits, and they sometimes wore masks and other disguises to avoid being recognized by the ghosts thought to be present. It was in those ways that beings such as witches, hobgoblins, fairies, and demons came to be associated with the day.

If you’re marking Halloween in any way, it’s always good to get into the ‘spirit’ with some spooky cocktails for the adults. Check out these exclusive make-at-home cocktail recipes below, courtesy of the team at 44, Cafe, Bar and Bistro in Leamington.

44 Cafe, Bar and Bistro, Leamington, Halloween

Vampire Kiss Martini

Vodka, Prosecco, Chambord & Raspberry Syrup.

How to make:

In a cocktail shaker – Add Vodka, Chambord, Raspberry Syrup.
Add Ice.
Shake Vigorously for 30 seconds.
Strain into a martini glass.
Top up with Prosecco.
Garnish with Candy Floss

Cinnamon Crypt

Spiced Gin, Orange Gin, Orange Bitters, Caramel Syrup & Cinnamon Syrup.

How to make:

In a cocktail shaker – Add Spiced Gin, Orange Gin, Caramel Syrup & Cinnamon Syrup.
Shake Vigorously for 30 seconds.
Fill Tiki Glass with ice.
Strain into filled glass.
Add 3 dashes of orange bitters on top. Garnish with Cinnamon Sticks

Dark & Spooky

Dark Rum, Ginger Ale, Lime Juice & Absinthe.

How to make:

Fill a tumbler glass with ice.
Add Dark Rum, Lime Juice.
Pour Ginger ale to fill.
Add couple drops of absinthe on top.
Garnish with Chocolate Powder

Review: Suzi Ruffell on tour

Review: Suzi Ruffell on tour

Suzi Ruffell

Suzi Ruffell enjoys what she calls in her own words, ‘a low level of fame.’ High profile enough to be recognised in the street, but not enough to remember her name.

After seeing her stand up show Snappy at Warwick Arts Centre this week, I think it’s a matter of time before that changes.

Everyone should know this comedian’s name because, quite simply, she’s brilliant and, in my view, funnier than some of the household names who continue to dominate our TV screens.

The multi-award-nominated comedian received critical acclaim with her last tour, Dance Like Everyone’s Watching which went on to be turned into an Amazon special.

And it’s easy to see why if her latest tour is anything to go by. The 37-year-old’s new show, Snappy, is about settling down (but not settling), becoming a mother (without becoming mumsy) and still worrying about everything.

Suzi Ruffell, comedian

She admits to being frank with her audiences. “I can’t help but be unbelievably honest. I only really like talking about what’s genuinely going on,” she said. “I might stretch the truth a bit, but only so much that the audience is sort of in on it.”

Her self-depricating humour is a refreshing change from those comedians who continue to take aim at the audience. No front row fears here! She draws us in with her emotional candour but every step of the way, the laughs are thick and fast.

An erudite and quick-witted likeable stand up with exquisite comedic timing – and one whose not afraid to lay it all bare. One I also hope we’ll soon be seeing more of on our screens.

But, while we’re waiting, you can catch the rest of Suzi Ruffell’s Snappy tour. She’s coming to Northampton on November 12th. See all remaining dates here.

Warwick charity to fund two more Paediatric Palliative Care Consultants for Birmingham Children’s Hospital

Warwick charity to fund two more Paediatric Palliative Care Consultants for Birmingham Children’s Hospital

Molly Ollys, Birmingham Children's Hospital
From left: Richard Harrison (BCH ); Christine Mott (BCH); Yifan Liang (BCH); Helen Ord (BCH); Dean Attwell (Oakland International); Rachel Ollerenshaw (Molly Ollys); Helen Queen (BCH) and Sam Attwell (Molly Ollys Young Ambassador).

Birmingham Children’s Hospital is to become a training hospital in Paediatric Palliative Medicine and will be providing training for two new consultants thanks to funding by a children’s charity in Warwick.

News of the £310k funding, which will double the number of existing roles in the region, came during a special event in Birmingham this week (17th)) hosted by Molly Ollys Founder Rachel Ollerenshaw.

The donation, supported by corporate supporters, Oakland International, in Redditch, will to cover two years of training for the consultants.

Molly Ollys was established following the death of Rachel and husband Tim’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer and marked its tenth anniversary last year.

Molly Ollys, Birmingham Children's Hospital

The charity supports children with life-threatening illnesses and their families and helps with emotional support as well as donates wishes, therapeutic toys and books to children directly and through hospitals across the UK.

And it funded the region’s first ever consultant in paediatric palliative medicine between 2018 and 2021, since when the post has been permanently incorporated by the NHS.

There are currently only 25 such speciailists in the UK. Nationally there is a shortage of between 50 to 60 consultants within this specialist Paediatric Palliative Medicine service which helps enable patients to live their best lives.

Rachel said: “The need for Consultant-led Paediatric Palliative care is far more important than many realise and primarily that is the case because it is a world that few people fortunately have inhabited.

Leamington Business Awards 2022, Jonathan Smith, finalists
Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw
Molly aged eight.

“From our own experiences with Molly we realised the importance of enabling a good death. Molly had a choice, as parents and her family we had a choice thanks to the support of a consultant in Warwickshire where we live. However, we realised that that care was different down the road in the West Midlands.

“So, Molly Ollys plugged that gap by paying for the first consultant for three years in order to prove the need for the NHS to then take this forward. Once proved Birmingham Children’s Hospital quickly appointed a second consultant with the help of Acorns Hospice. Two consultants meant that BCH could become a training hospital.

“We are therefore delighted that we can continue this project with the funding of training for two more consultants. From zero to four in a seven year period is a big step change and will have a positive long term impact for palliative children in the West Midlands and surrounding areas.”

Since Molly Ollys started more than £4 million has been raised to emotionally support children across the UK.

Another of the charity’s key NHS projects was the creation and refurbishment of Magnolia House at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. This is a safe and non-clinical space where medical teams and families can have important discussions.

Rachel added: “We are extremely proud to be able to support this latest project but none of it would be possible without the magnificent help of key corporate supporters. Oakland International have been incredible. They have really taken time to listen, to meet health professionals and to understand the significance.”

The funding has been particularly welcomed by the hospital’s current Consultants Yifan Liang and Christine Mott.

Yifan said: “With the current consultant numbers, we are only capturing the most needy children and there’s a lot more need that we could be addressing.

“This vital business funding will enable us to provide the capacity to serve families better through planning, clinical reviews and which will be more sustainable for everyone concerned.

“Thanks to Molly Ollys, Oakland International, and other corporate businesses supporting this much needed initiative, we are starting to see change and helping families in the way they want and need for the short and long term, and getting the end results for individuals as we roll it out and help more people.”

Molly Ollys, Birmingham Children's Hospital

Oakland and members of BCH were among special guests at an informal drinks evening at a Birmingham city centre venue on Tuesday night, when Rachel provided an overview of how their support is making a real and significant, long-term impact to so many children across the region.

Co-Founder and Group CEO of Redditch-based Oakland International, Dean Attwell, said: “Molly Ollys is a truly wonderful charity supporting so many children and their families through such difficult times. The link to Birmingham Children’s Hospital is another example of an under-resourced but much-needed service identified and championed by Molly Ollys and we are delighted to be part of the funding support team.

“It was a pleasure to have attended the launch event in Birmingham with so many other businesses and potential supporters. We were happy to share our experiences of the journey so far and to show other potential sponsors what it means to get involved, both in terms of helping the charity but also as a return on investment for their own businesses. Charitable giving with a positive return on investment? Now there’s a thought!”

Anyone wishing to donate to Molly Ollys can do so here


Yifan Liang

Yifan Liang has worked as a Consultant in Paediatric Medicine for 16 years and has been in her current role at Birmingham Children’s Hospital for five-and-a-half of those – the first person in the West Midlands to be fully funded in that role by the NHS. A significant proportion of paediatric palliative care nationally continues to be funded by charitable causes.

Here, she explains more about her role as well as why it is so vital in further developing the hospital’s existing paediatric services in the integration of palliative care across the community.

Molly Ollys, Yifan Liang, Birmingham Children's Hospital

“A Consultant in paediatric palliative medicine looks after the most fragile children where there is uncertainty in their outcome or they are life-limited. Part of that is optimizing quality of life for families with symptom control as well as giving families the opportunity to think about preferences and wishes and planning for end of life care.

“We look after children across all organisational settings within the West Midlands, whether it be at home, at the hospice or hospital. It means that they’ve got continuity of care and they have choice.

“We’ve got expertise in really good symptom control so it reduces the amount of suffering families have to go through and it provides really good emotional and psychological support for families in trying to make difficult decisions. It’s individual for both the patient and the child and the families as to what those decisions might be and what their priorities are. Some families want to travel and go to lots of places and some families want to pursue all the treatments possible. It’s important the right support is in place to be able to do that.

“If you want to be at home and your care and medical needs are really complex you need somebody who can ensure that it’s done safely. For example we’ve supported some cardiac children on quite difficult infusions to be at home for several months, which they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do. They would have had to remain in hospital. It’s often quite frightening and daunting to have somebody that you love dying at home and worrying about who to call for support.

“My role is also to support the community nurses on the ground but also the hospice and hospital teams to feel secure in knowing that they are doing their best as well.”

Yifan and her colleagues are also keen to use their positions to help build on the wider conversation around serious and terminal illness among children.

“Having had the pandemic means people were more open about saying life is fragile and that asking – actually, do you know what your loved one’s wishes are and what would you like?” she said.

“Also part of the wider conversation is how we should not be fearful of being able to say ‘I’m sorry to hear that your child died’ or that we don’t shy away from  supporting our friends and family from going through really hard times because their child is really unwell or has died. There’s always a sadness in death, of course, but how you support people to heal is really important.”

But Yifan is also quick to add: “It’s a slight misconception that my job just equals looking after the dying. I’m looking after children who are the most fragile and have life-limiting conditions. Some children will live a long time into adulthood, some children will die, but some children will get stronger.

“The thing for me is to remember why I’m doing it, to make the dark times a bit brighter. This is the most challenging times for the families and if I can make a difference and make that better that is a really important reason for me to do my job well.”

Review: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

Review: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Birmingham Hippodrome
Credit: Johan Persson

Retelling revered author Roald Dahl’s classic story, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory comes with a responsibility.

I was delighted to see then that Playful Productions’ update of the iconic children’s book stays faithful to everything we hold dear about this heartwarming tale of Charlie Bucket’s rags to riches adventure – despite being successfully adapted for modern audiences.

This spectacular stage show follows the hit West End and Broadway productions to combine the memorable songs from the original 1970s movie (The Candy Man and Pure Imagination) with all the new numbers from the multi-award-winning songwriters of Hairspray.

For the uninitiated (where have you been?!) the show follows the adventures of Charlie who scoops the last of five golden tickets to earn him/herself a place on a tour of Willy Wonka’s magical chocolate factory.

But beyond the golden gates the children discover more than most of them can ultimately stomach as they embark on an extraordinary journey through Wonka’s marvellous mind.

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Birmingham Hippodrome
Credit: Johan Persson

The most obvious change is Charlie’s change in gender! While nervous at first of how this might play out with die-hard Dahl fans, it worked well. (Was the chosen character name in the 1960s some form of foresight to a more modern world?)

One area however in which – for me – it did stray a little too far from the original story, was, arguably one of the most memorable. The Oompa-Loompahs have transformed from tiny orange-faced characters to silver robot-like dancers. But the slight sense of surprise didn’t detract from the overall spectacle of what is a must-see fun family show.

In what is a show of two halves, the curtain lifts on Act 2 to reveal that the grey of ‘Grimechester’ has made way for a technicolour explosion, setting us up perfectly for the factory scenes to come.

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Birmingham Hippodrome
Credit: Johan Persson

I was curious to see how they would tackle these in a production that was always going to pose some serious stagecraft challenges. But impressive digital imagery combined with physical trickery to create a series of mind-bending spectacles. This is where stage just can’t compete with screen – but never should you see a show expecting it to do so! All things considered, I think the staging could be classed as a triumph.

The biggest applause of the night was rightly reserved for Jessie-Lou Harvie as Charlie. And Gareth Snook serves up just the right recipe in his portrayal of candymaker Wonka with the eccentricity of Gene Wilder (1971 movie) and just a dash of Johnnie Depp’s menace. (2005)

Escape to a world of Pure Imagination with this delicious dollop of theatre that will leave you with a taste for more!

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Birmingham Hippodrome
Credit: Johan Persson

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory plays at The Birmingham Hippodrome until November 4th. To book visit here. Or call the Box Office on 0844 3385000.