Can you solve the Murder on. . . the Northern Belle?

Can you solve the Murder on. . . the Northern Belle?

IT’S going to be murder on the Northern Belle, the luxury British train once owned by the Orient Express group, when it pulls into the Midlands this month.

Passengers must use their detection clues to solve a dastardly crime while sipping champagne and tucking into a slap-up seven-course meal.

The Northern Belle, Murder Mystery, Coventry, Birmingham

The Murder Mystery Lunch trip, on March 27th will be the first ever held aboard the train as actors play out a dastardly scene in the 1930s-style Pullman carriages.

“We’re dying to see how it goes,” laughed Northern Belle managing director Jeanette Snape.

“Passengers will have to exercise their little grey cells while they eat lunch to try and discover whodunnit. Even I don’t know the culprit – although I can exclusively reveal that it probably wasn’t the butler this time!

“But even if passengers don’t solve the crime, they’ll still have a great day out. For our chef Matthew Greene has devised a menu to die for!”

The Northern Belle, Murder Mystery, Coventry, Birmingham

The Northern Belle, widely regarded as one of the most luxurious trains in the world, is now celebrating its 20th year of operation.

The seven carriages – one of which was formerly used by the Queen on her Royal Train – are always pulled by a heritage locomotive.

And every year around 18,000 passengers drink their way through 7,000 bottles of champagne and 12,000 bottles of wine.

Jeanette said: “Nothing is too good for them. They are pampered from the moment they step on board to the time we wave goodbye.

“This is travel the way it was in the golden era of railways.”

The Northern Belle, Murder Mystery, Coventry, Birmingham

The train departs from Coventry at 12.05pm before picking up more passengers at Birmingham International at 12.20pm.

It is scheduled back  at Coventry for 5.50pm and then Birmingham at 6.25pm.

The train will be back in Birmingham in April to take passengers for a blooming lovely day out at the Harrogate Flower Show and again in May to the Chelsea Flower Show.

Then dig out your top hats and fascinators, because in June the Northern Belle will take race-goers to Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot.

There will be several more excursions during the summer and autumn before a Christmas Lunch Trip in December.

The Northern Belle will make three more visits to Coventry this year, including one to the Dorset Seafood Festival at Weymouth.

Fares start at £210. For more details see www.northernbelle.co.uk or phone 01270 899681.

REVIEW COMING SOON.

Revving up for the new year!

Revving up for the new year!

NEED something to blow away the post-festive season cobwebs but feeling too chilly to venture outdoors?

Coventry’s newest state-of-the art go-karting track is fuelling a lot of excitement – and ticks all the boxes.

Teamsport Karting, Coventry,

Eager to get a piece of the action, we geared ourselves up to take the wheel for a spin around TeamSport’s latest venue.

Even seasoned karters will be impressed with the lengthy 500m circuit on multiple levels, featuring more bends, ramps and straights than your average track.

But it’s geared to all ages and abilities, whether you’re looking to improve your skills or take part in a team event, the karts – and the team – are revved up and waiting.

www.team-sport.co.uk/go-karting-coventry

So there’s as much scope for competitive adrenalin junkies to showcase their skills in the 200CC petrol karts as there is to simply enjoy some family fun.

The track can accommodate younger drivers (under 13) in specially designed Cadet Karts and offer birthday party packages as well, in the dedicated party room. Older party-goers aren’t forgotten either and Stag and Hen celebrations are also welcomed.

The flexibility and inclusiveness is great. But the most impressive feature of Coventry’s venue is the track itself. And with multiple short sessions to familiarise oneself with the layout, there’s plenty of opportunity to build your confidence and put your pedal to the metal for a genuinely thrilling ride.

Team Sport Karting, CoventryAll that said, nervous onlookers are quickly put at their ease as it’s clear safety is also at the forefront. No drivers are permitted on track until they’ve watched a lengthy safety video where, amongst other things, the all-important flag signals are explained. Plus the karts are slowed on the track at the first sign of a driver experiencing problems. But that doesn’t mean the brakes are continually put on the fun. The marshals are sensible about when they feel the need to intervene so the ‘flow of traffic’ can be maintained wherever possible.

Balaclavas, to be worn under helmets, are compulsory. With a choice of material ones for £2.50 or disposable ones for 50p, the reusable washable variety are better value if you’re likely to return – and, let’s face it, look way cooler on your teenagers!

Teamsport Karting, Coventry,

It’s a pleasant experience for non-participants as well with a comfortable bar area with food and drinks are available for purchase and a balcony area with seating for the perfect viewing platform. (Take a jumper in the colder months though as the cavernous building isn’t particularly warm for long periods spectating.)

The minimum age for taking part here is as low as eight and there are family karting sessions available so you can all compete against each other. (How many dads dare open themselves up to a thrashing from their fearless offspring?)

Great fun and highly recommended. Check out regular offers on their website. For further details and to book visit: www.team-sport.co.uk/go-karting-coventry

A show to really immerse yourself in!

A show to really immerse yourself in!

JUST when you think you’ve seen all types of show after nigh on 30 years of reviewing, along comes Club 2B – a theatrical experience like no other.

Club 2B, Belgrade Theatre

This immersive performance not only smashes through that fourth wall but actively encourages the audience to become a part of the story and even explore the room as the action unfolds around you.

Seated at cabaret-style tables in the Belgrade’s flexible B2 auditorium, the scene is immediately set for an interesting – and intriguing – night ahead, complete with food, drink, live music and gaming tables.

First the story. It’s a bit loose to be honest. It’s a retelling of Zeus and Hera’s search for happiness via godly embodiments of historical figures such as Lady Godiva and Marilyn Monroe. Yes, you read it right!

Club 2B’s mysterious owner Z is not all he seems. This larger-than-life, charismatic figure is none other than Zeus, the Greek king of gods and men, descended from the heavens in human form and driven by his love for the goddess Hera. Taking on the form of any man or woman, we watch as their story of passion, jealousy and revenge plays out across the ages.

Berlgrade Theatre, Club 2B
Aimee Powell (Daisy) and Corey Campbell (Zeus). Photo by Robert Day.

It does take a while to get going. The snack plate (don’t skip your dinner for this) and interaction with cast members mingling at the tables, goes only so far to detracting from this, but one does find themselves wondering when the show has officially started.

The good news is, when it does, it’s worth waiting for and we are in for a treat. The talent of this small but strong cast shines through with a stunning mix of music and storytelling all around us, capturing our imaginations.

Belgrade Theatre, Club 2B

The addition of gaming tables (you are given playing chips) is a clever touch – although it’s easy to lose your focus on the action around you. Still, I won a glass of wine for my troubles so worth it!

The show is helmed by Strictly Arts Artistic Director Corey Campbell, his first developed at the Belgrade since his appointment as one of the Theatre’s three Co-Artistic Directors for Coventry’s year as City of Culture in 2021.

Iona Coburn, Meg Forgan, Aimee Powell, Charis McRoberts and Katy Anna-Southgate make up the rest of the cast but it’s Forgan’s stand-out vocal segment as Marilyn Monroe that stole the show for me – and many others – on the night. The girls also share an obvious rapport and joy in their roles, which is definitely infectious.

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Club 2B
Iona Coburn (Hera), Aimee Powell (Daisy) and Charis McRoberts (Godiva). Photo: Robert Day.

It’s not one for the introvert. Anyone is fair game to be pulled up for a dance or become part of the performance, but it’s part of this show’s charm.

This marks a proud world premiere for the Belgrade Theatre, running until 31st December. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055 or visiting www.club2b.co.uk.

Suspense-filled thriller you can get your teeth into

Suspense-filled thriller you can get your teeth into

FOLLOWING their critically acclaimed UK tour and West End run of Anthony Horowitz’s Mindgame, Angela Browne Ltd return to Coventry with another compulsive psychological thriller.

Angie Smith and Mark Huckett as Mark and Sally Driscoll.

Dangerous Obsession, which was adapted into a film called Darkness Falls in 1999, is widely accepted to be writer N J Crisp’s finest psycho-thriller.

It certainly is an intense journey.

The whole story is told in the conservatory of a wealthy couple’s luxurious home where Sally Driscoll receives a gentleman caller – a previous acquaintance on a drunken night out she can barely recall.

The unassuming and courteous John Barrett slowly peels away the layers of Sally and husband Mark’s apparently perfect lives, to expose some ugly secrets.

But what exactly happened in Torquay, what is in the suitcase and what is Mark’s true role in all of this?

This new staging of the play, directed by Karen Henson, consists of a cast of just three, Mark Huckett and Angie Smith as Mark and Sally Driscoll and Michael Sherwin as John Barrett. They work brilliantly to create an intimate and highly charged atmosphere in the theatre as the answers to all those questions – and more – emerge.

Dangerous Obsession, Beklgrade Theatre, Coventry
Michael Sherwin as John Barrett.

There is suspense by the bucketful as we are, metaphorically, drawn nearer and nearer to the edge of our seats.

The acting is strong all round but Sherwin’s portrayal of the villain of the piece (or is he?) is just the right amount of sinister – a convincing and compelling watch and one I’d definitely recommend. But you’ll have to move fast as it closes tomorrow night. (Saturday)

Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055 or visiting www.belgrade.co.uk where prices are cheaper. Book for two or more participating shows together to claim 20% off tickets.

Monster hit arrives at The Belgrade

Monster hit arrives at The Belgrade

THE talented team behind a bold new staging of Mary Shelley’s seminal 1818 gothic horror novel Frankenstein have definitely created a monster!

A monster hit that is.

This inventive co-production between Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre, Selladoor Productions and Matthew Townshend Productions has been adapted by award-winning writer Rona Munro (The James Plays, National Theatre and National Theatre of Scotland; Little Eagles, RSC), to offer a fresh take on Shelley’s groundbreaking story.

Frankenstein, Belgrade Theatre
Eilidh Loan and Ben Castle-Gibb as Victor Frankenstein. Photo: Colin Hattersley Photography.

Monro cleverly places the writer herself amongst the action, as she wrestles with her creation and the stark realities facing revolutionary young women, both in her own time and today.

An eighteen year-old girl, Mary Shelley, dreams up a monster whose tragic story will capture the imaginations of generations to come.

A young scientist by the name of Frankenstein breathes life into a gruesome body. Banished into an indifferent world, Frankenstein’s creature desperately seeks out his true identity, but the agony of rejection and a broken promise push him into darkness. Dangerous and vengeful, the creature threatens to obliterate Frankenstein and everyone he loves, in a ferocious and bloodthirsty hunt for his maker.

Frankenstein, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Natali McCleary as-Elizabeth. Photo: Tommy-Ga-Ken-Wan.

Eilidh Loan is a powerful stage presence throughout as Shelley, the author unpacking her own horrific tale. She heads up a small, but strong ensemble including Ben Castle-Gibb as the crazed genius Victor Frankenstein, tortured by his own dark ambition for a scientific breakthrough – and at the ultimate cost of the death of everyone he loves.

Michael Moreland delivers a solid but measured performance as Frankenstein’s Monster, who is driven to murderous rage by his creator’s failure to love and accept him. It would have been all too easy to overplay this role and turn it into something that more resembled a spoof.

The sterling performances are played out around a fittingly simple but striking static stage backdrop with eerie sound and visual effects adding to the tension.

Frankenstein, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Michael Moreland, Ben-Castle-Gibb and Eilidh Loan. Photo: Tommy-Ga-Ken-Wan.

This is a gripping and innovative retelling of the novel that is credited with launching the science fiction genre, fully grasping the enduring power of the well known story.

It’s one of the surprise theatrical highlights of my year so far – and most definitely comes highly recommended. See it if you possibly can.

Frankenstein shows at the Belgrade Theatre from 2-12 October as part of the B2 Season of Love and Belonging. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055, or visiting www.belgrade.co.uk where prices are cheaper. Book together for two or more shows in the season to claim 20% off your tickets.